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West Harling

West Harling is another of Norfolk's deserted villages which, according to Alan Davison, was abandoned during the first half of the 18th Century. Today, All Saints church stands at the end of a long farm track in a clearing about a mile from East Harling. The building is now redundant and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

All Saints Church, West Harling

All Saints Church, West Harling

The poet and satirist Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) moved to West Harling  rectory at the age of six in 1574 when his father became the vicar. He would later record the 'fearefull croking cry' of ravens and the 'blow and batter' of the wind here. Nashe was born in Lowestoft and was later educated at St John's College, Cambridge.

Thomas Nashe in Chains

In 1588 he moved to London and in 1589 he provided the preface for Robert Greene's Menaphon. (Greene was another Norfolk poet - see Norwich School.)

Nashe's satire led him into constant trouble with the authorities and in 1599, following the appearance of his comedy The Isle of Dogs, he was forced to flee to Great Yarmouth. It was here that he wrote his mock encomium Nashes Lenten Stuff about the red herring.

West Harling also has another claim to literary fame - for it was the home of the prodigious letter writer Philip Gawdy (1562-1617). Many of his letters were acquired by the British Library in 1866 following the sale of items belonging to the Norfolk antiquary Sir John Fenn (see Dereham). Fenn was the first editor of the Paston Letters.

In one of his letters to his father, dated 16 November 1587, Gawdy  describes attending one of Shakespeare's plays at a Theatre in London.

In the churchyard at West Harling there a splendid headstone with the following sober message: 'Boast Not Thyself of Tomorrow; Thou Knowest Not What a Day May Bring Forth.'

West Harling Warning!

Gravestone at West Harling


More photographs of West Harling

All Saints Church

Read Gawdy's Letters Online





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