A Walk Around Caston in 1951
by John Barnes (Download a pdf for printing here)
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Having completed “A Walk Around Caston in 1911”, I thought that it would be interesting to follow up with a walk in 1951 whilst some of us from that period are still alive and have reasonably good memories. Even so, although 1951 is only sixty years ago, it has not always been easy to determine exactly when families moved house. It has tested our memories. Directly or indirectly I have contacted John Abel, Brian Banham, Alan Banham, my brother Gerald Barnes, Dennis Breeze, Margaret (nee Nichols) and Barry Cator, John Chapman, Dick Childerhouse, Peter Childerhouse, Kevin Collins, Gerald Grix, Maureen Easter (nee Palmer), Brian Fincham, Alan and Beryl Hall, Evelyn Harrand (nee Lister), Colin Hopking, Jane Horner (nee Banham), Pauline Hyde (nee Breeze), Linda Lincoln (nee Hannant), Bill Mann, Jacqueline Oliff (nee Creed), Bridget Park (nee Newby), Joan Peeke Vout, Ellis Shingfield, Doreen Smith (nee Prebble), Pearl Tattersall, (nee Hazel) and Mary Tortice (nee Pooley). I apologise to any others who have supplied details and are not acknowledged. Where it is of interest, some detail is included of the pre-1951 and post-1951 years. I have tried to make positive comments and have tried to note people’s achievements. Should there be errors, I apologise for them and will gladly correct them in “The Waylander”. I have tried to contact family members whose whereabouts are known.
Additional information and memories will be welcomed; indeed, I hope that this account may encourage others to write about Caston at this time and so add to this depiction of village life.
The aim is to give a picture of the Caston of just over sixty years ago together with details of the members of the community.
This walk follows the same route taken by the 1911 walk so that comparisons may be made. A good number of dwellings were still un-named as people knew where each other lived. Thus, I have tried to refer to houses by their present names in order to help identification. Most workers were employed in the village or in nearby villages, whilst some found work at Royal Air Force, Watton: a few travelled further afield. By 1951 all children of secondary age attended either Watton Secondary Modern School, to which they were transported by bus or, if they passed the ‘Eleven Plus’ examination, Thetford Grammar Schools. Just one or two travelled elsewhere, for example, to Swaffham. For many people in 1951, the bicycle was the mode of transport for both work and leisure. Compared with today, few families could afford a car; Gerald and I think that in 1951, out of about 116 households, there were about thirty households with cars in the village; petrol rationing had ended the previous year. Those who walked through the village walked in safety by the side of the road, the footpaths being added a few years later. Nor could many people afford a telephone: when Caston had no resident clergyman, our Churchwarden, Charlie Banham, would cycle to the nearby parishes to obtain the services of a priest. Probably there were about twenty five households with a telephone.
Minor maintenance of the roads was carried out by our Roadman, Mr Walter Brown, who lived next door to The Windmill Public House, opposite Stow Bedon Station. His daughter Joan attended Thetford Grammar School for Girls. Mr Brown pushed his tools and materials in a handcart and he was responsible for filling potholes, keeping the verges tidy, and maintaining the channels in the verges so that water ran off the roads after heavy rainfall. In winter he would spread sand over the icy roads. A snowplough was kept at Church Farm and when necessary Mr Hall would haul it with a horse to clear the roads. Alan cannot recall it ever being pulled by tractor; thus, it might not have been used after about 1950.
A visitor to Caston in 1951 could not but notice the number of delivery vans that brought foodstuffs and household items into the village. Rarely did one need to get supplies from the towns. Mrs Hall delivered milk every day including Sundays and Christmas Day and my father delivered bread from Tricker’s Bakery on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays his delivery round was in Merton and Thompson. Alan Hall owned the newspaper delivery round, the papers being brought to the village by van; Norma Peeke Vout may have done the actual delivery round. Durrants of Watton (roundsman, “Hubby” Lancaster) delivered groceries once a week whilst Basil Cooke delivered locally from Barnard’s Stores as required. Halls of Banham mobile fish and chip van made its way through the village on Wednesday (or was it Thursday?) evenings, Corstons (Arthur Flint) and Sharmans, both of Watton, delivered meat weekly, On Fridays Allens of Rockland, through Brain Webster their roundsman, brought us paraffin and hardware (as well as candles, wicks and lamp mantles) and collected and delivered accumulators. An accumulator was needed by families who had no mains electricity (and by those who could not afford to throw away a perfectly good battery model) in order to power radios. It was used in conjunction with a high-tension battery; it was made of thick, heavy glass, stood about nine inches tall and contained lead and acid. Families had two of these, one in use and one on charge. Roy Eyre, who had a radio shop in Watton, also collected and delivered accumulators and Mr Mason of Watton offered a charging facility. Coal was delivered into our sheds by Harry Knott of Watton, having arrived at Watton Station sidings by goods train and been bagged up by hand. Harry’s brother Robert ran a similar business and so did Messrs Chapman, also of Watton. Mr Crane from Watton brought us new shoes and dealt with repairs, whilst clothing was brought round by Mr Mc Kelvie, whose shop was in Attleborough, and Mr MacLaren, who had shops in Watton and Attleborough. During the war I can remember Mr Mc Kelvie (senior) doing his round on a bicycle in order to keep himself in business. Then, unforgettable, was the Corona man who called fortnightly with lemonade, ginger beer, orangeade, dandelion and burdock and similar refreshing drinks – for us occasional treats. For the schoolchildren, hot dinners were delivered by Mr Arthur Farrell from a central canteen in Watton. There were also a few other tradesmen who served us in a similar way.
The layout of The Green was as illustrated in ‘A History of Caston’: it was altered a few years later, perhaps about 1956, so as to remove the crossroads just outside the school. An American army lorry had collided with Mr & Mrs Self’s car there during the war. I believe we may have lost our afternoon playtime because of it.
Starting at Church Farm, the owners in 1951 were Dorothy and William Hall, Dorothy having inherited the farm from her father Henry Larwood. Their son Alan lived with them until his marriage in 1953 to Beryl Garrod of Great Hockham, the bungalow Highfields being built for them in the corner of the field next door. This was about the time of transition from horse to tractor. Gerald started to help on Church Farm about 1947 and he recalls riding horses on the harvest field, taking waggon loads of sheaves of corn back to the farmyard. There was a little orange Alice Chalmers tractor that was used when possible as well as a Fordson tractor with “spud” wheels, but it was not until 1948 or 1949 when a much more powerful Ferguson tractor equipped with hydraulics was bought, that the horses really became redundant. There were no combine harvesters in Caston in 1951, all corn being cut and bound into sheaves by binder, built into stooks (groups of standing sheaves) by workers and, when dry, carted to the stackyard for eventual threshing. There were smaller fields and correspondingly more hedges than there are today. (I can recall, whilst at Caston School, a horse slipping to the ground on an icy road close to The Old Rectory.)
The farm possessed a herd of milking cows, one of five in the village. Gerald, still at school at Swaffham in 1951, helped at weekends with the milk round, run by Mrs Hall, which delivered milk in Caston and Rockland, and, later in Stow Bedon. By 1951 the cows were milked by machine at Church Farm, but those at The Laurels were still hand-milked. Milk was bottled at Church Farm and Alan Hall still has bottles with W J & D HALL CHURCH FARM CASTON painted in red on the side. The bottles had slightly larger tops than today and were sealed with a cardboard top. The cows were sold in 1968. Cutting kale some four to five feet in height on wet or dewy mornings to feed to the cows is a memory that Gerald will always have. Michael Turner and Alan Hall have similar memories.
To the south of the church, in the far end of Church Farm Cottages, lived Charles and Elsie Allen and family. It included George, Charles, Bruce, Margaret, Patricia, Pamela and Janet. Charlie was the farm cowman and my mother would be woken about 4.30 each morning by him calling in the cows for milking. The lorry called for the full milk churns about 7.30 and so milking had to be completed whilst most of the village was asleep. A second milking took place about 5.30 p.m. Next door, Mrs Bessie Simpson and her twin step brothers Derek and Kenneth Ayres lived in the end nearest the farmhouse. The family originally lived in Cadge Road, Norwich and they moved so as to escape the bombing there. Bessie delivered the post to the village. Her husband, Tom Simpson, a hairdresser who worked in London, returned home from time to time. (As a young choirboy I had attended the occasional choir practice in this latter house when it was the home of Miss Aldous, a teacher at Stow Bedon School, and at one time our church organist.)
The church still had its grey slate roof but the western side of the tower sported a shining new clock face made by Smiths of Derby. To the north, in what is now The Cottage and which was until recently The Old House, lived two widows, Mrs Kate Banham in the end nearest the Church and Mrs Emma Banham in the end nearest The Red Lion. Please read my 1911 article for notes about ‘Aunt Kate’. This thatched house is timber-framed. Whilst the remainder of the village had electricity before the Second World War, the houses at the eastern end of the village, beyond The Red Lion, were not so provided until the mid 1950s. It was said that whilst Aunt Kate’s house had electricity, she relied upon candles for lighting because she could not afford the cost. It is a reminder that at that time some of the families in Caston were very poor indeed, and especially older people who relied on the state pension or who had no pension. Our branch library was kept at the school, the van calling periodically to exchange books. Jacqueline Oliff remembers that as a reward for good behaviour, children were allowed to take Kate’s library books to her and, in return, they would be offered a sweet from an old tin. She remembers that the house smelled strongly of paraffin. She comments about how kind Kate was. Next door to Emma Banham, in The Red Lion, a Youngs & Crawshay pub, lived Rowland Curtis and his wife with Lorna, Mary, Patrick, and Richard. (Possibly Lorna may have moved away by then.) Another son, (Robert) Geoffrey Curtis had been killed in an aircraft accident in Southern Rhodesia in June 1945 and is remembered on our War Memorial on The Green. Unlike Alan Hall, I have no memory of any of the three Caston men who lost their lives in World War Two. However, I can recall clearly my father coming home and saying that Reggie Lawes had been killed.
At The Old Rectory lived Mr Claude and Mrs Kathleen Grix (a teacher) with Gerald, who became a Caston bell ringer and now lives in Watton, and Rosemary, now in Snettisham. They had bought the estate in 1949 – 1950 from Mr James Petrie. The land included the field on which the Americans built their sewer (see below) and about 1952 Mr Grix persuaded the authorities to de-requisition it so that the land might be returned to agriculture. The large, circular sewer pits contained what was thought to be hardcore but which turned out to be eighteen inches of hardcore on top of several hundred tons of coke. It was a welcome find in those bleak post-was years: some coke was used locally but much was sold to various Norfolk families.
The previous owners, James Arnold Petrie and his wife (whom he called Lil), had, I think, lived there since about 1923. A company director of a firm called Kinghorn, Mr Petrie had two cars, one of which was an old Renault in which he once took me to Swaffham, and a Rolls Royce. The Rolls was placed out of use during the war. Bill Mann recalls that, being of fairly early build, perhaps 1920s, neither had a starting motor and to start them one had to crank the engine from the front of the car. Gerald Grix says that when the Renault first arrived it had no body and for a time Mr Petrie drove it sitting on a box. He generated his own 110-volts electricity by a motor in an outbuilding. Alan Hall says that his parents’ accumulators were charged by Mr Petrie until one blew up! A bowls player, but primarily a cricketer, Mr Petrie allowed Caston Cricket Club to play on the Cricket Meadow behind his house. Jacqueline Oliff reminds me that on summer afternoons, the schoolchildren would walk to the Cricket Meadow to play rounders. About 1949 Mr Petrie cleared out his collection of “The Railway Magazine” and I have many of the numbers: the wartime issues make very interesting reading. During Lent, the Rector, the Rev Herbert King, would persuade Mr Petrie to loan and operate his ancient “magic lantern” for slide shows on religious subjects in church. He would welcome help from us boys in setting up the equipment and Bill says that we always tried to make sure that at least one slide was in upside-down!
At one period that we cannot date with certainty a Flight Lieutenant Harley Powell, stationed at Royal Air Force, Watton, lived in a rear flat with his wife and their son Aubrey. Bill Mann recalls that Harley Powell was a cricketer and played for Caston and believes that he rose to hold a senior position in the Royal Air Force.
The Knights family was still at The Vines, Margaret – “Maggie” to everyone - running the post office from a room at the eastern end of the building. Her sister Muriel, in whose name the post office actually was registered, and their brother Walter, born in 1882 and known as “Webb”, shared the house with her. Jaqcueline Oliff recalls how school children who felt unwell were sent to The Vines to rest on Maggie’s sofa. We think that Walter must have worked at Church Farm for about twenty-five years, caring for the cows and hand-milking them twice each day. (Albert Palmer cared for the horses.) After that, he worked for Mr Lister at The Laurels. He sang in the church choir. One day in 1959 he was working on the garden at The Rectory (now The Old Curatage) when he collapsed and died. Acting as undertakers and using the farm van, Alan Hall and my father collected his body from The Rectory and took it home to The Vines. (A researcher’s notes on the Ancestry website about a marriage and of his having died in Hampshire are incorrect.) To the east of the house, beside the road, their huge clay lump barn was still in use and I remember Mr Norman Peeke Vout constructing a trailer inside it and Michael Turner recollects watching him heat an iron tyre and shrink it onto its wooden wheel. The barn was demolished in the early 1970s and the front garden of Arunmere now occupies part of the site. At the western end of The Vines lived Miss Edith Bennett, who had retired in 1936 as Head Teacher of the School. A lady small in stature, she kept fourteen years old boys under strict control. I have been told that she was not popular – but perhaps that was a good thing! A teacher’s success does not depend upon popularity. Joan Peeke Vout, probably a Year Three child at the time, recalls Miss Bennett’s retirement presentation (as does Alan Hall) and says that Mr Buckle, a School Manager (i.e., Governor) fainted. He represented the Methodist Church on the Managing Body. She also recalls Joyce Savory presenting a necklace to Miss Bennett. Both this lady’s siblings were also teachers; at one time Kate (who married a Mr Whiting) taught at Caston School and their brother was Head Teacher of a school in Wisbech.
At the western end of The Green stood Caston Voluntary Aided Primary School. The teachers were Mrs Evelyn Hodgkinson, Head Teacher, Mrs Rose Barnes and Mrs Ivy Pettitt. Two years earlier, in 1949, it had enjoyed a bumper year, as five children had passed the Eleven Plus examination and had transferred to Thetford Grammar Schools – Grace Dade, Gerald Barnes, Keith Goldsmith (a Rocklands lad who cycled to Caston School each day), Bill Mann and David Willis. The usual method of travel to Thetford was by cycle to Stow Bedon Station and thence by train. Very occasionally I cycled all the way to Thetford.
We think that Crosswind dates from about 1960; it was built for Flying Officer Phil Warwick, a pilot (of Lincoln aircraft I believe) at RAF Watton. The use by a pilot of the term crosswind will be appreciated! At The Laurels lived Mr and Mrs Charles Lister and their daughter Evelyn, having moved from Rocklands during the war. Evelyn, now Evelyn Harrand, was a secretary at Watton Secondary Modern School, the present Wayland High School. Mrs Violet Lister, a daughter of Mr William Peeke Vout, had once taught at Caston School. Mr Lister kept four or five ‘house cows’ that were looked after by Horace Lincoln of Rockland and farmed four or five fields. However, some of the outbuildings were used by the Caston Branch of Messrs Peeke Vout, Builders Decorators and Undertakers, Watton, and they included the workshop used by Charles Banham, carpenter.
On the western side of the garden of The Laurels was The Old Post Office, occupied by Mrs Winifred Sands whose husband Alfred had died in 1944. Mrs Sands was also a daughter of William Peeke Vout and when younger taught at Caston School. During the war she had returned with her husband to Caston from West Norwood, south London, to escape the bombing. In my youth Mr Ernest Buckle was sub-postmaster and he paid me to deliver telegrams to Caston and Griston. In his earlier days this man would cycle as far as Illington to deliver telegrams, whatever the weather. Even in 1951, only a few residents of Caston could afford a telephone and the call box on The Green saw a lot of use. Later, perhaps by 1951, an additional call box was installed almost opposite The White House. (In the 1930s Mr Buckle had been village newsagent and collected the papers each morning by bicycle from Stow Bedon Station.)
Next door, in Ivan House - now Ivan Cottage, its older name - lived the Barnes family. Except for service in the First World War in Egypt and Palestine, my father worked for fifty years for the Tricker family, bakers. My mother was an uncertificated teacher, her father being unable to afford to pay for her to attend training college. When she married in 1931 she had to resign as a teacher in Swaffham, the financial situation of the country demanding that men had priority for jobs over married women. One morning in 1944, Mrs Pettitt came over from school and asked Mother if she would teach in an emergency, and she agreed – a move that signalled her return to the profession. Thus, she taught at Caston School from 1944 to 1969 except that she served for short periods at Stow Bedon and at Carbrooke in the capacity of Head Teacher. In 1951, I was in the Sixth Form at Thetford Boys’ Grammar School and Gerald had transferred to Swaffham Secondary School. We both travelled by train each day (in opposite directions!) from Stow Bedon Station, reached by bicycle in seven minutes when necessary. Until about 1950, once a year my mother would wake me up with, “What do you think you can see from your bedroom window this morning?” The answer was that in Mr Lister’s stackyard there had arrived a traction engine, threshing drum and elevator. Over the following day or two there would be the rhythmical beat of the machinery and that gorgeous smell of smoke and steam from the engine.
Gerald and I helped with the garden, the front lawn having by now been converted from growing potatoes and other vegetables. We have memories of Mother constantly knitting, darning and sewing so as to ensure that clothes lasted as long as possible. In particular, woollen socks frequently becoming holed. Except in summer, her first task of the day was to lay the fire, using kindling wood the Dad had cut. Until we had our first electric cooker, perhaps about 1947, Mother had cooked on a three-burner paraffin stove. She never used the old coal-burning range in the kitchen. Our first refrigerator arrived about 1956 so that in summer we no longer needed to keep milk in a bucket of cold water. We had a Murphy electric wireless (radio) in 1936. Mother was the proud owner of a (hand-operated) Singer sewing machine, which I think may have been a 21st Birthday present from her parents. It saw a good deal of use and it served her all her life. It was very heavy to carry and to lift to the table.
Our Dad worked at Tricker’s Bakery for fifty years including war service, Gerald completed over fifty years’ service at Church Farm and I achieved over fifty years as a teacher. In addition, our Mother taught at Caston School for almost twenty-four years.
The road layout of Caston provided a useful circuit for some of the boys. Gerald remembers bicycle races around the circuit, with one boy going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. He says that his competitors included Michael Turner and Henry Knights. Dick Childerhouse remembers that there used also to be races with one youngster running round the village whilst his competitor cycled twice around the circuit. I am told that on one occasion, two young men from Caston completed the circuit in opposite directions in pick-up trucks, taking great care at the road junctions. On the first occasion the one, travelling anti-clockwise, arrived home first but, on reflection, the second realised that he, travelling clockwise, had the three right turns to contend with. They therefore repeated the contest a few days later, each driving in the opposite direction, and again the anti-clockwise driver won! The honours were shared! Avoiding those three right-hand turns made all the difference!
In 1951 the village children made their own entertainment – we had to, because whilst we had radio, we did not really have free access to it as it was our parents’ property. Only one house in the village had a television set and perhaps twenty-five had telephones. We played with each other, sometimes making up our own games. Some families bought comics or “Children’s Newspaper” for their children, some had Meccano sets, Dinky Toys (model cars and other vehicles) were becoming available as were Hornby train sets. Bicycles provided lots of fun, not just riding them but also skidding and making broadsides! Many bicycles were secondhand ones that were passed from family to family as children grew up. Also – be it said with sadness – we went birds’ nesting and we collected waterhens’ eggs to take home and fry. We also roamed around the fields on foot and we climbed trees, but never did we cause any damage. From time to time some children would be offered a ride to the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds, a great treat.
Adjacent to Ivan House is Stansfield, the home of Mr Tyrell Webster and his wife Edith. I remember Mr Webster as a magistrate. Mother declined an invitation to accompany him on a visit to Norwich Prison! I recall his bringing round to us a cage of trapped rats and he later said how they screamed when they were held above a tank of water prior to being drowned in it. This was the usual way of disposing of trapped vermin. Mr Webster had died in 1945 but we guess that his widow Edith was still living there. Married in 1896, they did not quite reach their Golden Wedding. She died in 1955 aged 77 or 78. Dick Childerhouse has reminded me that Mr Webster was known as “Clock” Webster because he once took a clock to pieces and when he put it together again he had quite a few parts over – but miraculously the clock worked! From time to time Mr & Mrs Webster would be visited by their grandsons, Harold Webster of Rocklands and Ronnie Stone of Lower Stow Bedon, and so we got to know them. Next door, in The Villa, built in 1911, lived Mr Sidney Sale, a widower whose wife Fanny had died in 1950. I believe that they had moved to the village from London. They were either friendly with the Wolseley family of Merton or were related to them. (In November 1931, when my mother first lived in Caston on her marriage, this was the police house.) I have an early photograph on which the name is Stockwell Villa. In the early 1900s Mr Amos Davey, a builder from south London, had lived next door in Stansfield and my mother thought that probably he was responsible for both names. I understand that the windows in Stansfield came second-hand from south London, together with those that were then at Ivan House. His widow, Mrs Davey, still lived at Stansfield when we moved to Ivan House in 1936 and I have a photograph of her walking in the road nearby.
At Flaxmoor lived Mr John Morfoot, his wife and children David and Peter. The boys were at Haileybury School, near Bishop’s Stortford, and came home for holidays when they played with us. Mr Morfoot had an aggregates business at Rocklands. The family experienced more than its fair share of tragedy, David and his wife Maureen having a young son drowned in the pond in Flaxmoor meadow, Mr Morfoot being hit by a girder and killed whilst constructing a building at Flaxmoor in 1968, and, later, Mrs Dorothy Morfoot falling into the same pond as her grandson and drowning. It is possible that by 1951 the stables had been converted to a residence, Flaxmoor Bungalow, for the gardener. The first occupant was Mr Edwards, who was followed by Mr & Mrs Spinks, Ivan and Linda. Important for the men of the village for many years was the fact that the south-eastern lawn of Flaxmoor was, in summer, the green of Caston Bowls Club. Exactly when the Club moved to The Red Lion is uncertain but it was by 1956. We can recall church fetes being held on the front lawn. Jacqueline Oliff records how David Morfoot had a projector and would show Disney cartoons to the schoolchildren at Christmas time. Looking back, on Saturday August 9th, 1947, the Morfoot family had purchased Flaxmoor from Lt Col and Mrs Hardinge for the sum of £4,500. They had a daughter Constance, “Conta”, as well as a nanny, Miss Rosalie Gandy. The Colonel’s aunt, Miss Newcombe lived there too. The Colonel, who had been awarded the DSO, was interested in the movement of thunderstorms, as was my father. When a thunderstorm woke him in the night, Dad would watch it and its movement and would share his observations with the Colonel the next day. The Hardinge family moved to Mayfield, Sussex, and I took my mother to visit Mrs Miriam Hardinge about 1966; at that time Constance was in a residential home. I kept in touch with Miss Gandy, living close to Mayfield, until her death.
Opposite Flaxmoor, in Rose Cottage, lived Horace Webster, carpenter, with his second wife Elizabeth, nee Knights, his first wife having died when his son Sydney was quite young. He was not directly related to the family in Stansfield. In 1929 it was Horace who had built the Village Hall but I remember him as Church Warden. A workshop had been added to the eastern end of his house. Occasionally my parents would send me to have Sunday tea with the Websters and I remember them as a prim, homely couple. Along the road, at what is now Lam Low, lived George Green with his wife Alice and their daughter Louisa, known to us as Louie. A second daughter, Edith, had moved away. During the Second World War, Louie had worked in the NAAFI at West Tofts but in 1951 she was at home caring for her parents. In 1971 she had West View built and moved there. Louie died in 1992 and was the last Caston member of a family that had lived in the village since at least 1871. Next door, in Old Barn Cottage, lived Arthur Chapman. He was a small man, bent and elderly when, as boys, we would buy nails and screws from his hut at the gate of the Green household. He mended pots and pans – if a saucepan developed a hole in it, village people could not afford to replace it but would have a patch screwed to it. There was no money to spare in those days. His wife was named Anna and they had daughters Eva and Jessie. (Confusingly he had sisters with the same names!) The date 1761 has recently been found on a beam of his house.
Opposite Lam Low was The Rectory, now The Old Curatage, and the home of The Reverend Herbert and Mrs Hannah King. They had an immediate effect upon the parish on their arrival in 1942, Mr King establishing with Sydney Hammond the Caston Troop of Boy Scouts (we met in The Rectory’s former stables) and Mrs King establishing The King’s Messengers. A robed choir was formed at church and for the ladies there were branches of The Mothers’ Union and The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service. (I believe that the latter branch may predate the arrival of Mr and Mrs King.) Once a week the Rector took Assembly at the school. The Rev King had served in the ministry in the Australian bush country and he wrote a book about his experiences; I still have a copy of that. I can recall Church Fetes on the Rectory lawn. There were three grown-up sons, Robert, Cuthbert and Chad; possibly the latter two were twins. Robert (“Bob”) was a pilot in the Royal Air Force who later may have lived at Desborough, Northamptonshire, another, possibly Cuthbert, was a priest in Australia and the Kings travelled there to visit him. The third son, perhaps Chad, lived in Northern Ireland; one day I suggested that, as he found the sea journey tedious, Canon King try flying from Heathrow to Belfast, and from then flying became his usual mode of travelling there. In 1988 Ken Proctor, Head Teacher of Caston 1963 to 1968, called on the son in Australia; he had retired from his position of Archdeacon of Bunbury, Western Australia. Mrs King died in 1959 whilst returning to Caston from a visit there and was buried in the Red Sea. In the 1950s the usual way to reach Australia was by a five weeks’ sea voyage. I have a postcard written by Mrs King that was posted to Caston whilst the ship was in port at Gibraltar, the Mothers’ Union having sent flowers to them. At some stage prior to 1955 Mr King became a Canon of Norwich Cathedral.
The Street part 2
Alan Banham has unforgettable memories of a Scout Camp at Holkham Hall in August 1945. They travelled there on a lorry that he thinks was provided by Sydney Hammond and they shared the site with scouts from Swanton Morley. Whilst they were there the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus ending the Second World War. I did not participate in the Camp but on the afternoon that the war was declared over, I was with Joe Tricker, who was delivering bread on Stow Bedon Heath. The occasion was so momentous that, like me, many people remember exactly where they were when they learned of it.
Next, what is now The Lodge was the home of William and Irene Downs and their son Bernard. William had worked in Attleborough at Gaymer’s Cider Factory, cycling each way, but by 1951 he worked at Royal Air Force, Watton, generally known as “the Camp”. Bernard joined the army and I remember him walking past in uniform, a fine, smart, tall, upright young man; at present he lives in Hingham.
Almost opposite, in Meadowside, lived Norman and Joyce Peeke Vout, Joan and Norma. Norman, a son of William Peeke Vout, had grown up at The Laurels and had joined the Royal Navy as a teenager. In 1951, Joan was cycling to work at Mr MacLaren’s shop in Watton whilst Norma did the local Caston newspaper round. A few years earlier, she had been one of the last group of children to remain at Caston School until she reached fourteen, the school leaving age. Her sister Norma, two years younger, completed her secondary education at Watton Secondary Modern School, as it then was. When in the early 1920s he returned to civilian life, Norman Peeke Vout purchased a small bus and established shopping services to Watton on Wednesdays, Dereham on Fridays and Norwich on Saturdays. I can recall Saturday evening trips to Attleborough Cinema and Gerald recalls Saturday evening trips to Norwich Speedway. During and after the war there had been a shortage of petrol, but by 1951 summer Sundays saw excursions to seaside resorts such as Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth and, occasionally, Skegness. By the early 1940s he had a larger twenty-seater Bedford bus; an older vehicle was used as a shed in his garden. When Griston School closed about 1942, because of its proximity to the airfield, it was Norman’s bus that conveyed the Griston children to school at Caston each day. About 1950 he added a second bus, a Rio that was usually driven by Mr “Ted” Holmes of Rocklands. Mr Peeke Vout farmed a field along Church Lane opposite the field called The Points; my Mother and I helped him harvest his sugar beet there in the severe winter of 1947. (Joan Peeke Vout recalls the American servicemen who visited Meadowside during the war.) As most families could not afford a car in 1951, many Caston people relied on the bus for shopping and for relaxation.
The Eastern Counties Omnibus Company ran through Caston on Wednesdays and Saturdays with three services to and from Watton and Norwich, and on Sundays, one or two services. During the war the service, Number 12, terminated at Griston Church; when it was re-instated again to Watton, initially the route passed across the airfield and I can remember having to direct a bus driver, but by 1951 it was probably again operating to and from Watton via Griston Street and A1075.
Next came what are now Avon Cottage and Clematis Cottage. In Avon Cottage lived Mrs Dixon (I believe Mr Dixon had already died) and quite often I would see Mrs Edith Childerhouse from Mere Farm, Stow Bedon, cycle past to visit her. As a young boy I was puzzled by this, until I found that Mrs Childerhouse was Mrs Dixon’s daughter. Another daughter was Mrs Greenwood who lived in Griston. This lady was aunt to a child at Caston School with Gerald. Mrs Greenwood had a habit of cycling past on her way to Mere Farm whilst the school children were out at play. Her nephew recognised her and, one day, called “Hello, Auntie Lucy!” Thence onward, whenever she cycled past, there arose a chorus of “Hello, Auntie Lucy!” from a group of children. Mrs Dixon’s first husband died and she re-married; Edith, Lucy and a married sister at Mileham were children of the first marriage and there were also three daughters from the second marriage. Next door lived Mr and Mrs Herbert Cator with their son David, who now lives in Watton. A meadow occupied the site of Hunter’s Ride, which was not built until about 1972. The sites of Home Field House, built 1965 –66 and of Montgomery House, built 1967-68, were meadows in 1951. Down the street, in a second Rose Cottage, now Tamarisk, lived either the Collins family, with whom I am in touch, or Mr and Mrs Claude Thorpe and their daughter Carole. In later years, Mr & Mrs Thorpe ran a school of dancing at the Village Hall and they are fondly remembered by the girls who participated. In Eastview were Fairfax and Kath Banham and their family, Peter, John, Richard and David. Fairfax’s father, Willie Banham, who had worked at Banhams on the Green, coachbuilders, had died by 1951 but I can recall him walking past Ivan House to and from work and Alan Hall recalls that he would carry a can of tea. Fairfax, whom I imagine served in the forces during the war, worked for the Apiary (commonly known as “The Beehive”) near Wayland Wood and in 1952 he took me as his navigator to Galgate, Lancashire, to deliver a lorry load of honey. It was a long, slow journey in those days. We were provided with overnight accommodation and returned the next day. John Abel also worked for a while at the Apiary and speaks of taking bees to the Kent orchards, leaving them for a fortnight to pollinate the fruit trees, and then collecting and returning them to Watton. Peter Banham became a bellringer and rang with us at Caston.
Then came The Forge, the house forming the home of Mr and Mrs William “Jimmy” Eagling and their family, Eric, Vera, Barbara, Shirley, and Mary, the latter dying from leukaemia in 1952 aged five. A further child, Gordon, was born that same year. Mr Eagling had followed Clifford Chapman as village blacksmith in 1949. With them lived Henry Knights, Mr Eagling’s stepson, a good friend of Gerald’s. Mr Ernest Buckle, retired sub postmaster and widower, lived in Ladybird Cottage and was a Steward of Caston Methodist Church. He was highly respected in the village and when he had retired in 1945 all households (with just one exception, I believe) contributed towards a present to mark his thirty-three years’ service. He was a steward at the Methodist Chapel and I can remember a conversation between my mother and Mr Buckle in which certain preachers were mentioned; Mr Buckle remembered even the texts of the preachers’ sermons. His life revolved around that little chapel. At Eastcroft, formerly Ludkin’s Bakery, Mr “Nimmy” Hazel and family had closed the bakery and had moved to Mildenhall in 1945. They were followed by Mr & Mrs Cockman and their son John. Mr Cockman operated a taxi service with rather old cars and had a hardware shop in the former bakery. In 1951 the bread oven was still in place. However, we think that by 1951 Sydney Hammond and his wife Blanche were living there with their two adopted daughters, Daphne and Sheila Townsend. For some years the Hammond family had lived at The Garage where the family had a small wooden shop and sold petrol. I think they were at one time carriers but I recall Sydney as a driver for Mr Peeke Vout’s building firm. It was Sydney who took us Scouts on a cycle ride past the crashed Flying Fortress bombers at Caston Hall in October 1944 and it was also he who took us on our bicycles to Roudham Heath for a picnic. We were not far from the railway and could hear the trains: but how I longed to see them! Across the yard from the former bakery stood a workshop (once used by Mr Smith, our wartime carpenter) and two small adjoining cottages. The Misses Jessie and Elsie Chapman lived in the first of these and Mr & Mrs Sussams in the cottage nearest the road. Nelson Banham named the latter cottage The Ark when he, Molly and Jane moved there in 1952 following Mrs Sussams’ death. It is now called Delmar. From the Ancestry website I have deduced that they were Mr George Sussams and Mrs Amelia Sussams. Mr Sussams was disabled and Alan Banham remembers that he propelled himself through the village in a wheelchair by shoulder-high hand-cranks with chains, whilst steering it with a shoulder cradle. He appears to have died in 1955 in Norwich. The workshop was demolished in the 1950s but very recently we have received a photo that shows it as being somewhat taller than the cottages.
(Alan Hall recalls that when Mr Ludkin first bought this bakery he delivered the bread using a cart pulled by a mule. After the First World War, there was a surplus of these animals and they were bought for domestic purposes.)
Across the road from The Forge stood the two pairs of semi-detached cottages. In the easternmost lived Mr and Mrs Sydney (‘Jack’) Turner and their son Michael. A daughter had died at a young age in Little Plumstead Hospital. Jack, a farm worker, had been a prisoner of war under the Japanese and whilst many such prisoners perished, he was fortunate to return. Michael lives near Ash Vale, Surrey, and visits my brother Gerald three or four times each year. The adjoining house had been the home of Mr & Mrs Albert Palmer and family but in the late 1940s they exchanged houses with Mrs “Titch” Taylor in Home Farm Cottages and if she was still alive she was living there. Michael Turner remembers the day when she fell downstairs and sustained fatal injuries. If she had died by 1951, the house was unoccupied. In the first of the second pair of cottages, in the house where Edward and Maria Walker lived for so long, lived Arthur and Edith King with their daughter Irene. Arthur had served as a soldier in the war and on one occasion was in the same convoy as Nelson Banham, although neither knew that the other was there. We think that the last house of the four was standing empty in 1951. It had been the home of Mr E R ‘Dick’ Banham, Roy and Brian. Mrs Ellen Banham having died in 1945, ‘Dick’ Banham re-married and moved away from Caston in 1948 or 1949. Roy has recently died but Brian is in Blackheath and I am in touch with him. Importantly, attached to the house was a timber building that for many years had been a shop. It had sold groceries since at least 1931 and was the shop that our family used. (The “other shop” was run by the Barnard family – but they were Methodists and we were Church of England and so we did not shop there. Wasn’t it petty! I gather that some other villages were similarly divided between conformists and non-conformists). The four cottages were all unoccupied by about 1953 and, following a few years’ use for rearing chickens, they were demolished. About 1965 Colin and Beris Pegg had Colberville built on the former back gardens of these cottages.
Duke Lane (Duke’s Lane, or Pockthorpe)
We are unsure of dates of changes of ownership of Foxhall Cottage, but Mr Spiegel was at some point succeeded by Mr Stott, gardening master at Watton Secondary School, and his lodger Colin Andrews. Mary Tortice confirms that Mr Stott was living there in 1951. I believe that the outbuildings ceased to be used as homes before the war. At the end of the lane, and reached by a footbridge that led to a long path beside vegetable gardens, was a row of three cottages. In the left hand cottage lived Mr and Mrs Charles Prebble and their family of girls, Molly, Ada, Ann and Doreen. They were evacuees from Greenwich to escape the bombing. Jane Horner says that her mother Molly and Ada both undertook war work, Molly working in or near Bedford in an aircraft factory. Molly would marry Nelson Banham and they would become parents of Jane (later Jane Horner) and Edward, Ada would marry Leonard “Sugar” Bailey and Doreen would marry Tony Smith of Great Hockham. Ann, who during the war had been a Land Girl, never married. It was Tony’s mum who had delivered me at birth. Recently widowed, Doreen lives at Southampton and Anne and I visited her in autumn 2011. In 1951 Mr Prebble worked at Royal Air Force, Watton. Next door, in the centre cottage, lived Mr and Mrs Edward Pooley, the parents of Ernest, Edith and Mary. Mr Pooley was a farm worker. By 1951 Ernest had left home – he had married Edna Fisher – and Edith was living at Thorpe House, Griston. Edith would marry Billy Reeves (and secondly George Arthurs) and in 1961 Mary would marry Derek Tortice. The right hand cottage once housed the Reeves family – we recall a daughter Gwen – but by 1951 they had been followed by Mrs Eliza Russell. She had worked for Mrs Buscall of Carbrooke and used to be visited by Judy Burroughes of Rockland Manor – I gather that Mrs Burroughes was Mr Buscall’s sister. Immediately before reaching the little bridge, the concrete track to the east led to the remains of the sewer built by American servicemen about 1943 to serve Griston camp. Before that, there had been just a farm track and Doreen Smith remembers leaning over the entrance gate with her sister Ann. At about this time Colin Pegg, a bus driver, moved to a caravan just inside this gate. Eventually he purchased Mr Norman Peeke Vout’s business and in due course established a bus depot on this site. Whether he and or his wife Beris were living there in 1951 is uncertain. They were certainly there in 1953 when Dean was born and shortly afterwards they moved to Stansfield to become our neighbours. Donna and Shelley were born later, Shelley at one time living at Clematis Cottage. At The Duke’s Head public house lived Mrs Mabel Saul and Mrs Alice Leggatt; we believe that they were sisters. Mabel’s husband, Mr Tom Saul, badly wounded in the First World War and awarded a full disability pension, had died in 1931. Mr Frank Leggatt worked in Norwich at Messrs Lawrence, Scott, Ltd and spent the week in lodgings there. He travelled home to Caston on the Eastern Counties bus on a Saturday afternoon and returned on the Sunday evening bus. Both Alan Hall and Joan Peeke Vout recall that he used to take snuff. Mrs Leggatt was a smoker and often had a cigarette protruding from a long holder. As the prominent sign proclaimed, the public house sold ‘Morgans Ales & Stout’. Doreen Smith’s late husband Tony discovered that Mabel Saul had been a nurse at the Netley Abbey Army Hospital, near Southampton: we believe that it must have been during or after the First World War. Bill Mann and Michael Turner recollect that in the late 1940s and early 1950s children played football on the meadow owned by The Duke’s Head. (Bill remembers football also on the meadow on which Montgomery House now stands – where I remember playing amongst the cowslips - and on another meadow close to The Black Horse.)
The Street, part 3
On the right, The Bakery was still in the hands of the Tricker family, Joseph and Eileen now being in charge. As a boy, Joe had attended Thetford Boys’ Grammar School. This was my father’s place of work for fifty years, except for war service. With them lived Mary and Margaret, their daughters. Mary married John Askew, a Thetford Grammar School classmate of mine; they farm at Old Buckenham. Margaret married a Mr Tuck and lives at Burston, near Diss. About 1951 the Trickers had Chase Bungalow built and Alfred and Mrs Hind, their daughter Valerie and Mr Arthur Mead (Mrs Hind’s father) lived in the main part of the house. In the adjoining cottage lived bakery workers-roundsmen; Leonard and ‘Dickie’ Dennis had been followed by Alfred and Sylvia Dewing, but by 1951 Rex and Mrs Bamforth and their stepsons Peter and David Shannon lived there. I have a lasting memory of the long-handled piece of cloth or sacking (was it called a ‘swash’?), used for cleaning the bread oven hanging out to dry over the parapet of the bridge over the stream.
The family in what is now Evergreen was, we think, Mr and Mrs William Saunders with their children Iris and John. ‘Billy’ was a keen sportsman, excelling at cricket. It was he who, helped by Leslie Cator and George Freston, prepared and laid the new bowling green at The Red Lion public house. Such was his dedication that when he died, his ashes were buried beneath the green. Another sporting family, the Childerhouse family, loaned the digger equipment. The name Evergreen was given to the house in 1956 by Mrs Mann who could remember the Green family living there for a very long period.
In 1911 the Osborne family, saddlers, had lived at the next house, The Garage, but in the 1920s they were followed by the Hammond family; Alan Banham recalls taking wireless accumulators to the Hammonds for charging. The Hammonds were followed about 1947 by the Dodsworth family – were they Fred and Dora? – with, perhaps, a couple named Durrant living at the southern end of the house. We believe that Mrs Durrant’s maiden name was Dodsworth. At some stage the Durrants moved to Croxton. Also living there at about this time were two fostered children whom we think were Roy Summers and Edwin Barnes. Evelyn Harrand has reminded us that Eddie Riseborough (or Risebrow) living here at one time. Gerald also remembers Alan Brown living there: Alan had a blue coach with the name ‘Broadland Coaches’ on the side and he helped Mr Peeke Vout convey children to and from their schools. For a while Mrs Dodsworth ran a fish and chip shop in an outbuilding. In summer I believe that she also sold ice creams. Probably it was in 1951 that Harry Nichols established his garage business here. After demobilisation from the army Harry worked at Mr Ridout’s garage at Watton but bought these premises at Caston and established Caston Garage with a repair workshop in what is now The Old Garage. The family moved from Northfields Cottage to the house behind the garage about 1953. The hand-operated petrol pumps installed by the Hammond family continued to be used. Both Evelyn Harrand and I can recall “old” Mrs Hammond’s sweet shop, a small yellowish hut, alongside the road. Opposite is The Village Hall, dating from 1929, and, standing back from the road, is Thatched Cottage. Mrs Marjorie Clowes, nee Banham, a teacher, lived in the end nearest the Village Hall; Marjorie’s great contribution to Caston was the Children’s Church that she established and ran from 1949 to 1971. About 1946 the Rector had taken over Griston Church and so Sunday morning services were held at Caston only on alternate Sundays. From 1949 to 1971, on the other Sundays, Marjorie led Childrens’ Church services and they achieved great popularity. Bill Mann remembers also the annual summer outings to the seaside and the Christmas parties in the Village Hall. I understand that during the war Marjorie had a tame lamb that she called Larry, after Larry the Lamb in the ‘Toytown’ of Children’s Hour broadcasts. In the far end of Thatched Cottage lived in turn Mr Gray, Mr Nunn and Mr & Mrs Perry and their daughter Elsie, but we are not sure which of these lived there in 1951. Chase End Bungalow was built about 1951 for Joe and Eileen Tricker – see my previous note.
In Chase Farm House lived Mr and Mrs (Cecil) John “Jack” Chapman with their young sons Peter and John. We cannot recall a dairy herd there, but the family had a few “house cows” to provide milk for the family. Their sugar beet were transported to the factory at Bury St Edmunds by train and I recall them being loaded by hand into waggons in the siding at Stow Bedon Station. Peter and John still farm there and John is Chairman of Caston Parish Council. Peter attended Thetford Grammar School for Boys in due course. At the far end of the house lived Reginald and Chrissie Pye with their son Christopher. Reggie farmed at Ovington and Chrissie became well known in Norfolk for her poetry. Alan Banham recalls that during War Weapons Week, a fund-raising campaign, Reggie won the “Throwing a cricket ball” competition by achieving a throw of ninety yards. In 1955 the Pye family moved to The White House, where they lived for about fifty years. Through a gate at the end of the drive a track led up by the side of the meadow to two houses. Perhaps they were called Chase Cottages. We believe that by 1951 the first house was empty; for long it had been the home of George and Ellen Hensley, grandparents of Mary Tortice, but George had died early in 1949 and Ellen, known as Nellie, had moved to Thorpe House, Griston. It was George who emptied our outside lavatory at Ivan House once a year. Their house was timber-framed and considerable force was needed when it was demolished. In the furthest house, perhaps fifty yards further along, lived the Breeze family. The parents were Arthur and Dorothy, known as Dora; there were two sons, Edwin and Dennis, both of whom had married and had left home by 1951. There had also been a baby daughter who, I understand, died in the 1930s whilst ill in Watton Cottage Hospital. Between the two houses and set back from the path was once a building that, I have been told, might have been a dwelling but which both Dennis Breeze and John Chapman say was a barn. I cannot recall it. On occasions in summer we would walk as a family from Ivan House, down The Chase, continue on the footpath past the farm and the two cottages, climb over the stiles at each side of the railway line, turn left and cross the line again at Stow Bedon Station to walk home along Green Lane, now Stow Bedon Road.
The Street, part 4
In my youth, two sisters, Miss Barnard and Miss Macro, lived at The Paddocks, opposite the gateway to The Chase. The old building was demolished in 1958. The land that went with the house was farmed by Mr Eddie Barnard of Griston. His daughter, Molly Hansell, now in Norwich, visits and cares for the family graves in Caston Churchyard. Almost opposite stands the pair of cottages that were the home of Mrs Bilham and her son ‘Jimmy’ (rebuilt and now named Midsummer House) and, at the Chapel end, (Bilham’s Cottage) Mr & Mrs Reginald Fox, son Terry and daughter Jennifer. Mrs Fox was a teacher who taught for a time at Caston School and was Gerald’s first infant teacher. About this time a long wooden timber building was constructed on the left of the driveway to house chickens. In my 1911 walk I have mentioned the friendship between my father and ‘Jimmy’ the duck and chicken farmer. Jimmy married somewhat late in life and lived at Fly Barn Farm, Lower Stow Bedon. As in 1911, the Balls family was at Chapel Farm, the farm being run now by Leonard. In wartime I remember buying home-made butter from his daughter Eva. We think that there was still a herd of cows here in 1951. Certainly, Mary Tortice can remember fetching the milk from Mr Balls. At Chapel Cottages lived Roy Drake, the maintenance man for Carbrooke Hall Estate. He cycled to work at Low Farm, Carbrooke, managed by Mr Offley, whose daughter attended Thetford Grammar School for Girls; Roy’s wife was Daisy, nee Worby. On the side nearest the Chapel lived Mrs Flowerdew and for a period after the Second World War, a former German prisoner of war, Carl Koebernik, had lodged with her. Linda Lincoln, says that Carl also lived with the Drake family for a time. In due course, he married an English girl from a nearby village. Carl may have worked at Foxhall Farm but we believe that he later became an electrician. The Methodist Chapel was still in use as a place of worship and was keenly supported.
Opposite The Chapel was Barnard’s Stores, run by Hilda Cooke, nee Barnard, and her husband Basil who also ran a taxi service. The Post Office transferred here in 1956 on the sudden death of Margaret Knights. A post box was inserted in the side wall of the shop extension. (I am unable to date the extension.) When bought by Mr & Mrs Wellbelove the shop became Windmill Stores but with the closure of the shop, the postbox has been removed. The present name is Lyndon Cottage. In the small cottage at the north end of the building lived Mrs Fuller and her son Ralph. During the Second World War, Ralph served on Arctic convoys to Murmansk on which, he told me, he experienced the worst seas in the world, awful weather and always the threat of being torpedoed. I have since heard it described as “the worst journey in the world”. Eventually he became an instructor on board HMS Arethusa, a training ship based near Rochester, and I visited him on board ship about 1962. A year or two later he retired from the Navy and became sub postmaster and shopkeeper (and village mentor) at Stow Bedon. The script of his wartime radio broadcast is printed in Part Three of “A History of Caston”.
Across the narrow driveway is a group of three cottages. We think that Mrs Allen and her daughter Sylvia lived in the first of these (now South Cottage) but cannot recall who occupied the middle one, now North Cottage. Arthur and Sylvia Webster lived in the third one, now The Plot. Arthur was a son of Tyrell and Edith Webster and it was he who, about 1940, had taught me how to ride a bicycle; the lessons took place along Green Lane, now Stow Bedon Road. Arthur later became a school caretaker in Norwich. A few years later Clive and Violet Clarke and their son Mervyn moved to this latter cottage. Mr & Mrs Bradford lived at The White House, having moved to Caston from Great Hockham in 1946. They were Methodists and I did not know them well, but Mrs Bradford had been a teacher at Great Hockham School; I recall that they were involved in a serious collision at Elveden cross roads, a place where in busy periods you took your life in your hands if you were driving from Bury St Edmunds or Brandon and had to cross the A11.
At Mill View lived Bert & Stella Watts. Stella was the daughter of Mrs Lister, housekeeper to Edward, Charles and Nelson Banham. Bert had served in the Royal Navy and by 1951 may have entered the building trade. In the northern end of Mill View lived Mr & Mrs Walter Banham. Across the meadow, although the windmill sails turned no more, the granary building still had a diesel engine that was used to mill grain for animal food. Clifford and Mabel Chapman and their son Clifford (junior) lived in Mill House following the retirement of Mr & Mrs Ben Knott to a new bungalow in Northacre. Of the other sons, Albert (“Bertie”) won a scholarship to Thetford Boys’ Grammar School and, during army service in the Second World War, was imprisoned by the Japanese. A brief account of his experiences is in “A History of Caston” but, like so many who suffered in the hands of the Japanese army, he kept to himself the details of what he endured. Stanley, a signaller in the army, saw war service and worked for Harry Nichols at Caston Garage. Later Stanley lived at Watton. He kindly passed some photographs of Caston to me. There was also a married sister Maisie, whom I did not know. Finally, just along the road from the drive to the windmill was the bungalow (later named Mill Bungalow) that Fred and Beatrice Self had built in, we believe, 1928. They had been married in the autumn of the previous year. They owned a Lanchester car that was always driven by Mrs Self and on their way to Diss market they would occasionally drop me off at my uncle and aunts’ house in Banham. Alan Banham, who lived at The White House until 1945, recalls that in the early 1940s his father hired two of Fred’s fields to grow sugar beet. Fred was a poultry dealer and was the son of James Self of Northacre - see my 1911 Walk. In 1951 sugar beet seed was sown by seed drill in continuous rows. When the seedlings became established it was necessary for farm workers to chop out the many that were not wanted in order to give space for the few to grow. When ready for harvesting, the beet would be lifted by machine but would have to be knocked together by hand to remove as much soil as possible. They would then have to be topped by hand to remove the leaves and soil around them before being loaded by fork onto (probably) a horse-drawn tumbril. It was back-breaking work. (A waggon – Norfolk spelling - had four wheels whereas a tumbril had two.)
The Drake family still occupied Arch Villa in 1951. I hardly knew Mr & Mrs William Drake but Roy Drake, their son, living at Chapel Cottages, helped me with “A History of Caston”. Roy worked on Mr Buscall’s farm in Carbrooke. A daughter, Betty, served me with sweets in a Watton shop and there was another daughter, Ina, whom I never met. During the 1950s the Drake family left Caston and Mr & Mrs Harry Hodgkinson and their daughter Patricia moved from their shop at Great Hockham to Arch Villa; I believe it was they who re-named it Broome Cottage. Mrs Evelyn Hodgkinson was Head Teacher of Caston School from 1945 to 1962.
Alan Banham recalls how, during the war, the Home Guard had a stock of petrol bombs hidden near a conker tree in this meadow all ready to greet the German army, had it ever arrived.
Walking up Northacre, Northfields is on the left. This was for many years the home of Rupert “Ned” and Lily Childerhouse, who were involved in the family poultry industry. They had three children, Michael, with whom I played, Mary, and Richard, (“Dick”), with whom Gerald played. Michael later married Mary Hanton, sister of Peter at Bridge Farm, and farmed in Rockland, Dick married Jean Schofield and they live in Breckles, whilst Mary married Keith Lord and emigrated to Western Australia. The male members of the family were involved in various sporting activities and on one occasion, with help from the Weeting branch of the family, Bill Mann recalls that they once fielded a family cricket team. We knew the Caston family well because when our parents married in November 1931 their first home was the attached Northfields Cottage, now named Poppy Cottage. It was there on a snowy October 28th 1933 that I was born. “I remember, I remember, the house where I was born, The little window where the sun came peeping in at morn……” Actually, I don’t remember it because in 1936, when I was only three, we moved to Ivan House and it was there that Gerald was born on 21st July 1938. Now that morning I remember very well - there was a lot of crying and I was woken up. I can still hear my father calling to me to reassure me that all was well. For the births of both of us, our parents hired the services of a lady to live in and care for our mother and us for the two weeks or so following the birth. Perhaps she was called a “lying-in lady”. However, in 1951 Harry and Eva Nichols were living in Northfields Cottage with their young daughter Margaret. Harry was an Ashill lad and he and Eva Balls (from Chapel Farm) had been married in 1937. Harry served in the war and was at Dunkirk where, trying to escape, was distressed to find that he had just missed a boat back to England. Shortly afterwards another boat came alongside the jetty and he boarded it – only to see the first boat sunk with a huge loss of life. Margaret remembers walking to the Arch Corner to catch the bus (conveying Griston children) to Caston School. Margaret had been born in the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital and it interesting to surmise that, had she been born at home, she and I might have been born in the same room! (Mr and Mrs “Willie” Wyer and son Brian moved from Griston into Northfields Cottage, perhaps in 1953, by which time Harry Nichols had established his garage business at The Garage.)
Opposite, in Northacre Farm, lived Mr ‘Billy’ and Mrs Barbara Buck, their daughter Ann(e) and Mrs Buck’s son, Kevin Kennedy. I understand that Mrs Buck was a WAAF during the war. Mr Buck had kept cows and probably still did so in 1951. I used to be sent to the farm in June to buy strawberries from their garden. Mr & Mrs Buck had one of the earliest television sets in Caston and about 1952 I was invited to watch a concert conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. I recall being disappointed because I knew nothing that was played – one item was the overture, ”The Corsaire” by Berlioz. Margaret Cator (nee Nichols) tells me that in 1953 she watched the Coronation on this television set but recalls that later that day the children’s programme “Andy Pandy” was much more interesting!
Next came (then un-named) Well Cottage where Mr Fred & Mrs Violet Wyer lived for many years. Fred had died in 1948. Dorothy, “Dolly”, was living with her mother and undertook a certain amount of housework for people, including working for my parents at Ivan House. My mother told me that I once sat in a bucket of water there. The well was in the front garden. The family is described in my 1911 walk around Caston. The following year, 1952, Mrs Wyer would die, aged seventy-five. Opposite, I think that Mr & Mrs Ben Knott were living in their brand new bungalow with their son Teddy, for many years our church organist. Further up the road on the left is Northacre Lodge, the home of Mr & Mrs William Macro. They were staunch chapel folk – Mr Macro was a Local Preacher and a Chapel Steward - and were a very pleasant elderly couple. The eastern part of this house was later occupied by Mrs Russell from Duke Lane, and although Miss Aldous lived there for a time, we cannot with certainty link anyone with it in 1951. In fact, we believe that it may have been empty. Opposite stands a terrace of four houses and from the western end the occupants were Mrs Barber, Mr & Mrs Susshams, Mr Harry Mansfield and Mrs Lincoln. We believe that Leonard Knights, a Griston lad, may have lodged with Mrs Barber. Probably the Barber and Knights families were related. A Mr & Mrs Banham lived in Abbots Gate, although I think it was not so-named in 1951. Their daughter Shirley was at Thetford Girls’ Grammar School.
Home Farm was farmed by Mr Alfred Nobbs, another member of Caston Chapel. I cannot recall Mrs Nobbs, but Margaret Cator remembers a housekeeper, “Lettie” Lister. There were cows here still. When in the 1930s we lived at Northfields Cottage, it was to Mr Nobbs that my mother would walk each day with her empty milk can and exchange it for a full one. Beyond the farm and set well back from the road are Home Farm Cottages, now re-named individually. In the first lived Fred and Lily Banham and their daughter, also Lily. The daughter would later marry Mr Hubert Amys, of Watton. (Mr E Abel later lived here.) In the second were Leslie and Gladys Cator and sons Terry and Barry. During the War, Leslie had been a munitions worker in factories making machinery for the War effort. In the following year, 1953, the Cator family would move first to Coronation Terrace and, shortly afterwards, to The Red Lion public house. About 1967 Leslie would take part in a television game, “What’s My Line?”, in which a panel had to try to determine from the contestant’s mime what their job was. This was a glorious moment for the Cator family because Leslie beat the panel! His main job was a duck plucker (there were many more ducks in Caston and district than any other fowls) and probably the panel members had no knowledge of such an occupation! The downside was that the programme was broadcast only in the London Region, and no-one in Caston was able to watch it. Gerald recalls that he also won a turkey-plucking competition. Barry Cator married Margaret Nichols, truly a Caston love affair, and moved to Watton where Barry ran an electrical business. In the third cottage lived Mr & Mrs Albert Palmer, Eddie and Maureen with Mrs Palmer’s niece, Valerie Green. The family had recently moved from opposite The Forge. Mr Palmer worked for fifty years at Church Farm and it was he who, every Friday, brought an old water cart to the school to empty the toilets. The contents were destined for the farm’s manure heap. Mrs Palmer later worked at the school as dinner lady and, I think, cleaner-caretaker. In the fourth lived William and Florence Cator, parents of Leslie. (Barry says that his grandfather told him that the first two cottages burned down many years earlier and that they were re-built with clay from Mr Nobbs’ pit. When Barry’s family moved to Coronation Terrace in 1952, and William Cator moved to the second cottage, he did so because the newer staircase was straight and not twisted, and that made it easier to climb and bring in furniture.) These cottages possessed long gardens; in 1951 many families grew their own vegetables, the surplus produce of which would be given to neighbours.
In the western half of Rosedene lived Mr & Mrs Rex Jolley, Irene and “Dickie” -?Richard - whilst Mr Bob Cleaver and family lived in the eastern half, for so many years the home of Mr James Self. A few years later, Irene Jolley was tragically killed in a road accident near Barford on icy roads. Rex worked at one time for Joe Tricker at Caston Bakery and later for Mr Sample, Fishmonger, of Watton. At Clay Cottage lived Mr & Mrs Harry Dennis with their children Rosemary and John. Barry Cator and John Dennis spent a lot of time together as youngsters and Barry remembers that John’s family kept greyhounds on their meadow. Next door, at The Lilacs, lived Bert Goddard and his wife with Joscelyn, their daughter, who was at Caston School with me, and who married Derek Murch of Thompson. An older daughter, Rosie, had by this time married and had moved away. I understand that her first husband, a member of the Alderton family from the Cressinghams, died in the Far East in the course of the war. Rosie then married Wally Jenny and lived at Holly Cottage, Griston.
Northacre part 2
The Gray family lived at The Black Horse – was it then a Steward & Patterson Brewery pub? We are unsure, but a photograph shows that at one time it was a Morgans pub. Mr Gray worked in the forestry industry and occasionally picked up us boys when we hitch-hiked home from school at Thetford. My mother was friendly with Mrs Gray. There were three boys, Derek, Colin and Alan. Colin became a carpenter, Derek was for a time a projectionist at the Regal Cinema at Watton and owned a shoe shop in the town, whilst Alan became a London taxi driver. Opposite stands Alma House, the home of Gordon and Olive Hancock, son Anthony and twins Malcolm and Margaret; Gordon had been a career soldier and had served in the Military Police; in 1951 he worked as a civilian at Royal Air Force, Watton. Occasionally he also did some work at Church Farm and Gerald remembers him building and covering a hale of mangolds – a long pile of mangolds covered with soil and straw. Up the drive is Ella House, the home of Mr & Mrs William Eagling and, at one stage, Jimmy Thompson. Oakleigh Cottage, the home of the Oscar Hannant, his sons Ronald and Charles and his sister Mrs Glover, stands close to the road. Mrs Glover’s husband had died; their daughter, Esther had married an American serviceman and, following divorce, married John Carroll. Ronnie Hannant served in the army during the Second World War. Gerald remembers him cycling to and from Great Hockham or Wretham to his work in forestry. Charlie worked at Red Barn Farm, Carbrooke. The Hannant family suffered more than their share of misfortune: two of Oscar’s brothers, Edgar and Dick had been killed in the First World War, his wife Violet, a sister of Daisy Drake, had died from lung cancer at the age of forty-one, although she had never smoked, and his son Charlie, never robust in health, would die of coeliac disease in 1959 aged only thirty-one. Charlie had promised that he would be “the best uncle ever” to Ronald’s daughter Linda, now Linda Lincoln, but it was not to be as he died before she was born.
In the pair of cottages next on the left (now one dwelling, Chestnut Cottage) lived Mrs Fincham, the widow of Horace, with a son Ellis, whilst next door lived her other son Percy, his wife Gladys and their children. They were Nina, who was at Caston School with me, June, Michael, Gary and Brian, who still lives in Northacre. We have a delightful photograph of Percy as a teenager standing with his bicycle on The Green. As a young man Percy was employed by Mr Buckle at the Post Office as paper boy and was highly regarded. Alan Hall thinks he may have also done an afternoon postal delivery. Percy served in the army during the war and after demobilisation drove a very long bus filled with Italian prisoners of war as they moved from job to job. Gerald remembers it passing through Caston from time to time. The prisoners dug out some local ditches and undertook farm work. (On his farm, Potash Farm, at Banham, my uncle, Harry Aldous, had an Italian prisoner, Fernando, living in a room at the south end of his farmhouse whilst working on his farm.) On the opposite side of the road, Mr & Mrs Sam Thacker lived in The Cottage with Bobby, Sam (junior) and Elizabeth, ‘Betty’. Next, at Willow Farm, there lived Mr & Mrs Bob Dade and their daughter Grace who attended Thetford Grammar School for Girls. Bob worked on the farm. The farmhouse is timber-framed and the family very kindly allowed an internal inspection by an architect when I was writing “A History of Caston”. (In 1931 this had been the home of Mr & Mrs Robert Childerhouse; my mother could recall how they established their poultry business in part by keeping chickens in some of the rooms of Willow Farm. Times were very hard in the 1930s.) It was probably during the war years, or perhaps in the severe winter of 1947, that I recall people skating on the pond between the farmhouse and the road. Dick Childerhouse remembers boxing contests in the barn, with the boxers using sacking instead of boxing gloves.
Although not strictly in Caston, but just over the boundary into Carbrooke, Mr & Mrs George Freston lived at the Mill House. In 1951 the remains of the base of the windmill were still visible; indeed, a mill is shown here on Faden’s Map of Norfolk, dated 1797. Foxhall Farm had been the home of Mr & Mrs Buck, but they had moved to Northacre Farm, and they were followed, we think, by Mr & Mrs Fennell. Probably in 1951 Mr & Mrs Barrett and family lived there. Christine Barrett became one of Caston’s bell ringers. In the pair of cottages (now one) on the left of the road, had lived Mr & Mrs Reginald Breeze and Pauline, but they moved out about 1949 and were followed by a Mr & Mrs Wyer who later moved to Thompson. Mr Wyer worked for Mr Offley at Low Farm, Carbrooke and, I think, may have continued to do so after he moved to Thompson. One day I saw him ride his moped over the Griston A1075 crossroads from Griston without even slowing down! In the eastern end lived Mr George Bailey, his son Bernard and his stepson Roy Hensley. George Bailey was a lorry driver and served for many years as a Parish Councillor and a District Councillor. Gerald remembers his kindness when he and others would be chopping out sugar beet seedlings in the field opposite. At 3 p.m. George would call them indoors for a cup of tea and a brief chat. It always ended with, “Now lads, you will vote for me, won’t you!” Ms Torgun Thvedt, a Norwegian lady, was housekeeper. The cottages have since been altered and converted into one, now the home of George’s son, Bernard and his wife Gwen. Bernard also became a lorry driver and eventually his father bought him a second-hand lorry from Roudham Transport, a firm run by Chris Lawrence, a former classmate of mine at Thetford Grammar School. Bernard added more and more vehicles until he owned a fleet of eight articulated lorry cabs, employing a number of drivers. Bernard has himself driven a lorry from Norfolk to Basra, Iraq. At present the business, run by Bernard’s sons Dean and Neil, services and repairs vehicles and Bernard has a collection of lorries he has restored. It would seem that at present, 2013, farmers apart, Baileys Transport and The Red Lion are the only businesses in Caston.
The group of four cottages at the top end of Northacre has a westernmost cottage built north-south and three that face south. Mrs May Balls lived in the end cottage with her children, Joan, Betty, Helen and Jimmy (?James); Mr Martin, a retired shepherd, his son “Chucky” Martin, his wife Mabel and family lived in the two following houses whilst Ernest and Ida Abel with their daughter Patricia lived in the house nearest the road. Their nephew John lived with them, his parents having died, but in 1951 John was away, serving in the Fleet Air Arm. Until about 1950, when they moved to Griston, Mr and Mrs John Reeve, Francis and Iris had lived in the house nearest the road. With them had lived Fred and Meg Grimmer, but Meg had married an American serviceman. Francis and I played together and we would collect waterhens’ eggs using a pole with a spoon tied to the end. How we avoided falling in the water I shall never know.
The Jenness family farmed Carbrooke Road Farm, ‘Blind Fred’ Banham, Alan Banham’s uncle, being one of the family. Eliza Banham had married Mark Jenness and their daughter Kathleen was married to a Mr Brown who during the war had been a prisoner of the Japanese in the Far East. He worked as a printer at Messrs Harvey, Watton. Lastly, the Shingfield family lived at Kenny’s (or Margetson’s) Farm. There were several boys, Bernard, Ralph (“Jimmy”), John, Ellis, Alfred, and Bertie. Mr Leonard Shingfield, a horseman on Mr Burrough’s farm, died from cancer about 1949 and by 1951 Bernard had married and moved away. Ellis and Alfred were both members of the Caston band of bell ringers. All fit young men who were not in full time education were called up for two years’ National Service when they reached eighteen years of age. Ellis reached that age in summer 1951 and was called into the army, Charlie Banham and I escorting him to Paddington Station, London, to catch his train en route to basic training. (My National Service followed in 1952 when I was called up into the Royal Air Force, working in the Meteorological Office at RAF Mildenhall for much of the two years.) Ellis lives in Northacre at The Lilacs, to where the family moved in 1964, Bertie lives in Watton and Alfred lives in Ashill, but John and Jimmy have died. Over the Caston boundary, in Carbrooke parish, is Red Barn Farm, the home of Gordon and Mrs Doris Larwood, the latter being Head Teacher at Caston School in the early 1940s. She retired when she was expecting her daughter Ruth. Whilst it was on the Caston postal round, Gap Farm was situated just over the village boundary in Rocklands; it has long since been demolished. Mr & Mrs Harry Symonds lived there with their daughters Betty and Trixie. (Or was Betty known as Trixie?)
It is worth recording that there were two Caston postal delivery cycle rounds. One was undertaken by the Royal Mail van driver by bicycle in the period between the arrival of the post van at Caston Post Office and its departure some two to three hours later. The other was done by a postlady, and I remember Mrs Bessie Simpson in that role. Sometimes she would be delighted if there was no post for Rockland Gap Farm, thus saving her ten to fifteen minutes. The first round included all houses to the east of Caston Green, Caston Hall, Whews Farm and its cottages, and the houses in Flymoor Lane/Green Lane, Rockland. Probably by 1951, with more petrol available, it was done by van. However, as a boy I would cycle with Mr Lawrence on a Saturday morning. Gerald can remember as a quite young boy being given a ride by Mr Lawrence on his front carrier! There could not have been much mail that morning! When Mr Lawrence was not at work, his colleague Sydney George, undertook his duties.
Walking down Carbrooke Road, it is of interest to note that in 1797 Faden’s map of Norfolk showed the land to left and right of this road as a part of Caston Common, uncultivated and probably unfenced. The cultivated land started perhaps about two hundred yards or more to the right of the road; indeed, until perhaps the 1960s there was a hedge there. Northacre also had common land to both left and right. The Enclosure Award of 1814 changed the face of Caston and, I imagine, changed the lives of many parishioners. Turning left at the bottom, we come to Bridge Bungalow which, as children, we knew as Shepherd’s Cottage, situated on the left at the right-hand bend at the bottom of Caston Hall Hill. In 1951 this cottage was two dwellings. We recall that two of Mr Beales’ shepherds, Mr Alfred Tuddenham, and Mr “Button” Palmer, a man short in stature, lived in these cottages at about this time. In 1952 Mr John “Jack” Creed, his wife and children Peggy, Jacqueline and Linda moved to the end nearest the road. Josephine and John were born later. Jacqueline Oliff, nee Creed, remembers that Mrs Reynolds, her daughter Rosie and Rosie’s daughter Carol lived next door. About 1955 the two cottages were joined to become one. Jacqueline says that at lambing time her father lived in his isolated shepherd’s hut, a wooden hut on wheels that stood close to the track leading westwards from the road at the top of the hill. Jacqueline remembers that in his hut he had a roaring wood-burning stove and a mattress on the floor. She and Linda would take him sandwiches, cutting a direct route across the meadows. Lambing might keep him up all night and Jacqueline remembers her father walking home before dawn with a Tilly lamp, carrying in his pockets any lambs that had been rejected by their mothers. The lambs, which looked half dead, would be put in the garden shed under an infra-red lamp and would be bottle-fed until they were strong enough to return to the meadows. In spring her father would shear the sheep on “The Marsh”, just below the cottage, with a hand-worked Lister machine. It was Jacqueline’s job to turn the handle and she recalls many an aching arm as a result. Each year, on Sunday morning in early summer, having brought the flock overnight to a meadow near his bungalow, Mr Creed and his dog would walk the sheep from Caston Hall meadows, along Green Lane to Mere Farm, turning left to White Post and then turning right down Stow Bedon Heath to pass the track to (Thompson) Watering Farm; the final destination was Black Rabbit Warren, which is actually in Wretham parish. When they were old enough, his daughters Jacqueline and Linda would accompany him. Peter Childerhouse tells how he would walk in front of the flock and how, as in Biblical times, the sheep would follow him. On one occasion, as a teenager, Peter and his sheepdog took about 250 hoggets (yearling sheep) there on their own, the dog being absolutely aware if a sheep tried to abscond from the flock. The flock would be walked home to Caston Hall meadows in Autumn. Whilst they were at Black Rabbit Warren, Mr Creed would drive over every day to attend to them. On the occasion that Mr Beales took me to see the flock, we drove via Tottington village along the Thetford road and turned east. Who would dare to walk animals along the busy roads these days? I have from Jacqueline a press photograph of her father and his sheep at the Royal Norfolk Show. In the 1960s, Peter Childerhouse would drive his own sheep from The Whews to Carbrooke Road Farm. His fondness for sheep was shown by his relationship with one particular animal, which he named Larry. It would follow him like a dog when he cycled from The Whews into the village and often, when at home it would rest on the kitchen table! The Creed family left Caston in 1967, when they moved to Great Hockham. In Hall Cottages at the top of the hill Mr & Mrs Notley and family were in the village end and Mr & Mrs (?George) Saunders lived in the Rockland end. Both were employed on Caston Hall Farm where Mr Saunders was farm foreman. The farmer, Mr Walter Beales, had bought the estate just before the two bombers collided overhead on 26th October 1944; he told me that he was on his way to visit the farm that day and found the road on fire. On the meadow in front of the house lay a Flying Fortress fuselage whilst just to the north of the house was a tall tail section. I recall wreckage to the west of the main road. In 1951 Mr Beales lived in the farmhouse with his wife Alice, their children Alan, Jean and Ann(e) and Mrs Beales’ sister, Miss “Tibby” Herdman. My family has reason to be grateful to Walter Beales who was very kind to my father in his final illness. Jacqueline also mentioned Mr Beales’ kindness towards her family. In an episode of “Dad’s Army”, Corporal Jones is seen chasing some fowls around in an effort to catch one of them; those fowls belonged to Walter Beales, a contribution from Caston to that popular television series of the 1970s.
Northacre part 3
Turning down Bell Lane, now The Broadway, some way past the drive to Caston Hall, a track leads off to the left. Although the cottage, since demolished, was outside the Caston boundary, Gerald remembers that in 1951 Ben Coman (?spelling) who worked at Caston Hall Farm may have lived there with his wife. Ellis Shingfield says that he and his family lived there until 1946 when they moved to Kenny’s (Margetson’s) Farm.
Although a part of the Caston community, The Whews and its associated cottages (and the post-1951 bungalow) all stand in Stow Bedon parish. Mr Joe and Mrs Hilda Childerhouse lived in the farm house with children John, Peter, Ann(e), Bridget and Dan. In the pair of farm cottages nearest the farm house lived, Harold “Dido” and Ella Messent (sister of Sylvia Allen) with their children Myrtle, Keith and ?Andrew, whilst nearest the main road lived Ronnie and “Dot” (?Dorothy) Bowen with Betty and ?Rodney. Both men worked on the farm.
Returning towards the village, we come to Bridge (Farm) Cottages. At the end of the war I recall that Mr & Mrs Percy Goldsmith and family living in the first one and Mrs Ada Bailey, a widow, and her children Leonard (“Sugar”) and Horace living in the second one. (I never knew the older Bailey family members, Albert, Lucy and Helen, who had moved away.) In the early 1940s Mrs Goldsmith had been our church organist. We think that by 1951 Mrs Bailey and family had “changed ends” and moved into the first cottage, No 4. Jacqueline Oliff speaks of Mrs Bailey’s son Albert having bought it. Gerald has a memory of one “Taffy Thomas”, living there. He played for Caston Cricket Club. Mr William Hall, of Church Farm, bought the second house, No 3, and Gerald recalls a Polish man, Ted Katra, living there with his wife and two children. Ted was Church Farm’s second cowman, working under Charlie Allen. Jacqueline recalls that Mr Hall had a number of Royal Air Force tenants living there in the 1950s. Note the integration of “foreign” workers, even former enemies, settling and sometimes marrying in post-war England.
In the first of the second pair of cottages, No 2 Bridge Cottages, lived Mr & Mrs Cleaver, Mrs Cleaver being a daughter of its former occupant, Mr Saunders. Mr Cecil Cleaver was a retired London fireman (in wartime a job that took courage and bravery) and he ran a taxi service. His son Reginald lived with his parents, eventually moving to Stow Bedon. Next door in No 1 lived Charles Banham and the family housekeeper Mrs Lister. Married in 1905, Charles’ mother, Maria Banham, had died in 1925 when he was fifteen and Mrs Lister, a widow, was employed as housekeeper for Charles, his sisters Joyce and Olive his father Edward, “Ted”, and his brother Nelson. Mr Edward Banham died in 1949, Nelson was married by 1951, living near to Low Farm, Merton, and daughters Joyce and Olive had long moved away. Both Charles and Nelson had served in the Army in the Second World War, Charles in The Netherlands and Nelson in Basra. In the 1920s a two-roomed wooden extension was built at the village end of the house. It may have been a former Army hut. Charles was Church Warden for 39 years. He looked after the church clock, was stoker in winter months (sometimes sleeping in the church on a Saturday night in order to stoke the fire through the early hours of Sunday morning) and was captain of the bell ringers. A carpenter by trade, he worked for Messrs Peeke Vout at The Laurels. The firm owned a Rover car that had been converted to a lorry at the back and one of Charles’ occasional tasks was to dig and bring back sand from the Breckles sandpit. I have enjoyed several rides to get sand; our speed rarely hit thirty miles per hour. Even so, when the firm closed in Caston about 1959, there was a buyer for the vehicle.
Peter Hanton farmed at Bridge Farm and lived there with his wife Irene, who looked after the small herd of cows. When he left school, Michael Turner worked there and recently Gerald and Michael visited Peter at Attlebridge, near Norwich. Until recently, when crossing over the bridge, if one looked over the northern parapet, one could see a semi-circular covering over the centre of the stream. This was put in place by the Americans to conceal the smell made by the sewer’s treated liquid effluent that was fed into the stream. Bridge (Farm) Bungalow was occupied by Mr Fred Crane, his wife Violet and their son Ivan, now a retired bank manager. Fred worked in the building industry. Ivan attended Hamonds Grammar School, Swaffham. In Old Rectory Cottages lived the Mann family, Merton Mann in the eastern end until his death in 1951, his wife Emma having died in 1949, and their son Reginald, his wife Ethel and sons William (“Bill”) and Walter in the other end. Like his father before him, Reggie worked as gardener for Mr Petrie at The Old Rectory; for a time he may have worked for Mr Grix. After that he worked at Royal Air Force, Watton. In the evenings he was our village gentlemen’s hairdresser. My monthly haircut cost six (old) pence and my father’s cost one shilling (five new pence)! We presume that almost every village had its part-time hairdresser. Bill attended Thetford Grammar School for Boys and then Nottingham University; probably he was the first child born and bred in Caston to achieve university education. He spent his working life teaching in Leicester. Bill says that, although most of the village up to and including The Red Lion was supplied with electricity before the war, the houses to the east were not connected until the 1950s. Old Rectory Cottages were still without a supply in 1956 when the Mann family moved to Evergreen. Certainly, until Mr Petrie left The Old Rectory, the Mann family had a loudspeaker extension from Mr Petrie’s radio that meant that they could listen only to what the Petrie family was listening to. Mrs Lincoln moved into Merton Mann’s house probably in 1951 or 1952. Reginald and his family moved to Evergreen in 1956. Reggie died very suddenly in 1959, a loss both to his family and to the village.
Green Lane, now Stow Bedon Road
In 1951 there were no houses between The Green and The Folgate. Highfields was built about 1952-53 for Beryl and Alan Hall, Shrublands was built for David and Maureen Morfoot and their family in 1958, Beech Leigh was built for Ken & Beryl Proctor and family about 1963-64, Gerald’s bungalow, Windy Ridge, was built about 1965 but Wychwood House was built later. At the top of the rise, The Gravel Pit was an important part of village life in the 1950s; no longer being used for gravel extraction, it was used to dump unwanted items and materials. There was no Council refuse collection and householders had to compost, burn or bury their own rubbish in their back gardens. Larger items were destined for The Gravel Pit, which was of considerable depth. As children, we revelled in looking through the discarded items for treasure! Many houses still had outside toilets, although septic tanks were gradually being introduced. An outside toilet would mean that its bucket needed emptying once a week but by the 1950s there was a night soil collection by the Council. Otherwise, as had once been the case at Ivan House, a vault beneath the toilet seat meant emptying the contents with ladle and bucket into a specially dug deep hole in the garden. For toilet paper we, like some other households, used torn up squares of newspaper.
The Council Houses at The Folgate had been built about 1926 and from the Caston end the occupants in 1951 were Mr & Mrs Lewis Savory and family, Mr Percy Taylor, his housekeeper Mrs Willis and her son David (at Thetford Grammar School), Mr & Mrs Whitmore and family and Mr & Mrs Thorpe. Mr Savory worked at Church Farm, Mr Taylor was Stow Bedon’s Roadman, Mr Whitmore worked on the railway and Mr Thorpe was gardener at Flaxmoor. A few yards further on was the house named Folgate, the home of the Drake family. Charles Drake was to play an important part in village affairs – he became a member of the Parish Council, a Church Warden and a Governor of Caston School. I am not certain of this, but I imagine that he might have been behind the provision of our village sign in the 1960s. Then, on the right, just before the driveway to Waterloo Farm, came Mr & Mrs Frank Kett and Rosalind. Until her death in May 2013, Gerald kept in touch with Rosalind who lived near Truro, Cornwall, having run a plant nursery nearby with a friend. On the western side of Waterloo Farm drive lived Mr & Mrs Rudling. The last house in the parish is Waterloo Farm. Mr and Mrs Arthur Banham had been farming there and we remember their daughters Madge, Eva, Emily and Margaret; the latter, now Mrs Leggett, is living in Watton. However, they left in 1946 and by 1951 it was occupied by Captain Atherton. We cannot recall a Mrs Atherton, but the next occupants about the year 1960 were Mr & Mrs Bayliss whose son Timothy was born whilst they were there. Mrs Bayliss, an Irish lady, was friendly with my mother through church. In the 1970s she returned to Ireland to live; she died there but when last heard of, Tim was working in England.
Although Coronation Terrace was built about 1952 - 53 it is interesting to list the first occupants of Numbers 1 to 8. They were, 1. - Oscar Hannant, Ronnie, Charlie and housekeeper Mrs Glover; 2 – Albert and Ethel Palmer and family; 3 – “Jack” and Mrs Edith Turner and Michael; 4 – Bernard and Mrs Shingfield; 5 – Leslie and Gladys Cator, Terry and Barry (followed in 1954 by “Billy” and Mrs Saunders and family when the Cator family moved to The Red Lion); 6 – Mr “Chuckie” and Mrs Mabel Martin; 7 – Edward and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Tennant (and, from 1955 their daughter Ruth); and 8 – Mr and Mrs Walter Banham. Numbers 9 and 10 were built in 1954 for two of the families who were turned out of their homes in the Stanford Practical Training Area in 1942. To number 9, came Mr and Mrs I J “Jack” Drake and family and to No 10, Lawson Blanche and his mother Mrs Blanche.
Some of the 1951 residents of Caston still live in the village: Bernard Bailey, Gerald Barnes, John Chapman, Peter Chapman, Alan Hall, Evelyn Harrand, Sam Thacker, Mary Tortice and Ellis Shingfield. Bernard Bailey is living in the same (but somewhat re-built) house in Northacre. Had The Whews stood within the Caston boundary, Peter Childerhouse, for many years at Carbrooke Road Farm, and John Childerhouse would have qualified for this short list.
My memories of the period are very happy ones. People had little money but lived happily with their neighbours. We accepted people for what they were. There was no crime to speak of – riding bicycles without lights and forgetting to renew the dog licence seem to have been the worst offences. I can recall one serious fight that involved a Caston man and caused gossip, but I would think that the matter may not have come to the notice of the police. I think that many people did not lock their doors – I remember that when I helped my father deliver bread, it was not uncommon for me to enter an unlocked house and place the bread on a table if nobody was at home, and leave again, closing the door behind me. Our door at Ivan House was locked but the key was kept under a scrubbing brush on the doorstep three feet from the door. Every week Mr “Hubby” Lancaster, from Durrants of Watton, would let himself in and leave the groceries and then lock up again. If I arrived home after my parents had gone to bed, I would find the door unlocked. Similarly, when my father went to work early in the morning, he would leave it unlocked. How life has changed!
15th June 2013