The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cavendish: a description from 1865

Cavendish as it was. (written in June 1st 1865)

During the past few years our pretty little village has been completely altered and improved in external appearance and if a lad who left Cavendish 50 years ago were to return he would hardly recognise it as the place he knew in his boyhood.

We possess a wide street and most houses are of neat and unique form though occasionally we meet here and there a house reminding us of the barbarous taste of our forefathers.

The village itself is closely built and compact extending half a mile in length, and at its Clare end you come upon extensive and beautiful village green where the “arabs” disport themselves.

The population is 1300 souls with a number of professional gentlemen both in divinity, law and physics, we have butchers, grocers, drapers, provision and leather shops etc etc, we have extensive maltings, a factory and a good straw plait market every Friday.

The railway passes through the village and is expected to be open next month, the gates at Pentlow bridge are completed and the ballast engine passes the whole length to Haverhill

Religious requirements of the inhabitants are well attended to with a commodious church and a pretty rectory and a kind and earnest clergyman to point the way to heaven, likewise we have recently erected a handsome chapel.

Near the railway station there in course of construction is a substantial new hotel on the Pentlow road.

Cavendish fair bids to be one of the most progressive villages in East Anglia.


The Railway Arms
Once called a hotel?

(We puzzle over the description of the 'substantial new hotel on the Pentlow Road'. This can only refer to the old Railway Arms pub, now sadly just a private house. It was built just before the railway opened, in 1864 by Mr Thomas Skelton, as a speculation. It was placed on the corner of Lower road and Pentlow Street on the site of a previous building. It certainly had hopes, when it was first built, of being a grand Railway Hotel, and once did a good trade as a public house from the many trippers who visited Cavendish by train at the weekends, and from the farmers who loaded their produce at the station during the week. It was never, as far as I know, ever referred to as a hotel.
"The house on the right hand side, where the Railway Arms stands, Thomas Skilton lived. He was a big man and gardened a little field. It was called Towne Field. It was by the side of Water Lane and went up to the house that stands by the path that goes up by the fields" (J Braybrooke
The rather grand house next to it, Railway House, was built by the proprietor of the Mat Factory, Mr Churchward. He actually merely extended on an existing house, clearly marked in previous maps, and still there as a wing.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Waveney Valley Floods of August 1912

We were struck by a Tornado on New Year's day. It was only an R0 when we got it, taking the tops off trees and so on, but it, in places it lifted off roofs, and moved cars. Tornados are not uncommon, strangely enough, and one can read accounts of storm damage in old newspapers where the storms are, pretty certainly, tornados. Whenever we get an unusual weather event, the journalists start chanting the 'climate change' mantra. A strange amnesia grips the average man when faced with the subject of weather. He can remember about wars, the names of the kings of england, and famous footballers of the 1940s, but extreme weather events seem to get lost to history, thereby making today's weather seem unusual.

East Anglia suffers from summer rainstorms that can be catastrophic. In fact, the Norwich Union was formed after two disasterous floods in Norwich in the nineteenth century. Here is a striking account, preserved in Eugene Ulph’s Scrapbook 1962-64, which is now in the Beccles Museum, describing such a summer storm, the Waveney Valley Floods.

Waveney Valley Floods of August 1912

Torrential rain accompanied by a severe hurricane left scenes of flooding and desolation. The strong wind and heavy rain played havoc with trees, orchards and houses on the higher ground. In 36 hours four inches of rain fell at Beccles. Weeks of wet days with only occasional sunshine culminated in a deluge in the last weekend of August. However towards the end of Sunday there seemed to be a promise of better things. On the contrary, the next day brought terrific wind and more rain and on the Tuesday morning the extent of the widespread damage was fully apparent.

Slates and tiles strewed the roads, tall trees were on the ground and fruit trees were stripped of their crops. chimney stacks were either on the ground or resting on neighbouring properties. Right in the middle of the town there was special evidence of the force of the storm in the battered appearance of the detached tower of the Parish Church. Large portions of stonework had been forced off by wind and rain.

The Waveney burst its banks, and miles of marshland on both sides of the town resembled a vast inland sea. The Gillingham Marshes were often flooded during the winter months, but this time water also lay to a great depth on those belonging to the Corporation.

Railway communication on the Waveney Valley Line between Beccles and Bungay was impossible as the track across Gillingham marshes was washed away for some distance. It was not long before the rising waters on the Corporation level brought services along the Yarmouth and Lowestoft lines to a standstill.

Swirling expanses of water cut off the town from the west, north and east. Even the south was affected, for from the higher ground towards Weston water rushed through Swine’s Green and along St Anne’s Road, causing flooding at Ingate Street. The medieval St Anne’s River was in existence once again. Its swollen waters contributed to those rapidly rising on the College and Caxton football grounds at the railway end of the Avenue.

Scene of desolation.

There was a scene of desolation in the Avenue, as elsewhere, as many trees had been blown down and the roadway was submerged to a depth of nearly a foot. It was very difficult to get to the Common, both lanes also being flooded.

Allotment holders in that part of the town suffered greatly as the preceding weather had delayed the harvesting of crops. When the water eventually receded, tenants found their plots in a deplorable state through the overflowing of sewage. Pumping at the Common Lane sewage station stopped on the Tuesday and could not be restarted for several days. In the meantime there was an awful accumulation in the sewers, causing a lot of concern to the authorities.

House flooding was particularly serious in the vicinity of the river. Many properties suffered at Bridge Street, Fen Lane, Thurlow’s Yard and Puddingmoor. There was a loss too at industrial undertakings. The timber yards and saw mills of Darby Bros. just on the Gillingham side of Beccles Bridge, were completely submerged. On the Beccles bank the tannery at Northgate was badly hit. Work was suspended for almost a week through the yards being inundated, the pits flooded and the water level reaching the fire bars of the engine.

Messrs Smith & Eastaugh lost a quantity of malt from their premises at the Score. Several tons of salt were dissolved when the water reached their store at the Staithe. The Northgate boat-sheds of George Wright were flooded. Mr Wright pointed out marks made on his buildings during a big inundation in 1879. Their height however was exceeded by eight or nine inches this time.

Bullocks Rescued.

Being summertime there were plenty of cattle on the marshes bordering the Waveney on the Gillingham side of the town. When on Monday evening water was creeping up an effort was made by marsh-men to remove a batch of five store beasts to safety. Despite their persistent efforts the bullocks refused to budge and, finally had to be left to their fate.

Next morning a photographer, Mr A. Leyneek, of Station Road, happened to see the animals floundering about while he was gazing at the flooded marshes from the churchyard wall. Braving the danger caused by wind and swiftly flowing water, he borrowed a rowing boat and set out towards the animals in the hope that he could attract them to safety. After a great deal of patient effort he got them to swim towards the town side of the river. Eventually they were hauled ashore by a band of willing helpers at the Puddingmoor boatyard of Mr Herbert Hipperson.

Wheat and barley standing in sheaves in the fields between Harleston and Bungay was washed away by the rising waters. Bungay itself was almost surrounded. Moving over Earsham Dam like a huge river, the flood washed away the embankment of the railway and the ballast from the track. The same thing happened on the Ditchingham side of Bungay station.

Some animals were drowned.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Bodies by the Bridge

in December 1850, some men who were employed employed in raising stone in a field farmed by Corbin (or Corben) Morley near Glemsford County bridge found the bones of two human bodies two feet down below the surface, a short distance from the hedge.

It was investigated by a local man, Mr Boutell who reported that the skeletons were a male amd young female. They ranged side by side, with the male on the right side, with no vestige of a coffin. They were laid east to west, suggesting that it was a Christian burial. This was further implied by the finding of a crude crucifix, consisting of two sticks laid across them. According to local tradition, there was supposed to be an ancient site of a monastery in that field (there is no record of any ecclesiastical building there). However, old ploughmen spoke of having felt the plough 'jump' over foundations. There was also a spring, a hundred yards away, from which poured clear pure cold water, and known as 'Holy Water'. At that time, thirsty labourers would go half way across the field for draughts of this cold sweet water from this spring.

The men who had been employed in 'raising stones' by the farmer struck the foundations of a wall 6-7 feet below the surface, the stones appeared to be about 4lbs in weight and of regular size. For the farmer to have found it worthwhile employing men to dig to that depth, there must have been a number of good stones around.

Two coins were found. The first coin was a penny piece of the reign of Henry the 3rd (1216 till 1272) The second was a silver two penny piece from the reign of Charles 1st (1625 till 1649). A copper token was found of Thomas Reynolds of the Star Inn and Huckster.

This remains one of those frustrating stories where one would like to know so much more. Where was the spot? One assumes that the bridge was the one that took the main road to Long Melford over the Glem, but the fact that it was called the 'County' bridge implies that it was the bridge over the river to Foxearth in the next county. Unfortunately, there were two bridges here, (sometimes just one bridge and a ford). As the bodies were buried at the edge of the parish, one wonders if they were suicides.

However, the idea of a young couple buried together near the ruins of a monastery must have fired the imagination of the people of Glemsford, and it is not much later that the daughters of the nearby rectory, Henry Bull, concocted the fantastic legends of the nun and monk escaping from the monastery at Borley , and being captured and killed. (the nun walled up alive).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The 'Haunting' of Liston Rectory

It is a bizarre coincidence that Liston Rectory, in the next parish to Borley, suffered from a haunting. Unlike Borley Rectory, the whole matter was solved due to the dogged persistence of the local policeman. This haunting happened in 1857, before the notorious Borley Rectory was built, but would have been remembered by locals since it was reported in the papers.

We take our account from the Suffolk Free Press of December 1857

During the first fortnight in December the peace of the residents of Liston Rectory was disturbed by strange unusual knockings which were heard in various parts of the mansion which sometimes appeared to come from the roof and sometimes from different rooms in the house, windows were broken and casements rattled, and sometimes the foundations of the house seemed shaken.

The Rev Fisher and family were of course annoyed and a watch was set but to no purpose, and the sounds continued

At length the nuisance became unbearable and the police constable of Foxearth, P.C.Edwards, was called in to endeavour to put a stop to it.

For several days it baffled the shrewdness of the officer but being no believer in ghost stories he went to work on the convictions that the sounds proceeded from someone who had not yet "shuffled off this mortal coil". Accordingly he kept a close eye on the domestics and his suspicions fell upon a girl named Deeks of about 14 years

It was noticed that the sounds generally occurred when she had the occasion to go to some part of the house when she would be alone, She would then rush back exclaiming "did you hear that noise". At length his suspicions were amply verified having observed her going into one of the rooms, he followed her noiselessly, and when there was a rapping he saw the shadow of her arm commenced in corresponding motion upon the opposite wall. When she came gliding out of the room he met her. She pretended to be alarmed and enquired "did you hear that". By reply he said "yes I did and you did it"

It was an accusation she did not long attempt to deny, Her master was informed of the discovery and experiments were tried out in other parts of the house and the same effects were produced.

The mansion is somewhat antiquated and the divisions of the walls are in places hollow being composed of wood panelling. The girl had discovered what had escaped general observations; that striking on hollow walls in different parts of the house would have remarkable varied sounds and effects.

It is supposed she used to vary her performances occasionally by slyly lifting up the sash of a window and stepping onto the lawn and throw a stone or two through some of the windows.

No motive can be ascribed for her pranks, the Rev gentleman and his lady are remarkably kind and indulgent to all about them.

The girl was dismissed at once and conveyed home to her parents and the removal of the cause of the rapping had ceased in Liston Rectory and usual quiteitude was restored.