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Mattishall lies five miles south-east of Dereham - just off the A47.

Mattishall Hall, at South Green, was once the home of Anne Bodham - who was the cousin of the poet William Cowper. In his final years in Norfolk Cowper visited the house frequently - especially while he was living at North Tuddenham.

Mattishall Hall

Mattishall Hall

It was Anne Bodham who sent Cowper the miniature portrait of his mother which inspired his well known poem On Receipt of My Mother's Picture Out of Norfolk. Anne Donne died when Cowper was only six years old and the event had a profound affect on his life. The poem begins:

Oh, 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 smiles I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else, how distinct they say,
'Grieve not, my child, chase all they fears away!'

Here is a portrait of Cowper's mother:

Ann Donne - Cowper's Mother

The Donnes were a Norfolk family and Cowper often stayed with his uncle Roger Donne at Catfield rectory when he was a boy. Cowper's poem to his mother is one of his finest pieces: full of emotion and yet employing the natural rhythms of speech. Here is another famous section:

I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nurs'ry window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!

Parson Woodforde, who lived at nearby Weston Longville, used to attend social events hosted by the Bodham family at Mattishall Hall. (Bodham was Anne's married name.) He would normally travel across on horseback and the location is frequently mentioned in his famous diary.
More photographs of Mattishall




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