This month’s blogging prompt from the Society of One-Place Studies is One-Place Landmarks. Or rather, #OnePlaceLandmarks.
Where to start, I wondered. It may be a cliche, but here goes, anyhow:
Landmark. “An object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognised from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location.”
Thank you, Google, but this definition being as it may, I think there is an additional dimension to landmarks that is somewhat more personal and emotive – and perhaps less easily framed. As such, this blog isn’t going to list all the more obvious landmarks in my places: the churches, chapels, rivers, village signs, pubs, manor houses, former schools, industrial sites and ancient buildings. All of those and more could be argued landmarks; some for mere decades, others centuries. Apologies if that’s what you came here hoping for, but I daresay all will appear elsewhere in my blog in due course.
For me, the status of landmark includes elements of people, memory and community – for better or worse. What follows is a round-up of some of the landmarks that have left enduring etchings in my brain. If you will allow, this blog’s definition of a One-Place Landmark is rather more as follows:
“An object or feature of a landscape or town that is remembered and recognised in situ or in memories or archives, especially one that emotes a feeling of connection to an event, a place, a community, or all three.”
Long-time readers will know that I grew up in Badingham. Despite getting on for a year of lockdown and just a solitary visit in this past year, I can of course still conjure up plenty of images of the village, as well as neighbouring Cransford, in my mind. Here are a few of them, some that are unlikely to be ‘landmarks’ to many, but others that have been landmarks to thousands.
Let me start with – of all things – the bus stop; not just any village bus stop, but the one on the corner of Mill Road and Low Street. Mum calls it Aunt Bessie’s corner because it’s outside what was once Aunt Bessie’s house. I never knew Bessie Stanley, but she can still be located in Badingham today under a cross right outside the church porch: my landmark, was once her landmark.
The bus stop was a place I walked to and from for most of my primary and secondary school life. I can remember warm days, snowy days, gloomy days, and the days we walked there across Auntie Muriel’s garden (one of several non-biological aunts and uncles I had in the village) because May Gurney had dug up Low Street and left it that way…for months. Very clearly, I also remember the day that Dad gave me a double-thumbs-up as I looked out of the bus window, him having that day won a case in small claims court. Family events, given a One-Place backdrop.
For me, the path ‘up the fields’ is a landmark, if not a very geographically specific one, being a ‘route’. We walked the dogs across sleeper bridges and along field edges to the pond and woodland at the top, from whence you could see Dennington. Come crisp frosty days, parched sun-bleached days or sad and lonely teenage angsty days, one or more of us would walk up there accompanied by each of the Labradors I’ve known – each one a family member themselves.
To get ‘up the fields’, you have to cross the River Alde, really rather small here in my place, but, nonetheless, liable to flood its banks occasionally when I was little; a bit of excitement for us kids because it might just mean a day off school and a neighbour spotted in a dinghy. Our house sat on a hill out of the water’s way, giving us a bird’s eye view across the river to the fields in front.
Our house and garden offered a place to observe the passing of the seasons; the combine in the field at harvest time and the beautiful colour of the trees beyond during autumn. Of course, the house is perhaps the most important landmark of all in my collection of One-Place landmarks: journey’s end and ‘home’ even now.
What else might I include? There’s the field in front of what was once a Rectory (Badingham has several!). For many years Dad and his friend set off the village fireworks and managed the bonfire arrangements, and the field was the venue. The family involvement meant many trips back and forth to check on arrangements, set up tents and ropes, distribute sale-or-return soft drinks and later eat burgers and onions from Dot and Rita’s BBQ while watching increasingly large displays as the years went on. Perhaps best of all, the morning after, we’d walk around the fields nearby collecting rocket sticks in the chill of a November morning.
There can be barely anyone that doesn’t think of the village hall as a landmark. Once a school, in my lifetime it was the building that hosted my playschool, and, later, my 18th birthday party when I took to the ‘stage’ (a side room!) to play bass with my Sixth Form band. It was also the site of my one-and-only Brownie meeting (not my thing, it turned out) and the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. It was (and remains, pandemic aside) a key destination for many a village function and meeting.
Like the village hall, it almost goes without saying that The White Horse is a landmark to residents and locals alike, being immediately apparent from the main road. “Where’s Badingham?” “Do you know the pub on the A1120?!” I must admit, though, that I am yet to spend much time there. For me, it doesn’t hold the same kind of memories as other places in the village; once able, it was to Framlingham that my friends and I gathered. I did, however, attend my little brother’s 30th there. That event took place just a few days after I found out I was expecting what would turn out to be my second son: me, a secret, and a pub dinner.
I am just about old enough to remember the old post office and shop next to the church, full of dusty china horses and chocolate I wasn’t allowed. I believe many people have memories of what, to me, was an intriguing and mysterious place – I’d love to hear them in the comments.
The route of my Badingham Echo and Church Magazine round, which I suspect I could still walk today, took in all kinds of heritage buildings. Farmhouses, converted barns, old workhouses, and a more modern landmark, ‘New’ Lea (built when I was a child). It was with a little sadness that I noticed the stables (where I once poo picked and stamped down the muck heap in exchange for £2.50 an hour) were falling into disrepair. This is another of my landmarks. I spent many an hour busy there for the ultimate prize: riding lessons on a beautiful Irish Draught called Morris.
The church, of course, will feature as a landmark in many a place. I remember Dad helping to mend the floor, burying time capsules, playing in the churchyard with my brother while Dad cut the grass around the headstones, rounders in the corner, fundraising to repair a big crack in the wall, and putting up the refreshment tent for flower festivals. For a short time, I even sang in the church choir (apologies to all listeners), and for a slightly longer one was on the readers’ list, attending services occasionally with Mum in my childhood.
What of Cransford, you ask? My early memories involve my Great Grandmother’s bungalow. For most of my childhood Stick Grandma (as we knew her – she had a stick by then, of course) was a resident at a local nursing home, but I remember Mum and Grandma helping to organise her things when she moved. Another landmark in the village for me is the church. It’s where I attended my first funeral – also Stick Grandma’s, as it happens. She is buried next to her husband, Frederick Seggons, who was born and bred in Cransford. He grew up in the Post Office and later lived at Red House Farm.
The Chapel is one of the places Mum took me to show me family graves when I first became interested in my ancestors. ‘Great Nana’ was buried there in her 100th year. Born in Badingham and moving to Poplar Farm in Cransford after her marriage, she brings together my two One-Place Studies with a lifetime.
Coming back to my own landmarks, I would now have to include a gorgeous farmhouse that I am researching in great depth. A happy and welcoming home as well as a working farm it has endured through tragedy, celebration, wars and unrest. It has witnessed births, deaths, romance – and the lives of a string of strong and inspiring women. More on that one day, I hope.
Here’s to our One-Place landmarks. If you know Badingham and Cransford, I’d love to hear your landmarks below…