Paperback: 48pp

Published: Eye Books (July 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633416

Long Melford Colouring Book

Simon Edge

£6.99

A Wars of the Roses roll call in medieval stained glass

The stained glass windows of Holy Trinity Church at Long Melford in Suffolk are one of the glories of England’s medieval heritage.

Most stained glass from this period was destroyed in the Reformation, when the Tudor boy king Edward VI ordered religious imagery in churches to be destroyed, and later in the Civil War. The glass at Long Melford is a rare survival. Its mainly secular images show East Anglian dignitaries and their wives, some of them familiar names in the history of the Wars of the Roses, and provide an unparalleled record of 15th-century costumes, heraldry and hairstyles.

The 36 line-drawn images based on the figures in the windows – with an introduction on the history of Long Melford and a short biography of each character – will provide hours of colouring entertainment for adults and children alike.

Long Melford’s stained glass is in urgent need of conservation. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the restoration fund

OUT JULY 2022. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW

Extracts

Long Melford is a tranquil village in the southwestern part of Suffolk, a sparsely populated county with no cities and no motorway running through it, which today feels remoter than it really is from busier parts of the country.

In medieval times, Suffolk was anything but a backwater. It was the most densely populated county in England, as well as the richest. It owed its prosperity to a thriving wool trade centred on a handful of places dedicated entirely to that industry. As one of those settlements, Long Melford was among the wealthiest towns in Europe.

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Extracts

Long Melford is a tranquil village in the southwestern part of Suffolk, a sparsely populated county with no cities and no motorway running through it, which today feels remoter than it really is from busier parts of the country.

In medieval times, Suffolk was anything but a backwater. It was the most densely populated county in England, as well as the richest. It owed its prosperity to a thriving wool trade centred on a handful of places dedicated entirely to that industry. As one of those settlements, Long Melford was among the wealthiest towns in Europe.

The area’s prosperity was at its height in the fifteenth century, when the English aristocracy was also divided into two warring factions. One supported the ruling Lancastrian dynasty of the monkish King Henry VI and his French wife Margaret of Anjou; the other backed a challenge to the throne from the House of York in the shape of the usurping Edward IV, who deposed Henry in 1461.

East Anglia was spared any of the great battles of the Wars of the Roses, but many of its aristocrats and landowners were key players. In Long Melford, wool tycoon John Clopton of Kentwell Hall – who was Sheriff of both Suffolk and Norfolk – backed the Lancastrian cause, as did his close friend John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, lord of the manor in the neighbouring wool town of Lavenham.

Corresponding with the exiled Queen Margaret to try and restore Henry VI to the throne, the earl was betrayed by his courier. De Vere, along with his eldest son Aubrey, plus John Clopton and three knights of the realm, were arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In February 1462, Oxford’s son was executed in front of him, then he himself was disembowelled, castrated and burned alive. The three knights imprisoned for their role in the conspiracy were beheaded. Only Clopton was pardoned and allowed to go free.

Returning to Long Melford, he devoted the rest of his life to the support of the new Yorkist royal family and to building a magnificent church, giving thanks not just for the wealth of the wool trade but also for his own survival.

On the site of a previous church on high ground at the upper end of the village, the new Holy Trinity was constructed between 1462 and 1484. Vast in size, it remains one of the most celebrated medieval churches in Britain. Simon Schama calls it ‘an extraordinary example of both spectacle and sophistication’ while the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described it as ‘one of the most moving parish churches of England: large, proud and noble’.

It was built in the Perpendicular style, with as little stone and as much glass as possible. As a result its window area is enormous, flooding the interior with natural light. In medieval times, these windows were glazed with elaborate scenes in stained glass, a medieval art form which flourished in England and was then at the peak of its sophistication.

Tragically, as much as 90 percent of English medieval stained glass was smashed in the Reformation, following Henry VIII’s breach with Rome – his son Edward VI ordered religious imagery in churches to be destroyed – and a century later in the Civil War, when Puritan vandals tried to obliterate anything the previous generation of zealots had missed.

Long Melford’s magnificent church was by no means immune to these waves of destruction. However, the sheer area of windows made it hard for the state-sponsored iconoclasts to destroy everything.

What survived is an array of stained glass unique in England. The images the zealots didn’t destroy are mainly secular, showing the family, friends and associates of John Clopton, some of whom may have given him money for the construction of the church. Their nearly life-size portraits provide an unparalleled record of fifteenth-century costumes, heraldry and hairstyles – as well as a line-up of Suffolk dignitaries and their wives, some of them familiar names in the history of the Wars of the Roses.

Other glass in the church includes a remarkable Pietà image of the crucified Christ in the Virgin Mary’s arms – one of only four surviving examples in English medieval stained glass.

As Simon Jenkins says in his classic guide England’s Thousand Best Churches: ‘The surviving glass records a plutocracy that must have deterred even the most determined iconoclast…a roll call of kneeling donors and associated saints and heraldry, God and mammon in magnificent union…’

We hope you enjoy getting to know these wonderful images as you colour them in.

quotes

‘The stained glass of Long Melford is among the glories of England’

Edmund Blunden

reviews

‘It’s a beautiful book. It looks incredible and you could really while away some time colouring these. It’s a truly wonderful and pretty unique fundraiser. I think it’s going to go down so well’

Sarah Lilley, BBC Radio Suffolk

extras

ABOUT

Simon Edge

Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.

He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years. He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London, where he also taught literary criticism.

He is the author of five novels, all published by Lightning Books: The Hopkins Conundrum, longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award, The Hurtle of Hell, A Right Royal Face-Off, Anyone for Edmund? and The End of the World is Flat.

He lives in Suffolk.

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