Anne Boleyn at Erwarton – a story from East Anglian Shores

Yachtsman, journalist and author David Fairhall contributes this guest blog, detailing one of the many interesting stories he discovered from his exploration of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex’s coastal regions for his book EAST ANGLIAN SHORES (updated and republished on 26/9).

We all know the story of Anne Boleyn’s fatal liaison with Henry VIII, and its grim conclusion at the Tower of London. Much less familiar is the dramatic aftermath played out in the remote village of Erwarton, on the Suffolk coast.

Not that Erwarton is remote as the crow flies. Its tall-windowed fifteenth century church looks straight across the River Stour to the busy ferry terminals of Parkeston Quay; in nearby Harwich Harbour vast container ships load for China and the Far East. But since this is East Anglia, its low-lying coastline repeatedly perforated by rivers, creeks and canals (in a small boat you could actually circumnavigate the entire region by way of the Wash and the Thames), reaching the village by road usually involves a long detour through lanes whose origin as farm tracks is only too obvious.

Photo: Orwell Yacht Club (

In Tudor times people and cargoes might well have come by boat. East Anglia depended on water transport. At Erwarton, the remains of a wooden jetty are visible on the riverside shingle. Until quite recently, the local farmers even operated their own sailing barge, the miniature Cygnet, which is still afloat. And nowadays visiting yachts continue to drop anchor in the lee of Erwarton Ness, although the village pub they once patronised – the Queen’s Head – has reluctantly been closed.

How Queen Anne managed the journey from London I don’t know, but her uncle lived at Erwarton Hall (you really cannot miss the extravagant turreted gatehouse) and she loved to visit him there. So much so, she apparently asked that her heart be buried in the village church.

In 1838, workmen repairing St Mary’s church after a lightning strike had damaged the flint tower, came across a heart-shaped casket hidden in an alcove. On opening it, they found just a sort of brown powder, which they took to be the Queen’s pathetic remains – and which they carefully re-buried beneath the organ.

EAS cover

EAST ANGLIAN SHORES: History, Harbours, Rivers, Fisheries, Pubs and Architecture by David Fairhall is published by Adlard Coles Nautical on Thursday 26th September. It is available through all good bookshops at an RRP of £12.99. Alternatively you can order it direct from us here to take advantage of a 10% discount:

Painting the Shipping Forecast

Painter and author Peter Collyer contributes this guest blog ahead of the publication of the new edition of his book, RAIN LATER, GOOD: Painting the Shipping Forecast, this Thursday (12/9):

When the idea of painting my way round all the sea areas of the Shipping Forecast first struck me, one location, and it was land not sea, stood out and the thought of going there for the first time filled me with excitement. Iceland.

I boarded the ferry in Bergen. It was a lovely sunny July afternoon and the boat was packed. The Faeroese contingent of athletes who had been taking part in the Island Games, a kind of Olympics for rock dwellers, had unexpectedly come aboard because their flight home from the host rock, Jersey, had been diverted to Norway due to bad weather.

It had become customary on these travels for me to spend as much time as I could patrolling the decks, waiting for the magical moment which would define my journey through that particular rectangle of sea to reveal itself. Usually the scene didn’t change too dramatically from one minute or even one hour to the next, so I had the time to produce satisfying and useful sketches, but always kept a camera handy to record those fleeting moments of something special. So with that in mind I found my way up to the sun deck, just in time to witness a stampede of the athletes, who flopped down onto the sun loungers and promptly stripped-off (more or less!) to soak up the rays.

When we arrived at the Faeroe Islands late the following morning I discovered why those few hours of July sun, which even we British can almost take for granted, was so precious to them. Welcome to the grey north!

(c) Peter Collyer

The austere beauty of their islands was the unexpected bonus of this particular journey. But as I watched them slip majestically over the horizon and we headed for Iceland it was still the thought of our impending arrival there early the following morning, which captivated me.

We were due to dock at 8am, so I was out on deck before 6, hoping to see something spectacular. Maybe it was out there somewhere, but coastal fog obscured the view and I stared out at a uniform greyness. It was Faeroes part 2.

I decided to stay on deck and was very soon rewarded handsomely. A momentary parting of the fog and cloud revealed three sunlit mountain peaks streaked with snow. Wow! I managed to snap three photographs before the grey blanket covered all again. Was I the only person to have witnessed that glorious vision?

I had been prepared to find something else to paint as a record of my South East Iceland visit, but even though I was able to spend an hour or so on a sketch during my four hours ashore and we had sailed for more than an hour down a beautiful sunlit fjord on our departure, those few seconds before breakfast stayed with me. Clearly there was no time to have recorded anything of it on paper with pencil or brush, so back home in my studio I used the details recorded by my camera and the vivid thoughts still in my head, to recreate for posterity how it felt to be out on deck early that morning and to have witness that fabulous moment.

(c) Peter Collyer

I began it in the usual way by drawing a rectangle – in this instance 15 x 20 cms, quite big for me – on a piece of watercolour paper and composed the main elements of the scene with a few light pencil marks. Then, slowly, over a few days and into a couple of weeks, carefully built up the many washes of transparent watercolour until I felt the rich velvety image I had made matched my memory of the subtlety of that early morning light.

It was such an important moment for me, and maybe because of that I felt the painting was one of the best I had ever done, that I decided not to sell it when the exhibition of all 44 paintings from my Shipping Forecast travels were exhibited at Chris Beetles’ gallery in London, but kept it as a memento of a special period of my career and to create a family heirloom for succeeding generations of Collyers to enjoy.

Rain Later, Good: Painting the Shipping Forecast

RAIN LATER, GOOD: Painting the Shipping Forecast by Peter Collyer is published by Adlard Coles Nautical on Thursday 12th September. It is available through all good bookshops at an RRP of £14.99. Alternatively you can order it direct from us here to take advantage of a 10% discount:

Bailey Boat Cat lands a book deal!

We at Adlard Coles Nautical have some VERY exciting news to share… about one VERY special little boat cat…

Bailey Boat Cat is already making waves across the global blogosphere, thanks to his devilish good looks, feline philosophies of life aboard and, above all, his impossibly stylish little cat lifejacket.

And we are delighted to announce he has now given his official paw of approval to the contract for his very first book deal…


Bailey practises his pawtograph


After all that exertion, Bailey treats himself to a little rest

We can safely say that Bailey is the furriest, whiskeriest Adlard Coles author to date! And possibly the most photogenic – no offence to any of our other winsome writers, of course…

Fans of Bailey will have to wait until April 2014 to get their paws on a copy of his book – but watch this space for more tantalising tidbits to come!

And, until then, here’s a sneak preview of the cover… MIAOW!