Ella KINSEY, 1907-2008

A series of eleven articles entitled “Elmswell – within living memory” appeared in the Elmswell Newsletter between February 1993 and December 1995, authored by Dr John Dodds, much of his material having come from discussions with Ella. These articles are reproduced below, following the notes of my interview with Ella in July 2005, in which I tried to avoid discussing again the points he had covered. I have also incorporated some notes written subsequently by John, for which I am most grateful.

Ella Agnes Ermintrude Kinsey was born on 12th June 1907 on the Elmswell/Great Ashfield border, in the last farm on the left, Hill Farm. It was an isolated spot – nothing but fields whichever way you looked. The nearest dwelling was the little inn (The Hovell Arms) down the road in Great Ashfield. For company she had three step-sisters, from her father’s first marriage.

She first went to school at the age of 6, walking from the farm to the Baptist Church, to classes run by Miss Watts; the building was put up by public subscription. Miss Watts was very religious – she did the preaching in the chapel; she thought it a pity the space was not being used in the week, so started the school.

Her father found farming unprofitable, and gave it up in 1917 to become a tax collector; he sold much of the farm to the surrounding farmers, the family moving to a house he had had built in Cooks Road, with an acre of land. It had been planned that Ella would go to a school in Belgium, but because of the war that one was turned into a German hospital; so instead she went to private school here in the village, in Norwood House on Church Road; this was run by a Miss Boby, who had been a maths teacher at Roedean but wanted to be near and look after her ageing parents at Bacton. She also employed three other teachers. Ella’s school attendances were somewhat irregular, since at home she had also to cope with the jobs of “chauffeur, gardener and odd-job-man”, but enjoyed being at school, and stayed until she was 17, at which point her father insisted that she had been there long enough! Ella had learned to drive at 14 years, without a licence; her father always had a Rover, changing it every ~3 years. When she reached 17 she drove herself to the licensing authority in Shire Hall, filled in a form, paid 5 shillings, and got her licence (without any test!). She drove until she eventually had to give it up because of cataracts.

Her first trip on an aeroplane happened thus: a friend was instructor at Ipswich Aero Club, so up they went from there, in about 1930, in a biplane with open cockpit, flying over the village. She played tennis but not on the public courts: a private club in Church Road, more or less behind the school.

The home jobs continued until 1936, when she became a Tax Officer Class 1. This came about because all Revenue officials in her father’s position were made redundant. At the time the question was posed: “Are there any other persons employed in the Inland Revenue?”, to which her father replied: “Yes – my daughter”! It meant that she took up the position without going through the Civil Service Exam, but then she had to go where she was posted – to Sittingbourne in Kent. However, this only lasted for a year, since she was unhappy with her living conditions there and did not earn enough to make it worth while. So back home she came, to the garden and other jobs and the chauffeuring. Her father was not unhappy about it – he then had someone to take him out fishing and shooting! When the war started, she was able to get a job with Pearl Assurance, replacing a man whom she knew was being called up, and even managed to compress her full-time job into a 3-day week… In 1949 the company adopted a men-only policy (which seems incredible these days!), and she was obliged to resign. But at that time her father was in need of care – he died in May of that year.

Not long after this, her mother acquired a tiny shop in School Road, opposite where the fire station now is – a little tin-hut lock-up shop run by a Mrs Hawes. Mother had foolishly lent money to the man who owned the shop, and when his project failed she was obliged to take it as part-payment for the loan. “What are we going to do with a shop?” Ella said she would look after it but it must be put on the market forthwith; unfortunately it didn’t get sold for 15 years. She eventually sold it to Mr Leeks (senior) as an off-hand shop,and was jolly glad to see the back of it! [An “off-hand shop”? “Say, a ‘secondary shop’; we sold everything there – groceries, sweets and ice-cream, common medical remedies, bandages and plasters, toothpaste,etc – I came in just about when rationing stopped ~1950.”] See comment from Jill Baker on this shop.

Early in the 60s, the Cooks Road property was too big for Ella and her mother, so they moved again, this time to a bungalow they had built in Cross Street now known, most appropriately, as Kinsey Lodge. Her mother died in 1963, a year before water and mains drainage were installed around this part of the village. In 1968 she decided (after an illness caused concern to neighbours) to live alone no longer, and advertised for a lodger: she took on Mr Jack Bloom, who had retired from running his paper shop in Battersea (she had not intended to have a male paying guest, but as she now says no woman would have offered to mow the lawn!). Jack died in 1995.

Finally Ella sold the bungalow in October 2000 and moved to a new development of sheltered homes in Stowmarket. Now (2005) at 98 she still cooks for herself and entertains widower Dr John Dodds on Sundays. It was he and his wife who observed that she had failed to rise on a fateful Wednesday when she broke her hip….

Ella died in September 2008 – see obituary below

World War I

War broke out when she was seven. She remembers her Mother had her eye on a very deep ditch over the road: “If the bombs start dropping we’ll wrap ourselves in blankets and go lie there!” – they never did. A Zeppelin was brought down not far away, creating a red glow on the horizon. Rationing: half-pound of sugar per week each, and 2 oz butter, quite as strict as WWII. There were military camps around, getting soldiers ready to put on the train at Elmswell Station. Australians were recognisable by their hats. There were Canadians too; the camps were in Stowlangtoft Park. There was no blackout in WW1 (but then, they only had paraffin lamps).

There was an old aerodrome at Ashfield (definitely); the entrance was on Lee Lane on the right of Ashfield Rd, opposite the little pub; the runways were quite small. The Royal Flying Corps was stationed there, having requistioned land from the farms – quite a lot came from Lee Farm. Ella remembers the biplanes tied up with bits of string and wire; they used to go up to practise around 11 in the morning, and fly round the village, dropping notes and flowers to their girlfriends.


Ella’s father, Henry Cotterel, was born on 23 February 1866 at Stanton, his parents having lived there for generations. He married Elizabeth and had three daughters, but she died at age 45. He married Ella’s mother, Ermyntrude Gordon, who was born on 25 February 1885 at a farm at Gippeswyk near Ipswich. All three are buried in the cemetery, and also Thomas Stanley Hicks, Ella’s oldest step-sister’s first husband, who died of diabetes at 24; Henry had previously bought 5 burial spaces, and sis was so upset he agreed to use one of them.

Church and social activities in the village

Mr Henderson, the accountant at the bacon factory, started a scout group in the late 1920’s; they had a hut on the bacon factory meadow, up the driftway to the factory, behind Kitty Lord’s house. It was a wooden hut, perhaps 30 feet by 20feet; Mrs Henderson started up a girls guides too. They did a good job, but were not appreciated, got no thanks: there were squabbles so they quit and the troops fizzled out. Mulley the builder bought the hut and put it in New Road to store materials.

At the church there was a lads’ brigade, and a girls friendly society run by a Miss Head, whose grave is in the cemetery near the Kinseys.


Ella remembers Rev. Hipwell (1893-1908) because he visited them long after he retired, her father having been his warden. The first active vicar she remembers was Rev. George – he had three daughters with whom she was quite friendly. Rev. Dolman was supposed to be a German, and a spy at that! Rev. Harborne spent much of his time in a wheelchair (muscular disease?), and took services from the reading desk; his wife was the organist, and very good she was too. She remembers Rev. Colson quite well – now lives near Eye somewhere – and Rev. John Perrott has visited too since he retired. {The 19th c. vicar Rev. Macfarlane “got upset about the village, had the rectory tarred and ploughed up the lawns before he left, retired to near Cambridge.”}

People, shops and businesses   

  • The old Post Office was on Ashfield Road, next door to where Mace now is; she’d been in there dozens of times. It was run by Mr Collin, and his daughter used to work there; a couple of telegram boys were always waiting outside with their bicycles, in their navy blue uniform with red piping, and little round caps.
  • Clement Hardingham – was sexton at the church; she knew him quite well, lived in 1st cottage on New Road, behind The Cottage.
  • There was a harness-maker, Robert Durrant, at Grove Lane corner – he also repaired shoes; opposite there were two cottages and Buzz’s Bat Factory.
  • Mrs Hawes’ shop was the lock-up in School Road that Ella eventually had herself; it was originally a tobacconist and confectioner, sold pop drinks and ice-creams. It had about four tables in there where in the evenings the lads of the village used to play cards and drink (minerals). Mrs Davidson had it when the war came, and she found she couldn’t get a licence unless she sold everything.
  • Tom Welham used to sweep our chimneys; he lived first in School Road, then got a council house on Wetherden Road.
  • The Warren family had the blacksmith’s shop, now part of Thurlow Nunn’s place; it was a very busy place, a thriving horseshoeing business, and also made farm implements such as hand ploughs (no combine harvesters then). Nathan Warren had a big beard; he invented a seed drill which became popular in other counties. His several sons all took part in the business, some travelling/selling. The Warrens all stayed till they died, but most of the sons died rather young; in the cemetery they are buried next to Ella’s family.
  • There was another blacksmith’s shop and cottage in New Road, (just to the south of Roseacre) – the Redit family; very busy too: horseshoeing of farm animals was quite a good business in those days, and one often saw several horses waiting their turn. Herbert Mulley bought the property, and let a son live there.
  • Elliston was a butcher in Hawk End Lane.
  • Herbert Mulley the builder lived in what is now The Willows, with wife and large family; the property extended along Cooks Road to the bowling green, including the pond [in the glade]; there were piles of floorboards, stacks of bricks, where front garden is. Ella thinks there was a Ben Mulley living there before Herbert.
  • Dennis Smith lived over the level crossing just before the Lion Public House: he had pastureland behind and he was a greyhound trainer – one triumph was training the runner-up for the Waterloo Cup. But there was not enough land there, so he bought a bigger house at Pakenham.
  • Newson was a coal and corn merchant, having an office and yard where the vet surgery is now; he built the Cottage on the four crossways.
  • Wright’s radio shop – “Wireless Willy” did a busy trade in batteries for the old wireless sets.
  • The Goymer family lived in one of the cottages on the left [of the same picture]; he lost a leg in the WWI, took up resoling shoes, rather a rough job, but in those days there was no public transport out of the village, so folk had to make do with local services. [Eastern Counties buses started after WWI, open-topped – if it rained hard luck!]
  • [Looking at the level crossing postcard] Ella remembers the Porter’s room [just behind signal pole] where they used to sit over the fire; and Moys’ coal office, and the old goods shed; station was quite a big employer of labour. Three signalmen in the village had to do 8 hours each.
  • Mr Hanson was manager of the bacon factory.
  • The Lord family used to farm the White House Farm, just before Oak Lane; Kitty Lord and her 2 daughters lived in the first house past Mace.
  • Billy Farrow worked at the bacon factory.
  • Alan Faiers built a bungalow next to mine in Cross Street
  • Mrs Gould was a widow with 3 or 4 sons
  • Frank Nunn – had the business….Thurlow Nunn
  • Alan Robinson’s granddaughter works here now – Mary Catchpole
  • Salmon – commonly known in the village as Leary Salmon


A series of eleven articles entitled “Elmswell – within living memory” appeared in the Elmswell Newsletter between February 1993 and October 1994, authored by Dr John Dodds. Much of his material came from discussions with Ella (whom he refers to as EAEK or “my informant”), and so the whole series is reproduced below, with his permission. The GWF mentioned was Billy Farrow; the FJP and FPB he cannot now recollect!

Elmswell — within living memory

Part 1: Some thoughts from EAEK
Up to the 1920’s the Parish Council was run by businessmen, farmers, retired and professional people. There came an election but just prior to this a communication was sent round the village from seven working men who claimed that it was time working people had a vote in the village. There were a couple of signalmen, two or three men from the bacon factory and one or two more. All seven men were duly elected (there were only seven seats in those days in the parish whereas now there are eleven). Apparently the ratepayers were unhappy about this coup as not one of the new parish councillors paid any rates! A sixpenny rate was raised. The rate upon my informant’s house in Cooks Road was six pounds per year. In those days the average agricultural wage was about the same as that at the Bacon Factory which was thirty shillings a week. Some were able to buy their own home on this income. (Thirty shillings equals one pound fifty pence, £1.50,  expressed as words but not value!)

When my informant was a child, over eighty years ago, there were about six street lamps about the village which was basically Cooks Road, Cross Street and New Road. They were paraffin lamps which were lit by a man in the afternoons and extinguished the following morning. They were not situated very high — about the height of a normal ceiling, and the small pool of light emitted was in stark contrast to the inky blackness only a few feet away! They were useless! The service was paid for by the Parish Council. Improvements came in the 1920’s when Underwood and Gibson had a garage “right on the front of the road just opposite where the vet’s surgery is now”. The business thrived by selling cars and servicing them. “That’s where I saw my first Austin 7 in the window. It was a going concern that employed quite several”, said my informant. In the early 1920’s the Albatross garage of Underwood and Gibson decided to supply electricity to the village. Poles were erected and the supply covered Cooks Road, Cross Street, New Road up as far as Street Farm on the other side of the railway. It was direct current, and was adequate for lighting purposes. Cooking was not possible by D.C., you could just about run an iron! There was no fixed charge and the cost was a shilling a unit — whatever that was — to the private consumer; the Parish Council still paid for street lamp consumption. This went on till the 1930’s when at Stowmarket, the East Anglian Electricity Supply Company started up. It branched out into the local villages and supplied alternatory current which of course was suitable for all household purposes. This was eventually taken over or became Eastern Electricity. Underwood and Gibson faded out after the 1939-45 War and there is now little left to show that the firm ever existed.

Catton’s garage, which began after the war, used to be the Lion Public House and it then belonged to Greene King. Petrol and service were supplied until quite recently when the garage reverted to private accommodation and the land about was redeveloped for housing.

Part 2: Some thoughts from EAEK
Between the wars there were three banks in Elmswell, Barclays was situated in Bank House in the cottage adjoining Baker’s Mill, Midland hired a room in the Fox once a week, Lloyds was to be found in one of a pair of very old houses, the other side of Victoria Terrace just over the railway. The banks were open once per week between 10 am – 12 noon on a Friday. EAEK believes all these banks functioned when she was a child in the early 1920’s and all closed around the beginning of the second World War.

There has never been a doctor’s surgery in the village. There was a branch surgery in the 1950’s and 1960’s for a few years, in the Memorial Hall, which was run by Dr Russell on a Wednesday afternoon. There was a dentist who came from Stowmarket years before the war. He held his surgery one or two evenings a week in the house that is now a hairdresser’s — Margaret’s — just the other side of the railway on the Ashfield Road. My informant believes he continued to practise until he retired or gave up, but this was well before the hostilities of 1939-45. There has never been a Veterinary Surgery in Elmswell until the Stowmarket Group Practice opened a branch here a few years ago. There used to be an unqualified ‘Vet’ in Ixworth who helped a proper Vet. When the latter died the highly experienced unqualified ‘Vet’ continued to practise and came to the village quite a bit. Otherwise there was an alternative practice in Stowmarket.

There were two blacksmiths. One functioned in New Road where ‘Graces’ is now situated. It was last owned by H.E. and G.W. Mulley Brothers, who lived on the corner of New Road and Cooks Road where there is a large weeping willow. The other, also no longer recognisable, was Nunn’s where Thurlow Nunn Standen now stands. Mr Nunn was a wheelwright but his main job was shoeing horses and repairing farm implements such as ploughs. Where the Thurlow Nunn Standen Offices are now there was a Woolpit white brick building adjacent to the Blacksmith’s shop. Originally Mr Nunn, who was chauffeur to the local G.P., a Doctor Wood some eighty six years ago, bought the Blacksmith’s shop from the last of the Warren family. Mr Nunn’s family came from Drinkstone; his father had a little Blacksmith’s shop there which still stands but is unused. In those times the Primus Stove was used a lot; it was very handy for boiling a kettle (EAEK’s mother had two!). Primus stoves frequently got blocked and they were duly taken to Nunn’s where they were serviced for the sum of sixpence! From such humble beginnings … he branched out to repair binders and the like — but not tractors — until he merged with Thurlow’s of Stowmarket who were tractor people. The blacksmith’s in New Road shut before the war around 1932. Nunn’s has of course expanded.

Bookmakers were always in good supply around Elmswell. Between half past eleven and half past twelve bookies runners used to be seen scooting round the village! They went to the Fox, the Tavern and other pubs and even to a few private houses where there were regular privileged customers! The practice was illegal of course, but they flourished just the same until the law changed around 1968. There was talk about opening a Betting Shop in Pightle Close but this came to nothing.


Part 3: Some thoughts from EAEK and others
About eighty years ago there used to be a pork butcher’s in Hawk End Lane, which may have belonged to a man by the name of Elliston. Later a butcher’s shop was started at or by the old Lion Public House where Mr Catton’s garage was situated and is now a private house. Mr Pratt, the butcher, used to deliver his produce round the village on a bicycle. This was during the 1920’s.

Mr Clarke, who ran a baker’s shop before the 1914-18 war in School Road (where the fish and chip shop is situated), was the next person to start a butcher’s business and he began to sell imported meat at very reasonable prices. The baker’s shop, incidentally, boasted a few tables where you could have afternoon tea and pastries. The butcher’s business prospered more than the baker’s so he gave up the latter round about 1930. He bought what used to be the old post office where Mr Goodfellow had his butcher’s business next to Mace Grocers run by Mr Neil King.

Mr Clarke sold good quality pork, beef and lamb; he gave up imported beef and just sold English. The enterprise grew and his son succeeded him. When Mr Clarke’s son died too, his daughter-in-law continued for a short while and then sold the business to a Mr Bill Last, whose father had a smaller business in Botesdale.

Mr Last continued for several years and then sold the business to Mr Goodfellow, who was succeeded by Mr Gary Debenham whose roots are in Lavenham and who began to trade in the same premises next to the Grocers from the first week in December 1992. Meanwhile, Mr John Simpson began a butcher’s shop at No.3 Hui’s building adjacent to the fish and chip shop and Chinese Take-away opposite the Railway Tavern in School Road, round about three and a half years ago. His products were so popular that he decided to move to larger premises in Pightle Close where you will find him today.

In 1925 Mr Jakins, who ran the post office, grocery shop, drapery stores and manual telephone exchange, opened a pork butchers behind the post office; it backed on to the edge of the Grange garden. He employed ‘Podger’ Cooper who ran the butchery side for him.

In 1927, Mr Jakins sold his business to Mr Dawson, a Yorkshireman. Mr Jakins moved to Seaford, Sussex where he bought a large flourishing business not unlike a miniature Selfridges. Mr Basham, who had a butcher’s shop in Hartest, took over from Mr Dawson in 1931. ‘Podger’ Cooper continued to work for Mr Dawson until Mr Basham took over. Ronnie Whybrow whose father was head butcher at the Bacon Factory — there were four butchers at the factory at that time — ran the shop for Mr Basham. The butchers continued for a few more years but was ultimately abandoned; the shop was prone to flooding rather more than occasionally: could this have been a factor in its closure?

Meanwhile, in 1931, the Dawsons gave up the post office and general stores, returned to Huddersfield to run a pub, and sold the business to Mr Bentley. The Bentleys were the first to be newsagents in the village. Before then, newspapers had been provided by W.H.Smith’s bookstall on Elmswell station. The fortunate few who had their papers delivered from the bookstall had one criteria to fulfil. ‘Pigeon’ Mulley, the newsboy, could deliver no further than the time it took to return to the platform for the next train! If you were outside this area, you had to get your own!

In 1934, the Bentleys sold the business to Mr & Mrs Leeks. The post office, manual exchange, grocery and paper shop was continued as before. The drapery side was stopped after a couple of years by Mrs Leeks. The primitive manual telephone exchange was continued for some years. It was situated in what is now Mr L.A.G. (Tony) Green’s front room. The exchange operated throughout the twenty four hours every day of the year. If the phone rang at night someone had to get up to answer it! Thunderstorms were a particular hazard as the lightning flashed down the conduits and frightened Mrs Leeks (who was in charge of the post office side) to death! It is not altogether surprising that Mr Leeks was the Fire Chief! He was also locum tenens for Mr Roy Ross of Cook’s Road, when Mr Ross, the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths and lived where Hawes the Printers is now, was on holiday. During such a time, Mr Leeks registered Dr Stevens’ first born. The hazardous demanding manual exchange was closed earlier than had been planned by the telephone authorities. The calls were then routed through the Bury St. Edmunds’ exchange.

Mrs Leeks who ran the post office side entirely, cashed up at the end of the day and again at the end of the week often late into Saturday evening, totting up pounds, shillings and pence — no decimals then! If she was a bit short, she had to make up the difference; if she was in credit, she pocketed the excess, swings and roundabouts! Mr & Mrs Leeks retired in 1969. Mrs Leeks who was widowed in 1971, lives in Elmswell today. A Mr Garfield took over the post office, grocery etc. business for a couple of years. He gave up to return to his first love — the sea and went on to Australia and Japan.

Mr Green bought the business in April 1971. The grocery side was sold to the Co-op and the rest is as you see. By the way, Mr Stanley King who had began as a paper boy in 1942 had the dubious honour of having to deliver the papers on his fifty first anniversary this year. He used to receive about ten shillings (fifty new pence) a week; nowadays expect ten to eleven pounds a week and they don’t have to traipse through snow bound lanes as far out as Wetherden!


Part 4: Thoughts from EAEK and others
The “hardware store” in New Road was originally Fenton’s but not in its present site. Mr Fenton had a little wooden hut on the front of the cottage next to Jewers’ entrance on the north side (not the “The Cottage” on Newsome’s corner).

He married a Miss Croad from Wetherden village shop which was run by her father. Mr Fenton originally sold tobacco, cigarettes, minerals and confectionery. He bought the ground where the present hardware store now stands, and built the bungalow round about 1924, his trade being a bricklayer or carpenter — EAEK cannot remember which. The wooden hut was moved and re-erected on the south side of the bungalow and his wife ran the little shop whilst he went out to work in his trade. They branched out a bit and sold various grocery lines but not perishables — only tins and jars etc. The Fentons were there for only a year or two. Mr Fenton went away to a fruit farm at Kesgrave near Ipswich. His farm was subsequently sold for property development; this made him a very rich man.

Miss Armstrong and her brother, whose father was a farmer in Haughley New Street, took the little shop in the early 1930’s. It wasn’t much of a success. Mr Wright came along with his wireless business and he married Miss Armstrong and bought the bungalow and little shop. Mr Armstrong left and went to work for the electricity board in Bury St Edmunds; many years later he bought the house at the corner of Cook’s Road and New Road where the weeping willow stands.

Mr Wright originally came about Elmswell in his motorcycle and sidecar repairing wireless sets. “He had a battery service; he would collect your old battery, take it away and bring it back in a week, recharged, for the princely sum of sixpence (two and a half new pence). You had to have two batteries, you see, one away and one in use. The batteries were quite dangerous as they would spill, and anything they spilled on rotted away!” (Sulphuric acid!)

Mr Wright and his wife branched out into a general grocery shop to include bacon, butter, cheese, tea and sugar when World WarII broke out, because these items could not be sold unless you had a certain minimum number of registered customers who had ration books (supplied by the Ministry of Food). The ration books were either retained by the grocer or handed to him when purchases were made. Mr Wright employed a Mr Fred Goymer who worked in the shop. Fred was extremely popular and attracted a lot more trade: the shop thus became very congested. Mr Wright who also employed Mr Snell and Mr Fox in his wireless and electrical business then built a double fronted redbrick house further down New Road on the same side near Cook’s Road/New Road corner. The whole of the bungalow then became the shop and one window was devoted entirely to electrical goods. Mr Wright bought a mobile shop (after the war) to supply groceries to surrounding villages; this Mr Fox administered. Mrs Wright died not long after they had moved in to the redbrick house in New Road. Mr. Wright subsequently “passed on” and his daughter who married Mr Brian Brown took over the shop for a while.

A Mr Wyatt then bought it, gave up the grocery side and turned the shop into a hardware store only. He was there about a year when Mr and Mrs Lufkin, the present owners, took it over some twenty two years ago. They now sell hardware items of every sort, electrical goods, cycle equipment, assorted tools of every kind, gardening implements and accessories, paint brushes, paint, fillers and dyes etc as well as groceries, tobacco, sweets and confectionery. Whatever is not available at the shop, they will always obtain for you at short notice.


Part 5: More thoughts from EAEK and others
Just before the second Great War during the summer of 1938, EAEK was involved in gathering facts for a personal identity card for every person in the land. Her area was every household north of the railway line, starting from the level crossing signal box, up the Ashfield Road including the side roads and all of Ashfield Village. A form was left which when completed, was collected about a week later; if the form had not been completed then EAEK had to assist the householder.

EAEK’s number in Cook’s Road incidentally, was TZNK: 136:3. “TZNK” was a particular area, “136” the allocated number of the household and “3” the position in the family (e.g. father (1), mother (2), oldest child (3) etc). Do you still have your national identity card? Many people still do; it is just a curio now, of no value except sentimental to the holder. The forms were picked up and taken, as far as EAEK can recall, to Thedwastre District Council Office which was in Stowmarket. The purpose of the form was to supply information for a personal identity card in anticipation of the second World War which began on 3 September 1939.

The Thedwastre R.D.C. was run by the Clerk to the R.D.C., Mr Wilden, who had succeeded a Mr H.E. Wilkes. Mr Wilden had a staff of two — another Clerk and a boy. Mr Wilden was Clerk not only to the Thedwastre Rural District Council but to the East Stow Rural District Council which later comprised such villages as Haughley, Old Newton, Gipping, Stowupland and possibly Creeting. The Thedwastre R.D.C. office was situated above the International Stores which is now the Midland Bank and looked up Ipswich Street towards where the Post Office is now (not then when the Post Office was next door!).

EAEK was an enumerator for Elmswell, Thurston and Woolpit at other times to compile a voters list. The collected information from EAEK’s particular area had to be written up and tabulated in a ledger. The Relieving Officer and Registrar, a Mr Hassall as far as Elmswell was concerned, brought the ledger to EAEK and collected it afterwards. Mr Hassall who was the Relieving Officer and Registrar of the Thedwastre R.D.C. lived in the village, in the house with the tall chimneys, on the other side of the railway crossing on the right hand side of Ashfield Road.

There was a “bit of a do” about the closure of the Thedwastre R.D.C. after the second World War, because the locals here felt that it was wrong that they should have to go to Stowmarket for any Council business. Council rates and rent were paid to the local Rate Collector, door to door, and Stowmarket was a long way if things went wrong; few people had cars; travel was by bicycle or on foot. (In those days just after the war the rents and rates in Jubilee Terrace were eighteen shillings (ninety pence a month!). So the Thedwastre R.D.C. offices were built in the 1950’s and are now of course (following the advent of the Mid Suffolk District Council), known as Mann’s Court. Mr Owen, who lives in Elmswell this day, succeeded Mr Wilden as Clerk at that time and worked in the Elmswell Offices in Cooks Road.

The United States of America were the first to introduce a Census in 1790. England and Scotland followed in 1801, Ireland in 1813, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Russia followed in that order before 1900, Japan in 1920. By 1976, 67% of the total world population was covered. In Britain we have had a Census taken every ten years since 1801 excepting 1941 when the second World War was on.

(The purpose of a Census is to ascertain population growth over the preceding ten years, the age trends, the local density and movement across the country, the numbers of people engaged in a particular occupation etc. etc.). The great value of the Census is that it is taken everywhere at the same time all over the country. The facts and figures are sent to the Registrar-General and help governments to anticipate the needs of the community. Censuses have shown that previous guesses concerning the population have been far from correct! There are two sorts of censuses formal as once in every decade, and, informal.

EAEK was involved in taking the Census locally in Elmswell in 1931. As an enumerator of a local district who was responsible to the Census Officer of which there were about 1800 in the whole of Britain, EAEK had to visit every house in the district, leave a schedule with the head of the family to be filled up on the day “appointed for the Census taking”. The schedules duly completed were collected by EAEK about a week later; if the forms weren’t filled in then the enumerator helped the householder to complete the task. Sometimes a member of the household refused to give some information, usually their age! EAEK left the space blank and another officer came later to state that all information was required by law and failure to comply would lead to prosecution and was punishable by a heavy fine! There was seldom any trouble after that!


Part 6: More thoughts from EAEK and others
EAEK’s father gave up being a farmer at Hill Farm Ashfield Road around 1916 as prospects at the time were so poor and took the job of Assessor and Collector of Taxes, moving to the house he had built in Cooks Road. His area grew and grew till he was responsible for some 41 parishes and the town of Stowmarket.

He became involved in many other local activities such as the administration of “The Church and Poor’s Land Charities” in Elmswell. As a Churchwarden and one of the trustees he was involved in the allocation of coal to the needy. Coal then cost a shilling a hundredweight or nineteen shillings a ton! EAEK’s father was often fed up with being accosted by non-recipients of free coal at Christmas time! In those days there was no Social Security and being poor was a reality all too difficult to bear: you felt very aggrieved and resentful if you received no free coal!

He was a Special Constable in the first Great War and one of his tasks was to help guard the first Railway Bridge after leaving Elmswell Station on the way to Wetherden, in case some spy bent on sabotage might blow it up! At that time the railway was the most rapid form of communication; there was no wireless/radio/transistor. Fact and rumour came by word of mouth from the Engine Driver or Guard and up to date news of the War in France, of Government decisions etc. This was especially so, much later in Britain’s only General Strike between 3 May and 12 May 1926 when the early morning newspaper did not arrive by rail.

Apart from guarding the Elmswell railway bridge, EAEK’s father had to be on the look-out for Zeppelins! Sometimes he and his fellow ‘guards’ met up with those guarding the Norton Road Railway Bridge and a good time was had by all! He was Chairman of the Parish Council for a time and was on the School Board of Elmswell’s School in School Road under the County Council Education Department at Bury St. Edmunds.

As Assessor and Collector of Taxes life had its lighter moments. No one likes to pay tax and some felt a good deal stronger about paying it than others! There was a shopkeeper in Woolpit who refused to pay his dues. So Father armed with a warrant from the Commissioner of Taxes had to distrain the shopkeeper (ie seize goods in lieu of debt). The shopkeeper was not at home so Father took what he assessed to be a valuable clock from his premises and left a receipt with his wife. The clock had to be taken to the nearest pub — the Bull in this case — where it would remain for seven days, and, if the tax was not paid by then, the clock would be sold by auction and the debt met from the proceeds. Needless to say he paid up. The only remark that EAEK can recall was made by the shopkeeper who upon the discovery of the absence of his clock in the first place exclaimed: “Where’s that DUZZY old clock?”

On another occasion round about 1930 a particularly truculent farmer from West Stow decided that he too would pay no taxes. Father had to distrain the farmer. EAEK drove her father’s car down this long drift at the bottom of which was a five bar gate. The farmer stood there armed with his shot gun! “If you come in you’ll get shot!” However Father reasoned with him and after some time was allowed into the farmyard where he selected one of the Farmers horses, the best of several, to defray the debt. Father led the horse from the farm to the nearest pub — the Ingham Griffen now known as the Culford Arms, some four miles away. EAEK followed in the car! There the horse was stabled, fed and watered and kept for seven days. Had the farmer not paid up ….

Most pubs had stables in those days; the Fox in Elmswell certainly had. If you came from Walsham le Willows (for example) in your horse and trap you had to leave it at the Fox whilst you took the train to Ipswich or Bury or wherever your destination might be. On return you picked up your horse from the Fox’s stables, harnessed it and returned home. If you were late in the afternoon, your horse would be fed before your return to the Fox. Such service! Trains however in those days ran every hour!! A Bury return cost one shilling and three pence (about six new pence) by train and was seven pence halfpenny cheaper than the bus fare!!


Part 7: More thoughts from EAEK and others
Before the 1939-45 War, not many in Elmswell paid income tax. The Bacon Factory Manager on £800 a year did. No-one at the Railway Station paid anything; not even the Station Master. You had to earn as much as three pounds a week before tax was deductable. A single person’s allowance was £120 p.a. plus one sixth of £120. So on earnings of £150 you had to pay £10 at two shillings and three pence in the pound which worked out at one pound two shillings and sixpence a year! The system of taking some clock or horse in lieu of tax was abolished around 1936; the Inland Revenue office then was at Lloyds Bank Chambers in the Buttermarket at Bury, near Debenhams. Later the offices moved to Triton House adjacent to Gateways car park, where the Department of Social Security is now. Subsequently, the tax offices moved to Magna House in Eastgate Street where they are today.

On one particular trip when EAEK was driving her father to Norton, the car ran over a dog that had dashed out from the hedgerow. The spaniel, apparently unharmed, dashed indoors. It wasn’t until a week later that father spoke to Frank Burt the farmer about his dog and discovered that it had died the same night of an internal rupture of the abdomen. Mr Burt’s comment about his dog was that “that fair dorzeled”!

As a child, EAEK recalls that her father bought a new motorcyle and sidecar around 1910, and the number plate was CF5. In those days and up to the Second World War and shortly afterwards you could identify which county “CF” was in, from the AA book; and “5” virtually meant the 5th model on the assembly line! EAEK’s mother, much to her father’s chagrin, had to be the first woman in Suffolk to ride such a motorcycle! She sat on it and he pushed! The problem was that the vehicle had no clutch and the only way to start it up was to run along beside it and when it coughed into life you jumped on! This disadvantage became all too apparent when father went to London; he found the vehicle very difficult to manage in the London traffic! You had to have a licence to drive a vehicle and it cost five shillings (twenty five new pence). You filled in a form at the Shire Hall in Bury and then paid up. There was no driving test!

Father decided to buy a car. He went to the Motor Show at Olympia and decided upon a Humber. He consulted a mechanic by the name of Mr Potter at the Norton Garage. Mr Potter wrote to the manufacturers in Coventry declaring his intent. When the car was ready, father and Mr Potter set off to Coventry by train and took delivery of a brand new Humber straight from the works! This was in the 1920’s. The car had a running board on either side, and one side there was a spare petrol can attached. There was a collapsible hood at the back which had to be brought forward and secured to the top of the windscreen when there was rain about. The vehicle was reminiscent but only slightly so, of the Rolls in “The Darling Buds of May”.


Part 8: More thoughts from EAEK, GWF and others
In the January issue of the Newsletter, there was this picture on the front cover of Elmswell station taken from well in front of the old Crown Public House, the walnut tree being a few feet behind the cameraman, looking north-east. One villager has dated the photo to be around 1906. So far no-one has recognised any of the nine people depicted.

Most of the buildings have been pulled down. The beautiful signalbox in the foreground which was used in one of the episodes of “Lovejoy” on BBC television was taken down in 1986. The large signal was removed at the same time and the level-crossing gates were replaced by the automatic ones we see today.

To the right of the signal is a sycamore tree indicating that the picture was taken in the winter time. Again to the right of the tree (no longer there of course) is the Porters’ room. The signalman (barely visible in the photograph) used to shout down to the porters when he wanted the gates to be either opened or closed. The porters’ room was at the bottom of the platform near the gates, within the confines of the railings which are still there.

The small building the other side of the sycamore and outside the railings was Thomas Moy’s coal merchants’ office; it was about ten feet long and eight feet wide and contained a counter across, a telephone and a clerk — a Miss Hassall who lived in the village. This hut was installed around 1924 and therefore the photo must have been taken after this date. To order your coal before the hut installation you had to seek a man in the yard.

Moy’s built “Marlborough” a semi-detached house in Cross Street, before the 1914-18 war. Edgar Lock lived in one half. He had the dubious reputation of having been demoted from the post of foreman for having been caught asleep on some coal sacks on more than one occasion! In the other half of the house there lived George Mulley. In those days as an employee of Moy’s you had to be at work at around 6.30 to 7.00 a.m. (This was not uncommon in many other jobs incidentally). “Dawdy” as he was known to his associates, then returned to breakfast around 8 a.m. On one occasion he returned home and noted how cold it was indoors. His wife being rather fond of her bed, had not got up. “Fire, Fire!” he yelled at the top of his voice. “Where? Where?” his wife cried as she shot out of bed. “Everywhere but in this house!” Dawdy replied.

Between Moy’s and the booking-hall, close up to the railings there was another little wooden building which is just visible above the two railwaymen in the middle of the group of four to the right of the signalbox. This office was owned by a Mr William Green, who lived at “Bramleys”, formerly “Lynges” in Church Road. He had some maltings somewhere near Bury St Edmunds station. The business ceased when he died at around 1930.

In the background above the level-crossing gates in the photograph, the goods shed can be seen with its canopy. Trucks used to be shunted with the aid of horses, which were stabled the other side of the station. The entrance to the stables is not in the picture but is found next to the Stowmarket Veterinary Surgery, between that building (wrongly named “the Old Tea Rooms” — it was the Reading Room) and a rusting building which was once one of Jewers’ granaries. The Reading Room’s front section was Mr Newson’s office. (Mr Newson who once owned the Cottage at the Cross Street, Church Road crossroads — often referred to as Newson’s corner — was Mr Jewers’ father-in-law). Further down from Mr Newson’s office, Mr Jewers used to keep all his corn samples etc. On the right behind the station (to the very left of the photograph) were the coal bags of Mr Newson’s coal yard. Further down still there is the area where the horses used for shunting were stabled.

The remaining building which is found in the background in the centre of the photo was probably part of Pye’s timber yard which sprang to fame when the bark shed caught fire from a spark from an engine standing in Elmswell station. GWF remembers the incident well: it coincided with his first shave with a cut-throat razor which his father was giving him! The milkman delivered the news: “Pye’s timber yard is on fire”. GWF dashed away, filled with curiosity, having had half a shave …..


Part 9: More thoughts from EAEK, GWF, FJP and others
Elmswell has always been a working village. Broadly speaking development has been, as in much of Eastern Suffolk on a linear plan, unlike most villages in West Suffolk where development occurred round the village green. Most industry, historically speaking, has been (and still is) linked to the north-south axis of the village from Ashfield Road to Newsons corner. Villages of a hundred years ago were busy, noisy communities with threshing machines, a forge or two, the clatter of railway trains which ran on the hour, every hour in both directions. The steam engine, accepted by Elmswell but rejected by Woolpit, brought new prosperity and was the fastest form of communication. Elmswell boasted many varied occupations. There were general carpenters, a cricket bat maker and tallow maker, a basket weaver and harness maker, butchers and bakers, a horse slaughterer and meat exporter. There were coal merchants, grain merchants, a hand laundry; brickworks and quarries were nearby, and of course there were blacksmiths and engineers, flour mills and timber yards.

Newcomers to Elmswell are often asked the rhetorical question (by outsiders of course) “Isn’t that where there is a Bacon Factory?” — or some permutation of the same, implying no doubt that there were some unpleasant aromas about, so why bother moving to Elmswell when there were more salubrious villages in which to live? Apart from odours blown from Haughley Park when the waste is being recycled or those from adjacent fields during muck-spreading time, there is not much to complain about but might well be obnoxious to the itinerant town dweller who could be more attuned to gas, diesel or petrol fumes!

We are all becoming fussier and less tolerant of anything that may upset our senses, doubtless an effect resulting from ever rising standards. The Bacon Factory does try but occasionally things go wrong as Hawk End dwellers will testify. There was a time when residents put up with odd odours and noises and unpleasant sights. Since the 1939-45 war and before all the developments of Warren Close, Mill Gardens and Prescott Drive, Mr Garrod — “Brassy” to his friends — used to drive down Warren Lane in his tractor and trailer and empty the contents of septic tanks from houses in Ashfield Road and elsewhere for Thedwastre District Council, straight on to the meadow on the left hand side by the first ‘S’ bend! Many houses still do not have mains drainage much of which was first installed in Elmswell around 1964.

The top meadow on the right where Warren Lane joins the old A45, used to be a Thedwastre rubbish tip. Pig waste from the Bacon Factory was dumped there and there used to be an enormous amount of clutter along Warren Lane with paper and other rubbish in the hedges. They used not to bury it in those days and the rubbish used to burn for days, weeks even! Rannock’s waste — egg shells and the like was dumped in holes on the other side of Warren Lane where there was a sandpit; it is now rather poor agricultural land. The sandpits were used as a fun area for young motorcyclists.

At the back of Mill Gardens there used to be a Thedwastre Council tip where “non-toxic” items such as old water tanks and other metallic refuse of all sorts were dumped. This was ultimately filled in.

Twas said that if you could smell the Bury Sugar Beet factory then rain was coming. Or if you could hear with increased clarity the altered tone of the trains on the railway line you know it was a frosty morning!

So things have changed. Mind where you walk!


Part 10: More thoughts from EAEK, AFW, FPB and others
My thanks to Mr Alan F Wilcox, Managing Director of J R Rannoch Ltd, who contributed much to this article.

Alfred James Williams whose memorial service was held at St. Mary’s, Bury St Edmunds on 2 April 1994 died this spring aged 82. He was the founder of John Rannoch Ltd in 1933. He set up business at the Oak Barn adjacent to Greene King’s alehouse on the north corner of Oak Lane on Ashfield Road. EAEK remembers that he had lodgings at the Lion Public House which later became Catton’s garage and is now a private dwelling. The Lion was run by Mr & Mrs Pratt and was the only “hotel” in Elmswell and it seems that the standard of accommodation was not too high! A.J.W. didn’t stay very long and Douglas Scarff of Williams Brothers under whom he trained in London, arranged alternative accommodation at “Sunnyside” located on the Co-op Side of the railway crossing opposite Baker’s mill. At “Sunnyside” A.J.W. was the paying guest with Captain and Mrs Berkshire.

The Williams family businesses in London were founded in the late 1800s and there were something like two hundred shops all told. By the time the business was sold in 1971 to Bookers, there were as many as two hundred and forty shops. (Bookers were and are a large food distribution company and the name is better known in association with the Agatha Christie Booker prize for literature).

In the 1930’s eggs were being imported in large quantities from abroad from all over the place such as central Europe and China even. The Ministry tried to encourage the home production of this commodity and East Anglia was identified as an area in which this could be achieved. Alfred Williams’ need for challenge and independence coincided with Douglas Scarff’s interest hence A.J.W.’s departure for Elmswell at the age of twenty two, and John Rannoch Ltd was set up. The origin of the name of the firm is a little bit of a mystery and there were many theories, one of which was that the name came from Rannoch Moor which was not too far from Gatehouse of Fleet where his first wife Phoebe came from, in Scotland. However, the definitive version is that one of Williams’ companies, when this was all under discussion, was Kinloch Provision Merchants in Kinloch Street in London and a name which fitted closely with this was Rannoch because of its corporate sound!

From modest beginnings Alfred James Williams whom EAEK remembers used to travel round in his car collecting eggs from all sorts of suppliers (EAEK’s mother was one). The eggs were stacked in a box on a grid at the back of the car; they were then packed and sent up to London from Elmswell station. The business premises at Oak Barn were very temporary and Williams Brothers purchased Hood’s farm which is now Andersons Engineering. From Hood’s farm the business expanded so much that Haughley Park was bought around 1958 and an egg packing station was built. Egg collectors used to go round the countryside in their lorries and then bring them back to Haughley Park. These men were known as “Higglers” and some may well recall Vic Bassett and Horace Farthing from Mildenhall and Eric Peachey from Elmswell. Their job was to canvass new customers as well as collecting from regular suppliers. In 1969 the shell egg packing was discontinued in order to concentrate on the other two products which were egg products and poultry.

In the early 1960’s not only were eggs collected for packing but bits and pieces of game, pheasants, woodcock, old hens, pigeons, rabbits and hares were sent to London. Then egg products processing was added. The eggs were broken and turned into liquid form for bakery use; the process of pasteurisation was developed at Haughley Park, much of the work being done by the then managing director, Cliff Roberts, and Betty Realm from Reading University: the result of the joint work was published. The poultry processing operation began in 1962 from a new plant. F.P.B. (now retired) ran it with six people initially; eventually over a hundred were employed in this process. The egg products ceased in 1991 to concentrate on poultry. Two hundred thousand chickens per week are “processed”, 85-90% grown from Rannoch’s own farms, The annual turnover in 1994 is expected to be in excess of twenty eight million! Such organisation requires a good deal of “back-up”. Apart from a very efficient factory system, there are now modern laboratories to monitor possible bacterial problems and to analyse nutritional values of the products.

Some may have wondered about the funny smells emanating from Haughley Park when the wind was in the south-east. These odours are not due to the recycled waste from the sprayers but are a by product of the flash frying process. Some two hundred thousand gallons of water per day are used in the factory processes. The water comes from Rannoch’s four bore holes which go down some three hundred feet deep, for which a Licence of Right from Anglian Water is paid for. The waste goes into Rannoch’s treatment plant with sludge settlement etc, and when the effluent reaches a reasonable standard, it is used to irrigate the park land — a couple of hundred acres of filterbed.

After leaving “Sunnyside” in Elmswell, A.J.W. got married and lived first in Kensington Road in Stowmarket before moving on to “Ridgemont” in Finborough Road; this home was known locally as “Sausage Castle” because it belonged previously to the Turners!! The Turners were sausage makers! Alfred had a dry but lively sense of humour, an unassuming man who was quiet and never “pulled rank” on anyone. He was never known to have lost his temper although he did get upset at times. EAEK says he built a couple of semi detached houses just the other side of the council houses in Wetherden Road some time before the 1939-45 war. He used to take his employees on an annual outing. At the beginning he took them to the Angel Hotel in Bury in his car. Very soon outings were to Great Yarmouth by coach where the factory employees were given seven shillings and sixpence for lunch and the rest ate at the Carlton Hotel. However, everyone had dinner at the Carlton and everyone had tickets for one of the shows. In 1983, the Jubilee celebration for Rannoch’s staff was held at Haughley Park where food and suitable entertainment was provided and every employee regardless of Service was given an inscribed carriage clock! The Haughley Park festivities were continued for a few more years and then died out.

J.R. Rannoch Ltd employ some seven hundred staff; many come from Elmswell.


Part 11: More thoughts from EAEK and many others
Mr Robert Durrant owned the Grange before the first world war. He was a successful wealthy man who made his money from a newspaper cutting business in Holborn Bars, London. He was married to Katie Annie Durrant who was considerably younger than he. Social bigotry and snobbery were rife in those days and it was not unusual for newcomers to a village to take at least 30 years before they became accepted in the local community. So the Durrant’s found it hard to become part of Elmswell as their accents didn’t fit and people with such accents were not expected to buy such places as the Grange! (There is a hint of this attitude in the last line of the excellent article “Fancy Fair at Elmswell” in the August 1994 newsletter).

On one occasion in the mid-twenties, EAEK drove down to the post office in her car. She got out, greeted Mrs Durrant who, whilst staring at EAEK’s vehicle replied: “It is no good me having one as I have nowhere to go!” Not long afterwards Mrs Durrant, whose husband had predeceased her, was seen in the back of a Sunbeam Limousine driven by a chauffeur!.

The chauffeur, Jack Smith, used to be employed by Doctor Wood of Woolpit. Doctor Wood’s lifestyle was severely reduced following his wife’s death. She was well off but her money was tied up in trusts so that he did not benefit when she died. So he moved to Penzance taking Jack with him. Jack later responded to an advertisement from Mrs Durrant and thus he came back to Suffolk where he was housed in the Glade bungalow. Later he was moved to “Kenwood” which Mrs Durrant had built. Bill Farrow, who was her gardener for fourteen years, remembers her well. He was made redundant in 1936 when the new taxation bill came in! Such were the problems of the rich!

Doctor Wood was one of eleven children. He had a brother – a Colonel Wood -who lived in Holly Lodge, Cross Street, around 1924. Their father, the Rector of Beyton, had had eleven sons but no daughters, and at one time they had a cricket team known as the “Wood Eleven”! Having little money he educated all his sons at home! The rules were different then…..

Round about the 1930’s Mr Chamberlayne bought the land where the Memorial Hall and the Bowling Green now stand from Mrs Durrant. (At that time (1930) the value of the Grange and its twenty acres was £1,400!). Mr Chamberlayne was a solicitor and lived at Elmswell New Hall by the Fox and Goose cottages. His chambers, known as Woolnough Gross Son and Chamberlayne, which were situated in Abbey Gate Street in Bury, are now in Guildhall Street. Before the Memorial Hall was built there were two tennis courts with the bowling green and those were all in use before the first World War when Bill Farrow was at school. Presumably Mr Chamberlayne wanted to be seen as a benefactor to Elmswell and keep the facilities going in the centre of the village as the Memorial Hall “in safe return for the boys of the FORCES” – a permanent and practical memorial. So it is not surprising that much resentment was felt by the ill-conceived remark in the August editorial. Many find it difficult to come to terms that the building should go despite its dilapidation. Many feel that rebuilding should occur on this central site and that a good pavilion be provided on Blackbourne Meadow.

The Memorial Hall project was funded by voluntary subscription and build entirely by voluntary labour. Many Elmswell tradesmen worked extremely hard to achieve this, putting in many hours of dedicated work. Bert Oliver, Bill Farrow and his son built the stage and laid the tongued and grooved secret nail flooring; Algy Rice did the plumbing; Raymond Ayres and Vic Pizzy did the electrics; John Knight erected the roof; William Hawes worked extremely hard as did Oswald Wyatt. Many others were involved in the footings, erecting the interlocking concrete walls and purlins and, of course, the administration. The W.I. and the W.R.V.S. also lent a helping hand with refreshments etc. It was not without some sense of achievement that the Memorial Hall was opened in 1956.

Part 12: Vicars past by EAEK and others
As a child EAEK recalls Mr James Hipwell who became the Vicar in Elmswell in 1893. She remembers him as “a funny old man”. Well, one would at her age! She believes that Mr Hipwell found the Rectory too large and so lived in St John’s House, he had a housekeeper. The Rectory was let to various people who seemed to be the life and soul of the village!

Next came Mr John R George who had two sons and three daughters. EAEK was at school in Elmswell with all three daughters. The middle daughter was about the same age as she. Owing to a serious indiscretion Mr George lost his job. Untrained in anything else the unfrocked vicar left the Parish and took a job as a gardener in the west of Ireland.

Many years later Mrs Warren, widow of one of the Blacksmiths of Elmswell, a devout Anglican who never missed a church service, was bound for America. The liner was full of evacuees (women and children) intent upon joining relatives on the other side of the Atlantic during the early part of the 1939-45 war. The ship was one of the first to be torpedoed and sunk. Most of the passengers escaped in lifeboats and were taken to Ireland where they were sheltered. Mrs Warren discussed with locals her origins in Suffolk and her hosts happened to mention that a certain Mr George also from Suffolk worked nearby as a gardener. MrsWarren said she knew him extremely well and decided to pay him a visit and was greeted at the door by Mrs George whom she instantly recognised. Mrs George stubbornly denied that either she or her husband had ever lived in Suffolk and slammed the door in her face!

EAEK went to the Rev. Joseph David Sayer’s Induction Service as a schoolgirl in 1919. He was an extremely popular Vicar and did a great deal for the village. He was kind to everyone whether they went to Church or not; he was always cordial and had time for everybody. He bought a billiard table and gave up one of his rooms in the Rectory to allow the boys of the village full use of the facility. He also built a tennis court in the garden and invited the boys and girls of the village to use it. He did everything he could to keep the youth of the village together.

Rev. Sayer was a bachelor who had three aunts that used to keep house for him. One by one the elderly aunts died and he stayed on with the help of a young lad of sixteen. He eventually left when he was given the chance of moving to another parish the other side of Bury St Edmunds where the stipend was greater.

The next incumbent, the Rev. George Dolman, arrived in 1936. He and his wife were both Germans. His German parents came to live with him in the Rectory and when they died they were buried in the old cemetery on the right hand side as you go up the drive. Much suspicion was aroused during the war. Rumours abounded that they were signalling to the enemy by showing lights! On occasions some of the village lads used to go down to Earthfield Lane to see if they could spot any torch beams! Subsequently Rev. and Mrs Dolman moved to another living in Cambridge after the War.

Rev. Edgar David Harborne came in 1945 having been curate in Stowmarket. His wife was an exceptionally good organist. “The organ had never been played like it, never before nor since”. Rev. Harborne died nine years later and was buried in the last available space he had the foresight to purchase in the Churchyard. The black granite memorial stone with gold lettering stands near the door on the left hand side as you go up to it from the steps.

Mrs Harborne moved to Stowmarket and took a job as organist in Felixstowe and she continued to give organ lessons as she had always done in the past. EAEK and Mrs Harborne exchanged visits from time to time. Ultimately she became ill and died.

Rev. William G Elliott Castell became Vicar of Elmswell in 1962 and was here for only three years. He did not make much of a mark on the Parish. He was the first Vicar to live in the New Rectory. A whole lot of people seemed to arrive at the Old Rectory setting up a commune whose standards and ways of life were considerably different and possibly anathema to the traditional villagers. The women wore long skirts to the ground and had rats tails hairdos. The new residents kept goats, hens and pigs and grew all their own vegetables.

Rev. Alexander F L Colson followed. He was very popular and was here for nine years. He did much good in the village as did his wife. If there was trouble in any family or there was any illness, Mrs Colson used to drop everything and go and see what she could do. If a husband had to go to hospital and his elderly wife needed care she would take her a hot dinner every day. Mr Colson used to call on Parishioners and have friendly chats whether they were churchgoers or not. A bus load of Parishioners went to his Induction Service when he moved to Kilburn, London. EAEK was astonished to see that the congregation consisted mostly of coloured people!

The Rev. David C Markham stayed four years from 1974 till our present Vicar Rev. John A C Perrott came. EAEK liked D C M’s sermons which she found so riveting that it was not possible to go to sleep! The Vicar had a flat in Eastbourne which he occasionally sublet to villagers who wanted a holiday in that area. She believes he returned to Sussex after he left Elmswell.

John Dodds

John Dodds also wrote the following to the Newsletter:

Holly Lodge
Cross Street

Dear Editor,

The last paragraph of November’s Newsletter editorial concluded “I have often wondered where was the well with the elm trees which was probably the centre of the old village many life-times ago.”

Following an interview with one of our most senior villagers who has lived in Elmswell all her life and whose father came to Elmswell in 1887 when he was twenty one, she informed me that such a place did exist. As one proceeds down School Road leaving the Church behind, on the left on Hall Farm land near the acute right hand bend, there was an acre known as “The Elms in the Well”. It was a large meadow extending from behind the Almshouses down to the entrance to Hall Farm. It extended westward to the culvert in the old Norton Road, the other side of which were a pair of clay lump and thatch cottages adjacent to, but not belonging to (as far as she can recall) Bunker’s Hill Farm. From the culvert the westward boundary going north was alongside the present dyke. The elms she tells me, were removed sometime after 1953 and the well was filled in. It is now all cultivated land. Furthermore, our informant believes that this area gave the village its present name.

John Dodds

Ella Kinsey: an appreciation by Dr John Dodds

Miss Ella Kinsey celebrated her hundredth birthday with lunch at the Bunbury Arms, Great Barton on 12 June 2007. Miss Kinsey has been in sheltered accommodation at The Courtyard, Gainsborough Road, Stowmarket for some seven years. Before that Ella had never been away from Elmswell save for a short period in the Civil Service when she was stationed in Sittingboume, Kent for a year.

She was born in her grandmother’s house, Park Farm, Haughley where her mother stayed for the first 3 to 4 weeks after delivery; she then retumed to Hill Farm, Ashfield Road, Elmswell from where she eventually went to school (run by a Miss Watts) in the building which is now the Baptist Church in Ashfield Road.

In 1916 Mr Kinsey gave up farming and the family moved to Cooks Road next to Hawes, the Printers. From there Ella went to another school (run by a Miss Boby) at Norwood in Church Road, where Ella stayed until she was about 16. After the 1939-45 war Miss Kinsey ran a grocer’s shop in School Road for a few years until the shop was sold. In 1962 she and her mother moved to what is now appropriately called “Kinsey Lodge”; her father who had been a tax inspector had died in 1949.

Sadly Ella’s mother did not live very long after the removal to Cross Street. Jack Bloom came to live as a paying guest. With his sister he had been a newsagent in Battersea, London for many many years. When his sister died he resolved to retum to his roots – he was a Stowmarket man – and went to stay with his brother in Church Road, where “things” did not go too well so he decided to look for somewhere else to live. Fortunately he and Miss Kinsey got on well till his death in February 1993 after a spell in Stowlangtoft Elderly Peoples Home.

It is interesting to note how things have changed: Mrs Kinsey did not give birth to her first born in hospital. Ella Kinsey always walked to school unaccompanied! Ella Kinsey has always been an avid reader of The Elmswell Newsletter and she contributed to many articles about life in Elmswell in the Newsletter some years back. Although physically handicapped by profound deafness and arthritis she continues to be extremely mentally alert and possesses a remarkable memory even for recent events. Long may she continue. I try to visit her every week. Miss Kinsey had no brothers or sisters excepting three stepsisters by Mr Kinsey’s previous marriage. Ella last cut her lawn at the age of 84.

The following article appeared in The Elmswell Newsletter, October 2008
Miss Ella Kinsey
Ella Kinsey was born in 1907 – the year that Baden Powell founded the Boy Scouts and the first taxicabs with meters started operating in London.

She was born at Hill Farm, just this side of the water tower on Ashfield Road, and, except for a brief year away when posted as a tax officer to Kent, lived in Elmswell, and was immersed in the life of Elmswell, until poor health at the age of 94 persuaded her into sheltered accommodation in Stowmarket where, on 29 August this year, she died.

Miss Kinsey walked as a child down Ashfield Road all the way to the school held in what was and is, affectionately, the ‘tin tabernacle’, the Baptist Church where the teacher, Miss Watts, did the preaching on a Sunday. When her father gave up farming to become a tax inspector in 1917, he built a house on an acre of land in Cooks Road and Ella had a much shorter daily walk to Norwood in Church Road where Miss Boby and her staff of 3 offered her a Christian education which lasted until she was 17. She drove her father’s Rover car – as his, ‘Chauffeur, gardener and odd job man’, from the age of 14 and relaxed at the tennis club which ran behind the school on Church Road.

In 1936 she began her first job outside of the home – as a Tax Officer Class 1- moving on to work for Pearl Assurance to replace male staff called up during the war.

Following her father’s death in 1950, her mother took on, by way of payment in lieu of a bad debt, the little shop on School Road opposite the fire Station. Ella ran the ‘off-hand shop’, selling everything the village needed for day-to-day living, for 15 years until Mr Leeks bought it.

Meanwhile, the Cooks Road property having become too big for them, Ella and her mother had a bungalow built in Cross Street, subsequently named, ‘Kinsey Lodge,’ and much enlarged.

Ella’s recollections of the changing face of Elmswell have enlightened many issues of the Newsletter. Of days when there were 3 banks in the village, and a weekly visiting dentist from Stowmarket in the shop where Margaret’s Hairdressers now trades. Of the 2 blacksmiths, the baker’s shop where the chip shop is and where – plus Æ change – there are recently installed tables and chairs for customers, just as Mr Clarke the baker used to offer. Of WH Smith’s bookstall on the Station, when the Station and staff were a small community in themselves, and of the Post Office in the days when it was also the 24 hour manual telephone exchange. Of the stables at The Fox serving railway passengers from outlying parts, and of the myriad experiences related by her father – Special Constable, Churchwarden, Assessor and Collector of Taxes for 41 villages, Chairman of the Parish CounciI and general pillar of the community – with Ella’s help and support always behind him. With Ella has gone 94 years of Elmswell oral history. However, with typical generosity of spirit she shared her encyclopaedic knowledge of our village over those years through her very good friend Dr John Dodds to whom we are indebted for having noted the memories of a true daughter of Elmswell who, having left her mark in so many ways, left the stage as she wished. She was buried next to her family in Elmswell Cemetery with, as was her specific wish, minimal fuss and ceremony…’ no flowers at all…’ to the words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – ‘For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday’. A hundred years through her eyes have left a valuable insight into our fast changing world and stand as testimony to a fine and upright lady.