YOUTH and EARLY ADULTHOOD
Frank was my father; he didn’t like the name and (to be frank) neither do I. We do not choose our names, and we have to stick with what we are given. I cannot find another Frank or even a Francis among his ancestors. (I, by contrast, can find several Josephs in the family tree going way back to the early years of the 19th century.) Frank was born on September 21st 1911, the second and youngest child of his parents William and Emily. His father spent his life making packing cases for the electric equipment manufacturer Laurence (and) Scott. They were a working class family, but (especially Emily my grandmother) they were ambitious for their children. The family portrait above shows Frank as an infant on his mother’s knee.
When he was nearly three the Great War broke out, and this affected his earliest years, not always for the worse. Because the school he would have attended (Lakenham Council School) was requisitioned for treating the war wounded he was sent instead to Carrow School. This had been set up by the Colman family as part of their paternalistic care for their employees. My grandfather was not a member of the staff at Carrow Works but non”etheless his son was able to benefit from a rather higher standard of education than would have been available in the Council School. He remembered his earliest teacher ‘Olo’ with respect and gratitude; his name was Mr Olorenshaw.
When the war ended he did indeed go to Lakenham School, before winning a scholarship to the recently opened Grammar School, the CNS (City of Norwich School). He remained disappointed throughout his life that Latin was not on the curriculum at the CNS; this made it very difficult to apply to Oxford or Cambridge Universities, which required the language in those days, although one of his friends managed to teach himself Latin and went on to Cambridge and a distinguished academic career in America. His parents must have made great sacrifices to support their children beyond the normal school leaving age. Frank did very well for himself when he left Grammar School. Aged 16 he got a job as an apprentice optician. Now the training for such a health professional demands a university degree, but then it was all done on the job. His ability as an optician would certainly be regarded as university level today. His employer was Cecil Amey, a man not many years older than my father. It is a name which survives in the Norwich optical business community. My father was well treated by Cecil Amey, who let him ride around Norfolk on his BSA motorbike in his spare time.
Frank had to go to London to be examined by the Spectacle Makers Company, one of the historic Livery Companies of the City. He was awarded a fellowship of the company (FSMC), though this did not qualify him for membership; that was reserved for the most influential businessmen. It did however entitle him to be elected Freeman of the City of London, an something he was rather proud of although he never took the honour up. By the time he was twenty one he had qualified in the profession. He worked for a time in Stamford in Lincolnshire and back in Norwich he was employed by the firm of D. R. Grey. D. R. Grey (in spite of his style as ‘Dr Grey’) was not himself a qualified optician, and had to employ those like my father who were to carry out the sight tests. The firm specialised in going out into the countryside seeking business; my father hated going unannounced from door to door like this. He called it ‘going on the knocker’ and regarded it as very unprofessional, but it did give him reason to drive around in a Morris car.
The pastime which Dad loved the most of all was flying; remember that this was less than thirty years after the invention of powered flight; it was not the everyday experience that it has since become. He did not fly as the pilot; he would take the controls in flight but not in take-off or landing. His companion was his friend Henry Stringer, who owned a two-seater de Haviland Gipsy Moth. They would take off from Mousehold Heath (the City’s first airport) and fly to places like the Isle of Wight and the River Humber.
We have nearly forty more years of his life to record, and already it had been an eventful one. He had married in 1935 and by 1938 he was living in a bungalow in Poringland with two young daughters. My parents had been forced to leave the Old Hall in Alpington where they had first set up as a married couple; in spite of the elegant environment it was infested with fleas, which proved immune to all attempts to eradicate them. With £300 from his father in law he had established himself as a self-employed optician in 1938. In his shop in Orford Place he was a successful professional with a growing business, and all this before he was thirty years old.
The next part of the Frank Mason story will cover the wartime years and the difficulties of that time.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The family originally came from the village of Gresham in North Norfolk, and must have got their Grasshopper crest from being the village squires in the middle ages. The similarity of sound suggests as much. James Gresham is referred to as the local agent of the Paston family in the Paston Letters. In the mid-fifteenth century they migrated all of five miles to the market town of Holt. Richard Gresham was born there in 1485; he was apprenticed to the Worshipful Company of Mercers of London in the last years of Henry VII’s reign. He later went into partnership with his brothers John and William and between them they began to make money hand over fist.
Mercers were dealers in textiles, and this formed the principal part of their trade, but the Gresham brothers were interested in anything which would turn them a profit. As well as exports of woollen cloth they imported grain from Germany, wine from France and exotic goods from Turkey and Russia. All were handled by ships belonging or lent to the Greshams.
Richard became especially close to his fellow East Anglian Cardinal Wolsey, and did much to find the continental wall hangings that decorated his new palace at Hampton Court. When the Cardinal was on his death-bed, abandoned, alone and charged with High Treason, he wrote of his ‘fast-friend’, Richard Gresham. Richard paid for the funeral of Wolsey, although this was a muted affair at Leicester Abbey, where the Cardinal was interred without ceremony or memorial.
Richard and John were influential in the City Corporation of London, both becoming Lords Mayor, Richard in 1537 and John ten years later. Both were knighted in recognition of their services. The brothers were not ashamed to indulge in dubious financial arrangements; these would be regarded as sharp practices today, and even in the sixteenth century these actions got them many enemies. But their great wealth protected them; the government was permanently short of money and the Gresham brothers were experts at negotiating foreign loans. Richard was elected MP in the mid 1530s, and served again in the Parliament of 1545; both he and John acquired titles in the Royal Household.
Richard’s son Thomas went on to even greater heights during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was apprenticed to his uncle John and was admitted to the livery of the Mercers’ Company in 1543. As their agent in the Low Countries Thomas became adept at financial arrangements and was able to rescue the pound from impending disaster. For this the government was extremely grateful and rewarded him with grants of land. All the Greshams benefited enormously from the Reformation, as plenty of the Church’s former lands came their way, either as gifts from the Crown or by purchase. Thomas Gresham provided the capital needed for the Royal Exchange building, which was officially opened in 1571. It was modelled on the Antwep bourse and became the focus of London’s burgeoning importance as a financial centre, a position that it still retains. A few years before his death in 1579 he established the first successful paper mill in England, on the river Brent in Middlesex. Before this corn mill was converted to produce paper all the books printed in this country had to use imported material. This paper had to come from the Low Countries, where Gresham would have got the skilled workers the mill needed.
For all the ruthless business practices displayed by these family members, they all had an abiding interest in education. Richard sent his son Thomas to university at Cambridge, a highly unusual course of action for someone destined for a life in trade. They bequeathed much of their wealth in endowments that have provided for education in England down the centuries. Sir Thomas left instructions to establish Gresham College in London, which was to provide lectures on academic subjects. These lectures are free to all members of the public; the college has no formal students and awards no degrees. It is a highly democratic institute of Higher Education, and is unique in its constitution. This opened in 1597 and has been giving lectures ever since.
It is assumed that the brothers Richard and John Gresham were educated by the Augustinian canons at Beeston Regis Priory near Sheringham. This school closed as the result of the seizure of Church lands by Henry VIII. To address the ensuing shortage of educational facilities in North Norfolk Sir John established a Grammar School in Holt. In 1546 he began to purchase land around Holt with a view to endowing the school. As a younger son he had not inherited the Manor at Holt, and so he had to buy the property that was to form the basis of the school. He passed this endowment to the Fishmongers’ Company shortly before his death in 1556, and they still govern the school today. For more than three centuries this country Grammar School provided a modest education for the sons of the local gentry, sending one or two scholar every now and then to Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, from which they would emerge as doctors, lawyers or clergymen. But in the last years of the nineteenth century it was transformed into a Public School of national acclaim. A number of leases on property in central London had fallen due for renewal, and this provided the huge sums of money that were invested in the school. New boarding houses and a chapel were built. Just one pupil of the old foundation remained. The recently opened Holt railway station became a magnet for pupils from across the land. Since the refoundation of the school Gresham’s has produced such figures as the Scot Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, the Yorkshire born poet W. H. Auden, composer Benjamin Britten and inventor Sir James Dyson. Although most pupils of the Public School are the sons (and since the latter part of the twentieth century the daughters) of the wealthy, the school provides scholarships to members of the local community who have the wish and ability to benefit from the education provided. This in the spirit of the original Free Grammar School, which would educate any suitable candidates from the Holt area gratis, although the boarders had to pay.
Widely despised during their lifetimes, the Greshams have been responsible for much good done since their deaths.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
EASTER MONDAY, 2016
Molly and I drove over to Ely to see my cousin William and friend Bill. It was a windy day, and the rain was pelting down in sheets when we left. We turned off the A 47 just beyond Swaffham and drove down the A 1122 to Downham Market. It took us an hour and twenty minutes to reach Ely, and by the time we arrived the rain had stopped. The afternoon was bright, but the wind was cold; this was storm Katie. The City of Ely is less than eight miles from Norfolk at its nearest point, so it isn’t far; it just goes to show what a big county Norfolk is!
Although it has never been part of Norfolk, it had been a part of the East Anglian kingdom since at least the seventh century. For over 700 years until 1837 the Bishops of Ely had temporal power over the Isle of Ely – i.e. he excercised secular as well as ecclesiastical power. This ‘island of eels’ had been a genuine island in the watery Fens until drainage was effected in the 17th century. The Isle of Ely was still a separate county when I first went there, and remained so until 1965. It was one of the smallest counties in the land, if not the smallest, and one of the smallest cities too; St David’s in Wales is the smallest cathedral city in the UK, with under 2,000 inhabitants. Ely has a population of over 15,000.
The cathedral in Ely was founded in 1107, but the famous Abbey for both monks and nuns had been built by St Ætheldreda in the 7th century. She was the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, who has already been mentioned in my blog about Blythbugh. Ætheldreda was first of a succession of royal Abbesses who ruled the Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns of Ely. This was not gender equality – it favoured the female line over the male. This was because the females, as royal offspring, were of the highest social status. With the coming of the Norman kings double monasteries died out in England, so the tradition of the female ruling both sexes disappeared too. Two hundred years after Ætheldreda founded the monastery it was destroyed by the Vikings, who also killed King Edmund of East Anglia. St Edmund is remembered in Ely Cathedral by a chapel, and there is a carving of the wolf holding his head in the east of the north aisle.
The two architectural gems of Ely Cathedral are the lantern and the Lady Chapel. Both were done in the fourteenth century. The lantern was constructed of wooden vaulting when the stone tower fell down. The octagonal structure provides a beacon of light at the crossing of the nave and transepts, which is especially impressive from inside. The Lady Chapel was begun the year before the tower fell down, and undoubtedly the work disturbed the foundations. Cracks were already appearing in the walls, and the peaty Fenland soil was not a very firm basis for the heavy Norman tower. The lighter lantern has produced far less pressure on the foundations, and although the oak beams weigh 200 tons, this is much less than a stone tower. It was a brilliant design, said to have originated with the Sacristan.
The Cathedral is built of Barnack stone, a high quality building limestone, that was quarried near Peterborough. It was first used by the Romans and continued in use throughout the middle ages. The blocks only had to be dragged a short distance on sledges down to the river Welland. The boats then sailed down the river Nene to the Wash and round to the Great Ouse. The most difficult part of the journey was up the hill from the quayside in Ely to the city centre.
As the name suggests, Ely was a great centre of the fishing trade, before the drainage of the Fens reduced the amount of water surrounding the city, and consequently the numbers of eels. The many dams and sluices associated with managing the water courses have also hampered passage of eels, who must return to the Caribbean to spawn. There is now just one eel catcher left in the area, but back in the middle ages they were so plentiful that the taxes were paid in eels. A wealthy local fishmonger was buried before the altar in the Lady Chapel, and his brass remains.
The monastic buildings at Ely were not destroyed at the Reformation, becoming used by the King’s School. The buildings have been extended, but the old monastery forms the basis of the school. The school is much older than the re-foundation by King Henry VIII. It can trace its origins back to the 10th century, when the monastery was rebuilt following the Danish period of rule, when the monasteries and cathedrals in East Anglia fell into disuse. Within the first forty years of the school’s foundation it was attended by Prince Edward, who became the king known as Edward the Confessor.
Ely is a major hub on the rail system and over two million passengers used the station in 2014; many more passed through. Cambridge is the most popular local destination, but Ely is the meeting point for more lines. Almost all rail traffic leaving East Anglia must pass through one of the junctions at Ely. This means passengers from Kings Lynn to London, Norwich to Liverpool, Cambridge to Peterborough, Bury St Edmunds to Ely and Birmingham to Stansted Airport; this does not include such routes as Norwich to Cambridge and Ely to Ipswich. Add to these passenger numbers the daily freight traffic of sand wagons from Middleton Towers and containers from Felixstowe port, and it is no wonder that the junction needs urgent upgrading. It is a pity that Rail Track cannot afford to pay for the work.
FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
(1857 – 1938)
My Great-grandfather Charles Mason was born in Staffordshire. In my earlier posts I have dealt with his sister Hannah and her family. When Charles moved to Norfolk in 1879 the rest of his family remained around Stoke on Trent and the the two branches of the family lost touch. However as a result of writing these blogs on my Staffordshire roots I have been contacted by one of the descendants of John Mason, one of Charles Mason’s siblings. John was twelve years older than Charles and would have left home soon after Charles was born. Steve, the relative who contacted me, is a man a few years younger than me. He is a third cousin, who still lives in Staffs.
This was a great surprise to learn of a relative from so long ago, but the connection is certainly genuine. My long-lost relation is another Mason, and shares a great-great-grandfather with me. This was Joseph Mason (Joseph has been a family name for generations) born in 1815 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where this scion of the family still lives. His forebears have moved about a bit since 1815 however – his father was born in Saskatchewan in Canada! He has been able to correct a few misapprehensions that I had about my ancestors. He has been able to tell me that Joseph was married before any of his children were born. The census gives the impression that his wife Ellen only married shortly before Charles was born, but in fact she was married sixteen years before, in 1841. My cousin has also been able to tell me that Ellen’s maiden name was Frost, and the maiden name of her husband’s mother (Betty) was probably Allen. The oldest of Joseph Mason’s siblings was William, born in 1805, the year of the Battle of Trafalgar. Sadly he died aged 7.
Charles was born on the 8th of October 1857. This is the first date in the Family Bible, written in his own hand. Universal free education had to wait until the last decade of the nineteenth century, but the year after Charles’s birth a Royal Commission found that 95% of all children aged five to ten were receiving an education. The standard of handwriting was far superior when Charles was learning than it has since become. It is a perfectly legible and indeed elegant script and the spelling is correct. Handwriting has declined steeply over the years; I would like to say that the standard of the content has improved, but I am not at all sure this is so.
This picture shows Sarah Mason, Charles’s youngest daughter by his first wife. She was born in 1889. She went into domestic service and at the time of the 1911 census she was living in Folkestone as parlour maid to a retired army officer. I never knew her as I knew her older sister Millicent. She married one Douglas Hughes in Folkestone in 1915 and spent the rest of her life there. She had a family, two sons.
Charles Mason’s twin sons John and Joseph died as infants. William had a son (my father) and a daughter. Of the other member of the family, Ellen Lydia married in railway signalman in 1908. She may have met her husband through Sarah, as he worked in a signal box near Folkestone where she moved upon her marriage (though the ceremony took place in Trowse). Her husband was called Maurice Lawrence.
Charles Mason’s contemporaries were the first generation to take advantage of the Old Age Pension in Britain. The weekly payment of 7/6d for a married couple (5 shillings for a single man) was made from the 1st January 1909. The age from which it was paid was reduced from 70 to 65 in 1925. This generous provision lasted less than a hundred years, and is now on the way back to 70. Charles was already over 65 when this change was brought in, but nevertheless had over ten years of retirement in which to enjoy his pension. His great joy in these years was his allotment in Trowse. Flowers were his passion, as you can see in the picture below
Of his second family, Alfred was born in 1898 and was killed in France within few days of the Armistice in 1918. I have met with two of Charles’s granddaughters who live near Norwich; although belonging to the previous generation they are not much older than me. The eldest child in Charles Mason’s family by his second wife was Sidney, born in 1895. He married Laura Davy in 1917. She was the daughter of the Mulbarton blacksmith who was born in Swardeston. Her ancestor was the local builder and was probably responsible for building the Rectory in Swardeston, the childhood home of Edith Cavell.
Sid Mason’s first job was working as a painter at Laurence and Scott, the industrial electrical equipment manufacturers in Thorpe. When it was built after the Great War Uncle Sid and Aunt Laura moved to the Tuckswood estate in Lakenham. This is not far from Trowse, and Laura would walk there to see her father-in-law Charles Mason, pushing her youngest children in the pram. It must have got well used because there were nine children, seven of them boys! Most of Uncle Sid’s children continued to live in Norwich but one moved to Kings Lynn and one migrated to Scotland. They have all now passed on, although two of their wives sill live in Norwich.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
The University of East Anglia was set up in Norwich in 1963, and my memories of it from its earliest days may be found in my blog of April 2014. What few people realise (and I did not know myself until recently) is that in medieval times Norwich was one of seven studia in England. This Latin word denoted a place of learning that was to all intents and purposes a University. Oxford and Cambridge were referred to as studia generalia, major universities that pursued a wider curriculum, and these two institutions alone among the English Universities survived the Reformation.
Because the studia were under the control of the friars they were abolished along with the friaries, monasteries, abbeys, canonries, priories and of course nunneries in England. Nearly all the schools in the country were similarly abolished, as schools too were almost entirely run by members of the religious orders. Norwich School was one of the very few to survive. The Great Hospital also managed to continue and was run by the same trust as Norwich School; perhaps not even the most devout Protestant could have seen the aged and infirm residents thrown out onto the streets of Norwich, although most hospitals in remoter locations were closed regardless of need. The more I learn about the disastrous policies of Henry VIII, the more appalled I become by this autocratic monarch.
It took at least two hundred years to repair the damage caused to education by this king, compared to the two years it took Henry and his henchman Thomas Cromwell to destroy centuries of intellectual endeavour. In tending the old it took even longer to establish the workhouses, and the ethos behind them was inhumane. It took the social conscience of many good individuals– now mostly forgotten – to rebuild the grammar schools of England. These grammar schools have mostly now either vanished or been elevated to the status of Public Schools, but originally they were intended to provide free education for any local boy who was bright enough to benefit from it. In this they were carrying on the educational intentions of the medieval church.
Note that I have said boys, not children. Girls who had been entitled to an education by the Catholic church were left out of consideration by the new Protestant elite. It is true that to be educated as a girl you had to give up all thoughts of marriage and enter a nunnery, unless you were very lucky and had rich and liberal parents who could educate you at home. For boys it was easier to acquire an education without fully committing oneself to a life in holy orders. Those who studied Law and Medicine at the Universities often went on to be family men, but those who attended the studia, where the subject was Theology would have been members of the church. After the Reformation parsons and bishops were encouraged to marry, but the teaching staff at the Universities had to remain single until well into the nineteenth century.
But I must return to my original subject, the University of Norwich. This must have been centred on the friaries in the city, as friars were the intellectual elite of medieval Europe. These were the Franciscans, the Carnelites and the Dominicans, who were especially keen to stamp out heresy. They punningly called themselves Domini canes, the hounds of God, hunting down unorthodox believers. The Dominicans were living in the area around St Andrews Hall. The adjoining hall which was once the chancel of the friars’ church is still known as Blackfriars Hall. By happy chance the former friary is now the site of Norwich’s newest University which I will always know as the Norwich School of Art. Here studio has replaced studium. St Andrews Hall is still the place where important cultural events are staged, whether it is a classical concert, a visit from Question Time – or the Norwich Beer Festival!
Perhaps the most important order of Friars were the Franciscans or Greyfriars, who took their name from the original friar, St Francis of Assisi. Much less of their house in Norwich survives, only the crypt of Howard House in King Street. This is doubly inaccessible, being underground and beneath a dilapidated house that has been boarded up for many decades. These places, and perhaps the site of the Whitefriars of which just an arch still stands near the river were once the site of Norwich University.
Religion was not the only subject studied in medieval universities; law and medicine also played a part, and the languages of Latin and French (the language of British law until the Commonwealth) were naturally taught. Theology was however the most important of these subjects, and it was the only one studied in Norwich.
The other studia in this country were London, York, Newcastle, Stamford, Coventry and Exeter. In the whole of Catholic Europe (i.e. all Christendom excluding Orthodox Greece and Russia) only 21 studia were listed in the papal edict of 1336; one third therefore were in England. That number of Universities does not include Oxford and Cambridge which swell the total of in England to nine. Even Italy and France could not equal this exceptional concentration on the intellectual life. Scotland, Wales and Ireland did not have any universities at all, even minor ones like Norwich, and sent most of their students to places like York and London to further their studies. Exeter was the most convenient for students in Ireland, while I suspect that Norwich saw a number coming from the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, which similarly had no Universities of their own. Having an international reputation was an important part of being a studium.
Norwich was involved in the most intimate way with the international intellectual elite of the medieval church. Alexander V, Greek by birth, became Pope of the Western Schism (a division he trie to heal) in 1409. He had begun his studies at Norwich, before moving on the the Universities at Oxford and Paris; Norwich was no provincial outpost but a major centre of learning.
None of this highly important information would ever have reached me had not my sister – herself a retired university professor – recently observed to me that in the time of Julian of Norwich, that well known mystic of the middle-ages, there was a studium generale in Norwich. We have lost most of the buildings where this learning was carried out, but we are very fortunate in retaining St Andrews and Blackfriars Halls. There are more medieval churches in Norwich than any city in England, which demonstrates the importance of the city in the middle-ages. We probably have more of these churches than anywhere in Europe, and that of course means in the world.
When the Reformation ended England’s previously highly developed intellectual sophistication, what I can only characterise as the English genius reinvented itself in more practical ways. Only after it became a Protestant country did it excel in such things as Empire building, the Agrarian Revolution (particularly relevant in Eastern England) and of course the Industrial Revolution.
THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
This picture shows me in the front of Ferry Way, a bungalow in Ferry Road at Southwold, on our annual holiday in August 1958. Although the walls were pebble dashed the house was built of wood and was raised up on stilts about 2ft 6ins above the ground. No doubt this was to save the proper from flooding, an ever-present risk, especially before the 1953 flood led to the building of a sand bank along the front. Lizards used to scuttle below the house and out of the sun on my approach. The gap between the house and the land below was an impenetrable mass of concrete slabs and boulders. I think it has how been boarded in.
In this photograph I am hugging our dog Jet, and just behind his head you can see a corked flagon in a basket. This contained the ginger beer we were making at the time. This involved feeding a ‘ginger beer plant’ (yeast) with sugar, ginger and water and drawing off the brew from time to time.It then matured in the flagon and after day or two was nice and fizzy. I thought it was delicious as it was very sweet, and the fact that it was alcoholic made it even more attractive to me. I never had enough to make me more than slightly tipsy though. Quite how my parents allowed this I don’t know.
The year began with quite a heavy fall of snow. It did not last long, but long enough for me to make a snowman on the front lawn. In January 1958 I did not yet wear glasses. This happened later in the year, when my schoolteacher noticed that I was not seeing the blackboard. I think my father was rather mortified that he, an optician, had not noticed this himself. He bought me the very best of glasses, a plastic frame with sprung ear pieces called Rubis. By the summer I was wearing them, as you can see in the photo.
1958 was the year my sister Christine graduated from Oxford with a degree in English. She spent the whole three years of her undergraduate course at Lady Margaret Hall. She stayed on another year to do her Diploma in Education (as it then was called) or a Dip Ed for short. We went to see her take her degree at the Sheldonian Theatre in October. Daddy liked to do things in style, and we stayed at the Randolph Hotel. He went to town too on the photograph which he took, arranging a red velvet curtain and the Oxford coat of arms as the backdrop. Whether he set this all up at the hotel I don’t now remember. By the time I graduated thirteen years later he was content just to take ordinary snaps as anyone would; but we again stayed at the Randolph.
In 1958 Christine was staying at Professor J. I. M. Stewart’s house in Charlbury Road in North Oxford, while he went on Sabbatical with his wife. My sister was left looking after his teenage children and dog,Berkeley (as in Barclay’s Bank). J. I. M. Stewart was a Scottish academic and an Oxford Professor of English, but is better known as the novelist Michael Innes. He had many Penguins published; he wrote thrillers mostly, with the detective Appleby as their hero. However his best known novel is Christmas at Candleshoe. This was filmed by Walt Disney as Candleshoe in 1977, It stared Jodie Foster, Leo McKern and David Niven.
My father covered himself in glory by his answer to one of the professor’s daughters who asked in reference to the dog: “Do you know why he is called Berkeley?” “Was the dog named after Bishop Berkeley?” (the 18th century philosopher) my father suggested. Of course he was, but the girl had obviously not suspected an optician from Norwich would be aware of this 18th century Irishman. Berkeley was a dog who escaped onto the streets of North Oxford from time to time and could only be recaptured by cries of “chocolate Berkeley”. On one occasion he bit the Regius Professor of Medicine while on one of his escapades.Bishop Berkeley was a great believer in the merits coal tar for its medicinal qualities and Berkely was a suitably black dog.
The Autumn term saw the beginning of my last year of education as a day boy at St Mary’s School in Bungay. Thereafter I would be a boarder at Holt. I was in the First Form at St Mary’s, in a building that had been the hay loft over the stables. The Second Form was downstairs where the stables themselves had been.This building is still there on the corner of Outney Road and Scales Street, although the coach house opposite, which in my day was full almost to the ceiling with years of grass cuttings from the lawns, has gone. The building on the other side of Scales Street, nearer the common is also still there, now as a residential house. In 1958 it was the warehouse of Spashett’s the toy shop in St Mary’s Street. I always hoped to see a model engine in its box through the window, but I never did.
The whole of the block from Earsham Street to Scales Street was school grounds, with a lovely lawn and two beech trees, one a copper beech. There were a couple of air raid shelters from the war, and behind a crinkle-crankle wall facing Outney Road a sand pit and the large shed, with one side open to the air. In this shed we could just about play a game of football when it rained. There was a well in one corner, with a concrete cap, onto which a footballer fell and cut his temple. This bled profusely. This sort of danger would horrify a Health and Safety inspector, but such people were not yet born. The crinkle-crankle wall is still there and so is the copper beech, although the other beech tree has gone. The area where the shed was is now a car park.
All this is now well over fifty years ago. A lot has changed, but I am slightly surprised that so much remains. Ferry Way in Southwold seems to have changed its name, but the Ark, a bungalow a few doors away retains is name. We stayed at the Ark in 1954. The houses in Charlbury Road in Oxford are even more expensive than they were half a century ago, but even then they were by no means cheap. I no longer drink ginger beer, but the copper beech still spreads its shade at Bungay. St Mary’s School is now a home for the elderly, which is what it became when the school closed in the 1960s.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
The Stafford knot is a common enough symbol in Staffordshire. It appears on the coat of arms of the borough of Stafford, and the North Staffordshire Railway was known as the Knotty. The football clubs of Port Vale and Tamworth FC (the Lambs) use the Stafford knot on their crests, and it is the badge of Staffordshire University. But on the other side of the country in Norfolk you would not expect to find it. Around Costessey however it is found on signs and buildings because of the association of that village with the Earls of Stafford.
The family name was Jerningham or Jernigan, but in 1825 they managed to convince the House of Lords to revive the title the Earl of Stafford for the Baronet Sir George Jerningham. It probably helped that he was on good terms with the king George IV, and had been since he was Prince Regent.
The Jerninghams only enjoyed the rank of nobility in Norfolk for less than a hundred years, for when the last direct descendant of the Jerninghams, the 11th Baron, died in 1913 the Park in Costessey was sold off. The title passed to a branch of the family who were already well established in Staffordshire.
The First World War quickly followed the ending of the Jerningham line, before the Hall could be sold off. It was requisitioned by the War Office for the duration. But with the coming of peace in 1918 the building (that had been badly treated by the many regiments involved) fell in to disuse and was mostly demolished. By the Second World War only a few ruins and the tower remained. You can see my blog on Costessey Park on January 22 2013.
The Stafford knot is an ancient heraldic device known as a badge, and badges were in use before the coats of arms, which were developed after the Norman Conquest. The symbol may be found on Anglo-Saxon carvings in the area around Stafford, which shows it was in use at that time. Unlike armorial bearings the badge may be used by the servants and retainers of the holder, or anyone claiming that association. In Costessey the knot was associated with the houses of the Stafford Estate, and it still appears in such locations as the Queens Hill School sign and the new leisure centre in Longwater Lane. The Stafford Knot is displayed on the road signs as you approach village.
In Newmarket Road in Norwich there is the town house of the Stafford Earls, Stafford House. This too would have been sold off in the aftermath of the death of the last Jerningham Earl. The house has been the junior department of the Norwich High School for Girls for well over half a century. Despite its being a girls’ school, 60 years ago this school also took boys for the first two years of education (Kindergarten and Transition classes) and it was my first school. I remember my interview, which I must have passed, although I had not a clue what was going on. One thing I remember was being given a mug to hold and then being told to open the door. What a mean trick! What it was meant to prove about a child of four I don’t know. After two years at Stafford House I was then supposed to go to Town Close Prep School but because I fitted in so badly with all those girls I only stayed for one year. Because I was too young to go on to Town Close I was sent instead to St Mary’s School in Bungay.