I can only find this saying as “Go to Bungay to buy a new bottom” in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. The fact that it is recorded in such an august source proves it is genuine, but the wording is a bit more coarse. No one would have said bottom, even in the 19th century (when Brewer was writing the book which is the pre-eminent work on the subject of sayings), but no one would have written bum, unless it was unavoidable in, for instance, the term bum-bailiff. I have seen some crazy explanations of the origin of the phrase (including one concerning the need to restore the bottom of the river Waveney that runs through the town), but Brewer’s is obviously the correct one. (He was a native of Norwich, so he should have known all about the saying.) He says it goes back to the time when Bungay was famous for its leather goods, and any East Anglian who need a new pair of breeches would think of going there to get one made.
The town is no longer namely for its leather, and I don’t think I have ever seen a pair of leather breeches. They sound rather sweaty to me, but for working outdoors in the winter they must have been ideal; they would have kept out the worst of the cold and wet, and would never have been punctured by thorns. They did wear out in the end though, and that was when your thoughts turned to Bungay! The last remaining firm in the leather trade is Nursey’s sheepskin. They traded on-line when they had to close their shop in Olland Street, though what the current position is I am not sure. They were once famous for their sheepskin coats (TV’s Del Boy had one, and so did I) but these are no longer fashionable. The firm, which was founded in 1846 by Samuel Nursey, now only makes sheepskin accessories. I was at school at St Mary’s in the town when the current MD (Timothy Nursey) was also a pupil there. We left for our respective boarding schools in around 1960. That was longer ago than I wish to contemplate, and the school has been closed for over 50 years.
Is the phrase ‘Go to Bungay’ still familiar to local people? It was to my father’s generation, and he had lived all his life fifteen miles away in Norwich. It is so long since I was part of the Bungay community that I no longer have any connection with the town. In the days when I caught the daily bus to Bungay steam engines still puffed their way into the town Th double decker bus made its way up narrow Bridge Street into the town centre. St Mary’s Perpendicular church was still a place of worship then, and I went there for the annual school service. An old lady with a hook for a hand emerged from a door into the tower as were singing Onward Christian Soldiers; no wonder I remember the occasion as clearly as if it was yesterday! We marched in a crocodile from the school past Roger Bigod’s twelfth century castle to come out opposite the church. You still get a strong sense of history in Bungay, even today. The seventeenth century market cross is on a human scale, but it still dominates the town centre.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Hadleigh is a small town in the south of Suffolk near the river Stour.
The Eastern Counties Railway had run out of steam by the time it had reached Colchester in 1843, and in the ensuing pause a number of schemes were promoted for continuing its progress towards its ultimate destination, Norwich. It was mooted that the town of Hadleigh was to be on the mainline to Diss, with Ipswich being relegated to a branch. The traders of Ipswich would have none of this, and floated the Eastern Union Railway’s proposal to link the town to Colchester directly. It was this line that was built and now is part of the Great Eastern mainline.
As built the nearest that the line came to Hadleigh was Bentley station between Manningtree and Ipswich, some seven miles away. The line to Ipswich was opened in 1846; Royal Assent was given to the Bill authorizing construction of the branch to Hadleigh in the same year and work proceeded rapidly. Up to 300 navvies were employed on the project. and the beer consumed during the evenings after work had ceased for the day was phenomenal. This was appreciated by the local publicans if few others. The branch to Hadleigh was opened on Friday August 20th 1847 to great celebrations. A public holiday was declared in the town. The train had left Ipswich at 3.25 and arrived in Hadleigh three quarters of an hour later. A brass band had accompanied the train and at Hadleigh the Town Band led the assembled multitude through the town. Two hundred and fifty invited guests sat down to a meal at five o’clock. Despite the enthusiasm, the line was not opened to the general public for another fortnight to allow the necessary inspection to take place. There were two intermediate stations on the line, at Capel and Raydon, although both stations were located over a mile away from their respective villages.
A disturbing event occurred during the first year of operation. A special train was arranged to run to Ipswich for the regatta on the 16th September 1847. It was a windy day and the construction of a wall at Hadleigh station had only been competed that morning. The mortar was not yet dry, and a gust of wind of near hurricane force blew down the the 14 foot high wall and injured over fifty of the waiting crowd.
Barley for the maltings and malt exported from the town was a major commodity handled by the railway at Hadleigh. Hay and straw for the cattle carried by rail were kept in the good shed, and arrangements to provide water were at first precarious. In the days before piped supplies all water came from wells, including that needed by the steam engines themselves. Wood was taken from Raydon station and cattle from all stations on the line. Goods traffic was important to the railway, but so too were passengers. There were initially five passenger trains daily in each direction, and three on Sunday, though these weekend services were not well used and were soon abandoned. However the number of daily passenger trains increased during the nineteenth century. There were occasional accidents on the line, mostly of a minor nature, but all were reported to the authorities.
The First World War produced a growth in freight as the farms around Hadleigh were required to make up for the food that could no longer be imported from abroad. After the war the decline in passenger traffic was exacerbated by the the growth of motor omnibuses built on the chassis of ex-army trucks. The fact that the journey from Hadleigh went direct to Ipswich by road, whilst the railway journey required a change at Bentley did nothing to encourage passengers to travel by rail. Passenger traffic was ended in 1932. The effect of the Second World War was similar – the building and then the subsequent supply of the USAAF air base at Capel made for extra business for the railway, but this again declined after the war. Ultimately the line closed to freight traffic on the 15th April 1965. The station at Bentley which had been the junction with the Hadleigh branch was closed in November of the following year. A part of the track has been opened as a Wildlife haven.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
ORDNANCE SURVEY SHEET 126, 1920
A hundred years ago there was no Norwich Airport; even RAF St Faiths which preceded was a couple of decades in the future. A lot of things were different then. I am basing my examination of Norfolk a century ago on the 1920 1” to the mile map of the Norwich area, but many other facts will intrude themselves on my notice. This map covers the place where I was born in Poringland; eight years before my parents’ bungalow was built (i.e. 1920) the area was covered in woodland. Now the area all around is covered in modern housing; not in bungalows but multi-storeyed properties. They are built on tiny plots of land with, some even in terraces.
In 1920 the railway were still in the many companies of the pre-Grouping era, including the Great Eastern and the M&GN. The latter still ran into the elegant terminus building at City Station. From Cromer the trains ran to Golf Links Halt, through Overstrand and Sidestrand to Trimingham, There the wood that has now been washed away by the ever encroaching sea was well inland, and fields were cultivated to the seaward side of it,.
Almost all villages had a Post Office, which also functioned as the local the grocery shop. There was also at least one pub in the village. Now only the largest communities have shops or pubs. I anticipate that this trend will have been greatly accelerated by the Covid lockdown.. Across the country phone boxes were going up in the twenties. Electricity poles were appearing in the countryside, although the National Grid pylons had yet to make their presence felt. Water mains did not exist outside the towns, and main drains were fifty years or so in the future. Gas was supplied to most towns however. Transport was changing; all the railways still operated, but motor busses were beginning to venture beyond the city centre. Motor cars were only available to the very wealthy in 1920, but things were changing fast. The roads were being surfaced in readiness for the coming century.
Laundry took up much of a woman’s time; not just on Monday, which was the traditional day for doing the washing in the copper, but the clothes and sheets then had to be aired and ironed this took days. All was an accepted part of a woman’s world, like cooking and of course looking after the children. As all the neighbouring women would be employed in the same way, a sense of community was engendered. Farming still relied on horses in 1920; traction engines still did heavy haulage, but the motor tractor had scarcely made an impact on ploughing. Horses were not present only on farms, but were a factor in road transport in general. Shipping was already largely steam driven, but fishing by sail was still hanging on.
Wireless was not part of British life in 1920. 2LO began broadcasting for a hour a day in 1922. Newspapers were the only national medium for news. The whole infrastructure than grew up around the broadcast media was yet to come. The health of the nation was the job of the doctors, who would treat those who could not afford the cost of medicine for free, but charged the rest who were deemed well-off enough to pay. The nurses were almost volunteers; they certainly did not expect high salaries a hundred years ago.
In so many ways life was utterly different, but in many ways it was the same. The sun still rose in the east, and the seasons followed each other. Summer holidays were an annual event to be eagerly looked forward to. Football was the national sport, and dominated the Saturday afternoons of the working class..
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
I am sorry, but my page on the Eye branch got uploaded before it was finished. This page is to come, probably in May. In the meantime I will be uploading a page on Norfolk a hundred years ago, based on the Ordnance Survey map SHEET 126, of 1920.
Unlike many of the minor railways in East Anglia which were reduced to goods lines in the 1950s, this was freight only from the start. At first the timetable suggested that passenger service ran to Snape station, but this never materialised. The line opened in 1859, along with the East Suffolk line that it joined. It ran 1.5 miles to a yard at Snape Maltings. It diverged from the mainline just beyond the next level crossing to the one on Langham Road, This is now the road to nowhere except a dwekking, although in 1950 the route still continued parallel to the railway and joined the A1094; as at the oter end only a short section of this road is still present. When the line opened this crossing keeper was responsible for the signal controlling the Snape branch and also the points. A signal box was later installed to control the junction, and this removed these duties from the crossing keeper. This signal box required an adjacent cottage for the signalman to live in. There is now scarcely any sign that a railway ever ran here, and the signal box has long gone, but the cottages remain, now in private ownership.
The idea behind the branch and the person who instigated it was Newson Garrett, a member of the family with a large agricultural engineering business at nearby Leiston. Newson Garrett was a younger son who had not inherited the engineering business, but had seen the opportunity to produce malt for the rapidly expanding pub trade in London from the local barley. He built a substantial maltings by Snape bridge. On the 28th of February 1857 he attended a meeting of shareholders in the East Suffolk line at the Angel Inn in Halesworth and expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the works on his branch to Snape.
All was not well however, for in the very early days of the railway the company charged so much for coal that it remained cheaper for Garrett to continue to import it by sea rather than by rail. Similarly it remained advantageous to export malt by Thames barge rather than by rail. The railway company learned that malt was being sent to London by water but in their sacks, which did not please them. All the problems were sorted out in a few years, and the branch ran successfully for over a century.
The railway was still operating when this picture of Snape maltings was taken in 1958. The railway extended under this arch into the yard and down to the wharf beyond. If you look closely at this picture you may make out the track. A short section for wagons used to run along the front of the maltings to receive malt from the lucums (click here for the meaning). Although in earlier times the line carried as many as three trains a day in each direction, by the time this picture was taken the service was down to one train per day. It closed officially on March 7th 1960, but the last train left Snape on the 4th of that month. The line was worked on the ‘one engine in steam’ principle (two were allowed if the train was double headed and they were coupled together), so no signaling was required on the branch itself, apart from at the junction with the East Suffolk line. There was still just about enough traffic to justify keeping the line open, and the end only came because steam was coming to an end in East Anglia. The reliable J15 was the backbone of the service for almost its entire life. (Fortunately one survives on the North Norfolk Railway.) The only diesels that were light enough to use the timber bridges on the line were 0-6-0 shunting engines, and these were much slower than the equivalent steam engines (15 mph maximum). In taking their trains back to Ipswich along the East Suffolk line they would have disrupted the passenger timetable.
The steam locos were not permitted to enter the maltings yard themselves, and the trucks were hauled individually by a Suffolk Punch horse (latterly by an agricultural tractor). After the Framlingham branch closed the crews on the line were those based at the Ipswich shed. While Framlingham was still operating as a base for locomotives it sometimes sent an engine to assist operations at Snape.
The freight handled was mostly concerned with the maltings, though a small amount of livestock went from the yard at Snape. Until the growth of road transport supplanted it coal was brought to the maltings by rail, and during the season sugar beet was sent out. Some people say a certain amount of fish was sent from Snape in the early years; I do not think this is likely, althoughthe maltings was certainly accessible from the sea. It was many miles from the mouth of the river Alde/Ore however, which made it an unsuitable place to land fish.e.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Hadleigh is a town that has suffered a long decline from the middle ages, when it was a substantial town. It is according to the Annals of St Neots (an early 11th century document)that it was the place where King Guthrum died in the late ninth century and was buried in the town. He was the Viking chieftain who took over East Anglia in about 878. There is no proof that this is true, and the Annals were written long after the event, but lacking any alternative story placing his death elsewhere there is no reason to doubt this. At any rate the name Hadleigh is thought to come from the Norse word for heath. The same e Annals of St Neots recounts king Edmund’s stay at Bures in Essex as a young man. However the Bure story may be of doubtful provenance; before Edmund’s death at the hands of the Danes he was not a famous monarch and details of his life would very likely not have survived.
While on the subject of St Edmund there is a curious bench end of carved oak in the parish church of St Mary’s in Hadleigh. This shows a mythical beast, perhaps a griffon, holding a severed head. This seems to represent St Edmund, but the animal should be a wolf according to the legend. This has a marked similarity to carvings at Gimmingham and Neatishead in Norfolk, although those beasts are more clearly griffons, in that they have wings, which the animal at Hadleigh lacks. It does however have most un-wolflike cloven feet, and a most un-lupine mouth. It has been suggested that this saint represents not St Edmund but John the Baptist, but no known tradition links him with a griffon. The fact that all three carvings are in East Anglia makes St Edmund the obvious choice, but the legend which has transformed the wolf into a mythical beast has been lost. Even more extraordinary in the case of the Hadleigh beast it is its wearing of a priest’s garment, a dog collar (not for a dog) and fourteenth century shoes on its front feet. It is saying something to us, but exactly what is lost deep in the symbolism of the medieval mind.
There is still a wealth of medieval buildings in the place, which have preserved by its economic descent. Had it been a thriving and prosperous place they would have been torn down centuries ago. Like nearly everywhere in East Anglia that was affluent in the middle ages, its wealth was built on wool.
The arrival the railway was in 1847, only a few years after Norwich was reached. It had its first trains before they reached Norwich by the shortest route from Ipswich. It ran from the mainline near Manningtree with two intermediate stops and only took just over 20 minutes to reach its terminus. Before grouping the Great Eastern had a fair service of four trains each way every weekday, but the short branch never paid its way, and was closed to passenger trains as early as 1932. Goods trains survived until 1965.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
I used to pass through Newmarket every time I went to Cambridge or London by car, because the A11 went right through the middle of the town. If you want to know what it was like to take the road now designated as the A 1304 (formerly the A11) it is a single carriageway road. In those days the whole of the way to London was similarly single carriageway. The road continued through Newmarket and straight through the middle of every other other conurbation it came to on the way. In Newmarket you could see the strings of racehorses exercising on the gallops with their trainers. Newmarket became cut off from through traffic when it was bypassed by the route to London, the All joining the A14 just outside the town. This bypass was opened in July 1975. I have been to the town only once or twice since 1975. When the bypass was first opened you could still see the horses on the heath, but now the view has been obscured by the growth of trees.
Newmarket occupies a peninsular, virtually an island, of Suffolk. It is almost surrounded by Cambridgeshire, with a narrow connection to its historic home. Horse racing on Newmarket Heath was made popular by the Stuart king Charles II. His nickname was ‘Old Rowley’ and this is remembered in the Rowley Mile Racecourse. From the 17th century onwards Newmarket became the centre of thoroughbred horse racing in England. There are two courses on the heath, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. There is a third course, the Round Course which is used only once a year for the Town Plate, a historic race that has been reduced in importance in modern times. It has been run ever since the middle years of the 1660s. In in 1671 it was won by a horse owned by the king, who declared that the race should be run ‘for ever’.
There has has recently been controversy about planned development in the town. Nobody wants to see their own nearest environment covered with housing, but with the rapid growth in population I am afraid this will happen whether we like it or not.
The first railway to Newmarket left the main line to London at Great Chesterford. This gave Newmarket direct connection with the capital, but not to Cambridge. This line was opened in January 1848, and horse boxes were a part of the rolling stock from the very start. This way of transporting horses was a great boon to owners and to the horses themselves. The line to Great Chesterford was closed with three years; it must have been the first line to close in East Anglia. A new connection to Cambridge was substituted. A tunnel was dug under the Warren Hill training ground and the connection with Bury St Edmunds was established. Horses became a major source of goods traffic and there were still over 3000 movements of horses a year in 1960. All goods traffic on the line has now ceased, although whether we will see containers from Felixstowe routed through the town when the line from Ely to Bury St Edmunds is re-dualled we have yet to see. Newmarket is on an important route from Cambridge to Ipswich, and if the Varsity line from Oxford is ever restored it will be even more important.
I am not a horsey person, and the excitement of the Rowley Mile holds no draw for me. I can appreciate the beauty of the horseflesh, but there is no attraction in the racing community for me. I would much prefer to see a Suffolk Punch, that gentle giant, than a highly strung thoroughbred. I used to be regular contact with a man in Newmarket, and horse racing held no attraction for him either. He was a bookseller, and we were both interested in books on music – not hoses.
THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The Ickneild Way is an ancient series of tracks that ran across the country from Salisbury to West Norfolk. . Now (and for the past 500 years?) the path that crosses Norfolk is called Peddars Way. It is clearly part of the same route and there is evidence that in the middle ages Peddars Way shared the name Ickneild Way. As the Iron Age Iceni tribe were based in Norfolk, and the name Icenhilde (dating from charters of AD 903) clearly comes from the East Anglian tribe, this unsurprising.
Yet the difference between Peddars Way and the Ickneild Way is not one of name only. Whereas the path south of Thetford becomes a twisting maze of parallel trackways, northwards it is a single road of amazing straightness. Peddars Way is unmistakably Roman; whether they built the road from scratch or merely reconstructed an earlier path we cannot know, although the latter course seems highly likely.
Peddars Way clearly predates the modern towns and villages, which mostly date from the Anglo-Saxon period of the sixth century onwards. Not on Pddars Way, but from the whole of East Anglia only a few settlements from the Roman period can be named although others can be located. Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmunds) in Norfolk is one place whose Roman name we know and Combretorium (Coddenham) in Suffolk is another. Peddars Way avoids all the places along the way which might have offered weary travellers with lodgings for the night. The exception is Castle Acre which I suggest was there in Roman or Iron Age times. Other stopping places have been lost in the mists of time.
We do not know the Roman name of Holme next the Sea, the end of the Ickneild Way in Norfolk, but we can name the Roman station across the Wash where the travellers were headed. This was Vainona; here I want to make a brief digression on the derivation of the town’s modern name of Wainfleet. This is commonly stated to come from the Anglo-Saxon words for a river (fleet) and a wagon (wain) hence a place where wagons could ford the river. Back in Anglo Saxon times Wainfleet was on the coast, and the thought of wagons venturing into the harbour to cross the river Steeping is obviously far fetched. The word ‘Wain’ is obvious to me at least; it is a continuation of the first part of the Latin name, Vainona. Nothing to do with hay wains.
In the most restricted use of the term the Ickneild Way runs from Knettishall Heath in North Suffolk to Ivinghoe Beacon, where it joins the Ridgeway. Ivinghoe itself is in Buckinghamshire, but it is close to Hertfordshire. The Ickneild Way as it exists today is a reconstruction by dedicated ramblers of the 20th century. It does not follow a clearly defined path, and neither does the Ridgeway. All the towns and developments that have. occurred as you approach London have made this impossible; but in the open spaces of West Norfolk much of Peddars Way remains clearly visible.
The sparse nature of the landscape in West Norfolk has help the area to remain pristine. You will meet few walkers tramping along the Peddars Way, even with the Rambling fraternity. You will find far more along the modern Norfolk Coastal Path. This is because the coast provides ever changing prospects. You also have the chance of buying an ice cream as you pass the more populous coastal resorts. Everyone has heard of Peddars Way, but few have walked more than a mile or two along its length.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA
Now that we are well into November we have started fires again. There are basically two kinds of fire; wildfires and those that are deliberately set. I think that most fires that are deliberate are still domestic fires, although these are much less common than they used to be. The other fires that are deliberate are bonfires and similar.
There has been a slight return to domestic fires with the popularity of wood-burners. However we are the only property in our road that has a wood burner, and we only installed that stove within the last ten years. Before that we too relied on central heating.
It is no longer an open fire; and now we have gas central heating as a back-up. On winter mornings it is no longer essential (as was when I was twenty) to kindle the cinders to banish the ice that had formed inside the windows. A fire is once is again the focus of family life; our dog Wesley is sprawled out on the hearth rug, warming his tummy, and the ritual of making the fire up from the log basket is back among the other comforts of home.
There are even some advantages to having a wood-burner. The smug sense of not burning fossil fuels (and so adding to the production ofCO2) is also warming; the amount of CO2 produced by burning wood is exactly the same as if you just left the wood to rot. This production of carbon dioxide was not a consideration as little as 30 years ago. I should not give the impression that a wood-burning stove is an entirely new phenomenon. We had a stove in the front room when I was a child, and a “Tortoise” stove a few years later, but these burned coke rather than wood. They could have burned wood, and such stoves in Canada and other wood rich countries have always done so. The effect was identical whichever kind of fuel was used however. Instead of being just black cast iron, the first stove I referred to was decorated with maroon enamel. This stove was banished when I was about ten; it was replaced by an ordinary open fireplace. Central heating was still a long time in the future for most people in the 1950s.
IT’S many years since I last had a bonfire, but in the days before garden compost bin collections it was the only way to dispose of the cuttings from the garden. They could not go on the compost heap. These bonfires were mostly small affairs, and could be lit at any time of year. Guy Fawkes Day was the exception; it was quite a performance, especially as the great day approached. Anything combustible was fair game on Gut Fawkes Day, but mostly it was branches and twigs of bushes that were cut back after the summer’s growth. On top was the Gu y, lovingly constructed by the young of the household. Although the other fires referred to were normally lit in the hours of daylight, this one on November 5th was lit once the sun had gone down. The flames were that much more visible in the dark!
It was great fun to stand and warm oneself as the flames licked up and started to ignite the Guy. As the fire died down the embers glowed brightly and then was the time to come forward and place your potatoes in the fire to roast. When I was young there were no rolls of foil available, so they were just left to do as they might. The roast spuds were flipped out of the dying embers and eaten with gusto. Once the bonfire had gone out and the watchers had gone to bed the only thing left was a pile of ash. This was not wasted – it was spread on the garden where it helped to fertilise the soil.
The suspected arson attack on the derelict former Fisons warehouse on Paper Mill Lane in Bramford comes to mind. This destroyed a Victorian factory where artificial fertilizers were first produced. It was a sad loss, but I cannot otherwise than that the fire only hastened the factory’s inevitable demise; what possible use could this huge facility have been put to in such a remote place? The blaze at least made its end memorable, as the slow deterioration of the building would not have been.
Wildfires have not been a feature of where I live (fortunately), but where they do occur they can normally be rapidly brought under control by the fire brigade. Not all wildfires are contained however. A devastating accidental fire happened in 1994 when Norwich Public Library caught alight. This was particularly unfortunate as the whole collection of local pictures went up in flames. Not only were many unique and irreplaceable images lost, but we do even know what they were, as the old fashioned card index was lost too. By comparison the fire that took place in the Assembly House a year later was unfortunate but not devastating.
THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The station was described by Pevsner as “an elaborate piece of Elizabethan architecture”. The architect was Frederick Barnes (1814-1898) who also built Needham Market station (an even finer building) in a similar style. He also produced the stations at Bury St Edmunds and at Stoke Hill in Ipswich, although that one has since been demolished. Born in London he established a thriving practice at Ipswich, where he died. The station at Stowmarket is now a stop on the line from Ipswich to Ely and that to Norwich; when it was built the line to Norwich was not yet completed, and the Cambridge route only went as far as Bury St Edmunds. All diesel powered passenger trains now go on from Stowmarket via Bury to Cambridge or Ely, but only the slower trains on the electrified Norwich service stop at Stowmarket.
It is where the Direct Rail Services freight locomotives that serve Felixstowe Harbour have their base. There is a crew office for drivers on this route on Platform 1. The freight trains to the Midlands pass through Stowmarket before leaving the Norwich line at Haughley Junction. The railways in East Anglia were amalgamated to form the Great Eastern in 1862, and this line became the principal route into Norwich, replacing the original way into Norwich via Cambridge and Thetford.
To reach Stowmarket (which the railway did in 1846) the Ipswich and Bury Railway had first to build the tunnel in Ipswich, and at Stowmarket they had to divert the River Gipping away from the railway. There was an 80 feet deep marsh that had to be stabilised before the railway could be built. The gauge of the Eastern Counties Railway to Colchester was originally 5 ft, but this reduced to 4ft 8.5 ins (standard gauge) in 1844. The line that was extended to Stowmarket was always standard gauge. The company was effectively the Eastern Union Railway (although nominally it was the Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds Railway), the opening taking place on Christmas Eve in 1846. The Eastern Counties Railway took over the running of Stowmarket Station in 1854, the year in which the line was finally extended to Newmarket and thence to Cambridge.
The goods sidings at Stowmarket were extensive to serve the various factories in the town. These included one making explosives and this led to an expansion of the siding capacity during World War I. What I remember about Stowmarket is the racks of paint samples left out to see how they reacted to weathering. These were plainly visible from by the trains and were part of the ICI paint factory at Stowmarket. This facility has now been removed, although there are still some retired members of the workforce who must remember it. The area once devoted to sidings has now largely been taken over by car parking.
With nearly a million rail journeys commencing or terminating at Stowmarket every year (under normal circumstances) this is the second most used station in Suffolk, after Ipswich. This is in spite of Bury St Edmunds having twice the population of Stowmarket, which only has a population of 20,000 (although future growth is planned). This is probably because it has a fast and direct service to Liverpool Street. This makes the town a popular choice with commuters to both London and Ipswich. The line to Norwich was electrified in the 1980s.
FOR HISTOIC EAST ANGLIA
I am a Norfolk boy, but both on my mother’s and my father’s side of the family there are deep roots in Suffolk. My maternal grandmother was born in Stradbroke, and paternal grandmother was born in Lakenheath – and I can trace my direct ancestors in Mildenhall/Lakenheath back to the first half of the seventeenth century. My family gets even more involved with the county as it continues, because a branch of my wife’s ancestors lived in Southwold! In fact we are as much Suffolkers as Norfolkers.
As I am sure you are aware, in the past people did not tend to move far from their native settlements. I have already mentioned Suffolk, where my ancestors ploughed a furrow that was deep rather than wide. Among my Norfolk ancestors I can trace the Buxtons (one of my paternal great grandmothers was a Buxton), who were living in Easton (a village just west of Norwich) back to middle years of eighteenth century – and probably much longer than that, but the trail goes cold after about 1770. The Rivetts (my mother’s maiden name was Rivett) were dwelling in Shipdam in central Norfolk from at least 1655 until the 20th century. Up to the coming of the railways, which among their other achievements brought new blood into the national population, marriage was almost always a local affair. Sons and daughters, their husbands and wives, had lived not far from one another all their lives; how would brides and grooms ever have met if not from a few miles away? Even events that did prise some members of the population away from home (principally wars) did not lead to inter-marriage to any noticeable degree.
Once this immovability among the lower orders of society began to break down it was not just the people of Norfolk and Suffolk that began to mingle. A young lady who had been born in Evercrech in Somerset married a young man from Suffolk. A generation before that, when the railways were a-building, a young man from Buckinghamshire (a navvy) married a girl from Cornwall. All these people were my direct ancestors.
My wife’s ancestors too took on new blood from Scotland and Devon. It was now a true nation, not a collection of independent localities that hardly mixed from the time of their first arrival in England 1,600 year ago. It looks as if this mixture of peoples is set to continue with next generation; my son has recently got engaged to a Dutch girl, and we hope that issue may result in due course.
What has been the effect of all this miscegenation? It is really too early to say (a mere three or four generations), and the scope of the new families now encompasses the whole world. It is all a long way from the cosy East Anglia of the eighteenth century.