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Ludham lies in the heart of the Norfolk Broads - 2 miles east of Potter Heigham. It retains much of its Broadland charm and has many thatched cottages and an impressive church. It is connected to the Broads river system via Womack Water.

Ludham Hall

Ludham Hall

To the south of the village, just above the floodplain of the River Bure, lies Ludham Hall which was the childhood home of Anne Donne who was the mother of the poet William Cowper. Her father was Roger Donne who was related to another poet - John Donne.

Ann Donne: William Cowper's Mother

Anne Donne's relatives were scattered across Norfolk and it was these family connections which largely account for Cowper's return to the county in the final years of his life. Cowper spent his final years at Dereham and is buried inside St. Nicholas' Church where there is a magnificent commemorative stained glass window.

Cowper's mother died when he was a young child - an event which contributed significantly to his fragile mental health. One of his most famous poems On The Receipt of My Mother's Picture Out of Norfolk was inspired by a picture that was sent to him by his cousin Anne Bodham (see Mattishall). The poem is particularly sad and moving; here is the opening verse:

O that those lips had language!  Life has pass’d
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine - thy own sweet smile I see,
The same, that oft in childhood solac’d me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
‘Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!’
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time’s tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.

Ludham Hall originally belonged to St. Benet's Abbey but when Henry VIII gave it to the Bishop of Norwich - it was turned into the bishop's palace. However, in 1611 it was badly damaged by fire and was subsequently rebuilt. Today it is a working farm offering Bed and Breakfast accommodation. The chapel that was added to the hall is now used as a granary.

St. Benet's Abbey

On the marshes opposite Ludham Hall, lie the remains of the medieval Abbey: a gatehouse and a number of depressions on the ground where the monks used to farm fish. Officially, the abbey lies within the parish of Horning - due to the fact that the boundaries follow the old course of the River Ant. In the 18th century a brick windmill was rather incongruously built into the gatehouse. The mill, in full-sail, was painted by the Norwich School artist John Sell Cotman.

St. Benet's Abbey by John Sell Cotman

St. Benet's Abbey by John Sell Cotman

Ludham is also notable for being one of the locations for the 1954 film Conflict of Wings. Below is a wonderful photograph of the filming which was taken by Nita Townsend.

Ludham as Filmset.

(Photograph by Nita Townsend appears courtesy of the Ludham Archive.)

Ludham was also the home of the talented artist Edward Seago. Seago lived for many years at the Dutch House and the surrounding marshlands featured in his watercolours and oils. The gardens that he created at the Dutch House are now regularly open to the public.


More photographs of Ludham

More William Cowper Norfolk Locations





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