Perhaps there are more ‘Homing Pigeons’ in our lives than we may suppose. I recently acquired a 1938 postcard of the Trimley churches from eBay. Once the card was in my hands I was able to read the name of the signatory and the recipient. Once read, I experienced a frisson of recognition; it was from my late Mother-in-law to her mother and my purchase had enabled it to return home to Trimley in a serendipitous fashion. Events in our lives may appear to be random but intersect at many points with side lines and junctions. Why am I making these observations? You may put it down to spending a hospitable morning with Bryan Frost of Trimley St. Mary, whose own life and that of his family has crossed many areas around Felixstowe, Walton, Falkenham and the Trimleys. It’s also been enriched by his interest in transport both local and national and enhanced by his knowledge of local history.
Although Bryan now lives and operates out of Trimley St. Mary, he was a St. Martin’s resident when he was younger and as I spoke to him he pulled out photo after photo taken either by himself or his father evidencing late Twentieth Century Trimley and the surrounding area. Naturally, it was accompanied by descriptions and anecdotes; Brian’s conversation is full of asides and by-ways. It’s difficult to say exactly where we started because one line of interest flowed swiftly into another and then re-joined the conversation at a later point. Points crossed points in a railway line manner but I will try to put us back on the tracks and start at the buffers, slightly before his own birth.
His Grandmother, Eva, lived in Church Lane, Walton and it may be said this side of the family are firmly rooted in the Colneis Peninsula. The slightest of hazy memories remains of her as a young woman, which I think has a particular delight for Bryan as it involves trains. Eva worked in Felixstowe, possibly in the Co-op, Bryan thought. After her death, the family found a railway ticket she had retained from 1915. It was half of a return from Trimley to Felixstowe Town Station and Bryan knew what it meant. During her lunch hours, Eva would catch the train to Trimley, alight, walk down the lane to Searson’s Farm and there collect free milk before returning back to work. Why she received free milk has long since been forgotten; only the memory of the journey remains as you may see:
Train Ticket from Trimley to Felixstowe c. 1915
Courtesy of B. Frost.
This square inch of card is invested with nostalgia for a train journey which departed over one hundred years ago.
Bryan’s mother was also something of a train traveller, although more along the lines of being a regular Commuter. Reliable rail travel allowed her to go to London where she worked.
“Mum had lived at Grove Park, South London from about the early 1930s until 1941 when she was working in Farringdon. As well as commuting to London Bridge by day ….. (she) used to walk up to high ground near their home at Grove Park and witnessed the East End burning most nights. Due to the intimidating effects of the war at the height of the London Blitz, she moved to her aunt’s home in Tattingstone for a short time before taking up lodgings in Ipswich when she started working at Cranes. She really appreciated the relative peace in Suffolk!”
It was this homewards move to Suffolk which resulted in her meeting Bryan’s father, who worked for Cranes. In common with Robin Tramaseur, he was one of the alumni of Ipswich Art School; his photographs demonstrate a keen eye for composition and structure. He was to be an Industrial Photographer, a position he held for 35 years until he retired. Bryan now has the residue of his photographs and those he showed me were enthralling in their content; one of Orwell (Nacton) Station bedecked with Union Jack bunting, sporting an astonishingly clean and shiny locomotive. It was awaiting a Royal arrival or departure and its appearance was particularly spectacular and completely unique. How could Bryan ever avoid being fascinated with trains?
Bryan began life in Grove Park, South London but the family eventually moved back to Suffolk where they lived in Tattingstone for seventeen years. This was the location of his school, although they didn’t immediately recognise his abilities. He started school knowing how to read but his unqualified Infant teacher deemed him to be less than adequate. He had a spell of attending the Cooperative Education Centre where a specialist consultant eventually revealed he was profoundly short sighted. Strong spectacles resulted and so did subsequent academic success. He went on to achieve an East Suffolk Council Scholarship to Ipswich School. Not only did this provide him with a sound pathway to his future career it was also to result in some interesting travelling operations when it came to Games and lunch hours.
Significantly, it involved trains, buses and bicycles. This was during the late Fifties and Sixties when Bentley Station was still open. Brian would leave his bike at The Wheatsheaf and then leg it to Bentley. From there he would catch a train to Ipswich and then high tail it to Valley Road and Ipswich School. The final stage of Bryan’s Ipswich School career saw the family move to Fisher’s Cottage in Falkenham. He would now bike from Falkenham to Croft House in Innocence Lane and catch a bus at the old AA Box at the junction of Bucklesham Road and the High Road. Several others would leave their bikes for similar transport reasons. The AA Box has long since gone, swallowed up by the A14 Trimley By-Pass. He would reverse the journey to come home. On one occasion he could recall being asked by a Bus Conductor, the late Alan Wyard, why he didn’t get off at the next Trimley Bus Stop as it was a quicker journey to Falkenham from there. Bryan had to explain his cycling arrangements, which negated the possibility of a later set-down. It’s is worth stating all of Bryan’s cycling was done on a bike with one gear and consequently required considerable puff. This early exposure to multiple conveyance forms goes someway to explaining his sustained and passionate enthusiasm for transport. Public transport links, despite successive cuts are a fact of life we now take for granted but when public transport facilities and availabilities developed in the 19th Century the impact was to change and shape lives. How would Grandmother Eva’s trips to Searson’s Farm have been conducted in her lunch hours without a good local transport system.
Returning to Fisher’s Cottage in Falkenham, Bryan told me it may be the oldest cottage in Falkenham. When the family moved there in 1963 they initially rented it and it was to be the family home for many years. Bryan finished at Ipswich School and started to pursue the career of a Chartered Accountant. Unlike contemporary trainees, Bryan spent five years following a correspondence course with the Chartered Institute of Accountants. In an age when the distraction of television was not yet installed in the Frost home, studying continued for an uninterrupted five years. East Suffolk Education were again to prove supportive and provided a grant of £50 a year. By the early Seventies, Bryan had qualified and was to become a partner in the firm Ensors, who have branches across East Anglia, in Huntingdon, Ipswich, Saxmundham, Bury St. Edmunds and also London. Following qualification, an opportunity arose to purchase the cottage and together with his parents, this is what happened.
Over the years Bryan’s work was to take him to many places but as a young bachelor, his leisure time allowed the opportunity to visit previously unexplored countries. He was foot-loose and his single status happily embraced the travel bug. He visited Russia and Albania when they were both firmly embedded in the Soviet system and took the second ever tour of Communist China in 1973. These were all very much the Destination Unknown tourist spots of the Seventies and not without potential peril. As a young man, he seized the opportunity for unusual travel experiences, embracing any perils which came his way.
This was the background prior to Bryan’s move to Trimley St. Martin. How this came about is a rather curious story and concerns the story of how he met his wife. Bryan appreciated good music then and now and was a regular concert goer. In the middle of the last century they occurred on a semi-regular basis; the Gaumont; the Corn Exchange; St. John’s. The list is comprehensive and Bryan covered all the bases. On one particular occasion he went to a concert at Civic College by himself, sitting as a solitary listener. He noticed two young women enter the hall, one of whom was met by her boyfriend. An immediate thought flashed through his head like a headline as he glanced at the unattached girl,
“That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
When the concert was over he intended to say something to her but lost her in the Car Park although he managed to make a note of her car registration. From that moment forward, he was a man on a mission. He knew nothing about her, not even her name, I believe, and in the Seventies there were no Internet or Social Media mechanisms to find her. He concentrated all of his energy on attending every Concert in area for the next eighteen months. Finally, he went to St. John’s in Ipswich but was too late to enter the church. He waited patiently until the concert was over, loitering outside ‘The Golden Key’ and waiting for the church to empty. Eventually, there was just one single young woman exiting the church and this was Bryan’s moment. They were both at a junction in their lives which required determination, steady thinking, sound talking and just a bit luck. What happened?
He asked her out to a concert. And her reply, eventually, was, “Yes.”
I think I might say it was serendipity which brought them together but as Bryan was on a single minded quest perhaps the last action doesn’t quite fit the bill, although the initial meeting most certainly does.
This was how Bryan and his wife Pat came to be living in Trimley St. Martin. Forty years or more have passed since the critical moment. Of course, they married each other, at Henley Church in 1977. A house to live in was essential and together they bought 219 High Road, Trimley St. Martin as their first house. Except it wasn’t in St. Martin when they first moved in.
Corner Bungalow, Gun Lane.c.1979. The roof of Reeve Lodge may be seen in the upper right hand side of the photograph. Courtesy B. Frost.
1979 was an interesting year for them on at least two fronts. Firstly, the heavy snowfall the area experienced in February. Did we have a flotilla of snow ploughs and gritting machines then? I can’t remember very clearly but the snow fall in that year was enough to cause disruption as you can see:
Trimley St. Martin High Road, 15th February 1979. Courtesy B. Frost.
But a second, more significant event concerned a gun. The bungalow they owned stood on the corner of Gun Lane, one of the historic footpaths of Trimley St. Martin and a ship’s gun was immediately outside their front wall as you may see below. In the photograph the Gun is on the right hand side of Gun Lane, facing down the High Road, towards the Post Office. It was more or less immediately opposite the Newspaper Shop which has long since closed down. But the sharp-eyed will think,
‘No. The Gun sits on the left hand side of Gun Lane, facing towards Ipswich.’
and yes, you are correct. It does. What happened?
The Gun outside Bryan’s bungalow, c. 1979. Courtesy of B. Frost.
Sometime in 1979, Bryan came out of the house one morning to find the Gun was gone. It wasn’t on the right hand side. It wasn’t on the left hand side. It had vanished. At this time, the boundaries between the two parishes were being altered and Gun Lane was about to become part of St. Martin’s. Bryan’s speculation is St. Mary’s Parish council were not too enthusiastic about the Gun ceasing to be on their side of the border. Consequently, it was moved. Where had it gone? After some diligent searching, and I think you will agree Bryan is very good at searching, it was eventually located in the farmyard of Great Street Farm, where it had been presumably placed for safe keeping. It was Bryan’s father who photographed the gun in situ.
The Gun, resting in Great Street Farmyard, c 1979. Photo courtesy of B. Frost
Following on from the re-discovery of the Gun, a letter was written to the Felixstowe Times arguing for it to be returned to its’ original site. Bryan showed me a photocopy of the letter transcribed below:
Friday 30th March 1979
Why Move the gun?
Sir, – It was with great consternation that in the Felixstowe Times, it was reported that the “Gun” now standing in Gun Corner Lane (to give it the correct name) was being moved at someone’s suggestion to the vicinity of the sign at the Trimley St. Mary School.
Some years ago, it was moved into the churchyard but the people of the village would not allow this because of the historic association with the Lane. Sir Thomas Cavendish, the great voyager, used this lane as a carriageway to his home at Grimston Hall and the Lane derived its name from this gun that was originally one of a pair brought home by Sir Thomas and marked the entrance to the carriageway leading to his home.
What possible reason can the Parish Council have for wanting to move part of Trimley’s history after three hundred years?
If the only reason is to keep the Gun in Trimley St. Mary, owing to the boundary changes, then we ask the Parish Council to rethink the matter, and accept the suggestion that the ‘gun’ be suitably mounted and placed in its original position – on the corner of Gun Corner Lane.
Bridget and Peter Gosling
Trimley St. Mary
This clearly reasoned letter succinctly summarises the rationale for returning the Gun to its’ original place. Thus, it came to pass the Gun re-appeared at the entrance to Gun Lane. Except it’s now on the other side of Gun Lane. But what’s a few feet between parishes? It is in Gun Lane.
Bryan and Pat’s family grew and they started to feel the necessity for more space, a familiar feeling for many young families. They found the garden difficult to maintain, especially as Bryan’s responsibilities were growing. He was on the Committee of the Institute for Chartered Accountants, he’d begun lecturing about Accountancy in scattered locations and he was responsible for updating official Accountancy information on a six monthly basis. Something easier to maintain was required, the bungalow went on the market and they crossed the border into St. Mary’s.
Despite working unsociable hours, accompanied with desire to cherish and nurture his young children, Bryan began to develop his own interests. He embarked another quest; an intermittent collection of inconsequential and random items of transport memorabilia. Nothing he has is worth more than a few pennies but the finding of these random delights has created a deep source of satisfaction for Bryan’s inquisitive mind. As mentioned earlier, transport is the thing. Bryan is The Expert, without a shadow of a doubt. Those of you who have copies of the Millennium Book about the two Trimleys may recall it was Bryan who wrote the section on Transport. The Felixstowe to Ipswich line runs at the bottom of Bryan’s garden, a constant source of happiness for one so attached to conveyances. As the children became older, Bryan carved out a little time to join the Railway Passenger Committee and has contributed to the greater improvement of traveller’s experiences. He is a man who believes in giving something back and is proactive in keeping a watchful eye on what happens to public transport. He has observed how the Bus Service for the village has improved and declined. In 1972 the buses ran every half hour, then in 1998 they went up to four an hour and now we have gone down to one every twenty minutes, with a greater time gap between them in the afternoon. In 1982 there was no train service for four hours in the afternoon on the Ipswich-Felixstowe Railway line but this has changed and when an uninterrupted service is running, they are approximately one an hour in each direction. Bryan views the electrification of the line with enthusiasm but recognises it would require European funding. To this end he has been interviewed by a Railway official but the plan was scuppered, the momentum lost and it’s now unlikely to happen.
Bryan is the man who knows which way is up with the current railway alterations as well as the travelling cars. He said that in the summer of 2019 new cars will be introduced as the old ones are not compliant. All stock will be new and there will be no old cast offs from other areas. Additionally, the trains will be dual-fuelled. He is the person to know when it comes to buses, trains and many other transporting issues. He is a regular contributor to ‘The Traveller: newsletter of Felixstowe Travel Watch’ and if you wish you can read his articles on line. He also intimated the impact of duelling the Felixstowe to Ipswich line has to be a good thing. With the new loop there will be additional capacity for an extra twelve trains per day. The problem will be at Ipswich where he doesn’t think there is enough track capacity for additional trains. However, the main problem rests at Ely and this may require an estimated £800 million to resolve.
The morning drew to a close as we journeyed into the wider world of national transport. I re-entered the everyday landscape with an appreciation for Bryan’s understanding of the subtleties of transport links and mechanics. His pleasure in such small things as a century old rail ticket is entirely comprehensible: it is the little things in life which matter. There is no material value in such an object but its continued existence creates a gateway to the past not only of his Grandmother but also to the continuation of a railway line. The thread of the railway line passing through the two Trimley villages, Morston Hall, Stratton Hall, Levington and Nacton stitches us all together with yet another element of our shared common history.
If you have any comments or would like to be part of the Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at:
 Definition of Serendipity: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
 Back copies of ’The Felixstowe Times’ may be viewed at Suffolk Record Office, Gatacre Road, Suffolk, IP1 2LQ Telephone: 01473 263909.
One of my correspondents reminded me they are also in Felixstowe Library.