Thursday, 16 June 2011

Baedeker memories please

sunny march 027
HEIGHAM is a funny old part of Norwich these days. Too close to be a suburb, yet not far enough away to have its own identity. Its north-eastern boundary is the Wensum of course, so the Heigham chapter will come after Hellesdon and before Norwich Over the Water. In earlier generations Heigham was much more of a community, but It quickly becomes clear that this section will be dominated by what happened on April 27th 1942. That was the first night of the so-called Baedeker bombings on the city (in retaliation for the Allied bombing of Lubeck the previous month). Heigham copped it big time. Among the buildings hit was St Bartholmew’s Church. As this modern picture shows, only the tower survived. As for the wider damage, this is one account from “Joan P” recorded for a Women’s Oral History Group pamphlet on Heigham Street published in 1991.
“Of course everywhere was devastated, that took a long while. Bullens was on fire, Cushions was on fire, Wincarnis was on fire, the Picture Palace at the back. The Mayfair was on fire – Old Mother Reilly was on there then. But everywhere was devastated. We actually saw Bullens burn down and we could have put it out but there was no water.”
And through our consumerist eyes I find this section poignant too:
“We had no clothes, just what we were standing up in. Mother, she salvaged the settee and two chairs and of course all the bed linen. They were not much good. But a tracer bullet went through the settee, so we had that marked afterwards. We had that for quite a while afterwards because there was nothing else.”
I love the fact that even a bullet through a sofa wasn’t a good enough reason to get rid of a piece of furniture, such were the hardships.
So can anyone out there remember that awful night in Heigham? Has anyone got any photos – particularly any before and afters? Do get in touch if you or a relative can help. Email me direct on
Oh and just finally, there’s much on the church and the raids, on Simon Knott’s ever-erudite website. Here’s a taster: 
“As St Benedict's Street becomes Dereham Road, it does not make for one of central Norwich's more attractive districts. The vast Toys R Us superstore and its companions are an unlikely and unwitting legacy of the Luftwaffe's work.”

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