East Anglia 2008

OUR VISIT TO EAST ANGLIA IN 2008

Join us as we search for family links to people and places in Suffolk.

Well, here we are, back in Brisbane after the most amazing and wonderful holiday experience of our lives.  We had three months in Britain, combining our interest in researching family history and visiting places in the UK that have significance to our ancestors, with our natural desire to see and experience as much as we could of Britain while we had the opportunity.

We Leave for the UK

Our day by day experiences are recorded on www.tracing-suffolk-roots.com This Report focuses on things that may be of particular interest to family members and close friends and goes into a more detailed account of people we met and places we visited in East Anglia and what we found there. Most of the photographs we took on our trip are now included on our website. The East Anglian photos which may be of more interest to you are contained in the galleries of Chapters 1 to 4 and 11 to 13..

You may recall that we left Brisbane on Saturday 14 June and arrived at Heathrow, London on Sunday morning very early.  After a few hours exploring London, we caught the train and bus to Ipswich where we stayed the night before collecting our hire car and driving to Felixstowe to see Chris and Julie Garrard. Chris is my 4th Cousin on Mum's side of the family. She, of course, being Josephine Garrard. Chris is the acknowledged expert on our branch of the Garrard family in Suffolk and our mutual interest in that family gave us plenty to talk about.  Chris and Julie very kindly invited us to stay the night and took us to the nearby Ferry Boat Inn for dinner.  www.ferryboatinn.com

with Chris & Julie ar Ferry Boat Inn

Chris is a retired electronics engineer. He and Julie have a great interest in family research and are particularly astute at accessing the records that fill in all the important, but often overlooked details that paint a true picture of the lives of our forebears. Their modern two storey home is just a short walk from the sea at Felixstowe. Chris and Julie enjoy a very busy retirement. When they are not researching family history, or taking care of grandchildren or visitors, Chris enjoys woodcarving and building model planes and boats, the kind that fly and sail, and Julie, when not busy as Grandmother and homemaker, collects objects d'art.

She has a very large collection of ornamental cats of all descriptions and when the grandchildren were little, she used to keep them occupied by getting them to count how many cats they could find. One of their treasures is a beautiful, fully furnished dolls house, made by Chris and complete with lighting - quite remarkable. Another is an old, model sailing ship that belonged to Chris' Grandfather, and which used to be sailed on the moat at Framlingham Hall. Chris and Julie's garden is not large but flows into natural rooms with lots of colourful shrubs and flowers, all overlooked by the wide glass windows of their comfortable family room.  The pretty garden has a natural attraction for several varieties of birds that regularly visit as well as the grey squirrels that prance and spring around the flower beds and tree branches.

As we left the Garrards on Monday, Julie commented "I'm not going to change your sheets as you will be back, won't you?" .... so, promising to return, we headed off North to Benhall, the village where my father, George Aslett, was born and where three generations of our family resided for eighty or more years, prior to 1960.  As we turned off the A12 and into the village, I was surprised and delighted to see that 'Ivy Cottage', the two storey brick home that stood on the corner behind the Benhall village sign, was indeed the same one that Granny Emma Sophia Aslett had lived in for seventy years.

Mrs. Catherine Aden was the Post Mistress at Benhall for many years and knew the Aslett family well. She occasionally sent news of Benhall to George Aslett in Australia, and, in the late 70's or early 80's, she had written to say that 'Ivy Cottage' was to be pulled down to     mIvy Cottageake way for modern housing.  I had assumed that the old home was gone, but here it was, surrounded by a lovely flower garden and obviously very well cared for.  We pulled up a few doors down the street and looked back to see a man lifting something out of a van parked in the driveway of 'Ivy Cottage'.  We hurried back and met Mike Peters, who invited us in to meet his wife Sharon.  Sharon put on the kettle to make a cup of tea while we collected our laptop out of the car, to show them some of our old Benhall photos.

At some time, 'Ivy Cottage' had been divided to form two semi detached cottages.  Mike and Sharon had only recently bought their cottage, which they are renovating, but Sharon's Father, Bill Ling had lived next door for fifty years, and Sharon had been brought home to 'Ivy Cottage' when she was a baby. On our laptop, one of the photos we showed Mike and Sharon was the one taken at Benhall in 1958, where 100 year old Granny Aslett was waiting, with Aunt Win, Ted Ayden and a group of villagers, to present a bunch of flowers to Princess Margaret.  Pointing to one of the villagers who was holding a baby in her arms, Sharon said, with great excitement, "There's my Mum! ...and that baby must be me!"

Sharon went on to say that her Flowers for Princess MargaretFather, Bill Ling, had the photo taken a few minutes later, when Granny was actually presenting the flowers to the Princess.  It was my turn to get excited.  I had been trying to get a copy of that photograph for years.  I knew it existed as it was in an old faded copy of a newspaper of that time, but try as I might, I had been unable to find a copy.  Bill was not at home, but was expected shortly, so Sharon suggested that we come back later and she would see if she or Bill could find the photograph.

Jane and I went for a drive around the village and took some photos of houses, to compare with the old village photos that had belonged to my father.  It was lunchtime at the school, and since the children were not at lessons, we decided to call in to see if there might be some record of Granny, Emma Sophia Aslett, or the Aslett children, Winnie, Percy and George, or their cousins Ada Simington and Jack Foster.

We introduced ourselves to a teacher who was on playground duty, and she said, "I know that name."  Sandra Brown was an ex-pupil of the village school and was very interested in the school's history, so she knew of Emma Aslett, who had been Infant Mistress at the school from 1888 until 1922.

Sandra introduced us to Chris Gallagher, the School Principal, and we fished out our laptop and showed
them our old photos of the School and of former principal, John Chambers with Emma Aslett and other
teachers, taken in the early 20th Century.  Sandra photo-copied some extracts from an old school record
book concerning "Mrs. Aslett".  One, dated 2 August 1922, just before the school closed for Summer Holidays, is of particular interest. "Mrs. E.S. Aslett, who terminates her engagement here today after 34 years service, was presented with a silver plated tea service, by the Managers, Teachers and Scholars (past and present).  The Correspondent E.R. Hollond Esq. made the presentation."

Another entry that caught my attention was dated 26 October with the heading, 'East Suffolk Prize Scheme 1896 Successes'.  W. Aslett was awarded 1st Class for Writing, and G. Aslett and P. Aslett received 2nd Class awards. George Aslett would have been 8 years old, Percy 11 and Winnie 13.

WBenhall Schoole left the School promising to send copies of our old photos, and Sandra said she would look for more
entries, concerning our family, in the old record books. We drove back down the street to 'Ivy Cottage',
where we found Sharon and her father, Bill Ling, searching through old photos for the one of Granny Aslett presenting the bouquet to Princess Margaret.  Sharon was saying, "It's not here." and Bill was saying, "It must be in that box." and I was thinking, "Don't tell me its lost!"

We chatted to Bill while Sharon continued to look for the photo.  Bill is a seventy-something year old, retired Benhall farmer; still very fit and active.  He had moved into 'Ivy Cottage', which is also No.1, Benhall Green, in the 1950's, when Granny Aslett and her companion, Lizzie Good resided next door, in the adjoining cottage.  Bill said he remembered the old ladies well, and Sharon confessed she had been scared of Lizzie when she was a child and that Lizzie wore button-up boots.

Lizzie was the sister of Win's schoolteacher friend, Gertie Good, who used to board with Granny Aslett
when she was teaching at Sternfield (next village to Benhall).  Lizzie was engaged, probably by Win, to be Granny's companion-carer some time after Gertie died, as a result of cancer.  From all accounts, Lizzie must have been a strange looking little person, and the button-up boots probably didn't help, but she was devoted to Granny.  She continued to reside at 'Ivy Cottage' until her death, a few years after Granny died, and is buried at Benhall.

As time was getting on and Sharon had still not found the photo, we made arrangements to call back to see Bill and Sharon on the next weekend. We said farewell, and had just put our things in the car, when Sharon came running out of the house waving the photo.  Sure enough, it was the one I had been trying to find for over twenty years, where Princess Margaret was receiving the bouquet from centenarian, Emma Aslett.  Sharon promised to get a copy of the photo for us on our return.

I was looking forward to meeting my cousin, Joyce Hillyer.  Joyce is the daughter of Dad's brother, Percy
Aslett, and we had been corresponding for 20 years or more.  Joyce lives at Caister-on-Sea, near Great
Yarmouth, Norfolk, so we drove up there via Lowestoft.  We had been searching the Internet for a B&B close to where Joyce lives.  I suggested that we book in first, but Jane thought we should wait in case Joyce was expecting us to stay with her.  This was wise, as it turned out, for Joyce, although not expecting that we would stay with her, very quickly decided that the bed was ready for us and she would love to have us stay with her.  It was fortunate for us too, as we were very comfortable at Joyce's home and thoroughly enjoyed being with her.  Our upstairs bedroom faced south and overlooked her colourful garden and the golf course.Backview Joyce's house

Joyce is marvellous, she lives alone since Alan, her husband, died, and prepares her own meals and looks after herself very well. She has a gardener and a cleaning lady who call fortnightly and lots of very good friends who call on her. One particular friend, Pat, contacts her nearly every day to see if she is OK or if she needs anything. We arrived on Tuesday evening, two days before Joyce's 97th Birthday.

The birthday arrived with friends and neighbours dropping in with cards, gifts and flowers, more cards arriving by post, and phone calls with good wishes. We then took Joyce to see our cousin Libby Metcalfe at Overstrand, near Cromer, on the north coast of Norfolk where we all went for a celebration lunch at a nearby Garden Centre Restaurant.

Libby's backyardLibby and her husband Peter are a delightful couple and we felt an immediate kinship with them. They have a large and comfortable home with a very large and colourful garden.  Libby is the Granddaughter of Tom, the eldest of the Aslett brothers.  It was amazing how well we all got on together, with much to talk about our families.  Joyce and Libby had not seen each other for several years as Peter Metcalfe has developed Parkinsons Disease, has difficulty getting about and has had to give up driving.  Libby is driving now, but is still gaining confidence.  We had a very enjoyable day with Libby and Peter and Joyce certainly enjoyed catching up with them again.  We promised to return, and to bring Joyce, before the end of our holiday.

Joyce is very highly regarded by many friends and old pupils.  When Jane asked one ex-pupil why Joyce was so highly regarded, she replied, "Joyce was always so beautiful. She was like a film star." And so she still is.  Few people would realise she is well into her 90's.  She looks well, enjoys a laugh and is selective with food and knows a good wine.  The genes of Emma Aslett run strong in Joyce. I must tell you that Joyce has a walking frame, which she hates.  Before our arrival she hid it behind the sofa so that we would not see it.  But she enjoyed a good laugh when she told us what she had done.

Most days we took Joyce for a drive to some place of her choice, and we enjoyed the outings as much as she enjoyed showing us around.  at Filby'sOn one occasion we visited one of her ex-pupils who owns the Filby Bridge Restaurant,  situated beside one of the Norfolk Broads, where Joyce and Alan used to go boating.  Jennifer was delighted to see Joyce again and would not let us pay for our afternoon tea. www.filbybridgerestaurant.com

Another day we drove over to Bungay to see 7 Flixton Road, the place where Aunt Win used to live, and then we went over to Beccles, where we called on Barbara, an old friend of Joyce's, who lives by the river, overlooking the pleasure boats, the swans, the ducks, and enjoying all the activity of life on the river.  Something Barbara said reminded me of Ratty in "The Wind in the Willows". She confessed, "I love boats; we've always had boats".  Back home, Joyce showed us some photos of one of the boats Barbara and Stanley, her late husband, had owned.  It was the stately and very much admired Wherry, "Olive".

We enjoyed our time with Joyce and she enjoyed the company and the outings with us.  We managed to do a few little jobs for her about the place which she was pleased to get done.  We took the opportunity, while staying at Joyce's, to drive over to Lingwood to see Tony and Barbara Grosvenor.  Tony is an authority on the Grosvenor family of Shropshire and Staffordshire, (Jane's relations) and he was able to tell us where some of their properties were located.

On Sunday, we left Joyce and drove down to Lowestoft and finally caught up with Mike King, an ex-pupil
of Joyce in primary school and Alan in grammar school, who had been keeping in touch with Joyce, and
letting me know about her welfare in recent years. It was great to meet the man who writes such interesting and informative letters.Southwold Pier

We followed the coast road down past Southwold and Dunwich.  Our next call was Benhall, where we took some photos at St Mary's Church before we collected the copy of the Princess Margaret photo from Sharon Peters at 'Ivy Cottage'.

Sharon said her father, Bill Ling was not at home so we arranged to visit him the next day, and drove over to Framlingham and booked in to the Crown Hotel for the night. The Crown was high on our list of the places we wanted to visit as we had heard a bit about it from Pat Bridges and Ash Garrard, and Ngaio and Graham had stayed there on one of their visits to Britain.  Built in 1553, the 450 year old pub lived up to our expectations, including the creaking floor and the famous English Breakfast of Suffolk Ham and Eggs.  Definitely one not to be missed.

We couldn't get over the old buildings in Britain.  Coming from Australia where there is hardly a building
over 200 years old, we found the thatched cottages and ancient 'piles' fascinating and amazing. And that's another thing. In Australia we tend to demolish perfectly good old buildings to make way for the new.  In Britain they take great pride in old buildings that have stood the test of time and have sheltered generations.Crown Hotel

How many generations of people would have visited the Crown Hotel in Framlingham in the last 450 years? When you visit the place you can almost hear the clatter of horses hooves on cobblestones and the creak of the wheels of the wagons & coaches.  And just on the other side of Market Square at Framlingham, opposite the Crown, you can see the shops where, from the 1850's, Hatsell Garrard, son of Robert and Celia and nephew of old Hatsell who came out to Australia, had his three adjoining shops advertising as "General Drapery Warehouse" with drapery, dressmaking materials, millinery, ladies outfitting, household linen, etc. and carpets of every description.  He also advertised as an insurance agent and funeral director. Just up the road from the Crown is a hardware shop that still trades as Bridges & Garrard. 

Back at "Ivy Cottage", Benhall, Bill Ling showed us bricks set in the wall that clearly dated the cottage from 1787, so although it looks new in comparison with other houses in the village, it is older than any building in Australia. "Ivy Cottage" is now divided into two semi-detached cottages, with Bill Ling living in one and Mike and Sharon Peters (Bill's daughter) in the other. It is Mike and Sharon's cottage where Granny and her carer-companion, Lizzie Good were residing when the Lings moved in next door. That was in the 1950's, and Bill said that someone had lived in his cottage before his family.

Before Emma Aslett and her children moved into "Ivy Cottage", it was occupied by Saxmundham Solicitor
John Fry with his family, and servants. The Frys were there for some time, until the early 1890's. I have the impression that the cottage was just one residence at that time and if this is so, I wonder when it we divided into two. It might have occurred after the Aslett children left home, say, between 1910 and 1950. My father, George Aslett, said that the Eley's lived next door and the Rackhams were on the other side of them.  He never mentioned anyone living on the other side of "Ivy Cottage" but he did say that his Mother's garden was very large and stretched behind the Eley's cottage and up to the Rackhams wall. Bill Ling said this was the case until he bought his cottage, when the land was divided to give him the section of the yard behind his semi detached residence.  Bill's yard is now a very attractive garden. We had a cup of tea with Bill and his brother Ron, who farmed with Bill in the old days and who lives at one of the other villages near by.  Bill was feeling quite pleased with himself that day as he and his partner had won the pairs competition at his Bowling Club the previous day.Geoff with the Ling Brothers

After we left the Ling brothers we took a short drive around Benhall.  We got quite a surprise when a small dainty deer, called a monkjack, crossed the street in front of us and disappeared into one of the yards on the other side opposite "Ivy Cottage". There are numerous signs on the road shoulders saying 'deer' but this was the only one we saw.

Our next place of interest was Aldeburgh where Granny was born in 1858.  It is on the coast just a short drive from Benhall so we parked near the beach and went for a walk around the town and along High Street where my Great Grandmother, Emma Symington, nee Taylor, was recorded as a dressmaker in the 1861 Census.  By 1891, now Mrs. Miller, she had moved to Benhall where she was recorded as a storekeeper.  According to the Census that year, her daughter, Emma Sophia Aslett and her children were living next door at 80 The Green, Benhall.

We set off in the general direction of Lavenham, calling for a drink on the way at 'The Ship Inn' at Blaxhall
where Sharon Peters works as a chef.  Found ourselves at Charsfield where Gt. Grandma Emma Symington was born.  She was the daughter of Charsfield butcher, Robert Taylor and his wife Harriet, (nee Keer) so had a look around St Peter's Church and graveyard, and drove down Church Road where the Taylor Family had lived.

Abandoned the idea of Lavenham for the time being, and went South instead to Woodbridge where we
booked in to the B & B, 'Grove House Hotel'.  It was friendly and comfortable, and we had a good night's rest.

On Tuesday we were welcomed again by Chris and Julie Garrard.  We phoned Bill Knox to arrange to visit
him at 'Blue House Farm', Laxfield after 2pm on Wednesday.  Chris and Julie said they would take us on a
tour of "Garrard Country", where so many generations of our ancestors had lived.  Our tour started at
Framlingham, where we parked near the church and visited the cemetery. Hatsall Garrard's Grave We walked through the gates
and straight down the path.  On the right hand side, we found the grave of my Great Great Grandfather
Hatsell Garrard, who had died at the age of 72, on 22nd November 1868, at "Countess Wells Farm",
Framlingham.  Beside his grave were the graves of his nephew, Hatsell, the proprietor of the Drapery
Warehouse in Framlingham, and his wife Amelia and their son Charles.

Next Chris drove us past Framlingham College, which he and several other Garrards had attended, around the back of Framlingham Castle, once the ancestral home of the Howard family, the Dukes of Norfolk, and down to see 'Countess Wells Farm', where old Hatsell had been living with his niece Jane Elizabeth and her husband William Gobbett, before he died.

The Garrard Country Tour next took us past the Saxtead Post Mill to Saxtead village, where we visited All Saints Church and saw the graves of Thomas and Mary Garrard, my 5 times great grandparents. Thomas died in 1788 at the age of 76 and Mary, nee Everson, died in 1773 at the age of 67.  After taking some photographs there, we drove to Dennington, where we stopped at the 'Queens Head' for lunch - an excellent choice for a most enjoyable lunch in delightful surroundings.  We paid a viisit then to St. Mary's Church - right next door -  where generations of Chris' family had attended from nearby Framlingham Hall.

We had arranged to meet Bill Knox at 'Blue House Farm' at Laxfield.  Bill welcomed us and showed us the
Deeds and documented history of the farm where Hatsell Garrard had farmed in the 1820's and early 30's, before debts forced him off the land, and ultimately led him to try to start again in Australia.  Bill's father had acquired the farm in 1946 and there had been extensive improvements since then. Bill took us on a tour of his home and garden which we all found very interesting, especially the construction and extension of the home over the years. 

with Bill KnoxBill and his wife Penny are presently renovating the home to reveal its true character and history.  Unfortunately we did not meet Penny as she was away, assisting her father at the Norfolk Show on the day we visited the farm, but, after showing us the house and delightful garden, complete with swimming pool and artificial moat, Bill invited us to afternoon tea.  Before leaving he showed us the brick barn and farm buildings that were most likely the 'modern' farm buildings, built when Hatsell was there.

The visit to 'Blue House Farm' was certainly among the highlights of our visit to Britain. Bill made us very welcome and our visit an unforgettable experience.Heavingham HallAll Saints, Laxfield                          

Finally, Chris conducted us to All Saints Church, Laxfield, where we found the graves of Robert Garrard and his wife Jane Elizabeth, who both died in 1839. 

They were the parents of brothers Robert and Hatsell, so Chris and I share them as our Great Great Great Grandparents. To cap it all on this amazing day, on the way home we drove past Heaveningham Hall, once the home of Lord Huntingfield and the Vanneck family.  Our family interest here is that Jane's Great Aunt Jessie Francis married a chap called Octavius Armstrong.  Two of Octo's nieces married sons of Lord Huntingfield, who, at the time were farming a few miles west of Ipswich, Queensland.  One of those one time Queensland farmers inherited his father's title.

River StourOn Thursday we visited the East Bergholt Church and went for a stroll around Dedham and the Stour Valley (actually it turned out to be quite a marathon, but very enjoyable) where John Constable painted many of his most famous paintings, and where artists to this day are inspired by the peaceful rural scenery.  Certainly a beautiful part of East Anglia and a great place for a leisurely stroll with much to interest, from the Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage, over the lazy River Stour, through green fields to Dedham.  The area is protected and maintained by the National Trust for the benefit of future generations.

Chris and Julie had other commitments on Friday, so Jane and I drove to Little Waldingfield to meet Pat and John Bridges, with whom I had been in contact for several years by email but had never met personally. We were welcomed into their sunroom for morning tea.  Both Pat and John are leading local historians.  John very kindly gave me an autographed copy of his latest and highly acclaimed book, 'The Commercial Life of a Suffolk Town', which is based on Framlingham around 1900.  Knowing how interested Chris Garrard is in everything to do with Framlingham, I picked up a copy for him too. We left the Bridges after a most enjoyable chat about our family interests in Suffolk, and followed their instructions to make our way to the town of Lavenham, a very special and interesting place.

LavenhamIf you can imagine one of those old fashioned fairy story books that you open very carefully and up pops a quaint, absolutely intriguing cottage or castle, then you can imagine Lavenham. It must surely be the most photographed village in Suffolk. The architecture must have changed very little in the last 400 years.

We parked the car and walked up the main street where every shop is interesting and unusual.  From the butchers shop with its combined deli and tearoom, the antique shops bulging with interesting pieces and the modern homewares shop that has a sign in the window, "This shop is bigger than it looks", and it certainly is.  At the top of the street we came to 'Munnings' that looked like a nice place to have lunch. The restaurant gets it's name from the artist Alfred Munnings and copies of his paintings of horses adorn the walls.  The building which dates back to 1550 has a charming restaurant downstairs and a B&B upstairs, for one or two couples. We enjoyed our lunch, which took the form of triple decker sandwiches and premium tea in a large English china teapot with dainty cups to match.  Presentation was superb and Jane will always remember those 'egg & lettuce' sandwiches as the best ones she ever had.

Feeling very satisfied we walked back down the street and turned into the lane which leads to the
National Trust owned Guildhall, which houses a fascinating exhibition of farming, household and cloth making implements and machinery.  The exhibition gives a great insight into life at Lavenham at the height of the cloth manufacturing industry, in the 1500's.

The next day, Saturday 28th June, we went with Chris and Julie to the Archives at Ipswich, looking for information of family interest, followed by a visit to the Museum and Art Gallery at Christchurch Mansions, Ipswich, which included magnificent paintings by Constable and Gainsborough.  On Sunday we all went to Parham and visited St Marys in the hope of finding some Keer family graves.  We are connected to the Keer family through Granny Aslett's mother, Emma Taylor.  Emma's mother was Harriet Keer, who married Robert Taylor, the butcher at Charsfield.  It wasn't long before we located a group of Keer graves;  Timothy and Rose Keer, Jonothan and Ann, William and Ann and others connected to our family.

Next we went to Laxfield All Saints where my Great Grandfather, Hatsell Mellersh Garrard was baptised in 1822.  Strange, in that quiet place, standing by the huge carved stone font, imagining the Christening of little Hattie, with proud parents Hatsell and Mary and other family members looking on.  Laxfield All Saints is a very fine looking church. It is obviously well cared for, and the old carved woodwork throughout the church is fascinating.

There are so many churches in Suffolk. Every village and hamlet seems to have one, and there are a few
extra ones in places where there is no village to be seen.  Some we saw looked a bit crumbly and neglected but many, like Laxfield All Saints, shine with good care and attention.  After visiting the church, we walked across to the Royal Oak for lunch, a choice of roast beef, pork etc, excellently prepared and presented, all with that freshly home baked flavour that can't be beaten.

The Laxfield Museum occupies the old, 16th century, Guildhall. We spent an enjoyable hour or more
looking at the exhibits which focus on Laxfield and the surrounding district and include an interesting
timeline of village life over the centuries.  We next visited Wilby, where old Hatsell Garrard was born, and
St Marys Church where he was baptised, before making our way home via Dennington and Earl Soham.

The next Monday 30th June, we said goodbye to Chris and Julie for the time being, and set off driving
to London, first stopping at Trimley St. Martin to pick Raspberries and Strawberries to take with us on our
journey.  Over the next few weeks we saw quite a bit of Great Britain, from the Salisbury Plains to Scotland.  We saw the Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds and many scenes of natural beauty. We travelled the Llangollan Canal in a Narrow Boat and visited some amazing National Trust properties and other places of immense historical interest. We also encountered many wonderful people whose kindness, generosity and humour will never be forgotten.  All this took place during July and August and will be the subject of another report, but for the moment we will concentrate on our family interests in East Anglia.

 

OUR RETURN TO EAST ANGLIA

I had the odd feeling of returning home on the 3rd of September as we left Cambridge behind us and drove back into Suffolk, after touring the rest of Britain. We were heading for Walsham-le-Willows, where my many times Great Grandfather, Raphe Margery, had been a yeoman farmer and Church Warden before he was excommunicated, in 1635, by the Bishop of Norfolk, for his non-conformist views.  The Bishop added insult when he sent a crony to forcibly remove Raphe's wife Abigail from the church during a service.  When war broke out between Parliament and the King, Raphe Margery supported the parliamentary cause, and raised over 100 supporters to fight for Parliament.  He was made a Captain and put in charge of Troop 13 of the Cavalry.  When some queried Oliver Cromwell about the appointment of a farmer, rather than a gentleman, to such a position, Cromwell replied, "I would rather have a plain russet coated Captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentleman and nothing else."  "I honour the man that is a Gentleman indeed." Margery led his Troop of Ironsides at the Battle of Naseby in 1645, and in subsequent engagements.  He died at Walsham-le-Willows in 1653.

We knew that Raphe Margery's farm was on Summer Road. We stopped at the Pub for lunch and asked
directions.  The publican was very helpful and gave us a book about the town and district, and in the
friendly way of English Pubs, one or two of the patrons offered us helpful advice.  We visited the Church
where Raphe and Abigail had suffered their ill-treatment and passed down Summer Road as we looked
around the village.

Our next stop was Bungay, where Aunt Win Aslett was headmistress at the infant school for many years.
We took a stroll around the town and enjoyed a cup of tea and fresh cake at the tea room near the ruins of Bungay Castle, before driving over to another of our favourite little towns, Beccles.  We took a walk here too, before making our way to Caister-on-Sea.

Joyce was very pleased to see us again and we moved back into our old room at the top of the stairs,
overlooking the garden.  At our request, Joyce had made a list of the jobs she had been unable to attend to for some time.  We were pleased to be able to help her and attended to one or two of them before we all went out for a drive.  We went to the Garden Centre near Acle, where we bought some plants and had a delicious morning tea, that was to suffice for lunch.  During the few days we spent with Joyce we managed to tackle quite a few jobs for her.

The following day we drove, along the Coast road and past the Horsey Wind Pump, to Overstrand to see
Peter and Libby again.  The Horsey Wind Pump is now a National Trust protected site and we made up our minds to come back later and climb the Windmill.  We had a great chat with Libby and Peter and went to the near-by garden centre again for a most enjoyable lunch.

We had made arrangements to meet up with Ian Francis and his wife Alice and toddler Reuben at the
Maritime Festival on Sunday, 7th September.  Ian is the son of Jane's Cousin Stephen Francis. Ian and Alice live at Norwich, not far away, and were coming to the Maritime Festival at Great Yarmouth so it was a good opportunity for us to meet them there.  We spent an hour or so at the Festival with them and also met Alice's Mum & Dad.  More very friendly people.

We rang Katie Carr-Tansley, the local history recorder at Benhall, and arranged to call on her on Monday
morning. She was able to give us lots of information about Benhall and was interested to see some of the old photos that we had of the Village. Katie escorted us on a walking tour around the village with a commentary about some of the houses and the people living in them.  She introduced us to Mary Watson and George Saunders both of whom have lived in the village for many years and could remember Granny Aslett.  On our first visit to Benhall I had thought that the village must have changed very little in the last hundred years, but Katie pointed out quite a number of homes that had been built or renovated in recent years, but all blending unobtrusively into the old village.

We made a quick visit to the Butcher at Saxmundham, about half a mile from Benhall, and also took a photo of The White Hart Hotel (mentioned in a letter from Frank Chambers to George, "The same old bunch of wise heads get down to the White Heart.")

We set off back to Caister via Bungay, and the Holy Trinity Church where it was thought that Grandma's
funeral was held. The gravestones at the Church were all far too old so we did not pursue the search.  Thanks to enquiries made by Mike King, we subsequently found out that Emma Sophia was cremated at St. Faith's Crematorium at Ipswich, so her ashes were probably spread in Win's garden at Bungay.

Katie had also put us in touch with Church Warden, Peter Sampson, who arranged to meet us at St Marys Church at Benhall to show us the small table that Aunt Win had presented to the Church in memory of Grandma Aslett.  It was kept in a locked room at the Church for safe keeping.

Joyce went off to the Hairdresser on Tuesday, and we had a visit from Mike King, who rode his bike from
Lowestoft (about 15 miles).  It was great that he took the trouble to see us again, and we chatted the morning away.  After Mike left we set off again to Horsey to make the promised climb to the top of the Wind Pump.  Very steep narrow stairs but worth the climb for the view. When we came down we were told there was a strong possibility that we would see seals at Horsey beach, so we walked the mile across the fields to the long, wide beach, which was all but deserted.  Unfortunately the seals had moved on, so we collected some pretty pebbles - there was some sand but mostly pebbles - and feasted on blackberries on the way back to our car ...collecting some extras to have with our ice cream for dinner.

Took Joyce for a drive to Wroxham which has been called the capital of the Norfolk Broads because it is such a popular spot for boating holidays.  It was rather late in the afternoon and the traffic in the town was quite congested so we didn't stop but Joyce enjoyed the drive and was pleased to see some of the developments that have taken place.  At Joyce's suggestion, we opened a bottle of wine for dinner as it would be our last night with her.  We felt sad to be leaving Joyce and I'm sure she was sad to see us go, but we set off again, calling at the Great Yarmouth Markets to sample more of their famous 'chips'. They came very highly recommended and certainly were the best hot chips we'd ever eaten.

On to Benhall to meet with Peter Sampson, as arranged, at the Benhall Church.  He brought his Mother along as she had known Granny Aslett, and he brought 'Granny's table' out of hiding for us so that we could photograph it.  He also had photocopies of a couple of other Aslett photos to give us.  His family has been farming at Benhall for many years and his Mother remembered Granny well.

After leaving the Sampsons we drove back in to Benhall to have a cup of tea and a chat with Mary Watson who also remembered members of the Aslett family, and then, a quick visit to Blaxhall to check for any Keer graves, and on to Felixstowe where Chris and Julie were waiting for us, and once again gave us a very warm welcome.

On Tuesday, Chris drove us in to the town centre of Felixstowe - a very nice looking city with adequate
shopping and very attractive seafront.  We then went on to Dennington where we had enjoyed an excellent lunch on a previous occasion at the 'Queens Head' Hotel.  Enjoyed this second occasion also. After lunch we went to the Framlingham Church, one of the most impressive in Suffolk, and then for a walk around the delightful Framlingham shops.  On the way back to Felixstowe we called briefly at Parham to recheck some details from the Keer gravestones there.

Friday 12 September, a wet day on this our last day in Suffolk so we sat around for the morning and chatted about Garrards and other families of old.  Delivered our hire car back to Ipswich and Chris and Julie then dropped us at the bus station where we caught the National Express to the Holiday Inn at Heathrow.  The sun came out again soon after leaving Ipswich and it was a very pleasant journey to Victoria Bus Station, but we were exhausted by the time we reached our Hotel after waiting an hour to join the Heathrow connection and then another wait at Heathrow to pick up the Hopper Bus to the Hotel.

The Holiday Inn was comfortable but like most of the big chains, meals are expensive and all but the very
basic TV viewing comes at a cost, as does Internet connection.  We decided we could do without the Internet for a couple of days although we had wanted to use it to help plan our movements over the next couple of days in London.

Saturday 13 September. We caught a taxi over to the Heathrow terminal and then the Underground to
Knightsbridge, where we paid a visit to Harrods. It certainly lives up to its reputation and is an amazing
shopping experience, all very, very upmarket.  The huge Christmas department was like an Aladdin's cave
with every possible shape, colour and size of glittering Christmas decorations and gifts.  We looked through several different departments till we became quite boggled by it all.

Caught a bus then to Oxford Circus, walked along Oxford Street and then bus back to Marble Arch where
we joined the crowds starting to gather in Hyde Park for the 'BBC Proms in the Park'.  People were coming in droves with their folding chairs, blankets and eskys.  We thought we would just sit outside the enclosure as the ticket price of 25pounds was a bit more than we were prepared to pay.  However, in the usual way that things have been working out so well for us, we were offered a ticket for 20pounds and another for free - couldn't resist that so joined the queue and headed in, with 40,000 other people, to see a most wonderful concert.

This was to be our last night in Britain and what a fitting end to a very memorable and enjoyable 'trip of a
lifetime' for us. The night was clear with a bright moon, and about every three minutes a plane would pass over on it's way to Heathrow.  We had often watched 'The Proms' on TV but to be there in such an
enthusiastic crowd was a wonderful experience.  The program included 'Teatro' with great songs from
Phantom and Les Mis, 'Bjorn Again' with all the old famous Abba hits, 'Jose Carreras', 'Lesley Garrett' and the amazing violinist 'David Garrett', and of course the BBC Concert Orchestra who entertained us with the themes from all the James Bond movies and much more.

People were dancing, singing and waving flags (mainly the Union Jack but we also noticed some from Aus
& NZ and others) and the atmosphere created by this happy crowd left us with a much better impression of London than we had gained previously.  The reason dawned on us quite suddenly, that these people
enjoying the music and atmosphere at the Proms in the Park were mostly British! We did not stay right to
the end as we didn't fancy coping with the crowds as we headed for the tube.

Sunday 14 September. We stored our luggage at the Holiday Inn and hopped on the Underground for our last journey in to London. Found a bus to take us over the Westminster Bridge to the 'London Eye'. Joined the long queue to purchase our tickets, then queued again to join 'the flight'. Luckily it was a bright sunny day though still rather hazy but the 130ft high wheel did give us a good view over London with the Thames and the Houses of Parliament and Westminster at our feet.

Walked back over the Westminster Bridge and on past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Gate where we found The Albert Hotel, a popular spot for our last lunch at a British pub.  We had noticed The Albert Hotel when we passed by in a No.11 Bus, on our first day in England – loved all the flowers.
We walked on to Buckingham Palace and, sadly, we were just too late to join a tour of the Palace.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in London and as we walked back through Green Park there were many
happy people to be seen just enjoying the sunshine - even the squirrels were scampering across the grass.

Caught the underground back to Heathrow, hopper bus to Holiday Inn, picked up our luggage and back to Terminal 5 in good time for our 9.10pm flight home via Hong Kong.

Good-bye to London and the UK and many many thanks to all those wonderful people who have made our trip so very memorable and enjoyable - If you're not careful we'll be back!

 

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