The Early days of the Preserved Line
When the North Norfolk Railway, or the M&GN Railway Society – the early history of the various organisations that were involved in the preservation movement is complicated– was negotiating to buy the line from Holt to Sheringham the track had already been lifted beyond Weybourne station, although it remained from Sheringham to within a few hundred yards of the platforms at Weyborne.
The most important thing was to get the track relaid through the station. The section from Weybourne to Holt could wait, and for many years the line ended just through the road bridge beyond Weybourne Station. I was a school boy at the time, a boarder at Holt, and Weybourne was only a short bike ride away. The year must have 1965, once the railway had been closed by British Railways, and on many Sundays I was able to go over and help to relay the track. It wasn’t a hive of activity in those distant days. I could do nothing if I was the only one present – as happened on several occasions – but with one other person we could carry the rails using special pincers, one at each end of a length of track.. British Rail required four or five men to lift a rail, but it is in fact perfectly possible with just two, and one of them a teenager. It was nevertheles a heavy job, and I am sure it is no longer part of the professional permanent way management employed on the line. Network Rail use trains with welded lengths of track, and he idea of lifting a sixty foot length of line by hand is something out of the dark ages. There were two young men there most weekends, and with me we made short work of carry the rails into position. The sleepers also required two people to move them, but they had already been put in place when I arrived on the scene. It was all old track being reused, so the chairs were already on the sleepers. Once the rails had been lowered in place it merely remained to hammer in the wedges. I felt quite an expert platelayer, though this wasn’t true.
It is all very different now. Weybourne houses the maintenance sheds and is a place of great activity, but in those days the whole area was just a wilderness of tussocky grass and the occasional rabbit. The booking hall was deserted and the tickets still stood in the rack where they been left when the station closed. It was quite deserted and the prospect of trains returning to the station seemed remote.
The photo of the Peckett tank engine was taken at Weybourne in the early 1970s, when life had returned to the station. There was no footbridge, waiting room or even signal box. (I recalled my father’s involvement in the erection of the box from Holt in my post of July 3 2011.) The saddle tank was built in 1939 for the Ashington Colliery Railway and had the works number 1979. At the colliery it was given the number 5 which was retained at North Norfolk, as you may see painted on the buffer beam. The engine was bought by the NNR in 1969 when the Coal Board went over to diesel at Ashington. The tank’s name during its North Norfolk years was the John D. Hammer. She did sterling work for twenty years while the older engines (the Y14 and B12) were a long time being restored. The Peckett was a relatively young engine of 30 years old.
Weybourne Station soon took on a more energetic life once the trains were running again. It was used to shoot at least one episode of Dad’s Army, and it is now the major motive power depot on the bust preserved line. I remember it best at its low point, locked and empty, the track lifted and the only sound a lark singing overhead.
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This picture postcard of the Pedlar of Swaffham was sent by my uncle Tony to wish my mother many happy returns on her 15th birthday (that 16th July 1925). Tony was 11 and with his elder brother Eric was a boarder at Hammond’s Grammar School in Swaffham. The car is postmarked, which is is how I can give you these details. The carving of the Pedlar of Swaffham must have been brand new at the time. It was done by Harry Carter who lived in Swaffham where he became an art teacher at HAMMONDS GRAMMAR SCHOOL; he did many other village signs, but that at Swaffham must have been his first attempt. It has no metal supports which now reinforce its base.If my information is correct, and he was born in 1907, he was very young at the time, only being 18. He was a cousin of the Egyptologist Howard Carter who had discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb three years earlier.
The Arabian link with Swaffham goes much deeper than that, but before I explore the international connections of the Pedlar of Swaffham let me give a brief resumé of the tale. There was a Pedlar of Swaffham called John Chapman (chapman is another word for pedlar, but it gives the tale a more realistic bent). He dreamed that if he went to London he would there learn of a great treasure. He went a stood on London Bridge, but heard nothing. At last he was accosted by a Londoner who asked what he was doing. “I had a dream that I would learn of great wealth in London,” he replied. “You old fool,” came his answer, “We all have silly dreams like that. Why, I myself had a dream that if I dug under a tree in a place called Swaffham I would find great treasure myself, but of course I ignored it.” The Pedlar went straight home, dug under the tree in his garden and found untold wealth.
This story is said to commemorate a John Chapman whose 15th century gifts to the town are still recorded in the church. However the story is much more ancient than that; let me explain. Here it as told in the 1001 Nights, which traces its origins to ancient Middle Eastern folk law. A poor man in Baghdad had dream that he would find great treasure in Cairo. He went to sleep in a mosque, but was woken by robbers. The police came, and when the robbers ran off they seized the poor man and beat him. “What were you doing in Cairo anyway?” asked the Chief of Police who interviewed the man. “I had a dream that I would find my fortune in Cairo,” replied the poor man. “You dunce,” came his answer, “I have had the same dream about a house in Baghdad. Go home and don’t be so silly again.” The poor man went home to Baghdad and lo and behold he found the treasure in his own house.
This is not the only almost identical tale. Versions exist in Persia (also using Baghdad and Egypt), Turkey (sending the poor man to Damascus) Germany (Regensburg), Denmark (Viele), and in other places in England, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Ireland. Most of these have the poor man standing on London Bridge when he gets the good news, but one Irish tale substitutes a bridge in Limerick instead.
So it is no less than a widespread folk tale that has its local manifestation in Swaffham.
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PHOTOGRAPHING THE PRIZE WINNING COW.
This finely turned out horse drawn transport was used at the 1977 Royal Norfolk Show to take the prize and the committee members to the family group (cow and calf category) competition. As you can see it was lovely summer’s day. I remember one prize given day very well as I earned £20 for photographing it! £20 was a good sum of money back then. I had decided, on a whim, to go to the Show, and took my camera and equipment box with me. It was a SLR camera – not a particularly good one, an East German version of a Leica, a Praktica- but I must have looked the part because of my box of equipment. I was seized on by the Colman’s PR girl (Colman’s had donated the prize). “The company photographer has not turned up; could you do the honours, paid of course?” Naturally I agreed.
First I got a trip round the ring inside the Colman’s Mustard Omnibus. We waited to one side while the judging took place. Then I had to get out and hop round with my camera, trying to look authentically professional, photographing the winning cow and calf. Luckily there was a real press photographer there too, and I could imitate the way he squatted down to get suitable low level views. I must have snapped the bus as well; that was one slide I did keep for myself – and here it is! Then it was back on board the bus to leave the ring again. It only took 10 minutes at the outside – a very well paid 10 minutes work.
In Royal terms 1977 was a significant year, and Colman’s threw in a Silver Jubilee mustard pot and tin of mustard into my remuneration as well! It only remained to get the film developed and send off the slides. I don’t remember anything else about the Show but I remember my unexpected omnibus ride very well. I have never been to the Royal Norfolk Show since. Nothing could beat that day in June 1977, and I decided to go out on a high.
I don’t suppose that the omnibus advertised Colman’s Mustard when it was built. Today the Colman’s mustard omnibus is kept at the Hillside Shire Horse Sanctuary at West Runton in North Norfolk, and it no longer goes on trips with a set of shire horses. (Note of 10/10/2014: This information comes from Chris Woodyard, the Caretaker).
There is a Lledo DAYS GONE model of this omnibus- see the picture to the left. What else can I tell you about Colman’s mustard? I know that the collection of silver mustard pots which Colman’s built up over many years was sold and dispersed in about 1995. The remnants of Colman’s is shortly to abandon Norwich altogether, and I will no longer have to purchase it as a loyal person of Norwich birth; I will have no qualms about buying French mustard which I much prefer.
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SOME EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS
Some of the life of my Grandparents life in Cawston before the First World War has been preserved in these photographs. The first (above) is dated about 1909 and the names of the subjects have helpfully been attached to the back of the photo. In most cases they are names only, but in the case of my Aunt Maude on the right of the picture. I can add some further facts to her story. She appears in this picture of a shooting party by a straw stack. She is holding the lead of a greyhound who has moved its head at the moment the shutter was pressed. Maude Rivett was one of my Grandfather’s sisters and she appears to be in the company of one Sam Pye. He was a farmer and butcher in Cawston whose shop was in the High Street; maybe this shoot was on his land.
I remember Aunt Maude as a sweet little spinster lady who lived in a bedsitter in Earlham House in Norwich. While her mother was still alive (this would have been before the Second World War) she lived with her in West Parade. They are mentioned briefly in Sheila Upjohn’s book –When I was Your Age, Lark’s Press, 2010. Before moving there the Rivett family (my Great-grandfather, his wife and children) had lived at Beeston near Dereham where they had a farm. I remember Aunt Maude fondly because pride of place in her little room was a picture of a tree in autumn colours which I had painted.
Other figures out for some game are my Grandfather Charles Rivett (holding a shotgun) and standing next to him is Reggie his brother. Also in picture is someone’s baby daughter whose name is not given on the back of the card. The young lady standing behind the ladder is also not named – why is she holding a saucepan? A couple of lambs appear to have got in on the act too.
Turning to the village shop which my grandfather owned, I remember one more story of those days. You may recall that Grandfather Rivett was a Liberal in politics and so rather unsympathetic to those superior young men (undoubtedly members of the Tory Party) who sometimes stayed at the Hall. He was not averse to those activities like shooting that would nowadays mark him out as a bit of a swell, but he was not that much of a swell. In those days there was a world of difference between a shopkeeper, even a successful one, and the Upper Classes. On this occasion a superior young man came into the village shop. “Do you sell dog-biscuits in this ridiculous little shop?” he asked. “Yes Sir,” said my Grandfather, “Shall I wrap them, or will you eat them now?”
The Post Office was run as a separate establishment to the General Stores. It had a separate entrance, although as far as the staff were concerned it could be accessed from the village shop. The names of the shop assistants in the picture are given as follows (left to right): Miss Hilda Morrison, Miss Gertrude Morrison, Stanley Dix and Horace Gray. Charles Edgar Rivett is standing in the centre and the date was just before Christmas 1910. This extract is from the Cawston website and relates to 1918. We are sorry to hear that Austin Russell, Harry Carman, and Ernest Neale are prisoners, George Wells missing, and that Wm. Riseborough has been wounded. Mrs Ramm has also heard that her eldest son is a prisoner. Horace Gray and Charles Neale have been home from hospital. We hope they will soon be quite fit again. If anybody knows anything else about any of the shop assistants listed I would love to hear from you, although I am writing this more in hope than expectation.
Finally there is another picture of the two eldest Rivett children, Joan and Eric. They are apparently playing in the garden of the shop in Cawston where they lived. They have some nice toys, a doll’s pram, a woolly sheep and a locomotive. They had very different ideas about dressing young children in those days; despite his wearing a skirt, Eric really is a boy!
In producing this piece I have been helped by Des Cook of the Cawston Parish website.
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THE STEAMER YARMOUTH
In the early 1970s there were still steamers from Victorian times in regular use on the Norfolk Broads. Not rusty and decrepit machines either, but smartly turned out, painted and polished. All the company’s (Pleasure Steamers Ltd) vessels were double-ended for manoeuvrability. You can also see (if you look carefully) a bow rudder. At least one of the ships, the Yarmouth, (built 1895) was still steaming in April 1973, although by then she was at Woodbridge in Suffolk. I have learned recently that the steamer was subsequently moved to St Katherine’s Dock in London where she was used as floating tea shop. Sadly she was later scrapped.
THE QUEEN OF THE BROADS
This steamer was built at Cobholm Island, Great Yarmouth in 1889 and had a long career. She was 74 feet long and of 13 foot beam. The Queen of the Broads made daily trips between Yarmouth and Wroxham, holding up to 180 passengers. She continued to operate up to 1976 when she was de-commissioned and later broken up. Photographed in 1971 at Great Yarmouth where she was in steam. She is moored just upstream of the Haven Bridge at Great Yarmouth.
THE PRINCESS MARGARET
Taking a rather smaller steamer, the next picture shows the Princes Margaret on the river Wensum along Riverside Road. She was real steamer at the time of the picture; subsequently she was powered by a petrol engine and now by a diesel. As you can tell from my use of the present tense she is still in existence, although like many historic local artifacts no longer in East Anglia. She is now based on the Thames and her name has reverted to the name she had when built in around 1903, the Archangel. There is an article on this boat. This boat began its Broads tours from Elm Hill, which accounts for its passing the boats in the Norwich Yacht Station. The owner of the Princess Margaret was Cedric Lovewell, who ran Southern River Steamers for 25 years. True steamers have become increasingly rare on the Norfolk Broads, and at the moment I can’t think of any.
THE REGAL LADY
The steamer I remember best was Regal Lady, as she was based at Foundry Bridge in Norwich. About 1978 I went on trip aboard her as far as Bramerton. She is still sailing, nowadays based once again at Scarborough. She is a pretty double ended boat, but much younger than the other two vessels mentioned here, the Yarmouth and Queen of the Broads, having been built in 1930. Also she was converted to diesel power in 1954. She has had an eventful life, dividing her time between the Norfolk Broads and Scarborough. She was built as the Oulton Belle by Fellows of Great Yarmouth and was used on the Broads until the war, when she was requisitioned by the War Ministry (as the MoD was then called). She participated in the evacuation of Dunkirk, and spent time as a tender on the Clyde. After the war she returned to Norfolk. She was sold to Scarborough in the mid 50s where her name was changed to Regal Lady. She returned to be berthed on the river Yare ar Norwich from 1970 until 1984. After some years out of service she returned once more to the sea at Scarborough.
S. S. RESOLUTE
This picture was taken in the early seventies when a group of enthusiasts were trying to save another Broadland steamer, the Resolute. She used to leave from Great Yarmouth and travelled the Southern Rivers; because her funnel could not negotiate the bridges on the River Bure.
The funds never materialised for the planned restoration, but the vessel was not broken up. She was towed towards London but got no further than Pin Mill, where she remains in a very dilapidated state as a houseboat.
CLICK HERE fore information.
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ASLEEP IN THE HAY
During my service in the Women’s Land Army my work mainly was helping to rear ‘home bred’ cattle. I was fortunate in many ways, one of which was to live at home with my father, my mother having recently passed on. Living at home meant a cycle ride of about three or four miles to and from the farm every day; very enjoyable in the fine weather, but not so in the cold bleak wintry days. As many people know animals like children can be very demanding, and having regular habits such as being cleaned out and fed quite regularly. This entailed a first daily feeding at about 8 a.m. In order to oblige I had to cycle about 7 a.m. daily whatever the weather. I was fortunate as far as hours of work were concerned in so much as that one of “THE MEN (as they were referred to) would do the late feed on Saturday and both the early and late feeds on Sunday.
I would spend all Saturday morning until about 12.30 preparing the weekend food for this entailed casting in the root crops with a horse and tumbril, cutting the chaff with a hand operated grinder and so on. I was single and unattached and in order to show my appreciation of “THE MEN”’s help I would insist on going to work on Bank Holidays and Christmas time so that “THE MEN”, who mostly had families, would spend these special occasions at home. It was one of these occasions that brings me to the main object of this story. I wish to tell a true story which I have never forgotten and never will
Having agreed to work on this particular Christmas Day as usual I got out on my cycle about 7 a.m. It was a cold Christmas morning. My father had insisted on helping me on this special day. As we headed towards Trowse village we were aware of a delay in Martineau Lane, which we realised was due to a huge load of bombs. At that particular time all cycle lights had to be blacked out (as it was called) so it wasn’t until we were quite close that we realised what was ahead of us.
However we eventually arrived at the farm. Hungry cattle were awaiting our presence as usual, crowding around the entrance to their enclosure. Having filled up the feed troughs with the root crops it was time to stock up with straw. This I agreed to do while Dad was elsewhere. Taking up my pitch fork I began to trundle backwards and forwards filling up rack after rack. At last as I began to scrape together the remains from the floor and pile it up onto the last heap I saw the heap move. ‘Impossible’ I thought, ‘it must be my imagination.’ I thought no more along these silly lines, but what was that low moaning sound that met my ears? I decided to finish hastily and get home, thus again I picked up my pitch fork when a face appeared through the straw. My immediate reaction was to shout “Dad”. (Dad had been a policeman and took it all in good part.)
On seeing the face Dad helped this hideaway to his feet. Together they walked the few yards to the road, myself following behind. The hideaway did not respond to any questions asked, but when Dad showed him a few coppers and asked if he had any money for a drink or a cup of tea, he did indicate by hand movements that he had not. However he did accept a small amount of money and trundled off towards Norwich. As for me, I’m so glad he made his presence known before I took the plunge with the pitch fork. Who knows where I would have ended my W.L.A. days. Certainly not leading the W.L.A. in the Victory Parade, also receiving a personal meassage from her majesty the Queen for services rendered.
DORIS TURNER (née FITT) W.L. A. 95187
Doris Turner (1922- 2011) was my mother-in-law. During the war she worked in the Land Army at a farm in Bixley just ouside Norwich. The woman holding the dog, and sitting on the horse im the second picture is Merry Page the farmer’s wife (or widow?). Doris is sitting on the tumbril. JM
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There can be no City with a better prospect of its centre than that afforded by St James’s Hill. And what exclusive building commands this overwhelmingly beautiful view? Actually it is Norwich Prison. It has not always been so. When I was very young, when there was still a Royal Norfolk Regiment, it was Britannia Barracks which had this prime location. It was taken over some 50 years ago and upgraded to make it suitable for prisoners – the quality of the recruits’ accommodation being unsuitably basic for those detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
To get to St James’s Hill you turn off Gurney Road into Britannia Road and the view is to your right. It was a favourite with the author R. H. Mottram, who has a plaque with a map dedicated to his memory.
The great problem for St James’s Hill, and for all of Mousehold Heath come to that, is the steadily growing tree cover. People hate to see their trees cut down, but only ruthless slash and burn will keep them in check; because this removal of trees has not been done, and fires have been seen as disastrous s rather than as a blessing, Mousehold Heath is no longer open heathland. It used to stretch for miles, an open windswept sheep pasture covered with heather. Now what is left (and that is small enough) is not a heath at all but a thickly forested wood. This is not a recent problem; it dates back over a hundred years to when animals stopped being grazed on the heath, but it keeps on getting worse.
A hundred and fifty year ago, before the building of Britannia Barracks, the whole of St James’ Hill was a vast chalk quarry, where the lime needed to build the growing city was obtained. You can see this from the old painting below.
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Norwich is almost certainly where the Provincial Newspaper industry began. Until the end of the seventeenth century, the Licensing Act restricted printing in England and Wales to London and the two academic presses at Oxford and Cambridge. When the Licensing Act lapsed in 1695 Norwich was a little slow off the mark in setting up a press; two West Country cities (Bristol and Exeter) got presses established soon after 1695, while Norwich lagged behind. But the city fathers were thinking ahead. They realized that a printing press was of little use if there was no suitable paper being produced locally. One of their number had a fulling mill for processing woollen cloth on his estate at Taverham, five miles outside the city, which could simply be converted to a paper mill. The process of beating cloth was very similar to pulping rags for paper making. We have no information about where the workers came from, but knowledgeable men must have been brought to Taverham to make good white paper. A mill had already been established near Castle Rising in West Norfolk, but it only made inferior brown paper, used for packing. Taverham was the first mill in Norfolk to make white paper.
Once they had a paper mill set up (in 1701), they could start introducing London’s printers to the ‘printing quality’ paper, in the hope that one would see the opportunity it represented. One soon did so; his name was Francis Burges. Once Norwich had both its paper mill and its printer there was nothing to stop it racing ahead of its sleepy West Country rivals. The first Norwich newspaper was called the Norwich Post, and within a few years there was a handful of competing news sheets being produced by a number of local printers. The Norwich Mercury was therefore not the first of the Norwich newspapers, but it was an early one; quite how early I am not sure. It was being printed in the early 1720s, but under an earlier name it may have been produced a decade before that. It continued for nearly 300 years before finally being extinguished in the last years of the 20th century. It was throughout its long existence a weekly newspaper.
There was no national press in those days. There were London journals but they did not circulate outside the capital to any meaningful extent. There was a thirst for national news however, and it was this thirst that the provincial press sought to assuage. Although the advertisements were local (largely official announcements), the editorial matter was exclusively national and international. Local news was a long time in making an appearance, beginning with reports of Assize Court trials at Norwich and Thetford.
Perhaps its most important years were in the first half of the 19th century when it was edited by Richard Mackenzie Bacon. He was a pioneer of machine made paper in Norfolk, where he introduced the new Fourdrinier paper making machine to the mill at Taverham in 1809. He also invented the first rotary printing machine, but it was as a journalist that he earned his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. While remaining editor of the weekly Norwich Mercury, he published the Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review in London. This was the first national music magazine in this country, and since England led everywhere else in such things, in the world.
By the 1980s the Mercury was but a shadow of its former self, being reduced to the status of a free paper, dependent on advertising for revenue. As it happened, my sister Margaret had a small part in the distribution process. Her job was to receive the bundles of newspapers for the city centre at my office in Surrey Street, and hand them out to the people who pushed them through the letter boxes. That was alright, but the laborious part of the business involved “back checking”, choosing addresses at random to check that they had indeed received their Mercury. She did the job for about a year before returning to her previous employment in teaching.
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A VISIT TO THE ENGINE YARD.You got a good view of the locomotives in the yard at Thorpe Station from Carrow Road, just before the bridge over the line. There the ash pit, a turntable and of course the coaling tower were positioned, all plainly visible from the road. My father, when he was feeling a bit low, would put me in the car and take me to watch the trains. I didn’t mind at all being used as his companion in this way. We would park opposite the Clarence Harbour pub, demolished in 2004. This was opposite the coaling tower, which was demolished forty years earlier. To be able to park on the busy Ring Road seems incredible now, but it shows how much quieter the road traffic was back in the 1950s, which is the time I am talking about. On the railway of course the traffic was conversely much busier than it is today. This was not because there were more passengers, but goods trains ran to almost every station, and there were a lot more lines and stations. Sometimes there would be no activity in the yard, when we arrived, but you could rely on at least one locomotive requiring turning, and often there would be several needing coaling as well. The name of the pub “Clarence Harbour” dates from 1837, when it was built. The name recalled a plan to build a real harbour off the river Wensum, requiring a large dock at this point. This would have have occupied the land where Carrow Road football stadium is today. This corresponded with efforts to improve river access to Norwich, now that steam tugs could bring sea going vessels right up to the city. The New Cut, which connected the river Yare with the river Waveney and the sea at Lowestoft via Lake Lothing, was constructed and opened in 1833. This avoided the stranglehold on river traffic to Norwich which was exploited by the town of Great Yarmouth. Of Clarence Harbour only the pub was built. The name probably comes from the Duke of Clarence, the title of the ‘Sailor King’ William IV before he became king from 1830 until 1837. The most memorable occasion concerning the yard at Thorpe was a visit arranged by my Anderson cousins in 1959 or thereabouts; the Andersons were good at arranging such things. They had organised a trackside visit by the two of them to the London mainline near Dunston, all quite officially, which nonetheless resulted in their being detained by the local police! A year or two later David organised a visit to the steam sheds at March, which I recorded on film. On this occasion we were first taken round the diesel sheds at Norwich, then very new and recently introduced but entirely dull as far as I was concerned. Luckily there were other more attractive features of the afternoon. A climb up the water tower by a metal gangway round the outside gave us a good overview of the yard but resulted in several days of aching thighs. I think the exposed nature of the steps made our climb rather tentative and our muscles rather taut. Close up views of the ash being raked out of the firebox was exciting, and especially revealing was the workings of the coaling tower. A whole truck was hoisted up the tower and tipped into the hopper at the top, to be released into the tender of the loco that required it. I don’t know how many tons a full truck of coal weighed, but it was plucked from the track and then deposited empty with ease. To the little boy who tagged along with the grown ups (i.e. me), the most fascinating thing was an old coach used for training signalmen. It contained a model railway, complete with illuminated semaphore signals and points, the little electric lights winking away red, green and amber. The model railway was not my favourite railway system being a rather crude Trix Twin layout rather than my own preferred Tri-ang, but obviously the sophistication of operation, with its 3-rail power supply which allowed 2 trains to be independently controlled on one track (hence the phrase Trix Twin) made it the best for the purpose. Trix Twin came in two versions, one rather basic with two large terminals on the side of the loco (for a reason I never discovered) and one of super-detailed models. This was the basic one. The signalling was of course perfectly authentic, with electric motors operating the semaphore signals and the red, yellow and green lights winking away in the darkened carriage. It must have been a memorable visit to be so clear in my mind all these years later. JOSEPH MASON email@example.com THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
RUTTER’S BAKER’S SHOP
My Great-grandfather was born in 1828. Strictly speaking I should say one of my Great-grandfathers as these relatives normally come in fours; this one comes through the female line – my mother’s mother’s father. 1828 is a long time ago for such a close relative to have been born; it is by no means unheard of for Great-grandparents to be living at the same time as their Great-grandchildren, but mine was a Georgian, born only a few years short of two centuries ago. George IV was still on the throne. William Rutter was born in Glemsford, a Suffolk village south of Bury St Edmunds. He would tell his children he was born in Egypt – Glemsford is known locally as “Little Egypt” – why nobody is sure. Even in the 1830s the reason for this name was lost in the mists of the past. The family moved to Whepstead when his father my Great-great-grandfather (another Joseph, born 1790) took over the bakery and grocery business in that village.
WILLIAM RUTTER was the Stradbroke Baker and Confectioner. I can remember one story about the production of buns that came down to me from my Grandmother Constance (Rivett née Rutter) via my Mother. As a girl Constance was given the job of adding the currants to these buns, making sure there was one currant per bun. If the currants had been added to the mixture some buns might get more than one, and that would never do! A few years ago my wife and I called on the Stradbroke baker; although it has not belonged to the Rutters for over half a century the shop is still a bakery, and the current owner even produced William Rutter’s will from his shop’s records!
William Rutter had a sunny character and when things went wrong in the bakery he would say:” I wish I was an angel.” He was a man with strong religious convictions in a way that was common among Victorians. For forty years he was a Deacon of the village’s Baptist Church. When he took over the bakery in about 1860 he would not continue the established tradition of allowing locals to use the still hot oven to bake their pastries and joints on Sundays. He would countenance this use on other days, but not on the Lord’s day. Sunday morning was spent attending service in the family pew, and at one thirty the children had to attend Sunday School. Then William went to evening service on Sunday and he held family prayers morning and evening for the rest of the week. In politics he was a Liberal, and for years he acted as the Local Agent for the M.P. for East Suffolk.
Bread making was very laborious in those days. The dough was kneaded by hand and all the water used had to be taken from the village pump in buckets carried on a yoke. Eventually William invested in a galvanized iron tank which held ten gallons of water and could be wheeled to the shop with comparative ease. The loaves were loaded in the oven on a long handled tool called a peel which held four at a time. A loaf with a crisp golden crust weighed 2 pounds and cost 2 pence. Bread deliveries were made to the surrounding countryside using a horse and cart; Wilby, Brundish and the surrounding area on Mondays and Thursdays, Horham, Hoxne, Wingfield etc on Wednesdays and Saturdays and Laxfield on Tuesdays and Fridays.
William Rutter had a very large family of 19 (18 of whom survived childhood) by two wives. By his first wife he had seven children, and twelve by his second. He had offspring regularly for thirty years, the last one being born when he was 61. His second wife Lucy (née Moore) was 47 when the youngest, Arthur, was born. My Great-uncle Arthur was 25 in 1914 when the Great War broke out. A Lewis gunner, he was killed by a shell on the Somme in 1917.
This piece has drawn much off its information from the late Enid Driver’s article in Suffolk Fair entitled The Baker’s Dozen. This article is available on-line. I am also indebted for many more details to John and Pat Rutter, to whom much thanks. Some facts come from my memories of what my mother told me, and others have been passed on to me by my sister. My Great-grandfather was meticulous in recording family history. Apparently the family Bible (which I have not seen) records not only the month and day of all events, but also the time of day.
The second family, from left to right (BACK ROW). Charlie born 1880, Leonard 1877, Estella 1873, Frank 1872, Lily 1875, Daisy 1878, Cecil 1881, (2nd row) Mary 1886, Connie 1876, Grandpa, Arthur 1889, Grandma, (sitting on the ground) Hedley 1884, Gertie 1883. THERE ARE RELATIVES ALL OVER THE WORLD!