Monday, 7 September 2009
Flint occurs where there's chalk. And nowhere was it used to greater effect than in Norfolk, where the absence of other building stone or suitable timber presented problems to builders. This is one of the very hardest of minerals, composed of almost 100% silica. Usually we will see flint knocked into smaller units (knapping) and used as outer decoration on buildings. It could be mined, as at Grimes Graves near Thetford, but in Norfolk, as in Kent and Sussex, the sea-washed pebbles on the beach were in plentiful supply to put into use as ready-rubbed cobbles. The monster piece of flint above is embedded with thousands of others in the walls of Castle Acre, just north of the A47 Kings Lynn to Norwich road. This is an English Heritage property you can just wander into free of charge, and what a treat. One of the biggest motte-and-bailey castles erected in England, it sprawls over fifteen acres, forming as it did part of a reward (that included Lewes, Conisbrough and Reigate) given to William de Warenne for helping the Conqueror out at Hastings, and probably built within three years of the Conquest. I can't tell you what a playground this became for The Boys, but the closer I got to the walls and poked my camera in, another, equally pleasurable world opened up in the fantastical abstract shapes of the giant stones.