SOME REMINISCENCES OF A
SOUTH WEST NORFOLK VILLAGE
Catherine Louisa Orange
of "Lawn House", Feltwell, Thetford, Norfolk
Bapt.: 4/3/1900 at St Mary’s Church, Feltwell by Rev H.J. O’Rorke
One godmother was Miss Modwyn O’Rorke
Confirmed: St Andrew’s Church, Northwold
Died: 11/11/1984 @ 12.30am (Sunday) at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.
Buried: In husband’s grave 15/11/1984 in St Nicholas Churchyard, Feltwell)
Editor's note: Catherine was mother to Alfred 'Pip' Orange, founder of the Feltwell A&H Society. The italicised annotations throughout this text are his. This is the first ever printing of these 'Reminiscences'.
Walking in our village some long time ago, I met one of our retired schoolmasters (now deceased), Mr. C.C. Davidson, who said to me "Mrs. Orange, we are treading along in years now and no one will be left to tell the story of the old Home Guard Reminiscences and other little titbits about our village, what about you recording it for posterity?
I have never attempted anything of this nature and spent some time thinking over his remark deciding at last to make the effort. Not knowing how to commence, I’ve decided to begin as far back in my life as my memory will take me and try to make a story of it as I go along ending up with "Jottings" which come to my mind or as things occur.
I was born in December 1899, at a small cottage on Lodge Road (No 84) and was the only child of Mr. & Mrs. A. G. Symonds. My father, who was a descendent of the Fordham family of Fordham, near Ely, and was christened in Ely Cathedral, eventually lived with his parents at the Railway Tavern, Brandon. From there he took a job as coachman (at East Hall and then ..) to a Miss Catherine Marsh of the Rectory, Feltwell, where he met my mother, who was governess to the Upcher family who lived in nearby "East Hall". My mother was Susan Maria Beamis, a daughter of an old Thatching and Agricultural family.
As a child I was rather crippled and for a considerable time wore iron supports. My father made a wooden step on the garden gate on which I used to stand and watch him drive by with his lady’s carriage, all resplendent in a navy uniform with silvery buttons embossed with the letter "M". I think he had three horses to care for and also helped in the very large garden. (One horse was called ‘Lloydie’)
Miss Catherine Marsh was a lady worthy of note, for she had in her early days worked with Florence Nightingale and also in the cause of Anti-Slavery.
Each year she had printed little religious booklets, with true stories of Christian Work and People), which were distributed to the parishioners, who eagerly sought, read and treasured them. She also wrote other books, "The Master of Blantyre", "English Hearts and English Hands", "The Life of the Reverend William Marsh D.D.", "Evelyn, Marchioness of Ailsa" and others.
There was, and still maybe, a Home for Sailors called "The Catherine Marsh Home", somewhere on the South Coast.
She must have been a wealthy lady for she helped the Rector, the Rev. O’Rorke and his family a great deal in their philanthropic work, in the Sunday School treats and many other ways.
To me, she gave delightful gifts. Every year a Valenciennes lace dress, and lovely story books. What excitement I felt when a message came, "You are to go to the Rectory today to see Miss Marsh", and on arrival would be led to the pale blue boudoir smelling of sweet Eau de Cologne and the gentle charming lady reclining there attended by Miss Mannington, her Lady’s Maid. There would be a little talk on higher things and a gift to bring away.
Eventually, Miss Marsh became blind, but she continued to write her little books as long as she could.
My Parents remembered the old Victorian custom of bowing to the Squires family in the street, being severely reprimanded if you were absent from Church on Sunday, and if your children failed to curtsey or were untidy then the Squire’s wife would have something to say about it.
In those days it was customary to have fifteen or more staff, with maids, coachmen and gardeners. Wages were small, but food was good and although work was hard, many happy days were spent and life was congenial. Morning and evening prayers were attended by all the staff in the Library.
Miss Marsh was Aunt to the Reverend and Mrs. O’Rorke who lived at the lovely old Rectory, and they had quite a large family, Mr. Harry O’Rorke, one daughter (Ann Louisa Matilda) who became Lady Buxton (Miss Lulu), Miss Gwendoline and Miss Modwyn. The three latter were constantly in the village and all the family were greatly revered and loved.
The Sunday School treats of these days were real red letter days. Wagonettes drawn by horses and decorated for the occasion assembled in the village and conveyed the children to the lovely Rectory gardens, which were about one mile from the centre of the village. On the spacious lawns, long tables were set out and after a hearty meal, games on the lawns and walks round the flower and vegetables gardens, the children were called together for going home. First of all they visited a hidden little nook among high fir and box hedges called "Miss Marsh’s garden" and there each one received a gift, sweets and an orange to take home, from Miss Marsh herself.
I went to school at the age of four years. At the small Flint Infants’ School, the Head Mistress was Miss M.E. Knight. She was quite a remarkable person, she never caned or smacked her scholars and yet she ruled them as with a will of iron, one look and silence was immediate. All her scholars (unless exceptional dunces) could read quite fluently at the age of eight, and their arithmetic would have astonished you. Until her last days she ran a young men’s Sunday School Class at her home which was well and regularly attended.
A little teacher, short in stature and named Miss Connie Howlett always took the Infants’ class and the basic training of those children had to be seen and heard to be believed. Her patience and training was excellent.
At eight years, the children crossed the road to the "Big School", and there again many good scholars and good citizens have had reason to thank the good teaching. Another teacher was myself for a short time as a pupil teacher in the Infants’ School but I gave it up just before 1917. I have mentioned some of my school friends on other pages. Another pupil teacher at the same time as myself was Verna Neville, a daughter of Mr. E. Neville, the local butcher.
After working for Miss Marsh, my father left to work for the Upcher family at East Hall. (other way round) Their ancestor, a Reverend Sparke was the designer and producer of the lovely old Rectory, of East Hall, the North Aisle of St. Mary’s Church and also of a Church in Ely, and one in the Fen, St. Johns, Little Ouse. Mrs. Upcher (’s family) gave an organ to St. Mary’s Church (in her memory and the former organ) was later moved to St. Nicholas’ and is still in use there.
The other Hall in the Village known as South Hall belonged to the Newcome family to whom belongs an ancient and interesting history. The gentlemen of the family indulged in falconry, and various Charities in the Village came from the Clough’s (also), connected with this estate, (and from the Moundefords).
I can well recall in my girlhood days being asked into the entrance hall of South Hall and gazing enthralled at the stack upon stack of glass cases containing stuffed birds and animals all killed in the area of this Norfolk Village. They were all stuffed too, by (Edward Clough Newcome. Another) local taxidermist (was) Mr. Robert Clarke.
My uncle, Mr. W. Beamis, used to tell me that in his young days he would have to take chickens or produce to the Squire at (Manor Farm) at Michaelmas, and sometimes at other times of the year.
Owing to the Upcher family moving to their Sheringham estate, and the death of Mrs. Newcome these two estates were eventually split up and sold.
When I was four years old, my parents bought the old news agency shop in the village and I had grown stronger and could do without the iron supports for my legs.
My father cycled every day to Lakenheath Station, a distance of 3 ½ miles each way (to collect the newspapers) and deliver them around the village. He reared pigs and cultivated an allotment to get straw and meal for them. Every Saturday, flour was weighed out and distributed to the poor, presumably by some arrangement with the Parish Council. We had a shed too, which contained an enormous wooden mangle with three or four rollers, and on Mondays, the villagers came with their baskets of linen and for a copper would mangle them.
My father would also make picture frames, and to this day, over fifty years later, I have seen some of them still hanging in Feltwell homes.
The little business flourished and became a busy general store. My father, who had a good tenor voice, belonged all his life to St. Mary’s Church Choir. The Reverend O’Rorke used to give beautiful books each year to the Choirmen and those given to my father, I still have in my possession.
Eventually, my father banded together several men and boys, taught them music and started a village band. Over the years and after endless hard work and disappointments, a smartly uniformed band, named "The Feltwell Enterprise Band" came into being. It was indeed, a tuneful and enterprising band, and was well known for many a mile around.
It is worthy of note that my Dad taught himself music, but for all that, one man he taught became a Bandmaster in The Norfolk Regiment in France during the First World War, one played in a well known orchestra at the "Samson and Hercules", Norwich, and another, through his knowledge of music, earned his living in the Theatre World.
When motorcars came along the local doctor (Dr. Archer) was the first person in the village to possess one and then my father. Here again he did all his own repair work thus learning all about engines. He did local repairs, started selling petrol and in this way progressed until the First World War came.
He was also Choirmaster for several years, and up to World War I there was always a full choir of men, women, and children with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.
I can well remember how excited my father became over the discovery of electricity and his explaining about the positive and negative to me. He (made a study of the subject and) was the first person in Feltwell to wire his home for electricity and when the Church was lighted by it he looked after the charging engine for many years. I often wonder what he would have achieved if he had had the chances of today’s education!
My mother of course cared for the home and the shop. She was a careful person but always kept a good table and prided herself on her linen cupboards. Occasionally they would fatten one of the pigs for our own consumption, and what a week it would be when it was time for the killings. Lots of it was salted down and Mother would cure the hams herself. Large round glazed pans, brown on the outside and pale yellow glaze inside held the hams covered with a concoction which I know contained brown sugar, dark syrup, salt petre and beer and no one but Mother was allowed to touch or turn them over in the syrup. I seem never to have tasted such ham since, it was perfectly delicious. In those days the housewives took great pride in their jam making, pickling and needlework.
The bottling of fruit didn’t become so popular until the Women’s Institutes started up, and before the Second World War it was done religiously every season, but nowadays (1970) the shops have so many refrigerated and canned goods, that very few people do their own preserving now.
When I was eight years of age I was sent to have music lessons to the organist of St. Mary’s Church, Mrs. Turner. (The Misses Upcher paid for my lessons). She had been taught by Mrs. Upcher and being of the Victorian era was very strict. It was slogging work for me as I am not a "natural" musician, it was like learning a foreign language, but between the extra-ordinary patience of Mrs. Turner and the help and encouragement of my father, I was able to take part in a local concert when I was twelve years old. Then it was customary to hold concerts of local talent for the charities and endless enjoyment was had at the practices, often in each other’s houses and believe me the performances were often of quite high standard. In these days of Television and Wireless a lot of fun is lost in having everything done for you.
In the year, l912, a new Rector came to Feltwell, Colin Arthur Fitzgerald Campbell, who later, (1915) became (the first) Archdeacon of Wisbech. What a wonderful musician! He had been personal Secretary to (The Earl of Kintore, Governor of South Australia) and came from that family of Campbells connected with the song, "The Campbells are coming, they are, they are". Although he had very poor health he was most vivacious and loved to be among his parishioners. He could hear music in everything, if there was a squeak in a wheel, he would exclaim to my father, "George, listen to that squeak, what note is it?" and he would sit down in any humble cottage and play if there was a piano. There never was, or has been since, such a lovely choir in our village Church.
He also ran a Choral Society and got together all the talented musicians of the area and created a very good orchestra which often played at his Church Services. I played the organ at one of these musical services when we did the "War March of the Priests" etc. He conducted, and it really was wonderful, especially as it was just we country folk. Isn’t it sometimes only inspiration we need - we let our talents lie dormant.
The Archdeacon often preached and got amongst his people while suffering great pain and alas died at any early age. I think he was with us here for just about 4 years. He was Rector here in 1912 when the Fen Floods were very severe, and with George, (my father) and other friends rowed in an open boat to marooned houses taking food for people trapped on their upper floors.
The old Rectory gardens were never so beautiful as when he lived there, he was so fond of flowers, and his borders were backed with tall, stately delphiniums and in the surrounding woods one would suddenly come upon rock gardens all aglow with colour, which he had constructed.
He would say to the children in school "You have very few wild flowers in this area, why don’t you take some primroses and violets from your gardens and plant them in the hedges and woods. Take a pride in your countryside".
To encourage the children in singing and music generally, he gave a prize for the best progress over the year. I was the proud winner one year of a book of piano works by Bach.
At school of course I had lots of friends, many of whom went to foreign countries, some who became citizens of note, and here I will mention one or two who come to my mind. One scholar was Arthur Elliott who was killed in 1926 in an aeroplane when Sir Alan Cobham was shot down (when flying at Basra) by Arabs. (Elliott was Cobham’s Chief Engineer)
Another friend was Miss Beryl Addison who became a local schoolteacher and made good use of her life doing much work for the Methodists. Her parents and grandparents before her also did much for the Methodist movement and were highly respected in the area, her father laid the foundation stone of the Methodist Chapel in Bell Street, 1935. Her predecessors too, were connected with the ancient weaving industry, bombazines and crepe, which once flourished in the old Factory Yard, in Long Lane.
Beryl possessed a pony and a well made swing and many happy schooldays were spent by the three friends, Grace Hicks, Beryl and myself in her garden. It was their delight, and fearfulness, when the pony was a long way across the meadow to creep up silently and scare it, when it would immediately turn and chase them. It would gallop quite fast and often the girls would only get to the safety of the gate by the ‘skin of their teeth’. If their parents could have seen them I am sure they would have collapsed with fright, but youth seems to know no fear and can see no danger.
Another person in my class at school was Mr. Frank Curtis, who was always good at History, and all his life took an interest in archaeology and became quite famous for his many Roman finds, which included a Roman Bathhouse and a quantity of valuable silver for which he received £2,050 (as treasure trove).
During the first World War my father was a Sergeant in (The Territorial Army (previously known as ‘The Volunteerts’) and) would sometimes go with other men from the village to Wesbourne and Sheringham for training duties. One night, when I was reading in bed by candlelight , - no electricity, sewerage or tap water in those days, - I suddenly realized that a distant droning was coming nearer and nearer and it dawned upon me that it must be a Zeppelin; scrambling to the window I saw to my horror one of these wretched machines coming straight for the village. Wondering if my candlelight had been an attraction I hastily blew it out, but although very low the Zeppelin passed on. Some bombs were dropped on the heathland from a Zeppelin at another time and on the edge of the village of Hockwold.
There was an elderly spinster living in the village about this time named Miss Anna Spencer. She had a wonderful memory and a store of local history in her head, and was the local Rate Collector. On one occasion when she broke her wrist I was asked to go in and help her. I was astounded to see her add up long columns of pounds, shillings, and pence with only one totting up and very quickly too. It wasn’t surprising that many people went to her for advice and help.
She had a nephew who through war injuries came to live with her, and he took on the running of the Y.M.C.A. Hut in the village. His name was Mr. Percy Spencer and he was very kind to the lads and lassies of the Forces and many will always remember him for his generosity. The young folk had many happy times at the old Y.M.C.A. Hut, which at the time of writing this, (1969) is the Headquarters of St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.
I met my husband through the fact that we both knew music. He belonged to a very good orchestra on the R.A.F. Station and through contacting my father, the Bandmaster of the village band, we got to know each other. After we married, my parents left the newsagency and we took over the business, but we lived for a short while before that in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. (one month)
In those days Newcastle seemed a terrible long way and it wasn’t until the World War II that ordinary folk began to travel more. Tyneside at this time, 1919, was in a state of much unemployment and we both felt it wise to come back.
By the time I was twenty-one I was a busy housewife with a shop and two children. Alfred, my elder son, and Frances, my elder daughter. They were as delightful and mischievous as all others and life went along happily, until with the illnesses that come to children, an operation to myself, and eventually, the loss of my very dear Aunt and my parents, we came to the time of World War II. During that period, however, my children had both won scholarships and had attended Thetford Grammar School. Alfred had become a Bank Clerk at Barclays Bank, Gt. Yarmouth and Frances, went in for nursing.
Eventually we were blessed with another son, 1932, and daughter, 1938, John and Catherine, and they were just babes when the second World War was raging.
(in 1947) The Fen was also flooded again during these years and the village centenarian, Mr. Gregory Walker, died. (101) Many people live to well over ninety in Feltwell.
My elder son, Alfred James became a Sergeant in the Loyal Suffolk Hussars, and he married shortly before D-Day. He had only been in France a short while (seven weeks) when he lost his left arm and other injuries, the saddest day of my life –
Frances became a Corporal in the W.R.A.F. and was stationed at Scampton in Lincolnshire when Guy Gibson V. C. bombed the Eder Dam. She was a wireless operator and took down all the congratulatory messages that were sent in to him. A photograph of her was in a weekly edition of the book named "Flight". Frances also married, 1944, and had one daughter.
Parents will never forget those days and nights of snatching the babies from their beds and dashing outside to the dugouts or into the Anderson shelters.
I will just add here that my elder son Alfred also has one daughter, (Linda Jane, born 4/11/1964) Catherine has two sons and John is so far unmarried (1967).
During this second World War many bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the Aerodrome and around the village. A few houses were damaged and one large one in the High Street destroyed, but in spite of it all no village people lost their lives in a raid. Many strange happenings and stories could be told, one or two of which I will write.
On one occasion a land mine fell in the Fen area and one could literally hear the sound waves from it, the reverberations were horrific.
One dark night we were awakened by a knocking on our door and getting out of bed and going to the window I said "Hallo down there, is anything wrong?" and a voice replied "Yes, I’ve just baled out of an aircraft, may I please come in and use your telephone?" Presumably the light was enough for him to see the telephone post and wires. I said "Yes, I will come down immediately." My husband said, "now not so fast, it might be a German from an enemy ‘plane, be careful" and he hurriedly followed me downstairs. On unlocking the door an airman staggered in with icicles hanging from his helmet and on the turned over woolly lined collar of his flying jacket. We asked if he was injured and he said "I don’t think so, just my leg is painful". With that, he put his hand down his high boot (fur lined) and pulled out a long torch which was dented and bent through his fall and had been pressing into his leg. He then said, "I was quite relieved to hear your voice because I wondered if we might have come down in Holland, however, I know I am near the sea", "indeed you are not", I said to which he replied, "Well what was the large expanse of water which I floated over as I came down?" Then I realized that he had floated down from the direction of Ely which at that time was flooded all around for many miles.
"Where am I then?" he asked and I said "Norfolk", "why!" he exclaimed that is where I live, my home is at Wells-next-the-sea."
We made him some hot drink and gave him some food while my husband ‘phoned up the Aerodrome to explain the situation. In the meantime I learned that he had landed somewhere near White Plot Farm, (Hythe Road direction) and had buried his parachute. We told him then that had he walked about ½ mile further to the right he would have walked straight to our Feltwell Aerodrome. Eventually an R.A.F. tender arrived and took our Sergeant Spalding to the R.A.F. Station.
My first customer next morning was a smart Sgt. in blue uniform asking for cigarettes. I served him and then he said, "Don’t you know me this morning" and I hadn’t recognised him out of his flying gear. He told me he had been to collect his parachute (if they came down in a foreign country they were ordered to hide their parachutes), and then he was going back to his station at Wyton, and he was pleased to tell me that his mates who had also baled out had landed safely near Mildenhall. Some time later we heard that this young Sergeant crashed in Germany and a Memorial service had been held for him at his home, Wells.
On the nights when our bombers went out in their numbers to raid Germany we often lay awake in the darkness listening for their return, wondering how many were coming safely home. Then too, we got used to the sound of the German planes - they had a distinct drone, quite different from our engines. One particular night I said to my husband, "Listen, there is a "Jerry" plane among ours which are coming in"- my husband said "Nonsense, and anyway how could you pick out a Jerry plane among that lot?" "I am quite certain there is a Jerry there, in spite of what you say," I went on.
We continued listening, nothing happened and all eventually became quiet again. The next morning we had completely forgotten what I had said in the night, but during the morning whilst my husband was delivering his newspapers around the R.A.F. Station, someone said to him "What do you think of that cheeky devil last night?" and he went on to explain that a German ‘plane had indeed come in with our returning ones, had saucily landed - gone along the runway and taken off again.
I remember that I was quite "chuffed" at being able to distinguish the sound of one ‘plane among so many, and me an ordinary civilian!
(A Mrs Janet Tolliday (formerly in No. 57 Squadron from Oct 1041 to 1942) said that as planes returned, a light was shone on to the side of the plane "for identification purposes". The number of the plane was "ticked off" on return. The German plane landed while she was stationed here. She said (and this is not confirmed) that the German plane was shot down by AA guns nor far away from Feltwell)
When the Second World War came the "Home Guard" was formed and my husband was eventually made a Major and given eight villages to organize. Our home was made the Company Headquarters and telephones upstairs and down were installed. Someone was always on duty there and a secretary was found for my husband (Mrs. Carey did this work for some long time). I ran a flourishing W.I. Savings Group, ran my home, and shop and with two young children you can imagine what a busy life it was.
The Home Guard work kept my husband very busy, he had to deal with rations when the men were on exercises and the general organising for these eight villages meant a tremendous amount of writing as well.
My story concerns one of the Exercises, organised in conjunction with the Army and the Air Force called "Operation Bulldog". The men had been on duty for 48 hours and it was to end at twelve midnight.
My husband arrived home very, very tired and when twelve o’clock struck we were about to climb into bed when a loud imperative knocking came from the back door. Unlocking the door, Mr. Fred Jacobs, a wartime Special Constable staggered in, puffing and blowing, and in a very agitated state. "Come along Mrs. Orange, get your husband out again we are bringing a German prisoner to your house."
My husband got dressed quickly while Mr. Jacobs dashed off again and presently returned with a Policeman, bringing in an Army officer with no hat, his tunic flying open, his hair all untidy and his shirt absolutely steaming in clouds with perspiration. The man was almost exhausted and fell back in a chair, gasping.
Apparently Mr. Jacobs whilst on duty saw this officer coming along on a bicycle with no hat etc. and he stopped him to ask why he was dashing along with no lights. Glancing at the bicycle he exclaimed, "Why, where did you get this bicycle, it belongs to a friend of mine, whom I left to go to his home quite a short time ago." Suddenly, the officer dropped the bicycle and ran off. Mr. Jacobs immediately gave chase on his own bicycle and had hard work to catch him, but eventually he got closer and closer to the fugitive and cornered him against the big doors of Mr. Storey’s Barn on Hythe Road. Mr. Jacobs jumped clean off his bicycle on to the officer and downed him, sitting on him until the Policeman (who had been an eye witness to most of this) came puffing up to help. He then sat on him while Mr. Jacobs came to our house to warn us they were bringing him there.
Having got the man into our house, Mr. Jacobs and the P.C. told me to clear my table of knives etc., remove the poker and anything else in reach of the prisoner. Whilst this was being done my husband got on the telephone to try to get someone to collect the prisoner.
Eventually, the Police called up Mr. R. R. Howlett to stand outside the window as the prisoner kept giving furtive glances in that direction.
Suddenly the prisoner spoke, "I want a wash". We took no notice, then again he said, "I want a wash". "Well," said Mr. Jacobs, "at any rate the buggar can speak English" - then continued, "Well you can have a wash but not out there (in the scullery) the lady of the house will bring you a bowl of water, towel and soap in here."
This was done, and then the prisoner started to fling and splash the water all over the place, but finally did calm down and wash, and how refreshing that must have been to him after the steaming state he had been in. — Having flung water all over my house, I said "Well, after that behaviour I certainly won’t make you a cup of tea".
Time was fleeting by and my husband and the P.C. were still trying to contact someone to send for the prisoner. The Police refused, the Feltwell Aerodrome refused and the several army camps refused. In the meantime the furtive glances of the prisoner kept returning to the window and the P.C. suggested I went outside with Mr. Howlett as they were sure he was going to try to escape through it. Together Mr. Howlett and I sat on the window ledge and suddenly the siren went. We couldn’t of course leave our post at the window to go to a dugout, and presently the bombs were falling and eventually Jerry went away again.
After what seemed hours, it was actually then about 2:30 a.m., my husband came and said that the army had agreed to send a Colonel, a major and a soldier to collect the prisoner.
On arrival the soldier was ordered to "slope arms" (in the house) and everything was done in strict military fashion.
The Colonel then started to question the man, "Where is your regiment?" — "I don’t know" - "Do you speak German?" — "I don’t know —"Where did you get that bicycle?" — "I don’t know" — and so on and so on, always "I don’t know." Presently the Colonel said, "So you won’t talk", and turning to the Major he said "Interrogate him in German," This he did and from then on the others didn’t understand but they talked together in German for quite a bit. Suddenly the Major said to the prisoner "Attention!" He stood to attention and the Major said, "Here’s your pistol — empty of course". The soldier again "Sloped Arms" and they marched the prisoner off at 3:30 a.m.
As he left I said, "Well I don’t know if you really are a German or not but at least I wasn’t afraid of you".
It was learned afterwards that the prisoner was an army Lieutenant pretending to be a German spy in connection with a manoeuvre. He certainly played his part to perfection because even the Colonel and Major didn’t really know until they spoke to him in German.
In October 1976
My mother expressed the wish for the following note to be added to her ‘Reminiscences’. She wrote: -
I am now seventy-six years old and almost blind so I sometimes sit and recall the past and coming to my mind one day recently was the fact that when I was in my ‘teens’ we had a real tramp connected to a well-known Feltwell family.
His surname was BARTLETT. He always carried a bundle hung on a stick over his shoulder and would tramp to unknown places all over England.
Occasionally, perhaps once a year, he would be drawn back to his old birthplace and when he did he would make his way to my uncle’s home. (William Beamis, 14 Short Beck). My uncle and his kind wife would allow him to sleep on a bed of straw in their shed and feed him during his stay in the village.
Sometimes he would stay only one night, sometimes longer but never for more than a few days.
I always thought it was just that he liked to know how his relatives were faring and to get a glimpse of the village of his childhood.
I also recall that just before the First World War, it must have been about 1912, there were spectacular manoeuvres in the vicinity. Thousands of soldiers with wonderful tanks, marching and counter-marching and all kinds of military displays, such as we village people had never seen or even visualised. It was a massive affair and simply awe-inspiring to us. I have never seen its like on such a colossal scale.
It was held on heathland beyond what we call "the top of the Lodge", towards Cranwich Heath.
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