The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Committee Announcements

Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For details of our activities, and for more information on recent events and current programme, please contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434.

The 19th AGM of the F&DLHS: Tuesday March 13th

The 19th Annual General Meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society was held on Tuesday March 13th in Foxearth Village Hall. There was a good attendance of 24 members, representative of most of the area, who responded enthusiastically to an invitation to bring along old photographs of the villages; a varied and nostalgic (school photos) display.

Secretary Clare Mathieson welcomed all especially several new members and reflected upon the past season which had included talks about weaving with hair cloth, histories of the Quay Theatre and the Sue Ryder Foundation, an appreciation of Pentlow Church and its relationship to Pentlow Hall, the connections that artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough had with the Essex/Suffolk countryside and two war related evenings - the experience of a weaver who left his trade to fight at Waterloo and the effect of World War One on the Foxearth community. The visit to Harwich had been well-supported and full of interest. 2018 promised to be no less attractive with a wartime escape from Malaya, recent Foxearth excavations, astronomical artefacts of Bury St Edmunds and family history researching. President Ashley Cooper will delve into some of the heroic, villainous and colourful events in our local history. This summer there are three "outside" visits; guided tours of Hadleigh and of Sudbury Masonic Lodge and a day trip to Ely.

Clare expressed thanks to all who had helped with, refreshments, raffles, report writing and to Andrew Clarke for his maintenace of the web site. From the floor appreciation was shown for the work of Clare and Chairman Lynda Rumble (suffering tonight from severe croakiness) and relief that they were prepared to continue in these roles.

A financial report showing the income and expenditure in 2017 was presented by Mark Mathieson who had "kept the books" since John Geddes' serious illness. It was wonderful to welcome John back at the meeting. A surplus of £80 had resulted following last year's activities and this together with the fact that membership was holding up was encouraging. Mark was thanked for agreeing to continue as Treasurer. It was agreed that the annual membership subscription should remain at £10.

Lynda reported that she had received an original copy of an indenture dated 1855 which transferred land in Foxearth and Pentlow from one Samuel Viall - a Cavendish gentleman - to Robert Steadman of Sudbury. Andrew took up the story by describing his work of transcribing the manuscript - which does not benefit from punctuation marks - recalling that the Viall offspring have become infamous in local history for exhuming their father's corpse from Foxearth churchyard and reburying him at Belchamp Otten. This episode is fully documented in the web site under sacrilege and body-stealing. Study of the indenture had revealed a large number of land owners and some hitherto unknown place names e.g.Pollard's Cross, Barelands. This is clearly an important historical record which will in due course be lodged with the appropriate authority.

Ashley was delighted that the Society was so buoyant and that members were contributing talks.
Referring to last season's talk by Dr Judy Ivy on Thomas Gainsborough he said that he had been reading a recently published book about the artist by James Hamilton. In the book's index of references appeared the Society's web site - an indication of its spreading usefulness and popularity.

A mid-meeting break allowed wine, cheese and other savouries to be enjoyed while memers explored more of the photographs on view.

Next meeting: 7.30pm Tuesday 10th April in Foxearth Village Hall when Margaret Nice will talk abot her evacuation from Malaya in 1941. Members guests and new members are always welcomed at any meeting.

Ken Nice

Film archive evening "Yarmouth in days gone by": February 13th 2018

The Foxearth and District Local History Society began its 20th season on February 13th 2018 with a Film archive evening. As we watched "Yarmouth in days gone by" we were taken on a herring fishing trip in raging seas and on a hair-raising big dipper ride; these really were moving pictures and not for the faint-hearted!

Yarmouth was a town built on the abundant herring fishing at the height of which some 800 million fish would be caught in a season. Until the early years of the 20th century sailing boats comprised the fleet but the advent of the coal-fired steam drifter greatly increased the yield as these, much larger vessels, were not reliant on the wind; there were 1,000 registered drifters at one time.

This industry was highly labour intensive and hundreds of women were employed in cleaning and preserving the fish by salting and smoking. Many girls came down from Scotland to work and such "imported" labour swelled the population of the town by 10,000 in the season. The export trade thrived. To protect their hands girls bandaged their fingers and the experienced ones could gut herrings at the incredible rate of 65 a minute. The inevitable result was that they took back to their lodgings the stench of their workplace and put newspaper on the walls in an effort to absorb the odour. Herring fishing was considerably curtailed during the second World War with many of the drifters being diverted to patrol and mine detecting work and by the mid 1950s the white fish trade had largely taken over.

The other aspect of Yarmouth life from the beginning of the 20th century was its development as a holiday resort. Visitors had always come to bathe believing that the sea would cure many ailments and the provision of railway links led to the town's rapid transition to a major attraction with its two piers and associated amusements, rides, circus and theatre. Stars like Tommy Cooper, Charlie Chester and Arthur Askey brought in the fans. The harbour became a venue for pleasure craft taking holiday makers on tours and to the Broads and - away from the seaside - there was the race course and aeroplane flights over the area. All of this made Yarmouth the fifth wealthiest town in England for a period.

This was a very thoughtfully composed film, full of interest from start to finish and applauded by the 25 members in attendance. Members were reminded that a deposit of £5 was requested from those intending to go on the trip to Ely on 14th August.

Next meeting: Tuesday 13th March at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall. This will be the Annual General Meeting to which members (and new ones will always be welcomed) are asked to bring old photographs of Foxearth and surrounding villages.

Film Archive evening Tuesday Feb 13th 7.30pm

Film Archive evening

Formerly a wealthy town with a herring fleet industry and an unrivalled holiday trade

Tuesday Feb 13th 7.30pm
Foxearth Village Hall
For more information:
Lynda Rumble 01787 281434

Clare Mathieson 01787 311337

2917 Christmas dinner at the George at Cavendish

The 2017 activities of the Foxearth and District History Society came to a festive conclusion on 12th December with the annual Christmas dinner at the George at Cavendish. Twenty-eight members enjoyed a varied menu in a convivial and happy atmosphere. A notable absentee was John Geddes recovering from two episodes of major surgery. He is reported to be disenchanted with hospital food but appreciating the  nurses. We raised our glasses to his speedy recovery.

Lynda ran through the programme for 2018 which includes suggestions and ideas from members. Sufficient hands were raised to support a proposed visit to Ely on 14th August for which names and deposits (£5) are requested by the time of the film archives evening on 13th February.

President Ashley Cooper appeared in Shakespearean garb and rendered a soliloquy, composed during the meal, about the achievements and personalities of the Society; well done Ashley! He also suggested that an open invitation be issued to anyone to bring along old photographs of Foxearth and surrounding villages to the annual general meeting on 13th March.

Clare explained that our web site is attracting in the order of 6,000 new visits per month - an incredible amount of interest and a credit to Andrew's expert management Thanks were expressed to the Parish Council for their financial support.

Powers of recall were tested in a quiz about national events in 2017 and a small general knowledge section. The winner was Chris Donelly with an impressive 70% correct but two runners-up came within a point of him.

So we look forward to next year's list of events with a reminder that our meetings are open and that new people bring in new ideas. If you want more details before coming along  Clare ( 01787 311337) and Lynda (01787 281434) are the people to contact.

Programme of events for 2018

All meetings held in Foxearth Village Hall 7.30pm (unless otherwise stated).

Jan Tue 9th No meeting.
Feb Tue13th Film Archive evening.
Mar Tue 13th A.G.M. - Cheese and Wine
-Please bring your old photos of Foxearth & District.
Apr Tue 10th President's talk   Ashley Cooper
May Tue 8th Archaeological Test Pit Excavations in Foxearth Corinne Cox
Jun Tue 12th Guided History of Hadleigh - Jan Byrne
Jul Tue 10th Guided tour of the Sudbury Masonic Lodge - Peter Thorogood
Aug Tue 14th
or Sat 11/18th Visit to Ely ?
Sep Tue 11th Astronomical Artefacts of Bury St Edmunds - Richard Young
Oct Tue 9th Who am I ? Family History Research - Kelly Cornwell
Nov Tue 13th My evacuation from Singapore 1941 - Margaret Nice
Dec Tue 11th Christmas Festivities

New members and friends always welcome.
Visitors £2   Members £10 per year
For more information on recent events and current programme,

contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787  281434.

Foxearth in the Great War. by Corrine Cox: 15th November 2017

Even though about six regular members were missing, the Society had a record attendance of 32 for Corinne Cox's talk about Foxearth and the Great War on Tuesday 14th November. The talk described the effect of the First World War on the lives of the people of Foxearth, villagers, farm workers and Brewery workers. We were first taken back in time to the peaceful days before the Great War, when the Brewery was prominent in Foxearth with many social activities such as football, cricket, and quoits being played against other villages. In January 1914 a new reading room, The Men's Club opened; it's now a private residence. Later that year all changed as shooting began in Europe and 78 Foxearth men joined the forces to fight in 23 different regiments. Twenty were killed and these are remembered on the War Memorial in the churchyard. Many were injured and lived on with the mental issues from the war. We should not forget these sacrifices.

In particular Corinne mentioned the Leggott family, two of whom received the DSM and the DCM ; a Military Medal was awarded to a member of the Chinnery family. Corinne outlined the effects of the war on people living in the village, the way in which tribunals were held to consider exemptions from military service and the plight of non-combatants and conscientious objectors. She listed and discussed the war-wounded who were awarded the silver war badge upon discharge so as not to be the target of white feathers whilst not in uniform. Corinne related the sad tale of the hardships endured by the Sidney Deal family and gave an account of the experiences of the only female service person from the village, Nurse Eileen Carter. The Zeppelin raid during which incendiaries were dropped over Foxearth also got a mention.

This was a fascinating and detailed talk - well illustrated with photographs, anecdotes and artefacts and demonstrating Corinne's deep level of research into an important piece of local history. Already an estabished author with her earlier book "Foxearth Treasures"- a social history of the village - Corinne is preparing to publish "Foxearth Pals" upon which her talk tonight was based. Her research has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and all proceeds go to the Parish Church restoration fund. A most interesting and suc.cessful evening for the Society. Many present complimented Corinne on the excellence of her presentation and she has been booked for a return visit next May to give an illustrated talk on the archaeological excavations in Foxearth of 2013/14 and 2017.

John Grimshaw, the Lancashire Weaver. by Anne Grimshaw: 12th September 2017

The feelings and actions of a young weaver from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, who served at Waterloo were dramatically portrayed by local historian, Anne Grimshaw, to members of the District Society on Tuesday 12th September. In costume of the period - which was subtly altered to reflect different people - Anne appeared as mother Dolly, sister Sally and wife Phoebe to John Grimshaw (born 1789) ; no relation as far as Anne has been able to discover.

In 1806, very much against his parent's wishes, John left his job as a hand loom weaver and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. His first letter home was from London which he described as "bigger than Blackburn"! Next he was in Spain "hotter than Lancashire" and then in Portugal which was said to have "flies everywhere" and "people sleeping in huts with their animals" In 1815, after Waterloo, he wrote again from London about the "big fight" and mentioned that he had been injured. More about this came to light when he came limping home at Christmas 1818 giving a graphic account of how a surgeon had removed a musket ball - which had been flattened when it hit his hip. He was also injured in the right arm. Whilst recuperating he was given a carbine to shoot the rats that were around the hospital. On his arrival home he enquired whether another local lad, Thomas Pollard, whom he had met in 1811 in Portugal had been in touch. Dolly replied that he had - and he had married John's sister Sally! John saw action in several other battles and after his army service he suffered from bad dreams and episodes of sleep screaming indicating that "battle fatigue " is not a modern condition. He was discharged from the army in 1818 as unfit having received a number of medals and awarded a pension of 9d a day.

As "Sally" Anne described some of John's experience of Belgium where there was said to be a lot of fever and ague. John returned to work as a hand loom weaver and in 1828 married Phoebe Tomlinson, also a weaver, and these two became involved in the active unrest that workers started to show as they saw the introduction of machinery into weaving and steam looms as threatening their livelihood. "Phoebe" recounted her arrest, her appearance at the Assizes for rioting and her sentence of 12 months hard labour. John died in 1851 of asthma aged 61. His army record showed him to be older indicating that he may have been untruthful about his age when enlisting!

This "one woman show" demonstrated the deep level of research Anne had undertaken to compile this intriguing account in which, she said, a few assumptions had been made on the basis of the evidence of the times. A carefully designed and interesting evening. Anne related how Thomas Pollard was quite a hero having received a campaign medal with 9 bars. The whereabouts of this decoration was unknown for some years but persistent enquiries by Anne had finally unearthed it and it now was held proudly in the regimental archives. Anne was warmly thanked on behalf on 17 members by Secretary Clare Mathieson.

Information was presented about the Society's annual dinner on 12th December at the George, Cavendish and members should book their place with Clare as soon as possible. The next meeting will be on 10th October at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Judy Ivy will talk about the artistic connections between John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough in the context of the Suffolk/Essex landscape.