The Hadleigh SocietyAug 2002
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Aural Histories
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 points.

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.

W.J. (writing around 1990)

Graham Panton

Over 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 this occasion.

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 Bloomfield.

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 content. 

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 around Europe. 

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.

Next Event


The Organist and the Parlourmaid:

A Hadleigh Love Story, to be told by

Colin Stephenson

at the Old Town Hall

on Wednesday 21st August at 8pm.  

St Mary’s Church

A 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 suitable site.

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.

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. 

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:


Jan Byrne

Vice Chair

John Bloomfield


Sue Angland


John O'Brien

History Group

Glenda Druce


Jim Betteridge


Joe Byrne


Chris Drake


Graham Panton


Rosemary Schade

The meeting closed with the serving of Wine and Cheese.