The Boundary

Boundary Road 2017When you’re sat in one of the 5 lanes of traffic crawling along Boundary Road at a snail’s pace it’s hard to imagine that less than 100 years ago this now-vital traffic artery was little more than a rural path; a single-tracked sandy lane, rather conveniently named: ‘Sandy Lane’ up until the early 1900’s, before being renamed as the ‘Boundary Road’ we all know and ‘love’ today.

Below is an aerial image of Boundary Road taken in 1928 and for context the semi-detached houses in the bottom right hand corner of the image are the only two houses on Eustace Road. Which is still the case today, although it now joins up with the 1960’s Bowers Avenue extension. It looked little more than a farm track back then:Boundary Sandy 28

Before the first bricks of the estate began growing skywards from their footings set into the soil of the countryside bordering Sandy Lane, there would have been little else out here on the remote fringes of our early 20th century City. There was nothing but open and unspoiled Norfolk Countryside, stretching out from Mile Cross as far as the eye could see. A far cry from how it all looks now.

Galley Hill and it’s undulating heathland would have spread It’s way southwards, heading towards Drayton Road and sloping away towards the River Wensum.

On the other side of the road – on what we now refer to as Hellesdon – only Boundary Wood and its surrounding fields existed to hem this quiet, rural and unassuming track in its place.

As Boundary Road/Sandy Lane headed North East the lane would have ambled across what is now the chaotic Boundary Junction, past a few houses sat between the Cromer and Reepham roads (and their accompanying duck pond) before curving Eastwards past a school situated (where the car-hire business now sits) and out towards Catton Park; passing through the substantial Catton brick works as it did. These brick works would have undoubtedly been where the bricks used to build Mile Cross Estate would have been made and I doubt the phrase: ‘sourced locally’ would have been a phrase used to impress the new tenants into accepting residence on the new estate back then.

To the South West the lane would have crossed what is now the busy Asda junction and headed off South towards Hellesdon Hall Road (covered earlier in a previous post), where it would have promptly ended. The rest of Sweetbriar Road didn’t pop up until the early 1930’s when the ring road started snaking its way around the outer-most reaches of the city to ease congestion (they didn’t know the meaning of congestion back then going by some of George Plunkett’s fantastic pictures taken of the newly-opened circular route) and was just Briar Marshes, which will be covered in a future post. From up here at the higher end of Boundary Road you would have been afforded a fantastic Panorama of the City. Hints of that Panorama can still be made out through the gaps in the trees and the later-added factories. The Cathedral rises briefly as you drive or walk towards the City past what is now the Car Shop (formally Autowrappers), and if you stand on the right bits of the Asda car park it will give you a flirtatious glimpse of its tall spire. I can remember there being a good view of the City from the junction of Sweetbriar and Hellesdon Hall Road in the 1980’s before the Sweetbriar Industrial estate had started to grow. Sadly these views have since been lost to an ever-expanding Norwich.

Mile Cross Estate started to appear at the Northern end of Boundary Road in the late 1920’s from Aylsham Road to Marshall Road before heading away East, leaving a fair bit of open space between Boundary Road and Drayton Road. This open farmland (of sorts) is where the infamous ‘Fungi’ kept his animals and it extended southwards to the heath land of the geological Galley Hills. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the estate’s expansion started to fill all the green bits in with the greys and browns we see today. A 1960’s extension to the estate witnessed the arrival of the flat-roofed houses that now shadow the eastern side of Boundary Road along with the Three Tower Blocks and smaller blocks rectangular flats situated a bit deeper into the estate at the Northern end of Bowers Avenue. A new road, named Whiffler Road was also put in between Boundary Road and Drayton Road presumably named after the nearby pub. I’m not really sure what (if any) connection this particular area has to Whifflers. This new road was more industrial in flavour, bringing with it many Factories and Garages, putting further distance between the Estate and the Countryside it used to enjoy being neighbours with.

The green bits on the Western side of Boundary Road were being filled in even earlier than that though. The 1930’s came along and with it the rise of the Bungalow. Hellesdon is home to the Bungalow and wherever you go in Hellesdon it seems like you’re never more than 25 foot from one. A lot of the older Mile Cross residents have traditionally seen this part of Hellesdon as the Mile Cross retirement home; many former residents going ‘up market’ and re-settling across the border to see out their twilight years.

The Bungalow revolution started to spread further Southwest along the Northern edge of Boundary Road as the 1930’s matured and along with it came something a little more interesting. On the 6th October, 1932 the well-equipped Boundary Park Stadium opened its doors to a willing public. Greyhound racing was a very popular sport back then and Norwich had a number of tracks, this one however was said to be one of the best for its time sporting a revolutionary all-electric totalisator.

The below image was taken from where B&Q is situated now, looking back towards Boundary Road and Mile Cross:Boundary_man_with_greyhounds1small

The track closed its doors to the public some 30 years later on 1st December 1962. An interesting point to note is that this site almost became the new home to the Norwich City Football Club and was one of the sites up for consideration when the Canaries started to become a more successful team and realised it was time to fly ‘the Nest’ (see what I did there?). It was bought up by Eastern Electrical and remained their main depot until the site was sold off for a new B&Q store which still stands there today.

On the 5th March, 1938 a new pub by the name of ‘The Whiffler’ appeared on the scene, opening its doors to the thirsty inhabitants of the newer Hellesdon bungalows and – no doubt – followed in by a raft of thirsty, migrating Miley’s.

The Pub is still a popular watering hole for a lot of Mile Cross residents, one of whom being my father, who can be found in there most days now he has retired. A lot of the patrons of the former Galley Hills Pub also frequent this pub. An interesting point raised on the Norwich Pubs Directory is that one of the former Landlords, a ‘Gordon Cooke’ was involved with the Dam-Busting Lancasters of 617 Squadron. I can’t find anything to corroborate this story, but I could see that there was a First Sergeant  ‘G Cooke’ who survived an accident in a Mk1 Lancaster (Code ME561). If you know any more about this story, I’d love to know.

A little bit further along Boundary Road was the Boundary Wood. This little stretch of woodland isn’t quite as accessible as it was back in the day, the Southern portion making way for bungalows and the northern end mostly within the borders Golf Course, however you can make it out on Google Maps. It is fondly remembered by quite a few of the older residents and is often talked about when childhood memories are being discussed. It seemed like a bit of a focal point to a lot of the local children.

On the 3rd October, 1944, this area was also close to the scene of where the warhead of a V2 bomb landed. It was launched from its missile pad situated all the way across the North Sea. This particular V2 started its long and arcing journey from the Netherlands and at the height of its trajectory making a brief encounter with Space it began its descent to wards its intended target of Norwich. At 7.45pm the missile started to break up as it descended over Mile Cross. Luckily, Its warhead just missed the estate and landed in the Eastern corner of the Golf Course, not far from where the ‘Sports Village’ or whatever it’s now called stands. Even though it landed in a relatively underpopulated area I believe that one unlucky person was killed by resulting explosion and that over 400 nearby homes were damaged. Those numbers would have been far worse had this V2 fallen a few hundred meters short and onto the built-up Mile Cross Estate. The crater still serves as place for local kids to have a good sledge on those increasingly-rare occasions we get some settling snow.

As the estate matured into the 50’s and 60’s the area around the Boundary Pub began to become increasingly busy. The cottages and duck pond were replaced with the ugly, curved building now housing an Indian Buffet that sits on what is now essentially an outsized traffic Island, and started its life as a futuristic car show room. Shops began to appear on the other side of the road opposite the Boundary pub where (among other shops) Kerrison Toys now resides, one of which being the very popular Cafe named the ‘Boundary Buttery’. This little Cafe was a firm favourite with Bikers and rockers scene that grew out of the 1950’s and into the 1960’s and was home to the infamous ‘Ton-up’ crew. I’ve heard from many sources that a song would be selected on the jukebox and a rider (or riders) would have to race their motorbikes South along Boundary Road to the junction of Drayton Road (by then a roundabout) and back again before the song had ended.

All in all Boundary Road now is a far cry from how it was not all that long ago and serves as a reminder that Mile Cross is no longer a suburb sandwiched between the City and the Countryside. Mile Cross has been well and truly consumed by the greedy City as it feasts its way outwards, couloring in all the green bits as it goes.

Thanks once again for reading and if you have any memories to add, I’d love to hear them.

Stu

16 thoughts on “The Boundary

  1. Thanks for this. Great read.

    I was particularly interested in the V2 crater and was wondering exact where it was. I’ve been looking at the OS map and have found a pit about 200m NW of what used to be Norwich Sport Village. Would this be it?

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  2. Lovely read. Brought back tons of memories. One omission that surprised me was that of the Salvation Army on Boundary Road. In the early sixties they were an intrinsic part of Mile Cross life. Come a Sunday morning you could hear the band playing from anywhere as they marched through the estate to the Chapel.
    It was a lovely place to grow up, so many kids of your own age.

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      1. I too have fond memories of that Salvation Army band. As a small boy, I remember laying in bed on a cold, December night just after WW2 -coal was rationed so it was not unusual to go to bed early just to keep warm-listening to the band playing Christmas carols as they marched along Boundary Road. I particularly recall being in attendance at a service in the Salvation hall on that fateful Sunday, January 13th, 1945 when the USAAF B24 bomber Lassie Come Home with 10 crew crashed in a garden in Spynke Road. There was a horrendous bang which rocked the hall and brought our rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers to an abrupt end. Eight of the crew were killed together with two children who were playing in the garden. Although I was an innocent 8-year-old at the time it was an event that made me aware of the tragedies and consequences of war and an event that I shall never forget. Poignant memories too because those young men dressed in uniforms so unlike the drab British battle dress we were used to with their strange accents and generous ways were very approachable to us youngsters. I know that they were often accused by some of ‘Being over here, oversexed and overpaid’ but a request of “Got any gum chum” to them was frequently responded to with gifts of various confectionary. Absolute heaven for us kids for whom confectionary of any kind was a rare treat during the war as sugar was rationed and certainly not used in the manufacture of sweets. Anyone remember the ubiquitous Lucas Beans we were given instead? Some of those young Americans we got to know well and some of them died violently in horrible circumstances. I for one will always remember those Yanks with fondness.

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  3. Hi, Stu hope this helps in the incident involving Gordon Cooke.
    Gordon Cooke was a Fight Sergeant wireless operator on board Lancaster bomber ME 561 when it took off from RAF Scampton at 1654 on 21st December 1944 to bomb the Polish Politz Synthetic Oil Refineries. After successfully bombing the target the Lancaster headed home but unfortunately crashed near Market Rasen at 0245 the next day, Five members of the crew of seven survived but sadly F/O A J Walker DFC and
    F/O R B Yates did not.
    Although a member of the renown Dambuster Squadron Gordon did not join it until August 1944 almost 15 months after the actual raid which took place in May 1943.

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      1. You are most welcome. By the way the the chap in the photo of the greyhound being walked at Boundary Park is the son of the resident trainer at the park who at that time was Mickey Butler. Used to parade those dogs on race nights when I was a boy of 14 three nights a week during the summer so usefull pocket money.

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  4. i know live in Boundary wood or woods close as they call it and can remember biking home from hellesdon high to bowers avenue and turning in to boundary close at the time and riding though the big puddles in the road little did i know many years later they would come back to get me as now the close floods and water gets in to the property’s. We where told by the council that really the bungalows should never really have been built here as from the old plans they had all the way back to the 1800’s the land was always shown to be very poor draining

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      1. yeah we live in one of them ones near the front. We lived in Bowers Avenue when they built and changed the sport village and petrol station we only moved in here in 1999 so unfortunately we missed out. Asda and the Sports village are meant to sort out the upkeep of the green bits both sides of the close entrance but never do lol

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  5. Does anyone remember or have a photo of the old brickworks at Mile Cross? Obliterated under new building for decades now, but I think it would have been on the Mile Cross Lane end of Woodcock Rd. A huge kiln like a Noah’s Ark with a chimney in the middle looking as though it were on holiday from Stoke on Trent. Surrounding roads non-adopted, I should think- even as a kid I remember the surfacing being terrible. As early as the late ’50s housing was getting close by. We had a family friend who lived opposite and plenty of family at Mile Cross or Upper Hellesdon, so I was in the area enough to regard this relic of “Hard Times” as part of the scenery…….

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  6. the photo of the greyhounds being walked at boundary park . i am the grandson of the trainer micky butler . i am not sure if it is my dad derek walking them i will ask him at the weekend but he has memory problems . i have lived on mile cross all my life born 1962 .

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