Hadleigh 60 Years ago
I came to Hadleigh In 1935 and
stayed at the White Lion, the comfortably appointed principal hotel, which had
a living vine growing indoors. The town, charming and attractive, had known
better days. Buildings showed decline, and even decay. About 3000 people
lived here, fewer than in 1835. Some parents, indeed, I learned later, could
not even afford tuppence ha’penny (1p in today’s money) for the child to
have a daily bottle of milk, and friends secretly gave the payment to the
school. But Hadleigh retained much of its mediaeval independence and
self-sufficiency. There were two bespoke tailors, local butchers,
bakers, chimney-sweeps, and a basket-maker too. If anything was needed
from Ipswich, Kenny Beeston, the carrier fetched it, at a charge of less than
2d a package.
Monday, the day specified in Henry
III’s charter of 1252, was Hadleigh’s Market Day. Iron cattle pens
stood on part of the market ground. On the day, fifty years ago, when the “evacuees”
from the German bombing of London were brought to Hadleigh, these pens were
occupied by groups of anxious children, nervously awaiting distribution to
safer homes in Suffolk. One regrets now that no camera film was then available
to record this spectacle.
The Brett Works (Mr. G.H.Price) in
Pound Lane employed many hands. Others worked at Wilson’s Maltings in
Station Road, and at Cooke’s Matting Factory in Duke Street.
Their coir, after dyeing, was
stretched out in the meadow beside the river to dry in the sun. Raw material
came to Hadleigh by goods train. The passenger service had been discontinued
since 1932. The bus fare to Ipswich was about 6˝d, and the buses were
generally well filled. Often there was standing room only. A
second bus might be summoned, and this made a non-stop journey.
A constant stream of water flowed
along the Street gutters from Angel Street towards Hadleigh Bridge. Boys going
to Bridge Street School used to drop matchsticks to race along it, and had to
run to keep up with their “boats”. Local government was very capably
managed by Hadleigh Urban District Council, over which Dr. John Muriel
presided for many years. A memorial screen to him is at the entrance to the
tower of Hadleigh Church. Political attachments played no part in the election
of Councillors. Each candidate stood for election on the basis of his past, or
future, work for the town.
Nearly all the menfolk of Hadleigh
were great gardeners: they had to be if they had a family to feed. For
recreation there was the Bowls and Cricket Clubs, football of course, the
Palace Cinema and the Dramatic Society. Each Whit Monday there were sports on
Holbecks Meadow. School teachers, along with some town sportsmen, gave up
their holiday to organise them. On dark evenings the peace of the town was
disturbed by noisy gangs of youths chasing each other and shouting. But it was
harmless noise - there was none of today’s deliberate, destructive
vandalism. The County Library was in a dismal room below the Town Hall. There
was no paid Librarian. It was open on Friday evenings and staffed by
Volunteers, I myself did it for a time. On Sundays an enthusiastic Salvation
Army band played and sang hymns outside Overall House, and at other selected
A long-standing rivalry between
Church and Chapel was still very strong, and overflowed into ordinary life.
Soon after coming, I was told which shops in the town supplied
Church-goers and which supplied Chapel-goers, and it was impressed on me where
I should take my custom. The schools too reflected it. The two Church Schools
in Threadneedle Street and Bridge Street provided for their children from 5 to
14 years of age. The Station Road County Council School, built in 1900 after
the day school attached to the Congregational Church (now URC) had closed,
educated the boys and girls who would have attended there. I recall that when
in my first year the staffs of the two schools tried to promote a better
feeling by arranging a cricket match between us it was quite spoilt by
unemployed ex-pupils from both schools who came uninvited on to the field and
destroyed the harmony that we were trying to create.
the past three years, as joint-editor of this newsletter I have been
persuading my fellow members of the Executive Committee to submit their
biographies, and now it has caught up with me: I have to own up to mine. The
tradition has been to write in the third person, but that’ll fool no one on
I first moved to Suffolk, and to
Hadleigh, with my wife Lindsay in 1971 when my job was relocated from Dollis
Hill in London to Martlesham Heath. Our first home in the town was a
brand new house in Ann Beaumont Way but 8 years later we moved and for over
twenty years we have lived in The Flying Chariot in Benton Street.
In those earlier years we were
involved in the Brett Valley Society, which produced a variety of cultural
events under the inspiration of Tom McIntosh. Whilst musical activities have
continued over the years the town has perhaps lost out on some of the other
events of that era. Bringing up a young family took much of our attention in
the 80’s, together with a major initiation into the renovation of old
buildings. Consequently we were not founder members of the Hadleigh Society,
but like many other dwellers in a timber frame, we soon got to know John
I have now been a member of the
society for fifteen years, serving as vice chairman and chairman in that time.
In 1995 I took the Hadleigh Society onto the World Wide Web, so it could
almost be counted amongst the pioneers of the medium. Although there has
not been time in recent years to make dramatic changes to the website it
continues to attract interest from near and far when people are researching
the town or its people, past or present. An important resource which continues
to grow is the newsletter archive which forms a substantial part of the
I have spent most of my working life
in the field of computing, starting with the Post Office (the GPO indeed),
which was subsequently BT, and leaving in 1996. Being self-employed has proved
to be at least as interesting and enjoyable as any earlier part of my career.
Working in training and consultancy for computing and telecommunications has
presented a variety of challenges, with several oversees assignments giving me
the chance to travel to many interesting places in Asia and Africa as well as
The flexibility of my work has also
given me the opportunity to take on the role of a parent governor at Hadleigh
High School, another very worthwhile experience.
The Organist and the
A Hadleigh Love Story,
to be told by
at the Old Town Hall
on Wednesday 21st
August at 8pm.
local subject and a local speaker again brought out the crowds to hear Roger
Kennel point out so many fascinating features of St Mary’s Church. It
is unusual in Suffolk in having a spire. The building we now see has
changed in some way in every century. The oldest part is the 12th
century tower, gaining the 135ft spire in the 13th century. The
walling was in place in the 14th century but the present windows
are 15th century.
Thus it was about 1450 that the
church as we know it was finally formed. It would have had some fine medieval
glass but Dowsing put an end to that in 1644, leaving just a few
fragments. A great loss, but the replacements of 1653 in the North
Chapel have their own interest: 4 black faces. Many old pictures reveal
how the church used to be, the most obvious feature now missing being the
Guild Porch, removed in 1855. The inner and outer arches now grace the
boundary wall to the churchyard, complete with one of the original doors. The
spire has changed over the years, now being of the broach type but previously
having had a parapet around the tower. It houses 8 bells, with the outside
hung sanctus being one of the oldest in the county.
As we would expect, Roger made us
look closely at the details around the walls. Like any building there was
provision for scaffold poles and if you look closely you can still see where
the pudlog holes were filled in. We all can see the buttresses, but look at
how those around the chancel are taller and carry flushwork, reflecting its
greater importance. That same theme applies inside the building, where
the arches around the chancel carry mouldings whereas those to the nave are
plain. Looking between the buttresses, Roger pointed to how the windows were
irregularly spaced. He had promised to leave us with questions
unanswered, and this was one of them. Another unexplained aspect is the
alignment of the church, being about 15 degrees from true East-West.
We can expect many more people
taking a closer look at the church in the near future.
The Twentieth Annual General
Meeting held on Thursday 27th June 2002 in Hadleigh Old Town Hall
In the absence of the Chair, John
Bloomfield, Vice-Chairman, welcomed our President, Rev. Canon John Griffin,
members of the Committee and 26 members of the Society.
Glenda Druce reported
that the History Group research had continued on the inhabitants of Hadleigh,
using the 1836 map of streets and houses. A selection of their work
formed the basis of the Society's exhibition at the May Show. The
Society contributed to the National History Week by holding a study day on 11th
May which included lectures on the history of Hadleigh, timber-framed
buildings and the brick making. After lunch participants either toured
Hadleigh looking at brickwork or toured the Guildhall, including a
demonstration of the use of computers in the archives. Overall it was a
very successful day.
The Rev. Canon Griffin asked whether
the results of the survey of gravestones conducted some time ago was
available. He was informed that a copy was in the archive and another
would be made available in the Church.
Following our delight in the Inspector's refusal
to grant Tesco's application, we are now faced with Babergh planning officers'
proposal that the riverside site be included in the District Plan as suitable
for a supermarket. Tesco is still interested. It is understood that the
Co-op, having gained permission for their proposals (which we supported), will
commence construction next year.
Of recent planning applications
within the Conservation Area the new Health Centre is a particular concern. A
two-storey block with a raised central section will replace the existing
award-winning single storey building. The new building and its car park
will be very visible, especially from the riverside walk and the
churchyard. The Society objected unsuccessfully and proposed a more
A comprehensive response made to
the recent Green Paper on planning policy was favourably received at Babergh.
In reply to comments on the state of
the Benton Street almshouses following the fire last year, John Bloomfield
observed that the massive timbers exposed seemed to indicate that this Grade 2
Listed building is one of the oldest in Hadleigh.
Overall Hadleigh has nearly 400
listed buildings, 100 more than Lavenham and twice as many as Sudbury.
Constant vigilance is needed to maintain this unique heritage.
REPRESENTATION ON OTHER BODIES
The town Forum is now defunct. Jan Byrne represents the Society on the
Traffic Management Working Party and has had a success with regard to street
lighting. The replacement lights in the High Street will be of a modern
design and not the proposed mock-Victorian units. The lights at the
mini-roundabout will also be changed.
John Bloomfield is now Chairman of
the Eastern Region of the Civic Trust. "Declaration of interests" is
causing some problems. If you are concerned about proposals for your
town you have an interest because you live there…!
The Society has now completed 20 years of activities and continues to grow,
slowly but surely. Meetings are generally well attended and the visitors
help to pay for the speakers. Thanks were due to John Bloomfield for his
efforts in cooking chestnuts at Christmas (proceeds went to the Mayor's
Charity), Sue Angland, Glenda Druce and Roger Kennell for their part in the
Study Day, Chris Drake and John O'Brien for the Society's stand at the May
Show. John Bloomfield's position as Chairman of the Eastern Region of
the Civic Trust has enabled him to provide a lot of information and
documentation that has been particularly useful in approaches to
Babergh. The Committee continues to meet regularly and their work shows
in the popularity of our meetings and the respect that has been won for the
Society: thank you to all of them and most particularly to our secretary, Sue
Angland, for her continuous work which keeps the Society running.
THE NEW COMMITTEE
No nominations had been received for any
post. This was unfortunate as there were two vacancies on the committee
and some volunteers would be greatly appreciated. Colin Reeve had moved
away from Hadleigh and John O'Brien had taken the post of Treasurer. As
no formal ballot was necessary the Executive Committee for the coming year is: