Surprised by bricks!

While in Bury I spent a happy morning mooching in the Record Office.
I hadn’t ordered any documents and didn’t have any burning questions to answer.
So I just browsed the shelves and came across “Sudbury Survey – A history of the industries of Sudbury, Suffolk”, published in 1948. It comprised typewritten sheets clipped together, each section written by a different local person.

Having found my g x 3 grandparents on the censuses from 1851 to 1901 I knew that Walter was a brickworks foreman, then manager, in Sudbury.
So I was interested in the section in “Sudbury Survey” that covered the subject of bricks.
I learnt that in the mid 1800s there were 7 brickyards in that area, 2 where Walter lived in Ballingdon, the Victoria brickworks and Allen’s
Allen’s, the book told me, “…supplied the bricks for the Albert Hall and Kensington Museum, the bricks being transported by barge to Manningtree and transferred to London boats.”
Allen’s was in production from 1812 to 1939, employing 100 men. The local sand and brick earth produced 2 coloured bricks, the Red and the Brimstone or Suffolk White.


Several different coloured bricks on this house!

I really hoped that this was where Walter worked. This would have made an interesting section in my fictional Who Do You Think You Are programme!
So on to Sudbury from Bury St Edmunds, stopping off in the beautifully preserved village of Lavenham.

A bit of background:
Walter Smith was born in 1825, at midnight according to the wonderfully detailed information my cousin has passed on to me, the eldest son of Robert Valentine and Eleanor Smith of Clare, Suffolk. He had 6 sisters, though one died at 2 1/2 before he was born. His grandparents William and Mary lived I Dickleburgh, Norfolk.
Walter and Ann Smith married at All Saints church Sudbury on Christmas day 1849. Ann, nee Goody, had lived near the church. According to the 1841 census she lived in Church Street, All Saints parish with her parents Joseph and Harriatt Goody.
Walter and Ann had 12 children, two died as infants and one at 13. Annie, my 2 x g grandmother was the eldest of their children. Three other daughters married into the Toon family of Earl Shilton.



We stayed at the Mill Hotel in Sudbury, on the edge of town by the water meadows . We could see the tower of All Saints church from our room, and if the weather had been kinder we would have followed the riverside walk and over the bridge into Ballingdon.
As it was we explored the town, visiting the library, Heritage Centre, Gainsborough’s House and the Vanners silk factory shop before the heavens opened and we retreated to the comfort of the hotel.


I took the opportunity to search the newspaper archives on Find My Past to see what else I could find out about the brickworks and narrow down which one Walter worked at.
I was pleased to discover from the Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Standard June 5th 1888 that Walter was indeed the foreman at Allen’s brickworks, having worked there between 40 and 50 years at the time.
This information was in a report of the drowning of a young man who ferried workers across the river and Walter was a witness.

So we had an interesting time in Suffolk, finding out more about the family and exploring the countryside, and finding bricks much more interesting than I’d expected.

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Paying my respects to the Conlans.


Following a family wedding in Norfolk we extended our visit by returning to Suffolk.
We stayed at the Premier Inn in Bury again, conveniently located opposite the Record Office.
On the Sunday morning I attended the morning service at St Mary’s, a five minute walk from the hotel, a church where some of my Brett and Wade ancestors were married  and probably attended.

I had a very warm welcome. The vicar’s wife sat with me and chatted away, and the couple in the pew in front turned and spoke to me several times.
I enjoyed the service though I didn’t know any of the hymns.
Sunday afternoon I walked to the cemetery in order to find the graves of Arthur, Annie and Walter Conlan.
I had been unsure about how to find the grave locations, but an online enquiry to the Bury St Edmunds council started a friendly correspondence with Sue who gave me the information I needed.
Helpfully, she listed the names on the adjacent plots in addition to the grave and compartment numbers.

The map at the Kings Road entrance to the cemetery is ‘upside down’ as you look at it, i.e. You are standing at the top of the map. It took a passing visitor and a helpful ex cemetery employee who looked over his fence to orientate me . With this help I stated my search for the graves.
Arthur, listed as Henry (his middle name) and Annie share a common , or unpurchased plot, along the boundary wall of West Road.

As no family live in Bury now, it’s unsurprising that the plot is in poor repair. It’s surrounded by stone, which is inscribed with their names and dates they ‘fell asleep’, Arthur in 1910 and Annie in 1924. Arthur’s name here is Harry, the name the family called him. ( A man of many names; a different story!)
Walter, their son, lies very close to them, just the other side of a path. He died in 1936 and is in a double plot by himself, as his son Harold bought the plot for both parents but his mother Elizabeth moved away, to where I haven’t discovered.
Sue at the council suggested the council could purchase the vacant plot from us, but as Harold didn’t marry or have children as far as we know, and as I’m not directly descended from him, it’s an offer we can’t take up.
Walter’s plot is also surrounded by stone, and there is a vase within it.
I had taken a table decoration from the wedding reception which I divided into three and placed them on the graves.


It felt good to visit.
Having done this I walked up West Road and found number 40 where Walter and Elizabeth had lived with Harold and their two daughters. Annie and Harry/ Arthur also lived there towards the end of their lives.
They called their house Roscommon. I take this as a clue to our Conlan ancestry, though as yet I have no proof!

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96 tears.

It’s taken me a little while to find my 96, but at last I’ve found it.

Last weekend we visited the V&A museum to see the

You Say You Want a Revolution  Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 exhibition.

Headphones don’t guide you through verbally, but play relevant music for the section you are in. I was delighted to see a young boy really grooving to the Beatles’ track Revolution while immersed in the display. There were handwritten Beatles lyrics, stage costumes worn by Sandie Shaw, Mick Jagger, several of Mitch Mitchell’s costumes and many more. The brocade jacket worn by John Lennon while recording the All You Need is Love telecast is remarkably beautiful.

There were sections on politics, space travel, mind expanding drugs, literature and space travel including a piece of moon rock. Also a section on the Whole Earth catalogue , which Alan tells me he once owned a copy of.

The Woodstock festival room was a highlight, interrupted during our visit for the two minute silence of remembrance. Poignant.

We exited to the inevitable shop where we bought the book of the exhibition and a CD set called Records and Rebels which includes the track 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians, a noodly repetitive track that I love.

96 Tears

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94; Memorial garden.

I found 94 in this touching memorial garden in Bury St Edmunds Abbey gardens

Many US airmen were based in Suffolk in WW2, and in Norfolk too; my grandparents were active in welcoming them.

And they are still here; at Lakenheath for example.

The Abbey gardens themselves are spectacular, worth a look if you’re over that way.


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93; After the great fire of London.


Last week I visited the Fire, Fire exhibition at the Museum of London, which is where I found my 93.

It’s on the key to an illustration of the post fire waterfront showing buildings, mainly churches, that had been rebuilt.

The exhibition is well done and contains fascinating artefacts such as a Bible burnt in the fire and contemporary letters. It examines the possible causes, what happened to the people who fled the flames and what happened afterwards. It’s made fun for children too. I enjoyed watching a small boy wearing a reproduction fireman’s helmet wrestling with a hose shouting’Fire!’



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Suffolk family history.


My Grandad, Wilfred Gardiner, did me a big favour by doing some family research back in the 1940’s. Of course back then he did this by travelling to the villages where we came from and looking at the parish registers themselves.
When I started to look into my family history my first task was to check his research against the digitised information on Find My Past, and as far as it’s possible to be certain, it’s all correct.
The Clarke and Gardiner families he traced came from villages east of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Walsham le Willows and Badwell Ash. I was brought up in Norfolk, not far away, and went to school in Thetford, but apart from a few trips to Bury in my teens, didn’t know this area.
Last week we checked into the new Premier Inn in Bury in order to explore the area and see where my ancestors lived.

Walsham le Willows turned out to be a very pretty, friendly village. With the help of information from the local history society I identified a house that at one time was owned by Richard Clarke, my ancestor from the late 1600’s. The current owner was happy for us to take photos and I explained my interest. (Clarke is a common name here; there’s an agricultural merchant on the high street.) In the Suffolk record office I examined and tried to read Richard’s will. I also read his wife Alice’s will and an inventory of their property, which included a warming pan, trundle bed, feather bolster and a joint of bacon!

In Badwell Ash we went into the church to find a memorial that includes two of my Grandad’s great uncles, Herbert and Arthur Gardiner, both of whom lost their lives as a result of the First World War.
The church is in a very poor state of repair and is currently fund raising. The wooden angels in the roof are beautiful; we found more later in the roof of St Mary’s in Bury.
Three other branches of the family have Bury connections.

Walter and Amelia Brett, my great great grandparents, lived in Raingate Street in the 1851 census. Their house is no longer standing, but was where Alan is in the photo. Their house may have been like these two which were built in the 1880s. Walter was a bricklayer and I wonder if he helped to build the nearby Greene King workers’ houses, an area like Bournville in Birmingham.
Another Walter, Conlan this time, my great uncle, with his wife and three children lived in West Road. He was a local councillor and chairman of the Bury Constitutional Club in the 1920s. On my next visit to Bury I’ll look for his house and for his grave in the adjacent cemetery.

His brother Ernest, a railwayman, lived in Risbygate Street before he moved to Norwich. His house has gone too, but stood where this Yamaha dealership is.
Several Smiths were born in Bury, this is the family of another great great grandmother. For obvious reasons I’m wary of researching the Smiths!
I’m grateful for the help of three ladies in Walsham church who were busy dismantling a recent flower festival and Jenny in Badwell Ash who turned out to have been a Princes Risborough library user, but before my time.
Also the very busy but patient member of staff in the Suffolk Record Offfice in Bury. I need to return there too, once I’ve gathered more information.



One of the flower displays in Walsham church. They had a TV theme ; this display is This is Your Life. You can spot the name of someone I like who featured on the programme!

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86; plot number.

Visiting Bedford this week with a couple of friends, we investigated the Panacea museum. It’s a curious set of houses with a very unusual history. A religious community lived here; they were aligned to the Church of England but their beliefs were unconventional to say the least.

Believing in the imminent second coming of Christ they revered their eighth prophet, Octavia who they ,and thousands worldwide, believed could heal all sorts of ailments, hence the panacea name. They mailed small squares of linen on which Octavia had breathed that the recipient added to a jug of water and then drunk or washed with.

There were various other beliefs; do have a look at the website if interested. The museum has many fascinating displays and a very helpful gentleman answered our many questions, both practical and spiritual.

My 86 is among the plot numbers displayed in the museum in an area of Bedford where, I think, the community members bought properties .

The museum itself is beautifully maintained and re-created. There is a tiny chapel, plus various bedrooms, including a representative bedroom and dining room that the society had in readiness to accommodate the 24 bishops they had invited to open an infamous box of prophecies. Another strange tale.

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67: A quote and a tree


A couple of great 67’s here; I couldn’t choose which to leave out so here they both are.

My first is to be found etched onto the window of the garden lounge at Woodbrooke. A quote from Isaac Penington is inscribed on the windows that surround the room, followed by his name and dates. The full quote is, “Our life is love and peace and tenderness; and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another and not laying accusations one against the other, but praying for another and helping one another up with a tender hand”.


And I spotted this tree in a sheltered doorway on the Esplanade in Fowey. A very attractive way to display a house number.


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61: The photo that never was.

As you will know from my last blog entry, I have been struggling to find a number 61 for my photography project. So I was pleased to find in the travel instructions for a course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study centre in Birmingham that I would need either a 61 or 63 bus to get there from New Street train station.

DSC00827Talking of which, New Street is now brand spanking new. Now incorporated into the Bullring, it’s a destination in itself.

Leaving the station I found the bus stop I needed easily. There was a ‘Not in Service’ bus parked there and 4 bus employees in the bus stop.I asked if I was in the right place and one said, “Oh, I wouldn’t bother if I were you, we hardly have any drivers, they’re off, I think it’s Eid”. ‘Well,” I said, ” I have to get somewhere”. So I waited. Then a driver got in the seat. “Do you know yet what number this bus is?” I asked. “Number 61” was the reply. So I got on, thinking I could get a photo as I got off.

I expected a 30 minute journey at the outside, but there had been an accident on an adjacent road. 4 blue light flashing ambulances passed going the other way. So the road we were travelling on was jammed. The bus was crowded too as few buses were running; at least I had a seat. But then it got dark and I had no idea where I was. Though the instructions given me were good, I couldn’t see the landmarks. And I was late. It took an hour and a half to reach my stop, as long as it had taken me to travel from Milton Keynes to Birmingham. Thankfully I was helped by 2 ladies I was sitting near and they told me when my stop was reached.

I struggled to get off the bus with my case past those standing in the aisle. As I stood in the dark orientating myself I thought to take a photo but wasn’t quick enough. I took a mental photo of the back of the bus displaying the number 61, but until Apple can retrieve memories pensieve-like, that’s how it will stay.

So this is my alternative 61 photograph, the instructions I was given. and a picture of the beautiful gardens at Woodbrooke. The course was a good one, and I caught a taxi back to the station!


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It’s been a while since I blogged.

As regards my number project, 61 and 62 are proving elusive. I’ve found 2 61s but am not happy withe either so won’t use them.

I have a screenshot of the home page from the travel site, The Man in Seat Sixty One but am not happy about including a screenshot rather than a photograph . As I am now 61, my age appears at the top of my prescriptions but this would make for a boring photo and give away too much information! So the search goes on; bear with me.

I’ve had a week away in Cornwall, in Fowey, a place I and my family, and several friends have grown to love since a work colleague moved there.

DSC00817 FullSizeRender

We had a restful break. We walked for miles and ate far too much but very well. The town was quiet as we were visiting just out of season. A few restaurants were closed,but we were able to get a table very easily at Sams, where you usually have to join the queue for a table. There were roadworks going on,closing part of the road we were staying on, and several buildings were surrounded by scaffolding, including the Bodinnick pub, where we rested after the 4 mile,undulating Hall walk.

We hope to return before too long!

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