"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate



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Beginnings

It is difficult to know where to begin because all "beginnings" have events, isolated in themselves which lead up to "beginnings".

I had been interested in my Norfolk ancestry from childhood, when my grandmother, instead of telling me fairy tales, enthralled me with stories of her Norfolk girlhood and her Norfolk forebears. Then there was the story she told of being descended from the Cornwallises. Everyone in the family said it was just one of "Grandmother’s Tales" and no one was interested or believed it. She died when I was about sixteen, but I have a very good memory and over the years I have read anything I could find relating to Norfolk. So when in the summer of 1957 my cousins Winnie and Francis Sweeting said they were taking their caravan to Overstrand in Norfolk, I primed them with the information I was seeking, because they said, little side-tracking trips added interest to their journey. From their camp on Kessingland Sands they set off one afternoon for Brome, which was 10 miles inland and went into the church. They found no literature of any kind so made for a little shop on the main road hoping to buy some view cards, but they were told none had been printed for years. Then Francis saw the Vicar flash past on his motorcycle in the direction of the church; a chase ensued but they lost him. Further down the lane they came to a pretty house called "The old Curacy" where they found a very charming lady who was quite interested in their story and shewed them the very book they would have liked for me. It was only a shilling and had in it some good pictures of the Cornwallis Memorials. However the dear lady said she could not part with it as it contained information about her own house which had once been occupied by one of the Cornwallis family She suggested the Printers in Diss or secondly going on to Oakley where the new Vicar lived (Oakley and Brome forming one Parish) as he might have the book. This they did. The Rev. Tyson proved to be quite a young man and new tothe living. They told him the story of their search, and he said he had a hook and if he could find it they could have it. Unfortunately it did not come to light but he kindly offered to send it to me when he found it. It was out of print so could not he purchased in Diss. While hunting for this book on Brorne the Vicar came across two large books of particulars and plans of the sale of some of the Cornwallis Estates and said "Here you are, you had better have these". Winnie sent me these cataloguestogether with a local paper. They were two catalogues of the sale of Oakley Park Estate in May 1920 and contained wonderful photographs of all the lovely old farms on the estate with very detailed maps of the land. Also of Oakley Hall itself, since pulled down. All this had once been Cornwallis property. In due course the Rev. Tyson sent me the hook on "Brome Church and its Memorials", and that is how I came by the first concrete evidence of my Norfolk search.

Then another event took place the next year which left me very much alone, My sister Blanche died suddenly at Eastertide in 1958.

The third event was a tiny paragraph in the "Daily Mail". After my sister’s death I had not read anything, not even a newspaper and one day I collected up a pile of these unopened making a mental note to discontinue their delivery. I opened one paper idly with no particular interest in it and looked down the small items column, a thing I had used always to be interested in and an item caught my eye. "Brome Hall, a stately home in Suffolk is to be pulled down". I looked for the date, 27 April 1958; three months back. Then it occurred to me that if I was ever going to Norfolk it ought to be soon, hut where? I knew of no relatives living there. I knew my grandmother had been born in Old Buckenham in 1831 because I had her birth certificate. I knew some of my grandmother’s relations had once lived at Diss Court because she often mentioned it. She also spoke of Stuston, Palgrave, Attleborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Thetford and Swaffham, but how far apart were they and how did I get there?

I loved the romantic past but how much of it was true; what could I find there after all these years if I went? I pondered it over. Someone said "Why don’t you go and get it out of your system".

I went and it became firmly fixed in my system ever after.

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Owner/Source Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford
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