It was a sizzlingly hot Sunday. The sky was the most beautiful blue and there was a tranquility that only happens on the lazy, hazy days of late summer. My brother-in-law, Adrian, my friend, Darren, and I arrived at beautiful Blythburgh Church, here in Suffolk.
Just a stones throw from popular seaside destination, Southwold, and surrounded by Suffolk’s network of ‘chocolate-box’ pretty Suffolk villages, one could almost forget that the A12 runs through this tiny jewel of a village.
Nestled on the edge of the marshes, amid a few pretty lanes of picture-perfect centuries old cottages, ‘The Cathedral of the Marshes’ sits majestically by the Blyth estuary. This church seems incredibly grand, vast and imposing against the gentle Suffolk landscape and the picturesque village. A fifteenth century masterpiece, Holy Trinity Church, to give the correct name, has long been associated with the legend of demon dog ‘The Black Shuck’; reported to have terrorised locals during a fearsome storm in 1577.
In this most beloved local venue, on this day, we had arrived to attend an art exhibition of the ‘Inspired by Becker’ tradition; facilitated by the Inspired by Becker Art Society’ who, via their web site, inform us:
“Becker was born in Colchester in 1865, youngest of seven. A talented young artist, he studied in Antwerp and Paris before returning to paint in London and Colchester. Although a fine portrait painter, exhibiting alongside Sickert, Sargent and Augustus John, he loved painting rural scenes and depicting working life in the countryside. He moved to Suffolk in 1913, living in Wenhaston and nearby villages, painting and drawing local life – often going into the fields with the labourers at dawn. His work, oils, watercolours, drawings and etchings, is full of immediacy and energy, capturing the ‘body language’ of labourers and the feeling of the landscape with minimal detail. He died in 1928.”
Walking into the church, and leaving the roasting heat of the afternoon outside, was a joy. The grand, yet somehow modest, interior of Holy Trinity Church reminds me that, although the building is truly impressive, it has a comfortable village church feel and is not as imposing from within, as the outside suggests.
Staffed by some charming and smiley faced people, the exhibition immediately drew us in. The simple layout was enticing and I was impressed by the standard of work on display. In no way overly pompous or pretentious, as many exhibitions can sadly be, here there was a simple elegance and a very clear love for Harry Becker. The artworks were displayed in a way which showcased local artists and which felt like the different styles and forms of art were accessible, no matter the viewers knowledge base.
In fact, being able to get up close to the art and even touch the pieces was the very best form of exhibition. It made the exhibition feel like an experience, rather than something to go and look at. I was most impressed. It was also a pleasure to see the artwork of a dear friend; local artist Kim Edwards, whose Suffolk landscapes have earnt her a wonderful reputation in the area.
Like me, Darren enjoyed the artwork by Suffolk artist Sue Eaton. Darren is a hard working and dedicated paramedic, based within Leiston Surgery and a local hero for his tireless work in our coastal community.
Holy Trinity did not fail as a setting for this Becker themed event. The grace and the elegance of the surrounds were something to marvel at, in their own right. From ornate pew carvings to surviving stained glass, from encased ancient books through to the breathtaking roof interiors. I cannot speak highly enough of the church as a place to come whether to sit in quiet contemplation, to attend a service or simply to visit a local event such as this.
Harry Becker is laid to rest in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church and, if you look carefully, it is said that the scratch marks of the demonic Black Shuck can be found about the place.
Our visit came to an end and, as it was time for me to take my Parkinson’s medication, we headed over to the White Hart Inn, where a glass of something lovely was enjoyed, beside the estuary and in the company of some very cute bantam chickens!
I must add that I have eaten at this venue before and the food has always been excellent, when I have attended.
(C) Dean G. Parsons. 2019.