17th March 1945

Dull morning, but sunny at times.  Fairly warm.  Old Edwards in again of course.  Girling came in, about my salary, and pretended there are difficulties about assessing the Income Tax.  Said that if it was not straightened out by the end of the month, he would pay me £40 on account, instead of the £56 which is due to me.  Feel I must keep an eye on W.R.G. who looks far too much of a “business man” for me.

Went out for a few minutes to see the Market.  About 15 horses, including the nice cob mare which was there last week.  The dealer again tried to sell it to me, and I had to repulse him firmly.  In the Old Market they were selling strawberry plants, fruit-trees, boots and leggings, a 1937 Morris car “in running order”, an old buck-cart, some harness, halters, ropes, stack covers, etc.

Levers came in just before lunch, and stayed 10 minutes.  Have now begun cleaning the leather bindings in the Library.  Many are so dry that it is unsafe to open the books.

At a quarter past 2 set off to cycle to Lynn.  Turned off to West Walton to see the church, which is very fine, and all the more interesting as being less restored than most of the Fen churches.  The founder’s effigy most interesting, found quite by chance.  So too is the large tomb of John Rappers, 1561, with only the brass inscription left, mounted on a board, quite loose, dirty and dusty.

The brick floors and white walls are very attractive.  The N. Aisle is now not used at all, and is quite bare.  At the W. end of it there is a neat wooden screen, with little Doric pilasters, which forms a vestry.  At the end of the S. Aisle, on the S. wall, is a board with painted inscription, setting out the facts relating to the great floods of 1613.  A similar inscription formerly existed in Wisbech.  The angel hammer beams are fine.

The whole of the W. end of the church is violently out of the perpendicular, and the scars where the original tower sheered away are clearly visible.

In the churchyard are several interesting tombstones, some showing a heart-motif, and one a mourning skeleton, Death.

Country very lovely, hawthorn coming into blossom, hedges budding pale green.  People were everywhere at work, spraying in orchards or ploughing with horse and tractor.  Near Tilney there was a fine pair of Suffolks and a lovely dapple grey working harrows at Tenington.  Nearby was a man opening up between ridges of vegetables, walking slowly backwards across a vast flat field, pulling after him a sort of hand-drawn cultivator.

To Lynn at 3.15.  Called at the Museum and saw old Bocking, and spoke to him about St.George’s Hall in King Street.  Penrose is very interested in this, as there is some likelihood of it being pulled down.  For many years past it has belonged to Bridges, a maker of theatrical scenery, who has been using it as a store.  He now offers it for sale, and if bought as a commercial proposition it will almost certainly be destroyed.  Bocking told me to meet a man across the road whom he knew who at one time worked for Bridges, and who could remember quite a lot about the Georgian theatre which at one time was fitted into the Hall.  He said that up among the rafters the “thunder sheet” and the “rain machine” still survive – the latter a large cylindrical basket with pebbles in it, which was rotated on an axle.

Went round to see the place, called at Bridges’ house next door, got a key and went in.  It is certainly a most striking building, although drastic alterations to the E. wall have destroyed almost all appearance of antiquity, but in the N. wall several blocked 15c windows retain their original tracery.  Nothing remains of the Georgian theatre except the rain-machine, the floor, and a few pieces of wood indicating the site of the proscenicum.

To the Library, and went through several books, searching for references to the Hall and the Theatre.  There seems little doubt that Shakespeare’s plays were acted in the place in the 16th and 17th c, but there is no foundation whatever for the legend that Shakespeare himself played there.  Found in a book of newspaper cuttings a photo (from a paper) of the E. Wall before its great window was taken out.

Had tea at a very decent, clean café, with some difficulty, as they were anxious to shut at 5 sharp.

The “local” room at the Library is in a state of confusion, and there seems nobody in charge except a few girls.

Left Lynn at 6.30, and made Wisbech by 7.45, feeling very tired.  Called at Museum – no E.C.S. and no letter from home, but one from Fisher, denying that he has sold Robin to Chitty.  He says he sold him to a man at Cornard, who could do nothing with him, so he chopped him for a piebald.  He is now supposed to be with “a Mr. Pipe”.  Shall write and ask for him back, and if necessary will sell him up here.

Just had cocoa and biscuits, when the siren sounded.  Lovely clear moonlight night, and all the street lights were on, burning merrily.  Four searchlights were concentrated a little to the east, tracking a ‘plane which seemed to be going SW.  I walked out to Staithe Lane, clear of the houses, to see what was going on.  What amazing stupidity, to have all the lights on in this manner.

A ‘plane came in very low, passed over to the W.  Then a bomber came over very high, flashing his lights.  A few minutes later another very low flying ‘plane came rushing in, right over the town, and then the whizz and shriek of bombs and flashes and explosions.  The ‘plane swung E. and rushed cheerfully away.  A goods train clattered along the line from Lynn.  Waited to see if the German would come back to shoot up the town – what a target, with all the blazing lights.  Walked down Norwich Road.  

Over towards Marshland cones of searchlights were sometimes pointing towards a dozen ‘planes at once.  At last came the “all-clear” and heard the church clock strike 10.  As the sirens still howled, a ‘plane went over very high and dropped three scarlet flares away to the north.

Hurried back to Clarkson Ave.  House all in darkness, Mrs. B. having gone to bed.  The Swifts’ house dark too, so did not call.  Crowds of drunks everywhere, and, to my delight, the lamplighter was just beginning his round, an hour late, putting out the gas-lamps!

To bed at midnight.

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