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Itteringham

Itteringham lies a River Bure - a few miles north-west of Aylsham. The name probably derives from the homestead of Ytra's or Ytri's people.

The poet George Barker (1913-91) is buried in St. Mary's churchyard. At the foot of his grave lies a granite book with the words: 'No Compromise' inscribed.

George Barker's Grave

George Barker

Barker lived for many years in the village at Bintry House with his wife the novelist Elspeth Barker. The flint and brick house lies just off the main street - close to the River Bure. The couple were able to acquire the house with financial support from the novelist Graham Greene who was a long-term admirer of Barker's poetry. In her essay Thoughts in a Garden Elspeth Barker describes the watery location of the house:
 

'Mine is a riverine garden, and even indoors one is aware of this, not just by gazing through the window but by simply sitting still, committing words to paper in the intense cold, while a great numbness seeps up through feet and lower limbs. Hemlock and the death of Socrates come forward in the mind. The tiled floor is laid straight on the earth in the manner of 17th century folk, and beneath this floor and a thin layer of earth lie the black sullen waters of an underground lake.'


Barker's daughter Raffaella, who is also a writer, wrote Come and Tell Me Some Lies (1994) - a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in the house. She appeared as an extra, alongside her mother, in the cricket scene in Joseph Losey's The Go-Between. The scene was shot on nearby Thornage common in the summer of 1970.

George Barker was renowned as a hard drinker and womaniser and had a total of 15 children by various women. He also regularly used Methedrine and Benzedrine.

Bintree House, Itteringham

Bintry House

Barker famously had a affair with the Canadian poet Elizabeth Smart - which inspired her to write By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. (Elizabeth Smart lived for many years at Flixton in Suffolk and is buried in the churchyard at St. Cross South Elmham.)

 River Bure at Itteringham

The River Bure

In his poem Morning in Norfolk Barker provides us with a beautiful description of the River Bure:
 

The dawn has brightened the
shallows and shadows and
the Bure sidles and idles
through weed isles and fallen
willows, and under
Itteringham Mill, and
there is a kind of rain-
drenched flittering in the
air, the night swan still
sleeps in her wings and over it all
the dawn heaps up the hanging
fire of the day.


Much of Barker's poetry concerns sin and forgiveness and is intimately connected with his Roman Catholic upbringing. However, in his later years he also found inspiration from the Norfolk landscape - as can be seen in his moving poem At Thurgarton Church. He frequently visited Thurgarton church - which lies a few miles north of Itteringham - and was no doubt struck by its isolated location and its thatched roof.

Barker is often associated with the 'new romantic' school of poetry - along with poets such as Dylan Thomas. However, since his death, Barker's popularity has declined. The may be due, in part, to the success of the Movement poets such as Philip Larkin who favoured a more down-to-earth diction.

Derek Neville © Jonathan Neville

Itteringham was also the home of another poet - Derek Neville - who lived at the mill from 1954-75. Inspired by the natural world, his work was often mystical in tone and has been likened to that of Walt Whitman or Kahlil Gibran.  Neville's poem I Live On A River - which was inspired by the Bure flowing through Itterringham Mill - is a delightful example of his work.

Neville is also buried in the graveyard of St Mary's church  - a few yards away from George Barker. Jonathan Neville, who is the poet's son, runs the Itteringham village and Norfolk Mills websites.
 

Links:

Itteringham Website

St. Mary's Church

Elizabeth Smart's Grave

 

 

 

 

 

 

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