I think Elizabeth would approve
First of all, thank you so much to everyone who voted for The Lady Elizabeth in recognition of Elizabeth de Burgh as a replacement name for the Black Boy pub.
I must admit that I was a bit lukewarm when asked by the Sudbury Society if I had any ideas for a name. I hadn’t – but then, out of the blue, came Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare.
Well, not her in person, of course (she died in 1360) but her name came into my mind.
I’d first heard of her from Barry Wall at the Sudbury History Society soon after I came to live in Sudbury, but she wasn’t someone who I had really thought about a lot.
Nevertheless, I wrote a piece about her for the Free Press (January 28) encouraging people to vote for this remarkable woman who had been way ahead of her time: bright, intelligent, interested in the arts, in town planning and the design of mills – civil engineering.
She was keen on education and founded Clare College, Cambridge, where there is a portrait of her by 18th century artist Joseph Freeman so, unfortunately, it is not a likeness from life.
Elizabeth de Burgh deserves to be better known in Sudbury’s history. She lived just down the road from Sudbury at Clare Castle but owned vast acres in this area.
She would have walked all over what was to become Market Hill 700 years ago, planning shops and a market and improving the town layout.
She was a wealthy widow, the granddaughter of Edward I, and carried a lot of clout – which helped.
It also meant that she was able to enjoy the finer things of life, like good food and drink. Her household accounts have survived and show that bread, meat and poultry (locally reared), fish, fruits when in season but dried if not, sugar and spices from foreign parts were on the menu.
Fresh vegetables are not mentioned much in the accounts, except peas and beans (for soups) and onions (which kept well). Even her pet parrots enjoyed titbits of almonds. Beer, ale, cider, perry (locally made) and imported wines were always available.
With this in mind, the 21st century pub’s kitchen has plenty of scope for new dishes and drinks. With her love of entertaining, I like to think that Elizabeth de Burgh would approve of her name being used by such an establishment.
For me, it took a while to sink in that this was the winning name. Then Greene King emailed me to confirm it. It won’t happen immediately, as there are all sorts of admin to do first. And a nice sign to design...
A friend summed it up for me. “You must be really chuffed (I am). That’s a first for you – you’ve named a pub. Put it on your CV.” I would if I had one.
Rates count against our small retailers
As the prospect of car parking charges rears its head again, I would like to take this opportunity to remind those councillors who have recommended them a little about the economics of running a retail shop, as I would be surprised if any of them has the slightest idea.
Even if a small business has make a decent profit on its goods, this has to be balanced against the many fixed costs that it faces, such as electricity, water, heating and business rates.
It is the latter which can put an incredible strain on a retailer, especially as shop premises in North Street or Market Hill in Sudbury would incur a rate up to eight times those of some supermarkets.
These giants are also allowed to do and sell what they like during this pandemic and also have the benefits of completely free car parking and drop-off points.
When speaking of ‘levelling the playing field’, councillors will always say they agree to that easily hackneyed expression, however, they then go and vote to penalise drivers and their passengers who are anxious to shop and explore the town. It really is a no-brainer.
If they really wish to help the town centres, they should be lobbying our MP about business rates, not even thinking about imposing car parking charges.
Increased checks will chase away cash
In reference to last week’s front-page story (Cuts to free parking deal ‘death blow’ to two towns, Free Press, February 11), just because the small cabinet meeting came up with a unanimous decision to agree to the parking proposal for one hour free, doesn’t mean all is lost.
Cabinets make recommendations and, with just five members, none of whom represent Sudbury, it seems unrepresentational and we need to keep on objecting. The full council still needs to agree the move.
There was a very sensible proposition that the matter shouldn’t be discussed until the strategic review in the autumn, so why announce this change now?
As for the one-hour parking proposal, the costs for policing it will go up substantially, as checks will be needed more frequently to catch offenders – a fact that will soon chase away any money raised.
Come on everyone, lobby your councillors.
Town looks bare without iconic box
The sight of an iconic red telephone box used to be a feature within towns and villages the length and breadth of the country.
Looking back a few years, I am surprised how ours gradually disappeared, without a trace or comment. If is for this reason that I have thought that Sudbury should perhaps acquire one of these iconic items.
I did get a project under way with the blessing of Sudbury Town Council and garnered some generous support from individuals, but the matter of finance stands in the way of progress, with a purchase cost of approximately £6,000.
I wonder if others share my thoughts and enthusiasm for the return of a telephone box?
Why so many broken promises?
For weeks, there has been a flood caused by blocked drains directly in front of Devonshire House in Cavendish.
This is a large care home – yes, a care home, which has one entrance blocked by water. You would hope that Suffolk Highways would prioritise this problem.
To say this is a danger would be an understatement, particularly as the water flows across the path and freezes.
Many promises have been given by Highways boss, only to be left unfulfilled. The time for promises has passed. Immediate action is what is required so as to avoid any injuries to the home’s staff or villagers walking past this area.
I had no desire to seem snobbish
I rarely receive telephone calls, partly because I can never remember where my mobile is, but the other week fate stepped in.
My wife presented me with her mobile, with a somewhat curt ‘It’s for you’, which for some reason gave me a small sense of triumph.
It was a call from Jill Fisher, who wanted to comment on my letter published in the Free Press regarding the loss of Sudbury’s hospitals over the years.
It turned out that the Jill worked at Walnuttree Hospital and knew my father, Ivor, from his time there. We had a lovely chat.
In regard to David Riddlestone’s comment involving Izal toilet paper and cardboard cut-outs inside our shoes, I must confess that both items had crossed my mind.
There were times when small squares of newspaper hung by string were all our blessed little bottoms were graced with, and I didn’t mention shoes as my father was an upholsterer and carpet fitter, so we often used lino inside our shoes. I had no desire to seem snobbish or above those who managed with cardboard.
We need a fairer way to afford a home
Every night, before going to sleep, with the recent freezing temperatures outside, I have thanked God for a warm house – something that everyone on Earth should be able to enjoy.
Tragically, that is not the case right now. We are told that in proposals for Sudbury’s latest housing development on Chilton Woods, only a small portion of the site is allocated for affordable homes – a problem that is typical of the housing problem across the UK.
House prices increased by 152 per cent between 1995 and 2016, while incomes of those aged between 25 and 34 grew by 22 per cent.
This year, prices are set to grow again by six per cent: how many wage packets will grow by anywhere near that this year? Houses could become even less affordable.
This amounts to oppression. It means anxiety and misery for many young men and women, who ought to be saving to buy their first home., How have we come to this?
Developers and landlords have, for years, reaped huge profits from over-priced houses to buy or let, while so many workers have been paid low wages that they have to choose between heating their house or putting enough food on the table.
Many thousands of men, women and children are relying on foodbanks or deliveries to stave off hunger. Meanwhile, we are learning that high-rise builders have made excess profits from ‘cutting corners’ in construction, leaving yet more people unsafe in their homes, and bearing the burden of debt.
The pandemic is, of course, adding to our troubles, but when this is overcome, we must work to remedy the longer-term injustices and miseries. Our Prime Minister has promised to tackle this: to level-up the nation.
That must mean the fair distribution of resources and wealth. It means that for the next 10 years, whichever party is in power must enact a number of steps.
Firstly, every employee and self-employed person should receive a genuine living wage (with increments for added qualifications and responsibilities).
Secondly, regulations should be introduced and strengthened to curb the greed of excessive profits, prices and interest rates, while ensuring the high standards of workmanship.
These reforms will enable many more people to buy and sell, raising prosperity at the same time.
Two millennia ago, Jesus of Nazareth urged people to love their neighbours as themselves, and to treat others how we should like them to treat us.
He built a community on that basis. We, in the 21st century world, need to do likewise.
Meadow View Road
I long for the world of my upbringing
I recently reflected on a name-plaque I rescued from a courtyard of weavers flats demolished in Gregory Street, at the back of the gardens of Stour House and Hardwicke House, in Sudbury in 1958/59. It carries the name ‘Overall’s Yard’ and is made of blue-enamelled metal.
Keen to find out more, I came across two elderly women with clear memories. The flats (probably owned by Vanners) were minimalist – outside toilets, no gardens, mean dimensions.
They were almost opposite the long-demolished Half Moon Pub, which I visited once.
One of the ladies remembered going into Overall’s Yard during the war to visit a friend. She found two or three US airmen from RAF Sudbury lined up inside.
They were apparently waiting their turn at a brothel in one of the flats, of which they mistook her for a participant.
Memories of our past are now seriously undervalued and still being frittered away because local history, everyday memories en masse included, also illuminate and enhance – and substantiate – our national social history.
Indeed, they furnish it with three-dimensional foundations, often refuting academic speculations.
Mercifully, there seems to be a revival of interest in the lives of ordinary folk, reflecting the wise preoccupations of a wealth of local historians and authors, such as (in no particular order) Barry Wall, Ashley Cooper, Peter Cooper, Anne Grimshaw, Val Herbert, David Burnett, Peter Minter Peter Rednall and Peter Thorogood.
On top of that, we have an amazing array of local history organisations (albeit semi-dormant during lockdown) such as (again, in no particular order) Sudbury Society, SEA, Sudbury Museum Trust, Sudbury History Society, Sudbury Family History Group and Sudbury Freemans Trust.
But the ghastly Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown have stimulated in very many Sudburians, particularly recent arrivals and commuters, an investigation of their own backyards.
They’ve discovered a wealth of beauty (look at the meadows) and history (of religion, politics, weaving and the arts.
It is my hope that we may see a reversal in our materialist, top-down culture in favour of a more communalised, ethical and balanced lifestyle.
I long for the world of my upbringing, where everyone belonged, where nobody was nobody and where wealth was measured in fraternity and mutuality, not possessions.