The Hadleigh SocietyMay 2011
Newsletter Index Up Feb 2011 May 2011


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Bernard Tickner - my early life in Hadleigh

I was born in Hadleigh In 1924 at the Bank House in the High Street opposite the Market place. I remember it all as a wonderful childhood where I was free to roam wherever I chose around the lanes and the farms without let or hindrance and I could bicycle later on all the way round to the villages, Elmsett, Layham and Kersey.  All the way round it was magic although I didn’t realise it at the time.

What I do remember is the garden.  It was a 1 acre garden at the back of the Bank and it stretched beyond where it is today where the road is cut through but I remember climbing the wall at the bottom of the garden, sitting on it watching the men playing bowls on the White Lion Bowling green, which they did during the summer, and watching fascinatingly the preparation in the spring when they treated it, with I think, Mercury, and all the worms came wiggling up to the top.

We had a gardener whose name was Eli and he did a little work, not very often, and stood watering the celery. I remember him saying “that there celery, that a water weed, that need a lot of water”. He was right of course.  It’s funny how I remember that. There was a big purple leaved beech tree at the end of the garden which gave shade and there was quite a large vegetable garden and lawn where my brother and I used to play.

Once we were playing with darts and he threw it and one got stuck in my leg and I was very alarmed. I was taken to the doctors who put my leg in the bath before he pulled the dart out and there was one very tiny little spot of blood and I was very disappointed.

We spent a lot of time in what we called the Coach House, which if you face the bank was to the right, where I take great delight today in getting money out of the cash machine from where the outside gate was to where we kept our bicycles.

The other memory that I have is the long line of working men queuing up for the dole which we could see from our drawing room windows and I was filled with sadness because it was the late 20s early 30s in the recession and my mother used to take me to help with cheap meals for the unemployed in a large hut. Oh I wish I could remember the street name but I know where it was, where they got a wholesome meal for a few coppers.

The market which was opposite the bank used to take place, I think, on Mondays and was a great source of entertainment with a tremendous bustle of people, of chickens, sheep and cattle being auctioned and rabbits and where we sold our guinea pigs. I don’t know happened to them.  I hope they weren’t eaten.

In the house we had a maid, Olive Beer from Layham, and a cleaning lady called Mrs Pettingale who used to come in daily and then the three of us would have high tea in the kitchen and my great delight was to have something like shrimps which we peeled. A man used to come round shouting “shrimps, Harwich shrimps”. They were small and delicious. We also had winkles with winkle pins, small boy’s delight.

At weekends, on Sundays to be precise, the Bank was shut. It might have been open on Saturdays, I expect it was. There were 5 or 6 Bank clerks, one being Mr Hambling, the father of the now famous Maggie Hambling, the artist, who I remember as a little girl. My father had his Manager’s office overlooking the beds in the garden and in the evenings or Sundays we used to get measured on the side of the safe wall. We used to unlock the big walk-in bank safe and whether our heights and measurement are on that still it would be interesting to look. That’s where we grew up.

Milk used to be delivered daily with a horse and cart with a big milk churn and pint and quart measures on its side so we took a jug out and it would be filled with milk and brought in. In those days we had no refrigeration so the milk was delivered daily as was the bread from Bloomfield’s Bakery in the High Street and the butcher used to deliver. I can’t remember which one we went to but in the High Street. I remember Kersey’s the saddle maker, and then next to the White Lion going up the street I remember Richardson and Preece, suppliers of food for animals. There was all kind of materials there.  Eastoes the grocers and beyond that opposite the Church Street was the wonderful Partridge’s and of course, Bloomfield’s the bakers.

On the top floor of Partridge the ironmongers, which was very small when I was a boy, the family lived above the shop where the 2 Miss Partridges ran a small kindergarten, on the top floor where they sell nails and such like today, and my brother and I learnt to read and write there. I used to be stood in the corner regularly for not colouring things in properly.  It was only years later that I discovered I was colour-blind; we never knew in those days.

In Church Street itself was the Post Office and the telephone exchange.  Our number was ‘Hadleigh 18’ and remember the traditional way the telephonist at the exchange would tell you “it’s no good ringing that number they have just gone out”. She would know everything that was going on.

More or less opposite was Dr Muriel’s surgery who was our doctor and it was fairly rough and ready. He used to allow the patients to congregate outside on the pavement when they discussed their ailments quite openly amongst themselves and would enquire from someone emerging what medicine they had been given and then they would go in and ask for some of the ‘pink stuff’ or the ‘green stuff’ or something like that which they had great faith in.

We used to go to Church every Sunday. I wasn't in the children’s Sunday school in the afternoon, I didn’t do that thank goodness, but I knew the Dean very well who was a very nice man called Dean Downs and I used to go and see him on my own and I think he enjoyed the visits.

The garden at the Deanery was always a wonderful spot.  Very large where church fetes used to take place every year in the Summer time.

My mother was a great organiser of children’s parties and sometimes she arranged it in the top of the barn in the White Lion’s yard where there was a large room and we had parties there with masses of children but I enjoyed the old Town Hall mostly because it was a good place to rampage and it echoed lastly. I don’t know if it is used today.  I hope it is.

My Father was interested in Gilbert and Sullivan operas and he put on many different versions of G&S in the old cinema in the High Street.

In the High Street the gutters on both sides was flowing water and where it came from I don’t know. It was clean water but it was always flowing and there was no covers or anything so you had to be careful not to get your feet wet.

The streets were lit by gas lighting and the man used to go round on a bicycle with a pole with a hook on the end to tug open the gas lights when it was time for lighting up and we had to know what the lighting up time was. It was put in the newspapers because by then you had to have a light on your bicycle. It was some years before we had batteries for our bicycle lights. Before that I can't remember what it was but they weren’t battery driven and you had to be lit otherwise the policeman would stop you.

When my father became ill my mother asked the Salvation Army if they would stop playing as they came by the house because every Sunday they marched from the Citadel playing like billiow so instead they readily agreed and we would just hear them softly marching by with the ‘boom’ ‘boom’ ‘boom’ of the drum just to keep them in step. Years later and I am talking of twenty or more years I happened to be in Hadleigh on Sunday afternoon when I saw the Salvation Army band and sure enough it was still going by the house going ‘boom’ ‘boom’ ‘boom’.  I am sure they didn’t know why. I wonder if they still play? They used to play, I think, on the corner of Church Street.  It might have been in the market place. I think it probably was. They would stand in a circle singing familiar hymns, and whilst continuing to sing they would turn outwards to see who was going by, trying to listen to their conversations instead on concentrating on the service.

The other place I remember in the High Street was Buckright’s the hairdresser, there were two brothers and you sat on a bench waiting your turn for a six penny haircut.

I used be fascinated by the blacksmith right at the end of the High Street , where Calais Street, or Callis Street as it was always called, turned right and left to the cemetery and the hill. Left to Gallows Hill and was it called Constitution Hill by the cricket ground? The ring of the anvil carried right through the High Street and was always a draw for small boys so there was quite an audience watching fascinated as the farrier ground the hot shoe on to the horses hooves and he peeled off quite a lot of the hoof to make the shoe fit and dogs would come and eagerly seize these bits and take them off to eat.

There were two flour mills in Hadleigh: one at Topplesfield and the other near the iron bridge, both of fascination to children but we weren’t allowed in.

My mother used to buy flour from one of them to make bread which she did very often and I remember helping to knead it.  I expect I made a mess of it, but the smell I can remember now of the yeast working the rising bread in the airing cupboard before it went into the oven. In the kitchen there was a hand pump which you had to keep pumping the water up from the well up to the tank on the top floor of the house because there was no mains water and there was no drainage to a sewage system so we had a septic tank in the garden which periodically had to be pumped out with a great stench.

As I grew older I spent a lot of time on the farms in Hadleigh.  My favourite was the one near Wolves Wood on the outskirts of Hintlesham.  We used to bicycle there and why I liked it was it was a glorious muddle. The farmer, I think it was Mr Turner, wasn’t very good at it, I don’t think, but I didn’t realise that in those days.  All I know that I was always made welcome and I could go and see the horses in the stable and later on as I became older I used to ride the horses, good old Suffolk Punches, on their way to the harvest field, and after the corn was cut and put into shocks when it was ready it was loaded on the wagons and I used to ride the horse back to the stack yard where the stack was being made and I expect it would have done it on its own but l used to like to think I was in charge of it.

There was a wind pump at the farm which always fascinated me and an overgrown garden which was a haven for playing in.  The horses as they came into work were led to the horse pond where they just walked in and drank before they went to the stables to be fed.

When I was old enough, I suppose 12 or 13, in the holidays I used to work on Mr Mud’s farm at Shelley.  Mostly it was either mucking out the cattle yard where deep litter had been accumulating all winter and it would be taken out in tumbrils, hard work it was loading it and put into a stack before it was put onto the fields. The other work we did was singling beet with a hoe and I would have my line with long rows of men working with hoes singling out the beet this was before ‘monogerm’ had been invented and it had to be singled to allow growth and later on had to be chopped out so that one good beet would appear in the space available for it and then you had to clean the land with hoes. These were sharpened with a file which made it much easier and you would catch your lunchtime break in the hedge.  Normally it was cold tea and sandwiches. You could hear the church clock ringing out the hours from the fields and I loved it, it was great fun and the men were very nice to me.

When I was older, about 15 or 16, I used to work on the fruit farm in the summer. I think it was called Town End.  It was beyond where Cedric Morris lived and that in my youth was strictly out of bounds. ‘Artists lived there’, it was said, and that explained everything. It was only later on when I was adult that I got to know Cedric who was a generous and fine gardener and many plants are due to his influence and introductions. It is good to know that many of his irises have been collected by Sarah Cooke and are available for sale today. Town End grew all the old apple varieties, when Cox’s orange was really a wonderful tasting apple unlike the modern version which is more regular but has lost its character. They also grew Ellison’s Orange Pippin, a spicy and delicious apple. I find it interesting to know that the way in which apples were picked hasn’t changed since those days, 60 or more years ago. By picking into a container, called a hod, strapped to your chest with a fabric base which when you filled it could be let down gently into a big apple box to be collected by the tractor.  It was an easy way to avoid bruising.

I have vivid memories of 1940 on the battle going on overhead with dog fights with Spitfires and Hurricanes chasing German aeroplanes above my head. In 1936 it was King George V Silver Jubilee and as part of the celebrations there was the swimming gala in the river which was Hadleigh’s swimming pool.  This was located in the River Brett somewhere off the backend of Calais (Callis) Street.  I can’t remember exactly, and my father with his theatrical interest arranged for me to be a bit of fun on the gala swimming occasion.  All the town council was there and a big photograph was being taken and he got me to go and sit right in front of them to be included in the photograph.  I was 12 at the time, and then someone told me to “clear off” which I did but then I came back and back and back until eventually losing patience with me he threw me in the river, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. 

I used to go fishing in the mill pool at Peyton Hall and would go and walk through the scrap yard to the house where Mrs Wallow lived.  You walked through the stack yard to a wonderful big beamed house where she used to entertain me with homemade fizzy lemonade.  How she did it was a mystery but I think it involved tartaric acid with something else to make it fizz which always impressed me.

The other mill I used to visit regularly was at Layham where the owner, Rowley Hitchcock, used to let me borrow the rowing boat there and I used to row down as far as Cedric Morris’s house where the weeds became overgrown in the river and it really wasn’t possible to go any further. Between Cedric’s and Layham it was always a good spot for rowing as a child which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The other occasion I remember at Layham Mill was the felling of the chimney.  It was done by removing bricks at the base.  The cut was supported by wood and a fire was lit to burn the wood away so that the whole Mill chimney toppled exactly where it was supposed to, away from the house and it was a very impressive moment.

In 1940 I was 16 and my uncle who was then Managing Director of Greene King of Bury St Edmunds asked whether I would like to learn brewing so I left school early and did a pupillage of two years in the Brewery, because in those days you couldn’t go to the Brewing School at the University of Birmingham until you had completed 2 years practical brewing so it was decided that if I came back from the war then I could go to the Brewing School afterwards and that’s what happened after 4 years in the army. The war is another story.  I used to bicycle the 22 miles home frequently on the weekend if I was let off duties from the home guard on Sunday morning parade and I know every hill between Hadleigh and Bury.

Nominations are invited from any member of the Hadleigh Society for an award to be made in recognition of ‘Outstanding improvements to, or conservation of, Hadleigh’s buildings or environment’

In deciding to make an award the Society’s Executive Committee and any expert they may wish to consult, will be considering how sympathetic the work is with its surroundings and how well it integrates with them. They will expect all work to display a high quality of workmanship and to be an example of good practice.

Nominations should include details of the improvement made or of work carried out and should be sent to the Hon. Secretary.

Notes from past meetings

We try to report on all our meetings. This may remind you of what you last came to, or what you missed, and because it also goes on our website it provides an archive for future reference. Sometimes these reports have to be held over.  This month is an opportunity to catch up on a few of those reports that were deferred.

Hugh James Rose, Dean of Hadleigh

On 19 May 2010 the Reverend Paul Hamlet gave a talk based on his research into the life of this past Dean of Hadleigh. Although only briefly the Rector of Hadleigh, Hugh James Rose was here at a key point in his life. 

As a distinguished scholar and theologian his concern at the state of the Anglican Church led him to convene a conference in the Deanery, in 1833. This turned out to be the start of a movement that determined the course of the church through the Victorian era.  It went on to become the Oxford Movement, from its strong association with that city, but its origins were clearly in our town and with our rector and are commemorated in a sign in the church.

Dean Rose soon moved on and only lived a few more years of declining health before dying in Florence.

In Aug 2009 Sue Andrews talked about beds. A bed was a much greater part of life in those days, if you could afford one. A four poser, at £10 with all the trimmings would be beyond your ordinary worker.  If you had one it was bequeathed down the generations. Whether at birth, marriage or death you could expect more of an audience around your bed.  At birth, led by the midwife.  It wasn't her gynaecology that was important; the church granted her the role so she could baptise the child who died at birth and interrogate the unmarried about the paternity when she was just at her most dependent. Bride and groom would be brought to bed, and only left on their own after much taunting by the bridesmaids and their male counterparts. And then to death, perhaps the least changed? You would lie in your bed and dictate your will, including who would benefit from your bed.

The airman in question is Robert McNamara, son of well-known Hadleigh resident, Sid McNamara.  Robert was born in May 1920 and raised in Ipswich.  Robert joined the RAF and was posted to 263 Squadron, flying a Gloster Gladiator.  The Gladiator was a highly manoeuvrable fighter biplane.  Robert sailed with his plane on HMS Glorious to Norway where he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in destroying a German He111 aircraft which was attacking the squadron’s base on Lake Lesjaskoq.   Robert displayed great courage, and actively boosted the morale of all ground personnel as “much cheering was heard from around the lake”.  However, 15 of the 18 Gladiators were destroyed in this conflict with the Luftwaffe on 25th April 1940 at Lake Lesjaskoq.

Robert returned briefly to Ipswich.   The squadron was replenished with 18 more Gladiator planes and Robert arrived back in Norway for more active service at the end of May 1940, having sailed on HMS Furious.  A squadron of 18 Hurricane planes sailed on HMS Glorious and arrived at the same time.  On 7th June Robert flew his plane onto HMS Glorious and set sail for his return to Scapa Flow.

HMS Glorious was commanded by Captain Doyly Hughes.  On 8th June the ship, escorted by two destroyers, the Ardent and the Acosta, was sailing relatively slowly at 14 knots, zig-zagging to avoid enemy submarines, with no lookouts and no patrolling aircraft when it was fired at by the German battleship, the Scharnhorst.  The sea was calm with good visibility when the Scharnhorst fired from a distance of about 27,000 yards.  All three British ships were sunk with a loss of 1515 men, including Robert McNamara.  Despite having planes on board, the Glorious made no attempt to protect itself from unexpected attack.

John finished his tale of adventure and intrigue with a question – why was 263 Squadron sent to a remote part of Norway to fight against overwhelming odds?  Well, it would seem that the answer is: gold.  Norway’s gold reserves consisted of 3000 ingots weighing 49 tons and valued at over 700 million dollars (today’s price).  In April 1940 the gold was packed into boxes and taken by train and lorry through the valley of Lake Lesjaskoq to the coast from where it was shipped to the UK, Canada and the USA.  Robert played a gallant role in this operation, and his name is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.