ARMINGHALL

A VILLAGE JUST SOUTH OF NORWICH

Arminghall is perhaps best known today as the site of a substantial car boot sale but that is a very recent phenomenon. I have nothing against car boot sales, but I have never been to this one, although a lady I was talking to recently says it is a great place for bargains. Perhaps I should go but that is not what I want to say.

Arminghall is surrounded by Caistor, Bixley and Trowse and to the south by a narrow strip of Poringland. This narrow strip was where I grew up, but Arminghall is rather a more interesting place than Poringland. There are a number of things about it. The most venerable is Arminghall Wood Henge, an ancient wood circle dating from  Neolithic times. There is naturally nothing left to see above the ground and the existence of the post holes below ground were only discovered in the last century when aerial photography revealed them in the 1920s. This must have been a place of great significance when Norwich and Venta Icenorum were then of no importance at all. These two adjoining settlements which were to become in turn major towns were much later. The Roman town at Caistor is 2000 years old and Norwich not much more than 1000.

ARMINGHALL FARM c1970.

The centre of the hamlet of Arminghall has moved nearer to the main road to Bungay and away from the wood circle. The fact that the church stands here in the north east corner of the parish makes me think this has been the centre of the village since Saxon times.

At the opposite end of the village is the car boot sale and the electronics factory. The latter began life during the Second World War as an ammunition dump. I am convinced its site owed something to the name – arming-hall. The property was still used by the MoD (properly the War Ministry, the name at the time) when I first recall it. I believe its first operator when it passed into civilian hands was the electronics firm Mullard, and later Erie Resistor. It now goes by the name of Syfer Technology. This is an up-to-date state of the art industry; very different fom the Neolithic wood henge.

In a double-dweller cottage between this factory and the wood circle my Great-grandfather Peachey had his home. This was where he kept the ferrets that were an essential tool of his trade of warrener. My father, as a young boy, used to poke their pink noses with a piece of straw as they peeped out of their cage. Once, while out with his Grandfather in the Arminghall fields, he was told to go with a stick and hit a wounded rabbit over the head. To Great-grandfather’s disgust he was unable to do so.

Arminghall is crossed by the Seven Footpaths, a set of paths which link the city of Norwich with Upper Stoke. I was only a boy when my family travelled via the Seven Footpaths to Caistor Lane. It was a good way to work up an appetite no doubt, and this on Christmas Day. I have never managed to count all seven footpaths. Th number is more like four, and I suppose the others must have been swallowed up by the growth of the city. I was only eight and even four footpaths were a lot for my little legs. Since those times some of the paths have been marked by wooden sign posts, but even they are now old and may well have disappeared. Even where a pointer may still indicate a path, it often points across a ploughed field with no discernible path across it. I doubt that many people have walked the Seven Footpaths in the 50 years since we did so, and even then it was an unusual thing to do. Boudicca’s Way, the modern version of the Seven Footpaths takes a similar route though.

JOSEPH MASON

THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA

joemasonspage@gmail.com

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