The Fate of HMS Invincible – 1801

Invincible (Hammonds Knoll)

Before we proceed with what happened to the Royal Naval ship HMS Invincible some 217 years ago take particular note of Hammond’s Knoll, a 6-mile (9.7 km) long sandbank off the coast of Norfolk, England, just off Happisburgh. This is an innocent sandbank below high water when the sea behaves itself; but when the weather is foul and the tide is low, it is best to stay alert and be on guard – it can be dangerous. At low water, the sandbank has only a depth of about 6 fathoms at each end, and 3 fathoms in the centre. Nowadays, the Hammond’s Knoll is marked by lighted buoys at its north and east ends – this was not the case on the 16th March in the year of our Lord 1801.

The East Anglian coast is recognised as dangerous when the weather and sea choose to be foul. Many ships have been lost to gales over the centuries – some say the number runs into thousands. Storms in this part of the world seem frequent and ferocious either side of Autumn and Spring, wrecking and shifting the many sandbanks and shoals as they rage. In winter months particularly, the prevailing off-shore westerly wind would, more than likely, become a north-easterly, thrashing down from Scandinavia and the Artic. battering the lee shoreline. Ships which managed to sail a safe course through those ever shifting sands would still risk being smashed by the wave’s force, overwhelmed or driven ashore.

In the days of sail, the sea lanes up and down the eastern coast were far busier than they are today. Any storm would, as likely as not, have created a havoc of torn canvas, tangled ropes, broken masts and dead bodies. No ship, whether they be on Government business or commercial trading, were immune from posible disaster. Even the large fishing fleets that once thrived on herring could be lost; in fact, in 1789 around 130 fishing smacks and coasters were wrecked between Southwold and Cromer – one of  more than a few such instances. With so many storms over the years the losses have been many, with coastal churchyards well used with graves and memorials for those who did not come home safely. These included resting places for members of the Royal Navy.

Britain once prided itself on having the greatest navy in the world and her sea battles were renowned, but East Anglian seas were even a challenge to military ships. Amongst those who did fall foul of the seas off Happisburgh, two stand out; the first was HMS Peggy which, in short, was wrecked on 19th December 1770 with thirty-two of its men losing their lives. They were buried in Happisburgh churchyard while their ship, the Peggy, was to remain on the beach for many years thereafter.

Invincible (HMS Peggy)
HMS Peggy

The HMS Invincible disaster was the other instance of a Royal Naval ship going down. She was a 74-gun, Ramilles Class third-rate ship, thirty-six years old in the spring of 1801 and battle-wearied, but nevertheless a stirring sight when fully rigged.

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HMS Invincible

Launched at Deptford in March 1765, the HMS Invincible had served in the American War of Independence. Her battle honours included Cape St Vincent 1780, Chesapeake 1781, St Kitts 1782 and the Glorious First of June in 1794, where she was badly damaged and lost fourteen men. In 1797, she took part in the invasion of Trinidad which captured that island from the Spanish. So by 1801, HMS Invincible, which had a proud record of service, was back in British waters..

By March of that year, and with the war against France in a protracted state, fear remained that the French would seize the powerful Danish navy and use it against Britain. Therefore the British Baltic fleet, led by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and with Nelson as his second-in-command, was directed to sail to Copenhagen and make sure the Danish fleet could not fall into French hands.

Invincible (Hyde Parker)
Admiral Sir Hyde Parker

HMS Invincible was to be part of this fleet so it was ordered to sail from Chatham, with its crew of around 600, and meet up with the fleet of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker which was already in the Sound preparing for the planned attack on the Danish fleet – to be known later as the Battle of Copenhagen 1801. HMS Invincible sailed on its journey under the flag of Rear-Admiral Thomas Totty.

Invincible (Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801)
Painting of the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801

During its way north, Invincible, with the ship’s newly appointed, thirty-fout year old, Captain John Rennie, put into Yarmouth to collect final orders and stock up with ordnance, stores and ammunition. She was by then a 1,631 ton war ship, as prepared as she could be for the battle ahead. Her state of readiness meant that on the 16th March she was able to leave Yarmouth Roads and, with a master and pilot aboard, set a course towards the notorious area of shifting sandbars off Happisburgh on the north-east coast of Norfolk.

The Master and Pilot clearly thought that they could navigate through the shoals safely, but a rising wind and the strong tide forced the ship off course. Within an very short time, at 2.30pm to be precise, she struck the sandbank of Hammond’s Knoll where the effect of wind and waves tore down the masts and began to break up the ship. The crew did all they could to save the ship. They jettisoned provisions and when the mizzen mast went they cut away the mast, hoping that the ship would float off the sands at high water. Whilst all this was going on, Invincible repeatedly fired a distress signal with its guns. For a while, it looked as if the crew’s efforts of jettisoning every they could would work for the Invincible moved slightly into deeper water. But, as she did so an even heavier swell and stronger wind caused the ship to lose its rudder. Unmanageable, she was driven back on to the sandbank. There she remained whilst the only thing left for the crew to usefully do was to man the pumps and try to keep as much of the ship as possible above water.

Invincible (Ship in Storm)

The wreck was only a few miles offshore and its distress signal, by way of frequent firing of the guns, was eventually answered by the collier Hunter, on her way into Yarmouth – but unfortunately she, for one reason or another, ignored the Invincible’s plight. Only the Yarmouth smack The Nancy, fishing for cod under its skipper, Daniel Grigson, came to Invincible’s aid. He offered whatever assistance he could. However, by midnight, it was clear to all on the royal naval ship that nothing could be done to save it and the order was for two of her boats to be lowered with Totty, the Purser, four midshipmen and some seamen in one and seamen in the other. They made it safely to The Nancy and then made a second run only for one of the boats to capsize as it approached The Nancy for the second time. Those men who had been thrown into the water were, fortunately, picked up by a Collier which had also answered the distress signal from the Invincible.

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To the Rescue!

Both The Nancy and the Collier remained on rescue watch throughout that Monday night to pick up survivors, although neither were able to offer any assistance to Invincible herself. Then, after dawn had broken, the final act of this tragedy was played out. Those on the rescue ships were nothing more than spectators to the death throes of the Invincible as she shifted gradually into deeper water before slowly sinking. As she lowered herself below the surface waves, those on its forecastle made a last desperate attempt to survive by leaping into the sea before trying to get on board the last of the ship’s launches. Some made it but others were beaten back by those safely on board who feared that the launch itself would also capsize if overloaded. The weapons they used to repel greater numbers were the launche’s oars.

When the Invincible finally disappered into the depths, it took with her about 400 crew. Out of a full complement of 600 and, bizarrely, 50 passengers despite the fact that the ship was scheduled to go to war, one hundred and ninety persons were saved. Not included in this number of survivors was Captain Rennie who, duty bound, was the last man to leave his post; when he did so he was not only wet and extremy cold but suffering from exhaustion. He tried to swim to a launch but gave up. At that final moment before he drowned he seemingly had accepted his fate when he lifted his hands and place them over his face before sinking calmly beneath the water. Rear-Admiral Thomas Totty reported Rennie’s loss in his Report for the Court-martial which was to follow, calling him ‘a truly zealous and intelligent Officer’. That same Report also described the last moments of the HMS Invincible :

“At daylight on Tuesday morning, I observed that the Invincible had not a single Boat, either alongside or astern of her, and the tide ran so strong that it was impossible to get the fishing Smack to her, but the moment the tide slacked … she stretched under the Invincible’s stern, endeavouring by all possible means to work up and get alongside of her; but before that could be accomplished the Ship went down in thirteen fathoms Water, and out of 600 persons that belonged to the Invincible they have not been above 190 saved and now living; several who were picked up by the launch died very soon afterwards. I am extremely grieved to inform you that Captain Rennie was among the number of those drowned; by his death the service has lost a truly zealous and intelligent Officer … The horror of the scene at the Moment the Ship went down far exceeds all power of description.”

Amongst those who had reached The Nancy, and were later landed at Great Yarmouth, were those who were still to die as a result of the experience. In total, more than 400 were lost, compared to the 256 who were to die at the Battle of Copenhagen. On his way home from his triumph, Nelson still made time to visit “his men” from the Invincible lying injured in Great Yarmouth hospital.

For days after the wreck, bodies were washed up all along the coast. Most were brought on carts to Happisburgh churchyard, where they were buried in a huge, unmarked communal mound grave in unconsecrated ground to the north of the church. Of all those lost only six received a proper burial in the Holy Trinity & All Saints churchyard at Winterton the 20th day of March, 1801. Their names unknown

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St Mary’s Church, Happisborough.

But the story of the Invincible did not end there because an attempt was made by a Mary Cator in 1913 to erect a memorial as a reminder to the lives lost. She raised money by subscription but when it was found that there was no official record that proved that bodies from the Invincible were buried in the mound, she returned the money raised. Then in 1924, Mary Cator’s persistence to ensure that an appropriate memorial existed in St Mary’s churchyard paid off. This was the year when the church bells were re-hung and Mary gave a treble bell on which was inscribed ‘In memory of Nelson’s men wrecked off Haisboro in 1801‘. A memorial at last! – but the story did not even end there.

The unconsecrated land where the dead were buried was later incorporated into Happisburgh churchyard, then in 1988, the remains of many of the Invincible’s crew were located by chance in their original mass grave during the digging of a new drainage channel. There was found a disordered mass of bones less than three feet below the surface. These remains were reburied with proper rites; then, ten years later, in 1998, a memorial stone was erected to their memory by the Ship’s Company of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, together with members of the Nelson Society,, the Happisburgh parochial church council and a descendant of Captain John Rennie. This was a final recognition of all those who had died on HMS Invincible in 1801, summed up by St Mary’s Rector, Reverend Doctor Richard Hines as being:

“interpreted as a gesture of Christian faith that even in their most desperate moments those who perished out in the cold North sea did not perish beyond the love and presence of Almighty God” The Memorial’s inscription  came from Revelation and reads ‘And the sea gave up the dead that were in it’.

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HMS Invincible Memorial at St Mary’s Churchyard at Happisburgh, Norfolk

 

 

 

Footnote: The compulsory court martial that followed Invincible’s sinking  was held on the HMS Ruby at Sheerness. It absolved the Amiral and the Captain (posthumously) of culpability in the disaster, but posthumously blamed the harbour pilot and the ship’s master, both of whom had been engaged to steer the ship through the reefs and shoals of the dangerous region – they should have known the location of Hammond Knoll, especially since it was daytime and in sight of land.


The only amusing side to this story concerns the many casks that were seen floating on the sea after the HMS Invincible went down. Some 150 were brought ashore by the customs officers and were found to contain brandy. Others casks escaped and were to be picked up by delighted villagers; many of whom drank themselves into oblivion – one even died from his excesses!

THE END

Sources:
https://penandpension.com/2015/07/29/the-loss-of-hms-invincible-in-1801/
http://www.axfordsabode.org.uk/pdf-docs/invinc01.pdf
http://www.happisburgh.org/history/sea/losses-at-sea
https://rna-norwich.org.uk/2017/03/hms-invincible-memorial-service-2017/

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Cromwell’s Wandering Head!

On 7 April 2016 Anna Belfrage wrote the following interesting article on her blog site – see below. Three years have now passed since it was first published and maybe it’s a good time to remind readers of the fruits of her efforts. It is unabridged, but without any advertisements and extraneous matter which can detract from the qualities of a good story. Take it away [again] Anna:

image-1Today, I thought we’d spend some time with a certain Oliver Cromwell. Well, to be quite correct, not so much with dear Olly himself as with his mortal remains. (I call him Olly, ok? Others call him Noll. I imagine he prefers Oliver when amongst casual acquaintances, and as to what his wife calls him in private, we will never know – the man just smiles) Rarely has a decapitated head seen so much adventure as Mr Cromwell’s did – not that I think Olly cared all that much. After all, he held the opinion that once the spirit had fled, all that remained was dust.

Oliver Cromwell is one of those historical figures who triggers a black-or-white response. Either you’re with him or against him, and all those rooting for the dashing royalists (futile: they lost) will mostly be against him, holding up the execution of Charles I as the prime example of just what a low-life Oliver was.

There is no doubt Oliver Cromwell has a lot of black marks against him – I would personally consider his treatment of the Irish to be far more reprehensible than the execution of an inept king far too enamoured of the concept of Divine Right – but there are other aspects to the man. No man rises to the heights Olly did without having considerable talents, and whether or not we buy into his religious beliefs (somewhat harsh, I would say) there is no denying Olly was a devout man – and a man determined to take up arms against what he perceived as the despotic rule of Charles I.

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Charles I by Anthony van Dyck

Olly wasn’t the only one who disliked Charles I. Initially, he wasn’t even the leader of the Parliamentarian faction, but as the Civil War went from skirmish to battles, from polite crossing of swords to fields filled with blood and gore and screaming men, Cromwell worked his way methodically to the top, this very much because of his excellent command of his men.

After the king’s execution in 1649, the monarchy was abolished and replaced by a Commonwealth. Initially, Cromwell was one of many leaders, but over the coming few years he established himself as the effective ruler of the country, and as of 1653 he became Lord Protector. Depending on your biases, you may consider Cromwell as being a man dedicated to ensuring an inclusive and relatively tolerant regime, geared at returning permanent peace to the country, or as a bigoted dictator. I lean towards the former – albeit that, as stated above, I have certain issues with some of Olly’s policies.

In general, I find Oliver Cromwell an intriguing man – on the one hand a capable and ruthless general and leader, on the other a caring family man, whose letters to his wife breathe love and affection, even after thirty years of marriage. Driven, courageous, gifted with an innate understanding of tactics – both on the battlefield and on the political stage – Cromwell was also a visionary, and a man most concerned with the state of his immortal soul.

Much has been made of Cromwell’s religious fervour and his determined efforts to clamp down on all kinds of sins. Absolutely, this was a man who believed in upholding high morals and went as far as to banish certain customs (such as Christmas) to reduce the risk of sin. But he was also a man who believed firmly in “liberty of conscience” whereby man (and woman) should be free to worship as per their own beliefs – assuming, of course, that their beliefs fell within the overall umbrella of Protestantism.

In 1658, Oliver Cromwell died. He was magnificently buried in Westminster Abbey, next door, more or less, to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. I imagine these royal corpses were less than thrilled with their new neighbour, but seeing as they were dead, no one asked their opinion. With Oliver’s death, the backbone of the Commonwealth sort of evaporated, and after a couple of years of general confusion, Parliament decided to invite Charles II back. Needless to say, our man Charles Stuart leaped at the opportunity.

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Charles II

Now, if you were Charles II, it would have been very, very difficult to endow Olly with any positive traits. After all, Cromwell had been one of the most vociferous proponents of executing Charles I, and it is hard to forgive a man for having condemned your father to death – or for having forced you to live as an impoverished exile for close to a decade.

To give Charles II his due, he did not return to his kingdom to wreak revenge on all those accursed Parliamentarians who had caused him, his family, and their loyal retainers so much grief. Instead, Charles II showed admirable restraint, issuing a general amnesty. Well, with one exception: the men who had sentenced Charles I to death – the so called regicides – were all to be subjected to being hanged, drawn and quartered.

At the time, many of the 59 men who’d signed the execution order were already dead. Twenty of them, to be exact, including our Olly. Nine of the remaining 39 were to suffer  that most gruesome of deaths, a number fled abroad, and several were granted the mercy of having their sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Three of those already dead were condemned to posthumous executions. One of these, unsurprisingly, was Olly. (One of the others was his son-in-law, Henry Ireton). While it may seem more than petty to disinter people and subject their remains to an execution, I suppose that Charles II felt there was a high level of symbolism in doing this.

Whatever the case, the whole thing was rather ghoulish. First, the bodies were disinterred. Due to his relatively recent death and a competent embalmer, Olly’s corpse was in better shape than the two other gents who were to share the gallows with him. Ireton had been dead close to a decade, and the other corpse belonged to a certain Mr Bradshaw who had presided over the court that had sentenced the former king. Bradshaw had only been dead for a year or so, but someone had screwed up with his embalming, so he probably smelled a LOT more than the other two.

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The “Execution” of Cromwell – the heads are already on their pikes…….

The remains were transported to Tyburn, still in their cerecloth wrapping, where they were “hanged” mid-morning. After some hours of swinging back and forth, they were then taken down and the executioner proceeded to hack off their heads. In Olly’s case, all that cerecloth required several blows with the axe before his head finally separated from his body. I imagine there was some weak cheering – the evil Protector had been justly punished.

In difference to Olly, who ensured Charles I was buried WITH his head, Charles II ordered that Oliver’s embalmed – and now decapitated body – be thrown into a pit, while his head was to be mounted on a spike and set to adorn Westminster Hall.

And here, with Olly’s bits and pieces rotting in a pit, the head slowly disintegrating on its spike, things could have ended – rather ignominiously. If it hadn’t been for that storm late in the reign of James II which toppled the stake upon which Olly’s head balanced, thereby sending the skull to crash land on the ground far below.

By some miracle, the skull did not disintegrate, and as per tradition one of the sentries – a former Parliamentarian – found the head, swept it into his cloak and carried it home. Some years later, said sentry died, and his daughter sold the head – by now not much more than leathery skin and some stubborn strands of hair attached to the bone – to an eager French collector. Here, at last, was a nice gory exhibit for his little museum.

At some point, Cromwell’s blood relatives heard of the exhibited head, and one of his indirect descendants bought his skull and brought it home to Huntingdon. Unfortunately for Olly’s head, some generations later another member of the family – something of a drunk wastrel – took possession of the skull which was now paraded around various pubs. By now, there was not all that much left of the so carefully embalmed features. Olly was missing an ear, people had gouged out keepsakes from his desiccated facial skin, and as to his hair, well… Apparently, stealing a lock from the severed head of Cromwell was something many wanted to do.

Eventually, the drunk wastrel – Sam to his pub mates – had gone through all his assets. The only single thing of value he had left was the skull of his distant relative. After signing one IOU too many, he no longer had that, his creditor a certain jeweller named Cox who walked off with something of a spring to his step, Olly’s poor head cradled in his arms. Why the jeweller wanted something as ugly as an old skull is beyond me – maybe he was an admirer of Cromwell. Or maybe he was gambling on the value of the head increasing.

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In the event, Cox did make quite the handsome profit when he sold the skull in 1799. The eager buyers, a pair of brothers named Hughes, paid him twice as much as the original value of the IOU. Cox’s walk was, I assume, even springier this time round, and brothers hastened off to exhibit Cromwell’s head to the public. At the time, there were TWO heads exhibited as being Olly’s, and whatever we may think of him, he was no two-headed monster, so one of them was obviously a fake. As per the brothers, theirs was the real thing, but it was becoming difficult to prove.

The brothers died, the head changed hands yet again, this time ending up in the hands of a doctor Wilkinson. Our good doctor had the head examined and decided it had to be the genuine thing. For the coming century or so, the Wilkinson family hung on to the head, now and then showing it to specially invited guests. Somewhat macabre, IMO. “Want to join me for a nightcap and a peek at my skull?” is not a line that would have me skipping with eager anticipation…

In the 1930s, the head was subjected to a thorough examination by cranial experts. These specialists concluded that the head had belonged to a man in his sixties, had been trepanned after death – as required to embalm a body in the 17th century – and that several strokes had severed the head from the neck post-mortem. Not that many embalmed bodies would have been subjected to such treatment. Add to this the remnants of a moustache and beard, the depression left behind by a wart over one of the eye sockets, and it was considered more than likely this was, in fact, Oliver Cromwell’s rather battered head.

Finally, in early 1960 a certain Horace Wilkinson died and bequeathed the head to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Why this particular college, you may wonder, and the simple reason is that this was Cromwell’s college, back when he was young and eager, not yet twenty years old but already determined to make his mark on the world. After spending his entire childhood and youth in a household dominated by women – his widowed mother and seven sisters – college must have seemed a bright new world indeed, although Olly seems to have been one of those men who genuinely liked and respected women. Right: neither here nor there…

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Sidney Sussex Chapel, photo by Ardfern Creative Commons Attr.

Anyway: the college decided the time had come to bury this rolling stone of a head, and so, more than three hundred years after his death, Cromwell’s skull was secretly interred, somewhere close to the chapel. No plaque marks the spot itself, but I don’t think that old skull really cares. It lies safe at last, hidden from gawking eyes and grasping hands. And as to Olly, I imagine he now and then pops by to check on what little remains of his remains, a gust of a chuckle escaping his soul as he considers just how hardheaded his skull must have been to survive all its adventures!

THE END

Sources:
https://www.annabelfrage.com/2016/04/07/6426/

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Illness Remedies in Folklore!

There is hardly a substance known to man that has not been tried as a medicine, nor any disease for which faith-healers have failed to prescribe.

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Even way back in Saxon days physicians recommended an ointment made of goat’s gall and honey for cancer, and if that failed, they suggested incinerating a dog’s skull and powdering the patient’s skin with the ashes. For the ‘half-dead disease’, a stroke, inhaling the smoke of a burning pine-tree was supposed to be very efficacious.

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In East Anglia people suffering from ague, a form of malaria characterised by fits of shivering, used to call on the ‘Quake doctors’. If the doctor couldn’t charm away the fever with a magic wand, the patient was required to wear shoes lined with tansy leaves, or take pills made of compressed spider’s webs before breakfast. A locally famous Essex ‘Quake doctor’ in the 19th century was Thomas Bedloe of Rawreth. A sign outside his cottage said, “Thomas Bedloe, hog, dog and cattle doctor. Immediate relief and perfect cure for persons in the Dropsy, also eating cancer” !

Folklore (skin desease)

Wart-charmers had many strange cures, some are still tried today. I know because when I was a small child, I tried one! One that is still used is to take a small piece of meat, rub the wart with it and then bury the meat. As the meat decays, the wart will slowly disappear. Another wart-charm:- Prick the wart with a pin, and stick the pin in an ash tree, reciting the rhyme, “Ashen tree, ashen tree, Pray buy these warts from me”. The warts will be transferred to the tree.

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Orthodox practitioners would never have guessed at some of the more bizarre cures that people tried in the late 19th century. Holding the key of a church door was claimed to be a remedy against the bite of a mad dog, and the touch of a hanged man’s hand could cure goitre and tumours. In Lincoln, touching a rope that had been used for a hanging, supposedly cured fits! To cure baldness, sleep on stones, and the standard treatment for colic was to stand on your head for a quarter of an hour.

Eye diseases came in for many weird remedies. Patients with eye problems were told to bathe their eyes with rainwater that had been collected before dawn in June, and then bottled. Rubbing a stye, on the eye-lid, with a gold wedding ring would be a sure cure 50 years ago. In Penmyndd, Wales, an ointment made from the scrapings from a 14th century tomb was very popular for eye treatment, but by the 17th century the tomb had become so damaged, the practise had to stop!

Folklore (Kings Evil)2

For hundreds of years, the kings and queens of Britain were thought to be able to cure, by touch, the King’s Evil. This was scrofula, a painful and often fatal inflammation of the lymph glands in the neck. Charles II administered the royal touch to almost 9000 sufferers during his reign. The last monarch to touch for the King’s Evil was Queen Anne, even though her predecessor William III, had abandoned the right.

Copper bracelets and rings have a long history. More than 1500 years ago, copper rings were prescribed as a suitable treatment for colic, gallstones and bilious complaints. We still wear them today to ease rheumatism, together with nutmeg in our pocket!

Folklore (bracelet)

Not all these folk remedies were useless; for example, the juice of willow trees was once used to treat fevers. In the form of drugs based on salicyclic acid it is still used for the same purpose today – aspirin! Penicillin of course recalls the mould poultices that ‘white-witches’ made from bread and yeast.

Folklore (19th C tooth drawer)

Treating tooth-ache in the 19th century could be a gruesome business. Pain would be relieved, it was said, by driving a nail into the tooth until it bled, and then hammering the nail into a tree. The pain was then transferred to the tree. To prevent tooth-ache, a well tried method was to tie a dead mole around the neck! Few people could afford a doctor, so these ludicrous treatments were all they could try, as most people lived out their lives in unrelieved poverty.

 

The 2014 Obituary of Peter Underwood Revisited

Peter Underwood was an indefatigable ghost-hunter who was once described as ‘the Sherlock Holmes of psychical research. The following Obituary appeared in The Telegraph on 26 December 2014. Readers, interested in such things, might like to be reminded!

Peter Underwood, who has died aged 91, was the author of some 50 books with titles such as Ghosts and How to See Them and Nights in Haunted Houses; Dame Jean Conan Doyle, daughter of the great author and a keen student of the supernatural, once described him as “the Sherlock Holmes of psychical research”.

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During a life dedicated to investigating ghouls and spooks of all shapes and sizes, Underwood identified nine different varieties of ghost, namely elementals, poltergeists, historical ghosts, mental imprint manifestations, death-survival ghosts, apparitions, time slips, ghosts of the living, and haunted inanimate objects. He had something of a talent for categorisation; Where the Ghosts Walk, for example, published last year and described as a “definitive guide to the haunted places of Britain”, provided a digest of ghosts grouped by location – including Napoleon searching for somewhere to land his invasion along Lulworth Cove.

Underwood described ghosts as probably being “the surviving emotional memories of people who are no longer present” or “the result of some natural recording mechanism”. Of their existence, however, he had no doubt. “The evidence for appearances of dead and living people cannot be explained within our known laws [and] is quite overwhelming,” he claimed. In his book No Common Task: The Autobiography of a Ghost-Hunter (1983), Underwood suggested that 98 per cent of the reports of hauntings were likely to have rational explanations, but that he was most interested in the two per cent that could be genuine.

One of his best-known investigations concerned a famous haunting of the 1930s at Borley Rectory on the Essex/Suffolk border. The large Gothic-style house was said to have been haunted since it was built in the 1860s, but things took a more sinister turn in 1928 when the wife of a new rector who was cleaning out a cupboard came across a brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman.

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Borley Rectory

Subsequently the family reported strange happenings, including the ringing of servant bells which had been disconnected, lights appearing in windows and unexplained footsteps. The family fled Borley the following year, but things only seemed to get worse after the arrival in 1930 of the Reverend Lionel Foyster, his wife Marianne and daughter Adelaide. In addition to bell-ringings, there were windows shattering, the throwing of stones and bottles, and mysterious messages on the walls. On one occasion Marianne claimed to have been physically thrown from her bed; on another Adelaide was attacked by “something horrible” and locked in a room with no key.

Harry Price
Harry Price

The building became known as “the most haunted house in England” after the celebrated psychic researcher Harry Price (who had lived at the rectory for a year in 1937-38) published a book about it in 1940. After Price’s death in 1948, however, members of the Society for Psychical Research investigated his claims and concluded that many of the phenomena he described had been faked, either by Price himself, or by Marianne Foyster (who later admitted that she had been having an affair with the lodger and had used paranormal excuses to cover up their trysts).

Over a period of years Underwood, a protégé of Price and executor of his estate, claimed to have traced and personally interviewed almost every living person connected with the rectory. He came to the conclusion that at least some of the phenomena were genuine, and fiercely defended Price against accusations of fraud.

If Underwood was not, perhaps, sufficiently doubting to satisfy the sceptics, he claimed to have a nose for charlatanry. On one occasion the writer Dennis Wheatley gave him a graphic description of a “psychometry” session hosted by Joan Grant, a writer famed for her “far memory” books, in which she would go into a trance and dictate scenes from her past lives to whichever of her three husbands happened to be around at the time. Wheatley described how a stark naked Joan began to talk in the person of an ancient Egyptian, “glistening and quivering in ecstasy… writhing and contorting her body sensually in tune with the administration of his hands”. Wheatley was convinced by the performance. Underwood was not.

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In 1994, however, Underwood became caught up in some genuinely mysterious goings-on when police arrived to question Bill Bellars, a 75-year-old retired naval officer, Loch Ness monster expert and honorary treasurer of the Ghost Club of Britain (founded in 1862), of which Underwood had been president, following an anonymous tip-off that club members were really part of an IRA cell. Bellars had been planning to lead an all-night investigation at a haunted abbey in Hampshire, and it took him an afternoon to convince police officers that he was up to nothing more sinister than looking for 16th-century Cistercian monks.

The ghost hunt eventually went ahead as planned, but the mystery of the tipster’s identity was never solved. Nor did Bellars ever discover the source of abusive calls he claimed he had been getting at home. However, it was noted that the previous year Underwood had been ousted from the presidency after 33 years in the post by members who had allegedly become fed up with his “autocratic” ways and who accused him of using the club’s name to help sell his books. “He really ran it to suit his own commercial interests,” Bellars was quoted as saying. Underwood denied any connection to the phone calls or the IRA incident, but Bellars’s description of the final showdown struck an appropriately supernatural note: “I said my piece, then he went purple in the face, just blew a top. Then he vanished.”

Peter Underwood was born on May 16 1923 at Letchworth Garden City into a family of Plymouth Brethren. He claimed to have had his first paranormal experience at the age of nine when he saw the ghost of his father, who had died earlier the same day, standing at the bottom of his bed. His interest in hauntings was further stimulated on visits to his grandparents’ supposedly haunted house in Herefordshire, and by Harry Price, whom he met through the Ghost Club.

After leaving school, Underwood joined the publishers J M Dent in Letchworth, which would publish many of his books. He continued to work for the firm during and after the Second World War – a serious chest ailment rendered him unfit for active service.

img_2862
Peter Underwood’s ghost hunting kit

The departure of Underwood from the Ghost Club caused it to split in two, Bellars leading a rump “Ghost Club” with (at least according to Underwood) about 80 per cent of the membership leaving to form a Ghost Club Society with Underwood as life president. According to Underwood’s website, however, the society, too, seems to have run into trouble in recent years, and Underwood was reported to be “in the process of completely reforming the Ghost Club Society [with] a new Council and complete reorganisation”.

A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he also served as president of the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies and was a life member of the Vampire Research Society. As well as writing, Underwood broadcast extensively on television and radio and lectured around the world. His last book, Haunted London, was published last year.

Underwood’s wife, Joyce, died in 2003. He is survived by their son and daughter.

Peter Underwood, born May 16 1923, died on November 26 2014

Norfolk: Angels & Demons Looming!

The church of St Clement, Outwell,  was started in the 13th century and expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries when the roof was raised and its carvings installed.  The church was built of limestone from the Lincolnshire Wold and mostly likely came to site by the river. The church stands amid the fens and dykes below the Wash, between the rivers Nene and Great Ouse, close to the Cambridgeshire border. It was a prosperous place in the second quarter of the 15th century from when it remains a somewhat curious church that demands attention.

St Clements (Inner Roof)

St Clements is a church thick with angels. They flock about the roof beams, more than 100 of them, some bearing musical instruments, others the instruments of the Passion. If you look carefully at the above photo, you can see what is now known as the “unknown” glories, the carved buttresses, while in between and over head are the angels, with more angels in the south aisle and the Lynn Chapel off the north aisle. Then there are the demons which are very difficult to see for the roof is so dark that the visitor may miss these and even the large dark angels. The following two demons are exceptions:

St Clements (Carving)2There are 12 demons carvings and they were, in a sense, ‘lost’….but not really….in fact, they have been there all the time but, because of the poor light entering the roof area, the carvings are almost impossible to see. However, on one particular day in 2012 they were indeed ‘found’ by an historian who was studying the medieval glass…… so now they are famous!….having been safely ‘in situ’ for nye on 600 years. Apparently. they are carved the wrong way round, with the demon overcoming each of the smaller apostles, when it should be the other way round. Pevsner’s guide to Norfolk says they stand below canopies, but it’s more interesting than that. What has been revealed is that figures of Apostles, delicately carved with emblematic detail, stand under larger looming heads-and-shoulders of semi-human and demonic figures, bearing the weight of the roof. What does this juxtaposing of holiness and the infernal mean?

img_2440The placing of the figures was planned. The Apostles stand in pairs. Time and death-watch beetle have done away with most of the identifying symbols once held by the Apostles. But one pair, on opposite sides of the nave, are still easy to name: St John, holding a chalice, and St James, with his pilgrim satchel and staff. The horn-headdressed lady looms over the more sensitively carved sculpture of St James with staff and satchel. Leaning over St John is a furry-chested, beak-faced devil of the kind you might see in a manuscript illumination (or, at the time, perhaps in drama). Over St James  leans another unsettling figure: a large-featured woman with an exaggerated horned headdress and, in place of hands, taloned paws.

Why put such things together in a church? – but why not, for the aspect in play can be found in creation itself. Commenting on the Book of Proverbs, the 13th‑century spiritual writer John of Forde wrote that: “The Wisdom of God played before the Father’s face over the whole expanse of the earth.” God played with the monster Leviathan too, the Psalm says. There was indeed a medieval fondness for monsters which presupposed the reliance of humanity’s creativity on the primary creation by God. As St Anselm, the philosopher (Archbishop of Canterbury 1093-1109) saw it, men could mentally rearrange elements of God’s creation and so make an artistic image such as the horn-headdressed woman with clawed paws!

St Clements (Carved Demon)

At Outwell, then, the dignity of the Apostles is pointed up by the mirror‑image ludicrous figures grinning above them. But, as already been stated, the carved figures are hard to see. When they were made, the brightest light was from distant candles or reflected daylight, and their details could seldom have been clear. Yet, no doubt, the local yeomen, newly prosperous, the Beaupres and the Haultofts, would have been proud to pay for carved figures of the Apostles to join the angels aloft, and not have thought it out of place to have a few demons and chimeras thrown in.

Some other images of St Clements Church, Outwell, Norfolk

THE END

Sources:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/08/05/sacred-mysteriesmonsters-looming-norfolk-roof-timbers/
https://blosslynspage.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/demons-apostles-and-angels-at-st-clements-church/
https://roofangels2.format.com/gallery-5
https://www.geograph.org.uk/
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/outwell/outwell.htm

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

A Tale of Taverham’s Paper Mill

The first paper-mill to open in Norfolk was at Kings Lynn in 1695. The second paper-mill was at Taverham, in the grounds of Taverham Hall on the river Wensum and near the village which lay some five miles outside of Norwich. Both Mills at Kings Lynn and Taverham were converted from being fulling Mills for the treatment of woollen cloth – a popular choice as the water powered hammers used to beat the cloth could easily be converted to making pulp for paper.

Taverham (Paper MIll - Painting)
Taverham Mill. (Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service )

Although Taverham Mill opened in 1701 for the purposes of manufacturing paper it was first mentioned in Domesday with the village being listed as Taursham. The earliest written record of any sort of mill there was in 1274 when it was listed as being a corn mill; later it would go on to grind bone for fertiliser, furze for animal fodder, being a saw mill and then a ‘fulling’ mill’. However, for almost 200 years,Taverham Mill was best known as a paper mill, first for hand made sheet paper then converting to machine produced paper in bulk.

During the time when the Mill produced hand made sheet paper, women would first collect rags from many miles around Taverham and bring them to the mill where they removed all buttons and hooks and stripped the rags into into shreds. The material was then soaked, cleaned and left to ferment to different colours. This process was then accelerated by the addition of lime obtained from a pit nearby in Costessey Lane. It was then mechanically pummelled by hammers driven by cams operated by the waterwheel. The resulting pulp was then run off into large flat screens and trays to settle, dry and be pressed. The river provided the clean water.

Taverham (Paper Process)
Hand Paper Making Process. (Photo: Public Domain.)

Particularly during this period, the Mill had three plants, one for making the oil gas which the Mill used for lighting the works that usually ran both night and day; the other two plants were separate for the purposes of making brown paper and the other white. Such a business policy was instrumental in the Mill breaking the near monopoly of the White Paper Maker’s Co which tried to put through an Act of Parliament to stop the use of white rags to make brown paper in order to keep the price down.

Taverham Mill operated as a paper mill from around 1700 to 1899 and from it’s very beginning advertised itself as making ‘paper suitable for printing’ although there was then no printer to make use of it. Lacking this essential industry, Norwich was obviously keen to attract a printer after Parliament, in 1695, had refused to renew the Licensing Act which controlled printing. Prior to that, only London and the two university towns of Oxford and Cambridge had been allowed to print. Whilst Bristol had been quicker off the mark than Norwich in setting up a printing office, it was Norwich that produced the first newspaper outside London. It was then a young printing craftsman from London called Francis Burges settled in Norwich.

It was he who produced one of the earliest references to the mill in a small booklet he published by way of justification for his introduction of printing to Norwich in 1701. Entitled “Some observations on the Use and Origin of the Noble Art and Mystery of Printing” he stated that “Paper for printing may be bought cheap at the paper-mills at Tabram within 4 miles of Norwich.” This comment was in answer to a criticism that paper was more expensive in Norwich than in London. Also, and in all probability, the paper-maker to whom Burges was referring to was William Paultlock of Taverham Paper Mill who was there until 1711 when his death was announced in the Norwich Gazette of 25th August of that year. The advertisement containing this announcement shows that Paultlock also worked a corn-mill – and his name is connected that of Lyng mill; it stated: “all persons indebted to him were required to pay their debts to his executor, or else they will be sued”.

Subsequent ownerships of Taverham Paper Mill remained a mystery up until 1758 when John Hamerton & Co, a paper manufacturer at that time, is recorded, as having an apprentice named John Golden. Then it was noted that Hamerton insured the Mill in 1768. Shortly after this, and up to 1782, he went into partnership with a John Anstead whereby John Hamerton & Co would operate at Lyng Mill and Anstead & Co would run Taverham Paper Mill. This arrangement ended on friendly terms on 10th October 1782 when the two businesses continued as separate entities.

The Partnership of HAMERTON and ANSTEAD expired on the tenth day of October last, they therefore take this opportunity of resuming their joint Thanks to their Friends for the Favours conferred on them, and beg Leave to inform them, that the Trade of the above mills will in future be carried on for their separate Accounts by John HAMERTON, at Lyng, and John ANSTEAD and Son, at Taverham, where the Favours of their Friends will be very thankfully received – Any Person who has any Demand on the said Partnership Account are desired to send their Bills that they may be discharged. They have by them a regular Assortment of every Kind of Paper (that is to say), Writing and Printing Imperial, Writing and Printing Royal, Writing and Printing Medium, Writing and Printing Demy, Writing and Printing Post, Writing and Printing Copy, Writing and Printing Foolscap, Writing and Printing Pot, Crowns of every Sort and every sort of Packing Paper for the Manufactory, particularly of Atlas, large and small; Elephant, large and small, Royal, large and small, Demy, large and small; Brown and Hand Elephant, Brown and Hand Royal, Shop Paper, Bonnet Paper that will fence Water, and every Article whatsoever in the Paper Trade. The best Price is also continued for fine Rags, and every kind of Paper Stuff. 

Norfolk Chronicle – 1st February 1783

John Anstead continued as the proprietor of Taverham Paper Mill until at least 1786 when the Norfolk Chronicle in August of that year advertised the sale of Anstead’s “furniture, stock and trade (including dairying and brewing utensils, horses, cows wagons carts and ploughs).” Thereafter, Miles Sotherton Branthwait, the Squire and owner of the land on which the Paper Mill was situated, took the Paper mill into his own hands, employing the former proprietor of the business, John Anstead, as his employee manager and equipping the Mill with brand new vats and formes.

Taverham (Watermark)
Taverham paper watermark on a letter wrtten on 29th January 1798 by Lord Horatio Nelson. (Photo: copyright owner unknown – see Notice below.)
Taverham (Hall Map)
Taverham Hall Estate. (Photo: copyright owner unknown – see Notice below.)

In the absence of any detail to the contrary, it is assumed that Branthwait ran the Mill’s business until his death in 1807 at a comparatively young age of 52 years. His manager, John Anstead, had died a short time previously; he was aged 77 years.

Upon the squire’s death in 1807 the mill was again let as an independent business, and the lease was taken over by a partnership of two Norwich businessmen, Francis Noverre,  John Gilbert, and the famous Norwich printer Richard Mackenzie Bacon. The three partners were new brooms in the paper making trade and immediately set about investing large sums in modernising the Mill. They swept away all recently installed but now obsolete equipment used for hand-made paper and, instead of these old-fashioned tools installed, on 1st July 1807, a newly invented paper making machine called the Fourdrinier costing more than £1,000. Taverham Paper Mill was one of the first mills in the country to be supplied with this newly patented machine, and it served four vats. The new machine produced a continuous roll of paper on a belt of wire moulds and it was only during the drying process that this form of paper making was cut into sheets.

Taverham (Richard Mackenzie Bacon 1775 - 1844)
Richard Mackenzie Bacon
Taverham (Francis Noverre)
Francis Noverre

Unfortunately the sudden increase in the amount of paper that the new machinery could produce caused the bottom to fall out of the market for paper, and in 1812 the Partnership was dissolved and by 1816 the Mill was declared bankrupt. There may, of course, have been other mitigating reasons for this failure and it had been suggested that teething troubles with the early design of the Fourdrinier machine. However, if this had been a factor then it would have been insignificant because, as stated, the machine did produce sufficient volume to collapse the market.

Taverham (FourdrinierMachine c1830)
Fourdrinier paper machine circa 1830. (Photo: Public Domain.)

The manager of the Mill at the time of the bankruptcy was a John Burgess who was considered to be an expert in operating the Fourdrinier machine. It was maybe because of his expertise that Burgess continued to operate the Mill on behalf of the creditors until such times as new owners emerged. Coincidentally perhaps, it was from about this time that he was to prosper financially for by 1820 he was certainly wealthy enough to start buying property in Norwich and Costessey where he bought several cottages, including the White Hart pub which he rebuilt ten years later.

Taverham (White Hart)
The White Hart public house that John Bergess purchased around 1820. (Photo: Public Domain.)

By 1830, Taverham Paper Mill had been acquired by Robert Hawkes, a wealthy Norwich merchant.

Robert Hawkes originaled from Caister, have been born there in 1773. He began his career as an apprentice to a haberdasher but improved his prospects significantly when he married a Miss Jermy,  daughter of a rich fellmonger ( dealer in animal hides) who lived in the Cathedral Close in Norwich. Hawkes then became a great businessman in Norwich with several businesses involving wool but also cotton goods and, of course, a principal interest in the up-to-date Taverham Paper Mill.

Taverham (Robert Hawkes)
Robert Hawkes

For one year in 1822 he had been Mayor of Norwich when he spent freely on the celebrations surrounding his inauguration on Guild Day – such as Snap, the Dragon who led the parade and ‘snatched boys’ caps, also, his attendant Whifflers would have been out as usual. Other more uncommon displays were over each end of Bethel  Street (where he lived) were erected triumphal arches, decorated with flowers and at the top of the arch opposite St Peter Mancroft church was concealed a band of musicians playing to the crowds. Then, at the end of his 12 month tenure and in recognition of his term in office, the Aldermen commissioned a portrait of him by Benjamin Robert Haydon,

Following the arrival of Robert Hawkes. it was John Burgess who received a further boost by being made a partner in the Company; a wise move in view of the fact that Burgess knew far more of macine paper making than Hawkes. Whilst the Mill was to operate under the name of Robert Hawkes & Co. there was probably no one alive who knew more about making paper by machine than John Burgess. Under his guidance, the Mill was manufacturing some of the finest quality paper available. Amongst its customers across East Anglia was the Cambridge University Press – a demanding customer; nevertheless, Taverham paper was used for the 1st revised edition of the Bible. Other customers were the Times and Mirror Newspapers and the Oxford English Dictionary. It has also been suggested that the business produced paper for the Bank of England, but it would have been highly unlikely that this would have been for Bank Notes since these required a highly specialise specification, better handled elsewhere.

Taverham (Banknote 1840)
Old money: A Chatham Bank £5 note from the 1840s. Many people are unaware that almost every town had its own bank that issued notes to be used in the locality – but many banks often went under. (Photo: copyright owner unknown – see Notice below.)

In Business, as in life generally, there are both good and bad experiences; 1830 was just one example. It was in this year when, one Saturday afternoon in November the Mill was attacked by machine-breakers who caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage. The Fourdrinier machine was badly damaged in one of what was called ‘the Captain Swing riots’. The name “Swing Riots” was derived from ‘Captain Swing’, the fictitious name often signed to the threatening letters sent to farmers, magistrates, parsons and others. ‘Swing’ was regarded as the mythical figurehead of the movement; apparently, the word was a reference to the swinging stick of the flail used in hand threshing. The Swing letters were first mentioned by The Times newspaper on 21 October 1830. For his part in the riot at Taverham a Robert West, gardener, was transported to New South Wales, where he died in 1837. Another rioter, identified as having been present at Taverham on that afternoon, was brought to trial only to be acquitted by a sympathetic jury.

This turn of events seems to have discouraged Robert Hawkes and although his company was compensated for the damage, he decided to sell his share of the business and retire. The new partners with whom John Burgess now found himself saddled with were two young men from wealthy local families. Unlike Robert Hawkes, they had no other business interests and no doubt they tried to meddle at the Mill. Burgess was used to having a free hand to run the business and, whatever was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, he soon left the partnership to take the lease on the vacant paper mill in Bungay. It was certainly a come-down in professional terms, since the Bungay mill was engaged in making brown wrapping paper by hand, instead of the machine-made white printing paper in which he was so experienced. However, on the credit side, he was at last his own boss again.

 From around 1836 Taverham Paper Mill was taken over by Robberds & Day who also operated the mill at Lyng. This was yet another episode in the continuing survival and running of the Mill. Certainly, it seemed that the Mill  always managed to overcome difficulties and did trade successfully. However, hindsight showed that beyond the 1820’s things gradually deteriorated with the Mill’s structure becoming old and dilapidated. In 1839 the roof fell in, resulting in the death of one of the workers.

A melancholy accident happened at Taverham Paper Mill, on Wednesday morning last, by the falling in of the floor of a rag loft.  There were at the time sixteen persons at work in the room underneath cutting and weighing rags, and it was at first feared that many of them had perished, and it was soon found that a man (the overseer) and a woman had been killed, the remainder of the persons were taken from the ruins, and had providentially received no serious injury.  A Coroner’s Inquest was held on the bodies of the deceased man and woman, when a verdict of Accidental Death was returned.

 Norfolk Chronicle – Saturday 18th May 1839

(Although not named in this newspaper report, the man killed was Richard Clarke.)

Then, a month later there was an entirely different  incident which did not reflect well on the Mill or its owners – it was only a small scale theft but it received a weighty legal response:

Thomas Skipper was on Monday last brought before Saml. Bignold, Esq. on the charge of stealing a brass cock or syphon, weighing 160 lbs. the property of Messrs. Robberds and Day, paper manufacturers, at Taverham in this county, in whose employ the prisoner has lately been at Lyng.  He was apprehended in London, by Sergeant Peck, A., of the Norwich Police force, and was by Mr. Bignold remanded for further examination.

Norfolk Chronicle – Saturday 29th June 1839

Thomas Skipper, aged 28, was convicted of having, in the month of Oct. last, stolen from a cottage at Taverham, one metal cock and plug, the property of Henry Robberds and Star??ing Day. – The prisoner was found guilty and was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation. 
Norfolk Chronicle – Saturday 6th July 1839

Thomas Skipper had been captured following an advertisement in the Police Gazette on 1st April 1839. After sentencing, he was sent to the Prison Hulk ‘York’ at Gosport where he served four of his seven years.  A petition was raised in 1841 requesting Skipper’s early release from prison.

taverham-petition-1841.jpg
(Photo: Public Domain.)

 

Robberds & Day operated Taverham Mill until around 1841 when the Mill ceased production, employees laid off and the machinery put up for sale. Fortunately for these villagers the Mill was purchased by Messrs. Blyth and Milbourn who put in further investment and instructed a William Thorold, millwright, engineer and founder to refit the mill and sell the old machinery – as shown by the following entries in the Norfolk Chronicle:

Taverham. – This quiet sequestered village has been for some time past in a very depressed state in consequence of the stoppage of the Paper Mills. We understand that Mr. Bligh, of Ipswich, has taken the mills, and that in this rural retreat the hum of busy industry will soon again be heard. Mr._Thorold, of this city, has engaged to remove the whole of the old works for the assignees. The new proprietor intends to fill the building with entirely new apparatus and machinery of the most improved kind, and he expects to manufacture some kinds of paper much cheaper than they can be produced at present. From the practical knowledge of the business possessed by Mr. Bligh, there is every prospect that these mills will in future be worked with more success than they have hitherto been.

Norfolk Chronicle – 30th April 1842

To Paper Makers

Steam Boiler, eight horse power, Force Pump, with Pipes and Apparatus, Water Pump, Iron Pipes, Water Wheel, Head Frame, Gate Tackle, Bars of Foreign Iron, Pit Wheel and Pinions, Iron Screws and Presses, Indigo Mill. Donkin’s Patent Paper Machine, with Rollers, Rule Carriages and Apparatus, removed from the Paper Mills, at Taverham.

Mr. SPELMAN
Respectfully informs the Public, he is Instructed to
SELL by PUBLIC AUCTION,
On Wednesday, the 5th of April, 1843,
At the Foundry Bridge Wharf, and Jay’s Wharf, St. Margaret’s, Norwich.
THE FOLLOWING VALUABLE
MACHINERY,
AT THE FOUNDRY WHARF
Beginning at Eleven o’clock,

A Capital STEAM ENGINE, eight horse power, Force Pump with pipes and apparatus, Steam Cage, two Safety Valves, Steam Pipe and Cock, Iron Pipes and Brass Cocks, eight Iron Screws with nuts and plates, Machine Water Wheel, nine feet nine inches diameter, Water Wheel Shafts, two Plimmer Blocks and Brasses, splendid Iron Press, with Iron Screw of very great Power, Pit Wheel, in two parts, new Pit Wheel and Pinions, two Spur Wheels, an Indigo Mill complete, quantity of Foreign Iron, and a variety of Screws, Bolts, Water Pump and Pipes, &c. &c.

Immediately after the Sale of the above will be Sold
AT JAY’S WHARF, ST. MARGARET’S,

Donkin’s Patent Paper Machine, with all the rollers and apparatus thereto belonging, two large Felts, Brass and Iron Rollers, a large Vat lined with lead, brass cock, &c. with sundry parts of Machinery, &c. &c.
Further particulars may be had on applying at Mr. Spelman’s Offices, St. Giles’ Street, Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle – 1st April 1843

Taverham (W F A Delane)
W F A Delane

The new investment provided by Messrs. Blyth and Milbourn was helped considerably by the arrival of the railway from London which reached Norwich in 1845. This enabled the Times newspaper to continue to use Taverham paper to produce its newspaper and this certainly continued when Delane Magnay & Co. took over the Mill; they also operated the nearby Bawburgh paper-mill. They instigated further rebuilding and re-equipping, ushering in the final chapter of the story of paper making in Taverham.

Delane intended to use Taverham Mill to continue producing paper for The Times; and the recently opened railway line from London to Norwich made this a practical proposition. He had however omitted to inform John Walter II, the owner of The Times newspaper, of his intentions. Delane was apparently hoping to keep his paper making business a secret, but inevitably the truth leaked out. Worse still, it seems that he was overcharging The Times for his paper!

What followed was an awful rumpus; W. F. A. Delane was sacked from his job on the management of The Times and a colleague who was wholly innocent of any wrongdoing committed suicide. It looked as if Taverham Paper Mill would never again supply newsprint to The Times. In the end, however, a compromise prevailed with John Walter II’s younger son, John Henry Fraser Walter, being introduced into the partnership. He was, at first, a sleeping partner who took no active part in the running of the Mill, but he did make occasional visits to Taverham from his home in Nottinghamshire where he owned a coal mine. This fact is known from a passing reference to his presence in Drayton in a book on the life of Canon Hinds Howell, the Rector of Drayton. Drayton is the next village to Taverham where the other partner, Frederick Magnay, lived. He was one of the active partners in the Mill, and son-in-law of W. F. A. Delane. Other active partners were William C Delane (the bachelor son of W. F. A. Delane),  J. H. F. Walter (who was educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford) and Frederick Magnay. When he retired in 1884, Walter took over the business.

Taverham (J H Walter)
J.H.F. Walter

Apart from owning and running Taverham Mill, J. H. F. Walter also had other business interests, including a shipping company which operated from the Port of Norwich. He was Director of the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society and of the local Savings Bank. He was active in the Triennial Festival (the music festival that was held every three years from the 1824 until 1989, when it went annual) and was President of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society. He was a committee member of the Norwich Society from its beginning in 1923, and co-founder of the Friends of Norwich Museum. If that was not enough, Walter was also President of Norfolk Cricket Club.

Taverham (Drayton House)
J.H.F. Walter’s ‘Drayton House’ home in the village of Drayton.

From 1846 until the late 1880s the Taverham Mill was at its zenith, employing 3 water-wheels (two of 4 metre diameter and the other of 2 meters), 11 steam engines and two wells of clean water for the paper and 3 sluice gates. The mill also employed 150 workers, the majority of whom were women, but only men staffed the night shift. A blacksmith was also established at the bottom of Sandy Lane and the cottage there was known for many years as “The Old Forge”. However, things were changing in the paper industry and pulp was begining to be made from esparto grass rather than cotton rags as previously. Then came improvements to the pulp bleaching process which ushered in the use of wood pulp for paper making. Wood pulp was produced in Scandinavia and the paper mills on the coast had a major advantage in being able to take the dried pulp straight from the ships.

Coupled with this was the growth of population following the industrial revolution when it was realised that, logistically, Taverham was not ideal for paper manufacturing. In the days of horse drawn traffic, mills were dotted all over the country so that no long journey was required to the nearest town, printer or customer. The coming of the railways also contributed to the chage by encouraging more centralised mills beside railway lines. Then there was the vast increase in paper consumption during the latter part of the 19th century, which meant that in order to compete, it would be be necessary to install expensive, sophisticated and faster machinery. Transport costs were also rising, both for outgoing products and incoming raw materials, especially the coal used by the steam engines and the heating units. J. H. Walter & Co were only tenants of the Taverham Hall Estate and it was doubtful that the landlord would sanction further expansion and industrialisation of the village. This change meant Taverham mill was no longer profitable:

Messrs. J. H. Walter & Co., proprietors of Taverham Mills, the last remaining of the old paper mills in Norfolk, have issued a circular stating: “Early in the year we had to submit to a very heavy reduction in the price of paper. We felt that we could only carry on the mills at a serious loss, and the balance sheet, which we have just got out, fully confirms our impression. We have, therefore, decided to shut down as soon as possible.

Norfolk Chronicle – 9th September 1899

J.H.F. Walter & Co were the Taverham Paper Mill’s last owners, closing it because they were unable to make the Mill pay. Following the closure in 1899, one of the Mill’s old scrapped boilers was used as a blacksmiths shop at Drayton. A few years later, during the World War of 1914-18, the cavalry used the Mill’s ‘redundant’ wells.  Today, only the sluice gate now remains to mark the site of the mill.

THE END

Sources:
http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/taverham.html
http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/taverham-suicide.htm
https://joemasonspage.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/paper-mills-in-norfolk/
https://www.norfolk-norwich.com/norwich/suburbs/taverham.php

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

 

The Maid and Miller of Taverham

There were some beautiful hot summer days in 1786. The squire of Taverham, Miles Branthwayt, had recently taken over the running of the Taverham Paper Mill with a former tenant, John Anstead, as his manager. Anstead had two grown-up sons, John junior and Thomas, and a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, aged 21. In truth we cannot be sure that she was beautiful, but she was always very dear to her mother, and she had recently become very close to a young man called John Burgess. By harvest time that year she was expecting his baby!

Elizabeth’s father was not best pleased with this news and refused consent to a marriage between the two. The child, Richard, was born early the following year in February and when it became apparent that the infant was healthy and likely to survive, Anstead agreed to a church wedding for the two and Elizabeth became Mrs Burgess; that was in March 1787. Elizabeth’s father, had given his blessing but he still needed convincing that John Burgess would prove a ‘worthy’ catch. It may seem hard-hearted to us but, as Elizabeth’s father saw things when he first turned down John Burgess – if his daughter were forced to marry an unsuitable lad merely to legitimate an unborn child, who later died or indeed if the father turned out to be a professional failure, Elizabeth would have missed her chance to make a better match – and all for nothing! Of course, had John Anstead known just how successful young John Burgess was to become, he would not have objected to his daughter’s choice in the first place.

Maybe with all this in mind, and not having the ability to see into the future, Anstead gave John Burgess a position at Taverham Mill, at least to give him a start in furthering his prospects. At the same time, John and Elizabeth Burgess, who now had been made ‘honest’, christened their former ‘out of wedlock’ baby Richard. Thereafter they went on to have three further children. Charles who was a healthy boy like his elder brother; he was to survive and follow his father into milling at Bungay. However, George the next son died in infancy- which was not uncommon. Indeed, infant mortality was high in those days, and old John Anstead’s cautious delay in giving his consent to his daughter’s marriage had made sense from his point of view. Then a third son was born to Elizabeth and John, who was again christened George. The boy flourished and was followed in 1795 by a daughter, Sophia Ann. She also survived birth but sadly her mother did not. Elizabeth Burgess, nee Anstead, died; never to share the baby, her children, nor her John’s future success.  She was buried in St Edmund’s Church churchyard in Taverham on the 7th of March 1795; she aged 30. That cold spring day marked the end of a love affair that had begun in that hot summer, nine years earlier – John would never forget her.

After this sad episode in John Burgess’s marriage and an inauspicious start to his career, he finally settle down to his being a one parent family and building a future at Taverham Mill. Such was his clear determination that his paper making skills went from strength to strength within a very short time. His father-in-law, John Anstead, died early in the next century aged 77 years, followed by the Mill’s Squire co-owner, Miles Branthwayt who died at a comparatively young of 52. As a consequence, the Mill was next leased by a partnership led by the ambitious editor of the Norwich Mercury, Richard Mackenzie Bacon, under whom it was among the first in the world to install one of the new paper making machines. Burgess quickly became expert in operating this new equipment. After Bacon and his partner were made bankrupt in 1816, Burgess continued to operate the mill on behalf of the creditors, and when the business was acquired by Robert Hawkes, a wealthy Norwich merchant, Burgess became his partner – which constituted another step upwards. By 1820 he was wealthy enough to start buying property in Norwich and Costessey, where he bought several cottages and the White Hart pub. This he rebuilt ten years later.

Taverham (White Hart)
The White Hart Public House, Costessey. Photo: Public Domain.

At the time there was probably no one alive who knew more about making paper by machine than John Burgess, and during these years Taverham Mill supplied paper to printers across East Anglia and as far away as Cambridge, where the University Press was a demanding customer. This prosperous period was dented 1830 when the Mill was attacked one Saturday afternoon in December by machine-breakers who caused hundreds of pounds’ worth of damage. One rioter was identified as having been present at Taverham on that afternoon, and was brought to trial, but was acquitted by a sympathetic jury.

This turn of events seems to have discouraged Robert Hawkes. Although his company was compensated for the damage, he decided to sell his share in the business and retire. The new partners with whom Burgess now found himself saddled were two young men from wealthy local families. Unlike Robert Hawkes, they had no other business interests, and no doubt they tried to meddle at the mill, where Burgess had previously been free to manage alone. Whatever the reason, in the summer of 1833 he left the partnership, and took the vacant lease of the paper mill in Bungay.

Bungay Mill (1913)
Bungay Paper Mill. Photo: Public Domain.
O. S. Map 1882-1884
Bungay Paper Mill Map.

With his sons he moved to Bungay and reopened the paper mill there. He was already 71 years old, and the work was probably mainly in the hands of his son Charles. Having been pioneers in the technique of modern machine-made paper they had taken a step back into the past to hand-made paper. This was certainly a come-down in professional terms, since the Bungay mill was engaged in making brown wrapping paper by hand, instead of the machine-made white printing paper that he was experienced in. But, on the credit side, he was at last his own boss and, maybe, he was in a better state of mind to enjoy the memories he once shared with his former wife, Elizabeth.

The principal user of paper in Bungay, when John Burgess took over Bungay Mill, was a John Childs, a printer whose business would become Richard Clay which is still in existence today as part of the St Ives Group. In the 1830’s, Child was the owner of a large business, employing over 100 people and he specialised in large editions of substantial books such as annotated Bibles. These were not restricted to the printers at Oxford, Cambridge and London as the standard, non-annotated Authorised Version of the Bible was. These substantial works required a lot of paper, but his suppliers were not local.  His account books showed that he was buying paper from Spicer’s in Cambridgeshire, and in 1834 from Dickinson, whose paper mill was at Apsley in Hertfordshire. Both Dickinson and Spicer were making paper by machine, and the mill at Sawston in Cambridgeshire was one of the first to use a Fourdrinier paper making machine in 1809. It was high quality and high volume paper, quite different from the ‘hand made’ paper being produced at Bungay by John Burgess.

However there is evidence that the Burgesses, father and son, did supply paper to Childs. In 1833-36 there are entries for the buying of both brown paper and drab from Charles Burgess, and in 1836 and 1837 for brown paper from John Burgess. Brown paper would have been used merely for packing, but drab was used in the bookbinding process. Although there was also a printing industry in nearby Beccles, it is clear that the majority of Burgess’s custom would have been for wrapping paper, and it would not have been economic to transport it very far. This was not a particularly good position to be in, particularly when all Burgess’s success had been based on the modern paper-making process, and the Mill’s enterprise did not last for many years after John Burgess’s death on the 21 May 1838 – 52 years and 10 weeks after Elizabeth!

Bungay Paper Mill passed out of the Burgess family’s hands sometime in the 1840s after John Burgess’s Will had been proved. In it he had listed his properties – the White Hart public house and a double cottage in Costessey, together with three more cottages in Norwich. Thereafter, his reference to his business is short and rather downbeat. He instructed his Executors to continue his business ‘until such at time as it shall be beneficial to discontinue it.’  The most affectionate mention is for his daughter, Sophia Ann, who was to take her pick of his furniture to the value of £24 (about £4,000 in today’s money), ‘in regard to her kindness & attention toward me’ – somewhat reminiscent of Elizabeth, Sophia’s mother and John’s long lost wife for whom he grieved until his end. That moment brought final closure to the ‘love affair that had begun in that hot summer of 1786.

Sources:
http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/taverham-maid.html

THE END

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

The Mustard Revolution – A Brief History.

On the 3rd April 1814, Jeremiah Colman of Pockthorpe Towermill, leased Stoke Holy Cross watermill as a going concern and paid £51 2s 0d to Edward Armes for his stock of mustard.

Mustard Revolution (Advert May 7th 1814)
Norfolk Chronicle, 30th April & 7th May 1814

Thus began the Mill’s most prosperous 50 year period at Stoke as Colmans’ increased its range of products with the introduction of starch manufacture.

colmans (pockthorpe towermill)
Pockthorpe Towermill 1885. Photo via Norfolk Mills.

Jeremiah Colman was originally a farmer and had also owned Bawburgh Mill and Pockthorpe Towermill which was near Magdalen Gates in Norwich. He had no children and adopted James who was the eldest of his brother Robert’s 15 children. Jeremiah was a devout Baptist, kindly, honest and a good master. Under his ownership, between 1814 and 1850, wages rose. Boys of 8 or 9 worked 12 hour shifts with two breaks and earned 3d per hour. A working day was normally 6.00am to 6.00pm, although sometimes a shift could go on until midnight; many workers then faced a long walk home.

Mustard Revolution (Stoke Holy Cross Mill. Colman's Home 1814-1862)2

February 15th 1823 was the day when Jeremiah Colman took his 22 year old nephew, James, into partnership. James began with a quarter share which increased to one-third in 1827 and half in 1831. Thus progressed the J & J Colman business which was to have such a beneficial effect on the life of the city, county and leading eventually to a change of the greatest importance to an agriculural region – the efficient processing, packaging and distribution of foodstuffs by industrial methods.

“Old” Jeremiah died on 3rd December 1851, aged 74. On 24th November 1853 James Colman, his adopted nephew and sucessor also died. His son, Jeremiah James Colman, then took over. When the 24 year old control of the family business, he was the third member of the family to do so.

Mustard Revolution (Colmans Dynasty)
The Colman Dynasty

At the time, Jeremiah James Colman controlled a small local company selling modest amounts of mustard. In the space of 50 years he was build the company into a global brand using innovative marketing techniques and through his hard-work, honesty and integrity as a business man. and proved to be a brilliant innovator whose masterstrokes included creating Colman’s famous bull’s head trademark in 1855 and moving, in 1862, from nearby Stoke Holy Cross to the Carrow enclave, which was bordered by beneficial railway and river links. The young entrepreneur had also identified a ready-made workforce in the city – cloth workers made redundant by the industry’s exodus to northern mills.

The Colman family always took a benevolent interest in their workforce and, increasingly as the Company grew, supplied schooling and contributing to the social life of its staff, e.g. Christmas dinners in the granary and staff outings. In time. the Company became one of the first to offer a meals service for its workers – 4p bought hot meat, vegitable stew and a pint of coffee. Colman’s was also to provide a clothing club and lodgings for working girls, followed by a lending library and a pension fund; but these benefits were provided once the Company had grown to many hundres of employees and had moved to the larger premises of Carrow Works in Norwich.

Mustard Revolution (Colman's School 1864)2
Colman’s School built on Carrow Hill in 1864. Photo: Norwich Museum Service.

He also followed his great uncle’s example in educating his employees’ children, building a school on Carrow Hill in 1864, years before education was compulsory, and provided sick benefits, and savings and pensions schemes. In 1878, the Company employed the first indudtrial nurse, Philippa Flowerday. Colman’s were also to build coffins for workers and their families, and build and rent out houses to workers and pensioners. Many were in neighbouring Lakenham and Trowse, and some of the terraces were said to have had mustard-coloured front doors.

Mustard Revolution (School Terrace)
Former Colman Cottages built in School Terrace, Norwich by the Company for employees.

When Jeremiah James Colman was asked how he had made such a vast fortune from the sale of mustard he replied ‘I make my money from the mustard that people throw away on the sides of their plate’.

Jeremiah James Colman 1867-1868
Jeremiah James Colman 1830-1898. Photo: Norwich Museum Service

 

In 1856, Colman’s employed just 200 people, by 1862 this had risen to 600 and by the time of his death in 1898 it was closer to 2,000. He expanded the range of products under production to include laundry blue, flour and starch.

The story of the rise of Colman’s and of the work and life of Jeremiah James Colman is fundamental to understanding the history of Norwich in the 19th century. Colman’s influence can be seen everywhere and his morals, actions and achievements drastically altered the lives of many thousands of people living in Norwich.

For this weeks blog I would like to focus on the life and work of Jeremiah James Colman and highlight some of the related objects we hold in our reserve collections.

There was a large fire on the 30th June 1881 in the mustard packing factory. After this Colman acquired a 600 gallon steam engine (see image below) for use at the site and employed a dedicated team of fire fighters.

Carrow Engine
This engine is currently on display in the Bridewell Museum. Norwich Museum Service

Here in the superstore we have many other objects used by the fire fighting department at Carrow Works.

Fire Extinguisher used at Carrow Works in the 19th century.

Breathing Apparatus used by fire service at Carrow Works. - There was a large fire on the 30th June 1881 in the mustard packing factory. After this Colman acquired a 600 gallon steam engine (manufactured by Shand, Mason and Co.) for use at the site and employed a dedicated team of fire fighters.

The rapid growth of Colman’s Mustard runs counter to the narrative of 19th century industrial growth that is so well known. In an age characterised by child labour, unsafe working environments and long hours for low pay, Colman displayed a remarkable duty of care to his employee’s.

Many an industrialist claimed they could ill afford to treat their workers better or pay them more and to do so, would destroy their business and the nations economy. Colman demonstrated the ability to dramatically grow a profitable business whilst treating his employee’s with humanity.

Carrow Works in the 19th century

20 years before parliament made any provision for compulsory education, Colman set up a school for his workers children. When the school opened, Colman sent a letter to each of his employee’s extolling the benefits of education.

Here are a few highlights from that letter:

‘In these days of progress, that man is sure to be left far behind, who has neglected the cultivation of his intellect while he who strives to improve his mind stands a fair chance of raising himself in the social scale’

‘Remember the motto of your Reading Society ‘KNOWLEDGE IS POWER’, power for advancement, power to be good and to do good, power to be happy and to cause happiness to others’

‘It is of the utmost importance that you should teach your children to be punctual, neat and industrious.’

A nursery was later established for younger children, a nurse, called Phillipa Flowerday was employed and a dispensary set up for the benefit of his workers. In 1872 he set up a self-help medical club for his workers, encouraging them to contribute, matching their contributions with his own donations.

Colman's employee's on a day trip.
Colman’s Employees. Photo: Norwich Museum Service

An onsite kitchen was opened, this provided tea or coffee in the morning and a hot meal for lunch, charged at cost. Workers who were off sick long term would have food parcels delivered to them at home courtesy of the company (somebody was employed full-time to deliver these food provisions.)

The company owned hundreds of homes and accommodation was provided for many workers, but special provision was made for single women who were provided with low-cost accommodation. He even provided public houses in which his workforce could enjoy a pint or two!!

Carrow Works - Club House

A clothing club was established; this made saving towards the cost of clothing much easier, additionally the company contributed to the savings scheme. From 1874 a dressmaking teacher was hired to help female employee’s learn new skills that could be used in the home and to save money. In fact a whole series of educational classes were provided free of charge to all employee’s.

Colman insisted his employee’s were insured against sickness or injury, the company ran its own scheme for workers who could choose between that or joining a friendly society. From 1864 the dispensary employed a doctor to work alongside the nurse.

When Jeremiah James Colman died he left £2,000 in his will to the employee’s trust and the money from this was used to set up a pension fund. By the time he had departed Colman had built up a system of nurseries, schools, medical care, food provision, housing and pensions. A system of protection for his workers from cradle to grave and 50 years before the creation of the welfare state!

The Colman family and their employee's at a fete organised for a family celebration.

Why did Colman feel the need to provide such assistance? He could very easily have turned a blind eye to the plight of his workers, like the majority of his contemporaries did. He was no social revolutionary, in an age of socially radical ideologies Colman was politically a liberal. He was however a devout Christian paying strict adherence to the Protestant religion. This drove his belief in a strong work ethic but also his compassion for his fellow man and his ethical approach to business. Colman’s brand of charity was that of self-help, he believed in giving to help people, but he believed that once helped people had a duty to do everything in their power to help themselves.

Such was Colman’s religious conviction; he had even been tempted to turn down the opportunity to run the family business. He feared it would impinge upon the time he could devote to religion and self improvement. He questioned the morality of wealth and feared he would become corrupted and greedy.

He was a close friend of four time Prime Minister William Gladstone, who offered Colman a baronetcy, Colman declined the offer saying:

‘anything I can do to promote the principles I have always supported … I am glad to do, but I much prefer that it should be without the reward or rank a title is supposed to give’.

Inside Carrow Works - Die stamping tins.

So how was a small local company able to transform itself into one of the top 100 British companies in just under 50 years, whilst simultaneously providing a decent living for its workforce?

Marketing was a key to their success, and Jeremiah James Colman was the man driving this forwards. In 1855 they adopted the now instantly recognisable bright yellow packaging with the distinctive bulls head and in 1865 they gained a royal warrant from Queen Victoria. Colman’s products are still used by the Royal household today.

Colman's tin from our collection 1880-1900. This box would have originally contained 48 penny tins of mustard.

They were one of the first companies to really push forward the marketing of their products to a consumer market. As early as the 1840’s Colman’s made the decision to start selling their products in much smaller packages (penny tins). This enabled smaller amounts to be purchased more cheaply which opened up a huge new potential customer base.

Railway carriages like the one below were decorated in the distinctive brand colours to transport their goods across the country. Before the age of Television this allowed the whole country to see the Colmans imagery.

The Yellow carriage on the right is a re-creation of a Colman’s carriage. This one is on display at the fantastic William Marriott museum in Holt.

By the 1870’s Carrow had its very own marketing department, and by the late 1890s they had started hiring famous artists to create high quality advertising posters for them. Including the illustrator John Hassall and later the painter Alfred John Munnings.

Advert created by Alfred Munnings. Munnings was a famous artist renowned for his talent at drawing scenes with horses. He served in WW1 as a war artist. In modern times his artwork has sold for many millions of pounds.

Colman had a great sense of civic responsibility stating:

‘Men should go into municipal affairs to see what they could do for the town, instead of seeing what the town could do for them’.

At the young age of 29 he was elected to Norwich Town Council. He was sheriff in 1862-63, mayor 1867-68, in 1869 he became a magistrate for Norwich and then for Norfolk in 1872. In 1871 he was elected as a liberal MP for Norwich, serving for 25 years.

His political career was mixed, he did not thrive in the Houses of Parliament as a Liberal MP in part due to his poor oratory skills, but also he very quickly became disillusioned with national politics. He was however much more successful as a local politician he sought to end the corruption for which Norwich was well known.

Jeremiah James Colman MP for Norwich 1880-1886

He was a part of Norwich Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society, this group met regularly and spent their time writing, reading and debating the great questions of the day focusing on politics, religion, society, and morality. He was closely involved with the successful launch of the Eastern Daily Press in 1870 (a newspaper that is still going strong) and fought for and won having a preservation order placed upon the city walls.

Colman was one of the leaders of a subscription campaign that sought to argue for all public buildings in Norwich being used for the public benefit. By 1886 they had been successful in securing both the Castle and Blackfriars Hall for public use. At the time Colman was a trustee of Norwich Museums, whose collections were then housed in a purpose built building on Exchange Street. After closing as a prison the castle was offered to both the city and county councils for purchase, but they were unwilling to met such expense. Briefly the decision had been made to allow the castle to become a ruin, however banker John Henry Gurney purchased the castle, and it re-opened as the museum we know today.

In the winter of 1896 he visited Egypt with several family members, for the purpose of offering re-cooperation to his ill son Alan. Sadly Alan died in February 1897 and the family headed home, however Colman procured over 250 artifacts whilst there. In 1921 these were donated to Norwich Museums by his daughters and include an Egyptian shroud! After his son had died he purchased and donated the land that was used to build the extension of the Jenny Lind Hospital.

In the space of three and a half years Colman lost his son Alan his wife Caroline in 1895 and then his mother in 1898, himself dying at home in Corton, Suffolk shortly afterwards. His funeral procession numbered 1200 people, which is perhaps the greatest indication of how important Jeremiah James Colman was to so many people in 19th century Norwich and in the 21st century we have much more than just Mustard to thank Colman for!!

THE END

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

 

The Tale of a Vanished Landmark

This is a Tale not so much about the village of Weybourne but more about a grand Edwardian hotel that was built there to entice the wealthy – but was destroyed by changing times and the fear of invasion.

Weybourne Village Sign

Visitors who come to Weybourne in the hope of seeing where this once-elegant Hotel once stood in the schemes of things would see nothing. Indeed, few would know that it had its beginnings during a period towards the end of the 19th century when there was a spirit of optimism in the area founded on the tourism boom of the 1890s. But it seemed that the building, and its intended purpose, was damned from its inception.

Given Weybourne’s current geography, it might seem hard to believe that in 1900, plans were considered for what later became a large building, variously known as either the ‘Weybourne Springs Hotel’ or the ‘Weybourne Court’, Hotel. It would be located next to Weybourne railway station but on the opposite side of the road. The building project was financed by a Mr Crundle, owner of the nearby gravel pits; he hoped that guests staying in the five-storey upmarket establishment would come from the upper classes.

Weybourne Station
Weybourne Station

When the idea of building a railway line from Sheringham to Melton Constable via Holt was first announced there was much opposition from local landowners along the route, but it eventually went ahead and opened in 1887. However, between Sheringham and the next station of Holt there were no further stations originally planned, but this changed as a result of the late 1890’s tourist boom when the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GN) decided they would develop Weybourne as a holiday resort. So, in early 1900 work began on a new station, the site of which would be a mile from the village of Weybourne; the station opened to passengers on July 1 the following year. The position of the station, some 1760 yards from Weybourne may seem a bit odd, but not when it is understood that the Station was built to serve the nearby “Weybourne Springs Hotel”, not the village and local community! Had the hotel not been built then, maybe, Weybourne might never have had a station at all?

However that aside, the hotel’s arrival was seen by the M & GN as a chance to increase revenue on their line; and it did want to impress, given that the ‘Springs’ was located nearby and both properties would “grow” together. Work to build the Hotel began on what turned out to be a large building with its three reception rooms, billiards room, hotel office, manager’s rooms, guest bathrooms, kitchen, serving rooms, domestic offices, staff bedrooms and outbuildings including stables. In all there were 36 guest bedrooms and due to its size, records suggest the hotel, reputedly named after nearby springs with medical properties, didn’t open for business until 1902. Interestly, included in the hotel’s facilities was indeed a local ‘Springhead Plantation’s spring-fed pool, which flowed under the adjacent railway. At one end was a pumping station and at the other end was a hydraulic ram. This equipment served the hotel.

Whilst popular at first, and with a belief of management in possible further development later, the hotel was to fail to reach its full potential. Certainly in its shortlived ‘heyday’, the Weybourne Springs Hotel was an impressive building with verandas, gables, corner towers and a first floor main entrance which, during the early years of the 20th century, welcomed visitors. Its appearance partly resembled that of the current Links Hotel at West Runton.

Weyborne (Links Hotel) 1
Links Hotel, West Runton

Ironically, when it did open, one of its earliest and largest booking was not by elegant tourists at all. This ‘booking’ was made in May 1903 when the increasing numbers attending Gresham’s School in Holt had outstripped the space for them at the school’s boarding accommodation. So, from May to July that year, boys were boarded at the Weybourne Springs Hotel. From there they would travel daily, by train, to Holt for their lessons until the end of the school’s summer holidays when extra accommodation was provided at the school.

Weybourne (Gresham's)
Gresham’s School, Holt, Norfolk

Thereafter, there were various occupants for the Hotel, including a holiday centre with chalets in the grounds and a private club. Brewery records reveal that on October 19 1908, Percy Newton Mayhew was the third and possibly final registered licensee. No licence application renewal was made either in or after February 1910, suggesting the Springs only remained a hotel for a short time. The Norfolk Pubs Register claims closure was “around 1909”, and two years earlier on June 7 1907, the London Gazette (the official Government journal) had already published Notice that the Springs Hotel would shortly be sold by auction.

First listed by Kelly’s in their 1904 Norfolk Directory, the hotel had been owned by the North Norfolk Hotels & Catering Co Ltd with its company secretary, Mr S E Harris, as licensee. However, in 1908 the London Gazette announced that North Norfolk Hotels & Catering Co Ltd would be dissolved in the November but the property still retained its name.

Weybourne (Theo School)

In 1910 the “Springs” hotel was the chosen venue for a Theosophical Society Summer School. An international group of like-minded souls searching for divine wisdom in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of the universe. The school ran from 4th to the 18th July and guests were charged 35s per week for those sharing rooms with an extra premium of 5s per week for those who were fortunate enough occupy a room on their own. Up to four people occupied some of the rooms, however there is no record to state if the occupants were of mixed gender or not. There was an overflow of attendees and these were accommodated in tents pitched in the grounds of the hotel and in lodgings at Holt and Sheringham. Some of the folks who attended the summer school travelled from Europe.  This, plus all the activity generated by so many must have provoked a great deal of interest among the locals who themselves had, in all probability, never set foot outside Norfolk.

Then came the First World War which rekindled worries for the authorities who were to heavily defend the whole of the north Norfolk coastline. For centuries Weybourne had been seen as particularly vulnerable to foreign invaders going back to pre-Tudor years when the Spanish planned to invade, followed by threats to invade from the French and later by the Germans in both the First and Second World Wars, One of the reasons for this is that Weybourne has very deep water making it very easy to bring boats in and unload directly from the boats to the shore. That had been a particular big advantage to the Romans when they first came and then the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes. The Vikings landed and lived here. There was a 16th century saying:

‘He who would Old England win must at Weybourne Hoop [harbour] begin’.

 

Weybourne (Beach)
Weybourne – Deep Water and a Gentle Sloping Beach

So during the Great War, when coastal lookout stations between Hunstanton and Sheringham were manned by members of the Cyclist Brigade, two of their companies (2nd & 25th County of London Cyclist Brigade) were billeted in the Springs Hotel, whose corridors now echoed to the sounds of army boots rather than those of hotel guests. But even during wartime there was time to relax: on May 24, 1915 (Whit Monday), the hotel hosted the military’s Cycle Battalion Sports Day. Soldiers from Brancaster, Hunstanton, Snettisham and Wells also attended, camping under canvas in fields around the railway station.

After the war the Hotel must have reopened, as the 1922 Kelly’s Norfolk Directory listed Frederick George Emms as ‘Proprietor of the Weybourne Court Hotel’ but by 1929, it was unlisted, evidence of its end following a gradual fall-off in trade over the previous twenty years or so. At the time it was suggested that the Hotel’s demise was partly due to subsidence of the light sandy soil on which the Hotel was built. But nearby, and not to be entirely forgotten of ‘The Springs’  was to be the ‘Weybourne Court Holiday Camp Ltd’ complex, built on some of the former hotel’s site. However, in August 1931, the London Gazette advised this too would be dissolved within the following three months – the Company was only finally wound up in 1942. As for the former Weybourne Springs Hotel, this became a home for disabled people in the 1930’s but would experience its end at the outbreak of Second World War. The demise of the former Hotel came in 1940 when it was demolished after being considered a conspicuous landmark which might be advantageous to the Luftwaffe.  The building went through many guises in its relatively short history but all that remained would be a few photographs and fast-fading memories to remind later historians of a hotel which was launched to serve upper-class tourists but which succumbed in the end to the tides of war.

FOOTNOTE: In the leadup to the Second World War a local bylaw came into effect in 1937; this allowed for anti-aircraft guns to be fired in the peaceful village of Weybourne as part of  the County’s wartime defences.  The order, made under the Military Lands Acts and signed by His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department, Duff Cooper, and the President of the Board of Trade, Walter Runciman, restricted access around the secret training camp at Weybourne while warning flags were flying. Anyone found to be in breach of the bylaw could be removed from the area and fined up to £5. Although the War ended in 1945, it took until  2016, more than 70 years,  for the Order to be ended.

Weybourne (Station,Gun 1937)
A3 inch anti-aircraft gun being loaded on to a train at Weybourne Station in 1937, destined for the Camp

During the Second World War, Weybourne Camp was a highly secret site and was an Anti-Aircraft Artillery range not too far from the site of the former Weybourne Springs Hotel. The camp, along with a complementary camp at Stiffkey, represented the main live firing training ranges for ACK-ACK Command in World War II. Here the Norfolk coastline became a controlled zone by the British forces. This controlled zone extended 10 km deep into the North Sea around Norfolk. Weybourne Camp was a vital part of this zone and, as well as firing in anger, it was also to be used as the principal training camp for all the Royal Artillery who were defending the Midlands and London with their anti-aircraft guns. Gunners would come up to Weybourne for two weeks, they would be trained on firing their guns and then they would deploy back to the cities to defend the cities. They were trained by women of the Royal Auiliary Corps, the ATS, who were responsible for training the artillery gunners. It proved to be a popular place to be posted because it was where the lads could meet the ladies; there are a number of records of soldiers who married their loved ones who they had met there. But all that also came to an end when the Anti-aircraft guns themselves became obsolete in favour of missiles. The Camp at Weybourne closed in 1958.

However, while the guns have long since fallen silent at the anti-aircraft artillery range, they can still be seen in position at the Muckleburgh Collection, on the site of the former camp, part of the UK’s largest private display of guns and military vehicles.

As for Weybourne village and the railway, these would go on to benefit from the general holiday rail traffic as folk came to visit the Norfolk coast for their annual holidays after hostilities ended. But, in 1959, the axe also fell on both the railway line and Weybourne station. But, in time, the M&GN Joint Railway Society was formed and secured the Sheringham to Holt section, enabling Weybourne station to remain open today as the North Norfolk Railway.

THE END

Source:
Christopher Weston EDP 2016

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

The Step Dancing Fishermen of Cromer

(By Chris Holderness with photos from various sources).

In addition to reading Chris’s narrative below, how about clicking on the following Link to see some of the boys ‘stepping out’

 

Now take a breather by sitting back and reading the following:

Cromer Beach 1

‘Nearly thirty years ago a friend and I, in a small boat with the two Suffolk fishermen who owned it, pulled ashore on Cromer beach, below the tall tower of the church.  We were going round the coast recording material for a radio programme. Later that evening, hugging the green box which was that marvellous new thing, a portable tape recorder, we found ourselves in The Albion pub with a bunch of big smart men in reefer jackets and blue jerseys – the Cromer lifeboat crew.  After a pint or two all round someone put a small board on the floor and, to my amazement, one by one these stalwart modern fishermen stood up and step-danced like people from another planet.  Indeed, if they had put on silver suits and flown out of the window I could have not have been more surprised and delighted.  We recorded like mad.

Cromer (Albion Pub)

 

Sam Larner (Philip Donellan)1
Peter Donnellan

I had no idea then that people still did this in England – it just shows how ignorant radio producers can be!’ Thus the BBC radio producer Philip Donnellan, who was instrumental in bringing Winterton singer (and step dancer) Sam Larner to wider notice, wrote in 1982.

 

The north Norfolk town of Cromer has long been associated with crab and lobster fishing. Even once the Victorian railway arrived and brought countless waves of holidaymakers, turning the town into a fashionable spa watering hole, the crab fishing industry continued to flourish and was the main source of employment in the town. It was a hard way of life, as Katherine ‘Kitty’ Lee – daughter of ‘Shrimp’ Davies, erstwhile fisherman, lifeboat coxswain and step dancer – recalled: ‘A typical day in May would start for me when the alarm goes.  Johno (her husband) gets

Cromer (Crabs)
Cromer Crabs

up, calls our son.  Phone will give two rings and then stop, which means John Balls, our crewman, is up.  The time could be anything; say it’s 3 am, 3:30 on the beach.  Maybe he’ll want a different order for bait.  He’ll set the clock for me to get up about 7 am.  I light the gas coppers.  They take an hour to get hot.  If everything is working OK the men should be ashore about 7:30 am.  Home around 8 am.  Put 2 or 3 hundred crabs into the bath of warm water – 8.30 they’ll be drowsy enough to scrub clean.  Two of the men will scrub – we can boil 200 crabs at a time.  The third will cook their breakfast – they take turns – all good cooks!  In June when they go off around 2:30 am, they are home by 6:30 am…’ It was also a hazardous existence, dependent on the tides and the vagaries of the sea, in a notoriously unpredictable area of the coast, as Donnellan made note of in the same article as before: ‘Three months after our recording session in The Albion two of those big dancing fishermen, coming into Cromer beach on a summer day with their catch of crabs, were swamped by a freak wave and never seen again.’

Step Dancing:

Cromer (Henry Shrimp Davies)Side by side with this traditional industry of crab fishing were the two activities of being crew members of the Cromer lifeboat and step dancing in the pubs of the town and surrounding area.  In both of these activities, the Davies family has been prominent.  Probably one of the most renowned of the family was Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies (1914-2002), a long-serving and decorated coxswain of the lifeboat.  He was also a wonderful step dancer.  Philip Donnellan was not the only BBC broadcaster to visit Cromer step dancers, intentional or otherwise.  John Seymour, in conjunction with fiddle player Alan Waller, did so sometime in the early 1960s: ‘Going up into the town, we looked up Shrimp Davies, as the coxswain of Cromer’s No 1 lifeboat is generally called by people who know him.  I’ve known him for some years.  Like the other lifeboatmen, he’s also a crabber and crabbing is how he makes his living.  He’s a smallish man, but wiry and tough, as anyone following his calling must be.  He likes his beer when he’s ashore, he plays the melodeon and he step dances……The earliest extant recording of Shrimp step dancing seems to have been made by Peter Kennedy in 1952, in the town, when he danced to Percy Brown and Bob Thompson playing The Sheringham Breakdown on melodeons.

‘Shrimp’ Davies’ cousins Jack (John James) and Dick were also step dancers, whilst another cousin Bob also played the melodeon.  When Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme visited the area in the mid-1970s to research the step dancing tradition, they found the Davies family members still very active in this respect.  They identified three distinct styles of step dancing still in evidence in north Norfolk, albeit mainly practised by a few members of an older generation: ‘

1) An intrinsic and deep rooted style of dancing which we call Norfolk stepping.

2) The stepping characteristic of the travelling people – as old or possibly older than Norfolk stepping, which we call Travellers’ Stepping.

3) A degenerate form of what is commonly called modern Lancashire stepping performed by the Davies family of fishermen in Cromer.’

Cromer (Late Richard Davies)
Richard Davies

‘The Davies are an established Cromer fishing family whose association with the lifeboat dates from its earliest days. The present cox is young Richard Davies who succeeded his uncle, Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies. Shrimp’s predecessor was the famous coxswain Henry Blogg, brought up with the Davies. There has been a tradition of dancing in the Davies family for at least seventy years.  This dancing is performed in ordinary leather-soled shoes and is considered by the fishermen and others to be Lancashire dancing.’

‘Unlike the Lancashire stepping of the travellers and the Jearys, the older members of the Davies family danced in eight-bar phrases, comprising a six-bar step followed by a two-bar finish.  The story of how modern Lancashire step dancing came to be found amongst the fishermen of Sheringham and Cromer is well known.  The Morning Advertiser of 1964 relates the tale as told to them by Mr Archie Wright in an article entitled Christmas is a time for Step Dancing. It reads: At The Horseshoes, in the Norfolk village of Alby, the entertainment speciality of this cheerful roadside inn is a particularly vigorous form of step dancing.  The story of step dancing at The Horseshoes is linked with the career of licensee Mr Archie Wright.

His first connection with the local fishermen was in 1924 when he went to The Belle Vue at Cromer, a house he managed for nine years.’

‘In any conversation about step dancing the most frequently recurring name is that of Jack Davies (Sn).  Mr Wright’s sister Rosie is Mrs Jack Davies (Jr).  Her son Richard is an expert step dancer and his grandfather Mr Jack Davies Sn., now over eighty, was until a few years ago one of the finest exponents in the district.’

‘At this point it has to be acknowledged that Norfolk cannot claim this form ofstep dancing for its very own.  It was brought to Cromer by a coastguard from Lancashire over sixty years ago and he showed local fishermen Mr Jack Davies (born 1884) and his brother Billy (born 1887) how it should be done.  When Jack and Billy Davies danced together they did so in perfect unison.  An exponent whose expertise is still remembered and discussed with admiration was the late Mr Charlie Harrison (born 1874). ”Billy Davies passed his talent on to his son Mr Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies.  Jack’s brother Dick is a good step dancer, as is Jack himself and his son Richard.  The Sheringham lifeboat bowman Mr Eric Wink is another step dancer.’

It goes on to say, ‘For a feature of this dance, which over the years has become the Norfolk fishermen’s own speciality, is that it must be performed within a very small space.  It is all done on the toes and ball of the feet and heels must never touch the ground.’

Archie Wright’s daughter Marian Daniels commented, of another public house held by the family, that ‘My parents Archie and Ivy Wright were tenants at The King’s Head, Erpingham.  We moved there in 1948.  All the twelve years we were there Sat and Sunday evenings George Craske would bike over from Sustead and bring his accordion.  Also a chap called Albert would play the piano.  He was a coal man and my mother had to clean the white keys as they were black when he finished playing.’

Cromer (Davies on Horseback))
The Step Dancing Davies

“My uncle Jack Davies, a Cromer fisherman, and his son, my cousin Richard, would step dance, also myself, my father and Jimmy Crane.  Everybody used to get up and dance.  My mother would be up and down the cellar steps, serving.  There was no counter.  She would be singing all the old songs.  Titch and Charlie Lambert, uncle and nephew, loved to dance.  If they couldn’t get a partner they would dance together.  It is such a shame these wonderful evenings are no more.’

To return to the article by Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme: ‘The Davies’s dancing is of great interest as it demonstrates the absorption of an extrinsic style of dance into the local tradition and how in two generations the dance has degenerated.  We know that the deep-rooted Norfolk stepping existed in Cromer before the arrival of the Lancashire coastguard.  Indeed, old Jack Davies’ father was a Norfolk stepper.  Old Jack Davies, his brother Billy and ship’s carpenter Charlie ‘Casey’ Harrison from Sheringham learnt Lancashire steps from a coastguard stationed at Cromer in about 1905.  The Davies called these steps by such names as the 1st Lancashire Step, the 2nd Lancashire step, etc.  The steps the coastguard brought with him are generally termed Lancashire clog steps.  That is the modern style of Lancashire dancing dating from the 1870s, danced on the music halls and at competitions.  The Davies fitted their Lancashire steps to the even rhythmic hornpipes and breakdowns of the local Norfolk musicians, often dancing alongside the dancers of the deep-rooted Norfolk style of stepping such as the Wards and the Turners from Roughton whom Archie Wright calls ‘farmyard shufflers’ or ‘tailboard steppers’.

He used these terms in a slightly derogatory sense, considering their style of stepping inferior to that of the fishermen.  The names apparently derive from the farm labourers’ practice of removing the tail boards of farm carts to step in order to keep warm on cold mornings whilst awaiting their orders.’

As to the Davies’ style, the article comments: ‘We believe old Jack learnt eight steps.  He was undoubtedly the best dancer, and we are told was the only Davies to be able to dance the steps off each foot.  The next generation of Davies, Jack, Dick, Shrimp and Bob dance about half that number.  The best dancer and the only one to still use a two-bar finish is Dick Davies.  He learnt his steps from Charlie Harrison.  He insists his 1st Lancashire step must be danced with plenty of spring and on the toes.  Another step involved shuffles followed by a toe and heel – a type of roll.  We note that for a dance which is supposed to be ‘all done on the toes and ball of the foot, and heels never touch the ground’, it certainly employs a number of down heel beats.’

In an area where step dancing was once very commonplace, and to a more limited extent still is, the Davies family – or at least the males of the family – have ensured that this tradition continued in Cromer perhaps long after it died out elsewhere.  The fishing community in the town was notably conservative, in outlook, dress and customs, as Kitty Lee relates: ‘Johno averages a new suit every other year.  Doeskin is out, but he does have the best serge available.  So he generally can rely on having three suits at any one time – working, second best and best.  He has at least seven jackets in the house at present.  He takes a pride in wearing the old style and I doubt he will ever change.’ It is this pride in the traditional way of doing things which may have ensured the survival of the step dancing in the town, particularly although not exclusively in the hands of the Davies family.

Kitty Lee once again comments on the men’s habits which fostered this: ‘Bringing up a family in the olden times they didn’t have a lot of room – 2 up, 2 down – with 7 or 8 children.  It wasn’t so bad when they were all small and sent to bed but as they grew, where did they all sit?  So I guess going to the local hostelry was really a necessity.  It would be more like a wealthy person going to his ‘club’.  What better way to end a day’s work than by sinking a few pints of good ale, replacing the liquid sweated out rowing and hauling, chatting about the day’s events, discussing catches, swopping ‘yarns’, telling tales.  Bit of music from an accordionist, sing an old ‘shanty’, dance a step or two.  Wonderful days.  It was the best way to relax, take the tension out of any worrying situations that might have occurred, discuss prices and decide what time is best to get the tide tomorrow.’

Unfortunately this tradition of self-made pub entertainment was not to last as people’s recreation changed; of the aforementioned step dancing Davies, Richard (1944-2010) was the only one of his generation to continue the practice, as his daughter Fiona relates: ‘There weren’t really many people.  I can’t think of anyone like Billy Davies, or anyone like that stepping.  I can’t remember them doing that … Dad used to get annoyed (in The Albion) when someone would come in and start playing, and then someone in the pub would turn the music up; and he could get really annoyed.’

Singing in the pubs was also commonplace in the town, part and parcel of the evening’s entertainment with the step dancing, as a local newspaper article relates: ‘Shrimp’ learned his many step dances from his father, and from his famous uncle, Coxswain Henry Blogg.  He tells many a tale of the fierce competition which existed in the early days of this century between local step-dancers, tales which involved both ‘Shrimp’ himself and his father. ‘He recalls a man named Gipsy Gray, renowned around Cromer for his prowess both with his feet and his fists.  Shrimp’s father was dancing in a local pub one night when Gipsy Grey walked in and started to deride the Davies’ dancing. ‘Davies determined then to prove his superiority and a fight ensued from which he emerged victorious, uncrowned king of step dance and fisticuffs.  Having heard of these tales I wondered how ‘Shrimp’, who certainly looks a worthy successor to his father, had earned his diminutive nickname.  He laughed when I inquired about it, and told me that being a rather small baby, his Uncle Henry had walked in, taken one look and said, not very tactfully, ‘What a bloomin’ shrimp.’ The nickname has survived some fifty years.

‘The usual venue of the lifeboatmen of Cromer is either The Albion pub or The Bath Hotel.  In The Albion, on a black, storm-swept night in January, I met ‘Shrimp’s’ brother Bob Davies, a giant of a man.  Like the rest of the Davies family he has the sea etched into his face, and also like them he has a warm, outgoing personality.  He is judged to be one of the best accordion players in the county, when he can be persuaded to give a tune on that instrument.’

Cromer (Shrimp Dancing)
Shrimp Davies Dancing

‘When one adds ‘Shrimp’s’ dancing to Richard’s singing and Bob’s accompaniment, one wonders why they did not choose the stage for their career, for they would have been instantly successful.  Richard, who strikes one as the obvious leader of the younger generation of Cromer seamen, does most of his singing in The Bath Hotel on the seafront. The proprietors, Tom Evans and his wife Stella are both keen folk music followers and have encouraged the fishermen to use this pub as their song and dance centre.  Richard has a wealth of traditional song at his fingertips, songs which have been passed on by generations of seamen.  One of his favourite songs is The Bold Princess Royal…’

Clearly there was on occasion a robust spirit of competition as regards the step dancing, although Richard himself did not favour any sort of formal dancing competitions, as Fiona relates: ‘He used to get quite annoyed about the stepping competitions as well…It was just that you shouldn’t have a competition.  I totally agree with him on that one.  That don’t matter who’s better …  But it’s not about how well you do it; it’s being part of it and adding a beat to the music.  It’s not how fancy your steps are.’

In recent years Richard Davies could always be prevailed upon to sing his own idiosyncratic versions of The Foggy Dew and The Worst Old Ship (Waiting for the Day), both, in their rather blunt bawdiness, exhibiting his vivacious and convivial personality which always came to the fore in numerous musical occasions across the county.

One local regular singer and step dancer who was greatly involved in the nights of music but who was not of the Davies family was Frank ‘Friday’ Balls. An occasional fisherman, he tended to earn his living in the building trade, as Jimmy Jeary recalled: ‘He hardly went to sea; very, very rare.  He was a builder more than anything.  He used to sing down The White Horse on Saturday, Friday nights.  Cause he knew all the old fishing songs,’ and Fiona Davies remembered that ‘He was quite a lovely old man’ who sang and step danced.

Cromer (Percy Brown & Dick Hewitt)
Percy Brow & Dick Hewitt

Aside from Bob Davies or George Craske, a regular musician to play for the step dancing was Percy Brown, who lived in and around the town of Aylsham.  Philip Donnellan again: ‘Two of the men that night in The Albion (and what better name for a culture-carrying pub than that?) were not fishermen but countrymen: Percy Brown, who played melodeon and concertina (sic) like an angel, and Dick Hewitt, a slim, straight younger man, who danced like a demon.’ As well as in Cromer itself, the step dancing would take place a few miles inland as, before the advent of synthetic materials, the fishermen would head to Antingham to gather hazelnut sticks for their crab pots, as recalled by Ray Bird, formerly landlord of The Barge in that village: ‘Them down Cromer, the fishermen, they used to come. They used to come to that little old plantation; that’s where they used to cut hazelnut out for crab pots.  They’d just call up the road for Percy: ‘Come on, we’re going down for a drink.’

On 6th October, 1962, Reg Hall, Bill Leader and Russell Wortley recorded an evening’s entertainment in The Bath House on the sea front of the town. Reg Hall

Cromer (Dick Hewitt)
Dick Hewitt

remembers that they picked up Dick Hewitt and Percy Brown on the way and that ‘Shrimp’ Davies lived more or less next door.  The lively recordings showcase Percy Brown’s playing of a variety of popular song tunes, his occasional singing, and quite a few medleys of hornpipes to which Richard, Jack, and ‘Shrimp’ Davies step danced, as did Dick Hewitt and ‘Friday’ Balls, the latter also contributing the occasional song.  As well as Percy, Reg also accompanied the step dancers on several occasions, recalling that he played that evening to get things going, something he wouldn’t always do. As a consequence of this night, Reg remembers that the Cromer lifeboat crew were invited down to Islington Fox in about 1965 and that about four came and there was a night of singing, step dancing and storytelling.

In the 1970s a short film was made for Anglia Television of various Davies family members and ‘Friday’ Balls step dancing to Percy Brown’s playing, showing their individual styles within that ‘degenerate form of what is commonly called modern Lancashire stepping.’  The five dancers get up one after the other to perform their steps, whilst Percy Brown continues to play Yarmouth Hornpipe throughout, very much as is the custom.  The dancers in order are Richard, Dick, Jack, ‘Friday’ Balls and ‘Shrimp’ Davies.

Cromer (Richard Davies)2
Richard Davies

Richard Davies, the life and soul of so many musical nights across the county with his ebullient personality, sadly succumbed to a brain tumour on 5th May, 2010, at the age of sixty five. Local broadcaster and newspaper columnist Keith Skipper wrote: ‘He looked and sounded like a refugee from Treasure Island.  Gingery beard, muscular frame, booming voice, piercing eyes darting from menace to mirth in no time and a throaty chortle …  With great uncles like Henry Blogg and Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies, the boy Richard had to get used to feeling at home with proud traditions …  We found happy common ground on stage as his extrovert nature and delicious lightness of foot kept traditional step-dancing to the fore.  He answered calls to give special displays at Mundesley Festival and on my Press Gang farewell entertainment rounds.  Our final flourish together came at Waxham Barn on an uncommonly cold May evening a couple of years ago to raise money for the Sea Palling inshore lifeboat.  Richard’s turn culminated in his own distinctive version of Foggy Dew.’ Richard Davies was a highly respected member of his local community, long standing coxswain of the lifeboat until his retirement in 1999, and the town quite rightly came to a standstill for his funeral on 19th May, 2010.

Cromer (Late Richard Davies)
Richard Davies circa 2002

Times have changed in Cromer as everywhere else but the crab fishing is still thriving in the hands of Richard’s son John, continuing the family business although, in the words of Fiona, ‘My brother can step.  But he always says he has a bone in his leg, so he can’t!  But he can step; he was taught to step.  He knows how to do it, but he won’t.’  Fiona however has continued the family tradition, despite the fact that it has been almost exclusively a male preserve in the town: ‘It was male-dominated …  But I can’t remember any of my aunts stepping …  I broke that tradition!’  She recalls earlier years and being in Aldborough Black Boys in the mid 1970s: ‘I can’t remember whether we were upstairs or downstairs, but I can remember my dad saying, ‘Come on, step!’ And I had to, whether I was shy or not.  I was only about five or six. That was one of my earliest memories, I think. And it was great, because there was lovely people and a whole big community of people doing music, and it was interesting, I think, at that age.’  The tradition is in good family hands as Fiona’s children Ben and Emily both step dance too, even if age has temporarily reduced the interest: ‘And when I got to a teenager: I got ‘I’m not doing that anymore!’  Like my children, they’re teenagers; they don’t want to do that. But they will come back to it.  It took me a few years to do it; to come back to it.  But it’s a nice thing to keep going; tradition.  I’ve even got my own little protégées now and my friend’s daughter; she’s six.’

THE END

COPYRIGHT NOTICE2

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