Suffolk Archive films: 12th November 2013
At the District Society’s meeting on 12th November Chairman Alan Fitch expressed a very warm welcome to 20 members and guests present – particularly those from Long Melford in view of the Suffolk Archive films to be shown.
The first film was about the working of the Colne Valley railway in the period just before and after the Beeching review and cuts. Most of the images were shot from moving trains as they travelled between stops on the line. They showed closed station buildings, abandoned signal boxes and foliage encroaching upon the disused tracks. The similarity of so many of the station buildings was because the rail company used a standard design. Apart from commuter traffic an important use of the line was for freight – particularly sugar beet. There was coverage of the impressive track lifting equipment by means of which quite large sections of line were taken up in one piece. In the progressive closures Long Melford station ceased to operate in 1961 and by 1967 only the Sudbury/Marks Tey section remained in use, due to the expansion of Sudbury town. This film was a sharp reminder of what a fundamental and anguishing change Dr Beeching’s restructuring of the railway network imposed on local populations, the wisdom of which is still being questioned 50 years later.
The second film “The county our parents knew” took us back to the Suffolk of the 1920s and 30s – and occasionally earlier. For example there was film of Princess Beatrice’s visit to Bury in 1913 and poignant pictures of hundreds of Suffolk men marching to war in 1914. In stark contrast to today the streets were empty of vehicles except those drawn by horses and a very occasional motor car. Lowestoft in 1921 was a reminder of the highly important fishing industry and the amazing speed at which women in the canning sheds gutted the fish. Other notable events were the visit by Prince Henry to Ipswich to see the new trolley buses, the opening of the Southwold Trinity Fair by the mayor and various celebrations of the jubilee of King George V in 1935. Although beginning to fall out of use, windmills were still a common sight in the 1920s. The local industries of thatching, flint-napping and harvesting before the traction engine featured in the fascinating reminiscences of some “old timers”.
This was an interesting evening for which Alan thanked Canon Peter Sandberg for his projectionist skills. Members were reminded that, as agreed at the last AGM, meetings from the New Year would begin at 7.30pm.
The next gathering of the Society would be the Annual Christmas Dinner to be held at The George, Cavendish on 10th December. Reservations for places should be by return of the menu – with choices marked - to the Chairman by 24th November at the latest together with a deposit of £10 per head.