I return once more to the photograph album of postcards taken by the Subpostmaster of Costessey, Frank Welch (d. 1942).
This building on the Costessey Park Golf Course is thought to date back to the Tudor hall granted to Anne of Cleves by her husband Henry VIII. It is not thought however that the king’s fourth wife (whose brief marriage was never consummated) ever lived in Costessey.
This is probably the oldest building in Costessey, in many respects of the 17th century but incorporating older material. As the site of the Old Hall it dates back to the late middle ages. During the centuries it has of course been much altered, the great hall being divided up into rooms, the pitch of the roof altered and seventeenth century crow-stepped gables built. Unlike the grand house that the Jerninghams build for themselves and which was demolished over a period from 1920, the relatively modest but ancient Hall Farm remains’ Costessey Golf Course has been established in the grounds of Costessey Park.
Hall Farm has gone by many names over the years. The Manor House, The Agent’s House, and Park House are just some. It formed part of the Jerningham estate until that was auctioned off after the First World War. During the War the farm was taken over by the War Office together with the rest of Costessey Park estate. The Hall Farmhouse was used by the Military Veterinary Corps during this time. The contents of the Hall had all been sold off after the death of Fitzherbert Edward Stafford-Jerningham in 1913. He was unmarried.
This view of a Halt in Costessey Park shows a relatively modest wing of the Hall, which was soon to be demolished. Here you can see another of Frank Welch’s photos showing a training exercise at the Hall during the First World War. It is a pleasant summer’s day, far removed from the horrors across the Channel in France. See the officer’s bicycle to the right of the picture.
When I was a postman in Costessey Hall Farm was not on my route. In fact the whole of Costessey Golf Course was deemed too far for us to reach on a bike, and the post was delivered by van by the Drayton postmen. The mail however came to us in Costessey so we sorted it and bundled it up for the Drayton van to collect. The only occasion when we went there was when we were allowed a van to deliver the telephone directories. This was a nice little earner on overtime, but eventually BT discovered they could get the job done much more cheaply by casual labourers than by Royal Mail postmen. Only one of us, Tony Cork, was allowed to drive, although later when I moved to Drayton Post Office I took the course to become the driver of a red Mail van. Being a postman is a very good way to get to know in the ins and outs of village life.
You have the perfect excuse to poke your way into people’s back gardens, to deliver packets to the shed when they are out. Officially you were meant to return these packages to the post office, but you seldom did. You soon get to know everybody’s business, if they were agreeable to your leaving packets for them if they were out, and of course everybody’s name. In fact you soon got to know more about the village’s inhabitants than many of the people who had lived there for years.
To get some idea of the scale of Costessey Park this postcard shows it as it was. After the death of the 11th Baron Stafford in 1913 the Park fell into disuse, and the estate was sold off and dispersed. But first the grand house became an army establishment during the Great War, housing troops of many detachments. In the straitened circumstances that followed the return of peace the remaining parts of the estate were sold off for building and the area known as New Costessey became a shanty town of wooden bungalows and converted railway carriages. Some still remained when I moved to Meadow Close in 1988. Nearly all of the great house was demolished and cannibalised for materials for building (including building the shanty town), only part of the detached ‘Queen Mary’s Tower’ remaining in a ruinous state.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE