The Hadleigh SocietyAug 2001
Newsletter Index Up Jan 2001 Apr 2001 Aug 2001 Oct 2001


Hadleigh Myths

Whilst Hadleigh waits to hear how the Government considers it should be developed we take this opportunity to reflect on longer running issues.

Recent correspondence in the Hadleigh Community News reported stories of a series of tunnels crossing the town. Like all the best myths these are rarely first hand reports but have been relayed several times removed. That is not to say that they are fictional: there is substance behind this particular story and it is far from a myth. 

Tunnels do exist, but it is unlikely that any was built for the primary benefit of clergy or smugglers.  Whether this was ever a secondary use we do not know.  The main purpose of the tunnels we are aware of was very ordinary: drainage.

Myths can arise by putting two observations together and blurring them into something different, or more mysterious.  This can particularly arise from half remembered experiences of our youth. 

Twenty years ago when we moved to where the newsletter is now produced we soon began to hear all sorts of stories from the building’s past.  There were persistent reports of its ghosts, and we could even have conjured them up ourselves in those early days when the house was a new unfamiliar experience.

Then there were visitors who had known the house in their childhood, and could recollect where they played.  They couldn’t quite locate the tunnel entrance but a newish bricking up seemed to be in the right sort of place.  Behind this was a passage of sorts, but leading upwards, following the chimney, rather than down.

On the other hand, in the garden was, and still is, another tunnel: a culvert taking a stream underground.  Although we’ve never tried, a small person could get down it, and it leads towards the Brett. However, the scope for smugglers offloading their contraband from that river is probably rather limited. Follow the same course upstream and you’ll again find culverts.  The myths would have you believe a passage linked us to Pond Hall.  Our stream rises from that direction, and the occasional fragments of tunnel are perhaps enough to start that particular myth. 

Back to the house, and hiding places. Like many old properties it has its fair share of lost spaces between rooms, floors and ceilings.  Were they accidental, or  were they deliberately created?  Even if accidental, could they have been used for secret purposes? What purposes: smuggling goods or people? What historical activities have been most closely associated with hiding places: persecution of priests, civil war, or smuggling? Each of these falls within the period of the building, and any of it is possible.  We don’t know for sure. 

On the one hand we have what actually exists together with what has been clearly and authoritatively documented.  On the other hand we have stories and memories that are not always so carefully researched and recorded.  All are worth preserving, but we would like to try to classify each according to its authenticity.

Graham Panton

the Nineteenth Annual General Meeting

held on Tuesday 26th June 2001

TREASURER’S REPORT:  Colin Reeve showed an increased balance with no need to increase subscriptions this year.  Paul Garrod at Walter Wright was thanked for his help in compiling the statement of accounts.

HISTORY GROUP REPORT:  The eleven members of the group meet approximately every three weeks.  In February the group had given a repeat presentation of ‘Hadleigh in 1881’ at a well-attended Hadleigh Society meeting.  Sue Andrews, archivist, had conducted several teaching sessions.  The group’s current project is a study of Hadleigh’s 1836 map.  Joe Byrne is standing down as Chairman of the group under the five-year rule and is replaced by Glenda Druce.

PLANNING REPORT:  Joe Byrne and John Bloomfield were thanked for their tremendous efforts in the preparation of the submissions for the supermarket Public Inquiry.  The Society had written to Suffolk County Council expressing concerns about noise, dust and traffic issues regarding the Peyton Hall Farm Quarry application and John Bloomfield had attended the site visit. 

REPRESENTATION ON OTHER BODIES:  The Society had continued to be represented on other bodies including the Town Forum and the Traffic Management Working Party, which had been attended by Jan Byrne.  Changes in the town this year included the installation of a zebra crossing in the High Street.  Major alterations in the lighting of the High Street area were planned and Suffolk County Council will hold a public exhibition of the proposals in the near future.  Jan Byrne urged all members to attend the exhibition and make comments in writing to Suffolk County Council.  John Bloomfield reported on his recent appointment to the Executive Committee of the newly formed East of England Association of Civic Trust Societies.

CHAIR’S REVIEW:  In December at the Christmas Tree Ceremony Colin Reeve and John Bloomfield had organised a stall roasting chestnuts and the Society had donated the money raised to the Mayor’s Charity.  Jan thanked Gordon Sutcliffe and Bert Keele who are both standing down after their five-year term, for the time they have given to the Committee.  Jan also thanked the newsletter editors, treasurer and secretary for their continued hard work.

NOEL TURNER AWARD 2001:  Although several projects had been nominated, it was decided that there would be no award this year.

ELECTION:  No formal ballot was necessary and the Executive Committee for the coming year will be:


Jan Byrne

Vice Chair

John Bloomfield


Sue Angland


Colin Reeve

History Group

Glenda Druce


Jim Betteridge


Joe Byrne


Chris Drake


John O’Brien


Graham Panton


Rosemary Schade

The meeting closed with the serving of Cheese and Wine during which John Bloomfield proposed a vote of thanks to Jan Byrne for a particularly successful year as Society Chairman.

Rosemary Schade

Our membership secretary came to live in Hadleigh in 1985 after living overseas for many years.

Born in Wales, brought up in Windsor, she was educated at Princess Margaret Rose school which had the rare distinction of its religious instruction and services being held in St. George’s Chapel, the schoolgirls marching in line three times a week to the castle from the school. One of her very earliest memories is of lining the route inside Windsor Great Park to the state entrance of the castle for the funeral of King George V. Another memory is of playing Queen Katherine of France in a performance of King Henry VIII for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret Rose and saying “I cannot speek zis English” -what’s new!

At the age of 23 she was recruited by the Crown Agents for the Colonies as a secretary for the government of Tanganyika. Together with her ticket for the maiden voyage of the “Bloemfontain Castle” she remembers receiving a book entitled “Hints on the Preservation of Health in Tropical Africa” the inside cover of which bore the dire warning “a poisonous insecticidal solution has been used in binding this book”. It was from this book that she learned to tell the difference between a malaria- carrying female anopheles mosquito and a harmless little biter!!

In 1950 Africa was only just emerging from being the Dark Continent. No freezers so no ice, no air conditioning, and milk was flown down to Dar es Salaam daily from Nairobi.

The legs of all kitchen cupboards had to be placed into small tins of petrol, which was the only way to keep the sugar ants away from the food. Drinking water had to be boiled, filtered, and kept cool in the fridge. Food was washed in permanganate. (but mangos, pineapples, paw paws, oranges, all grew in the garden).

It was obligatory for civil servants to spend a short annual period upcountry as 12 months on the equator was bad for the health, so she and a friend went off on safari (a Swahili word meaning journey and in pre-tourist days nothing to do with visiting wild life parks!). In order to get to Moshi on the slopes of Kilimanjaro they had to travel by train to Morogoro where the railway track ran out, and then by railway bus across to Korogwe during which the bus got stuck in the mud and all the passengers had to get out and push it. Then on to Moshi: what an adventure!

In 1961, marriage and 3 children later, the family started afresh in Europe living and working for the next 10 years in Brussels. After a traumatic period of adjustment to French/Flemish schools for the children, they all rapidly replaced their Swahili with French and Flemish and the family settled into a very happy period of life in Belgium.

In 1972 the family moved to Windsor where they remained until one by one the offspring married and moved away- Charles to Canada, Debbie to Cyprus and Catherine to Suffolk.  Which brought Rosemary to Hadleigh.

Trivia: did you know that Mount Kilimanjaro used to be in Kenya but was given by Queen Victoria to her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm, as a wedding present, Tanganyika then being German East Africa?

The Hadleigh Dig

Last year a lot of interest was raised when archaeologists had the opportunity to investigate the site adjacent to the ex MoD site.  On 24th April to a packed house the leader of that dig, Linzi Everett of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, gave the Hadleigh Society a preliminary account of the findings.

Some preliminary archaeological investigations had been made to the north of Hadleigh in 1979 before the bypass was built.  Crop markings visible from the air marked out the ditches of what was probably a Roman enclosure.  It was probably agricultural, perhaps associated with a watermill and there were also some circular features and ditches of an unknown date. 

In the South West corner was a concentration of mediaeval activity. When Persimmon Homes proposed building in this area it was an opportunity for a dig to be funded as a condition of granting planning permission. 

The team moved in with a JCB and removed over a metre of topsoil in some places to reveal a range of markings of which the largest features were two ring ditches.  Also significant was a pattern of postholes indicating a building which although substantial enough to be a dwelling lacked internal walls and hearth so it was probably agricultural. 

The pottery around this building was 12th to 14th century and mostly from Essex, consisting of storage jars and cooking pots with the latter having soot deposits. Rubbish deposits indicated that people lived nearby but the domestic rubbish was not very high status. It is likely that the site has always been close to the flood plain of the river and had not been suitable for habitation.

The ring ditches were much older, from the Bronze Age about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago, and marked out cemetery sites.  The ditches were up to 1.5m deep, and the spoil originally dug out from them would have probably formed a central mound. The 40 or so cremations associated with these monuments could be dated to around 1900BC: some in pots, some not.  Boswell Lane, which borders the site to the South was known as Dead Vessel Lane until the 19th century, so perhaps the ancient use was well known to past residents of Hadleigh. 

One of the cremations was of an adult male, about 35 to 40 years old, which would have been a typical life expectancy of the time. Seeds of elderberries have been identified during analysis of the cremated material, which were perhaps used as food offerings.

On the edge of the south ring ditch were four graves dated to the 7th century.  Only fragments of the bones remained because of the acidity of the sandy soil.  More enduring were their possessions: spears, a knife and bronze buckles for the two men; beads, pendants and finger rings for the two women.  The graves were dated by the style of the grave goods.  A Merovingian pot (from France) was found there but may have already been an antique by the time it was deposited. 

On show were two of the most enduring finds: stone tools.  A very fine axe head was shaped from granite, which must have come from along the Cornish, Cumbrian or North Welsh border of the country, suggesting that trading links were widespread.  A napped flint axe head was typical of the Neolithic age, 4,000-6,000 years ago. This would be consistent with evidence from several other similar sites around this part of the country.

The few coins found on the site were mediaeval, but since they were in the topsoil they would probably have been carried there with fertiliser. In general, there was surprisingly little metalwork.

Missing from this site was any Iron Age remains, whereas the current dig at the nearby Red Hill Road development has uncovered remains from just this period.

Linzi Everett will be producing a full report in due course and a copy will be deposited in the Hadleigh Archive. It is hoped that there would be an opportunity to exhibit some of the finds from the site in Hadleigh at some point.

Next Event

Bieberach Revisited is the fascinating story of Carol Wheatley who was born in a German internment camp.  Carol’s parents lived on Guernsey from where all English nationals were deported during World War II.  Bieberach Revisited tells of the family's early experiences in the camp and Carol’s subsequent return to Bieberach as an adult.  Come to the Hadleigh Society meeting in the Old Town Hall at 8pm on Tuesday 21st August to hear the story.