The Hadleigh SocietyOct 2002
Newsletter Index Up Feb 2002 Apr 2002 Aug 2002 Oct 2002 Dec 2002


The Organist and
the Parlourmaid

A Hadleigh Love Story as told on 21st August by their son, Colin Stephenson.

Joshua Stephenson was born blind in 1891in a North – East mining commun­ity and was brought up by an ‘aunt’ to be self reliant. Through a scholarship to the London School for the Blind he received a classical education, and his piano and organ skills gained him a part-time post at 19 as organist of Whatfield.  He sought to supplement this with a profession as a piano tuner but relying on word of mouth was a slow way to grow such a business. When he was down to his last 6d, gaining a few new customers just saved him from giving up.  When the Hadleigh organist went to war Joshua took up the post that was his for the next fifty years.  He would offer tuppence to anyone who would show him around a new place, but he learned every road in a twelve mile radius of the town, could greet an approaching person by name before they spoke a word, and could put the fear of god into the boys of the choir. He was a champion over 100 yards who until into his fifties could keep ahead of his son, and would regularly run back to Church House after services.

Gladys Collinson was born in rural Surrey, became parlour maid to the Downs household, and hence came to Hadleigh with Dean Downs in 1932. We cannot know for sure what attracted the parlour maid to the organist; for his part her singing voice must have been a factor (although in our audience was the woman he acclaimed as the finest of all voices!). Gladys and Joshua were married in 1935, lived in Church House and had a brief period of pure bliss that was cut short after two years by TB.  She recovered, bore Colin in 1939, but took ill again. Through the winter of 1940, one of the worst of the century, Joshua would make the 8-mile journey twice a week to the Jane Walker Sanatorium.  Sometimes he would take a lift on the back of a tandem but more often would walk.  In deep snow he lost the vital cues from the echo of his footsteps, making it particularly difficult to keep to the roads.  By Easter hope dwindled that she would live.

As many in the audience remembered, Joshua was still walking the lanes well into his eighties, particularly enjoying a stroll down to the Layham Queen’s Head where he would take a half pint or two. 

You will be aware that during the last few months Tesco have been carrying out surveys on shopping, traffic counts and the land between the Brett Works and Babergh’s car park. We understand that they are hoping to have the riverside site allocated as a supermarket site in the District plan, thus easing the way for a future application. It was being said that Buyright were no longer interested and that the riverside was the only site available for a supermarket.

We have today received from the Planning Consultants for QD/Buyright a document and plan that they have sent to Babergh Planning department, outlining their new development proposals.

Their covering letter to the Hadleigh Society states, “the proposals at this stage are draft and it is hoped that they will be refined after detailed discussion with Hadleigh Town council, Babergh District Council, The Hadleigh Society and residents of Hadleigh in order that the draft proposals better reflect the aims and aspirations of all”.

Their plan shows a new supermarket building of 2,628sq.m. gross, linking into the front of the existing building, on the space which is at present the car park fronting on to Calais Street. There would be a pedestrian entrance in Calais Street and a second entrance from the car park adjacent to the present Buyright entrance.

Their proposal overcomes objections raised by the Inspector, and the pedestrian entrance would be 280 metres from the Town Centre.

The important thing is that Buyright are back in the game and the Riverside is not the only available site.

I will bring a copy of the plan and document to the October meeting. Both John Bloomfield and I have a copy should anyone wish to see it. We would appreciate your comments.

Jan Byrne

Hadleigh Traffic Management and Environmental Working Party

from Jan Byrne

I have for a few years represented the Society on the above working party. The working party is comprised of Officers and Members of Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council, Hadleigh Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and ourselves. A recent welcome addition to the working party is a resident from Benton Street.

The group meets two monthly. It initially may seem to be a talking shop with little action, but I believe it to have been exceedingly successful in bringing improvements to Hadleigh. We discuss numerous issues that may or may not improve life in Hadleigh.  When areas have been identified and researched then bids for funding are put to County or District covering the next five years. When money has been allocated there are months of work to be undertaken in surveying, planning, and acquiring the relevant traffic management orders, and it is this that may make us appear to be only a talking shop.

The outcomes may not please everybody and sometimes seem to be wrong.  For example, many people comment on the High Street crossing being in the ‘wrong’ place, but due to pavement widths, road problems and legal reasons it could not be put outside the Post Office or Co-Op and was put in the nearest, safe position.

Sometimes, we as residents are able to suggest ‘cheaper’ options to those proposed, for example the increased street lighting in the High Street. It was planned to install mock Georgian hanging lamps, but we proposed the cheapest and least obvious lighting fittings, insisting that our High Street did not need to be beautified with hanging lamps, its interest being in its buildings.

The crossing has just been put in by Station Road School, and a crossing with safety islands is being installed in Angel Street, plus a footpath in Threadneedle Street. These are being installed in the Safely to School Plans, having been decided upon following consultation with parents at the schools. Double yellow lines are being re-installed at the ends of Queen Street and Church Street and work will be undertaken at the junction of Lady Lane and the Bypass to improve the safety of that junction.

The H.G.V. signing for Benton Street will be improved, probably before Christmas, and as the residents of Benton Street know, they are about to be resurfaced using a ‘quiet surfacing’. It is appreciated that this will cause considerable disruption to the town but it is planned to take place within the half term period.

There are considerable concerns about the poor lighting in Pykenham Way. A bid has been prepared and hopefully the new lighting will be installed next year.

The new road from the Bypass linking through to the industrial estate has still not been opened due to some problems at its safety audit, apparently related to splay visibility problems.

These are just a few of the areas that we have covered and we are now seeing them come to fruition.

We are always happy to receive proposals from the public, and if any member of the Society wishes to make proposals please either send them to me, or to Mr Grutchfield who chairs the committee.

Hadleigh Looks After Its Poor, 1400-1700,      with Sue Andrews

at the Old Town Hall at 8pm on Wednesday 23rd October.

Over these 300 years attitudes to charity changed. Sue Andrews will briefly describe what Hadleigh was like at that time, and what was happening in the country at large. From her research of sources covering gifts that range from a small alms box donation through to Pykenham's complete almshouses Sue will particularly focus on what the benefactors wanted to achieve. Next year she will return to tell us what actually happened to the bequests.

Glenda Druce

Glenda, Chairman of our History Group, was born and educated in Staffordshire and still thinks of herself as a Midlander.  Originally starting to train as a librarian she changed to teaching instead and never regretted it. She spent most of her working life in primary schools (or playgroups when her children were small) including a year’s exchange with an Australian teacher – quite a step when her only experience of ‘abroad’ had been a week in Germany!

A move with her family to Farnborough, Kent was a great change as was teaching in Inner London for the next few years. Then in 1987 she moved to Suffolk, to East Bergholt, and taught in Ipswich, finally moving to Hadleigh in 1999 on her husband’s retirement.

The theatre has always been one of her main interests, beginning as a member of a Youth Theatre in Staffordshire, first acting and then producing. This led to writing and producing work with adults and children. In fact she met her husband when she went to teach drama at the Youth Club he was running in Wednesbury. Nowadays she confines herself to audience participation going as often as she can. Five years ago she and a friend started a theatre-going group at East Bergholt which has proved very successful, and she is still involved with the organisation of its monthly visits.

History has also been a lifelong interest; many holidays were chosen because of historical opportunities. Moving to Hadleigh with its interesting history gave her the opportunity to help in the Hadleigh Archives and with Guildhall tours. Any other spare time is shared between family and research on family history.

Dr Rowland Taylor, and Mary's Counter Reformation in the Hadleigh Area.

Clive Paine follows up last year's talk, at the Old Town Hall at 8pm on Thursday 28th November.

The sequel to last year’s talk: how Hadleigh’s rector was a prominent martyr to Mary’s counter reformation. 

We have held over the report of last year’s talk, and give it now as a timely reminder for the forthcoming sequel.

On 22nd October last year Clive Paine again brought the past to life, this time in illustrating one of the turning points of English history. He first made us understand the pre-reformation Catholic Church, how the fixtures and fittings supported the ceremonies, and how these were supported by peoples’ wills. He recommended many churches around Suffolk (Rood screen at Eye, stained glass in Long Melford, Bramfield, Seven Deadly Sins in Hesset) that retain features like rood screens, which at that time would have carried the rood, or cross, and accompanying figures. One of the most valuable records of the church of the time came from an extensive written account by Roger Martin of Long Melford, who remained faithful to the Catholic tradition and died in 1615 aged 89.  (The value of records like this, of the ordinary life of the time, should encourage our own activities, to ensure that today’s life is well recorded.)

Hadleigh made its own contribution to the records with the meticulous detail of the church assets and their sale in 1547. Along with these went the guilds and their chantries. Wills no longer left money for prayers; instead it was directed towards the Poor Box. 

Our town, along with Mendlesham, was one of the earliest to court the reformers, with Thomas Bilney preaching in 1527.