Mr Grass, who now lives in Methwold, recalls the heyday of East Hall. He is 84.
My father came to Feltwell from Weeting. He was underkeeper and dogboy to the owner of Hockwold Hall, who was a diamond merchant. He moved to Feltwell to become Head Keeper to the Upchers at East Hall. My daughter Marian's cottage is where he came to live (opposite the Hall). He soon married a Miss Frost from Hockwold; her father had been keeper to Prince Dhulap Singh,*, not at Elveden but at Hockwold, which was known as the best partridge shoot in the country. The Upchers had a couple of thousand acres of land which they let, mainly to local farmers, and shot themselves. Old Lady Upcher used to walk down to the village in a tall bonnet, and we had to touch our caps to her, or Mother would be told! My mother became the housekeeper at the Hall, she was very good at book work. In those days, if any one found a nest the keeper would give 6d for a partridge nest and 1 shilling for a pheasant. Mother wrote it all in a book and kept the accounts. We lived at the Hall for quite a long time, looking after it.
Sir Henry Upcher was a great shot and had been all over the world to shoot, in Africa and India. The Hall was beautiful inside, with a lovely mosaic floor and skins and heads of all the animals he had shot. There were great glass cases with birds in them - one I particularly remember was a Norfolk bustard which was bigger than a turkey. There were two or three grand pianos, even one in the morning room. Sir Henry has a parson brother called Edward; sometimes he'd give you 6d but always said not to spend it all at once! After Sir Henry died and the war was about to begin, a letter arrived from Edward to say that they were coming to clear a wall safe. They took out a whole gold plate dinner service; it was taken away in an ambulance to the vaults at Norwich before the war began. The other Upchers lived at Sheringham Hall.
The shoots were great occasions and my brother Harold and Mother were involved as well as my Father. Mother had to get on the old bike and go and do the ordering to get the food up to the Hall, and then it was all cooked over coal fires and ovens. Bensley, the butler, lived in the house which is the Wine Lodge, and he went with the game cart into the fields to serves the shoot lunches. The cart was a marvellous contraption - not only took all the game but the tables and forms slid in underneath and there was a locker for tablecloths and the rest. Money seemed to be no object.
The guns gathered at the stables which were on the opposite side of the road to the Hall. There were bothies in the roof where the coachmen could stay. One day when they were shooting down the fen at Blackdyke, my dad told me to hold the horse on the game cart, while the guns went off to shoot, and on no account to let it go. There was the most terrible thunderstorm, and I was so frightened that I hid in a house nearby. When the rain stopped and the sun came out, the horse had gone! I didn't dare tell my father. A chauffeur came by with a big car, a Daimler, and took me to look for the horse. He'd got to the Elm Tree with the game cart. I jumped out of the car and got the horse and took him back. No one had noticed that he'd gone and I didn't dare say.
When everything was sold up - the Hall, the land, everything, it was all but given away, you could buy it for less than £10 an acre. We were able to but Father's cottage, the land at the side and the field opposite for £400. The Hall was the hardest part of the estate to sell; the auctioneer told me it went for a very low sum. I still enjoy going over to the old kennels in my field where Dad used to keep a few hen boxes, and set the eggs down and hatch them and raise them for the chicken dealers. It's a nice quiet place to go!
*Prince Dhulap Singh was made ward of Queen Victoria after he lost his lands in India during the Raj. Despite a harmonious relationship with the Queen, who was godmother to his children, he used to say that she had as much right to the Koh-i-Noor diamond as he had to Windsor Castle!
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