Sunday, 28 April 2013

Emily Calver : Death By Religious Mania

Every now and then I stumble across a suicide story in the Beccles newspaper transcripts and it truly wrenches at my heart because the report is usually just a name and the circumstances of their untimely deaths, sometimes with blow-by-blow descriptions given. When it's somebody who has drowned themselves in the river Waveney however, I feel even more saddened and I find myself wanting to know more about them. Who were they and where did they come from, before they took their own lives?

The river Waveney, and Beccles

One such person I found was Emily Calver, who drowned herself in 1898. In the Ipswich Journal, on the same page as large advertisements for St Jacob's Oil (Conquers Pain, in large bold letters), Scott's Emulsion cod-liver Oil and Lifebuoy Royal Disinfectant Soap, lies the heading: SUICIDE AT BECCLES : SEQUEL TO RELIGIOUS MANIA.
The report, in two lengthy paragraphs, details the state of mind of Emily Calver in the lead-up to her disappearance and subsequent suicide. Herein is the first paragraph:

"A widow, named Emily Calver, aged 52, committed suicide at Beccles, on Saturday morning [30 April], by drowing herself in the river Waveney. She had often made use of threats, but as she never did more than make a feint of carrying them into execution, no importance was attached to them, except that by order of Dr. [William Taylor] McComb, she was closely watched. She lived in Denmark Road with her two step-sons [Thomas Read Calver and John Brown Calver], and for the last three months a young woman [Edith Jessie Watling] had attended on her as nurse housekeeper. Early on Saturday morning, while the young woman still slept, Mrs Calver made her way to the river by way of the wall on the Norfolk side, and threw herself into the water. It is surmised she would have gladly got out again had she been able to do so, as she would be simply acting on suicidal impulse, the result of a kind of religious mania and liver complaint. Her body was discovered by a banker's clerk; named Youngman, on his way to bathe in the river."

Dr William Taylor McComb

Emily Calver, nee Gower
Emily Gower was born in 1845 in Barford, county Norfolk, and christened on 3 August 1845. She was the daughter of James Henry Gower and Pleasance, nee Baxter. James Henry Gower and Pleasance Baxter were married on 10 October 1831 at Saint Peter, Southgate in Norwich. In the 1851 census returns I found the family living in Chedgrave Street, in Chedgrave. James Henry was cited as "Pauper formerly Shoemaker". The 1861 census reveals they were still living in the Loddon area but Emily, by this time, was living in Blyburgate Street, Beccles. She was an apprentice Dressmaker, living in Blyburgate Street with Sarah Beamish, nurse. Emily's sister Naomi Gower was also living at this address, working as a House Servant. By 1871 however, I find Emily was living in Marylebone, London working as a Servant for Henry Gilbert (Coach Builder).

In 1887 Emily married Frederick Francis Calver, who was a widower (his first wife Hannah, nee Brown passed away in 1885). Frederick Calver was born in Walpole, county Suffolk, in 1836. He came to Beccles between 1851-1861, living in Ravensmere first as a lodger with the Purland family and later, as head of his household with wife Hannah and their children Thomas Read Calver, Frederick William Calver and Florence Hannah Calver. They had at least another three known children after 1871: Miriam Calver, John Brown Calver and Augustus Clement Calver.
The 1861 census cited Frederick Francis Calver as a Tanner; the 1871 census as Fellmonger (dealer in hides or skins, in particular, sheepskins and prepared skins for tanning) and Primitive Methodist Local Preacher. Now there was an interesting contrast in professions if ever I saw one.
When Frederick's first wife Hannah died in 1885, three of their children were still unmarried and living at home: Thomas, Florence and John. Frederick (jnr.) and Augustus were making their living in London as Tailors by the turn of the century. In 1891 the remaining Calver family were living in Denmark Road, Beccles. Then I discovered a tragedy appeared to have struck the family as Emily was cited in the 1891 census return as a widow. How could that be when she had married Frederick only four years earlier? The East Suffolk Gazette newspaper confirmed what I feared. Frederick had died in 1889:
EAST SUFFOLK GAZETTE. 2 July 1889: DEATH of Frederick Calver, aged 52, a class-leader of the Primitive Methodists, and preacher for 25 years. He was a Fellmonger.

At the inquest into Emily Calver's suicide, her brother, Henry Gower, fruiterer of Beccles, explained in some detail the state of mind his sister possessed prior to her death. He reported to the jury that Emily had complained frequently of pains in her head following a bout of influenza three months prior. Henry told the jury that Emily had allegedly told him the pain was so terrible "she could not bear her own existence". The jury returned a verdict of "Suicide by drowning, while of unsound mind".

Monday, 22 April 2013

Beccles in the 1870s

I am fascinated by individual accounts in history of people's first impressions of Beccles. Personal diaries or published articles which tell of making a new life and setting up a home. I came to Beccles as an infant, with my parents, from nearby Bungay and while it didn't mean much to me then, it definitely came to mean a lot more by the time I was nine years old living in Peddars Lane.

I recently came across a published account of somebody who arrived in Beccles in the 1870s and as I came to Beccles in the 1970s, I was curious to compare the changes in one hundred years. There wasn't much that had actually changed but nonetheless, I enjoyed reading her personal observations of Beccles.
Alice Martha Tracy came to Beccles from Croydon, county Surrey in August 1872, after the death of her father, Dowdeswell John Ellis Tracy, in May 1872. According to a source on the Ancestry website he died by drowning, in county Kent, at the age of 35. Alice's mother, Mary Jane (nee Carter) arrived in Beccles soon after with five of her children:
Arthur George : Alice Maud : Ethel Beatrice : Kate Adelaide : John Fingal (who was blind).
(There were two other children Walter Henry who died in infancy and Edith Mary who lived in Cambridge and married in 1886, later moving to Wales).
Here is the account of Alice Maud Tracy's memories of Beccles:

"On 12 August 1872 Miss Tracy and her two younger sisters arrived to stay with her grandmother [Jane Tracy], who had hired a house in London Road now occupied by the Mayor and Mayoress, until their mother arranged their future home.
Peaceful green meadows and cornfields existed where now Alexandra, Denmark, Gosford, Gresham, Kilbrack, St Benedict’s, Grange, Ashman’s and Priory Roads, as well as a large part of Ravensmere, Swine’s Green and Lady’s Meadow. By far the most picturesque entrance to the borough was by way of Bungay Road, where the fine old trees at the end of Ashman’s Wood met another group on the opposite side of Ringsfield Road now occupied by the Catholic Minster, and the row of oaks and elms in the Fauconberge School playground. Now all were gone. A pretty grass slope edging the road and path in front of the two old cottages opposite the former Sir John Leman School and an ancient pump has been removed and a raised path with concrete steps provided instead.

St Mary's Corner, circa 1909

Bungay Road, Fauconberge School through the trees

Love Lane, as St Mary’s Road was called then, was really a Lane. On one side was the playground and part of Homefield and on the other a huge cornfield extending right up to the waterworks and Ringsfield Road. Half way down the lane was a stile and a pretty winding footpath through the cornfield to the entrance to London Road, where there was another secluded style stile that was very well remembered by many who were then young men and girls. Priory Road had completely buried that little pathway. In London Road, the main feature, which struck everyone going up the road, was the two beautiful copper beeches on the left hand side. Unfortunately, they grew so large and darkened to such an extent the houses they fronted that they had to be cut down. Another feature was the tall tower mill, but when its sails were revolving and their shadows were falling on the windows of the houses opposite conditions for the occupants was rather trying.
By demolition Northgate, Blyburgate, Smallgate and Ballygate had lost some of their oldest houses, and the old home of the Crowfoot family in Blyburgate had been purchased and pulled down so that its site could be laid out in building plots. A level crossing and a wooden footbridge led to the Avenue, then recently laid out. This was a well-made gravel roadway across a marsh and had wide borders on either side filled with young trees, flowering shrubs and plants. The Avenue was crossed at the far end by a wooden bridge over a wide dyke on which several swans and sometimes cygnets swam about waiting to be fed with bread by the children. This was a delightful walk to the Common, but its maintenance apparently being considered an expense to the town it grew shabby and neglected. Soon the flowerbeds disappeared altogether and the whole stretch was gravelled

The Avenue, Beccles

The river provided great sport during the winter, for when there was an extra high tide and the water could not get away quickly enough under the low bridge the marshes were flooded. When this water froze there were acres of ice for skating. Sometimes the frost lasted for six weeks, and in the middle of the day the town would be almost deserted. Everyone who could get away, flocked down to the ice and learned to skate in no time. Some years they skated to Bungay or Oulton Broad. One winter a Carnival was held on the ice on the river, a donkey and cart going up and down selling oranges and buns and hot potatoes roasted on a stove..."

Alice Martha Tracy's mother Mary Jane died at home in Exchange Square, Beccles of Apoplexy which took her life within three hours of the onset of symptoms. Her death was reported in the Beccles Paper of 14 February 1882. It stated that "she was the sister-in-law to the Rector [F.F. Tracy] and she leaves six children, one of whom is blind". At almost the same time, her brother-in-law F.F. (Frederick Francis) Tracy resigned as Rector of Beccles and the position was taken over by Rev. John Rowsell of Beverley, county Yorkshire.
Alice Tracy was for twenty years a Secretary of the Beccles Soldiers' and Sailors' Families' Association and since its formation had helped to collect over £12,000. She retired from her position as Secretary in December 1936 and it was reported in the Beccles & Bungay Newspaper. Alice Maud Tracy died in 1960 at St Audrys Hospital in Melton, county Suffolk (St Audry's was a psychiatric hospital, formerly an asylum and workhouse. More information about St Audry's can be found here).

Friday, 19 April 2013

Samuel Wilton Rix : Part Two

Part two is dedicated to Samuel Wilton Rix's own description of his arrival to Beccles in 1831. Part of this detailed account was published in the East Suffolk Gazette on the 22 March 1881 to commemorate his fiftieth year in Beccles. The following is edited extracts from that publication:

I travelled outside the "Star" Coach, travelling the whole of that 23rd of March 1831 through blinding dust and cold rain. A ninepenny letter was my precursor; penny postage and electric telegrams being then unknown. The "Yarmouth Star" passed through Beccles, on its upward journey, every morning at a quarter past six, giving notice of its approach by a clanging horn and the thunder of heavy wheels upon the pavement. There was also the "Telegraph" night mail, through Wangford to London; the "Accommodation" with its unicorn team, kept up a sort of intercourse with West Suffolk.
The principal streets of the town were then almost all paved with flints, every cart that passed denying the slanderous charge of undue quietness. In the dark evenings a few oil lamps, fixed to the houses, spread such dim light as emanated from the Corporation of those times. Eastward from the New Market was "Blower’s Lane" now Market Street, but not half its present width; and on its left side the gloomy looking house in which the poet [George] Crabbe had visited, and in which some of his wife’s relatives still lived. Further on, past the Assembly Room, the view of what is now the approach to the Railway Station, was blocked by the line of Newgate Street. On the site of the Council-room [now the Glennie School of Dancing] was the ancient timbered "Feoffment Chamber" where Justices justice was long administered. This chamber was used at one time for the Fauconberge School ...

There was no direct access in that direction to the Common; its approaches being by the dirty lane through Ravensmere, or by the equally circuitous Common Lane on the south. The site of the Railway Station was a meadow ... More pastures, with patches of osier ground, and parted by peaty ditches or crooked fences ...
The south side of Peddar’s Lane was then a meadow; and Frederick’s Place and St George’s-terrace were undistinguished among broad acres. The old wooden Pound of the Manor was standing in that direction.

The interior of the Parish Church, as I saw it on my first Sunday in Beccles, was in a transition state between rush-stren floors and the restoration of 1859.
The organ at the west end, on a gallery shutting out the finest window in the church, with a standing place underneath for the parish fire engines; high unsightly pews; a vast brass chandelier; the pulpit in the centre of the nave; the vestry at the east end, crested by wooden urns, with gilded imitation of flames, in commemoration, it was said, of the great fire of 1586. A gallery built by a former Rector with a worthy desire to provide more sittings, but with sad disregard of architectural taste. I think there was no evening service ... A bell in the steeple was tolled every morning at five o’clock to call up the artisans to their work, and again at eight in the evening, the latter probably a vestige of the Norman curfew.
The Independent Church rebuilt in 1812, retained its old front, was somewhat smaller than at present. It was plain and respectable, with sanded aisles and painted pews. There were three services on Sunday, of which the afternoon was the most important. The Baptist Meeting House was a still humbler building. The Methodist Chapel was hidden behind houses on the east side of Northgate.
Primitive Methodism ... had no local habitation. The Friends though nearly extinct held occasionally ... a meeting for speaking, of which notice was usually given by handbills. ...
It was not until 1835 that the present Public Library was established [this was a different library - not the County Library].
Little was heard in those days of choirs and choral societies and concerts. The stirring drum and fife had died away with the fresh memories of Waterloo ... Instead of cheerful military bands, the drowsy burgesses had to be content with a stray hand organ on the rare visit of a band of French-horn.

Beccles Church by Henry Davy (1793-1865)

Some public amusements periodically relieved the monotony; but in now vanished forms. The Fair at Whitsuntide, the Races in the autumn and the temporary opening of Fisher’s Theatre. They have been succeeded by athletic sports, reading rooms, penny readings and musical entertainments. The general habits of society, among all classes, leaned far less towards abstemiousness than at present. ...and the free outpourings of the bottle.
A few days after I came to Beccles a great inauguration dinner was given by the newly chosen Portreeve for 200 or more of the inhabitants and others. Many were the speeches and mighty the feasting. But I think it was a year or two later that a few choice spirits actually spun out a Portreeve’s feast from Thursday evening to Saturday morning.

East Suffolk Gazette 1 January 1895:

OBITUARY: S.W Rix, who practised for many years as a solicitor in Beccles, and took an active part in the government of the borough until increasing year led to his retirement. He died on 8th of August 1894, aged 89. A man of literary and antiquarian  tastes, he collected an exceedingly valuable library, including many choice archaeological and topographical works, and a local collection of 26 volumes containing the materials for a fuller history of the town than has previously appeared. The collection was purchased by Dr Aldis Wright, and generously handed over to the safe custody of the Corporation for the general use of the inhabitants.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Samuel Wilton Rix : Part One

Beccles historians might be familiar with the Rix Collection which is held at the Lowestoft Record Office. I would love to be able to see it for myself one day but in the mean time I have to content myself with my local history books for information about his life and utilise the vast amount of newspaper transcriptions on Beccles history by David Lindley.

So what is the Rix Collection? First, allow me to introduce the man behind the name. Samuel Wilton Rix was born 15 February 1806 in Diss, county Norfolk and baptised 27 May 1808 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Diss. He was the son of John Rix and Mary Parker. Samuel married Eliza Charlotte Shelly 9 July 1833 at St Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth (her birthplace).
By this time Samuel had already established himself in Beccles, having moved from Diss in 1831, and living for the most part in Saltgate Street. He quickly made a name for himself as Attorney & Solicitor, going into partnership with Richard Bohun. What makes Samuel Wilton Rix so remarkable to historians was that he was a classical scholar and an antiquarian. He took a keen interest in the history of Beccles and would go on to publish many books and collect material on Beccles history - from newspaper clippings to legal documents and catalogues. He scrupulously kept local history accounts covering the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and all of this was written in his own handwriting. He was elected to the Town Council in 1836, became alderman and filled the office of Mayor from 1863-65.
Samuel gave many lectures during his life time as well. For example, the Norwich Mercury newspaper of 15 February 1859 reported: LECTURE IN DISS: by S.W. Rix (who was a native of Diss) to the Mutual Improvement Society: "Funeral Customs of All Ages".
Beccles Weekly News of 3 December 1861: LECTURE by S.W. Rix "Beccles Men Of Other Days" Charge 6d in Aid of the British Schools.
Beccles Weekly News of 20 December 1862: LECTURE given by S. Wilton Rix on Funeral Customs in the Bible for British Schools Funds.
In his role as Mayor he also got things done for the benefit of Beccles and its townsfolk:
Beccles Weekly News of 23 August 1864: COUNCIL: Mayor S.W. Rix said Great Eastern Railway had agreed to make a Bridge across the Line within six months. About 70 trains passed through Beccles daily.

Smallgate, 1950. The houses, seen on the right, was
where the Rix family lived during the 1800s
Saltgate, 2013. Still largely unchanged and still very
appealing to passersby.

Most importantly for this blog post, is the family man that Samuel Rix was. He and his wife had nine children, two of whom died in infancy:
Edith Shelly Rix : John Shelly Rix* (died 1836) : Frederic Shelly Rix : Mary Wilton Rix (died 1838) : Edward Wilton Rix : Richard Avery Rix : Grace Wilton Rix : Francis Meadows Rix : Mary Elizabeth Rix
*John Shelly Rix's death was reported in the Ipswich Journal on 6 February 1836 thus: DIED: Infant son of S.W. Rix.

In 'A Suffolk Town in Mid-Victorian England: Beccles in the 1860's' E.A. Goodwyn writes: "Rix was a man of very strong family feeling". This was made evident when his son Francis Meadows Rix died, after an illness of many months in 1869, at the tender age of 18. Samuel Rix wrote an account of his son's life - his childhood, his school years, and the agony of watching as his son lay bed-ridden in his final months. Goodwyn's book goes on to record Samuel's reponse: "Seeing me give way to the weakness which I wished to repress in him, [Francis] said, 'No--dear papa, do not cry: do not grieve about me...".
Then, the following year his first-born Edith Shelly Rix, died aged 36. Two years following, his wife Eliza died (aged 63) and Rix retired from public life, giving over many of his duties and positions to his son Frederick Shelly Rix. In 1879 he retired from his profession as a Solicitor and dedicated his time to compiling the massive record of local history which now bears his name.

Francis Meadows Rix, 1867

Next time: A personal account of Samuel Wilton Rix's arrival in Beccles and his newspaer obituary.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Susannah Pipe : From Riches to Rags

I would bet that everyone has at least one childhood memory of a person in their neighbourhood who was "strange' or considered "different". I remember seeing a man in Beccles who had a club foot and he frightened me no end with his big, clumpy black boot. In the Images of England book "Bungay To Beccles" (in two volumes) by Terry and Chris Reeve, there are some priceless photographs and images of Beccles past, and each page turned brings its former story to life. One particular image which has stuck with me is the one on page 71 of Volume One.

© Terry & Chris Reeve, 1998
The caption alongside the photograph reads:
"Susan Pipe, a well known character seen around Beccles in the early 1900s, selling her wares in all areas of the community. She was known to the younger members of the community as the ragged "bag lady".

It wasn't until some years later that I came across a newspaper article in the East Suffolk Gazette dated 16 January 1917, regarding Susannah Pipe's death which didn't go un-noticed among the townsfolk of Beccles:

DEATH OF SUSANNAH PIPE: Aged 47, at her house in 11 St George's Road, Beccles. There was no bed, only a few rags in her bedroom, with a coverlet too small to cover her so she must have suffered much from the cold. She was a grand-daughter of the late James Mullett, master tailor, and member of the Town Council. On the death of her mother she succeeded to a lie interest in her grandfather's estate. She owned her own house and the neighbouring house. William Chatters, engine driver at the Castle Mills had lived next door to her for four years.
Unfortunately she gave way to intemperate habits, and her husband separated from her. She got rid of practically all of her furniture to satisfy her craving for drink. She was seen picking up pieces of paper and sticks in the street to get a little warmth in the cold weather. She seemed very ill of late, and lack of nourishment and exposure contributed to her death.

Once again I felt the need to investigate Susannah's life further and this is what I managed to uncover. The 1911 census return records her as having been married for seventeen years but she was living alone at 11 St George's Road. There were no children and Susannah had no employment. In the column which states the number of rooms she occupied, it has a number one. This would have certainly meant that Susannah lived at or below the poverty line, having one room in which to sleep, cook, and wash.
According to the 1911 census, Susannah was born about 1869 in Rushmere, Suffolk. Whilst the latter was true, the former - her age - was not. Susannah was the daughter of John Newson and Sarah, nee Mullett, born in 1859. Searching the St Michael's Church Parish Register Extracts CD rom I was quickly able to locate her marriage record. Susannah Newson married Royal Pipe (yes, his name was Royal) on 4 February 1894. Her age was recorded as 32 and Royal's as 22. It is not known exactly how long they lived as a married couple as the 1901 census return shows that Susannah's husband Royal Pipe was living at home with his father James Pipe in Wash Lane, Beccles. His status was "married" so where was Susannah? She was found living alone at St George's Road, aged 37, status as married, and "living on own means".

After a lot of digging further back in time, I eventually found Susannah Newson in the 1891 census returns as living in St George's Road, Beccles, with her mother Susannah Newson, a widow. Susannah was aged 27 and her widowed mother, 57 (Susannah died the following year, aged 59). Susannah Newson, nee Mullett was born abt 1834 in Marylebone, London. She married John Newson at St Michael's Church in Beccles on 25 July 1854. It states in the record:
John Newson bachelor, farmer, of Rushmere.
Susanna Mullett, spinster, no occupation, of this parish
In 1861 John Newson and his wife and family were living in Rushmere and John was recorded as a farmer of 86 acres. What surprised me was there was also a Susannah Newson recorded in the household, aged 1. It transpired that Susannah claimed that she was 5-10 years younger than she actually was.
Susannah's maternal grandfather was James Mullett. He lived in Beccles almost his whole life, and lived in Ballygate Street until his retirement in 1880. He was a renowned Tailor and Council member in the town. In May 1880 the East Suffolk Gazette reported:
RETIREMENT: James Mullett, Ballygate, tailoring, drapery and hat establishment retiring after 40 years. Business taken over by WG Cross.
If we go back to the 1881 census return we indeed find Susannah (widow) at home with her parents James and Sarah Mullett at St George's Road (then written as St Georges Place). However, I haven't been able to locate where Susannah (the daughter) was. Previous census returns indicate that James Mullett travelled frequently to London, perhaps to purchase the latest fabrics and milinery necessary to keep up with fashion trends. James Mullett died in 1890 and left a substantial sum of money in his will. One of his executors was Edward Charles Darby, Timber Merchant of Beccles. The house at St George's Road was left to his widowed daughter Susannah, who then left it to her daughter Susannah (Pipe).

St George's Road, Beccles
Mitula Property Website

When Royal Pipe left Susannah he went back to his father's home in Wash Lane but by 1911 he was living in Knights Yard, in Ravensmere and was still a Farm Labourer. He was recorded in the 1911 census return as married and his home had three rooms. With him though was Elizabeth Gosling, aged 50, widow, who was Royal's housekeeper and a third person, a lodger by the name of Emily Stare who worked at a Printing Office (possibly Clowes). When his estranged wife Susannah Pipe died in 1917, Royal married his housekeeper Elizabeth Gosling later that same year. He died in 1944.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Peddars Lane School

When I was a child I lived in Peddars Lane with my mother. We lived next door to what is now Durrants Auction Rooms but the building itself has a rich history, starting out life in 1856 as a Silk Factory and later becoming a School. I have long been curious about the buildings in my childhood street and have been researching the history of the Lane for many years.

Image from

I discovered there was a School in Peddars Lane as far back as 1837 when there was a School for the Non-Conformists. The Pigot's Directory of 1839 listed a British School in Perry's lane and the Robson's Directory, also of 1839, listed a British & Foreign School in Pedlars lane (During my research into the history of the street, I have found Peddars lane spelt in all manner of different ways). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any photographs which show the original school in Peddars lane so I'm not sure where exactly it was located but it is believed to have been "the building beside Peddars lane now used as a Nursery next door but one from the Silk Factory, on the west side" [source: David Lindley, Beccles historian].
The 1870 Education Act proposed the setting up of School Boards and one was set up in Beccles in 1872 which composed of three Church of England members and two Dissenters. The British School officially became a Board School in 1877 and moved into the old Silk Factory building, after extensive alterations had been made.

Two years prior to the Board School alterations, I located newspaper reports in the Ipswich Journal and the East Suffolk Gazette of December 1875, which stated that the youths of Beccles needed special instruction to prevent growing unruly behaviour. Under the heading "The Rising Generation" the Ipswich Journal dated 7 December 1875 reported thus:

"The Rev. F.F. Tracy, rector of Beccles, attended the Court to make a statement relative to the behaviour of the youths of the town. He said that the state of the town had led one to believe that special efforts ought to be made to instruct the youths, and night schools had been established for that purpose..."
The article goes on to explain that a Sunday School had also been opened in Peddars Lane but that the teachers were under constant threat and attack, one youth throwing a stone at a teacher after being sent off from the grounds (The East Suffolk Gazette went so far as to report the name of the said youth as being Spratt). Another youth threw a jug of water at the Rector and a whole class was turned out after using profane language. When a teacher went to visit the parents of the children in question he was surrounded by a mob of boys who used obscene language as he walked down the street (Again, the East Suffolk Gazette reported that it was the Superintendent of the School who asked a boy to take him to the home of the parents).

The East Suffolk Gazette, also dated 7 December 1875, reported further to the unruliness of the youths by stating that at a night school for art classes, a teacher found a boy not connected with the class and put him out. He was immediately surrounded by boys crying, "Round up!" and pelted him with stones, one of which injured a pupil teacher. Rev. Tracy appealed to the Police Court that he was only there for advice and not wanting to involve the police in any further action, unless absolutely necessary, against the youths in question. Tracy was assured by the Chairman (Rev. R.C. Denny) that he would merely give the police instruction to "watch" the youths and act only upon any evident obstruction of justice.

Further to the identification of the boy Spratt, I looked into the 1871 census and found two families in Beccles. One family was living in Swine's Green: William Spratt and his wife Elizabeth with their four children, three of whom were boys. In Ingate Street there was an Ebenezer Spratt living with his wife Caroline and their three sons. It is believed that William and Ebenezer were related, both were born in Beccles. Frederick Francis Tracy was Rector of Beccles at Ballygate Street. He was officiated at Beccles in May 1872, being late of St Pancras, Chichester. He was born around 1829 in St James, county Middlesex, and in 1857 married Adelaide Borrer. He resigned from his post as Rector of Beccles in 1882 and Rev. John Rowsell, minister of St John, Beverley, Yorkshire was appointed to take his place.

In March 1877 the East Suffolk Gazette ran a report tht the accommodation for children in the British Schools were "greatly deficient" and that the School Board bought the Silk Factory building in Peddars lane and was now undergoing alterations. In September that same year the Gazette reported thus:

"The old factory building has been altered so that both boys and girls are under one roof, the girls taking the ground floor and the boys the upper storey. The entrance to the girl's school is at the west end, where there is a small room fitted up with pegs, then comes the commodious and well-lighted school room, in front of which are two spacious classrooms. each with its fireplace and ventilation apparatus. At the east end is a small room fitted up with a lavatory. At the rear is a large yard for a playground.
The boy's entrance is at the west end, the playground in front. A flight of stone steps leads up to the school rooms. The ground floor ceiling has been "pugged" with clay, between two and three inches thick, with a view of deadening the sound.
Mr Bull of Ditchingham has done the bricklaying, Mr Botwright of Bungay the carpentering, Mr Holley of Bungay the painting, and Mr Pearce of Norwich is architect to the Board."

The 1900 Kelly's Directory states the Board School of Peddar's lane was erected in 1877 for 254 boys, 176 girls and 299 infants. New class rooms were added to the boys and girls schools in 1895, each for the accommodation of 60 children (The East Suffolk Gazette reported on 6 August 1895 that the new school rooms were well ventilated and that Mr WM Crowfoot was very happy to say that for many years past the school had obtained most excellent reports from the HM Inspector!).
In 1901 Beccles architect, Arthur Pells, had advertised in the Gazette for Tenders to pull down three cottages for the purpose of erecting a new Infant's school in Peddars lane (These three cottages made way for part of what is known today as the Albert Pye School) and in 1903 the new school for 250 children was opened. By 1912 the Peddars lane Board School was known a Council School and it remained so until its closure somewhere around the 1960s.

Peddars Lane School, 1913

Durrants Auction Room, c. 2009

For further reading about the Peddars lane school, be sure to read David Woodward and Colin Baker's "Beccles Schooldays 1930 - 1948: Recollections and Reflections":

© 2012

Thursday, 4 April 2013

James Gowing : Bell Ringer

James (sometimes referred to as John) Gowing was a shoemaker by trade and he lived in Saltgate in Beccles. He was a principal bellringer at St Michael's Church and he also kept a diary from 1781 to 1830, in which he recorded occasions on which the bells were rung for special events, as well as many priceless details about the events in local and national history.
I spent a long time searching for any personal details about James Gowing and very little was uncovered, either online or in local history books for Beccles, other than his diary extracts. Turning to the St Michael's Church Parish Register Extracts on CD rom, I found a baptism for a James Gowing 25 October 1750 s/o Charles and Elizabeth Gowing. There was also a John Gowing baptised 9 May 1755 (who was also the son of Charles and Elizabeth). Charles Gowing married Elizabeth Smith at St Michael's Church 22 February 1748.

Church Tower of St Michael's,

Here is an example of what Gowing's diary reveals (original spelling retained):

2 June 1782 Gillingham Fen flooded.
6 January 1786 Boy Boyce Post Boy lost in snow.
21 March 1793 The Kings head gateway brickt up.
28 May 1793 One of the Lincolnshire Melitia brought from Bungay to Beccles. Tried by Cort Martial. Recd One hundred lashes.
19 December 1797 Wringing. Thanksgiving day for three victorys over the French, Spanish and Dutch fleets.
2 October 1798 Greater news from Horation Nelson who took nine ships. Wringing.
11 June 1802 Raisd the bells for young Mr Crowfoot, Doctor, lately married. Brought his wife to town. 
27 September 1802 Began to pave the town.
8 October 1802. Anne Ayers Daughter of Jno. Ayers drowned herself in the river. Taken up Thursday morn aged 11 years.
7 November 1805 Lord Nelson defeated the French and Spanish Fleet. Took 19 ships of the Line. Sunk one. Lost his life. Raised the Bells. Mourning peals. 10s night.
9 January 1806. Lord Nelson Buried in St Pauls Church London. Bell told here from 10 till 2 afternoon. Minute gun fired 1 hour, then a mourning peale.
30 June 1810 Mr Woodroffe pulled down his house in the Old Market this week.
29 January 1813 Beccles Markette altered to Be on Fridays.
17 June 1814 The Feast Day for Peace. 2300 people Dine in Publick. Plumb Puding Roast Beef and plenty of ale.
4 April 1817. My wife died aged 68. (James Gowing's wife).
2 December 1818 Queen Charlotte buried, wife of George III, bell tolled from 3 o'clock till 7 night, then the mourning peal £1. 11s. 6d.
19 July 1821 George the Fourth crowned King. A Bullock roasted in the Old Market.
7 January 1827 The Duke of York Died aged 63, brother of George IV. The Bell raised at 11 o'clock. Whent till 5. Bumbled (muffled) and Flag halfe staffe high. Singing at Church this night. First time by the Wednesday night singers.

According to "Hark To The Bells: A History of Beccles as Told by the Bells and their Ringers", compiled by Anne Frith, Vivienne Osborne & Dorothy Smith, the original Gowing diary is deposited with the Lowestoft Branch of the Suffolk Record Office. The 'East Suffolk Gazette' newspaper reprinted diary extracts between April and August, 1909.

Published by A. Deed Frith©2011

On 2 January 1798 Gowing recorded that a new set of twelve handbells was bought for St Michael's Church for £2. 2s. These would have been used to instruct new recruits in the art of change-ringing, to be rung over the graves of bellringers, and on social occasions where the hat might be around.

In 1827, Samuel Stringfellow, a potter, made a large jug with three handles for the use of the ringers, known as a Bellringers' Gotch (meaning "beer jug"). Able to hold several gallons it was presented to the Beccles bell ringers, and bore the inscription -
"When I am filled with liquor strong,
Each man drink once and then ding dong;
Drink not too much to cloud your knobbs,
Lest you forget to make the bobbs"
"A gift of John Pattman, Beccles".

The Beccles Bellringers' Gotch

A wonderful You Tube video, posted by hjdnad: