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Wymondham (pronounced 'Windham') lies approximately 9 miles south-west of Norwich in the Tiffey valley. It is a busy market town - conveniently located next to the A11. It is also famous for its Abbey which was founded by William de Albini in 1107. The present church incorporates nine bays of the Norman nave and features a fine hammerbeam roof with angels.

Wymondham Abbey

Wymondham Abbey

Wymondham Market Cross

Wymondham Market Cross

Henry Peacham (?1576- ?1643) was the Master of the Grammar School in the town and wrote The Compleat Gentleman - which was published in 1622. Dr Johnson used it as a source for the heraldic definitions in his dictionary.

George Szirtes, the poet and translator, also lives in the town - together with his artist wife, Clarissa Upchurch. Szirtes was born in Budapest in Hungary in 1948. His family moved to England as refugees in 1956 - and he studied Fine Art in London and Leeds. He won the Faber Memorial Prize in 1980 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2005.

 George Szirtes

In 1994 he moved to Norfolk to take up the position as Head of Creative Writing at the Norwich School of Art and Design. He now teaches at the University of East Anglia.

Szirtes' poetry deals intimately with everyday concerns  - but viewed through the eyes of an outsider.  Here is one of the sonnets from his  Norfolk Fields sequence which focuses on Wymondham itself:

The WI stall. Jams, flowers. White
hair scraped back in the draught of an open door.
The butcher’s. He knows you by name. He calls
your name out. His chopping block is washed bright
by the morning sun. The solicitor
down the street. His nameplate. War memorials

with more names. Rows of Standleys, Bunns,
Myhills, Kerridges. Names on shopfronts: bold
reds, whites and blues in stock typography.
Names on labels tied with string to shotguns.
Names on electoral registers. Names in gold
in the children’s section of the cemetery 

by the railway cuttings. Willows, faint blue
in the afternoon, light gently whistles through. 

The Norfolk Fields sonnets were dedicated to W.G. Sebald who also lived in Wymondham for a time - prior to moving to Poringland.

The River Tiffey

The River Tiffey

Szirtes has recently published a series of Three Norfolk Libretti - which includes the delightful Tiffey Song - a lyric about the 'titty-totty little river' that flows through Wymondham. Here is one of the verses:


I have made myself small.
I scurry towards the Yare
Which is yet nameless.
I am young and feeble
When the sun shines for a few months
I disappear beneath the ground.
Small voices in the earth
Soaked into mud
Small hands against reeds
Small veins of clear blood
Small lives of birds and worms,
Small sounds and simple terms
I watch as I sing.

There is a very nice walk by the Tiffey which runs from the Abbey to Chapel Bridge. It then skirts Crownthorpe hill and enters the Kimberley Hall estate. The present hall was built in 1712 for Sir John Wodehouse - a ancestor of P.G. Wodehouse. Further downstream the Tiffey flows through the village of Wramplingham where the travel writer Bill Bryson currently lives.


More photos of Wymondham





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