Cog Icon signifying link to Admin page

A Walk Around Caston in 1911

by John Barnes (first published in The Waylander September to December 2010)

TIP - for PC users the font can be easily enlarged by holding down the Ctrl key and tapping the '+' key

The Census for 1911 gives a fascinating picture of Caston and I thought that a description of our village one hundred years ago would enable present day folk to compare and contrast the situation.  Some of the people listed lived interesting lives in one way or another.  Sadly, some lost their lives in the First World War and I have tried to make mention of all those who were living in Caston in 1911.  I have been surprised at the number of those listed on the War Memorial who were not in Caston in 1911.  With the help of Alan Hall, Jane Horner, Evelyn Harrand and my brother Gerald Barnes, and with valuable comments from others, I have been able to add snippets of interest about some of these people who did not just live out their lives but who also contributed to their community and their country.

I suppose that two large differences are at once apparent, the reliance then upon horses for farm work and carrying and the fact that the roads were of sand, gravel and flints.  The village was busy with industries that were based on the needs of the farming community.  There was no electricity, no radio, no television, telephones were just reaching the village, there was no piped water supply, all the drinking and cooking water coming from wells – and if the well we used was typical, drowned rats would be found in them from time to time.  Almost certainly in 1911 there were no cars and, unless Mr Knott the carrier took passengers, there was no bus service.  Bicycles were in their infancy but it is by no means certain that any Caston resident would have been able to afford one by then.  Nor would there have been daily deliveries of newspapers.  Most of the farms were in the hands of tenant farmers and instead of the large fields of today there were many smaller fields and meadows.  Crops would have included wheat, barley, oats, mangolds and turnips, but we think that sugar beet had not been introduced by then.  In the meadows were horses, sheep and cows: only Church Farm is recorded as having a ‘milkman’, that is, a cowman, but probably other farms would have kept a few cows for domestic uses and would have sold some of the milk.  (In 1931 my mother would carry her milk can to Mr Alfred Nobbs at Home Farm each morning to collect her milk.)  In the absence of chemical sprays, both fields and meadows would have many wild flowers.  Indeed, farm workers would have pulled up some of them by hand to stop them seeding and so contaminating the crops.

The Census reveals that there were 422 people in Caston, 214 males and 208 females.  They included one visitor, but at least two residents seem to have been away visiting. Of these people, a rough count shows that 29 were infants under the age of five and that there were 59 children at school.  (There were other children not so described who might have been expected to be attending school.)  They occupied 107 homes, a further six homes being empty and one – probably what is now named Wardles – was under construction.  Fourteen farmers are listed together with ten fowl dealers or fowl rearers: some would have been smallholders, rather than farmers. There were 51 agricultural labourers in Caston, plus five horsemen, four team-men, sometimes called teamsters, working the horses on the fields - there must have been others - and two carters.  Servicing the farms were seven men described as blacksmiths, a carriage builder (and presumably repairer), two saddlers and six men described as millers.  There were also eight bricklayers and six carpenters.  On leaving school one possibility for a girl was to go into service at one of what were known as ‘the big houses’ either in Caston or elsewhere.  Many would occupy servants’ quarters and so live in.  No fewer than 13 ladies under 25 years of age were recorded as servants, together with three older ones.   In addition, nine ladies under 25 worked domestically at home, as did five older ones.

Seven residents were described as having ‘private means’ and twelve were described as pensioners.  Doubtless, many elderly people did not receive a pension.  My memories go back to about 1939 and I can recall knowing some very, very poor people.  One wonders whether in 1911 some of these poor people ended their lives in the local workhouse at Rockland; we have come across just one possible such person. A good many homes were ‘tied cottages’ and if one was out of work and so without a home, could not find an adequate income, or had a health problem, life might have been difficult.  The retirement pension had been introduced two years earlier, in 1909, and that would have helped some people.

In what follows I have included every family resident in the village and recorded on the Census.  I have been able to link many of them with the houses in which they lived.

The Village Green

In 1911 The Green had a different road layout, as illustrated in Part Three of ‘A History of Caston’.  There was as yet no War Memorial.  At the western end stood the school, for many years unfenced, but probably by 1911 the playground sported a new surround of chestnut fencing.  To the northeast, opposite The Red Lion, stood Mr Knights’ huge barn.

To the south stood Church Farm, looking much as it does now.  It was farmed by Henry and Helen Larwood and living with them were Dorothy, nine, and young Henry aged two.  In about five years’ time, when he was seven, young Henry would suffer a fatal accident on the farm.  That accident would change the history of both the family and the village, for in the 1930s the farm would pass, not to the Larwood family, but to daughter Dorothy who by then had married William Hall.  It would then pass down to Alan Hall and then to Peter and Bridget. 

In the pair of Church Farm Cottages in Church Lane lived George Griggs, ‘milkman’ (i.e., cowman) and stockman, and Edward Palmer, horseman.  Edward and Martha had six children (plus a seventh born dead), one of whom, Albert, then a six years old schoolboy, would (we are almost certain) spend his entire working life on Church Farm.  Assuming that he left school at the legal school-leaving age of twelve, that amounts to 53 years’ service.  In the 1940s, long before the days of mains sewerage, I recall that it was Albert who, every Friday, undertook the unpleasant job of emptying the school’s toilet buckets into a tank and transporting the contents to a manure heap at Church Farm.  Albert’s daughter, now Maureen Easter, lives in Watton and cares for the family graves in Caston churchyard.  The Palmer family had moved from West Bradenham to Caston with Henry Larwood in 1908.

On the east side, Holy Cross Church looked much as it does today, except that the wooden clock face was replaced by an iron one in 1950.  To the north of it was The Old House, known for so many years as ‘Banham’s on the Green’.  Alfred Banham, 61, was a carriage builder.  He and Mary had been married for 39 years and of their four children (a fifth had died) Alfred Gricks Banham, known as Fred, was the blacksmith and Ernest was the coach painter. The wheelwright was William Banham, another son, who lived then in ‘The Duke’s Head’ end of Thatched Cottage.  (Older Caston residents will remember two of William and Eliza’s children, Fairfax Banham and Marjorie Clowes.)  When the schoolchildren were in their playground they would sometimes look across the Green and see a carriage or waggon being hauled up to (or let down from) the upper floor of the workshop, which was the paintshop.

Close by was The Red Lion public house, kept by Mary Ann Cooke, 70, a widow.  Her son Harry was barman and her two daughters, Gertrude and Florence, worked part-time in the bar.  A photograph of the time shows Mrs Cooke at the door with four ponies and traps in the yard.  There might also have been horses tied to posts to await their owners. Gertrude, would marry a farmer, Bert Davey, and would return to Caston as a widow to live her last years at The Villa, now Wardles.  Thus she became a near neighbour of my mother at Ivan House.  Arthur Howlett, lodger, was described as a “timber feller”.

Behind the plantation opposite was The Rectory.  Three members of the Partridge family were Rectors of Caston for 91 years, from 1850 to 1941.  All were named Walter and so had to be referred to as Walter John, Walter Henry and Walter Ernest.  In 1911 Walter Henry Partridge, 66, was Rector.  His wife, formerly Ellen Dodgson, was from Woodford, Essex, and her father, William Dodgson, had earlier presented to the church the candelabra that hangs in the chancel.  A distant cousin, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was the author Lewis Carroll, who wrote ‘Alice in Wonderland’.  (Confusingly, Ellen also had a brother Charles.)  Of their five girls and eight boys, only Mary, 29, was still at home.  On 20th May 1915 their son Reginald, serving with the Canadian Infantry, would be killed in action at Festubert, France.  Their servants were Kate Tye, 34, Eleanor Palmer and Florence Mann.  Kate, the housekeeper, would lose two brothers, Horace and Leonard, the latter fourteen in 1911, in The Great War.  She would accompany the Rev Walter Henry to The Isle of Wight on his retirement but would return to marry Alfred G Banham.  In my youth her house was wired for electricity but ‘Aunt Kate’, a lovely lady, could not afford to use it and relied upon oil lamps, a reminder of just how hard up some people were in the 1940s.  (I am not sure who paid for her broken window caused by a game of cricket by school pupils on the green about 1943.)

Almost opposite The Red Lion and across the yard from The Vines stood the huge barn of William Knights, 60, a builder.  He is listed as a carpenter and bricklayer and of his three sons, Henry and Walter were bricklayers, Richard was a bricklayer’s labourer and William was a carpenter – very much a family business.  Of the daughters, Margaret would run the Post Office in the eastern end of the house from 1945 to her death in 1956, although her sister Muriel (not living at home in 1911) was officially sub postmistress.  Walter would die about 1959 whilst gardening at The Rectory, now The Old Curatage.  Mr Hall’s van was sent for and, with the help of my father, Walter’s body was loaded up and taken home to The Vines – no police or ambulance involved!  In the western end of the house lived Miss Edith Bennett, aged 38, the Head Mistress of Caston School.  She retired in the year I was born, 1933, having been Head Mistress since 1894.  She continued to live there in my childhood and I can remember delivering bread to her.  With her in 1911 lived her sister Kate, aged 34, who taught the infants class.  Interestingly, a photograph of a group of Caston School children has recently come to light.  It is thought to date from about 1901 and Miss Edith Bennett is clearly seen as is Miss Violet Peeke Vout (see below).

Then, almost opposite the School, was The Laurels, the home of William Peeke Vout, a builder and his wife Elizabeth, ‘Betsy’.  Of their children, Violet (later Mrs Charles Lister, the mother of Mrs Evelyn Harrand), was teaching at the School, Melville would go on to establish a builder’s business in Watton and Norman, then 23, would, after service in the Royal Navy, establish an omnibus business in the village.

The Street

Sub Postmaster John Murrell lived at The Post Office.  Aged 81, he had served as a sergeant at the Indian Mutiny, 1857-8.  He would announce the arrival of the Royal Mail by sounding a post horn.  His daughter Annie was married to Ernest Buckle, 37, who on John’s death the following year, would succeed him in the business.  I can recognise Mr Buckle’s handwriting on the Census form!  I am unsure exactly when the telephone first arrived in Caston but I think it was before 1911 because my father, at work at Tricker’s bakery that evening, was told by the village policeman the news of the death of King Edward VII in May 1910 and probably that news arrived by telephone.  The Post Office number was the first in the book, Caston 201; another early number, Caston 203, is thought to been that of the Rector.  Only about 1940 did Church Farm gain a telephone and be allocated that number.  I cannot determine who lived in Ivan Cottage, but Ann Davey, 82, probably the mother of builder Amos Davey, was living at Stansfield with Clarissa Bambridge, 64, a dressmaker. Both were widows.  Although not then living in Caston, Clarissa’s son James would be killed in the First World War.  The Villa, built by Amos Davey, was, I think, the private house described as ‘Building’: certainly it was built in 1911.  When my mother moved to Caston in 1931 it was the Police House.

At Flaxmoor resided retired Colonel Arthur Sheringham and his family.  One morning my father, delivering bread, was given a cup of coffee by a maid.  He didn’t like the taste of it and threw it over a hedge.  It landed partly on the Colonel, who was not amused.  A few years hence, the Colonel would lose his life savings in the collapse of a London bank.  Two ladies who were described as having private means lived in this vicinity.   I suggest that Jane Osborne lived at Rose Cottage opposite Flaxmoor because Mary Walton Green, 62, and her daughter Mary Wastie Green (sic), 32, lived at what is now The Old Curatage in 1901 and they were almost certainly still there in 1911.  From about 1920 until about 1980 this house would become The Rectory.  I am unable to place with certainty Alfred Pegnall, Coachman; was he employed by Flaxmoor or by The Curatage?  Miss Edith Watson, described as Housekeeper, lived with him and his eleven years old son, also named Alfred.  It is clear from an erased entry that Mrs Sarah Pegnall was quite ill but she was absent from home on the day of the Census.  Stephen Tillett, a gardener, and his family come next and logic suggests that the Pegnalls might have been living at The Lodge and the Tillets at what is now Avon Cottage.  Opposite, Meadowside was not built until 1921.  I imagine that Mary Bambridge and her family may have lived at Clematis Cottage.  Very few houses are given names in the Census because very few had names; everybody, including the village postman, knew where everybody else lived and so there was no need for names.  As people move, house names change; for example, the house that in 1911 was named Arch Villa has been Broome Cottage for as long as I can remember.

At the present Lam Low, previously South Cottage, but probably un-named in 1911, lived Elijah Yeomans, bricklayer, and his wife Martha.  With them lived (Herbert) George Green, also a bricklayer, with his wife Alice, adopted daughter of Elijah Yeomans.  I have always understood that Alice was Alice Whitbread, born at Epping, and actually niece of Mr Yeomans.  The Greens had two infants, Edith and Louisa, the second daughter being known to so many of us as Louie.  She died in 1992, thus ending the period of the Green family in Caston.  Next door, at the present Old Barn Cottage, lived Arthur and Anna Chapman.  Arthur was a blacksmith and in my youth he had a hut at the gate and undertook repairs to pots and pans and sold nails and screws.

Past the present Avon Cottage, one comes to Tamarisk, for years named Rose Cottage, the name causing confusion with the house of the same name opposite Flaxmoor.  I believe that in 1911 George Bambridge, 73, a carpenter may have lived there with his wife Mary.  In my childhood an elderly lady, Miss Emma Bambridge, lived there (see below).  Next door, at Eastview, lived William and Deborah Knott, and their son Clement, a fowl dealer.  Percy Roy, a three years old visitor born at Hackney, London, was also present.  William was then a retired farmer but he had been the village carrier. A few years ago a photograph of The Street was found showing a covered cart – almost certainly William Knott’s carrier’s van – close to this house.  A horse seems to be out of the shafts and perhaps it was being shod at the forge.  The 1896 Kelly’s Directory records that William travelled to Norwich on Wednesdays and Saturdays, returning the same day.  I have no information as to whether he carried passengers.  Deborah was William Peeke Vout’s sister. 

The next house and buildings played a very important part in the village of 1911 – the blacksmith’s forge.  Indeed, the blacksmith and the miller were vital to the rural community.  Arthur Chapman, 70, and his son Clifford, 28, are listed as blacksmiths and as undertaking general horse shoeing.  Clifford was still blacksmith in my youth – he retired about 1950.  One day during the Second World War my father witnessed a horse being ridden there by Miss Mary Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston.  The Churchill family were occasional visitors to Breckles Hall.  The sound of hammer upon hot metal was a familiar sound in 1911 as was the smell of burning when a hot shoe was placed on a horse’s hoof.  Next door to the Chapman family, in the far end of the building, now Eastcroft, was the bakery of Horace and Beatrice Ludkin: the business closed in 1946 but the oven survived until the 1960s.  It seems that in the small cottage attached to the bakery, the present Ladybird Cottage, lived an elderly lady, Anna Beck, aged 90.  With her lived her granddaughter Mabel, 18, born in Enfield, Middlesex, whose occupation was described as ‘Wait upon Grandmother’. 

Opposite, on land that is currently being redeveloped, stood a group of two pairs of two cottages that were demolished in the 1950s.  Ernest and Maria Walker lived in one – they were the people with the harmonium who Bertha Breeze referred to - see her article on Caston website.  At the Duke’s Head end of the fourth cottage was a shop, kept in 1911 by Emma Bambridge, 50, grocer and draper, helped by her daughter Florence.  By the early 1940s Emma was living nearby at Rose Cottage: she died in 1947.  About 1913 the shop would be sold to Mrs Rosa Lawes and in my childhood it was run by her daughter, Mrs Ellen Banham, until her death in 1945.  I shopped there many times for my mother and was at school with Ellen and Dick’s son Brian.  Probably Stephen Tubby, 86, and his wife Sarah, 76, lived in one of the other two cottages and Hannah Bilham in the remaining one.

Duke Lane (or Pockthorpe)

It is difficult to fit families to homes in Duke Lane.  However, Charles Drake, 57, poultry dealer and killer, and a well-known character in the village, lived at Foxhall Cottage with his mother Elizabeth, 85.  Perhaps someone else lived in one end of the house; certainly others lived at what I knew as outbuildings.  I suspect that James Downes, boot and shoe maker, lived in one.  Perhaps William ‘Billy’ Whitrod and Ben Drake also lived there – all three would have needed only one room down and one room up.  My father came to Caston in 1908, aged 15, and his first pair of boots were made – yes, cut from a sheet of leather, and sewn – by Mr Downes.  Further down the lane, across a narrow bridge, stood a group of three houses, probably all two-up, two-down cottages.  James Mann, railway signalman, and his family lived in one whilst Walter Bell and his two daughters lived in another of these.  One daughter, Edith, aged 22 and described as Charwoman, later became school caretaker – hence her 1930s nickname, ‘Inky’ Bell.  It was Walter Bell who would come up to the entrance to Duke Lane and study the sky each evening – mentioned by Bertha Breeze.  James and Anna Cator and family may have lived in the third cottage in the row.  Their son Harry Cator would die in the war whilst Herbert would become father of David Cator.  At The Duke’s Head public house lived Frederick and Emma Smith.  After Frederick’s death, Emma would in 1919 marry Ernest Banham the coach painter and move to The Green.

The Street, continued

Almost opposite The Duke’s Head was what is now The Ark.  There was at least one other house adjacent to it, since demolished, and I suspect that Charlotte Gooch, widow, lived in one (she was described as being in receipt of Parish Relief) and that Walter and Eliza Hunt and family lived in the other.  The family would lose both their stepsons Albert and Robert Reynolds in the war.   By 1916 the Hunt family is, by Robert Reynold’s will reproduced in ‘Those Whom We Remember’, recorded as living up the Chase.  However, in the 1911 Census both Mrs Gooch and the Hunt family appear to have lived between Pockthorpe and Tricker’s bakery.  In addition, those families living up The Chase are recorded as such.

Walking towards Griston, next on the right stood the bakery of the Tricker family.  This is where my father worked for fifty years, from 1908 to 1958, except for army service in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in Egypt and Palestine in The Great War.  The Census describes him as born in Caston.  Not so! He was born at Long Stratton.  Joseph Stokes Tricker, 40, was baker and he was married to Eva, who took my father under her wing.  Next door, in Evergreen, lived Alfred and Ellen Green.  Until recently I had not grasped how the name Evergreen originated, having assumed that its garden contained a lot of greenery.  It was Bill Mann who told me that it was so named by his mother, Mrs Ethel Mann, about 1956, when the family moved there, because she could recall that the Green family had lived there ‘forever’!  Indeed, they had settled there by 1891, having lived previously with Alfred’s parents in Northacre, and they remained there until 1942 when their son, also Alfred, died.   In the 1940s my brother Gerald and I were at school with Valerie Green, his daughter.  In all, Alfred and Ellen Green had thirteen children between 1868 and 1896.  They were not all at home at the same time because as the girls left school they gained employment in service, where they lived in, some of them in London.  In 1911 Alfred (then a miller) and Ellen had three sons and a daughter living with them:  Charles, a bricklayer who would later farm at Stow Bedon, William, a carter at the mill, Edward (described as a house boy) and Lilly.  William moved to London and fought in the First World War.  Wounded at Arras, he was taken prisoner.  He spent the rest of his life in the London area.  His daughter, Barbara Brown, lives at Heacham and his widowed daughter-in-law at Watton.  Edward Green emigrated to Australia about two years later and, when settled at Melbourne, called his house ‘Caston’.  Lilly is something of an enigma.  The Census describes her as married and gives her surname as Logus.  However, on the day following the Census, a son was born and he was named Derek Louis Green.  Lilly left Caston for the USA, and settled in Detroit, leaving the family to bring up Derek. There is a Caston School group photograph dated about 1917 that includes him.  He left Caston to live in Ayrshire, perhaps around 1928, and later emigrated to Australia.  There he turned his back on the Green family and on Britain (he was never heard from again in Caston) and he changed his name to Peter Leggat.    Annie Green left Caston to live in London, and in 1905 married Henry Nottage.  Their grandson is the Watton electrician Barry Cator.  Harry, not living at home in 1911, would be killed in the First World War.  Another son, Herbert George Green, had married and left home and has been mentioned earlier.

Next came the home of the Osborne family, saddlers.  How much the comfort of those who rode horses depended upon their skills!  Brothers John, 66, and Harry, 50, did the work whilst sister Harriet, 52, coped with the cooking and the housekeeping.

Opposite was a meadow or a garden, as the Village Hall was not built until 1929.  Then came Thatched Cottage, a venerable and splendid building.  In the end nearest The Duke’s Head lived William (‘Willie’) Banham, wheelwright, and in the far end lived the Barnard family with John Murrell, 80, a retired butcher.  John Barnard, George Murrell’s son-in-law, had taken over as butcher by 1911 and he is described also as a farmer.  It was his pony cart that Bertha Breeze and her mother hired to reach Stow Bedon Station.  Their daughter Rachel lived with them as well as their granddaughters Ivy, six, and Hilda, three.  Ivy would later retire to live in Stansfield, next to my mother.  She was greatly involved in the running of Caston Methodist Chapel.  Hilda would marry Basil Cooke and would run Barnard’s Stores, later Windmill Stores & Post Office.  Basil delivered groceries and ran a taxi service; he had a number of fingers missing on one hand, the result of an accident whilst working at Mr Coughtrey’s timber yard in Griston.  My family never shopped at Barnard’s Stores because the Barnard family were Methodists and we attended the Parish Church.  Indeed, my father was once hauled before the Rector for attending and singing at a Methodist Church Anniversary Service!  How strong feelings ran!  Nevertheless, I did for some years attend the Methodist Sunday School.

The gardens of Thatched Cottage are particularly large and it has to be remembered that even until the 1950s and later, many villagers grew vegetables in both front and back gardens.   Wages were low and home-grown produce was essential.  Some families kept a pig in a shed at the bottom of the garden; the animal would be fattened on kitchen scraps and natural foods as far as possible and then killed to provide meat and sausages.  Even some of the contents of the head were used for food.  At Ivan House, although we never kept a pig, the corrugated iron shed was still in place at the bottom of the garden in 1995. A number of families kept a few chickens that would provide eggs and, eventually, meat.  My father would deliver sacks of animal food as well as bread, cakes and biscuits.

The Chase

It is not easy to work out who lived where down the Chase, partly because at least two houses have been demolished and possibly a third may have suffered the same fate.  Richard Breeze is described as ‘Farmer & bailiff’ and he must have been living in the farmhouse.  He is listed as a farmer in a Kelly’s Directory of 1908.  George Goddard is also described as a farmer at The Chase and he may have lived in the other end of the farmhouse.  William and Lucy Mann and family and Arthur and Elizabeth Breeze and their eight children are listed as living in Chase Cottages and, out of place in the Census, the Tye family is shown as living there – see the earlier reference.  In my youth, in the 1940s and 1950s, Mr and Mrs George Hensley lived in the first cottage and a Breeze family occupied the far one.  Breeze is a good old Caston name; with Eddie’s fairly recent death we reached the end of a line.

The Street, concluded

Opposite the entrance to The Chase stood an old farmhouse called The Paddocks.  It was demolished in the 1950s but in 1911 William Barnard, 70, farmer lived there with his wife Letitia, 73.  In my youth a Miss Barnard lived there with her sister, Mrs Macro – the house was still owned by the Barnard family.  Almost opposite, in the cottages on the left, lived Police Constable Thomas Dixon, 30, who had been born at Illington, with his wife Hilda.  Their two children had been born at North Walsham and so it seems that Thomas may have earlier served in the police force there.  William Balls, 36, poultry dealer, was living at Chapel Farm with his wife May and their daughter Eve (sic), aged two.

During the Second World War, Eva made butter and I can remember being sent there by my mother to buy fresh butter at a time when it was a scarce commodity.  Later, Eva would marry Harry Nichols, a veteran of Dunkirk, and would live in the Osborne family homestead where Harry ran a garage and Eva served us with petrol: one winding up of the machine delivering one gallon of petrol.  It had to be unwound before the next gallon could be produced.  Those were the good old days!  They were happy days, though.  Daughter Margaret is married to Barry Cator, mentioned above, and lives in Watton.

The Pooley family, Phillip and Kate and four children, lived in part of Chapel Cottages, probably the part nearest Chapel Farm.  Philip and three sons were described as farm labourers.  Of these, Edward would become father of Mary Tortice, living now at The Ark, and grandfather of Patrick “Paddy” Tortice of Coronation Terrace.  Edward’s sister Edith, 14 in 1911, would occasionally take me the few yards from Ivan House to the school.  The other end of the house was unoccupied.  Next came The Primitive Methodist Chapel and opposite was The Bird-in-Hand public house.  The publican was John Hazel, 57, who lived with his wife Hannah and a boarder, Walter Matlin, 48, a horseman.  The pub would close just a few months later.  The situation in the following cottages is unclear but Gertrude Bilham, a dressmaker aged 36 lived close by the pub with children James and Winifred.  James, aged eleven, was born at Walworth, London, and would become a noted turkey and duck farmer in Caston.  He was a great friend of my father, with whom he played cricket.  My father could recall the night when Jim and he set off to buy some birds.  They called at a pub for a drink and then continued home.  When they reached Caston they went to empty the crate, only to discover that it was already empty.  The birds had flown!  Jim married late in life and settled at Fly Barn Farm, Stow Bedon, on the Stow Bedon/Rockland boundary.  Nearby lived another Bilham family with parents William and Florence, and, further along, Reginald Dixon and family.  With them lived four step-daughters named Bryant.  During the Second World War a family named Bryant lived at Mill Cottages.  The two boys, one called Clifford, were at school with me.  I wonder whether they were related to that earlier family. 

By the time of my childhood, Jimmy Bilham was living with his mother where Police Constable Dixon had lived in 1911, and hence the present names, Bilham’s Cottage/Midsummer House.  I remember them in the latter.

A house in this area is described as unoccupied and, as I am unable to associate any family with The White House, it would seem that in 1911 it might have been empty.  Along the road, It appears that John Caddy, a widower aged 82, may have lived at the village end of Mill View.  At the far end lived Charles and Rebecca Corley with Edgar and Ethel.  Charles and Edgar were blacksmiths.  Fred Corley, not present in 1911, would be killed in the war in Flanders in 1918.  Across the road junction, on the Griston side, in Arch Villa, lived the Drake family, Sarah, 76, described as having private means, and five children.  The oldest, William, had as his occupation, poultry rearing.  He was married to Ida, whom I never met, and they had children Roy, Ina and Betty.  Roy, when at Chapel Cottages, helped me with my research for ‘A History of Caston’, and Betty, born after 1911, would serve me with sweets in a Watton shop.  (This road junction was known as the Arch Corner because of the somewhat humped bridge that preceded the present structure.)

In Mill House lived Benjamin and Catherine Knott with their son Edward and three members of the Wyer family, to whom the Knotts were related.  Edward, or Ted as we all knew him, would serve as church organist for about fifty years.  At 80 he was still cycling to Watton each week.  Quietly spoken, Teddy was a real character and a man who was greatly respected.  In its latter years the mill produced animal food but in 1911 Alan Hall thinks it might still have been producing flour for the bakeries. He can remember in the 1920s Mr Knott carrying a sack of flour to Church Farm to be emptied into the flour bin in the scullery.  The miller was an important man in the village community and it did not pay to get on the wrong side of him!


Placing families in Northacre is more difficult, especially at the top end, because whilst the list has so far been more or less in walking order, this is not the case with Northacre.  Whilst it has been possible to place some families, it is impossible to even hazard a guess exactly where some of the farm workers lived.

The first house on the left, now Northfields, was The Prince of Wales public house, kept by William Bales, 59, a former policeman, and his wife Elizabeth, 57.  The pub would close a few years later.  The cottage at the far end, Northfields Cottage, is supremely important to me because I was born there on a snowy 28th October 1933.  In 1911, George Sizeland, a farm labourer, seems to have lived there with his wife Mary Ann.  Both had been born at Hockham, both were 78 and they had been married for 56 years!  Next came Well Cottage, the home of the Wyer family.  Frederick and Henry were shown as millers – see an earlier reference.  Violet, Frederick’s 38 years old wife, was a friendly neighbour to our family next door and I have a photograph of her and me at her door.  Once, I was told, I sat in a bucket of water whilst playing there, but I cannot recall the incident.  By 1911 there were seven children, one of whom was lodging over the road.  However, James Wyer also lived there as a boarder.  James, ‘Jimmy’, was also a miller and I can recall him in his later years walking around the village for interest and exercise wearing a long black overcoat.  Of the children, Basil, then ten, would become a painter for Mr Peeke Vout.  Dorothy, ‘Dolly’, would work at Bramhall Hall, Cheshire, for a Director of Manchester United Football Club and would watch the home games.  Later she would return to Caston and would undertake housework once a week for my parents.  Almost opposite the Wyer home was Northacre Farm, worked by Charley Drake.  It was in this farmhouse about 1951 or 1952 that Mr and Mrs Buck invited me to watch an orchestral concert on television – they owned one of the first television sets in Caston. 

Further up the road, at Northacre Lodge, lived William and Florence Macro.  William’s parents, Abraham and Caroline, farmed Home Farm and William was described as a ‘working farmer’s son, horseman on farm’.  The Macro family were staunch Methodists and I believe that William was a Chapel Steward.  Certainly they were very pleasant people.  Rebecca Caddy, 77, of private means, and a servant, 23 years old Emma Barrett, are later also attributed to Northacre Lodge: it was divided into two.  Opposite Northacre Lodge is a group of four terraced houses and I suggest that the families in them were Ann Clarke, Emily Cator, Charles Platford (he had already lost his wife Maria, and his stepson, Herbert Cooper, would be killed in the war) and Ellis Taylor.  In 1901 Charles Platford was described as a ‘teamster on farm’ – he worked the horses.  Three of the people here were in domestic work, presumably in the larger farms and houses.  The Gooch family, headed by Edward (carpenter and fowl dealer) and Emmeline, were living at the present Abbots Gate.

Beyond Mr Macro’s Home Farm are the two pairs of cottages for the farm workers.  In 1901 these appear to have been occupied by (from the farm end) John and Anna Bullen, Golden Anderson and family (his first name really was Golden!), James Anderson and Arthur and Ellen Cator.  By 1911 I think that we can fairly safely place Golden and Jane Anderson and Arthur Cator and family as still living there.  It is possible that William Anthony (see below) and his family lived in one of these cottages.  A son, George Anthony, aged 19 in 1911, would die in The Great War.  Next, and close to the road, came the house and shop of James Self, ‘shopkeeper and poultry dealer’, and with him Maria his wife, and four children that included Fred, also a poultry dealer.  Fred, would marry one Beatrice and they would have Mill Bungalow built.  As a youngster, they would occasionally pick me up and take me to Banham to drop me off at my uncle’s farm whilst they visited Diss market.  How kind people were to one another.  Was it because few people owned cars and it was not easy to travel out of the village that  people  got to know each other well?   It was Fred who said to me that at the turn of the century (i.e., 1900) one could get ‘kitted out’ in Caston – a man could buy a complete suit of clothes and a lady a dress in the village, they could have shoes made for them and they could purchase a horse as well as a carriage. There was no need to go to Watton or Norwich to shop!

I cannot determine who lived in Clay Cottage or The Lilacs or in the group of houses that follow.  However, The Black Horse public house was kept from about 1900 to about 1930 by Alfred Sturman, publican and carpenter.  He was followed by his grand daughter Alice Thacker and her husband Samuel, parents of the present day Sam, Bob (Rocklands) and the late Betty Tennant. With them lived Alice’s mother, Mrs Emma Banham.  Thus, the pub was run by the family for almost forty years!  In the pair of cottages just beyond the pub lived Horace and Violet Fincham with their son Percy, aged one.  Percy served in the army in the Second World War and I was at school with his daughter Nina.  (It is just possible that the Anthony family lived in the further part of this house.)  Richard Hannant, a retired policeman, and his wife Mary and their family lived around here, most probably at Oakleigh Cottage, where the Hannant family lived in 1931; both Edgar, 25 in 1911, and his brother Dick, then living away from home, would lose their lives in The Great War.  Oscar, aged 19 in 1911, enlisted in The Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1916 and fortunately returned safely from the war to work eventually on Mr Childerhouse’s Mere Farm at Stow Bedon.  He would marry Violet Worby but after her death aged only 41 his sister Jessie, a widow, moved in to act as housekeeper for the family.  Jessie’s daughter, Esther Glover, was one of the two Caston young ladies who married American servicemen during the Second World War.  (I believe that Rosie Goddard was the other one.)  Oscar’s sister Grace Darling Hannant, aged 21, has an intriguing name; I wonder whether the heroine Grace Darling was a favourite of her parents.  There is a suggestion that Grace may have lived at least for a time in Rockland Workhouse but the Hannant family is unable to confirm that.

George Long is shown as living at Northacre Farm but we are sure that he lived at Willow Farm and that the farm has changed its name.  Robert Banham, married to Alfred Sturman’s daughter Emma, is described as ‘Farmer and Dealer’ and was probably living at a smallholding but I am unable to determine quite which one.  Perhaps they lived at The Lilacs, which is known to have had outbuildings, or maybe they lived at Foxhall Farm.  They had two children, Ernest Richard, known as Dick, then ten years old, and Alice, aged nine.  Alice married Mr Sam Thacker (see above).  Dick married Ellen Lawes, who would soon run the shop close to The Duke’s Head.  Their surviving son, Brian, now living in Blackheath, has reminded me that in the 1940s his father farmed four fields and kept some cattle in the area between The Old Curatage and Tamarisk.  Dick never lost the farming instinct!  Three houses in Northacre are marked as unoccupied.  They are denoted by a figure 3, suggesting that they were together – were they the group now known as Toppend and under renovation I wonder?

I cannot determine where the following families lived in Northacre: Alban and Sophia Pease, Robert Bambridge and family, John and Emma Flatt, Henry Taylor and family, Henry Banham and family, George and Mary Downes, Elizabeth Pease, Walter and Ada Bailey and Robert and Sarah Harvey and their son Joe.

Behind Foxhall Farm and just over the Caston boundary stood Bullen’s windmill and the miller’s house.  Probably it was last lived in by Mr and Mrs George Freston about 1952.  Without doubt, it is in Carbrooke parish but it is just possible that it was assumed to be in Caston.  The 1901 Census has a Daniel Bullen, farmer, in that part of Northacre but no mention is made of him being a miller.  (Dan Bullen, 55 in 1901, lived to over 100 and my brother Gerald with Dick Childerhouse visited him in Carbrooke on his hundredth birthday.)

Carbrooke Road, Caston Hall and Attleborough Road

Turning left, Carbrooke Road Farm was farmed by George Banham whilst a little further on Edward Kenny farmed what is now Margetson’s Farm.  I am quite used to it being referred to as Kenny’s Farm.  Mr Margetson would take over the farm a few years later.  Turning around to walk towards the village, on the land to the left and right, horses would be seen at work pulling the plough, the harrow, the seed drill the roller and eventually the binder.  Pernicious weeds would be pulled up by hand.  Horses might also be seen pulling tumbrels loaded with swedes or mangolds that would be sliced up for animal feed.  However, as previously mentioned, there would be no sugar beet – the crop did not become widespread until the 1920s.  Nor would there be marrow stem kale, a crop standing four to five feet high that used to be cut by hand and fed to milking cows in the autumn, or fields of yellow oilseed rape.  In the autumn and spring we might meet a steam traction engine pulling a threshing drum and an elevator on its way to a stack yard.  In order to keep the corn as dry as possible, stacks were both thatched with straw and were built upon a base of hedge branches.  The base would often be a haven for rats and as the threshing neared the bottom of the stack the rats would try to escape, only to be chased with sticks or perhaps shot as they scampered away.  Nearing the road junction at the bottom of the road there were two cottages owned by Bridge Farm on a field to the right.  Probably they were derelict by 1911. 

Turning left, the shepherd’s cottage was to the left on the sharp right-hand bend.  There was no shepherd recorded there on the 1911 Census; Levi Sushams lived in one end of the house and George Sussams (sic) in the other end with their families.  Both were farm labourers.  At the top of Caston Hall Hill is Caston Hall, farmed by Mrs Bertha Murfet.  Her husband, William Morton Murfet (who had served as Church Warden) had died in 1898 aged only about 40, and living with her was her son, Alec, described as a classical student, together with two servants.  Running the farm was Mrs Morton’s bailiff, George Jenness, 60, who lived in one end of Hall Cottages.  In the other end were Ernest and Jane Pye, Ernest being Mrs Murfet’s groom and gardener.

Returning towards the village, just past Carbrooke Road turn were as now two pairs of cottages on the left.  Now known as Bridge Cottages, they were built for the farm workers at Bridge Farm.  The families in them were (from the east) William Jenness, teamman, William Saunders Junior, farm labourer, William Saunders senior, teamman, with four sons all farm labourers, and Edward J Banham, bricklayer.  Of the latter’s four children, Olive would become a teacher and would have a road named in her honour at Swanton Morley, whilst Charles would follow his father into the building business as a carpenter.  After serving in the army in Holland and Belgium in the Second World War, Charles would return to Caston and serve as Church Warden and as Correspondent to the School Managers.  He would also teach a band of youngsters, including me, to ring the church bells.  Charlie loved Caston and Part One of ‘A History of Caston’ came largely from him.  William Nelson Banham, would be born (note the importance to people of Lord Nelson, ‘The Norfolk Hero’) and he would become the father of Jane Horner.  He also was in the building industry and would build Greenwich Villa.  Like his brother, he was also a bell ringer. A younger daughter, Joyce, would be born in 1916; she later lived Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk. 

In Bridge Farm itself lived the Askew family comprising Alfred, Nellie and seven children.  Alfred’s grandson John, Alec’s son, would attend Thetford Grammar School with me.  He would marry Mary Tricker, grand daughter of Joseph Tricker at the Bakery – John and Mary now live at Scales Farm, Old Buckenham.  So then to Rectory Cottage, where I believe Martha Banham, 69, and her daughter Agnes may have lived in the eastern end.  In the other end lived Merton Mann, 43, the Rector’s groom and gardener, with Emma his wife and four children.  Of these, Reginald, then twelve, after serving in the First World War, would become Mr Petrie’s gardener at The Old Rectory; in his spare time Reggie would become the village gentlemen’s hairdresser and, having married Ethel Souter of Stow Bedon Heath, would become the father of Bill Mann and his late brother Walter ‘Wally’ Mann.  Probably Reggie’s brother Walter also served in the army.

Green Lane, now Stow Bedon Road

Almost one mile from The Green was the area (not just a house) known as The Folgate, probably a corruption of ‘Fold Gate’, and suggesting flocks of sheep.  In the house on the left lived John Nurse Drake, a farm labourer, and his three children.  A fourth child, Charles, would soon be born (I think in 1911) and he would play a prominent part in the church as Church Warden, at the school as a Manager and in the village as a Parish Councillor.  One hundred yards further on were cottages on either side of the drive to Waterloo Farm, now named Woodland Farm.  The farmhouse was unoccupied, as the Littleproud family had not yet moved in. Not so the two cottages. I suggest that Isaac Cator, 75, farm labourer, and Elizabeth lived on the Caston side of the drive with their son Emmanuel, 28, a widower, whose occupation was fishmonger, and daughter Bertha Healy and her son Peter.  I think, therefore, that John Mansfield, horseman, and his family lived on the Stow Bedon side of the drive.

In summary, there were 422 people, 214 of them male and 228 female.  Fifty-nine children were described as schoolchildren but twenty-nine others who should have been at school were not actually marked as such.  Some 107 houses were occupied whilst a further six houses were unoccupied and seventh was under construction.

A remarkable feature of the Census is the longevity of some of the people and of their marriages.   The oldest inhabitant was Stephen Tubby, aged 86, whom my father remembered; born about 1825, he would probably have remembered Queen Victoria coming to the throne in 1837!  Elizabeth Drake was 85, Frances Overton and James Self were 83, Ann Davey and John Caddy were 82, John Murrell was 81 and George Murrell was 80.  No fewer than seven couples had been married for over 50 years, the longest being Ann Davey and her husband (who was not present on the day of the Census) 61 years.  George and Mary Sizeland, Northlands Cottage, 56 years, Henry and Charlotte Banham, 55 years, Stephen and Sarah Tubby (of whom my father would speak), 54 years, Levi and Sarah Sushams, 52 years, and Isaac and Elizabeth Cator and Arthur and Jane Chapman, both 50 years.

I find it interesting that descendants of at least nine families of 1911 are householders in the village in 2011:  Alan Hall & Peter Hall (from Henry and Helen Larwood), Evelyn Harrand (William & Elizabeth Peeke Vout), Gerald Barnes (Hubert J Barnes), Mary Tortice and Derek Tortice (Phillip and Kate Pooley), Jane Horner (Edward & Maria Banham), Brian Fincham (Horace and Violet Fincham) and Sam Thacker (Robert & Emma Banham).  There may be others that I have missed.

The families and lives of all those men who lost their lives in the two World Wars are described in some detail in Jane Horner’s admirable book, ‘Those Whom We Remember’ and I have used it as a source of information.

The local Census Enumerator was twenty-six years old Melville Peeke Vout;  overall, the standard of literacy in Caston was quite high and I have spotted just eight instances in which he was called upon to complete the form because the head of the household could not do it.

Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy.  Should there be errors or omissions I will gladly ask for them published in ‘The Waylander’ and on the Caston website. 

I am grateful to The National Archives, Kew, for permission to publish this article.  Full details of the 1911 Census may be obtained from the National Archives, where the members of staff are unfailingly courteous and helpful.  Caston is under Wayland District Council and is included under South-west Norfolk.  In due course it will be open to access through the Find my Past and Ancestry websites. 

John Barnes

Click HERE to join our mailing list