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Ixworth to Great Livermere

We don’t know Suffolk at all, so it was time for a visit.  And thanks to Mike Dean’s article in the Ixworth Village Community Website, we found a green lane walk from there to Great Livermere; it was the original road that led on to Bury St Ed’s & thence, for many (mainly Scottish) beasts, to Chelmsford, Romford & Smithfield.


It’s one of the few old roads in the area left untarmacked, says Mike.  The huge ditches near Commister (once Commonstreet) Lane on the western edge of village are remnants of fishponds used by the Augustinians of Ixworth Abbey.  The packhorse bridge at TL 927705 is especially memorable because of the huge black poplar that stands guardian over it; not a very efficient guardian, because the bridge has been deemed unsafe (#1).


After that trees & hedges fade away but the status of the old road hits one every now & then(#2,3).  It becomes tarmac at Livermere, where we failed to take a picture of the rather-too-magnificent old smithy on the green. 


Mike has plenty of information about Suffolk, which was “particularly famous for providing the City of London with turkeys”.  But the four-legged beasts came from further afield, mostly from Scotland.  They were bought by Suffolk & Essex graziers at St Faith’s outside Norwich to fatten on the luxuriant grass of the coastal marshes, then, when winter came, they were moved to drier land and fed on turnips.


In December things got hectic: the Christmas/New Year rush was near and prices would be high in London.  The graziers needed an expert local drover to get the beasts to market safely and without loss of condition.  It is now that James Howlett & John Meade - and possibly John Mald - take the stage...(#4,5)


The scene is set: the graziers turn up with their (branded) beasts, on the day specified, at one of the inns in the advert.  After a drink and a handshake (a spit & a slap) they surrender their livestock to JH & JM with total trust.  That trust has been well earned.  (Note the last two lines of the advert: JH would be there at Smithfield to make sure that every beast was cared for till the point of sale...)1


In early January the graziers would see their money.  And here I must quote from Rural Economy of Norfolk, by W. Marshall (1787), because I find it quite stirring:

  This afternoon went to see the Smithfield drover pay off his ‘masters’ The Angel at Walsham.  The room was full of graziers who had sent bullocks up last week and were come, today, to receive their accounts and money.  What a trust!  A man...not worth a hundred pounds, brings down...perhaps two thousand pounds to be distributed among twenty or thirty persons who have no other security than his honesty for their money...[my italics]


Thanks again, Mike Dean.


1 Many drovers advertised their services in the same wording – K J Bonser and Mike Dean mention a John Mald, whose route was slightly different but I couldn’t find him in any newspaper.  His collection-route was 45 miles, which he covered in three days; then there was a further 60 miles to Romford Market...

...and then (September 2020) came an email from Sarah Leavy in East Anglia who believes Meade & Mald were probably the same man.  Look at #5, where the 'E' & the 'A' have been transposed in error and the E looks oddly as if it could have been an L, which would explain why the newspaper search revealed nothing.  Sarah also sent me an extract from the 1851 Census showing John Meade as a landowner in the Broome District.  And the advert in #4 is headed "Brome" 

No Malds, to be found on the census records, though.

Thank you, Sarah!

Ixworth to Great Livermere image 1
Poplar Bridge
Ixworth to Great Livermere image 2
Big Skies
Ixworth to Great Livermere image 3
..and more
Ixworth to Great Livermere image 4
John Meade (1)
Ixworth to Great Livermere image 5
John Meade (2)?