Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Touch Grave - An Unusual Placename in East Bergholt, Suffolk.

Touch Grave

East Bergholt, most famously known as the birthplace and sometime home of the artist John Constable, is a beautiful village on the borders of Suffolk and Essex.

This post is prompted by a discussion that has been taking place on a Facebook group that shares photographs and information about aspects and features of the village's past. If you want to see where the village is, then please have a quick look at the East Bergholt Wikipedia page.

Local historians in and around the village are very fortunate in having access to (in normal, non-Covid-19 times) a range of maps that examine the layout of the village in minute detail, the earliest being a wonderful hand drawn map by William Brasier that dates from 1731. However the first map I will show you is taken from Google Earth and this is just to acquaint you with the layout of the settlement. Click on the image to enlarge it

The road (B1070) that runs out of the village to the south-east is known as Manningtree Road because it heads towards the small Essex town of Manningtree. As the road leaves the village it descends into the valley of the River Stour (pronounced St-oh-ur), winding down a hill to the valley floor. Leaving the village, the road steepens and follows a series of S-bends. This part of  the road is known locally as "Touchy Hill" - the "ou" pronounced as in "Ow! - that hurt". The modern Ordnance Survey cartographers have mistakenly attached the name "Touchy" to a small lane or footpath that, as the hill steepens, goes off to the left. We will return to this later!

East Bergholt, in common with many villages in the eastern part of the country, had, until the early nineteenth century, large areas of heathland. This was, in the case of East Bergholt, enclosed in 1816 and leaving us with the the landscape we see today. In other words, the heath was divided into many enclosed fields, many of which that exist today. The extent of the old heath can be ascertained from the parts of the parish that have VERY straight, nineteenth century enclosure roads. The map below gives the approximate outline of the heath, based upon the evidence of the straight roads.

The heath was an open area of land that members of the community had common rights over. It was important for those villagers who were poor and had little land upon which to graze a few livestock.

The next three pictures show the village and the location marked as Touch Grave on the 1731 map. The two modern views include the viewshed, both near and far, from Touch Grave. Click on the images to see a larger picture.

Touch Grave is in the bottom left hand corner of the image The green shaded field to the right of Touch Grave is called Touch Grave Field. The map dates from 1731.

Touch Grave is marked in the middle of the red viewshed are in the lower right quarter of the image.

The viewshed from Touch Grave includes to the south-east Bradfield Church

You may well ask why I have included the viewshed in the pictures above. The location of Touch Grave was selected by the Ordnance Survey as the location for a "bench mark". The surveyors used benchmarks to establish the height of the land accurately. Usually they were afixed to something that was unlikely to be moved. See this link for a more thorough explanation. I have yet to investigate if such a firm fixture exists at Touch Grave. Such benchmarks are no longer used by the Ordnance Survey, but over half a million existed at some point across the UK. They can often be seen on the walls of churches and other monuments. I wonder if there is a bench mark on Bradfield Church?

So, from the evidence of William Brasier's map of 1731 the name Touch Grave was a particular spot where a lane, marked as Procession Lane, met the Manningtree Road. The name of this spot was naturally attached to the neighbouring field. Local tales and traditions have existed that say the field was used as a burial site for victims of the plague many hundreds of years ago. The owner of the field has said that nothing unusual has been encountered when ploughing the field, so it may be that the story has evolved to fit the strange name. This map below shows the route of Procession Lane.

The purple line shows the route of Procession Lane.

Some may regard the name Procession Lane as being unusual, so lets have a look at that. This article may offer some pointers to the reason why this lane might have been called Procession Lane, linking the path to old burial practices. However, the path does not obviously lead towards the church except by a very circuitous route! However, burial practices would seem to have an obvious connection with the name Touch Grave.

Another suggested reason for the naming of the lane as Procession Lane is the tradition of "beating the bounds". This was a custom that was used to confirm the boundaries of a parish each year in an era before mapping was common place. Information about this tradition can be found here. In the very early 1980s I went with a friend on a "beating of the bounds" walk in the parish of Milden in Suffolk. Among some good memories was the vision of groaning trestle tables in the village hall at the end of the walk - game pie and home made cakes of all sorts!

The map above shows Procession Lane meeting the heath of East Bergholt. The  map below shows the path continuing beyond the heath, into neighbouring parishes.

The continuation of Procession Lane to the north.

From the path taken it would seem unlikely that the lane was part of the route for "beating the bounds". It seems more likely that it was an old route that went across country, from the river Stour to Ipswich, but why is it called, for at least part of its length, Procession Lane?

Do you have any ideas? Also, what about the origins of the name Touch Grave? If you have any ideas about either of these points then I would be glad to hear from you!

This link will take you to the Bing Mapping website where you can see the Ordnance Survey's modern depiction of East Bergholt.

Perhaps there will be a second part to the story....I hope so!

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Know your Dockyard! 1

Pembroke  Dock Marine 

The Memory of Pembroke Dock in the Balance

HMS Boadicea at Hobbs Point.

Many of you who follow these posts will be aware of the potential devastation that Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) proposes to inflict on many of the last remaining buildings and structures that stand in the western part of Pembroke Dockyard. For my earlier interpretation of this see this post.

MHPA has now published online the "Pre-Application Consultation planning documents" for their proposals, and these can be found at:


The first impression upon seeing the list of downloadable documents is one of dismay and horror -

"How the heck can I read all this stuff? Where do I start?"

Producing volumes of paperwork is how the planning system works. These papers are not aimed at the inhabitants of Pembroke Dock, but at the largely anonymous officials who have to make a recommendation about whether the application should be passed or not.

The people of Pembroke Dock have been consulted about this (Yes you have) and the focus has been on the proposed benefits - seemingly substantial - that could arise from the scheme. All very encouraging and promising a bright future.....or is it?

This is going to be a long haul.......

The first documents from the list I read were those relating to the heritage assets and landscapes that would be affected by the project. I am biased as I have a high regard for the work of our fore-fathers and the skills that we have long abandoned. So let's see what we have....

The Environmental Statement (ES) and unusually, but selfishly, I will start with Chapter 10 - The Historic Environment.

This chapter :

.......of the ES assesses the effects of the proposed scheme on all aspects of the environment, including buried archaeological remains, historic buildings, historic areas and marine heritage.

It includes 69 pages of legislation and planning guidance that has been referred to in compiling this evaluation of the historic environment within  "The Yard". There are selective quotes that back the general thrust of MHPA's proposal.

The report has been compiled by RPS - Making Complex Easy who have a web presence at:


I would suggest that you take a look at the chapter before reading the appendices I mention below Enjoy.

Here it is: Chapter 10 -  Historic Environment

Time for a break and a picture....

Pembroke Dockyard - Slips 1 and 2 c1903 or a little later.

Now, having successfully completed that challenge I will now look at the Appendices. These will have been referred to in Chapter 10 of the Environmental Study(ES).

Appendix 10.1 click here.

This appendix starts with the usual sections on planning regulation and methodology of the following desk based assessment and then moves onto, at about page 11, an interesting potted overview of the history of the dockyard and its development, with a list of further reading at the end.

I do have a few issues with some of what is said, but overall whilst mainly broadly accurate in stating what they had found, it made me defensive and in the end I was aware that this account was written by a big company, with little interest in what local, born and bred Pembroke Dock people might think about their own historic environment. OK, none of the heritage is in the same league as the Taj Mahal or Venice, but it does matter to those of us who know tha place well...at least some of us!

After the "rubric" come the Figures! The Pictures!

I am a sucker for a good picture or map and the figures in the last part of Appendix 10.1 are fascinating and thought provoking.

Figure 1. is a good location map. 
Figure 2. is a location map that places the development site within its wider context. A little bit of jargon has crept in - HLCA - Historic Landscape Character Area. A good introduction to these can be downloaded as a pdf from CADW. It also includes, at the rear,  a useful map of those HLCAs within Wales. 
Figure 3. is a good map that shows the designated historic environment features within Pembroke Dockyard and around. [It has always bemused me that some of the oldest houses in Pembroke Dock have been ignored en masse in the recognition of the heritage of the place. [However, I digress as that is not a problem associated with this project - it rests with the ignorance of some of the very senior officers at Pembrokeshire County Council perhaps.] ]
Figure 4. A fascinating old map that has been misinterpreted in the main write up earlier in Chapter 10. For an alternative interpretation see the series of posts here
Figure 5. An oft reproduced image of Paterchurch. 
Figure 6 - 16. A great series of maps and pictures that relate the history of the dockyard and its development. WELL WORTH LOOKING AT.

I am going to stop now and continue next time.......

.........Keep safe and well!

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Pembrokeshire County Council - Review of Local Development Plan - Episode 4

Local Development Plan Review – Deposit Plan
Comments and Observations

Pembroke Dock

Since I last wrote to PCC regarding the consultations for the authority’s Local Development Plan Review (LDP 2) I am pleased to note that many of the concerns I raised regarding the candidate sites, put forward by various bodies, have been acknowledged and these do not appear on the present draft plan.

I do, however, have major reservations relating to the sites HSG/096/00238 and HSG/096/00373 situated north and south respectively of “The Long Wall” (Pembroke Road) and east of Pembroke Dock Cricket Club. I hope that these sites are not precursors to the development of all the land along this ridge between Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.

I also have concerns about the reduction in size of the Pembroke Dock Conservation Area that took place in c2017. In submissions regarding this during the consultation period, I advocated the extension of the conservation area, as has happened in the neighbouring settlement of Pembroke, to continue, if in name only, the protection of High Street and Bufferland. Certainly, High Street is one of the earliest built areas of the town, developed as a private venture by the Bush Estate to provide leased housing for workers in the Royal Dockyard. The development of the above-mentioned housing allocations will continue to erode the setting and heritage value of the much older buildings in High Street. Being placed on and either side of the ridge, these allocations also detract significantly from the setting of Pembroke Dock as viewed from the high ground by the Cleddau Bridge and from Pembroke Castle.

One other housing allocation in Pembroke Dock (HSG/096/LDP2/2) is another site that sits conspicuously on top of the ridge that runs down to Pennar Point (Figure 1). This is an allocation that has extended the settlement boundary of Pembroke Dock from that published in the Adopted LDP (2013). There is concern that this allocation will merely open up the possibility of development further west along the ridge, as effectively happened with the allocation on the south side of Pembroke Road (HSG/096/00373) AFTER publication of the Adopted LDP (2013).

Green Wedges (GN 37)

It is pleasing to see areas of land designated as Green Wedge. The area south of Bufferland so designated, along the northern banks of the Pembroke River, east of Jacob’s Pill, is particularly welcome.

Figure 1
I do, however, wonder why the Green Wedge designation has not been continued further west towards Pennar Point to provide a similar protected margin along and behind the shoreline. (Figure 1).
Figure 2
One area I feel very strongly about being given this status is the land that runs from Treowen Road, south eastward to the western side of Jacob’s Pill (Figure 2). The development of this land would destroy the setting of the park adjoining Pennar Church which at present takes in expansive views up the Pembroke River to Pembroke Castle and onward to the headland at Manorbier. It also helps to provide a sense of rural remoteness for Jacob’s Pill – a location of some importance in the history of Pennar and Pembroke Dock in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Jacob’s Pill and the northern banks of the Pembroke River gives the population of Pennar and Bufferland access to rural tranquillity within walking distance of their homes. Access to such spaces is important in ensuring  well-being and improved mental health for residents (GN 35 Green Infrastructure refers). Policies GN 38, GN 39, GN 40, GN 41 are also very relevant here. Figures 3a and 3b below show the extent of this view, the theoretical viewshed (from a height of 6 feet above the Pennar Recreation Area) being shown in red.

Figure 3a

Figure 3b
To return to the Housing Allocations mentioned earlier, HSG/096/00238 and HSG/096/00373, I am rather confused about the designation of the land east of these two housing allocations and on both the north and south sides of the Pembroke Road (Top Road) - as in Figure 4. 
Figure 4

The land immediately either side of the road is allocated as a hard rock resource, exploitable before any development can take place. The land immediately south of these allocations is allocated green wedge status. If green wedge has greater protection from development than hard rock resource allocated land, it is preferable that this land be allocated as green wedge. Green Wedge would also offer protection for the hard rock resource beneath the surface. This would help to ensure that there is not a ribbon of development eastward along Pembroke Road towards the neighbouring settlement thus retaining a visible gap between Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. Also, further development on this high ridge would be inappropriately conspicuous from numerous locations around Pembroke and Pembroke Dock and much further beyond. See the viewshed from this location (6 feet above ground level) in Figure 6.

Figure 6

Pembroke Dockyard

The status and allocation of the land within the dockyard walls has changed from that allocated to it in the Adopted LDP (2013). In the earlier map the importance of the dockyard and its collection is made explicitly clear by showing that it clearly lies within  the Pembroke Dock Conservation Area (PDCA). The plan that has been included with LDP2 does not make this important point clear and is misleading by omission. The extent of the conservation area is available via a different set of constraint maps, but someone reading the Adopted LDP(2013) plan and the LDP2 plan might be forgiven for believing that the conservation area is no longer an important factor in considering planning applications within the dockyard. 

This is far from the truth. See the two comparison plans  (Figure 7 - The plan from Adopted LDP (2013) and Figure 8 - The plan from LDP2 (2020)) on the next page..It is also contentious in so far as the proposals Milford Haven Port Authority (PCC’s strategic partner) have in place for the western end of the dockyard. MHPA’s plans involve the destruction and re-development of the area west of the ferry terminal, effectively replacing several listed buildings with an extensive slab of concrete and some VERY large sheds up to 40 metres high. These sheds (or shed) would be about twice as high as the two listed flying boat hangars in the eastern part of the dockyard. The scheme also envisages the filling in of the Grade II* listed dry dock and the Grade II listed Timber Pond – almost certainly the last such structure of its type in Wales and possibly the UK. MHPA’s plans are speculative and I am unaware of any companies that have made a commitment to making use of the facilities that MHPA intend to put in place. I am also aware that there is a need for well-paid employment in Pembroke Dock, but I also believe that other locations should be explored for the siting of these facilities before destroying the remaining last few dockyard industrial heritage assets.I also believe that the waste transfer licence obtained for the north eastern part of the dockyard, including the two flying boat hangars, is intended to put this area of the yard out of consideration as a location for the works that MHPA would like to carry out on the western end of the yard. The market for the type of waste that the waste transfer site has been licensed for is, and was, precarious. The main market for the waste is currently The Netherlands, on the eastern side of the UK. The eastern side of the UK has far better communication links than Pembroke Dock and is able to draw on a far wider area. It is also much nearer to The Netherlands!

[Milford Haven Port Authority have now published the pre-planning documentation for this development at: https://www.mhpa.co.uk/pembroke-dock-marine/
There is a prodigous amount of material here! To the uninitiated, very confusing! I will try and simplify this in another post. Ed 19 March 2020]

Now let’s look at the south eastern part of the dockyard where there are many restored offices, ex storehouses and privately owned residential buildings from the Victorian period. This area has been allocated as Port and Energy Related Development (PERD). On the Adopted LDP (2013) inset map for Pembroke Dock this is not illustrated particularly clearly. This includes the Dockyard Chapel, now home of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre. It also includes, surprisingly, the Pembroke Dock market which is outside the dockyard walls, but the property of PCC. These buildings are listed, many having been restored at great public expense. This designation also applies to the privately owned Paterchurch, (formerly property of PCC), a scheduled and listed Grade 1 medieval building which lies further west, just inside the dockyard wall. This designation (PERD) is severely inappropriate for such sites and should be changed to one that reflects the true nature of these areas.

Figure 7

Figure 8


Housing Allocation

Housing Allocation HSG/095/00147(Figure 9) lies partly within the Pembroke Conservation Area and in close proximity to Monkton Priory Church, Pembroke Castle and the Medieval dovecote that was attached to the priory. There are other important monuments and landscape features within close proximity too.

This is another example of where the layout of the mapping and the indication of other constraints that might have an effect on the suitability of the site for a housing allocation, is unclear and confusing. The hiding of large areas of the mapped area under indicators of more detailed mapping is particularly poor and is a misleading hindrance to those interested in PCC’s intentions for LDP2. There are certainly ways  in which the mapping could have been made more readable to the general public. The overall impression is that the mapping has been designed to be deliberately obfuscating to the general reader.

The map on the facing page shows clearly that the larger part of the housing allocation HSG/095/00147 lies within the Pembroke Conservation Area. It is interesting to note that CADW makes no comment about this being the case in their response to planning application 19/0339/PA .
I have also noted that on the Lle Portal Wales the old conservation area boundary is available for download, but not the present boundary. See Figure 9.

The follow map, Figure 10, shows the extent of land visible from the top of the Keep of Pembroke Castle. This area is shaded in red. The housing allocation discussed is shown outlined in orange.

It should be borne in mind that building at this allocation will detract significantly from the setting of both Pembroke Castle, Monkton Priory Church, Old Hall and the medieval dovecote. This will lessen the attractiveness of these sites to tourists, especially as viewed from the walls and towers of the castle,  and thus reduce the number of visitors who come to the town - particularly those on repeat visits. 

Pembroke is currently dependent on tourism as one of its main, but faltering, sources of income. This allocation would also run counter to the visionary developments of the South Quay, Westgate Hill and Darklin within the town.

See Para 4.34, page 43; Also the allocation is clearly against policy GN 22-Protection and Enhancement of the Historic Environment.

It is my strong view that this allocation/application, if passed, will set a precedent that will be very hard to challenge in future planning applications.

Figure 9
Figure 10


GN 25 Retail and Commercial Centre Development
Paragraph 5.123 of this policy (pp. 118-119) suggests that there may be the possibility of the historic burgage plots outside the centre of the settlement, but being within the Pembroke Conservation Area, being used for residential development. I am staunchly against any such possibility being made available by the content of this paragraph. 

I hope that Pembrokeshire County Council is able to incorporate my comments into the Reviewed Local Development Plan.