In most households up and down this funny old country are lots of little hints of local history caught on film. Most people have a collection of old photographs from their or their family’s past, either sat on the bookshelf or hidden in a dusty box in that dark corner of the attic. More often than not, people often think that these little collections of windows into the past are of no real interest to strangers; after all, who wants to see that grainy photograph of Great Uncle Bob stood next to a tree? To the casual observer, that photograph of Great Uncle Bob in the 50’s is just that: a photograph of Great Uncle Bob. To somebody who doesn’t know Uncle Bob, these pictures can still reveal a lot, especially if you know where and when the picture was taken. A lot of hidden gems can be hiding in the backgrounds of some of these old photographs, especially if they were taken outside. If the shot is wide enough they can act as a handy little window into the area (and era) in which the photograph was taken. Photography wasn’t as easily accessible back then as it is today so people only tended to take pictures of things that they thought were important, mainly involving loved ones or important events. I love these old photos and am always on the look out for these taken in my sphere of interest: Norwich, Norfolk and Mile Cross.
A lady I work with has been following my blog since the beginning along with her husband, Stuart, who also happens to be an old ‘Miley’. Stuart grew up on the estate during the 50’s and 60’s. When I inquired (as I often do) into whether he had any old photos of his childhood on the estate, the response was that there were a few but probably not of any real interest. I asked if I could see them anyway and he kindly agreed. The next day Margaret brought in a handful of tiny photographs and I went through them like an excited School kid. Did they reveal anything interesting in the background? Let’s take a look at what I found…
First up is this image of Stuart’s father taken on a bright winter’s day back in 1955:Can you tell where it is? Well the clue is in that dark rectangle in the center of the shot. On the other side of that rectangle would have been a familiar phrase: “Welcome to Norwich. A fine City”. This shot is taken from Drayton Road looking towards Drayton, next to where the ghastly ‘Car Shop’ now stands. This now-busy junction was just a small roundabout back then, and remained as such until the mid 1980’s before Asda turned up and the ring road began to bear the brunt of increased road-borne freight, possibly connected to the demise of the railways across Norfolk. On the side of the van negotiating the roundabout, you can just about make out the letters: C.W.R…
Second up is this image of a young Stuart sat in in an undulating field of corn on a warm-looking Summer’s day:Can you tell where this shot was taken? Well the line of trees heading up hill to the top right hand corner before meeting with the more distant line of trees, shows you Drayton Road as it heads off Northwest to it’s junction with Boundary Road and Sweetbriar Road (as seen in the first picture). Stuart is playing in the field of corn that sloped down from the top of Galley Hill and he’s probably not too far away from Bowers Avenue. This field now has Whiffler Road running through it and is filled in with bland-looking factories, tarmac and concrete. This image gives a great sense of the connection Mile Cross had with the countryside on its doorstep.
Third up is this image of Stuart’s father stood on some heathland:This photograph is a little harder to locate, but luckily it came with some oral history to help me out. On the left hand side of the shot and behind those bushes is a little building that used to belong to a character discussed a few times before: A certain Mr Prentice, or ‘Old Fungi’ as he was often referred to. Stuart’s father was stood – facing Southwards – close to the original track of the Galley Hill Pirates. This shot would have been taken on the patch of land near to where the 1960’s development of Bowers Avenue now stands. It looks as though it was taken on the same bright-but-chilly-looking Winter’s day as the first image, back in 1955.
The next two images were taken on the same day as one another and show a young Stuart playing and digging on the site of the old Galley Hills, not too far from the location of the picture taken above:As you can see, it looked more like Mousehold heath up there than the nightmarish 1960’s vision of the future we have to suffer now.
Last up is this picture of a young Stuart sat resting against a tree. Anybody familiar with Mile Cross should recognise this one instantly:The steep bank leading down to the football pitches on the left hand-side of this image would have been rolled down by almost everybody who grew up in Mile Cross, including myself and both of my children, and just out of shot (to the left) is the Sloughbottom Park Pavilion. This scene hasn’t really changed a great deal. The tree propping the young Stuart up now sits in the shadow of the Industrial units of Sweetbriar Industrial estate and quite a few of those distant trees on the right-hand side of the shot were lost 30 years ago in the “Storm of ’87”, but apart from that, this 1955 shot could have been taken yesterday.
I guess the point of this latest blog is that if you have any old photographs taken on or around ‘The Cross’, no matter how insignificant they may seem, I bet there’s all sorts of interesting snippets in those pictures you may not have considered interesting from a social History point of view and I’d love to see any that people are willing to share!
Thanks once again for reading, and thanks to ‘Stuart U’ for letting me scan these lovely images.