The slough and the Knight.

For whatever geological reasons, the slough (pronounced ‘slew’) is a natural depression that sits at the Junction of Hellesdon Hall Road, Drayton Road (formerly Lower Hellesdon Road) and at the base of Galley Hill. I discovered that it used to be referred to as ‘the Slough’ after reading it in an old Raleigh Cycle Guide that dad found in an old barn in Rackheath back in the 1980’s. This old magazine was printed long before the estate even existed and noted the bad condition of the roadway here.

It wasn’t until very recently that the Council got around fixing the drainage issues that have blighted the area for as far back as I can remember, and going by the old magazine, a lot further; even predating the invention of the motor car. This area always filled with water after moderate rain and at still to this day floods a little further along at the junction of Whiffler Road after a particularly heavy downpour.

15914594494_a3c962fa09_o Continue reading “The slough and the Knight.”

Over the Wensum and down with a bump.

Mile Cross sits to the North West of the City Centre and on the far bank of the river Wensum, so for access to the soon-to-be-built estate and subsequent expansion of the City further to the North and West, the Corporation needed to start building bridges.

Before any of the new bridges existed, the only means of crossing the Wensum – other than paying the ferryman at Dolphin – would have been at the old bridge in Hellesdon (Hellesdon Road) or at the newer (1882) bridge situated at Norwich City Station (now  Halfords on the inner ring road). These two bridges are over a mile apart so it would have been a bit of a trek in either direction to get across. It seemed more important to get the Loco’s and their trains over the river than anything else, but people being people, always tend to find the quickest route of getting from A to B and I wonder how many people would have risked a dash across the narrow, single tracked A-Frame railway bridge to avoid paying the ferryman.

The first of the newer bridges to spring up was the Dolphin Footbridge.MXBridge3.jpgContinue reading “Over the Wensum and down with a bump.”

Mile Cross – sight lines

Sight lines: something sadly lacking from any of the later additions to the estate, and something seemingly lacking from anything else designed in Norwich from the 1960’s onwards.

This shot is taken looking South along the long footpath simply named: ‘The Lane’ by the estate’s engineers.

MxLaneContinue reading “Mile Cross – sight lines”

The King, the Queen and the Church.

After the initial phase of house building on the estate was complete attentions were turned towards providing more amenities for the inhabitants of Mile Cross. It was the 1930’s and a third pub and a Church were to be built in close proximity to each other at the northern end of Mile Cross Road.

St Catherine’s Church went up first, it’s foundation Stone was laid by Queen Mary on the 2nd February 1935 and it had opened it’s doors by November the next year. It stands proudly looming over the crossroads of the Mile Cross, Aylsham and Woodcock roads replacing the earlier, Victorian-built St Katherine’s Mission Room of the 1880’s. It is a huge and imposing church when you get up close and personal with it, built primarily out of brick-faced concrete that seems to change colour depending on the light. It was funded somewhat ironically by the Wills Cigarette Family. I’m not a religious man by any means but I do love a nice bit of architecture and this building is rich in it; both inside and out, especially with its Art-Deco inspired interior. Next time you’re passing, pop in and have a look, you might be surprised at how attractive it is. I found the staff (is that the right word?) most welcoming too.

MXqueenContinue reading “The King, the Queen and the Church.”

Mile Cross – topography to the point

Before I start, here’s a little warning to let you know that you’re going to see the word “point” a lot. Sorry.

At the very south-western extreme of the estate, the two major boundary routes, the Fakenham and Aylsham Roads meet at a single point. It’s at this point (I did warn you) that you can get a real feel for the topography of the estate. Aylsham Road heads uphill slightly all the way up to the Boundary, and the Fakenham road drops away sharply as it heads off down into the bottom of the Wensum Valley before slowly creeping back up towards Hellesdon. Even out here, Norfolk is far from flat.

MXpointContinue reading “Mile Cross – topography to the point”

Mile Cross – expansion and toilets.

Moving North along Bignold Road will find you following in the footsteps (or tyre tracks) of the first builders onto the estate. Bignold road heads it’s way north from Drayton Road until it reaches the horseshoe shape that is Appleyard Crescent; which has become 0.7% more infamous since the resurgence of the Star Wars series of films (more on that later in the series).

MX old newContinue reading “Mile Cross – expansion and toilets.”

90 years of Mile Cross – a photo tour.

Mile Cross. A corporation-built housing estate in Norwich that has a bit of a reputation for being a bit rough, and in some places I suppose it is – some of it falls into the “most deprived” category – as in most deprived places in the UK – but that doesn’t mean we should write it off and all move out. As with most things, there’s a lot more to it if you care to scratch the surface. Some people like myself grew up here, some people like myself moved away and then moved back here, some people are stuck here, some people were born (and will willingly die) here, remaining in the area their entire lives due to some sense of familiarity, comfort and/or family ties, and there are some people who live here out of necessity – the rent tends to be cheaper in the northern fringes of Norwich, held back by mindset that it’s all a bit rough I guess.

Anyway, Mile Cross is where I grew up. My parents moved into a house at the western end of Drayton Road in about 1980 when my father (a Glaswegian) left the armed forces. I attended the Dowson Infant and Mile Cross Middle Schools before moving on to the CNS. Hellesdon (thankfully) wouldn’t have me; presumably for being a “Crossy”, even though it is nearest school to most of the estate. Mile Cross kids are (even to this day) mostly refused entry. Turns out that’s not a bad thing, well not to my eyes at least.

In 1996 I finally got around to flying the nest and found myself housed in the ‘NR2’ area of the City Center, only a stones-throw away from the old N&N. Coming from Mile Cross you’ll be surprised to know that I wasn’t quite expecting the leap-up in exposure to anti-social behavior and crime that Norwich City center living brings. After surviving the City Lifestyle for about 7 years before I  finally succumbed to the urge to move somewhere a little more peaceful. After moving around a bit my family and I decided to move back to “The Cross”, eventually buying a house about 150 meters away from the house in which I grew up and where my widowed father still lives.

Maybe I’m trapped in the estate’s invisible gravity, however, unlike some I don’t intend to live out my final years here. Whilst I am here though, I have decided to take a long, hard look at Mile Cross for what it is. This blog will help me to do that, as well as looking at few other local interests of mine and hopefully for anybody reading I’ll hold their (your) attention for more than this handful of paragraphs.

I’ll start with Suckling Avenue: The once-grand entrance to the Estate from the North:

Space wasn’t at such a premium for new housing developments during the inter-war years and it shows here. The avenue was created this way on purpose and it was purely showing off on the behalf of the Corporation’s planners.

Named after Robert Suckling, who was twice Mayor of Norwich in the late 1500’s.

Suckling resizedContinue reading “90 years of Mile Cross – a photo tour.”

The Mile Cross Man

I spend a lot of my spare time taking photographs, researching local history and getting involved with various heritage projects. Somebody suggested that I should start a blog, so here it is… I’ll be writing about the history of the Mile Cross estate, the history of Norwich and Norfolk, Norfolk Railway Heritage, Photography and anything else that takes my interest5D3Links to my Flickr page, my Norfolk Railway Heritage Group Facebook page and Friends of Norwich City Station pages can be found in the About section at the top of the page. This will also lead you to the blog archives.