Aylsham Road. A window into the lives of a Mile Cross Family in the early 1900’s

As often happens, I stumbled upon a fascinating old photograph taken in my neck of the woods being shared on one of the many local history Facebook groups and it really caught my attention. The photograph was of a family proudly standing outside a large-looking house on Aylsham Road, not too far from the city end. Being the inquisitive sort of chap that at I am, I have often wondered about this particular area and the small collection of homes along here that once backed on to what is now Clapham Wood and the former Putty Pierce’s Lime kiln site. Until now I have never seen any pictures of this part of what is now Mile Cross as these homes have long-since gone and the only hints to their existence is a patch of wooded land that was once a large garden (an area that you’d be brave or a bit silly to hang around in for too long), and a few broken sections of an old flint wall covered in ivy with a later-added small, asbestos-roofed industrial unit nestled in amongst it all. Apart from that there’s nothing substantial enough to give any  real clues to the homes that once stood tall along this particular stretch of Aylsham Road; or the people who may have lived in them.

This is why I was so excited to see the following image:MX 60 Aylsham WatersPictured above are four members of the Waters Family standing outside their home at number 60 Aylsham Road. William and Sarah Waters stand flanked by their two boys, William and Walter. They also had a daughter, Alice who for some reason is not pictured here. This picture looks like it must have been taken at around the turn of the last century and is a fascinating glimpse into the past. Not only does it show us the faces of the people living here in such a weird and wonderful time, it also shows one of the collection of at least 6 homes that once stood here in great detail.

As we can see, these particular houses were two-storey town houses that would have stood quite tall and with their small front gardens were located fairly close to the road here. The rear garden or yard wouldn’t have been much larger as the ground drops away quite sharply towards Drayton Road but what you don’t get the sense of here in this particular image is that these tall houses were located in a rather lofty valley-side position and from the windows out the back they would have offered great, uninterrupted views across the Wensum valley and right across the river, City Station and right out across the western fringes of the City. The view wouldn’t have been too bad out of the front windows either as these houses looked out across the sparsely populated land at Chalk Farm, right across towards Angel Road towards the grove at Catton. St Luke’s Church and (after 1902) the King Edward VII pub were also just across the road.

The below image is how the plot of land that the collection of houses including number 60 looks today today:MX 60 Aylsham

Still captivated by this fascinating old photograph that I had stumbled upon on Social Media of the Waters family outside their home a number 60, I asked the lady who had originally shared it (Pauline) for a little more information about the history behind the people who lived there over one hundred years ago and I’m glad to say she was more than willing to oblige me. On top of the extra information Pauline kindly offered up she also provided me with a few extra images which go on to help tell us a part of a story of her family’s history as well as to give us an interesting little window into the lives of two families brought together in the early 1900’s.

The next picture is as equally fascinating as the first image and it was taken a little further up the road at number 74, Aylsham Road. This particular photograph is showing us the daughter of the family shown in the first image, Alice Sarah Waters (now Alice Sarah Woods). She’s stood (looking, I feel rather defiantly) in the doorway of her home whilst her husband, Archer James Woods Snr, and their son Archer James Woods Jnr are stood outside in the garden:MX 74 Aylsham This image is another wonderfully-posed family portrait showing the family stood in the garden of their slightly smaller Aylsham Road Terraced house, not too far away from the junction with Stone Road and opposite what is now Waterloo Park Avenue. As with the houses including number 60, these houses no longer exist, but they were at least replaced with newer homes so they are easier to connect with modern times.

The site of number 74 today, opposite the junction with Waterloo Park Avenue:MX 74 Aylsham

The family had recently moved to their Aylsham Road home to be near Alice’s parents, just up the road, seven doors and a couple of hundred meters away at number 60. Alice’s husband Archer came from even further up the Aylsham Road, well Buxton to be precise. He was a wood machinist and was one of 14 children, his father was the Buxton shop keeper as well as being the Village Policeman. How he had time to do all of that is beyond my abilities, that’s for sure.

What this image doesn’t show us is that life is about to kick poor Alice hard, and then whilst she was down give her another kick, just for good measure. It seems that life often has a habit of doing that, but it seemed to have a particularly bad habit of doing it in the early 20th Century, which this is highlighted somewhat tragically in the next family portrait:MX Sydney Woods with Mum Sarah WoodsWaters

In the above image we can see Alice Sarah Woods with her three children, Archer James Woods Jnr, along with a slightly older daughter and somewhat confusingly, an older son in full military uniform going by the name of Sidney Waters, which baffled me for a bit; however, after a little more communication with Pauline about this young man the confusion was mostly cleared up as it turned out that this handsome-looking young man was born out of wedlock. What the image also shows us is that Alice’s husband, Archer James Woods has recently passed away and that Alice Sarah Woods is in her mourning dress for her late husband. It appears that this image would have been taken whilst young Sidney had come home on leave during the first world war to visit his mother and his siblings.

This is where fate decided to give poor Alice another kick, not long after this image was taken Gunner Sidney Waters was tragically killed in action in Egypt on the 26th November, 1917, most likely as part of the English Expeditionary Force and during the Battle of Rafa or one of the two battles of Gaza. Sidney was aged just 20.

Pauline was kind enough to share with us the below image of young Sidney’s Death Penny, his medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal) and the King’s letter:MX Sydney Woods memorialYoung Sidney was buried in what was then Palestine, a long way from home, and his death serves as a tragic reminder of how many similarly-aged young men never made it home again after two failing empires clashed – somewhat pointlessly – towards the end of their futile attempts to cling their own pasts.

Interestingly, as mentioned earlier, Sydney was born out of wedlock which is rather unique for the time in which he and his mother lived and we don’t really know the history behind this particular little mystery. It seems that the family were tight-lipped about the story of how Sidney came to be, not allowing history to pass the info downwards through the generations and probably due to the shame of it all, a concept that now seems very alien to us fortunate enough to be living in the 21st Century.

After all the pain, time inevitably marches onwards and in this next photograph we can see that from the writing at the bottom of the image that it is now 1929 and Mile Cross as new housing estate has since appeared on their doorstep, filling in a rather large portion of the countryside between here and the boundary. A mature-looking Alice (left) is seen once again standing by her doorway at 74 Aylsham Road along with her son Archer James Jnr’s wife to be, Hilda Warminger (centre) along with his elder sister from the earlier picture, now grown up):MX 74 Aylsham 1929

The camera used to capture this image is Archer’s sister’s Box Brownie bought for her birthday when she was a 12 year old. We can only assume that Archer is stood at the gate taking the picture, proudly capturing the three most important women in his life onto film. It’s clear that Archer is no photographer, either that or his left leg is somewhat shorter than his right. What is clear is that there is a proud man behind the lens.

The last image in this blog entry was taken on the same day, on the same camera and in the same place, number 74; and going by the better composition, I’d bet it was taken by the experienced owner of the Box Brownie, Archer’s sister:MX 74 Aylsham 1929bArcher and Hilda married and moved into a terraced house at 77 Bakers Road, again only a stones throw away from the original photograph showing that family tended to stay fairly close to their roots back then.

As you’ll probably agree, these images have offered us a fascinating little insight into the lives of a family making their way through the late 1800’s/early 1900’s at the southern-most reaches of Aylsham Road in an area of old Mile Cross that is equally both fascinating and elusive to wannabe historians such as myself, and I’m left wondering what else the granddaughter of the Woods family in the first image captured on her Box Brownie over the years.

Thanks once again for reading my musings, and a special thanks goes out to Pauline Woods for sharing these little insights of her family’s past that gives us a unique little insight to the past of this little portion of Mile Cross that would have normally gone mostly unnoticed by the masses.


8 thoughts on “Aylsham Road. A window into the lives of a Mile Cross Family in the early 1900’s

  1. Around 1960 I was bridesmaid to a Janice Waters at St Augustine’s church. I was about 5 at the time and remember she had a younger sister Jackie. They lived in a house on Drayton Road in front of Gale and Galeys opposite wensum park. Sounds like they could have been related in some way to ‘your’ Waters

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No it was down the the road to the right of that ( if you were standing in front of it) but Funnily enough one of the other bridesmaids family owned that house.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My mother and her parents lived next door to Mrs Waters, Pauline and Jaqueline in the 1930’s Fred and Alice Turrell and my mum Bettie. She went to Philadelphia Lane School. They then moved in 1939 to Camp Rd, off Ketts Hill. I remember my grandmother talking about Aylsham Rd a lot
    A very interesting article thank you much enjoyed.


  4. Hi Stu,
    Yet another brilliant piece of very interesting detective work, by you on the Waters Family,
    Thanks for your reply, concerning the Dump at the MileX Council Depot, the location is best described like this, if you were to drive down Parr Road, & look over the fence, into what was the Mile X Depot, the Dump would be in line with Parr Road??
    I need to investigate this further, if it is 1960s ,it would be of no interest, well not until i,m six foot under??
    If you ever come across any more unknown Lime Kiln Sites around the outskirts of Norwich, i would be very interested in there locations,
    Keep up the Very Interesting Mile X history,
    Regards Peter,,


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