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Page updated - 19 February 2005

Peter Cooper

I came into the world in 1937, in Miss Moyse's little maternity home (which, I think, she ran more or less single-handed), at the top of Suffolk Road, in Sudbury. I believe Miss Moyse was a pious lady, for she charged each confinement at the rate of four guineas inclusive of ‘churching’.  My mother, though, declined the ‘churching’, so I came into the world at the reduced rate - three guineas.  I have felt a shade substandard ever since. When I was born our home was a bungalow in Pot Kiln Lane, now called Pot Kiln Road.  In February 1939 we moved to a house in Bures Road, which has remained my chief home ever since.  I believe I have lived in the road between Cornard End (where Cornard Road joins Great Eastern Road) and the delightful house next to the 'Five Bells' far longer than anyone else.


In 1942 I started school, at Mrs King's 'academy' for tiny children, in Pot Kiln Lane.  Friends I made there are friends still.  Soon after the War I went to Great Cornard Primary School, where the headmaster was Lionel Hurst.  At one end of our classroom hung two portraits, one of King George V, the other of his wife, Queen Mary. Since, however, King George was long since dead both portraits were surely overdue for removal. The building across the playground comprised one large room, with an entrance lobby.  In this room most mornings of the week we sang a great many hymns, taken from 'Songs of Praise', and so a great deal better than the hymns that children sing today.  At one end of the room Mrs Baker, Mrs Portfleet and (I believe) another lady would always be cooking the day's dinner, which was served in the same room as soon as all the hymns were sung.  These dinners were very good - like the hymns. The combination of the cooking of good dinners and the singing of good hymns did much to confuse my infant senses: to this day the singing of 'When a knight won his spurs' and 'Little drops of water, little drops of rain' produces for me the aroma of boiling cabbage!


My grandparents were John and Firnetta Cooper, who kept the 'Five Bells' from early in the last century till my grandfather's death in 1939.  Thereafter the management of the 'Five Bells' remained with members of my family till the mid-1960s.  My grandparents ran a thoroughly old-fashioned pub; its internal appearance in their day was what it must have been in the reign of Queen Victoria. Had it remained unaltered it would now be a wondrous tourist attraction, doing a roaring trade. Many of its customers were memorable 'characters'. One was old Bob Lincoln, grandfather of the late Mrs Betty Cocker.  He rode a tricycle (very slowly), kept his money in a little cotton bag which would have been white had it ever been washed (one day he produced a sixpence from it, and gave it to me). For years (it seemed) had a thumbnail with a vertical split, which intrigued me greatly.  I liked him very much.  Until some thirty years ago I would encounter many aged men in Great Cornard who would say, 'Ah'. Your grandfather was serving me a drink in the “Five Bells" when the paper boy from Sudbury rushed in, saying the “Titanic had sunk!”  I have wondered ever since how many pairs of hands my grandfather could have possessed in April 1912 to serve so many drinks at the same time!


In my childhood in Great Cornard there was no public sewage system.  Our side of the Bures Road was    sophisticated, for it had its own dead wells.  But the other side (Mrs Freestone's side) relied upon the offices of an esteemed public servant, Mr Proudfoot.  Mr Proudfoot was the Night Soil Man.  He appeared at dead of night, in his peculiar little lorry, to empty the buckets of those who had them. As I recall, and for some reason that I never understood, he had peculiar little buckets swinging from the sides of his peculiar little lorry.  If as a young teenager returning from an evening out one bumped into Mr Proudfoot with his buckets, one knew one was very late indeed; one went into a fright, and hurried smartly home.


In due course I attended Sudbury Modern Secondary School (more hymns), Sudbury Grammar School (even more hymns), and a university (hymns optional).  Then I lived in America until 1964. My recollections of Great Cornard thereafter are far less informed, so I have not included them here.


Submitted by Peter Cooper – 20 July 2002