So off we set for Flatford, near East Bergholt. I had been once before many years ago, but The Chef hadn't been, and so it seemed a good enough reason to take a look.
The approach was down a VERY narrow road and I was fearful we'd meet something coming the other way, so I was relieved to see a small sign telling me that it was a one-way road. On arrival at the National Trust's car park we were charged five pounds for parking, but hey, what the hell, we were going home.
So here's the story (no don't hide under the duvet - there are no little green men his time):
During the 16th century, East Bergholt’s inhabitants became well known for protestant radicalism. A few of its citizens were martyred during the reign of Queen Mary 1, and the Protestant martyrologist (don’t they study weather?) John Foxe recorded their stories in his famous work ‘Acts and Monuments’ (also known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).
East Bergholt is the birthplace of painter John Constable whose father owned Flatford Mill. Flatford and the village of Dedham, Essex, both made famous by John Constable, are within walking distance of East Bergholt.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, but is well known for the absence of a tower or spire to house the bells. Work began on a tower in 1525, but Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from grace in 1530 brought construction to a halt and the following year a wooden bell cage was erected in the churchyard. The Bell Cage was built as a temporary structure to house the bells until the tower could be built. It still exists and now houses the set of 5 bells, although it is possible the tenor, which weighs 2,920lbs (1,320 kg) and has a diameter 4 ft 6in (137 cm), was added in 1691. There are rumours the Bell Cage was moved from its original position in the 17th century because the occupant of Old Hall objected to the noise of the bells. The only evidence for this is a 1731 hand-drawn map on vellum that shows the Bell Cage situated to the East of the Church.
The bells are exceptional in that they are not rung from below by ropes attached to wheels, as is usual in change ringing, but the headstock is manipulated by hand by ringers standing beside the bells.
The bells are believed to be the heaviest five (A, G, F♯, E, and D) that are rung in England today, with a total weight of 4.25 tons (4,300 kg).