For whatever geological reasons, the slough (pronounced ‘slew’) is a natural depression that sits at the Junction of Hellesdon Hall Road, Drayton Road (formerly Lower Hellesdon Road) and at the base of Galley Hill. I discovered that it used to be referred to as ‘the Slough’ after reading it in an old Raleigh Cycle Guide that dad found in an old barn in Rackheath back in the 1980’s. This old magazine was printed long before the estate even existed and noted the bad condition of the roadway here.
It wasn’t until very recently that the Council got around fixing the drainage issues that have blighted the area for as far back as I can remember, and going by the old magazine, a lot further; even predating the invention of the motor car. This area always filled with water after moderate rain and at still to this day floods a little further along at the junction of Whiffler Road after a particularly heavy downpour.
When looking down on it from my photographic vantage point up on the Galley Hill here (full res) you can see why – if you stand at the bottom and walk in any direction you’ll be going uphill. It always has water draining in its direction. The Park was added in about 1929 and is obviously a Captain Sandys-winsch creation; although, search as I may I can’t find any real history on it, which surprises me considering his other parks are so well publicised. Presumably the Park got its current name from its location, but it hasn’t always been called Sloughbottom. At some point between now and its creation it has been renamed. In its early days was called “Hellesdon Recreation Grounds” and I’m guessing that it was renamed after Hellesdon’s wandering bounderies shifted once again. I’ve never known a ward to wander around the land as much as Hellesdon has done over the years, and it’s still shifting about today.
Once a crossroads of sorts, this junction – like a lot of others around here – has been modified heavily over time due to a number accidents and the closure of Hellesdon Hall Road. A chicane was installed at the bottom of the Hill to slow cars down and you can see the older route at the bottom where a little dead end now sits for entrance into to Jack’s (The ex-local milkman – more on him later) bungalow. Before this chicane it used to be possible to turn into Galley Hill from Drayton Road without needing to slow down, and on one occasion my Mother – who was coming to fetch me from a friend’s house – narrowly missed being obliterated by a drunk-driver who attempted the turn at about 50mph. He missed her by inches, took out the telegraph pole that can no longer be seen on the left and rolled his car into the former Galley Hill Pub’s Beer Garden; coming to rest up against the luckily-vacant children’s climbing frame. The telegraph wire then fell across Drayton Road; much to the surprise of a passing motorcyclist who was promptly whipped from his seat, lucky not to be decapitated.
Hellesdon Hall Road can be seen curving its way back up the hill towards Sweetbriar as a cycle path. This used to be a main road that connected Old Hellesdon with Norwich and was closed for various reasons before I can remember. I do recall that before the cycle path was installed it was often frequented by camps of travellers. It looked like a road back then too, with tarmac, white lines and old lamp-posts. In the early 1980’s it was decided by the Council to stop the travellers using the abandoned road by installing a series of steep banks and the narrow cycle lane.
Now, why is it called Hellesdon Hall Road I hear you ask? Well, that is because before Mile Cross existed, the whole area was actually Hellesdon. Drayton Road used to be Lower Hellesdon Road, Aylsham Road was Upper Hellesdon Road, Sloughbottom Park was Hellesdon Recreation Ground, there was an Upper Hellesdon Windmill (more on that later), and if – like me – you love to pore over old maps, you’ll see it has Hellesdon written all over it in big letters.
So what about the Hall? Well that was a bit of a mystery that took me a little while to fully comprehend. Norfolk is littered with old Halls and they’re normally easy to research, but not Hellesdon Hall. This is mainly due to the fact that it ceased being an actual building as far back as the 1460’s, and during a well-known spat called ‘The War of the Roses’. The Hall, along with most of Hellesdon and Drayton was owned by a chap you may have read about back in those dusty and boring coursework books that probably sent you to sleep during History lessons:- a certain John Fastolf. He was a Knight who – among other things – made a lot of money fighting in France during the Hundred Years’ War. He invested a lot of that money back into land and property in Norfolk, including Drayton Old Lodge and Hellesdon Hall. Interestingly, Shakespeare’s ‘Falstaff’ was loosely (and unfairly) based on Fastolf.
Fastolf was linked to another famous family: The Pastons, and a few years after his death, during arguments and claims to his land and property, Hellesdon Hall was sacked by the Duke of Suffolk. He also seized the village of Hellesdon, its Church and Drayton Lodge whilst he was at it.
So there you have it, it’s amazing what you can find out when you start taking an interest in local history. If only I’d have known that back during History Lessons at CNS. I probably wouldn’t have drawn a childish nob onto poor old Fastolf’s head.
Thanks once again for reading,