St Edmundsbury Cathedral to hold Thanksgiving Service for Ronald Blythe

Following his death on 14 January, St Edmundsbury Cathedral will hold a Thanksgiving Service for the life of East Anglian writer Ronald Blythe on Wednesday 1 March at 2.00 pm.


The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich will lead the service which is open to the public and will feature a eulogy by Julia Blackburn, Suffolk author and friend of Ronald Blythe. Julia was a contributor to his last book, Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside, published in November 2022 to celebrate his 100th birthday. The service will also include music by Benjamin Britten, Suffolk composer and a close friend of Blythe. Their Aldeburgh friendship and time exploring churches was chronicled in Blythe’s 2013 book The Time by the Sea.

Image from @rylett_press instagram

Descended from many generations of Suffolk farmworkers, Ronald Blythe was born in the village of Acton near Sudbury. Largely self-taught, he is regarded as one of the finest writers on the English countryside. He is best known for his 1969 book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village, an account of life in a Suffolk village from 1880 to 1966. The ensuing film, directed by Suffolk’s Peter Hall, was watched by almost 15 million people at its simultaneous cinema and television launch in 1974. Blythe was a lay reader in the Church of England and, from 2003, a Lay Canon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. He received a CBE for services to literature in 2017.


Dean Joe Hawes reflected on the fact that Akenfield, as one of his set texts at school, gave access to a range of voices from a rural landscape already moving into the past. “The authenticity of Mr Blythe’s voice, as well as his attentive listening as a writer, ensured that the enduring beauty of Suffolk and the tenacity of its people are immortalised forever through his prose. We are honoured to give thanks for his life at this upcoming service.”


Everyone is welcome at this public service, but for those unable to attend, it will be livestreamed at: