Hadleigh Greetings

Autumn at the Castle
Robert Hallmann
The castle has seen a great deal of history
Robert Hallmann

Congratulations for getting the Hadleigh and Thundersley Archive up and running. I for one am looking forward to learn a lot more about the area and the people.

Hadleigh’s Royal Park

Our house was a hundred years old last year (2010) and it was the first in this setting. We can see the castle which once was part of the dowry of several Queens. Castle Lane used to mark the western edge of Hadleigh’s Royal Park with its ditch, bank and pale, so very likely people would travel down that ditch, which filled in and became a lane. The Kentish stones for Hadleigh’s church would have been laboriously brought up that way from the river even a hundred years before the castle was built.

They have more modern instruments now and there are fewer ships anyway, but we used to hear the boom of ships’ horns testing the distance to the riverbanks and to other ships when autumn mists roll up from the Thames.  

Hadleigh in November

Landscape retreats into nothing but distance.
Cobwebs hang heavy with dew.
Crystal-clear droplets like beads on a necklet.
Fog shrouds the castle from view.

Pigeon at rest in its oak tree perch morning,
Treetops nod gently, like reeds.
Muted the drone of a riverboat’s warning.
Sound, like the ebb-tide, recedes.

Rattling, a ghost train rolls by on the marshes.
Ghost ships pass close to the shore.
Calves, half asleep, graze the Downs’ Sally Army.
Kings ride in splendour of yore.

Just for a moment the retinue lingers.
Queens find their home of a kind.
Over your spine travel icy-damp fingers.
Footsteps – or hooves – in the mind?

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  • Interested to read Nick Ardley’s comments to Robert’s article re ships’ whistles. During my Apprenticeship in the Merchant Navy, 1939 I had to memorise 31 Rule of the Road Articles issued by the Board of Trade and I quote part of the relevant one. Article 15……. In fog, mist, falling snow, or heavy rain storms whether by day or night……a steam vessel having way upon her shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes a prolonged blast [whistle or siren]…. a vessel when at anchor shall at intervals of not more than 1 minute ring the bell rapidly for about 5 seconds.

    By Ian Hawks (02/11/2011)
  • Nick, thanks for putting me right and for all the extra info. It seems I wasn’t all that far out. I claim artistic licence for my writing. Right now I am looking over quite a stretch of the Thames from where I’m sitting writing this and believe me, there isn’t a ship in sight. Keep in touch and call round sometime.

    By Robert Hallmann (01/11/2011)
  • Robert’s assertions at the end of his piece are a little off the mark… Here are the comments from a seafarer. Ships would not have been ‘testing’ their fog horns to check for distance to the land when passing along the Thames. They were and are still used to warn of their presence to other vessels and to give specific navigational information. This is done with a code of long and short blasts. Ships move in controlled areas, along specified tracks. In Sea Reach this is either side of a line of mid channel marker buoys, the vessels pass port to port (port is the left hand side of a vessel when looking ahead). The channel is no more than a ditch in that seemingly wide open and deep place, but it is largely shallow, and at low tide vast areas of sands and mud flats predominate. There are still plenty of ships out on the river. Recently, while sailing on the tide – a two hour period – twenty-four ships passed to and fro as I crossed to the North Kent shore and back. Fewer than the heady 1920s, yes, but tonnage-wise, far greater… The Port of London, which is the combined river, wharves and docks from Sea Reach to Tower Bridge, remains one of the largest import/export places in the UK. Ships have been known, in the days of sail, to use a horn, or noise instrument, to measure the time an echo gets back when sailing in coastal areas with hard sea cliffs. The practice, though known to modern seafarers, is likely to be little used – except by, say, fishermen in Scottish waters, perhaps. It is rudimentary and imprecise. Even down Daws Heath Road on the northern fringes of Hadleigh, on a quiet misty, or foggy, evening the sounds of ships’ sirens rise above the downs and roll down the hill, to remind me of the sea and ships. Ships may have a plethora of electronic equipment, but the humble horn has to be used, by marine law!

    By Nick Ardley (18/10/2011)

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