"Hadleigh - a good place for old people, apart from the hills" *
- A small English town, (pop – 7000) bypassed by the road carrying
commuter traffic between Sudbury and Ipswich in South Suffolk. It is notable for some fine Medieval architecture.
It is populated by the residue of old families and economic
migrants from less affluent parts of the country who live mainly in
ubiquitous semis and detached houses on ever-expanding estates which
surround the core of the town.
in the Hole” has a lively high street but the vast majority of its
residents choose to do the bulk of their shopping in the larger
neighbouring towns. Dissatisfied
by the lack of choice offered by the Co-op store, some of the town’s
middle class residents order groceries from Tesco on the internet and the
store's little white van is as common a sight as the ice cream vans of
battle over shopping has rather dominated political debate in the town for
the last decade and despite a majority vote supporting a Tesco store, the
division between those who wanted a store off the High Street and down by
the River Brett and those who would prefer to see it hidden away has led
the Government’s Inspector to reject the planning application.
This has been a major triumph or a Pyrrhic victory for the Hadleigh
Society (a civic amenity group who still refer to the place as “a wool
town”) depending on your point of view.
of course, it makes little or no sense for 90% of the population to do a
round trip of 20 miles to collect their vegetables (especially when they
can be purchased on the High Street) but a major store away from the
historic heart of the town may not ensure the well being of the small
the small pool of the intellectually eager and politically interested folk
were busy discussing the Tesco issue, planning permission was given for a
large new housing estate for army families.
In the medium to long term this may be far more important to the
town than the question of blighting the river walk with a supermarket.
on the bypass, separated from the more affluent areas of the town and its
historic core, by the town’s council estate, hundreds of services
personnel and their families will be parachuted in for a few years at a
time. The base families have
a new primary school, with a nursery unit, but apart from the older
children who may mix with their peers at the town’s secondary school,
there is likely to be little integration with the town’s folk, apart
possibly from in the pubs and the British Legion.
what will service families find when they disembark in the town?
Well, the public houses aren’t well suited to families for a
start. They will have to
travel a fair distance to find a pub, which welcomes kids.
It may even mean a trip out of the County because Ipswich and
Sudbury only cater for families who like their battered nuggets
regurgitated on jungle ropes.
town now has one or two restaurants and a bistro (open till 7pm).
There are fish and chip shops, a Chinese take away and restaurant,
an Indian restaurant, a new pizza business and a kebab shop.
So teenagers have somewhere to hang around in the evening, waiting
for the moment when they pass their driving test and they can afford to
purchase a vehicle that will carry them home from Ipswich, after the last
are churches for those of a religious persuasion. Traditional English churches which will welcome you with open
arms when you’ve served 50 years as a parishioner and are about to go to
a far far better place.
are plenty of sports and leisure groups and societies and they would all
welcome new members willing to take on secretarial duties and the like.
Check out the Community News if you want to read about the lively
goings on or simply want to find out whom the main contributors are
totally hacked off with, for instance, their fellow members who have
failed to pay their subs.
new arrivals want to chat to the locals then a subject dear to their
hearts may be the spate of fires, which have put Hadleigh on the map as
far as the Ipswich Evening Star is concerned.
Hardly a week goes by without a wheelie bin fire or a car being
torched. Sheds, outhouses,
garages and barns are all vulnerable.
Those in the know think that the Police know who is responsible but
presumably the old Hadleigh tradition of Omerta means that the
arsonist’s family and friends will go to their graves without telling.
is it a bad place? Not
really. Is it dull?
Possibly. Is it a
place to raise kids? There
are worse. Probably the
crucial question is, do people like it enough to stick around and the
answer seems to be – yes. So
it must have something going for it.
There’s a fine walk alongside the river, an attractive church, a
railway walk for dog walkers, cyclists and joggers, a decent butchers on
the High Street, a selection of parks for the kids, a swimming pool, a
library, three primary schools, a leisure centre and a football team.
a few occasions during the year the place even seems quite lively.
Annually, there is an agricultural show where the bowler-hated, fox
hunting types take over the place and invite the townsfolk to admire their
horsemanship and animal husbandry. And
there’s a fair as well. Sometimes,
there’s a town carnival but apathy and exhaustion following the Jubilee
celebrations meant that no one got to see the majorettes and queens from
local towns parade in 2002. The
town made a great effort with the Christmas tree switch on later in the
year and the High Street was as lively as virtually anyone can remember.
provided you are not expecting lively erudite conversation with strangers,
swinging street cafés, populist theatre and a balmy climate, you’ll
probably be happy enough with the place.
After all, you can find those other things in the cities of
Southern Spain when you’re next on your hols.
Hadleigh is England.
A Nunn of Hadleigh
* 9 year old Hadleigh resident