East Anglia: The Roots of Puritanism in America
This year we decided to offer a very unique Christian tour — a journey tracing the roots of Puritanism in America back to East Anglia, England. We enjoyed lectures and interactive discussions along our route, exploring the villages and churches our Puritan forefathers frequented, discovering the history not only of these people’s lives but of the theology that drove them to leave their homes for an unknown and unsure future.
We had a wonderful visit to Colchester, England’s oldest town. (Although Ipswich has the right to say THEY are the oldest English speaking town. Colchester’s first inhabitants spoke Gaelic) Our friend and radio broadcaster Liz– who has been to our Ipswich, MA twice doing stories on Massachusetts– showed us around.
It is a beautiful town with a wonderful old castle, now housing a history museum. It has lots of Roman artifacts from the Roman period, before the Anglo-Saxons. They even have pre-Roman collections from the Iron Age and earlier. Their ancient heroine is Queen Boudica, who had the courage to attack the Roman occupiers, burning down a big temple. They also have a large collection from the 15th and 16th centuries when women were being attacked as witches. It makes Salem, MA look very tame.
Then Liz took us to a National Trust medieval mill, Bourne Mill, where she turned the water on for us!
We had lunch in a little restaurant in town built into an original Roman wall. After lunch we had a wonderful National Trust guided visit to Flatford, which is true “Constable Country”. We learned all about John Constable, the famous painter, and saw the scenes you can recognize in many of his paintings.
After our tour several in our group walked through the “vale” from Flatford to Dedham. There we went to see the beautiful little church where the Puritan John Rogers used to preach. (John’s son Nathaniel went to Ipswich, MA in 1636 and became the second minister of the First Church in Ipswich.) As we stepped inside the door of the church we confronted a professional opera company rehearsing Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea! Another marvelous day!
There were so many highlights on our Puritan tour, it’s hard to recall them all:
- Our delegation is welcomed and served tea by Ipswich Mayor Mary Blake.
- We visited Westminster Abbey, had the best Blue Badge guide in the world, Tim Hudson (not only can he tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Puritanism in America, Oliver Cromwell, and every tiny fact of British history, but he is a Shakesperean actor, has a LOVELY accent, and also has a great sense of humor! You should hear him sing “The Monarchy Rap”!).
- Enjoyed a walking tour called “Puritans, Dissenters and Strangers” in Norwich.
- Visited the Guild Hall at Lavenham which was a center of the wool trade which was the source of East Anglia’s wealth. It was also the home of John Winthrop’s Grandfather.
- Stopped at the Stour River, Flatford, at John Constable’s home and the site of many of his paintings.
- Explored the lovely market town of Bury St Edmunds, the town at which the nobles met to decide how to confront King John and to force him to sign the Magna Carta.
- Visited the Wren Chapel at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, filled with historic roots of Puritanism in America. This college is where many of our Puritan forefathers studied divinity and were influenced to confront King James the 1st and King Charles 1st over the worship of idolatry and other “Popery” practices.
- Had a beautiful day for punting on the Cam! The day we went was graduation day for several of the colleges that make up Cambridge University. It was really exciting being in the middle of all the celebrations! Our Blue Badge guide, David Berkeley, was a walking encyclopedia of Cambridge history and took us to several chapels and colleges where our Puritan forefathers attended school in the 1600s.
- Stopped in Ely, home of Oliver Cromwell and saw the hexagonal dome at Ely Cathedral.