Cat no. 707

Writers and Places: A Writer's Suffolk

Running time~28:10 Colour Sound 1980 Blaxhall, Suffolk

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A literary history of Suffolk


AgriculturePortrait of a PlaceTelevision

A combine harvester at works the fields in the village of Blaxhall, home of George Ewart Evans. The village is also home to a blacksmith's forge and the Ship Inn.
George Ewart Evans walks through a graveyard as a horse drawn and tractor ploughs.George Ewart Evans explains that he lived in Blaxhall for eight years and it was the local folklore that he found here that inspired his writing. He believes that part of his interest is that he is an outsider.

Still photographs show George Ewart Evans as a boy and in a ruby team: one taken as he entered the airforce at the beginning of the war, shortly after joining the teaching staff of the first Cambridgeshire Village College and marrying his wife, Florence. When he left the airforce he could no longer teach because he was deaf. His wife became the Headteacher at the village school in Blaxhall and he began writing and looked after their children.

In his study his books line the shelves; Ask The Fellows Who Make The Hay, and Horse Power And Magic. In the village, he enters the village shop home of the Blaxhall Stone. An unidentified local voice explains the legend of the stone and how it is supposed to grow. Inside the Ship Inn, Geoff Ling, a former Prisoner of War of the Japanese, sings a folk song and then step dances. The landlord, Mr. Hewitt, explains how the public house has been in the family for three generations. He is shortly retiring and does not know what will happen.

Archive footage shows the regular singing and step dancing meetings that took place at the Ship. These show the Chairman Alf 'Wickets' Richardson introducing a singer, to which women and men begin step dancing. A man plays the accordion. Geoff Ling talks about his family and their links with Blaxhall. George Ewart Evans is filmed the churchyard of St. Peter's Churchyard, the final resting place of many of the people he has recorded in the past. Their words are accompanied by archive film from the 1930s, most of which appears to come from Farm Factory. Priscilla Savage (died 2nd February 1975, aged 93) recalls changes that occurred in farming. James Sly (died 21st September, 1973, aged 84) also recalls changes in farming. Robert Henry Sherwood (died 6th November 1963, aged 79) recalls these changes but from a different perspective as he was a farmer, not a farm worker. A man uses his scythe at the edge of a field to allow the tractor in and works at double handed broadcast sowing. Abraham Ling (died 16th August 1974, aged 87) recalls the itinerant shearers as sheep are being sheered. Elizabeth Maud Drewery (died 18th August 1977, aged 78) recalls going to school and the clothes that were worn. There are school scenes and scenes of the village bus. She also recalls attending church twice on Sundays and attending Sunday school.

George Ewart Evans introduces Helmingham, where he also lived. This is a very different village as it is an estate village with a school, cottages, Helmingham Hall, with its moat, and St. Mary's Church. George Ewart Evans revisits his former house in Needham Market. A later front hides a 14th century, half timbered house. He talks about the house and shows the marks of the construction workers and the sign of Thomas Aldis, the merchant who built the house. There is also a hexstone, a flint with a hole in it, believed to keep witches away.

Folklore surrounding horses is George Ewart Evan's next theme. He visits Roger and Cheryl Clark at Weyland's Farm, Stoke-By-Nayland. Farriers and have begun farming using Suffolk Punches. Cheryl Clark talks about her own experiences of the mythical powers that surround horses. Roger Clark and his apprentice shoe a horse at his workshop.

Mann's combine harvester depot at Saxham, near Bury St. Edmunds has a computer controlled stock system and scenes of a combine at work and a eight-wheeled John Deere tractor is used for ploughing. George Ewart Evans talks about the dangers of soil compaction. Young men are filmed grooming and saddling horses at Hollesley Bay Colony, a borstal. In the fields the horses are used for ploughing. George Ewart Evans ends by discussing the connotations of the word 'primitive' and recounting its influence of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Featured People:

Mr. William Aldred, broadcast sower; Cheryl Clark; Roger Clark; George Ewart Evans; Mr. Hewitt, landlord, The Ship Inn; Geoff Ling; Alf 'Wickets' Richardson

Featured Buildings:

St. Peter's Church, Blaxhall St. Mary's Church, Helmingham; The Ship Inn, Blaxhall Helmingham Hall


John Archer

Elisabeth Kozmian-Ledward

George Ewart Evans

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