The Great British Tea

Found in Old Inns of Suffolk, an often consulted work by local historian 440px-Customers_enjoying_afternoon_tea_at_Lyon's_Corner_House_on_Coventry_Street,_London,_1942._D6573Leonard P Thompson, is a complaint about the ‘catchpenny ‘afternoon teas served up by typical road houses and other mediocre eating places.

Writing in 1948,Thompson argues that excellent and value for money teas can still be found in Britain, but that the ones offered by hotels and similar outfits are invariably unimaginative, mean and ridiculously expensive.

Thompson begins his complaint with a eulogy to a tea he once had at The Fleece, Boxford, near Sudbury, once the home village of the late Peter Haining, the doyen of paste and scissors anthologists, from whose archive ( now owned by Jot 101) Old Inns of Suffolk may have come.

It was a Tea of an essentially home-made order. There was plenty of bread-and-butter. There was potted meat and home-made jam. There were biscuits, there was cake. And there was a pot of refreshing, honest to-goodness tea. The price was extraordinarily reasonable. And it all pointed to this moral: if one country inn can observe the ancient traditions of its proud place in England’s social history, so can others. Some, indeed, do, but they are all too few; and of that few, the majority are completely unimaginative. Hotel Teas display the least imagination; two or three wafers of rather dry bread, lightly smeared with a mixture of margarine and butter; perhaps a couple of diminutive sandwiches of indefinable and often dubious content; a piece of dry cake, or an equally dry and hideously plain bun. Such is the usual composition of the average Hotel Tea . Continue reading

Havelock Ellis on British geniuses


Havelock Ellis picFound in a album of cuttings from various East Anglian newspapers in the early twentieth century is a review that appeared in The Leader, December 24th, 1906 of A Study of British Genius by the pioneer sexologist Havelock Ellis. The reviewer gleefully notes that East Anglia seems to have produced a high proportion of geniuses. To make his point he lists in order of greatness those English counties that have contributed most to the making of English men of genius. These were:












Ellis looked at the genius’s place of origin—that is, the district to which his four grandparents belonged. London as a birthplace was ignored altogether. This was because, where information was available, it was nearly always found that the parents had migrated to London. It rarely occurred that ‘even one grandparent belonged to London ‘. Continue reading

A Ghost Story of Princes Risborough


Catalogue of 1997 Contents Sale

From some papers relating to the Grubbe family of Priory House, Blythburgh, Suffolk and Horsenden Manor, Princes Risborought, Buckinghamshire this true ghost story with diagrams etc., The haunted Horsenden Manor is now inhabited by a rock musician, one Jay Kay of the band Jamiroquai. A Ghost Story and some Considerations thereon. L.C. Grubbe, Southwold, Suffolk. The following pages may be of service to seekers after the truth about ghosts and indeed interest many people not yet attained to the omniscience necessary in order to exclude such things altogether from the pale of possibility. I say ‘omniscience’ because in a universe so vast as ours, one must manifestly know everything that is there, before he can assent positively what is not. The discoveries constantly being made by science of secrets that for ages have lain concealed in our midst prove the immensity of the fields open to exploration as well as the dense ignorance about them in which the human mind is still wrapped. Every new fact brought to light concerning nature and her resources is as a window added to the chamber of human consciousness opening on visas of possibility never before entertained, and stretching away again into the dim haze of the absolutely unknown. What I have to relate is a very plain matter of fact story. In a secluded part of one of the midland counties stands an old country house, the home of many generations of my family, out of whose hands it passed some 60 years ago. Possibly the site has been occupied ever since Roman times, for Roman masonry was found in the foundations during alterations, but he present main building though added to and in some part of the 7th century altered is probably the same as stood during the civil wars. I am however only concerned with a certain small portion of it, which during my grandfathers time bore the reputation of being haunted, though neither he nor his children have ever been accused of undue prejudice in form of what is to my mind miscalled ‘The Supernatural’. Continue reading

An Address to the people of Suffolk on incendiary fires

Found in the Haining collection - a mid 19th century pamphlet An Address to the people of Suffolk on incendiary fires. No publisher, author, date or place of publication is given. WorldCat notes that there is a copy in the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature, (no. 34328) and says the author was probably  Lord Thurlow - a Suffolk peer (Edward Hovell-Thurlow) and estimates a publication date of 1845. Evidently Suffolk was plagued by arson at this time. An impassioned plea, unashamedly patrician in tone, to stop this outbreak. It appears to be addressed mainly to farm workers and may have been spoken to a gathering and/or published in local newspapers. The account of the violent and seditious behaviour of people at the fires is fascinating and alarming...

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The Hell Hound

Another tale from a rare folklore book M. H. James's Bogie Tales of East Anglia (Pawsey & Hayes, Ipswich 1891). The setting is almost certainly Aldeburgh, a coastal town in Suffolk, now somewhat gentrified but still with its fisherman on the beach (and in the bars) some of whom still have dogs…

The Hell Hound 

At the north end of the town of A--- lie the salt marshes, which are sometimes full, like a lake, after rains or the prevalence of of certain winds, and of which there was a sunset view exhibited in London not long ago.Here a favourite walk of the inhabitants leads across a sort of common, planted with a fir grove; by one or other of two paths, one of which goes through the pine wood and emerges near the station; the other leaves the pine wood on the left, and skirts the mere, crossing the line, and leading into a sandy lane between more pine trees. At the sea end of this waste is a 'kissing gate'...and here it is quite likely that the presiding bogie will meet you, if you walk there after dark.

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A Were-Dog Story

Among Peter Haining's books we found this folklore rarity Bogie tales of East Anglia by M. H. James (Ipswich, 1891) - from it comes this slightly  disturbing tale. What the Italian was doing in Lowestoft is anybody's guess.

This tale, which runs as follows, is still common talk among the beach men at Lowestoft. An Italian gentleman, with curly hair and a very dark complexion, asked a fisher-boy of Lowestoft, to become his page, but this the boy refused, as he did not wish to go forge in parts; whereupon the Italian, far from being angry, asked the boy to look after a dog for him, as he was going ways.

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Lament for a Country Vet

Found - amongst a collection of Suffolk ephemera - this one page poem about a late lamented vet who died in the year of the Titanic and, according to records, was born in 1847. Little is known about him, but the poet W. S. Montgomery, the 'Blind Organ Grinder of Westleton' appears to have been an itinerant local poet and some of his poems and a short note* about him can be found in Barrett Jenkins book from the 1990s - A Selection of Ghost Stories, Smuggling Stories & Poems Connected with Southwold.

In loving memory of Edgar Willmott Wright, M.R.C.V.S.
For many years Veterinary Surgeon at Yoxford,
Died Friday, July 26th, 1912.

Interred at Yoxford Cemetery, Monday, July 29th.

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Wickham Steed

Wickham Steed
(Bibliotheque Nationale Francaise)

[L.R. Reeve* writes:] Somewhere in the world of books there must surely be a biography of the late Wickham Steed. He would have been an eminent man if only for his vast knowledge of foreign languages: a knowledge which could be acquired only after months and years of intense application to his studies and excellent hours.

  One wonders whether his obvious passion for other tongues began at the Sudbury Grammar School. Did he learn from an enthusiastic and efficient French teacher, or was his enthusiasm inborn in spite of an apathetic form master?  No matter. His enthusiasm and obvious genius could never develop so remarkably without both inherent ability and uncommon will power. No indolent man could have achieved so much. His long arduous apprenticeship abroad began, I fancy, at the Sorbonne, in Paris. When he spoke to a large audience on foreign languages at Essex Hall, Strand, he told us of a Parisian who informed him that he spoke French like a Frenchman: a testimony which all students would like to hear.

  Many English people obtain employment in foreign countries in order to reach a working knowledge of a certain tongue. A friend of mine served behind a counter in Paris; but most professional men of course aspire to a university, for it is there they learn the grammar, the correct accent, and study the refinements and culture of a beautiful language in a beautiful city. To be in Paris itself, is, I should think, an inspiration to study and learn as much as possible of an historic centre of learning, and as for its beauty on has only to examine a view from the top of Notre Dame to appreciate the genius of man to design and build a city carefully planned by architects of vision so long ago.

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Zeppelins over literary London

A correspondence on Zeppelins in the letters column of the Times Literary Supplement  prompted a visit to a local Suffolk church where 17 German airmen were buried after crashing their Zeppelin in 1917. The letters have the slightly leaden header 'Led by a Zeppelin' and concern a remark of Katherine Mansfield's about how she was so attracted to the sound and sight of a Zeppelin during a raid on Paris that '…she longed to go out and follow it…' This reminds the correspondent of G.B. Shaw's reaction to a Zeppelin over Potter's Bar in October 1917 -'…  the sound of the engines was so fine, and its voyage through the stars so enchanting, that I positively caught myself hoping next night there would be another raid…'

This letter (from the American writer Stanley Weintraub) prompted a riposte about the metropolitan bias of the T.L.S. letters from Suffolk beer baron Simon Loftus (26/9/2014). He notes that Zeppelin raids were relatively common on the East Coast - "...towns such as Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Southwold were bombed more or less ineffectually by these strange  Leviathans of the skies…" He then alludes to the Zeppelin shot down near Theberton, noting that pieces of the aluminium structure, salvaged from the wreckage were auctioned in aid of the Red Cross. The 17 German airmen were buried in the peaceful graveyard at Theberton. Also buried there is the author of Arabia Deserta Charles M. Doughty. The airmen's  bodies have since been moved to a central burial ground in Staffordshire, although a memorial can still be seen in the cemetery across the road from the church.

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Duleep Singh—Prince of Suffolk

A rare find—a letter written in English from the last Sikh Maharajah of India. Duleep Singh (1838 – 93), came to power at the age of 5, with his mother as regent. When she was deposed and jailed, he was made a ward and finally was exiled to England in 1853 at the age of 15, having been converted to Christianity. On his arrival, he was lionised in the London salons and became a particular favourite of Queen Victoria. He lived in Roehampton and Wimbledon for a while and then bought estates in Yorkshire and Scotland, where he was known locally as the Black Prince of Perth. His mother having joined him in 1861, he was now firmly established as a country gentleman, with the reputation as the fourth best shot in the land. His final purchase was of a 17,000 acre estate at Elveden, near Thetford, where he proved to be an excellent landlord and a generous local benefactor. Though he later died in Paris, he chose to be buried here.

Elveden was an ideal purchase for Dukleep. Just eighty miles from London, its open situation in the heart of Breckland enabled him to pursue the life of a hunting and shooting squire while remaining in touch with metropolitan life. The deep forest may even have reminded him of the jungle he had left behind.

He continued to visit his Scottish estates at and it is from Loch Kennard Lodge that he wrote this letter, which is dated in pencil July 27th 1868 by its recipient, John Norton, the celebrated Gothic architect, who had just completed the astonishing Tyntesfield, near Bristol. It is characteristic of the ostentatious Duleep, then aged just 30, that he should engage one of the most trendy architects in the land to remodel the rather old fashioned Elveden Hall. In the letter Duleep acknowledges receipt of the latest plans of the proposed alterations to the Hall and asks Norton to send the earlier ones so that he can 'compare the accommodation and their costs '.

According to Pevsner, Duleep enlarged a Georgian building of moderate size into 'an Oriental extravaganza unparalleled in England'. Though the external style was Italianate, the interior incorporated  'a central domed hall with a glass lantern, with the walls, pillars and arches  covered with the closest Indian oriental detail, all made of white Carrara marble and carved in situ by Indian craftsmen'. Work was completed in 1870. In 1899 – 1903, following Duleeps’s death, Lord Iveagh of Guinness fame, enlarge the Hall still further. Today, Elveden Hall remains in the Guinness family, and though empty and a shadow of its former glory, it remains  a popular location for filming. Among the movies shot here was Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.  [RMH]