Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Preview of our Exhibition and Talk on WW2 in September

Exhibition Poster.jpg


The Heritage Group uncovers the unexpected…

On November22nd we were fortunate to hear a fascinating talk by John Rainer, Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, who performed the LIDAR investigations on Lodge Hill on behalf of the Heritage Group. Not only did John bring in the sophisticated equipment for us to handle but also explained, in layman’s language, about the complicated technology and how to interpret the scans produced. The scan below shows very clearly the outline of several rectangular structures on the left hand side – not the lodge we were looking for.

From researching the archives, old newspapers and aerial photography we are very confident that these structures are associated with a WW1 encampment housing troops and their horses prior to being shipped to France. The geophys is not consistent with either WW2 buildings or a temporary camp. The southern building would have been enormous but, from what we now know of  the stable sizes from the 1919 auction sale details, our large building was more likely to be yards, with rows of stable shelters opening into them.

The main inhabitants of the camp were from the 1st Lincolnshire Yeomanry. A newspaper report from 1914 describes the park in a ‘shocking state as a consequence of the rain and snow. We are sleeping out in the park in a large marquee, and I often wake up shivering like a leaf as we are not allowed a lot of clothes to wrap in. The food is so very scarce as we are only granted a small amount, mostly bread and jam and there is often a scramble for it’.

There were two deaths associated with the camp – one soldier was kicked by a horse and died and another drowned while trying to swim across the Waveney.

However, the villagers of Hoxne rallied to try to give as much support as they could.

Belgian Day was celebrated in January, 1915 and villagers dressed in Belgian colours and made collections for the Relief Fund. An auction of donated poultry and dairy produce was held at St. Edmund’s Hall and a concert was given by members from the yeomanry. The day’s proceeds of £60 was ‘most gratifying to all concerned’.

Other events held to entertain the troops and keep up morale were described in newspapers. In 1915, the Lincolnshire Echo describes ‘a delightful programme rendered by the ‘Jollies Concert Party’ from Grimsby’ where the services were given free and the expenses paid for by an officer.

A 7-mile cross-country race was held across Stuston Common with 50 competitors from the Lincs. Yeomanry, the Staffs. Yeomanry and the Leics. R.A.M.C. Ambulance unit. The Lincs. Yeomanry were the undisputed winners.

In May, 1915 the Diss Express reported on ‘some capital military sports’ at Oakley Park. All races were for mounted men and included conventional jumping sections for men and officers separately but also included some amusing novelty races. Amongst these were musical chairs using small enclosures for the horses rather than chairs, slalom races (again for men and officers separately!), wrestling on horseback, the cigar and umbrella race where the rider had to hold an open umbrella, light a cigar and cross the finishing line with the cigar alight. The horses did not appreciate the colourful umbrellas! The Victoria Cross race was reported to be full of amusing incident and involved using dummies. The concluding race involved 24 men riding up to a similar number of ladies and having a button sewn on their uniform. When completed, a lighted cigarette was handed to the rider who had to race to the finishing line with the lighted cigarette.

The whole event was watched by a large number of servicemen and civilians   and also included some wounded ‘Tommies’ from the Leics. Yeomanry  who had been wounded in France and were recovering in a local hospital.

Hence in trying to unravel one story we have revealed a quite different one!

George Rayner – a Hoxne resident

This was a very interesting and amusing talk held in February. It was well attended and the audience even included some descendants of the subject. Full details of the talk can be found by following this link to our web site.

George Rayner —>

George Rayner – a character from Hoxne’s past – the subject of our next talk

George Rayner Poster (1)

Hoxne Heritage Group Presents a Talk on Wallpaper.

Wallpaper ! Not exactly a subject to fire the imagination, or so you would have thought. However the talk we were presented with in the village hall on Monday 8th January given by Philip Aitkins did indeed fire the imagination. We were not talking about any old wallpaper here either, but rather historical wallpaper up to about 1850 when it was largely handmade, and certainly not massed produced. Evidently before the onset of massed produced wallpaper this type of interior decoration was not cheap.


To illustrate his talk Philip brought a large portfolio of historical wallpaper remnants many over two hundred and fifty years old. Some had been removed from old buildings now no longer here. Not surprisingly each of these remnants had a story to tell, either the social standing of the owner who commissioned the wallpaper to be made or indeed the history of the house that the wallpaper was removed from.


Using a selection of slides Philip also plotted the stylistic development of wallpaper taking into account many of the influences prevalent, notably the Chinese, and the blue and white style reminiscent of Delft pottery, popular throughout the late 17th century and 18th century. Using the patterns derived from these styles Philip assured

us that wallpaper could be dated quite accurately.


Some of us went to this talk clutching remnants of our own wallpaper scraps hoping they would be dated. Unfortunately most of us were disappointed when told that our wallpapers were cheap massed produced examples dating from the end of the 19th century. However Philip was quite excited by a ‘wallpaper ‘presented at the talk for investigation, He dated this as between late 17th century and early 18th century. He also said it was not wallpaper not having been made from paper. Instead it was thought to have been possibly made of linen, once the product of a local manufacturing industry in the Waveney Valley. This wall hanging came from a house still standing in Hoxne so there is a local connection. So much interest was raised by this wall hanging that with the permission of its owner Hoxne Heritage Group is to seek further expert advice. Interestingly the owner of the wall hanging was told many years ago that it originated from Java and is made from crushed wood bark and that it was stuck on the ceiling between the joists.


So, watch this space as we try to discover its origins.


Wallpaper talk poster

Audience spellbound by Heritage Group’s talk on the Witch Trials……

An enthralled audience of more than 50 villagers listened to Ivan Bunn’s fascinating talk about the 1645-46 Witch trials of Bury St. Edmund’s. He spoke of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, who is the most notorious name in the history of English witchcraft.

In conjunction with his henchman and fellow witch-pricker, John Stearne, Hopkins was responsible for the condemnations and executions of 230 alleged witches in a 14 month period in 1645-6. He was described as a religious zealot, an extreme Puritan and violently anti-catholic. He was the son of James Hopkins, a minister of Wenham, near Manningtree and was finally buried at Mistley, Essex, having died in his late twenties of tuberculosis. There is some evidence that he worked in the legal profession, from his performances when giving evidence during the trials, although he was probably not a lawyer.

Ivan went on to describe how Hopkins and Stearne did not have to prove the accused had committed malicious acts but the fact they had made a covenant with the Devil. The greatest sin of all was that they had become heretics to Christianity and, as such, it was necessary to gain a confession, frequently by torture. Methods such as sleep deprivation, being tied to a chair and submerged in water to see if they floated (those that floated were deemed to be witches) or cut with a blunt knife. Female assistants were hired to watch suspects and to examine the accused for the Devil’s mark which would not bleed. (probably a mole or birthmark). It was believed that the witch’s familiar, usually a cat or dog, would suckle from this mark. The accused were sentenced by justices of the peace at the assizes and usually hanged if found guilty.

Hopkins and Stearne, accompanied by their ‘pricking assistants’ became famous and their services were requested all over East Anglia. They claimed to be officially commissioned by Parliament, although there is no record of this. They were very well-paid for their services, which appeared to be the main motivation. The expense to the local community was such that a special tax had to be levied in Ipswich in 1645.The witchfinders ran into opposition very soon after their work began and John Gaule, vicar of Great Staughton, began a programme of sermons to suppress witch-hunting. The justices of the assizes in Norfolk questioned Hopkins and Stearne about their torturing and fees and suggested that their methods could possibly be construed as witchcraft as well. By the time the court resumed in 1647 both witchfinders had retired.

Ivan finished his talk by showing interesting archived records relating to some locally convicted witches. A gruesome but fascinating tale and Matthew Hopkins lives on as ‘an anti-hero and bogeyman’!

Our next talk – The Witchcraft Trials of Bury St. Edmunds

Witchcraft talk poster

‘One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’….


On November 1st about 70 villagers were treated to a fascinating and highly entertaining talk in the village hall by Dr. Tom Licence, Director of the Centre for East Anglian Studies and Senior Lecturer in History at UEA, on the subject of ‘What the Victorians threw away’

Tom revealed how everyday minutiae dug from old rubbish heaps representing three levels in society during the period 1875 to 1914, – a labourer from Kent, a postman from Shropshire and a clergyman from Norfolk – contribute to the story of how our great grandparents built a throwaway society from the twin foundations of packaging and mass consumption, which illustrate how our own throwaway habits were formed.

In 1933, the Society for the Prevention of Disfigurement in Town and Country published a study concerning the disposal of domestic refuse in rural areas.37% of replies indicated there was no organised waste disposal with most refuse dumped in the corner of lanes or over neighbours’ hedges. In the 1870s polishes, pastes, sauces and beverages were confected at home and very little was thrown away. A book on household hints, ‘Facts and Hints for Everyday Life’ became the bible in thousands of households and gave methods for the preparation of products for household use, preserving foodstuffs and methods for removing stains and repairing stoneware and  glassware etc. for re-use.

Richer households could afford to purchase ready-made products which were becoming ever more affordable during the nineteenth century. With colourful labels and recognisable brands they became a feature of shopkeepers’ shelves, their sales boosted by advertising. Of particular note was the availability of Judson’s dyes which enabled a new lease of life for old clothes and hats using a relatively inexpensive and simplified labour-saving process for the hard-pressed housewife compared with the previous complex method requiring homemade dyestuffs. The wealthy households also used readymade blacking, polish, condiments and boned toothbrushes to apply fine-perfumed toothpaste. Their social inferiors used homemade products and toothbrushes carved from marshmallow root to apply coal ash for their oral hygiene. Evidence of luxury goods e.g. anchovy paste, Russian caviar and Devonshire clotted cream brought to London by steam locomotives to be sold on the Strand, was found in Essex, the dumping ground (then as now) for refuse brought up from London by barge.

In 1888, Bovril had become popular as a beef tea beverage. Bovril became a staple for the rural population even during WW1 because the price remained static and most rubbish heaps revealed a number of the characteristic brown jars.  In the 1890s glassware became disposable and the rich would discard bottles even if unbroken, whereas the poorer families would scavenge through rubbish to collect unbroken bottles to redeem the farthing deposit by selling on to street buyers who patrolled Victorian cities, purchasing old clothes, rags, skins, bones and bottles. The poor were more likely make their own lemonade and ginger beer re-using vessels which they cleaned while to the rich, vessels were disposable. The poorer families would also scavenge through rubbish to collect jam jars for preserving foodstuffs.

The period around 1905 revealed machine-manufactured vessels and fruit juice crystals were used to make beverages, essence of anchovies for gravy browning. Evidence of literacy was found as ink wells were uncovered, as well as alphabet cups and nursery rhyme mugs indicating that children were being educated. Further evidence of childhood was seen as ceramic toys were found in heaps.

Differences in rubbish was evident in the three levels of society represented by the case studies mentioned earlier. Compared with the labourer’s rubbish, the postman ‘s heap showed more evidence of readymade products and cleaning products, ink wells and returnable beer bottles that had not been returned due to the rural location. The rubbish from the rectory revealed a much larger disposable income with decanters, a very fine wine jug,  candlesticks, Mellins Infant food (2s 6d) a china doll’s head, a doll’s plate with gold leaf and fine imported Limoges oriental tableware. Food packaging also indicated fine dining occurred with lobster, relishes with spices, Colman’s mustard and potted meats. The discovery of 28 bottles of fruit juice crystals and two cups bearing the name of a confectioner from Norwich suggested that these may have been supplied by party caterers. This was substantiated by a newspaper entry indicating that a party was to be held at the rectory.

Excavation of the rubbish also gives an insight into what medicines were used. Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was commonly used to soothe teething babies. The preparation contained morphine and became known as ‘the baby killer’!

In the 1900s local chemists often had their own preparations but from 1910 the emergence of brand names was seen e.g.  Timothy White’s, Boots. The wealthy also used potions from a health spa in Bohemia -Carlsbad Sprudel Salts -the universal laxative, diuretic, cure for rheumatism, diabetes, kidney problems and more! Poisons were commonplace in Victorian houses and were kept in ribbed hexagonal bottles – probably a safety feature to indicate the product should not be consumed if picked up in a poorly-illuminated room.

Our Hoxne community dig in 2013 revealed that there is a lot of Victorian rubbish buried in the gardens around Hoxne. We are also aware of 6 Victorian rubbish heaps around the village. Next time you dig up an old bottle or tin with a label spare a thought for what this tells us about how these people lived.

More information can be found in ‘What the Victorians Threw Away’,a small illustrated paperback written by Tom about this fascinating project.





What the Victorians threw away – our next talk on 1st November


Hoxne Heritage Group presents:-

What the Victorians threw away


by Dr Tom Licence

Director of Centre for East Anglian Studies, UEA.

Come and be fascinated by what their rubbish tells us about what they ate, what ailments they had and how they lived – and what you are digging up regularly in your own gardens.

Hoxne Village Hall, Tuesday, November 1st at 7.30pm

Admission £5 on the door, £4 by ticket (from Hoxne P.O. or Julie Craven 01379 668383)

Bar                                                                                         Raffle