31st May 1944

Hazy in the early morning, and not quite so hot.  Very late in, so went to see Father first, and was relieved to find him well.  Miss Payne is most anxious to go away for a weekend which worries me.

Went out, and called at the scene-painting shop in the old public hall, to see Diana.  Had a cup of tea and a chat.

Astonishing telephone message from Engledow at Writtle, to say that it had been decided to dismiss Mrs Allen at once, as she is quite unsuitable to look after Land Girls.  This is quite the most fantastic piece of nonsense that has yet come out of the Labour Department.  As a matter of fact, Mrs Allen is very good with the girls.  It is a perfect outrage that she should be treated in this way.  Naturally Engledow has not given the slightest consideration as to how we should manage the girls for the rest of the sugar-beet season.  Captain Folkard is furious.

Clouded over this afternoon.  Took Daphne out to tea and to the Hippodrome to see “Fanny by Gaslight”, very well done and I much enjoyed it.  Out at 9.45.  Heavy clouds, and the glass gone back.

Shortly after 11 it began to thunder and lightning, and rain fell.  Hardly a ‘plane about.  To bed at 1 a.m., the moon beginning to show through cloud-rack.

30th May 1944

Still very hot.  Got a lot of office letters done today.  Went to see Father.  No more pains, thank God.  Meant to go again this evening, but went to tea with Diana instead.  She was conscientiously worried because she had not gone to Canteen duty, my conscience itched because I had not gone home.  Went to King’s Head Meadow, and sat on a fence for an hour, just behind the Infirmary where Mother died.

No sign of rain, drought very bad.  There will be no hay this year.

Noticed that a new concrete road is being laid across the bombed site at St. Botolph’s corner, to make easy access into the Britannia Works behind the station.

Raid on S.W. England last night, but none down.

Heard this about the Americans – There’s three things wrong with them, they’re over paid, over sexed and over here.

29th May 1944

Whit Monday
An alarm about 4 am.  Got up and dressed, then lay on the bed.  Lasted half an hour, but nothing happened.  Got up late, and went in to Colchester to lunch.  Father very well, and never heard the alarm at all.

Cycled to Birch Hall, - hot sunny day.  Pheasants running about in the Park.  Magnificent old cock-bird disappeared into the ruined Church.  Meeting was in the hall downstairs.  Continuous roar and rumble of ‘planes the whole afternoon.  Some talk about rural life and amenities.  Said a few things.  Out at 5.30.

Back by Blackheath, to make a call at Jones’ place.  Crops all very forward.  Then to Holly Trees, and finished sorting the prints.

To Lt. Rivers, and heard that yesterday a plane made a crash landing at the aerodrome, and loosed its extra petrol tank, which crashed through the roof of Schofield’s house, soaking the place with petrol.

Back to Woodside at 10.15, and ate gooseberry pie.  Heard a cuckoo in the wood at 11.30.  Beautiful clear, still night.

28th May 1944

Whit Sunday
Very hot day.  ‘Planes about 7 o’clock onwards.  Writing letters until 3, then to tea at Lt. Rivers.  Planes about all the time, so loud that it was impossible to talk out of doors.   Afterwards cycled down to Dedham, but Mrs. Sisson had a very bad headache, so did not stop.

Came back by Mill Lane to Stratford, the river full of boats and bathers enjoying the lovely sunny evening.  Police hold-up on Stratford Bridge, checking identity cards and numbers of cycles.  Got to Boxted at 10.  A lot of ‘planes went out at 11 and two more waves about midnight.  Thank God the moon is getting later, and it will soon be light all night.  Explosion shortly after midnight.

27th May 1944

Whit Saturday
No office today, so went to Holly Trees first to help bring in Sir Gurney Benham’s papers for further sorting.  Put them all in the Library Room.  Hull knows nothing of this.  Found a copy of Essex Archaeological Society Transactions, Vol I, part I, old series, in the original covers.  This is really a curiosity, as most of the stock was destroyed in a fire many years ago.

Looked in at the office to get papers ready for Monday’s meeting.  This afternoon to see the film “Goodbye Mr Chips”, which I saw in London just before the Royal Show, on the night when the I.R.A. blew up a bank in Piccadilly.  Very good play.

Went home to tea.  Father pretty fair, but had a heart pain yesterday.  This evening to Holly Trees, sorting prints.  Poulter seemed ill, and anxious about his throat.  To Boxted at 11p.m.  Quite light, and several ‘planes about.

26th May 1944

Warm, cloudy, and intermittent showers.  Strange absence of aircraft all day.

Tea at Last’s, and then to Benham’s office.  How strange to go into the dark panelled back room, the long windows shrouded with hanging creepers, a vast litter of books and papers all over the floor, the hideous revolving bookcase, filled to overflowing, the old familiar scene that I have seen a thousand times since the day I first went there in 1927.  But now the mahogany chair, with its horse-hair seat is empty, the same chair in which Sir Gurney Benham's brother, Charles Benham, died with dramatic suddenness in 1929.  There is a little brass plate on the back of it recording this.

Spent three hours among a welter of dust and papers.  Discovered a beautiful copy of Morant’s ‘Colchester’, with Wegg’s bookplate in it.  There were also two sets of the Essex Archaeological Society Transactions, one not quite complete, which Hervey said I might have.

Collected about 300 miscellaneous Essex and Colchester prints, many of which are not in the Museum collection.  Hervey Benham is keeping all the main Colchester histories and guide books as a reference collection for himself.

Back to Boxted 10.30, very tired and dirty.  Still cloudy, wind light, S.W.

25th May 1944

Warm, nice spring day.  Planes going out in great numbers.  Mrs. Hartley, wife of one of the other lodgers at Woodside, has been away for 10 days, and returned today with a baby.

Now reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals for the first time.  Curious to see how her impressions of Scotland are similar to mine 120 years later.

Heard today that the new Assistant District Officer will be arriving on June 1st, so went to the Billeting Officer, Elgar, to see if I could find him a billet.  Elgar’s office is now on the first floor of Sir Isaac Rebow’s house, in a beautifully panelled room.  Several of the upstairs rooms are in excellent condition and have never been photographed or drawn. 

Saw Hervey Benham and arranged to go through some of Sir Gurney’s papers tomorrow.

Cloudy this evening, and looks like rain.  Not a ‘plane about, so went to Boxted early, and to bed before midnight, hoping to get undisturbed sleep. 

24th May 1944

Fine, hot and hazy.  Many ‘planes going out.  Swallows swooping in Military Road.  Took some more eggs to Father.  He seemed very well. 

A man named Cooper, from Langham, rang up, to say he had bought East Mersea Hall, and was taking possession next month.  This will make a big change down there.

Capt. Folkard went to a meeting of the Lexden and Winstree R.D.C, today, and said there was a representative of the Ministry of Health there, to instruct the Council on the Ministry’s policy regarding country villages.  He appears to have told the Council that quite a number of the more remote villages would be regarded as uninhabitable, and would be allowed to drift into total decay.  Other villages which the Ministry consider to be more “civilised”, would be enlarged to become small towns, and in time lose their rural character altogether.  The inhabitants too would be encouraged to take up town pursuits to the further decay of country life.  The Council were mildly shocked at this fantastic nonsense, as well they might be, but failed to make any very strong protest.

Went to the Repertory Players tonight with Daphne, to see “The Taming of the Shrew”.  Very well done, beautifully dressed, and the scenery very fine indeed.  Yvonne Campbell was Katherina, delightful, and so very pretty.  Larry Silverstone was back to play Grumio with great spirit.  The final scene, “A Room in Lucentio’s house”, was a really wonderful setting.  Much enjoyed the whole evening.

23rd May 1944

Dull, but fine later. 

Called at home.  Father definitely better.  Went to bank and drew some money for him.

Heard that Jimmie Cox, who used to live in Old Heath Road, died in Singapore last year.  He was about 40, and left CRGS just about the time I went.  We were very friendly with the Cox family, and Mother was especially friendly with Mrs Cox, who was Nellie North, the daughter of old North, the first Headmaster of Barrack St. School, under whom my Father served when he first came to Colchester in 1897 or 1898.

Excavations at St Botolph’s enlarged, and the foundation of the precinct wall can be seen quite clearly under the edge of the footway, and stretching behind it, towards the E., was a band of mortar rubble a foot to 15 inches thick, 2 feet below present ground level, no doubt representing the demolition of this wall.  Still no sign of pottery or other finds.  Water is welling up at 6 feet down, and at the bottom 2 feet of the trench is a black, peat-like substance, with dark gravel mixed in it.

Called at North Station, and found that only about 3 trains remain running to London, and no guarantee of any back after 6, so shall not risk going to Burlington House tomorrow, much as I should like to.  Noticed 6 cattle trucks on the By-Pass, hurrying east, and wondered if this meant that cattle were being evacuated from some coastal area or other.

Cloudy tonight.  Noticed that most of the guns seem to have gone – only a few left on the Abbey Field, and the battery in Severall’s Lane has gone.

Boxted at 10.30, very tired.

22nd May 1944

Up early, nice clear morning, but cold.  Called at home.  Father very fair, cheered up when I gave him some eggs and milk.  Apparently there was an alarm about 4 am which I never heard.  He heard only the ‘all-clear’.

Excavation being cut across the site of Cheshire’s china-shop, at St Botolph’s Corner, to lay a water pipe to the foundry behind the station.  No pottery found, but a few fragmentary footings,  running N-S, about 30 feet from the old street front.

Out at 5 and went to tea at Hilda Smith’s.  Most enjoyable evening.  Had to phone Capt Folkard at 9.30, and had a lot of trouble to get through from the box at Drury Rd corner.  Great congestion on the lines. 

Heavy clouds came up in the evening, but there was no rain, so badly needed.  Had tea in the garden.  Hilda told me that there had been an epidemic of ‘phone calls in the middle of the night around the west end of the town, mostly to houses where a lady lives alone.  When the ‘phone is answered the caller immediately hangs up without speaking.  It is believed that these calls are made by burglars as a way of discovering whether or not the houses are occupied.  Hilda’s house was burgled a few weeks ago, by a solder and an ATS girl.

Heard that several main-line trains from London were cancelled without warning today.  People got to Colchester station to find a notice hung up to say that various trains would not run.  Doubtful about going to London on Wednesday.

Boxted at 11, dark and cold.  A great owl flying around near the Asylum fence.

21st May 1944

Strong N.W. wind.  Went to Colchester, to lunch at home.  Father a good deal better, but Miss Payne very gloomy and depressing.  Unable to do justice to a very good lunch, as felt sick.

This afternoon went to Dedham Miss Walshall and Sgt Merrill there.  After tea to Lawford, and bought some eggs, then cycled back to Dedham and Langham to Lt Rivers.  Everybody very busy and disinclined to talk so did not stay long.  Heard that Nancy, the Australian, had been down to say goodbye, as she expects to go to France with the Quaker relief people “soon”.  Being reluctant to go into a prohibited area, she went to Nayland, to Phoebe Pickard’s, and Dodo Rose went down there.  Phoebe has been forbidden by the Colchester Police to use the Public Library, but I think she intends to do so.  She was very foolish to ask them, in any case.  Actually it is understood that the Nayland and Wiston people can go into Colchester for shopping, and there is no physical reason to stop them, except that occasionally on Sunday evenings a policeman stands on Nayland Bridge and checks identity cards.

Heard at Dedham that A.J. Munnings, the new President of the Royal Academy and his wife, are staying at the “Sun” [in Dedham], in complete defiance of orders concerning prohibited areas.  They had been to Sissons’ and were in great form.  Possibly he intends to go back to Dedham one day after all.
The artist, Sir Alfred Munnings, lived at Castle House, Dedham but the house was requisitioned during the war.  Castle House is now open to the public as the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum and is well worth a visit.  CP

Clouds tonight, and few ‘planes before midnight.

20th May 1944

Warm, misty morning, many ‘planes going out.  Called at home, and found Father very queer and shaky.  He had a bad pain last night about eleven o’clock, and it upset him a good deal.  Miss Payne very alarmed.  Went in for 2 hours this afternoon, and found him better and more cheerful.

After tea cycled to Layer.  Went by way of the Cemetery, to see Mother’s grave and then by Berechurch.  The roads full of soldiers going into town from the various camps.  Big tank park near St Michael’s Church.  What a tragedy if the Germans should attack it and destroy the Audley Chapel.

All the land around here looks terribly parched and burnt.  Some of Barbour’s fields appear to be quite bare.  The orchards look dusty and desolate.  Went to Kingsford, the Park looking the colour of a desert – no feed at all.  Saw Mr Russell’s Morant, and compared the Stonhouse drawings.  They are very similar but not quite the same, and I should think that his are probably copied form those in the Royal Institution volume.

Went on to Birch, met Col. Round in the lane near the Rectory, driving his cob.  Went to the Hall, saw Mrs. Round, and spent an hour in the library there.  Then back to Colchester, by way of Birchwood and Bay Mill Cottages.  Lovely cool evening, planes coming over low on their way back from operations.  Crops look very well, all the corn wonderfully forward.  Young cattle grazing on the low meadows, but even there very little feed.

Went through the woods to Olivers’ and across the fields to Brickwall.  Saw 2 Canadians riding on the Committee’s potato field, on Rodd’s horses, so when I got to Brickwall I called there and spoke to him about it.  He was very civil, and said he tried hard to prevent people from riding off the tracks, but they are so stupid that it is difficult to make them understand.  I believe he does his best, but Dyer is very much against him and I am afraid there will be serious trouble one day.

Called at Hilda Smith’s in Maldon Rd, and she asked me to go to tea on Monday, then called at Dr. Rowland’s, and spoke about Father.  He says that there is nothing to be done except prevent the old man from doing energetic work.  He went on to speak of the Museum, and hinted that he might come back on the Committee one day.
Looked in at Holly Trees just before 10, to collect some papers.  Poulter told me that Hull says Harwich has been evacuated, but this is unlikely to be true as Hull says so.

Fine starry night, yet few planes about.  Going up Mile End Hill met three pony carts coming down full gallop, no lights, men and girls singing and shouting.  They all disappeared towards the town.

19th May 1944

Fine, cold and misty.  ‘Planes going out again.  Had tea at home today.  Father has been very well all this week, and seemed very bright today.

The ‘Essex County Standard’ full of Sir W. Gurney Benham, the whole thing well done and with dignity.  Hervey has of course been expecting the old man to go for months, but now it has happened he is very affected.

Went to Holly Trees and worked in Library again.  Poulter told me that he had had a visit from old Mervyn Stewart, Rector of Mannden, who is now taking a great interest in all things Cornish, and endeavours to become a Cornish bard.

Cycled up to Sheepen Farm, to see what had been done about the Water-works land.  The big field is now all ploughed, and looks well, although the land is so poor.  A baby rabbit suddenly bolted out of a bush, ran down the steps of a concrete ‘pill-box’ and crouched at the bottom like a tiny kitten.  

Walked about the deserted fields in the gathering dusk, watching the stars come out, and thought of all the work that had been done up there in past years.  A few ‘planes flew over, going out to sea.  Heard midnight strike from the Town Hall tower, and started to walk to Boxted.  At North Station directed the driver of a heavy lorry who wished to know the road to Harwich, and at last reached Boxted at 1 a.m.

18th May 1944

Raining and cold.  No planes about.  Busy all day, but seemed to get little done.  To Holly Trees tonight, talking about the possibility of my going back.  Found a letter waiting for me from the Royal Institution, enclosing photos of ‘Le Stonhous’ drawings from the copy of Morant in the Library there.  They are very similar to those in Philip Hills’ copy, but have the important addition of the north point – previously I had not known which way the building faced.  Went up to the Essex Archaeological Society Library and spent two very pleasant hours with Essex Archaeological Society Transactions and ‘Essex Review’, collecting references to the ‘Stonehouse’ site. 

Noticed this little point in Morant – when speaking of the famous date on the window-sill, he mentions that there was another early date in the town, that of 1497 over the archway leading to Cistern Yard, North Hill.  This was the yard at the back of the Marquis of Granby, as William Wire shows in his ‘Street Names of Colchester’, and may indicate that the ‘Marquis’ is earlier than we thought.  In 1940 I found that it has a hammer-beam roof, so that a late 15th century date would not be surprising.

Got back to Boxted just before 8, heavy rain beginning again.  Had supper and listened to radio.  Great relief at the prospect of another quiet night.  Dozed in the armchair, and woke at 1 a.m.  Heard two planes pass over, flying among the dripping, glittering stars.  A warm wet mist arising.

17th May 1944

Cold and wet.  Up very late, so went along to Sheepen first, to see about some fencing.  Captain Folkard rather annoyed, as well he might be.  Early lunch, and then went along to St Mary’s for the funeral [of Sir W. Gurney Benham].

Flags were flying half mast on the Town Hall and the Castle (I hear the Castle flag was put upside down to start with), but no other signs of mourning.  No shops shut, not even Benham’s, and no black shutters, as used to be done in olden days.

People in dark Sunday clothes going up Church Street and into the Churchyard.  Chained my cycle to some tomb railings, gave my name to a reporter, and went in, just as the sun came bursting through fluffy clouds.  Old Campbell was acting as sidesman, and put me into a seat in the South aisle.  Have not seen him since he did the electric wiring at the Castle.  Just in front of me sat Richardson, Billlington, and another man from the Engineer’s office, and Archie Alderton, the schoolmaster, sat alongside me in the same pew.  Just behind me were May and his sister from St. May’s cottage.

In the nave pews were all the Gas Company people, one with a top hat, and the Brewery folk, old Daniell, purple in the face, Tucker the Secretary, and one or two others.  There was a big block of seats left vacant on the North side of the Nave for the Corporation, and the front pews on the South side were reserved for the family mourners. 

The organ was playing the “Dead March” very quietly, and the Passing Bell tolled slowly.  All the while aeroplanes were going over.  The church was filling up.  Time seemed to be motionless, and the bell went on tolling.  Thought of all Gurney had done.  What a tremendous life, to start before the invention of bicycles, motors, or telephones, and to finish up in a roar of aeroplanes, tanks, and radio.  He never had an easy life, and had a hard struggle when a young man.  It was getting on the Council in place of Bawtree, who had to leave on account of the Bank crash in 1891, that really gave him a start.

The choir came in, and moved into their places.  Then there was a shuffling at the back of the church, everybody stood with a rumble of feet, and the Mayor and Corporation came up the North aisle, the Town Sergeant carrying the mace draped in black, four Sergeants at Mace with the Ward-Mace, also draped.  Why they went up the North aisle was difficult to see, as there was not much room, and they had to shuffle across to get to their seats.  The Town Sergeant fixed the mace to the end of the Mayor’s pew, and they filed in – the Mayor, Deputy Mayor (who is rumoured to take Sir Gurney’s place as High Steward), the Town Clerk, Oswald Lewis our M.P.  Behind them came the scarlet robed Aldermen - Blaxill, Blomfield, Piper, (looking very old), Harper, then the Councillors in blue, - Smallwood, Ralph Wright, Miss Elfreda Saunders, and the others.  Practically the whole council were there.  Behind them sat the Corporation officers (Collins with a top-hat).

More waiting, the bell tolling, the organ murmuring sadly, and then down from the Chancel came Canon Campbell, the Revd Mason, his curate, the Revd Jack of All Saint’s, and young Eric Turner, now a curate, Sir Gurney’s grandson.  They walked down the aisle to the West Door.  A pause, and then we heard the Curate’s voice beginning the service - “I am the Resurrection and the Life …”  Back up the church, the four clergy in front, then Beckett, the undertaker, the coffin draped with a purple pall, wreaths on top.  Behind walked Hervey Benham with his mother, Alderman Gerald in army uniform, with his wife, then Maura, very tall and handsome, in a smart green hat, walking with Hervey’s wife, then Edna (Mrs Seaman), young Gordon Corner, and some ladies whom I do not know.

Young Eric Turner read one of the lessons, and his father Ernest played the organ.  The service was not very long, and then the Canon preached a sort of elegy, very badly.  Among other things he mentioned that Sir Gurney had never failed to attend church, and had been a regular communicant, every month.  Never knew this before.

At last it was all over, and the coffin moved slowly down the church, the mourners behind, Lady Benham walking lame and leaning heavily on her stick, Maura’s face pale and quite expressionless.  We could hear the noise of the shutting of car doors, and the starting of engines, as they set out for the crematorium at Ipswich, carrying him down the High Street for the last time, past the “Essex County Standard”, past the Town Hall, where he so often went, past the Holly Trees and away out of the town.  And so his long life ended.  How strange to think that he served on the Council for 6 years in the Old Town Hall, and that the Norman Moot Hall had been destroyed only 15 years when he was born.  Middle Row had been cleared away little more than a year, and the Cattle Market was still held in the High Street.  He was 5 years old when the American Civil War ended.  When my mother was born, he was a boy of 8, going to the Grammar School.  In 1870 he saw, a boy of 11, the demolition of St. Mary-at-the-Walls, and at 19 the demolition of St. Runwald’s.

I am told that he did not take any particular interest in antiquities until he was working on a newspaper at Salisbury, in about 1880.  He was told to write an article on an old graveyard there, which aroused his interest in the past.

How much truth there is in the stories about his business methods I don't know.  In his latter years he was very mean, but whether it is true that he was simply a money grabber I don't know.  Some say he made a fortune out of the town, but I don't believe this is true.

Going down High Street I passed the civic procession walking back to the Town Hall, people staring curiously, most of them having not the slightest idea who they were.

Had tea with Daphne, and then went to see Poulter.  Talked about the funeral, and the future of the Museum.  Suggested I might try to get a release from the War Agricultural Committee and go back there.  The idea attracts me, but such a return would only be on my own conditions.

In the papers tonight, an account of the Americans' activities in London last night, when they held up the traffic all over the city, and searched cafes and restaurants, and hotels, demanding papers from all the men, both civilians and troops.  This must be the first time since the arrival of William III that foreign troops have carried weapons in London, and have threatened the civilian population with them.  Photographs in the press show American soldiers pointing their rifles at bus drivers.

More rain and wind, so we may have another quiet night.

16th May 1944

Up early.  Office at 9.10.  No big raid on the Continent last night, but another attack on the S. coast, apparently on Portsmouth.  Fine, but cloudy.  Went up to the By-Pass at 10 to meet Frank Warren, to go to Ipswich [Horse Sale).  Convoy of enormous American vehicles, carrying bulldozers.  They turned up towards Ipswich.  Frank Warren came along in his big car, with Joe Porter the horsedealer, and his housekeeper.  We got to Ipswich by eleven. The markets were crowded for the fair, and something like 20 traps and carts for sale, as well as 40 sets of trap harness.  Joy Parrington’s trap was there, and the old buck-cart which we smashed with the runaway last year.  Joy and Parry came in while I was there, with Joy’s brother Eric.  I was sorry they have sold the trap, but Joy seems to be quite finished with driving.  It made £18, and most of the others made over £20.  There was a top-hole little trolley there, nearly new, made £35, which would have suited me very well.

Big crowds at the sale-yards and all over the town.  The public house yards were full of traps, floats, and ponies, and the blacksmith’s near the market was full.  As I came out into Princes St, I saw an enormous crowd by the Marsh Tavern, and everybody on the other side of the street stopping to stare.  Suddenly I saw what they were looking at – a cob, in a rough old ralli-car, with dirty harness, a “Tremendous cob”, his head up, ears pricked, mane-flapping, his great legs rising and falling like piston-rods, sparks flying from his hooves, being driven by a boy of about 16, sailing down the street.  And the crowd stopped to stare at him, the poetry of motion, timeless, ageless, the youthful “whip” sitting back as if he were Bertram Mills himself.  It was a grand sight.

Began to rain a little, so I went up to the Museum and spoke to Maynard.  A clergyman was there, talking about the Shrine of Our Lady of Ipswich, of which I had never heard before, but which apparently at one time rivalled Walsingham.  How much more material there is at Ipswich as compared with Colchester. 

The Museum struck me as being rather sad, the cases were much too crowded.  Maynard has been there a long time now and is getting very old.  He told me that they were having a considerable number of books from the late Reid-Moir’s library, including many rare palaeontological monographs.  Apparently the old man had been very badly off for some years, and had been paid a pension by the Ipswich Museum for the last 5 or 6 years, in return for which he carried out research work on a number of sites, the result to be for the benefit of the Museum.  This seems to show quite a high standard of intelligence on the part of the Museum Committee.

Back to the Market, and saw the cattle which Frank Warren had bought for the Committee.  Curious to note how farmers at sales always seem to delight in standing right in the way of cattle, causing them to break and bolt in every direction.

About 4.30 began to feel rather queer, and although had had no food since breakfast, did not feel inclined to risk anything.  Caught the bus back to Colchester, first having to wait in a hot, stinking garage for half an hour.  The journey was agony, even on the top deck.  Every seat was full, and the atmosphere foul.  Only two windows would open, and those merely cracks.  The seats were excruciatingly uncomfortable and the vibration intolerable.  The head officials of this abominable Eastern Counties Company should be condemned to ride in their filthy buses day and night for a week.

Spent the journey mentally marking off each mile as we traversed it, and sprang out as soon as I could at East Street.  Frightful waves of nausea flowed over me, and I was suddenly and disgustingly sick in the gutter outside the “Welcome Sailor” public house, a horrid and degrading sight.

The wind and rain were getting worse, and I cycled back to Boxted thankful for the promise of a quiet night.

15th May 1944

Heavy rain this morning.  A quiet night here, but on the news we heard that there had been a heavy raid over the S. West counties, Plymouth and Bristol, I expect.  Fifteen planes were brought down in bad weather, so several hundred must have come over. 

Committee at Birch this afternoon.  The Chairman was very outspoken about Layer Breton Hall again, as he has discovered quite accidentally that a man called Eves, who is on the Executive Committee intends to go there to live in September.  Hundreds of pounds of public money have been spent, the occupiers have been evicted at great inconvenience to themselves, all to no useful purpose whatever.  Further talk about post-war housing in country districts.  The most fantastic schemes are now being put forward by various officials, concerning the formation of new “communities”, etc.

Before I came away from Birch I was allowed to see what remains of the Library, and found a copy of Morant’s 'Colchester' which belonged to James Round, but on searching it could find no trace of any drawings of the “Stonehouse”.  There was however an original letter from Morant to Charles Gray, dated from Lambeth of 1769, in which after mentioning various antiquarian matters, he says his daughter has just given birth to her third son, and that her husband, Mr Astle, being well satisfied with her condition, has gone off on a riding tour.  This son was I believe Philip, who took the name of Hills and inherited the Morant papers.

Sent off my letter to Lady Benham.

Called at Holly Trees, and mentioned to Poulter that Molly Blomfield had been ill again.  In the course of talking he mentioned quite casually that a few weeks ago a detective called to see him, making enquiries about her.  He said that he understood that the enquiries were in consequence of her having applied for some job, he did not know what, but this I do not believe.  It is possible that she has been found on military or RAF property in the course of her work [for the National Buildings Record], and they are checking up on her identity but it seems very curious.  Poulter saw nothing odd in it at all.  He made me very angry as he has thrown away nearly all the papers we got from Craske’s [Solicitor's] office, including the very interesting farm sale catalogue of 1820.  I was so furious I left at once.

More rain tonight.  Boxted at 9.  ‘Planes went out for 10 minutes soon after 11, droning horribly above the clouds.  Very cold.

14th May 1944

Very cold and raining, but then cleared up, so decided I had better go to Lion Walk for the Farm Sunday Service.  By mistake, got there an hour too early, so went to Holly Trees and talked to Poulter about Sir Gurney Benham.

As I went back up High Street, met the Civic Procession coming slowly down, the Mace glittering in the sunshine, the red and blue robes of the Alderman and Councillors, making brilliant splashes of colour in the drab street, and a bevy of green-clad Land Girls bringing up the rear.  I have never been in Lion Walk before and in fact have never been to a Nonconformist Service since my cousin was married at Tacket St, Ipswich, 20 years ago.

The church was very full, and the Mayor and Corporation came marching into the front pews in great state, while the Land Girls went crashing upstairs into the gallery.  The organ was out of order, but an elderly woman played fugues and so forth on a harmonium before the service began.  The whole was run through very briskly and with an air of enjoyment, quite different from a Church of England service.  The Revd. Weller preached, but I cannot remember what he said. 

The choir, men and women, were dressed in what looked like purple night gowns, and sang an anthem by themselves.  The collection was taken up by the Land Girls who crashed around the church like young cart-horses.

We were all out by 12.15, and went back to the Town Hall.  Did not walk in the procession, but cut through Pelham’s Lane.  Big crowd in the Mayor’s Parlour, Council, Land Girls, and allotment holders.  Had a coffee and a sausage roll, while the Mayor spoke of “our great loss” etc.  Got away before 1, and had lunch at home, much to Miss Payne’s pleasure.  How that woman talks.

Drafted a letter of condolence, very badly done, to Lady Benham.

Went to Dedham and to Lt. Rivers.  Dennis Carter was there, and we argued about agricultural education until past eleven, when Mrs. Rose packed us off .  Walked back to Woodside.  Fine night, clear and cold, but hardly a ‘plane about.  Towards the west some curious red flares hung in the sky, and then some yellow lights appeared south of Colchester.

13th May 1944

Fine and warm.  Cuckoos in the plantation.  About 10 o’clock Poulter telephoned to say that Sir Gurney Benham had died last night.   This is the end of the great days of the Colchester Museum, and it is strange that Gurney, who was born before the Museum opened, has outlived all the others – Henry Laver, Wilson Marriage, Jarmin, Dr Laver, all gone, and now he has gone to join them. 
Slipped out just before 11 to go down to St. Mary Magdalen [for Annie Ralling's funeral].  Sat right at the back.  Quite a lot of people there.  Bright sunshine outside, and coalcarts and ponies going by, the bell tolling all the time.  They had the choir, four men and two girls, and the Revd. Spray took the service.  When the body was brought in, Mary and Dick Ralling walked just behind, then Dick’s wife with her little daughter Jane, looking strained and rather pale.  Joan and the son were not there.

The service did not take very long, and all the time aeroplanes were roaring over, and I could see the traffic going by in Magdalen Street.  Quite soon Annie’s little coffin came down the aisle again, and they were all away to the cemetery.  I followed on my cycle, leaving it a few hundred yards from the grave.  In just a few minutes the coffin had vanished from sight and the little group had looked their last look into the grave.  Mary looked terribly drawn.  Found myself wondering what will happen to the old black cat which I gave to Annie. 

Mary looked at me and smiled before I moved away.

This afternoon to the Library.  Accident in West Stockwell Street, - a policeman knocked from his cycle by an American staff-car.  He lay on the road, groaning loudly, while the ambulance men attended to him.

Rain began, and it became colder.  Went home to tea.  While I was there Father had a heart pain, and took one of the tablets, which seemed to give relief at once.  Miss Payne went off with Nurse Horwood to see the flowers on Annie’s grave. 
Noticed in lavatories in the town today – “No Leave, No Second Front.”  (All Army leave has been stopped for some time.)  Also in a lavatory near East Street, a lot of stuff written up in Czech.

Rain beginning this evening, very heavy, so hope for a quiet night.  At the “Marquis”, on North Hill, saw two-pony carts, with loose horses tied behind, and some dealers arguing loudly.

12th May 1944

Brilliant and hot, but not many ‘planes.  Capt. Folkard went to Writtle.  Had tea with Hervey Benham at Last’s.  He now thinks the war will go on for many years as the invasion seems to be off.

This evening suddenly tempted to go to a cinema.  Rotten film, and wished I had not.  Felt sick afterwards.

Boxted at 10.30, and then sat up writing, waiting for the moon.  Annie’s funeral tomorrow. 
‘Planes going out in hundreds.

10th May 1944

Many planes going out about 8.  Saw the blinds were down at Winnock Lodge – poor Annie is dead after all her months of suffering.  ‘Planes going out all morning and afternoon, but quiet after tea.

Alderman Blomfield ‘phoned this morning about the costumes at Miss Irwins.  Told him that there was nothing I could do as Poulter is so opposite to the idea of the Museum acquiring them.  This evening when I was at Bourne Mill, Cr. Smallwood came along, and we had a long talk.  He looked terribly ill, but says he is coming back to work soon.  Talked of the future of the Museum, but got nowhere, as usual.

A huge convoy of new heavy tanks came by, on their way to Langenhoe marshes to test their guns on the ranges there.

Boxted at 9.30.  Many ‘planes went out between 10.45 and 11.00, and then hundreds more from 11.00 to 11.30.  We could trace their red lights streaming across the sky, line upon line, the whole world seemingly fitted with the terrifying roar which made the windows rattle.  The moon was bright, rising in the distance behind the Asylum.

Had a letter today from Peggy Caswell, the ‘rat-girl’, very kind and friendly.  She is now in London.

9th May 1944

Another frost, for the third night running.  Disastrous.  Fine, and later quite hot.

This morning saw a captain and two corporals of the Royal Engineers examining the mine-ducts on North Bridge.

One of the Boxted smallholders stopped me at the bottom of Maidenburgh Street, and we had the following conversation:

Smallholder, jerking his thumb up towards High St: “You work along o’them, don't you?”
Me: “That’s right.”
Smallholder: Well, what do I do about string for my tomatoes?”

Translated, this means “Am I not right in believing that you are employed by the War Agricultural Committee?” and “How can I obtain the necessary permit to purchase string to tie up my tomatoes?”

Went into Holly Trees about 9, and talked to Poulter.  He gave me a long lecture on my future, and urged me at all costs never to give up the Museum until I get another and better job.  Disagreed with him completely.

Back to Boxted under the rising moon.  Stopped by a ‘special’ for having no lights.  A big flight of ‘planes went over, with bright red lights on their wings, heading for the Continent on their usual nightly trips of destruction.

8th May 1944

Brilliant icy morning.  Another terrible frost during the night - 7° at Fingringhoe and 8° at Olivers.  Very serious damage.  Potatoes cut right off.

Many ‘planes went out early, and then quiet for an hour or two.  Saw three pairs of Army horses go by the office, full trot.  Glorious sight.  The street was full of milk carts and coal carts at the time.  Fine, just like old times.

On the radio at lunch heard a talk by Fox-Talbot’s grand-daughter, who actually remembers him.  Extraordinary to think of a person still alive being able to remember the inventor of photography.

This afternoon a new Royal Proclamation appeared on the Town Hall, with regard to calling up men of 18-41.  This seems to be done to prevent men from escaping who are over 41 now and who had just missed previous proclamations.  It was all printed out at great length, in very small print, and a crowd soon gathered to read it.

Sent a letter to Hervey Benham this morning, definitely refusing the “Essex Review”.  He ‘phoned this afternoon, and said he had offered it to Jerry Rickwood.  Told him he had done right. 

To Holly Trees this evening.  Poulter suddenly began to give me “good advice” – on no account to leave the Museum whatever happens.  Wondered what he knew of my intentions.  Heard him out, but did not altogether agree.

Can't understand why I have heard nothing further from the Observer Corps.

Lovely moonlight night, absolutely clear.  Curious how safe we feel now on these nights, so very different from two or three years ago.

7th May 1944

Sharp frost last night, and great damage done to fruit and vegetable crops.  Fine morning, but cold.  Hundreds of ‘planes going out, with deafening noise.  Reading and writing all morning.

This afternoon went to Lt. Rivers, but Jack Penton was there, and somehow I did not feel very welcome.  They have now got a lovely little Siamese kitten, and the Sissons have one from the same litter.  Beautiful little things.

Went to Colchester after 6, and had a meal at Culver St. Café.  Then to Bourne Pond, and heard that a sister of Cr. Fisher had yesterday thrown herself into the water, on the far side, but had been rescued alive.  A length of the fence had been broken to get her out, so had to move the donkey.  Everybody very mysterious about the whole affair, as a councillor’s sister is the victim.  Feel sure that there will be no mention in the press, nor any criminal charge.

Went home and then called at Seymour’s where I have not been for some time.  Dear old Pepper there, as spry as ever.  He has been at Colchester Royal Grammar School for more than 30 years, and has just been make First Master, in place of Saunders, who has retired.  He was as pleased as a boy.  Heard that a man named Marvin, appointed to the staff as a “temporary”, arrived last Monday and went mad on Tuesday, when he was found by the police wandering about the town.

Lovely moon tonight, and ‘planes about practising night flying.  Flares burning all round the town, and coloured lights on the wings of the ‘planes.  When I got to Boxted saw the two horses in the yard next the house, hanging their heads over the gate in the moonlight, apparently listening to the ‘planes and the nightingales.  Interesting to speculate on how much notice animals take of aeroplanes and raids.  Never known horses or cattle to take much heed, but dogs and cats are sometimes terrified of bombs and guns.  The Roses' dog is quite pathetic, hiding his head under the lavatory.  For one thing they can though be thankful they are unable (as far as we know) to anticipate danger hours ahead.

6th May 1944

Some rain early, cold; but finer later.  Strong N.W, wind.  Monthly Horse Sale, but nothing there except two miserable ponies.

This afternoon went to Wrabness.  Caught a train at 2.40, taking cycle.  Four police, two men, two women, at the station, and everybody getting off the London train made to show identity cards.  (When I told Poulter I was going to Wrabness, he said “Is it necessary to carry an identity card there?”  I said “My God! of course it is.  It’s necessary to take one everywhere.  Don’t you?” and he replied “No I haven’t seen mine for two years.”  He even goes to Harwich without one).

Have never been by rail along the Harwich line before.  Saw the great Naval mine depôt near Bradfield.  Enormous place, quite undamaged, yet they have tried for it again and again.  Big crater, fairly new by the look of it, in a field near the railway, about a quarter of a mile away.

At Wrabness nobody bothered to collect my ticket, so cycled away to the Rectory, not far down the road.  Lovely view across the Stour estuary, to Holbrook School, with its great tower rearing up above the woods.

The house looked forlorn and derelict, yellow-grey brick, square and ugly, badly in need of painting.  One approaches along a grass-grown drive, the lawns overgrown and ragged, with decaying trees dropping their branches in all directions.  Parchedig Wade-Evans was in the garden when I drew near and came forward to meet me.  I said “Sut yr ydych diwi; Mr Evans?  Dymmo yr sal dda”, and it seemed curious to say that on the edge of Essex, with the Stour in front of us.  He seemed glad to see me, and invited me in.  The hall seemed cold and drear, and very dark, with a horrible musty smell.

“First,” he said “you must meet my wife.  She is a complete invalid, quite helpless.  Not mad of course, you know, but helpless – can't do a thing for herself.”  We went into the room on the left, very long and tall, dark green walls, old fashioned furniture, book shelves on the walls, tea-things on the table, where a woman was cutting cake.  This was “Miss” (I forget what) “my housekeeper”.  And then – “My wife”.

Sitting on a chair by the hearth I saw a woman like a tiny wizened monkey, a long simian face, short grey hair like a little girl, hands clasped on her knees, spindly legs hanging towards the ground.

“My dear”, said the Rector, speaking slowly and clearly, “This is Mr Rudsdale”.  A vague smile flitted over her face.  I saw what it was - thyroid disturbance.  She has apparently been like this for years. 

We had tea at once, and she was lifted to the table and made to eat cakes and drink tea, while her husband held the cup and talked to her as one would to a small baby. 

Afterwards we went into his room to see his books – Place Name Society publications,  “Y Cymmrodor”, Archaelogia Cambrensis, etc – as well as new Welsh books, “Cann Cuneirin”, and “Dywelliant Gwenia Cymm” recently brought out with beautiful illustrations by Iorwerth Peate.  Wade-Evans has known Peate for years, and all the other leading Nationalists.  We had a long and very interesting talk.  I brought him my French-Breton dictionary to see, and my “History of Wales” by Caradoc of Llancarvan, neither of which had he ever seen before, so I lent them to him.  At last I got awayand he walked with me down to the main road.  There I left him with “Diolch yr fawr, Parchedig, nos dawch”, just as if I was 300 miles away.

Cycled away slowly, on an excellent road.  Always enjoy seeing the rich farming land in Tendring, so much better than our side of the river.  Wheat is coming on wonderfully.

Went into Bradfield Church and saw the helm and crest which were brought into the Museum for cleaning and repair some years ago.

So on into Mistley, where there are Irish Guards at the old Territorial Barracks.  For some reason the sentry on the gate was wearing an American-type helmet.

Saw a lovely dapple-grey Welsh cob in a little paddock near the Lawford road.

Called at Sherbourne Mill, and collected half a dozen eggs.  Joy is selling her trap at Ipswich market the week after next.  Pity.

At Dedham saw Sissons, and talked about No 6 Trinity Street.  He had already been over the place, and agreed that it should be carefully watched.  He was in Norwich yesterday, and saw that the “Hercules” House, near the Cathedral, had recently been burnt down.  It had survived all the raids, but was turned into a club of some sort, with the result that it was set on fire.

Stayed some time at Dedham, so that I had to walk back to Boxted.  Few ‘planes about, and some flares in the sky south of Colchester.  Got in at 2 am, very tired.

Annie Ralling is very bad, and can't live much longer.  Poor Mary is dreadfully upset.
[Apologies for any mistakes in transcribing the Welsh language in this diary extract - CP]

5th May 1944

Dull and cold.   Chaotic morning. ‘phones ringing, people calling.  One was Chaplin, from Dedham, arguing endlessly about grant on an extra acre of ploughed grass, to which he is not really entitled but which he is prepared to argue about all morning if necessary.

Heavy rain at times during the day. 

Shocked to read in the “Standard” tonight that No. 6 Trinity St has been handed over for a joint British-American Red Cross Club, and is to be converted at a cost of £850 into a dance hall.  Telephoned to Sisson and Duncan Clark, but neither knew anything of the exact proposal yet.  Perhaps the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings will help.

To Holly Trees tonight for two hours.  Heavy clouds, and rain at times.  Lovely to think of another quiet night.

When I got back to Boxted the Hartley couple came in from a visit to the “Half Butt” at Horkesley, saying how badly behaved the Americans were when drunk.

4th May 1944

Dull.  Rather cold.  Up late.  The usual ‘planes going out, above clouds.  People in from Writtle this morning, about Mortimer of Abbott’s Hall, who now refuses to pay the Committee for work done in 1941.  This man is an utter scoundrel, yet he is treated with every consideration by both Writtle and the Ministry.

About 12, a ‘phone-call from Poulter to say that the Revd. Wade-Evans of Wrabness, the Welsh Nationalist, was at Holly Trees, and would like me to go out to lunch.  Rushed out as soon as I could.  He is a short, grey-haired man, about 70, very courteous and affable.  We had an excellent lunch at the “Lion”, talking so much we hardly had time to eat.  When the waiter said there was no sugar with the coffee, “Y Parchedig” turned to me with a most comical expression and said “Ach a vi!  Dim swcar yma!” to the man’s intense astonishment.

We talked of Nenwins, Bede, Welsh archaeology, the Welsh language, museums, “yma Thraw, curs y byd”.  He knows Iorwerth Peate, Saunders Lewis, Valentine, and all the other leading Nationalists.  Finally got away at 2, having accepted an invitation to go over to see him at Wrabness on Saturday.

This afternoon was surprised to see Uncle Frank Webb [Rudsdale's mother's brother] walk into the office.  He had come down to see Annie Ralling, and had actually spoken to her for a few minutes.  I think he realised there is no hope for her.  Told him I had been to Selattyn, and how the memory of James Jones still maintains there.  He remembered James Jones well.  [James Jones was one of Rudsdale's Welsh ancestors on his mother's side of the family].

Had a late tea at home, and then to Holly Trees for an hour.  Heavy rain, and every hope for a quiet night.  Strong cold, S.W. night wind.

[Apologies for any mistakes in transcribing the Welsh language in this extract - CP]

3rd May 1944

Cold. Heavy shower of rain for half an hour, about 7 o’clock, and the wind gone round to N.W.

In Mile End, saw a huge pair-horse road-wagon belonging to the Institution Farms, and a single-breasted wain behind.  Several army G.S. wagons in the town, looking very fine.

Capt. Folkard very friendly this morning, and made me feel for once that I was of some real use.  Trouble about the old thatcher who is working at Weathercock, on Mersea Island.  Nott and Baldwin do everything they can to obstruct his work, sending him rotten dirty straw, no pegs, taking away his mate, etc.  All done out of sheer spite because he is not a local man, coming from Bentley.

Not so many ‘planes about today.  Took a letter to Benham from the Chairman about “Farm Sunday”, and talked to him about the “Essex Review”.  He is very anxious for me to take it on.  Promised to let him know by the end of the week.  We had coffee in the Milk Bar by Jacklin’s, and two of the Repertory men came in full of complaints about the production.  Apparently not a very happy company.

Hervey Benham told me that Sir Gurney is now very weak, and spends most of his time dozing in his chair, waking in the evening, and chiding himself for not getting work done.  So he slips gently away.  Saw Mary Ralling.  Annie is just the same.

Lunch with Daphne today, very bright and cheerful, talking about horses and riding.

This evening to the Essex Archaeological Society Library, and then to Boxted.  Colder.  Looks like more rain.

2nd May 1944

Another brilliant warm day.  Called at home, Father seems to be better, but I ‘phoned Dr. Rowland to call to see him sometime. 

Busy all day on Committee matters.  Out at 5 to have tea with Diana, who was very charming.  Afterwards went to Holly Trees.  Poulter told me at great length about a selection of dresses and costumes belonging to the Miss Irwins in Lexden Road.  Dr. Rowland is anxious that the Museum should buy these.  The Miss Irwins and their old brother are now desperately poor, and Rowland wants to help them.  He is wonderfully good in cases of this sort, and takes endless trouble to get money for patients who are genuinely hard up.

Personally I don't see any point in the Museum acquiring any further dresses as there is not the slightest chance of exhibiting the ones which they have already got.  Quite 8 years ago Rowland got us a good selection of stuff from the Bunting family, but this has never yet been unpacked and is no doubt by now eaten by moths.  Nobody at the Museum has ever taken the slightest interest in costume but myself.

Poulter agrees that we don't need any more stuff, but Duncan Clark is very keen.  The Chairman ‘phoned me today about these things, so that I feel for the moment as if I was back in the Museum again.

Spent an hour in the Essex Archaeological Society Library, where of course I have really no right to be, as I am no longer a member of the Society.  Found an interesting reference in the “Essex Review” to the Stonehouse, stating that the drawings of it were preserved in two separate copies of Morant’s “Colchester”, one at Birch Hall and the other at the Royal Institution.  Must enquire about both of these, as they would be most valuable records with the plan and section in Mr. Russell’s Morant, at Kingsford.  Le Stonhous was a medieval stone building that had once stood in Colchester High Street.

While I was there, Poulter was looking at some shelves on the far side of the room and suddenly discovered the file of the Colchester prints, missing from the Muniment Room.  It was well hidden under a stack of books.  Hull must have hidden it there to keep it away from me, as it contained several prints marked “Laver, 1941”, which only he had handled.  Took the file down and replaced it on its shelf in the Muniment Room, and re-arranged the Essex Print Files, which Hull had put in complete disorder.

Boxted at 10.30.  ‘Planes going out, but not so many as last night.  Clouds coming over.

1st May 1944

Brilliant and warm.  Cuckoos calling, ‘planes roaring over.

Committee at Birch.  The Park looked lovely, Thoroughbred horses grazing under the trees.  Col. Waller and Col. Maryles came to the meeting to explain the effect of Home Guard patrols as regards agricultural workers.  Apparently there is no intention now to muster the entire Home Guard unless there is a direct enemy invasion, and the amount of patrol work which the men are called upon to do is only one night in 10 or 12.  Waller was most amusing, his stammer worse than ever.  He is now a living caricature of “a fine old English gentleman”.

Glass going back, and clouds came up late in the afternoon, but cleared later to a fine haze.  Light S.W. wind.

There are a lot of strange firemen in the town, apparently living in the newly built fire brigade barracks on the Horse Show Ground.  They wear berets instead of peak-caps, and some say they are men who are to go to the Continent with the Army (if and when it goes).

About 11.30 I went into the yard, just as ‘planes were going over, very high, some way to the west.  Suddenly I heard firing of machine guns, very faint, then there was a great flash, a few seconds pause, and a dull, hollow boom.  Suppose a bomber must have blown up in the air. 

Lovely clear moon.