The Hadleigh SocietyNov 2003
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A Hadleigh Childhood

At our August meeting Colin Stephenson gave a fine performance with a monologue drawing on memories from his childhood as the Organist’s Son.  Following a succession of themes: fears, betrayals, delights, people and places, he recalled his early years during and after the war. 

The sick mother who was never allowed to hold him and died a year after bearing him was a central theme but his blind father was a principal character in many of the scenes.  A climactic point was tobogganing down the ‘conch’ in the Winter of 1947.  The toboggan went off with his father but without himself, careering down the steep slope and finishing in a blackberry bush as Colin watched with a mixture of horror and excitement. 

Expectations were much lower in those days and a Christmas stocking containing just a lump of coal, some fruit and two toy buses was a real delight. Toys were always second-hand except when Dean Downes ran over Colin’s wooden train with his Armstrong-Siddeley and the replacement was brand new.

His mother had hoped he would be either a clergyman or a gardener.  He has fulfilled the latter wish and now counts Cedric Morris plants among his collection, but at six he was not so impressed with irises on a Sunday visit to Benton End.  However, not only does he. remember a peony from when he was the same height as it, but recent tender care has resurrected that same plant some sixty years later.

As a choirboy he remembers his first solo.  When he opened his mouth and no sound came out he was very grateful for the support of a woman in the choir who covered for him, enabling him to recover some voice of his own. Colin was pleased to be able to thank that lady in the audience.

Raydon Airfield had some German prisoner of war workers.  Colin contrasted the evil stereotype of propaganda with his experience of a kind German who took him to the cinema. As a slightly older boy we heard how he managed to get into ‘H’ (for horror) films if he appeared to be with an older boy.  The thrills he sought in the cinema had a parallel in real life, revealed by his confession that he once placed a lump of wood on the railway line, with some expectation that he would return to find a wrecked train.

Times change, but Colin still sees boys having the same delight he had, swimming in the river. 

The church was inevitably a major part of his life, but as important as anything has been the style of language of the Bible and Prayer Book, with its poetic cadences, as Colin demonstrated with a short reading of a collect. Indeed, for the whole length of his talk Colin impressed us with his delivery and cadences.

Colin still lives in Church House, still regards Hadleigh as his hometown, and impressed on us the importance of retaining the serenity and historical character of such a place.  This, he said, is what would be imperilled by a supermarket development so close.

Memories of Benton End

In October Glyn Morgan talked to us about the work of Cedric Morris who for 40 years was one of the most celebrated residents of Hadleigh. From 1944 up to Cedric’s death in 1982 Glyn was a frequent pupil at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton End. 

He took us through a series of excellent slides of Cedric’s pictures, putting each in the context of his fascinating life story.  We couldn’t possibly do justice in this newsletter but Benton End Remembered by Gwynneth Reynolds and Diana Grace, published by Unicorn Press, and available from The Idler is strongly recommended for anyone who missed the meeting.  Those who attended will already have been recommended to get hold of a copy.

Do You Want More Social Events?

The Executive Committee has been exploring the possibility of organising more events.  These might include visits to other society’s towns: we currently have invitations from Thetford and Hertford. It might include trips to destinations such as Kew, which is a World Heritage Site and home of the National Archives.

If you are interested in this sort of event, or if you have ideas for others please let us know.  Even better, if you have the time and energy to help organise an event we would like to set up a small sub-committee to do this.  You can contact the Secretary or any other Committee member, as indicated on the back of this newsletter.

Next Event

On Monday 24th November Clive Paine makes a welcome return to bring to life yet another episode in our local history: Queen Elizabeth's Progresses Through Suffolk, between 1561 and 1578.

You can be sure of a good evening's entertainment from a popular speaker.

All, as usual, in the Old Town Hall at 8.

Old News

Not Just Locals

From an 1825 newspaper

Some young thieves of London are making an excursion into the country for the sake of profit. On Friday last about 8pm two boys, one not more than 12 years old were observed against the window of Mrs Payne, watchmaker of Hadleigh. A person suspecting they were up to no good told Mrs Payne of it who directly ordered the shop to be shut up to prevent them robbing her. The boys however contrived to cut a piece of glass out of the window about 2 inches square and took out a gold seal and other articles to the value of £4 while the person was in the act of putting up the shutters, and they walked off undiscovered.

Ipswich Journal March 1825

Married at Raydon after a courtship of twenty years Mr Martin Tricker, merchant and Miss Rachel Scarf of the above place.

Changing Word meanings

A pedestrian (walker)

James Bigmore the Suffolk Pedestrian in Sudbury walked 50 miles in under 9 hours on a half mile piece of ground.  A handsome sum was collected.

[This kind of walking is mentioned in various papers - a way for a poor person to achieve money]