Charles (1929-2023) & Doreen RUDLAND (nee Pearson)

Interviewed by Norman Kenyon in August 2010
at their home, Olive Cottage in Oak Lane

Charles and Doreen were both born in Elmswell and have lived here almost all their lives. They knew each other at school, were married in 1951, and for many years played a leading role in the local Baptist Church. They have four daughters: Ann, Barbara, Jean, and Christine.


Charles’ parents came to Elmswell from Colchester when his father Bill, keen to work for the railways after being de-mobbed from the army, applied for a job as porter at Elmswell station. Initially they lived in Woopit, but moved to Chapel Row, School Road, where Charles was born on 14th January 1929. Like many others he attended the local school until he was 14, and his family went to the Methodist Chapel over the road. He remembers how few cars there were then, maybe only half a dozen, so it was quite safe to bowl hoops along School Road, with no traffic problem at all until the factory hooter went – then there would be hordes of bikes going home to Woolpit and Norton. Another pastime which would be impossible these days: the lads could go round to the bacon factory and help unload pigs etc – they were even allowed to watch pigs being slaughtered.

There were opportunities for making himself useful: he did errands for Mrs Scase, wife of “Darky Scase”, who lived in ‘Pightle Cottage‘, fetching chicken feed (corn or maize) from the mill. When he was 12-13 he went to Bunkers Hill (Mr. Woolnough) to work on Saturdays: for 4d. (at first) he cleaned out the stables, chicken houses, and goat house (one had to be so careful here!); and if it was thrashing time he would help stamping the chaff, a messy job – not so bad for wheat, but barley chaff really got your socks in a mess…
For a year or so, when he was 16 years old and too young to join the Fire Brigade as a fireman, Charles served it as a “messenger boy”, manning the telephone and passing on messages.

Charles left school at 14, and worked as a warehouseman at ICI Stowmarket. However when he married Doreen there was no house to be found in Elmswell, so he took on agricultural work at Knettishall on the Norfolk border, where there was a tied cottage available, and they spent four years there. Returning to Elmswell he had one year working on Green Farm (for Doreen’s father), and then the rest of his working life in Stowmarket, first at the Garden Factory, then when the boss retired he was delivering frozen foods from the ‘successor’ company, Pullman Foods, until his retirement 15/16 yrs ago.


Doreen’s paternal grandfather Alfred Pearson, previously a coachman in Blundeston, had moved to Elmswell in about 1918 with his wife Elizabeth and son Harry (Henry), then about 16/17 years old, born in Ely. He rented Eastwood Farm, a large arable farm on the border with Great Ashfield, and Harry worked with him there, and also on three “WarAg” fields belonging to Green Farm (such fields were temporarily taken over from the owner during the war because they were not being farmed productively). Harry also farmed two little fields by Oak Lane.

Doreen’s other grandfather Isaac Sparrow, one of 12 children of David Sparrow (pictured outside the old Hovells pub in Gt Ashfield), was a sawyer at the bat factory, and his eldest daughter Mabel was born there (in the northern semi of the existing dwelling, now called Sawmills). After he died his wife Lavinia lived in No.2 Tudor Cottages.

The family attended the Baptist Chapel. In the gallery at the bottom the photo labelled “East wood 1” is of the family at East Wood – Alfred (left), Mabel, Harry, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s mum (on the binder). In the photo labelled “East wood 2” it shows Mabel (right) with her mother and siblings, in the garden of Sawmills; in the background we see Yew Tree House, which is on the other side of Ashfield Road, at the end of Grove Lane; here Miss Harriet Durrant the schoolteacher lived, with her father Robert who was a sadler – his workshop was the black barn now converted into a dwelling.
Alfred (1954) and Elizabeth (1966), Henry (1978) and Mabel (1977) are all buried in the cemetery.

Henry (Harry) Pearson married Mabel Sparrow in 1925. Wanting to live apart from his parents, Harry had the year before built a tiny single-bedroom wooden hut in the grounds of Eastwood Farm. Doreen was born at the farm on the 21st February 1930. By the time she was 7 they decided they needed a bigger place, so they moved in with Alfred & Elizabeth again while Harry knocked the hut down and built a bungalow, shown in the photo below. Her brother Leonard was born on 8th May 1945 (VE Day, so his middle name was Victor!). Doreen too went to the local school (so knew Charles slightly), but she also lent a hand on the farm, as all good farm children should. She got to drive a tractor at the tender age of 10 – she was allowed 10 days a year off school on a signed card. She reckons it was a happy childhood on the farm: she could wander where she pleased, except not into the wood, which belonged to someone else.

In 1939 part of Eastwood Farm was taken for the airfield, and from the adjacent farm in great Ashfield an 11-acre field along the northside of the wood was also taken. So they were very close to where the bombers were serviced. The children used to count the aircraft out on a mission, and anxiously back in. Some of the US servicemen attended the Chapel, and after the war the Pearsons received food parcels from them by way of appreciation.

From 14 years old until her marriage at 21 Doreen worked full-time on the farm, driving the Fordson tractor – sometimes with her very small brother sitting on the mudguard! Her father crank-started it for her in the mornings.
In about 1947 the family left Eastwood farmhouse and moved to the end of Oak Lane – they achieved this by dismantling the bungalow and rebuilding it on its new spot, with a brick kitchen added behind. Harry tacked expanded metal on the wooden walls and rendered them, and Doreen cut all the asbestos tiles for the roof with a hacksaw! Alfred and Elizabeth also moved to Oak Lane, building their bungalow ‘Glendinin’ alongside that of Harry & Mabel’s ‘Crimond’. The photo here is a receipt from Florence Borley for the purchase of the meadow (apple orchard) they built on. When Charles and Doreen came back from Knettishall in 1955 they moved into this with Elizabeth to look after her (Alfred had died in 1954) until they bought Olive Cottage just along the road in 1960.

With four daughters to bring up, Doreen did not go back to work for many years, but eventually at 37 she started working three evenings a week at the bacon factory, making sausages. However she served the community as a willing volunteer:

  • Cooked for meals on wheels – cooking first at a small council building at the end of School Avenue (where Mr Wyatt then had his office); it had a little kitchen and a store room; then they moved to the Memorial Hall
  • Played the organ for over 50 years at the chapel
  • Being instrumental in setting up the Lunch Club in 1987, with strong support from Dr Dean


Charles was a Methodist until they became engaged, when he went along to the Baptist Chapel. Even at his first visit he realised there were a lot of people there, but none wanted to share the work, and consequently father-in-law-to-be Harry Pearson was overloaded with the roles of Treasurer, Secretary and Sunday School Supervisor – this struck him as rather selfish, to say the least. In due course he volunteered his own skills, serving as Secretary for about 40 years until 10 years ago. With Doreen at the organ the Rudlands were central to the life of the Chapel for those many years. The picture is of an outing to Wembley Stadium to hear Billy Graham (click here for names). When the chapel’s centenary came around in 1987, Charles co-authored a pamphlet relating its history.

Referring to the pamphlet, and in particular to the “fortnight’s mission in a cottage”, we reckoned it was a thatched cottage called Homefield (now demolished); Charles produced a photo showing the original mission tent in about 1884 – Ms Watts and her sister somewhere in the middle, and Homefield in the background? In front of this cottage the “small iron church” was bolted, perhaps where the barn is on the later Ashfield Road photo. He also has a photo of a 1932 mission on a meadow in New Road; Doreen is a babe in arms far right. We agreed the 1887 tin tabernacle couldn’t have been intended to hold 300 people – Kelly’s directory was mistaken – even for 100 there is standing room only! The vestry added in 1922 was half a WWI army hut!

Eastwood Farm

Eastwood Farm (modern picture) was partly clay lump – the right-hand front part of the building (the picture here is taken from the rear) was still thatched at this time. The smaller barn at the centre of the picture has gone, but the big barn where Harry had his workshop (he was always inventing tools and the like) is still standing. To the far left is a haystack (one of several) and leaning against it a makeshift shed which she often used as her personal “retreat” – she’d spend hours in there because it faced the sun, and had a swing inside. Doreen also remembers the old brick oven in the kitchen. Water was drawn from a well over 100 feet deep (a lot of work!), and in summer they kept the butter cool down there… But when a new well was dug for the airfield the water-table was lowered so their own well dried up.

One can also see the farmhouse just at the left side of the bungalow picture above. It used to be much more surrounded by trees, and had very clay soil; it was once a gamekeepers cottage (I had worked out that Nathan Warren was there in 1841 looking after all of East Wood – see the red circle in the centre of the map).


  • Olive Cottage (modern picture) dates from 1899 (there is a dated brick just below the roof ridge, and a conveyance document), and was put up by Nathan Warren (the blacksmith) for his daughter Katherine, who sold to Alice Gertrude Chambers in 1939; she sold to Mr John William Hayward in 1954, and he to the Rudlands in 1960. In the 1911 census there was a Huff couple here, so maybe they were renting from Katherine. The conveyance mentions “Misses” Warren – maybe Katherine had a younger sister born after 1881?      Next door is Sheila Sadler’s clay-lump house (they say it’s older than Olive Cottage, though it does not look so old externally these days because of the brick corner-pillars and the rendering – Sadler was a builder). The other half of Olive Cottage used to be called “Sunnyside”, mentioned in the 1939 conveyance. [Not to be confused with the ‘Sunnyside’ in Station Road.] There were two wells – a drinking-water well at the bottom of the garden and a soft-water one by the house (it took the drainage water from the house) – the same conveyance describes mutual rights for the two cottages. The soft-water well was filled in, for safety, when the cover rotted.
  • Horry Faiers’ shop was on the north side of the sideways-on cottages (beyond the barn in the photo), adjoining Rose Cottage, so one wouldn’t see the shop from this angle. It was a (wooden?) lean-to. There were two rooms, a front one where goods were sold, and a little back room with a tortoiseshell stove – local men used go round to the back and gather there for a chat. The Pearsons used to shop there – Doreen came over from Eastwood Farm on a bike.
  • Charles was upset at the destruction of the old clay-lump cottages, which he says surrounded the old green. He mentions Farm Meadow Cottage (my name for it). There was another behind Sunnyside near the Post Office – it was a chicken house last time he saw it (as a paper-boy in Mr.Leeks time!). Yet another in where the entrance to Pightle Close now is {I have referred to this as ‘Pightle Cottage’.}
  • In 1948 Charles and Doreen found (by moonlight!) at end of Oak Lane foundations of the bungalow that her Dad had moved there from Eastwood and had since pulled down – Shoulder-of-Mutton Hall, found the drains. Was it to do with Mutton Hall Farm, Wetherden?
  • The Oak Beerhouse: a cattle drover Charles met when working at Knettishall used to speak of staying at The Oak pub when he drove down to Elmswell; it had a side shed along Oak Lane used as a stable etc for guests.
  • Doreen didn’t think much of the Memorial Hall: the windows left a lot to be desired, and tables used to hide holes in the wall; thieves broke in via the skylight to raid coin meters.
  • They both remember Bunkers Hole Cottage: just after the war there were Elsie Radley and her sister Ethel lodging with Ms Gates and Ms Burrell – these used to have ‘home children’ [fostering]. Then the cottage passed to Mr Chilton – a solicitor from London? [Later it was neglected and eventually fell down.]


  • Oscar Durrant was the sadler on Wetherden Road, nephew of Harriet’s; he married Dorothy Nunn, Frank’s second daughter.
  • Robert Leach was a sadler living in Lavender Cottage; he was a lovely old chap with a long white beard, a deacon at the Chapel. His wife was an invalid. As little girl Doreen used to have to go there between Sunday School and service to get a glass of water for the visiting preacher. {1911: Robert Leach (45) blacksmith, son Robert (16) sadler.} When he passed on she fetched the water from a pump in front of “Police House Row”.
  • Alice Chambers was mother of Maurice who farmed White House Farm in the 1940s. Herbert Kemp farmed there in 1933; W J Hicks in the 1950s was judged not to be at all good at it – he treated the heavy soil as one would the light soil of his previous farming, ploughing much too shallow – a source of amusement for Harry…
  • Ken and Gwen Parsonson lived in Homefield thatched cottage.
  • Louis Borley was at Oak Farm, drove his three cattle along the road, chewing the verges, him on his bike – this would have been in the 1930s. Every farm had at least a few cattle, dad had four, Dyball had quite a lot, Dagwood had 40-50 at one time; each had pigs and chickens, etc.
  • Charles played cricket as a boy with Gerald Pound, Peter Nunn, Spinks and others over behind Lawn Farm where Gerald lived (over the A14, just in Woolpit).
  • Old William Leeks was in charge of the fire brigade during war – at the side of the Albatross Garage was a hut built specially for the fire brigade. On one occasion the USAF lit the runway by mistake, thinking a friendly bomber was coming in, and got bombed; the brigade attended, but most unfortunately tubby Mr Leeks disappeared down a manhole – the blast had blown the cover off! Luckily he was not injured.
  • As a lad Charles used to watch Ted Nicholls shoeing horses and making light harrows. For some time he lived in the bungalow on the Cooks Road / Wetherden Road corner.
  • Porky (Albert) Farrow used to work for Mr Kemp (Roseacre), and as a 11/12-year-old Charles helped him, fetching water from the pond (The Glade, Cooks Road) to take to the cattle in the pens by the station. He lived at one time in a School Road council house, later in the same bungalow as Ted Nicholls had had, on the Cooks Road / Wetherden Road corner – here he and other old codgers would pass the time on the bench there [see picture].
  • Oswald Wyatt lived for a time in Houghton House, next door to the Catlins at Buttenhaugh house. Wyatt was married and had children John and Valerie.
  • The Cross family lived in Walnut Tree Cottage after the war, but Doreen thinks the family may have been there for some time.