The appearance of the electric tram on the streets of Britain exploded as the twentieth century dawned; the large towns of East Norfolk and Suffolk all had a tram service by 1905, but within 35 years they had all gone. Only a century later are trams making a gradual comeback in the land. Trams in Lowestoft began running in 1903 and were discontinued in May 1931. The last tram was driven by the oldest driver employed by the Corporation, who as a young man had driven on the first day of operation 28 years before. We are fortunate that a double-decked tramcar (number 14) is still in existence. It is part of the collection at the East Anglian Transport Museum at Carlton Colville near Lowestoft, where it was the first item to be acquired. It has not strayed far from original working route, having been used as a summer-house at Gunton until 1962. All the tramcars were built far to the west in Birkenhead; the company, originally called Starbuck & Co., had been set up in 1871 as the first business in Britain devoted to the building of trams. At the outset these were horse-drawn, but under the ownership of G. F. Milne over 700 electric trams were built at the peak of business in 1901.
The Lowestoft Corporation Tramways fleet consisting of four single decked vehicles (unique in East Anglia in having bogies) fifteen double deckers and a works car. The service ran for about four miles through Lowestoft to Pakefield. The tramway was built to a gauge of 3’6″ which suited the narrow streets. Lowestoft Corporation Transport continued to run buses until the 1970s, and used the same maroon and cream livery that had first been used on the trams seventy years before. There was a branch westwards to the tram shed in Rotterdam Road; the building was used as the bus depot until the Corporation Transport was taken over by the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company. It still stands, and is currently used as a warehouse by a firm supplying teachers’ resources.
The trams ran from Lowestoft North station on the line from Great Yarmouth Beach that was opened in the same year (1903), past Lowestoft Central station, the harbour and South Pier. The trams were fully integrated into the transport system, and were well used by the tourists who poured into the town from Yarmouth, 10 miles to the north. Although not quite so popular as the Norfolk resort – it had no Fun Fair for example – the town developed a brisk holiday trade during the first half of the 20th century.
Such was the demand for tram rails in England it proved impossible to obtain them in this country, and they were brought across the North Sea from Antwerp in a barge. The first batch arrived in the early hours of 10th March and after unloading, on the 11th the first rail was laid to much celebration. The Mayor was anxious to get the tramway operational by the summer season, and as a result work continued day and night. The tramway was formally opened on July 22nd. The universal fare for a journey was a penny and you could expect a tram every seven minutes. There was a clock on each tram and drivers who did not observe strict time keeping were disciplined by being laid off for a week without pay; the frequent opening of the harbour swing bridge must have provided them with a good excuse. After a short time during the early months of operation there was no regular service to the depot, but passengers could ride any tram that was going to or from Rotterdam Road.
The total cost of construction had been £90,000 and in the first fortnight of operation the revenue was £800. In 1910 the cost of a through journey was increased to 2d, with the North Parade to Pier Terrace and Pakefield to Central Station being 1d each way. In 1913 the cost of a journey from North Parade to Pakefield rose to 3d, but this remained the price until 1945, long after the tram line had been lifted.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
In the distant past nearly all our energy was sourced from renewables in the form of wind and water power (sailing ships, windmills and watermills). In the long-term the burning of fossil fuels may be seen as just a blip in the history of power consumption, but for a couple of centuries coal was the principal source of energy in this country; it pumped out the mines, provided the motive power for the transport network, heated people’s homes and cooked their food. Later gas and electricity were added to the energy mix, but these too were ultimately derived from coal. It was mined virtually everywhere in Britain; there were even coalfields in the Garden of England, Kent, but none in East Anglia. Things have changed and, for the first time, during 2016 less electricity was generated from coal than from wind and solar energy; however fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) still account for about half the electricity generated in the UK.
The East Coast is now the energy hub of the country. North Sea Gas has been piped ashore at Bacton in north-east Norfolk for over forty years, but is with clean and sustainable energy sources that the future lies. Does the nuclear power generating facility at Sizewell in Suffolk fall into this category? Yes and no is the answer. The nuclear fuel that powers the plant is not renewable like the wind or sunlight, and it is only clean if rigorous precautions are taken. The infrastructure is mind-bogglingly expensive, but it has the ability to produce huge amounts of electricity for many years, while contributing no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. You know all this, but I find it helpful to write it down. You can then weigh up the pros and cons for yourself. The Sizewell A power station was commissioned in 1966 and shut down in 2006, by which time Sizewell B had been generating electricity for ten years. There are other coasts round Britain that have nuclear power stations, either decommissioned, in operation or (at Hincley Point) with preliminary works being built, but Sizewll B is the UK’s only pressurised water reactor.
It is in wind energy that the East Coast predominates. The southern North Sea is shallow, and this makes it ideal for off shore wind turbines; these have relatively little environmental impact compared to on shore turbines. The area produces the greatest output of wind generated megawatts off shore in the world. The port of Lowestoft, that was once such a centre of the fishing industry, had fallen into decline for many years, but is now being revived to service the wind energy sector. The construction of the German wind turbines will be centred on Lowestoft, while the routine upkeep of them once built will be undertaken by other local ports as well. The Outer Harbour of Wells-next-the-Sea already sends smaller vessels out to the Sheringham Shoals wind farm, to carry out planned maintenance. Great Yarmouth also has a future in the servicing of wind farms. This multi-billion pound industry has the potential to produce many high-tech jobs for local people, providing the right education is made available.
The are plans to bring two cables ashore on the Norfolk coast, brining power from the North Sea wind farms. One will reach land at Happisburgh and the other at Weyborne; that will be routed via Reepham to the substation south of Norwich. Although this is technically in the village of Swardeston, it is nearer to the hamlet of Dunston, and I used to walk my dog there, along the footpath that goes to the ancient location of the Humbleyard hundred moot (meeting place). This substation is a major hub on the National Grid where several power lines meet. It was constructed in the 1970s. The other cable will be taken to Necton in central Norfolk.
What are the potential drawbacks of wind energy? Well the obvious one is the fact that when there is no wind there is no energy produced. This is less of a problem at sea, but there are still days of flat calm. Wind power alone is not enough; nor is solar energy, as that is not produced in hours of darkness. Battery technology is also coming on by leaps and bounds, but we need a reliable source of power generation. I think tidal energy and wave power need more attention put into them; the tide’s energy is not affected at all by the wind, and even the waves, which are, continue in some way. Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the Hovercraft, spent his later years researching wave energy. This is not so much something for East Anglian coast however; this form of energy is more effective on the West Coast, where the height of the tides tend to be of a greater range, and the Atlantic swell produces much greater waves.
THE BLOG FOR THE FUTURE OF ENERGY
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
The department store that looks out over Norwich Market Place represents a business that is well over two hundred years old. It was established as a grocer’s and draper’s shop in Church Street in the Suffolk town of Woodbridge in 1770. It is thought that the family arrived in England from Holland in 1688 with William of Orange. The founder of the business was John Jarrold I, a grandson of Samuel Jarrold (also a grocer) who was the Mayor of Colchester in 1723. John Jarrold I died at the age of thirty in 1775. His son, John Jarrold II, was much too young to take any part in the operation of the firm, which was carried out on his behalf by trustees until he attained his majority in 1794. In 1800 John Jarrold II married Hannah Hill in Bungay at the age of twenty-seven. After running the grocery and drapery business for ten years he sold it in 1805 and took up residence at Moat Farm in the village of Dallinghoo just north of the town.
The weaving of sackcloth was a local industry in the Woodbridge area, and John Jarrold went into partnership with Richard Bidwell to deal in the sacks that were required in large numbers by the traders in the East Anglian capital of Norwich. The sacks were made in Suffolk but sold in Norwich; were they taken there by sea from Woodbridge harbour on the river Deben to Yarmouth, and then by wherry to Norwich? In 1811 the partnership was dissolved and from then the sack-making business was carried on by Bidwell alone, while Jarrold turned his attention full-time to farming. All went well while the Napoleonic Wars were continuing and agricultural prices remained high, but with the coming of peace in 1815 Europe again began exporting its produce to this country. Agricultural prices in Britain, which had been high for a generation, collapsed.
To make ends meet John Jarrold installed a printing press in the granary in his farm at Dallinghoo. With his brother-in-law Benjamin Smith, and using the stereotyping process developed in Bungay, he was printing various books of an instructional or devotional nature, such as Footsteps to Natural History, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Charles Wesley’s Hymns. Smith had premises in Church Street, Woodbridge, and John would travel around Suffolk selling these works which were especially valued in the country schools. However a farmyard in rural Suffolk was not really the place to grow a thriving printing office, and in 1823 he left the farm in the hands of a steward and moved the business to its current home in Norwich. He was certainly adaptable; by the age of fifty he had been a grocer, draper, dealer in sacks, farmer, printer and bookseller.
The Norwich printing office (which also sold stationery and books) was established at 3 Cockey Lane. This street’s name was changed in 1829 to the more respectable sounding one of London Street, and Jarrold’s store is still located there, just across the road, where it moved in 1840. John Jarrold retired to Coltishall in 1844 and died there in 1852. Of his four sons, who were all employed in the business, John III had died at the age of forty, and Samuel, the next oldest, became head of he firm. The Jarrolds were all prominent members of the Non-conformist community and played a leading rôle in the campaign to abolish slavery in the British Caribbean. They pioneered the Temperance movement in Norwich and were among the first to take the Pledge.
During the 19th century Jarrold’s was a large publishing house and they produced many titles of national repute, including Anna Sewell’s best-selling novel Black Beauty in 1878. Jarrold’s publishing activities were greatest before the dawn of the 20th century, but in printing it went from strength to strength. It was still producing postcards, calendars and many books and magazines into the 21st century. The management however saw the writing was on the wall; although the digital publishing revoluntion was then still in its infancy, the environment was changing. Jarrolds discontinued its printing office in 2004; just in time too, because the new firm that was carry on the business went bust two years later. There is no longer a printer or publisher in Whitefriars, only the John Jarrold Printing Museum.
Jarrold’s has retained its large retail store in Norwich city centre, and has even reintroduced drapery among its lines! This is a throwback to the kind of shop that John Jarrold I opened in Woodbridge 250 years ago. There used to be several large stores in the city with local owners – Bunting’s, Garland’s, Bond’s and Curl’s; the last two remain under new ownership as John Lewis and Debenham’s, but only Jarrold’s is left as a family business.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
Wenhaston was the last station before Halesworth on the Southwold railway. This railway closed in April 1929 with just a week’s notice, but not before my mother had travelled on it as a teenager. She was on a family holiday from her home in Buckinghamshire, and they came along the Great Eastern Railway to Halesworth station (which is still there) and then transferred to the narrow gauge line. When it closed the rolling stock was simply abandoned to rot at Halesworth station, and even the company was not formally wound up until the 1990s! The locomotives and track fell victim to the scrap drive of the Second World War, and raised a grand total of £1,500.
The plan by the Southwold Railway Trust to build a short length of line through a rebuilt Wenhaston station is proceeding, although the planning process is long an involved. Fifty yard of 3 ft gauge track were laid in 2016, and the fencing has been restored. At present it is promoted as a wildlife haven, and most of the activity of the Trust is concentrated in Southwold.
Sixty years ago the best part of the former trackbed for walking was (and still is I believe) the section from Southwold to Blythburgh. This crossed Southwold common, the river Blyth (by the Bailey bridge that had replaced the railway bridge blown up in the war). Past the site of Walberswick station and across Walberswick Heath you come to Tinkers Walk. This gives way to the pine trees of the Heronry before reaching Blythburgh, where the fine medieval church dominate the skyline. It looks majestically out over the river Blyth. Continuing towards Halesworth the railway is less accessible; when I was a lad it was overgrown with stinging nettles and brambles, and I doubt it is any better now.
As far as Blythburgh we walked along the former railway line, but when we went on to Wenhaston it was by car. The reason for the visit was not to see the remains of the railway but the Wenhaston Doom, the most famous historical feature in the village. The Doom is a medieval painting which had been covered with whitewash by the puritans in the Reformation. It remained hidden from view until 1892, when the wooden panels it was pained on were removed as part of a Victorian restoration. The wood was left out in the churchyard overnight, prior to being burnt the next day. A providential shower of rain dissolved the whitewash and revealed the painting underneath to the astonishment of the onlookers. This is the Wenhaston Doom. This would have been nothing special before the middle of the 16th century, when many churches had similar paintings; it was its survival which has raised its importance. That said, it is a well executed example of medieval art. It is now mounted on the wall facing the door but originally it would have filled the chancel arch.
A picture of the Last Judgement (the Doom) was a common feature of pre-Reformation churches, but such things were deemed superstitious by the Protestant reformers and were removed or overpainted. Those parts of Europe that remained Catholic fared rather better in keeping their religious art, although the French Revolution produced lasting problem for the church in that country too. The town of Beaune in Burgundy has a nine panelled altarpiece in the former chapel of an alms house, by the 15th century Netherlands artist Rogier van der Weyden. This picture of the Day of Judgement played a large part in converting the journalist Peter Hitchens from his former atheism, according to his account. The theological implications of the Day of Judgement are no longer popular in our times. In spite of Hitchens’ experience, we think very little about eternity and even less of eternal damnation; however there is no doubt that for many hundreds of years the prospect of the Jaws of Hell played a big part in people’s lives.
Among the residents of Wenhaston is the composer Gordon Crosse. After many years during which he had a break from writing music, aged 80 he is again composing. During his young adulthood he was in the circle of Benjamin Britten’s admirers, which accounts for his home being near Aldeburgh. His early life was spent in the Manchester area. I know this because since my friend Bill Wragge was a child he has known Gordon Crosse as a family friend. Bill’s father had was involved in Gordon’s upbringing during the war, and remained in touch with him afterwards.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The first tram to operate in Ipswich was a 3ft 6in gauge horse-drawn vehicle which ran for about ¾ mile between Cornhill and the mainline railway station. It opened in 1880. In 1884 an extension was opened from Cornhill to Derby Road railway station, also in Ipswich, but on the Felixstowe line. This completed the system; by then it was being operated by a fleet of tram cars. The earliest ones were single deckers, drawn by one horse, but later double deckers were introduced with two draught horses. The provision of rails made the friction was less than with a horse-drawn omnibus, and this enabled a greater number of passengers to be carried. By 1900 it was becoming increasingly old fashioned however; unlike modern motive power, horses had to groomed, fed and stabled, and in the early years of the 20th century it was resolved to convert the horse-drawn tramway to an electric system. The town Corporation purchased the horse tramway but it lost money and was abandoned to allow the electric infrastructure to be installed.
The electric trams did not last any longer than the horse-drawn trams: introduced in 1903, they were replaced by trolleybuses from 1923, and in 1926 the last tram ran on the streets of Ipswich. The trolleybus lasted a bit longer than its predecessors, and I remember the final years of them; my sister had taken her first job in the town in 1959, and from the aged of ten I made many visits to Ipswich. The trolleybuses survived until 1963, by which time my sister had left Suffolk for a new post in the Channel Islands. Thereafter I no longer frequented the town.
The first indication that we had reached a strange new world where the buses were powered by electric wires was by the railway bridge on the Norwich Road. There a circle in the overhead catenary was where the buses had to turn around and begin their journey back to Ipswich town centre. At one time the system had gone further to Whitton, but by 1959 the railway bridge was the limit of its northern extent. The Corporation bought its first motor buses as late as 1950 to serve the outskirts. At the time, and for many years thereafter, the bridge had the large sign FERODO painted on it in red. I will always associate these brake pads with Ipswich.
Coming by car I had no reason to use the trolleybuses, but going by train I surely would have done so; my sister had no car at this time. An indication of how normal they were in Ipswich in those days is that I have no memory of riding on a trolleybus, although I must have used them. This is a pity, but I have plenty of memories of seeing them making their silent progress through the town. Once you were inside the effect could not have very different from a normal motor bus; all the unusual features were outside. If they met an obstruction in the road they could only take limited avoiding action, or the poles would come detached from the catenary wires. This meant the driver or conductor getting out and re-attaching them with a long stick. There was definitely no overtaking allowed with a trolleybus.
Unlike trams, trolleybuses have not made a return to the streets in the UK, and there are no remaining systems in place here. This seems strange, as the infrastructure is much simpler and cheaper for trolleybuses, and they are similar environmental benefits. There is bad quality air in nearly all major cities, where diesel buses are almost the only vehicles still (just about) tolerated. This would disappear if trolleybuses were still in operation. If you are cyclist who has travelled over tram lines you will appreciate that bikes and trams don’t mix – you will fall off immediately if your wheel gets stuck in the groove of a tram line. This quality of not antagonising cyclists is another advantage of the trolleybus. In other parts of the world these systems still exist.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
A SLICE of HISTORY in the PAPER INDUSTRY
In 1784 the mill at the Staithe in Bungay was bought by William Mann; until then the mill had been part of the estate of the Duke of Norfolk. Mann let part of it to Joseph Hooper. A native of the coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Joseph Hooper was a Harvard graduate of the class of 1763, born to a wealthy local family in 1743. Like several other members of the Hooper clan he was a staunch Royalist and following his opposition to the Boston Tea Party he had his property seized. He fled to England in 1775, prior to the Declaration of American Independence. As a refugee he travelled the country before settling in Bungay, where he converted his part of the mill from grinding corn to a mill producing paper. The rest of the mill stayed as a corn mill and was leased separately by William Mann. Hooper produced among other things fine quality writing paper. In 1790 he complained that the people of Ditchingham had opened up Ditchingham Dam and this had diverted the flow of the river Waveney along Chainbridge Beck; this was starving the mill of water and making it hard to produce paper. The problem took two years to resolved, and it was only after the owner William Mann had threatened those responsible with action for damages that the dam was restored.
A year after taking the lease on the Bungay watermill Joseph Hooper had married Susannah Taylor in Grantham, Lincolnshire, her home town. They had two daughters, Emily (who was born in Grantham in 1786) and Harriet (born in Lakenham near Norwich in 1788). Joseph Hooper appears to have been successful in business, being recorded as a man suitable to employ parish apprentices during the 1790s, but with his health failing he died in 1812. His wife took over running the paper mill. She died in 1817 and both she and Joseph are buried in Holy Trinity churchyard in Bungay. With no male heirs to take over the business was transferred to William Betts, Harriet’s husband. He was working the mill in Bungay in 1822, but by 1828 James (probably their son) had taken over. Meanwhile William’s brother Lewis was working at the paper mill in Upper Sheringham. James could not make a success of paper making, and by 1829 both he and Lewis were declared bankrupt. The lease on the mill at Bungay was put up for auction in the Kings Head in the Market Place in 1830, but it did not sell; in 1832 the mill was still vacant.
Meanwhile across the border in Norfolk, in 1810 one John Burgess was the foreman responsible for setting up the first paper making machine in the county. Ten years later Burgess was made a partner in the mill. He was happily working at Taverham while acquiring properties in Costessey across the river, including the White Hart pub which he rebuilt in the modern style. (This was again rebuilt in the 1930’s and is now known as the Harte.) In 1830 the senior partner at Taverham mill retired and transferred his holding to two young men who had their own ideas about running the business. These two eventually drove the formerly prosperous mill into business failure, but by then John Burgess had left Taverham. With his sons he moved to Bungay and reopened the paper mill there. He was already 71 years old, and the work was probably mainly in the hands of his son Charles. Having been pioneers in the technique of modern machine-made paper they had taken a step back into the past to hand-made paper.
The principal user of paper in Bungay was John Childs, the printer who had taken over from Charles Brightly, and whose business would become Richard Clay (still in existence as part of the St Ives Group). In Brightly’ time all paper had been hand made, and no doubt Joseph Hooper built up a prosperous business supplying him with printing paper, but times had changed. By 1830 Childs was the owner of a large business, employing over 100 people, and he specialized in large editions of substantial books such as annotated Bibles. These were not restricted to the printers at Oxford, Cambridge and London as the standard, non-annotated Authorised Version of the Bible was. These substantial works required a lot of paper, but his suppliers were not local. His account book for 1827 shows that he was buying paper from Spicer’s in Cambridgeshire, and in 1834 from Dickinson, whose paper mill was at Apsley in Hertfordshire. I do not know how the paper was transported to Bungay, but I suspect it came by the Grand Union canal (or in the case of Spicer’s paper via the rivers Cam and Great Ouse) to the Wash and then along the coast to Yarmouth. From there it would have gone up the Waveney through Geldeston Lock to the head of the navigation at Bungay. Although this meant three trans-shipments, from narrow boat to coasting vessel at Wisbech or Kings Lynn and then to wherry at Yarmouth, until the coming of the railways water was the only way to carry heavy loads long distances. Both Dickinson and Spicer were making paper by machine, and the mill at Sawston in Cambridgeshire was one of the first to use a Fourdrinier paper making machine in 1809. It was high quality and high volume paper, quite different from the paper being produced at Bungay by Burgess, which although it had no transportation cost, had no other advantages.
However there is evidence that the Burgesses, father and son, did supply paper to Childs. In 1833-36 there are entries for the buying of both brown paper and drab from Charles Burgess, and in 1836 and 1837 for brown paper from John Burgess. Brown paper would have been used merely for packing, but drab was used in the bookbinding process. Although there was also a printing industry in nearby Beccles, it is clear that the majority of Burgess’s custom would have been for wrapping paper, and it would not have been economic to transport it very far. It was not a particularly good position to be in, when all his success had been based on the modern paper-making process, and the enterprise did not last for many years after John Burgess’s death. Paper-making in Bungay finally came to an end in 1864 with a serious fire, after which the mill was rebuilt as corn mill. It had passed out of the Burgess family’s hands in the 1840s. In its final years it was operated by a number of paper makers.
John Burgess died on the 21 May 1838. In his will he lists his properties – the public house and a double cottage in Costessey, and three more cottages in Norwich. His reference to his business is rather downbeat; he instructs his executors to continue his business ‘until such at time as it shall be beneficial to discontinue it.’ The most affectionate mention is for his daughter, Sophia Ann, who is to take her pick of his furniture to the value of £24 (about £4,000 in today’s money), ‘in regard to her kindness & attention toward me’. His executors were Spooner Nash, a paper dealer and stationer of Charing Cross, Norwich, and Henry Barnard, a merchant of Bungay. So ends the story of John Burgess, and paper making in Bungay. The mill itself survived into my lifetime, producing animal fodder under the auspices of Hovis. The mill finally closed in 1955, although it has ceased to use water power some fifty years earlier. The mill building of 1864 is still in commercial use, in 2003 as a consultancy and training centre.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
More than ten generations ago my ancestor George Peachey was born in Mildenhall in Suffolk. I do not know what his occupation was, but as all his descendants (right down to my great-grandfather Phipp Peachey) were warreners, I think it highly likely that he was too; rabbits were virtually the only crop that could be harvested from the sandy soil around the Brecks, until the 20th century ushered in forestry and provided a substitute in the form of timber. George Peachey was born in 1662 and grew up during ‘Good King Charles’s golden days’. The reason I mention this monarch is that he was a regular visitor to Newmarket to watch the horse racing on the heath. The town is only 16 miles from Mildenhall, and George may well have seen the king as he made his regal progress into the town.
For more than seven generations the Peacheys lived in Mildenhall, or the adjoining parish of Lakenheath. In this sedentary lifestyle they were not unique; indeed such a lack of mobility was commonplace for many centuries. Others members of my ancestors, for example the Jones family who lived as farm workers within a few miles of Ludgershall in Buckinghamshire, were equally settled. The Rivetts are buried in Norfolk’s Shipdam parish churchyard from the 17th to the 2oth centuries, and members of the Mason family still live around Stone in Staffordshire. The Rutters appear to have been bakers in Suffolk throughout the 19th century and into the middle of the 20th. The Buxton family were farm labourers in the Norfolk village of Easton, and their relatives were landlords of the village pub (the Dog) for most of the 19th century. A Buxton was servant to the curate in the adjacent village of Weston Longville in Parson Woodforde’s time, and there is no doubt in my mind that he too was a distant relative of mine.
All these bloodlines would never have met had it not been for George Stephenson and the coming of the railways. Even before the first trains ran into the West Country, an ancestor of mine (a young Buckinghamshire man working as a railway navvy) had met and married an orphan in Cornwall. Domestic service also provided opportunities for employment across the land, now that universal education allowed all to read the adverts for servants and the penny post let them write a letter of application in reply. The trains provided the easy and quick access for the servants to travel to their new jobs. Not all travel was by train; this was the norm, but my uncle’s father arrived in Grimsby from Denmark by boat in the nineteenth century. Physical mobility came first, and social mobility soon followed.
All this concerns my own relatives as you might have guessed. Over the last two hundred years I can point to relatives of mine in Dover and St Austell, Stoke on Trent and Stradbroke, Fenny Stratford and Bishop’s Stortford. They have been coal miners and railwaymen, drapers and wheelwrights, pigmen and gardeners, carpenters and bricklayers. There have been no ladies or gentlemen, no clergymen or army officers. They have been ordinary working people in ordinary working class jobs. This was true until the 20th century, when all this began to change. The opportunities for social mobility expanded exponentially, so that by the 21st century the grandson of a fishmonger is a recently retired banker; the granddaughter of a waitress was a university professor. The grandson of a policeman travels around Europe on behalf of British research foundations. Other relatives have worked in the medical and teaching professions; as architects or engineers, actors and musicians.
The study of family history is very popular nowadays and many people must be able to relate similar tales. It is a tribute to the nation that all these changes should have been going on in science and technology as well as society, that enabled the population to spread their wings. Not all have taken advantage of the opportunities on offer, but they are there for the taking; this simply wasn’t true in the past.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF THE PAST
[TO SEARCH FOR A SUBJECT IN THIS BLOG ENTER ‘joemasonspage’ and the subject from the list on the right into Google; this should show the relevant blogs]
There used to be many ferries across the rivers and estuaries in Norfolk. Now there are only a few; Reedham ferry across the Yare and the ferry across the Great Ouse from Kings Lynn to West Lynn. There are also the ferries to Blakeney Point; these popular trips to see the seals leave from Morston Quay and Blakeney Harbour. Going back into history, in Roman times Holme-next-the-Sea (where Peddars Way reaches the coast) used to be the base for a ferry across the Wash. Its destination was the Roman station of Vainona (now called Wainfleet) in Lincolnshire. About forty years ago Norfolk Line used to run two ferries a day from Great Yarmouth to Holland; these ferries, the Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Holland, were mostly for commercial freight, but they were also used by the general public.
In Suffolk, since the MoD left the Orfordness peninsular in 1973 there has been a ferry service to allow people from Orford to explore the sand dunes and derelict military buildings across the river Ore in the Nature Reserve. There is a ferry service between Felixstowe and Harwich on the mouths of the rivers Orwell and Stour, linking these major ports of Suffolk and Essex. There is still a rowing boat that ferries people across the river Blyth from Walberswick to Southwold, though it only operates in the summer season. It only costs a pound. I have used the Walberswick ferry (many years ago) and also went across the Deben ferry which goes across the Deben estuary from Bawdsey to Felixstowe, with my new wife (and our bikes) in 1986.
The rowing boats that used to ferry people across the river Yare were common before the 20th century. They had all been abandoned by the time I was aware of my surroundings, but many of the boats themselves survived, as battered and unloved hulks pulled up on the riverbank. One such boat was at Pulls Ferry on the river Wensum in Norwich (it was broken up by vandals around 1970). Why a ferry had lasted so long there is something of a mystery. Bishops Bridge is only a few hundred yards away, and it had ceased to charge a toll in the mid 19th century; yet Pulls Ferry only ceased to operate within living memory, during the Second World War.
The boat which used to link Brundall with Surlingham at Coldham Hall was by repute going into the 1970s, but whenever I saw it the boat always appeared disused. I was a not an infrequent visitor to Coldham Hall in the 1960s, where my father would buy his half pint on a Sunday. I dare say we should have gone during the week to see the ferry in use. There was also a ferry that linked Surlingham with Postwick at the suitably named pub, the Surlingham Ferry. Between there and Norwich was Whitlingham ferry, and although I have never heard of a ferry at Bramerton, I am sure that at one time you could take a boat from the Wood’s End (as the riverside pub used to be called) to Hall Lane in Postwick.
The ferry at Buckenham was always remote from human habitation, although across the river was the Ferry Inn. The Ferry Inn (now rebuilt and called the Beauchamp Arms) figures prominently on this picture from 2oo years ago. It is across the river from Buckenham in Langley near Loddon. It is still a popular place of refreshment, although it draws almost all its trade from thirsty holiday makers who arrive there by boat. The only difference with the nineteenth century is that then its customers were working wherrymen. Note that in 1826 ten sheep, two cows and three people were waiting for the ferryman to pull the pontoon across the river to pick them up; two sailing boats are tied up at the pub. I went there as a teenager with my cousin Andrew, when we spent day sailing my dinghyfrom the Buckenham Sailing Club. Despite being an almost uninhabited location, the hamlet of Buckenham still boasts its own railway station, although it served by only a couple of trains a week.
The layout of the roads shows that once it was possible to take a ferry from Cantley; in fact there were two routes across the river Yare from there, but all traces of them have been lost. Reedham car ferry has already been mentioned, and it remains in use. It was almost the last ferry before you reached Great Yarmouth; the last one was a marshland ferry near the Berney Arms pub. Heaven only knows who used it, as the pub must be accessed by railway or river boat, unless you walk for miles across the marsh from the A 47; what sort of income did the ferryman earn I wonder? The steamer which used to ply the river between the South Quay in Yarmouth and Gorleston saved holiday makers a long walk via Haven Bridge.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
Robert Ransome was the son of a Quaker, born in Wells-next-the-Sea in 1753. Wells was still a centre of Quakerism a hundred and fifty years later, when my wife’s grandmother moved there and became an enthusiastic member of the congregation. The town was not however home to a conventional brand of Quakerism; instead of opting for silent worship the Wells Quakers were namely for their singing. Indeed in the nineteenth century it was known that members of the Quaker community attended Church of England services in order to sing in the parish choir!
The Society of Friends (their official title) had met in the town since the very first flowering of the denomination in the middle years of the 17th century. The community bought the Meeting House (on its present site) for twenty pounds and one guinea in 1697. Robert Ransome’s father was a teacher, instructing the children of Quakers in the town. When Robert himself left school he was apprenticed to a local ironmonger. Even while still at Wells his inventive nature was apparent. From Wells he moved to Norwich where he established a foundry, and his first patents were granted. In April 1786 Parson Woodforde went round Mr Ransome’s new iron foundry in Norwich and was very impressed by what he saw.
Norwich had a number of flourishing Non-conformist denominations, including Unitarians and Baptists as well a Quakers, but Robert seems to have found that the Cathedral city stifled his religious convictions. Ipswich had been a hotbed of Puritanism in the 17th century, and this put the Suffolk town on a collision course with the Quakers, but by the 18th century this animosity had subsided. In 1789 Robert Ransome moved his business to Ipswich.
Quakers being both industrious and frugal became one of the wealthiest religious communities; the Barclays who founded the eponymous bank were Quakers, and other old Quaker names still appear in the field of business (think of porage oats). Ransome was no exception and his capital was £200, a considerable sum in the early years of the 19th century. He and one employee established a foundry at a disused maltings in St Margarets Ditches. As result of a mishap in his iron foundry a hot casting came into contact with cold metal, resulting in an extremely hard product. Ransome patented this discovery which he put to use in making ploughshares. Agricultural machinery became the company’s bread and butter, although railway equipment was also made by an associated firm.
In 1845 the firm moved to Orwell Works, whose riverside location provided access to the sailing ships and steamers which carried their burgeoning export trade across the globe. The following year Ipswich was connected to the growing railway network, which opened up further the national market. One of my relatives was an engine driver for Ransomes in the 19th century; the firm had its own network of lines to transport goods from Orwell and Waterside Ironworks to the docks and railway station.
After over two hundred years it is not surprising that independent existence of the firm came to an end in the late 20th century, but the name Ransomes survives. They still make lawnmowers in Ipswich. The first mowing machine was made in 1832; before then any lawns had to be mowed by hand with a scythe, or else grazed to a smooth appearance by sheep. In the past the firm had a much more varied product range, from traction engines to large astronomical telescopes. During WW1 they made aeroplanes; by then the firm must have abandoned its historic links with pacifist Quakerism.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA