Day 48 Norwich to Ipswich Inspirational Buildings


I am inspired by many things: songs I hear, and pictures I see and snatches of conversation in the street:

“What did you say to that?” One bloke on the bus said to the other.

“I said that it was far too big and he’d have to think again.”

But I’m also very inspired by buildings. I’m not a great building buff so I don’t automatically know the history of real-life places and my mind runs away with me when I see a beautiful building, and something always kicks in and starts to weave a gay romance around that place. Standish was based on the ruins of Witley Court near Birmingham for example but there are many buildings here in East Anglia that fire me up.

I’ll start with Horsey Windpump. My editors and my publisher asked me if this was correct at the time Mere Mortals was being worked on “Surely it’s a windmill,” they asked. But no, it’s a windpump.

Horsey windpump, as I imagine it was the first time Crispin saw it on a freezing November morning

The Norfolk Broads are non-tidal, and are prone to flooding so pumping the water away from such a flat area with so much water is essential–much of East Anglia is reclaimed from the sea. Back in the 19th century these monoliths of the landscape were very very common–right up until my childhood in fact. You couldn’t look to the horizon in Norfolk without seeing several windpumps. Sadly though, the process of pumping the water away from the land was mechanised, and the windpumps fell into disuse. Long before anyone thought of it being fun and trendy to live in them, they were allowed to decay, their bricks and timber taken to build other buildings and in a generation, Norfolk had lost many of them, never to be seen again.

Brograve windpump, near Waxham

Now of course we realise our folly. The remaining windpumps are listed buildings, some are homes, some are working museums and sadly, all too many are just falling further into decay. But it was the memory of the many pumps, standing like giants on every horizon on this flat land that caught my imagination, and when, a few years ago, I visited Horsey Mere and its windpump, in the middle of a hoar frost, I immediately envisioned a young man alighting a coach, and trudging towards the ferryboat on the Mere. Who was he, and why was he here? The story wouldn’t let me alone after that. Incidentally, the house in Mere Mortals–whilst not on the Torch Relay–was also inspirational, and is in Norfolk, near King’s Lynn. It’s Oxburgh Hall, a fantastic moated house. All I did was turn the moat into a lake and Bittern’s Reach was born.

Oxburgh Hall – the inspiration for Bittern’s Reach in “Mere Mortals”

That’s one story that I’ve told, the others are yet to be written but many in the filing system I laughingly call my brain are inspired by the buildings in my area.

Happisburgh lighthouse, for one (and that’s pronounced Haysburrough. Not Happysburg. Sadly. šŸ˜€

Happisburgh Lighthouse

I was struck by the isolation that lighthouse keepers would have had, and although this particular lighthouse is based on the land, my mind painted pictures of a lighthouse on a rock somewhere out to see, like Wolf Rock, and what would happen if a pair of lovers were billeted there together, with one other. That’s yet to be written, although I have started it. I don’t suppose it will be a bundle of laughs.

Wolf Rock Lighthouse, in Cornwall, not Norfolk!

Norwich Castle – an immense and ancient bastion that is not quite like any other building, although bears someĀ resemblanceĀ to the White Keep in the Tower of London. Started in 1094 and finished in 1121 (they must have used the builders I had…) It was originally a fort, and then for centuries it was the county gaol. Since the 19th century it’s been a museum and art gallery. What amazes me is how new it looks. Also – they must have built it on the only hill for miles. LOL.

I think the blue plastic structure was built around the time of Henry II

I can get bunnied any day of the week just looking at it, imagining all the intrigues and adventures the building has seen.

But that’s in the future…Today I need to tidy up the WIP I’ve just finished (set, if you are interested, in 1920’s Somerset (no idea why)) and bung it off to someone!

Thanks for visiting some of my inspirational buildings with me.



Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives and works in the beautiful Norfolk Broads. She likes cats and cheese but has found that only one of these is any good on toast. Find out about her books at her website


15 responses »

  1. I’m intrigued as to how your lighthouse story will play out!

    Great post – Oxburgh Hall is my new dream house! And Norwich Castle is just strange…

      • Very White Keep – that’s what it made me think of. The blue plastic structure is much later. It’s where Henry V used to keep his tennis balls…

        Cracking photos, toots!

  2. Wow, I never realised Bittern’s Reach was based on a real building! And it’s so much more impressive than I imagined it to be. I’m going to have to go & re-read Mere Mortals now!

      • I think it’s more I’d never seen a building like that before! It just seems completely other-worldly to a girl like me from hilly Wales. And you certainly nailed “other-worldly” in that tale!

  3. Great buildings! I especially love the lighthouse. I worked for many years for a company that had branch offices in and around Norwich, but sadly never got much free time to visit the countryside.

  4. Oh Oxburgh!! What a gorgeous place to set a story. I love the idea of the Lighthouse story too. This is one of my favourite lighthouse pictures. I hope he stepped back inside before the wave reached the door.

    • wow – that’s amazing! he looks pretty laid back, i think he knows the building is going to protect him as the wave comes the other way. Yes, that’s the kind of lighthouse i have in mind, though.

    • We’re just lucky here, I guess, I remember being in NZ and they were inordinately proud of the oldest stone building there, and it was something like 1800. I LOLed.

  5. You’re writing a story set in 1920’s Somerset? That’s my patch! You’ve got Norfolk all to yourself and you have to come trespassing on my manor? Clearly I’ll have to fight back. Now, let me think… Sky Hollister is a man pining for a lost love, who fetches up on a houseboat at Pin Mill, planning to hide away and lick his wounds. The boat, however, is leaky and rickety and he engages handsome handyman Trent Thorogood (notice the men in these stories NEVER have names like John or Paul) who immediately rubs him up the wrong way by criticising his taste in music. Several awkward days ensue with craftsman and client hardly speaking, until the day when hurricane winds pull the boat free of its moorings and send it drifting towards the weir. Their efforts to rescue the boat are eventually successful but by now both men are drenched to the skin so naturally have to strip off, shower, towel down, and suddenly discover each others charms. They soon overcome the chill…

    HOw am I doing? Do you think the story has legs?

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