Aldeby, Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter lie in the south east corner of Norfolk, bounded by the River
Waveney on two sides. The railway from Beccles to Great Yarmouth crosses it by two swing bridges, so that all but a small part of the three parishes is contained by the railway and the river, forming what is sometimes locally called The Triangle. This is a quiet, well-farmed countryside with good grazing marshes bordering the river. Traffic on the roads is not heavy, as there is no through highway.
[Click here for a map].
Many people do not sufficiently realise that each hamlet, village and town, in a greater or lesser degree, played its part in the history of the country, and is still doing so. I feel that in schools this should be more emphasised. Villages were of more importance in
history-making before the Industrial Revolution, when large towns were comparatively rare.
The following account relates what has been discovered, or inferred, regarding the history of The Triangle by one who lived in it for over thirty years.
From the contours of the land, the soil, strata exposed in excavations, stones, stone weapons and tools, and
sometimes single pieces of rock, much can be inferred about a district as it was in Pre-Historic times. The strata in The Triangle are made up of what the geologist would call Recent Rocks. East Anglia has more than once been covered with glaciers and ice sheets, the last Ice Ages being probably about 12,000 years ago. On the hilly parts of The Triangle clay soil is often found, and the subsoil is boulder clay, often bluish in colour, with pieces of chalk and flints mixed in it.
Fossils of limited variety are often found in the fields and gravel pits.Usually fossils are used by the geologist to estimate the age of the strata in which they are found. In The Triangle this is not quite the case, as the fossils found have been transported by water and ice action from the places where the creatures, from which they are derived, lived. The common fossils found are belemnites ("thunderbolts",
Fig.l), echinites (sea-urchins) of various kinds ("fairy loaves” or "shepherds’ hoods'",
Fig.2), and occasionally ammonites
(Fig.3), gryphoea of more than one kind ("devil's toenails",
Fig.4), and small bivalves like cockles.
The oldest strata exposed in The Triangle are examples of the Chillesford Beds revealed in the old brickyard and gravel pits at Stanley Hills. Seventy species of shells, both of marine and fresh water type, were identified by Messrs. Dowson and Crowfoot of Geldeston more than fifty years ago.
The melting ice sheets must have caused tremendous floods and a rising sea level. Evidence of this can be found in the numerous gravel and sand pits, where the layers are often twisted and uneven in thickness. A good example of this is to be seen in the sand pit belonging to Mr. Roy Nash at the end of Common Lane, Wheatacre.
Sea shells of the mussel type have been found deep in the Burgh Pit near the Mission Room. Large, soft
limestone boulders have often struck the ploughshare in Orchard Field, Beech Farm, Burgh St. Peter and have been dug out. One such boulder, when first found, was used as a mounting-block for some years. These boulders are no doubt erratics carried by glacial action far from where the chalk was laid down. Embedded in the cliffs in boulder clay near Cromer, huge pieces of chalk 500 ft. in length have been discovered.
Under a lime tree in front of Burgh Hall is a large limestone boulder no doubt taken from a field at some time, and the late Dr. Wood-Hill of Beccles was given a similar one for his rockery by the late Mr. Samuel Banns of Burgh Hall.
In the Oaklands Gravel Pit large pieces of water-worn chalk may be seen, and in 1931 a large piece of conglomerate, or "pudding stone", was found there and collected by the late Mr. Jack Soanes. When it was taken to the Castle Museum in Norwich, where it still is, experts said it bore distinct ice scratches on its otherwise smooth surface.
As the ice gradually disappeared and the floods fell, the marshes which now border the River Waveney became a tidal estuary, which as was seen in 1953, it would rapidly become again, were it not for the strenuous efforts of the Coast Protection and Drainage Authorities.
It would, appear that after the melting of the Ice Cap and the formation of the tidal estuary, the land now
comprising the villages of Aldeby, Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter was almost an island, connected only with the rest of Norfolk by a ridge now crossing the Beccles to Great Yarmouth road between Toft Monks School, and the dip near Windle Hill. Areas where the tide would flow inland from the estuary may be seen near Gray's Cottage, Burgh St. Peter, near Priory Farm at Aldeby, by Breaker Hill on the Aldeby to Beccles road, at the bottom of Holloway Hill, and down Common Lane, Wheatacre, which leads from the Burgh Staithe road.
The arm of the estuary which is near Shrublands farm, Burgh St. Peter, possibly extended to near where Wheatacre Church now stands. To support these ideas we have the evidence of geologists that most river valleys were once broader than they are today. The tiny valley near Wheatacre Church still provides the main natural drainage of that part of the parish. Once no doubt there were many more islands than there are at present in what is now East Norfolk. Lothingland is still an island with bridges at Oulton Broad and St. Olaves. Haddiscoe Dam and Gillingham Dam must have been very treacherous trackways when they were first constructed.
Before land was drained and cultivated, unless it were too waterlogged, or the top soil too thin, it was covered with trees and bushes. So we can think of The Triangle in the earliest times when men lived in it, as covered with trees and undergrowth except on the edge of the estuary and on some parts with very thin soil, as can be seen today near Furze Pits at Aldeby. It is known from studies of traces of Early Man, particularly on the Downs, and in other parts of southern and south western England, that people chose to live on high land. The valleys were often swampy thickets and the haunts of wild beasts including mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, sabre-toothed tigers and, later, wolves, bears, huge deer, wild boars and beavers, while man's weapons were primitive. It may be noted here that probably at the time these creatures lived in England the North Sea, or much of it, was above water. Evidences of the existence of some of these beasts having been near The Triangle comes from the fact that mammoth's fossil teeth were found in gravel pits at Broome Heath in 1955 and a few years ago the skull of a woolly rhinoceros was found in a gravel pit at Homersfield.
It may be that there was some religious significance about Early Man's living on hills where the sun would most often be seen. Of course hunters and fishermen went down into the valleys and no doubt traced treacherous tracks across them. Old people have told me that marshmen, busy with dykes, once discovered traces of some kind of
causeway across the marshes from near Marsh Farm which lies off the Burgh Road. It is significant that the valley narrows there and parts of the marshes there are slightly higher - a fact that was noted during the second World War when a dummy aerodrome was laid out on marshes called the Orstresholms. I have not been able to get any recent evidence about the suggested causeway. However, as Haddiscoe Dam was not made till the fifteenth century, it is just possible that people once crossed the valley by such a track.
Archeology with reference to Early Man is a comparatively recent study. Lord Avebury, 1834-1912, introduced the term Stone Age with its sub-divisions.
East Anglia, with its plentiful supply of flints and gravel and sand pits, has played a great part in adding to the knowledge of Prehistoric Man. John Frere in a
brickyard in 1797 at Hoxne, not far from Harleston, made an historic discovery. He found flint implements which he believed were man-made tools and from the situation in which they were found he thought they belonged "to a very remote period indeed, even beyond that of the present world."
Flint implements have been classified into the following periods: Eolithic, Palaeolithic, 7-8000 B.C., Mesolithic, 2000-3500 B.C. and Neolithic, 2000 B.C. No recognisable implements of the Eolithic Period, which were very roughly chipped out, have been found in The Triangle to my knowledge. Some of the Palaeolithic Period have. They were of chipped flint, often very well made, but not polished.
Olive Tye found an arrow head, rather small, outside a rabbit hole at Waterheath, Aldeby, about 1953.
(Fig.5). In Burgh St. Peter, John Pigney hoeing on a fruit farm then belonging to Capt. J. Roberts, found, a thin, delicately-fashioned "leaf" spear head which I still have. This was probably of the very late Palaeolithic Period
Most likely both these weapons were lost by Prehistoric Hunters ranging on the shores of arms of the ancient marine estuary. Modern big game hunters still haunt the water holes of African rivers. As Early Man progressed and learned new arts his skill in making stone weapons and tools may have
deteriorated. This seems to be the case with Mesolithic
specimens, two of which have been found to my knowledge in The Triangle.
Mr. Stanley Goward found a small flint knife, about 3" long, with a slightly serrated edge, in sand thrown out from a rabbit hole down Marsh Lane, Burgh St. Peter as he went to fetch cows from the marshes
(Fig.7). Mr. Rainbird Clarke of the Castle Museum Norwich, identified the specimen and was interested in the site of its discovery. Carl Rumsby brought to me a similar piece of a knife which had been found on Mr. Masters's fruit farm at Waterheath, Aldeby. It is to be noted that both these tools were found on rising ground not far from what was once the tidal estuary.
Neolithic tools and weapons are highly polished and often wonderfully balanced and
symetrical.They were still being used when bronze was coming into use and include axe-heads, scrapers for use on skins, and chisels. The flint was first shaped by chipping and then ground smooth and polished with infinite patience and skill - perhaps with sandstone or wet sand.
The late Mr. James Youngman in 1928 found two splendid specimens on the Hun Field which adjoins the Burgh Pit near the Mission Room, when he was
working for the late Mr. Albert Trlpp. They were highly thought of when shown to Mr. J. S. Sainty, the Norfolk Archaeologist. One was an axehead about
5" long and 2" in its widest part, and the other about 4 1/2 " long and 1 1/2" wide, was apparently some kind of scraper for wood or skin, or a hand axe.
(Figs. 8 and 9). Mrs. J.Youngman I believe has given them to her grandson. Mr. Cecil Bumsby found a fragment of a similar axehead on the fruit farm of Mr. Masters at Aldeby. I still have this. It might be noted that axeheads were probably fitted into a wooden or bone haft, and perhaps secured by animal sinews or vegetable fibres. The Hun Field is near what was once part of the estuary.
Hammer Stones rather like small stone cannon balls have been found in The Triangle. It is thought that these were used in flint
knapping. This highly-skilled craft is still carried on in a small way at Brandon, near which are the famous Grimes Graves, which provide exceptionally fine
flints of a dark inside colour.
The Brandon flint knappers can make a wonderful copy of a Palaeolithic axehead, which when I saw one, looked like a prehistoric specimen to me. The flints they usually now work on are used in flint-lock muzzle-loading muskets, which are still used by the natives of West Africa, the North-West frontier of Pakistan, India etc.
Stone weapons etc have been found in the Triangle generally on rising ground, and I think that Dick's Mount in Burgh St. Peter, and near Waterheath in Aldeby, were very likely to have been where most local Prehistoric people lived. Dick's Mount has the wonderful
spring - Spring Dyke, at the corner of the Knoll, and this has never been known to go dry during periods of drought, while Waterheath has its ponds which never dry up. Both sites are near the edge of the once tidal estuary. The people in question could have had no cave dwellings but were capable of constructing rough shelters of boughs etc in the hollows. Dick's Mount in olden times could have been a
stronghold. "Burgh" means fort.
All legends have some foundation in fact, and especially in olden days, folk tales were passed on from one generation to another. Anything mysterious in my youth was frequently associated with the Devil, and I believe Dick's Mount was once Old Nick's Mount. This is born out by the fact that the hill leading to it is still called Devil Stile Hill. Mr. Ben. Sharman, now deceased, but who was old in the 1920's, used to say that a battle had been fought on the slopes of Dick's Mount going down to the Shrublands Farm, and that fennel and black mustard which still grow there, were
nourished, by the blood which had been shed. More than once I have been told of mysterious and unexplained lights seen moving about Dick's Mount. Such stories could be explained by the idea that faint glimmerings of the knowledge that Burgh's ancient people had once lived there, had been passed on from one generation to another from the very very distant
Following the Stone Age, weapons, tools and ornaments were made of bronze. No bronze finds have been made to my knowledge in The Triangle, but
a hoard of weapons was found at Gorleston in 1953.
The Romans during their occupation of Britain from 55 B.C. to 410 A.D. spread their towns, villas and camps far and wide from Cornwall to Scotland south of the Highlands. Norfolk is rich in Roman settlements. Tradition says that there was a Roman Station at Burgh St. Peter. There are some Roman
brick-like tiles in the north wall of the church. The field near it has a small level area like that near the Roman fort at Brancaster in North Norfolk. When the Saxons began to cross the North Sea from near the mouth of what is now the River Elbe to raid prosperous Britain, they sailed up the estuaries in their long boats. Roman forts such as Caister, near Gt. Yarmouth, and Burgh Castle were set on the side of the estuaries so that raiders could be intercepted. These stations doubtless found it helpful to signal to one another in times of danger by smoke or flashing glass. From things found, it seems that there was a Roman camp at Dunburgh, a part of Geldeston also on the edge of the estuary. Carausius, who was murdered in 288 A.D., was appointed First Count of The Saxon Shore to deal with raiders.
George Bailey in 1935 found a well-preserved bronze Roman coin of Carausius in the gateway of the field near Burgh Church. The coin which was sent first to the Castle Museum, Norwich, and later to the British Museum, is now in the possession of Alfred Bailey, son of the finder.
Mr. James Frost when digging in the garden of the "White Lion", Wheatacre, found a splendid specimen of a coin of Hadrian 120 A.D. and it is now in my possession
Mr. Jack Tripp found a coin of Caligula 1st century A.D. in the field at the back of the "King's Head", Burgh St. Peter about 1940, and in 1954 Mr. Jack Clarke came on a large Roman coin when hoeing sugar beet in a field near Lily Lane, Aldeby. It was so worn that its lettering was indecipherable though Caesar's
laurel-crowned head was plainly distinguishable. So it would appear
that some Romans were in the Triangle over a fairly long period and I think there was a Signal Station near Burgh Church. Signals could be sent from it to Burgh Castle when raiders came in from the
Oulton Broad direction, if watchers were co-operating on the ridge near St. Olaves. A land track, now the Burgh Road which runs fairly straight to the Burgh Corner on Station Road, Aldeby, could have connected with a track across fields which leads from the Bungay Road at Gillinghan to Dunburgh. From Dunburgh a track could have led to Wainford Mills near Ditchingham where a Roman cemetery and ford have been
discovered, to Earsham where Roman remains have been found, and so to other Roman camps further south.
As far as I know no traces of Saxon weapons etc have been found in The Triangle but there are many villages in the neighbourhood with suffixes "ham" and "ton", which were Anglo-Saxon words for village, and "burgh" too is Old English for castle or fort.
Domesday Book, 1086, for Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter gives WATEAKER and HWATAEKER, and ALDEBURY for Aldeby. There were churches in all three parishes at the time. These were probably built of wood and the present churches most likely stand on the same sites. I have seen an old map of the late 18th century and this gives Burgh St. Peter as Wheatacre Burgh. I think from the size of the manors as recorded in Domesday that HWATAEKER was Burgh St. Peter.
The origin of place names, though interesting, gives rise to much disagreement even among experts. Hwaet was Old English for wheat. Dr. Schram, who has made an
extensive study of Norfolk Place Names, says Wheatacre derives its name from this grain.
However, the Old English word WIHT meant a bend in a river, and acre once meant any
cultivated land. I am, therefore, inclined to believe that Wheatacre came from WIHT. Aldeby, Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter are certainly in the bend of the river. Many place names are said to have been derived from WIHT including
Whitehall. The local pronunciation of Wheatacre is "Whit-aker" which is a surname. There are two or three Whitacres in England; one in Lancashire.
Aldeby in Domesday was given as ALDEBURY which compares with the modern Aldborough (old burgh) of which there are several examples in England. "By" is a Danish ending, but it is possible that in Aldeby the "by" has no such significance and was adopted for the sake of brevity.
The land in Aldeby in William the Conqueror’s time was held by one Ralf de Bellofago, and he had two manors there, Aldebury and Thurketilliart, in addition to numerous manors in other parts of Norfolk. There were two churches. I am inclined to think that the manor house of Thurketilliart stood where Aldeby House now is. Aldebury was no doubt the part of Aldeby round the present church. There is apparently no trace of Thurketilliart Church which would most likely be of wood in 1086. Is it possible that its site was near Church Farm now owned by Mr. Newey, near the Railway Crossing? The land in Wheat acre and Burgh St. Peter in 1086 was held by Ralf Bainard.
To understand what follows, some explanation of the Norman Manor may be advisable. The Manor House had a home farm or demesne, and the church and priest’s house were usually near it. There were freemen, who had bought their freedom or had been given it for special services to the lord of the manor, villeins who held their land from him, bordars, or cottars, who had a very little land, and serfs who were landless labourers. Villeins, bordars and serfs were all tied to the manor and could not leave it. The first two in early Norman days paid no rent for their land, but had to do so many days’ work on the demesne especially at busy times in the farming year.
Ploughing was done byy oxen, the plough was of wood, and often oxen and ploughs belonged to the manor. Much of the arable land in East Anglia then was worked on the Open Field System, which had apparently been introduced by the Saxons. There were usually three big fields, divided into acre strips, separated from one another by a "balk". Important villeins had several strips, but not adjacent to one another, so obviating anyone getting most of the best land. Two of the big fields were sown yearly with rye, wheat or barley and most likely some peas and beans, while the third field was left fallow so that the land could be rested and cleared of weeds.
Much of the land of the village of Laxton, not far from Newark, is still in Open Fields. Twenty years or so ago Aldeby had a field farmed in strips near Aldeby Station on the Haddiscoe Road. The field was jointly farmed by the Grange, Grove, and Wood Lane Farms.
There was much waste land round the Open Fields and this was used for grazing, for cutting turf for fires, for obtaining wood for implements, etc. Woodland provided food for pigs in the shape of roots, acorns, beech
The entries in Domesday Book are similar for the manors in Aldeby, Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter. Plough teams of oxen, rounceys (horses), few in number, swine, cattle, sheep and bees are all mentioned. Apparently in I086 sheep were often kept where there was salt marsh and Wheatacre had about 200. These provided, in addition to mutton and wool, milk and cheese. Bees were quite important because honey was the only sweetening then available. A mill is mentioned, in the manor of Thurketilliart, and it was most likely worked by water power. Its site might have been somewhere near the site of Church Farm, Aldeby, where there is a good flow of water over a ford at times.
Some land of the manor was set aside for hay which was most necessary as fodder for stock animals during the winter. Most animals were slaughtered in the Autumn and the carcases salted.
The lord of the manor who in early Norman times travelled from one of his many manors to another, had a supply of fresh meat in the Winter in the shape of pigeon, for each manor house had a dovecot nearby. Both Aldeby Hall and Aldeby Priory still have ruined ones, while Wheatacre Hall has a "Duffus Field" near it. "Duffus" is an obvious corruption of "dovehouse", pigeons often being known as doves. Norfolk dialect still keeps the word "dow" for wood pigeon.
The Open Fields of Burgh probably were, in front of Burgh Hall and nearby; partly up Middle Road, whilst they also extended to the edge of Beech Farm. I think narrow, rather winding roads, are mostly ancient tracks, and the roads near the places just mentioned are of that nature and once gave access to the Open Fields. On a plan of an ancient manor they are always to be seen not far from the manor house, the church and the priest’s house. In the Middle Ages land set aside for hay was called Doles. Villeins were allowed to have what hay they could themselves cut in a day. Hay would be cut from rough pastures, not sown down as pastures are today. Beech Farm has two fields still called Doles, both rather uneven. On the Enclosure map for Burgh St. Peter, dated 1813, there were also Doles up Middle Road near Moor Green, which at that date were probably damp and undrained.
Wheatacre Open Fields I believe were near the Hall towards Station Road and along Burgh Road. The Hall Farm lanes, now private, could very well have been the old tracks leading to them.
Possibly the Aldeby Open Fields belonging to the manor called Aldebury were up the road towards the College Farm and down Lily Lane which I consider to be a very old road. Land left for hay could have been where pastures still are in front of the Priory Farm and near the Dovecot.
If Aldeby House were once the manor house of Thurketilliart then the Open Fields could have been near it, and Doles towards the Railway Crossing.
Incidentally there are fields in the parish of Gillingham, near Holloway Hill, still
Burgh Church, with its unique brick tower rising in seven diminishing sections to the belfry, is thatched, and parts of it are very old. There are some small narrow windows in the Early English style. It seems likely that there were once clay lump cottages near the Hall and the church, as most of the houses in the village are now far from it. The gift of the Burgh living is still in the hands of the Boycott family, formerly spell Boycatt, and it is said that the present church tower was built in the 18th century after one of the family had travelled in Italy, and been influenced by some of its architecture. The famous Captain Boycott, who as a land agent to the Earl of Erne in Ireland in 1880 was involved in rent disputes, and was the means of giving English a new word, was born in Burgh Rectory and is buried in the churchyard.
A ruin which has now almost disappeared is to be found in the field adjoining the churchyard. It was evidently once some kind of church because a piscina was in
position in it in 1953. It has been called St. John’s Priory but the "Victoria History Of Norfolk" does not mention it in its section devoted to the Religious Houses of Norfolk. A local clergyman who tried to get information about it in London was unsuccessful so it could not have been in use at the time of the Suppression of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. I think it may have been a small chapel with one or two monks, but I do not consider that it was ever the parish church of Burgh.
It seems likely that materials, when the church was built, were brought by water, the present marshes then being a part of the river estuary, as at the time roads and wheeled transport were decidedly primitive.
There is an interesting ghost story concerning the church, and mentioned in "The Gentleman's Chronicle" of 1683. It relates that Adam Morland who, badly in need of money, borrowed a large sum from an old man unknown to him, who turned out to be Satan in disguise. Thus Adam had
unwittingly sold his soul to him in return for the loan. He managed to redeem it by building a church with the money on the site of the present one. The church was consecrated by the Lord Abbot of St. Benet's at Holm, and the site therefore protected from devilish influence. However, it is said that Satan still haunts the churchyard waiting for the Resurrection, so that he may claim the soul of Adam Morland. He is still disguised as an old man, but his clothes cover nothing but a skeleton, and in his skull are balls of fire. May 2nd is said to be his regular visiting date. It is also said that in olden days a definite day was set aside for the purpose of prayer and fasting and the scattering of ashes round the church porch, to drive away the evil influence, but in vain. Many years ago one Mary Dowdell , an old lady, is said to have seen the ghost and her mind became affected. "She lingered manie yeares and dyed insane, which is greatlie to be pittyed. She left a good husband and eleven offspringes", as "The Gentleman's Chronicle" quaintly put it.
Rumour has it that the ghost was seen in 1929.
The Parish Church Register, which dates from 1538, records that the rector, named Watts, was deprived of his living in Commonwealth times. An entry reads:- "1660. Charles the Second att our bondfire in this parishe was proclaimed king, etc., etc. the 29 of May by me with solleme prayers, prayses - Almes and other tryumphs.
Then also was I restored to my Rectory hoose.”
Wheatacre Church, dedicated to All Saints, shows signs of having been altered at various times. Possibly the stone for some of the early work was transported by water to near Church Farm, where an arm of the estuary apparently once reached. Near the pulpit in the floor is a small brass tablet in memory of Robert London who died in 1627. During the Civil War some of the London family supported Charles I, and afterwards lost some of their estates and were fined by Oliver Cromwell. The tower which is about 60ft. high has an unusual facing of a check pattern made up of dressed flints and red bricks. The church stands on
almost the highest point in the parish, 84.4' above sea level.
Aldeby Church, built in cruciform shape, with a lofty bell tower near the end of the chancel, was once the church of a small priory as well as that of the parish. The priory was founded in the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) and was a cell of Norwich Cathedral Priory. It probably never had more than ten monks. Traces of the monastic buildings can be seen at Priory Farm. In the 14th century the monks in Religious Houses were often at variance with villagers, and it appears that there was some trouble at Aldeby. There was a dispute over a marl pit, once marl being used on land as lime is nowadays. From evidence when wells are being dug the pit could have been somewhere not far from the church.
Sir Thomas Savage was buried in the chancel of the church in 1376, before the priory was dissolved. The last prior of Aldeby was Edmund Norwich, alias Drake, 1532.
Undoubtedly houses of the poorer people years ago were built of clay lump and thatched. In Burgh St. Peter, part of the house owned by Miss Ethel Youngman of Mill Road, is built of this material. In 1953 in Station Road, Aldeby, a clay lump cottage belonging to Mr. Philip Banns was
demolished. Mr. Hubert Alden of Waterheath Farm still uses a farm building partly made of clay lump.
Traces of remains of old cottages have been found up Mill Road, Burgh St. Peter in a field belonging to Mrs. Albert Tripp, and in the field in front of Burgh Hall. I think too that old clay lump cottages once stood on the edge of the common in a field belonging to Mr Robert Clarke, near the corner where the road to Furze Pits turns down to the Shrublands. There is evidence that there were old cottages in the corner of a field belonging to Mr. Philip Banns very near the Burgh Road Corner. "Greenways" up Mill Road, Burgh St. Peter, is a very old house, which is thatched, and has parts of it made of clay lump.
It is significant that there is no mansion in The Triangle, though we find very large houses, surrounded by parks, in nearby Gillingham, Geldeston, Kirby Cane, etc.. Probably there was no scope for a very large estate, owing
to the fact that much of the area of the villages was once undrained marshes. It must be noted, that many of the oldest farmhouses were built on the edge of the estuary when no doubt much of the transport of goods was carried on by water. It is interesting to note that some of the old dated houses in Burgh St. Peter are not far from the church, and this has a bearing on what has previously been said about there probably having once been more houses near it.
The oldest house I have found is part of Carr Farm, bearing the date 1601 on a stone tablet. Holly Farm carries the date 1726 in iron figures, while Low Farm, Wheatacre, now cottages, has the date 1697 in large iron figures on the gable end. Examples of farms built on the edge of the marshes are Aldeby Grange, Aldeby Grove, ruins of a house down a lane belonging to Mr. R. Skoulding, Bailey's Farm (Burgh Road), Low Farm, Carr Farm, Holly Farm, Burgh Hall, Staithe Farm, Beech Farm, Gray's Cottage (once a farm), Shrublands Farm, East End Farm, College Farm, Sutton's Farm, Priory Farm and Aldeby Hall. About 1878 in the corner of the field near the Furze Pits where the road leads to the College Cottages, stood the ruin of an old house called Cob Hall, said to be haunted. This no doubt once was on the edge of part of the last Aldeby Commons to be enclosed.
Most of the larger farmhouses show signs of having had new fronts added to them, probably at the beginning of the 19th century when landowners were prosperous.
MARSHES AMD DRAINAGE
All three parishes of The Triangle have a large area of marshes with carefully planned drainage. When was this drainage scheme begun and the river confined by banks? Marshes named the Orstresholms, previously mentioned, appeared on a document dated 1285. "Holm" means island and "orstres" is said to have some connection with sheep. So I suggest that Orstresholm was a low island in the estuary used for sheep in the Summer when it would only occasionally be flooded, There may have been a causeway to it, also previously mentioned, but at all events sheep could have been transported by boat as they are still put on uninhabited Scottish islands in Summer.
The Dutch have produced many expert drainage engineers. In the nave of Haddiscoe Church is a grave with this inscription in Dutch: "Here lies buried Frau Bela, daughter of John, wife of Peter Peters, the Dykegraf. Who died the year 1525, the second day in December.” Dykegraf evidently means drainage expert, and so it seems that the planning of the marsh drainage in Haddiscoe began early in the 16th century and it is likely that that of the marshes of The Triangle followed soon after. "Rands" or "ronds" means, in one sense, land by the river side of the wall over which water rises at high tide. "Rand" is a Dutch word. The raising of the water from dykes over the river wall has exercised much invention from the simple pump of the
windmill, with canvas sail spread over a frame, to windmills with vanes, steam pumps with water wheels, then to steam-driven turbines, oil driven turbines; and now electricity supplies the necessary power. A low windmill with canvas sails stood on the river wall near Dick's Mount till 1930 when it was struck by lightening and went out of use.
Up to the end of the 18th century villages were largely self-supporting, with many of the necessary tradesmen, such as millers, carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, shoemakers and even tailors working for a large village or a group of villages. The parishes of The Triangle were no exception, and Aldeby had two
windmills one for grinding corn, one on Mill Hill above Priory Farm, and the other at Waterheath near where the present Mill House still stands. As far as can be found out, both of these were postmills, so called, because the whole structure apart from the "round house" at the bottom revolved on a central post so that the sails faced the wind. It is said that in the first mills of this kind the post was a growing tree trimmed for the purpose. Naturally windmills needing force for turning stones were built on comparatively high ground. Once there was a post mill in Wheatacre near the present Mill House, belonging to Mr. E. Roberts, and it stood on the edge of Wheatacre Common. It went out of use when the brick-towered mill at Burgh St. Peter was built, and I was told by the late Mr. George Jeffries who died - well over 90 years old - at Mill House, Burgh, that the Wheatacre mill was taken down and re-erected at Gillingham for drainage purposes. Burgh Mill must have "been built soon after the last Enclosure Act for the parish, dated 1813, as it was not marked on the copy of the map dealing with the enclosures, which I once owned. The Burgh Mill was used for making flour till 1911 and for meal up to about 1928 when two sails blew off one afternoon. The remaining sails were taken off in 1955. Mr. George Jeffries, in his straw boater and wearing no gloves even in winter, was once a familiar sight driving his miller's cart around
The Triangle and neighbouring parishes. To tether his horse when he made calls, he placed iron rings in trees. Some of these can still be seen, one in the tree at the end of the drive to Mill House, Wheatacre, one in an elm opposite
the entrance to Wheatacre Church, where he was churchwarden, and one in the oak tree on the opposite side of the road to the pit down Common Road, Aldeby. Mill stones from Burgh Mill, removed when it went out of use, can now be seen used as doorsteps by the roadside at Priory Farm, Aldeby.
ENCLOSURE OF COMMONS, 19th CENTURY
Long before the Tudor Period, when enclosures increased, many Open Fields and Common Land had been hedged in, but it was at the beginning of the 19th century that most Common Land finished as such. Authority was given by Act of Parliament. Wheatacre Enclosure Act was dated 1809, Burgh 1813 and Aldeby 1810. Rights of common were taken away
from the villagers and these had included the right to graze animals, cut turf for fuel, wood fodder, etc. As some compensation each parish was granted part of the commons as Poor Land, often of a nature to provide turf, and these Poor Lands exist still in most parishes, and are administered finally by the Charity Commissioners. Commissioners were appointed to hear
complaints against the Enclosure Acts. In the case of Burgh St. Peter three such gentlemen held their meetings at Gillingham "Swan".
Common Laud was allotted to previous owners of land in proportion to the amount then already held. Hence most was awarded to the Lord of the Manor and The Church. It was a condition of the award that the land had to be hedged and drained and as this work entailed expense often the land awarded to very small owners was soon sold to the larger owners. Undoubtedly the main motive for the 19th century enclosures was the increase in the population of the country and the need for more land to be brought into cultivation to grow food. With each Enclosure Act the award was shown on a map. That of Burgh St. Peter is at the Public Record Office in London, and I was able to get a photostat copy of it, but similar maps for Wheatacre and Aldeby could not be traced. Landowners, however, sometimes have copies of the Enclosure Act with the deeds of their property. Information gathered from the previously-mentioned map indicates that the land last enclosed lay not far from the present "King's Head” Corner; a fair amount round Dick's Mount; some near the present common; near the Village Hall; and near Moor Green. When the Enclosure Act was drawn up some owners of property took the advantage of exchanging some of their smaller pieces of land with other owners.
Probably much of Wheatacre Common lay near the school; south of the church; round the "White Lion"; near the piece of the present Wheatacre Common (opposite Furze Pits); and down Common Lane towards the Town Lands, sold in 1956. Mr. William Mickleburgh who died at the age of 94 in the 1920s used to tell me that the "White Lion" once stood on the common, and that annually a cricket match was held near it with players and spectators coming in wagons from surrounding villages. This information he had gained from stories told by his father.
Most likely Aldeby Common was in widely-scattered pieces; round the pit near Gowing's shop; along the"Dun Cow" Road; some around the eastern end of Lily Lane; near the Furze Pits; Sutton's Farm and Stanley; round Waterheath; towards the marshes below Grove Farm, and round Aldeby House.
Some idea as to where the last enclosed commons were is to be found by studying roads. There was a chance for roads to be planned somewhat at the time of the
enclosures. So we find broad, fairly straight roads across what was common. An example is the road from Mr. C. Bailey's house down Burgh Staithe Road to Mr. H. Grimmer's farm at Aldeby. In 1922 old people often talked of going over the common when they passed Wheatacre School. Examples can also be seen past the "White Lion", Wheatacre, down past Gowing's shop, up The Walks, from Waterheath towards The Elms, and part of Pit Road and Mill Road, Burgh, The roads often have furze (a plant of the commons) growing in their banks.
Tracks leading off the main road to houses may sometimes owe their existence to enclosures. Church Farm, Wheatacre, East End Farm, Aldeby, Mill House, Wheatacre, the road to the old brickyard at Stanley, the track to Waterheath Farm and the drive to Aldeby Grange may be examples of this.
Names may also give a clue to where commons were, e.g Green Farm, Aldeby, belonging to Mr. H. Grimmer is a typical example of a farm standing on the edge of a common with a pond near it. Many examples of this may be seen around the present Suffolk commons. The Buildings Farm at Burgh is shown on the Enclosure Map as standing on a piece of common near the pond.
Old roads are usually narrow and because they have been in use for hundreds of years often have solid
foundations. It is a significant fact that what I think are roads over enclosed commons broke up badly in places in the 1947 frost and again in the early part of 1956, whereas the road from Green Farm to Aldeby School remained intact. Places which did break up were found in Mill Road, Burgh, near the shop in Beccles Road, Aldeby, and near the "White Lion”, Wheatacre.
The early 19th century enclosures altered the look of the parishes in The Triangle considerably. The "King's Head” Corner, Burgh, is an example of this. From the map before mentioned it is known that in 1813 the only houses near there were the one off Mill Boad belonging to Miss Ethel Youngman, the one down the lane past the mill, and one, now vanished, belonging to Widow Utting (who had encroached on the common) at the top of "Orchard End" garden. Mills's Cottages and the Burgh shop were built after 1813 on what had been common.
From the time of Elizabeth I each parish managed many of its local affairs including Poor Relief, and Roads. Till 1895, when Parish Councils came into being, this work was carried out under the direction of overseers appointed at the Annual Vestry Meeting held in the church. Wheatacre Parish Meeting in 1955 was still using a pigskin-covered book dealing with its affairs which was begun in 1810. Burgh Charity Trustees have an old book dating from 1746 dealing with Poor Relief. A road surveyor was appointed for each parish and he arranged for road material to be obtained and used, a rate being levied to pay for the work.
When the last enclosures were made pieces of land were allotted from which road material could be obtained. Burgh has several pieces - the Burgh Pit near the Mission Room, Burgh Common, The Knoll near the spring on Dick’s Mount, the pit below "The Firs”, and a very
small piece just down Esther's Loke in what is now Mrs. A. Tripp's field.
Wheatacre parish was supplied from the Pit, quite a large piece of which was first of all called The Hemplands because during the Napoleonic Wars, when foreign supplies of Baltic hemp were cut off, people were encouraged to grow hemp even in their gardens. Much road material has since been taken from Wheatacre Pit. Aldeby has the Furze Pits, the pit near Gowing's shop, and I should imagine once some land near Stanley.
The Triangle must always have been rather isolated from the rest of the county, the road from Great Yarmouth to London via Beccles passing it by. Before the
introduction of the bicycle many journeys, even long ones, must have been made on foot, and the numerous footpaths, now mostly disused, gave short cuts for people going from one part of the parishes to another. Farmers and landowners doubtless travelled on horseback, the word "bridlepath" used on maps being evidence of this. Up to the 1920's farmers would drive to Norwich and back on Saturdays, and market gardeners took their produce to Yarmouth by horse and cart. Corn once went to Beccles and elsewhere by
wagon and also by water from Burgh Staithe, Burgh Wherry Dyke and the staithe at Stanley (Aldeby) which also once had a flourishing brickyard. Bricks used for building Wheatacre School in 1877 were produced there. In the days of Charles Dickens, stage coaches ran from Yarmouth to London. Inns at St.
Olaves, Haddiscoe, Toft Monks, Gillingham, Beccles etc., were busy then with the traffic which rolled along the turnpike (still so called by old people). Turnpike roads were maintained by private funds and tolls collected from vehicles etc. using them. Cattle were driven to London by drovers before the coming of the railway, and I have heard tales from old people of flocks of geese and turkeys being driven there too. There is a story that one Autumn
someone from Toft Monks collected geese from various people, who kept them on the greens there, and set off driving the flock to London. The owners of the birds waited in vain for the proceeds of their sale; for he never returned.
The first railway in England was opened in 1825, the first in Norfolk from Norwich to Gt Yarmouth in 1845, and the line from Reedham to Lowestoft in 1847 but it was not until about 1853 that lines were laid through the Triangle and then they came from Halesworth via Beccles to Haddiscoe. The direct line from Beccles to Gt Yarmouth was not completed till 1859. The Waveney Valley Line was made in 1863 It is said that the tracks from Reedham to Haddiscoe were laid on material dug out to make Reedham Cut.
No doubt some local labour was used in railway construction and the late Mr. Samuel Banns's grandfather, a builder, who lived where the shop now stands near Mr. Grimmer's, and is buried in Aldeby churchyard, built Aldeby Station and some of the gatehouses.
When in the First World War German battlecruisers bombarded Lowestoft some shells fell on the Burgh Road not far from Bailey's cottage. At Wheatacre School House I left behind the nose of a similar shell which fell at Great Ormesby when Gt. Yarmouth was bombarded at the same time as Lowestoft.
It is difficult to imagine that History had a beginning and similarly that it will ever end, but as my
gleanings from Local History have at this stage been picked from Modern Times, end they must.
First published November 2007