Cat no. 1362

The Deben Valley

Running time28:52 Colour Sound c.1965 Suffolk, Suffolk

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Rural crafts and cottage industries, and changes to farming and fishing in the Deben Valley


Portrait of a Place

Robert Dougall tending the garden of his holiday home in Walberswick, Suffolk. His wife, Nan Dougall, is pictured outside. He speaks to the camera about his love for Suffolk and his hobby of birdwatching. Robert and Nan take their car and drive through the Deben Valley.

They begin in Debenham where the river rises. In places this is a dry bed, in others a stream. There are shots of the village and of St. Mary's Church. The buildings include half timbered buildings, some of which feature brick nogging. Of the cottage industries of Debenham, only rush weaving survives. Robert and Nan Dougall visit the last surviving rush weavers. They look around the shop and Robert visits the weavers at the back of the shop. They are filmed making a chair seat and other objects. Rush mats are woven on an adapted loom. Miss Mills explains how rush weaving works and that the workers operate on piece rates.

There are shots of the river showing sun on water. Robert and Nan Dougall cross the river by bridge. Robert Dougall explains that the river can flood. At Cretingham there are scenes of the village and St. Peter's Church. Robert and Nan have a drink outside the New Bell public house and pan their journey. There are views of thatched cottages at Brandeston, showing clematis growing around the doors. There are interior scenes of a blacksmith's workshop showing blacksmith Hector Moore shoeing a horse. He talks about his work and about changes to the area since World War II.

At Easton there is a shot of the village sign, of the village buildings and of the crinkle crankle wall. This may have been built as a shelter for fruit trees. At Netteringham Mill Robert and Nan Dougall meet Commander and Mrs. Hales, the mill owners. commander Hales explains that there has been a mill on the site for 1000 years. The present building is 250 years old and operated as a mill until 1906. There are interior shots of the working mechanism. These are from another mill as the Commander explains that the mechanism has been removed from this mill. He also describes how the river can flood in winter.

A still of Wickham Market as it appeared 40 years earlier juxtaposed with a shot of the present main street, dissected by the A12. Robert and Nan move on quickly.

At Ufford there are exterior shots of the flint Church of St. Mary showing the stocks outside. Inside the Vicar shows Robert Dougall the font cover, which he claims as the finest. He also shows some of the carved bench ends showing animals and faces.

At Woodbridge, the Dougalls explore the town. There are exterior shots of St. Mary's Church. At the harbour there are shots of the pleasure craft. Robert and Nan continue their journey along the River in a boat viewed by Frank Knights. He talks of changes to the river scene that he has witnessed. There are shots of Waldringfield from the river. Here the river Deben is 1/4 wide. Frank Knights remembers it freezing in 1963. Some people walked across. Shots of birds include shelducks, herons, reed buntings and sedge warblers.

Robert and Nan enjoy a drink outside the Ramsholt Arms with George Arnott, a local historian. He talks about the discovery of the Sutton Hoo burial site and advances his theory that there is another burial mound on the site. At Bawdsey Manor Robert and Nan take the ferry to Old Felixstowe. Robert says that he likes Bawdsey because it has escaped commercialism. He doesn't say why, although the site of several men in military uniform leaving the ferry as he speaks to ferryman Charlie Ripley may offer a clue. Charlie Ripley, a former fisherman, talks about how the fishing industry has deteriorated and how he feels the Common Market, which the United Kingdom was about to join, must finance the industry. The film ends with shots of the river and of people sailing.The Deben Valley.

Background Information:

Edward Heath, as Prime Minister, signed the Treaty of Rome under which the United Kingdom entered the Common Market in 1972. It took effect from 1st January, 1973. This attempt to join in the mid 1960s was vetoed by General De Gaulle.

Featured People:

George Arnott, local historian; Robert Dougall, news reader; Nan Dougall ; Commander Hales; Mrs. Hales; Frank Knights, boatman; Miss Mills, rush weaver; Hector Moore, blacksmith; Charlie Ripley, ferryman

Featured Buildings:

Netteringham Mill; The New Bell, Cretingham; The Ramsholt Arms; St. Mary's Church, Debenham; St. Peter's Church, Cretingham; St. Mary's Church, Ufford; St. Mary's Church, Woodbridge

BBC East

Robert Dougall

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