For a couple of my previous pieces ( Old Farm Lane and Sweetbriar Marsh ) I’d been studiously looking into the countryside landscape and the scattering of buildings that were here in what we now call Mile Cross, long before the later housing estate turned up. Whilst poring over the old maps and aerial photographs, searching the landscape for anything of interest, my eyes kept falling upon a little lane that was lost long ago. This little lane was called “Half Mile Lane” and it ran south from Upper Hellesdon Road (now Aylsham Road) down to Lower Hellesdon Road (now Drayton Road), seeming only exist to enable the local farmers to access the many fields that made up our landscape and to connect the two main roads together. Unlike the bloated and expanding city we live in today, Norwich had barely stretched out this far along Lower Hellesdon Road, the only buildings of any merit being the ancient Lower Hellesdon Farm and the pair of old Red Cottages about half a mile further out at the slough bottom. However, at the northern end of Half Mile Lane where it met Upper Hellesdon (Aylsham) Road, The city had been a little more adventurous, managing to branch its way out along the busy, Aylsham/Cromer Road as far as the boundary. Along this busier trunk road, which led out to Aylsham and the then the coast, the maps show that there were plenty of homes and businesses dotted along it all the way from the inner boundary at the old city walls, right the way up to the outer boundary of the city and county at the imaginatively named boundary at St Faith’s Cross, or the area known then as Mile Cross.
Why this particular little country lane with no buildings along it had intrigued me so much is anyone’s guess, but when I started searching for any references to it I wasn’t really expecting to find anything. To my delight I kept finding the road mentioned in newspaper articles from the early 1900’s, which only helped to feed my curiosities further. The lane was not completely forgotten by the passing of time either and two later-added roads, part of the “Mill Hill” extension to Mile Cross estate; Half Mile Road and Half Mile Close were named after it, even though they don’t mirror it. On top of this, although the old Half Mile Lane no longer exists in name, many of us have regularly and unwittingly travelled the northernmost half of it as we walk or drive along the later-added Mile Cross Road.
How do you write a piece about a man you’ve never actually seen a photograph of but know so much detail about? It’s quite hard and this is why I love historical photography, particularly photographs of people. If the subject is looking at the camera you can see into their eyes. Even if they’re no longer with us you can almost get a sense for the soul lurking behind those eyes looking back at you across the years. Unfortunately I can’t make this particular connection with the man I’m about to talk about and it troubles me a little.
Albert Bayes came into this world on the 13th May 1890 at 4 Kensington Place, Lakenham and the life that was mapped out before this particular Lakenham boy was going to be something of a rollercoaster, which I’m going to delve into shortly; but as is often the case when I look into the history of people, I get side-tracked and stumble across hidden little corners of Norwich I’d never considered and this is the case here. The Kensington Place in which Albert was born only really survives in name these days as the tightly-packed double-row of houses, accessed by a small entrance off Queens Road have been swept away for some 1960’s un-improvements. However, the original entrance alleyway still survives along with the only real clue to it’s former use in an old yard-style name-plate, but it’s a blink and you’ll miss it affair as it’s so tiny.
It’s interesting to think that this tight little alleyway was once the main entrance to so many houses on a piece of land sandwiched between City Road, Hall Road and Queens Road and only a stones-throw from St Mark’s Church where a young Albert would have been christened. Unlike the cramped yards of the era, these houses looked as though they had a little bit of outside space, both front and rear and a chance at some good amounts of daylight once you’d entered through the tiny alleyway. As I stood in that tiny, little conduit taking the photograph below I could almost feel the ghosts of young Albert and the rest of his family brushing by as they made their way in an out of their home over a century previously.
It’s hard to imagine that there used to be a Railway Terminus for passengers situated almost slap-bang in the very heart of our city centre, but this was the case up until 1916. At the very top of St Stephens and opposite what is now the Bus Station was the Great Eastern Railway-owned Victoria Station. It operated from this site for 67 years serving passenger links to London, but trains were to operate from here for much much longer than that. Victoria Station opened in 1849 and although the passengers stopped coming and going in 1916, the station evolved into a busy goods station enabling it to survive right up until 1966, and beyond. It actually survived even longer than that, albeit only as a coal depot and from the other side of the road where the Sainsbury’s supermarket now sits. Continue reading “The Ghosts of Victoria”→
I don’t normally dedicate a whole blog post to just one photograph, particularly one not taken inside Mile Cross, but this one has some history with a bit of a rant attached, and because the blurb for the original photograph on Flickr started to resemble a blog entry in itself, I thought I might as well drag it out a little for the sake of my sanity. Read on. Continue reading “A ghost redone, redone. And a point, laboured…”→
I’ve been banging on about Anglia Square for some time now, mainly because it’s been hanging in the balance for what seems like an eternity but also because the scales of its future are now about to tip one way or another – but don’t worry – I’m not going to go off on one again about it all as I’ve written more than my fair share of opinions about the development lately. This will just be a fairly simple post put together to share some (actually, a load of) fantastic images taken of the area on which Anglia Square was built as Sovereign House reached for the sky back in the late 1960’s.
These pictures were kindly provided by Reg Walker, a former H.M.S.O. employee and guardian of the HMSOldies website who I had the fortune of meeting whilst being part of a film shot inside the abandoned Sovereign House back in 2012. To me this is a brilliant collection of high-quality images that offer us a fascinating insight in to what we currently refer to as Anglia Square and I’ll add a few notes to some of the images to highlight some of the interesting details that can be spotted if you look a little closer. Continue reading “H.M.S.O. Sovereign House.”→
Ever since I was just a boy I’ve been more than a little bit obsessed with an old, abandoned railway line skirting the southern edge of the Mile Cross estate between the back of Sloughbottom Park and the River Wensum. In more recent times we’ve come to know this former railway as a footpath/cycleway named the “Marriott’s Way” and if you’ve ever wondered why the footpath is named this way, read on. Continue reading “The M&GN and me – chasing ghosts to the coast.”→
The other evening I did something I rarely get the chance to do these days and that was to sit in my ‘old man’ armchair with my two cats curled up on my lap and watch a bit of telly. As I scanned the Virgin box to see what I’d been recording, I found a fairly new series going by the name of the ‘Bone Detectives’ which looks into the history of people and their surroundings by analysing their bones.
The episode I had decided to watch was looking into the past of the remains of three young bodies (a male child and two young teenage girls), unearthed in Leeds whilst clearing a site to build a posh-knobby shopping centre. As it turned out, these poor little souls were victims of the Industrial revolution and had literally been worked to death, with all the evidence pointing to the likelihood that they would have been working from dawn until night in a nearby cotton mill.
Since writing this passionate piece about Anglia Square back at the end of 2018, I’ve spent about a year of my life involved with another Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project as a citizen researcher; delving into the history of, photographing and writing about our most infamous literal shopping corner (well four corners to be precise). The concrete-clad space-ship from the future of post-war Britain which crashed into Norwich-Over-The-Water. The not-quite-completed and misunderstood building project that people tend to either love or hate – Anglia Square:
With the 100th anniversary for the first ever council-built homes appearing in Norwich approaching quickly, along with the fact that I’ve been contacted by various people from the City Council to the national and local press to offer up my opinions, I thought I’d better type something up about this interesting and important anniversary and take a look back over the last century of social housing right here in Norwich. Before I start proper I’d better mention that some of this info has been taken from (and in some cases corrected) the centenary section on the City Council’s website, which I’ve sorted into a crude chronological order, added to, and worded in my own way; a lot of which I’ve also already written about previously during the last three years of this blog.
As I’ve touched upon – frequently – before; by the end of the First World War in 1918 there was a huge demand for housing in the cities and towns throughout Britain, the problem becoming so large that it was now an unavoidable one for the British Government. By 1919, Parliament had passed an ambitious Housing Act, or the creatively-named: “The 1919 Act” (also known as the ‘Addison Act’) which promised generous subsidies to help finance the construction of up to 500,000 houses within a three-year timescale.
I haven’t written anything in a while as my head’s been in a bit of a muddle, but after popping out out for an evening walk with the kids a week or so back, a few bits and pieces of an old puzzle began to form in my head. We’d ended up just over the water from Mile Cross and in a little play-park situated in the corner of quiet and secluded green space that is probably missed by the majority of Norwich as they drive on past. I was sat on a swing hidden from the last dregs of the rush-hour traffic under the suspicious gaze of the tower of St Bartholomew’s. When I say tower; I mean just the tower, as that is all that remains of this former village church; and when I say gaze, I mean that I could literally feel the eyes of the surviving grotesques staring at me from the top of the nearby tower.