I've always lived on this spot: I was born in Ayisham but moved to Feltwell when I was two years old and lived in the Bank, as it is now, then moved to the house that's almost in the churchyard, and now I'm here. My Father was the village blacksmith; he had his shop in the Beck in the grounds of Number 4, and when Mr Shearing gave up, Father bought the lot, and gave the house to me and Frank when we married. We moved to this house which Frank built when we retired. We planned it to be exactly what we required for our retirement, but when it was built the PCC wanted to buy it for a Rectory! I said, "No, this is my house!" But ever since we've had people knocking on the door thinking that it is the Rectory!
I remember going to school in the Infants at five years old and playing with sand trays. Miss Howlett taught the very young and Miss Knights was the Head Mistress. In the 'big School' Mr Fassnedge was the Head and he gave out punishment in the form of the cane on your hand. I had it most days for being caught talking! We were taught by Miss Win Spinks, as she was then (Readers may remember her as Mrs Playford who lived at 4 the Beck and moved to Hereford.) She taught us to dance round the Maypole in the school yard, with all the ribbons twining. She was a wonderful teacher; she was a Brown Owl too, which took place up at the YMCA on the corner opposite the Oak. All the organisations met there, the WI, the Scouts and Cubs. We went to sing hymns there on a Sunday evening too, with an orchestra of Feltwell players.
My name isn't really Mercy, I'm Marjorie Rachel, but when I was born I wasn't expected to live long so I was baptised in a linen basket. Mother was so pleased when I did live she said it was a Mercy that I did and I've always been called that. Nurse McKewan who worked in Feltwell for many years, met me again when I went to stay with my aunty at Upton, near Acle, and said to me 'Mercy Ward! I thought you'd have been dead years ago!' She and Aunty vowed to outlive one another. She made 1 01 but Aunty went at 97.
I continued my studies at Thetford Grammar School, where I boarded for five years. I went on to be a student preparatory teacher for a year, then I worked at Beck House as secretary to Major Swann who was a Director of the Feltwell and Southery Farming and Supply Company. Mrs Swann was the instigator of a lot that went on in the village. Mind you, she threw the kettle at me one day. When I went to work there I said to Major Swann that I'd have to be able to make a cup of coffee at mid morning and he had said I was just to go into the kitchen and help myself. I expect she was very cross with him for this, as one day when I appeared she said something quite strong and threw the kettle! I must have been terrible - I asked for Saturday mornings off sometimes as Frank played football for Norfolk and I wanted to watch and we travelled to Lynn and Braintree and all over.
I've known Frank all my life. Even when I was a boarder I went out with him at weekends, and he knew Jack Storey our best man nearly all his life too. We were married in the Methodist Chapel; I was the second bride to be married there, I had hoped to be the first but Olive Broadwater beat me by a month to be the first. For the first two years we lived in a tiny cottage attached to my parents' house; Frank was away on Reservist work most of the time and I used to follow him if I could, as we had no children then. Then we moved into 4 The Beck and Frank had to modernise it. It was so difficult he nearly gave up!
I remember the Feltwell Town Crier, Mr John Willett, who rang a bell and announced events in the village. And on Chequers Hill there used to be pot auctions, where they sold china in the evenings with flares to show off the goods. As children we used to go to the harvest field trying to catch rabbits as they came out of the corn; the farmers would give us one to take home. Once a week a man came on a bike from Brandon collecting rabbit skins for which we were paid sixpence: there was a fur factory at Brandon. My mother always belonged to the WI and it's my first love too: I've been Secretary to lots of Presidents and I love to be on the committee so that I really feel involved.
Mercy's recollections of life at Thetford Grammar School
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