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Salthouse

Salthouse lies on the North Norfolk coast between Weybourne and Cley-next-the-Sea. At one time, salt was manufactured in the village and exported to Europe. In fact, its name derives directly from 'house for storing salt' - a term recorded in the Domesday Book.

Salthouse Church

Salthouse Church from Salthouse Heath

The village church, which is situated on a hill, provides a spectacular view across the marshes to the North Sea. Mary Mings, the daughter of the famous admiral Sir Christopher Mings, is buried beneath the nave.

Salthouse has always been prone to flooding - lying, as it does, behind a low shingle bank. The worst inundation in recent years occurred in January 1953.


Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978)

The novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978) rented the Great Eye Folly in Salthouse from 1950 to 1951. She lived here with her partner Valentine Ackland and spent the time working on her last novel The Flint Anchor (1954).

Great Eye or Randall's Folly

Sylvia Townsend Warner

The folly - a former coastguard building - was originally built by Onesiphorous Randall in the 19th Century but was seriously damaged by the great floods of 1953. It stood on the beach in an exposed and windswept location. Nothing remains of it today.

She describes her first impressions of the folly in a letter to Alyse Gregory - written in 1950:
 

'....I think Valentine will have told you about the Great Eye Folly. I have the oddest impressions of it, since we were only there for about fifteen minutes, and conversing all the time with its owners. But the first five of those minutes were enough to enchant me. It is the sort of house one tells oneself to sleep with, and sometimes I almost suppose that it is really one of my dream-houses, and no such solid little assertion of the rectangle breaks the long sky-line of salt-marsh and sea.'

Salthouse also features in two memorable poems: the first is by the literary critic John Press (1920- ) who was educated at Cambridge University. In his poem he captures the bleak beauty of the village of the ever-present threat of the sea.
 
Salthouse, Norfolk

Even on midsummer days a spongy mist
Swirls round the marshes and the sun is subdued.
The sluggish grey sea's thud and the stark flint church
Emphasize the silence and the solitude.

It may be human fantasy that lends
An aspect of desolation to this village.
We are saddened to reflect that sullen tides,
Lashed from somnolence, will rise and pillage

The hoarded treasure of these fishermen
Who stubbornly breed their pigs and ducks and cows,
Knowing a score of years the longest respite
The whim of Nature contemptuously allows.

Perhaps if we came here with unburdened hearts
The marram grass and salt marsh would assume
The savour and the promise of ripening corn
And the sea would flash with iridescent spume.

But I believe that some original taint
Haunts and infects with foreboding the heavy skies,
Benumbing the flints and beasts and earth with grief
Which we do not invent but recognise.


The second poem is by Charles Bennet who is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Northampton University and previously the director of the Ledbury Poetry Festival. Bennett's poem is a finely observed piece about a kestrel:
 

Salthouse

When we walked up the hill above Salthouse
and saw, looking down where we’d been

ourselves on the beach waving back –
we were here and there and no-place

coming and going at once, perceiving
the speckled clouds as sleeping seals,

as we dipped our toes in the breeze
and watched from the hill’s shoreline

a kestrel come in with the tide,
and hold his stillness open

over the ship weathervane
of a church that was floating and drowned,

his shadow on the ground beneath him
the anchor that kept him aloft.

By kind permission of the author.


Links:

More photographs of Salthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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