Monthly Archives: March, 2012





Steam locomotive 6100, 4-6-0 wheel arrangement. Royal Scot was built by the North British Locomotive Works at Glasgow.  The cost was £7,740 and she was built in 1927, being rebuilt to Stanier’s design in 1950. Thus the ROYAL SCOT was not an East Anglian locomotive and to my eyes always looked a little out of place at Bressingham, unlike the Britannia Oliver Cromwell. She was an LMS engine and the Crimson Lake livery, although it was impressive, did not speak of East Anglia in the way that Great Eastern Royal Blue or LNER Apple Green does. Nevertheless it was great to see her in steam, because she is a massive loco and an elegant lady. (I learnt in researching this article that she never appeared in LMR crimson in her British Rail days-her livery was green.) No 6100 Royal Scot had been bought by Billy Butlin in 1962 upon her withdrawal from service. She was installed at Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Skegness in 1963, and was moved to Bressingham in 1971.

The Royal Scot remained in Butlin’s Ltd ownership until 1989, when it was finally bought by Bresseingham Steam Museum. She was steamed regularly from 1972. She became a static exhibit once again during the 1990s. This photo of the Royal Scot in steam was taken fairly early in the 70s. Bressingham is an unusual place for a steam museum as the site has no historic connection with railways, nor is it very close to a railhead. She was restored to steaming condition in 2009 when she was acquired by a trust and was able to return to train hauling use at the West Somerset Railway. (She only had a short spur of track at Bressingham.) Thus her East Anglian days would seem to be at an end.

An extract from my diary for 10 September 1972, the occasion that I took the photo that heads this page: John drove us the Bressingham in his Renault. The Royal Scot was in steam and using a new spur of track for footplate rides. We saw round the shed and many locomotives. All the railways were running, and there were two trains on the nursery railway.  Alan Bloom was driving one, and James Oxley Brennan was on the other. [I had been at school with James; today he is retired and edits the prize winning journal of the Norfolk and Norwich Industrial Archaelogical Society.] We had a word with him. A quick look round the Bressingham Gardens and then home for tea.





(photograph by F. Welch).

St Walstan was an Anglo-Saxon saint from my corner of East Anglia. He worked as a farm labourer in Taverham and had his shrine in Bawburgh, his birthplace. There were a number of holy wells called St Walstan’s well, of which the most famous is at Bawburgh. All the wells except the one at Bawburgh have been allowed to disaapar or to dry up.

Although the veneration of the saint ceased with the Reformation, the memory of the well lived on, aided no doubt by the Catholic Jerningham family at Costessey Hall. In the eighteenth century they commissioned a report on the medicinal qualities of the water from “a well in Bawburgh”. There is no hint of the holy nature of the well in the official title, although this fact would have been foremost in the minds of the Jerninghams.

PILGRIMS at St Walstan’s Well about a hundred years ago.

The memory of St Walstan and his well lived on because of the Catholic community that survived in nearby Costessey from the time of the Reformation. The veneration of the Virgin at Walsingham died out, to be revived in the nineteenth century, but St Walstan has never been entirely forgotten in Bawburgh. The Catholic church in Costessey is dedicated to St Mary and St Walstan, and when it was completed in 1841 the Holy Water used in its dedication was brought from St Walstan’s well in Bawburgh.

The Jerninghams had  been given the property at Costesesy by Queen Mary Tudor as a thank you for their support when she inherited the throne. The Queen was living in Norfolk, and the Protestants at Court tries to push Lady Jane Grey into her place; the help of the local gentry was vital to the Catholic cause. The family was known as the Jernigans at the time. In the early nineteenth century they managed to revive the title of the Earl of Stafford. The Staffords, to whom they were distantly related, had died out when the last of the line had died without an heir. The family adopted the more respectably name of Jerningham at the same time. With removal of the  Catholic Disabilities in 1829 the well at Bawburgh became a popular place of pilgrimage. They flocked to Norfolk for the Saint’s Day in May from all over the country (especially from London) after the opening of the railway made this possible.

With the ending of the First World War, during which time Costessey Park had been used by the army, the Stafford family abandoned Costessey; they moved to Staffordshire and these large scale events ceased. Pilgrimages were revived by both the the Roman Catholics and Anglicans. In the early years of the twentieth century the pilgrimages were even  better attended than those to Walsingham. There are certainly a great many people  gathered round the well in the second picture. Today there is an annual pilgrimage on the nearest Sunday to May 30th,  St Walstan’s day.

St Walstan was the patron saint of farm workers. He spent a humble life working in the fields at Taverham, and impressed all who knew him by his holy life and good deeds.



INTO FARFIELD (Autobiography 8)

Transition to the Senior School

My move from the prep school part of Gresham’s to the Senior School was made difficult by the opening of the new house, Tallis, in the Michaelmas term of 1963. To put it bluntly, the school was bursting at the seams as the numbers were built up to fill the new house. The Lawns, which was ‘Jumbo’ Burroughs’s House, was there solely to take pupils destined for Tallis, and it closed as soon as Tallis was opened.  The Lawns returned to being an hotel as it had been before, and still is. In any case the Lawns could only take so many (25 I think). The other houses – Howson’s, Woodlands, Old School House and Farfield were all taking in extra people. For instance, the study (number 23?) which normally took only three because the fourth space was mostly occupied by the doorway had four squeezed in – and guess who was made to sit in the doorway? Me!


The result was that although I should have gone up in Michaelmas 1962 when I was already 13, I was held back until the summer term of 1963 by which time I was 14. I didn’t have to take the Common Entrance exam it is true, because I had already reached the Upper Third form. In fact by the time I was eventually promoted to the senior school I was in the Fourth Form – 4G. Another disadvantage of the school being so crowded was the fact that I did not get my first choice of house; in fact I got no choice at all. I had wanted to go into Howson’s, the Headmaster’s house, but instead I was put into Farfield. Farfield was a house I dreaded. It had a reputation that the boys were harsh and very sporty.  The housemaster, Bernard Sankey was austere and the house itself was nearly in Kelling. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived in the Junior Dorm and the study over the boiler room in April 1963. There were 3 others in the study. One was a day boy, Mallett (who was obviously intended to have the cramped corner, not being there so much) and one was Daniel. Was the third Bill Wragge? In those days he was just Wragge, and later John Wragge. It was only when he was about 16 that he morphed into Bill, which he has remained for the last 50 years. His first name is William, but he could not be called Bill at his home because that was his father’s name. At school he could be what he wanted, and he wanted to be Bill.


This picturte show Bill Wragge at the age we entered Farfield. Sitting to the left is Philip Searle-Barnes who I had been in with in Crossways, but who went into Dr Andrew’s house (Woodlands) in the senior school. He went on to Imperial College to study engineering and graduated in 1972. Bill studied English under London University’s external system at Buckland (then in Berkshire, since 1974 in Oxfordshire). The house at Bucland has returned to being a private house, albeit on a grand scale, and the place of learning is no more. I have stayed in touch with Bill, but Philip Searle Barnes I haven’t seen for over forty years. I have seen his brother Paul  however at an Old Greshamian meeting last year. He was a musician of great skill and accomplishment, and has enjoyed a career as head  of keyboard at Bryanston school. There were four Seale-Barnes brothers; I only knew the oldest two, Philip and Paul. Their father the Rev Charles Searle-Barnes was Vicar of Cromer.

Anyway, Farfield did not prove to be the dreadful place I had feared – quite the reverse. We were exceptionally privileged to be educated by a dedicated and for the most part effective team of teachers and to be living in such a remote but appealing place.






TAVERHAM is now a populous village but, although it has a small industrial estate, it is not what one would term a hive of industry by any means. In the past however things were very different. What I am going to deal with here is the important paper mill which operated for 200 years until the end of the nineteenth century. It was a water mill, and although steam became increasingly important in driving its machinery from 1850, the mill retained a substantial element of water power until the end.

Now there is hardly any sign that a mill ever existed here. What was a large factory supplying much of the paper used to print the Times newspaper is now a quiet corner of the countryside, an overgrown and unconsidered backwater. The last 50 years of its life was the period when it supplied the Times with paper, but it had already had an eventful time in its first 150 years of operation. Before its rebirth as the mill which supplied most of the paper the Times was printed on for over 5 years, it had seen both success and failure.

It had begun as local source of paper for the nascent printing industry in Norwich. It opened in 1701, shortly before the first printer for over a hundred years began producing his work in Norfolk. The city produced the first local newspaper in the country, using paper produced at Taverham.  A hundred years later, in 1809, one of the first Fourdrinier paper making machines was introduced by R.M. Bacon at Taverham mill. From then on the production of paper was transformed; until then it had been made laboriously sheet by sheet, but now it came off the machine as an endless roll.

It is no wonder that for a time over-production became a serious problem, and this led to the bankruptcy of R.M.Bacon. Eventually things settled down under new ownership, and Taverham mill had over ten years of profitable and uneventful use. The main partner was Robert Hawkes who was  a prominent businessman and Mayor of Norwich. During this period of prosperity paper made at Taverham was used as far afield as Cambridge, by the University Press. The foreman under Hawkes was one John Burgess. He must have been the junior partner in the firm and he too became well off. He bought property in Norwich and Costessey, including the White Hart public house. He rebuilt the pub in 1830, although the property was again rebuilt in 1935.

This time of prosperity and calm came to an abrupt end in 1830 when the mill was attacked by the Captain Swing rioters. These desperate men forcibly entered the mill and broke the machinery, causing hundreds of pound worth of damage. By then Robert Hawkes had retired, and John Burgess left Taverham soon afterwards. He moved to another paper mill in Bungay. The fortunes of the mill nosedived without threse two men in charge, and the two men who had purchased the business were made bankrupt.  One of them emigrated to Australia where his fortunes improved and he was a leading fundraiser for the building of Sydney cathedral.  His family named Robberds still flourishes there.


Next the mill was taken over by William Delane and his son-in-law Frederick Magnay. For them the sole purpose of the mill was to make paper for printing the Times. It would be captive market, controlled by Delane. The possibility of supplying paper to London from Taverham had been made possible by the opening of the railway in eighteen forty five. The mill was in a derelict condition with all the staff laid off and the machinery removed when the two partners from London took the mill over. After a shaky start, involving a scandal in London that led led to a suicide at the newspaper, and the dismissal of Delane from his job at the Times, it went from strength to strength. The reason for the upheavals at the Times appear to concern the fact that Delane and Magnay had kept their paper manufacturing intentions a secret from Mr Walter, the owner of the paper. Things were patched up between the  families involved and in 1884 the business was taken over by J. H. F. Walter, a cousin of the owner of the Times.

Two roads in Drayton are named after the mill owners, Delane Road and Magnay Road, and Walter’s Road is in Taverham.  In 1899 paper making at Taverham finally came to an end. The paper industry had changed greatly since 1701.  Rags had been the principal raw material for much of the two hundred years, but now wood pulp from Scandinavian timber was taking over, and Taverham was badly positioned to take advantage of this. The new kind of mill had to have easy access to the sea, and Taverham mill certainly didn’t have that.

I have a copy of the weekly edition of the Times printed on some of the last paper produced at Taverham. It is dated  June 1899, and the mill closed in September. The paper is watermarked Taverham 1899, which you may see is thee illustration above.






We had a few days by Lake Iseo in northern Italy in August 2004. We had a lakeside flatlet with a pool on the outskirts of Sarnico. One or two things were less than perfect; there was no footpath on the road into Sarnico, which made the journey a bit hazardous. Also the lake was full of grass snakes (at least I told myself they were harmless grass snakes). That said it was a lovely holiday.

My interest in Lake Iseo extends back into the first part of the nineteenth century, and to the poet Wordsworth and his travelling companion Henry Crabb Robinson (b. 13 May 1775). Crabb Robinson came from a long line of Suffolk tanners. He was an early example of a celebrity groupie – a rather unfair description of him which nonethelesss has an element of truth. He was an avid diarist but had few pretensions to being a great writer himself. He was constantly in touch with the famous writers and artists of the day however. His friends among the Romantics read like a literary encyclopaedia.  He knew Coleridge (whom he enjoyed listening to but found unintelligible for most of the time), Wordsworth, Lamb and particularly Blake of whom we would know much less without his diary entries. His diary was published in 1869. He was a barrister by training (at Colchester), and because of his religious nonconformity he was unable to study at Oxford or Cambridge. Consequently he attended Universities in Germany, graduating from the University of Jena in 1802. He was the only Englishman at the University, and was asked all sorts of biographical questions on Locke and Hume. There he also made literary acquaintances including Schiller, Hegel and Goethe. Subsequently he was employed for several years as a correspondent for The Times, in which capacity he reported on the Peninsular War from Spain.

The view from or flat on Lake Iseo.

The trip to Italy that he made with Wordsworth was not written up by the poet; all our information comes from Robinson. Wordsworth had made a previous trip to Italy when he thought he had written all there was to say on the country. They had pleasant visit to Lake Iseo, and even took the opportunity to bathe in a secluded corner of the lake – nothing is said about grass snakes, so presumably they did not meet any.

Crabb Robinson was an East Anglian and he was born in in Bury St Edmunds. In those days before railway transport, if you wished to go from Bury St Edmunds to Norwich, for instance, and you were not well off enough to go by coach, you had to walk. (He made his first railway journey in 1833.) As a young man Robinson walked all over East Anglia. Norwich then was a particularly attractive destination because of the lively literary life that went on there.



His first publication was in the Norwich journal “The Cabinet”. One of Crabb Robinson’s early supporters when he began to write journalism was Amelia Opie  (or Amelia Alderson as she was).

Later in life he was very much involved in the newly created University of London (later to be UCL) from its inception in 1826. He was made Vice President of the Senate in 1842. He died a confirmed bachelor in 1867, at a great age for the time. He was an East Anglian of many parts.





Shotesham is a picturesque village about 5 miles to the south of Norwich. The common runs through the middle of the village up to the church which stands at the end on a gently imposing hill. Down the middle of common’s water meadows runs the Beck. Several footpaths traverse the common, and the principal one crosses the Beck by a footbridge from near The Globe public house.We had reason to visit Shotesham frequently when I was a child, and I knew the common well.


In the late 1950s the landlord of the Globe was Charles Hale, and in a barn by the common he had a 1924  ‘T’ Model  Ford commercial vehicle. It wasn’t at all restored in 1957, as you can see from this picture. He had rescued it from Stoke mill where it had served as roosting place for chickens since it stopped being used in the milling business. Restoring old motors was not the popular hobby it has since become  in those far-off days, and the search for spares was a long and arduous pursuit. The one ton truck had only one previous owner, and after being supplied by Messrs Bussey and Sabberton it had spent all its working life within a few miles of Shotesham. Busseys is still the main Ford dealership for Norwich, a position the firm has held since 1923. The firm was in fact even older than that, dating from 1911. The ‘T’ Model Ford had first appeared in 1909, so we are tracing the origins of the vehicle back over 100 years. This model T is over 90 years old.



It had not been used since the war, but when restored the engine fired on the first attempt – so at least was Mr Hale’s story. The truck has pneumatic tyres at the front but those on the rear wheels were solid rubber. All the wheels were made with wooden spokes.

I wonder who has the old Ford today? The registration number is PW 8999.

There is much more to say about Shotesham but all that must wait for another day.

Shotesham All Saints from the common

Shotesham All Saints from the common





costeesey church

St Edmunds church, Costessey

Saint Edmund’s name is generally connected with the county of Suffolk. Bury St Edmunds, the site of his shrine until the Reformation, is the main town of West Suffolk -which is itself the district once known as the Liberty of St Edmund. It is an area rich in associations with the saint, but one thing that we may say with complete certainty is that he was not killed at Bury St Edmunds. His body was removed there some 50 years after his death. He was killed elsewhere. In recent years St Edmund was recognised as the Patron Saint of Suffolk, although what campaigners really wanted was the restoration of him as the Patron Saint of England.  But among most people he is not thought of in connection with Norfolk. This cannot always have been the case however, because there were at least 25 medieval churches or chapels dedicated to his name in Norfolk, while there is barely a quarter of that number in Suffolk. At some point in the middle ages St Edmund was definitely a Norfolk saint.

This is the story of St Edmund’s martyrdom as told by the geography of East Anglia.  We must take due notice of the written history, but where the documents are contradictory, obscure or silent we will turn to the maps of Norfolk and Suffolk to seek clues. We will be looking at church dedications, ancient trackways, a standing stone and place-names. River systems will particularly interest us. We will even consider traditional legends of the landscape. These topographical details individually would not constitute firm evidence, but taken together a fascinating picture begins to emerge.

The death of King Edmund at the hands of the Vikings came at the moment in history when they were changing their war aims. When they first attacked East Anglia three or four years earlier, they had been content just to take things they wanted, like horses and treasure, but in 869 they had more ambitious plans. This date comes from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that great work of history of the English people, first written down in Old English within a generation of Edmund’s death. At the time the New Year was taken to be September, and because Edmund’s death occurred in November they wrote the date as 870. By modern chronology it was still the previous year. Nearly all the events related took place in the autumn of 869. Here is what the Chronicle says about the Vikings and East Anglia’s king:

The raiding-army rode across Mercia into East Anglia, and took winter-quarters at Thetford; and that winter King Edmund fought against them, and the Danish took the victory, and killed the king…   

Perhaps you can see why many people think that Edmund was killed at Thetford. The Chronicler does not say it in so many words, but he gives us the clear impression that this was where it happened.

We have a very different account of Edmund’s death in a book written about one hundred years later. It deals not so much with the death of a king as with the martyrdom of a saint. It is a long and detailed story, not a brief statement of facts like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. And it has a completely different version of the story to tell. Where the Chronicle says they rode across Lincolnshire from York, the Passion of St Edmund has the Vikings who killed Edmund coming from York by sea.    

We know quite a lot about the person who wrote the Passion of St Edmund. He was a monk from the Loire valley in what is now France. He had been invited to England to be Abbot of Ramsey in the Fens, and it was while he was living there that he was asked to write about St Edmund. He had heard the story of Edmund’s death from the Archbishop of Canterbury (St Dunstan), who had  heard it directly from an old man who had been the King’s armour bearer and an eye witness to the events.    

            These are the two written sources that we shall rely on. A lot of other stories were written about St Edmund in later centuries, and although they may contain a grain of truth here and there, they are for the most part complete fabrications. These two sources I am going to use provide us with quite enough problems of truth and interpretation on their own. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is normally a reliable document, largely devoid of the supernatural accounts of events that were so popular in the middle ages. The Passion is by contrast full of miracle stories that nobody would take seriously today. It seems as if the Chronicle has the better claim to represent the truth, being not only written much closer in time to the Danish attack on East Anglia, but also as a work of genuine history, not a saint’s tale full of preposterous happenings.

The only trouble with this approach is that wherever we can check the facts (not the miracle stories) with the geographical record it is the Passion, not the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which appears to be telling the truth. I am not suggesting that the Chronicler is deliberately lying about events, but that the story he is telling us is partial and gives a wrong impression by being so brief. I fully accept the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle when it says that Danes rode across Lincolnshire to Thetford. What I also believe however is something the Chronicler leaves out – that the Danes who killed Edmund came by sea in longships, not on horseback.  

Suppose that the Danish fleet had travelled down the English coast, burning villages along the shores and rivers as they went. Several medieval writers say they burnt churches wherever they went. They would first have approached Emneth along the Well Stream (the courses of the rivers have been much altered by drainage).  They would next have come to Lynn (now Kings Lynn). If they pushed their way down the river Great Ouse they would have passed Downham Market. Just to the south the river Wissey would have given them access to Foulden.  Bearing in mind their colleagues on horseback who were established at Thetford perhaps they would have made their way there along the Little Ouse. Continuing their way around the coast they would pass Hunstanton and the Burnhams on the North Norfolk coast. Caister is to the north of the mouth of the Yare – Yarmouth did not then exist – and into Suffolk is Kessingland (just south of Lowestoft).  Also in Suffolk by the sea lie  Southwold andAldeburgh. Beside a wide river estuary lies Bromeswell near Woodbridge.  

That completes your nautical cruise round the rivers and coasts of East Anglia, but the names I have given you have not been picked at random. Each place I have mentioned had a St Edmund church, except the site of the Danes’ winter quarters (Thetford) and that had two. All these churches I suggest were rebuilt to replace churches destroyed by the Danes, and rededicated in celebration of the miraculous doings of the East Anglian’s dead king.  This explanation may not account for every St Edmund church, but surely it would be an incredible coincidence if they all had some other explanation. Moreover, we have by no means finished with the extraordinary distribution of East Anglia’s St Edmund churches; indeed we have by not even reached the most interesting part.         

Before returning to St Edmund’s churches however, I wish to examine some legends of battles against the Danes. These legends have been kept alive by word of mouth for many hundreds of years, before eventually being written down. It would seem that they are just picturesque stories with no basis in fact, were it not for a strange identity in the place-names involved. It is not just any names we are talking about, but ones beginning with the ominous and emotive syllable Blood. These places each have a legend attached to them; some mention St Edmund specifically, but they all mention the Saxons fighting their enemies the Danes. Thus we have Bloody Field on the river Deben at Martlesham. Bloodmoor Hills may be found at Carlton Colville near Lowestoft, and Blood Hill in Somerton in the district known as Flegg. Note how all these places also lie near the coast where we have already suggested Danish raiders were at work burning down churches. Bloody Field is near the church dedicated to St Edmund at Bromeswell. Carlton Colville is near the church at Kessingland and Somerton is not far from West Caister, the site of another (now ruinous) St Edmund church.

Example of the watery nature of many St Edmund sites in Norfolk

Nor are legends connected with the word Blood the only ones we should consider. There are two more legends that concern battles, from places that include the almost equally emotive word – Dane. Thus have Danes Field in Glemsford, Suffolk, and Danes Croft near Stowmarket, while at Barnby near Kessingland there is the legend of Edmund fording the river Waveney to avoid the Danes. We do not have to believe any of these legends. They do not have the undoubted historical certainty that the St Edmund churches unequivocally do. Although we cannot know these churches’ dates of foundation, we suspect they were dedicated in the 9th century, soon after Edmund’s death.

I will now return as promised to those St Edmund churches of Norfolk.  Caister church has already been mentioned, and Fritton church is in Suffolk, but they lay on opposite sides of the  river estuary. Both belong to the next dozen dedications to be considered. At first glance these two churches, together with those at Thurne, Acle, Southwood, South Buringham, Markshall, Caistor, Norwich, Costessey, Taverham and Lyng might appear to have nothing in common.  However these Norfolk villages are all linked by the river system flowing out to the sea at Great Yarmouth. Apart from these Broadland churches bearing his name, there are other references to St Edmund; for example, the road now called Bullockshed Lane in Rockland St Mary on the river Yare was in ancient times known as St Edmund’s Way.

This is more than just another river system however. It is the river system leading to the place where the Passion says that Edmund was murdered – Hellesdon in Norfolk. So all things – the churches, the legends and even the written document – point to Norfolk being the place where the King was killed.



  3. NORTH LYNN (Lost to the sea in the 17th.)
  5. BURNHAM WESTGATE (Abandoned c14th.)
  6. EGMERE (Abandoned by 1602.)
  14. SACKITE FRIARY (Abandoned c13th.)
  15. MARKSHALL (In ruins by 1695.)
  18. THURNE
  19. SOUTHWOOD (Abandoned 1818.)
  20. ACLE
  24. THETFORD (Abandoned c15th.)
  25. SNAREHILL (Abandoned c16th.)
  26. HOXNE (c12th CHAPEL?)

This book goes much more deeply into St Edmund’s links with Norfolk. Wouldn’t it make a good Christmas present?

St Edmund and the Vikings  869–1066

Paperback, 234×156 mm, 168 pp. With 7 maps, 27 colour and 7 b/w illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-9997752-1-6
Available from all new bookshops or direct from the publisher 




Rumsey Wells was one of the institutions of Norwich. The shop went right back to the year 1815, when a Mr Wells had a shop in London Street, then known as Cockey Lane. In the nineteenth century the business went by the name of T. Wells. By the 1870s their shop moved to St Andrews Street, which is where they were when I used to frequent the shop, although I think they may have moved a door or two along the street by then.

Mr Rumsey Wells died in 1937, although his name remained till the shop closed for good in 1974. The staple product of Rumsey Wells was caps and hats of all shapes and sizes, but head gear of any shape or description was as rare as hen’s teeth in the 1960s and 70s, so it is no surprise that the shop closed. It is rather remarkable that it went on as long as it did. My interest was more in the military outfitters side of the business, but with Norwich ceasing to be a garrison town when the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated in 1959, that too withered away.

1902 Booklet, T. Wells

I did  buy a Royal Norfolk regimental tie from Rumsey Wells in honour of the Britannia cap badge I wore as a member of Gresham’s School CCF. We were the only unit in the land to wear this insignia by then, as Britannia had been the badge of the Royal Norfolks and the Royal Anglians wear a badge displaying  a castle. The high point of Rumsey Wells had long past by 1974.



That was in the early years of the 20th century, when caps and military outfits were the flavour of the day. In those days the company was still called T. Wells after the founder of the business, Thomas  Wells. The firm had a great flair for marketing and self promotion, well in advance of most similar businesses. This little booklet (see picture above) bears the date 1902 in pencil inside the cover. It is an example of tis kind of advertising and was one of many similar publications produced by the firm. In this case, as well as a history of the Norwich silk trade it covers all the products the shop stocked, from hats to miniature medals.

The name RUMSEY WELLS lives on in a pub on the site of his shop in St Andrews. It was a well known establishment and it deserves this memorial. I am glad that I frequented the shop, and even still have a piece of their merchandise. I have never been to the pub.





CCF stands for Combined Cadet Force and everyone at school was enrolled as a member from age 14.  Although it was a Combined Cadet Force, we only had Army and Air Force sections – no Navy (things are different today). You could only join the Air Force moreover after passing part one of your Proficiency Examination; everybody started in the Army. I suppose it is just conceivable that there was some way of being a conscientious objector, but I never came across one. Actually the boys were all rather keen to join up at first; objections, conscientious and otherwise came a couple of years or so later.

One interesting fact about the corps (our term for the cadets) concerned our cap badge. This was the Britannia of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. This is said to have been granted by Queen Anne. The Royal Norfolks had ceased to exist in 1959, and the merged Norfolks and Suffolks became through further amalgamation the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964. I am not sure of this, but I suspect that we were the last unit in the country to wear the uniform of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, at least as far as the venerable cap badge goes.


After a period when we were under the command of Dan Frampton we had Andy Cunningham in charge of us. Although he was an RAF man – he had been in the RAF during the war and so had the nick name Cats Eyes Cunningham – he wasn’t terribly keen on the uniform and drill sides of our training. What he really liked was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. That is why none of us is wearing uniform in this picture of out Field Day outing to Hindolveston. This was a camping trip in preparation for our Silver Award.

Peter Fargus shaving, a cow and me packing my rucksack.

There were four of us in the group; Gordon Haylett, Bill Wragge, me and one other whose name escapes me, though it may have been Benny Young. Peter Fargus was there but in another group. We were all friends from Farfield. We decided – rightly or wrongly – to travel light. It was a walk of about five miles from school and we decided not to take a tent. We were to sleep (in the French tongue) sous les belles étoiles –underneath the stars. We were lucky that it did not rain that night; there was a heavy dew but we slept under a ground sheet and kept quite dry. The four of us were lined up under a hedge on a farm.

The farmer, who was expecting us, entered into the spirit of the expedition in a very sporting manner. He was to give us a taste of farming. It was a general farm and first we spent about an hour hoeing sugar beet. It was a job that was I think a bit out of date even then. It was pretty back-breaking work. Then we had a go at milking a cow by hand into a pail. That was certainly not the way he normally did it. Still, it was all good experience of old fashioned farming.

I never got my Silver Award, the expedition went fine but I missed out on some other part I can’t now remember which. In any case I was rapidly falling out of love with the corps. Eventually after three years I passed part two of my Proficiency and was allowed to leave. Tuesday afternoons would in future be passed not in khaki uniform but hospital visiting the old people at Pine Heath old folks home in Kelling.

Joseph Mason




The cul-de-sac which is now a quiet and peaceful residential Close in Taverham  once, not so very long ago, was the factory where the Anglia Cartridge Company produced its explosive product. These included the “Blue Rival” cartridges shown here. The chain link fence which the council insisted be put around the factory remains as the border fence of a property on the site. It was topped by a barbed wire entanglement which as fortunately been removed. The garden is an ideal place for an industrial archaeology dig; such things as the heavy spring from a clay-pigeon launcher, the brass percussion caps from shotgun cartridges and of course many shards from shattered clays still regularly turn up when the garden is being dug. These things date from before the factory was built, when the site was where the Taverham shooting school was established. The Mid-Norfolk Shooting School still exists in Taverham,  although it has moved about half a mile nearer to Attlebridge. The history of cartridge making in Taverham has been well researched by Brent Johnson, and written up by him in the Journal of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society, Vol 8 No 2, 2007.

Blue Rival shotgun cartridges

Any one who is interested in fortunes of the Anglia Cartridge Co  (and its predecessor Rosson and Co) should visit the Norwich Forum library, where the NIAS Journal should be available to researchers, or if unable to do so I am sure they could buy a copy from the Society.  It is quite an exciting story, hinging on a huge order from Canada. This order was never paid for, and this caused severe problems for the company as you may imagine. Brent Johnson visited the site some years ago when he was able to see for himself what remains above the ground – the fence. He did not have a chance to explore the flower beds to see what remains below the surface.

The past is recalled in the names of some roads which now occupy the area. Roedich Drive and Rosson’s Road commemorate two men who were involved in the business. This advert (below) dates from 1964 and records the Roedich cartridges that were sold from the shop in Bedford Street in Norwich. By then the shop was owned by Darlow although it retained the Rosson name. It boasts that Rosson had made cartridges since the early years of the nineteenth century, although I can assure you that they did not do so in Taverham then. The cartridge factory was built in 1953 by Hellis-Rosson Limited, a joint venture.

The factory in Taverham was called the Hero Works. By the time this advert was produced the factory in  was making about 5,000 cartridges a day. But there was pressure for housing and in late 1964 all the land previously used by the shooting school was purchased for housing. Only the Works and a small amount of land surrounding it was retained for producing cartridges.

It was at this time that the fence, the only remaining reminder of past industry, was erected. In 1965 the shop in Bedford Street was acquired by Gallyons, who in later years bought Versator magnifiers (for resale) from me from time to time. They were used mainly for fly-tying, game fishing being another field sport as well as shooting that was supplied from their shop.Eventually production of cartridges in Taverham ceased in 1980, and this land too was later used for housing.