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Thurgarton

Thurgarton lies in an isolated location - approximately five miles south of Sheringham.

The poet George Barker (1913-91) used to visit the church here and it provided the inspiration for one of his finest later poems At Thurgarton Church. The church, which stands at a crossroads has a thatched roof, but no tower. Barker lived at nearby Itteringham with his novelist wife Elspeth Barker.

Thurgarton Church

Thurgarton Church

George Barker

The poem is addressed to his father and concerns Barker's sense of sin and his fear of Judgement day. Here are the first three verses of the poem:
 

At Thurgarton Church the sun
burns the winter clouds over
the gaunt Danish stone
and thatched reeds that cover
the barest chapel I know.

I could compare it with
the Norse longboats that bore
burning the body forth
in honour from the shore
of great fjords long ago.

The sky is red and cold
overhead, and three small
sturdy trees keep a hold
on the world and the stone wall
that encloses the dead below.

Read complete poem
 


In 1992 the playwright Harold Pinter came to the church to make a film about Elspeth Barker - following the publication of her novella O Caledonia. Pinter, who was a friend of Barker's, provided financial support to keep the poet and his latest family afloat. Barker always regarded himself as a full-time poet and never opted for a day-job. It is perhaps for this reason that he had the words 'No Compromise' engraved on a tablet at the foot of his grave in Itteringham churchyard.

Pinter was familiar with Norfolk because he had been the script writer on The Go-Between in the 1970s.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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