ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Lady Pleasance Smith (née Reeve) lived in Norwich for forty years, but she was born in Lowestoft. She returned to Lowestoft in her later life, when she was living as a widow. The property where she lived for last thirty years of her life was Crown House. [Click here to view the front aspect of this house.] Lady Pleasance’s great niece was Alice Liddell, born in Westminster in 1852. The little girl was to become the Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll’s great work, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. Lady Pleasance was in correspondence with the Liddell family from the time of her niece Lorina’s engagement in 1845. Alice Pleasance Liddell was christened with Pleasance as her middle name after her Great Aunt. Lady Pleasance Smith was childless, so she took a close interest in her niece Lorina and her offspring including Alice. Of particular interest to her was the eldest son Harry Liddell, although to us it will always be Alice who we regard as special.
There is a collection of over 200 letters written by Lady Pleasance in the library at Christchurch College in Oxford which reveals her to have been a great correspondent. The letters were written to Alice’s mother Lorina (née Reeve). Lady Pleasance was well read, taking the Times on a regular basis and reading many other journals too. She would discuss current affairs and politics such as Cabinet changes. She was liberal in her attitudes even as an old woman. She met the fears that many people shared of the dangerous tendencies of modern science with the remark, ‘I am for inquiry.’ Lady Pleasance Smith made the acquaintance of many churchmen and academics throughout her life. Her niece and nephew-in-law’s university and church acquaintances stimulated her correspondence. Her domestic concerns, such as the purchase of a new dinner service, are of greater interest to us, who of course are especially keen to learn of her household in East Anglia.
The Liddells lived at Christchurch in Oxford from 1855, where the father of the family was the Dean of the cathedral (which is also the college chapel); before then Henry George Liddell had been Headmaster of Westminster School. The family lived in the Deanery at Christchurch until 1891. Lady Smith had died in 1877 at the age of 104. She kept writing almost until the end of her life, although with her sight failing this was a struggle.
At Oxford the Liddells became friends of their fellow Christchurch don, the Mathematics lecturer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He is better known today by his pen-name Lewis Carroll. The book Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland was published in 1865 although only in America; Carroll thought the illustrations by John Tenniel were not of a high enough print quality for publication in this country! It was reprinted and published in England in 1866.
The book had arisen following a boat trip across Port Meadow three years earlier. The story which he told Alice Liddell as they rowed upstream to Godstow was later written down in the form that we know it today.
As Lady Pleasance got older her celebrity increased on account of her great age. On her 99 birthday one of her cards was from Alice, by then a young lady in her 20s. Lady Pleasance supported her relatives in their pursuit of reform of the University’s outdated rules. For example it was not until the late 1870s that teaching staff were allowed to marry; it is an odd fact that this ancient restriction continued to apply to university lecturers for hundreds of years after the Reformation. Luckily for Liddell this restriction did not apply to churchmen, and so the Dean was able to take up his university appointment.
Although she had loyally supported her husband in his Unitarian beliefs during his lifetime, even to the extent (it is said) of jointly writing hymns with him for use in the Octagon Chapel in Norwich, as a widow she appears to have reverted to a more Anglican frame of mind. As a result her husband was interred in the family tomb at St Margaret’s church in Lowestoft where she too was eventually interred, and among her closest correspondents were leading Church of England theologians.
During her widowed years in the Suffolk town of her birth she was a great benefactor of the poor and a patron of the arts, particularly Lowestoft china.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
Forty Years On ̶ A Memoir of St Helen’s Costessey
The first designs for the church were the work of Chris Lambert, the architect of the curate’s house next door. Chris was understandably put out when I took over, and I later came to understand how he felt when the same thing happened to me at St Elizabeth’s Earlham. Several churches were built on the edge of Norwich after the war, the majority being the brain child of Peter Codling, a Quaker. Peter designed, among others, St Paul’s Tuckswood, St Matthew’s Thorpe Hamlet, the interdenominational church at Bowthorpe, and the strange extension to St Cuthbert’s Sprowston. He was also a prolific builder of rectories. Chris Lambert finally got his chance at St Luke’s on Aylsham Road.
St Helen’s was built with a small labour force ̶ of no more than half a dozen men at most ̶ in about five months in the summer of 1972. The thing I remember more than anything else about it was the cost ̶ £17,500 all in, including the hymn number board and the pottery flower vases with lettering round the edge that were made by Godfrey Newcomb. The roof tiles came from a Norfolk barn, and the bricks that form the cross in the gable were from Costessey Old Hall. Just as work was about to begin I got cold feet about the windows ̶ large square openings, one on each side. There wasn’t time to get planning permission. I just changed them.
I was lucky with the builders who got the job ̶ Lushers of Sprowston (Bill Lusher lived in Costessey) ̶ and in the two vicars I worked with ̶ Canon David Maurice and the Rev Timothy Sedgley, and with their building committee. I was allowed to design everything, including the furniture, the kneelers, frontals and vestments (which were sewn by a group of local needleworkers), the processional cross, the foundation stone with its crossed “h” monogram in the floor, and the coloured glass. The single-manual organ, made from second-hand parts by Bishops of Ipswich with “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord” in cut-out plywood lettering on the front, followed in 1973. The names of the people who donated to the building fund are stencilled on the sides of the roof trusses.
I was keen to incorporate two other features. First, because I was tired of the system in old churches where you have to apply (and often wait months) for written permission to carry out the smallest alteration, everything inside the church was designed to be movable within minutes. Second, to minimise the cost of maintenance, only two things needed painting ̶ the flagpole, and the hinges on the outside doors.
I was not so lucky with the hall that was added on the side in 1978, a building which I kept below the height of the church by designing the sloping roofs and high-level windows around a central, flat-roofed well. They were not a success as the only place for the water to go if the downpipes blocked was the floor inside, and I wasn’t altogether surprised when I made a visit ten or so years ago to find that my design had been replaced by a pyramid-shaped roof with a lantern on top. It was, I suspect, the reason I wasn’t invited to the 25th anniversary celebrations of the church’s opening.
See Andrew’s web page AA Prints http://www.andrewandersonprints.co.uk/Anderson/Welcome.html
In the Spring and Autumn Wally the Reed cutter would be busy along the river wall, just he and his little dog Rosie, Ben’s friend. I refer to the river bank as the river wall because it was built up higher than the marsh land to prevent it flooding. Some mornings I would look out from my lawn and way over would see smoke rising. There I knew I would find Wally. I would say to Ben ‘come on, let’s find Rosie.’ We would load up in the Daihatsu Four Track and off we went down the lanes to where Wally was working. We would sit, have a ‘roll-up’ and put the world to rights for half an hour. Wally led a lonely working life and welcomed my company as I did his. He was an interesting man and I enjoyed our chats. Ben was quite content playing with Rosie. Wally would put the long reeds he had cut into bundles and cart them to near a better track from where they would be collected at some time later by a lorry. The reeds were sold and used for thatching. I don’t think there was too much in it for Wally’s labours.
I moved from Hardley in 1992 and once or twice a year Wally and I have a chat by telephone. His three boys must always have a few words with Uncle Basil. He does invite me over there for special occasions but I haven’t made it so far. When I left the youngest son, Drew was just one year old.
At the cottage I always put out food for my visiting dozen or more pheasants and the occasional partridge onto the lawn overlooked by the kitchen window. One partridge seemed to stay all the time, sitting on the outhouse roof making its odd call which sounded like ‘chuck chucker’ repeated continuously. It got so the visits from the pheasants were every day. Then there were no visits for a couple of days which made me wonder why.
On the third day, surprise, surprise, mother pheasant proudly brought her chicks to see me. What trust she had in me! They were hopping about in and out of the food and water dishes. They only came that once as chicks but as they grey they visited with the adults. Ben would lay on the lawn in the sunshine. I had taught him to leave the birds alone and they learned to feed happily round him. He did keep one wary eye open just in case they went too close! We should thank the Normans for bringing these pretty birds, the pheasant , to our country in the eleventh century. These colourful birds find most of their food on the ground but at night they generally roost in trees away from predators such as foxes.
I believe it was Colin the gardener who have me half a dozen tomato plants and Philip told me where there was supply of well rotted manure. Off I went armed with a couple of strong plastic bags. The manure was well impacted and dried out so there seemed no harm in putting pieces into the bags by hand. Oh Dear, never do that, the stench of manure on one’s hands takes days and days of frequent washing to get rid of it – even Ben wouldn’t come near me. But I did have a good crop of tomatoes that year!
In the Spring the first hardy souls were chugging up and down the river on their hire craft. On the Chet they could only get upstream as far as Loddon, perhaps stay a night and replenish stores then return back to the Yare and left to Norwich or right to Reedham.
Philip the farmer and I became very good friends, he allowing Ben and me to go anywhere on the thousand acres of land in his jurisdiction. He would come down to the cottage a couple of times a week and we would partake of a sip or two of medicine – whisky ! As the year moved on the mature sheep were given a bath in the sheep dip in insecticides to protect them against external parasites such as blow fly, tics and lice. The water they went through was a disgusting khaki colour but they had no choice in the matter being driven down a slope with narrow sides, passing into the dip where they became submerged briefly and then clambered out the other side. On reflection I believe this took place some weeks after the shearing operation. I can’t remember quite when but the mature sheep were shorn of their fleece by professionals using electric sheers. Apparently real experts at shearing in Australia can do one sheep in about three minutes. Shirley would then roll up the fleece into bales and then sold. After being shorn the sheep would leap about wondering what had happened, rather like me after an occasional haircut!
On one occasion I came across a sheep with its head stuck through a hole in a wire fence. Trying to get out, the silly thing kept pushing instead of pulling. With some effort I managed to extricate it. It ran off without a word of thanks! Similarly on another occasion I found one with its head stuck in a plastic carton.
Having ‘serviced ‘ many ewes, the rams, about a dozen of them, were turned out on a small meadow at the bottom of the lane past the cottage. I was given the job of feeding them with beet stored in a little building near them. I did this about 9a.m. each morning and they would be at the gate waiting for me. Given the chance they would still have butted me. Sometimes ewes were put into this meadow. Unbeknown to Shirley once I put Ben in with them to see whether the collie in him would get him to act accordingly. Sure enough he herded them into one corner of the meadow then sat, looked at me to ask what he should do next! I believe that dog was too bright for his own good.
Once when Philip was knocking in some fencing posts he accidently hit the bridge of his nose with the heavy tool he was using. He came to the cottage with his nose streaming with blood. I was able to put ice cubes on the wound to stem the flow of blood then got him down to the surgery in Loddon post haste. He had to have some stitches inserted. He looked like a Roman soldier until the dressing was removed!
In summer evenings one wonderful sight about sunset was hundreds of Greylag geese flying towards The Floods to roost. They seemed to use the cottage as a landmark to find the water. They made a lot of noise with their calling and would fly in long horizontal lines. If one wobbled so did the others near it making what was a dignified flight into one ungainly! One summer Sunday morning Ben barked and called me to the front of the cottage. Up the lane I could see a balloon that had come down. The service vehicle was with it and very soon it was packed up and taken away. On another Sunday morning a small herd of heifers came trotting down the lane from the direction of the farm having escaped from their pen. I quickly call to Philip and we rounded them up.
A few times I saw a Muntjac deer at a distance in waist high corn but as soon as it saw me it was off, head down, so it could not be seen. We ‘locals’ would tell each other when and where we had seen it. On one occasion Ben found it spoor which he trailed and it led us along the edge of a corn field to a small copse. It was possible to see its cloven hoof marks and in the copse where it had lain overnight. A day or two after the last sighting there was a report of a deer being run over and killed about three miles away on the main road at Loddon. Another name for the Muntjac is Barking Deer. It is the smallest deer in this country and apparently originated from Asia.
During the summer months, in fact from about April, Swallows and Sand Martins are seen in abundance over the river and Floods, feeding off the flying insects. At late evenings over the Floods the air is full of insects especially gnats and midges which bite ferociously – you know when you have been bitten! It was a sure sign that autumn was coming when I saw these birds gathering on the telephone and electric cables ready for their long flight to South Africa. I found it a bit depressing.
Graylags and sometimes Canada geese were quite a problem when whole flocks would settle to feed on the crops. It has been suggested the Graylags got their name from the fact they were the grey geese which lagged behind others in flight. Ben and I did our bit to move them off the crops. I would say to him ‘Find ‘em, Ben’ and he would run at them in sweeping circles until they had all gone from that spot. He would then run back to me very pleased with himself as much as to say ‘I did it, Dad’!
On hot summer days we would go to ‘our’ beach at the Floods. I would sunbathe or sit with binoculars bird watching and Ben would splash about. The different birds and ducks which made their home there in addition to the mallards, greylags and swans was amazing. I saw Canadas, Egyptian, Shelduck, Shovelers, Tufted and Eider duck. Probably a few more which I have forgotten. Sometimes late on summer evenings we would take a walk along the lanes to the river. On more than one occasion I remember seeing at dusk a largish white bird swooping and diving over a field of corn. At first I thought it was an owl but discovered it was a seagull having its supper of insects.
Ben just loved to search and hunt in the fields and meadows. He seemed to sense when there was a rabbit or pheasant about and he would persevere with his hunting, whether it was in a field of sugar beet or long grass until the pheasant had taken flight. He learned to search as a Springer spaniel, jumping up on his hind legs every few feet to look for any movement of his quarry. He didn’t catch them but he enjoyed the chase.
I may have created the wrong mental impression when I have written about the marshes. In the main they have been drained and cultivated, growing mostly cereal crops. The edge of the marshes reach almost to the river bank where Wally would cut the reed crop. There was a footpath right along the river banks of both the Chet and Yare, coming from Chedgrave round to the Staithe at Hardley. In one of the small meadows at the bottom of our lane one of our first friends was ‘Jersey’ a clean looking cow with big sorrowful eyes. She would recognize us and come to the gate for a fuss.
One evening Ben and I were walking in the cool of the day along by the River Yare. There had been a most colourful sunset, the water was calm and slow moving. The pinks and purples of the sky were reflected perfectly, then along came proud pair of swans with three cygnets gliding along causing the merest ripple to the colours. On another occasion we walked down ‘our’ lane at dawn. A heavy mist hung over the Chet and above it lovely colours were showing the breaking of the dawn. The patterns woven by spiders in their cobwebs on these misty mornings were incredible. Suddenly a thunderstorm broke out one sunny summer’s morning. The sun was shining through torrential rain which produced a perfect rainbow. On another summer’s morning I saw an unusually dark brown fox along the edge of a field close to the river. I suspect he was heading towards Hall Carr. I doubt if he had a lair there as a Carr is a small wet woodland.
Once the corn was ready for cutting it was ‘all go’ on the farm. Often two combines would be at work in the same field in a race to beat the weather. Even in dry weather the work could not start too early because of the damp from the morning mists. Usually Philip’s Dad would drive one combine and Philip’s brother Kevin the other. Sometimes Kevin’s young son would hang about hoping for a ride with his Dad. Philip would drive along a combine and the corn would be transferred from the combine onto the trailer without stopping. The corn would then be taken to the large grain stores, unloaded and then back to the second combine. When they were working near the cottage they would find time to have a cup of tea on my front lawn.
Up the track along Broom Hill I once found a lonely cornflower, the only one I saw on the whole estate of a thousand acres. It was along here at the base of a tree that Ben caught a weasel. It was about ten inches in length with a tail almost as long of light brown colour and a white belly. Weasels are smaller than stoats. They are reputed to mesmerize small creatures also being very clever but this one wasn’t clever enough not to be caught. I shouted at Ben who dropped it. It climbed a little way up the tree trunk, recovered from the shock then got lost in the undergrowth. I hope it survived.
The first year I was there I had a Renault Estate. It developed a puzzling rattle until I removed the top from the air filter and there was the answer– A mouse had been storing some of Ben’s dry food in it! One of the most exciting things that happened to me was one bright summer’s morning when suddenly three American Air Forcewere A 10 fighter planes.
My cottage stood on a hill, was painted off white and it was a prime target for these planes to practice strafing. They had a clear run from the River Chet side. They kept this up for several minutes one after the other, in fact in time for me to go indoors and get my camcorder to film them. After a while somehow they indicated they were leaving. I gave them a salute and each plane in turn waggled its wings as a farewell.
After the harvest came Autumn and preparation for winter. At the farm was a large heap of tree trunks and Philip arranged for ‘Fatty’ from a neighbouring village to come along with his saw bench and cut up the trunks into manageable sized pieces for our fires. Fatty was perhaps an unkind nickname but he was really fat. The amazing thing was he did not have a safety guard on his saw bench which he balanced precariously on uneven ground, without having an accident! Afterwards Philip brought a trailer full down to the cottage for me which he unloaded at the front of the cottage and I got busy transferring the wood to the outhouse at the back using my sack barrow. The labour was well worth it come the chilly days and nights of winter.
I cannot remember whether it was Spring or Autumn when it was very windy, stormy weather that swans were coming to grieve in the meadow at the bottom of the lane. In strong winds they would get blown into some electric cables and killed themselves. Rather than they lay where they fell and rot I took them up to the farm and Philip buried them in a pit. On the third occasion, one stormy night, the electric light flickered and I thought ‘there’s another one down’. I went down the lane and sure enough there was the third dead swan. I did complain to the electricity board about this and soon after they strung some orange balls on the wires. I got to thinking maybe I could make some quills from the large wing feathers and so I laboriously carted the swan up to the cottage precariously balanced on the old cycle I had. Having got the bird into the light I thought ‘What a lot of meat to throw away’ so I set to and it must have taken at least two hours of plucking it and then I had a naked looking swan on the kitchen table, covered in goose pimples you might say! At one stage I got my hands wet which meant feathers and down sticking to them. What a mess! I got a little worried in case Dick the game keeper came round, as he did occasionally. All this time Ben was sitting beside me drooling, with his tongue hanging out. I sliced off very large fillets of meat, cleared up and put the remainder into a large plastic bag. I then put a slice of the swan meat into a dish with water and cooked it in the microwave. Unfortunately there was nothing in any of my cook books on how to cook swan meat! After it had cooled I gave some to Ben. He really enjoyed it but the small piece I sampled was very tough and tasted very muddy. Another piece I soaked all night in salt water tasted a little better but not enough to enjoy it. I can’t say I found it a delicacy, perhaps it was because I cooked it in the microwave. It so happened a day or two later two old police colleagues, Stanley and Aleck, rode all the way from Norwich, some twenty miles on their cycles to see me. There was a head wind but this didn’t put them off. They were most impressed to sample swan meat sandwiches for their lunch. I have little doubt they were chewing all the way back. By the time they went back the wind had changed so they were faced with a head wind again. I tried another piece of raw swan meet in an old sock tied with a piece of binder twine and lowered into the ditch at the bottom of the lane. The next morning and several after I hauled up my bait but no eel as I had hoped. I gave up that project. The annoying thing was that Wally had caught a very large eel in another ditch, skinned it and gave it to me. It did not taste the same as if I had caught it! As well as normal food while at the cottage I cooked hare, pheasant, partridge as well as swan and eel.
Late summer and early autumn was the time to go mushrooming. I found these grew in abundance in the meadow at the bottom of my lane near the river wall. Some were as big as dinner plates. They seemed to appear over night. Shirley the shepherdess gave me a little country advice, don’t be greedy, always leave one for seed. About this time the blackberries were ripe and in abundance also. No matter which lane I walked down I had a feast every morning. Sometimes I would gather a bag full and take them back to the cottage and have them with carnation milk for my ‘afters’. One autumn morning there was a lot of noise coming from the fields the other side of the Chet. I was able to see several horses and riders obviously in chase of a fox but I was glad to see they gave up and went back the way they had come.
Ben used to like it when Philip could spare the time to come down to the cottage for a couple of hours and enjoy a drink. Philip would sit on the settee and Ben would lay on it beside him with his head on Philip’s lap. Of course Philip had more time to spare when autumn and winter came. About half past three or so I would draw the curtains to shut out the dark and cold. The fire I kept going night and day, giving it a good rake out but keeping some burning pieces to build up on it again. Evenings was the time to put on large dry pieces of wood.
One winter Ben and I were snowed in for three days. The snow had drifted and blocked the road between us and the church. Eventually Philip’s Dad came to the rescue with a digger and cleared the road. On our walks Ben was still able to detect small creatures in the soil beneath the snow. He had a horrible habit of catching mice, shrews, moles and eating them. That bad winter he cut one paw which required attention. I took him to Mr. Evans the Vet in Loddon who treated it and bound it up. I had to put fresh plastic bags over the dressing to try to keep it dry with limited success.
During the winters I often went three days or more without seeing anyone which made it lonely. I found it was getting almost too much trouble to drive into Loddon once a week for food and coal. This was a bad sign and it made me think I should be finding somewhere to live nearer to people and have more mod cons. This I did in 1992, my third Autumn at Hardley. I was then sixty-four. Once I asked Philip if I was regarded by the locals as an ‘odd bod’. He assured me that I had fitted in well and very quickly become one of them. Whether he meant they were all ‘odd bods’ I didn’t like to ask! So many happy memories of my stay there remain with me and I know my mate Ben had the time of his life. It was such a very special part of our lives. We became free of almost every restriction and I feel we were most privileged to have seen and experienced so much of nature that the vast majority of people have not and probably would not wish to. On reflection it was in a way a repeat of my very early days with my grandparents at their cottage at Holt Heath and the freedom I had there. This may well account for me being basically a loner and at times insufferably independent! Farewell little cottage.
Bas Kybird Drayton, June, 2012
HARDLEY – THREE YEARS OF TRANQULITY
BY BAS KYBIRD
From September 1989 until September 1992 I was fortunate to rent a small cottage at the village of Hardley. It was ideal for what I needed at the time, complete peace of mind. Here I started painting seriously in watercolours.
My experiences were rare and well worth writing about. For company there was just my best friend Ben. Ben was a male cross collie/Alsatian. He had a lovely long golden coat and when I had given him a brush he was very proud of himself. I rescued him from the R.S.P.C.A. Dogs Home in Norwich a few years previously. At that time he was unmanageable, having been returned to the home twice. He was so pleased that at last someone wanted him and he was at last able to leave the dogs home. How he pranced about to show what a good, lively dog he was!
With patient training and time he accepted that I was the boss and we built up a complete understanding of each other, almost reading each other’s thoughts. He was more human than animal. Wherever we went he was greatly admired and I am sure he knew it. The only thing he could not do was talk but his squeals of delight said much and he made me understand a lot. Wherever I went so did Ben. My friends were his friends; all knew him and fussed him.
Hardley is an old English name meaning ‘Hard Clearing’. It is a very small hamlet in the vale of the Rivers Yare and Chet. It is situated about twelve miles E.S.E. of Norwich and two and a half miles E.N.E. of the market town of Loddon. There are about 1,400 acres of land. There is also Hardley Street about a mile away which I suppose is part and parcel of Hardley. The Hardley Estate which surrounded ‘my cottage’ comprised of about 1000 acres. [The population in 2001 was under 500.]
Along the narrow winding country road to Hardley from Chedgrave is Cross Stone Road on the left. At the road junction is a boundary stone or part of a cross. It is classed as post medieval. Legend has it that a woman in red sits on it on certain nights but I never came across anyone who had seen her, although one morning I found a dead Little Owl there. It seems that in 1547 King Edward VI granted Hardley its own swan mark.
A mile further on is Hardley Church, St. Margaret’s as so many Norfolk Churches dedicated to Margaret of Antioch. The story goes that she was the daughter of a pagan priest who scorned her for her Christian beliefs. He turned her out and she lived with a foster mother and looked after sheep. An important Roman was attracted to her and offered to marry her if she gave up her faith. Her refusal led to her being cruelly tortured and eventually put to death in AD 304. Antioch was an ancient city in Syria near Turkey.
The church has a round Norman tower. The church was given a make-over in the 15c and the church registers commenced in 1715. Inside, on the south wall facing the entrance in the north wall is a large painting of St. Christopher with a heron beside him and fish round his feet. As Vicar’s Warden I had a monthly duty to perform pumping the organ and occasionally read a lesson. Sitting against the west wall in readiness to leap to my feet and pump I had ample opportunity to study the painting. I admit to being negligent on the supply of wind on occasions which incurred a glare from the lady organist!
I believe the wood pews were erected in the 1700s. Roughly carved into the backs of some were line pictures of sailing boats no doubt representing those which travelled between Gt. Yarmouth and Norwich. These sailing vessels, especially the wherries, would trade along the Yare delivering various supplies including coal and take on board sugar beet at the village staithes en route. There is a staithe at Hardley which no doubt was used by the trading vessels. There are old photographs showing there was a beer house called the Chequers, licensed before 1836 and possibly closed in 1896. With it was a malting, house, and store buildings. It was also mention in some papers of 1796, a similar date given to the church farmhouse. Today those buildings are gone and the staithe is used to moor small private craft.
Opposite the church is a pair of modern cottages, one occupied by the parents of Philip the farmer and the other by Colin the gardener. Just round the corner is the large farmhouse occupied by Philip. The house is of red brick, a listed building of the 18c. Turning right at the church the road leads toward Hardley Hall, a listed building described as an Elizabethan country house with parts dated 16c. At Norfolk Record Office there are papers relating to the Court Roll for the Manor of Hardley dated from 1549 to 1632 in the name of Beauchamp – Proctor family. I was commissioned to complete a water colour of the house but had little to do with the owners. At the end of the track past the hall is an expanse of water known as Hardley Floods. I believe it was in the 1950s the River Chet overflowed onto three or four small meadows and never returned. Gradually wild life took over and it became a haven for many breeds of birds and other wild life. Before the hall there is a crossing in the tracks. By turning left and a few yards along towards the River Chet is the cottage where I lived with Ben for three happy years.
I completed a number of water colours at Hardley, some were commissions like that of a pig farmer’s house in Hardley Street which was a yellow colour, and others I did for my own enjoyment. Sometimes I painted outside from life but usually I worked from photographs – it was usual for me to take around thirty six photos a week.
The cottage was Victorian, about half a mile past the church, was one of a pair and I rented that on the right of the two which had a lovely view overlooking the marshes and the River Chet. In fact the lane went down to the river. The cottage was painted off-white . It had three up and three down rooms, the third one downstairs had been added as an extension to provide a bathroom and toilet to the rear. It had only one external door and this faced the lawn and hedge which helped to give shelter from easterly winds. On one occasion I looked out of the kitchen window to see a Sparrow hawk staring at me from the closest hedge. This accounted for feathers and down which I had seen on the ground previously.
After Philip had kindly pruned the hedge the other side of the lawn with his hedge trimmer on a tractor the hedge bore ample crops of Marabella plums each autumn. From the kitchen window were views of the marshes, river and even Reedham Swing Bridge. In the kitchen was a large pine table, two bench seats, fridge cooker, washing machine and cupboards. I added a microwave cooker. There was a fireplace but this had been boarded up. Carrying on through another door was the sitting room which had an open fire. In the winter I kept this burning night and day as it was the only source of warmth. This room had a window facing toward the river although it wasn’t possible to see it. Another window faced out toward the front lane. I made it cosy and ‘cottagey’ with a cane three piece suite, round coffee table and book case, also a cherry red carpet. At each side of the fireplace were cupboards, one which I kept stocked with fire wood. To the right of the fireplace was a flimsy, creaky pine wood door. It had an old fashioned latch and gave access to the creaky narrow stairs which curved round to the left leading up to a small landing. Ben climbed these stairs with some difficulty but at times he liked to sleep at the foot of my bed.
Off the landing were the three bedrooms. The main room , the largest, was at the front. The second bedroom was to its left, with a window looking out to the rear. Beside it was the smallest in which I stored my art clobber and stuff. I did use it sometimes as my studio but ridiculous as it may seem, it seemed lonely! The view from both these rear rooms was across fields and in the far distance was Cantley sugar beet factory, at times the chimney belching out smoke.
Out the back of the cottage were two outhouses one of which was originally a toilet and perhaps the other with a copper for wash days. I stored my coal and main wood supply in them. The previous occupants had left behind a ladies ancient cycle which I used sometimes. It was this which I used to cart the third dead swan up to the cottage which you will read about later on.
I read somewhere that during W.W.II there was a decoy set up to attract German aircraft to Hardley and Langley marshes on which to drop their bombs rather than Norwich. It was then decided this decoy was too close to Cantley factory and its operation ceased.
The other side of the cottage was let out to holiday makers, mainly people on fishing trips. The last summer I was there a South African by the name of Coertz, wife, two daughters and mother in law stayed for a week. Most evenings he would join me for a whiskey or two. I believe he was glad to escape from the females. He would walk about bare footed on the stony track out- side then sit picking whatever from between his toes, not a particularly pleasant sight! They returned to South Africa but every year since we have exchanged Christmas cards and sometimes photographs.
From what I have read it appears the area is steeped in history. Near to Hardley Hall several Roman coins have been found, some dating from about AD 364 to 378. Not far from the cottage was Broom Hill, believed to have been the site of an old windmill. Also marks were found suggesting there may have been a Roman farmstead and even one of the Iron Age before that. A silver wire medieval ring was found there and there have been other signs of ancient occupation found all over the area.
Another antiquity is Hardley Cross, situated on the banks of where the River Chet joins the Yare. This stone cross marks the boundary of jurisdiction of the City of Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Ben and I used to walk along the river bank to get to it. The cross is said to date back to 14th or 15c. It seems that a Charter of King Henry VIII refers to it. It is a Grade II building and had been restored several times since 1676. Once a year the civic dignitaries of Norwich and Great Yarmouth would meet there arriving by boat for a picnic or whatever! In the early 1950s as part of my police training I experienced a journey on a police launch as far as Hardley Cross and return. Little did I think some forty years later I would be living near it for a while ! Along the banks of the River Yare number of old Drainage Mills or Wind Pumps can be seen, at least one dating 1797 or before. They are no longer in use and falling apart although I believe one has been restored.
Once a week I went to the Co-op in Loddon for my food supply, also to the local garage for petrol and two hundred weight of coal. Every day, twice a day Ben and I would go off for our walks in different direct ions and always with my camera, camcorder, or both. When eventually I left Hardley for good I came away with twenty eight albums of photographs and many many hours of film, all taken on our walks!
I did have occasional visitors but I felt they were outside the scope of my story of Hardley with three exceptions, Standley and Aleck in the story of the swan and my old friend Dick across the river at Reedham although Dick never came to the cottage.Before I relate some odd or unusual happenings which Ben and I enjoyed I think it appropriate to write a few notes of the people of Hardley, our friends and neighbours.
Philip the farmer, then about forty, lived alone in the 18c church farmhouse. He was in partnership with the owner of the estate. He did the work and the owner shared the profits with him. Philip’s Mum and Dad lived opposite the church. His Dad Donny would do a lot of the tractor driving. Eileen his Mum would regularly take, at speed, Philip’s dog for a walk. She was always scuttling about. Relatives of theirs are buried at Felthorpe Church next to Drayton where I live now.
Philip’s brother Kevin would travel in from Harleston and he employed driving, crop spraying and at harvest time driving a combine harvester. In the school holidays he would sometimes have his young son and daughter with him, the son waiting hopefully for a ride on the combine. Kevin would have his lunch with his parents Donny and Eileen.
Shirley the shepherdess, a separated lady, living with her parents in a neighbouring village. She was busy building up a business with her sheep but also helped with the farm work when it was busy and in return Philip helped her. When the sugar beet had been cropped the sheep would be turned out onto the fields to rummage for the beet roots. At lambing time the expectant yews would be in stalls in a big barn down Staithe Road. During this very time Shirley lived in a caravan inside the barn so she could keep an eye on things and help with deliveries. She would often be almost asleep on her feet through inevitable broken and busy nights and lack of proper food but it meant more animals to put into the business of many hundred. The other very busy times with the sheep was when they were being put through the sheep dip or being sheared.
Shirley’s Dad would sometimes be seen on the farm putting up fencing and her mother would help her to move the sheep, also be on hand at lambing time. I would look out for Shirley’s father’s van and Ben and I would draw down to where he was working for a mardle. He had a young collie which Ben liked.
Wally the reed cutter lived at Rockland St. Mary. At certain times of the year he came onto the estate to cut reeds along the river bank also at one end of the Floods. He had a beat-up old Land Rover loaded with all sorts of bits and pieces in connection with his trade.
Sharon the Post Girl, about twenty years of age, lived in a village the other side of the Chet, Nogham End, and worked from the post office in Loddon. Whenever she was on the Hardley round she always made time to call on me, whether she had mail for me or not. She would ‘blow’ in, sit at the kitchen table and busily make herself a roll up cigarette while I made coffee. Always she asked ‘What’s been happening then ?’ and liked to hear about what Ben and I had seen or done, look at photos I had taken or relate our problems to each e other. After a holiday or a visit to the Royal Norfolk Show she turned up wearing a wide brimmed leather trilby hat . It really suited her and I told her so. From then on she wore it on her rounds! Her visits were important to me because she, an attractive young woman, took the trouble to visit me especially in the winter when it got a bit lonely.
Dick the Gamekeeper lived in an isolated cottage at the far end of the Floods. I didn’t see much of him apart from when he had organized a pheasant or duck shoot. When we did meet we would have a chat and exchange information. He once gave me a hare already hulked, ready to cook.
I believe it was the first Spring that I was there, 1990, that the River Chet broke its banks and flooded some of the marshes which were already seeded. Philip the farmer took me in his Land Rover to see the river pouring over the breached bank. The noise was quite deafening and I was a bit concerned in case we got stranded. When there are high tides sometimes salt water comes up from Yarmouth mixed with river water. Should this happen it is harmful to any crops already sown on the marsh land or in fact to be sown in the near future.
On the other side of the River Yare and a bit downstream is the village of Reedham. Here lived an old police colleague and good friend Dick. We often spoke on the phone and kidded each other we had been on the other river bank at night waving a torch, but of course we never did. However it was nice to think that a colleague from the past was not too far away. I suppose I could have gone to see him by crossing the river on the ferry at Reedham but it was a bit of a trek from Hardley so I never made the effort. To get to Reedham without using the ferry meant a thirty mile detour. The ferry is a chain ferry capable of holding three cars at one time. There are papers at Norfolk Record Office relating to the ferry dated about 1870. There are two paintings by a Revd. James Bulwer of a rowing boat in use as a ferry. He died in 1879.
There are many stories recorded of ghostly happenings like ‘Will of the Wisp’ and ‘The Lantern Man’ haunting the marshlands and causing deaths in Victorian times. These ‘ghosts’ were most likely to have been patches of marsh gases drifting about. In fairness these happenings were on the grazing marshes on the other side of the Yare and Chet, not on the cultivated areas at Hardley. No matter what time I was wandering about I never saw a ghost or heard stories of one at Hardley!
Spring was the most special time when I lived there, there was so much wild life to see. On the river there would be Great Crested Grebe paired off, displaying in a ritual of dances. One would dive and be under the surface for several seconds then surface again where I least expected. After their young had been hatched I would see the mother carrying them on her back concealed between her wing feathers. In this way the young were protected from their main enemy, the pike. Other ducks would be seen with maybe a dozen young swimming dutifully behind. The mother would uncannily know if one of her clutch had strayed and about turn to look for it. Proud parent swans would be seen gliding along with two or three offspring.
Along one ditch I discovered a Marsh Orchid, much whiter and larger than any I had seen before. Sometimes I would come across a water rat and it was difficult to keep Ben out of the water. Once young swans – cygnets – had grown a bit and become independent the parents would drive them off as much as to say ‘go find your own feeding area’. The parents would do this quite aggressively.
Early one morning I was privileged to witness thirty swans all take off from The Floods at one go. The noise from their wings was incredible, a rhythmic ‘whistling’ beating sound. I was able to photograph them. Sometimes Ben and I would find a pair of swans quietly feeding in a ditch. When disturbed they would make a snorting, hissing sound, especially at Ben.
Beyond The Floods and the River Chet I was able to see the thatched roof of the little church of St. Gregory’s at Heckingham. I understand one of my ancestors was christened there. I did visit it but it was locked. It is a Norman church of flint with a round west tower and an octagonal top. It is one of 124 round tower churches in Norfolk and is Grade 1 listed. Over the entrance carved into the stonework are some heraldic shields.
Along the edges of many of the ditches were Moor Hen and Coots nests sitting precariously in the edges of the reeds. The nests would often hold up to a dozen eggs although all these would not hatch, being targets for vermin. The noticeable difference in appearance between the Moor Hen is its red and yellow beak with the white bill and forehead of the Coot.
Down the lane from the cottage was a marsh meadow which Lapwings (Peewits) seemed to favour. When they had a nest on the ground one would fly above, circling, making a plaintive cry, and in flight pretending to have an injured wing, tying to draw Ben and me away from the nest. It was not unusual to see a kestrel hovering high in the sky and then suddenly drop like a stone onto its prey. One lovely sight was when the new lambs and their mothers were put out to grass. The lambs leap about, jumping over each other, playing chasing games and head butting, all so happy. It was most noticeable how the yews knew which were their children and told others to try elsewhere for food! Mothers were very protective of their young, coming forward a few paces and stamping their front feet in a threatening motion. Unfortunately this wonderful happy state could not continue for long as the lambs had to be weaned from their mothers. When separated, for two or three days and nights the lambs set up a most unhappy racket calling for their mothers.
On a sunny afternoon Ben and I were walking along the ‘beach’ at the edge of The Floods. At one spot in reeds close to shore the water was being churned up as if there was a gale. When we got closer I could see the reason – very large bream were spawning. They were massive, swimming round and round after the females. This happened again the next day and then it was over. What a sight! I had occasionally found skeletons of large fish but had no idea of the real size. Normally Ben and I didn’t go t o The Floods too often as it was a very special place, familiarity breeds contempt perhaps.
Ben just loved to splash about in the water chasing the sticks I threw in. There was no telling what bird life there would be there, especially in the spring, swans, cormorants, terns, grebe, geese with their young, ducks with an amazing number of chicks, perhaps a dozen or more. In certain quiet corners I would see a heron standing motionless on one leg patiently waiting for a fish or eel to come within range of a quick strike from its long neck and beak. On the end of one wooded area , Hall Carr, high up in the trees was a heronry where these large birds nested and had their young. They lay their eggs as early as February. Once I was lucky enough to hear the ‘boom’ of a bittern coming from a reed bed along the river bank. Along the edge of The Floods I would often see a pair of Oyster Catchers grubbing in the shallow water for food but I never saw their young. Way out across The Floods posts sticking out of the water. On these a small colony of Cormorants would sit drying their plumage after diving for fish. Not too far from these was a man made float of some sort constructed for and used by terns for nesting. It was interesting to see how the adult terns ‘dive bombed’ the cormorants if they went too close to their young. They, like the cormorants, dived into the water for fish. By autumn the terns had gone, leaving the cormorants to fish in peace.
At one end of The Floods was a wood. Ben and I would explore in it by climbing over a stile. In the Springtime there was a carpet of bluebells with patches of primroses. The aroma from these wild flowers was quite heady. We were so fortunate to be able to enjoy nature at its best on our doorstep. Ben enjoyed rummaging about, nose to the ground, following the scent of rabbits. At one point a plank was positioned across a muddy ditch. In his enthusiasm, Ben once slipped and fell in which meant a hurried walk home, sluice down w the hose pipe and then a rub dry with towels. Walking along a lane one spring morning, on a slight rise across a meadow were five hares at play. Ben joined in, chasing after them but did not have a chance. It was amusing to see how the hares involved him in their game of chase. At first one would taunt him to chase it, letting him almost catch it and then another would take over. They all took turns teasing him. This game went on for several minutes until they all went off and Ben came back to me his tongue hanging out, completely exhausted.
TO BE CONTINUED.
HOLIDAYS BY THE WASH
SNETTISHAM is a west Norfolk village, and Snettisham Beach is about a mile away, a seaside holiday community beside the Wash. From there you can see the sun set, while from the area around Yarmouth you can watch it rise; seeing both makes Norfolk unusual among the counties of England. The pits, which now provide a protected home for bird life, began as gravel pits during the Second World War. When operations ceased a Ruston Bucyrus shovel was abandoned beside the last of the pits. The surrounding chalets and roads were severely wrecked by the 1953 floods, but they have survived.
My maternal grandmother had a holiday bungalow here. It later passed to my Aunt Peggy and from her to my cousin Tony, who still owns it and is a frequent visitor. Swallow, his little dinghy which he had as a boy is still used on the pits; this picture of her in the foreground was taken in the 1960s. My Uncle Eric also had a holiday chalet there as has his daughter, Jane. It all runs in the family.
One memorable visit to Snettisham began in quite an ordinary way with a car journey in our old Singer. But by the time we had got to Dereham along the A47 she had broken down as she was prone to do. This was in the 50s when the railway system in Norfolk was more or less intact so we were able to catch a train at Dereham to go to Kings Lynn. Even then (I seem to recall) dmus as well as steam trains were running on the line. We were taken by diesel to Lynn I think.
From Lynn to Snettisham station on the line to Hunstanton the trains were definitely steam hauled. Maybe that was one occasion when I travelled behind a Claud Hamilton, although I don’t remember what locomotive it was. I can remember the train pulling out of Snettisham though, leaving behind that distinctive smell of Welsh steam coal smoke and cylinder oil.
We were then at Snettisham village. The next part of the journey was long walk down the lane to Snettisham Beach. Unfortunately we didn’t return by train, but borrowed Uncle Eric’s car to drive home in. This was a Jowett Javelin, quite a plush car of the day, but nothing like a train journey across Norfolk. We can still get some idea of the feelings generated by these now long vanished lines from the ciné camera. There is even a section of film by John Betjeman where you can see Snettisham station as it used to be (see my post of May 31 2012 for a link to this).
We used to go over to Snettisham once or twice a year when my parents were alive. When the sea comes in the shallow water it makes for ideal bathing. It is mostly warm, but from time to time you hit a cold patch. It is also good for sailing dinghies. If you arrive when the tide is out all you can see is miles of mud to the horizon. This is the time to go after cockles. When I first started cockling they were easy to find because they all had a strand of sea weed sticking out of their shells and up to the surface of the mud. They must have learnt their lesson because suddenly, about 1965, they all stopped.
Another Wash delicacy is brown shrimps which you can catch with a shrimp net pushed before you in the shallow water. There is always a trade-off in boiling shrimps; in salt water they are tasty but hard to peel, whereas boiled in plain water they are tasteless but easy to peel. So when you do your own you use salt water, but commercially they use unsalted water. The answer is clear; if you want tasty shrimps you must cook them yourself and fiddle about taking their shells off.
The only part of Lincolnshire you can see with any clarity is Boston Stump -the impressive church tower of the town that gave its name to Boston Massachusetts. Lincolnshire ought to be part of our familiar territory, but in fact it is another world to Norfolk Dumplings. For most East Anglians it is terra incognita, and to this day I have never been to Boston. Before the Humber bridge was built Lincolnshire was not on the way to anywhere. Norfolk is still very much isolated from the rest of the country, cut off on the north and east by the sea and to the west by British Railways as we used to say.
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THE HARTE of Costessey near Norwich
This centrally positioned public house in Old Costessey stands where the three main streets of the village meet, West End, Townhouse Road and the Street. How long it has been the site of a house of refreshment nobody knows, but it is obviously a long time. It has certainly been there since before 1698 when Peter Hunt bought it from James Rippon and Sarah Roper.
You may have noticed that pubs crop up quite frequently in this blog; the Dove, Poringland, the Red Lion Drayton and the Globe Shotesham to name but three. This is partly because they tend to be by far the most historic houses in their areas. Shops come and go, manor houses become hotels, care homes or simply fall down; only the village church has a longer unbroken tradition behind it. As is apparent from the history of the Hart(e). The position and the name of the pub remain, even when the actual building is replaced (twice in just over a hundred years in this case).
In the 1820s the principal paper maker at Taverham mill was making money hand over fist. His name was John Burgess and he was one of the few men in the country who knew how to use the new Fourdrinier paper making machine. Taverham mill was supplying not only the local Norwich printers but also customers as far afield as Cambridge University Press. The paper mill was doing well and so was Burgess. He was busy buying property, cottages in Norwich and Costessey. He not only bought the White Hart in 1819, but by 1830 he had rebuilt it. This new building is the White Hart as it appears in the first postcard dated about 1913. Although Burgess moved to Bungay in the 1830s he retained the property until his death at end of the decade. The publican he employed was named J. Miller.
The next thirty years of the pub’s history are obscure but in 1869 the pub was taken over by James Yallop who is described as an ornithologist. In fact his interest in birds concerned the breeding of Norwich canaries. This was the period when Norwich secured its reputation for canaries. The local breeders had discovered how to enhance the colour of the plumage from yellow to brilliant orange by feeding the birds with spices. Nowadays of course everybody thinks of the Norwich City football team when speaking the Canaries, but this name is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back in the early years of the 20th century the team was known not as the Canaries but as the Norwich Citizens.
It was also during this period that the Agricultural Labourers Union established a branch in Costessey which met in the White Hart. This union was itself founded not many miles away at North Walsham.
The second postcard shows the White Hart shortly after being rebuilt again a hundred years later in 1931. You can see by comparing the two postcards that the new pub building is much nearer the road. The reading room (later the Parish Room) is now largely obscured by the pub, whereas you used to have a full view of the gable end. In the years before the reading room was built however (about 1900) there was a cottage standing on the land in front of the pub, largely obscuring it from Townhouse Road. This was the original Post Office in Costessey from the middle of the 19th century until 1898, when a new post office was built by Lord Stafford on the other side of the road. This was the P.O. where I worked from 1988 until it closed. The old cottage Post Office building was demolished a short while after the new one was built. You can see a large shed with a corrugated iron roof it picture at the top. I suggest that this must have been part of the garden of the old Post Office. The pub still appears basically the same today as it did in the 1930s. It has changed its name which has been abbreviated to The Harte. It reopened after refurbishment in 2011.
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THE BRITANNIA MAGAZINE
& HMS NORFOLK
Between the wars there was a move to bring the British Army into tune with the times, and by 1939 when the Second World War broke out it was a much more modern institution. This was not so much in equipment ( indeed the troops were still provided with the trusty old 303 Lee-Enfield rifle, and tin hats) but in attitudes. This is plainly demonstrated by the appearance in 1921 of the NAAFI.
Before 1870 the vast majority of the personnel in the army would have been more or less illiterate, but the Education Act of that year introduced universal (though not free) education. This meant that the rank and file of the army were able to read, and in 1927 was produced Issue No. 1 of bi-annual THE BRITANNIA, The Journal of the Norfolk Regiment (it did not become the Royal Norfolk Regiment until 1935). As Lieutenant-General Sir Peter Strickland (Colonel of the Regiment) wrote in the Foreword: A REGIMENTAL Journal is, I feel, a very much-needed want; it is the only means by which the various units of the Regiment can know of the doings of their comrades, in which they must naturally be interested. This was the third attempt to produce a lasting publication; the Norfolk’s Annual had appeared in 1922 and the Journal in 1924, but both did not last. The Britannia however survived for 54 editions until the demise of the Regiment in 1959.
In reading the reports of the various units it is quickly brought home to one that the British Empire was very much in business. There were Companies in Colchester and Belfast – no surprise there – but also in Jamaica, Cyprus and Cairo, where the bulk of the 1st Battalion was stationed. Other places where members of the Regiment operated were Shanghai, Nigeria, South Africa and India.
Sporting activities naturally play a big part, but the competitions were mostly within the army. It was very much a self-contained world. Here and there are occasional references to civilians like the bishop of Norwich, or the Lord Mayor, but for the most part the army exists in is own detached life. One exception was a cricket match played against Gresham’s School. The first issue was even printed in Weston-super-Mare and published in Bristol, although later editions were printed and published by A. E. Soman of Norwich.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the journal is the adverts. Once again the Empire comes to the fore. One of the first you see is a full-page advert for tailoring and shoemaking by M. B. Abdul Aziz of Cairo. Other outfitters in Aldershot, Berkeley Square and Saville Row also appear. Naturally there is a lot of cigarette advertising; beers, ales and stout is one area where the local firms come predominate – Youngs, Crawshay and Youngs and Steward and Patteson both make a regular appearance, although Bullards and Morgans seem to be absent. Norwich Union and Mackintosh are national names with a local presence who “show the flag”. You get the impression that there two quite distinct markets operating here; the officers had Windsor Bishop (the Norwich jewellers – still there) with its Rolex watches from 6 Guineas to £65, and for the other ranks Players cigarettes at 10 for 6 pence.
The Norfolk Regiment maintained a keen interest in HMS NORFOLK. These details of the ship come from the Brtannia Journal. Here are some statistics of the armament representing how she was when first commissioned:
LENGTH 633 feet TORPEDO TUBES 8
BREADTH 66 feet SHAFT HORSE POWER 80,000
DISPLACEMENT TONNAGE 10,000 tons
SPEED 32½ knots DRAUGHT 21 feet
GUNS Eight 8” Four 4”, Four pom-poms, Four 3 pdr
LAID DOWN 08/07/1927 LAUNCHED 12/12/1928
(by Fairfield Shipbuilding Co Ltd) (at Govan by Lady Leicester)
No doubt Lady Leicester was invited to perform the launching ceremony as a leading female aristocrat of Norfolk (Holkham Hall).
There have been five Royal Navy vessels of this name, from the third rate of 80 guns (1693) to the type 23 frigate paid off in 2004 and sold to the Chilean Navy. Others have included a County Class destroyer commissioned in 1967 and sold to Chile in 1982.
The most notable was the County class heavy cruiser already mentioned, launched in 1928, which served throughout the Second World War. She has the highest number of engagements to her name of any of the HMS Norfolks. In 1939 she was involved in the chase of the German small battleships the Gniesenau and Scharnhorst, while in 1941 she was involved in the sinking of the Bismark, perhaps most memorably naval battle of the war.
After her commissioning on April 30th 1930 her first important engagement was to visit Great Yarmouth on Sunday July 13th where the crew attended Church Parade. She was of course too big to enter the harbour at Yarmouth. The vessel then moved on to stand off Cromer. Her first trip abroad was to Antwerp for which she took the Band of the 2nd Battalion, The Norfolk Regiment to provide suitable musical accompaniments for the social events that were planned. There was a close connection with the Norfolk Regiment,cemented by such things as the presentation of an engraved silver trophy surmounted by a figure of Britannia to the ship.
She was scrapped in 1950.
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A ROOF TILE AT 29 SURREY STREET, NORWICH
WHO WAS JAMES MARTIN?
The roofs of the terrace of Georgian houses in Surrey Street were a concealed world of their own, but this article is not about the roofs, but single tile. This tile is an original Georgian one from the time the house was built in 1761. It came from a substantial property at 29 Surrey Street, Norwich. First I must say a bit about the house. It was one of a terrace of four large houses. From basement to attic it was 6 storeys tall, and the rooms were large. On the ground and first floors the ceilings were high, getting lower as you ascended the stairs. Up on the roof there was an internal valley. The attic rooms were given their daylight by dormer windows opening onto this valley. It is a secret place, or rather it was; exterior dormers have now been added to the attics, and the valley may well have been filled in to make flat in the loft.
We can be sure that a James Martin was up there in the roof valley on 29th of May 1849, because he spent his leisure time carving his name and the date on a roof tile. I have discovered that it was a Tuesday. Perhaps he was a workman doing some repairs or else a domestic servant of the house, living with the other male servant in the attic. There were two men and a woman live-in servants at the time. Lady Pleasance Smith moved to Lowestoft in that year, so was he her manservant or had she already departed? Had he been left to look after the unoccupied house? Or was he more likely to have been a building labourer working on the roof who was taking a surreptitious break in the May sunshine?
Another graffiti artist left his name at the next door property, number 31, occupied in the 1960s by Miss Boswel who gave dancing lessons. A previous resident was Mr J. C. Tingey, an archaeologist of around the beginning of the 20th century. He was having the portico repaired and the workman found a piece of wood inside the column marked “Robert Forstor, March 1762”. This would have been when Mr Forstor the carpenter was building the porch. Apparently the old buildings tend to pick up such reminders of the past. These people must have had a sense history, inscribing the date along with their name. Imagine the outcry if some tried to scratch their name inside St Paul’s cathedral today. (Maybe somebody did in the 17th century.) However we are fascinated by the Viking runes scratched inside the ancient mosque in Istanbul (formerly the Christian basilica the Hagia Sophia).
I do not know what happened to the piece of wood with Robert Forstor’s name on it, nor do I know where the tile has gone; do not expect to find it on the roof of the house any longer. In the 1990s I had the chimney repaired by a builder from a village south of Norwich. He was not a builder I had used before, giving him the job at the suggestion of my bank manager. In those days banks still had old-fashioned managers who took an interest in their customers. On this occasion he thought he was doing us a favour by bringing us together. The builder did an acceptable piece of work on the chimney but afterwards I noticed a number of articles were missing. One was an early transistor radio I had owned since I was 12. I am not suggesting that the builder himself was a thief, but one of his employees was certainly light-fingered. Among the things which disappeared was James Martin’s roof tile.
So if you ever come across this tile you will be able to add to your knowledge about it and its original whereabouts. You will also know THAT IT WAS STOLEN.
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A POLICEMAN’S MEMORIES OF
ST. AUGUSTINES STREET.
St. Augustine’s Street Norwich traverses from its junction with Botolph Street and Pitt Street out of the City towards Aylsham Road. It is hard to believe that in years gone by the chief economy of St. Augustines was agricultural. Fertile land produced crops and there was grazing for cattle, horses and sheep. Well into the 19th century it was the last parish within the City boundary that a large area was used for producing fruit in nurseries and orchards at nearby Sussex Street. Outside the Gate, as at most of the Norwich Gates, was a gallows. During the Black Death (or Bubonic Plague) which arrived in this country in 1348 there was a pit where the bodies of the unfortunate souls were buried. Also, just outside, there was a leper house. There was a school here but this was flattened by the German air force in 1942 and after the war a swimming pool was built on the site. In 1801 there were 402 houses in St. Augustines Parish, with 1232 occupants, presumably not including children.
The left side of the street was on 19 Beat and the right side was on 15 Beat. Some duties required the street to be patrolled 7.30 a.m. until 9 a.m., and there was an evening patrol until 2 a.m. The morning patrol was to deal with traffic obstructions caused by goods vehicles unloading. The evening (or rather night) patrol was to deal with nuisances of noise.
On the left side going out from Pitt Street first was the Gildencroft – a row of several small and attractive terraced cottages. These were Alms Houses dating from the 16th century. Originally they had one ground floor room and one upstairs bedroom and were for destitute persons. The name apparently comes from ‘guild brethrens croft’ where gentlemen of various guilds used to meet. Jousting, archery, and other sports took place there in medieval times. There were forms of early ‘raves’ held here, termed as ‘immoderate dancing’, and ‘camping’. which was an early form of football, until the City authorities ordered it all to stop. About 1670 a Quaker Meeting House and burial ground was founded [only twenty years after the founding of the movement] and many of the Gurney banking family were buried here.
After the Guildencroft was St. Augustine’s Church with its most noticeable brick tower resulting in the parishioners being known as ‘Red Steeplers’. It also has three bells and an electric clock. Inside is a Roll of Honour on polished wood of those many parishioners who lost their lives fighting in the Great War.
Then there was a small florist’s shop and always leaning in the doorway was a man who delighted in taking the ‘michael’ out of young policemen, trying to convince them he had been in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!
Another couple of premises and then there was John’s Café which was the cause of the need for police attention late at night. It was here that American servicemen from the bases at Sculthorpe, Mildenhall and Lakenheath would congregate from about 1 a.m., sometimes with ‘lady friends’ after a night out on the town. After a cup of tea, coffee or a meal they would either seek a lift or hire a taxi to get them back to base. With the windows of the cafe open the noise of ‘beery’ voices, the clatter of crockery was a nuisance caused to people sleeping above the shops opposite. There was also of course the problem of cars parked outside, and the banging of the vehicle doors. It fell on the police constable to deal with all this and try to prevent complaints.
Further along the street on the corner of Sussex Street was a bakers shop. The smell of fresh, warm bread was most teasing to the palate! On the other corner of the street was the Sussex Arms public house, and a little further along was Sidney Chettleburgh’s wet fish shop. A few premises further on there was a yard up which I vaguely remember a man worked at shoeing horses. Perhaps I remember this because of the stench from burning horse hooves! Next to that were some builders’ premises. Not far after was St. Martin at Oak Wall Lane – an odd name derived from The City Wall and the Church of St Martin at Oak. On the far corner of this lane was a small electrical shop, owned by a City Councilor. On the corner of Bakers Road was the public house named ‘The Staff of Life’. This wasn’t the best of road junctions for a young policeman to perform point duty, as five roads joined here!
Just across the street, actually on Aylsham Road, was a police pillar phone number 37 where we often phoned in to the Operations Room at Bethel Street in the mornings. One delight was a lovely young lady cycling on her way to work. She was the daughter of one of the Police War Reserves. This young lady would stop for a few minutes chat, much against the wishes of her over protective father. On reflection perhaps he was wise!
Crossing over to return towards the City on the corner was Bishops boot and shoe shop, where policemen could purchase footware at a fair price on production of a ‘chit’ from the Chief Clerk at Bethel Street Police Station. Not far from these premises was a post office and stationers. After Catherine Wheel Opening was the public house of the same name. Apparently this pub was here from the early 1700s, and is a Listed Grade 2 building. A few premises on was Esdelle Street, passing through to Magpie Road and a little further on was Hindes Yard which gave access to the rear of the Social Centre for the Blind and Joys Restaurant. At night when examining property I/ would avoid putting my torch on unless necessary. One night going down this yard I had just passed a recess when there was a horrible noise and clatter. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I put my torch on to find I had disturbed a cat busily rummaging in a dustbin.
On another occasion, I think summer time in the early hours, I went round the back of the little restaurant. The window and back door were open and a wonderful aroma of fish and chips wafted out. The owner was at the back door having a cigarette. I commented on the smell, to which he enquired if I would like some? About ten minutes later I was having a fill sitting on the windowsill. (For which I paid). Somewhere about here was a wool shop run by a lady whose husband was a farmer at Little Melton, who specialized most successfully in painting horses. Next was a fruiterer’s and then the larger business premises of De Carle Ltd., chemists who were also opticians. The staff here were always friendly towards policemen but I cannot remember having a cup of tea there. Beside these premises was Rose Yard leading through to more premises of De Carle’s and then to Edward Street. On the right side of this yard was the Rose Inn, fairly large licensed premises occupying No. 5 and 7, facing onto St. Augustines Street. From 1762 until 1931 there was the Rose Tavern at No. 7 which then became part of the Rose Inn. Two more premises and then there were Botolph Street and Pitt Street.
The only excitement really was at John’s Café in the early mornings!
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
The picture says everything that needs to be said about how Egg got his nickname. E.L.TAYLOR – or Laurence Taylor, to give his official title – should not be confused with Hoult Taylor, the master who made a deep impression on Peter Brook the OG theatrical producer. Hoult Taylor left shortly after I arrived at Gresham’s.
Laurence Taylor was a prep school master exclusively teaching junior school boys. He never took the senior school, unlike some prep school teachers. His principal responsibility was the First Form which he took for most things, so he had little time to take any other form. However, I do remember him doing English grammar with us in Middle Second, dividing sentences up into subject and predicate and noun, verb, adverb etc; in fact his were the only lessons I have ever had in the subject of English grammar. I even remember the example he gave of personification; Giant Despair strode through the land (from Pilgrim’s Progress). I found the subject easy and much to my taste, unlike many of my colleagues.
He was very involved with Crossways in a pastoral rôle. He would play the piano for all sorts of occasions. He even wrote our house song; “C- R-O-DOUBLE-S-DOUBLE-U-A-Y-S, is a House, a jolly good House, of course the answer’s YES!” I could whistle it to you now, so it must have had a certain memorable quality. (This song should not be confused with the hymn tune “Crossways”, composed by Walter Greatorex the Gresham’s pre-war head of music who also composed the better known tune “Woodlands”.)
Another of Egg’s songs was “Jungle Twist”, a piano piece that could have come from the 1930s; in fact I think it did. But it had the 1960s name “Twist” tacked on. It was nothing like the Twist in fact, and the words were nothing like anything written since the war. We would all gather round while young Paul Searle-Barnes would play us all Egg’s songs on hearing them once – and with improvements too! Egg was highly gratified that his songs had so accomplished an interpreter and so enthusiastic an audience.
Before I return to “Egg” let me tell you a bit about the Crossways boys and their newspapers. There were only 24 of us boarders, although day boys (‘day bugs’) made the numbers up to about 40. We produced not one but two newspapers. I think they were fortnightly. The oldest was the “News and Views” on which I was a journalist; our rival was called the “Roundabout”. They were written by hand and existed in one copy only, but they were eagerly awaited and thoroughly read by all 24 of the readership. Perhaps some day boys read them too, but they were normally at home in the off-duty hours when we did our reading. Maybe the day boys read it too, but they were often at home. We were always seeking subjects to write about, and especially on the look out for a scoop.
Somebody – not me – had the bright idea of interviewing Egg Taylor about his past. Rather unexpectedly he agreed and two or three of us were invited into his house where we were treated to a long account of his life story. How that before the war he had been involved in motor racing, and had established his own school somewhere (in Kent I think). The war finished the school off and left Egg bereft, being rescued from certain destitution by Gresham’s School. Lots of colourful memories came flooding out, and I busily wrote it all down. It was a great scoop, and we felt elated at the prospect of writing it all up in the next “News and Views”.
It wasn’t long before we were approached by “Dow” Addleshaw, our Housemaster. Mr Taylor had told us everything in strictest confidence, and we were to keep in all to ourselves. This was absurd, because we had never made any secret of our intention to publish anything of interest. “Egg” had obviously had second thoughts about the wisdom of letting all and sundry know about his problematic past, although there was nothing in slightest bit disreputable about it. It wasn’t his fault that Hitler had put paid to his school. Rather than confront us directly however he enlisted “Dow” to rescue the situation. I think “Dow” was highly annoyed by the whole thing, but of course he could not show his annoyance to us.
So we learned a second lesson about the way of the world, and about journalism. Following the heady excitement of our scoop came the awareness of censorship. The “News and Views” came out as usual, but there was no reference to Egg Taylor in it.
I have one last memory of Eggy. It would have been in the early 70s, about 1971. He had retired and moved from the cottage “Applegarth” on the corner of Grove Lane and had transferred into a newly built bungalow on Kelling Road. These properties had been built since I left at the end of 1967. I think the land had previously been used as part of Woodlands kitchen garden; no longer required since the building of the central feeding block. I called on him in his new home which was in a cricket bat’s echo of the school playing field. He was particularly taken by his “new” car. In fact it was a secondhand bright blue Vauxhall Viva which even then was beginning to rust. He boasted that his car had a certain je ne sais quoi. Dear old Egg.