Monthly Archives: November, 2011


CARROW WORKS; Mustard, Starch, Barley Water


Colman’s was an advanced company. Its care for its workers was second to none. It was paternalistic certainly, but the effects of this were only good. Carrow for example had its own school for the sons of its employees. My father attended this school – Carrow School – as his first place of learning. His father wasn’t employed by Carrow Works; his mother had worked there, but of course she left on her marriage to William Mason, so her employment did not count. My father therefore had no right to attend the school on parental grounds, but the New Lakenham council school where he should have gone had been taken over for wounded soldiers, as this was during the Great War. Thus he got his place. He regarded his years at Carrow as the best of his school career. He appreciated the school motto – Sat cito, si sat bene  (quick enough if it is well enough)  as it was in Latin. He never learnt Latin, although he would have loved to have done so. Carrow School has been closed now for a century, and there are no old pupils left who remember it.

There were other privileges attaching to working for Colman’s. The company had its own medical service (a great advantage in those pre-NHS days), and the workforce could eat at the well appointed and no doubt subsidised company canteen. From the first years of the 20th century there was even a works magazine, with Art Nouveau decorations round the title page. It was bang up to date, illustrated with photographs; this was when Cadbury’s Bournville Works Magazine also first appeared. Although widely separated by geography, Cadbury’s and Colman’s had much in common as model employers. In the pages of the works magazine we learn of all the clubs and societies that the company encouraged its workers to participate in. Thus there was a gardening club (illustrated by a picture of a good root and a bad root of potatoes), the footballing club (illustrated by a picture of the cup winners from the Tin Department) and a musical society, boasting both a military band and an orchestra (both pictured). Nor was that the end of things by any means.



It is more than a century ago, but the interests and activities of the ordinary people of Norwich are entirely understandable, even in the internet age. The interest in football in particular is just as strong today, perhaps now more from a spectator’s point of view. To go back a similar period from 1907 would take you back almost into the eighteenth century, and not only is the information on the working class of this era meagre, its interests would have been severely circumscribed by poverty and lack of opportunity.

Carrow Band retouched


I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this short essay that my father’s mother (that is my paternal grandmother) was employed at Carrow works during the early years of the last century. In the first issue of the Carrow Works Magazine (October 1907) there is this short announcement of her marriage. Her Christian name was Emily, and her maiden name was, Peachey. I remember her very well, as I was 16 when she died in 1965.





Sea-going vessels 20 miles inland

Loading scrap metal at Norwich

Loading scrap metal at Norwich, in the early 1970s.

The Port of Norwich was not killed off but it certainly faded away.  We can be much more certain when it became a port; by Act of Parliament, 1827. In the nineteen fifties it was still flourishing; in the sixties it seemed secure; in the seventies it was still functioning; but by the end of the eighties it was doomed. What finished it? A number of things. For a start industry deserted King Street and Riverside Road, the area that supported river traffic. The size of coasting vessels got bigger (a trend which is continuing) so that fewer and fewer vessels were capable of navigating the narrow and winding rivers that led to Norwich.

Eventually the nature of industry changed and the moving of heavy goods that could use water transport disappeared from Norwich. Instead we now have  a riverside area dominated by retail outlets and night clubs. King Street was the centre of the brewing industry in Norwich, and although the brewers were not great users of the waterside for river transport, the brewing industry led the way in leaving the area. We had Read’s flour mill, which used water for deliveries of grain, then King’s scrap yard for some years in the sixties and seventies. At Baltic Wharf timber was imported from vessels from Scandinavia. That covered the  reach of the river from Carrow Bridge to Foundry Bridge, the crossing which formed the upper limit of navigation for all but leisure cruisers. Bishops Bridge was too small to let even cruisers past and the river is now very restricted above that point. In the days when wherries used the port they would travel up as far as New Mills.

THE PORT OF NORWICH. JAN KLUVER on her way through Carrow Bridge to Baltic Wharf with a cargo of Scandinavian timber.

THE PORT OF NORWICH. JAN KLUVER on her way through Carrow Bridge to Baltic Wharf with a cargo of Scandinavian timber.

So far I have dealt with the Norwich side of the river. On the Thorpe side Riverside Road meant no direct access to the water from private premises, but on this bank of the river there was rail access. This was provided from the Thorpe Station yard across the road to the public quayside. I never saw a locomotive on this short stretch of siding although I did see trucks, so locomotives must have used it. This siding was outside the Boulton and Paul Works, but the firm did not appear to use the river much in my day.

There was a fleet of lighters named after trees such as OAK and BIRCH.  These brought coal up beyond Foundry Bridge to the gasworks on Gas Hill. Their cargoes were transhipped at Yarmouth to be drawn up river by the steam tugs Gensteam and Cypress. The photo shows Cypress moored on Baltic Wharf and the date must be about 1959. This tug was also named after a tree, obviously. Gensteam was a contraction of the name General Steam Navigation Company which sold her to the Great Yarmouth Shipping Company in 1931. Gensteam was the first to disappear, being replaced by a powered lighter, also steam driven, and named after another tree whose name escapes me.

The steam tug Cypress tied up beside a lighter on Baltic Wharf; cica 1964.

The steam tug Cypress tied up beside a lighter on Baltic Wharf.

So far I have only considered shipping which came through Carrow Bridge. There was also much river traffic that we members of the public never saw, because it only went to that part of the Port of Norwich hidden from the road. This included such things as the shipment of concentrated fruit juice from South America to Colman’s who used it for the Robinson’s brand of squash. Lemon Barley Water was their early product.

While it was still running, Norwich power station used coal brought from Newcastle by coaster to generate electricity. These tramp steamers you would only see when entering or leaving the port, from such places as Whitlingham where a reach of the river runs alongside the road. Here you could stand very close to the foreign vessels while their dogs barked at you from the deck. (This was forbidden by the regulations which stated that any dogs must be kept locked up while in British waters, but the rules were often ignored.) At Whitlingham the river turns away from the road in a 90 degree twist which was difficult to navigate. It must have trapped many ships; I remember a heavily laden vessel on her way up to Norwich running aground on this awkward turn. The picture below shows an Everard tramp stuck across the river on her way downstream, empty.

SONORITY aground at Whitlingham, 16 March 1970. The police launch is alongside.

SONORITY aground at Whitlingham, 16 March 1970. The police launch is alongside.

Sultan being towed out of Norwich by the tug Stalker.

Sultan being towed out of Norwich by the tug Stalker.

There were other hazards too. On February 28th 1962 the ship Sultan, having unloaded above Carrow Bridge discovered she was to long for the usual turning place at the bend just by the bows of the tug Cypress in the picture above. She had to be towed out stern first by the tug Stalker, a vessel that I do not remember. She was plainly a diesel powered vessel, and unlike the steam tugs combined her function of towing with carrying cargo under her hatches. I do not know how far Sultan had to towed beyond Carrow Works, which you can see on the left, but certainly by the time she reached Bramerton she would have been able to turn and proceed under her own power. This happened occasionally, but mostly the length of the ship was checked by the master before leaving the port of origin.  The building of the Norwich Southern By-pass was being planned while there was still river traffic by sea-going vessels up to Norwich. The Port Commissioners were concerned that the bridge at Postwick should leave ample headroom for the masts of boats. I remember Bryan Read  talking to a meeting of the Norfolk Nautical Research Society in the 1980s. He was a Commissioner of then Port of Norwich and a director Reads flour mill on the riverside, and he said that he expected tough negotiations on this subject. In the even the head room was more than ample; I suspect this was because the place selected for the crossing made a high bridge the natural choice, rather than any consideration for a shipping route that was clearly coming to the end of its days even then.




 A Ruined Church

St MARY'S CHURCH, Kirby Bedon

St MARY’S CHURCH, Kirby Bedon

KIRBY BEDON has two churches. They are St Mary’s, which stands in ruins, and just opposite is St Andrew’s. This is the survivor, and the tower was wholly rebuilt in the 19th century, while the rest of the church was heavily restored at the same time. St Mary’s survived the Reformation but was abandoned about a century later. Having two churches so close together is highly unusual, but it is not unique. In Norfolk Shotesham has four medieval churches (two ruinous) and Reepham had three in the same churchyard, of which two remain.

Churches have figured largely in the history of this village. The word Kirby is of Danish origin, the word  being composed of the two elements kirk and –by, meaning the settlement round the church. The Danes arrived in this part of Norfolk in the late 9th century, so it is likely there has been a church here since then at least. For over 1100 years this has been so, although the current structures are slightly later; nevertheless what remains of St Mary’s walls is about one thousand years old according to architectural experts. Even St Andrew’s church has a Norman archway and some medieval brasses, and who knows how old the replaced tower was?.

It is named Kerkebei in the Domesday Book, and takes the name Bedon from Hadenald de Bidun. Henry I (1100 – 1135) gave the land to around the village to him. The estate was held by John de Bidon a hundred years later, before 1212. The name Bidun comes originally from a village called Bidon in France.

The photograph I took in about 1965, nearly 50 years ago. By comparing the picture I took then with a recent view, you can see that time has not been kind to the ruin. The arches above two of the upper windows in the tower were still standing then, but this part of the building has now collapsed. It was part of the 14th century belfry stage, built on the older round tower below.




Stanley Aldrich revisited

Back in August I wrote a blog on Southwold in the late 50s with particular reference to an old gentleman called Stanley Aldrich and his model yachts. I have found out more about him that enables me paint a fuller picture. For a start, when I imagined him on the beach as a fisherman I was only half right; he could be found on South Beach true enough, but as the proprietor of the Tea Stall! This would have been in the 20s and 30s. This work only kept him occupied in the high summer of course. In the winter he retired to a two-storied barn on the other side of Ferry Road. There by the light of a hurricane lamp (there being no electricity) he would make model yachts that were his main livelihood. These ranged from miniatures a mere 3½ inches long, to a 6 feet long model of Sir Thomas Lipton’s yacht Shamrock. (Shanrock V of 1930 was built of wood whereas the first Shamrock was metal built, and thus less suitable as a model maker’s subject.)He also made models of the famous beach yawl Bittern, which had been built in 1890 and was a familiar sight in the Edwardian East Coast regattas. The model of the Bittern of Southwold at the National Maritime Museum is possibly one of his construction.


Also among his output were a few full sized rowing and sailing dinghies, but mainly he worked on models. His workshop in the barn – a later building on this site was the restaurant the Dutch Barn– was hung with ropes and sails from the beams and anchors and planks of wood on the floor. This picture of Stanley Aldrich shows him outside his Tea Stall before the Second World War.

STANLEY ALDRICH outside his Tea Stall

STANLEY ALDRICH outside his Tea Stall







I FIRST MET Barney Welch and his wife Janet in the summer of 1988 when I went to Old Costessey Post Offic as a part time postman. Barney – his real name was Bernard, but he was always Barney – was the Sub-postmaster, but that was in name only;  Janet took control of the running of things. Over the next few years I became well acquainted with the couple, who could be described as mildly eccentric. I learnt much of their history and the history of the village. I got to know some of their friends too, such as Lulu who kept a cattery in Ringland Lane and Fred Barnes. Fred was a great character. Mawther Maggie (Maggie Secker) of Radio Norfolk was his niece or possibly great niece. He was very adept and ingenious and entirely self taught in all his skills. He had been a Costessey postman and before that a bricklayer. At the age of 90 he made himself an electric bicycle as he was getting a bit old for pedalling up the hills! He would cycle over to Horsham St Faith’s from his home in Costessey where he would hear the traditional (Tridentine) Latin Mass, although it was officially banned by the Roman Catholic Church. (I believe the ban has been somewhat relaxed under present Pope.) He was a Norfolkman and a Catholic through and through. His conversations would range from (for example) the Norfolk dialect name for a chaffinch – spink, which he was surprised I knew- to the character of Cardinal Newman (his hero). There is still a strong Catholic community in Costessey as there has always been, back to the Reformation and beyond. Barney himself was a Catholic, although Janet was not.

The Welch family. Barney is the baby.

Barney had been born in 1915 with a hare lip. This distressing condition, which was surgically treated but imperfectly mended, must have blighted his life until he was able to conceal it by growing a moustache. He recalled how he was maltreated by the other boys in the village while out with his father selling ice crams from a tricycle. His Dad had nipped into The Bush, being rather too fond of the odd tipple (Barney himself was not averse to the odd Guinness or three) and had left him in charge of the ice creams. The Costessey lads seeing Barney alone helped themselves, demanding cones and ignoring his protests.


His father was responsible for the Welch Series of postcards. These “Series” were very popular in the early years of the last century, with every village having its selection of picture postcards named after the local Sub-postmaster.  (It had recently been allowed to writ the address and message on the same side, allowing one side to have an illustration.) My Grandfather, who was the Sub-postmaster at Cawston had the “Rivett Series” for example. Most of these postcards were provided by an itinerant photographer; my Grandfather’s were provided by someone who even got his name wrong, calling him G. Rivett while his name was in fact Charles. But Francis Welch was his own photographer, which meant he was on hand to photograph his family and interesting local occurrences like the shrapnel from a Zeppelin bomb that fell in a field in Costessey. The pictures he took himself had the words “Welch Series” written on the negative by hand; the professionally produced ones had the name printed. This picture (above) of sheep-shearing in Costessey includes a young lad who I think was Barney’s elder brother Francis. If I am right this would date the view to just before the First World War. The dress of the farm workers would not have been out of place 20 or even 50 years earlier, although their head-gear was perhaps slightly more up to date.


Between the wars, when Barney was growing up, the post was collected by horse and cart from Drayton railway station, and then brought back to the Post Office in Costessey for sorting. When I began as a postman in 1988 the post came by road of course, but in most other ways things had not changed for 80 years or more. We had electric light, but the cycles were still the same as they had been in 1939 with rod brakes and no gears. There were leather straps to hold your postbag on the platform at the front, but we had huge plywood boxes to hold all the mail. These were far too heavy, and if your bike tipped up with its back wheel in the air (which it was prone to do), it was impossible to return it to an upright condition without unloading it first. Eventually the management in Norwich realised what we were doing and removed our boxes. We then had to fill several pouches and wait for the van to come from Drayton. They would replace our empty pouch with a full one, and we could continue delivering the post. But it meant waiting.



Wymondham to Forncett railway

The Swedes & Swimmers



THE WYMONDHAM to FORNCETT RAILWAY was known as the “Swedes & Swimmers” from the staple diet of the navvies who built it. Swedes are self evident; “swimmers” were the local Norfolk name – for dumplings! Nigel Barber’s grandfather James was one of those original navvies on the Swedes and Swimmers; he emailed me with his memories of Ashwellthorpe station before it closed.

The reason for the construction of the Wymondham to Forncett railway was to provide a route from the Ipswich line to the Cambridge line that did not go through Norwich, where it required turning of the engine. Of course there was a line to Cambridge from Ipswich through Stowmarket, but in those far-off days a lot of goods traffic was generated by the wayside stations north of Diss (all now disappeared). Similarly goods to and from Swaffham, Dereham, Fakenham and Wells could go south without passing through Norwich, where the trains would have to reverse. The line was conceived principally for goods traffic, although passengers were also carried. Anyone who wanted to go further had to change at Wymondham or Forncett. There was one intermediate station on the line at Ashwellthorpe. Passengers were no longer carried after the outbreak of war in 1939, when Ashwellthorpe station was closed to passengers, although it remained open to freight until the line closed. The last stationmaster was Mr Howard. Ashwellthorpe station had been opened in 1881. The line saw its busiest period in the First Word War, when the increase in traffic justified the doubling of the track and the rebuilding of all the bridges.

Gradient post on the "Swedes and Swimmers".

Gradient post on the “Swedes and Swimmers”.

The line was short, only 6½ miles long, and the journey from Wymondham to Forncett took 13 minutes, including the stop at Ashwellthorpe. In 1922 the passenger service was quite good. There were no Sunday trains, but during the week there were 6 trains in each direction, the earliest leaving Forncett at 7.34 a.m. on Monday morning, and the last train arriving at Wymondham at 8.18 p.m. When you add the goods traffic to these 12 passenger trains, the line was quite a busy one.

Forncett Junction on the Norwich to London main line

The availability of a line avoiding Norwich was again useful in the Second World War, when the city became a major target in the German bombing blitz. On at least one occasion the line into Norwich became impassable due to bomb damage and the alternative route was invaluable. In the post-war period the growth of road transport made the continuation of the Swedes and Swimmers unnecessary, and the line was closed completely in 1951. The track was lifted and the rail-over bridges were demolished, although the ballast remained. In later rail closures such as the M & G N, most of the bridges were left intact (there being only cost and no benefit in their removal), but the ballast was removed for use elsewhere.  Also items of railway furniture such as the complete contents of a plate layers hut, with tools inside, were left isolated on the abandoned permanent way.

My family found the old track bed a great place for walking our dog, although it could be a problem when you came to a removed  bridge. This first occurred in 1956, at the height of the myxomatosis epidemic among the rabbit population. There were little skulls and skeletons lying all over the railway  embankments, and the occasional feeble animal on its last legs.

Swedes & Swimmers, 1956

Swedes & Swimmers, 1956

A short spur of the line remained at the Wymondham end at Hethel. It was used by Archie King for scrap railway carriages, the wooden superstructures being burnt before the steel undercarriage was broken up. Eventually  the scrap dealer realised that there was a market for the more valuable pieces of ornament in the carriages, and they were removed before being torched. My father acquired a set of railway prints of Hamilton Ellis paintings which came from above the seats in the compartments. In 1967 the North Norfolk Railway rescued the Gresley Quad set of coaches from the scrapyard and I am sure other items of rolling stock were similarly removed for preservation.

P.S. I wrote that the word SWEDES is self evident, but I was wrong; the website on Norfolk walks attributes it to the nationality (i.e. Swedes as natives of Sweden), not the root vegetable. They may be right, but I don’t think so. You could eat swedes and swimmers in Norfolk, but Swedish people and dumplings have very little to do with each other. Also swedes are common enough in Norfolk, while Swedes are rather rare.

P.P.S. As result of this post I have been acquainted with the Forncett Village Info website where you can download  copies of the Forncett Flyer. These have much information on the Wymondham to Forncett Railway by “Railway Ron”. If you are at all interested in the Swedes and Swimmers check it out.

I try to do piece of railway related matter once a month, so do browse my later posts.






Brass Band Competitions in mid-19th century Norfolk

 There are two brass band competitions we know a little bit about, thanks to three broadsides produced for the occasions. Two of these cheaply printed sheets relate to the same competition in Norwich, while the third deals with a competition in Great Yarmouth. We can tell that both were about the same time because some of the same characters appear in both the Norwich and Yarmouth competitions. The Norwich competition took place on 18th August 1861. After 160 years the local brass band movement is still going strong – the Taverham Band performed at the church this Remembrance Sunday. (2011)

brass bandIn the Yarmouth competition the cause behind the battle was said to be the landlord of the pub where the contest was held, the Victoria Gardens (the Vickey Gardens of the title). He was said to favour one band, while the audience had favoured another. It’s not much of a story, but at least it adds a little spice to the contest. The Victoria Gardens of Blackfriars road remained a pub well into living memory, not being demolished until the late 20th century. The landlord’s name is given in the broadside as Lovick Anstead Brown, and he had been born into the pub trade. His parents had kept the pub in Taverham, the Papermakers Arms.

Two of the bands competing at Yarmouth came from Cambridgeshire, but this was not the furthest a contestant had come- one band leader was a German, described on the broadside with blatant xenophobia as full of trickery like all his countrymen. His name is given as Keyniech or alternatively as Kegnick, but I think these are phonetic interpretations of the German name Koenig. Koenig was a German cornet player and band leader who was living in England at the time. He had composed the famous and virtuosic Post Horn Gallop a few years earlier. He was placed third in the competition.

The popular favourite at Yarmouth was Billy Jackson (also called Jaxon, another example of the phonetic approach to names). Here is the publication in which Mr Cosgrove – who is the hero in the broadside- gave his side of the story;  
 On 31st August 1861 Mr. Thomas Rolfe Cosgrove, then of Upper King Street, Norwich, published the following:-` I admit that Mr. Ablitt ordered the police to remove me from the gardens, which they wisely declined, but deny that  I made any apology whatever to Mr. Ablitt. Mr. Ablitt was determined that Mr. Jackson’s band should not play for his cup and I, who was deputed by them to see they had fair play, was determined they should and by appealing to a respectable audience, who were unanimous in having the arrangements carried out with integrity, Mr. Ablitt was obliged to give way.’

Band leader Jackson must have been good, as he was the winner of the Norwich competition too. On one of the Norwich broadsides we learn that he was called Blind Billy Jackson – an interesting sidelight on this interesting man. We only learn of one piece of music played in the two events, and that was by Jackson at Yarmouth. It was that most rousing of nineteenth century favourites, Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. It would not be to today’s taste as the high point of a pub music festival!

These events relied on the new railway system, not only to bring the bandsmen from across the country to compete, but also to transport the many “country cousins” who were provided with cheap trains from the sticks to join in the merriment.  The contest was held on the New Cricket Ground in Newmarket Road, which had been opened in 1853.  The old cricket ground in Lakenham had been opened in 1827 and survived into the 21st century. To finish off events at the Norwich “spree” were fireworks provided by George Coe, who had a fireworks factory at Bull Close. The heady mixture of brass bands and fireworks is still popular as seen by the biennial Exploding Brass concerts. George Coe had a chequered career. He first comes to our notice as the publican of the Plasterers Arms in 1854. He was reportedly insolvent as a firework manufacturer and firework artist in 1860, but was still in business in 1870 when the inevitable explosion at his works severely injured two of his employees.

The humour of the two Norwich broadsides is undoubtedly coarse, not quite the style we normally associate with the ‘prim’ Victorians. One relates how a bandsman was blowing so hard on his cornet that he dirtied his breeches, while the other says how delighted the girls were with the contestant’s horns. Really? I wonder what the author meant by that.



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There is a fascinating series of Viking coins to do with East Anglia, the so called Edmund Memorial coinage, issued by the Vikings to celebrate St Edmund. The surprising thing is that the coins were issued less than 30 years after the Danes had killed him. I may return to this subject at a later date, but the coins I wish to consider now date from a little later, and come from a bit further north. I say coins, but there is one coin in particular I am interested in, one that says on it “For he has done marvellous things” – mirabilia fecit in Latin.

Viking coin: mirabilia fecit.

Viking coin: mirabilia fecit.

This is an overtly religious message, being a quotation from the second line of the 98th psalm. To find anything similar we must look not to the Anglo-Saxon coinage of the south of Britain but to Continental Europe. Among these coins it is possible to find religious texts used on coins in a broadly similar way. Less than half a century before minting this mirabilia fecit coin the Vikings had been a race of Pagan seafarers using hack-silver as a means of exchange, not coinage at all. Hack-silver was weighed and marked silver bullion; the use of coin except as a form of bullion was quite foreign to them. To have changed so completely, not only in religious belief but also developing a sophisticated approach to coinage was a remarkable transformation. We should, however, look more deeply into the religious iconography of contemporary Viking coins.

When we examine the symbols used on much of the Viking coinage we are immediately struck by the prevalence of warlike pagan motifs. Ravens spread their wings, and Thor’s hammer makes a frequent appearance. The raven was the bird of war and Thors hammer was a weapon. Axes and swords remind us of the bloodthirsty nature of the continuing Viking culture, even if it was nominally now Christian. All these symbols are survivals from a heathen past. None, with the possible exception St Michael’s sword (used solely against Satan) would have appeared on the more authentically Christian Anglo-Saxon coinage. What can we learn from this in respect of the Viking coin bearing those words from a psalm?

We cannot be sure of the exact form the rest of psalm took, whether it was that of the Roman Missal or of St Jerome’s second Revision; at least I cannot be sure, although someone with a greater knowledge of tenth century religious texts than I might have a good idea. The difference between the two versions is not great, although the stress can be different. For my present purpose I will assume that the Authorised Version gives a good translation of the psalm as it would have been known to the Viking moneyers.

A VIKING COIN  showing Thor's hammer and a sword

A VIKING COIN showing Thor’s hammer and a sword

As we read through the psalm a number of things strike us as having a relevance to Viking culture. For a start there is a reference to the Lord’s strong right arm- the sword bearing arm the Viking would immediately (and rightly) assume. For with his right hand he “hath gotten him the victory”. Then we move on to the power of the great waters, the sea roaring and the floods clapping their hands together. It is the perfect psalm for a race of warlike seafarers, which is a phrase I have already used to describe the Viking people.

Am I right about the coin with mirablia fecit inscribed upon it?  With so little to go on it is impossible to be sure. We cannot now ask Dr Mark Blackburn, the former Keeper of Coins at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He recently died of cancer aged only 58. I never met him although we had an interesting exchange of emails a few years ago. He was a great expert on Viking coinage.


I have written aother piece on Viking Coins. This has particular reference to the St Edmund Memorial Coinage.  Click on the 5th December 2011.

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November and the verse from Laurence Binyon’s poem The Fallen will be read at countless memorial services, as it has been for many decades since the Great War. It was first published in The Times of 21 September 1914. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old… I think it must be the most recited verse of poetry in the English language. It is only one verse of a seven verse poem. The other six are virtually unknown, as are all the other poems that Binyon wrote. Except for those four lines his work is not a well known. I believe that most people who know those four lines do not associate them with the name of Binyon.

welch ww1472

Frank Welch says ‘Farewell’ to a WWI soldier

I remember a poignant conversation I heard on the bus going home to Taverham many years ago. As you are probably unaware, there is an area of the village known unofficially as Poets’ Corner; the road Names of Coleridge Close, Shakespeare Way, Tusser Road and Shelley Drive all being named after British poets. To girls were talking about where they lived, and one revealed that her address was Binyon  Gardens. “Oh,” said her companion, “You are not one of the poets then?” “No” came the reply. The last line of his famous verse runs We will remember them. Remember them?  Perhaps, but not the author apparently.

Laurence Binyon was not a writer by profession. Not a poet of course because who can live by the power of verse alone. Even Roger McGough must earn more from voice-overs for broadcasts than he does from his very popular verse. Maybe Ogden Nash lived by poetry alone, but he wasc exceptional. Laurence Binyon was an art scholar by profession, and wrote (for instance) the entry on Burne-Jones in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

His name was in fact Robert Laurence Binyon although he always used his middle name as a poet. However, in signing his name he used both initials, R. L. Binyon, as you can see in the signature from the title page from one of his books reproduced below.

He died in 1943. His library was sold after his widow Cicely’s death, and items from his book collection were bought by the author J. Stevens Cox in 1964. This information is obligingly pasted into the end paper of a copy of The Roman Triumvirates by Merrivale of 1885 from his library. I purchased this copy from a book sale at Aylsham about 35 years later, presumably after Cox’s death in 1997.

For the Fallen   

   They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

 Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn

     At the going down of the sun and in the morning

     We will remember them.




Norwich Airport can be traced back to the Second World War when it was known as St FAITH’S AIRFIELD, home of the 319th Bomber Group of the USAAF. Before the Airfield was built the Cromer Road used to diverge from the Holt Road at THE FIRS, the former pub in Hellesdon. This building reopened a few years ago as a branch of TESCO. For many years you could trace the former route of the road through the allotment gardens that surrounded the airfield; then the allotments were removed and a Premier Inn sprang up in their place. All trace of the old road was lost. At the other end of the airfield the Cromer Road used to run through St Faith’s village. It now peters out by the NDR,  where it provides access to the Aircraft Museum. What a minor road that seems today!

Until the 60s there wasn’t a proper replacement for the piece of the Cromer Road lost to runways. You had to stay on the Holt road almost into Horstead and then turn sharp right into a narrow country lane which brought you out into St Faiths parish. It was so narrow that it was one way, and the return was via another narrow lane.

English Electric Lightning

After the war the airfield became an RAF station and was used as a base for fighter jets. I can remember Hawker Hunters and English Electric Lightnings flying out of St Faiths, but the aircraft that I have the clearest memories of were the delta winged Gloster Javelins.  If you think jet aircraft are noisy today you ought to have heard the Javelins of the 1950s. Boy, were they loud! I remember sitting in my Dad’s car while a couple took off, and the sound was deafening.

On the third Saturday in September the airfield was opened to the public for Battle of Britain Day. I was taken to this popular event by my father one year. I was a bit disappointed to find there were no aircraft hanging up in sheds; they were kept in hangars after all! (You must remember I was very young.) Battle of Britain open days were a regular feature of my school holidays. They came in mid September, just before the autumn term began (the school year started a week or two later then). Once the day was over it was back to school almost immediately. I recall an open day at RAF Marham as well. Marham is the sole remaining air base in Norfolk (at one time it seemed possible that we would lose that as well) but Battle of Britain open days are long gone.

Gloster Javelin

St Faiths was closed as an RAF base in the 60s and reopened as Norwich Airport. The first passenger terminal was a little wooden hut off Fifer’s Lane. The aircraft were Handley Page Heralds, Fokker Friendships and the occasional Douglas Dakota. There were no jet airliners flying in and out of Norwich for many years. The name I associate with those early days is Air Anglia, our very own local airline in a yellow livery. The basis of the service was then as now, scheduled flights to Aberdeen and Schiphol (Amsterdam) with summer flights to the Channel Islands. The rebranding of the airport as Norwich International Airport has changed nothing except giving a very minor provincial airfield a rather ridiculous air of pretension.

The Norwich Speedway used to be just opposite the St Faiths airfield, an area which is now a housing estate. It had gone by the time Norwich airport opened. When the County Cricket Club lost its ground in Lakenham it moved to a field about half a mile further along the road. This is just opposite the roundabout on the NDR where the Cromer Road now leaves the city.