This is just a short entry to let you all know that I am still here. I realise that it’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything (for this website at least) but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer involved or engaged. Over the last few months I’ve been spread quite thin with various Mile Cross related projects; I’ve written a piece about the trees here in Mile Cross for the Norfolk Gardens Trust Magazine (downloadable here soon), I’ve been writing pieces for the new Mile Cross Newsletter, “mileXchange”, which hopefully you read after it dropped through your letterbox recently (if you live in Mile Cross, that is), the second issue should follow shortly. I’ve also been helping to come up with ideas on how to use the soon-to-open community space named the “mileXchange” in the former Draytona Bakery shop on Drayton Road. On top of all that, I’ve also spent a considerable amount of my spare time as one of the lead researchers for the “Mile Cross 100” project which in 2023 will celebrate the Mile Cross estate turning one hundred years of age.
We aim to celebrate a Centenary of Mile Cross by creating a play, a pageant, a website and a book about Mile Cross, so there will be lots to look forward to in the next few months, some of which we’re hoping residents or former residents of Mile Cross can get involved with.
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.
The wandering wonderer. I’m often wandering about Norwich with my camera in hand and my head in two separate places, usually the same space but in two completely different time-zones. No, not like you used to see in those 1980’s movies where some Fleet-Street shyster dressed in a suite that needed a volume control, who has three or four clocks on the wall behind him showing New York, London and Japan whilst he arrogantly barks down a mobile phone the size of a breeze-block. My head can be found wandering and wondering through and across completely different sets of decades, or floating between completely different centuries.
This is a story that I have already written about in the past, over two separate pieces and I thought it was about time to merge the two old posts together to tell the whole story in one. It’s a story that demands attention and it makes far more sense to be able to read it all in one sitting.
In the very northern corner of the estate and just behind the Boundary Pub is a quiet little cul-de-sac named Spynke Road. Like a lot of the roads up there on the very fringes of the boundary it wasn’t always this quiet. Most of the roads adjoining Boundary Road were once connected directly to it, allowing for people to use it as a rat-run to avoid the increasing volumes of traffic building up on the increasingly-busy outer ring road. Soon these roads were deemed too unsafe for the local residents and it was decided that for everybody’s safety it would make sense to have them closed off. Because of these road closures the area now has a strangely quiet and closed-off feel, but with the unrelenting background drone of traffic. As annoying as that background droning may be to the visitors or new residents, the modern day residents of Spynke Road are probably more than happy for that to be the only drone they need to worry about, as will become apparent later on.
Back in July (2021) If you were lucky enough to have lived on ‘The Cross’ you would have found a flyer dropped through your letterbox. Not only did it have a great little poster on the back to display in your window to show your love for the old estate, it’s also served to advertise the ‘MXCONNECTS’ free day of fun which I’d been helping to arrange throughout the first half of 2021. The Free Fun Day and Galley Hill Dash went ahead on the 31st July, and it would have gone ahead, come rain or shine. Thankfully, the weather held off and it was the perfect weather for such an event.
Below is the information side of the flyer, which highlighted the number of events that took place across the estate on the day and I’ve listed the main points underneath.
If you speak to anybody who remembers growing up on the Mile Cross Estate from the very early days and right through until the 1960’s it won’t take them too long before they mention a seemingly infamous character going by the name of “Fungi”, his farm or his pit. “Old Fungi”, “Farmer Fungi” or even “Cowboy Fungi” was actually a chap named Arthur Prentice and he had moved out of the city centre to and into number 64 Appleyard Crescent to be closer to the countryside, which back then was just across the road.
Arthur was a Market Gardener who before relocating to Mile Cross had lived at Rupert Street and Waddington Street and in 1911 at the age of 33 married Minnie Abbs at the Holy Trinity Church on Essex Street. Arthur’s father was a Bankers Agent named Frederick Prentice and his wife, Minnie came from a Gardening family; her father Jacob Abbs profession being a Gardener, which is probably how Arthur and Minnie had met.
It seems like ages ago now that I was having a chat with one of my neighbours over my garden gate about the rather unique design of the particular style of houses that we live in on our Street and the subtle little differences in their designs and layouts. My particular house is one of the semi-detached, non-parlour, cottage-style, three bedroom houses that can only be found dotted around the Drayton Estate part of Mile Cross. To look at it from the outside it looks as though it’s exactly the same design as some of the three bed houses built along Bignold Road in longer terraces but it is fundamentally different in one major aspect, the Toilet.
The River Wensum is a rare lowland chalk stream which snakes its way around this fine city from west to east as it drains these mostly-flat and low lands back out into the North Sea, but before its cool and crisp waters drop directly into the city centre over the sluices at New Mills, the river stealthily sneaks past between Heigham and Mile Cross, seemingly trying it’s best not to be noticed by the inhabitants. It manages to do so with a helping hand from the geography of the area and by mostly being hidden from our view by the overgrown bushes, wild tumble-down trees and untidy foliage lining its unkept and collapsing banks.
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. Continue reading “Aylsham Road. A window into the lives of a Mile Cross Family in the early 1900’s”→
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…”→