WEST DEREHAM HERITAGE GROUP
Visit to the National Trust at Sutton Hoo.
On the 24th. Of April a party of 22 members and guests boarded a coach for the journey to Woodbridge, Suffolk and the 7th century Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo.
The field is high up overlooking the river Deben and in 1938 a local archaeologist, Basil Brown, who did work for the Ipswich Museum was asked by the then owner of the Estate, Mrs Petty to make a preliminary examination of a large burial mound.
Mrs Petty also provided two of her Labourers to assist Mr Brown with the task.
Brown started work and by all accounts was very careful and thorough in his excavations. It was the discovery of a significant number of large iron rivets which made Brown realise that laying beneath his feet could be an ancient burial ship dating from the 5th century long after the Romans had departed these lands.
In 1939 the main discovery was located intact in the middle of the ship, the burial chamber itself. It was here that one of the greatest treasures ever found in the British Isles was discovered where it has lain undisturbed for 1300 years.
It is thought to be the burial of the great Saxon King, Raedwald who died in about AD625. Basically the boat would have been hauled up from the river bank to the high ground which looks out to the sea. A large hole dug to accommodate the ship and the body placed in the middle plus all the Kings personal belongings including his weapons. This was then roofed over with a timber covering and the soil heaped up to a substantial height to create the mound.
At the outbreak of the war most of the treasure had been removed and the site was then covered over to protect it. Further work was done after the war right up to 1968 and the shape of the boat could still be seen to this day if it was uncovered.
The site now contains a Visitors Centre, Treasure House, Picnic and Play area as well as scenic walks to the burial site itself with its collection of mounds and was donated to the National Trust in 1998. The Visitors Centre was completed in 2001.
For me the Treasure House was the most amazing place with its full size replica of the burial chamber and the contents laid out in the positions in which they were found.
The gold and silver artefacts were most breathtaking, a belt buckle, sword fittings which are made of gold, so exquisite was the workmanship it was difficult to believe they were made 1300 years ago. The most iconic piece is the Helmet of which there is a reconstruction of the remainder as found and a full size replica. One has to realise that although the gold, silver, bronze and enamel antiquities remain almost in the same condition as when buried all iron, wood, leather and textiles items will have rotted away, wood tends to leave just its shape in the soil.
Iron rusts but its shape remains and can be preserved over time with modern techniques. All the original treasure is held at the British Museum in London and can be viewed there.
Some of us had lunch in the Restaurant others took along a Picnic which on such a lovely Spring day was just the thing.
After lunch a short ride on the coach brought us to Woodbridge and the Tide Mill with its adjacent granary.
There has been a Tide Mill on the site for over 800 years and records show it passed down through family members throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. By 1939 it was just one of 9 surviving working mills and continued working until 1957 when it finally broke down and was not repaired. A electrically powered grist mill did continue to mill grain for livestock feed.
To save the mill from collapse it was purchased at auction in 1968 by Mrs R.T.Gardner and founded the Tide Mill Trust. After extensive restoration it was opened to the public for the first time in 1973.
How does a Tide Mill work, very simply actually. A large enclosed pond is created just a bit up stream from the mill which is located on the bank of a tidal river.
As the tide starts to make, rise, come in from the sea the water is able to push open the gates of the pond which is now empty and starts to fill it. At high tide this flow stops as the tide starts to ebb and the water return to the sea. The pond is now full and the water starts to flow out which in turn causes the gates to close thus trapping the water. This water can then channelled to pass under the water wheel, know as an undershot wheel and thus drive the attached machinery. This gave 4 hours work to the wheel twice a day.
The rest of the workings are similar or the same as any Windmill. The water wheel itself is 18 feet in diameter and drives a 22 inch share axle which weighs 1.5 tons.
The wheel has 56 elm 'floats' or paddles and it weighs about 3 tons. It turns two pairs of stones at the same time but with adjustment, just the one.
At the moment the mill is not working due to the axle shifting off centre and the wheel has to be restored as the floats need replacing. It is hoped that this work will be started in the not too distant future.
The two chaps who were on duty were most helpful and gave those interested a guided tour over the three floors. There were lots of milling artefacts, bygones and photograph to see as well. One of the most interesting was the detailed auction poster from 1968 when the mill was sold to Mrs Gardner. What did she pay I can hear you saying, well it was £7000.00., which I think was a lot of money for the time.
West Dereham Heritage Group are delighted to announce they have been awarded a £12,000.00 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop and furnish a Heritage Room in the Village Hall. There are numerous conditions to this grant including a time scale. The emphasis will be on education and the involvement of Schools and Youth Organisations, to aid education and research. The project, on completion, will be available to villagers, the general public and school parties.
Most of the work will be done by WDHG in conjunction with the expansion and restoration of the Village Hall which will commence this summer.
There will be more publicity on this award via the various media in the coming weeks.
All of the form filling connected with the application was conducted by Ruth Marsters who was aided by a small steering committee of members. They will continue to supervise the conditions of the grant up to completion.
On the 29th of April an evening meeting was held to welcome our guest speaker Mrs Win Smith (nee Barker) . Win was born in the Village during 1920 and is the youngest of seven children. Lived at Watering Cottages when the rent was £5 per year and continued to do after she left school. She met her future husband at a dance in Gooderstone and married in the early 1940s. By this time she was caring for her elderly parents and continued to do so after she married.
She remembers her Father as a very strict religious man who attended the Methodist Chapel and at times was very bad tempered who did not always treat his family in a Christian manner. As a child Win remembers they were well fed and clothed and used to walk to school, across the fields in summer and by the road in winter. If they arrived wet their clothes would be dried out round the fire. Most winters were hard and there was always lots of snow. She remembers the Headmaster as a rather cruel man.
Win left school in 1934 and at this time her Father was 66, suffering from arthritis while her Mother had MS so as was the usual duty of the youngest daughter at that time, she stayed at home to look after them. Kind neighbours would look after the old folk if Win wanted to go out at all and on the Saturdays evenings when there always social events taking place in the days before televisions. After the war she and her husband used to help with whist drives and dances as at the time they were raising money to build a Village Hall. In 1946 Win and her husband moved to Boughton to run the local pub.
Win is now 90 years of age and lives in sheltered accommodation in Downham Market.
Richard C. French.