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On September 1st, 1933 an article describing the village of South Elmham All Saints-cum-St Nicholas appeared in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury. The author was 'Yeoman', the tag of a regular contributor to the newspaper on the history of local communities. In fact, this was his article No 323 of what were described as 'Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes'. In the article, Yeoman set out the reasons why the particular community he was writing about was representative of a unique group of nine parishes in the English county of Suffolk on its north eastern border with Norfolk. Together with the four eastern parishes of Ilketshall, each one dedicated to a different saint, local people refer to them as 'The Saints'.

Yeoman's articles on the nine parishes can be accessed from the left hand menu.

Fig 1 The Nine Parishes in relation to the local drainage pattern and surrounding villages and the River Waveney boundary between Suffolk and Norfolk

Such ordinary places make up most of the Suffolk landscape which is devoted to mile after mile of featureless intensive cereal production.The dust cover introduction to Norman Scarfe's book 'The Suffolk Landscape' published as a contribution toW.G. Hoskins' series on 'The Making of the English Landscape' in 1972, encapsulated the relative pictorial dullness of the county.

"Sandwiched between the emptier, more open Nofolk and the more metropolitan Essex, Suffolk is famous for its calm landscape of estuaries and gently undulating cornfields, its associations with Crabbe and Britten, Gainsborough and Constable'.

These famous 'calming features' of Suffolk are actually confined to its borders with Essex and the coastal ports and heathlands.However, the next sentences reveal a basis for considering spaces in the rest of the county as having a special 'personality'.

'The ingredients of this landscape are plainly part of an ancient story of settlement.How and when it all came about is examined here and broadly established for the first time.The distinctive, rather hidden personality of these lands..... derives almost everything from its makers, the South folk or 'Suffolk', the English of southern East Anglia'.

The first settlers of East Anglia were not motivated by areas of outstanding natural beauty but by fertile spaces with natural resources for survival and raising families. This first human impact is responsible for 'the distinctive rather hidden personality' of a small space on Suffolk's northern border with Norfolk consisting of nine closely knit communities, known locally as The Nine Parishes or 'The Saints'. The clues to discover its sense of place are a single man-made feature, that is unique in the whole of Britain, and a remarkable pattern of settlement which is now only evident in old maps. Beginning with these two features it is possible to reveal the distinctive personality of The Saints which is coupled with the beginnings of East Anglian Christianity. The area of the Nine Parishes then becomes a space with a sense of place and picturing it adds important notional values to commonplace streams, ditches and hedgerows of a tiny strtetch of countryside that for a few centuries played a cultural role in the making of Englishness.

View The Saints at Google Maps

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