RAILWAYS; BROAD STREET STATION

LIVERPOOL STREET AND BROAD STREET STATIONS, LONDON. These adjacent termini each had a very different feel.

I would not arrive in London from my home in Norfolk until mid-morning at the earliest. By then Liverpool Street station had seen the morning commuter rush, but it was still a busy and bustling place. The commuter traffic may have abated, but the long distance expresses from Norwich, Yarmouth South Town and Kings Lynn were continuing, taking up the daytime hours. (In Eastern Region days, as before that in Great Eastern times, all Kings Lynn trains ran to Liverpool Street, not as they do today, when most trains go to Kings Cross.) Similarly passengers from Ipswich and Cambridge were also arriving at Liverpool Street throughout the day. The paper stalls and cafes were still busy, serving the travelling public. In 1960 most of these expresses were still steam hauled, although commuter services into Liverpool Street relied on electric stock, powered by overhead gantries. This differed from Broad Street, were the power came from a fourth rail system.

The branch to connect the North London Line to the edge of the City at Broad Street was conceived in the 1860s, principally as a freight service. It opened in 1865 (a decade before Liverpool Street itself) but it proved a great draw to bring workers into the City. As a result the number of trains on the North London Line increased greatly. By the early years of the twentieth century Broad Street was one of the busiest stations in the capital. The spread of the motor bus after the First World War, and the growth of the tramways began the decline.

Broad Street Station was only a few steps away from Liverpool Street, but the atmosphere was entirely different. It had taken mainline trains in LMS days, but by the postwar era it was essentially a commuter terminus, serving the North London line. This terminated at the other end (as far as we were concerned) at Richmond station, and from 1956 until 1959 my sister Tiggy was studying at Maria Grey Teacher Training College, just across the river in Twickenham. And so we caught the train from Broad Street; it was a very convenient way for us to visit my sister.

I don’t remember the staff who checked our tickets (nor the booth where we bought them), but there certainly were employees of British Railways about at Broad Street. Nevertheless, it always seemed a deserted station. There was a long flight of steps that you had to ascend to reach the train hall at Broad Street. This was because the branch from Dalston Junction was a built on brick arches, so the track was on a high level. This used millions of bricks, but the arches were all let out to commercial concerns, which provided an ancillary stream of income for the railway. On reaching the train hall it was as quiet as the tomb. After the early morning rush hour (which we never saw) things became very ghostly. There were no shops on the concourse at Broad Street, only a 5 inch gauge model tank engine, which, when you deposited a penny in the slot below the case, started the wheels and valve gear that ran for a couple of minutes. It must have dated from the nineteenth century, when steam trains still ran into Broad Street, This I always had to have a go at, whenever I visited Broad Street station.

Travelling on the North London Line was much better than going by underground, simply because you could see the surrounding scene. By contrast the tube was dull and boring, dark and uninteresting. In 1960 the electric trains that had been the exclusive form of transport on the North London Line sine 1916 were all painted green. All electric multiple units on BR were painted in what had been called “Southern Green” under Grouping.

I cannot have made the trip more than a handful of times, but it was always exciting. I never imagine the station was doomed to an early demise. During the seventies services were gradually withdrawn, and the dereliction of the station became much more pronounced. The end came in 1986. It was the only large terminus in the capital to close, although others (like Marylebone and St Pancras) had been threatened. Now the area once occupied by the terminus is a financial centre. Commuter services have been diverted to Liverpool Street.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF RAILWAYS

HOLME-NEXT-THE-SEA

SEAHENGE

HOLME-NEXT-THE-SEA lies on the north west corner of Norfolk, between Hunstanton and Thornham. Besides being the site where Seahenge was discovered, it is where Peddars Way reached the sea and travellers continued their journey across the Wash into Lincolnshire. Seahenge was a circle made from split oak tree logs with a central upturned stump. The site consisted of an outer ring comprising fifty-five small split oak trunks, forming a circular enclosure of around 7 metres. Their split sides faced inwards and their bark faced outwards (with one exception). One of the trunks on the south western side had a narrow Y fork in it, permitting access to the central area. Seahenge (as it came to be called) was uncovered by the action of the sea in 1998. It was removed for preservation and for eventual display, before the regular process of the tides could destroy it, which they would have soon done, once the sea had uncovered it. It may now be seen in Kings Lynn Museum.

The poverty of stones to make up a henge does not mean that none were built in Norfolk – it just means that they were built of wood instead. Unlike stone, wood rots away, and so the ancient circles have disappeared from view. It took a dry summer and a  passing aeroplane to reveal the Woodhenge in Arminghall, and the erosion of thousands of years of mud and sand to disclose Seahenge at  Holme. Woodhenge (discovered in 1929) is said to date from late Neolithic times and this makes it considerably older than Seahenge. Seahenge was constructed over four millennia ago in the Bronze Age. This makes it a few hundred years younger than its more famous brother, Stonehenge. These two Norfolk structures are the best known wooden circles in Norfolk, but others undoubtedly existed in the past, and have either been obliterated by later developments or await future discovery. 

NORFOLK is lacking in large lumps of rock, and this has made such stone circles as the Rollright stones (on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshite border) absent from our landscape. It is true that the monoliths that make up Stonehenge were brought from many miles away, but this was exceptional. Most of these structures were made of locally available materials. I know that most of these structures in Norfolk were built of wood, but this implies that stone was used for some. This I believe to be true. Stone is rarely found in Norfolk, but some large boulders may occasionally be found in the east of England, left here as parts of the moraines deposited by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. One such stone may be found at Ingatestone in Essex, where it forms part of the town’s name. Another boulder is to be found at Lyng in Norfolk. These single rocks cannot be made into a stone circle, but that does not mean they were no venerated; certainly that at Lyng has stories attached to it that indicate a ritual use in the past.

SEAHENGE

Joseph Mason

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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WEEKEND 26/7th JULY, 1980 – (taken from my diary entries)

SATURDAY

It was very hot today and rather humid. By post we got a replacement for our boat licence (my canoe needed one to go on the rivers in Norfolk; I think if I had only used it on the sea I could have avoided the need to licence it).

CANOE

The phone rang at 9.30, it was Mrs Pound of the Society of Recorder Players to say that Roskins had my music stand, I could have it back when I next went to Howe Hill. In the meantime I could borrow one from her, but I told her not to bother as I had another one. After doing a little gardening (mainly watering) we took the dogs to Spur Lane. Next we did some shopping in the village (Poringand). Home for coffee and then up to my place of work in Norwich. There was a cheque in the post. I collected some plastic padding which I needed to mend the freezer. I went to the bookshop – I was looking for The Wheels of Chance by H. G. Wells but the search was in vain. A visit to the library was equally unrewarding. However I did get a copy of Under the Greenwood Tree (Thomas Hardy) which I brought home to read.

On the way home we stopped off at Lakenham so that the dogs could have a bathe in the river Yare (it was very hot). For lunch we had a quiche with salad and the last of our strawberries. My sister had picked them in the morning when she was weeding the strawberry bed. After lunch I read the Thomas Hardy book until I dozed off, while Tiggy (my sister) was gathering up the windfall apples. We took the dogs to the river again and then came home to have a game of croquet on the lawn.

At five p.m. we got the canoe ready for an evening voyage; this meant checking the ropes, the rudder bar and making sure the rubber bungs were securely in place (important that, we didn’t want to sink). We drove it to the dyke at Rockland Broad. For a change we paddled down the upstream channel and went up river a little way. We did not get as far as Brundall on this occasion however. Saw plenty of grebes swimming on the water with their young (by now quite as larger as their parents). Being on the water it was cooler than ashore, though still hot. We returned to the New Inn in Rockland where there was a herd of cattle.

Back home with the canoe (it ws quickly loaded on the trailer at Rockland, and need no further attention when we got back). We had the radio on as we drove home and listened to Robert Robinson (he is always good to hear). For supper we had potatoes and green beans (both our own produce) with sausages. Then blackberry and apple pie.

BASS

Took the dogs to the river at Whitlingham (this was before Whitlingham Broad had been dug out to provide material for the Southern Bypass). I mended the hole in the top of the freezer (I think this was only for appearances, I don’t suppose if affected the use of the appliance). Finally before going to bed I did half an hour’s practice on my double bass.

SUNDAY

It was bacon and egg for breakfast. I had a look round the garden, planning next year’s crops and using the watering can. We went to Mousehold heath to exercise the dogs, stopping on the way to purchase the Sunday Telegraph. When we got home we had coffee outdoors as the weather was so fine. We had the fountain playing as we sat on the lawn. Then I got the mower out and cut the grass; next it was the hedge cutter, but to do the back hedge meant turning off the fountain, as I need the flex. Now my hedge cutter is battery powered, but that was not an option in 1980.

For lunch we had ham, with the first of our yellow tomatoes as part of the salad. I find yellow tomatoes unusual, but in flavour they are indistinguishable from red ones to me at least. For dessert I had crab apple jelly tart, these are all nice things to eat which rely on homemade ingredients. Then it was off to Abbot’s Farm Open Day. This is the farm we know as Kidner’s Farm. I don’t know if the farm house is in Shotesham or Stoke; the property must extend into both parishes. There was a crop spraying aeroplane to see, and (less modern) a horse was giving wagon rides. It is mixed farm, and among the animals there were cows with their calves and sheep. We walked over to see the ruined stables that had belonged to Stoke Hall. The hall had possessed an oak chimneypiece with the arms of Charles II on it, said to be from Sir Thomas Browne’s house in Norwich. (Gladstone had stayed here with the Birkbeck family.) It was demolished in 1937. The site of the hall itself is a pit with mounds of soil in the midst of the overgrown platform, which still has abrupt faces on the south and west. The19th century stable block had a Rhineland style tower which remains. This is in a derelict state. We were given a walk round tour of the overgrown gardens, conducted by Roger Kidner, who ended up by giving us a talk on the Hall. Finally we had to seethe pigs and chickens to please Tiggy they being more to her taste than old ruins. This makes her sounds like a child, but she was older than me by ten years.

Who was John Hilton? Apparently he was well known to us at the time. We met him and his family at Abbot’s Farm, though he was moving permanently to the Lake District in a week or two’s time. Perhaps that is why I don’t remember him, though I have to say that I can recall nothing of my visit to Abbot’s Farm either, which is a pity because it sounds interesting. (Nor do I remember anything about what I did the day before, at Rockland Broad, which also sounds fun.) We must have left the dogs in the car while we went round Abbot’s Farm, because next we took them a bit further to Smock Mill common (in Saxlingham) for a walk.

Back at home I played my tenor recorded while Tiggy cooked the joint of beef. We had it for supper with home grown broad beans and cabbage. For dessert she had done a blackberry sponge. In the evening I rode my bike through Caistor and Arminghall which did not please my dog Fido, as he was left behind. Then I practiced my double bass, which did not suit him either.

JOSERH MASON

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THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA

HIJACK

Cast your mind back to 1969 if you can; most people cannot, as they were not born then. If you can remember so long ago you may remember the hijacking of TWA flight 840 that summer. The plane was on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv when it was seized by a team of Palestinians, of whom the leader was one Leila Khaled. TWA is a long disappeared American airline. It was a different world then (over fifty years ago), and all sorts of things were done differently. Khaled was pictured wearing a headscarf as one would expect of a Middle Eastern woman, but this was a cultural thing, nothing religious about it; Leila Khaled (born 1944) was an atheist. We never hear of her today; her profile simply does not fit the modern picture of the world. Her pioneering role as a fighter for dispossessed Arabs would make her a hero to all Muslim, were it not for her ,atheism, which would even condemns her to death in the eyes of many of them.

It is extraordinary to think that any Arab freedom fighter could openly espouse atheism today, yet this didn’t seem anything other than normal fifty years ago. Religion had no place in politics anymore, or so we thought. As an example of how we used to view religion I considered it might be useful in trying to understand the history of the Middle East to read some of the Koran, but there was no copy in our history faculty library. We had a notebook in which we could write down our suggestions for additions to the library, and there was a column for the librarian to reply. I wrote down my request for a copy of the Koran; not only was it not forthcoming, but my request didn’t even merit a comment. Whatever place could a religious text have in an intellectual setting in 1970? I am sure copies of the Koran are freely available across all universities today.

Things were also carried out with more humanity then. We thought we had left wholesale slaughter behind in the 1940s. The Palestinian hijackers were careful that no one was killed , and passengers and crew were released at Damascus airport. An explosive charge did damage the plane, but that was all. A subsequent attempt to seize another aircraft was foiled by members of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. In this case the aircraft was diverted to Heathrow and Leila Khaled (her again) was held in custody. During her detention she met several British officials, who treated her with punctilious courtesy, and even a friendship developed between her and a couple of British policewomen. She was released as part of global power politics, but she apparently retained an affection for the UK. I can fairly say that most Britons were shocked by the very idea of hijacking aircraft. The most common destination for hijacked aircraft was Cuba, and had nothing to do with the Middle East.

The leaders of the Muslim world – Gammal Abdul Nasser, the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein – all had largely secular agendas, and Turkey had been an openly secular state since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. Everyone assumed this process would continue. The harsh and despotic regimes of the Middle East were totalitarian but they ensured a mainly peaceful life for their inhabitants. The area was not a attractive one to Western eyes, but it was not the powder keg of Islamism and competing ideologies it is today.

JOSEPH MASON

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THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES

CONFLICTED THOUGHTS

It is undeniable that we can (and often do) hold two contradictory opinions simultaneously. Most examples of this kind of ‘cognitive dissonance’ are fairly easy to spot; the person who would like to go vegetarian, but still likes burgers is an obvious example. Likewise the driver of a gas-guzzling car who says how bad it is for other people to pollute the environment is similarly using two standards at the same time.  But these all too human fallibilities, where an intellectual position runs up against a basic appetite. These are conflicts of interest, but they are not the conflicts of thought. These are  what I am going to examine. In these instances, where the connection between things is not so blatantly obvious, the opportunities for doublethink grow impressive.

Take the coal mining industry in the UK; this was a continuous source of political and industrial strife since the General Strike, but particularly in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed it was so fractious an issue that Margaret Thatcher decided to close down he entire industry. Already in the 1970s domestic house heating was less reliant on coal fires, as gas heating became more widespread after the introduction of natural gas.  The steam locomotives had vanished from the railways system, replacing coal with diesel. Coal fired power stations were the greatest users of this material, and they were progressively being replaced by gas powered generating systems. So the age of coal was coming to an end, but Mrs T accelerated the demise of coal with a vengeance.

The resulting loss of jobs among coal miners was a terrible blight on communities across the mining area of the land, where coal mining had been a way of life for centuries. Everybody regrets the human cost of the end of mining. Unemployment remain rife for decades and vast swathes of Wales, the Midlands  and the North of England have only just recovered fully from decades of hurt. It is remarkable that these areas of the Red Wall are now increasingly turning to the Tories.

However, who would want to return to the use of such a dirty fossil fuel today? The proportion of electricity generated from burning coal has declined from 100% in 1950 to less than 2% in 2018, and for weeks on end can fall to zero. Unfortunately this change over, which most people would see as a good thing, was inseparable from the devastation of the coal mining industry. You cannot have both happy miners and clean energy. Yet almost everyone celebrates the new generating environment with far less reliance on fossil fuels. The necessary corollary of unemployed miners is ignored. You must take your pick of eventualities however.

JOSEPH MASON

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FOR THE STORY OF THE PAST

Holiday in PORTUGAL

Molly and I took our two children to Portugal for a one week break on Wednesday 20th Jul 2005. We flew put by Ryanair from Stanstead to Opporto. We stayed at the Holiday Inn there, a dreadful place; there was no tea or coffee making facilities (very unusual as this had been standard in the UK since at least 1980 )and breakfast was charged extra (contrary to what we had been told on booking). It was the first time that any of us had been in that country (naturally the children had not been anywhere abroad without us at that age, but neither Molly nor I had been to Portugal either).

We spent a pleasant morning sampling the Port that they hold in warehouses by the Luis I Bridge across the river Douro. The youngsters were only teenagers, but we must have thought it suitable to let them each taste a glass of wine; Port is very sweet and they enjoyed it. In the past they brought the wine down the river from vineyards up country by sailing boat, and examples of these craft were still moored by the quayside.

PORT-barrels

Another expedition was to the football stadium in Porto, it was almost new built. No matches were held in July of course, but the trip was essential as far as Peter was concerned. Not so much for me, but at least I was able to see round the empty stadium! In contrast to the splendor of the new football stadium I was rather shocked to see the living conditions of the poorest Portuguese people. Several of the buildings in the deprived parts of the city of Opporto had no running water (this was under twenty years ago) and the women had to fetch it from the many public drinking fountains in the streets.

I did not appreciate the attitude of some of the Portuguese. I know we must have seemed rich tourists to the natives, who are only now just catching up with the rest of Europe after centuries of poverty, but the attempt to do us down when we caught the bus to Lisbon left as nasty taste. The journey south took as through miles of burnt countryside, which had just suffered from a forest fire. Such fires happen frequently in hot dry Portugal, and they have strict laws about lighting of flames in an attempt to prevent them.

Lisbon is a very different place from Opporto. It has the feel of a capital. We stayed at a hotel outside the city in a town called Oerias. The area the hotel was in was being developed at the time, and it was quite a way from the railway station. Moreover it was in a desolate landscape, with rabbits as the only residents. The town proper is along the seaside, where the estuary of the river Tagus debouches into open water of the Atlantic. We reached it by railway, the Linha de Cascais. This is a pleasant journey along the coast. from Lisbon. We spent a day exploring the towns and villages along the routes of the railway. Despite some drawbacks it was all in all a lovely holiday as far as I was concerned, but my son had just fallen in love for the first time. His enamored was back in England, and he really didn’t want be all those miles away from her.

JOSEPH MASON

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THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST

A DULL DAY

Wednesday the 13th of January 1971 was an indifferent day; cold and grey. I got up in my digs and after having a shave went off to Summertown. I walked there, It wasn’t very far. I bought a newspaper – the Telegraph to read on the bus on the way into Oxford – a single decker this time, unusually. [Actually single deckers had recently taken over both the No. 2 and the No. 13 services.] A single ticket cost me 9d (nine old pence), but not for much longer however, We were due to go over to decimal currency in the next month, February 15th 1971. Nine pence does not convert exactly into new pence, so the price will go up; nothing went down. I went into the library and wrote a page and a half on building trades organisation. Despite appearances I was doing a Modern History degree, and I was working in that fine piece of architecture, the Radcliffe Camera. I had lunch in one my favourite restaurants, the Chinese in Ship Street.

After lunch it was only a short walk to the Bodleian (Seldon End) where I read Mrs Esdaile on the Stantons of Holborn. I don’t remember what this was about, but as I was doing 17th century buildings I guess it was something to do with this. It was in the Archaeological Journal so it must have something to with archaeology too. When I had finished this I went to the market; all these places I have mentioned are very close together in the centre of Oxford. By then it was half past three, and the market was packing up for the day, but this meant there was a lot of cut price items on offer. This was mostly foodstuffs (fish and meat) but there were also watches, foam rubber, clothes and general junk at reduced price too. Oxford market was still also a livestock market in 1971, and there was a pen of oxen and one of sheep left on this dreary afternoon.

Next I went to the railway station. It was a desolate place in the late afternoon, especially at this time of year. When I was a student at Oxford the station had not then been rebuilt, and it was a dilapidated place built of wood; nothing like the fine terminus at Norwich. As far as other things went it was no better; I had gone there for a Western Region timetable for the journey to London (a reasonable thing to request I thought) but they had none. Later in the week I tried various travel agents, but again with no luck.

The evening’s reading was McCullock’s economic history texts. I have always found economic history particularly dull, and these were no exception, so you may imagine my feelings as I returned to the Radcliffe Camera. I would have got out of it if I could, but economic history was a compulsory part of my course.

Why did I have a footnote “James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Cape, 15 shillings.”? I’m sure I have never read the book. I must have intended to.

JOSEPH MASON

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MEMORIES OF FIFTY YEARS AGO

A VISIT TO COLCHESTER

An April Tuesday, the weather was rather wintry; it was sunny in the morning but with hail showers in p.m. My sister had a letter from the A.A. – she hasn’t joined this year. I got up early, as did sister Tiggie, which made her tired later. For breakfast we had fried egg and sausage. We took the dog out to Spur Lane on the way up to the city. Tig drove me to Norwich railway station and then went to work where she had (by her account) a dull day. She did have a phone call from the Estate Agent to say he was sending someone else to view the offices that we were trying to let.4 At lunchtime she walked Fido along the riverside at Whitlingham.

Meanwhile I was on the train to Colchester. I had bought my reading matter at W. H. Smith’s to keep me occupied on the journey. I bought the Eastern Daily Press, which I had finished by the time the train rolled into Colchester, so I left it in case anyone was interested in reading it. It takes just over a hour for the train to get from Norwich to Colchester. I had already begun my lunch on the train, although it was only 10.45, so I had to take the rest with me to finish it later.

My first call was at the Castle. Construction of the keep began in 1076, probably under the supervision of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, who had built the White Tower in London. William the Conqueror ordered a castle to be built at Colchester on the strategic route between East Anglia and London. The building makes extensive use of Roman materials, especially brick, so it is quite different from another Norrman Castle, that at Norwich, which is made of imported freestone.

COLCHESTER…ROMAN.GLASSWARE

The collection at the Castle museum has a fine assortment of Roman artefacts. Colchester was the first capital of Britain before Londinium. Colchester was destroyed by Queen Boudicca in her Rebellion and in its rebuilt state it ceded its place to London.

Then it was to the Castle Bookshop, where I spent a couple of hours browsing. I found two 17th century pamphlets which I bought for £6.50. Right at the end of my stay I came across a little volume of songs of 1820 The Music Cabinet which cost me £24. I called at the George for a drink of Fosters. In the afternoon I found another two bookshops, the Trinity Street one was particularly good with lots of lovely books. I got a First Edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music. I walked past the Goat and Boot to the Book Exchange where I bought a biography of John Barbirolli for 75p.

On the way back to the station I got caught in a hail storm and got wet. I had to wait about 50 minutes for the train but at least I had plenty of books to read in the waiting room! Luckily the train was made up of old coaching stock, so I had a nice comfy compartment to snuggle down in. Just as I had left an EDP on the way down, someone had left a Telegraph at Colchester, so I had that to read as we sped homewards. The purchaser of the paper had begun (but not finished) the crossword.

This was before the line from Ipswich was electrified, so my train was diesel hauled.

My sister met the train and took me home; someone had hit a cock pheasant on the road, so we stopped and picked it up. This will make us a pleasant meal for us later. We had game soup for supper and in the evening I lit the fire. We watched Hinge and Brackett on the TV.

[12/04/1982]

JOSEPH MASON

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THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

RAILWAYS: THE HADLEIGH BRANCH

Hadleigh is a small town in the south of Suffolk near the river Stour.

The Eastern Counties Railway had run out of steam by the time it had reached Colchester in 1843, and in the ensuing pause a number of schemes were promoted for continuing its progress towards its ultimate destination, Norwich. It was mooted that the town of Hadleigh was to be on the mainline to Diss, with Ipswich being relegated to a branch. The traders of Ipswich would have none of this, and floated the Eastern Union Railway’s proposal to link the town to Colchester directly. It was this line that was built and now is part of the Great Eastern mainline.

As built the nearest that the line came to Hadleigh was Bentley station between Manningtree and Ipswich, some seven miles away. The line to Ipswich was opened in 1846; Royal Assent was given to the Bill authorizing construction of the branch to Hadleigh in the same year and work proceeded rapidly. Up to 300 navvies were employed on the project. and the beer consumed during the evenings after work had ceased for the day was phenomenal. This was appreciated by the local publicans if few others. The branch to Hadleigh was opened on Friday August 20th 1847 to great celebrations. A public holiday was declared in the town. The train had left Ipswich at 3.25 and arrived in Hadleigh three quarters of an hour later. A brass band had accompanied the train and at Hadleigh the Town Band led the assembled multitude through the town. Two hundred and fifty invited guests sat down to a meal at five o’clock. Despite the enthusiasm, the line was not opened to the general public for another fortnight to allow the necessary inspection to take place. There were two intermediate stations on the line, at Capel and Raydon, although both stations were located over a mile away from their respective villages.

HADLEIGH

A disturbing event occurred during the first year of operation. A special train was arranged to run to Ipswich for the regatta on the 16th September 1847. It was a windy day and the construction of a wall at Hadleigh station had only been competed that morning. The mortar was not yet dry, and a gust of wind of near hurricane force blew down the the 14 foot high wall and injured over fifty of the waiting crowd.

Barley for the maltings and malt exported from the town was a major commodity handled by the railway at Hadleigh. Hay and straw for the cattle carried by rail were kept in the good shed, and arrangements to provide water were at first precarious. In the days before piped supplies all water came from wells, including that needed by the steam engines themselves. Wood was taken from Raydon station and cattle from all stations on the line. Goods traffic was important to the railway, but so too were passengers. There were initially five passenger trains daily in each direction, and three on Sunday, though these weekend services were not well used and were soon abandoned. However the number of daily passenger trains increased during the nineteenth century. There were occasional accidents on the line, mostly of a minor nature, but all were reported to the authorities.

The First World War produced a growth in freight as the farms around Hadleigh were required to make up for the food that could no longer be imported from abroad. After the war the decline in passenger traffic was exacerbated by the the growth of motor omnibuses built on the chassis of ex-army trucks. The fact that the journey from Hadleigh went direct to Ipswich by road, whilst the railway journey required a change at Bentley did nothing to encourage passengers to travel by rail. Passenger traffic was ended in 1932. The effect of the Second World War was similar – the building and then the subsequent supply of the USAAF air base at Capel made for extra business for the railway, but this again declined after the war. Ultimately the line closed to freight traffic on the 15th April 1965. The station at Bentley which had been the junction with the Hadleigh branch was closed in November of the following year. A part of the track has been opened as a Wildlife haven.

JOSEPH MASON

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A TRIP TO LEICESTERSHIRE

FRIDAY 27th to 29th MAY 1983

In 1983 the town of Coolville was still at the centre of the North West Leicestershire coal field. It had been founded in the 1830s when a colliery was built there. Up until that time the whole area was just a path called Long Lane and a tract of waste land. Samuel Fisher, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, described what the area looked like in 1832. “We see a large tract of waste on both sides of the road… covered with gorse-bushes, blackberry brambles, etc., with not a single house on either side of the way.” What drew me all those miles away to the town? I could have told you thirty years ago, but now who knows?

CLOCKTOWER

AFTER packing my car I left home at 10. I wanted to get on and so I ate my lunch (corned beef sandwiches) as I drove along. My first stop was at Oundle; as that was a place that I did not know I had a look round. It is quite picturesque but dominated by the school. I took my concertina to the musical instrument shop and left it for the man to inspect. He wasn’t in, but I hope he will offer me something for it. I stopped at a junk shop just outside Corby and made some purchases. At Leister I found an 1885 brochure by Broadwood pianos, which I bought. There is a ruined castle at Ashby de la Zouch, near Coalville.

I got to Coalville at half past five and set up my stand; it looks quite good. I was selling my stock items, basically all sorts of magnifiers and few other DIY goods. I left the stock in good hands (I hope) and went off to find a bed for the night. I found a pub called the Fallen Knight which had few rooms at £13.50 a night. I had looked up bookshops in Coalville in Yellow Pages and had found one, but when I went to find it I discovered it had turned into a video studio. Still I had an interesting walk round the town, though most places were shut of course.

I had cheese and biscuits for supper and a drink in the bar. I phoned home to tell my sister Tig about the place I had found to stay. I couldn’t phone Molly as she was out having dinner with Margaret Ashcroft, her former boss (used to be the headmistress at the school she taught at). She had lots to hear, as Margaret had just got back from her visit to Israel. My bedroom at the pub has a colour TV, so I watched Are You Being Served, followed by the news. The exhibition I am taking part in is located in a hall right on the edge of the colliery.

On Saturday morning I got up by 8; there were tea bags, coffee and a kettle for me to make a drink. After half an hour of TV I went down for breakfast. It took nearly half an hour to arrive and when it did there were bits in the milk and shell in the egg (I had egg and sausage). I went into town and bought a copy of Punch (about the only weekly I could find). I bought Waterways World (a monthly) and a Ashby de la Zouch Guide Book. I also bought a Telegraph to prevent boredom as I sit by my stall. In fact I was not bored, as the model railway track was busy giving rides by a steam and diesel hauled train. There were all sizes of models from N gauge to 10¼”.

The exhibition was to celebrate 150 yeas of the founding of the town, when the first mine was established there. There were memento photos of the town at a nearby stall. I had sausage rolls and a cup of tea for lunch. I read my papers fairly thoroughly and spent my time sucking throat sweets as I have a sore throat. The hall is air conditioned; but being a mining town there was lot of coal dust in the air outside. On the first day I did a fairly brisk trade and sold £100 worth of goods.

AFTER the EXHIBITION was over for the day I went to have look at Burton on Trent (the beer town); not impressive. Then back to my hotel (pub). On the TV I watched a Betjeman programme. On Sunday morning I had bacon and egg for breakfast. I bought the Sunday papers, there was an article on women at Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall of course is now coeducational and they now have a male principal. Sales at my stall were not as good as yesterday, but I still took nearly fifty quid.

There were a lot of locomotives on the track today. I had my lunch in the clubhouse again. I made my last sale at 5.45 and got packed up by 6.45. I got a Chinese take away at Leicester. It cost me £2.20. Sweet and sour chicken, prawn crackers, a pancake roll and egg fried rice; a lot for a meal for one. I ate this as I drove along and stopped in Uppingham for a drink. I called on Molly on the way home, where I got in at 11.30. (Molly was the lady I was to marry three years later.) My dog Fido was delighted to see me (he had been left at home with my sister Tiggie).

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

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