Nine Capel Ladies took part in a walking tour round Hadleigh, a town which has 250 listed buildings and is famous for seeing off Tesco’s after a battle lasting 26 years! We were met by Gill Dudley, a Blue Badge volunteer guide, and we started off by the bus station where she told us all about Sir Cedric Morris. He was born in 1889 and was famous both as an artist and a plantsman, and lived for many years at Benton End. He loved irises which he grew and bred, and in the spring you can see the irises he grew in the Cedric Morris Gardens by the bus station. He died in 1982 and is buried in Hadleigh cemetery, and earlier this year two different exhibitions were held in London to celebrate his life’s work.
From here we moved to near Partridges to see the obelisk milestone, which we discovered from old pictures Gill had with her had been moved from the opposite side of the road. The bicycle shop opposite led Gill to tell us about the Gayford Flyer, a cycle race held in Hadleigh each year named after local man Oswald Gayford who was born here in 1893. In World War 1 he joined the Naval Flying Corps and earnt the Distinguished Flying Cross. His flying experience led to his appointment as officer in charge of the RAF Long Range Flight, and in 1933 along with his co-pilot Gilbert Nicholetts he flew a record-breaking distance in a huge Fairey long-range monoplane from Cranwell in Lincolnshire to South Africa in one flight, with extra fuel stored under the wings. It was 5340 miles and took them 57 hours 25 minutes to much acclaim and press attention. He later became Commanding Officer at RAF Wattisham, and later Bomber Command. He died in 1945.
We then moved on to the Market Place where Gill explained the symbols on the Hadleigh sign, the lamb for the Lamb of God, the V stood for ermine, meaning purity and the 3 woolsacks for the wool trade. She talked about the wool trade and how it brought wealth to East Anglia and also a little about how the wool goes from fleece to cloth. She spoke about carding the wool and Irene in our group discovered the origin of her surname Carder! The market got its Royal charter in 1252, and is still held regularly every Friday morning on the Market Place just off the High Street.
We looked at Victoria House that has a picture of an unknown man or possibly a woman, no one is quite sure and the picture is of unknown origin. We heard about John Ansell who was a millionaire and ran a department store in Hadleigh. He was keen to help the children of Hadleigh get an education so he built a school which is now Ansell Hall. This is now a multi-purpose building for use by the community.
The Corn Exchange had its moment of fame when a scene from the Lovejoy TV programme was filmed there, and nearby we spotted an old water pump. Hadleigh didn’t get piped water until 1930!
We stopped to look at St. Mary’s Church with its lovely 13th century broach spire. The graveyard there is unique in that it was the oldest continually used burial site in Suffolk. The Deanery Tower is late 1400s and it was built for William Pykenham, the Archdeacon of Suffolk. The bricks are all handmade and the blackened bricks were charred and used for the decoration. It is said that it has very little in the way of foundations but it has stood firm for over 500 years! The remains of his gatehouse are in Ipswich, the Pykenham Gatehouse near the library in Northgate Street.
Turning round we saw the Guildhall which over the years has had many uses and been extended. Originally it would have had shops downstairs, but it has also been assembly rooms, a school and a corset factory. We walked to the back of it to peep in the delightful little gardens and then came to the end of the tour.
Gill was a lovely lady and she had with her a folder full of old photos and newspaper clippings showing old pictures of Hadleigh which were interesting too.
Report by Di Barker
Photos by Pat Bradford