From an article in the Autumn 2009 Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News
I'm truly amazed at how our three villages have changed in the last 80 odd years (despite appearances I haven't actually witnessed the changes - just read about them).
But it is even more amazing that they seem to have retained much of their real character.
I was launched on these thoughts by three small leaflets I recently bought. They are reproductions of articles published in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury between the wars.
The author, Yeoman, was a regular contributor to the now defunct newspaper. He wrote on the history of local communities and his Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes - from four to 12 pages long, although none of our villages merit more than the minimum four pages - are available from antique booksellers.
It is easy to see what has disappeared from our villages over the years - windmills, railway stations, pubs, shops, schools and blacksmiths.
Even when Yeoman wrote his piece on Horham (No. 149 - published on November 8, 1929) windmills were “relics of another century” but sadly no-one took his recommendation that “it is advisable to preserve them”.
He spends much time on St Mary's church and the ancient history of the village but sums up by saying “Horham is a village with very few outstanding features, and although possessing a station, its aspect is entirely rural, and its pursuits purely agricultural, and yet as already noticed, it was formerly the home of a family [the Jernegans] whose members had engaged in many terrible affray in the dim and far-off ages, when the savage Vikings sailed the seas. But to-day Horham heeds little of such episodes as these.”
In Redlingfield (No. 177 - May 3, 1930) poor old Yeoman seems to think he has reached the end of the known world. He comments on St Andrew's unusual shape and goes into the history of the Benedictine Priory but his opening comment on the village is: “A hundred years ago or so Redlingfield was described as an ‘inconsiderable village' and certainly the traveller who cares to visit the place to-day will think the expression well and truly justified.”
He admits “the cheerful sparks of the blacksmith's forge provide a homely sight” but sees on the village green “a solitary outpost of civilisation - the familiar pillar-box, which forms a link, as it were, with the outside world.” Hardly a glowing report on my home village.
When he visits Athelington (No. 330 - October 27, 1933) he says it “is one of those places which the traveller can pass through quite easily without realising he has left behind a village at all, for so far as signs of human existence are concerned there is little to attract the attention.”
He shows that nostalgia for simpler days is nothing new and says of Athelington: “In its pleasant countryside it seems impossible to think of worldly discord and intrigue. Its friendly little cottages and more imposing farmhouses still retain the attraction of a different England from our own. There is a certain homeliness here which is truly fascinating, so it is possible to tarry awhile and to forget temporarily, at any rate, the problems attendant upon an existence in which quick decisions and the seizing of opportunities are the dominating factors.”
There may be many fewer people working the land now, the machinery and technology we use and the sheer amount of information available might be enough to give good old Yeoman a fit but I still recognise our quiet pleasant villages.
To some extent we are still ruled by the harvest - all our village events are governed by the seasons and I for one enjoy living in an ‘inconsiderable village'.
Mike Ager (Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes are available from Claude Cox Old & Rare Books, 3 & 5 Silent Street, Ipswich, 01473 254776, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.claudecox.co.uk)