Bishop of Norwich sails in to annual Abbey service
2017: The Rt Rev the Lord Bishop of Norwich Graham James arrived on the wherry Ardea at St Benet's Abbey near Ludham on 6 August for the annual service at the monastery ruins on the banks of the River Bure, Norfolk.
The Bishop, who is also Abbot of St Benet’s, always arrives and leaves by boat for the service each year, but this year was able to arrive by a traditional Norfolk wherry, a common sight on the Norfolk Broads in Victorian times, but now one of only eight still in existence.
Bishop Graham said "St Benet's Abbey was one of the great centres of Christian life in Norfolk until the Reformation. The site is an oasis of peace even now, and on the first Sunday in August we worship in the open air, witnessing to the enduring love of Christ and to the unity of Christians.
"This annual ecumenical event provides a special way of honouring a holy place and continuing the Christian witness on the Broads in our own generation."
The Abbey of St Benet at Holme was the only Norfolk monastery founded in the Anglo-Saxon period which continued in use throughout the Middle Ages but was largely abandoned after the closure of the monastery in the 1530s, because of its inaccessible location. The only remaining buildings are the gatehouse and the wind pump later built onto it. The surviving ruins and earthwork remains however, show how the site was laid out, and much important evidence remains below the ground.
Wherries were a distinctive feature on the Broads where they were used for hauling goods around until the arrival of the railways in the late nineteenth century. After that they tended to be used mainly as pleasure craft. The wherry Ardea was built in 1927 at Leo Robinson’s yard in Lowestoft, partly a response to the depression in the local boatbuilding industry. Launched in the presence of King George V she remained on the Broads for 30 years, chartered for holidays as a sailing vessel and latterly as a skippered motor craft.
Taking her name from the Latin name for the heron family, Ardea features a heron silhouette on her vane. She is unique amongst the surviving wherries in being built of teak and having a varnished, rather than painted, hull, which remains in excellent condition. She is now the largest of the Wherry Yacht Charter fleet.
Photos are by kind permission of Roger Green
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