"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate

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The Last Journey

Early in 1971 I heard from Mrs. Storey that her husband was retiring from Culford School in July and they were going to Oxford to live, therefore she said if I wished to see Culford once more I must go soon. I left Ramsgate in mid June in lovely weather which turned to pouring rain in London. At the coach station our coach remained without a driver long past departure time, but eventually a very young lad turned up and then ensued a lengthy discussion with the inspectors, aided by maps, as to the route. Wishing to assure myself that the coach would go through Palgrave I asked the inspector who replied "Where's that?" Upon telling him he said "Do you know the way?" Assuring him that I did, he said "Well, this lad knows the way as far as Bury St. Edmunds, but not beyond that, so will you help him?" We departed and with a good many diversions the lad headed northwards, and we seemed to be going in the right direction. I settled down to enjoy the scenery. My companion in the next seat was a elderly lady who constantly dropped off to sleep. She told me she was going to stay at the Suffolk Hotel in the Butter Market Bury St. Edmunds and did I know it. She said she was very forgetful. Rousing herself towards the end of the journey she vaguely looked about her and said in alarm "Do you know I don't know where I am going." I told her.

Arrived in Bury I went and sat near the driver and impressed upon him I wished to be put down at Palgrave Church and nowhere else. It was dark and the rain was leaking in on me from the roof and I had visions of being put down in open country in the dark and not knowing where I was. However I checked that he passed through the right villages and eventually we saw the sign post to Palgrave and soon the shadowy outline of the church loomed up. He turned to me with a broad grin. "Made it" he said. He was a nice lad.

In teeming rain I got out of the leaking coach and into Mrs. Coleman's car and we had a little chat then she drove me to Orme Villa where a blazing log fire and a hot meal awaited me.

The next day I made arrangements with Norwich Records Office to do a two day search and also on this journey I hoped to meet a lady with whom I had had some correspondence over our Shardelowe ancestry some years earlier. I had quite a number of replies to the letter I put in the Eastern Daily Press. All were very interesting if not directly helpful. Mostly they were from people who pursued genealogy either as a hobby or professionally. One man wrote enthusiastically that he had been down in the vaults at Culford and that " the Cornwallis who was Governor of Gibraltar was down there!!" As this gentleman had died in 1776 it struck me as pretty gruesome. When I later mentioned these vaults to Mrs. Storey she said she had no wish to go down there. However the lady I hoped to meeting Norwich was not particularly interested in Genealogy, but she had written me that her mother was a Shardelowe, and because she was the only woman who had answered my appeal an intermittent correspondence had sprung up between us. So on this holiday I rang her up and arranged to meet her for lunch at the Assembly House which was very near the Records Office in Norwich. Then came the problem of identifying each other. After I had said I was tall, dark and middle-aged, I hit upon the idea of my shooting stick which I always carried. She said that was good enough and she would not bother to describe herself, and we arranged to meet the next day at 12 o'clock by the fountain in front of the Assembly Rooms, and so I embarked on another "blind date".

I was at the meeting place punctually, there was no-one about, then I saw a tall slim lady, perhaps a little younger than myself, strolling in the direction of the fountain. As she drew level with me she pointed to my stick, we smiled, shook hands and that is how I met Agnes Rushmer. The Assembly House is run by the City Fathers for art exhibitions and as a restaurant and the meals are very good indeed. Over a lovely lunch, I told her of my ancestry search and showed her the pedigrees I had compiled. The five Shardelowe graves I had seen in Thorpe Churchyard she said were her aunts, her mother's sisters and of course she was familiar with Thorpe Hall. She also knew of Mr. Blunderfield who had taken me to Thorpe and Mr. George, of Shardelows, the chemist in Halesworth was a cousin of hers, so we soon established mutual ground for conversation. Miss Rushmer was a retired teacher and loved travelling. In spite of the over crowded conditions in the restaurant we were able to have a table right up in a corner and a little out of the way. I showed her a number of photographs relating to the search but when I showed her a snap of my shop, she made me laugh by saying I looked as if I did no work. She was most intrigued.

On our way out we looked in on an oil painting exhibition of the Norfolk Countryside and talked to the artist. On leaving her she promised to let me know if she moved to Hastings which she was contemplating doing and I went back to the Records Office to do another afternoon's search.

Two other people I met that week were Mr. Coleman's brother George and his wife Hilda as Hilda Crow was related to my cousin Florence Baldwin (Mrs. Chase). Mr. And Mrs. Coleman invited me to go down to their bungalow one evening to meet them . The bungalow was not far, but because of the traffic belting along the country roads, it was tricky because of a concealed corner. However a fitful moon helped a little and I was soon there. We had an enjoyable evening. Mr. George Coleman was a typical farmer and in a very merry voice told me about tithes and local charities and their administration and of Redgrave Manor in all of which I was very interested. His wife offered to lend me an old directory. I love hearing anything appertaining to the countryside, especially Norfolk country and conversation flowed smoothly with many a laugh. My Mrs. Coleman had on a blue dress which suited her beautifully and I wished I could have taken her photograph.

On this particular holiday I was in Palgrave on two Sundays which was unusual because often my visits were only about five days, but now I was approaching retirement I gave myself a little more time off, and on both Sundays Mr.and Mrs. Coleman took me in their car for rides in Norfolk and Suffolk. On the first Sunday we went towards the sea and passed through dozens of interesting villages which I afterwards found on the map. We went to Southwold and Aldeburgh and saw the Maltings at Snape and the river which flowed in the marshes behind it and the spot where Royalty could land from a boat and quite easily attend a concert without passing along a public road or being seen by anyone. Riding along towards Aldeburgh we passed the end of Linden Road and I suddenly remembered this was the private address of the Mr. Wilfred George of "Shardelowe's" the chemist in Halesworth. He had given me his home address and ex-directory telephone number during one of the telephone chats I had with him from time to time. On the spur of the moment I asked Mr. Coleman if he would give me ten minutes to call on him. He willingly consented and we found the house in a very quiet residential road of detached houses. I rang the bell and a quiet sweet looking young woman opened it. I asked if I might see Mr. George and explained who I was. She looked at me dubiously but invited me into her sitting room and called her husband. A tall slim man, younger than I had imagined came into the room. He had an easy boyish manner and I liked him immediately. In no time we were talking nineteen to the dozen. He was a young man of many interests. He showed me a wonderful book he had made on Hoverflies and he was also a keen supporter for the preservation of field footpaths. As he explained to me it was his father who had been keen on tracing the Shardelowe ancestry and after his father's death he had only added to the file any information that came his way, in case when he was older he might like to continue the search. He was however very interested in what I was doing and I showed him a number of Pedigrees and photographs and I agreed that it was really an older persons pastime and that I found it a very engrossing holiday occupation. "You see" I said, "I might become a very boring person just sitting round a hotel lounge knitting." He threw himself back in his armchair and with a delightful boyish laugh he said "You boring? You would never bore anybody"! It was cheering to hear him say so , even if it might not be true. His wife Margaret listened to all this gravely and his little 7 year old girl said not a word. I told him of my meeting with Miss Rushmer in Norwich a few days earlier and of seeing the Shardelowe graves at Thorpe . The brief but pleasant visit ended with promises to send each other any further information and I went out to find the Colemans back from their little ride round. We went on down to the coast at Aldeburgh [Miss Milgate's geography is a little confused here, I think she must mean Southwold. Ed.] and after tea from a flask I tried to take a picture of Walberswick which is just across the mouth of a little river, which you felt you could almost jump across and yet there was no way to get there but to go five miles inland to find a bridge. The wind was so strong across the North Sea I had to brace myself against the car to focus my picture but failed. The following Sunday afternoon they took me through Breckland a vast area of sandy waste in the heart of East Anglia, much of it used by the War Office for gunnery practice. This Breckland has always held a fascination for me. I have read about it in Country Books and especially in the novels of Michael Home. He was born in this area and his novels have a Breckland background, in his day a very remote countryside. In later life he went to live in Beckley near Rye in Sussex and strangely enough I saw him once. He came to lunch with two ladies at a hotel where I was staying in Northiam, the next village to Beckley. I was told who he was, but it was long before the days of my Norfolk journeys and I was not to know that I should one day be very interested in his books.

There are some lovely wild spots in Breckland and on a heath near Mildenhall Mrs. Coleman picked me a bunch of wild flowers.

I fell in love with the setting of South Pickenham Church and the intriguing entrance to Hengrave Hall, home of the Kitson Family one of whom married a Cornwallis girl.

We came home round the back of Culford estate and Mr. Coleman turned left into a tiny concealed lane to show me the entrance to Kilverstone Hall which belonged to Lord Fisher. This narrow lane suddenly broadened out to an open expanse completely enclosed by tall trees shutting it in except for the narrow entrance. To the right a few estate cottages could be seen through the trees: on the left an iron five bar gate led into the park and ahead across a stream was an old brick hump bridge. A narrow road went over the bridge and disappeared into more trees.

I could imagine a coach and horses going over that bridge. It was a piece of old England of 200 years ago, remote, peaceful, unchanged. No-one would have found it had they not known of the tiny concealed lane that led into it.

As I always did on any holiday I went during this week to see Katie Reeve. She was as bright and alert as ever, and as always wanted to hear of my search. She still affirmed her belief that there was "something in the Cornwallis storey". That evening I prepared for my last visit to Culford on the following day. Mrs. Storey and I had lunch alone. We soon got on to our favourite topic, the Cornwallis pedigrees and Mrs. Storey fetched her book on Culford burials; we were soon immersed in papers and books all over the dining table and Dr. Storey coming in for a few minutes was very amused at us, but he confirmed that the Copenhagen Roads was sea and agreed this might be useful to my search since the Captain James Cornwallis I was seeking undoubtedly died at sea. After lunch we went out into the grounds as I wished to photograph the front of the Hall, but it was a grey misty day and I was not very successful. For one thing the Hall is so vast I could not see the roof in my vviewfinder and in moving further and further back until I was under a cedar tree I finally snapped, not the roof but more lawn as the photo of my seat stick lying in the grass where I had first stood proved. While walking round the grounds the branch of a very large tree crashed down. No-one was hurt, but meeting Dr. Storey later he said the tree would never look the same again; many of these old trees were young when the 1st. Marquis Cornwallis lived there. Then Mrs. Storey took me into the Hall to see a lithograph given to the school by a Doctor's widow who thought it would be nice for the school to have it. It was of the 1st. Marquis Cornwallis in his Garter Robes and a younger picture of him than I had seen before. Mrs. Storey said "Do you see a likeness?" I said "I don't know but it is not a alien face, do you see a likeness?". Looking at me she said "Yes about the nose". As we were just outside the Headmaster's study we went in . This had been Marquis Cadogan's Library and was a lovely room looking out on to both the south and west terraces. Dr Storey's desk was avery large and had been procured from a saleroom and when opened, in a far recess was found a Cornwallis "token" coin. One wonders if this desk had once belonged to Culford, if so it had come home.

Back in a central hall Mrs. Storey pointed out to me where additions to the house had been made by the Cadogans. The fireplace was lovely. Passing again at the foot of the great staircase with its two galleries, the height was immense, and hung near a beautiful ceiling the red robed portrait of the Marquis Cadogan who could not house the portrait himself because of its size. Also belonging to him was a very large oil painting of a country scene.

We crossed the lawn to to the little church where I hoped to take some photos but it was too dark. So it all ended where it had begun 13 years before where the Cornwallis,s were commemorated in marble and stone, where they lay in their last resting place in the vaults below and where I first met Dr. and Mrs. Storey. As we came out of the little avenue of trees to go back to the Hall, the taxi which was to take me back to Bury turned the corner of the drive. Saying goodbye to Mrs. Story she said wistfully she did not think her book would ever be published. As I closed the taxi door I looked at her and I said "It will: you'll see".

Two years later I held in my hands the white bound volume which contained "Culford" by Gertrude Storey.


Owner of original Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford
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