The Garden of Sleep - Clement Scott - Sidestrand - Norfolk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

The drama critic of the Daily Telegraph and the Morning Post Clement Scott arrived in Norfolk in August 1883. Unable to find himself accommodation he was put up in the Miller’s House in Sidestrand. He was so taken with the area that he wrote a number of articles in the newspapers expounding the virtues of Norfolk, which eventually resulted in Cromer and the surrounding area becoming a fashionable place for holidays for the rich and famous. He named his articles and, subsequent book Poppy-land. The book was dedicated to the Miller's daughter.
The term Poppy-Land was due to the vast quantities of poppies which grew in, and around, the area which he so loved. One of his favourite places and for which he wrote a poem entitled ‘The Garden of Sleep’, was the church tower of St. Michael and All Angels at Sidestrand.

The church and churchyard stood right on the cliffs and as the land around it was gradually eroded the locals decided to re-locate their community church further inland. They dismantled the church stone by stone and rebuilt it on its current site.

However, they left the church tower on the cliffs and also the old graveyard. Every New Year's Eve for 15 years Scott walked along Tower Lane to the old church tower and churchyard and spent the last few moments of the old year on the cliffs in the place he called his Garden of Sleep.
As the sea continued to claim the land, the locals had the disconcerting sight of seeing the coffins and the remains of those who had been buried in the church since the 15th Century, tumbling one by one, piece by piece into the crashing waves below.

Clement Scott died in 1904 and some say that in later life he regretted that he had made Norfolk famous and that he commented that it was no longer the lovely rural landscape he had first visited in 1883.

The Church tower eventually fell over the cliffs in 1915/16, though its image continued to be used on postcards right up to the 1930’s.The new church St. Michael and All Angels at Sidestrand used the headstones from the old churchyard to line the wall by the road.

The Garden of Sleep by Clement Scott

On the grass of the cliff, at the edge of the steep, 
God planted a garden - a garden of sleep! 
'Neath the blue of the sky, in the green of the corn, 
It is there that the regal red poppies are born! 
Brief days of desire, and long dreams of delight, 
They are mine when my Poppy-Land cometh in sight. 
In music of distance, with eyes that are wet, 
it is there I remember, and there I forget! 
O! heart of my heart! Where the poppies are born, 
I am waiting for thee, in the hush of the corn. 
Sleep! Sleep! 
From the Cliff to the Deep! 
Sleep, my Poppy-Land, 

In my garden of sleep, where red poppies are spread, 
I wait for the living, along with the dead! 
For a tower in ruins stands guard o'er the deep, 
At whose feet are green graves of dear women asleep! 
Did they love as I love, when they lived by the sea? 
Did they wait, as I wait, for the days that may be? 
Was it hope or fulfilling that entered each breast, 
Ere death gave release, and the poppies gave rest? 
O! Life of my life! On the cliffs by the sea, 
By the graves in the grass, I am waiting for thee! 
Sleep! Sleep! 
In the dews by the deep! 
Sleep, my Poppy-Land, 

Picture (c)
                    by John Ashley Photography