The writer who helped preserve a village's past

Derek JamesHe was the man who put Costessey on the map…and thanks to him much of the rich history of village and the surrounding area will be preserved forever.Derek James

He was the man who put Costessey on the map…and thanks to him much of the rich history of village and the surrounding area will be preserved forever.

Today I want to honour and pay tribute to Ernest 'Sonny' Cage, a talented writer, historian and artist who has died at the age of 94.

It was eight years ago when I told you about his book Costessey: A Look Into the Past, a glorious record of the oldest buildings in the village and the people who lived and worked in them.

Packed with rare photographs it became a local bestseller which was sent around the world.

Ernest, who turned to writing after retiring from his job as a draughtsman with the GPO, was a man who loved his surroundings and knew more than them than most.

During the Second World War he did vital work in Norwich designing and planning underground cables.

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His first foray into the world of publishing came in 1991 when he wrote a book chronicling the history of the magnificent Costessey Hall, the once-palatial Norfolk home of the Stafford Jerningham family.

Ernest then set about providing a detailed record of the of the old buildings still standing in the village - it turned out to be a labour of love and a project which took him seven years to complete.

'Sonny went to all of the houses featured in the book and spoke to most of the residents. It was a big project but one which he loved doing,' said his brother Brian who made sure the book was published after Ernest had been taken ill.

He explained his brother had copied many old photographs of Costessey from the Norwich Central Library before the blaze that destroyed the building in 1994.

Those pictures, which would have been lost forever, have now been saved.

All of Old Costessey's streets and landmarks appear in the book in which Ernest takes us on a journey through time looking at how his beloved village has changed over the decades.

Noted in the Domesday Book as Costesela and in the Norwich Record Office as Cofsey, Cossie and Cossese this place had a glorious history and his book has a major role to play in telling that story.

Apart from writing Ernest also loved to paint - his Norfolk landscapes were much admired - and make wine.

After suffering a stroke his final years were spent at Larchwood Residential Home where the loving care and thoughtfulness of the staff along with regular visits from brother Brian, made his last years bearable.

'To the end Ernest never lost his sense of humour and always had a twinkle in his clear blue eyes,' said his niece Rosalind.

It was a fitting honour that a road, Ernest Cage Avenue, was named in his honour.

His funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Wednesday February 17 at 11am.

The books, Costessey: A Look into the Past and the one on Costessey Hall by Ernest G Cage are still on sale in Jarrold and at the Costessey Post Office.

Did You Know?

On this day in Norfolk of 1807 heavy snows cut off the county from the rest of the country and mail coaches overturned on icy roads.

On this day in 1858 a 14-year-old girl claimed to have had visions of the Virgin Mary near Lourdes in south-west France. Bernadette Soubirous said she saw the Mother of Christ 18 times in a grotto in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

On this day in 1976 ice skater John Curry win the first-ever gold medal for figure skating.

On this day in 1983 Dennis Nilsen was accused of murdering 14 to 16 young men at his flat in north London.

On this day in 1990 Nelson Mandela walked to freedom after 26 years in jail for his opposition to South Africa's white racist regime. His message was one of peace, democracy and freedom.