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Ditchingham

Ditchingham lies on the Norfolk-Suffolk border close to the River Waveney. The village is best known for its links with the Haggard family.

Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925)

Henry Rider Haggard is buried in the chancel of St Mary's Church at Ditchingham. He also married Louisa Margitson in the church and the couple lived for many years at nearby Ditchingham House - which lies on the opposite side of the Bungay Road.  Most of his sixty novels were written here. His study was the room to the right of the main house with the large bay window.

Ditchingham House

Ditchingham House today: turned into flats

Despite being intimately connected with Norfolk life, his best known novels - such as She and King Solomon's Mines - are set in Africa. As a young man he spent 6 years in Africa - a time which inspired much of his writing. Like his friend Rudyard Kipling - his Empire-based fiction reached a wide and appreciative audience. In fact, for a five-year period he was probably the best-selling author in the world. One of his lesser-known books Colonel Quaritch, VC (1888) is, however, set in Norfolk.

The Norfolk Record Office at County Hall possess a number of Haggard's hand written manuscripts.

Haggard also wrote books on farming including: The Farmer's Year (1899) and The Poor and The Land and Rural England (1902). Here is a description of the village from The Farmer's Year:
 

'I turn now to describe the land I farm here at Ditchingham. Ditchingham is a parish of about eleven hundred inhabitants, containing something over two thousand acres of land. In shape it is large and straggling, but the most of the population live at the Bungay end, for the village and the town meet at the bridge over the Waveney; indeed, were it not for the sundering river it would be difficult to say where the one finishes and the other begins. The village, in the course of ages, must have shifted away from the church, which, in the beginning, was presumably its central pint; at least, not a single cottage now stands near it.'

Gravestone of Sir Henry Rider Haggard

Gravestone of Sir Henry Rider Haggard

 

Sir Henry Rider Haggard Picture

Sir Henry Rider Haggard

 

Henry's daughter, Lilias Rider Haggard, commissioned a stained glass window inside St. Mary's to commemorate her father. At the foot of the window are three scenes: one depicting pyramids by the River Nile, one showing Bungay from the hills and one of Hilldrop - Henry Rider Haggard's South African Farm. Henry Rider Haggard was also the churchwarden here and restored the porch (there is a brass plaque) and also gave the church tower a clock in memory of his son Arthur who is buried in the churchyard. There is also a tablet to his nephew Mark who died at the Battle of the Aisne in the second month of the Great War.

See also Bradenham.

 

Lilias Rider Haggard (1893-1968)

Sir Henry's daughter is also buried at St. Mary's Church - in the graveyard. She is fondly remembered for her trilogy of books about the county: Norfolk Life (1943) - with an introduction by Henry Williamson, Norfolk Notebook (1947) and Country Scrapbook (1950). The essays contained in these books first appeared in the Eastern Daily Press. She was also responsible for editing Fred Rolfe's fascinating account of poaching in Norfolk called I Walked by Night (1935) and The Rabbit Skin Cap (1939) - tales of rural hardship recounted by George Baldry, the son of a shoemaker.

Grave of Lilias Rider Haggard

Grave of Lilias Rider Haggard

Lilias lived for many years at the Bath House on Outney Common. The house commands a stunning view of the River Waveney.

The Bath House

The Bath House by the Waveney

 

W. G. Sebald (1944-2001)

In the final stages of The Rings of Saturn - the narrator visits Ditchingham churchyard and meditates upon two of the table tombs there. 

Tomb in Ditchingham Churchyard

Sarah Cannell's Tomb, Ditchingham

A similar photograph to the one above is included in the book on page 260. It shows the tomb of Sarah Cannell who was the wife of the Ditchingham doctor. Sebald (or his narrator) also records her epitaph which is carved on the south side of the tomb:
 

Firm in the principles and constant
in the practice of religion
Her life displayed the peace of virtue
Her modest sense, Her unobtrusive elegance
of mind and manners,
Her sincerity and benevolence of heart
Secured esteem, conciliated affection,
Inspired confidence and diffused happiness.


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More photos of Ditchingham

 

 

 
 

 

 

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