It is fifty years this month since I moved from the little village of Fishlake (pop. 400) in the West Riding of Yorkshire to Feltwell.
My first visit to Feltwell was in the summer of 1943 when my fiancé Stan brought me to meet his parents. It was in the days of either standing on the trains or if you were lucky being able to sit on your suitcase in the corridor. On reaching Ely we had to change trains to Lakenheath and the station at Ely was packed, it had been race day at Newmarket. Amongst all the people on the platform were lots of men in smart air force blue uniforms all looking like officers; Americans, it was my first contact with them.
On arriving at Lakenheath we started our walk to Feltwell because my in-laws did not know what time we were arriving they couldn’t book Basil Vincent’s taxi. It was a blazing hot day and Stan kept saying it was, “Just around the corner,” and “Over the bridge,” and “Up the hill.” (Black Huts). I began to wish I had never set out on the journey, but on reaching No.12 Wilton Road (the old numbers) and Stan’s home I was soon made well with a drink and a chair. I still have the glass I was given a drink in. My in-laws took to me immediately, my father-in-law loved my Yorkshire accent, even if he couldn’t tell half of what I was saying, and I never did get to fully understand what my brother-in-law, Wally, was saying even after 45 years, he talked so fast.
I met the Barnes, their next door neighbours (Stephen’s grandparents) and Kathryn who emails from Australia to the Feltwell website. She was a baby in her pram. Her Dad was in the Navy as was my fiancé. I met the Everetts, Jean Brown’s parents and sisters. Also Bob and Ruby Cole who lived in the cottages that Dr Wilson now lives in. There I saw how Norfolk hams were cured in diluted molasses after which they would be sent to be smoked. The Yorkshire way was to salt it on stone slabs in the pantry, then it was hung from the kitchen rafters in muslin. I remember Ruby’s distress on proudly showing me her new utility blankets only to find them full of moth grubs eating their way through them. Bedding was hard to come by during the war so this was a major tragedy to her. I was taken in the evening to the Brown’s local to meet their friends, this was the Crown. Then a cycle was borrowed so we could all go to Brandon to see mother-in-laws relatives. She was the youngest of 13 and her father had died at the age of 39 from the dust he inhaled from his trade of flint knapping. A lot of the children died young, I only ever met two brothers and one sister.
On now to our arrival as a family at No. 28 Wilton Road (now 85). It was blowing a gale and raining hard on the high road between Long Sutton and Kings Lynn. The gusts were lifting the removal van off the ground. Stan was in the van and I travelled behind with our five children in a taxi. I never did get the rain marks off my light oak bedroom furniture. We soon settled in and the three eldest started school with Mr Charlesworth as headmaster, where they all did very well. Three of them got scholarships to Thetford Grammar School receiving a grant from the Edmund de Moundeford Charity to help them with their uniforms and books. A blazer cost £4-19-11 in 1963. Their Dad won a scholarship to the same school in 1931 but was unable to take it up as his parents couldn’t afford the uniform or the transport. At that time pupils had to cycle to Lakenheath and take the train to Thetford. Mother-in-law was very clever at school in Brandon, by the time she was 11 they couldn’t teach her anymore so she taught the little ones until it was time for her to leave and start work in the fur factory where they cleaned the rabbit skins for hat making.
Forty years later in 1985 we were able to buy our council house thanks to Mrs Thatcher. In 1966 the council had built on bathrooms to the properties. At last we had an indoor toilet and hot water on tap. No more lighting the copper and getting in the tin bath. The outside toilet was a WC but it was dreadfully cold in the winter or when the east winds were blowing over the fields at the back.
The plaster round the door frames was cracked when we moved in from the vibration of the bombers taking off and landing in war time, but the houses are still standing strong and make lovely homes which is something we all need to help us along life’s way.
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