George RUSSELL, born 1913
Recorded by Jean Folkard and published in the Newsletter during 1996-7 George is now (2001) eighty-seven and lives in Sudbury.
Part 1: Some memories of Elmswell and my life there from about 1916-34
I was born in 1913 at the Lion Inn and in 1916 when my father was called up into the Army we moved to the lonely cottages (about 2 miles from the centre of Elmswell) at Eastwood Lane, not far from Eastwood Farm and Cubitts Hall.
I remember there were German Prisoners of War working on the land – they would come to ask Mother for water – I never did know if she was afraid! Daisy Abbott was the post lady at the time and she would chain her cycle to the gate while she walked across the meadow to Eastwood, fearing the bike might get ‘pinched’ by one of the prisoners.
There were Royal Flying Corps experimental biplanes on the grass strip of the airfield and Army horses in the meadows, as Eastwood Farm was requisitioned by the Government. My mother and her neighbour, Ada King, carted wood from Eastwood for the open grate, on which they would cook ‘horse beans’ – these were like broad beans; food was very short at the time. Despite the war the Suffolk Hunt carried on fox hunting and Bobby King and I used to open gates for them for a copper – or even sometimes a sixpence. I started school in 1918 and Miss Durrant, whose father was a harness maker, was my teacher. They lived at the corner of Grove Lane and Ashfield Road, opposite Boby’s Bat Factory. George Borley had to look after me on my first day at school. It was a long walk there and sometimes Mr and Mrs Barker would give us a lift home in their pony and trap, also sometimes Jim George would offer us a lift into the village, but we were a bit scared to accept – he was a big man and a horse slaughterer by trade, so his cart always smelt of horses carcasses, which we didn’t like very much.
At the end of the war we celebrated on the meadow in School Road which was then a playing field owned by Mr Mark Harrison. Vera Borley carried the flag. The Baptist Sunday School which I attended was in Ashfield Road, the teachers were Ruth Borley, Harry Pearson, Norman Mulley and Jack Fenton. I still have my Bible and Sunday School prizes we were given for good attendances. Our Sunday School treat was a trip by horse and waggon to Mr Barker or Mr Miles’ farm at Great Ashfield, where we had sports and a tea. I won a tortoiseshell-handled penknife one year for running. My mother took it away for safe keeping and I didn’t see it for about fifty years but I have it again now.
When my father returned from the Army he seemed a bit like an intruder or stranger, as I had only seen him occasionally on trips to Chichester when he was on leave. Work was scarce for the men returning from the war and most of them did casual work on the farms, my father walked miles with the threshing machine which was owned by the Bacon Factory. Joe Meekings was the driver. Later on my father bought a pony and cart and we were able to visit UncleTom who ran the Old Angel pub in Bury, Uncle Alf who ran the Dove in Hospital Road and my grandparents, who lived next door to the Dove.
On one occasion my father was walking to school with me when we saw a carter in trouble with his horses near the bat factory – they were pulling a loaded road waggon and slipped whilst still in the shafts. Father sat on one horse’s head and held the other one down to stop them struggling, whilst the carter fetched sawdust from the factory to put on the road so they could get a grip and get going again. They were taken to Warren’s the blacksmith for frost nails to be put in their shoes.
On cold days Mrs Faiers from the Baker’s Shop would send a bucket of hot cocoa over to the school – Amy Farrow used to bring it over. Otherwise we had to take cold tea or lemonade and sandwiches for our lunch at school. Another memory of those years was a fire in Pye’s Timber Yard which my father took me to see.
In 1922 we moved to the Railway Tavern in School Road. Mr Pearson moved us with his horse and waggon. So then I was able to go home for my dinner; I made new friends – Wally Mulley and Reg Matthews and we used to explore the railway and the Bacon Factory! The first walk I went with them was down Penny Lane and on to Norton Wood. It must have been spring time as the wood and the embankment were full of primroses and violets. Later on we used to go to the wood to gather nuts, to the railway line for wild strawberries, Church meadows for mushrooms, Haughley Park for sweet chestnuts and Woolpit Wood for lily of the valley.
I remember some of the other boys at school – Dan King, Jack Goymer, Stanley Clarke, Stanley Kisbee, Fred and Ron Cardy, Alec Buckle, Charlie Lambourne and Eddy Bruce. Several of us were in the Church choir and attended the Sunday School – the teacher was Miss Brand. We boys in the choir were able to go to the Rectory to use the billiard table and tennis courts. Revd Sayer also had a wireless set with earphones; when he changed this for a set with a speaker Eddy Bruce and I went to the Rectory just to hear Big Ben strike 1pm. Sometimes we boys would go to the Rectory on Sunday nights to listen to a play on the radio. Our Choir supper was held in the Church School and our summer outing was a train journey to Gt. Yarmouth; the Sunday School always went to Ipswich by train and then on to Felixstowe by paddle steamer….
In 1926, Greene King the Bury brewers were updating their fire engines; Elmswell was presented with their old vertical steam-driven fire engine. Before this the village had to rely on a horse-drawn manual pump from Woolpit. The presentation was on a Saturday afternoon and there was a display of the engine by the Brewery Brigade. The engine was then housed at The Fox and drawn by Bert Miller’s lorry. The Elmswell Brigade Captain was Harry Baker, the engine driver was Bill Jacob.
One fire I remember them attending was in Hawk End Lane at a pair of thatched cottages occupied by the Farrow and Armstrong families . The engine stood in Mulley’s Meadow where there was a large pond, the same meadow where the ceremonies were held the day the engine arrived in the village. Water was pumped from the pond to a large tank half way down the lane and then by Woolpit’s manual pump to the fire.
Once a year there would be a timber sale in the Tavern yard. The timber arrived at the station and was then carted to the Tavern by Johnny Miller’s horse drawn transport – ‘Soldier’ was an ex-army horse. The sale was conducted by Charlie Freeman, an auctioneer from St Ives; Teddy Elliston was the porter and sorted the timber into lots before the sale, then as it was sold off he labelled it with the buyers’ name. My father always bought several lots and I helped make it up into chicken coops and runs. This interest in making things led to Charlie Buckle (head horseman at Elmswell Hall) asking me to make him a new ‘tuttle box’. He explained that it was his job to draw out the furrow for the day-ploughmen to work to – the tutt1e box fitted on the chains with which the horses pulled the plough and kept the horses apart so Charlie could see to draw a straight furrow. I made it by copying the old one – I have never heard of a ‘tuttle box’ before or since that occasion.
I can well remember the airships – R100 and R101 from Cardington and R33 and R34 from Pulham Market in Norfolk (the ‘Pulham Pigs’) flying over. News of the R101 crash was brought to the village about 12 hours after the event by Martha Rose, whose family lived in a cottage next to the shop in School Road. At that time she was in service in Ipswich and came home for her Sunday half day off, arriving at about 3pm. The ship had been en route from Cardington to India and crashed in France in the early hours of Sunday morning with a heavy loss of life.
Emma King was everybody’s friend and helper in the early 1920’s. She acted as midwife at many births in the village, including mine. She also laid out the bodies of people who died at home. I remember her comforting my little brother one night when he was only one year old and had a hernia. Dr. Woods arranged his admission to Anglesea Road Hospital in Ipswich; Eric Parsk drove my parents and the baby in the Model T Ford hired from Hitchcock’s Garage near the station.
Life was not without its lighter moments – one day Emma, who with her husband ‘Boxer’ lived at the corner of Rose Lane and School Road, cooked a meat pudding in a cloth, which she stood outside the back door to cool. The back gate, in Rose Lane, was open and Gilbert Warren’s black retriever got scent of the pudding, picked it up in its cloth and made off with it down School Road, just as Emma was about to take it indoors. I was standing on the corner at the time and saw it happen.
In 1928, just before I left school, Mr J W Henderson (Jock) started a Boy Scout troop in the village; Mrs Henderson ran a Cub group, assisted by Billy Farrow. Reg Porter was Troop Leader and I led Hawk Patrol. We met in the Church School once a week, and Joe Kemp and Bill Ellmore (Elmer?) being patrol leaders. When we were presented with our colours we were joined by Scouts from the Stowmarket district; it was more like a military parade and was held on Mulley’s meadow. Lord Playfair of Redgrave Hall, the County Commissioner, made the presentation which was followed by a church parade in a packed church. We raised money from concerts, etc. to buy equipment and the first camp of the year was the Stowmarket District camp at Haughley Park. Then, at Whitsun, we held our own camp at Elmswell New Hall, owned then by Mr and Mrs Legge who did a lot for the Scouts. They supplied the tea on our first evening and it was served by their servants. Attending these camps started my interest in birdwatching; I saw a pair of long-eared owls near New Hall and heard nightingales over the front park.
Other camps we attended were at Westerfield for the County Camp, Nowton Court, Normanston Park Lowestoft and Stowlangtoft Park, then owned by Lady Amherst of Hackney. This was the only place I ever heard a nightjar. The bigger camps we went to were at Salhouse Broad, visited by Prince George who later became Duke of Kent and the World Jamboree at Birkenhead, attended by the Chief Scout Lord Baden Powell and the then Prince of Wales who became the Duke of Windsor.
We eventually raised enough money to build a scout hut, erected just inside the Bacon Factory property, where Mr Henderson was the accountant. Where Thedwastre Close now stands we rented a meadow from Herbert Frost and had cricket and football teams, coached by Mr O J Wyatt. Oscar Durrant was cricket captain and Reg Porter the wicket keeper. Raymond Eyres and I were bowlers. When most of us reached 18/20+ and by that time had become Rover Scouts, the group slowly declined and closed down.
My first job after leaving school was at Underwood and Gibson’s garage near the station but this was a bad time for many businesses and they went under; I was lucky in finding short term work, painting council houses, strawberry picking, carrot hoeing, etc. then in 1932 I got a full time job in the curing cellars at the Bacon Factory. In the depression one of the biggest places to close down was the Silk Works at Stowmarket, where many Elmswell people were employed; several Elmswell businesses also depended on them, one of them being Cartwright’s joinery works at the old Bat Factory.
An Egg Packing Station was opened there when their business failed, Fred Euston drove the lorry; Olive Ainsworth was in charge of the poultry.
Thinking about the Bacon Factory reminded me of the hooter, a clock for the surrounding villages, depending on which way the wind was blowing and the smell which wafted over the countryside around the village. Most of the pigs were sent by rail, some were herded along the road if the farmer lived nearby, others were delivered by horse and waggon. I recall Strutt and Parker of Thorpe Morieux having 10-12 waggons, each drawn by two cart horses. They had an early start and the journey took several hours, so after delivering the pigs the first place they called at was the Railway Tavern. The horses were given their bait in their nose bags and the men were refreshed in the pub! The homeward bound in convoy – 24 horses and waggons, what a sight – and soon the advent of the lorry for such work, but that’s another story….
George’s memories of his time in the Choir and of the Revd. Sayer
In 1922 I was 8 years old and my parents took over the Railway Tavern in School Road.
The Church Sunday School was then held in the Church School, just down the road from my home. The teachers were the two Miss Brands and the Rector, the Revd. Joe Sayer used to come and give a short talk and an invitation to attend the Church services, which we did – and soon we were asked to join the Church Choir. And this is how we also came to be invited to spend time at the Rectory (now Hill Court).
At that time the boys in the choir were Eddie Bruce, Charlie Lambourne, Jack Goymer, George Bruce, my brother Joe, Dan King, Wally Miller, Stanley Clarke, Stanley Kisbel, Ted Nicholls and some older ones whose names I don’t recall. Most of us lived in the School Road, New Road, area.
Belonging to the Choir had its rewards – the outing to Gt Yarmouth by train once a year was one. This was soon after the first World War and money was scarce, so a trip to the seaside, with the Amusement Park, Hippodrome, Circus and Woolworths(!) was a great adventure.
Another reward was the Choir Supper at Christmas and throughout the year we all had an open invitation to the Rectory.
A bachelor, Revd. Sayer had several hobbies – photography was one – I have several photos taken by him, in particular one of the Handbell Ringers. We used to ring at local fetes as well as in the Church.
As well as the full sized billiard table which we were allowed to use, there were two tennis courts and we could also play bowls and croquet. There was a village tennis club; we couldn’t afford to join, but we were allowed to be ball boys.
The Rector always had a manservant; I can remember Jim Bloomfield, Joe Bloomfield, Willy Redit, Cyril Robinson, Cecil Cooper and Lance Scutcher.
At one time the Rector had a belt-driven 2-stroke motor cycle which some of the older boys used to ride round the driveway. In about 1928 he bought an Austin Seven car, which Cecil Cooper drove.
The Rectory was the place where I first heard a wireless, through ‘Cat’s whiskers’ and earphones. On a Sunday night it was a great privilege to be asked to the Rectory to hear a play on the radio – there were sometimes as many as 25 of us there. Sometimes Eddie Bruce and I would go to the Rectory at dinnertime to hear Big Ben strike lpm. Also at one time the Rector paid for a violin tutor to come from Stowmarket to give some of us lessons.
Besides belonging to the Choir, most of us belonged to the Boy Scouts, but when Revd. Sayer moved to Whepstead most of our activities centred around the Church and Rectory gradually folded up. But this was a very happy time for those of us who were boys in Elmswell in the 1920’s.
By special request a few notes on Rose Lane in the 1920’s
On the left hand side going down the lane there are two pairs of cottages; in the first lived Roy Kemp, a Woolpit man, who was cowman at Elmswell Hall, for Mr Mark Harrison; in about 1925 the cottage was bought by Charlie Bloomfield, who also worked at Elmswell Hall and moved from the Farm Cottages in school road, then lived in by his daughter and son in law, Dan Hurst. Next door was the home of Fred Scase; when Fred had to give up full time work he became the rat catcher at the Hall – I think he was paid 1d a tail; he also collected wild rose briars from the hedgerows during the Autumn and Winter. They had to be straight, about 4ft tall, with a good root. These were sold to nurserymen who budded standard roses onto them. The Old Age Pension when it arrived must have been a godsend to old men like Fred and I guess he was probably one of the first to receive it. The Workhouse still loomed large in the minds of people of his generation and any small amount of earnings was vital to keep men in their own homes.
The first cottage of the second pair was home to Albert (Totty) Scase who worked for Mulley Bros. Builders. At the other end lived Johnny Miller, who did haulage works with horses – he also had his yard and stables there. Later when Johnny bought his first lorry, his son Bert came home to drive it for his father and lived next door with his family. It was a Ford lorry with a canvas top and sides and during the week carried tar barrels or pigs, then after a good scrub wooden seats would be put in at the weekend to transport the local football team. Some of the local footballers of the day were Jack Sparrow, Alf Wade, Fred and Charlie Armstrong, Archie Piper, Albert Fuller, Charlie Leggett, Edward Elliston, Walter Gould, Herbert Redit, just to mention a few.
After his father’s death Bert carried on the business and moved into his father’s house.
Percy Finch moved into Bert’s old house; he worked at the Bacon Factory.
On the right hand side of the lane was Rose Cottage, home of Ephraim Collett and his family – he was a brick layer. The Orchard which ran up to School Road was always known as Collett’s Orchard. In the boundary fence next to the chapel there were four tall poplar trees and nearer the corner about 20 yards off the road stood a very large sycamore tree.
Rose Cottage and the orchard – that is, all the land on the right hand side of the lane, and the field at the end of the lane up to the Top Road as it was known then, was once all owned by Woolpit Brick Works and that is where they laid the track for the light steam railway, across School Road and on to the railway sidings. After the field was bought and the track laid, the rest was let as allotments and a footpath made across them to Top Road. When the brick works stopped using the railway I have been told they sold the two steam engines to Chivers Jams, at Histon, Cambs. Rose Cottage was then purchased by F J Nunn & Son (Agricultural Engineers).
Hawk End Lane and the people who lived there in the 1920’s and 30’s…
The properties at that time were a mixture of lath and plaster thatched cottages and brick cottages with tiled roofs; the lane was not ‘made up’, there was no sewer, piped water or electricity. It was a busy lane, being a short cut to the Bacon Factory and to the Hall (perhaps it was once Hall Lane?) and at night it would be quite normal to meet someone carrying a pail of water or driving a horse and cart with only a candle or hurricane lamp to light the way.
150 years ago it would have been just a quiet lane; then work started on the railway line and not only did the main line steam trains run behind the cottages but the light railway also passed through, laden with Woolpit bricks.
Editor’s note: for ease of recognition on the map the houses have been numbered from the left as you enter Hawk End Lane from School Road – note that these are not postal-address numbers!
l. A small shop which sold sweets and tobacco. I remember Mrs Hawes, Mrs Clarke and then Mr Elliston owning this shop.
2. Occupied by Harry (Dodger) Robinson – a horseman for Archie Barker, Street Farm.
3. The home of Harry Parr who worked for Mulley Bros Builders, as a carter, delivering materials by horse drawn van to the various building sites
4.5.6. belonged to Hitchcocks, Flour Millers, Crown Mill.
4. Was also at one time a butchers’ shop, run by a Mr Cooper; then by the Goymer family and then Fred Cardy. He and Mr Goymer worked at Crown Mill.
5. Bill Kerry, a carpenter for Mulley Bros lived here.
6. Cecil Wright, another mill worker, lived here.
7/8 This pair of cottages was occupied by Abram Dew, a horseman for Jim George of Willow Farm and next door by Edgar Artiss, a miller at Crown Mill.
9. Was a bungalow at one time occupied by Gus Read, a roundsman for Hicks and Faiers, Bakers, School Road. After that an elderly brother and sister – whose surname was Theobald, lived here; they had a donkey and cart.
10. Was burned down and in the garden was an old railway carriage where George Adams lived. George was blinded in an accident involving a steam threshing tackle and he learned the craft of basket making to earn his living. Mrs Farrow who lived opposite looked after George; she also took in washing and George used to help by turning the handle of the box mangle which was situated near his railway carriage.
11/12. This red brick pair of cottages was owned by the Elliston family. John Cater lived at 11 – he was a farm worker; later, Bill Elliston moved here from the thatched cottage in Farm Meadow.
Next door lived Alfred Pegg, who worked for Newson, Corn and Coal Merchants (now Jewers).
The next pair of cottages was owned by Robert Pye, the timber merchant,
13. Was the home of Elijah Wright, who worked for Pyes and 14. by Albert (Totty) Scase who worked for Mulley Bros.
We continue from the house on the far right of the lane:
15. Which was the home of Charlie Clarke, a plate layer on the railway – he lived next door to (16) Ann Curtis, a single lady who had a lodger, usually someone who worked at the Bacon Factory.
17/18. Were owned by John Leatherdale who lived at The Chestnuts, School Road. He farmed Elmswell Hall at the time. Albert Scase – a horse shunter on the railway lived in 17, moving to 13 when the Leatherdales employed a chauffeur and needed the cottage for him. Mr Goodwin, who worked at The Hall lived in 18. By this time he was disab1ed and housebound; he had a housekeeper called Mrs Boatman, who looked after the large garden – always full of flowers and vegetebles.
The footpath to the factory was between 18 and 19. 19/20 were thatched and Jim (Buck) Armstrong, a farm worker, lived there; Fred Farrow owned the cottages and lived at 20. He worked at the Bacon Factory. In about 1930 the houses caught fire, probably caused by sparks from a passing steam train. Although the Elmswell Steam Powered Fire Engine and the Woolpit Manual pump were on hand to pump water from New Road to a tank near 28/29, the houses were destroyed. They were replaced by a bungalow and Fred Farrow lived in it.
21. Was owned by the widow of George Nicholls, a signalman at the station.. Their son (also George) lived there when he retired from Liverpool St Station where he was a booking clerk.
22. Was thatched; it was occupied by Mrs Gould (grandmother to Mr R Eyres).
23/24. The cottage nearest the lane used to be thatched but was tiled in about 1930. Another Farrow family lived there; the son, Spencer and the daughters Amy and Mabel all worked for Faiers the Bakers. ‘Shrimp’ King lived in the other cottage. He was a hurdle maker and cut broaches for Louis Borley in the winter; in summer he was a thatcher, going from farm to farm to thatch corn and hay stacks.
25/26. The Franklin family lived nearest the lane and George King in the other one. He worked at Elmswell Hall.
The next house (27) stood in its own grounds, with a large garden in front, a meadow and stables, etc. at the back. Harry Pearl, Egg and Poultry dealer, lived there. He had two horses and carts and employed two people – Clem Hardingham and Percy Manning.
The next pair of large cottages (28/29) were owned by Fred Borley of Green Farm. Bob Manning worked for Woolnough (farmer); his sister Rosie (at one time postwoman) lived there too with her husband Freddie Rice, who was a van salesman at the Bacon Factory. He had previously worked for Hicks, bakers and Jacobs Bicycle shop. He was also a very good cricketer. The Rice family later moved to Cross Street; Rosie and Fred met when Rosie was in service at Woodstock, Ashfield Road.
The other side was the home of Bill Bennett. He used to brew his own wine; later he moved to No 18, where he built a garden shed. He also built himself a handcart in the shed, but not until it was finished did he realise it was too big to go through the door. He had to remove one side of the shed to get the cart out!
Memories of Elmswell (continued)
Amongst some photos which I treasure is one taken by Dan Hurst in about 1927 . There are three of us in this black end white print, Edward Bruce my school mate, who died as a Prisoner of War in Japanese hands in World War II, Fred Cardy and myself – it was taken just before we left school – we were sitting on a five-barred gate which led into the meadow off Penny Lane (shown as Parnell Lane on OS maps).
About ten years ago I looked at this photo and decided to return to Elmswell to have a look at Penny Lane. but first of all I wrote down some things I remembered about it.
When we lived in School Road we would walk down past the school and turn right into the road to Elmswell Hall. Just before the railway line, on the left, is Penny Lane, running down to the small stream which crosses the lane. The meadow where we sat on the gate was on the left and in Spring, Summer and Autumn it was always full of cows. Mr Mark Harrison who owned the Hall kept a large herd of dairy cows.
On the other side of the lane was a smaller meadow, tapering off towards the railway embankment. This was used in Spring and Summer for mares and foals, as it was horse power on the farms in those days. There were about 24 working horses, all bred on the farm.
Both sides of the lane were bounded by hedges end trees, the banks would be covered by primroses end violets in the Spring, the hedge full of birds’ nests. The railway bank also was a mass of spring flowers and later on, wild strawberries. The lane led to the Fox and Goose via Elmswell New Hall and out on to the Norton Road. A familiar sight in this area was the Suffolk Hunt – they would meet at the station, then ride out towards Norton Wood, along Penny Lane.
There were hundreds of hens running free round the meadows – Mr Harrison owned these and they had a large hut for roosting sited on a piece of spare land near the railway line.
Crossing the stream we came to the thatched Layer Barn, where bullocks were penned and fattened; then down a bridle path to New Hall. This was a very pretty walk; we could pick wild flowers then and we schoolboys thought it was paradise – trains, birds nests, flowers, fruits, foxes, rabbits and so on to look at. Poachers liked the lane too, as did courting couples!
Dan Hurst’s parents lived at the Hall Cottage – Bob Hurst was farm foreman; one of Dan’s jobs was to take the morning’s milk to the station in milk churns on a pony-drawn float, to catch the 8.45am train to London Liverpool Street, a journey of 21/4 hrs. Most goods and people travelled by train then and Dan used to pick up people’s luggage and take it to the station for them. The pony and float, with full churns of milk, name boards each side painted ‘Mark Harrison, Elmswell Hall Dairy’, the harness shining and immaculate, was a familiar and popular sight.
Dan is on the cart, and the horse is held by his brother-in-law, Joe Bloomfield. [Photo lent by Jenny Clarke, Dan’s daughter.]
Reaching the point in Penny Lane where the photo had been taken I knew I should never have returned! All the meadows, cattle, horses, hens, gone – as were trees, hedges and the five barred gate. Ditches have been filled in and the stream diverted; just two large oaks remained where the poultry huts used to be – the embankment was covered in scrub. All the cattle yards, sheds, barns and willow trees were gone – what a disappointing visit….but we must be thankful for photographs and the ability to recall how things used to be …….So, forty or so years on I came back, parked my car at my old home, The Railway Tavern and walked down School Road, shortly before the school was demolished. I saw for the first time the new Fire Station and Pightle Close; I realised Darkie Scase and Billy Fuller’s thatched cottages had been knocked down, and began to think perhaps I had made a mistake in making this sentimental journey.
As promised, a short piece about Farm Meadow as it was in the 1920’s
The meadow was in School Road, nearly opposite the Railway Tavern – the boundary hedge, about 100 yards long, contained two large elms and a horse chestnut tree. The entrance to the meadow was by a stile and a five-barred gate. On the left side it was bordered by the gardens of the two cottages which still stand endways to the road. There were a lot of buildings at the back and front of these cottages, used to keep pigs and chickens. The large barn that stood on the right of the cottages was used to store machines that were not in frequent use on the farm – binders, grass cutters, seed drills, etc. Through the five-barred gate was a footpath across the meadow, leading to the thatched cottage which stands on its own at the far end.
All the cottages, meadow and buildings belonged to Mr Mark Harrison of the Hall. In the cottages lived Charlie Buckle, who was head horseman and Charlie Bloomfield who was a cowman. Attached to the end of the barn was a large stable, which Bill Elliston used to keep pigs in. At the right of the boundary was the bake house – Mr Faiers used the meadow to graze his horses there during the sumner.
The school children used this meadow as a playing field; in the winter time when the pond froze over they would slide on it on their way to school. Mr Henry Stern, the headmaster used to ring the bell at five minutes to nine to make sure they were all in on time.
Travelling fairs, with a showman’s engine and horse drawn vehicles used to stop on the meadow for a few days sometimes. Also, the County Council used to stand their steam roller there (the driver was Percy Clarke) and the steam haulage road engine, which towed two trucks (driver Freddy Randall).
I often wonder why it was called Farm Meadow; with its large barn and numerous outbuildings with the cottages which could have been a farmhouse divided into two, could it ever have been the Home Farm to Elmswell Hall?
So today – the meadow has gone, the pond has been drained and there is the fire station and some houses – and our memories!
The demise of the five-barred gate – not an ancient monument or a thing of great beauty, but it served its purpose very well! Every field, meadow, bullock and horse yard had one, in the days when the horse was the main source of power. They were about nine feet wide, wide enough then for all farm vehicles and machinery; made of hardwood by the carpenter, with hinges made by the village blacksmith. They were tarred or creosoted and would last for years.
It was a familiar sight to see the farmer, resting his arms on the top of the gate, looking at his crops or cattle. People out for a walk would use them to rest on, especially courting couples – and poachers would use the gate to set snares and nets. This would be done at night and the dog sent off to drive hares and rabbits towards the nets fixed to the gate. The gamekeeper and the local policeman would always check all gates on his beat, learning a lot by looking at the bottom of the gate to see if there were footprints of vermin rats, weasels, stoats, etc., also there might be fox fur left on the bottom bar where he had squeezed through. So the five barred gate is yet another part of country life which has largely disappeared.
Transport and Trade in the years 1914-1929
Last month’s notes ended with the coming of the lorry, so this month the memories will be about transport and trade in the village as I remember it. I have arranged it alphabetically rather than chronologically, but it refers to the years 1914-1929.
Agricultural Repairs were carried out by Nathan Warren’s Foundry, Blacksmiths and Wheelwrights Works – in Ashfield Road, where Thurlow Nunn Standen’s works are now located. When the firm was owned by Frank Nunn it was one of the first to go out to farms during harvest to repair sailers and self-tying binders. Herbert Armstrong was the mechanic and he travelled round by horse and cart. ‘Nunn’s’ also had a pair of steam ploughs, Walter Waller Jnr. and Snr. were the drivers. Bill Rosier in Warren Lane did contract ploughing with a Fordson tractor and John Miller, Rose Lane did haulage work with horses. He also undertook ploughing as did Bill Goode at Bunkers Hill Farm. Other people who did contract farm work were Tom Woolnough, and Fred Borley.
Allotments: These were situated between Rose Lane and Church Road; Station Allotments near Globe Cottages; Ashfield Road opposite Eastwood Lane and between New Road and Cooks Road.
Bacon Factory: Started in 1911 as a farmer’s co-operative and for many years the largest employer in the area.
Bakers: Hicks, Faiers and Clarke followed one another into the same premises opposite the Railway Tavern in School Road. (See photo in Newsletter, March 1996). They all used horses and carts to do their rounds. Frank Clarke baked bread at the bake office at the Railway Tavern; he was also the landlord, later on when Fred Russell was landlord, Henry Barnes rented the bake office from him and was the last baker to use it.
Banks: On Fridays mornings only, the Midland Bank was at the Fox Hotel. Barclays Bank were in Station Road, in a room in Fred Armstrong’s house, Lloyds Bank were in Station Road in a room at Fred Cardy’s.
Basket maker: After his own cottage was burned down, George Adams lived in a converted railway carriage in Hawk End Lane (recently moved – to Brockford? JF) George was blinded in a threshing accident and was taught basket making; Mrs Fred Farrow looked after him.
Bat factory: This was in Ashfield Road opposite Grove Lane; the willow was bought in and cut into the rough shape of cricket bats, then sent away for finishing. The two workers who lived in the cottages were P Wretham and I Sparrow. The works later beceme a joinery, an egg-packing station, Tate and Lyle depot, and is now M&G Home Care Ltd.
Blacksmith’s: As mentioned earlier under Agricultural Merchants, Warren and then Nunn in Ashfield Road – Ted Nicholls and Albert Davey were the shoesmiths and the wheelwrights were Edgar Oxborrow and Bob Nunn.
Other blacksmiths – Herbert Redit and his son ‘Punny’, New Road.
Builders: Mulley Bros., Cooks Road were the largest builders in the village; they were also Funeral Directors. They employed about 15 men and Walter Parr was the carter, driving a four-wheeled van pulled by a piebald horse. Other builders were Bert Mulley in Ashfield Road, John Borley in Ashfield Road, Arthur Mulley in New Road and Alan Fayers in Wetherden Road.
Butchers: There were several in the village as well as others from the surrounding area who delivered in the village. Those in Elmswell were Cooper in Hawk End Lane, Elliston in School Road, H Miller at Hill Farm, Basham and Dawson from the premises adjoining the General Stores at Shop Corner. From other villages came – F Morley of Woolpit, D George of Gt Ashfield and Stowmarket Co-op. Bill Elliston was a ‘back door butcher’ and would kill and dress a pig on your own premises.
Carpenters: Wally Mulley and Herbert Nunn.
Carriers: Everett, Tom Welham, S Clarke.
Castrater (Pigs) !: Charlie Bloomfield
Cattle Dealers: W Morley, Crossways Farm; his horse drawn cattle float was a regular sight to and from the farm to Elmswell Station. On market days he could be seen driving his pony and trap full gallop up School Road so he could catch the 8.45 train; he put up his pony at the Fox and if he was a bit pushed for time and the gates were already across when he arrived he would leave the pony, knowing that someone, a porter or the gate boy, would take it to the Fox to await his return.
Chimney Sweep: Tom Welham, who lived in School Road; he was quite a character – on his hand cart where he carried his brushes and all the soot he had an old clock with no hands – underneath was written ‘no tick here now’.
Coal Merchants: Newson and then O C Jewers, Moy, Pearce, Barnes and Horace Kerridge (Lion Public House). These all had coal brought in by rail and sold from the station or delivered to householders.
Cycle Agents and Repairs: Willy Nunn had a shop opposite the Fox, which he later sold to W F Jacob. W Nunn then started a shop in Ashfield Road which he sold to Hubert Scase. W Rosier was in Warren Lane and Percy Hitchcock at Station Garage, which he sold to Underwood and Gibson.
Cycle Hire: Jacob’s Cycle Shop and Bob Nunn, Ashfield Road
Cyclists’ Rest: People from surrounding villages would leave cycles at Bridges’ Shop near the station when going somewhere by train.
Dentist: Mr Oliver from Stowmarket attended half a day each week at Aldridge’s empty tailor shop in Station Road.
Dog Trainer: Denny Smith who lived next to the Lion Public House trained dogs for the Waterloo Cup.
Egg and poultry dealers: Harry Pearl (Hawk End Lane) collected eggs, bought and dressed poultry, packed them and sent them by train to London and Birmingham. Percy Manning and Clem Hardingham worked for him, doing the collections with a horse and cart.
Mr Flowers started an egg collection round also, using a barn at the Oak Public House; as the business grew it moved on to Hoods Farm, New Road and later became Rannochs.
Farms: There were many farms and smallholdings and some of these will feature in a later article.
Furniture and Antiques: There were at least two dealers – Mr C Bridges who with his wife ran a sweet shop near the station (which also sold newspapers) and a Mr Barrell who lived in Oak Lane.
Garage: The Station Garage was started by Percy Hitchcock; George Everitt and Eric Parsk worked there. Underwood and Gibson owned this later on; the first (hand-operated) petrol pumps in the area were situated there. Others who worked there were George Rose, Ron Miller, Percy and Dudley Cocksedge, John Avery, Ken Borley, George Russell, Raymond Eyres, Joe Hart and Arthur Smith. The business folded in 1931.
The Fox Hotel – the beer used to be delivered by rail when the hotel was owned by Charringtons. Landlords I remember – R Baber and C Keene . The Club room was used by the Royal and Ancient Order of Buffaloes and the Oddfellows Club for meetings and functions.
Hairdressers: A Mr Kay opened a shop in Wetherden Road but other barbers (self taught) were Fred Farrow, Cross Street and Teddy Elliston, School Road.
Hardware: Bill (Tanner) Brinkley from Norton with his horse drawn flat four-wheeled trolley served the village with everything from pots and pans, paraffin, candles, stove and boot polish, pails, brushes, Sunlight and carbolic soap to china and pudding basins, etc. (His house is opposite Norton Village Hall – my Mother says it always had a lovely smell! – JF). Hopgoods also delivered similar items by motor van.
Harness Maker: Mr Durrant at the corner of Grove Lane. He also repaired boots and shoes. His son and then his grandson, Oscar, carried on the business which later moved to Wetherden Road. Clem Hardingham also did boot and shoe repairs and his speciality was putting new solid tyres on prams.
(PS. In the 1930’s my Uncle Frank (Green) had a small shop opposite what is now Thurlow Nunn’s – this was an extension of his shoe repairing business at Norton – sometimes my Mother came over to look after this shop. Later it became a men’s hairdressers owned by Bert…? JF).
Haulage Contractor: Johnny Miller, Rose Lane; did his work with horses, contracting for the council, carting tar for road repairs. Then he had a 1-ton Model T Ford Truck which also served as a bus. Bert Miller was the van driver, Sid Piper worked with the horses……..
Income Tax Collector: Mr Harry Kinsey, Cooks Road.
Inns: During the early 1900’s there were several Inns in the village. Greene King owned the Oak at Ashfield Road-Oak Lane corner, where the landlord was Bill Collard; The Lion (now The Beeches) in Station Road was also a Greene King house and the landlord was my father, Fred Russell. I was born here in 1913; when my father went into the Army, W Balls took over as licensee, then W Jacob. It closed in about 1927/8. The Railway Tavern (now Greene King) was previously owned by Olivers of Sudbury and in about 1920 my father took over from Frank Clarke, until 1951.
Joinery Works: Powered by steam, Cartwrights, at the old Bat Factory (now M & G Homecare) made gates, mangers, poultry houses etc., and at one time employed between 100-200 men. Bob Jenny was the foreman and his daughter Hilda was the first lady carpenter I ever heard of. Fred Cardy was stoker/engineer and Fred Redit and Len Cardy were two of the drivers of the 1 ton Model-T Ford. Hit by the recession, the works closed in 1933.
Medicine: Woolpit doctors generally looked after most of the people in Elmswell, Drs Orby Wood, Hardwick and Shand are those I remember. Dr Bird from Norton also had a few patients here as did Dr Pinard from Walsham-le-Willows – he carried his own dispensary in his car.
The problem of how to collect your medicines from the surgery was solved by a lady called Eva Armstrong. She herself was not very robust but nevertheless walked to Woolpit twice daily, summer and winter alike, to collect prescriptions and deliver them, free of charge, to people in Elmswell. The District Nurse (Nurse Phelan) also lived in Woolpit and did her rounds on a bicycle. The Nurse seldom managed to reach Elmswell quickly enough to deliver babies, but Emma King (née Plummer) could be relied upon to do this; she also laid out the dead.
Milkmen: Joss Rushbrook from Wetherden served the village from a horse-drawn float; equipped with a large can and all the necessary ladles and measures, the quantity required was poured straight into the jug. Fred and Louis Borley sold milk from the farm and others who delivered were Blenco of Drinkstone, Ticehurst Farm Tostock, Wetherden Hall Farm, Bill Goode and Ted Woolnough from Bunkers Hill Farm, and Dyball of Willow Farm. Clem Knott from Hoods Farm did his milk round on a bike!
Mills: Hitchcock’s (Crown Mill) was a flour and grist mill and ran day and night during the First World War. The manager was a Mr Whymark and Cecil Wright the foreman. Bakers, Station Road, were grist millers, George Bull was the miller and J Cooper the carter. Pearce’s in the station yard was also a grist mill; Bob King and Charlie Manning were the millers.
Newspapers: Daily papers were sold by Mrs Bridges at the sweet and tea shop near the station and later W H Smith started a bookstall on the station. ‘Pigeon’ Mulley and Dan King delivered the papers. On Sunday the papers arrived by rail and were delivered by George Waylett (Snr) of Tostock, by horse and cart.
Petrol pumps were situated at Underwood and Gibson’s Station Garage; later on petrol was available from the Garage at what is now The Beeches.
Police: The Police Station was in Ashfield Road – the policemen I remember were PC Lillistone (Gimble Eye) and PC Porter.
Pound: The village pound was where stray animals were penned until they were claimed and was situated in Station Road, next to the Fox Hotel yard. This was village property and it will probably remain one of life’s little mysteries as to how it was acquired by a private owner!
Post Office: was in Ashfield Road (see photo in March 1996 issue of Elmswell Newsletter); The Postmaster was Daniel Collins – he was a churchwarden for 25 years according to the plaque in the Church. Later the Post office moved to Shop Corner where the Postmaster was ‘Tubby Dawson’.
Printers: W W Hawes’ firm, now of Cooks Road was started at the Lion Public House in Ashfield Road.
Railway: this was known as the London and North Eastern Railway; opened in 1846, the line opened up great opportunities for travel and trade in Elmswell and the surrounding villages. Farmers sent their milk and other produce by rail and things like building materials, coal, etc., were brought in. The railway company employed a lot of men – these are some of them I remember:
Station Masters – Mr Flowers, Mr March, Mr Hammond
Signalmen – Geo Nicholls, Geo Martin, Frank Kerridge, Ernie Bowles, Fred Buckle
Goods Porters – Fred Armstrong, Arthur Robinson Other Porters – C Armstrong, Vic Robinson, W Rudland
Horse Shunters – Albert Scase, Jack Sparrow [Albert lived in Hawk End Lane – see above]
Boys – they led the horses, opened and shut the gates and cleaned the lamps,
Tubby Sparrow, Reg Matthews
Booking Office Clerks, David Beer, F Filby, Fred Winchester
Platelayers and lengthmen – Geo Clarke, C Clarke, Jim Bruce, Bill Clarke, Boss Wright and David Sparrow [Charlie Clarke lived in Hawk End Lane – see above]
Goods Clerks – Mr Bixby, Mr Ainsworth
The Light Railway from Woolpit Brickworks ran via a crossing in Kiln Lane over a wooden viaduct near Kiln Farm, up the meadows beside Spong Lane, across Church Road, through the allotments and the orchard of Rose Cottage (owned by the Brick Co. ) – over School Road at the Rose Lane/Hawk End Lane crossroads, across a paddock belonging to The Laurels and thus to the railway siding. Geo (Porky) Howlett was the driver at the time of its closure in about 1920.
Rate Collector: was Austin Hassell.
Reading Room: now called the Old Tea Room – was also village property and there’s another Elmswell mystery! This was also acquired by a private owner and at one time was used by Mr Newson as a corn and coal merchants’ office and then by O C Jewers and Sons Ltd.
Registrar of Births, Deaths and Parish Relief for the District of Walsham-le-Willows – which included Elmswell, was Mr James Hassell, who lived in Ashfield Road. My birth was registered by him and I still have the certificate signed ‘James Hassell, Registrar’.
Sanitary Inspector: Mr Compton of Church Mount – his successor was Mr O J Wyatt of Buttenhaugh, Ashfield Road.
Schools: The Church School was in School Road; the teachers were Miss H Brand, Grace Wretham and Grace Brand. This school closed in about 1920. The Council School was next door – the headmaster was Mr Jimmy Wilson, followed by Mr Henry Stern. Some of the other teachers were: Mrs Wilson, Miss Durrant, Miss Johnson, Miss Goodchild, Miss Olley, Miss Russell, Miss Southgate and Miss Bradley. There were also two Private Schools – Miss C Baker at Ivy House and Miss Boby in Church Road.
Telephone: The first public telephone box was at Shop Corner – the exchange was in the Post Office – the operator there put you through and told you how much money to put in the box. Prior to this telegrams were sent or the few people with private phones might let you use their phone – e.g. Mulley Bros.
Time: During my early school days and before wireless, Elmswell people relied on the trains to tell the time – they ran to time then! – also the Bacon Factory hooter was a time signal for Elmswell and the surrounding villages.
Transport: Rail – LNER to Stowmarket and Ipswich and Liverpool Street, and Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Cambridge and the North. Buses: Eastern Counties first started a service from Bury St Edmunds to Elmswell Shop Corner and return in 1923/24; the driver was George Nunn and his brother Arthur was the conductor. The hour’s wait between trips was usually spent at the Railway Tavern! Arthur later became the landlord of The Plough at Woolpit. Later a service to Stowmarket and Ipswich was started, then it was combined with the service from Walsham through to Stowmarket.
Shops: there were too many to list here – perhaps at a later date there will be a separate article on them.
Undertaker: Mulley Bros. Cooks Road, where all the coffins were made from oak
Washing: A lot of women took in washing to help make ends meet and one I remember is Mrs Dan King of School Road.
Welldigger: Fred Whiting from Horringer was the man who dug by hand the wells in Elmswell (before piped water became available). The first thing you did when you decided to build a house was to see if there was water on the site and then send for Fred, who would cycle daily from Horringer – after the well was sunk water was drawn by chain and bucket or you could have a pump installed to feed pipes. Tubby Welham was the plumber who cycled from Stowmarket to do this, also Philip Last, from Woolpit walked here to work when needed.
Woodman: Louis Borley of Oak Farm coppiced a piece of Woolpit Wood every year during the Autumn; the cut material was sorted for making hurdles, fencing, firewood, pea sticks, bean sticks, poles and broaches for thatching. The rough brush wood was made into faggots and used for brick ovens or for lighting fires.
These are a few of George’s memories about Elmswell life between 1914/18.
Any additional information will be welcomed – J Folkard, Tel. 01359 242099
Letter from Mrs M Sayers to George Russell
Printed (with her permission) in the Newsletter of December 1996. Mrs Sayer lives in Chelmsford, and is responding to the Russell memoirs which had appeared in the Newsletter during the preceding months.
Dear Mr Russell
In conversation with one of my neighbours I discovered she had connections with Elmswell, as I do; she has a cousin still living there who sends the newsletter every month and she passes it on to me. I have been very interested in your memories of Elmswell – lots of names I remember.The last time I visited Elmswell in the 60’s my father’s cousin Jack Scase was the landlord at the Tavern. My grandparents were Mr & Mrs Fuller who lived in a thatched cottage next door to Mrs Hawes’ shop. Darkie Scase lived next door to granny and they had two children, Walter and Dorothy. My grandad worked for Moys coal merchants for years, driving the cart pulled by beautiful big horses. My father was Will Fuller and he was a signalman at the station with Mr Kerridge and Ernie Bowles.
My parents lived in the Bank House (it was a cottage and they let the front room to the Bank), from 1911-14. My brother Jack was born there in 1912. He used to come to Elmswell for his school holidays and stay with granny and grandad and Albert their son. Albert was at the Bacon Factory all his working life; he was a keen footballer, a referee and also a fireman. He died last year aged 93 and had lived at Tostock since he married in 1940. My brother Jack died 2 years ago, aged 81.
My father came and worked at Cold Norton station and we lived next door to the Filby family, whose son Fred was a booking clerk at Elmswell station. He lodged with Ernie Bowles when they lived at the White City. Ernie’s wife was related to the Filbys. She came from Maldon and that is where Ernie moved to from Elmswell; they lived in the gate house until he retired.
We used to come to Elmswell for a week each year and in the evenings after a walk round the village with my Mother and granny would go round the back of the Tavern, where there was a seat and a table and your Mother used to come out and talk to them and tell my Father and Albert they were there, for them to send out drinks for them and crisps for me.
I also remember Tom Welham the chimney sweep who lived next door to Mrs Hawes’ shop – also an old lady who was deaf and dumb; I think they called her Liza Dummy. My grandmother used to know her and could ‘converse’ with her with lots of various signs and could hear all the village gossip from her. It always fascinated me.
There have been a lot of fresh roads and shops and businesses since I was in Elmswell but your memories have been very interesting. I am sending this letter in the hope it can be forwarded to you.
Hoping this is not too boring
M Sayers (née Fuller)
P S. My neighbour is Mrs Daphne Armstrong (née Seymour)