Lowestoft Archaeological and Local History Society

Volume 44 Number 8 – NEWSLETTER – Nov 2016

Society website: www.lowestoftlocalhistory.co.uk

What’s On in 2016

10 Nov 2016 "The ‘Real’ Dad’s Army – The Home Guard" – a talk by Richard Mann

24 Nov 2016 "On a Wing and a Prayer" – a talk by Bob Collis

What’s On in 2017

26 Jan 2017 "More Churches – More Treasures " – a talk by Terry Weatherley

Most meetings are held in the SOUTH LOWESTOFT METHODIST CHURCH HALL, at the corner of

Please ring bell if the door is locked

Chairman’s Report

There has been a pleasing number of visitors to recent meetings whom we hope will want to become full members.

This newsletter includes an article by Paul Durbidge to complement the Angel Roofs talk.  

Similar contributions from members would add to the interest and appeal of the monthly publication.

The passing of Don Friston, recorded below, leaves a gap not only in the committee but also for newsletter editor.  If anyone in the Society would be willing to take on either or both of these roles, please speak to me or any other committee member.

Rodney Duerden


Notes for your Diary

December. Richard Mundy has organised a fund raising event for Tuesday 6 December at Desmond’s in London Road South. Society members Richard Mundy and Janis Kirby will be giving talks, there will also be a quiz, food (Pizza or Pasta) and coffee - all for only £15. (£5 of which comes back to the society as a donation) Full range of hot and cold drinks available to purchase. There will also be raffle tickets for sale (£1 a ticket) the prizes of which have been given by local businesses. If interested see Richard Mundy to buy a ticket at the next meeting


Local News


It is with much sadness that we heard Don Friston had died on 13 October. Don had been a Society member for many years and was elected to the committee in 2005, where he contributed much to the meetings. That same year he took over as Newsletter editor and held that position until this year. With his background in the printing industry this gave him the knowledge to prepare the artwork for the posters and the membership renewal form.

Don had originally been diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago, but was always positive and cheerful even though the cancer returned.

Don was well liked, well respected and will be missed.



As we are coming up to Christmas, a nice little present could be the revised copy of the book ‘Lowestoft Then and Now’.

Selling at £5 per copy, the Society receives £1.50 for each one sold.

These books are available from the Secretary’s table at Society meetings.



David Butcher has written a new book called ‘Medieval Lowestoft’, which is being offered at a 25% discount, and is a follow-up of its predecessor, Lowestoft 1550 – 1750. The book will also be on sale at the local branch of Waterstone's.

The full price for this book is £50, but the publisher, Boydell & Brewer, are offering it to Society members for £37.50, a discount of 25%.

See the Secretary’s table at Society meetings for more details.











Thoughts of a retired carpenter on the Angel Roofs in East Anglia by Paul Durbidge

As a retired carpenter with involvement in roof construction I found the lecture by Michael Rimmer, the Angel Roofs of East Anglia of particular interest and in spite of the medieval builders using the wheel the thought of manhandling heavy roof sections of green oak into position can only be described as awesome. There must have been several cases of roofs moving and even collapsing under such weight before a more general understanding of both weight and movement was more fully understood. While some iron nails were employed, wooden pegs, or tree nails, were widely used during these early assemblies and components would have been bored out in such a way that when the pegs were driven in it would draw the joints tighter together. The heavy oak trusses would have been dragged into position against the outside wall and then on the inside scaffolding, where they finally reached the opposite side and spanned the building. They would then have been strapped to keep them upright and stop them falling over and the process repeated time and time again until all of the timbers were in position. Small round wooden pegs were also used to fix clay roofing tiles, usually two holes were made in the wet clay and when finally used the pegs would have protruded through the tiles and were hooked over a horizontal batten. All the weight on a roof, and it is considerable, pushes downwards from the ridge and this results in the rafters which are fixed to wooden wall plates being pushed outwards. To combat this cross beams or ceiling joists are used from one side to the other being nailed both to the toes of the rafters and the wooden plates which results in the whole roof being tied together. A thick section timber called a purlin is usually fixed to the underside of the rafters half way down from the ridge on both sides running parallel and this in turn is supported by angle struts which transfer the weight to the inner walls. Just above the purlins, collars are fixed across the width of the roof which again helps to combat any outward push higher up. During the Roman period both reed and sedge was used as a roof covering as well as large heavy clay tiles often weighing between 3 and 4 lbs. These would be laid in rows and bulled together with tapered half round tiles covering the joints. While the face of these hand made tiles were made with two upstands the undersides were flat with no provision for hooking over wooden battens so the angle of the roof had to be quite shallow to stop the tiles sliding off. Such roofs with a very shallow pitch would result in a considerable spread at the eaves and the probability of snow in the Winter months would increase the weight significantly resulting in a need for many extra supports beneath the rafters.



Construction of a modern roof has progressed considerably with the majority now consisting of purpose made gang nail trusses and while the timber sections are thin, struts are incorporated in the specification. These are usually lifted into position by mobile cranes after the wall plates have been marked out and once nailed into position they are braced to combat any movement allowing the bricklayers to build up the gables leaving the completed roof ready for tiling.




Recent talks and meetings

13 October 2016 Home is where the Hearth is – Anglo-Saxon settlements of East Anglia

by Dr Richard Hoggett

This very detailed and interesting talk, was given by Dr. Hoggett who has been closely involved in the Anglo-Saxon archaeology of East Anglia for many years and a valued adviser to Lowestoft Museum in displaying the finds from Bloodmoor Hill.

He started with a map of East Anglia high-lighting the low-lying peaty fens, mostly to the North and West, and all land over 60 metres, mainly in the South, onto which were placed known settlements from the period. One of the earliest and most extensively excavated, is at West Stow where reconstructions based on archaeological evidence have enabled a detailed picture of life in the early post-Roman period to be built up.

Two main types of construction were illustrated, halls for living in, formed on a number of vertical posts and "sunken-feature buildings", the exact nature of which are still being debated. Several of these are viewable at West Stow. When one burnt down in 2005, archaeologists were able to use the evidence to enhance information from previous excavations, a useful if unintended piece of experimental archaeology.

The talk included the early work of Basil Brown at Sutton Hoo and elsewhere, Vera Evison and a protégé Stanley West who continued their work, together with Eric Houlder who photographed the process.

Although these early settlements are often called villages, they were not like what we know as villages today but a collection of timber and thatch buildings each with a particular function, living, cooking, weaving, blacksmithing, potting and as timber rotted, new post and holes were inserted either near the old ones or at a distance depending on the site and circumstances.

The question of Viking intrusions was raised and also the gradual conversion to Christianity which probably had the most pronounced effect in establishing the first church building and the dwellings which then clustered around to become a proto-type village of the kind known today.

The talk concluded by referring again to the Bloodmoor Hill settlement, which flourished for c.200 years, changing and developing in character during that formative period. Then almost as suddenly as the site had grown, it was abandoned, leaving the graves and fine workmanship of our distant ancestors.

East Anglia is rich in archaeology from this initial stage of the formation of England, a great deal of which is concealed under the modern urban centres into which they grew but in the countryside, there is still a wealth of undiscovered evidence which once identified will add to and possibly alter our present knowledge of how this region became the distinctive Anglia of today.



27 October 2016 A History of Gorleston by Les Cole

To start and finish this presentation, Les Cole showed slides of a large stone, a "megalith", embedded in sandy cliffs overlooking the beach which suggested that the town’s name was derived from this prominent feature. Up to the 18th century there were mentions of a ‘druid’s stone circle’ but no evidence survives.

Much later, after numerous views of buildings and scenes, some altered and some still standing and many of which were associated with notable residents of the town, (such as G.W.Manby of mortar lifeline and unsinkable lifeboat fame, and James Paget commemorated in the hospital of the same name), a slide revealed the stone to have been a fake, decorated with concentric circles and about to be transported away by lorry.

Norfolk’s favourite son, Lord Horatio Nelson, was next to feature, having landed on Gorleston beach in November 1800 after returning from the Battle of the Nile.

The prominent monument dedicated to him, out in the open when it was erected after this famous victory, is now among the industry of South Yarmouth and depicts that and three other naval successes and the ships which Nelson commanded.

So wide-ranging and comprehensive was the talk that it is possible to give only a brief impression here especially as the photographs were key to the success of the presentation. Many of the buildings reveal a much more prosperous past and a very varied history. For those who would wish to learn more, GOSH Publications have three booklets on the subject.

Les Cole is a devoted recorder of the history of Gorleston and reminded us strongly that we have a wonderful heritage all around us which we should observe our historic settlements more carefully and help to preserve them for future generations.