Damp and warm, drifting clouds but cleared at times.
Saw a red squirrel run across Gun Hill. As I came in, found 6 steers in the road near Blackbrook, and chased them into a stubble field. Went to lunch at Culver Street. As I walked in, the 1 o’clock news was coming over, and the announcer said Tom Newman, the billiards champion, died today. He was in the next bed to Poulter at the Royal Free Hospital, and had the same complaint – cancer in the throat, but Poulter got better.
Received Herald Cymeag with full account of my visit – “Gecye Borrov yr Ail”. Dear old Carredoq.
Up early. High clouds, but much warmer than yesterday. As I went up East Hill, the sun began to break through. The Rector of St James came out of the Rectory in cassock and biretta, and hurried up the hill to church, his surplice over his arm.
Outside, staff hanging about nearly all day, because there is no petrol. Everybody very fed up.
Poulter told me that Benton [of the Essex Archaeological Society] had told him that
Hull was instructed to warn us that we were
to receive notice to quit. He has said
Heavy rain all night. It is a year today since the bombing of
Essex Street [in Colchester] on just such a day as
this. Went in soaking wet,
drenched. But the old adage “Rain before
7, fine before 11” held good, and the sun came out in the middle of the
morning. People ringing up all day about the Women's Land Army girls walking off. Col. Blewitt
phoned to say a whole gang had left his land without a word.
Went home after tea. There was an alarm at midnight until 1am. I heard planes flying low in clouds, but thought they were RAF. Bombs fell near Harwich and Dovercourt, and damaged several houses, I believe. The old people of course, got up. Am wondering whether I can get them out to Higham.
Got back at 7.30 tonight. Sky clear, and stars out, but no planes.
Rather late this morning, in fact
struck 9 as I went past. However, got in
by 9.30, 7 miles in 30 minutes. Cannot
seem to get settled to any work, still lacking in concentration. Higham Church
Air Ministry official in this afternoon, about lighting poles at Birch. It will be months before the place is ready for night flying. In the meantime, Langham is now almost empty. The silence in the early mornings is delightful. Several flights of heavy bombers went out this morning, starting about 7.
Left at quarter to 6, and went to Lawford. Joy and Parrington seemed very pleased to see me. Gave them a book on
by Rennell Rodd, illustrated by Rushbury, which I bought at Oxford.
Joy has sold Roger, and has bought a pure bred arab gelding, only 5 years
old, a lovely thing, goes in harness.
Stayed to supper, then back to Higham under heavy clouds. A few planes flying about with lights on, red
and yellow. Had tea and bath before
going to bed almost 1am. This life is suiting
me very well. Kitten sleeps in my bed.
It appears that the Museum Committee, at their meeting on Tuesday, September 21st, decided to give the War Agricultural Committee one month’s notice, to quit the rooms occupied at Holly Trees, on the grounds that members of the staff have interfered with books in those rooms, and that some books are now alleged to be missing. It is also held that the War Agricultural Committee are responsible for the filthy condition in which the books now are.
Whether any books are missing I do not know, but it is a deliberate lie to say that the staff have interfered with them. From the very beginning, we have allowed the Public Library and the Essex Archaeological Society to keep their books in our rooms, very greatly to our own inconvenience, and it is a perfect scandal that we should be treated in such a way. We have always allowed all interested persons access to the books at all times. The attitude of the Archaeological Society has been particularly objectionable, so that I resigned my membership last December.
In view of the work which the War Agricultural Committee is doing it is really too bad of the Council to treat us as if we were undesirable lodgers. Actually of course the Council have no power to enforce a notice to quit, as the rooms at Holly Trees are held under a requisition notice by the Ministry of Works, but apparently they don't know that!
A lovely peaceful night. No alarms, no planes, no dreams. Lay dozing and reading till 12 noon. Then breakfast of bread, butter, marmalade and tea. Writing notes, looked over “Chadborough Farm” – Rotten. Read through typescript of my Journals 1920 to 1926 – feeble. Must try again.
Went out in sunshine and ate blackberries. I think I am going to enjoy this place immensely. I want to draw the cottage, and get some accurate idea of date.
Lovely day. Cold.
Up in good time. Cloudy but clearing. Cold. Got to Colchester before 9. Begin to feel anxious of cloudy days – just a year since the attacks last autumn. Noticed activity at Langham – sentries, armed with automatic rifles, barricades along entrances to ‘drome. Several big army convoys went along towards
At Colchester I was surprised to see an American Sentry, also armed with automatic rifle,
standing with the PC on point duty at the top of the town.
Most of the Langham planes seem to have gone. Jacquie Conran says Flying Fortresses are coming, Poulter says Spitfires. He says runways are weak, and will not support bombers. Anyway, something seems to be moving.
Percival, Warren and Macaulay [of the War Agricultural Committee] came in to interview prospective foremen, but none of the applicants turned up. Percival is off to
Envy! Yet he is not at all
anxious to go.
Home to lunch. Got double rations this week, owing to my being away, so have plenty of everything. Went up town, to sale rooms, looking for bookcases. Met Diana Davies, [Stage Manager for Colchester Repertory Theatre] who took me round to Balkerne Gardens to tea. Lovely vivacious girl, Yvonne, [an actress in the Rep.] and her boy, a Czech were there, and a silly little man called Reg Browne, who seemed very friendly with Diana. Apparently thinks himself the hell of an actor. Speaks with a curious foreign accent, apparently due to adenoids. His mother kept the
Hampstead Heath, and he used to serve behind the bar there. A lovely tea, very theatrical. Jack
Got to Higham at 7.30. Lovely night. Dull. Very few planes. Jacquie Conran makes me nervous with her carelessness of blackout. Shall be glad when I am alone. With radio on it is quite impossible to hear sirens. No duty this week, as I intend to get another medical certificate from Dr Rowland. Wrote to Firewatch Officer to tell him so.
Another glorious morning, though cold. Slept well after an alarm at 1 am. The Americans went out in great force again at about 7, and were coming and going all morning. Cycled in rather later than I intended. Tractor work going on in both
Suffolk and Essex. Saw a huge American tractor pulling a
tank-carrier, driven by a black man. He
stopped at the bottom of Brook
Street to ask the way.
Had lunch with little Daphne Young, most amusing.
Had lunch with little Daphne Young, most amusing.
Up at 7.30. Lovely sunny morning, though cold. Very busy. Americans going out again, all morning. Cycled out tonight by Ardleigh and
Dedham. Called at Springgate and saw Molly Blomfield but as
usual she was “much too busy” to talk about our photographic work for the National Buildings Record. Poor old Bob looks very thin, but he seems
happy with young Rachel. He must get
more to eat before the winter.
Called at Sissons’, and gave them a brief account of my journeys. A lot of ‘planes began to go out at dusk, in three lines, with their navigation lights glittering. In
Street children laughed and shouted, taking no
heed whatever to the evil machines high above their heads, carrying loads of
death to children in other lands.
Left at 8.30, just in time to hear the Raydon siren wailing. Several ‘planes came in from the sea, high under the stars, but no bombs fell and there was no firing.
Got to Higham at 9. Jacquie's mother came today, a very affable, talkative old lady, who chattered on until nearly one in the morning. Another alarm at 11.30, but again nothing happened. Had a letter today from Manning, complaining about my absence from firewatching while I was in
Wales. Apparently there is no system of relief in
firewatching. Hull has put him up to
this, and I shall put the whole facts before the Town Clerk.
Better, but still dizzy. Fine sunny morning. To office late, and had a very quick breakfast at Rose’s. Captain Folkard affable, but ticked me off about unanswered correspondence. Had a coffee with Daphne Young, [who also worked in the War Agricultural Committee Office] who has been very badly treated by the Labour Dept: and was seething with fury.
Called in Museum, saw Poulter, and heard that Alderman Owen Ward is dead. Much talk about firewatching, the iniquities of Hull, etc. etc. Poulter very depressed. Stayed until 7, then back to Higham.
Really the cottage is very delightful. It is a simple oblong building, lying East to West divided into three bays, the centre one double the size of those at either end. I suggest that the original hall-house was set up about the same time as Stuart Rose’s house [at Boxted] and the
Culver Street Hall [one bay of which was then displayed in Colchester Castle],
at the end of the 15th century.
Then perhaps 50 years later, the centre hall was converted into a
bedroom and lower room, by a massive ceiling, and the huge brick chimney stack
was wedged in, partly in the former hall and partly in the West end room. The new bedroom floor was supported on a very
massive beam, while in the room above the original tie-beam was left, some 2’
above the new floor. The centre of it is now polished like glass by generations of rural behinds swinging over it to
get to bed.
There is an original doorway leading into the East end lower chamber, but the heading of it is in a bad state. In the upper room at the East end (where I sleep) several timbers show the joiner’s marks – IV, V. and VII. There is a tiny dormer window on the South side of the room.
The outside of the house is plastered and colour-washed. At the East end a further room, brick built, was added in the 18th century, as a brew house. This is now used as a bathroom, water being supplied by a pump from Jones’ house.
The place is very lonely, and I feel I shall enjoy this winter when Jacquie has gone.
Monday (Valley Farm Cottage, Higham)
Woke at 6 to pouring rain. Felt terribly ill, with dreadful headache and excruciating pain in condyle of jaw on right side. Could not face
Colchester. Lay dozing, heard George bring cows in to
milk. Rain stopped. Heard Jacquie Conran moving about, but she did not come
up. Tried to get enough energy to go out
to ‘phone office, but could not face it.
Never felt as bad as this for a long time. Nearly 2 o’clock before I could stagger
downstairs. Jacquie heard me and came out –
she felt bad too. At 5, she called me to
tea, and when I’d had a good cup and some bread and jam I felt a little better,
but head still bad. Heard an “all-clear”
in the far distance. Every day now we
shall watch the weather.
After tea, Jacquie went down to the pub. and came back with the American called “Trigger”, quite a pleasant young man. Comes from
Went down to the ‘phone, and spoke to Capt. Folkard. He was rather distant, but think it was alright.
Back and had supper, took some dope and went to bed. Clear starlight night, but no alarm, and very few ‘planes about.
Rudsdale left for a holiday in Scotland on 6th September 1943 and wrote this unfinished diary entry detailing his journey by train on that day. There are no further diary entries for his holiday and the wartime diary will resume again on his return to Colchester on 20th September 1943. CP
Up at 5, in a pale golden dawn. Joy got up to make me some tea, looking very tall and handsome in her pink dressing-gown. Got everything strapped on the cycle, and then away up the hill, through the Park, with the dark face of Lawford Hall graciously lovely in the early light, and so to the station in good time.
Took a “monthly return” to
Booking-clerk seemed quite surprised when I asked for it, and paid £4
odd. A big flight of American ‘planes
went over towards the sea, and I thought with satisfaction that I should not see
or hear them again for a fortnight.
Train came in dead on time, at a quarter to 7, the porters shouting “Ipswich,
and the North!” Very few travelling, and
had no difficulty in getting a seat. It
seemed quite unreal to find myself actually going at last. Over the Stour into Suffolk, the roofs of Manningtree glistening
in the morning sun under a deep blue sky, with plumes of smoke hanging from the
chimneys of Brantham factory.
Ipswich, and waited
there nearly half an hour. Several
people got in, a Women's Land Army Forestry girl, and a dreadful woman who seemed to be going
She was being seen off by an even more dreadful woman, who insisted on
standing on the carriage step for the whole half hour, with the door open, so
that we all froze into blocks of ice, while she carried on an endless and
At last we got away, up the
past Fisons’ huge fertiliser factories.
The Sproughton Sugar beet factory in the distance. There was field after field of traved barley,
which ought to be good money for somebody.
In some places carts were just moving into the fields to begin the days
carrying. More horses than tractors. Gipping Valley
So on to Bury
Edmunds. Big crowd on the station,
including a group of Italian prisoners, dark handsome men, wearing green
battle-dress uniforms with round yellow patches on the backs.
Here a family fought their way into the carriage – father, mother, and two dreadful children, a boy and a girl. The parents were stunted, faded and ugly, looking as if they always ate the wrong kind of food, and the children were fat, pale, and even uglier than the parents. They all shouted at one another in strident
accents, arguing whether they had to change for Selby or not.
Soon the children demanded food, and were given beetroot sandwiches which they tore to pieces, scattering the fragments all over the carriage, while the mother shouted vainly: “I’ll smack your bums, you see if I don’t!” and the father gazed vacantly at a photo of Durham Cathedral on the opposite wall.
The country soon changed after Bury, and the fields became larger and flatter as we ran into the
Fens. The next stop was Ely, and as the train swung
round the bend I saw suddenly that amazing cathedral, rearing up its glorious
Norman towers from the level plain, the town clustering around it.
A lot of people got in here, and the children became more and more objectionable, the little girl keeping up a doleful chant: “I want a wee-wee!” and the mother shrieking: “Nonsense! You’ve just been. If you don't hold your row I’ll sting you.” I waited in alarm for disaster, but her holding powers were good.
Now we were rolling through the endless
mile upon mile, sugar beet, potatoes, orchards.
Far away to the right were a few windmills, stunted trees, a sharp hard
horizon, and I knew that beyond there lay Wisbech, King’s Lynn and the Wash,
where I have never been. The whole
appearance of the scenery became more and more rectangular, scored with dykes,
drains, ditches, all as straight as rulers – New Bedford, Old Bedford, and the
Wash between them, Vennatt’s Drain, South Forty-Foot – all stretching away like
long silver streaks.
Here and there Fordsons were breaking up the stubbles, turning up the lovely black soil as easily as a child drawing its fingers across sand. Then huge fields of traved barley, pink tumbril-carts with ladders and pairs of horses moving slowly across. More tumbrils than wagons are used. Many Land Girls at work, who stood up and waved as the train went by. The
Fens seemed quite endless. I thought at one time that the
train would go round by Boston,
but it turned to Spalding, and then to Sleaford, a curiously dull looking
little town, surround by glass-houses.
Newark and to Lincoln, where I had
quite a shock to see how fine and magnificent the Cathedral appeared, perched
up high on the hill, with the houses crawling up towards it. They had a raid here on the same night that
Langham aerodrome was bombed, and I saw a wrecked house near the station. The Ruston-Hornsby
Works make a tremendous target, and so dangerously near the Cathedral. Much want to go to Lincoln to see the Jew’s House.
Then on to Gainsborough, leaving the Fens behind, and at last to
Doncaster, where much to my relief,
the awful family from Selby got out. In Yorkshire now, and about half past one saw the great
towers of the Minster above the houses.
No signs of raid damage except a house or two down near the station, and
the shattered glass roof. Had to change
here, and having half an hour to wait hurried out to send a telegram to
Meg [MacDougall of Inverness Museum]. Saw part of the city walls, and the
cathedral front, but had not time to see anything more. Strongly tempted to break my journey here for
a night, being most anxious to see this great city, but decided not to and
hastily sent the telegram, hurried back to the station and bought a bun and a
cup of tea, having had nothing since 5 in the morning.
train came in I found it was the “Flying Scot”, and was already packed to
suffocation, but the huge crowd on the platform all got on board somehow. As we pulled out, jammed tightly in the
corridor, I wondered if I shall ever come to York to live. [Rudsdale's father's family originated from York and Rudsdale hoped to work at York Castle Museum].
Lot of barley in the
district not yet cut but things are much later in the North. Aerodromes everywhere. The noise must be dreadful.
Through huge, black Northallerton and
with the railway works. No visible signs
of raid damage. To the west were blue
hills and moors, with pit-head gears here and there.
Just after we got through Aycliffe, the train slowed down and finally stopped. The delay grew longer and longer, and heads began to poke enquiringly out of windows. I saw the guard and two of the train crew climb down and walk along the track towards the engine, where the driver and fireman were standing looking at the wheels. Apparently one of the oil boxes had become hot and finally caught fire, so that the train had to be pushed onto a siding, where we sat for 2 hours staring at a field of potatoes. The only variety in the monotony being when women and children fought their way down the corridors to the lavatory, which then had to be emptied of its occupants before they could use it.
I despaired of ever seeing
today at all, but at last another engine arrived and we moved slowly out of our
siding towards Newcastle. I had hoped to have seen Durham, but we were too far away, and moved
on slowly through a maze of pit-heads, factories and railway sidings.
At last, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we crawled through Gateshead and across the Tyne, with a brief glimpse of the great river far below, as if at the bottom of a canyon, the sun a great glowing gold ball through smoke and mist. Across more bridges, above streets of black, sooty stone buildings, and into a vast echoing station, where even at this hour of the day the lamps were alight. Noticed electric local trains similar to those at
painted green and red.
And so at last I was over the ancient frontier of the Wall, onwards through Northumberland, an ancient Kingdom, of which I know nothing. The train was now running near the sea, so that every now and then one caught a glimpse of tossing grey waves, yellow sand, and steep rocky cliffs. Through Belford, where
came from and where his incredibly ancient father is still, as far as I know,
the rector. A few minutes later I saw to
the right, Holy Island, grey and green across
the narrow water.
Then to the Borough and Town of
Must come here at some future date, a most interesting town. Believe that until the beginning of the 19th
century the town gates were still locked at night, to prevent the Scots from
getting in. Up to the time of the Union
the place retained the full panoply of a state, complete with a Governor, and
is still a sort of British Danzig, neither in England
Across the high viaduct, the swift Tweed far below, the estuary full of fishing boats at anchor, and so passed over the border into
Scotland. It was now dusk, and there was little to be
seen, but suddenly everybody in the coach stirred and sat up and pointed, and
there, battling northwards in the cold dark grey sea, was a convoy of some
dozen or more merchant men, rising and falling on the choppy waves, dim and
blurred through drizzling rain, with destroyers rushing up and down on the
On the other side the sun sank below the Lammermuir Hills, we ran through
Dunbar, left the coast and
turned inland. Near here, at Gullane
near Aberlady, that Joanna Round lived when she was first married. Then through Inveresk, Portobello, and the
outskirts of Edinburgh,
the dim black shape of Arthur’s Seat, just as Father described it from his
visit half a century ago. Great blocks
of tenement houses, many windows showing friendly blue
lights, just as if there was no war at all.
It was half past 8 when we ran into Waverley Station.
Having no definite plans, decided to push on to
Inverness if possible, so asked if there was a train
through tonight. There was, starting
almost at once. Ran to buy a ticket, and
was startled to find it cost £1.6.0, and then realised that Inverness must be
further from Edinburgh
than I thought.
train, (LMS), loaded up the cycle, and could not understand a word that the
guard said when he spoke to me. Train
packed, so sat in the corridor on my kitbag.
As the train pulled out, there was just a glimpse of the Scott monument
high above the line, looking very unreal in the gloom, yet so exactly like the
photograph in Mother’s bedroom.
A few miles more and the train rattled onto the
the patterns of the gigantic girders sweeping slowly past the carriage windows,
foaming waves … Forth Bridge
Lovely day, and had a good night’s sleep. Woke up determined that it should be
Edinburgh, and that I
will go on the morning train from Manningtree.
Spent the day writing and clearing things up. This afternoon borrowed Roger and took the last of my belongings over to Higham.
Back early, as there are no lamps on the trap, and did my last evening chores, feeding animals, and so on.
Then to bed at ten, so excited and anxious I hardly expect to sleep.
Brilliant fine day. Office a few minutes after 9, but Captain Folkard there already and was in an awkward mood. Quite certain now that we have a new office, but we may even yet stop them from taking this ridiculous shop in
Mary Tovell suddenly walked in this morning, staying with her aunt in
Road. [Mary Tovell had been the Castle Museum Bookshop Assistant before the war and was now a nurse in Kent]. Took
her out to tea, and then walked down to Bourne Mill with her, to see
Robin. Still as amusing as ever, and
delightful to talk to. Searchlights came
on all over the sky soon after dusk, and when I took her home the house where I
was born [1 Harsnett Road, Colchester] was lit with a sort of greenish moonlight, the spire and gables of the
casting horrid shadows. Wesleyan Church
Machin-Goodall came in to the Museum this afternoon. Poulter introduced me, but could only stop a minute, as I was running to meet Mary Tovell. He told me the famous “Why not” is still alive, and also told me what I had long suspected, that the old horse is a half bred hackney, and came from a mare belonging to Moss of Chelmsford. He can still jump like a stag.
Rushed home at 9.30 to get some luggage, said “goodbye” to the parents, feeling all my usual anxiety, and then set out, heavily laden for Lawford. Got there at 11 o’clock, ‘planes and searchlights all the way, but apparently only an exercise, and no alarm. Crept in quietly, but the dogs never barked as soon as I spoke to them.
Up early. Rushing about everywhere in a state of acute anxiety. Sent in a report that the shop in
Maldon Road is quite unsuitable, but the
District Officer thinks that the Ministry of Works will insist that we take it. Don't see how they can.
Still can't be certain whether I shall go to
Wales or Scotland
on Monday, but think almost certainly it will be Scotland.
Uncle Frank Webb [Rudsdale's Mother's brother] is here, staying last night and tonight at the “Cups”. Called to see Mother, who was glad to see him. She has always liked him. I saw him for a few minutes this evening, and found him quite unchanged. Both he and old Aunt have been at Purley all through the air raids, but have so far escaped. Tremendous damage in Croydon, he says.
Went down to see Hampshire about looking after Robin while I am away, and then to Lawford by 8 o’clock. Heavy clouds coming up, and looks like a lot of rain. Cold wind.
Up 7.30, to the sound of ‘planes warming up at Langham, showing how the wind lay. Had a good night.
On the lawn at Holly Trees saw Poulter testing stirrup-pumps from the Castle – they had not been touched since they were installed 18 months ago. He told me that somebody had broken into the loft over the Prehistoric Galleries and had opened all the chests and boxes, strewing African idols, axes, swords, etc all over the place. Hull, on being told, refused to take the slightest interest. Nobody can tell if anything has been stolen or not.
Busy day trying to get a lot of things cleared up before I go next week. Always hate going away from any job, never seems worth the trouble.
Much talk lately about getting a new office, as there is no hope of extending in the Holly Trees. Ministry of Works ‘phoned through from Cambridge this morning to tell us we can have the derelict shop at the corner of Maldon Road and Alexandra Rd. - used to belong to a greengrocer, and has recently been an NFS station. Quite useless to us.
Left office at 5, and went home for 2 hours. Mother very anxious to know where I am going, so told her
Wales, but shall
probably go to Inverness.
Lawford 8.30. Had a lovely supper. How kind they are.
Bad night, woke every 2 hours. ‘Planes about all night. Once, about 4.30, thought I could hear
Fine morning, with some cloud. Collected cycle from Parson’s Heath garage, with a new back tyre, the old one having done about 7000 miles. Not very good, but the “ersatz” rubber now used is worthless.
Busy, tiring, useless day. Tea at Winnie’s – wrote some more [of my] “Farm” [story] while I sat there – have decided to call it “Chadborough Farm”. [The story was based on the experiences of farm life under the War Agricultural Committees but the manuscript is now lost - CP]. The radio being on, at 5 heard the news in Welsh – “Dyma rhaglen Cymraeg: dyma newyddion yuq Nghgmraeg … bombio
Berlin … bombio tan … Frangig … yr shyfel …” and so on. Then came “Dyma aur y
plant …” * There were Czechs in the café,
listening with what appeared to be wrapped attention. A group of noisy Dutch sailors came down from
St. Nicholas Street,
singing and shouting, and a lorry full of Americans wearing sheepskin lined
leather coats crawled past.
Got some more tablets and medicine from Weddell’s, and called at Springgate on the way out. They said Molly Blomfield was soon coming, so I waited to speak to her. Told her I was going on holiday, whereupon she seemed mildly put out and became sulky. Then said she must go at once, and left for
Colchester. Never seem to be able to discuss anything
with her for more than a few minutes.
Wonder if all this rush and hurry is really the disguise of a completely
Clouds came up, great flame coloured mares’ tails, then after supper it became very dark, and rain began. Took some tablets and settled down for a quiet night.
* Apologies for any mistakes in my transcription of Rudsdale's recollections of the Welsh news broadcast - CP