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Letheringsett

Letheringsett lies in the Glaven Valley just to the east of Holt. The village contains the last working water mill in Norfolk.

After a visit to the county and Letheringsett Hall in 1955, the poet John Betjeman was inspired to write his poem Lord Cozens Hardy. The Cozens Hardy mausoleum mentioned in the poem was fictional, but there are a number of memorials to the family inside St Andrew's church.

St Andrew's Church

King's Head Pub

Here is the last verse of the poem which also mentions 'The King's Head' pub:
 

But when, Lord Cozens Hardy,
  November stars are bright,
And the King's Head Inn at Letheringsett
  Is shutting for the night,
The villagers have told me
  That they do not like to pass
Near your curious mausoleum
  Moon-shadowed on the grass
For fear of seeing walking
  In the season of All Souls
That first Lord Cozens Hardy,
  The Master of the Rolls.

Read complete poem


Betjeman had been staying with Roy and Wilhelmine Harrod at the time - who he knew from his days at Oxford. In fact, he first met Billa (as she was known) in 1933 through her friend Penelope Chetwode - who later became Betjeman's wife. Betjeman asked Billa to marry him when he was already engaged to Penelope. However, this was just Betjeman's way of showing his admiration for her and fortunately nobody took offence.

Billa Harrod published the Shell Guide to Norfolk in 1958 which was co-written with Charles Linnell who was the rector of Letheringsett. (John Betjeman and John Piper were the editors of the series.) As a result of her research she discovered that many of the county's churches were in a bad state of repair and, supported by Betjeman, she set about saving them. She became the founding chairman of the Norfolk Society Committee for Country Churches which later became the Norfolk Churches Trust. In 1970 she was also instrumental in saving 32 medieval churches in Norwich which were facing demolition.

When her husband Roy retired in 1963 the couple moved to The Old Rectory on the outskirts of Holt. She continued to be active in preservation and persuaded Prince Charles to become patron of the Norfolk Churches Trust in 1989.

Billa also acted as an adviser to Joseph Losey when he was filming The Go-Between in the county. Lady Harrod died in 2005 and is buried, with her husband, in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen, Warham.

Letheringsett is also famous for its blacksmith - Johnson Jex - who was a self-taught scientist and left behind a rather splendid epitaph.
 

This stone is erected
To mark the burial place of
JOHNSON JEX
Who died January 5th 1852 aged 73 years
Born in obscurity
He passed his days at Letheringsett as
A village blacksmith.
By the force of an original and inventive genius
Combined with indomitable perseverance
He mastered some of the greatest difficulties of science
Advancing from the forge to the crucible
And from the horse-shoe to the chronometer:
Acquiring by mental labour and philosophic research
A vast and varied amount of
Mechanical skill and general knowledge.
He was a man of scrupulous integrity and moral worth:
But regardless of wealth
And sensible to the voice of fame
He lived and died a scientific anchorite
___

There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of
The Almighty giveth him understanding.


The letteing on Jex's grave has now all but worn away - but fortunately there is a full printed version inside the church next to his death mask. The epitaph also features in A History of Letheringsett in the County of Norfolk - which was written by a member of the Cozens Hardy family.

 

 

 

 

 

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