A personal view
|Even further afield|
|The delightful little town of Lavenham is some 30 miles to the south west of Cambridge. It is a real glimpse of the past, and a fine example of a Suffolk wool town, with wonderful mediaeval buildings and a 15th century church. The photo shows two of the numerous half-timbered houses that are still in use today. Even telegraph poles have been taken away - and TV aerials are hidden in attics!
Look out for the old Guildhall (built around 1520), with interesting displays inside, the Little Hall, dating from the late 14th century (both are in the Market Place near the excellent Angel pub), and the Priory (originally dating back to the 13th century) in Water Street. Altogether, a place not to be missed!
|March, a market town some twenty miles north east of St Ives, is not the world's most interesting place - except for St Wendreda's church with its remarkable double-hammerbeam roof with 118 carved wooden angel figures, several of them half-life size. There are figures of apostles, saints and martyrs too. It's rightly claimed to be a perfect example of mediaeval woodworkers' skill.The woodcarver included his own little joke: a carving of the devil - but not where it can be seen at all easily. Its function is to remind us that he's always around - and that not even the roof is perfect. The church (which is well south of the town. Look out for a sign on the left as you drive in from the south) may be locked but the key can be obtained from the cycle shop on the main road.|
|Just outside the church, now built into the side of the church hall, is this former headstone. It is a 17th century carving that shows souls responding to the last trump (see the angel with the trumpet on the right) and being checked in by the angel on the left who holds the book about their lives!
|Peterborough, some 20 miles north and slightly west of St Ives, has good shopping (including the Queensgate Centre), a full range of sporting facilities, and an interesting cathedral (for which there is no charge for admission, although you are asked to contribute). The cathedral's interior is surprisingly light and uncluttered. This is because, in 1643, Cromwells's soldiers destroyed all the stained glass, the statues, the choir stalls and the high altar. One of the oldest parts that remains is the Hedda Stone (shown on the right), an Anglo- Saxon sculpture, about two feet high, dating from about 780. The figure on the third from the right is Jesus, with the Virgin Mary on his right hand side, and two apostles on each side of them. It was 50 years later (in 870) that the first abbey here was sacked by Danish raiders who slaughtered at least 84 monks as well as the villagers who had taken shelter in the abbey.
The cathedral has "the most magnificent portico in Christendom" on its west front, consisting of three great arches, that were built in the 13th century. The nave has a painted wooden ceiling dating from about 1200 that is unique in England. There is an interesting exhibition about the history of the cathedral, complete with a working model of a windlass used to lift great stones. Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots were buried here - although Mary's body was subsequently removed to Westminster Abbey. See also the very full website about Peterborough.
Stamford, some 10 miles north of Peterborough, is described as "the finest stone town in England" and boasts many fine churches and 18th and early 19th century town houses. It was once one of the richest towns in England, and there's plenty to see here, including Browne's Hospital, a late 15th century almshouse, the Stamford Museum that includes a wax life-sized model of the 52 stone Daniel Lambert (England's fattest man?) who died in 1809, and the nearby Burghley House and Park, built by William Cecil (the 1st Lord Burghley) between 1565 and 1587. It's all worth the slight traffic queue at the lights outside The George Hotel (on the right in the photo) to get into town. Turn sharp left at the lights after coming down the hill here to get to the large car park - and, if you want an excellent (if slightly expensive) lunch, I can recommend the Garden Room at The George Hotel, which was an old coaching inn. A hostelry has stood on this site since Norman times. A handsome town, full of character, that's very much worth a visit. There is an informative local website, rather strangely called Stamford Links.
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