Sedgeford man reviews books on Norfolk

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Norfolk Churches From The Air’ by Mike Page and Pauline Young Poppyland Publishing, £12.95

The glory of this book is its vibrant hawk-eyed colour photography and alphabetical selection from Norfolk’s many and mostly medieval churches – 750 of the 900 known to have existed were already standing in 1250; over 650 remain.

Those famous old round towers abound – Norfolk has three quarters of England’s total of 170 – but spired Snettisham, square-towered Heacham and two-towered Lynn Minster have their own stories, as does Lynn’s (underrated) St Nicholas’.

All Norfolk’s uniqueness, wide variety, flintiness and quiet beauty is here. What the bite-sized text sometimes lacks in strict accuracy – Lynn was by no means ‘staunchly Royalist’ in the Civil War for instance– it makes up for in anecdotal sprightliness – like the origin of the term nosey Parker – and for the practical church-spotter its inventory of each church’s location (including grid reference) fabric and particularities puts it city streets and country lanes ahead of your average ‘church guide’.

Wells next the Sea: a small port in a wide world’ by Roger Arguile. Poppyland Publishing, Hardback £19.95, Paperback £14.95

Retired parish priest Roger Arguile may have missed his vocation! The title certainly understates the ambition.

Readable, accessible, academically-sourced, fluent, this is a scholarly survey of general English history – social, economic, religious, geographical, geological, legal – disguised as a local one. From the impact on land ownership of the violent ‘though devout’ Normans through Domesday Book’s privileging of ‘valuable’ East Anglia; the change from manorial to parish/town systems; the Peasants’ Revolt (featuring Binham); Black Death, Reformation, Building, Dissolution, Revolution, cod fishing and the prosperity-ending railways, Wells (‘Guella’ – a spring of water) and environs is the fascinating exemplum used to tell ‘the story of England’ in one cogent 200-page narrative. Arguile traces how over 800 years this great little port’s combination of productive land and sea-access, notably for fishing, made it at times even threaten national prominence: and how today it thrives again more humbly on tourism and wind farms.

The frontispiece’s two page iconic black and white picture of Wells in its tug and steam-coaster prime, with flat caps and pipe-smoker resplendent, reminds us, as visual and verbal pictures do throughout, of the hardy and resourceful nature of one of Norfolk’s best-loved places.

n Both titles are highly recommended and may be purchased from shops and museums across East Anglia or ordered direct from /01263 510969