The Great Cley Floods 13
Eventually the time came and Mary caught the bus from outside the Forge, going first through Holt, and then on to Norwich. The trip would take her an hour and a half in each direction, but she knew that she would make good use of her time at the library. She left on the first bus at 7.30, taking workers into Norwich, and intended to return by the 5.30 p.m. bus which would not get back to Cley until gone seven.
The Norwich Library was easy to find, and Mrs. Oltman, whom she had advised of her trip, was very helpful and had the various books that she mentioned available for Mary to peruse at her leisure. She took a huge notebook with her, filled with the questions that she had wanted to find out.
Did Rebecca Jackson and her daughter exist? The answer was yes, and they lived on Town Yard, although it didn’t specify the name of their house.
Did John Waller keep the George and Dragon Inn? Yes, and he had been listed as in charge in 1839.
Many of the other names that Mrs. Jackson had mentioned were in the 1839 directory, but not all of them. But of course that was not surprising, as people would have moved or died in the intervening 14 years.
She found a listing for Miss Judith Fisher from the 1839 directory, when she would have been much
younger of course, but she had existed. She was listed with the gentry.
The reference to the customs house moving to Wells was accurate too, although Molllie hadn’t
been able to find out the name of the Comptroller in 1853. One of the books said that the Comptroller moved to King’s Lynn in May 1853, but it is possible that Mrs. Jackson had it wrong, or that plans had changed between January and May.
What did the Cley harbour look like at that time and how many ships were there in it? The books
seemed to indicate that the number and size of ships that Mrs. Jackson mentioned was likely to be roughly accurate.
Mary set to work, making notes as she went along. The historical registers were the most valuable to her. She found entries for Captain and Mrs. Ramm and it didn’t give their exact address, but it did
say they lived on Town Yard Road. Although her research had not answered all her questions, she felt confident that she would be able to convince Martin that she couldn’t possibly have dredged the
information from her brain or dreamt it all.
Although it related to an earlier time, she copied out these details about Cley harbour for Martin.
Minor Norfolk port – Blakeney Haven complex (which included Cley and Wiveton), 1301 was to send 2 ships to Bewick while lesser ports contributed half a ship each. It was the only Norfolk harbour at the time, apart from Lynn and Yarmouth with customs officials Up to the 17th Century the channels could take most merchant shipping and the complex boasted more vessels than Lynn in the Elizabethan’s shipping surveys with 36 to Lynns 32 in 1580 by the late 16th C. Blakeney was facing competition from Wells, which had 19 ships and they tried to get a custom house.
Custom house in the 18th Century quay remained near the Cley mill, but the old harbour at the southern end of the village near Newgate Green has disappeared since the building of a bank at the time of the enclosures award of 1823.
When Mary arrived home safely in Cley, she couldn’t wait for the children to be put safely to bed, and then she showed Martin all she had learned. “I know that I have only scratched the surface of
finding out what Cley was like in 1853, but what I did find out, shows me, and I hope will convince you, that I didn’t make all these things up. I was there. I did get told these names, which really existed at that time. I did get details about the customs house and such like that there is no way I could have known otherwise.”
Martin looked carefully at all her notes, and said, “You have convinced me, love. I don’t know
how it happened, or why it happened, but I believe you that it did happen. I can only be thankful that you were able to return to me. I didn’t tell you before but I had a vision of you that night. I saw
you tucked up in a big four poster bed, with in a white lace nightgown on a chair so I didn’t think you had drowned. But you never did go into details about what happened when you woke up the next morning.”
“Well, I never did wake up in that bed at all. When the morning came, I was on the road outside and
that is where young Philip Day found me. Whatever spell I was under didn’t last through the night, and I was dressed in my own clothes including my jacket which I'd taken off. I was not uncomfortable though, not cold and wet through as I would have been if I had spent the
night on the roadside. I felt confused and numb, but I knew where I was, and who I was, and I was, of course, very anxious to get back to you and the children, and my experience sort of took a back seat in my memory for the time being.
“The thing that puzzles me is how the note I put in my trousers survived, and also how I got back
into my jacket. But I suppose that is the sort of thing we can never know for sure.”
“Well, love, I think we should make it our job to find out all we can about Cley in that era. Perhaps your friends are buried in the churchyard. We can check with the vicar about that. Perhaps some of them have relatives that are still living in this area. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out who they are, and be able to tell them what their great great grandmothers were really like? Not that they’d believe you.”
“Yes, to the researching for our own information, Martin, but I think, no, to finding out relatives. Somehow I think my experience is best left unshared with the current people of Cley. Most wouldn’t believe it, and I don’t feel like I need to be pointed out as someone not quite right in the head. Not just now, with the new baby coming when I am going to need their support.”
“Yes, my love, I agree with you, but I find it very exciting to think that I have a wife who did time traveling, and maybe someday in the future, you will feel like writing it all up in a book.”
“I just might do that,” said Mary as she and Martin, arm in arm made their way up to their bedroom
and the comfort of knowing that all was as it should be with them.