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Upwell

Upwell lies on the extreme western edge of Norfolk - 7 miles south-east of Wisbech. It is situated in the heart of the Fen country.

Upwell Church

Upwell Church from across the River Nene

The detective writer Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957) lived for twenty years in the area and her detective story The Nine Tailors (1934) - featuring the famous upper-class sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey - is set here.

Dorothy L Sayers

Dorothy L Sayers

The book opens with Wimsey stranded in the fens and later involves bell-ringing at Fenchurch St. Peter Church - a fictionalised version of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Upwell.

Bell Ropes Inside Upwell Church

Bell Ropes inside Upwell Church

Here is an extract from The Nine Tailors concerning the church's architecture - as seen through the eyes of Lord Peter Wimsey:
 

'At first glance he felt himself sobered and awe-stricken by the noble proportions of the church, in whose vast spaces the congregation - though a good one for so small a parish in the dead of a winter's night - seemed almost lost. The wide nave and shadowy aisles, the lofty span of the chancel arch - crossed, though not obscured, by the delicate fan-tracery and crenellated moulding of the screen - the intimate and cloistered loveliness of the chancel, with its pointed arcading, graceful ribbed vault and five narrow lancets, led his attention on and focused it upon the remote glow of the sanctuary.'

In the novels, Lord Wimsey's brother is called the Duke of Denver - a name which she no doubt drew from Denver which lies on the River Great Ouse. The sluice at Denver provides a crucial barrier against the North Sea - controlling the flow of water in and out of the surrounding fenland.

The Wisbech & Upwell Tramway played an important part in inspiring the Revd Wilbert Awdry to write some of his Thomas the Tank Engine stories - and in particular the creation of Toby the Tram. From 1953-1965 Awdry was vicar of nearby Emneth - where he wrote 11 books in all. In his loft he had an extensive model railway network which was inspired by Barrow-in-Furnace and featured complex signalling systems. The line to Upwell was finally closed by Dr Beeching in 1966 - after which Rev Awdry retired and moved to Stroud. Awdry campaigned unsuccessfully for its preservation.

Upwell has yet another literary connection - in the form of the fantasy author John Gordon. Gordon, who was educated at Wisbech Grammar School and later became a reporter in the town, married Sylvia who came from Upwell. Gordon drew much of the inspiration for his books from the fens and once said:  'I've often thought that the flat fenland is like an open book and it has always filled my mind with stories.' In particular, he used Pingle Bridge in the village. Gordon wrote his first novel The Giant Under the Snow (1968) while he was working at the Evening News in Norwich.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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