David HAWES, 1938-present

Interviewed by Keith Burrows in Spring 2007 and Norman Kenyon in January 2009

David was born in December 1938 in Norwich (at the Stork Nursing Home!). His father brought the family to Elmswell in about 1945. He can just remember the big VJ-day party held in the old Church Hall – huge jellies in old enamel washing-up bowls. He went over the fields to the village school. His contemporaries were Dick Burch, Colin Eke and others.

There was a wooden hut in the school yard (to the east of the main building); it leaked like a sieve, and when it rained during lessons in there they had to shift their desks around to avoid the drips. The hut was raised on pillars, and so of course the boys would crawl about underneath getting filthy. They also had lessons in the church hall next door at one stage. Children were brought from Tostock on the bus. He remembers headmaster Palmer caning him several times, probably for insolence in his case!

In 1947 his grandparents retired to Felixstowe, and his father and family moved to the house in Cooks Road – 62 years ago at the time of writing. David’s first job before school was to mix meal and feed the eight pigs in the back garden, but in other non-school hours he was expected to pull his weight in the family printing business, W.W.Hawes – as a 7 or 8 year-old he had to work the same hours as the men and got 10s a week.

There must have been some play time….. He played as a child with the Ross boys next door; one of them cut David’s head open with a spade – that caused a bit of bother! And he said he played many hours of football and cricket on Low Meadow – he remembers Ronnie Miller breaking his leg playing football.

When he passed the then 10-plus exam he went as a day boy to KEGS in Bury – bus at 7:50, home by 5:30 – for 5 years. The school was very rough, and he suffered from bullying. When not at school his regular job was looking after the pigs 7 days a week. He found them “engaging” animals, but not pets of course, as he would eventually have to cart them up the road to the bacon factory.

Leaving school at 15, he went off to Ely to start work as an apprentice compositor and management trainee, but hated it since he had been working as a compositor since age 7 and probably knew more about it than they did!

David worked hard all his life in the family printing firm. He has also contributed greatly to the life of the village, serving on the Parish Council for many years, including almost 10 years as its chairman in the 1990s.


Six generations of Hawes (from David’s great-grandfather to his grandson) all bore/bear the name Walter: as this might lead to confusion, let us here call his forebears GGF, GF and F.

GGF must have come here with his wife Emma at beginning of the 20th century (perhaps 1906); he is in Kelly’s 1908 directory as the publican of The Lion Inn, and his 1908 death certificate shows him as publican. The family was apparently not connected with Elmswell before this.

GF was born in c.1888 in London, and moved here with GGF; he married Kate Turner from March, and lived in Cooks Road till about 1947 when he and his wife retired to Felixstowe; he died in 1954 and is buried in Gt Ashfield churchyard. He ran the printing firm until in 1944 he broke his ankle kicking a stone (on the way to the Maypole, not coming back!) and took to his bed. He served as a local councillor.
“My mother was born in the Broadland village of Wroxham, into an old Norfolk farming family. She was the second youngest in a family of seven born in 1906. After school she trained as a nurse in Norwich. She met my father whilst he was working at Roberts Brothers a firm of jobbing printers in the city of Norwich. During the war in common with many families living in a rural farming area worked on the farms in various capacities as well as bringing up two young children. Having moved to Elmswell, my mother not only ran the home she helped in the business, carrying out tasks such as proof reading, bookbinding and office work.

She also took an active part in village life, a member of the WI for almost 50 years, taking a particular interest in flower arranging, fruit preserving, jam making, and embroidery and other craft work. She served on the old Memorial Hall Committee for many years, the Gymkhana Committee, and the Flower and Produce Show committee. Latterly she spent many evenings helping with the Over Sixties Club. Even in her late eighties she was to be seen making scones for ‘the old people in Manns Court”.

F was born in 1908 in London. He must have spent his boyhood in Elmswell; he had three younger sisters: Joan, Kath and Pam, the latter being 15 years younger than Kath – she died recently in Kirton. [Joan was friendly with Alfred Williams, the originator of John Rannochs.] Young F did his compositor apprenticeship at Newby’s in Stowmarket, and became a journeyman compositor, working at the Anchor Press at Tiptree, then Clays of Bungay till about 1936, and finally assistant manager at Roberts Bros. in Norwich. During the war there was no paper to be had and his job disappeared. For health reasons he could not serve in the armed forces, but in 1940 worked on Green Farm in Surlingham as a lorry driver and lived in a cottage there. This was farmed by his wife’s eldest brother Tom. F also served in the local Home Guard.

During the latter part of World War II (Spring of 1945), after GF had been incapacitated by breaking his ankle, F brought his family back to Elmswell to attempt to revive the family printing business, which was in a parlous state. First he rented an upstairs flat in the Old Rectory, the Rev. Harborne being the incumbent at the time, then moved into Dunelm when GF vacated.

Though printing was the main occupation, there was not enough paper through the 1940s and (despite his indifferent health) he worked hard to supplement the family income in various ways: they kept pigs and chickens, and grew flowers to send to florists in Bury. He was also a keen and knowledgeable bee-keeper [David had to keep well clear as he was allergic: on one occasion a sting made him quite ill; the owner of the bees sent him a PO for 5s., a real windfall for a child in those days!]. During rationing you were allowed to keep half a pig twice a year; the bacon factory would kill it for you and cure the side for ham (which you retrieved a couple of weeks later, everything else you did yourself – heart, lungs, liver kidney, bones, brawn from the head etc.).

In the 1950s the business gradually improved, and David played a greater role. F was a churchgoer until Rev. Harborne upset him. In addition to serving on the Elmswell Parish Council for over 20 years, , including a stint as its chairman, he served for several years as the village councillor on the old Thedwastre District Council based in Stowmarket. He was also Vice Chairman of the Memorial Hall Committee during the time that the original hall was built by voluntary labour, and continued as vice chairman up to the time of his death. He also took an active interest in the Independent Order of Oddfellows, and worked on several other committees in the local community. He died in 1966 at the age of 57.

Houses – a few comments on those in Cooks Road, and also Holly Lodge

Dunelm was built as a pair of semis in 1908 by David’s grandparents and Henry Sterne the schoolmaster: the Hawes lived in the left-hand dwelling, next to the printing works, GF, GM, F and his 3 sisters; Sterne lived in the other half. Sometime between 1910 and 1930 Sterne built Arvon House two doors along, and Mr Ross the local registrar moved into the right-hand semi, with his wife and two sons. They were followed by Mr Matthews, a schoolteacher, and when he left the house in the late 1950s it was taken by a Mrs Eva Hawes (unrelated) and two small children – her husband had been killed in a farming accident.

Ella Kinsey’s father built the next house on the south side of Dunelm now known as Drayton in about 1920; David bought this from her mother around 1960, and moved in there when he got married, living there till 1971; so for a time there were three Mrs Hawes in three consecutive houses! Eva Hawes now lives in Gardeners Walk.

In the early 1970s David moved into Dunelm, combining the two houses; now they have 6 bedrooms, occupied by 2 people!

The Knoll next door to the north was occupied by the Finbows, and then from the mid 1940s by the Rev. Winter, the Methodist minister, who had two daughters, Hester and Mary. When he died in the 1960s, Colin Eke bought the house and is still there.

At a land sale in 1930 David’s father bought a strip of land between the Kinseys and where the police station now is, making it into a garden.

Holly Lodge in Cross Street: Julius Andreasen, manager of the bacon factory, lived here before they built him a house at the factory itself. Then there was the Kinder family (parents and two daughters); at this period they owned the land opposite, a very pleasant garden up some steps from the road and through a gate, with shrubs and borders and a large lawn where the annual church fêtes were held. They sold the house to a Mr Rayner who had a garage in Woolpit; he was not there long, and was followed by Sir John Petrie, then the Erquharts, and later Dr John Dodds.


Discussing the people of Elmswell back in the 1940s to 1960s, David alluded to the significant social stratification of those days:there were the agricultural and other workers, their foremen,then the shopkeepers, businessmen, landowners,and finally people like General MacDonald who must have seemed almost godlike to those at the other end of the scale. There were also two retired bankers – Greenwood at Green Farm, Kinder at Holly Lodge.

Having to hand two programmes of village events, the Coronation festivities of 1953 and the opening in 1956 of the Memorial Hall, David was able to comment on many of the committee members listed – these I have incorporated with the relevant articles, and set out below only those people not so listed.

Rev. Edgar Harborne came from a good family, his father being a trawler owner in Grimsby. Sometimes the parents came to visit: David got on well with them, and as Mr Harborne was a director of Grimsby football team he made sure David always had an up-to-date fixture list. Edgar started as a curate in Stowmarket, where he married one of the Miss Suttles, then moved here as a young parson, quite dynamic (David remembers him as a dangerous driver of an old Lanchester with Wilson pre-selector gearbox) – until he got a progressive wasting disease. He took to drink, probably as a reaction to his suffering. When the Hawes family lived in the flat at the rectory, as he lay trying to sleep David could hear Harborne shouting at his wife, making a dreadful row. Despite attempts to get him to resign on the grounds of illnes, he was here until he died in 1962, and exercising an incumbent’s privilege he was the last person to be buried in the churchyard, where a memorial can be seen. [David also remembers tennis courts at the Rectory, by then in a state of dereliction.]

Alan Fayers was a local builder and quite a village character; he constructed the wooden building which housed W W Hawes printing works. Later he built himself a house in Cross Street, now known as Glynis, with a pond and a marble statue in front; it had a sawmill in the yard. He was a lovely old boy, but somewhat particular who he worked for (eg didn’t like the Kinseys). He carried on working until he was in his eighties. [I believe his daughter and her husband live there now].

Mulleys had been a prosperous family of building contractors living at the house on Mulley’s corner, but by 1948 there was just the village undertaker then living in one of the bungalows in New Road; the kids unkindly called him nuff-nuff as he had a hair lip. Bill and Eve Armstrong moved into the corner house: when David and others came there for carol-singing in 1948 Bill’s father was ill, probably on his death-bed, in the other downstairs room (‘parlour’).

Ellistons: there were 2 families; one having 7 or 8 children lived in the last council house before the old church hall, and included Arthur, twins June & Jill, and an older girl married John Spanton. Billy Elliston their uncle was postman for many years, and Parish Clerk for a long while (while David was chairman), lived in Coronation Bungalows. His brother was Frank Elliston.

Eileen Whatley, lived over the road, opposite the police station. Her husband (In the photo, Railway Tavern Darts Team, Stowmarket & District League Winners, 1960. Names, left to right:

Back Row – Harry “Knot” Goodwin, Fred Kidd, Eric “Shrimp” King

Middle Row – Eddie “Goggi” Goddard, Ron Coomber, Owen Nunn, Jimmy Cobbold

Front Row – Billy Cammell, Harry Whatley, Ernie Bennett (Captain), Barry Scase, Trevor Scase)

had died in a motorbike accident in Wetherden (there is a memorial just inside the Elmswell cemetery), leaving her with four young children to support. In the 1960’s there was little support from the state: it is to her great credit that she coped against all the odds. These very hard times perhaps explain her at times rather eccentric behaviour in the latter part of her life in the village. But her house was always spotless and her garden tidy. [Rita Kenyon tells how, when she knocked on Eileen’s door one day collecting for charity, she was touched to be given a bus fare that Eileen had not needed when someone had given her a lift!]

David recalls a site meeting of the planning people when he was applying to build on the brown-field site where his printing works had been. The meeting was being conducted properly, but Eileen evidently felt acutely the majority of strangers present, and intervened loudly: “What are all these people doing here? None of them live round here, why the fuss, let the boy have the houses he wants, he’s worked hard…”. She died soon after this, and David was moved to press for her name, as a very ordinary villager, to be used for the new development, Whatley Close.

Dave Smith was the local bobby after PC Shepherd, the last to have his home in the police station; he was very friendly, and had four lovely little lads same age as David’s kids.

Clive Jewers, a unassuming benefactor of the village.

Vic Browne, father of Brian now living in New Road, was transport manager at John Rannochs down the road; he was killed in an accident on his garden tractor.

Phyllis Parsk was a cleaner at the bacon factory for many many years, living in Jubilee terrace; she was David Parsk’s grandfather’s sister.

Village Notes

Kirkwoods Meadow was not where the fire station is, but off School Road to the west round the corner. The land used to drop away more than at present; it had a pillbox in the middle, and natural springs at the bottom – either Chaplin or Over decided to level the field to make it more workable by tractor. The soil to do this was taken from below the church (this slope used to be steeper, in the days when tobogganing there was popular – the lads would finish up in the stream at the bottom of the slope!).

David spoke of Low Meadow, where Manns Court now is, and is sure that both Scouts Meadow and Manns Meadow refer to the same piece of land.

There used to be a lot of derelict property around. Before WWII the price of agricultural land was as little as £4/acre in East Anglia, less than in 1830. The field where Warren Close now is was owned by the Wright family (‘one of my cousins married a son’), and they sold it to Harry Baker after the war at £40/acre – people said they’d never get their money back.

Thedwastre Close was built in late 1950s, as were the council offices in Cooks Road.