Gordon GOYMER, 1933-2021
Interviewed by Keith Burrows in Spring 2007 and Norman Kenyon in January 2009
Gordon was born in 1933 at 12 Wetherden Rd; the family moved in 1937 to 14 Jubilee Terrace.
He was at the local school from about 1937 to 1948. Then as he was keen to emulate his big half-brother Denny and join the army, his dad took him to Ipswich for some exams, as a result of which he was apprenticed as an engine fitter; then he spent 8 years with the Royal Engineers, serving in Korea, Malaya, and Japan. When on leave he used to visit his sister in Birmingham: there he met his wife, and has lived there ever since.
So his memories of Elmswell relate chiefly to his boyhood years, especially in wartime, though he visited here often during his father’s lifetime and still comes back to visit friends.
Gordon’s ancestry is firmly Elmswellian at least for several generations back – see my notes from the records. His grandparents were Charles Goymer and Minnie (née Manning), and Frederick Farrow and Charlotte (née Waterman, from Norton). Charles was a miller, and Fred was a bricklayer (he helped build Woolpit Brick Co. chimneys, and Wetherden Methodist Chapel). Denny (q.v.) remembers seeing grandad Frederick in his coffin (in the HEL house), about 1920.
Charles and Minnie had at least 8 children: Evelyn (~1901), William (‘Billy’) Charles b.1902 in Hawk End Lane, Sid, Rosie (died ~2005), Mabel, Jack, Olive, Dorothy (m. Redit). Billy Goymer worked as a miller at Baker’s Mill for almost 50 years – but like many others he helped in the fields at harvest time. He married Amy Farrow in about 1925 . In the war years he served in the Home Guard (see picture and notes below). According to Gordon, the Home Guard were never short of a few sausages, as they did guard duties at the factory, where they walked the roof – a good view looking out for fires etc. They’d help load the lorries, and reward themselves with pork pies. He was also in the British Legion and the ‘Buffs’ (q.v.). After Amy died he later married Marjorie Cardy. He had a stroke in 1983 and died a year later.
Amy Farrow was born in about 1895. She and her brother (Spencer) and sister (Mabel) worked at Rand’s bakery in School Road, either in the bakery itself, in the bread shop next door, or delivering around the village with horse and trap. Gordon mentions other sibling names: Herbert, Sidney, Eva, Nelson Percy (died in WWI), Albert, Jessie, Frank, Ruth (died young). Amy died in 1949. [G’s cousin (Gatwick) has a photo of Mabel with horse and trap delivering bread.]
Gordon had 5 brothers and 3 sisters, all the brothers and a sister being in the forces at the same time. Dennis (‘Denny’) and Cyril Farrow were half-brothers); then there were Don, Peter, Jack and himself. Charlotte brought Denny and Cyril up. Peter was the only one to do National Service, the rest regular army; Denny joined as a boy soldier in 1931 and eventually made it to captain in the Royal Engineers; Cyril (‘Brub’) reached brigadier, also in the RE. The sisters were Doris (Farrow), Margaret and Daphne.
Denny married Gwen Minihane who lived in New Road. In 1949 they emigrated to Australia; Denny died there in May 2008 at 92 (so he was born in ~1916). [Minihanes travelled daily to London where they had shops. Gwen’s brother was in the RAF at Wattisham, killed in the blitz of 1940 (see memorial).]
Aunty Mabel Goymer married Percy Finch and lived in School Ave. One son Donny went to HMS Ganges (made it to ‘button boy’!); his brother Colin runs a scrap metals business in Kiln Lane.
School & Youth
When Gordon was about 4, perhaps in May 1937 at the time of King George VI’s coronation, he took part in a fancy dress parade on Church Meadow: dressed in ‘pearly king’ gear he won first prize, and repeated the triumph at the Stowmarket Fête soon after. His mother used the winnings to buy new shoes!
In about 1938 the kids at infant school were given gas masks – the tinies even got a Mickey Mouse mask.
Sterne was headmaster when he started school, and was he stern! You were all right with him in Standard IV if you were good at Arithmetic. If you weren’t he’d assume you were lazy and really ‘have it in for you’; with sarcastic comments, canings and other punishments. Miss Durrant was the second teacher. She had been at the school some time and she wore her hair in a bun at the back; a real old fashioned school ma’am. Then there was Miss Sybil Brown the infants’ teacher in Standard I. Standard III was taught in the large hall at the left, while Mr Sterne’s Standard IV was in the other half. The infants were taught in the room beyond, on the parish church side of the school, and there was another class in the room facing School Road.
The kids used to go pea- and tater-pickin’ during the war when labour was short: they had a card from school which had to be signed at the farm, to confirm they hadn’t been skiving.
Just before morning break they had to line up for bottles of one third of a pint of milk with straws. In cold weather, when the milk was frozen, the milk monitors would lug in the crates and plonk them around the fenders of the tall circular tortoise stoves in the classrooms so that the milk was melted. After the war there was still no school canteen, so school dinners were brought in tin containers and we had to eat them at our desks. Prunes and custard were best since we would try to flick the stones at the girls. Some more daring, or foolhardy, souls even tried flicking prune stones into Mr Palmer’s plate, when he wasn’t looking.
The older girls cycled over to Woolpit one afternoon a week to do Domestic Science and Cookery; they were taught there in a hut where the car park is now. The boys went out to do Horticulture on the school gardens and allotments, across the playground, beyond the outdoor toilet block, where the back gardens of Pightle Close are now. There were a couple of large apple trees and a couple of pear trees, and another pear tree trained along the fence, and a lot of vegetables as contribution to the wartime Dig for Victory campaign.
When the village schools at Tostock and Great Ashfield were closed after the war, their pupils had to be bussed here, needing extra teachers: Miss Grace Goddard from Tostock, and Miss Mulley who cycled all the way over from Ixworth. Sterne retired and was replaced by Johnny Palmer. Then there was Miss Knook in the Infants, Peter Fry in the Juniors, Mr Copeman the arithmetic teacher, Mrs Hurrell in the Juniors, and Mr Prior the woodwork teacher. He had to teach the senior boys at the Woolpit Institute building; pupils would walk or bike over there once a week whilst the girls were bussed over to cookery lessons now at Rattlesden School. In 1948 the school was becoming even more crowded as a result of the raising of the school-leaving age: more classrooms and a canteen were added, and a new woodwork room.
After Mr Palmer left the next headmaster was a Mr Kirby who came in about the Coronation Year (1953) and was there for many years.
Evacuees There had been ‘evacuees’ of a sort in Elmswell before the war: Dr Barnado’s regularly used to send five or six to Mrs Phillips, along Wetherden Road. When children and mothers with babies were evacuated from London, 30 or more of them arrived here and were distributed to homes where the wives had earlier agreed to take in evacuees; they kept siblings together where possible. Aunt Violet took in one girl. They had schooling in the old church hall, where a wooden extension was added.
Many of the evacuees themselves were very poor and came from the rough parts of London – areas such as Bethnal Green; they often had only one lot of scruffy clothes and they seemed to wear only plimsolls for footwear. You had to be careful that you didn’t catch nits or skin diseases like impetigo from them. The tough boys weren’t averse to fighting with locals at times: ‘meet you on Shop Corner’ was a common challenge. One opponent of Gordon’s was Terry Goody, who lodged with Rita and Ruby Pyke in School Road. At less bellicose moments they would try to beat our ‘scratch’ teams at football.
Like Stan King, Gordon did a paper round (Cooks & Wetherden Rd) for Mr Leeks, 2 bob a week, increased to 2/6d just before he left for the army. He also delivered groceries on a grocer’s bike, afternoons/evenings.
“Religious” activities for many of the kids depended on the perks: they used to go to Rev. Winter (Methodist) for Bible classes, because tea and cakes or sandwiches were served. Gordon got a hymn book in 1946 as a prize for good attendance! Sunday school outings were the big treat of the year: you could craftily join any or all of the three Sunday Schools, the ‘tent’ (Baptist), chapel, or church (St John’s), and get on the Mulley Brothers’ coach outing, usually to Felixstowe. For the kids it was wonderful just to see the seaside and to muck around on the beach there, could not be had by any other means. They went to Felixstowe even during the war, probably in the late summer of 1944, but because the main beaches were still barbed-wired and mined against enemy landings they had to go to nearby Bawdsey Ferry.
There was a preacher who came every summer for a day or two: he would set up his caravan in one of the local meadows and he would preach salvation to large congregations of adults and children; maybe they were more interested in the free cups of tea and biscuits offered afterwards, and this open air preaching was ‘something different’, in a place where there was little novelty.
Some of the lads used to go up to Top Road on a Sunday, sit on bank and take down the registration numbers and models of the few cars that passed. Then down to the Maypole to sit in the beer garden, father drinking his ‘tenpenny worth’ of beer, mother drinking a gin and t’ and the children drinking lemonade and eating the large penny arrowroot ‘cartwheel’ biscuits.
Being a contemporary of Jimmy Baker, they “knocked about” together and Gordon was often around the mill, especially as his father worked there. He remembers the fire at Willow House; they pumped water over from the Grange.
Football teams from the various neighbourhoods played each other at Pye’s Meadow or Scouts’ Meadow – Wetherden Road v. Ashfield Road, etc. Ronnie Miller (of the transport firm in Rose Lane) broke his leg playing footer when he was in his 20s.
Household tasks in the 1940s Father would repair our shoes; Mother would make the short trousers we boys all wore until we were 14 as well as making the dresses for the girls. The life of a shirt would be prolonged by turning its collar.
Older school children were expected to contribute: on returning from school each day, before going out to play: fetching water, bringing in buckets of coal from the outhouse, chopping up firewood, tearing up newspapers into ‘fours’ for toilet, preparing vegetables, feeding the pigs and the chickens. Some children were sent along the railway tracks to collect lumps of coal which had fallen from tenders or coal wagons.
Mother would make bread twice per week. She also prepared:
- Wines, especially for Christmas or some family get-together: ginger wine, wheat wine, and maize wine; wines made from all the berries and other wild plants which the children collected: elderberry, barley, dandelions, rose hips, sloe, crab apples, mushrooms, etc.
- Jams: blackberries, blackcurrants, apples and plums.
- Pickles: shallots, eggs.
- Rabbits and pigeons (were such pests to the local farmers they were very glad for people to shoot them).
The Village, its shops, services and social life
Like other villagers of the 1930s and 1940s, he recalls the little shops there used to be around the village.
- The lock-up shed in School Road, run by Mr Davidson before Ella Kinsey; a little grocery, sold all sorts.
- Little shop on the corner of Hawk End Lane, run by Ned Elliston, just a front room really; it ceased in the early 40s.
- Farrows butcher in Hawk End Lane
- Mr. Farmer’s shop, next to Newson’s coal office, a grumpy old man; the kids would buy a pennorth of sweets, and on the way out jam something into the door bell so it wouldn’t sound, then when he was out at the back they’d nip in and nick some more sweets. (No wonder he was grumpy!) Margaret’s]. Beany was an invalid, getting around on crutches. Previously, in Ozzy Wyatt’s time during the war people used to go there for ID cards, ration books, clothing coupons, subsidised orange juice, gas masks, pamphlets and so on – it was a sort of Ministry sub-office. Wyatt himself was the RDC sanitary inspector. Crew Stiff’s fish and chip shop was next to Clarke’s the butchers and Mindham’sCash Stores (now the Mace Stores), and was very popular back in the 1940s. At times we’d go up after school and earn a penny or two black-eyeing the scraped potatoes, before they were used for chips. Stiff’s crisps were a real treat, tasting better than Smith’s.
- Kay’s the Barbers in Wetherden Road – or maybe K’s, as he was a German with a name difficult for villagers; to the right where Prescott Ave now is. It was like a small bungalow, with a big ‘car park’ only no cars (only about 4 in the village then); sold sweets and cigarettes; there were vegetable gardens at back where K worked a lot (and the kids sometimes scrumped). He lodged with the Buckles over the road. He donated money to help set up the Memorial Hall. Ray Eyres said he had previously worked at Harrods.
- Bread, etc: Palmer’s of Haughley, Rand’s of School Road, Baker’s of Rougham and Page from Norton
- Butchers: Clarke, then Goodfellowin Ashfield Road, Ben Addison from Woolpit with meat, Grainger from Walsham, Philip Snelling of Norton (poultry).
- Fish: Smith of School Road (behind Rands), Bill Coe of New Road, behind Redit the blacksmith (in a motor-bike and sidecar), and Middleton from one of the other villages.
- Chimney sweep: Welham of Wetherden Road
The local GP was Dr Stevens from Woolpit, assisted by district Nurse Keeble. A dentist worked in the rear of the RDC food office premises (now Margaret’s hairdressers), though school children were dealt with by the school dentist.
The Elmswell Fire Brigade often had its work cut out on bonfire nights. It had its fire engine equipment parked around behind the Albatross Garage in one of the barns in the farm yard there. During the war there would always be two or three of the volunteer men there and at night they slept there, in a rota. The fire brigade volunteers then included Reg Porter, Frank Redit, Albert Farrow and Joe Meakin. After the war the firemen included Ted Woolnough, Stan Howe and Don Bullett.
The Postman was ‘Picky’ Manning and he was followed, during the late 1940s, by Billy Elliston.
A local taxi service was provided by Bill Jacobs from his garage.
In the old days the local police station was at what is now ‘The Old Police House’ in Ashfield Road. In the 1930s it moved to ‘Meadow View’ at the far end of the Wetheden Road. Here lived PC Porter and then, during and after the war, PC Wells. PC Porter and PC Wells would both deal with misbehaving boys and adolescents by giving them ‘a thick ear’ and a warning. More persistent offenders would also be reported to the parents and, if their offences were serious, end up at the juvenile court at Ixworth. In 1952 a new police station was built in Cooks Road. In the 1950s and 1960s PC Westgate was the local bobby, and then PC Shepherd.
There were small fairs held in Elmswell before the war. I can remember one being held in the field behind The Lion (now The Beeches) in Ashfield Road. Also, in Farm Meadow where they later built the fire station, a fair was held there at times. However the main fair was always held at Woolpit, and there was a big fair at Stowmarket to which the teenagers used to go. Gordon and the lads were out to chat up the girls at the fairs and other events, including Tostock where he would first have met Margaret Cutting (now Mrs Borrett); they met again by chance over 50 years later, by which time both were widowed.
There was a certain amount of inter-village rivalry between the Woolpit and Elmswell lads. At times, like at football local Derbies or at dances, there might be insulting banter and the occasional fight might break out.
There were some dances, or ‘socials’, run at Wetherden village hall by John Parsk, who would sit at the entrance collecting half crowns. At the Elmswell Church Hall there would be housey housey (bingo), whist drives and concerts, and occasionally plays. Before the war a number of local young people had set up a band to play at socials in the region; this included Brenda Read who played the piano, and later the drums, and her brother Eric who played the accordion.
At the end of the war there was a village fete and show. The VE night celebrations took place in the Play Meadow – a very large bonfire that night.The VJ celebrations in August 1945 took place on Church Meadow behind the Rectory, with a fete, sports and a big fancy dress parade.
The annual church fête took place on the extensive lawns opposite Holly Lodge. On occasions in Mr Macdonald’s time there were also large socials and dances held on the lawns around The Grange.
On bonfire nights after the war there would be family Guy Fawkes bonfires and the fathers would get Brocks or Standard’s fireworks from the Cash Store or Wright’s Store.
The Water Supply
Although some villagers did have their own wells, most households had to share. In Jubilee Terrace there was only one outside water pump for the six council houses Nos.7-17: a narrow path ran behind the back gardens to give everybody access to this pump which was behind No.12, and it was important to ensure that it didn’t freeze up by putting straw and old coats around the base.
Each day after school we would collect two buckets of water from the communal pump. Each of the council houses in Jubilee Terrace had a large square tank outside the house, about 5 feet tall, collecting the rainwater from the roof. Also at the back of the houses the RDC had erected small brick sheds. One half was used for the bucket toilet and the other half was used to house the ‘copper’. The large round copper bowl (acting like a large sink) was on top of a brick foundation, under which was a grate. On Mondays mother would light the fire under the copper for the weekly wash, and on Friday nights for the family baths. Baths were always taken in the large tin bath that was kept hanging on the back of the coal shed door. It was brought down into the living room and put in front of the fire in the cooking range. The hot water was then brought into the kitchen from the copper house and we all had to take our baths, separately, and in turn; first the babies, then the girls, then the older boys and finally the parents – a lengthy operation!
Insurance and savings
Before the advent of the NHS in 1948 many people paid into medical insurance organisations, such as ‘the Buffs’ (the Ancient Order of Buffaloes) which used to meet at the Fox – Billy Goymer was one of the local organisers; Uncle Jack Goymer used to collect money for the ‘Oddfellows’ who met over at Woolpit. At the Railway Tavern they had the annual Slate Club into which people paid weekly: it would also pay out something for doctor’s fees if you were ill and you had to be off work or had to spend time in hospital, but since the club was only in existence from one year’s end to the next, your pay-out when in need rather depended on how much was still in the kitty.
People would also take out insurance against all sorts of other things: funeral expenses, temporary unemployment, doctors’ fees or for stays in hospital. There would be agents from the large insurance companies going round to householders once a week collecting their subs – some might have a 1d policy, others a 1/- policy.
Then there were the Christmas Clubs, based on the pubs; these only paid out in early December.
The local British Legion branch, of which Billy was a member had its meetings in The Fox Hotel’s rooms before the war and a few years afterwards. on Armistice Day Sunday Jock Henderson got the BL members lined up behind those who had been in the Home Guard and they marched down from Shop Corner to the parish church; the service was broadcast all over Britain and the Empire.
The Boy Scouts and the Cubs were run before the war by Mr Jock Henderson, the chief accountant up at the Bacon Factory (lived at The Cedars) and Fred Winchester; but Gordon doesn’t remember any wartime activity.
During the war Mr Sterne the headmaster used the scouts’ hut up the Ashfield Road as the headquarters for his ATC corps; brother Don was a cadet sergeant and brother Jack was a member too.
On Saturday mornings, even during the war, we youngsters could cycle over to Stowmarket and park our bikes round at Manning’s Cycle Shop for 2d, before nipping round to see the ‘flicks’ at the Regal or Palladium (the ‘bug house’). Gordon remembers occasional silent movies at the old church, at 2d. a ticket, and lantern slide shows at the Woolpit Institute; after the war they put on normal films there too. During the war, because we lads often had to go to the Gt Ashfield air base up Grove Lane, to collect washing and mending for our mums, we were occasionally allowed to slip into the American base’s cinemas.
Around the village – in the late ‘30s and ‘40s
Hawk End Lane
On the corner of School Road was Joe Bloomfield, after Elliston left (see shops above). In the same building were two more dwellings now combined into one – Walter Parr was next to Bloomfield.
Next there is a building of two dwellings which were three at the time. In the first was Fred Cardy, who had had a butcher’s shop there. Fred the son became a school caretaker in Thetford, son Gordon worked for Leggatts; 3rd son joined the RAF. Daughter Marjorie later married Billy Goymer. In the third were Charles and Minnie, and in the middle one was Eliza Goymer, Charles’ sister. The Goymers’ house had a well in the back garden.
The last block before the bend housed the Steggalls and the Howes – the latter worked at the bacon factory.
The Farrows lived ‘up the Hawk’ too, on the right-hand side round the bend; it seems the house was at right angles to the road; it was thatched (but not on George Russell’s list of thatched houses). The house was burned down in 1922 (according to Denny) and they moved to 10 Wetherden Road.
(NB: Nos. 1 to 30 are all on the north side)
Nos. 1-29? were mostly council houses, some built as ‘homes for heroes’ in 1921-1922 and others later in the 1930s. Billy’s family moved into No.12 in about 1923. The council had opened the playing field behind the houses in 1936, at about the time the houses in Jubilee Terrace were being built. A monster VE Day bonfire was held here on the evening of the 7th May 1945. Playmeadow Drive (now ‘Claymeadow’ – Gordon doesn’t know how it came to change) was a cart track through to this open space, just west of No.9. There were two private houses (never council houses) Nos. 7 & 8. There was a water pump beside No.1.
No.1 Ada King (son Percy King worked at the bacon factory)
No.2 Charlie Mead
No.3-5 Armstrong, Rowe, Sturgeon
No.6 Tom Welham, chimney sweep (among other things)
There was at one time a Nunn in one of these houses, whose daughter married Meakins and lives now in Thedwastre.
Nos. 7 & 8 both Fayers, No.8 Alan Fayers who was a builder/carpenter.
No.9 Winchester, later Salmon
Charlotte Farrow moved into No.10 in 1922.
Alice Phillips at No.11, Goymers at No.12, Miller at No.13 and Southgate at No.14 where Dick Burch now is. Bob Brewer at No.15.
Brenda and Dot Read and 2 brothers and parents lived at No.16: Gordon stayed with them when his ma was in hospital. Donny was ‘brought up’ with them. Brenda took part in concerts in the church hall, and her brother Eric played accordion. Brother Doug was lost on the Burma railway.
Jack (Billy’s brother) and Violet Goymer lived next to Fred & Cicely Buckle, Nos. 28 and 29.
White City (now Nos.17-22) Baker, Armstrong, Parsk all lived there. Phyllis Parsk (David’s auntie) worked for a long time as a cleaner at the factory. Phyllis’ parents lived on the corner of Jubilee, followed by Oxborough, then Lucky Manning, Picky Manning the Postman lived along there too – he was the only village postman during the war.
On the south side, there was a public footpath where Prescott Drive now is; this went over to Beech Row and on to “TopRoad” (A45). Beech Row was from (Warren) Mill House up to Top Road. There was/is also a path to Wetherden Hall.
Kay’s the Barbers – see above under Shops.
Durrants: the father kept lots of chickens in coops all the way up to where Mill Gardens is. Posh wooden shed in front of the house, where Oscar the son did his saddle and harness making. The field at back of Durrants was called ‘Stony Hill’. A chap called Smith drowned himself in ‘Basin Pond’ at the bottom there.
Jubilee Terrace was still using oil lamps and paraffin stoves in 1948. There was a single water tap for six houses, but also a rainwater collection system (see ‘Water Supply’ above). Electricity was installed at our place and all round the village in about 1950, as was the piped water supply. However they still had to wait for a mains sewerage system and council rubbish collection service for another ten years or more. Jubilee Terrace wasn’t surfaced until the 1950s. When they were building Jubilee Terrace they had used a cart on rails to carry materials along it, from Wetherden Road and round the corner to the end of J.Avenue – the kids used to play on that in the evenings.
Stan Howe at No.7, Cicely Rush next door.
On the west side, there were Kinseys (who kept goats and sold the milk) – to the north of the police station built in the 1970’s. [Ella Kinsey was enamoured of a Capt. Sinclair who lived on Cross Street.] W W Hawes had what is now Dunelm, then Rev. Winter (Methodist minister) in ‘The Knoll’ and headmaster Sterne in ‘Arvon’. Scouts Meadow fronted onto Cooks Road. The Football Club (of which Vic Wade was a leading light) played there, but in about 1952 they had to move to Pye’s Meadow, to make way for the council houses and, later, the council offices (now Mann’s Court). Mann’s Meadow was next to Scouts’ Meadow, on the bend of Cooks road. [But David Hawes says ‘Low Meadow’, ‘Mann’s Meadow’ and ‘Scouts Meadow’ all refer to the same field.] There was a footpath alongside the Grange with a stile, going over to Jubilee.
Lawns on the north side, belonging to and opposite Holly Lodge (see ‘Socials’ above). To the right thereof were some allotments, stretching down to the corner of Cooks Road.
Harry Baker and family were in Willow House, and headmaster Palmer next door (now ‘Eastbury’). Palmer retired to a house up Ashfield Road, opposite the ‘tent’ (Baptist Chapel). Borley the builder lived next door to Eastbury. Charlie Rudland used to live in Chapel Row. Minnie Goymer lived in No.2 Tudor Cottages in 1939. The house ‘Kence’ to the west of the Tudor Cottages was two dwellings: Mannings lived in the left side and Davidson the right, with his little grocery (see above). Rita and Ruby Pyke (Rita married Ray Bennett) in the 1st council house (just past Pightle Close). Ned Elliston moved from No.1 Hawk End to the last council house in the row.
Old Church Hall (removed in the 1980s): this building can be seen on the far left of the aerial photo; it was entered via a longish path and large double doors. There was a cloakroom away to your left and a large old tortoise stove standing on the right. At the far end was the stage, and to the far right another exit. There was also side room on the right (kitchen and/or green room?). Mrs Roper, who acted as caretaker both for this Church Hall and the school next door, lived in one of the two School House semis visible on the photo between the two buildings.
The junction of Cooks Road and New Road was known as Mulleys Corner, as Mulleys the builders occupied the old house now called ‘The Willows’; Gordon remembers building materials stacked outside. Taylors lived in Orchard Cottage , Minihanes at Roseacre, which had a beautiful garden and a panelled lounge, Gordon remembers from Denny’s wedding reception.
At Wright’s store (later Lufkin’s) in New Road you could also buy tasty ice cream made by Mr Fred Wright and his assistant Mr Fred Goymer, (my father’s cousin). Also working at Wright’s was ‘Sonny’ Murfitt, the elder brother of a friend of Gordon’s who lived down at No 10, Jubilee Terrace. He managed to get a television working in 1946, probably picking up the Alexander Palace transmissions (it was some years before Suffolk had coverage).
Station Road, Ashfield Road
Albatross Garage: This was a repair and servicing garage, with new Ford and Austin cars to be seen in the large showroom windows. Commander Bird RN owned the garage and a Mr McNeil ran it for a good number of years, before moving up the road to work at Jacob’s petrol service station. Commander Bird had had a generator installed at the Albatross and provided an electricity service [Ray Eyres]
Bill Jacob had a second-hand car dealership and car repair works [was this also the bike shop?] on a small junky yard at the end of the terrace, opposite to the Fox. Later he ran a National Benzole petrol service station up at the former Red Lion pub (now ‘The Beeches’). Catton ran this as a Shell garage from the 1960s when there were far more local vehicles, and good business also from the bacon factory workers who came from outside the village.
One could get cigarettes and chocolate bars from the slot machines outside Jacob’s cycle repair shop opposite the Fox, and also down by the village telephone box at Shop Corner. Youngsters could illegally get a packet of five Woodbines for 2d – quite a lot of the 14 to 15 year olds were slyly smoking ‘fags’ in secluded spots around the village.
Bank House, Ashfield Road: in this house lived and worked a James Hassell who was the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district; so most of the villagers had to troop in there to report ‘hatches, matches and dispatches’ at some time or other in their lives.
Thomas Moys Ltd, coal and coke merchants, had their office and extensive yards between the railway station and the Fox. There was a trackway and path there leading to the Station Master’s House, Black Mill and the allotments over on the far right. This track continued round to Robert Pye’s sawmills beyond the railway yards, and beyond that again was the workers’ footpath entrance to the bacon factory. Obviously during the war this area, now covered by the Station Road Industrial Estate, was a real hive of activity.
The Bacon Factory had its proper entrance for the arrival of pig-carrying lorries further up the Ashfield Road, just beyond Mr Mindham’s Cash Stores. You could always hear their arrival since the pigs set up a noisy squealing as they were jolted over to one side, by the lorries turning rapidly round the corner and into the entrance of the Bacon Factory’s St Edmunds Drive there. The factory also had a private railway which ran off the LNER’s line and straight into the works. My uncle Jack Goymer was foreman and a good number of the boys’ parents and relatives worked here then. In those days the local lads could just wander into factory grounds; if we meandered up to the last part, where they prepared the pork pies, we could often cadge or ‘nick’ some of these delicious pies.
Sometimes they would offer to go up on the double-decker lorry transporters to drive out the pigs packed in there. These pigs would be driven into pens and then along a narrow alleyway to where Mr Ted Salmon or one of the others would be waiting with stunners. These electrified tongs would stun the pig and it would then be hoisted by one back leg onto conveyor hooks. As the pigs were conveyed along, their throats would be cut by Herbert Frost and the blood would gush down into runnels and flow off into pits, where it would be dried and disposed of later. The pig’s carcase would now go through the furnace, where the bristles would be burned off, and then continue through the hot water tanks for cleansing. On the other side, the hanging pig carcase would be slit down the middle and a number of workers would cart off the intestines, slung over their arms, to the stinking Gutting Room. Here the intestines would be prepared for the delicious sausage products. As for the rest of the carcase, the two halves would be taken down and then cut up into the different parts, for pork, bacon and ham. Everything was used up, everything that is except the squeak. The H bone was particularly tasty when sliced and fried. Then there were also the pigs’ tails and trotters. They all made for a tasty meal, especially in the wartime.
Opposite to the Baptist Chapel was Mr William Borley’s home and building yard. There were quite a few men working for him as bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers and painters.
Memories of Wartime
When they weren’t down at the rubbish dump or helping in some jobs at home or round the village, the lads could go fishing in the Blue Water over beside the Woolpit Brick Works. At one time it had been the large deep pit from which the brick clays had become extracted. Here they also used American aircraft drop fuel tanks (recovered from the dumps) as canoes, slicing off the top part of the cigar-shaped tanks. Gordon remembers seeing five or six dog fights high in the sky over Elmswell and Haughley. Later in the war one bomber crashed near Haughley Park but, by the time they got there to pick up mementoes, the police were there, guarding the wreckage.
The planes could be heard droning over as they flew to bomb the Midlands, and later the Allied planes droning the other way. Air raid warnings were sounded from the bacon factory roof.
PC Wells and Mr Oswald Wyatt were the local Air Raid Wardens; they would cycle around the village checking for lights showing.
The USAAF: In 1943 the Americans had arrived with their B17 Flying Fortress bombers.The kids would stand in the back garden and count the planes taking off to bomb Germany, circling around above Elmswell as they formed up into their defensive box formations. By the time they got back from school, the bombers would be returning too, and they would count to see how many had been shot down. Those planes with wounded on board, or with damaged engines or landing gear, would send out flares: they would be allowed to come in first, whilst the others circled, awaiting their own turn to land.
Those local village men in reserved occupations or over the age of enlistment (50) often found that they were rather crowded out by the airmen at the Fox and the Tavern. They were paid much more than our own servicemen on leave (who got 70p daily ) and well above the average Suffolk civilian pay of £2.50. No wonder they commanded the attention of the publicans and a good number of the English girls.
There were a good number of Afro-Americans based in a tent camp at Haughley Park and at Tostock. The white and black US servicemen were only allowed into pubs here on alternate nights; there were MPs on hand, just in case.
The short cut paths from the US living quarters to the Elmswell pubs and the railway station all came together at the far end of Oak Lane, where there was a security gate. The boys would go through the gate and then meander all over the place. The airmen who were a friendly lot, not that much older than our elder brothers, and might dole out sweets or chewing gum. On Sundays they would bring up the Sunday papers and lay them out along the ground outside the base’s main entrance; the price was usually about 3d, but the Yanks would often pick up a paper and toss a two shilling bit down without bothering with the one and nine pence change.
On occasions they would put on parties for the children of the local villages. There you could stuff yourself with all sorts of lovely food and drink, seldom then seen in England because of the rationing. But if you did go, you had to remember to take your own mug. However, even the adults were to enjoy a wonderful time on the occasion of the Gt Ashfield’s 200th combat mission, in October 1944: there was a carnival, fair and dance for two days on the aerodrome itself. Most of the villagers from miles around turned up. To ensure that they had enough partners for the 3,000 men on the base, the Americans even had a train arrive at Elmswell station, with reserved carriages for 200 young ladies from London. There was dancing in the big T2 hanger and the Glenn Miller Band was there, along with other orchestras entertaining one and all. The bright lights and the lively music were a reminder to the older folk of the pre-war days. However the young lads had their eyes opened also by the goings-on in the shady corners outside: certainly learned more about life then than their parents might have wished.
Not that Billy would have noticed: he and the rest of the Home Guard were detailed to ‘guard’ the many barrels of beer – his family remembers him returning home in a very merry mood from this ‘duty’.
At times there were amateur boxing competitions at Haughley Park between the US air bases’ personnel. On one occasion world heavy weight champion Joe Louis came to referee and Billy got his autograph. After the boxing Louis and his wife led off the jitterbugging at the dance that evening.
The Army’s attack on Elmswell in 1943: In mid September there were some large army manoeuvres all across East Anglia. To the youngsters it looked like the real thing (without the actual blood, destruction and terror which these training troops were really going to have to face in Normandy some 10 months later). For several days there were large numbers of fully-armed troops, tanks and long lines of armoured vehicles and army lorries all around Elmswell and the neighbouring villages. And as they would not stop for children to cross they had a cast-iron excuse for being late to school! The artillery men had a 25 pounder on the weighbridge at Baker’s mill, pointing towards the level crossing and up the Ashfield Road. They had troops and army vehicles charging up and down the sandy slopes at the end of Warren Lane by the old A45, and a large tank advancing from Wetherden somehow slipped into the pond beside the road; it took several days to get it out.
Soon after D Day, the V1 rockets started coming over. You’d hear something like the rat-tat-tat of a noisy motor cycle engine and, looking up, see the ‘doodle bugs’ chugging across the sky, with the flaming exhaust burning out behind. One exploded by Bacton just after midnight on the 8th January 1945; as you would expect the lads cycled out to inspect the huge crater.
Rubbish pits: There were two of these sandy pits half way down Warren Lane on the left, about 10 feet deep and quite extensive. While locals had little to discard Americans seemed to chuck out anything and everything without a worry. So each day there might be two or three USAAF lorries drive down the sloping ramp into the pits to dump their loads. The children would race down there after school to bag the best: flying jackets, pilots’ goggles, gauntlets, flying boots, tinned food and good quality wood from air force packing cases, etc. Half-starved by the rationing, ‘beggars weren’t going to be choosers’. The timber could used for fuel, fencing and garden sheds, and it lasted for years.
The kids discovered a very dangerous game down at the dump: they would get a good fire going and then look for scattered B17 gun bullets, about 4 inches long. These they would throw into the fire and dive for cover as the exploding shells whizzed all over the place.
Voluntary work during the war: Mary Manning was doing WVS work here and Miss Head and Kate Green were always organising collections of salvage – newspapers, tins etc. Miss Ann Heywood of Wetherden was well known for her ‘nose paintings’ on the Flying Fortresses. Mrs Winchester used to organise the collection of spare eggs distributed to the patients in the EMS wards of the West Suffolk Hospital.
Casualties of war: The Elmswell Football team was organised from just before the war by Vic Wade. During the Italian campaign he was injured and lost a leg. Despite this disability Vic Wade continued to get around and carry on his organising of football games in the village for many years.
There were some ten men from the village killed in the war (see memorial) and a number of others who returned badly injured either in body or mind. The manager of the Bacon Factory, Mr Julius Andreasen, lost two sons, Carl and Eric. Fred Buckle lost his brother Terry who was serving in the RAF. Brenda Read (now Mrs Baker) lost first her brother Douglas in 1943 and then, after two years of marriage, she was widowed in the final few weeks of the war, by the death of her husband Mr William Gray, fighting in northern Germany.
Douglas Read and Eddie Bruce both died, working as slaves on that Japanese railway building scheme. Georgie Bruce survived but he came home in a terrible condition, all due to those experiences. He suffered badly thereafter from the memories of his treatment at the hands of the brutal Japanese. Herbert Armstrong was another who continued to suffer terribly from his experiences working in the Japanese mines. For them and quite a number of the others of the 4th and 5th Battalions the Suffolks who survived and returned, the victory in 1945 didn’t result in a particularly happy ending.
Interviewed (with Gordon Goymer) by Norman Kenyon in January 2009
Margaret (née Cutting) came to school from Norton by Jolly’s bus during the war, and was a contemporary of Gordon’s. She met her husband Ray when he was at Bridge Farm, Woolpit, which was owned by Gerald and Joyce Chamen of New Hall Farm. They named their son Gerald after boss.
The Borrett children: Doreen married David Parsk*, Gerald*, Rosie* (m. Jeffrey Stannard*), Christine* (m. John Gillingham*), Jill* (m. Paul Peachey) – all marked * worked for WW Hawes the printers at one time or another.
Ray was a farm labourer on New Hall Farm. Margaret sometimes worked in the fields (e.g. potato picking), but not a regular job. She still has several photos relating to New Hall and the Chamens. In the colour photo there is John Bullett, her sister’s son, with Mrs Chamen and an unknown. Although 1951 telephone directory shows G Chamen in Fox& Goose, she only knows of them at the New Hall – remembers they had a butler.
They moved to 4 Eastern Way in 1981 when Joyce Chamen died and they could no longer rent the farmhouse. Ray used to plough the fields where Eastern Way now is – this was Jewers land. She remembers Ray and Dick Burch used to meet up and sit in a ditch having a smoke.
From the censuses and parish registers
1841: Jonathan Goymer (AgLab, 45) and his wife Mary Ann (45), Nathaniel (AgLab, 15), James (also 15, so maybe a twin) and three younger siblings.
1845: Nathaniel married Hannah Garrard? on 19th October, and in 1850 James married MaryAnn Baker.
1851: Nathaniel Goymer (AgLab, 27) and his wife Hannah (36), son William (4) and two daughters.
1861: Nathaniel Goymer (AgLab, 38) and his wife Hannah (47), son William (AgLab, 14) and three daughters lived in Fox & Goose Cottage.
1869: William married Anna Fuller.
1871: Nathaniel Goymer (AgLab, 48) and his wife Hannah (57) lived in Hall end (Hawk End) Lane with son William (Coal Porter, 24, born in Wetherden) and his wife Anna (22) and baby William.
1881: William (Coal Porter, 34) and his wife Anna (32) were now living in Hawk End with Sarah (9), Charles (6), Eliza (4), John (3), Mary (1) and Walter (5 days). Young William must have been elsewhere. Nathaniel and Hannah are not listed; James (55) and MaryAnn live in Church Road – but she died in 1883.
1891: William (Coal Porter and Manager, 44) and his wife Anna (42) are still living in No.19 Hawk End with Wm George (Coal Porter, 20 – who missed the 1881 census), Charles (Corn Miller Improver, 16), John (13), MaryAnn (11), Walter (10), Arthur (7), Emma (6), Daisy (4), May (1). Sarah and Eliza have gone. James is now in Woolpit Road with a new wife.
1901: Charles (26) now lives in Buttenhaugh Green and is a Journeyman Miller. He has married Miriam (‘Minnie’) Manning [but not in the Parish Register] and they have a baby Evelyn. William and Anna live in New Road with William G (Coal carman, 30), Arthur (17), May (11) and Rose (7). So poor Anna has produced at least 12 children! Daisy is listed as visitor at the King’s house down the road. James has died leaving his second wife Sophia living also in New Road, a different house.
Alan Goymer, who still (2009) lives in Eastern Way, is a great-grandson of William & Anna. He says his grandfather was William; the 1901 census shows he had not married by 1901, but had a son Frederick in 1908 – this was Alan’s father.
1891: Frederick Farrow (bricklayer, 33) and his wife Charlotte (32) and five children lived in Buttenhaugh Green.
1901: Frederick Farrow and Charlotte and Herbert (13), Sidney (10), Eva (8), Amy (6), Nelson (3), Spencer (2); they lived in Hawk End.