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Mr Eric Secker. (March 1994)

I have lived in Feltwell all my life and I'm now 74. For the first 34 years I lived at 25 Short Beck. We married in 1954 and lived in the Old Elm Tree Stores house for 4 years; then we moved to the Beck, and we're still here. I went to school in the WI hall for the infants, where we had three lady teachers, and then on to the big school in the Engineering Works. I left school at 14 to work at Manor Farm, where I worked for three generations of the Storey family, for 51 years!

In those years I saw a lot of changes in farming. I started in the harvest when I was only 8 years of age, leading a horse on a wagon which was being loaded with sheaves of corn. This was known as "Holleringhold Gee", which meant 'hold tight to the man doing the stacking on the wagon" . The sheaves were pitched up by men with 6' 6" long-handled pitch forks. From the field the corn was delivered to the stack yards by young drivers of about twelve years of age. We were allowed to drive the horses on the road, but not down the steep hill into the stack yard. The corn was cut and tied into sheaves by a binder drawn by 4 horses, the team being changed three times a day as the weather was so hot for the horses. As I got older I had to take my turn at pitching and loading the wagons, then building and thatching the stacks. The stack was always built on a slope so that the water would run out. I was not a thatcher of any repute, but it did keep the rain out! Stacking and thatching was a real art, the stacker only laid the outside of the stack, while others did the middle. If you pitched a sheaf to the stacker and it landed upside down, he'd throw it back down at you! We worked long hours harvesting, often finishing at 9.30 at night, and we'd come home singing on top of the load. But we never worked on a Sunday - never. No one did, not in the village, not anywhere, not even if the stuff spoilt.

I ploughed and harrowed using horses. The ploughing was with a two horse team and a single furrow plough, and I'd plough one acre a day. We'd start ploughing in late September ready to drill wheat in October. Eventually I moved onto a three horse team with a double furrow plough which would do 3 - 4 acres a day. There were about 20 horses kept on the farm, and we bred them too, up to about 1940, when I broke the last three horses for work. The last one was a mare, which I'd had from a foal, and we were still drawing sugar beet with her in the fifties. I reckon some horses are as intelligent as we are! I hated to see them go. At quarter to seven in the moming there would be teams of horses, probably about 40, up and down the Beck, going to work for the Cocks, the Storeys, the Paynes and the Rices. They were followed by a man called Clark with a barrow for his allotment! Eventually all the horses were replaced by tractors, reaching 100 horsepower and ploughing up to 20 acres a day.

Winters were often very snowy then and when we couldn't get on the land we'd help with the lambing and the sheep as there wasn't a regular shepherd employed. It was almost 90% certain that there'd be snow or frost at lambing time. They used to say the harder the night the more lambs there would be! There was an old shepherd's hut which was very cosy, it had a good fire, a hurricane lamp, a bed with pens for the sick lambs underneath. You could eat and make tea there too. Another job in the winter was the fencing; if every little hole wasn't mended the sheep would soon be out. There was about two miles of fence to mend and we'd spend about a month on it in the winter. There was never really a dull moment, always plenty to do. If a wall fell down, we built it up; with 20 men employed it was really enjoyable.

I've had an allotment since 1945 and grown all sorts of vegetables, peas. celery, asparagus, everything, I don't think we ever buy a vegetable. When I was younger I used to enjoy shooting - rabbits, rats and moles, and field walking; I've always been interested in archaeology in the fifties and sixties we had some good finds of Stone Age flint implements. During the sixties much of the old pasture and meadows were ploughed up and turned to arable. At this time I ploughed out a Bronze Age (500BC) cauldron, with a flesh hook, used for getting the meat out of the pot, which is unique in Europe. This has been restored and is now on display in the Castle Museum in Norwich.* I still do field walking, but it requires a great deal of patience nowadays.


The cauldron which Mr Secker found as he ploughed is featured in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology, naming Feltwell as the place of the find. There are three photographs of it, the first showing the fragments he found, the second their painstaking re-assembly and the final one with the fibre glass supports in place so that it can be seen as it was originally. How fortunate that the learned ploughman was an archaeology enthusiast who recognised the importance of his find and called the Museum in Norwich. They evidently arrived very quickly in response to his call!

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