"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate
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Having decided I would make the attempt that autumn I set to work to make plans. I studied the Diss local newspaper Winnie had bought for me a year ago and wrote to the Clerk of Diss Urban District Council and asked if he could tell me of a small hotel or guest house in Diss on a bus route as I wished to explore the district. He replied recommending the Park Hotel which was opposite the bus station but warned me that country buses were few and far between. I next wrote to the East Anglian Bus Company in Norwich for a time table, and so, aided by an ordnance survey map of the area, I plotted out a course of action.
My cousin Adelaide in London said she would come with me if I could make all the arrangements as she was of the opinion the complete change would be good for me following my sister Blanche's death.
Looking back now on that first "Norfolk Journey" I cannot help realizing that all the weeks, even months of planning, did not account for the way in which events dovetailed together; the way in which one thing led to another, almost as if an unseen hand guided the venture.
II met Adelaide in London and we crossed over to Liverpool St. Station and so to Diss. We had booked in for one or two nights at the Park Hotel, as if we did not like it we could move on. But it proved to be most comfortable. It had a Georgian front in Denmark Street and a nice lawn surrounded by tall trees at the back with an entrance on to Victoria Road near the bus station. The house was two storied and rambling and had in the past been the home of the Gaze family, the local auctioneers. It was partly run as a country club and there was drinking in the bar at night but that did not affect us. Our bedroom was cosy and the food was excellent and as our rooms were well away from the road it was very peaceful.
The next morning we took the bus to Scole the nearest point we could get to Brome Hall as I decided that must be our first quest if it was still standing. In Scole we talked to a Garage Proprietor who seemed interested in our story. He said a taxi was our best way to get there. That evening I made a few enquiries in the bar of the hotel and one old man said " Why don't you ring up the farmer who has bought Brome Hall. He is a nice chap, he would let you see it". I took his advice and after explaining my quest to Mr.West he said, "I'm not interested in its history, You can see it and do what you like with it, I'm going to pull it down as soon as I've the men to spare". I returned to my bar companion and said "Now where do I find a taxi?". "Coleman's Garage, Palgrave" he replied and that was how I came to meet Mrs. Coleman the woman who over the years became my friend and companion in many of my searches.
She came to the hotel for us the following afternoon, explaining that as all the other drivers were out she had come to do the job herself. She drove with great competence but scared us by looking round and talking to us while driving blindly but efficiently on.
She was a little younger than myself, small and energetic and had the loveliest brown eyes and a very charming personality. From the very first she was interested in my search and took us first to Brome Church with its typically East Anglian round tower. Just eastward of the church in a meadow was the site of the first ancient manor house. A Saxon lady named Goda owned 300 acres hereabouts and her manor of Ling Hall was constructed oft timber, surrounded by fortifications of water and palings to keep off the wild beasts that roamed the forests and the wild beasts who roamed the land. This became merged with another manor named Broom Davillersa and by the year 1217 Bartholomew D'Avillers owned these.
Later through marriage with the Buxton family in AD 1400 the property in Brome and Oakley had been inherited by the Cornwallis family. Now the Cornwallis's came originally from Cornwall and one pedigree has it that Richard Earl of Cornwall, second son of King John had a natural son Phillip by Lady Joan de Valletort, widow of Sir Alexander Keston. Richard Earl of Cornwall, later became King of the Romans and died in 1271, and the descendants of his natural son Phillip de Cornwallys first settled in Ireland.
Thomas Cornwallys was born in Ireland but became Sheriff of London in 1378 in the reign of Richard II.
His son John married Phillipa daughter and heiress of Robert Buxton and through her the property of Brome and Oakley passed to the Cornwallis family who held many posts under the crown for the next 200 years. Frederick was created a Baron in 1627 and Charles became the first Earl and died in 1762.
His brother Frederick became Archbishop of Canterbury 1768 - 1783. But the greatest of them all was Charles 1st Marquis Cornwallis born in 1738. He was a General in the Army and Capitulated at Yorktown in 1781 in the American War of Independence, was twice Governor of India, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Signatory of the Peace of Amiens for England in 1802 and died at Ghazepore India in 1805.
In 1823 the Cornwallis family died out in Suffolk through the lack of a male heir and Brome was bought by the Kerrison family, one, General Sir Edward Kerrison fought at Waterloo. That was the history of Brome Leaving the church the taxi turned up a long avenue of trees and I had my first glimpse of Brome Hall. Gates and a barbed wire fence barred our way a short distance from the house, so Mrs. Coleman turned up a track to the left to try and get round the house, but the house itself blocked the way.
The car was up against an ivy covered wall, tall trees pressed in upon us and a misty drizzle came silently down, it was remote and eerie. There was nothing for it but to reverse the car back to the gates and I got out. I had not come so far to leave without seeing the place. The gate was firmly locked, wired and with old branches stacked against it but further to the right the barbed wire fence slackened and with Mrs. Coleman's help I crawled through this. The ground beyond was uneven and overgrown but with the aid of my shooting stick I gained the firmer ground of the overgrown driveway. Adelaide refused to follow saying she was sure to break her ankle, so I proceeded up to the front door. It was inset into the house up several steps and made very dark and creepy by a great sprawling vine dripping in the mist.
Some of the overhead masonry had fallen and it looked very unsafe. On either side of the drive tall trees came right up to the house shutting out the light and it was impossible to tell the size of the mansion. Looking round to my right I thought there might at one time have been an archway cut in the enormous Macrocuysa [sic] hedge that confronted me. I was right but it did not go straight through but took a turn to the left and then out. It was quite a struggle but at last I was out on a very wide terrace. It had a stone balustrade and the ground beyond appeared to fall away from the terrace. The garden was full of the loveliest trees growing in unbridled profusion. Walking along the terrace to the end I saw it turned to the left and ran the full length of the house. Great square bay windows looked out on to this terrace shuttered and completely covered in creepers, brambles and late roses and every living plant imaginable clambered up the old grey stone walls. It was the most beautiful picture of a Sleeping Beauty setting I had ever seen and I was quite enthralled by it. As I stood in silence a dove broke cover from the eaves and swooped over the silent garden, like a soul released from bondage. Here, a little later Mrs. Coleman joined me, she said they had become anxious about me, but she soon forgot to be anxious: she looked round and was enchanted. She said the last time she had been in the garden was to a Conservative Fete when she was a child.
That evening I rang our cousins Charles and Ann who lived in Ipswich. Charles was Chaplain to 5 Ipswich Hospitals and fortunately the next day was his day off and we invited them over to lunch. They loved the park hotel and Ann said I was a good "picker" of hotels. It was pure luck this time. We discussed our "search" and in the afternoon Charles took us to Old Buckenham where our mutual grandmother had been born in 1831. It was one of those places only accessible by car, as I found on subsequent attempts to get there. The bus would take you there on Monday, but it would be Thursday before you could return.
It was a lovely September afternoon and it was like walking right back into the past. Old Buckenham has a vast green which was really a fen with 3 ponds and some very old trees, and the houses are dotted round it. The tiny church which had a round tower and a thatched roof, was set in a quiet churchyard with a clapper gate. We had no idea where our grandmother had lived except she was a daughter of a farmer. On the map was a farm called Old Hall Farm and we thought we would have a look at it. A smiling woman in a tiny shop gave us involved directions but because of a flat tyre we never found it and although I have been there since, I never have. It is rather wild unfrequented country.
The following day we went to Norwich having stayed an extra day at the Park Hotel to entertain Charles. We wanted to see a little of Norwich and go on the Broads if possible. I had armed myself with a guide and a list of places to stay issued by the Norwich City Fathers. Apart from Hotels in the centre of the city, accommodation was limited to guest houses along the riverside and used by commercial travellers. It was near the station so we went to see what they were like. We were not terribly impressed, but seeing a woman coming out of the cleanest looking one, we made to go towards her, but we were intercepted by a woman popping out of a nearer house and ushering us into her abode. Apparently these waterside landladies go out and catch their prey!! The rooms were not too bad and we only intended staying two nights so we settled for them and before going to bed went into the Cathedral and looked round the city.
The next morning we spent in the Castle and looked at its old pictures. This lovely white tower was once used as a prison, but in its early days was known as the Castle of Blanchefleur. A lovely name.
In the afternoon we got a coach and boat trip on the Broads, lovely Ranworth, Salhouse, Horning and back via Wroxham, but we were horrified by the traffic in Norwich. Next morning as we sat at breakfast, a commercial traveller whom we had not seen before spoke to us , and on learning that we proposed to go that day to Bury St. Edmunds said " Take my advice ladies, and get yourselves booked in somewhere as soon as you arrive, the town is full of Americans and accommodation scarce, I can recommend the "Railway Hotel" and if you mention my name they will probably take you". We thanked him and took the kind advice he had unasked given us. The Railway Hotel at first said they had no room, they were heavily booked with Americans, but when we mentioned our commercial friend's name which I have since forgotten they reconsidered it and after some delay offered us a very small room with two beds in it. We were indeed grateful.
Now we had come to Bury St. Edmunds just to look at the place and for Adelaide to visit her brother who lived out at Ashfield Green and for me to spend a book token which was the last gift Blanche had given me. Nothing more , but it did not turn out like that at all.
Here I must digress a little in order to explain the events which led up to what happened in Bury St, Edmunds that weekend.
My cousin Roland Pilcher knew more about this "ancestry" than I did and had done a little searching himself. His father Alonso Pilcher was my mother's first cousin and that made Roland and I second cousins. Alonzo's Mother, Harriet, had been my grandmother's youngest sister and through her Alonzo knew a little more about the "Cornwallis" story than we did, because when Alonzo died his son (Roland) found among his father's effects a slip of oof papersaying "A Rev. Shardelowe of Buxton, Norfolk married the youngest daughter of Lord Cornwallis in 1755. Mrs. Bilham was great, great granddaughter to Lord Cornwallis".
(Now Mrs. Bilham was great grandmother to Roland and I.)
Roland knew his father had been interested in the Cornwallis story but there was no evidence that he had ever tried to prove its authenticity. Roland was also interested and as his work sometimes took him into East Anglia he made enquiries where he could and when my aunt Blanche told him I was also collecting data, he contacted me and we pooled our knowledge. Through Roland , I learned that the Cornwallises had owned, besides Brome Hall another estate at Culford 5 miles north of Bury St. Edmunds, and that they had lived there more consistently than at Brome Hall. Culford Hall was now a public school for boys under the headmastership of a Dr. Christopher Story. Thus far Roland's information went.
All this was some years before my "Norfolk Journeys" began, and during those years I read a great many books on Norfolk and Suffolk as our ancestry was one of those bborderlinecases, sometimes in Norfolk, sometimes in Suffolk, and the Reference Library obtained for me some very fine books indeed. Among them "The Correspondence of Charles 1st Marquis Cornwallis" by Ross in 3 volumes. I read all of these and made notes on everything relating to the private lives of the Cornwallis family. Roland was of the opinion that the "youngest daughter of Lord Cornwallis" referred to in his fathers paper might be Lady Mary Cornwallis daughter of the 1st Marquis and I had the idea that if so she might be buried in Culford Church which stood in Culford Park and which my reading told me contained many Cornwallis tombs.
I therefore wrote to the Vicar of Culford and asked him if such a lady was buried there or if there were any memorial to her. I had a reply that he could not trace Lady Mary in the church at all but that Mrs. Story wife of the headmaster of Culford school had written a book on Culford Hall, which was shortly to be published and that might contain the information I wanted. That was in 1957 and I said to my sister Blanche "I must have that book when it comes out" and that is how I came to have the book token. She gave it to me the Christmas before she died and I had brought this to Bury St, Edmunds where I thought the book would be on sale.
The morning after our arrival in Bury we set off to find the town centre and a good book shop. At Grooms the booksellers in Abbeygate Street, I told the assistant what I wanted. She stared at me blankly and said she had never heard of the book. As I seemed determined she asked me if I would like to see the manager. Mr Paterson listened to my story gravely. He said he could not understand it, because he was friendly with the Storeys and had never heard of a book being written. Then he said would I mind if he rang up Dr. Storey and asked him about it and I consented. He was gone some time and when he returned he looked serious. Dr. Storey did not wish to talk about the book which was not finished but if I would make an appointment Dr. Storey would be willing to tell me what I wanted to know. I thanked Mr. Patterson and went away to consider my next move, which was mainly how to get to Culford? For health reasons I was no walker, and large houses often stood in very large parks. So that afternoon we took a bus out to Culford to gain knowledge of the locality and as it was very warm we bought an ice cream in the post office and ate it on an iron seat on the other side of the road. Looking about us we saw there were no houses, just a tree lined country road and a little further along a garage and a phone box, nothing else.
It seemed to me sitting there as if just the things I needed had been placed there for me. The seat , the garage and the phone box all on an isolated country lane. I went to the garage and saw the owner and arranged for him to take me up to the Hall the next morning and to bring me back. Sure of my transport I rang Dr. Storey that evening from Bury railway station and made an appointment for 12.30 the next day.
We spent that evening in the railway station marooned there in a terrific thunderstorm. One old porter pointing to my shooting stick said to me "Don't yew go outside with that stick, you'll get struck".
Next morning Adelaide went off to Ashfield Green to see her brother and I went by bus to Culford To keep my appointment. At the garage the owner gone into Bury but his wife said he would no doubt be back soon to take me up to the Hall. An hour later he turned up and seeing me said he had forgotten All about my appointment. He then rang up Dr.Storey and I caught the words " Its all my fault, Sir". Presently he came out to me and said Dr.Storey was having his lunch, but if I would go to the church he would join me there. It was quite a little ride into the park, and the small church and churchyard was pressed around by tall trees . Having asked the garage man to fetch me in 2 hours I entered the very dark church, which besides being the village church now functioned as the school chapel. The memorials were very beautiful and related to the Cornwallis and subsequent owners of the Hall. One lifesize figure of an elderly woman guarding three children was very scol [sic]. I later learned she was Lady Jane Cornwallis whose story I recall further on in this book, and who died in 1659. The full length recumbent figure of a young Lady Cadogan was also very beautiful. Here Dr. Storey joined me and I explained to him what I was looking for and showed him some Cornwallis pedigrees I had put together. He then said he would like his wife to talk to me and went and fetched her. I liked Mrs. Storey from the beginning. We sat in apew and she told me of the book she was writing and of her difficulty in verifying some of her facts. We discussed my pedigrees , and the books we had both read on the subject and her problems with her unfinished book. They then invited me to walk up to the Hall. A private gate led out of the churchyard into a shady walk and so across lawns to the beautiful frond of the Hall. In a lovely entrance hall a tall staircase went up and up and near the ceiling hung a large portrait of the Marquis Cadogan, the blue and white walls of the staircase contrasting with the red robes in the picture. The headmaster's study had once been the Cornwallis Library and it was wonderful to be there and look out of those great windows into the peaceful parkland beyond. The master's sitting room was a lovely long room with its windows looking out on to a terrace. The walls were lined with rose pink damask still perfect where it had been behind great pictures no longer there. Another room had on the walls gilt sconces for candles and beautiful gilt filigree work trailed in elaborate decoration down the walls. All had beautiful ceilings. We walked back to the church together talking and they pointed ouy youme the very dark very old window, dating back to 1679 when Sir Stephen Fox rebuilt the church. Then my garage man appeared and I said goodgoodbyeDr. and Mrs. Storey.
Back in Bury I took the bus out to Ashfield Green to join Adelaide. \\\\riding along I suddenly realized I had no idea where I was going or where to get off. I need not have worried. Going along a straight stretch of open road with a few houses here and there I saw ahead a man come out of a garden gate and flag down the bus. When the bus stopped I saw the man was Adelaide's brother and he expected me to alight.
I later called on Mr.Patterson, the bookseller and bought a "Suffolk Country Book with my voucher.
The following day being Sunday , we decided to explore Thetford as it was one of the places grandma had talked of. It was a lovely ride through Breckland country, and we passed by Euston Hall which I had read about. Seeing the rabbits and pheasants in the fields fascinated me. We went to the only hotel in Thetford which was open for lunch. We were greeted by a very snooty young man who looked us up and down and said the dining room was full and there would be a wait of at least half an hour. He looked very disappointed when we just sat down and said we would wait. Five minutes later he returned and said there was a table. The place was very full but the trouble seemed to be with the staff. A squabble seemed to be going on and a very pregnant young woman, who should certainly not have been there, was assisting as best she could by waiting at table. Perhaps she was the snooty young man's wife for he was the one in a rage and whom they all seemed to be trying to placate. Not an enjoyable meal. We had a good look round the old town and on our way back to Bury that evening we broke our journey at Farnham St Martin and went to church. In the old days this was part of the Cornwallis Estate. It was a "do it yourself" service. The Vicar sat at the back and played the organ and hustled up to the altar and read the service, hustling too and fro he completed the whole thing in 55 minutes. That brought our week's holiday to a close and the next day we returned to London. Never again did I accomplish so much in one week as I did on that first attempt but it layed the pattern of all my future journeys.
|Owner/Source||Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford|
|File Size||24.49 KB|
|Folio version||v126.96.36.199 (20 Mar 2019)|
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