A NORFOLK VILLAGE ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
John Kybird was born in New Buckenham in 1861. The Kybird family worked for Burrell, the traction engine manufacturers of Thetford, and that was where he grew up. His relative was the late Basil Kybird, whose memories of Norfolk – including Thetford – make up several articles in this blog. John Kybird did not go into the engineering business at Thetford, and before 1891 he was living in Cawston where he worked as a carrier. By 1880 there was already a railway station at Cawston, but there was obviously enough call for his horse-drawn conveyance to keep his services in demand as a carrier. Early in the 20th century he became the landlord of the Bell, the 17th century hostelry that is the remaining pub in Cawston. I can recommend it, having had several enjoyable lunches there in the bar. John Kybird remained at the Bell for less than ten years before returning to the trade of carrier, although by 1909 he was wealthy enough to add farming to his portfolio of employments.
John Gaff was living at Eastgate, CAWSTON in 1911. In the census of that year he was described as ‘Hawker and farmer, born 1863′. As you can see from the sixpenny trade token this was indeed his occupation. What sort of things did he sell? Well we have no way of saying exactly the sort of things that he carried in his basket, but we can have an idea. My grandfather Charles Rivett kept the village shop at Cawston at the time John Gaff was operating. This was the Post Office, general stores and a drapery. Obviously there would have been no point in stocking anything that could be obtained locally at the village shop.
The Gaff family lived in Eastgate (an area of Cawston). As a teenager John was a farm labourer like his father but he was an enterprising young man and in his twenties he was already trading as a hawker. It must have been a good business, because not only was he successful enough to have these trade tokens minted, but by the time he was fifty he was a farmer himself, albeit in a minor capacity.
The village schoolmaster was Mr Chaffey. He was my mother’s first teacher, although not for long; by the time she was six the disruption of the First World War had sent her father to France. The village shop was sold and the rest of the family moved to Wymondham. Besides my mother Joan there were three other children – Eric, Tony and Peggy. Peggy lived to be a hundred and only died earlier this year. She was bathing in the sea at the age of 95.
The village shop was just across the road from the Bell, and the building is still there although you would never know it was once a shop. My mother was born over the shop, and when it was still open my sisters called there and were shown the room by the owners
Electric cars are the form of transport of the future, but there is nothing new about electric vehicles. Take this milk float for example. The main difference between them Back in the 1950s and the electric cars of today can be traced to the batteries employed. Then they were lead acid cells that did not pack the power of modern lithium batteries, but they were perfectly adequate for delivering milk – much better than internal combustion engines. Electric milk floats did not reach high speeds nor did they accelerate very fast, but they were very economical to run. The batteries could be recharged when the day’s milk had been delivered.
Electric transport is much older than that though. Nearly 200 years ago a Hungarian invented an electric motor that he used to power a model carriage. A decade later the Scotsman Robert Anderson used primitive batteries to power a full-size carriage that would carry people. At the same period inventors in Europe and America were also experimenting with electric transport. An important development came in 1865 when Gaston Plante invented the rechargeable battery.
Before the dawn of the 20th century the ‘Morrison Electric’ was in production in Iowa. With a top speed of under 12 mph and a recharging time of 10 hours there were drawbacks, but with the achievable range of nearly 100 miles this was an impressive machine. Electric cars were popular in the first ten years of the 20th century but they were killed off by economics; Henry Ford’s mass production concentrated on the petrol driven T model. These were far cheaper than the electric and steam-powered alternatives.
Like electric cars, electric milk floats were a nineteenth century invention, but unlike electric cars (which were unavailable for at least 80 years) they survived into the twenty-first century. Their dwindling relevance has more to do with the demise of milk deliveries than any problem with electric vehicles. There are many advantages to using an electric milk float. They are free from road tax and they don’t pay the congestion charge in central London. The trucks are pollution free, very quiet and there are no petrol costs. The price of running one is about 10p per mile and on one charge they can go over 60 miles.
Although the future of electric transport seems assured, the carrying of large loads for long distances is more problematical. Electric vans and pick up trucks are already here, and with the air pollution dangers of fossil fuels they will rapidly become the delivery method of choice in built up environments. Electric buses are also coming, but the difficulties of driving heavy lorries for hundreds of miles, often in sparsely populated areas, have yet to overcome. There is a place for diesel lorries in the foreseeable future – unfortunately, because no one likes the smell (and worse the particulates) that comes from diesel.
Electric scooters have already caused problems because the speed at which they travel and the lack of clarity about which paths they are allowed to use has made them a danger. I see no immediate prospect of superbikes going over to electric traction, but these are fast-moving times and it could happen. Trains are increasing going over to electric overhead cables, and now batteries are to power cars; are ships next? The weight of batteries rules out electric flight except for drones.
THOUGHTS OF ELECTRICITY POWERING TRANSPORT
GENDER has been a concept for as long as civilisation itself. It may have changed its application in recent years, but that does not mean it is a new idea. There is nothing recent about it, as those who speak French are well aware. In French there may be only two genders, masculine and feminine, but there are three in Latin, which adds neuter to the other two. In some languages you can add common gender, although this obviously includes masculine and feminine as a single gender. Other gender categories are animate and inanimate, countable and uncountable, and human versus everything else. Some languages treat singular and plural as separate genders, but this distinctions is in a different grammatical category in the Indo-European languages. Certain African languages have up to twenty genders, but these are completely arbitrary in application and have no relation to any physical characteristics the words may represent.
Here I am speaking only of gender as it relates to grammar, and even in this respect the maximum number is about a score, and only in one or two African languages. The point is that there are certainly more than two genders, so when people rail against the modern proliferation of genders and say ‘there are only two genders’ they are simply wrong. But to have up to seventy-two genders in respect of just humanity is plainly ridiculous. I cannot believe I am even having to say this, but I will repeat it; no sane person would try to justify the claim that there are more than a handful of genders.
Let me get one thing straight before I continue; gender is not the same thing as sex. Sex and gender are obviously related, but these terms are more or less universally confused. People are either male or female – this is do to with chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes in their cells, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. Inheriting too many or not enough copies of sex chromosomes can lead to serious health problems but they still produce either males or females. For example, females who have extra copies of the X chromosome are usually taller than average and some are mentally retarded. Males with more than one X chromosome are also characterized by taller stature than normal and, often, impaired fertility. Another syndrome is caused by this imbalance in the number of sex chromosomes; women who have only one X chromosome are very short, usually do not undergo puberty, and some may have kidney or heart problems.
Earlier I stated that there were more than two genders among people; masculine and feminine we all accept, but what about the others? There are a few asexual individuals who correspond to the grammatical gender of neuter. I accept the theoretical possibility of ‘gender fluid’ people though I would be surprised actually to meet any. The concept of non binary gender seems to be same thing as gender fluid. The point is that there are more than two genders, but only five at the most. Also masculine and feminine represent the overwhelming majority of people, and these genders are similarly distributed among males and females as you would expect.
I must return to the confusion between sex and gender; you can be a sexual man but an effeminate one, in which case you could plausibly claim to be feminine. Similarly a butch woman might claim masculinity in gender while remaining a biological female. People seem to have trouble getting their heads around this fairly simple distinction between sex and gender. When we discuss the ‘gender pay gap’ there should be four or five categories to consider, and even if you are dubious about a couple of those there are at least three; but of course there are only two genders in the gender pay gap. What these ignorant people really mean to say is the ‘sexual pay gap’, but that sounds too rude sowe say gender pay gap instead.
These two aircraft served with the RAF in the interwar years. The were the last biplane bombers to see service with the Royal Air Force. Introduced in 1928, the Sidestrand was a twin-engined light bomber, having a crew of three who were accommodated in the open. Flying at 140 mph, this airplane could do aerobatics including loops and rolls. Only one squadron (No. 101) was equipped with Sidestrands; it was based in West Norfolk at RAF Bircham Newton.
The business that was to become BOULTON AND PAUL began in 1797 when William Moore moved from North Norfolk to Norwich at the age of 33. There he opened an ironmonger’s shop in London Street (then called Cockey Lane). He was a great success at business and by 1835 he had progressed to the highest position in Norwich, becoming Mayor in that year. Early on he took on an employee who later became his partner and who, when Moore died in 1839, inherited the business. His name was John Barnard and in 1844 he brought William Boulton into partnership with him. In 1853 12-year-old Joseph Dawson Paul, the son of a substantial farmer in South Norfolk, was engaged in the business. The firm had moved from merely selling nails and screws to producing an astonishing variety of goods. They made nearly everything you can think of in iron, from wire netting to sausage making machinery. The growth of the market for these things was only made possible by the arrival of the railway in the middle years of the 19th century, and they became internationally known for their products. During the Boer War they produced the wooden buildings for housing the troops and the Great War brought them into the pioneering work of aircraft manufacture.
The Overstrand was a development of the Sidestrand; the crew was increased to five and it had an enclosed cockpit for the pilot and a forward facing gun turret, although the rear gun positions continued to be open to the elements. The power of the engines was improved which led to an increase in speed and bomb load. The Sidestrands of 101 Squadron were replaced by Overstrands from 1936 and in 1937 144 Squadron was equipped with these planes at RAF Bicester in Oxfordshire. Although monoplanes were overwhelmingly predominant as the aircraft that would fight the Second World War, some biplanes were still operational in the early years of the conflict. Gloster Gladiators saw engagements into 1940, although they were outclassed by the opposition. Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers remained the backbone of this type of aircraft throughout the war. The Overstrand was not retired until the early 1940s, with eleven aircraft being retained for training in gunnery.
Sidestrand and Overstrand are two adjoining villages on the North Norfolk coast. These were insignificant villages until they became popular resorts among the rich a famous, when the Daily Telegraph journalist Clement Scott dubbed the area ‘Poppyland’ in the late nineteenth century. The arrival of the railway in 1906 opened up this part of the coast and both villages had stops on the line. The Secretary of State for Air, Samuel Hoare, had a holiday home in Sidestrand and this, together with the manufacturer’s base in Norfolk, accounts for the names of the bombers.
Because of Norwich’s proximity to occupied Europe it is just as well that the aircraft factory of Boulton and Paul had been moved to the West Midlands by the outbreak of war. Boulton and Paul continued its innovative production schedule. In the 1920s the firm had been the first to experiment with all steel airframes, and even boasted in its adverts that it made the first ‘all steel aircraft’. With the end of the biplane bomber the company went on to develop the monoplane Defiant, a single engined interceptor with a gun turret. It had no forward facing armament which was serious drawback in daylight operations, but it enjoyed some success as a night fighter. In the postwar period Boulton and Paul had a major success with the Balliol trainer; it also worked on the English Electric Canberra and de Havilland Vampire.
The aircraft manufacturing side of the business was constituted as a separate firm in 1934 when production was transferred to Wolverhampton. The end came in 1961 with its purchase by the Dowty Group; after several changes in ownership the firm still exists. In Norwich the firm lasted longer under its old name, but this too has gone; and although production is still carried on, this is no longer done in East Anglia.
FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
In 1960 this was the second station out from Norwich on the mainline to London, after Flordon. Formerly it had been the third station, but the stop at Swainsthorpe had already been closed to passengers in 1954, although it remained open for goods until 1964.
Forncett station was opened in 1849 when the line from Ipswich to Norwich Victoria was completed; the railway had run out of money just short of the city, and needed the financial assistance from Norwich Union to reach its destination. This enabled it to build the viaduct over the river Yare and the line to Cambridge that had been completed a few years earlier. From the time of the creation on a junction at Forncett in 1881 (that joined it via Wymondham and Dereham to Wells) this meant it became a busier place. Besides extra sidings there was a second signal box and a turntable built to enable locomotives to be turned there for their return to Wymondham. This line meant that a train could travel from Wells-next-the-Sea to London in just over four hours. This timing could hardly be bettered today, nearly 150 years later, despite much improved roads and road vehicles. Passenger trains no longer used the Wymondham to Forncett line after the outbreak of war in 1939, and in 1951 all traffic was withdrawn and the track was torn up for most of its length. On a short length of line was left at the Wymondham end at Hethel where Archie King had a scrap yard for railway carriages. [See my blog on the line to learn more.]
I stopped at Forncett in 1962 on a local train from Norwich to Ipswich. I was alone; it must have the first occasion on which I was trusted to make such a journey unaccompanied – all those years ago I was just thirteen. I was off to visit my sister who was teaching in Ipswich. The train I was on did not take on many passengers at Forncett (if any) but it was still busy, as post bags, newspapers and milk churns had to be loaded on and off the brake van by the guard. This station was closed by Dr Beeching in 1966, along with all the stations between Norwich and Ipswich except for Diss and Stowmarket. This must have been done to make timetabling simpler on the expresses to London. It was certainly not on account of the small amount of traffic generated by these rural communities, because many stations remain open on other lines in Norfolk, stations that still have far fewer passenger journeys than Forncett had. Since the closure of these intermediate stops the station at Needham Market has been reopened and is well used with over 100,000 passenger journeys a year, but only by Ipswich bound passengers; there is no service north to Norwich.
Forncett was the station for the residents of Long Stratton, a large village less than three miles away. Other stations in Norfolk on the mainline to Diss that were closed in 1966 were Flordon, Tivetshall and Burston. This must have increased the passengers using Diss, as the people who formerly would have got on the train at Forncett now drive the short distance to Diss to board the train there; only parking remains a problem for commuters. There are 326 parking spaces that cost £7.00 a day (£4.50 off-peak). Diss in the start/finishing place for 700,000 passenger journeys per year and can support both a cafeteria and a ticket office. The local taxi firm is based at the station too. All trains currently stop at Diss, but the much vaunted ‘Norwich in 90’ service (to be introduced later this year) can only be achieved by reducing the stops along the line, including that at Diss. Fortunately this will only involve two extra off-peak services per day, and Diss will still have a good service.
Nowadays you will certainly miss Forncett as you speed along the line to London; almost all hint of the station has vanished, and even if you were aware of what to look out for the train rushes past in the glimpse of an eye that you would have to very quick to spot it.
FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
A BORDER RIVER
This river rises in Redgrave Marshes and runs west towards Thetford. It forms the county boundary from Redgrave, but before it reaches the town the boundary takes a big deviation onto the Suffolk side of the river. This enables Thetford to embrace both banks of the river. This arrangement was introduced in the nineteenth century when it was instituted by the Boundaries Commission following the Great Reform Act of 1832. In the 1611 map of Norfolk by John Speed the County Boundary sticks rigidly to the river. For nearly two hundred years the county boundary has been a mile or so south of Theford. To the west of the town it turns northwards along a woodland path and rejoins the Little Ouse river before it reaches Stanton Downham. Apart from Thetford the only other town that the Little Ouse passes is Brandon. Both Thetford and Brandon have railway stations on the Breckland Line. The station that serves Brandon is located in Norfolk although the town itself is in Suffolk.
The limit of navigation is now officially the bridge across the river in Stanton Downham, but the journey there is too precarious for the canal barges that can venture up to Brandon from the inland waterways network. Even the small narrowboats that will fit through the lock just downstream of Brandon, which will only accommodate the smaller narrowboats of less than 40 feet in length, would struggle to go any further. Years ago they went all the way to Thetford; a narrowboat is still moored by the quay there, giving the impression that this is still an inland port. A steamer used to run from Thetford to places on the river Great Ouse and even up the Cam to Cambridge. ‘Stanches’ (a primitive kind of lock) were used to hold up the water and provide enough depth for navigation, but the river now seems far too narrow and shallow for such vessels. Was the river more substantial years ago, or were people more adventurous then?
Thetford Priory was built from Barnack stone; Barnack was a quarry in Linconshire. This would have been transported there by river. The passage must have been difficult, with poles and oars pushing the little boats against the flow of the river, but it was a lot easier than bringing the blocks of stone overland. The state of the roads meant even light loads in slow moving ox-carts would frequently have been bogged down.
At Thetford the confluence of the rivers Thet and Little Ouse this mean that neither was a big enough waterway to be navigable by commercial craft. From Brandon the river Little Ouse gives access to the entire English canal system. You can go west from this river on the Norfolk/Suffolk border as far as Llangollen in North Wales, York to the north, Bristol to the south-west and the river Thames. The main waterways system is reached by the Middle Level, a long and high-sided drain which is extremely boring to navigate, and does not attract many tourists but it does make Norfolk part of this national network.
Continuing downstream from Brandon you approach the Fens, and from the ‘Cut Off Channel’ you enter typical Fenland landscape, with high banks to the river which is often high above the surrounding land. For example the parish of Littleport has the lowest trig point in the whole of England – three feet below sea level! Beyond Lakenheath the river ceases to be the boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk and becomes the boundary between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. On a nineteenth century map this southern bank of the Little Ouse is still part of Suffolk, a narrow band of the parish of Mendenhall coming between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. The boundary has since been adjusted to do away with this tongue of land. The hamlet called Little Ouse is about two miles above the confluence with the Great Ouse. The smaller river flows into the larger one at a place called Brandon Creek (rather confusingly, as Brandon itself is ten miles away). There is a pub – the Ship- that has moorings alongside where you can call in for a pint (no worries about drink driving), and there is a long-term mooring place a little further up the river as well.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA
Boudicca died in AD 60 or 61. This famous queen of the Iceni tribe lived before East Anglia even existed – this name came about when the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the area some four hundred years later. Boudicca led a revolt against the Roman overlords who had conquered Britain almost twenty years earlier. King Prasutagus (her husband) had been an ally of Rome and the largely independent ruler of an autonomous region in the east of the country (the counties we now call Norfolk and Suffolk). When he died the Romans ignored his desire to leave his kingdom to his daughters. Boudicca did not accept this Roman takeover and continued to maintain her independence. After she and her daughters were badly treated by the Roman soldiers she rose up in arms with her people. While the Roman commander was away in Wales she sacked Colchester before eventually being defeated. It is believed she committed suicide.
Edmund king of the East Angles died in AD 869. St Edmund was martyred by the invading Danes. After being captured he was given the opportunity to continue to rule as king under the Danes, but he would not accept this as he would be subservient to a pagan master. He was tied to tree, shot at with arrows to try and get him to change his mind, but when the Danes realised he would never agree he was beheaded. He was soon recognised as a saint, and was very influential as the spiritual defender of the English people. His shrine at Bury St Edmunds became one of the richest and moat powerful in the land. His importance waned as St George was adopted as the Patron Saint of England and was further damaged by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, including that at Bury. He is still popular however, and has churches dedicated to his name as far away as Alberta in Canada.
He was born in Diss, and after being educated at Cambridge he was appointed Laureate at Oxford, and Cambridge later appointed him their Laureate too. He was tutor the young prince who was later to become Henry VIII. He was a popular Poet whose verses are not difficult to understand and are accessible to all.
Here are few lines of his concerning a nun’s pet sparrow:
For the soul of Philip Sparrow
That was late slain at Carrow,
Among the Nuns Black,
For that sweet soul’s sake,
And for all sparrows’ souls …
You can tell he retained an intimate knowledge of the county of his birth! He was created the first Poet Laureate of the nation. He was well known as a prankster and practical joker.
Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich, said to be the son of a butcher. He was educated at Ipswich Grammar School before going to Cambridge and then to Oxford to complete his theological studies. After spending a couple of years as the rector of a parish in Somerset he was appointed chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. After obtaining a series of increasingly influential employments he entered the household on King Henry VII as Royal Chaplain. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 he rapidly established himself as the king’s most powerful adviser. He was appointed Cardinal by the Pope and his star seemed to permanently in the ascendant. In Government he rose to be Lord Chancellor, but with the king’s wish to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (which the Pope opposed) he lost his Government position. He retired to York to carry out his remaining duties as archbishop and died in relative penury; ‘If I had served God as diligently as I have done the king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs.’
SIR THOMAS BROWNE
Born in London, he became the most prominent physician in the history of Norwich, but he was most famous as a writer and polymath. Of his written works on science, medicine and religion he wrote Urn Burial in Norwich. He had had already produce Religio Medici while still living in London. His journals recording the wildlife and birds of his adopted county of Norfolk were published as Notes on the Natural History of Norfolk in 1902. He coined many new words which are now in common use; the most famous examples are electricity, medical, ferocious, migrant, coma, anomalous, prairie, ascetic, carnivorous and ambidextrous among many others.
He was wily politician who rose to prominence in the second quarter of the 18th century. He held office from approximately 1721 until 1742, making him the first as well as the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The words Prime Minister were originally used as a term of disapproval, being the translation of the French Premier Ministre (part of a political system that was looked on with distaste). He retired to his home county and built the grand stately home at Houghton Hall, which remains in his family; the Marquess of Cholmondeley who is the current holder is descended from Robert Walpole’s daughter.
He was a sea captain born in Kings Lynn. He explored all across the world, not only in Canada. In particular he led the expedition to what was later to become British Columbia in H.M.S. Discovery. The city of Vancouver is named after him.
The foremost political theorist of the American Revolution, he was born in Thetford and attended Thetford Grammar School. After leaving school at the age of 13 he was apprenticed to his father as a weaver.
He later went to sea, and back in England he met Benjamin Franklin, who suggested that he emigrate to the British colonies in North America. He arrived just as the sentiments behind the American Revolution were taking off, and his pamphlet Common Sense was read by just about everyone in the thirteen colonies.
When things began to stir in France, Tom Paine sailed across the Atlantic and became involved in the French Revolution. He spent much of the next decade in Paris, where he was a member of the National Convention. He was imprisoned when his faction fell from power and only narrowly escaped execution by Guillotine.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The river rises near Debenham in Suffolk. Here I will say a brief word about Debenhams, the well-known department store. This came into being over 200 years ago in 1813 when William Debenham invested in a draper’s shop in Wigmore Street, London. His surname certainly came from an ancestral connection with the village. At Debenham the river is little more than a trickle; it remains a minor waterway until it reaches Bromeswell, when it becomes a tidal estuary for thirteen miles. For eight miles from Woodbridge to the sea at Felixstowe Ferry it is popular place for sailing yachts and especially dinghies.
Woodbridge is namely for its tide mill, which stands alongside the river. Until the 1960s it was in commercial use, powered only by the rise and fall of the tide; unlike the other watermills in East Anglia that survived in the post-war years it never had any internal combustion engine to aid the power of nature. It was taken over by a charitable trust and the picture above shows the mill undergoing restoration shortly before it opened to the public. They regularly produce stone-ground wholemeal wheat flour that is used in local restaurants and may be purchased from a dozen shops in the vicinity. It is built on the site earlier tide mills that date back to at least 1170. For most of the middle ages it was owned by the Augustinian Friars, and after the Reformation it was operated on behalf of the Crown until sold into private hands by Queen Elizabeth I.
The tide mill is open from 11 in the morning until 5, from April until September; in October is open at weekends.
The steamer Yarmouth was briefly based on the river Deben, giving pleasure trips along the estuary from Woodbridge in 1973. As the name suggests she spent most of her life on the Norfolk Broads. She was built in 1895 and after leaving Woodbridge she was moved to St Katherine’s Dock in London, where she was used as floating tea shop. Sadly she was later scrapped. The picture below shows the S. S. Yarmouth in steam, on a brisk April morning, ready to take her passengers.
The saltmarshes along the estuary are a site of Special Scientific Interest; they are a great place to view over-wintering wading birds. There are riverside walks go along the river from the sea to the north of Woodbridge – these are accessible by train at Woodbridge and Melton stations.
My first memories of Woodbridge go back to 1958, when my family had lunch at the Crown Hotel. On our honeymoon in 1986 Molly and I stayed at Woodbridge. Later in the year we stayed just up the coast at Shingle Street. We took our bikes and cycled down to Bawdsey. There we crossed the river Deben on the Felixstowe Ferry.