A matter of convenience
PUBLISHED: 16:01 15 September 2014
Lindsay Want uncovers tucked away stuff that’s simply oh-so-Suffolk
Right across Suffolk, historic church buildings are undergoing a new style of reformation. Kitchenettes are creeping into the side-aisles, providing tea-making facilities by the tombs and churches by the score are boasting toilets in the tower. Easy perhaps for architectural purists to poo-poo the idea, but it’s all being done to go with the times as it were, in the name of sustainability.
From Kedington to Kersey, congregations and visitors enjoy a more comfortable welcome and there’s an opportunity to become a revenue-raising concert and community venue too. Even back in 1583, St Mary’s Woodbridge saw a urinal installed against its west wall. Really rural locations like Ufford and Bildeston offer a humbler outhouse option, but the idea is still seated on good intentions.
Coming on stream any minute, the new waterless, composting toilets at Thornham Walks near Eye are equally as flush. Conveniently situated by the play area and walled garden, they’re not only like a normal loo inside, odourless and eco-friendly, but will save over £4,000 a year. Surely the only Suffolk toilet to top that is the Tree Bog at Alde Garden in Sweffling, a very special loo with a view which gets immediately to the root of things.
Fossilized dinosaur poo - who’d have predicted the wealth it brought to Victorian Ipswich? Coprolite (a nodular Greensand mineral deposit rich in phosphates, mistaken for dino droppings) began to be extracted from London Clay crags around the Deben in the 1840s. First ground, then processed using sulphuric acid to make fertiliser, the industry made a bit of stink on Ipswich docks, employed hundreds and the legacy of miller, Joseph Fison, lasted right into living memory. Today University Campus Suffolk by the quayside enjoys the quirky address of ‘Coprolite Street’.
There’s a charming brick-built privy at the Museum of East Anglian Rural Life in Stowmarket; Felixstowe Museum at Landguard Point safeguards the prettiest blue and white porcelain lavatory bowl imaginable, but Framlingham Castle has to win hands down with a royal flush. As well as the impressive latrine tower, check out the Lanman Museum’s wooden two seater thunder-box ‘throne’ made for parent and child.
(Admission to on-site Lanman Museum included in Framlingham Castle ticket. Currently open daily 10am - 6pm www.englishheritage.co.uk)
Pew with a view
So there you are, sitting down and quietly composing yourself opposite the door in Badingham Church near Framlingham. The weird way that the aisle slopes up altar-wards has made you feel quite woozy. You’ve soared to the dizzy heights of angels and got a crick in your neck from admiring the heavenly single hammerbeam ceiling. And then you look right, do a double take and thud back to earth with a smile…
The carved stone panel facing you on the massive font is serious enough in subject matter: a dying man is being given his last rites. The priest is doing the anointing; the wife, hankie in hand, is doing the sniffling, but tucked under the old boy’s bed with his shoes is his chamber pot. On another panel, a bridegroom’s fashionable hat dates the work to almost 1480 exactly. Could that be East Anglia’s earliest depiction of a ‘guzunder’?
A real wheeeeze…
Made mainly out of copper from old hot water cylinders, the cheeky three storey sculpture on Southwold Pier created by Tim Hunkin and Will Jackson clocks up a great lesson in water recycling. Every half hour to everyone’s delight, the bath water drains; the two lads drop their boxers, aim (and miss) the loo and the freshly watered flowers grow in the window boxes. Little matter that electricity now makes things tick over: this has to be toilet humour at its most educational.
And the best bog
in Suffolk is…?
Well, if cleanliness is anything to go by, then Redgrave and South Lopham Fen near Diss has to be a clear winner. This boggy landscape near the source of the River Waveney is home to Bladderwort, a rare carnivorous plant. Only thriving in extremely pure water, it gets nutrients from entrapping and digesting water fleas through little pouches or ‘bladders’ attached to its roots. Hidden mainly underwater, the deadly plant only shows itself when it sends up little yellow snap-dragon flowers.