"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate



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Yellow for Joy

My third Norfolk Journey was undertaken alone and was the result of a minor accident, which might nevertheless have been serious. Things had gone consistently wrong all the winter and the last straw was reached when I fell with all my weight into a large tin Chocolate Display Tray and badly bruised both my legs; in fact I think I damaged the bone in one. This upset my already overstrained nerve caused by living and running a business alone. I had to do something and do quickly. So one May morning I set off for Norfolk. My fears soon evaporated and I enjoyed the taxi ride through London streets to Liverpool St. Station. The Embankment was a glaze of azaleas and hydrangeas filled the window boxes, while the Queen’s Body Guard in gold breast plates, black helmets riding black horses passed by. Mrs. Coleman met me at Diss Station. I spent the first morning lying in a field where May blossom covered the hedges like snow, a blue sky overhead, the birds singing and bees humming. It was the most peaceful place imaginable. Alas the next time I saw it a chicken canning factory had been built upon it and never again did I lie in my lovely field. That afternoon Mrs. Coleman took me to Brome Hall again. It was still standing although Mr. West the owner, said he was starting demolition in six weeks time. Being early summer it was more gloriously lovely than ever. Every tree was a different species in the long avenue that led up to the house. Again we climbed through the barbed wire and forced our way through the macracarpa hedge out on to the terrace, white roses in wild profusion abandoned themselves all over the windows, making it more of a "Sleeping Beauty" setting than ever. Standing on the terrace we beheld a glorious copper beech some magnificent old cedar trees; a French lilac flung itself round a white Deutzia and the laburnums which had sprung up everywhere between the old topiary bushes, gave a golden sheen to it all. "Yellow for Joy" Mrs. Coleman said, "You know" turning to me "I think all this has been saved for you till now, to make you happy when your life is so sad". I think may be she was right. That hot afternoon we explored further into the garden, going down the terrace steps we pushed our way into the wilderness. All that was discernible of a former garden, was the slow growing box hedges which had once outlined flower beds. There were no paths, only little steps going down here and there, a walled-in garden we could not get into and a broken greenhouse. The ground after a little distance started to drop steeply and we wondered if this led down to a lake long since dried up. All we could see was a jungle of trees. Coming back it was easier to view the house. The lower part was completely smothered m climbing plants but the chimneys were many patterned and Grecian heads crowned the parapets. The centre section was undoubtedly the oldest, but this was flanked on either side by casellated square bay windows of a later date. We took a number of photographs, one of me sitting on the terrace wall and I shall always remember that golden afternoon and looking back over its sleeping beauty I thought "Maud Tacon was its last owner, but Maud Milgate was the last person to feel affinity with this place." Somewhere I had read "She ‘belonged’ to the land by heritage, by affinity and by love". That is how I felt. We then went for a little ride round and passed the seventeenth century Alms-houses built by Sir Stephen Fox whose daughter Elizabeth had married the third Lord Cornwallis. These have since been completely modernized as old people’s homes.

This time upon leaving the Hall we turned to the right and followed a narrow lane which skirted the estate. Here and there I caught glimpses inside of the grounds and right in a corner, quite isolated, stood a small dower house. I should just love to have possessed this.

We also passed a gate I had seen on my previous visit which called "The Dark Entry". In a wall was a wrought iron gate in open filigree design about wide enough to take a horse. Immediately in side the gate a horse was tethered, and beyond a path which ran inland under close growing trees and so dark as to form a tunnel. This, Mrs. Coleman said, was one of the entrances into Brome Hall, and I thought it a very romantic setting. We then took the road leading to Eye called the "Avenue" and which had been lined by beautiful trees. These, alas, had been felled, and now lay along the roadside waiting to be carted away. Farmers want land not trees. Turning to me Mrs. Coleman said "Couldn’t you find a millionaire to marry and rescue all this?"

In Eye we stopped outside a little dress shop; I have noticed a lot of these little shops in East Anglia. I always admire the clothes they display. This one had only 3 dresses in the window and I thought the pink one would just have suited Blanche. Then we went into Eye Church and again it had been so tidied up by the Victorians there was nothing of interest left. Even the tombstones were up against the church yard wall and looking out of place. We went back to Diss through fields of peas destined for Birds Eye factories. The Eye referred to relates to Eye the town and has nothing to do with the eye of a bird. That evening speaking on the phone to Mr. West, the farmer who owned Brome Hall he said he had an old print of it and if I liked I was welcome to go to his home and see it. Accordingly the next afternoon Mrs. Coleman took me out to a very isolated ordinary looking farmhouse called "Warrenhills". There Mrs. West showed me the print which was framed in oak from Brome trees, I also saw some very old books and by the gate as we left were some old wooden scrolls brought from Brome Hall and some ancient antlers stuck drunkenly in a holly bush. I should love to have possessed these discarded treasures. Then I left my wisteria -covered hotel and the lovely chestnut trees in bloom around Diss Mere and went to the Broads for two glorious sunny days. Between trips in any boat that was going, I ate snacks cooked for me by Paula in her riverside cafe, and chatted with her as I watched the life of the river go by. On a Broad nearby I met a Mrs. Porter in a boatyard which hired out houseboats and went over a new boat she had just purchased for the forthcoming season and that is how a later holiday came to be spent on a houseboat. I returned home completely rested, but I always knew I would return to my beloved Norfolk.

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Owner/Source Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford
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