August 24th, 2001. To start with it was a morning like any other, I’d dragged myself out of bed and was unenthusiastically contemplating breakfast before another day of staring blankly into a computer screen in a bland office. However, my weekday morning indifference was to be interrupted by a vibrating mobile phone on my bedside table, making me wonder; who on earth is calling me at this time of day? As I flipped open the phone, there was the name ‘Dad’ on the screen, which was odd for two reasons; he was normally at work by now, and if they ever wanted anything it would usually be mum who rang, as dad and I never really see eye to eye. Casually intrigued, I pressed the answer button and said: “Hiya, what’s up?”
A trembling voice that almost sounded like dad, but not as I’d ever heard him before simply replied: “help”. Now, at that time, Dad’s car – a mk2 Vauxhall Cavalier – was notoriously shit, leading me to instantly assume that he had just dropped mum off at work and that the unreliable Vauxhall shit-box had broken down (again) leaving him stranded somewhere on the A47 between Norwich and Brundall. My short-lived assumptions were about to be stopped in their tracks like a car running into the side of a bridge by the next few words that would leave my dad’s mouth: “Your mum’s dead”.
My response, which still haunts me to this day was: “OK, I’ll just finish my breakfast and I’ll be right over”. A shock like that and the way a person reacts to it can be simply baffling.
Susan (Sue) Lane was a Tuckswood Girl born in 1955 and she grew up on Fountains Road on the southern fringes of the then fairly new estate, built during the post-war housing boom. She went to the nearby Hewett School where she performed well as a student and shortly after leaving her full-time education she was introduced by her cousin (as pen pals) to a chap he had befriended in the same regiment as him in the British Army, a young Glaswegian chap named John. After exchanging letters, they instantly hit it off and by November of 1974 they were married at St Paul’s Church in Tuckswood. The day of their marriage was the only the third time they’d actually met in person! As a result of this whirlwind romance I entered this mortal realm in 1976 as an army baby, born in Tidworth Military Hospital. For some reason and even though the Maternity Block had recently been refurbished the hospital closed 5 months later in March 1977. Perhaps it was something I’d said?
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.
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”→
Seeing as I’m stuck at home 23/7 and slowly losing my sanity due the boredom, I thought I’d put together a little photographic tour of Mile Cross using some of the old pictures from some of the previous blog entries. Walk with me on an imaginary tour of Mile Cross, just bear in mind that you’ll need to gloss over the fact that the timeline is all over the shop and that the route is a bit nonsensical. 2020 has been a nonsensical year so far anyway, so it should be easy enough to tag along. Continue reading “A walk through old Mile Cross”→
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.
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.
Just a brief entry to show that I haven’t disappeared completely. I’ve had my fingers in far too many pies of late and haven’t had time to concentrate on one thing long enough to form anything coherant enough to form one of my usual long and rambling entries.
This merging of two photographs – or ‘Ghost’ image – is of a Mary Jacobs, standing at the gate of her recently acquired Valpy Avenue home.
Back then – for reasons unknown to me – the area in which all of the houses South of Drayton Road and to the West of Havers Road were referred to as ‘The Drayton Estate’ and not Mile Cross, even though they were built by the same builders and on the same piece of purchased farmland as the rest of the estate.
It’s likely that before moving into this house Mary would have lived in one of the yards and slums around (or not too far from) the area that is now known as Anglia Square.
These new houses must have been a dream come true to former residents of the slums; they had fresh, running water; loads of space, big gardens for growing fruit and veg, indoor toilets and this particular row, a fantastic view of the Wensum Valley, complete with regular Steam engines puffing through the middle of all that scenery – a far cry from the unsanitary conditions, gloom and squalor, typical of those old and cramped yards closer to the city centre.
Mary passed away in 1938, but her family remained in this home for many years after.
Original image supplied by Mary’s Granddaughter, Susan McClarence, who informs me that her sister was born behind those very walls.
Until I can find the time to write something a little more in-depth, thanks for looking.
This is just a short entry to share a few images I stumbled across over the last couple of years. Taken during the 40’s, 50’s and 70’s these images serve to show us fascinating glimpses of living in Mile Cross when it was still connected directly to the countryside. Continue reading “Living on the edge. Updated 2020.”→
You may have read the last blog entry about a tragic accident that happened on the estate towards the end of the Second World War. A Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the USAAF crashed on its final approach to the Horsham St Faith Airbase killing 8 of its 9 crew, two young children and changing the lives of their friends and family forever. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you do so first before reading this entry and that blog entry can be found by clicking this link.
After sharing the story on Social Media I was rather taken aback by the positive response it received and it has probably been the most-read (and commented) post of this blog so far.
One of the many people who commented on Social Media was a ‘Dick Kemp’. Dick (Richard) Kemp was the young lad whose garden the plane came down onto and it was his sister and cousin who were killed along with the American Airmen. Shortly after commenting on the post Dick sent me an email asking if I’d forward him the story so that he could share it with his extended family. Of course I obliged and emailed it over. It was another one of those fantastic moments where somebody who I’ve been researching or photographing the history of has appeared to me in person, just like when David Jackson appeared at one of my exhibitions a few years ago. Whilst I had this fine Gentleman’s attention I thought I’d chance my arm and ask him if he’d mind sharing his thoughts and memories on the incident. Continue reading “Dick’s Story: Lassie Come Home.”→
In the 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 it didn’t start off this way and used to share a junction with Boundary road. It has since been closed off to stop people rat-running through the estate and to reduce accidents along the now insanely busy Boundary Road. Because of these road closures the area now has a strangely quiet and closed-off feel but with the unrelenting background drone of of traffic. Continue reading “Lassie Come Home”→