Archive for February, 2013

Local History Society – Bury Gaol

The District Society was treated to a talk about Bury gaol on Tuesday 10th February when local author, Tessa West, described how her 20-year career as an Assistant Prison Governor developed into research and writing. Her book “The Curious Mr Howard” is a biography of the pioneer prison reformer John Howard and was the result of detailed study of a subject of which Mrs West displayed a comprehensive knowledge.

The gaol at Sicklesmere Road,Bury St Edmunds was built in 1804 to a design by George Byfield based upon the panopticon principle of Jeremy Bentham; this consists of a central management block giving all-round supervision of radiating wings. It replaced an older building inSouthgate street and had space for 140 inmates. At the time there were over 200 crimes punishable by death (this was known as The Bloody Code) and custodial sentences were unknown. The reasons for incarceration were fourfold – awaiting trial, execution, deportation or being in debt. Over half of the prison population were debtors and in fact it was possible to run up debt in prison as the unpaid “keeper” would charge inmates for straw bedding and other facilities.It was even known for drinking houses to be run on the premises.The first salaried governor of the institution was John Orridge who was the first to introduce a treadmill to grind corn.

The impressive façade – which still stands – had a flat roof over the entrance and this was used for public executions the last of which was in 1851. These gruesome occasions attracted thousands of spectators from a wide area. The gaol was closed in 1880 and the prisoners moved to Ipswich. Mrs West was warmly thanked by Chairman Alan Fitch, on behalf of 20 members and visitors for her contribution to a very interesting evening.

Mr Fitch mentioned that arrangements were being made for a local visit involving metal detectors in April and more information would be available later. The next meeting would be the AGM at 8pm on Tuesday 12th March in Foxearth Village Hall. There would be cheese and wine and the meeting would have a history of printing theme so members are asked to bring along any related items e.g. old books, manuscripts etc.

Ken Nice


Betty Kotz 1930 – 2013

A celebration of the life of a well-known Foxearth resident took place at Braintree crematorium on 8th February 2013. Betty Kotz, who had lived in the village since 1986, died on the 20th January in the West Suffolk Hospital after a short illness. As between 180 and 200 relatives and friends assembled to pay their respects she was remembered for her active life and interests with obvious affection.

Anne Ardern- a family friend for many years  – led the proceedings by describing how Betty was born in Chelsea and won a scholarship to the Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster. As a young woman she was keen on speedway and an avid follower of New Cross. She put her secretarial skills to good use when she worked for the Labour Party which she had joined in the 1960s. An unhappy first marriage, producing Lizzie and David, left her a single parent but in the early ‘70s she met John – who was also on his own with four growing sons – and they married in 1976. Betty became a lynchpin of the Hackney Labour Party in which John was of course actively involved as a Councillor and Mayor.

The Right-Honourable Lord Alf Dubs of Battersea spoke warmly of his admiration over many years for Betty’s conscientious and valuable work as his political agent. She had firm views and beliefs, not only on political matters but on the finer points of cribbage and the merits of good wine! She was a most kind and supportive colleague.

Associations with the Hackney gang (or “mafia” as some would have!) were recalled by Jim Cannon who praised Betty for her sagacity and wit and for her ability to cope most adequately with the occasional prickly character. Betty was essentially a quiet person but when she spoke she invariably had something important to say.

Speaking of the Foxearth days Pat James mentioned Betty’s great interest in village life by her participation in the Womens’ Institute, her service as Secretary of the Over 60s Club and her membership of the Village Hall Committee.She was “hooked” on craft work – especially jewellery and bead work, being Chairperson of Cottage Crafts in Sudbury; she established a group in Long Melford. While all of this was going on, Betty still found time to maintain an interest in local politics serving as Secretary of the Saffron Walden Party. On the rare occasions when she assertively spoke her mind she would point out that she was only ever rude to her friends – and she had many!

The final eulogy was delivered by Peter – John’s eldest son speaking on behalf of brothers Colin, Derek and Simon and of Betty’s family. Referring back to the time when the new, extended family was formed, Peter recalled Betty’s fierce loyalty and their admiration for her confident ability to cope in the new circumstances. He recalled the happy family reunions at their annual “Windmill” week as well as holidays in France and Belgium.

As seats in the building rapidly filled, leaving many standing, the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 was played – as Betty had requested! In between the tributes voices were raised in the singing of Jerusalem and The Red Flag and during a time of quiet reflection we heard music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty reminding us of Betty and John’s love of ballet   We left the crematorium for refreshment at the Witham Labour Hall to the strains of Louis Armstrong and Wonderful World: a most fitting farewell to someone whose friendship and love touched so many people and who will be long remembered with sincere gratitude.

Ken Nice


Meeting of Foxearth & Liston Parish Council

A council meeting will be held on 19th February 2013 at 7:30pm at Foxearth Village Hall.

You can view the agenda for the meeting here and the provisional minutes for the meeting held on 12th December 2012 here.

Foxearth & Liston Parish Council