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Earlham

Earlham lies on the western side of Norwich.

Earlham Hall, now part of the University of East Anglia, was built in 1642 by Robert Houghton. Later it became the home of the Gurney family who were influential Norwich Quakers. The philanthropist Joseph John Gurney lived in the hall - as did his sister Elizabeth Fry - the prison reformer. Many members of the Gurney family are buried in the Gildencroft Quaker Cemetery off St. Augustine's Street. Today it houses the UEA's Law School.

Earlham Hall

Earlham Hall Today

As a boy George Borrow used to fish the River Yare near the bridge and on one occasion was caught by Joseph John Gurney. However, Gurney then invited the boy into the hall to see his books. In his autobiographical novel Lavengro Borrow recalls the hall with great precision :
 

'On the right side is a green level, a smiling meadow, grass of the richest decks the side of the slope; mighty trees also adorn it, giant elms, the nearest of which, when the sun is nigh its meridian, fling a broad shadow upon the face of the ancient brick of an old English Hall. It has a stately look, that old building, indistinctly seen, as it is, among the umbrageous trees.'

The art critic and biographer Percy Lubbock (1879-1965) grew up at Earlham Hall during the nineteenth century and in his memoir Earlham (1922) he too lovingly recreates the location. Here is the opening paragraph:
 
'The slightest turn of memory takes me back at any time to Earlham, to the big sunny hall where we used to assemble for morning prayers. The shallow staircase descended on one side by the great front-door. Opposite to it another door opened to the garden, and through two wide windows, tangled with roses and vines, the sun-shine welled into the house.'


River Yare at Earlham

The River Yare at Earlham Park

In Earlham there is a nice description of the River Yare:
 

'The river at Earlham was simply the river; I never thought of its possessing a name upon the county-map. It does possess one, however, and a name not undistinguished among the waters of East Anglia - the river Yare. Early in its course it reaches Earlham; it twinkles over gravel and water-cress to the brick archway of the bridge, turns suddenly black and silent in the fishing-pool, and winds idly away through the Earlham meadows, a full-fed stream, deep enough to carry us in our broad-beamed old boat.'


St. Mary's Church, Earlham

St Mary's Church, Earlham


In chapter 16 of Earlham Lubbock also describes services he attended at St. Mary's Church - where his grandfather was the rector. He recalls that: 'an evening hour in Earlham church was unlike any other in life'. He also remembers:
 

'By sundown the dusk was already grey in the body of the church, though up in the gallery there was still a flush and haze of warmth from the small west window of the tower. In the little north transept, in the chancel behind the dark carved screen, the shade deepened quickly; it began to be difficult to read one's book even before the psalms were at an end.

St. Mary's is a small flint church with a square-tower. It lies just across the Watton road opposite what is now Earlham Park. There is a memorial inside to a member of Lubbock's family.
Links:

Read Earlham Online

 

 

 
 

 

 

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