Since publishing my memories of the Port of Norwich I have had many messages from people who were much more closely involved with the river than ever I was. A retired Customs Officer from Great Yarmouth recalls rummaging through foreign vessels for contraband; he would board a ship at Yarmouth and on the long river trip up to Norwich he would have plenty of time to look for illicit items. He often uncovered large consignments of booze and baccy destined for the pubs of Norwich! Much was confiscated, but I am sure even more got through.
Other correspondents have reminisced about the opening of Carrow Bridge to let coasters through – one of them actually operated the bridge. A former crewman remembers going up the river and halting for the night in Bramerton, where the Woods End provided a comfortable place for the crew to spend the evening before returning to their bunks. Other places along the river, such as Buckenham Ferry, Coldham Hall, Surlingham and even Reedham also had riverside pubs and I am sure they saw their share of thirsty sailors. A worker who used to be at Colmans remembers that the the last time a ship unloaded at Carrow Works was during 1982/83. Grain was still being unloaded at Reads flour mill in 1986. Wood no longer came from Scandinavia by 1975, although scrap metal was loaded at Norwich for a few years more.
The Regal Lady gave pleasure trips along the river from Foundry Bridge to Bramerton until she was bought by a Scarborough based company. She left the Yare for Yorkshire on January 6th 1987. Her history is an interesting one; built in Great Yarmouth before the war she was requisitioned by the War Ministry in 1940 and took part in Operation Dynamo, the rescue of soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches. On three round trips to Ramsgate she carried 1,200 men home to safety. In those days she went by her original name, Oulton Belle.
I get the feeling that the Port of Norwich was extinct by 1990, but no one has yet given me a firm date; perhaps nobody knows. Someone remembers a TV documentary about the last coaster to sail into the Port of Norwich – but he has no idea when it was broadcast nor what channel it was on. After all, the Lady Julian Bridge (opened as recently as 2009) has a lifting span, which means that in theory ships could still pass up the river as far as Foundry Bridge.
A respondent used to live in Thorpe; he remembered the John M as a regular past Whitligham. He also did a couple of trips as deckhand on the Rix Hawk to Cantley Sugar beet factory with fuel oil around 2002. As far as I am aware Cantley still receives sea going vessels, bringing large loads that would be difficult to negotiate along the narrow country lanes. The grandson of the ferryman at Whitlingham in the 1940s recalls that coasters were always getting stuck at the bends there. A man remembers three ships moored at the same time on King Street quay, where scrap metal was loaded. He says that the years he spent doing that job for Archie King was the best time of his life. ‘John’ remembers rowing from Bramerton to Norwich past coasters along the Yare, and ‘Smur’ was terrified when, on a ‘peaceful’ Broadland river cruise (with friends from Scotland) there was a ‘huge’ sea going ship approaching from behind!
[See my earlier piece on the Port of Norwich which contains more memories and pictures.]
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
In 1986 when we were first married Molly and I lived in a Council flat in Norwich, where she had lived as Miss Turner. Peter was born while were still living there, but with growing family we needed somewhere a bit larger. Within 18 months we had bought our first house together, a semi-detached bungalow in New Costessey, and moved there in the summer of 1988.
The first thing I had to do was build a gate to secure the back garden; this made it possible to let our young son out to play in safety. There was a pond when we moved there but that had to be filled in, or Peter would undoubtedly have fallen in. There was a pond in our garden when I was born that my father did not fill in, and I duly fell into it. When I was a child we had a main road running outside the front garden and there was no speed limit either. In those days parents were not so protective of their little ones as they have since become. I have always insisted on living in a close, but in general I think I was quite relaxed about the dangers that lurk around every corner.
While we were living in Norwich I did not need a car; I could walk to work, while Molly could use the car to drive to see her parents outside the city. When we moved to Costessey I needed something to make going to work a bit more convenient. Although the bus service was adequate, I felt the need of some form of personal transport. I bought myself a moped. It was new Honda Express – I had never ridden any sort of motorbike before, but fortunately the controls were very simple. Had I been younger I would have had to take a course and use L plates, but because my driving licence had been obtained in the 1960s I was allowed to ride a moped without a test. Any sensible person in my position would have had a lesson or two, but I just got on and rode away. No disasters ensued.
Below is a picture of the bungalow in New Costessey. Although it had a large kitchen and sitting room, it had only two bedrooms, and with a second child on the way we needed another room. Polly was born while we were living in Costessey. To carry our toddlers around the village Molly bought a tricycle with two seats at the back. This sounded an excellent plan in theory, but as they were sitting behind her there was no way she could keep an eye on her charges. They were always fighting. When I was free I could ride behind on a bike, and in that way try to exert some discipline. This photo at the head of the page shows our two offspring strapped into their seats. We have stopped outside the shop in West End, Old Costessey. In those days it was a general stores; as you can see we had just bought them ice creams. Later it became an estate agent and then it traded as a barber’s shop. The last time I passed it appeared to have flowers in the windows
You can see the Costessey bungalow in 1990. From the estate agent’s sign you can tell that it had just been sold, and we were due to move to the house not many miles distant where we still live. I hired a large van and we moved our furniture to our new accommodation without requiring a removal firm. You can see Peter is pleased with the impending move. Our new house was detached and over the years we have extended it considerably.
These scenes were recorded over a quarter of a century ago, and I retired ten years ago. Molly still does some supply teaching. These little children are now adults who are buying houses of their own, have established careers and partners.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
MALTINGS, BREWERIES and PUBS
When I was a young man Harp lager was just making an appearance in the bars of England; Harp lager was made by Guinness from 1960; I understand it is no longer made. European lagers (even nominal ones like Carlsberg, that appears to be continental but in fact is brewed in this country) were a scarce commodity when I first began drinking. We had no idea that Australians drank a brew called Fosters, nor that in America there was something called Budweiser. Beer was still the drink of choice for anyone over the age of 30, and by beer I mean traditional English ale. Mild was still served from the pump at the bar, although bitter was more popular. ‘Two’s’ (a mixture of bitter and mild) I haven’t heard of for 40 years, but ‘a half of two’s‘ was my father’s favourite tipple. Nor was it uncommon to see a solitary elderly lady sitting at a table supping a brown ale; only young women would stand at the bar, and they would never touch brown ale. I think it is rare pub that even stocks any brown ale today.
Malting barley is widely grown across East Anglia, and there are still a number of maltings in the area. Many have gone, like the Maltings at Snape, which closed in the early 1960s. Back in the 19th century there were little malthouses dotted round the country; there was even a malthouse in the little village of Attlebridge. In the 18th century small brewers too could be found across the countryside. There were a couple of breweries in the village of Coltishall, and several in a town the size of Wymondham.
WHEN I was born seventy years ago we were down to half a dozen breweries in Norfolk. Most of these were in Norwich, although Lacons still existed in Yarmouth, and the little brewery at Truch. The first of the big four in Norwich to close was Youngs Crawshay and Youngs, well before I was old enough to sample their beverages. Their brewery included the Music House, and the establishment became an adult education centre, Wensum Lodge. By the time I was in my twenties the remaining breweries of Morgans, Bullards and Steward and Patteson (‘Brewed since 1793‘) had all gone. There was just one brewery serving the whole of Norfolk, and it was part of the national chain Watney Mann. All the local firms had sold out, putting profit above everything else. We were left with the awful anodyne brew, ‘Red Barrel’, a drink that has disappeared many years ago – thank goodness!
Things rapidly changed; soon Watney Mann disappeared too, leaving Norwich without any breweries at all. The name Watney Mann vanished from the scene, leaving behind only the brand name of Manns Brown Ale.
Now instead of a large national brewery in Norwich we have dozens of micro-breweries across the East, and in the rest of the country too. After a brief spell of drought we are now better served by breweries than ever before. The micro-brewery can be just a single pub, or a major concern like Woodforde’s.
The pub itself has been much in decline over the last fifty years, and most of those that survive must establish a good reputation as restaurants. Whereas pubs used to sell just beer, it is a rare establishment that does not serve food today.
The Boars Head was called the Greyhound from at least the early 17th century until about 1843. It was named the Boars Head from the arms of Richard Norgate who had bought the pub in 1840. The venerable thatched building that must have dated from the 16th century was burnt down down in a 1942 during a night of bombing. The Adam and Eve is an even older pub, first staffed by Benedictine monks to quench the thirsts of the workers who were building the cathedral, but it was rebuilt in the 17th century.
Scarcely a month goes by without a pub closing down in Norwich or the countryside. A few new ones open as areas are developed, but by no means enough to replace those we have lost.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA
A BROADLAND RIVER
This river connects the town of Loddon with the river Yare west of Reedham. It is the smallest of the Broadland rivers to take pleasure cruisers. Its navigable length is only 3½ miles and it is narrow, with a usable depth only in the middle of the channel. Its confluence with the river Yare is in the parish of Hardley, and here the Hardley Cross (erected in the 17th century) marks the division between the responsibility for the river Yare of the former boroughs of Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
Hardley Flood is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but until the 1990s this was an area of commercial grazing land that had been reclaimed from the marsh many decades before. Then the bank of the river gave way, and the water poured into the flood plain. Basil Kybird was living in a cottage in Hardley at the time and took this picture of the water flooding down the bank. It is an historic picture, and it is marvellous that he was on hand to take it.
The Broads Authority website warns that this river is difficult to navigate for the larger pleasure cruisers, but back in the day wherries used to bring all the coal, grain and other heavy goods need by Loddon up the river Chet. Bear in mind that a wherry is a much larger craft than the largest of pleasure cruisers. Loddon is the most substantial town in Norfolk never to have had a railway station, so it relied on its river traffic well into the twentieth century. Then motor lorries began to take over the movement of goods, but by then leisure craft were increasingly popular, which allowed the boatyards in Chedgrave and Loddon to continue in business. Chedgrave is the village over the river to the west of Loddon.
Loddon mill was a major user of the river, standing as it does at the head of navigation. Above the mill the river goes through Bergh Apton; by then the waterway has dwindled to become a small stream. The Chet then changes its name to the Well Beck (Wellbeck) in Brooke, and its several tributaries rise in the village of Poringland. This is near the highest land in the district; in just over ten miles it goes from 200 feet above sea level to reach its confluence with the Yare, which is only a few feet above sea level. The river falls away fairly steeply, and already by the time it has reached Loddon (only seven miles away from its source) it is almost level with the Yare.
A few years ago a boat was discovered by workmen excavating a drainage trench on the bank of the river Chet at Loddon. The oaken timbers of the craft had been well preserved for over half a millennium by the river mud. The boat was remarkably intact, just under 20 feet long and double ended. The existence of a step for a mast indicated that it was a sailing boat – naturally enough, the banks being impossible for a towpath. Like the later keels and wherries it would have used a quant to navigate the bends in the river that brought it head to wind. At the period we are talking of fore-and-aft sails had not yet arrived in East Anglian waters and the vessel would have mounted a square sail. A replica of the hull was exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2017.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
It is only a village, if an important one (at least as far a the boats on the river are concerned) but there are two railway stations in Brundall. In having more than one station it is almost metropolitan! Cambridge now has two stations, with the recent opening of Cambridge North, and Colchester has had two stations since 1866, but such places are rare – much rarer than they used to be. Apart from those places that have a Heritage Line as well as a Network Rail station I can think of Oulton Broad and Cromer as the only other places in East Anglia that have two stations. (I have just remembered Ipswich that has Derby Road on the Felixstowe line as well as Ipswich Town.) It is the river holiday trade that accounts for the two stations in Brundall; Brundall Gardens was opened in 1924 as the holiday cruising industry was taking off. Between them the two stations have well over 100,000 passengers a year. It is about 5 miles east of Norwich and the journey takes 10 minutes, or 15 minutes if the train also stops at Brundall Gardens. It currently costs £3.80 one way, 20p less from Brundall Gardens.
Although Brundall does not have ‘Junction’ in its title, this is the last station before the lines to Yarmouth diverges from the line to Lowestoft. Brundall was one of the first half-dozen places in Norfolk to get a railway station; it opened in 1844 along with the Yarmouth to Norwich line. Places in between included Reedham, Cantley and Buckenham – not forgetting the Berney Arms! This lonely pub (currently closed) on the river Yare is served by two trains in each direction per day – rising to five trains on summer weekends. The stops are by request only, and the fact that the pub is not open must have reduced the numbers using the station somewhat, although it is a popular destination for ramblers.
If the link to the Lowestoft line link was ever reinstated the train service from Yarmouth to Lowestoft would make this line between Yarmouth and Reedham much busier. This would direct the railway track from Yarmouth eastwards at Reedham to Somerleyton and Lowestoft. This linking line was removed in 1859. There was some talk of replacing this line a few years ago, but nothing came of it. However, now that many thousand of pounds and months of line closure have led to the improvement of the line we may hear more of this suggestion. The line that connects Brundall with Lowestoft via Reedham was opened in 1847, while the more direct route from Brundall to Yarmouth via Lingwood and Acle was opened in 1883; this established the railway system that still exists today, that has very fortunately escaped any station closures.
There are 15 car parking places at Brundall station, two of them reserved for blue badge holders; there is no charge for rail users to park. There is also storage for 10 bicycles. There are shelters on the up and down platforms. There is no staffing at the station, although the associated level crossing is still opened and closed manually, so a railway worker is on duty while trains are running. There is a bridge between the two station platforms, but step free access is available via the level crossing. The station is adjacent to a popular pub (The Yare) but the access to the station from the village is not good. The footpath along Station Road is intermittent, and the road is a busy one, leading to the boat businesses and holiday apartments along the riverside. At Brundall Gardens there are no car parking places and the road to that station also has no continuous footpath either, but being a dead end this is not so important. There are racks for 8 cycles at Brundall Gardens and there is a shelter on the up platform to Norwich, but neither station has many other facilities.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
There have been five ships with this name, starting in 1693 with the first HMS Norfolk . Having 80 guns mounted on two decks (after her rebuild this was increased to three decks) this third rate ship had a crew of about 250. She was rebuilt over ten years from 1718 and was renamed Princess Amelia in the year 1755; she was broken up in 1757. The second HMS Norfolk was launched in that year at Deptford. She spent most of her service in the West Indies, but ended her career as flagship of the East Indies station. In 1774 she was broken up. The most famous was a heavy cruiser launched in 1928. The vessel served throughout the Second World War, being involved in several engagements including the sinking of the Bismarck. She was decommissioned and scrapped in 1950. The next HMS Norfolk was a guided missile destroyer launched in 1967; she had a complement of 471 officers and men. She was sold to Chile in 1982 and scrapped in 2006. The most recent warship of that name was a Duke class frigate launched in 1987 and paid off in 2004. She had a complement of 185, compared with the 710 of the earlier heavy cruiser.
The rest of this post will concern the warship that served throughout WW|II. This County Class cruiser was laid down in 1927 in Govan and launched in 1928, being commissioned in 1930. After serving in the West Indies and the East Indies she was being refitted when war broke out. She was soon active in both the South and North Atlantic oceans, receiving damage that required returning to port. In the summer of 1941 she sighted the German battleship Bismarck in the North Sea and gave chase. She was part of the British battle fleet that disabled the Bismark, and the German battleship was subsequently scuttled by her crew. It was later in that year that HMS Norfolk was used as a support vessel for the Arctic Convoys.
In December 1943 she engaged the Scharnhorst in the Barents Sea, and scored three direct hits on the ship. Three shells fired in return passed through the Norfolk’s hull without exploding. The Scharnhorst was later disabled on Boxing Day 1943 and sunk. This was great blow to German pride, as the Scharnhorst was very fast (top speed 33 knots) as well as being beautifully proportioned. Following the damage inflicted in this engagement HMS Norfolk was still being repaired in June of 1944 and so was not involved in the D Day landings.
With end of the War HMS Norfolk took the Norwegian Royal Family back to Oslo. This was followed by a stint in the East Indies as the flagship of the Commander-In-Chief East Indies Station. In 1949, HMS Norfolk had returned to Britain and was placed in Reserve. She was sold for scrap and on the 14th February 1950 (my first birthday), she left on her last voyage to be broken up at Newport.
The heavy cruiser had four Parsons steam turbines giving her a to speed of just over 31 knots. She also carried two Supermarine Walrus flying boats, that could be winched overboard to operated from the sea.
THE BLOG THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN NAMED SHIPS
This a little river, but I know it well; the river begins at Tasburgh where a number of tributaries come together. It flows north through Newton Flotman where it crosses under the A 140 to Ipswich. Here it used to power Saxlingham mill, a large feed producer for the animal farming industry. A mile or two further downstream it fords the road where Shotesham mill used to be. At Stoke Holy Cross it flows under another mill, now a restaurant. At Markshall it is crossed by another road bridge before it flows under the Norwich Southern Bypass. By the Lakenham Cock it flows parallel to (and only a few feet away from) the river Yare, before diverging again and going under what was once the main Norwich to Lowestoft road in Trowse. Finally in joins the Yare a few hundred yards before that river joins the river Wensum.
Tasburgh gives the river its name and from here it flows to Saxlingham Thorpe, where the large mill was once a powered by water from the river Tas. You may know it better as Newton Flotman mill. Saxlingham Thorpe is the smallest of two adjoining Saxlingham villages – the other one is Saxlingham Nethergate; it has a tiny population although besides a mill it does include a pub, also adjacent to the river. It is called the Mill Inn, before 2001 known as the West End. Saxlingham Thorpe lost its church in the 17th century, by which time it was already almost a deserted village.
The most notable place on the river Tas is undoubtedly Caistor St Edmund. As Venta Icenorum this was the Roman local capital. Not having been developed in the ensuing centuries it retains its impressive walls, and has been (and remains) a great source of archaeological finds. The church of St Edmund actually stands within the Roman walls.
The river continues under the Southern Bypass. Today it is a minor waterway, but centuries ago, when its confluence with the river Yare was much nearer to Caistor St Edmund, it was a considerably broader river, at least as far as the Roman town. The depression of the land that was caused by the last ice age has slowly been reversed over time; although this been only by a few centimeters a century, nevertheless this has had its effect of making the river less important. A major centre of communication like Venta Icenorum need access to a navigable river.
In the Saxon period the river gave access to the Danish invaders, who were on their way to murder King Edmund. Not many people realize this, but the town was referred to by the monk who wrote down the story of St Edmund’s martyrdom; not by name as Castre (the contemporary spelling of Caistor), but as the civitas or regional capital of the area. Ever since the sack of the town and the subsequent death of the king it has been known as Caistor St Edmund, to honour the important part it played.
As the river was getting smaller the size of ships was getting larger; the town was transferred to another settlement, to be known as Norwich. Caistor withered away and became just a little village on the river Tas; its great days lie in the past.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
A NORFOLK VILLAGE ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
John Kybird was born in New Buckenham in 1861. The Kybird family worked for Burrell, the traction engine manufacturers of Thetford, and that was where he grew up. His relative was the late Basil Kybird, whose memories of Norfolk – including Thetford – make up several articles in this blog. John Kybird did not go into the engineering business at Thetford, and before 1891 he was living in Cawston where he worked as a carrier. By 1880 there was already a railway station at Cawston, but there was obviously enough call for his horse-drawn conveyance to keep his services in demand as a carrier. Early in the 20th century he became the landlord of the Bell, the 17th century hostelry that is the remaining pub in Cawston. I can recommend it, having had several enjoyable lunches there in the bar. John Kybird remained at the Bell for less than ten years before returning to the trade of carrier, although by 1909 he was wealthy enough to add farming to his portfolio of employments.
John Gaff was living at Eastgate, CAWSTON in 1911. In the census of that year he was described as ‘Hawker and farmer, born 1863′. As you can see from the sixpenny trade token this was indeed his occupation. What sort of things did he sell? Well we have no way of saying exactly the sort of things that he carried in his basket, but we can have an idea. My grandfather Charles Rivett kept the village shop at Cawston at the time John Gaff was operating. This was the Post Office, general stores and a drapery. Obviously there would have been no point in stocking anything that could be obtained locally at the village shop.
The Gaff family lived in Eastgate (an area of Cawston). As a teenager John was a farm labourer like his father but he was an enterprising young man and in his twenties he was already trading as a hawker. It must have been a good business, because not only was he successful enough to have these trade tokens minted, but by the time he was fifty he was a farmer himself, albeit in a minor capacity.
The village schoolmaster was Mr Chaffey. He was my mother’s first teacher, although not for long; by the time she was six the disruption of the First World War had sent her father to France. The village shop was sold and the rest of the family moved to Wymondham. Besides my mother Joan there were three other children – Eric, Tony and Peggy. Peggy lived to be a hundred and only died earlier this year. She was bathing in the sea at the age of 95.
The village shop was just across the road from the Bell, and the building is still there although you would never know it was once a shop. My mother was born over the shop, and when it was still open my sisters called there and were shown the room by the owners
Electric cars are the form of transport of the future, but there is nothing new about electric vehicles. Take this milk float for example. The main difference between them Back in the 1950s and the electric cars of today can be traced to the batteries employed. Then they were lead acid cells that did not pack the power of modern lithium batteries, but they were perfectly adequate for delivering milk – much better than internal combustion engines. Electric milk floats did not reach high speeds nor did they accelerate very fast, but they were very economical to run. The batteries could be recharged when the day’s milk had been delivered.
Electric transport is much older than that though. Nearly 200 years ago a Hungarian invented an electric motor that he used to power a model carriage. A decade later the Scotsman Robert Anderson used primitive batteries to power a full-size carriage that would carry people. At the same period inventors in Europe and America were also experimenting with electric transport. An important development came in 1865 when Gaston Plante invented the rechargeable battery.
Before the dawn of the 20th century the ‘Morrison Electric’ was in production in Iowa. With a top speed of under 12 mph and a recharging time of 10 hours there were drawbacks, but with the achievable range of nearly 100 miles this was an impressive machine. Electric cars were popular in the first ten years of the 20th century but they were killed off by economics; Henry Ford’s mass production concentrated on the petrol driven T model. These were far cheaper than the electric and steam-powered alternatives.
Like electric cars, electric milk floats were a nineteenth century invention, but unlike electric cars (which were unavailable for at least 80 years) they survived into the twenty-first century. Their dwindling relevance has more to do with the demise of milk deliveries than any problem with electric vehicles. There are many advantages to using an electric milk float. They are free from road tax and they don’t pay the congestion charge in central London. The trucks are pollution free, very quiet and there are no petrol costs. The price of running one is about 10p per mile and on one charge they can go over 60 miles.
Although the future of electric transport seems assured, the carrying of large loads for long distances is more problematical. Electric vans and pick up trucks are already here, and with the air pollution dangers of fossil fuels they will rapidly become the delivery method of choice in built up environments. Electric buses are also coming, but the difficulties of driving heavy lorries for hundreds of miles, often in sparsely populated areas, have yet to overcome. There is a place for diesel lorries in the foreseeable future – unfortunately, because no one likes the smell (and worse the particulates) that comes from diesel.
Electric scooters have already caused problems because the speed at which they travel and the lack of clarity about which paths they are allowed to use has made them a danger. I see no immediate prospect of superbikes going over to electric traction, but these are fast-moving times and it could happen. Trains are increasing going over to electric overhead cables, and now batteries are to power cars; are ships next? The weight of batteries rules out electric flight except for drones.
THOUGHTS OF ELECTRICITY POWERING TRANSPORT