Looking north east to Foundry Bridge, 1971

Looking north across the station to Foundry Bridge, 1971

The building off Timber Hill still exists, but it looks nothing like this.

The building off Timber Hill still exists, but it looks nothing like this.



1902 Booklet, T. Wells

1902 Booklet, T. Wells; the firm was later known as Rumsey Wells







The Norwich Mercury office at 12 Cockey Lane (London St). Mid 19th century photograph.

The Norwich Mercury office at 12 Cockey Lane (London St). C19th 


The Ferry Boat. Norwich (closed).

A drink behind the Ferry Boat

Norwich market; flock of sheep in front of the Shirehall.

Norwich market; flock of sheep in front of the Shirehall.



This DMU has just arrived in Norwich from Melton Constable

This DMU has just arrived in Norwich City Station from Melton Constable



HOVELL’S SHOP, Bridewell Alley

Norwich cattle market.

Norwich cattle market.



Duke Street Bridge

Duke Street Bridge now frames the entrance to the Castle Mall car park

Willmott's stores

Willmott’s stores. Prince of Wales Road

The BOARS HEAD was on the corner of St Stephens and Surrey Street. It was called the Greyhound from at least the early 17th century until about 1843. It was named the Boars Head from the arms of Richard Norgate who had bought the pub in 1840.

The BOARS HEAD was on the corner of St Stephens and Surrey Street circa 1910. It was named the Boars Head in 1840. It was destroyed by bombing in 1942.

Henry Stone was the publican Lame Dog in 1920

The Lame Dog stood on the corner of Queens Road & All Saints Green until the 1970s

These are all pictures of a Norwich that has long gone.

NORWICH CATHEDRAL remains of course, but the arch which frames it has been demolished

NORWICH CATHEDRAL remains of course, but the arch which frames it has been demolished

70007 Couer de Lion leaves Norwich Thorpe; view from the bridge.

Norwich station looked very different in the 1950s

Curl Brothers, Rampant Horse Street, decorated for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Curl Brothers, Rampant Horse Street, decorated for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Curls became Debenhams, but this building was also bombed in 1942.

Loading scrap metal at Wensum Wharf Norwich, c 1978

Loading scrap metal at Wensum Wharf Norwich, c 1978

Boulton and Paul's factory in Rose Lane, Norwich, circa 1890.

Boulton and Paul’s factory in Rose Lane, Norwich, circa 1890.

The coaling tower at Norwich. The locomotive is 61571, the first of the last batch of B12s built by Beyer Peacock in 1928. 61572 is preserved on the North Norfolk Railway.

The coaling tower at Norwich. The locomotive is 61571, the first of the last batch of B12s built by Beyer Peacock in 1928. 61572 is preserved on the North Norfolk Railway.







THE first demonstration of electric light was made in St Andrews Hall in the 1870s. The assembled worthies of the city were impressed. Only a few decades earlier gas had arrived in Norwich; nearly a thousand gas lamps lit up the dark streets, but the brilliance of electric light was a revelation. Before the 19th century only the odd candle shining from a window provided any illumination once the sun had gone down. The occasional linkman with his fiery torch would accompany the most important night travellers. The first area of Norwich to benefit from electric light was the Market Place, which was supplied in 1882.

The origin of the firm of LSE goes back almost to the beginning; in 1884 J. J. Colman wanted a dynamo installed in Carrow Works to provide the new electric light for his mill. Two craftsmen called Messrs Paris and Scott undertook the work. Colman’s were not the only local organisation to require wiring for the novel medium of electricity, and the partners established an electrical contracting business. This was to service go-ahead businesses; even the most advanced domestic customers relied on gas to light their homes, and the poor still used tallow candles. Besides installing wiring, Paris and Scott also continued perfecting the manufacture of the dynamo, but they badly needed capital to continue. It was Mr Laurence who provided £6000 which set the firm on a sound financial footing. Thereafter it became known as Laurence Scott.

The name of Gothic Works has always been synonymous with Laurence Scott, or Laurence and Scott as it is colloquially known. As it expanded the firm took over premises called Gothic Works in King Street, and the large factory they built across the river in Hardy Road retains this name today.  Laurence Scott sold the contracting side of the business before the end of the 19th century and concentrated on the manufacture of generators, switch gear and electric motors. A lot of the electrical equipment that went into the Titanic was made by Laurence Scott, and you can read their ghostly name on the electric fans that lie deep on the Atlantic seabed, which are now revealed by remote submarine cameras.

The first generating station in Norwich was near St Andrew’s Hall, and produced low voltage Direct Current; this would not reach beyond the city boundaries. By contrast high voltage Alternating Current will travel long distances with little loss of power. Since the establishment of the Nation Grid, AC is transferred at high voltage across the country. It is reduced to a usable level by transforming stations. The generating station in Duke Street was replaced in 1926 by a coal-fired generating station in Thorpe on the edge of the city, and this continued in use until 1980. In the inter-war period electricity was increasingly supplied to the villages of the surrounding countryside of East Norfolk, and electricity poles joined the telegraph poles that criss-crossed the land.

My grandfather William Mason

My grandfather William Mason

My grandfather William Mason spent his life working for Laurence Scott, although not as an engineer. His task was the more basic one of making the packing cases for the machinery before it was sent off by train. The sidings to Gothic Works were adjacent to Norwich Thorpe railway station. William’s workmanship was of the highest standard, and towards the end of his life he was congratulated by management; not one of the packing cases he made had ever been broken in transit.

The busiest time for Laurence Scott was during the Second World War, when the heavy equipment they specialised in was in great demand. Norfolk is a rural economy, and even in Norwich the major local industries were mustard milling, insurance and shoemaking. These have nothing to do with the heavy engineering which characterised the Midlands and the North of England. Laurence Scott is the exception to this, and still constitutes a substantial employer in the city.

Joseph Mason



MORTON CHURCH before the tower fell.

MORTON CHURCH before the tower fell.

This a little village in Norfolk, between Ringland and Weston Longville. It should not be confused with the similar sounding Moreton-in-Marsh, which is a town in Gloucestershire. Most of the houses in Morton, of which there not many, do not stand on the hill but on either side of the Fakenham Road in the Wensum river valley; almost in the marsh in fact! There is a hill however, and this where Morton Hall stands. It has spectacular views towards Norwich on this steep bluff, where the remains of St Margaret’s church also stand.

On Easter Sunday 1959, when the verger had just left the church, the tower fell down with a great roar. The west end of the nave was destroyed and the small community abandoned the church for others at Attlebridge, Ringland or Weston. It remained a ruin for over twenty years. It being so remote, vandals were not a major problem although souvenir hunters were. After twenty years it was partly restored by Lady Prince-Smith of the hall, with help of the Norfolk Churches Trust. A glass wall now seals off the west end, and occasional services are held in the church, although it is technically redundant. There is no electricity but the building is now well cared for.

This church was anciently called Helmingham along with the settlement alongside; there was another church much nearer the river, which was probably called Morton. Nothing is now visible of this church, although apparently some walls could be discerned a century ago.  Some years back Molly and I went on a bluebell walk through Morton Estate, and we were told that we passed the site of the former church. It had already fallen into decay by 1300 AD, so it is perhaps unsurprising that its location is a little vague. It was dedicated to St Mary.

For many years the wife of a postman colleague of mine kept a cattery in Morton. We have never had a cat since being married, so I never used it, although I visited him in his house. When he retired from the Post Office he helped his wife with the cats, although they have now retired from that job too. They have moved to a house with a smaller garden, although not far away. They had about an acre of land, which is too much for older folk. Morton Barns along the main road once housed an art gallery, and though this has been closed for many years the sign remains on the wall.

The location of the medieval Hermitage which stood by the river bridge on the Morton side is known. It has been suggested that the medieval carving of a man and his wife discovered on the site represent the original founders of the anchorite’s cell. In the 19th century Morton had a Post Office, a shop and a pub, the White Horse. The White horse closed in 1913 and the Post Office also went the same way sometime around that period. With wooden farm wagons on the way out the village also lost its wheelwright.




This unusual view of Blackwells in Broad Street was taken from the cupola of the Sheldonian Theatre. The block cottages to the left, which appear to be ancient, had recently been completely rebuilt.

Broad Street, Oxford, 1970

MY BIKE was stolen during my first year at university. I wasn’t too distressed at this theft, because by then I had my little car, a Fiat 500.  When I moved out of college into digs I was able to drive in the City. This included the centre of Oxford, where all the streets were open to traffic! Strange as it may seem, it was still possible in 1970 to drive past Martyrs Memorial, down the Cornmarket, past the buses at Carfax and into Queen Street. One could even park by the roadside, if you were lucky enough to find a space. There were no parking meters outside London, so most parking was free. These roads in central Oxford have been closed to traffic for decades, and even pedestrians have a struggle to pass the crowds of tourists as they walk the major thoroughfares. To drive anywhere in Oxford is not advisable today, although ten years ago the delivering of my son to his college for his first term required this feat; it was not without its problems.

As a student I was not supposed to have a car in the City without the express permission of the Proctors (i.e. the University authorities), which I omitted to obtain; I would not have been granted leave to have a car, even if I had asked. In fact, because it was quite hard to park in Oxford even in those distant days, I mostly travelled into the centre from Summertown (where I was living) by bus. I found the car most useful for driving out into the surrounding countryside, to visit my friend Bill. He was studying for an English degree at Buckland House, in what is now Oxfordshire but was then part of Berkshire. I also drove out to such places Coventry. We went to the village of Long Compton to see the Rollright Stones. This Neolithic stone circle should not be confused with the Rolling Stones who were very popular at the time. These trips I did with a fellow Oxford undergraduate and not with Bill.

For travelling to Cowley a bike was quite useful, but I didn’t often venture into this industrial quarter. All the colleges were within walking distance, and I could go from reading in the Radcliffe Camera to a seminar at All Souls and then to the covered market for a sandwich, all within the area of a cricket ground. Consequently all of my travels round central Oxford were done on foot; even before my bike was stolen it did not make sense to use it. There were no cycle racks to spoil the view outside the Bodleian Library, and to walk from the nearest available one was almost as far as to walk from college.

Oliver Cromwell in storage at March sheds ! January 1964

Steam in Cambridgeshire, before the Varsity Line was closed

For travel home during my first year I took the train up to London. The other rail station in Oxford had just closed – it would be many years before Oxford was again to have another one. The one remaining station was a desolate place, built of wood; this old building would soon be replaced, and it was not worth repainting the peeling exterior.

These years saw the nadir of train travel in Britain, and branch lines were being axed in all areas; even mainlines like the Varsity Line from Oxford to Cambridge were closed. The Varsity Line had just been extensive improved as a major freight route, before freight itself was largely removed from the rail network. The line was severed, and the section between Bedford and Cambridge was built over.

Steam engines had been replaced by Diesels on British Rail; the last one had run only a few months before I went up to Oxford. This modernisation of the railway’s motive power went hand in hand with the rationalisation of the railway network. Consequently branch lines that were equipped with brand new DMUs were then closed only a few years later; this happened time after time all over the country, and it was sheer madness! Could not the virtually pristine steam engines that had been built less than ten years earlier, in the 1950s, have operated the branches that were due for closure anyway? Why would you introduce all this new equipment on a doomed line? This utter lack of joined up thinking was hugely damaging for the railways, and for the country as a whole. Today, with record numbers of rail passengers on a reduced network, we are still paying the cost of so many line closures.

How we could do with many of these lines now! Not least the Varsity Line; there are firm plans to reopen this as far as Bedford, but that will take years and many millions of pounds. Even the newly opened link of the first part of the Varsity Line to London’s Marylebone terminus, which only required a few metres of new track to connect it at Bicester, was hailed as a major undertaking. Who knows when or even if the new Varsity Line will finally reach Cambridge again? I won’t happen in my lifetime I think, but the prospect of through trains from Norwich to Oxford is a tantalising one.

Elsewhere in Cambridgeshire thee seven miles of branch line from March to Wisbech, which would put a substantial market town back on the rail network, is still only a pipe dream. The prospect is as distant as that of Jeremy  Corbyn (a supporter of the scheme) becoming Prime Minister. Of course it would not be a new railway, as even the track is still in place; though after years of shameful neglect and dereliction it would all need renewing. The demand for rail transport is buoyant, but the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure we once had is prohibitive.  The most we can expect is years of planning committees examining the case for funding. The Victorians managed it, but we appear to seized by inertia. The Scots do things rather better, if the reopened of the thirty miles of line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank can  be taken as an example, although that too is a reopened line. If only these lines had not been closed in the first place!




Every English person knows what a picnic is, but who knows why it is called that? Well I didn’t until I began to write this article. It is a French word for a start; pique-nique; but beyond that fact its origins are obscure. Any apparent similarity to an English phrase such as “picking up nicknacks” has no validity. It originated in the late 17th century and referred to a meal to which the participants brought their own wine. This makes me rather keen to have a real picnic quite soon; I had never before associated a picnic with the fruit of the vine, but trust the French.

I am sure that no English person has ever considered alcohol as part of a picnic. My father’s idea of a picnic did revolve around drinking it is true, but his favourite beverage was tea. As picnics are open air affairs, this posed a slight problem, as you need some boiling water to make the tea. This meant that no picnic was complete without a picnic stove. Towards the end of my father’s life this meant a Camping Gaz stove, but for most of my childhood it was a spirit stove. The smell of meths as you poured it out of the bottle is etched in my memory of summer picnics. That, and the slowly increasing volume of the whistle as the kettle came to the boil.

Another outdoor meal is the barbecue, but this was a relatively recently adoption by the English; before 1970 the idea was unknown to us, or regarded as impossibly exotic. Because a barbecue needs some heavy equipment, like a gas bottle or a bag of charcoal, barbecues tend to be enjoyed at home; picnics are invariably taken away from home. if only a short bike ride away. The point is that barbecues form no part of this article.



Certain other things go with a picnic; sandwiches of egg and cress, cheddar cheese or ham; and an apple to finish off with. A rug to spread out on the grass more or less completes the arrangements. The provisions would be enclosed in a hamper, or a simple basket. There should ideally be no folding tables or chairs as these take up too much space, but by the time the picture above was taken my parents were a bit too elderly to sit on the ground. When we were all younger we regarded such things as much too fancy for a picnic.

The ingredients of a meal may be much the same, but if eaten alone a meal is just a snack. Even if it is taken outdoors, this solitary eating does not constitute a picnic. We all have to eat alone from time to time, but the nub of the picnic (for me at least) is that it is a family occasion. It has not always been so; Manet’s famous picture, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, depicts a far from suitable occasion for families; fully clothed young men lounge around a completely unclad lady.  It is a French scene naturally, and that says it all. It is something that could never have taken place in England; it includes a naked woman for heaven’s sake; but in one respect it is an authentic picnic – the meal is taking place outdoors.

The open air picnic has followed Europeans around the world, from Australia to North America. In France, where the pique-nique began, in the year 2000 a huge 1000 kilometre long picnic was organised to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In Italy (where Spring is rather warmer than it is in England) a popular time for picnics is Easter Sunday. In other cultures a picnic is an alien concept; Kenyans do not go in for picnics I gather, nor do Saudi Arabians. I would not want to live in a country that did not do picnics, but Europe does. Had we voted to remain in the European Union we could all have had a picnic together to celebrate, but that is now not going to happen. The people have spoken, and now we all have get on with living in post-Brexit Britain; but we should not forget the European origins of the picnic. We are all family really.






Because (for me at least) hotels are visited when I am too far away from home to spend the night in my own bed, the hotels I have visited are far away from East Anglia. As far as possible we try to visit friends or relatives when we go away, or else hire a holiday cottage, but sometimes an hotel is inevitable. The most recent hotel we have been to was in Brussels last year; our visits to Europe have mostly involved hotels, although we rented a charming gîte in Dieppe a few yeas ago. Our trip to Holland last year was unusual in that we were entertained in the family home of our son’s girlfriend, who is Dutch. They have a 1960s house in Hilversum. We slept in their annex, which provided the best of both worlds; independence with close proximity to all facilities.

I cannot remember which hotel I visited first, but it was either in Windsor or in Oxford; in either case it was well before I was ten years old. The hotel in Windsor now goes by the name of the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel, on the grounds it was the home of the great architect; this is nonsense. It is a Georgian building, whig rules it out on at last two counts. Wren was nearly 90 when George the First came to the throne, and even if he had built the house at such an advanced age, his style was Baroque, and not the Palladian that we associate with Georgian architecture. Wren certainly lived for a time in Windsor, but the most you can claim is that the hotel may have replaced Wren’s house. In my day it went by the more modest title of The Old House.

The first Hotel I visited in Oxford is long gone, and I cannot now remember where it was. It went by the name of The Oxenforde, and the staff were all extremely polite (even deferential) and old. Years later my father took me to The Randolph, and this was by far the plushest hotel I have ever patronised. It was very different from the Holiday Inn in Oxford that I went to with my family about ten years ago, but as this was beside the Oxford United F C’s Kassam Stadium it was the best place that we could have chosen, as far as my son was concerned.

I must have visited Blandford Forum in the middle 1960s, with my sister Tiggie. The only thing about this hotel that I remember is eating coquilles St Jacques; they  were delicious, although I don’t think I have ever eaten a scallop again. Coquilles St Jacques are scallops served on their shells with pommes duchesse (i.e mashed potatoes !) pipe round the edge.

Moving on, my first stay on my own at an hotel was when I went down to Weymouth en route to Guernsey. The only thing I remember about that occasion was going to a Church of England service. I must have been at loose end, because I do not usually do anything so religious when on holiday. The sermon was entirely devoted to the repugnance the vicar felt at the prospect of union with the Methodists – something that was then on the cards.

I tended not to stay in hotels in the 1970s because by then I had a dog. Although dogs are allowed in some hotels, they are an added complication when travelling, and that is trustful enough. Instead I tended to stay with friends who could put up with me and my dog. When I got married I no longer had Fido, but we soon had young children, which were even more of a tie. When we were married we stayed at an hotel in Woodbridge for our honeymoon, but after that our first visit as family of four was when we went up to London to see Cats. We spent the night.

I have visited many other hotels in my lifetime; the most exotic was the Hotel Beke in Budapest in 1965, during the height of the Cold War. It is still there under the same name but in very different circumstances. Every meal in Hungary was accompanied by a roll; there is nothing odd about that, but the plate also held a fresh gherkin at breakfast, lunch and dinner. No doubt this is still part of Hungarian cuisine. I also spent a few nights in an hotel in Prague, three years before the Prague Spring. This was the first time I had ever slept under a duvet; these were common in Europe – even Communist Europe – but quite unknown in England at the time.




The natural reaction to the name at the head of this article is KING WHO? King Æthelred of East Anglia is indeed an obscure person, and I would be very surprised if you had ever heard of him. ÆTHELRED the UNREADY you might have heard of, but he was King of England a hundred years after the kingdom of East Anglia had been absorbed. The ÆTHELRED of East Anglia I am taking about appears in no historical documents; he is only known from the inscriptions on a handful of coins that have been found by archaeologists.

The best known king of East Anglia is King Edmund, and he is the only one most people will have heard of. The king (probably) commemorated in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, Redwald, runs him a distant second, but apart from those two kings the rulers of East Anglia are a pretty obscure bunch, and Æthelred is one the most obscure. He was the king who came immediately after Edmund. Until recently it was believed universally that Edmund was the last Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia, being followed by a victorious Dane. However it now seems that there were not one but two locally born kings in Norfolk and Suffolk before the Danish king Guthrum came to power after 878. Besides Æthelred the other king was called Oswald, and his existence too is only known from his coinage.

St Edmund and the Vikings, Pickering church, North Yorkshire

St Edmund and the Vikings.                        Pickering church, North Yorkshire.

Very little is known about this period in the history of our part of the world; not that much is known about East Anglia at all before the Norman Conquest. The decade following the death of king Edmund is particularly dark. For all of our knowledge we have to rely on archaeology and particularly on numismatics. To those experts with a deep knowledge of coins those produced by Oswald and Æthelred suggest that they might have been rival kings. The significant differences between the coins of the two monarchs may point in this direction. Especially significant in this regard is the fact that the mint that produced Oswald’s coins concealed its identity – perhaps to avoid reprisals from his rival?

My reason for this suggestion also arises from the confused conditions of the time, which favoured the creation of competing factions. It is generally agreed that king Edmund was still unmarried at the time of his death, and therefore had no son as his obvious heir. Moreover, the Danish army which was camped at Thetford at the time of Edmund’s death was busy laying waste the land, which would also have led to extreme political instability. In other words it was not a time when you could expect a smooth transition to a new king.

It had been usual for historians to assume that upon killing Edmund a Danish king took overall sovereignty of East Anglia, but who would this Dane have been? The natural choice would be Ivar the boneless, the king who was not only the pre-eminent Dane at the time, but also the leader responsible for the death of Edmund. But having killed the king, Ivar seems to have taken no more interest in East Anglia. He left almost immediately and returned to York. This was probably because his modus operandi required a recognised under-king to govern on his behalf and grant him tribute. With Edmund dead there was no one to fill his place; the land almost certainly descended into anarchy, at least for a time.

Almost our only historical source for East Anglia in this period is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and although it states that the Danes ‘laid waste to the country’ it nowhere says they made peace with the Danes. This is significant, as the Chronicle records that both the Northumbrians and Mercians made peace treaties following their defeat at Ivar’s hands. I suggest that following Edmund’s death East Anglia became ungovernable, and that the Danes found no one to negotiate a peace treaty with. Ivar himself went north, and the Danish Army turned their attentions to the south – to Wessex. East Anglia appears to have descended into chaos.

Was there eventually a move to re-establish the monarchy in East Anglia among the natives? There was certainly enough of a functioning government left to produce at least one mint, which could issue a small number of coins; so the position was not utterly desperate. Numismatic experts have suggested the coinage of Oswald in particular has features that suggest the moneyer was unsure how fully he should stand behind the coinage he was issuing. It is this which leads me to suggest that OSWALD was a rival to ÆTHELRED; on the other hand he may just have been Æthelred’s successor. There was a greater similarity between Æthelred’s coinage and that of Edmund than is the case with Oswald, and this would suggest that he was closer both in time and in royal connections with Edmund.

The period of the kingship of these last Anglo-Saxon kings of East Anglia was brought to an end not by a Dane as you might expect, but by king Alfred. In the Peace of Wedmore he gave the kingdom to the Danish leader Guthrum; never mind that it was not his to give, and that there was already an English ruler in place. No wonder the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that great piece of propaganda produced at Alfred’s behest, does not mention either Æthelred or Oswald. In the eyes of Wessex the Treaty of Wedmore was a triumph; it must have looked very different in East Anglia.




Although it is possible to trace the family back to a John Longe, who was born in Hingham in 1525, I will begin this examination of the Longes with Robert Longe of Reymerston, a  small village south of Dereham. Robert Longe was born in 1619 and was four times married. His first wife was Anne Milner, daughter of Thomas Milner of Kings Lynn who died in 1653; Ann also died in that year. She had two daughters, both of whom died young, and a son Robert (b, 1647), who became heir to his father’s Reymerston estate. To distinguish him from his father he was known as Robert Longe of Foulden, another of his estates. Robert Longe of Reymerston married secondly (in 1656) Elizabeth Bacon who was born in 1625;  she died within three years of her marriage, but not before she had one child, a son Francis (b. 1658). Robert Longe of Reymerston went on to have two more wives and a daughter before he died in 1688.

His second wife Elizabeth was the younger daughter of Francis Bacon, born in 1587 in Suffolk, but established as a grand figure in Norwich. This lawyer became a Judge of the Kings Bench in 1642 and was knighted on his appointment. When King Charles I was executed seven years later he refused to take the new oath of allegiance to the people and retired to Norwich. Francis Bacon died in 1657.  The fine Bacon tomb may be seen in St Gregory’s church in Norwich.

The son of the union between Robert Longe of Reymerston and Elizabeth Bacon, Francis Longe, acquired the Spixworth estate in 1693. It is unclear quite how he was able to afford so substantial an estate, because as his father’s younger son he did not inherit his father’s estate, but the money must have come via his Bacon relations. We hear no more of Robert Longe of Foulden; the family must have died out, because in the late 18th century the Longes of Spixworth owned property in Reymerston. Perhaps he had already died with out a direct heir before 1693.



Francis Longe had purchased the Spixworth estate from James Peck, whose grandfather Wlliam had built the hall in the early 17th century. Francis proceeded to modernise the house, leaving the date 1693 and his initials on the wall, which also recorded William Peck’s original structure. Francis had already married Susan Frere of Harleston some time before 1685. The family moved to Spixworth with their son (another Francis) who had been born in 1689. In 1723, when he was no longer a young man (he was 33), the son married; his bride, Elizabeth Godfrey of Risby in Suffolk, was 24. His father was over 60 at the time of his eldest son’s marriage. His father (who had purchased the Spixworth estate in 1693) died in 1734 at the age of 76. His son only enjoyed the Lordship of the Manor of Spixworth for a year before he too died, at the relatively young age of 46. He had been married for 13 years. His widow brought up her young family and died in 1752 at the age of 53.



Francis Longe (1689- 1735) had an eldest son who was just nine years of age when he inherited the title. He was an undergraduate at St Catherine’s Hall in Cambridge in 1743, where he was befriended by Richard Gardiner. Gardiner wrote the scandalous novella The History of Pudica. It includes an account of life at Spixworth Park. Francis Longe (b. 1726), the young squire of Spixworth, married Tabitha Howes soon after coming down from Cambridge. Francis and Tabitha had a son (yet another Francis) who was born in 1748. Both father and son held what was then the influential position of High Sheriff of Norfolk during the second half of the 18th century.

The son inherited the title of squire on the death of his father in 1776. He had married one Catherine Jackson (1752-1828) four years earlier. Catherine Jackson’s father had an important position in the Admiralty, and sponsored Captain James Cook’s voyage of discovery to Australia. Sydney was originally called Port Jackson after him. Francis and Catherine Longe had no issue; Francis died in 1812 and the title passed to his cousin upon his widow’s death in 1828. The estate at Spixworth became mired in debt in the hands of Catherine; there were disputes over her ability to sell or mortgage parts of the property. She was reduced to cutting down a grand avenue of oak trees that lined the drive up to the Hall, to produce an income. The succession to Spixworth Park devolved onto a relative, a great-grandson of the Francis Longe who had died aged 46 in 1735.  It was through his second son called John (b.1731) that the title passed, he became the Rector Spixworth until his death in 1806, and it was his grandson who inherited.

The Reverend John Longe

The Rev John Longe (d. 1834)

His son, also called John (1765-1834), was his father’s curate at Spixworth until he moved to take up a position in Suffolk. He became the Vicar at Coddenham in that county, where he married the heiress to the Coddenham estate, Charlotte Browne (1762-1812). He kept a diary which reveals many fascinating facts, but only a few volumes now exist. His eldest son Francis died while an undergraduate at Cambridge, and it was his second son John (1799-1873) who became the new Lord of the Manor at Spixworth when Catherine Longe died. When he moved in he found the estate encumbered with debt. His younger brother Robert, as a son of the Rector of Coddenham took over that position on his father’s death in 1834.

To return to his great-grandfather, in spite of his relatively early death Francis Longe (1689-1735) had a daughter as well as the two sons already mentioned. One of his grandsons, Francis Howes, has the distinction of having a mention in the Dictionary of National Biography, but first we must have a word about the Howes family. Thomas Howes had moved to Morningthorpe Hall in South Norfolk following the death of his father in law John Roope. John died without male heirs in 1686, and for generations the Howes family were born in Morningthorpe. The Hall was still in the family’s possession in 1883; thereafter it passed by marriage to Commander Thomas Holmes. By 1920 it had passed out of the family. Susan Longe (1732-1822), the daughter of Francis (1689-1735), married Thomas Howes, a grandson of the Thomas who had acquired Morningthorpe Hall; her elder brother had already married a sister Tabitha Howes at Spixworth church in 1747. One of the sons of Thomas and Susan Howes became a clergyman in Norfolk, and this was Francis. He ended his days as the Rector of Framingham Pigot, a small village about four miles south of Norwich. He produced several books of poetry from 1806 onwards and after his death in 1846 his son brought out an edition of his collected works. His poems were translations from the Latin of Horace and other classical authors, and were regarded as excellent compositions at the time. Another of the Howes family became Rector of Spixworth in the 19th century.

The owner of Spixworth Park, John Longe, had married Caroline Warneford in 1829, but the marriage foundered after a few years; apparently she was highly strung and he was unsympathetic. Caroline returned to her family home, Warneford Place in Wiltshire; there were no children of this union.

The story of Betty Ridge & her family

The story of Betty Ridge & her family

Caroline Warneford was the granddaughter of William Flower, 2nd Viscount Ashbrook, and Betty Ridge, a weir keeper’s daughter. The young aristocrat had met the pretty girl of a humble background while on a fishing trip from Christchurch College in Oxford, where he was an undergraduate. The romantic story of the Viscount and his wife is told in the book Water Gyspsy by Julie Anne Godson. The Viscountess was widowed after 14 years of apparently happy marriage, and then had to bring up a young family of aristocrats on her own. It is a credit to her ability that her son became a close friend of  King William IV. She had grown up as an illiterate girl gutting fish and serving ale to bargees on the river Thames.

When the Squire of Spixworth, John Longe, died in 1873 the estate passed to his brother Robert Longe. He was many years established as Rector of Coddenham, and did not reside at the Hall, which was instead let. However, before the owner of Spixworth Park died in 1890 his eldest son Robert Bacon Longe (1830-1911) had set up house with his family at the Hall. (The Bacon name was acquired not from Judge Francis Bacon whose wealth may have led to the purchase of Spixworth Park, but from the Bacon family of Coddenham who had left a substantial estate there to the vicar John Longe in the last years of the 18th century.)

Robert Bacon Longe was the Squire of Spixworth for twenty years from 1890 until January 1911, but the property had never recovered its prosperity after the depredations of Catherine Longe. During the last decade of the 19th century the family were running short of money, and the estate was mortgaged for £25,000. Robert Bacon Longe’s youngest daughter Henrietta married into the Bignold family, the founders of Norwich Union Insurance (now known as Aviva),  and her son Robert Bignold became Chairman of the Society in 1943. Robert Bacon Longe’s eldest son and heir was Francis Bacon Longe, and he was the Chief Military Surveyor in India. He was the first to map the Himalayas. In India he had met an English woman who had been born in Bengal. This lady (with the suitably descriptive maiden name of Meane) had already been married to a Mr Sankey as a young 18-year-old; she divorced him, but not before having a family of two sons. She and Francis Bacon Longe could then marry, which they did almost immediately after the decree absolute came through. They were already ‘in love’, and this places the alleged cruelty of her first husband in context. This union with Francis Bacon Longe produced no further children. On inheriting the estate at Spixworth Francis retired from the Army and moved back to England, but only briefly to Spixworth. I get the impression there was a family rift; divorce was a scandalous thing in the early 2oth century, and the other Longes felt this keenly. Anyway all his relatives who had been happily living in Spixworth Hall were turned out. It was usual for a new squire to move into the ancestral home, but he sold all the contents in a two-day auction in 1911. He had no intention of living there and the Hall was then let to a member of the Gurney family, who had previously lived at Earlham Hall.  Francis Bacon Longe did not live in Norfolk, and died in London in 1922; the bulk of his assets passed to his widow, and through her to the Sankey children of her first marriage. The house at Spixworth passed to his brother, the Revd John Charles Longe.

John was Rector of Yelverton and Alpington in Norfolk by the time her inherit, and had no reason to move from the comfortable Rectory in Yelverton to the Hall in Spixworth. It had lost all its historic contents and was more of a liability than an asset. He died in 1939, when the house was sold, thus bringing to an end nearly three centuries of family involvement with Spixworth. The Hall was used as a furniture repository by the Norwich firm of Wallace King during the Second World War, but became increasingly derelict; there were gaping holes in the roof by the end of the conflict, and by 1952 it had been demolished.

Desmond Longe

Desmond Longe

The Revd John Charles Longe had been the clergyman at Pocklington in Yorkshire before returning to Yelverton in Norfolk.  One of the Revd John Longe’s younger children was born in Yorkshire in 1914. This son, Desmond Longe, had eventful service in the Second World War, participating in Operation Postmaster in 1942. As  secret agent W30 he was involved in the successful attempt to hijack enemy shipping from the then Spanish island of Fernando Po, off the coast of West Africa. His exploits were said to have provided Ian Fleming with the genesis of James Bond. Desmond’s aunt was the mother of Robert Bignold, and no doubt it was through the family connection  that he went on to a successful career in insurance. Robert Bignold died without children and, with the failing Bignold dynasty, by the late 1970s he had become Chairman of Norwich Union, the organisation that had been created by the Bignold family nearly 200 years earlier.

The book includes a genealogy of the Longe family. It is available on Ebay.

The book includes a genealogy of the Longes. It is available on Ebay.

My sister Christine was born in the village of Alpington in 1936. Alpington has no church, and she was christened in Yelverton church by the Revd John Longe. Following the publication of my book on Spixworth I was lucky enough to be invited to meet an elderly member of the Longe family at her home in Stoke Holy Cross. There she told me many interesting family details which have been invaluable in compiling the recent history of the Longes.

Even in the 21st century the connection of the Longes with Spixworth has not been entirely broken. No members of the family have lived there for over a hundred years, but some still return to the family plot in Spixworth churchyard to be buried. We of the lower orders tend to move around the country in search of husbands or work, but the Longes were the family in Spixworth for hundreds of years, from 1693 until 1911.


The History of PUDICA, Richard Gardiner, (London. 1754)

Francis Howes, DNB, (Oxford)

SPIXWORTH, History and Landscape, Joseph Mason,  (Taverham, 1998)

The Diary of John Longe,  Vicar of Coddenham, Ed. Michael Stone,(Woodbridge, 2008)

The Water Gypsy, Julie Ann Godson, (, 2014)




 Forts of the Saxon Shore



These are better known as the Forts of the Saxon Shore. This term we derive from the Notitia Digitatum, a late 4th century document, which give us the Latin version. It lists them, but some Roman forts existed along the coast of East Anglia that do not appear in this document although they obviously made up the Roman defensive system. The forts omitted from this list include Caister-on-Sea and Walton Castle, the latter was near Felixstowe but now lost to the sea.

Although some Roman shore forts existed to the north of East Anglia (at Scarborough for instance), the most northerly of those listed in the Notitia was at Brancaster in North West Norfolk. Although the foundations of the fort there have recently been excavated, nothing now remains to be seen above ground level. This was not true three hundred years ago when the fort stood tall, but the landowner in the eighteenth century thought these old ruins spoilt the view, and he demolished them. The structure was on the usual square Roman plan, and was built of the local carstone.

It is interesting to see why these forts were built where they were. Obviously Brancaster was intended to protect the entrance to the Wash. The necessary adjunct to the shore based fort was  a fleet of warships to venture out, to deter raiders from Northern Europe. Brancaster harbour made a safe anchorage for these vessels. Also the cavalry from the fort would  have been able to ride out along the coast road to Holme and beyond to discourage these raiders from landing. South of that the marshy nature of the Wash coastline did not make ideal territory for possible invasion. The river Great Ouse certainly gave access deep into the heart of the country, and by defending the Wash it was hoped to prevent foreign ships from entering. Brancaster fort would have been directly connected to the Roman road network both around the coast and inland. Peddars Way was a major route which terminated at Holme-next-the-Sea .

Going south round the coast the next fort was at Caister, that lay on the opposite bank of the river Yare to Burgh Castle. Incidentally the name  Yare (or Gare) was used for the river by the Romans, as we can tell from the Latin word for Burgh Castle, Gariannonum. Caister would have been a fortified town, but Gariannonum on the south bank of the river was the main fort; there was no town associated with this southern fortThe accompanying fleet would have been moored along the estuary that now forms Breydon Water.

Brancaster was the first fort to be built in East Anglia, about the year 230. Bradwell-on-Sea was another early fort, probably to defend Camulodum (Colchester), the early capital of Roman Britain, although by then this had moved to Londinium. The first garrison at Brancaster may have been from Aquitane, but during the latter decades of Roman occupation it was held by the Dalmatian Cavalry.  Burgh Castle may also have been held by Dalmatians. This use of troops from across the Empire gave a sense of unity; certainly once they were withdrawn the local militia were quite inadequate for the task of defending the country.

Only very minor waterways like the rivers Stiffkey and Glaven ran out to sea between the Great Ouse and the Yare and did not merit a naval present or fort; nor apparently did the river Alde in Suffolk. The Deben, Orwell and Stour all flow into the North Sea within a few miles of each other; any of these could have held a Roman fleet. The estuary of the Deben was the nearest to the Roman garrison at Walton Castle, and therefore probably was where it was based.

Further south in Essex the fort at Bradwell-on-Sea defended the rivers Colne and Blackwater, and that at Reculver defended the Thames. There were other forts in Kent and two to guard Southampton Water, one on the Isle of Wight. There was a similar series of forts down the coast of Gaul from Calais to Nantes on the river Loire. In Britain these placers were settled by the invading Anglo-Saxons once the Roman legions had been withdrawn. The dire results of invasion may be seen in a recent DNA survey which shows that East Anglian bloodlines are still predominantly Anglo-Saxon; Romano-British Celtic blood is absent. Historians at one time used to suggest that the take-over was relatively peaceful, but modern genetic research suggests this was not so. Hundreds of  years later the Viking raiders sailed with impunity along the Saxon shore, mirroring the invasion of the of their Germanic predecessors four centuries earlier. In spite of leaving great changes in the history a geographical divisions of the country, and even changes to its language, the numbers of the Vikings were too small to affect the overwhelming Anglo-Saxon nature of the population.




SWANNINGTON is a village some 9 miles north-west of Norwich. Its centre is off the Norwich to Reepham Road, and there is little through traffic; it is a peaceful place. The name has nothing to do with swans and comes from an Anglo-Saxon personal name  – the place where Swein’s family lived.

Until the practice of ecclesiastical appointments being allocated by some local worthy or institution was abolished in the 20th century, Swannington was in the gift of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The church at nearby Weston Longville was in the gift of New College Oxford, and James Woodforde who was appointed Parson of Weston in 1773 was a scholar of that college. Similarly at Swannington many of the clergy who occupied the position of Rector were Cambridge men of Trinity Hall.



In the Autumn of 1616 John Copeman married Alice Bunnett in St Margaret’s church in Swannington. The Rector Miles Knollys, who officiated at the ceremony, had only recently been appointed. The church was in a dilapidated state of repair; birds flew through holes in the roof and the missing panes in the West Window meant it had been boarded up. The condition of the Rectory was not much better.

When Alice was a young girl her uncle Edward had got into trouble for not standing during the reading of the Gospel at Swannington church. At least these passages were in the vernacular by 1598, when this misdemeanor was recorded; this was before the Authorised Version, and it would have been readings from Henry VIII’s Great Bible that Edward Bennett sat through. A couple of generations earlier the Gospels were only available in Latin, which was entirely unintelligible to the vast mass of the people.  Alice’s father George was more respectful, and stood at the appropriate time. Attendance at church services was compulsory in the 16th century, but there was apparently some reluctance among the parishioners to do so. Joan Thomson of the same village was admonished a few years later for non-attendance at Sunday service; she replied that she was sick and so unable to attend. The fact that her actions came to the notice of the Rector suggests there is some question over how genuine her illness was.

In 1630, after the death of Miles Knollys, the Rev. Edmund Duncon (a Suffolk born graduate of Trinity Hall) was appointed Rector of Swannington. He married his wife in the village eight years later. One of his early acts was to rebuild the Rectory, which was in the last stages of decay. The Old Rectory is a large building in the 17th century style, that was still the residence of the Rev. John Dixon Wortley in 1950; he had been appointed in 1917. He was the last Rector to live in the Old Rectory, and the last graduate of Trinity Hall to receive the living in the old way. The Rev. Edmund Duncon did not remain for many years in the parish of Swannington, for in 1643 he was sequestered (i.e.removed) by Parliament, along with many of his fellow priests in Norfolk. He was replaced by an ‘Intruder’, a local preacher named Robert Cronshaye. Cronshaye was still active in Watton after the Restoration, where he obtained a licence to preach in 1662. The Puritans discouraged outward ceremony, and no doubt the whole congregation was compelled to sit during Scripture readings. In the 1650s Duncon was appointed Curate to the Chaplain of the Beaumont family, who were living in Suffolk. As this was a private arrangement, the harsh requirements of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate were to a certain extent avoided. The Prayer Book, for example, that had been banned in all acts of public worship would have continued in use in the Beauchamp household. With the Restoration of the monarchy, the Rev. Edmund Duncon was again installed as Rector of Swannington, before resigning two years later and moving to his final appointment in Friern Barnet, Middlesex. There he died in 1672 at the age of 73.

Swannington rectory

The Rectory

Alice and John Copeman moved to the village of Whitwell after their marriage. This is a few miles north of Swannington, and there they had their family. Alice was some years older than her husband, and when the last son was born she was approaching 40 years of age. In 1628 her pregnancy went badly, and she died shortly after giving birth to George. George however survived.  John Copeman was plunged into great difficulties with the death of his wife; he was left with five children under the age of ten to bring up. He did not remarry, so members of his extended family must have stepped in to look after the children while he went out to work. Despite the best efforts of his relatives, all three sons died in 1630, and a daughter, Alice, did not survive into adulthood. Only Catherine, aged just two at the time of her mother’s death, lived through all obstacles to have a family of her own. It was unsurprising if, in these tragic circumstances, John turned to drink.

Former Kings Head

Former Kings Head

The Kings Head was the pub in Swannington at this time, and to judge by its appearance it had been built at least 100 years before that. Why John Copeman had returned to Swannington from Whitwell is unclear, but not content with a pint of two at the Kings Head, he became thoroughly inebriated, to such an extent that he abused his fellows and got into fights. His behaviour came to the attention of the local constable. Not to be put off alcohol so easily he continued to make a nuisance of himself, and he was taken to court in Norwich in 1632. There he was fined five shillings; this was a huge amount that of course he could not pay, so failing that he was placed for six hours in the stocks in Norwich Market Place. After his punishment he continued his rowdy drink-fuelled behaviour, and before 1635 he was again arraigned before the Justices. John Copeman beinge accused for many horrible misdemeanors doth first Confesse that he was drunken And he was also accused for swearinge & diverse other disorders, hee is ordered to be punished at the post, & then to be sett on worke in Bridwell.  The post was where miscreants were whipped.  This was an experience that finally seems to have cured him of his drinking problem; certainly he does not again appear in the court records.

My interest in these years in the history of Swannington is twofold. The Rev. Edmund Duncon was, in 1633, instrumental in the publication of George Herbert’s seminal book of devotional verse, The Temple. Edmund Duncon was a friend of Nicholas Ferrar, one of the saintly founders of the Anglican community at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire; Duncon was visiting his friend at Little Gidding when word came of the serious illness of another of Ferrar’s friends, George Herbert. Duncon was immediately dispatched to Wiltshire. We often think travel was impossibly difficult before the age of railways, but Duncon was able to go to George Herbert’s parish of Bemerton (now a suburb of Salisbury) without delay. Having met the 39-year-old priest on his deathbed, he was was entrusted with the volume of manuscripts to be brought back to Little Gidding; if they were deemed worthless, he was to burn them. On the contrary, all who read the poems on his return to Huntingdonshire were immediately impressed by their value.

East end of the church.

East end of the church

As well as an early form of ‘concrete poetry’, where the shape of the verses is an important part of the effect, he wrote several compositions that are perfect for setting to music. Hymns are not as popular as they once were, but Herbert’s “Let All the World in Every Corner Sing” and “Teach me, my God and King” may be familiar to those who listen to Songs of Praise. He took the poems together with an introduction by Ferrar to the printer in Cambridge, and later legend reports that it was the wealth generated by The Temple which enabled Duncon to rebuild Swannington Rectory on such a grand scale. It went through many editions during Duncon’s lifetime. In case you should doubt this connection between the great poet and this sleepy Norfolk village, the part played by Duncon in this story is recorded by Isaac Walton in his 1670 biography of the poet.

My interest in the rather less elevated career of John Copeman is more personal; he was my wife Molly’s 16 times great-grandfather. George Bunnett was her ancestor a generation before that. It may seem that her family has not moved very far in nearly half a millennium- after all, Swannington is only a couple of miles away from our current home. That is a co-incidence however; John Copeman’s daughter Catherine moved away, and others of her ancestors lived in London, Scotland and  Devon.

My first visit to Swanninton occurred some three hundred years after Edmund Duncon’s return to Swanninton Rectory at the Restoration. After a Summer Sunday visit to the Broads, all the boarders from our school house (all 25 of us, aged from eight to thirteen) were taken in the coach to spend the evening in the garden of Upgate House in Swanington. This was a large 1930s style house, in splendid grounds that were much older than the house. It was the family home of two of our companions, the Barratt boys.  We had a great time playing childish games as the July sun drained from the sky.

The head of the family, John Legh Barratt, was a veteran of the Second World War, having been captured by the Japanese in Singapore as an officer of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. John Barratt was the head of the old-established Norwich stockbroking firm of Barratt and Cooke, that had been established in the 19th century by his father Legh. John’s younger son Charles has been for many years the Chairman of the firm.



Charlie Barratt was almost my exact contemporary, being just six months younger. I should really call the bothers David and Charles, but they will always be remembered by me as Dave and Charlie.  They had a sister too, who was sadly killed when she was knocked off her moped in London in 1973.

Charlie and I referred to ourselves as the two CWs, because our parents had wisely named us Charles William and not vice versa, which would have made us the two WCs! We went into different houses in the Senior School and consequently lost touch. About five years ago Charles William Legh Barratt was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk, and later Deputy Lieutenant of the county. As you may have guessed, David and Charles Barratt come from a distinguished family with aristocratic connections. The high offices of state still retain their social elevation, even in the supposedly egalitarian 21st century.

I returned to Upgate House in Swannington 30 years after my first visit, when my own children were young. Old Mr Barratt, the father of David and Charles, was still living there and was holding a summer Fête to raise funds for St Margaret’s church. I still have some books by Dr Seuss I bought there on his lawn at the Fête. John Barratt’s widow died in 2014 at the ripe old age of 99, and John himself had died 12 years earlier. The Barratt gates to the churchyard at St Margaret’s are a memorial to members of the family and the church now has a new heating system thanks in part to a donation from the Barratt family’s Charitable Trust.

My neighbour owns a field in Swannington, where she was born at about the time of my first visit to the parish; as a child she sang in the choir at St Margaret’s church. The field is under an acre, but it is ample for her to grow all the fruit and vegetables she need to supply jams and chutneys to all the local Fairs and Fêtes. The presence of so much food attracts wildlife; mice and crows forage for seeds, and even the occasional adder suns himself among the marrows. We were given our raspberry canes by our neighbours, and they had been grown in Swannington. Every year they produce all the raspberries we need to freeze for the year. Now, as I eat some delicious fruit from these Swannington raspberry canes, I will end this brief account of the village.