This postscript to my earlier piece on Spixworth concerns various aspects of the historic part of the village which I did not cover in my earlier post. The east window of the parish church is entirely of Decorated design although the architecture of the church is a mixture of styles. The curvilinear style exhibited in this window tracery was produced in the first half of the fourteenth century. Then church building was effectively brought to a halt by the Black Death; when church building resumed after the horrors of this plague the flamboyance of the Decorated style was replaced by the more restrained Perpendicular architecture. There is a lot of stained glass in the windows of the church, much of it Victorian, which makes it rather dark inside.
This pretty 17th century building (see the next photograph) with a clock and cupola is the stable block of the demolished Spixworth Hall. This is the largest remaining part of the hall, now restored as holiday cottages. Other ancillary buildings to the old hall such as the coachman’s cottage and the lodge by the gateway on the Buxton Road are similarly let out short term for the holiday trade. Obviously only the ground floor would have had stables for the horses, the first floor being the hayloft.
When Robert Bacon Longe died in 1911 the estate passed to his eldest son Francis Bacon Longe. Until then he had pursued an army career in India, becoming Surveyor General in 1904. On becoming Lord of the Manor at Spixworth he retired from his official position in India, but he did not move into the hall. In 1912 there was an auction of all its contents including furniture, books and domestic articles. The booklet listing the lots ran to 76 pages. Norfolk County Library has two copies of the catalogue for this sale –both kept at Thetford library. This is rather strange location as it is far from the village of Spixworth. Perhaps it is because they are catalogued as “Brixworth Park”; maybe the librarian thought that the mythical village of Brixworth must be out in the sticks near Thetford!
The parkland that was used as pasture during the life of the hall has a number of specimen trees dotted about. Although the land has been converted to arable these trees remain. One of these trees is a Turkey oak, a species introduced from Europe in the eighteenth century. It is relatively quick growing for an oak tree. The tree is unmistakable because of the ‘hairy’ acorn shells. In the days when hardwood timber was much sought after, these that had grown as single trees were regarded as the best. Free of competition for light from a surrounding forest they did not grow tall am thin.
Thebroad trunks could swell to produce wide planks when felled. Hedgerow timber had many of the same qualities but was prone to have the remains of nails in its trunks where fences had been. This would immediately blunt the woodman’s saw. A typical parkland tree has a bushy top growth that extends all round the bole, but is free of growth within about seven feet of the ground. This is height, to which browsing cattle would have eaten all the young growth in the reach of their extended necks.
Spixworth Park is described in great detail in James Grigor’s “Eastern arboretum: or, Register of remarkable trees, seats, gardens, &c. in the county of Norfolk : with popular delineations of the British Sylva” (1854) pp. 215-216. “Those who can remember this park some twenty years ago, will not fail to regret the quantity of timber which, since that period, has fallen a prey to the fatal axe. There are still, however, several trees of the same age yet remaining, whilst some of them, particularly those near the dovecot, are fine and well grown, creating a depth of shade and giving a park-like effect to the surrounding scenery.”