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Historic Scenes along the Norwich Road

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The old coaching road to Norwich, the present admirable highway, is measured from White-chapel Church, and is 111½ miles in length. In Aldgate High Street were once a number of coaching inns. The most famous of these, the Bull, was kept in its most prosperous period by the widowed Mrs. Ann Nelson. It gave up business in 1869, and all the others are gone, too.

We hear much in dispraise of the East End of London, chiefly by those who know little of it. The Whitechapel Road and portions of the Mile End Road are inhabited, it is true, largely by aliens, but the generous width of the road here is something that other exits from London cannot boast.

Passing the picturesque Trinity Almshouses for decayed sailormen, we come to Bow. It is properly "Stratford-le-Bow," but in these hurried days we have not time for all that. The old church stands islanded in the midst of the road, with a bronze statue of Mr. W. E. Gladstone, set up in his lifetime, in front of it. "Stratford," the "street ford" - that is to say, the ford on the old Roman road, acquired the additional "le-Bow" when the first bridge was built there, over the river Lea, at the suggestion of the good Queen Maud, consort of Henry I. The arch (arc) or "bow" of a bridge was thought then so remarkable that it gave a name to the place.

We do not, in these latter days, leave London's suburbs behind until Ilford is passed and Romford, twelve and a half miles from Whitechapel, is entered. Whether the name of "Romford" derives from "the Roman ford" or a ford on a stream called the Rom has not been decided; but no doubt can exist at all in the traveller's mind as to what is the leading industry of the town, for the huge brewery sufficiently informs him.

This is Essex, and that county usually is thought to be flat. That is a popular illusion. The road from Romford to Brent-wood, which is very hilly, clearly demonstrates this The Fleece inn, on the way, is a picturesque old hostelry, and in Brentwood town itself the White Hart keeps in its yard some remains of an older house. An obelisk and an old elm-tree in the main street mark the spot where William Hunter was burnt in the Marian persecution of 1555. Brentwood stands on a lofty ridge, whence we descend past Shenfield to Mountnessing, with a picturesque windmill on the left. The original village was one mile away to the right, where the ancient church is situated.

Two miles along the road comes Ingatestone, a village of one long and narrow street, very old-world, and with a red brick church that does by no means look its age, which exceeds four centuries. Within is the monument of that Sir William Petre who was, in the reign of Henry VIII, enriched with the manor of Tngatestone. His old home, plundered from the nuns of Barking, is Ingatestone Hall, whose quaint entrance gateway is on the right. The hall is the scene of Miss Braddon's novel entitled "Lady Audley's Secret."

Forward to Margaretting - i.e. "Margaret's Meadow." The Margaret thus honoured is the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Hence, past the long wall of Hylands Park, we enter Chelmsford, past Widford and Moulsham. Chelmsford, early in the nineteenth century, so modernised itself, that little of the older town remains. The parish church has in recent years become the cathedral of a new diocese, and the prison at Springfield, at the farther end of Chelmsford, after being used as a prison for Germans during the Great War, has now been devoted to other purposes. Apart from that inimical establishment, Springfield is a pretty village, lately expanded into a suburb of Chelmsford. It gives a name to the town of Springfield, Massachusetts. Beyond this are the lodges of New Hall, which was new in the fifteenth century. It is now a convent. On the right is Bore-ham House, with a long and impressive vista formed by an avenue of noble elms and a lake. Here is preserved the carriage used by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. The old-world village of Boreham, embowered amid lime-trees, is hidden away from the road, on the right. Through the quaint village of Hatfield Peverel we come to Witham, whose oldest part lies off to the left, at Chipping Hill, where the church stands within the cincture of a prehistoric camp, later occupied by the Romans. Thence we go to Kelvedon, through Riven-hall. All around Kelvedon the Essex industry of seed-growing is largely followed. At Kelvedon that famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was born in 1834, a cottage in the main street which afterwards became the Wheatsheaf inn.

Approaching Colchester, through the pretty village of Lexden, we come into a district rich in Romano-British history. For Colchester, the "Colonia Camulodunum" of the Roman occupation of Britain for close upon five centuries, was, after "Verulamium," the most important of Roman cities, and wears even to-day the marks of that forceful people. The entrance to Colchester is singular. From the straight road through its modern suburbs it makes the sharpest of turns to the left, and thus enters the precincts of the ancient walled town. A good deal of the Roman walls remain, notably in Balkerne Lane, where the church of S. Mary-on-the-Wall stands. But the most spectacular object in Colchester is a something that is by no means Roman. It is "Jumbo."

And what, you ask, is Jumbo? It is a very huge and clumsy and red monstrosity occupying the very apex of the rise on which Colchester is built. It is a red-brick water-tower, built in 1881. The next most prominent object is the lofty tower of the town hall, a stately building completed in 1902 and crested with a figure of S. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, holding a cross.

Colchester Castle stands on the site of a Roman temple. Its Norman keep is by far the largest in plan in England, measuring 155 feet by 113 feet. It is now a museum, filled with Roman relics. The town and castle were besieged by the Roundhead army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, the place having been seized and fortified by those ardent Royalists, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, in 1648. The town withstood a siege of nearly three months, surrendering only for lack of food. Both these gallant gentlemen were afterwards shot in cold blood. A great stone, with a suitable inscription, is placed over their grave in S. Giles's church, on which it is stated that they were "barbarously murdered."

Seven miles from Colchester brings us across the river Stour and into Suffolk, and incidentally also into the "Constable Country," that delightful region of quiet riverain beauty which the famous artist loved so well to paint. Down to the Stour the road goes suddenly, by Dedham Gun Hill. A sharp bend to the left at its foot renders this hill exceptionally dangerous. In front of it is the road into that Vale of Dedham that Constable so often painted; and there, too, is East Bergholt, with the famous Flatford Mill on the Stour, which in 1927 was generously purchased for its due preservation, unaltered.

The Stour is crossed by a modern iron bridge of inoffensive design, and the road then passes the church of Stratford St. Mary and climbs a tree-shaded hollow, up to the Tankard inn at Bentley. Passing Capel St. Mary and a level railway crossing, and so by Copdock, we come down hill to Washbrook, and thence into the busy town of Ipswich, situated upon the navigable river Orwell. The streets of Ipswich are narrow, except for the open space of Cornhill, and they are infested with tramways. The most famous thing in the town is a something neither ancient nor beautiful. It is the Great White Horse, inn in Tavern Street. The fame of it lies in its association with Dickens and Mr. Pickwick's adventures. There are numerous old churches in the town, and here is the red brick gateway of a college which Cardinal Wolsey, who was a native of Ipswich, proposed to found. In the Buttermarket the "Ancient House" is a striking object, with its elaborately decorative plaster-work. At one time during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was a home of the Sparrowe family, whose vault in the neighbouring church of S. Lawrence bears the punning Latin motto: "Nidus passerum" ("A nest of Sparrows").

Leaving Ipswich and passing Whitton Street, the dusty roadside fringe of Whitton, we pass Claydon. The old red-brick mansion, Claydon Hall, is better known as "Mockbeggar Hall." On its Dutch-like gables is the date 1635. It must at one time or another have long been unoccupied to have acquired the name "Mockbeggar," for that generally was given to rocks that in the distance looked like houses, or to empty mansions to which beggars wearily came, only to find them tenantless.

The road keeps rural for many miles, past Greeting All Saints, Shrubland Park, and the few outposts of Needham Market, Stonham Earls and Stonham Aspall. At Little Stonham is the Stonham Pie, that is to say "Magpie," inn with its gallows sign stretching across the way. The solitude increases past Brockford and Brockford Green and Thwaite. Thence, still lonely, past Stoke White Horse to Yaxley. In a further two miles, at the pretty village of Brome, the river Waveney, here quite a tiny stream, is crossed, and we are in Norfolk and also the village of Scole. It is completely dominated by Scole White Hart, a beautiful old red-brick seventeenth century building, once an inn second to none in England. But that was very long ago, and the White Hart occupies but a portion of the premises to-day. This inn was built in 1655, by a merchant of Norwich, for the coach and posting traffic. The once-famous sign, which alone cost 1057 pounds, straddled the road and was loaded with carved wooden classic and emblematic figures. It disappeared at some time about the year 1801.

Dickleburgh, the next village, is a more considerable place. Hence the road runs level and again solitary, with Tivetshall and Pulham St. Mary Magdalene and Pulham St. Mary the Virgin glimpsed in the far distance. Thence by the prison-like workhouse of the Depwade Union to the common of Wacton, 350 acres in extent. Long Stratton, the next village, is well named, for it measures one mile from end to end. Midway is a church with a round tower: one of the many such in East Anglia. Another is found in the succeeding village of Tasburgh, off to the left. Approaching it is, also to the left, the deep ford called Depwade, which gives a name to the Hundred of Depwade, which, like all those early places of folk-moot, was and is a spot remarkable above all other neighbouring places for possessing some outstanding natural feature.

Passing Newton Flotman, we come to Caistor, remarkable for that great Roman "castrum" or camp whence the village takes its name. The great earthworks enclose an area of thirty-seven acres, with the ancient church standing at the verge, on the skyline like a sentinel. Two miles from Norwich the highway into that picturesque and worshipful city grows to a great breadth with suburban developments. Where it reaches the summit of a long incline, the road from London by way of Newmarket conies in on the left, and together the two conjoined routes then descend to the city.

The ancient city of Norwich lies in a hollow, in the valley of the Wensum. Considerable heights look down upon it; notably the noble upland of Household Heath. A place more charming in its own particular way it would not be easy to find. It is the City of Gardens, and equally it is the City of Churches. There are no fewer than thirty-four ancient churches in Norwich, as well as a number of modern ones. Only the City of London can display more. The centre of the city is in the great market-place, in midst of which rises the bold tower of the largest parish church, S. Peter Mancroft. The cathedral must be sought, for it is apart from the centre of the city.

Norwich, like York, wears the appearance of a capital city, and rightly does it do so, for it is the capital of East Anglia, and its churches and buildings in general bear an unmistakable East Anglian look. Over all the Norman keep of the castle keeps watch.

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Pictures for Historic Scenes along the Norwich Road

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