Mildenhall in old picture postcards

Mildenhall in old picture postcards

:   Dr. C.M. Dring
:   Suffolk
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-5751-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Tbis book largely covers the years 1880-1930 wh en Mildenhall was still a quiet market town where the same families had of ten been running the same shops for generations. Tbere had been a silk factory here in the 1830s and a small iron foundry but little other industry and the town was therefore badly affected by the 19th century agricultural depression. The opening of the railway in 1885 came too late to prevent a steep fall in population and the economy of the area did not begin to reeover until work started on the airfield in 1931. The great Mildenhall to Australia Air Race of 1934 brought the town into the limelight for the first time in many years. RAF Mildenhall grew to become an important Bomber Command base during the Second World War and is now a large American installation, its annual air shows, the largest in the country, attracting upwards of 300,000 spectators.

The town began to expand in the 1930s but the major development came in the 1960s when an agreement was reached with the Greater London Council to transfer families here from the metropolis. New housing estates were built and a light industrial estate established to provide employment for the newcomers who have now fully integrated into locallife. The history of the area, however, can be traeed back

to prehistorie times for excavations at High Lodge have proved that there was life here 500,000 years ago, the earliest evidence for Stone Age toolmakers in this country. This district, at the junction of the formerly marshy fenland and dry breckland, was very attractive to ancient man and there have been numerous discoveries from all archaeological periods. The Romans had a large settlement at nearby Icklingham and a ring of farmsteads around the edge of the fen. It was near one of these that the Mildenhall Treasure, a priceless hoard of Roman silver th at is now in the British Museum, was found at West Row in 1943.

The manor of Mildenhall was given by Edward the Confessor to the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds and remained the property of the abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536. During this time the town rose to a position of considerable importance, having an annual timber fair as weIl as a weekly market. Two local men, Henry de Barton and William Gregory, made their fortunes in London, both becoming Lords Mayor. It was at this time also that the magnificent parish church of St. Mary, famous for its ornately carved angel roof, was built.

The manor was later sold by the crown to the North

family, deseending through several generations before passing by marriage to Sir Thomas Hanmer, a renowned Speaker of the House of Commons, and then to the Bunbury family which held it until the final sale of the last of the great estate in 1933. Many members of these families achieved farne in public life. Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury once tossed a coin with Lord Derby to decide whose name should be given to a new horse race; Derby won the toss but Bunbury's horse won the first Derby.

This is not a history of Mildenhall, although it is hoped that the captions will give some glimpses of life in the area. The content of this baak has been dictated by the availability of photographs and, sadly, many roads and institutions do not appear. It is to be hoped that any interest generated by this work will bring to light many more old postcards and photographs to cover the gaps.


Firstly, I must express my gratitude to the trustees of the Mildenhall Museum for allowing use of their extensive archives and to the many individuals who have given photographs to the museum over the years. I have not attempted to acknowledge these donors personally, as in many cases copies have

been received from several different sources. Mention is made in captions, where photographs have been made available from elsewhere.

Many people have given freely of their time to help me with the preparation of th is book and it would be invidious to mention but a few. I must, however, express my thanks to Wilfred Bell, who first encouraged my interest in these matters and who has given so many photographs to the museum, and to Mrs. Elisabeth Brotherton, who has been so helpful over the years, whenever copies have been requested. Finally, my work would have been much more difficult had I not had access to the bound volumes of Simpson's Directories and Monthly Magazines that were so generously bequeathed to the museum by Miss Cissie Simpson in 1991. These are mentioned later but, suffice it to say, there can be few towns the size of Mildenhall that can boast such splendid souree material for the study of recent history . Mildenhall will forever be indebted to the Simpson family.

Colin M. Dring

1. Friday markets have been a feature of Mildenhall at least since 1412 when a royal charter was first obtained. The Market Cross is believed to date from the 1400s and is still nominally owned by the Lord ofthe Manor, although leased to the parish council since 1938 for 1 p. a year. An early Victorian drawing shows stocks still in place at the foot of the cross. Note the water pump which still stands; mains water did not come to the town unti11939. This 1896 view shows, on the far side of the High Street, the Tiger's Head, little changed, and Palmer's stationery shop, demolished in 1905.

2. The first shop to the right of the Market Cross, in 1896, was then Isaac Minns' saddlery shop. Note the fire wall, built between this shop and its neighbour. Edward Minns stripped the plaster to reveal the old oak bearns in 1932. The other half of this building was then Jonathan Norrnan's butcher's shop, specialising in game and poultry. Later it becarne a cycle shop but since 1933 has been a doctors' surgery. The house on the far right, now also a doctors' surgery , was then the home of Henry Large, auctioneer and organist at the parish church for over 50 years.

3. The Cash Boot Stores returned to the Market Place in 1902, having been in exile in St. Andrew's Street since 1897. Mr. Remington, who had taken over from Garnharn Bros., moved his shoe shop to the High Street in 1920 but kept this shop on as a stationer's, Behind the cross are the premises of Harry Ungless, in business as a plumber, decorator and undertaker from 1898 until his early death in 1906. His shop had been the Pettit tamily's bakery from the 1830s. Next on the right is a branch of Stiles where Herbert, the last of the three brothers, had his shop until he died in 1933.

4. This scene, looking up the Market Place from the High Street, dates from about 1905. Whitworth's had opened for business in 1900, with Mr. R.F. Radford as manager until the 1940s. The shop was later taken over by Adkins and then Budgens. At the top of the square is the house of Mr. R. Clarke, builder and undertaker. The fa├žade was preserved when the office and supermarket behind were built in the 1970s. Most of the buildings in the square date to just after the disaster of 1569 when a terrible fire raged for two hours and destroyed 37 houses. (Courtesy Mrs. G. Hagan. )

5. There was a cycling club in 1882 but the sport was then too expensive to attract enough members. Another club was started in 1894 with Dr. William Dunn, alocal G.P., as President and Mr. F. Peachey as Secretary. This group must be from the early days as there is an empty space where Whitworth's stores appeared in 1900. The club was reformed as The Wheelers' Cycle Club in 1932, with Mr. A.W. Neve as President and Mr. J. Mothersole as Secretary. It has since gone from strength to strength, the club's annual Dairytime Gala now being one of the most important cycling events in the country.

6. The history of the town is punctuated by numerous fires. This one occurred in September 1897, starting at the rear of Firth Bros.' grocery shop and Mr. Morley's furniture warehouse on the south side of the Market Place. The volunteer fire brigade managed to stop the blaze spreading to the home of the Misses Aldrich to the east and Mrs. Towler's pork butcher's shop to the west. The souvenir photograph lists the names of all associated with the fire brigade. A full account of the event appeared in the Mildenhall Monthly Journal, another of Simpson's efforts, in October 1897.

7. The T.S.B. corner is seen here in 1909. The present beamed appearance dates to the renovations of 1932. The first bank to trade from here was Gurney's and Co. from the early 1870s. This firm merged, largely through family connections, to become Barclay's in 1907. The national banks agreed to reduce the number of branches in use during the Second World War and this building was in use as government offices for the issue of ration books, etc. Then, in 1947, Barclay's was sold to the T.S.B. which has been here ever since. Mildenhall Museum occupied the upper floor and one room downstairs until the bank expanded in 1983.

8. This photograph of the High Street is one of a series taken by MT. Stanton in 1896 and published by Simpsen in his History of Mildenhall. On the left are the old White Hart, Andrews' ironmongery shop and the Bell Hotel. At the very end of the street, to the left of the now Lloyds Bank, then still a private house, is a glimpse of Mab's Hall. John Wing died here, aged 101, in 1903 but in the early 1700s it had been the home of Mr. Bradbury. Squire Coe often used to meet Mr. Bradbury and Sir Thomas Hanmer in the Cock Inn where they drank and played cards late into the night, matters of which Coe always repented in his journal (published in 1994 by the Suffolk Records Society) the next day.

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