Sardines come from Sardinia, at least the name does. They can be any small oily fish, and a young pilchard may be so described. At one time in history the young pilchard was apparently very prolific in the seas around this Mediterranean island, which is how the sardine got its name. ‘Sardines’  are exclusively tinned fish nowadays; named ‘pilchards’ they may be sold tinned or fresh, but a tinned pilchard is a slightly larger fish than a tinned sardine. Sprats are only available as fresh fish. Sardines are a name not a species, and are a British food; they have been around for a long time. The novelist Anthony Trollope (1815 – 1882) refers to sardines; the angular sardine tins were then called boxes, and ‘fish in boxes’ were served at one of the tea parties he describes. Tins for the preservation of meat were developed for the Royal Navy by the innovative engineer Bryan Donkin in the early 1800s. The tinning of fish soon followed, and sardines were the perfect size and flavour for this.

You used to have to remove a key from the tin and wind back the lid to gain entry to the fish inside, and if the key had been lost (as sometimes happened) you had a problem; but now you just have to pull back a ring instead. The technology has improved a little, but the taste of the fish remains the same as it has always been. Tomato sauce or other more exotic flavourings are added nowadays, but in my opinion you cannot improve on the plain fish served in brine or sunflower oil. The overfed and over-indulged consumers of 2017 may dismiss the humble tin of sardines as beneath contempt, but they are much better for you than the processed snacks that the manufacturers love to force down your throat; they are also much cheaper. At one time I used to buy a tin of pilchards to feed my dog, as it was cheaper than buying a tin of dogfood; nor was it bulked out with such indigestible ingredients as ash, which happens with some commercially produced dogfood.

Besides being an inexpensive source of protein, sardines do not require cooking or even heating to provide the basis of a meal. A tin of sardines, with sufficient fish to feed a person, or even two if they are not too greedy, may be bought at Sainbury’s for under 50p; at other shops they may be had for less. When there are such nutritious and cheap foods available, people must be in dire circumstances indeed to need to access a food bank. I am glad there are those charitable folk who support these facilities; I just hope that none of these hungry recipients of free food spend any of their scarce resources on smoking. Unlike a sardine, a cigarette is both bad for you and expensive. You may protest that such people are in the grip of an addiction, but I used to smoke and I know that with just a little will power it is not hard to give it up.

‘Sardines’ is also the name of a party game, played by children. The adults in whose house the game is played have to be quite relaxed about the resulting mayhem, because the game requires that as many children as possible squeezing into small an unsuitable corners of the dwelling. My own childhood house was too small for the playing of sardines as we were squeezed in like sardines anyway, but my grandmothers home in Kings Lynn was amply big enough, and at Christmas I and my cousins would crowd under beds or into wardrobes while others found us and  joined us. It was also a popular game during the long winter evenings at weekends at boarding school. The lack of domestic furniture in which to hide was compensated for by the much larger area in which to hide,  in box rooms and cupboards. Whether at school or not, ‘lights out’ was a prerequisite of playing sardines.




My Great Aunt Ruth was born in 1890, to a warrener whose job it was to harvest the rabbits on Jeremiah James Colman’s estate. It was a very ordinary job in which Phipp Peachey, my great-grandfather, disgraced himself by selling rabbits under the counter to the local butcher. This was a serious thing to have done, but he kept his job; however he was no longer allowed to wear the Colman livery. This was apparently a great ignominy for him.

Ruth Hardy

Ruth Hardy

Ruth Peachey was educated at the local village school in Trowse. When she had finished her schooling she was retained as a pupil teacher, which was still how new teachers were trained in the early years of the twentieth century. This was quite a step up for a warreners daughter, but she was not the first of her family to go down this route. Her eldest sister Thurza had already qualified as a teacher. Another Trowse born youngster was called Bertie Hardy, the son of a bricklayer. Three years older than Ruth, he had already qualified as a teacher.

Bertie and Ruth were married in 1912. When the First World War broke out Bertie joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a private. He went on to become a sergeant. I do not know how good he was at the language when he arrived in France, but he obviously took full advantage of living among foreigners to improve his linguistic skill. After returning from the front he secured a job teaching French at the City of Norwich School. This was established in 1910 by Norwich City Council as a boys’ secondary school, to be built at Eaton on the edge of town. The most intelligent boys from the City’s Primary Schools were awarded scholarships, to be educated until the age of sixteen. The CNS, together with the Blyth School for girls, were in fact Grammar Schools, although most such schools were set up following the 1944 Education Act.

 Mrs Ruth Elsie Hardy in the Mayoral Robes.

Ruth Elsie Hardy as Lord Mayor.

Ruth was very interested in politics and was a member of the Independent Labour Party. She was proud to call herself a Socialist, and once she was elected to the council she rose rapidly through the ranks. During the Second World War she established MAGNA (Mutual Aid Good Neighbour Association), a voluntary group that supported the vulnerable. In 1950 she was appointed Lord Mayor. For her inauguration she revived the Civic Coach, pulled by two dray horses from Steward and Paterson’s brewery. The coach had been in storage since before the war.

As her Lady Mayoress Ruth had her daughter Marion. How Ruth’s husband would have been described had he wished to fill the position I do not know; her predecessors as female Mayors were spinsters, so the problem had not arisen. As it was Bertie was more than happy to remain in the background. An only child, Marion was a graduate of Oxford University. Like her father she had studied French.  All this was a long way from laying bricks and catching rabbits in the Norfolk countryside.

Aunt Ruth retained a great interest in politics, and she lived into the era of Margaret Thatcher. In spite of their very different political backgrounds, she was enchanted by the prospect of a female politician rising to the very highest power in the land. ‘Mark my words,’ she predicted, ‘she will be a great prime minister’.




Neville Jones was a Junior School teacher  at Gresham’s throughout his career. I remember his dwelling in the living quarters attached to Old Kenwyn, a block of classrooms by my time. I was taught by him during my time at Crossways, one of the two junior school houses. I cannot remember anything about his lessons. I can picture him very clearly; you will have look at the photo to the left.  He was married with a young family – a few years younger than me – when I arrived at the school in 1959.

Mushy Hughes wasn’t a Junior School teacher, at first anyway; however, the term after I moved on to the senior school he took over as housemaster at Crossways. Thereafter he was naturally very involved with the junior school, but he still taught Classics to the seniors. He taught Greek to my friend James Oxley-Brennan. James was a very good Greek scholar, but by the mid sixties he was the only pupil who still studied the subject; when he left after taking his ‘O’ levels it was dropped from the curriculum. It was no longer taught at the school and, as far as I am aware, it has never been revived. James has become a leading light among learned circles in Norfolk, but his subject has nothing to do with speaking Greek; rather he is the editor of the local Industrial Archaeology journal. Even when he was at school his passion was steam engines.

I cannot remember being taught by Mr Hughes; I can only remember being taught Latin by ‘Gosso’ Mosley. That was because his lessons were an opportunity for him to produce puns, an activity in which I too participated. I was good fun, but not perhaps conducive to learning fourth declension nouns. At the time I was in the top set for Latin, but at the end of the year I was demoted to a lower set, when I may very well have been taught by Mushy. Unlike Mr Jones, Mr Hughes was unmarried, and remained so throughout my time at school. He died within the past few years, and I am sure that he remained a bachelor to the end. I need hardly explain that Mushy was his nickname; his real name was (I think) Michael. I am sorry if you feel that I am getting rather forgetful as the years pass.

Communist guard

Communist Europe; plenty of armed guards.

My lasting memory of Mushy was his taking a group of us teenagers on holiday to Eastern Europe in 1965. He was not entirely single-handed in this enterprise, having as his deputy another young master, a teacher of mathematics called Graham Smithers. Nonetheless it was a formidable undertaking, going behind the Iron Curtain with more than a dozen schoolboys.

I discovered that I had lost my travel card (with which those of us without passports were issued) when the train pulled up at the Czechoslovakian border crossing. With his tall frame and rather snooty look – his nose was permanently in the air – he was nevertheless imperturbable. In due course I found my card – I had left it as a bookmark in the history book I was reading – but when I told him he was equally calm. Incidentally this haughty appearance was misleading; it did not represent his character, which had no hint of arrogance about it.

Somehow he seemed to have enjoyed the sightseeing on the holiday, and with a Czech acquaintance he even organised a visit to the opera for us. He cannot have been pleased when several of us absented ourselves from the second half of the performance, but only a slight frown crossed his brow when we informed him of out intention to leave. The good boys remained to listen to act two of Verdi, while we naughty youngsters were planning a trip to the Prague nightclubs, where I discovered the delights of a gin fizz. In Communist Europe we could get away with almost anything; they needed our hard currency. Back in the West, in Austria, we were put firmly in our place. There was no alcohol for sixteen year olds there.

You will not associate a vibrant nightlife with the dark austerity of the Soviet Bloc, and you would be right, as far as the local population was concerned at least. But for overseas visitors there were establishments reminiscent of what I imagine 1930s London was like. There was no music on the night I remember, but on Saturdays there might have been a small Jazz band playing in the background. Shady ladies would entertain their clientele at the bar. It was a bad thing that I did, but I am glad I went there instead of listening to Aida; that delight is still available to me, should I want it, but the Communist era and its drinking dens are lost in the distant past.

All this is only obliquely relevant to Mushy Hughes. I continued to study Latin, even after leaving school at university, but our paths did not cross after that Easter. As our party pulled into Waterloo we left Mushy and Graham Smithers and rushed off to our various homes with scarcely a goodbye.






Shippea Hill has been having a bit of publicity recently, with articles in The Guardian and The Daily Mail. It has also got a mention on the Youtube channel. This is all because Shippea Hill is the least used station in the country. Some years the grandiosely titled Tyneside Airport station has fewer passengers,  but generally this distinction falls to Shippea Hill; it gets around one passenger a month on average, so when I say it is mostly deserted I mean it. In the in the autumn of 1977 I got on a train at Shippea Hill.  That morning I (and my friend Bill) must have been among the largest group of passengers to have got on a train at Shippea Hill in over 160 years! There were dozens of us. How did this come about?

I will explain, but first I want to tell you a little about Shippea Hill; it will be a little, for there isn’t very much to say about the place. Where the hill is I cannot say, because the wide expanse of Cambridgeshire fenland seems as flat as a pancake. I have read that the land here rises a foot or two above sea level, so perhaps that  explains the ‘hill’; either that or the sense of humour among railwaymen. Other names that the station has gone by in the past are Mildenhall Road and Burnt Fen. In 1977 there were no buildings in sight except for a signal box – it was still being used until 2012. Otherwise there are just acres and acres of rich agricultural land.

It was early on Sunday September 25th, about 2 o’clock in the morning, that the coaches carrying our party pulled up at the station. We had been on a day trip to France, and as there was no Channel Tunnel in those days we caught a special train from Folkestone Harbour on our return. The train had to terminate at Ely because the junction with the Norwich line was closed for repairs. We got onto coaches at Ely, and the first station on the line to Norwich was Shippea Hill; it was there that we were headed. A DMU was waiting at the station to carry us on to Norwich, and once we had left the train it took the remaining trippers on to North Walsham, 24 hours after they had left.

Just six months before Shippea Hill had been the site of a fatal accident when a train collided with a lorry on the adjacent level crossing.  The train driver was killed and several passengers were injured. The level crossing was operated by the signalman until 2012, when the crossing gates were replaced by automatic barriers. Although most trains do not stop at Shippea Hill (even by request), the line itself is served by stopping trains which call at most of the local stations. In the 1970s express train from Norwich to London still used the line. There were then (as now) two services every hour to Liverpool Street, only they went alternately via Ipswich and Cambridge. The Cambridge route took rather longer.

Shippea Hill is just one of several sparsely used stations on the line from Norwich to Ely; others are at Lakenheath, Eccles Road, Harling Road and Spooner Row. All are among the least used stations in the country. By contrast many far better used stations were closed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s, although the lines still run past these former stations. Even on the Breckland Line (the line that runs past Shippea Hill) Hethersett Station was closed in 1966, although it must have had vastly more passengers than just twelve a year. I wonder how Shippea Hill has survived all those years? Fortunately the trains to Manchester, Liverpool and Cambridge that mostly bypass this little place are themselves increasingly busy.






Norfolk is a big county, and it may be divided by the nature of the landscape into Broadland, Breckland and Fenland. It also falls naturally into  four districts defined by the points of the compass. Norwich forms the centre of this division; towards Yarmouth is East Norfolk; towards Kings Lynn is West Norfolk, and the area towards the sea is North Norfolk. South Norfolk is the area between Norwich and the Suffolk border.

South Norfolk must be a very healthy part of the world, because here life expectancy is among the highest in the country. The cold winds that sweep down from the arctic onto North Norfolk are ameliorated by the gentle hills of South Norfolk. The extremes of heat and cold are to be found further west in the county. Here the waterways of the Broads and the wide open expanses of the Fens are replaced by arable fields, woods and hedgerows. Demeter, the goddess corn crops, has smiled on South Norfolk.

South Norfolk is well served by its transport links. From Diss railway station the capital is only an hour and a half away, which makes South Norfolk just about within commuting distance of London. From Thetford to the intellectual hub of Cambridge only takes half that time. Diss, Harleston, Loddon, Wymondham and Attleborough are the market towns of South Norfolk. Besides Diss with its mainline link, Attleborough and Wymondham are on the Breckland railway line to points west. Until 1952 Harleston also used to be served by passenger trains; it is however not that far from Diss.  Loddon’s neared railway station is Haddiscoe, a rural halt on the Wherry Line to Lowestoft. It is too far to walk to the station from Loddon, so you might as well use you car to drive to Lowestoft instead. Loddon however has access to the Norfolk Broads along the river Chet. The A11 also goes through South Norfolk, providing speedy road access to both London and Cambridge as well as Stansted Airport. Otherwise the area is poorly served by roads, and the A140, the main road to Ipswich, is a disgrace.

The stooks of corn


The fact that there is no road bridge across the river Yare for twenty  miles between Norwich and Great Yarmouth makes a firm border between South Norfolk and the area to the North. The county boundary defines the border to the South, which follows the river Waveney; the A11 marks the de facto boundary to the West.

Until I was married (aged 37)  I lived in South Norfolk, so I know the area very well. My wife’s connections with South Norfolk go back much further, for generations in fact. She still has relatives who we have visited in Woodton. Lord Nelson’s mother came from Woodton, and he would visit his relations there as a boy. The artist Edward Seago lived in the district with a studio at Kirstead Hall, and a predecessor, John Crome, would venture into South Norfolk from Norwich to paint local scenes. Elizabeth Fry (then Elizabeth Gurney) spent many happy summers there in Bramerton as a child.  Edith Cavell was born on the edge of Swardeston Common. The Hethel Thorn is reputed to be sprung from the staff of the biblical figure Joseph of Arimathea, via the Glastonbury Thorn. The Glastonbury Thorn was cut down in the Civil War, but that at Hethel is at least 700 years old. More recently Lotus cars have been manufactured in South Norfolk. In spite of its railway lines and rich history, it mostly stays in my mind as a peaceful rural corner, where the pace of life is slow.




I have an old-fashioned view of referendums; I regard them as incompatible with Parliamentary Democracy, the form of government that has evolved in Britain over the centuries. One needs only to look at the referenda conducted by the Germans in the 1930s to see how they can be manipulated to obtain the desired result.  A competent government will only call a referendum in circumstances when it can be sure to win. The fact that our most recent referendums produced results that neither the Scottish nor the British leaders wanted only goes to show how incompetent both David Cameron and Alex Salmond were.

The doomed demand by the Liberal Democrats for another referendum is no more than a cynical attempt to frustrate the will of the people; for however flawed the idea of a referendum was, it cannot now be undone. A second vote would only compound the damage, because any question on the Leave result could only divide opinion on the Leave side, but the Remainers would still be united. Any reversal of the Leave vote would unleash unprecedented anger in the country.

A second referendum on Scottish Independence is much more likely, but equally undesirable. I had a number of objections to the first Scottish referendum, beyond my dislike of referendums in general. Since the separation of the United Kingdom affects all citizens of the country, why should not they all have a vote? More specifically, why should all the Scots living in the rest of the UK be denied a say? Given the substantial vote for remaining the UK in the last referendum, I think that another vote for independence is unlikely to produce a different result.

The prospects for an independent Scotland were not good last time round, and they are far worse now. With the UK leaving the EU, if the Scots were unable to convince the Spanish to accept then as new members, they would be in left in limbo – an impossible position. Catalonia wants its own independence, and anything which would encourage them (such as encouraging the Scots to seek independence) is deeply unpopular with the rest of Spain. The only hope for Scotland is to somehow remain in the E|U when the rest of us leave; but the complicated negotiations that would follow a vote to leave the UK would not be completed in just a few months, by which time Brexit would be a fait acompli. The Scots would be dragged willy-nilly out of the EU, to rejoin it later if such a thing were possibleEven if they were able to become a EU member, they would be erecting a trade barrier with England, by far their largest market. In return they would be allying themselves with a European Union which is in turmoil. They would have no option but to accept the Euro as their currency. I understand their economic condition would be even worse than that of Greece, and look where membership of the Euro has left that benighted country; the IMF ha recently stated that the Greek position is unsustainable.

In the worst scenario, but one that is not impossible by a long chalk, they would have voted for a country with no place in either the United Kingdom or the European Union. This is in spite of their main aim in voting to leave the UK being to maintain this membership of the EU. The oil market that was looking quite robust at the time of the first referendum has collapsed since then.

With the consequences of the referendum of June 23rd taking a large part of our national attention, the prospect of another vote North of the Border is no more than an unwelcome distraction. They are not that important to England, but England is very important to the Scots. They are not particularly foolish, but if they let their hearts rule their heads and go for independence in a second referendum, I truly pity them. Their situation would be much worse than that of Ireland, which is a least part of the EU. They would have a hard border with England, a pathetic currency, a dire economy and all the drain on resources of independence; an army (even if a feeble one), an air force, and  a navy; and a diplomatic corps. across the world. The loss of their substantial naval shipbuilding capacity would be an inevitable consequence, as this would have to transferred to England. Virtually the only thing which would stand between them and a third world future would be production of Scotch whisky.

As I said, I do not like referendums; parliamentary votes are a much better way to make decisions, because all the relevant implications can be considered and discussed before a vote is taken, and such a vote is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We have already seen how this is causing us problems in respect of Brexit, and the same would inevitably follow a Scottish vote to leave the UK. The possibility of both halves of a divided kingdom remaining members of  the EU no longer exist. I would be very surprised if, on mature consideration, the added insecurities of a post Brexit Britain made for a different outcome in a second referendum. The SNP have no option but to make grand statements, but their position is fraught with problems.





St Ed Mem coin

The date of Edmund’s death was November the 20th 869.

These coins are the first indication we have that Edmund was regarded as a saint. They circulated throughout the northern and eastern part of England for the first two decades of the 10th century. The puzzle about this is that celebration of the saint is that the Danes who introduced this very successful coinage were the children or relatives of the same Vikings who had murdered the king.

A large hoard of St Edmund pennies was dug up in Cuerdale in 1840 by a gang of workmen who were repairing the river bank. Cuerdale is on a bend of the River Ribble near Preston in Lancashire, so you see how widely known the coins were. This hoard of silver, which numbered over 8,000 items (including jewelry and ingots), included 1,8oo St Edmund coins, almost none of them with identical markings on the reverse side. The deposition of the hoard is thought to date from about the year 905, by which time they had been minted for ten years. They continued in production for another decade. It is remarkable that no Danes, either in this country or on the continent, produced any coins until the East Anglians began minting them a few years before the introduction of the Edmund Memorial Coinage. Prior to this the Danes used so-called hack silver as a means of exchange, i.e. any silver jewelry, coinage or plate marked with “hacks” or marks to indicate its weight. Coins were obviously a much more convenient way of paying for goods.

The coinage was the first indication that the late king Edmund was regarded as a holy man in East Anglia, but in official circles in Wessex he was not regarded as a saint. Both Bishop Asser (who wrote the Life of Alfred in 893) and the compilers of the Winchester Chronicle, (the first known copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) although they refer to the death of Edmund, it was as the king of East Anglia. If word of his new status had reached them they did share the belief in him.There was no Papal Canonization of saints until this was introduced by Urban II at the end of the eleventh century, so it was normal for the reputation of a saintly character to spread from area to area.

What was not normal was the administration of the church in East Anglia at the time. When the Edmund Memorial Coinage appeared there were no bishops to regulate religious life. The two bishops who had managed the ecclesiastical affairs of the kingdom were both eliminated at the time of St Edmund’s martyrdom. Although the Dane who took over the East Anglian kingdom ten years later had been baptised by then, he did not bother to institute any new bishop. The church in East Anglia was effectively leaderless for 50 years, and even when a bishop was reintroduced when the Danes were defeated, he operated from London at first.

Why did the Danes make such a big deal of having a saint on their coins? It was an unusual step to take. Unfortunately they did not tell us why, and we have to make our own minds up. I like to think that as Edmund had died fighting a force of foreign invaders, the new king of East Anglia promoted him as a saint against his current enemies, the army of the Anglo-Saxons. The English king who defeated the Danes at the end of the second decade of the tenth century, took no time to replace the coinage with his own. If the king had any respect for the saint, he had none for the coinage. Perhaps this was because it had represented the saint of an independent East Anglia, which he was intent on eradicating.






CALEY’S was the name of Norwich’s chocolate factory. In 1932 it had been taken over by Macintosh, the Yorkshire based chocolate manufactory, but for a time it retained the Caley brand name for its products. Rowntree merged with Mackintosh in 1969 and in 1988 the firm was taken over by Nestle. Six years later the Norwich factory was closed. The town block between Chapelfield East and St Stephen’s Road, that is now the Chapelfield Shopping Mall, was  occupied by one large factory. This was called the Fleur-de-Lys Works when first established; it reached it greatest extent when rebuilt after the war in 1949, it having been destroyed by incendiary bombing in 1942.

A. J. Caley had started a chemist’s shop in Norwich’s London Street, having moved to the city in 1857. He started mineral water production in the basement six years later. The factory in Chapelfield opened in 1880 and it began by producing just mineral water, which was still the company’s claim to fame. Soda water, lemonade and ginger beer among other tonic beverages were a popular addition to the drinks available to the rapidly developing tastes of the population. Fizzy drinks were a new delight for the children of the nineteenth century. The manufacture of drinking chocolate followed in 1883 and chocolate bars in 1886. I am sure that Victoria Station (only a couple of hundred yards away) was much used to send the product to shops across the country, and during the First World War to supply Marching Chocolate to the troops. The milk from the Whitlingham herd of Red Poll cattle was used to produce high quality milk chocolate.

Another product which Caley’s introduced in the last years of the 19th century was the Christmas cracker. They made a useful winter alternative to the aerated mineral waters which were a summer trade. The first crackers were produced by Tom Smith in Clerkenwell, London, in 1847; this enterprising confectioner was searching for ideas for a way to make his sugared almond ‘bon bons’ more appealing to customers. He had already included a love motto in the tissue paper wrapping of his bon bons. He idly threw a log on the fire, and the cracking sound it made gave him the inspiration for the Christmas cracker. A seasonal trade was not ideal, and Tom Smith looked for all kinds of national celebrations to expand his trade; however Christmas crackers they remain to this day. In 1953 Tom Smith merged with Caley’s and the production of crackers moved to the outskirts of Norwich.

The advertising of Christmas crackers was crucial to their success, and the pre-eminent designer of  the new coloured adverts (using chromo-lithography) was the young Alfred Munnings. He was taken abroad by a director of Caley’s, but this was no holiday; he was expected to produce posters to advertise Caley’s products at the Leipzig Trade Fair.

The production of Caley’s mineral water division was sold to a Norwich brewery after the second World War, but the demise of all the old breweries in Norfolk led to the end of that old established local industry. When Nestle closed the Chapelfield works, ending the large scale production of chocolate in the city, a group of local managers purchased some of the equipment and the Caley’s brand name and revived Caley’s Chocolate. This is still available as a niche market, but I think it will never rival such products as the Rolo, which was first produced in Norwich in the 1930s, and went on to conqueror the world.





Some people may be so dumb they can express their thoughts in 140 characters or less, but I can only begin to say anything meaningful in a thousand, and even that is pushing it somewhat. For some reason, although I have never signed up to this inane application, I get regular emails on my gmail account which include some of these vapid Twitter messages. I occasionally glance at these before I delete them, but I have never once read anything even remotely interesting. It is a sad reflection of our online culture that so many people are so mindless as to take any notice of them. I see that the President of the United States explains his policies on Twitter; but I have to respect him of course.

I find it hard to say anything in favour of Tweets. It is not just the ridiculous 140 character limit which puts me off; it is the phenomenon of the ‘Twitter Storm’. I am not on the silly program, so if I were ever to be the subject of such an outpouring of internet bile I would never know. Let them say what they like, it only exists in the ether. So many celebrities can massage their egos by getting a big following on Twitter, by saying boring commonplaces; that is until they post something unguarded which is mildly interesting. Then the resulting Social Media firestorm drives them to take cover. Stephen Fry was for a period not on Twitter, having for once inadvertently used his 140 characters to say something controversial. It makes me feel rather pleased when the famous get it in the neck, so perhaps there is something to be said for it after all. But you still won’t find me on Twitter.

Social Media is a relatively recent thing. I can remember when Twitter started up, and most commentators said it would be here today and gone tomorrow; who would want to use it, and even if they did, where was the money in it? There must however be some way of converting these fleeting comments into cash, because their gross income for 2015 was revealed as nearly $1.5 billion. Other Social Media outlets are Facebook, which I use to a certain extent, Streetlife (ditto) and LinkedIn. This last one I do not think I subscribe to, but from the regular communications I get they obviously think I do. It is principally aimed at  improving your career prospects, although if it really does anything of the kind is rather doubtful. As I am a retired resident in God’s waiting room, it is of no relevance to my situation. Why do I get requests to sign up as a friend from people in places like Arizona and Pakistan? What relevance to their business advancement can I possibly be? It is mildly rewarding when someone puts another entry down on my list of accomplishments, but no-one except me will ever read it. I have recently been getting cheery messages to congratulate a friend on seven years in his current job, but unfortunately he died a year ago. One of the websites my historical work appears on is, a facility which makes available my academic papers to other researchers. It is always interesting when someone clicks on my paper – I had two clicks only yesterday – and I hope one day to get some more tangible feedback.

Do you remember Friends Reunited? That was an early example of Social Media, although when it started the term had not been invented. It shut down years ago, but at one time it was the way many of us first discovered the magic of the internet in connecting people. It is a fast-changing world; when I got my first email account 20 years ago it wasn’t of much relevance because none of my friends even had a computer, let alone an internet connection. The process of connecting relied on dial-up, which besides assaulting your ears with the sound of cats fighting meant you could not use the phone for the duration of your internet use. Cell phones, or mobiles as we call them in this country, which would have provided alternative phone access were rare and expensive. Fast forward to today and everybody has a Smartphone; on my laptop I could not imagine life without checking my emails several times a day, or getting all the latest news on-line. When I need to relax I listen to obscure Baroque trio sonatas on Youtube, and of course keep up to date with my blog.

WordPress is one of these Social Media websites in which I take a daily interest, visiting my site multiple times. This is because it is WordPress that hosts this blog. I certainly have a growing and dedicated following, although I think I will never again achieve the 16,000 visits I got in one day, through a chance mention on Reddit. My blog puts me in touch with lots of interesting people; family members whom I have never met; in some cases never even heard of. They email me out the blue, and so do friends and relations of strangers I have referred to. I get told interesting sidelights on places and events I have mentioned, and requests for further information on all sorts of things. These all come through the magic of the internet, but so too do the spammers and scammers which are part of the down side of the web. Except for these I am always glad to have more emails; it is rather frustrating when a flurry of activity is apparent on a page of mine, whether it is on Academia or WordPress, but I never learn why. Who is viewing this page? I will never know unless they tell me, so please if you are interested in my blog, do let me know. I promise not to pester you forever afterwards.




St Julian's Church, Norwich

St Julian’s Church, Norwich

Most EAST ANGLIAN saints can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times. St Audrey or St Etheldreda (d.679) was Abbess of Ely, and the tombstone of her steward may still be seen there in the South Aisle of the Cathedral. She was a princess, and many of these early saints were members of the royal family. St Ethelbert was another royal, king of East Anglia, who was martyred in Hereford. He was there wooing his bride to be. The cathedral there is dedicated to SS Mary and Ethelbert.

St Guthlac was not of royal blood, but he was of noble birth. He cannot be called East Anglian as he came from Lincolnshire and lived in Mercia, but as there was cell established in his name at Swaffham I will include him. We know rather more of his life than we do of St Botulph; we can say that he too was not of royal blood, although he was a very popular saint in the middle ages. There are St Botulph churches as far apart as London and Boston in Lincolnshire, but his abbey was on the river Alde in Suffolk.



St Walstan was reputedly a royal scion, but his time was long after the East Anglian royal family had died out, so it is hard to reconcile this claim with the story of his life. He was born either in Blythburgh in Suffolk or Bawburgh in Norfolk. The similarity of the names of the two villages suggests a degree of confusion, but indications of his cult can be traced to both places. His shrine was certainly established in Bawburgh, where he was buried, and where St Walstan’s Well is again a place of pilgrimage.

St Edmund

St Edmund

The most famous East Anglian saint was undoubtedly another king, shot with arrows while tied to a tree by the Danish invaders. There are many churches dedicated to his name, especially in Norfolk.  St Edmund‘s shine at Bury St Edmunds was one of the major pilgrimage destinations of pre-Reformation England, but Walsingham in Norfolk must rate as slightly more important in this respect. However, as Walsingham related to a vision of the Virgin Mary, not to a local saint, it should cannot feature in this lit of local saints.

All these saints were venerated in the Anglo-Saxon period, and the coming of the Norman kings spelled the end of local saints. This had more to do with the introduction of Papal Canonization by Pope Urban II (1089-99), which largely removed the possibility of the creation of saints on a purely local level. An exception is one Norwich based saint from this latter period. Her name is Mother Julian; she lived in the 14th century, but her reputation as a Divine did not become established until at least three hundred years later. Her writings were not widely known during her lifetime, and so far as they were read at all they seemed heretical to the orthodoxy of the time. In Norfolk she was known and respected as a spiritual guide among the populace. Canonization in the official sense has never been bestowed on her by the Roman Catholic church, although she is accepted as a saint with her official saint’s day.

Although the Reformation produced a fresh crop of martyrs on both sides, the Puritans did not go in for the creation of new saints. This is not true of the Catholic martyrs, and I will end this list of local saints with St Robert Southwell. He was born at Horsham St Faiths, an adjacent parish to Taverham where St Walstan had worked as a farm labourer. It is only a few miles from where I am writing this – now the site of Norwich International Airport! He was executed under Queen Elizabeth I (to whom he nevertheless professed his allegiance). Sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, he was saved from the full horrors of that dreadful death by a bystander, who tugged at his feet while the noose was around his neck. Only his lifeless body remained to be disembowelled. This was in the year 1595.