When I was in my thirties I would sometimes spend an evening in Aylsham, playing chamber music in the home of a retired butcher. Butchers are not normally notable for their musical tastes, and this one was no exception; he was a plain, hones, down-to-earth Norfolkman. However, his wife had longings for the more refined side of life, which is why she played the violin. To find a young string player of a similar cultivated background (who had been to a Public School and Oxford no less) obviously impressed her greatly, and so I was invited to her soirées, although my instrument (a double bass) was not the ideal member of a string quartet! Butchering had been kind to the family, and they lived in fine style in a detached house in its own grounds in Aylsham.
I would already have been very familiar with the town, because the road from Norwich to Cromer went right through the middle until the bypass was built the 70s. My first plain memory of Aylsham goes back to middle 1960s, when I attended the wedding of Sandra, my father’s receptionist at the time. In fact she was only a few years older than I was, although she seemed very mature to me. My father had two receptionists at this period, and the other one, Helen Keller, was even nearer my age. Sandra’s wedding took place at St Michael’s church, which stands just north of the market place.
My frequent attendance at the Aylsham Sale Yard was mostly in search of second-hand books; Keys, the auctioneers, developed a special line in book sales. However I have bought all sorts of other things there too; everything from musical instruments to rolls of wire netting. I have never bought ‘Three Chairs’ though; this announcement was always made preceding the sale of a lot of these articles of furniture, and it always brought the response from the crowd ‘Hip, Hip, Hooray’. This joke is probably obscure to those unfamiliar with the ‘Broad Norfolk’ dialect. To let you ‘furriners’ in on the joke, the word ‘cheers’ is pronounced ‘chairs’ in the local tongue.
There is no longer any livestock sold at Aylsham sale yard, but when I first used to go there calves and pigs were still being auctioned every week. This part of the sale ground has now been built on as a housing estate. Live chickens and rabbits lasted rather longer.Now the only bullock you will see there is when they hold a picture sale of eighteenth century livestock.
The fine thatched pump in Aylsham was erected to commemorate John Soame, who died in 1910. He was a farmer from Spratts Green, an area towards Brampton near Marsham, and was undoubted a relative of Soame the steam engine maker from Marsham. We no longer require water to be drawn from a public well, but back in 1911, when it was built, both horses and people were glad of the artesian bore that was sunk some 50 metres into the subsoil.
There is still a railway station at Aylsham, but this is now the terminus of the narrow gauge tourist line that runs to Wroxham from the town. This follows the route of the standard gauge line that was opened in 1880 and finally closed in the 1980s. Regular passenger services were withdrawn in 1952. This was the GER branch line from Wroxham to County School near North Elmham. Aylsham had two railways serving the town; Aylsham North was on the M&GN main line from Leicester to Great Yarmouth, and lost its passenger service when the former M&GN closed in 1959.
My most recent visit to Aylsham was during last summer, when I spent a pleasant hour or two in the Black Boys pub on the Market Place. The market is not to be confused with the sale yard; the Market Place is the centre of the town, where the Town Hall and the church look down on the vegetable and flower stalls. A market still take place there. I had known this pub the Black Boys for as long as I can remember, but this was the first time I had been inside. It was already long-established in the 18th century, when it was supplied by William Hardy from his brewery at Letheringsett. The interior has been much altered over the years, but the oak staircase running to the first floor from the bar is as old at the property itself.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Although I am too young to have met either of my grandfathers, I am quite well-informed about them. My great grandfathers are a much more shadowy but I can more or less place them. They take me back to the middle years of the nineteenth century so it causes me no surprise to be a little hazy about them. The one branch of the family that I can take another two generations back is that of my great-grandmother Sue Peachey (née Jones). Her mother was Sally Olive and she takes me back to a clergyman who may have adopted her as an orphan, so this where I start my story…
We begin in St Austell, Cornwall, in the year 1825 when my great-great-grandmother Sally Oliver was born. By the time she was a young woman the Great Western Railway was being built and among the navvies was a contractor from Buckinghamshire named William Jones. While he was digging away on the line he was struck by a flame haired girl (Miss Oliver) riding by on her horse. “Who is that?” he asked. He was told it was the vicar’s daughter. In a memorable line, deeply engraved in family history, he said “That girl will be my wife within the year”, and she duly was. The young family moved on with the railway and by the time Sue (née Jone) was born the family was moving along the Somerset and Dorset line which was being built. With the end of the construction phase of the railway age the Jones family established itself in the railway town of Wolverton in Buckinghamshire. The Jones family were related to my father’s family and it was in Wolverton that my mother met my father, although they both originated in Norfolk.
The male members of the Jones family were mostly employed on the railway, but the daughters had to go into service, and so it was that Sue Jones arrived in London. At Wandsworth she met a young man called Peachey who had also moved to London, in his case from Lakenheath in Suffolk. He claimed to be the son of a butcher in Lakenheath but was actually from a long line of warreners. In due course they married and shortly afterwards he moved back to Suffolk where his deceit was revealed. Apparently the status of man who cut up rabbits was lower than that of the man who cut up cows. In about 1900 they moved to the a cottage in White Horse Lane, Arminghall, where my great-grandfather was employed by Mr Colman as a warrener.
Their second eldest daughter was Emily, the first person in this list who I knew. She was my paternal grandmother, or ‘Nanny’. Nanny, or Emily, worked at Carrow in the Colman’s factory canteen. She met William Mason, her husband to be through the Colman connection as his father was also employed by the factas a carter. He originated in Staffordshire where he worked at Trentham Gardens, again with horses.. The Masons are therefore not a Norfolk family, but one from Staffordshire.
William’s father Charles it was who was responsible for bringing music into my family, having bought my grandfather William his violin on condition that he did not play in a pub (not that he himself was averse to pubs). He was thus also indirectly responsible for me meeting my wife, Molly whom I met in the Sillars Orchestra in Norwich. She was playing the violin and I the double bass. The Sillars Orchestra evolved out of the Prince’s Street Chapel PSA (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) Band. When I first attended the Sillars Orchestra rehearsals they were still being held in the Prince’s Street church hall. My father and grandfather had played in the PSA Band in the 1920s, as well as in the more elevated Norwich Philharmonic. My father recalled his father leaning over his shoulder as he played his cello in the Prince’s Street Orchestra and helping find his place. My grandfather was on this occasion playing the 3 string bass, not his violin, and I believe my sister tells me that the bass was in fact great-grandfather Charles’s instrument.
Moving to my mother’s side of the family, she was born a Rivett, and her father’sfather was a Norfolk farmer from Beeston near Dereham. My mother’s side of the family are the only genuinely Norfolk branch of the family my fathers side being traced to Cornwall, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk. My mother’s father, my grandfather Charles Rivett, was a shopkeeper, a Sub-Postmaster at Cawston in Norfolk. There my mother was born in 1910. Charles Rivett has left his mark on this period of Norfolk history through the Rivett series of postcards depicting scenes around Cawston before the First World War. These can be found regularly on Ebay. After service in the Royal Flying Corps in The Great War he moved his family to Wolverton where he specialised in drapery. There my mother became great friends with Kathleen Jones of the Wolverton Joneses and it was in this way that my mother and father met. In 1936 Charles Rivett moved back to Norfolk and set up his draper’s shop in Kings Lynn.
Charles Rivett had met his wife while learning the business of drapery at Palmers of Great Yarmouth where she was also employed. Her maiden name was Rutter and she came from a family of bakers in Suffolk (Stradrooke). There is more detail of this branch of the family contained in an article entitled The Baker’s Dozen in the East Anglian Magazine of the 1970s. The Rutters are a long lived family; Great Aunt Gertie lived to be over 105, and my Aunt Peggie (Sansom, née Rivett) is in her 90s as I write.
My sister writes: The eldest daughter of the Peachey family was Thurza, who became a teacher on the apprenticeship (or pupil teacher) system. Emily missed this opportunity by insisting on following Thurza to school, and thus beginning her education at the age of three. Having completed the top class by the time she was ten, she had to leave school and go to work, being too young to be taken on as a student teacher. Thurza it was who with a friend opened a Sunday school in Whitlingham, to which came little Hubert Catchpole, the foster child of farm labourers who did not recognize his genius. Thurza helped and supported him in his difficult quest for education. Hubert got a double first at Cambridge and a PhD from Yale, and was still teaching at an American university in his nineties. Thurza died in the 1920s.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA