SALTHOUSE and CLEY

Cley mill 2007

To be sold at auction at the Feathers, Holt, the inn the Fishmongers Arms in the Sea Port of Cley-next-the-Sea, July 1801. Formerly the property of John Mann, Merchant (Deceased). The buyer may have immediate possession.

The Fishmongers Arms ceased to be a pub in the 1950s but the building is still there, now called Sunbeams. By coincidence is again for sale over 210 years later. I wonder what the freehold cost in 1801? In 2013 the asking price is £650,000.

To get to Cley on my bike from school I had two choices; either I could go to Holt and turn right down the Cley Road from the A 148. When I was schoolboy there was a pet shop on the corner of this street, and I went there for supplies for my pet goldfish and mouse (only I wasn’t supposed to keep pets at school). Or I could go towards Kelling and cycle along the road past Salthouse Heath. The latter was probably nearer to Farfield and more picturesque.

SALTHOUSE HEATH 1971

SALTHOUSE HEATH 1971

On Thursday March 12th 1964 the Gresham’s cadet corps had a Field Day  on Salthouse Heath, where we were trying to cross areas of ground  using planks and oil drums. This was meant for us to demonstrate initiative. I didn’t show any initiative, mainly because I couldn’t see the point of using oil drums to cross Salthouse Heath. I still can’t, but the view from up there is fine one across the heath and  the marshes to the sea. I have picnicked there with my family one summer long ago, and it was the most peaceful spot with a fine expansive view over the sea. Below on the coast road it is busier but still very attractive.

One of cycle rides to Cley I have already told you about  when I went to photograph the church of St Margaret on an outing led by Dick Bagnall Oakley. Dick of course went by car.  You may see the photo I took on that occasion which I have now added to my post of July 3 2012.  The church  is in the Decorated style which is a particularly English form of medieval architecture but relatively unusual in Norfolk. It dates from he first half of the fourteenth century, just before the devastation wrought by the plague.  The size of this church reflects the days when Cley was a great port.

In May 1779 Parson Woodforde passed through Cley on the way from Cromer (even then “famous for the catching of Crabbs”) to spend the night at Wells. By then its days as busy harbour were over, although in 1801 an advert in the Norwich Mercury still refers to Cley as  port. During the late middle ages it was one of the leading harbours of the country, exporting wool and grain and importing wine and spices. You can still see the wide expanse of salt marsh between the villages of Cley and Blakeney which was once an expanse of water alive with shipping. Now the river Glaven does not even run out to sea at Cley but at Blakeney Point to the west. The silting up of the harbour was well advanced in the 17th century. The impressive Customs House ceased to be used by government  in 1853, which marks the effective end of Cley as a port.

Cley is a great place for birdwatchers, and has been since the time before they were known as ‘birders’ or ‘twitchers’. The reserve on Cley marshes was the first in the county, being bought by the Norfolk Naturalists (now the Norfolk Wildlife Trust) in 1926. By the sea it makes are great habitat for newly arrived migratory birds, the first bit of land after they reach after crossing the North Sea. Steve Gantlett lives in Cley and is editor of Birding World magazine. I have already said something of him in my post on Cromer (07/02/2013).

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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