Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Sarah Hare

Because I potentially work with all of Norfolk's four hundred primary schools, I get to drive around this huge county and feel I know it pretty well now. I love the undulation of north-west Norfolk, the fantastic coastal views and pretty flint villages in the north, the quaint 'Suffolk style' villages in the south and the amazing views in the east around the broads and waterways. I think it is a little harsh to call Norfolk a sixty mile cul de sac or declare it's beauty is only in its skies!

The one area I visit however, that I feel that I 'just don't get', is where I drove yesterday: the Norfolk Fens. Once you have crossed the River Ouse (and the New Cut) you enter a strange place where any mound you spot will be a river bank or a heap of sugar beet waiting to go to Wissington Factory. The road edges often drop away into huge water filled ditches, the fields are worryingly lower than the rivers (I do understand land reclaimation, but it just feels weird) and any shop I ever go into is full of people that stare and pronouncedly step aside as I enter (they are friendly enough - just know that I am not local and they cannot help themselves!). Some of the villages in the Fens actually feel a little claustrophobic because the waterways prevent you from being able to walk very far in any direction and the fact there is so little woodland (or trees even) adds to its unusualness.

I don't think my general feeling of strangeness is helped by the fact that a few times that I have headed Fens-way (that's probably west-south-west), I have stopped off at the church of the Holy Trinity in Stow Bardolph to eat my lunch in the car park (a strip of gravel near the church gate) and take another peek at Sarah Hare!

Sarah Hare left the following words in her will.

'I desire Six of the poor men in the parish of Stow or Wimbotsham may put me in to the ground they have five shillings a piece for the same.
I desire all the poor in th Alms Row may have two shillings and sixpence each person at the Grave before I am put in. This I hope my Executor will see firstly performed before Sunset.... I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix'd up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable if I do not execute this in my life I desire it may be done after my Death.'

The directions in the will were carried out to the letter.

When you go into the church and into the Hare Chapel, you come across this...

And then when you open the door of the mahogany case, this is what you see...only it's far more life-like than my terrible glazed-by-the-glass photograph depicts! (If you type 'Sarah Hare Wax Effigy' into Google Images, you get a much better picture!) It is quite eerie to look into the (albeit waxy) eyes of someone that existed over 250 years ago. I love these kind of curiosities!


  1. Sarah Hare left a double legacy therefore; to the poor people of the parish of her day, and to future visitors who enjoy her story.

  2. That's spooky man. We've been lost in the fens. It's very eerie and you really do you wonder if you will ever get out again. Romney Marsh has a similar but different feeling. A friend of mine was very seriously thinking about moving to Suffolk to be with family but rejected the idea in the end because quote "Norfolk and Suffolk will be the first to be under water when the effects of global warming really hit." Now that's thinking ahead! She's moved to Mauritius xxx

  3. In 1987 I visited a spiritualist in Aylmerton who told me things she couldn't possibly have known, about me, my partner whom she'd never seen and so on. All true and impressive in details that were oddly specific. She went on to assure me that much of Norfolk would be under water by the end of the following decade and, herself, moved to the Himalayas soon after.

    Perhaps she got a little carried away with that particular prophesy but whenever I've considered a property in Norfolk I have always got out the OS map and studied the contour lines careflly.

    Incidentally, the seer moved back to Norfolk, post-millenium, but didn't stay long. The last I heard she had moved to the Welsh mountains.

    But when Norfolk IS finally swallowed by the Sea, what will you miss most (if anything)?

  4. All this flood talk made me have to do some research. A 14 m rise would make Norwich quite close to the coast and the Fens would be done for. Most drastic predictions say 1 metre by 2100...this website shows you maps of the UK at different rises. I guess flooding risk rises significantly....


    Luckily Sarah Hare is before you get to the Fens!!!

  5. Hey, did Sarah Hare have a hare lip? Take a closer look. Keeping it real. xxx (Or is that taken for and I am not getting it?)

  6. howtobearetronaut.com has clearer (and creepier) pics of this... just type 'Sarah Hare'in their search engine.


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