EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

28th February 1945

Another lovely day.  All Boxted busy on the land, work everywhere.  Bus into town.  Went to see Les Watts about clearing up the stables – heart breaking job.  Sold him my lovely horse-rug, the one Bob always wore, and two bits for 25/-.  He also gave me 50/- for the timber I bought 10 years ago to build the two loose-boxes.

Back to Museum and saw Poulter again.  Museum Committee meeting yesterday, so no sign of Hull, no doubt in his usual post-Committee temper.

Home for tea, stayed until 7, then went up town, got a taxi, and was driven to Boxted Cross for 6/-.  Called on the Roses’, and stayed talking until 10.30, then walked home.  A pleasant evening a lot of delightful but inconsequent chatter which I much enjoyed.  Walked back down the Straight Road under the glorious blazing moon.  Not many ‘planes about. 

27th February 1945

Caught the 11.15 to Colchester.  A lovely day, and had a most enjoyable journey down the Stour Valley, past the great Bartlow Hills, Haverhill, Stunmer and its barrow, lovely Long Melford, Sudbury with its magnificent scene of towers, roof spires and red buildings across the green water-meadows and so at last to Colchester by 3 o’clock.  Went up town on a bus, called for Diana and took her to tea at Last’s.  Left her at 6, went to Holly Trees to see Poulter.  

Out again at 7, and walked through the ghost ridden moonlit streets, through the crowds of Americans, soldiers, and girls to Winnock Road.  Father very well, and very glad to see me.  Let Miss Payne make a cup of tea, which I did not really need, and stayed chatting until after 9. 

Walked back up town, got a taxi out to Boxted, and found dear Miss Bentley waiting for me with a “snack” of plum-cake and glass of milk.  Bed at midnight.

26th February 1945

Fine day, warm, brilliant sunshine.  Alas, lacked the energy to rush for the early train to Cambridge, so caught 11.10.  To Museum, and found the Essex County Standard had arrived.  A paragraph describes how young Thorpe, son of the butcher at Langham, who is now in Germany, found a pig in a German dug-out in Holland, and killed it expertly for his mess.  Odd to think that I saw him in 1940 when he came over to Sherbourne Mill with the meat-van, full of excitement because a bomb had fallen in their yard at Langham.  He was then 14 or 15.

Cambridge at one o’clock, had a sandwich, and went to the Fitzwilliam for an hour.  Then to the lecture rooms in Mill Lane to hear Armstrong address the Cambs: Antiquarian Society on his discovery of the “goddess” at Grimes Graves in 1939.  It was the most remarkable archaeological lecture I have ever attended.  The brief facts are these: - it had been decided to open one of the pits so as to expose half the section of the filling, so that persons descending by a ladder would be able to see the stages by which the pit was filled.  This was done, but unfortunately, as soon as the job was finished, there was a heavy shower which caused the entire section to collapse.  Nothing daunted, Armstrong at once began on another pit, reaching the bottom of which he observed the usual layers not filled in so tightly as usual.  Pulling out some of the blocks of flint and chalk, he flashed in a light, and there, sitting on a ledge, was the little obese “goddess”, sitting quietly in the black silence where she had sat for 10,000, maybe 20,000 years.  When the slide of the “goddess” came up on the screen, the audience burst into applause.

Further digging, under great difficulties, revealed an altar of flint blocks, on top of which were broken antler-picks and some burnt substance.  Nearby was a huge chalk penis, pointing towards the “Goddess”, with a line of quartz pebbles, representing the semen, leading to her on her ledge.  Armstrong’s theory is that this pit proved unproductive, as the floor-stone was not of the right quality.  Before beginning another pit, where they hoped for better luck, the miners had gone through the ceremony of “fertilising” their little goddess, in the hope of “breeding good stone elsewhere”.  In the discussion after the paper, one speaker mentioned that in India similar belief in the breeding power of stones and the existence of male and female stones exists until this day.

Another speaker, discussing why Grimes Graves pits were every dug with such labour, when the floor-stone out-crops in the little valley a few hundred yards away, suggested that as this valley was obviously of glacial origin perhaps the pits were actually pre-Ice Age!

The “goddess”, penis and other relics were shown on the table.  Old Dr Margaret Murray was there.  Spoke to her, and reminded her of our talks about the Easthorpe “shiela-na-gig” many years ago.

Had tea, and went round to see Lambeth at the Folk Museum, where he offered me a bed for the night.  Showed me a complete bowl of dark grey ware, with wide mouth, rolled rim, plain moulding and slight cordon at foot, found at Priory Farm, Swaffham Prior, about 1942.  It was discovered by a Land Girl, Miss King, when tractor ploughing.  Several others were found at the same time, but were broken by the plough.  All were cinerary urns – this one has never yet been emptied.  Miss King took the urn to the Archaeology Museum, but Miss O’Reilly refused to see her or to accept the urn as a gift, so the girl took it to Lambeth’s place and left it, not wanting to carry it all the way back to Swaffham.  Lambeth promises to see if he can get it as a gift for us.  A most interesting find, and the nearest Romano British urnfield that is recorded near to the Fens.

Spent the evening talking museum-world scandal, had one of Mrs. Lambeth’s delightful vegetarian meals, and so to bed, hopeful that this is not to be a night when one of the occasional ‘divers’ or rockets reaches the Cambridge district.

Lovely moon tonight, the town looking exceptionally grand.

25th February 1945

Rather cold.  High clouds, and a lot of aircraft swimming about, very high and remote.

At lunch a party of four came in, a tall grey-haired man with glasses, wearing a tweed coat and cords, a dark woman, an obvious Fen farmer in breeches and a violent black and white check riding coat, and a Jewish man in a green jacket, blue serge trousers and thick horn-rim glasses, talking in a German accent.  The conversation was loud and interesting, the tall man and the Jew both apparently being something to do with the Agricultural Research Station at Cambridge.  Apparently they had been having some trouble or other with Engledow, father of the little wretch at Writtle, and one or other of them had either left or been dismissed.  The Jew kept talking loudly about “Sir Guy” who “never did anything worth doing”.  The whole  incident was a nice warning of the danger of talking too loudly in public places.

This morning, sitting in my bedroom, looked out onto the river and the Brinks.  A young girl came along North Brink on a bicycle, riding swiftly beside a black pony, clipped out, on which a tiny child was bobbing up and down.  The black and white nuns came out of Old Market, passing three Italians, who drew aside to let them go by and then stood staring after them.  A milk float appeared from the town, with a big smashing cob, head up, feet up, the name Hardy on the cart, going over the bridge and away along the Brink at great speed.  A good, well-made beast, but dirty and uncared for.

The American lorries came rushing over the bridge, then a pony trap, driven by a girl, came from Old Market.  In the distance was the sound of a very noisy band, bugles all off key, and along came a pathetic looking Boys Brigade, followed by a dozen children.  The noise was excruciating, and as they came down South Brink there seemed to be a sort of echo to the left, which increased until it revealed itself as the band of the Grammar School Cadets, marching full blast in the opposite direction.  It was an exquisite moment when both bands passed each other just outside the police station, the noise making the windows rattle.

Next over the bridge came a lorry with a dead blown bullock on it, one stiff leg waving above the side of the buck.  Then people appeared coming out of church and chapel, and the Cadets Band was dismissed just outside the Rose and Crown yard.  The river was running out swiftly, like thick grey oil, the tide-gauge showing 7 feet.  Another milkfloat, with a thick set brown cob turned into Old Market.  Quite a number of horses about in the town, but not a single smart turnout anywhere.  This morning when I went out to get a paper, a rough-looking man came riding out of Somers Road on a very useful looking Arab, unclipped and very dirty.  It played up at a noticeboard, but the man edged it past very expertly.  Looked like a good set of harness.

In the lounge this afternoon, conversation was about hanging this Welsh girl of 18, who was convicted with an American in murdering a taxi driver.  Everybody very anxious indeed that she should swing, particularly the old women.

Tonight called at the Swifts, and much pleasant chatter for an hour.

24th February 1945

Brilliant morning.  Regretted I had not gone to Colchester after all.  Crowds in the streets, even at 9 in the morning, and no hope of getting a badly needed haircut.  Am beginning to look more and more like a gentleman of the 1840’s.  At ten o’clock, the siren made its weekly trial, not having sounded in earnest since the beginning of January.

Got my agenda out for next Monday week, so as to have nothing to worry about while away.  Ald. Girling came in, in answer to a note of mine, and settled for Edwards’ typewriter, for which we are paying him £15.  Rather startled when he told me that Edwards has been co-opted onto the Committee – which I think is most unfair to me.  How can I make reports or suggestions with the former Curator sitting by my side?  Had occurred to me that the old chap ought to be elected an Hon. Life Member of the institution, but it is almost indecent to put him on the Committee.  Girling I find a very harsh and unsympathetic character, and dear old Guy Pearson is really beyond very much work.

Early lunch, the café packed with farmers and their wives, squalling children everywhere, adolescent girls with Americans.  

Went out and bought the week’s rations – second week I have managed to get, as the “White Lion” people apparently don't need my book.

This evening went to Swift’s.  Showed him two maps of the Wash in 1824, a town-plan of Wisbech, 1853.  Back in moonlight, one or two ‘planes going over low, with navigation lights.  Crowds coming out of the pubs, Norfolk Street a solid mass of screaming drunken hooligans.

Alone in the lounge for an hour and then to bed.

Very odd dream in the early hours of this morning – confused figures, and then a voice saying very clearly “Ring Wisbech 58”.  Who is Wisbech 58?  Very much tempted to ring up and ask.

23rd February 1945

Dull damp day.  Began to rain.  Had an excellent night.  Dull roar of ‘planes all morning, going out above the rain-clouds.

Am becoming more and more engrossed in the Library, but managed to break away to write a few letters.  Edwards in again, talked vaguely of how many years ago he either destroyed or sold (he didn’t seem to know which) a lot of novels – “hundreds” he said.  Found a lot more novels today, at least 50, including another set of Dickens.

Rain kept on.  Have arranged to go to Cambridge on Monday, and was going to Colchester first.  Weather so miserable have now decided to go down to Colchester on Tuesday, after Cambridge.  Wrote cards to this effect, and ‘phoned Mary Ralling tonight for her to tell Father.

Going in to dinner tonight, saw six heavy lorries (civilian, not army) going along South Brink full of either shells or bombs, each flying a red flag on the bonnet.

Noticed tonight that the clock in Bridge Street was now lighted for the first time for 5 and a half years.  Unfortunately it was not going, so the effort was rather wasted.  First time I’ve seen a clock lit up since 1939.  Another gas-lamp has been put on in the Crescent, on one of the old original wall-brackets of 100 years ago, and the light now sheds a gentle radiance along the grey-green brick facades.  How important lighting is to architecture, and how very little considered – everywhere hideous and unsuitable lamps put up against the very best buildings.

Worked until 9.30, then to Art Club Room in Old Market, with a note for Mrs. Swift about my moving.  Met Mrs. Day Shuker and her young daughter coming out on their way to the Caldonian dance, and walked back as far as the church-yard with them.

Back to “Lion”, had the lounge to myself for half an hour, so listened to the music of Les Sylphides with great delight.  News at 10 said that Turkey had declared war on Germany and Japan.  The great fat Smith, the potato buyer came in, very drunk, talked filth, and gave me a couple of eggs.

22nd February 1945

Cooler, but still fine and sunny.  Worked in Library, wrote some letters, took some books back to Woodgate, who wants to nominate me for the Wisbech Society next month.  Must be very careful how many subscriptions I become liable for.  Got back to Museum to find old Edwards there, looking ghastly, but he did not stay long.  Then more work in Library, and another school class at 3 o’clock.

Light until well after 7 tonight, and then the bright moon.  Year after year we count the days to the light nights, yet when they come we are no happier.

Tonight went below to the Control Room, to hear “Itma” on the radio.  Talked to the girls about theatricals, and thought of possibility of forming a costume collection.

Back at hotel, found lounge full of “commercials”, trying to get the news on the radio, so went to bed.  Thank God only another week or 10 days.

21st February 1945

Another glorious fine day.  Working in Library again.  A delightful surprise by the second post – a cheque from Colchester Corporation for £100-12-1, my superannuation refund, quite £30 more than I expected.  Felt quite overjoyed, relieved, delighted, yet what this really means is that I now have no pension, and must die in miserable old age in some workhouse, just as my mother did.

This evening went round to Clarkson Avenue, and saw Mrs. Burnett, a very pleasant woman, who was most willing to let me have a room – obviously Jessie Swift had fixed the whole business.  Arranged to go there the week after next.  She charges £3.3, all in.  At the moment only one other boarder, Miss Dorothy Brewer, Headmistress of the Queen’s School, very tall and handsome, and remarkably young to be a headmistress.  Jones, the deputy surveyor, has been there too, and is just leaving.  He was in this evening, so stayed talking to him and Mrs. Burnett about Wisbech affairs.  He tells me he is sure Ollard wil never relinquish his hold on the Museum rooms until he is absolutely forced to do so.

“Colchester Gazette” came today – young Turner, the submarine commander is dead.  Now three of them are gone.  His brother was torpedoed while being taken as a prisoner to Italy, by a British submarine.  Often wondered if it was his brother’s.

20th February 1945

Slept badly, but got up at 8.15, glorious warm sunny morning.  Class of Grammar School pre-boys this afternoon.  Felt rather nervous, but it went fairly well.  Decided to talk about the 20th century B.C. as compared with 20th century in which we live.  Old Edwards in again this morning looking dreadfully ill, saying “I do hope you don't mind my coming in again, but I can't go on any further and I must rest before I go home.”

Miss Quayle brought her little boys at 3.30, and we took the class into the Library. 

What with one thing and another, had no time for lunch, but felt all the better without it.

Another lecture fixed for Thursday.  Feel very guilty at the small amount of preparation I put into these talks, but they may get better later on. 

Cup of tea in office, and then another two hours in Library, arranging the biographies in alphabetical order.

Crowd in at the “White Lion” for dinner, two American pilots, horrible looking fellows, a young sailor and a woman of about 40, rather dowdy.  The sailor was telling her he had been all over the world, and how well he had been treated in America, Canada, and New Zealand, but that at Malta the Navy was most unpopular, and the Maltese he said were “funks” and “traitors”, mostly pro-Italian.  The woman suddenly said: “My son went to all those places, but he was drowned before he had a chance to tell me about them.  I know he had lots of photos, but of course I never saw them either, everything was lost with him.”  The sailor said “Oh, ah, that’s bad, that is, I know, because a sailor thinks a lot of his photos.  Where was he drowned?”

“Well,” said the woman, “He was killed near Freetown, West Africa, and he was buried there.  They were hit by a torpedo, and fifty were killed.  It was the ‘Phoebe’ the light cruiser, and there were fifty killed out of 500 or so.  Do you know Freetown?”
“Oh yes, but it’s not much of a place, only a wooden pier and some oil storage tanks.”
“Well that’s where he was buried.  He was only 17.  I hope to go for a holiday there after the war.”
“You’ll find it pretty hot.”

At this point the door was flung open, and two Yanks burst in, caps and overcoats on.  One said “Gottany chow?”  Bella asked “What’s your room number?”  “Ain’t gotta room.  Want some eats.”  “Well,” says Bella, “I’ll have to see if we have any to spare”.

The Yank shouted “Bloody Christ! Oh hell!”, glared round the room and went out slamming the door.  As soon as the two pilots had gone, everybody began talking about their manners and habits.

Went to an art lecture at the Queen’s School.  Dutch, 17th century.  Very well done, glorious stuff, but wish the lecturer had been better.  Set me thinking about special shows of prints and so on at the Museum.

Jessie Swift was there, and told me it was practically certain that I can have a room at Mrs Burnett’s, next door to her in Clarkson Avenue.  Excellent news, just as I was becoming quite desperate.

Brilliant moon tonight, with many ‘planes flying over fairly low, but whether operational or training hard to say.  Only know that the noise is horrifying and revolting.

Considerable chatter this evening about the new Education Act, soon to come into force.  This means the end of all preparatory schools, and a tremendous “levelling-down” of secondary education, with what ultimate result nobody can foresee.

Had a letter from Hubert Collar, this morning, expressing his disappointment that I have taken Wisbech and not waited for him to retire from Saffron Walden Museum – he was relying on me!  Came quite as a surprise, though of course 10 years ago I was most anxious to go there.  He tells me that Lord Braybrooke is to sell Audley End and the Gt. Chesterfield collections.  He feels alarm about the Museum, as the building itself belongs to Braybrooke, who will wish the Trustees to buy it.  They obviously must get the support of the Essex Education Authority, otherwise the place must surely collapse.

19th February 1945

Slept well in Ollard’s bed, roused by Penny at 7, and trotted back to “White Lion” in foggy dawn, for all the world like a homing tom-cat.  Went up to bedroom, and rumpled the bed realistically.

Fine, warm.  Working all day in the Library, rearranging books.  Have collected all the readable fiction, Dickens, Thackeray, Austin, Kipling, Hardy and some other smaller fry, none of which has been made use of for 20 years, with the idea of offering this to the County Library, to enlist the County Council support of the Museum.  Hinted at this to Curtis Edwards, who was quite speechless with rage.  He looked so old, so dreary, he made me feel quite ill myself.

Going through the sherds which I brought back from Elm yesterday, delighted to find that two pieces belong to the same bowl as sherds already given to the museum by Warby.  In one case we now have about a third of a very fine bowl.  Sad to see how many small fragments have been lost through carelessness.

Tonight in office until 9, writing letters and Journal.

18th February 1945

Up at 9.30.  Lovely warm spring-like morning.  Leisurely breakfast to the sound of the church bells merrily pealing.  Very attractive red-haired girl came in, with a Canadian airman.  Had lounge to myself after 11, and put on radio to hear the Welsh service.  Miss Jones came in, spoke about aircraft crashes.  Said there had been five in a week in and around the Fens.  The big RAF carriers are often seen going through the town, full of wrecked ‘planes.  Am beginning to wonder if the RAF will want the Observer Corps to be kept on after the war, to assist in locating crashes.

About 12 went to look out of the bedroom window.  Drum and fife band of the Grammar School Cadets came marching by.  A young girl on a sleek, clipped-out piebald came riding slowly along North Brink, across the bridge and down Nene Quay.  Then a milk cart with a rough cob, a tub cart, a dray, and a led horse tied behind it, all passed over towards Old Market, their hooves echoing in the Sabbath quiet.  The Nene was running sluggishly, like black oil, out to sea.  North Brink basked in pale winter sunshine, the Town Hall, with its handsome austere front of warm stone, with ugly black iron shutters over the window, fastened with large padlocks on the outside, inviting somebody to break them off with a hammer.  Near the main door a notice saying “Air Raid Shelter for 85 Persons”, and a poster screaming “Everybody should know about V.D.”  Another poster reads “Registration of Boys and Girls”.

Lloyds Bank, the “Hare and Hounds”, the “White Hart” (“Patronised by Royalty” – who?) stand quiet and silent without the least sign of life, and beyond the lovely row of houses, brick and stone bow-windows, flat windows, pilastered door-cases, pedimented door-ways.  As fine a row of Georgian houses as any in England.

A lorry full of WAAFs comes at great speed over the bridge and vanishes into the town.  On the right, towering over the shoddy shops beyond the bridge, to the jib of a big crane used in the river work, the roofs of warehouses, and further behind them the gasometer.  One large warehouse has a huge glaring inscription “H. Friend, Metal, Feather and Rabbit Skin Merchant.”

Two children on the far side of the river lean over the rail and spit into the water.  One little boy urinates against the corner of the bridge.  People are beginning to come out of church.

After lunch, cycled to Friday Bridge.  Met the piebald I saw this morning, and several other hacks, all ridden by girls.  To old Warby’s, Oldfield House, and saw his collection, which is very good indeed.  Almost entirely Romano-British material from sites in the neighbourhood, including a dozen or more stamps and a lot of decorated T.S. sherds.  Told me bitterly how Curtis Edwards had refused to accept his offers of pottery, and how, if he found them, Curtis Edwards would later throw the stuff away.  

While I was there, Dr Carlisle called to see the stuff.  A very pleasant man, but with a hard face.  Brought his little boy to see the pottery.  Warby showed him a spherical brown flint stone, well water worn, whereupon to my amazement Dr. C. said “you know that what is, don't you? It’s a gall-stone, they often dig them up in old churchyards, even bigger than that!”  Made no comment, being too astounded.

Left at 8, back to Wisbech, and went to the Swifts.  Met Argent, the engineer on the sewage work here, who lodges there.  He is a Colchester man, born at New Bridge Mill, and left there some 45 years ago.  Is related to the Paxmans.  His daughter Rene is a reporter on the Wisbech “Standard”.  Mrs. Argent was there, with bright red hair and an extraordinarily nice person.

Talking to John Swift, discovered that he once had two old aunts who lived at Wormingford, and a cousin of his married the Revd. Stanley Smith who used to be at St Botolph’s, while another cousin married Gerald Simpson of Hadrian’s Wall.

Did not leave until 11.30, and cycled hard under a brilliant crescent moon, but found myself locked out.  Knocked hard, but no answer.  Tried the back door, no answer, although there were lights in several rooms.  Went to the police station, and asked if I might ‘phone.  Mrs. Smith refused to answer that, either.  Police advised me to try all the windows until I found one open, which seemed curious advice for police to give.  Went back tried them all, but only the kitchen undone.  With great trouble squeezed through the bars, knocked something off a table, got wet paint all over my hands, only to find the kitchen door locked on the outside, so had to climb out again.

Back to police-station, but they refused further help or advice.  Went round to the Museum (it was now 1.00 am) found Penny at the Control Room, and got him to let me sleep in a bed in the old Town Library, which is kept made-up for the Controller, Ollard.  For this treatment at the “White Lion” I pay £4.4 per week.

While at the police-station, heard there has been a big robbery of jewellery at the “White Hart” across the river, stuff belonging to the land-lady, Mrs. Gosling.  The “Hart” is shut at 10.30, and if you want to be out later than that you have to ask permission, state when you will be in, and Mrs G. waits up for you.

17th February 1945

Dull, inclined to be foggy.  Bustling market crowds all day.  

Old Edwards came in for an hour, and then young Woolley, who is certainly a most intelligent child, but was rather a nuisance today as I had so much to do.

Went round to the Bank to pay in Robin’s price, and found that one now has to fill in a special form for £5 notes, something to do with attempts to prevent black-market dealings.

Bought my rations this afternoon, as the White Lion does not apparently want my book, and was very lucky – got one pound of oranges.  In Bridge St, met little Ellis from the Grammar, walking with a Welsh girl, who was introduced as Miss Betty Thomas, and who is coming to teach at the Grammar School after Easter.

This evening felt ill, tummy bad, so had no dinner.  Went to cinema instead, saw an excellent film of China, in colour, but spoiled by shocking Yankee propaganda.  Bed at 11, reading Vulliamy’s “Puffin” which I enjoyed.  Excellent idea, this.

16th February 1945

Cloudy, but fine in the evening.  Cold.  Went round to Union Street, to the room over the “Advertiser” Office, where we have a tremendous amount of stuff stored.  A lot is rubbish, game heads, horns, and so on, but there are at least 50 boxes of deeds and other MSS relating to the Fens, which Woodgate has collected.  Must arrange to get these back to the Museum as soon as possible.  Opened one or two, but saw nothing earlier than the 18th century.

This evening to Arts Club for an hour.  Charlotte Osborne and Jessie Swift both there, and a girl called Charlotte Bruce, who runs the Youth Club, called in.  She looks about 24, with dark brown hair and a most fascinating Celtic cast of face.  Went home with Charlotte Osborne and Jessie Swift, and had a coffee at the Swift’s.  

15th February 1945

Foggy, cold, the tide flowing in grey and sluggish under the bridge.  Crowd in the coffee-room for breakfast, because a lot of “commercials”, fat, pale Northerners, came in last night.  Some of them were talking about the flying bombs near Leeds just before Christmas, and the earthquake shock which followed about a week later.  Many people thought it was caused by some super-bomb.

Went across to see the deep sewer trench in the Vicarage paddock, but nothing has been found yet, and no work done since the thaw.  Water rises at about 5 feet, and they have much trouble and a lot of elaborate pumping machinery to keep it down.

Felt very sick in the afternoon, but better after tea, for which I had to go round to Clarkson Avenue, to old Curtis Edwards’.

Back to office, wrote some letters, then invited myself downstairs to the Control Room, where there were only two girls on duty, to hear “Itma” on the radio, but not very good.  Bed at 10.30 reading for an hour, listening to the sucking and gurgling of the tide rushing in under the bridge.

14th February 1945 - E.J. Rudsdale's Birthday

Beautiful fine spring morning, then blue sky, sea gulls wheeling over the river, horses plodding over the bridge towards the Old Market.  My birthday, 35 years old, now definitely middle-aged, with youth far behind.  Looked in the old Journals – 1935, thinking about Halstead Show; 1925, at school, but spending every minute I could with A.G. Wright at Colchester Castle and Capt. H.E. Laver on excavations.  How little there is to show for all that 20 years.

Had one letter only, from Aunt Het, but had one from Father yesterday.  Wrote to Daphne and the Biggams today.

Took the afternoon off, called for Charlotte Osborne, and went with her to the brick-pits in Walsoken parish, on the S. side of Broaden Road, in Tinpitts Field.  According to the 6” map, a bronze socketed axe was found there in 1868.  There is one of those now in the Museum.  The site is a little clay hillock, and would certainly support a tiny settlement of some nomad.  Charlotte Osborne enquired about clay for modelling, while I asked if there had been any finds in recent years, but was assured there were none.  The brickworks is now mostly engaged in turning out land-drains.

A few hundred yards W. at the corner of Burnettgate, is a modern house called Manor House, and a couple of hundred yards S. of that is an oblong earthwork, still faintly visible, in the middle of “Hall Field”, which is obviously the site of one of the ancient manors in Walsoken, but which I am not quite sure.

We rode round by Paradise Road, and along Bigg’s Road, back to the main Lynn Road, and so back to her home to tea.  She has a very nice little boy called Trevor, about 8 years old, and very intelligent.

While we were having tea, there was suddenly a tremendous flash across the sky to the N. but no sound of explosion.

Today marks 105 years since E.J. Rudsdale's birth on 14th February 1910.

13th February 1945

More rain, but cleared up.  Grammar School party first thing, my talk quite a success.  Then busy on letters for the rest of the day.  Tonight went to a very dull WEA meeting at the Queen’s School, hoping that Charlotte Osborne would be there.  She was, but her husband too, a big, burly man, works at Smedley’s Canning Factory as an accountant.  Arranged to go with Charlotte to the clay pits at Emneth tomorrow.

12th February 1945

Rain at times.  Getting out stuff ready for school-parties, and writing letters.  Miss Thompson in a bad mood, and old Edwards begs me not to “upset her”.  When I suggest that we ought to get rid of her, he goes purple in the face and insists that however bad she is, she is the only caretaker we are ever likely to have.  When the last caretaker left, the Museum had to be shut for 3 or 4 months until Edwards was rashly persuaded to employ Miss Thompson.

Spent the evening in the Library, going through Cambridge Antiquarian Proceedings.

11th February 1945

Back to White Lion today.  This evening, sitting in the lounge drew Miss Jones’ attention to an article in the “Observer” on Welsh Nationalism.  “Aah!” she said, “Those fools!  It’s getting to a pretty state of things when you can't get a decent job in a school in South Wales unless you’re in with them!”  This is certainly news to me.

Stayed in nearly all day, because of steady rain.

10th February 1945

Cold and sunny.  Went out about 10 and looked in at the Cattle Market but no stock there at all, not even a calf.  In Old Market a lot of fruit trees and plants for sale, “on the stones”, as they say here, referring to the time when the market was covered with cobbles.  Big crowds of people and many carts, with quite a few horses, carts, and traps. 

Went below in the Museum this morning, and noticed one of the A.R.P. men stacking up boxes of gasmasks, all new.  Now what, I wonder?

This evening called at Clarkson Avenue for Jessie Swift, and took her to the concert in the Queen’s School.  It was a little orchestra arranged by a man called Tallis Trimnell (who speaks with a distinct Welsh accent) and it was a good show, even if a little ragged at times.  They played Bizet, Handel, Mozart, Vaughan Williams and that sort of thing.  Thank God no singing.  A full audience.

Took Mrs Swift home and was invited in for a coffee, and sat for an hour talking to John Swift about the river, of which he is in charge.  He is just finishing the new quay which is built on the E. bank.  Says the only worry now is – will there be any shipping?

Am moving back to White Lion tomorrow – can't stand another day with Mrs. Shepherd.  Paid her tonight £6-6-0 up to date and told her I was making “other arrangements”.  She looked furious, but said nothing.

9th February 1945

Muggy, and inclined to be wet.  In Library most of the day, quite lost in the discoveries there. 

Tonight Art Club meeting at the house in Old Market.  Eight or nine there including Charlotte Osborne and Mrs. Jessie Swift.  Took them home, and asked if either or both would come to an orchestral concert in one of the schools tomorrow?  Jessie Swift said she would.  Told them about the discomfort of the house in the Crescent, and Mrs. Swift said she would see if I could get into a very good place next door to where she lives in Clarkson Avenue. 

Had to call at the Town Hall today, and noticed in the Town Clerk’s office the government handbill, urging evacuation of civilians, still pasted on a board. 

Seems very strange to read in the “Advertiser” and the “Wisbech Standard” this week of shares in the water-works being offered for sale.  Difficult to believe that privately-owned water-companies still exist.  Wonder what would happen if one decided to suspend operations?

Heard today (from Mrs Stone, wife of a pilot) that the ‘plane crash the other night was at Ely, or near it.  Heard too that King’s Cross station is said to have been shut for several days.

Very dark tonight, not a star to be seen.

8th February 1945

Not cold.  Mrs Shepherd in a vile temper, and the daughter rushing round the kitchen half dressed while Doble and I were trying to eat our inedible breakfasts.

Busy all day on letters and on going through the Library.  Tonight felt suddenly bored and went to a cinema, a very silly thing to do, and a very poor show, which served me right.

Bed at 10pm, to read “North Wind.”

7th February 1945

Very late again, not up until 9.  Nice warm morning, but a light drizzle.  Very nasty look from Mrs. Shepherd for having breakfast at 9.15.

Set to work to arrange a special exhibit for Lever’s Grammar School class in the Library this afternoon – a few Romano British pots, the Venus from Lincoln, a few coins, plough coulter from Towcaster, etc.  About 12 old Doble and his son came in, so showed them round the museum.  Then lunch.  Back at 1.30, and then did not go outside the building again until 9.30 tonight.  Lecture went very well, class of 20.  Have never talked to children before.  Lever seemed very pleased.

Miss Thompson gave me a cup of tea, and I ate some tarts I bought, then settled in the Library for the evening.

Looked through the maps and atlases.  We have, besides the Ptolemy’s, Speed, Blau, Mercator, a Dutch “Zee Atlas”.  In the same case is Cook’s plates of his South Sea and Alaskan voyage, with the wonderful pictures of the Polynesian dancing, so like modern ballet, yet out of another world.  Found also “Wild Wales” and “Lavengis”, and looked up G.B.’s reference to the great Marshland Shales.  Much amused to think what a ruffian G.B. really must have been, a sort of Regency Wentworth Day.  Dear old Carredoq sometimes referred to me as “Sious Borrow yr ail”!

Letter from Penry Rowland today, saying there have been no ‘divers’ or rockets at Colchester all last week.

Tonight, in bed, reading Compton MacKenzie’s “North Wind” with great enjoyment.  Had imagined that this would be one of his best books when the reviewers sneered at it and reviled it.

Lying in bed, could hear the sound of drunken singing in the town very late.  Curious how often one hears the sound of voices or the starting of motor cars in the Crescent and Museum Square as late as one in the morning.

Hope poor Ann is feeling better.

In the “Daily Telegraph” today is a report that one T.R. Humble has devised a plan to destroy all the fine Regency Squares and terraces at Hove.  A piquant thought that, while many citizens of Hove “firewatched” at the risk of life and limb to save these buildings for posterity, the Borough Engineer’s Office, was working out a scheme to destroy every house that the Germans left standing.

6th February 1945

Up 8.30.  Dull, but not too cold.  Drizzle all day.  ‘Planes going over in great flocks.  

Another letter from Ann this afternoon, to say she has an abcess on her face, which has swollen to a huge size so that she can't speak or eat, and can see only out of one eye.  Wrote to her at once, offering to go and see her, although am desperately short of money.  Poor darling actually ends “All my love” a thing she has never done before.

Evening papers had huge headlines “20,000 killed in Berlin” in a  daylight raid by the Americans on Saturday.  In the face of this achievement the Russian advances take second place, and the West Front news is squeezed onto the back page.  

Tonight went to WEA lecture, very dull speaker, talked about Michaelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael.  Such material, but how dull.  Mrs Osborne and Mrs Swift both there.

Out at 9, Bed at 10.30.  Thinking of poor Ann so far away.

5th February 1945

Committee meeting at 12.  Went quite well, but no business done of any importance.  Mrs Munday promised to call and see me.  A lot of chatter in the Committee about the waterworks trouble – Gardiner, Girling and Dawbarn are all deeply concerned.

This afternoon Mrs Osborne, of the Art Club, called, and we cycled over to Collett’s brick pit beyond Walsoken to see if she could get any clay for modelling.  The men at the pit told us that Roman pottery had been found there many years ago, but could give no details.  The 6” OS marks B.A. implements as being found there.

Glorious, fine, sunny afternoon, with a balmy breeze.  Cycled back by Paradise Farm to the main Lynn Road, and so back to her house where she gave me tea.  While we were having it, at 6pm, there was suddenly a tremendous flash and heavy explosion, but whether a rocket or thunder could not say.  Late tonight there was another big explosion, at 1.15am, when a flight of ‘planes was passing over.  May have been a crash somewhere.  Sound travels great distances over the flat Fens.

4th February 1945

Up soon after 9.  Lovely warm spring-like morning, many ‘planes going out.  Had a wretched breakfast and then walked out to buy a paper.  Quite a crowd round the paper seller with his little trolley at the foot of the Clarkson Memorial.  This seems to be the only way to get a Sunday paper here – no newsagent’s shop open anywhere.  

One paper mentions that the Germans are now using old Heinkel ‘planes filled with explosives, without pilots, in the manner of giant flying-bombs. 

Crossing the bridge saw Miss Ellis, Miss Morgan and Miss Rees, all looking very smart in Sunday best.  

North Brink looked very lovely this morning in full sun, under the clear blue sky, each building standing out sharp and individually.

Set out for Woodgate’s house, through North End and along the river bank.  The tide was full, but not a ship in the river.  Went over the railway lines, and asked a boy for Woodgate’s house.  “That’s it,” he said pointing to an early Victorian castellated Gothic erection near by, “The house like an ol’ castle.  You’ll have to knock hard, they never take no notice there.  I’d kick the door if I were you.”  Thanked him for his kindly advice.

However, Woodgate heard as soon as I rapped, and let me in.  He lives here alone in this amusing house, with its gothic windows, long passage, and battlements.  There is a fine high study, piled with books and MSS, with family portraits on the walls.  Reminded one rather of an illustration from “The Antiquary”.  Had a good lunch in a high sunny room looking out over the garden, the piece de resistance being the chicken given him by a grateful client.

Talked of museum affairs – ARP absurdities, etc.  He described the so-called “tumulus”, Cherry Hill, about 200 yards away, and said how some years ago he had “opened” it, finding nothing but a fragment of a millstone near the top, from which he concluded it was really a mill-mound.  Well, whatever it is, it is certainly not a tumulus, any more than the other mounds in this neighbourhood are.

He told me that old “Philosopher” Smith, who took so many of the early Wisbech photos, used to live next door, in the house facing the river, by the railway gates.

After lunch he showed me his methods of indexing MSS material, and I left at about 3.  Cycled slowly back, not knowing in the least where to go – debarred from my own office by the caretaker, nowhere to go in the lodgings except the cold bedroom, no prospect of a cup of tea anywhere.

Spent a couple of hours cycling round Walsoken, Emneth, and the edge of the Smeeth, and then went back to change my clothes before going to dinner at the “White Lion”.

How bitterly I regret that I ever came to this town.  Lot of searchlights tonight, all round the town.  Heavy explosion far away in Norfolk, and many flashes in the eastern sky.

3rd February 1945

Another fine day, and much warmer.  Out shopping for half an hour and ‘phoned to the Coulther’s house at Elm, as Mrs. C. had suggested I should do.  Mr Coulther answered, and must confess I did not like the sound of him.  He sounded a rather bumptious type.  However, arranged to go down this afternoon to tea, which I did.  He turned out to be about 33, fair, rather fat, and of a nature such as I would have guessed from his voice over the ‘phone – bumptious and loud.  It seems that he is an insurance agent but was directed to take up farm-work.  He thereupon bought a few pigs and a couple of Jersey cows and announced that he was a farmer in his own right.  We had a very nice farmhouse tea, with lots of butter and milk, rather spoilt by two awful children, who squalled and quarrelled over the tea-table.  Mrs. C. is very pleasant, with a fine handsome face, rather in the Rossetti manner.  Stayed until 11, and left in a fine rain that began to fall after a lovely warm evening.

G.M.G. Woodgate sent round today to ask me to lunch tomorrow, as he has a chicken.  

2nd February 1945

Fine day, quite warm.  Went across the park to look at a trench for a new drain which has been cut from Townshend Road to Whitby St.  This runs straight across the bed of the ancient estuary, but nothing has been found, and there is fine, clean, hard packed silt to a depth of just over 6’.  How delightful if we could find a boat in this old river.

Lovely evening, light until nearly 6, and the sun setting up the river, blazing in scarlet on the windows of the lovely Georgian houses on the North Brink.  The river was running strong and black, and 6 or 7 little pony carts came trotting over the bridge on their way back to their stables behind Horsefair.

Decided to call on Miss Ellis at Old Market, but as I knocked at the door, which was partly open, a most charming, tall dark woman came hurrying down the dingy staircase towards me, and said, “Are you Mr. -?” (something or other).  I said no, I wasn’t, I was the Curator.  “Oh are you?  Well, do come upstairs and meet the Arts Club, I’m sure you’d like it.”  Only too delighted I went up the stairs and along a dark passage. We went into a large room which apparently serves as a studio and workshop.  There were about half a dozen people there – a rather sad, dissipated looking man, called Harper, a charming fair headed woman called Day Shuker, another woman who looked almost a twin of Dodo Rose, called Mrs Swift, and the delightful woman who captured me, whose name is Charlotte Osborne.  Within five minutes of entering the room, in spite of my protests that I can neither paint nor draw I found myself a member. 

Everything was very jolly and we had a mug of strong sugarless tea and a bun, and then began to go home.  I offered to show Mrs. Osborne where she could get clay suitable for pottery-making, and arranged to take her to Collett’s brick-pits at Emneth next Monday.  

1st February 1945

Another month begins.  Not quite so cold, fine and sunny.  Busy all morning mending Roman and Medieval pottery.  Tea at the corner café in Market Street.  Saw a little boy on a fine grey pony, trotting softly through the Market Place in the early dusk, a man cycling quickly beside him.

Tonight ‘planes going out in ceaseless streams.  Wondered what was going on down at the old Royal Observer Post: “Fox One”.  Back to the office tonight, and at 8 went down to the Control Room below to talk to the two girls on duty and listen to “Itma” programme on the radio.

Bed at 10.30.  Mrs Shepherd makes pointed remarks at breakfast about my reading late at night.  No doubt my light has been reported to her by someone on the other side of the Crescent.