"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate



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Wymondham

Our next Norfolk Journey the following autumn started at Wymondham and again chance decided this. Into my shop during that summer came a small elderly lady on holiday, who purchased each day half a pint of milk for her supper. During the course of her fortnights stay I learned she was a Norfolk woman, daughter of a doctor who had practised in a village just outside Wymondham She was very interested in my Norfolk ancestry and said her family was descended from the Cokes of Holkham. She said I would like Wymondham, and recommended the Abbey Hotel, she had stayed there herself and told me to say Miss Wade had mentioned it. Deciding this would be a good starting centre for another holiday, Adelaide and I arrived at the hotel for 2 nights in late September. We were very thrilled with Wyndham Abbey which was opposite the hotel. The first evening we sat on the tombstones and watched the sun go down and it was like a painting of old Norfolk by Constable. The Abbey Hotel was very comfortable but filled up each night with commercial travellers. They were everywhere and we seemed to be the only women staying there. Apparently when Norwich was full and they could get no accommodation for the night they just rode round to these country hotels until they found a bed. The book case in the lounge was full of the most wonderful books on Norfolk and I got in the mens way turning it out and sitting up late reading as many of them as I could. That book collection had belonged to someone who was a scholar and I wondered what the house had been before it became a hotel. Our bedroom was in the house next door, a sort of annexe. It was a very nice bedroom furnished with green curtains and covers and looked out on to the Abbey. The next morning we had an unexpected visit from the manager and his wife. At the time I attached no significance to this, but looking back now I wonder what they wanted and why they came? I never knew, because I think at the time I was only interested in my search and did not give other people much thought. They asked me about Miss Wade and I answered them what I knew of her, but I somehow had the feeling we were not talking about the same person. I believe there was another "Miss Wade". For some reason I did not bother to go into this and went on talking about our search. I said we were going to Attleborough that day and told them what I was looking for. They went away without saying anything further, they probably thought I was mad but harmless. My Miss Wade came to Ramsgate several times after that on holiday and one year she had her sister with her and I went to Broadstairs to lunch with them, but I felt there was something of a mystery somewhere. She lived in Croydon and asked me to go and see her. I never went and a few years later I had a letter from a clergyman who said Miss Wade had died and as he had found my letters among her effects, he was letting me know. She was 81. Now our reason for going to Attleborough was to follow up one of Ronald’s pieces of information. His work on one occasion had brought him to Attleborough and in a public house there, behind the bar he had seen a picture of about 20 leading Norfolk farmers and horse -breeders but he had not had the time to have a good look at them. To locate this picture was now my quarry. After peering into several public houses without success we decided to have a shandy in the "Angel" but the owner said he was new to the district and could not help us. There was only one other lady in the saloon besides ourselves and she introduced herself as "Mrs. Lovell". When I heard her name I recalled reading that the Lovells came from nearby East Harling where they had been lords of the manor. She said the picture we sought used to hang behind the bar of the old "Guffin". This public house was now a milk bar but the manager of Barclays Bank had the picture in his office. "He will show it to you" she said. Say "Mrs. Lovell sent you". We thanked her and went to find Barclays Bank in Attleborough’s very pleasing town centre. I explained to Mr. Underhill what I sought and he pointed to a tall picture standing on the floor of his office. It contained about 20 photos set in ovals within the frame. He asked me T was looking for anyone in particular and I said "yes" my great grandfather Thomas Bilham who had been a farmer in Old Buckenham. He was not there, but Robert Baldwin of Diss Court was (he had married my mother’s cousin Harriet). It was a charming picture of a man who looked quite a dandy and like a character in a novel. Also there were two of Robert’s sons William and George all of whom I would not have known had not Mr. Under-hill pointed them out to me. The photographs could not have been taken at the same time because Robert appeared as young as his sons. The manager said the "Griffin" had been an old coaching Inn, and when it closed down 6 months previously he had rescued the picture from destruction. Thanking him we departed to wander round the quiet, charming streets and ended by picnicking in the churchyard behind the church. A lady passing through and heading for a private gate , probably leading to the Vicarage, gave us a very odd look. The next day we went to Wroxham to spend a few days on the inroads. I had previously written to Wroxham council for a list of accommodation, and having decided upon some likely guest houses we went into a small cafe on the river side to have a cup of tea and inquire their locality. That is how I met Paula. She was the manageress and she said "These addresses are at the top of the hill, you don’t want to go up there. I know a better place right here in Wroxham and sent us to Mrs. Rivett. We were Mrs. Rivett’s first venture into the "letting" business and she eyed us a little doubtfully. I explained where we had come from and what we wanted. She then called her husband who looked at us suspiciously and asked us where our luggage was. When I said we had left it at the railway station he volunteered to drive us in his car to collect it. I do not think he thought we had any, but it was too hot to drag luggage around. As soon as we produced our "left luggage" tickets, his face cleared and he said he would get it without our help. This pleased us as we could now go off and get a trip in a boat. The weather was glorious, blue skies, misty evenings, calm sunny days. We had golden mornings on the Broads, with swans, ducks, tufted muskors and herons, and although we lazed some of the time we had really come here to visit Buxton, where the Rev. Shardelawe who had married the Cornwallis girl in 1755 was supposed to have lived. It proved a long trail out to Buxton. We had to go the half hour ride into Norwich and take another bus out to Buxton and they did not connect very well. Buxton church had been very "restored" about 1850 and neither on this visit, nor on a subsequent one I made several years later, when I searched through five registers, did I find any evidence of a Rev. Shardelowe. Hanging about waiting for a bus back to Norwich, we had a chat with a woman in a very modern looking shop for so remote a village. She said she came from Bedford and said "You know, there is more money to be made in selling a business than standing behind the counter". I think she was right. The last weekend we decided to spend in Saffrom Waldron in order to visit "Audley End" which contained a large number of Cornwallis portraits and heirlooms. The last Cornwallis heiress Jane, had married the third Lord Braybrooke of "Audley End" and when Brome Hall and Culford Hall Estates were all sold up in 1823 upon the death of Lady Jane’s father (the 2nd Marquis Cornwallis,) all the family portraits went to Jane at Audley End. Had she been a boy she would have been the 3rd Marquis Cornwallis. We took a train from Norwich via Cambridge and this took us through the Breckland country that intrigued me so much. Its rolling miles of flint strewn sandy waste with scrub and heather which I had read about in so many books. From the local Guide we had chosen to stay at "Ye Olde Hoose" in Saffron Walden. It was run by a very brisk woman whose main interest in life seemed to be German lieder, because her son was a singer. From her husband we understood Audley End closed for the season after the next day and he ordered a taxi to take us there, but arriving at the gates the next morning we found the Ministry of Works had decided to close the day be fore.

It was many years before I eventually saw inside this Jacobean mansion. Its entrance Hall was unbelievably beautiful, and I stood in front of a long line of Cornwallis portraits entranced. I particularly liked the look of Lord Frederick who had gone into exile with Charles II and shared his poverty. In their private chapel I was fortunate enough to be alone for a little while and was able to imagine what it was like when they all met there to worship in those long gone days. I saw the marble replica of the memorial to Charles, 1st Marquis Cornwallis which is in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This replica was presented to Audlev End by Lady Mary Singleton, his daughter. There was also a portrait of him in his Garter Robes hanging in the dining room. Looking out of its long windows I remembered reading of Audley End in Mottrams "East Anglia" and I quote "a long procession of rooms of magnificent proportions, designed, erected and kept, for no earthly purpose whatever, except that splendidly dressed, idle people, should look at, or converse with each other, or gaze out of high windows, upon acre after acre of land doing nothing whatever but grow nicely shaven grass",

Bitterly disappointed on that first occasion of not seeing" Audley End" after all our trouble, we took an antiquated coach to Thaxted and wandered round the white walled church, admiring its uncluttered nave and the pale green veils which separated the chapels and the nave, giving it an Eastern appearance. We returned to London next day and I spent a few days with Adelaide and Armonde.

We had enjoyed this second Norfolk journey, but the information I had gained was negligible. Our luggage had been a nuisance, we had taken the wrong clothes to the wrong places, but we thought it had all been worth while, but Ormonde, Adelaide’s brother, did not agree. He said "Asking all these questions of people. Why cannot you let the dead rest?" I tartly replied "Why should I, - if I want to chase my ancestors round churchyards, I shall do so". Looking at me critically, he replied "One day somebody is going to be thoroughly rude to you." 

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Owner/Source Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford
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