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July 2012 report

Some people seem to be under the misapprehension that I support the imposition of Reference Areas within the new Marine Conservation Zones. This is simply not true as anyone reading my past reports could see. I am very much against the idea of the Blakeney and Morston marshes being effectively put out of bounds for local people and tourists alike. The rest of this council is also implacably opposed to this stupid scheme and we are all very annoyed at the way it was presented as a fait accompli without any consultation whatsoever. Last month I tried to show that there was a good chance the Minister concerned would be unlikely to want to defend this scheme if enough pressure is brought to bear on him through continued protest. I even signed the petition against it – albeit only the once.

Work on the quay continues. The ever-encroaching reeds have been sprayed and will later be cut and sprayed again though it will likely be a continual battle. We are negotiating with various bodies for a site to dump the spoil from the dredging work we also hope to do next year and, best of all, a public-spirited resident has offered to replace the section of railing on the landward side of the ramp that was vandalised earlier this year. We’re getting there…

The Police couldn’t come to the meeting – their numbers have been much depleted as according to their website the Wells Safer Neighbourhoods Team has been halved and now consists of one sergeant, just one constable and two PCSOs who have to cover the fleshpots of Wells and Walsingham as well as sleepy old Cley – so it is just as well there were no crimes to report. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before they are all replaced by a couple of goons from G4S, apropos which, anyone who still thinks the private sector – which has a legal duty to put profit making first – can be a more effective supplier of public services probably also thinks the earth is flat.

This September is the 400th anniversary of the Great Fire of Cley and we are looking for suggestions as to how best to mark this event, bearing in mind that a live action replay is not one of the options! The Fire, which broke out on the 1st September, probably in the area now called Newgate, is claimed to have destroyed 117 buildings, which, if true, would have been a major part of the community. The largest number of burnt buildings, 18, belonged to Widow Newgate and she valued them at 600; Robert Beales had 12 which were valued at 500, as were the 8 properties owned by John Rayley. Values varied greatly: the 5 properties lost by Edward Mannock were valued at 400 whereas the 3 owned by William Gaye were worth a mere 20 all told. Of the poor inhabitants of these houses not much is heard though a William Gammon claimed just 2 for all his worldly goods – there would have been many with even less to lose.

The Quarter Sessions awarded 200 to relieve the suffering, the money to be disbursed by Sir Nathaniel Bacon, the local JP. The wealthiest members of the community were considered to be rich enough not to need help from this fund. As the money didn’t arrive until the following January it must have been a bleak winter for some Cley residents. A few of them attempted to sue one Thomas Coe, whom they accused of negligently starting the fire in the first place, but they were persuaded to desist. An independent assessor was brought in to put a more accurate value on the property destroyed – his figure was considerably lower – and his report gives an indication that many of the structures affected were outhouses of one sort or another; several indeed were described as ‘brewhouses’ so it must have been a bleak winter in more ways than one.

The people of Cley appealed to the Lord Chancellor in London for a ‘brief’ – in effect a licence to beg – which they duly obtained. Representatives went to various large towns in the area seeking alms of which they got precious little: after expenses this whole exercise netted barely 50, and most of that came from London – Yarmouth produced just 1 5s 8d. Bear that in mind time think of having a day at the seaside. We can only assume that trade in Cley remained buoyant – the Friday market was still operating – despite the problems as the town does seem to have recovered remarkably quickly. It is generally thought that much of the rebuilding was concentrated in the northern part of town within a limited radius of the present quay and that the fire is in large part responsible for the paucity of dwellings around the church.

All of this seems to show that ‘insurance fraud’ predates actual insurance, but it brings us no nearer to finding a way to commemorate the Great Fire of Cley. We have only a month to think about it so suggestions to any member of the Council please. And keep it simple. Thanks to Jonathan Hooton for the details of the Fire gleaned from his book “The Glaven Ports”.

On the subject of anniversaries, next year marks 800 years since the granting of the market charter in 1213. You don’t remember Cley Friday Market? Well, it was discontinued in 1678 so that might explain your loss of memory. The annual St Margaret’s Day Fair, for which the charter was granted in the 3rd year of the reign of King Edward II (1309-10 to us civilians), is still running after a fashion. Nobody celebrated that anniversary either. As the people of Cley are such an undemonstrative lot there will presumably not be any flags put out to celebrate the fact that there is no Council meeting in August; you’ll have to wait until the 4 September.

Richard Kelham

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