If you think of the original Mile Cross Estate as a triangle with the Southern point being where the Aylsham and Drayton Roads head off in separate directions towards their namesakes, the other two points of the estate triangle sit at either end of the aptly-named Boundary Road as the two roads leave the city and head off out into Norfolk.
Here the City and County of Norwich becomes (or became) the County of Norfolk.
County of Norwich? Yep, Norwich was still technically a County, even as recently as 1974. Back in 1404 the City of Norwich was made into a seperate County (or a County Corporate) and it became independent from its host County of Norfolk. Like a lot of the rapidly-growing towns and Cities, Norwich was deemed important enough to become independent from its county, which (amongst other things) gave it a few extra privileges with regards to self-government that a City wouldn’t normally recieve. Norwich was rapidly becoming England’s 2nd most important City only being out-ranked by London. In interesting point to add here is that the City of Norwich – inside the walls – was actually larger than the City of London.
The City (now County) of Norwich had its own Lord-Lieutenant, appointed by the Crown who was responsible for controlling the Norwich militia up until the right to call on able-bodied men to fight was revoked only as recently as 1921. Norwich still has a Lord Lieutenant, appointed by the Queen as her representative for the county but this role (like that of the Sherriff) only exists in a ceremonial capacity. The County of Norwich was allowed to appoint itself two sheriffs for over 400 years, however this was reduced to just one after the Municipal Corporations act of 1835 and even then only in a ceremonial capacity.
The County’s current Lord-Lieutenant is a Richard Jewson and the city’s current Sherriff is a David Walker and Norwich remained a County (in the ceremonial sense) right up until 1974 when it was taken back under the jurisdiction of the County of Norfolk. Back to Mile Cross…
The Faden’s map of 1797 has “Mile Cross” written onto it, covering the area around Aylsham Road just south of the Boundary and across the road into what is now Catton. For the life of me I still can’t find out why this area was referred to as Mile Cross, or if it was linked in anyway to the pair of 15th Century Boundary crosses currently bookending Boundary Road. Presumably there would have been many more of these crosses encircling the city (I read somewhere that were as many as 10 at one point) and the only other cross still surviving from this period lives about 800 meteres away from Asda, hidden in the graveyard of St Mary’s church in Hellesdon, on the other side of the soon to be ex-golf course.
Mile Cross Lane – which is also in Catton – was named as such long before the estate existed and the pub named “Mile Cross Inn” (also on the Catton side of Aylsham road) can also be referenced back for hundreds of years. The idea the that these crosses sit at a mile from anything doesn’t appear to be true either, the City Walls are a lot further than a mile away (it’s closer to two miles in places) and the crosses are less than a mile apart from each other so I doubt this is where the name originated from.
I do have a theory that maybe the constantly-evolving English language had a part to play in the clouding of the waters with regards to the origins of the Estate’s name as I’ve seen places in this part of Upper Hellesdon also referred to as “Mill Cross”, which kind of makes sense when you look back to when that area was home to a lot of windmills. The word ‘mill’ being ‘myle’or ‘mylen’ in old English. I guess I’ll never really know how the name came to be, but this doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking.
As for the three remaining medieval stone crosses, they all sit on the line where the City (or County) of Norwich became the County of Norfolk and this ancient boundary line still exists and is still an important boundary line for various Council/Parish jurisdictional purposes. Apart from the bases not too much of them are still entirely the original boundary posts. One of the shafts had survived as tall as 1.5m but the fact they weren’t entirely intact isn’t too surprising seeing as they’ve sat exposed to the Norfolk elements for the best part of 600 years. The reason they look as good as they do now is because they were all given a sypathetic revamp in around 1902 with use of concrete to complete the shafts and with steel and concrete crosses reinstated at the top.
Unfortunately, the Cross at the Boundary (pub) only managed about 50 years before it was reversed into by a lorry and smashed to pieces. As a result it was decided to relocate the base to a safer position, right outside of the front door to the obviously-named Boundary pub to save it from any further mishaps. It’s just a shame that nobody tried to put it all back together and make another attempt at restoring it to its former glory and it now sits looking a little bit lost in amongst the doorway of the pub.
The cross at Drayton Road was also relocated slightly back in 1982 when the roundabout linking Drayton Road, Drayton High Road, Boundary Road and Sweetbriar Road was removed to widen the ring road, but it’s still stood pretty close to where it had stood for all those centuries and hopefully it’s now out of the firing line of the thousands of lorries that now thunder past it on a daily basis.
All three posts have had plaques mounted to them at various points since 1902 and all three told a slightly different story. The one at Hellesdon has now either fallen off due to neglect or was been pinched at some point to make a rather interesting souviner.
It’s sad that only three of these interesting Boundary markers are left (well, two and a bit if you count the stumpy one at the Boundary Pub) but it’s also interesting to think that these crosses have survived for the best part of 600 years so far. If they could talk it would be fascinating to know what they have witnessed over the years out here at the far reaches of the City and (Estate) and it’s great to know that we still have these lumps of history just sitting there for us all to see. For those of us who know they’re there at least. Hopefully someone reading this blog will have heard about them for the first time and will go and take a look for themselves.
Thanks once again for reading,