Charlotte was born in 1898 when the family lived and farmed at Cross Hill Farm. Her father, Christopher, was son of Gregory Walker who owned the farm. She recalls that "Feltwell was a poor place with very little work and very small." She remembers that the Reverend ORorke "used to drive a pony and trap around the village issuing tokens to those out of work to use at the soup kitchen that night at the Rectory. That way they got one hot meal a day. The Rectory was a very big place. They used to employ a lot of servants up there. Rev. ORorke had 3 daughters, one ran the choir and the choir was allows full because she used to pay the mothers a little, every so often, to send the children to the choir practice. So it was allows full because the mothers made the children go to get the money. Another daughter used to go off round the fens visiting people and taking them things and the other one was Miss Lucy who used to have us older ones for the Sunday school on a Sunday afternoon from 2.30-4.00pm. We used to sing hymns and she would tell us stories and such like. When we went home you didnt go out after tea in those days, girls didnt go out, they were all in bed by nine. Grandfather used to play the organ after hed milked the cows. Hed have a half-hour playing the organ and wed have a few hymns. Miss Lucy ORorke used to take it upon herself to find employment for the girls in her Sunday School class. Charlotte explained that in order to come home to visit, "you had to save up the money and then take a pony and cart to the station, get a train to London and then to Lakenheath and then walk from there to Feltwell. In those days nobody hardly ever went out of the village, they didnt go to any other village, they had to walk it so they didnt bother to go. It wasnt easy to get home so when you got away you had to stay. The halls employed servants from away because if they were Feltwell girls theyd run away home if anything didnt suit them. But the girls from away couldnt run back to Wales and places like that. Feltwell girls were sent up to London for a year, with a fortnights holiday. It gave them a chance to earn some money and their mothers and fathers had got rid of them to earn their keep. I dont think anybody ever seen the sea cause they couldnt get. So theyd live and die in Feltwell and never know there was a sea."
The church was always full because all the servants (from the Halls) were made to go to church and they all had to walk from the big halls down to the church and they all used to wear cloaks and bonnets. The people themselves sat one side of the church and the servants the other so the gentry could watch and see if anybody was missing. And then they walked all the way back. The gentry came in horse and carts with their coachmen to look after the horses whilst they were inside.
St Nicholass was used after the tower fell down. Edmunds (Lambert) mother and father were the last ones to get married in there. (The tower fell down in the same year that Charlotte was born) If you look on the church you will see a hook; it used to have a bell on it. Well, in the old days the women used to go gleaning the corn up after the harvest. So they used to ring the bell there at the church, when the last load went out of the village, so the women knew they could then go and take the children out and glean up all the ears of corn that had been left. They used to take them home and get them ready to be ground. And my Grandfather is buried there and he was a 101. I think its the country air."
At the age of four the family moved to Methwold Hythe to farm and at the age of 13 the farm at the Hythe was sold and they moved back to Cross Hill. Of that time Charlotte recalls that, "We (the schoolchildren) walked as a group to the school in Methwold. We took our own lunches. We used to always start with the Lords Prayer and then a hymn to the harmonium. We learned our lessons together reciting, learning tables, doing sums, that way we remembered. We didnt have paper; we did writing on slates. Mr Harrison was the Headmaster at Feltwell at the time. We used to play with skipping ropes and a spinning top that you used to whip with a bit of string on a stick. It were different in those days, there was nothing of girls taking the young men home when they were of school age. We had to be older than that, we werent allowed to take the boys home at all."
She recalls Mr Willett the Village Crier, who was a gardener, but who would, when events such as the pot auctions on The Chequers Green were due to take place, walk around swinging his bell announcing the event. And talking of bells, "When someone died you always knew if it was a young person or an old one because they used to ring the church bells. A long ring meant an old person and a short ring meant a young person had died."Her memories of Feltwell are many and varied, for instance, she recalls, that "well before the noisy trucks, loose straw used to be put down on the roads for quiet for those who were ill. I remember it covering Bell Street all the way from Parnells to the Church. Goodness knows how folk cope nowadays with the noise. Of course we had the fair on what is now Fair Close. The horses used to be trotted up from Oak Street for sale. Horses pulled the fair caravans and the owners used to sell the spare horses. The fair lasted 2-3 days. We had roundabouts and swings; some were powered by steam from traction engines. The fair came twice a year, once in April and then again in October.
She recalls that her " grandfather used to go coursing at the big matches. He had two dogs. He used to have to walk across the fens towards Ely.
Down the High Street we had Nevilles the butcher and alongside that Mr Barley Porters. He had the grocery one side and the drapery the other side. Before you got to the Elm Tree was a big farmhouse (Elm Tree Farm?) next door to Coronation Hall. Well, there was a bomb dropped on it and the lovely farmhouse disappeared (WW2). There was a lot of small farms when I was young. Where Basil (Vincent) had his bicycle shop (now the furniture shop) was originally a square with houses all around it. I was told that the people who lived their used to work in the rope factory at the corner so it was rather busy at that corner with a Blacksmiths at one side and a rope factory at the other. And of course there was an Elm tree in the middle of the road, seems like there was a tree in the middle of all the roads! We had more shops then. We had Siers, before Broadwaters (Londis), the Post Office was smaller and run by Mr Palmer and there was Steward the saddle maker in High Street. You used to have go down to the Post to send a telegram, we didnt have phones till the 1920s. Couldnt afford them, had hard enough time getting enough money for a loaf of bread. We never had any cafes everybody made stuff for themselves. There was Smiths the Bakers, next to Broadwaters, where he made the bread. He used to heat a big dustbin full of red hot farthings and tip them out in the road when the children where going to school and theyd all be scrabbling along trying to pick them up because theyd be hot. I dont know what day that was but it must have been to celebrate something. We didnt have a newsagent. A man came with the papers from Brandon on a Sunday. Must have been after 1920 because he had a bicycle. So there couldnt have been any before then. News was just what was spread by word of mouth. A lady butcher used to come from Methwold and take orders for a piece of beef because the farmers would be killing the cows. People would only want a piece of fresh beef for the weekend. Then shed come back with the orders."
You had to pay the doctor. He used to set of for the fens on his horse. Dr Archer lived in the same house as Doctor Nisbet lives. Hed be gone all day so if you got ill you just had to wait for him to get back.
We used to have travelling players come from Lynn to the Coronation Hall. They performed by oil lamp and the place was always full. And we had two chapels, the Wesleyans and the Primitives. The Primitives is now the greengrocers and the Wesleyan Chapel on Hill Street is now two bungalows. I even remember before the War (WW1) three men in a travelling band. We used to call them the German Band, they played trombones and drums and such like. I remember people came in boats from all over the Fen to walk up the hill to St Nicholas Church. There was a big pond at Storys end of the village that was part of the Beck that ran under what is now Mulberry Close. I think they used to water the horses there."
Of course there were no houses on the left between the Oak and the Mill in those days. I remember the first houses being built in 1920, I think, at what is now the surgery end of Wilton Road.
When the war started in 1914 all the young men had to go in Kitcheners Army. You can see how many we lost on the cenotaph; nearly all who went didnt come back. The village was practically empty.
On the topic of food and housework, "Everything was home-made you couldnt get cakes. The only thing you could get was the biscuits which used to be in those big tins and you bought by the half pound or pound. For breakfast we used to have porridge made from the oats grandfather had grown. The men used to kill the pig and cut big slices off the side of a pig that hung from the ceiling. Cause they had them big hearths, there werent no coal, everybody used turf and at the end of the day there was a big pail of ash to carry out. But those hearths were lovely and warm; we all sat round in front of the lovely blaze in the big kitchen where we lived. Of course there was poaching to get a stew.
She recalls her "Grandfather taking a sack of corn up to the old mill for grinding. He would then bring back the flour and Grandma would make bread with it. On a Friday Grandma used to make lovely butter with all along the top a row of roses and things shed done. It used to look lovely. She used to take it to Siers shop and he would sell it and she would take payment in shop things. In those days we only had butter there werent no margarine. All home made. The butchers used to sell great big pads of dripping so that the poor could put it on their bread. And those with children used to make a dumpling that needed to be boiled for 20 minutes, came out like a ball of fluff, but if cooked longer they come out flat, thats the reason they were called 20 minute swimmers.
They were good cooks from the time they could start cooking. Because the women didnt never go to work outside, they were so busy working in the house in those days they didnt have time to do anything for anybody else. Theyd have washing on Monday, ironing and sewing on Tuesday. Theyd have to clean the floors on their hands and knees or with a stiff brush. And the children coming in from school had to be looked after, because they didnt allow them to run around like they do today. Their husbands who worked with the horses all left off at half past two and their wives had a hot pudding ready for them. Then theyd go back to work. How the women managed to get the great big boilers full of washing off the hearth I dont know. They used to have to pull them off with the sheets in, then turned round and put the washing into first a big bath of cold water and from there theyd wring them into the next big bath of blue so theyd come out nice and white. If they couldnt afford a mangle theyd have to wring them with their hands. And of course we never had such a thing as a laundry. They did it all on one day.
I remember the lovely big walnuts all over the Newcombe estate. Every year my husband used to gather a big sweet jar full of walnuts which I used to make into walnut ketchup. You had to catch them exactly right so that the shell inside hadnt turned woody. It had to caught whilst it was soft enough to stick a needle through otherwise you couldnt eat them, so he used to take an old knitting needle with him and try them every week when he was out walking. Then gather them, I put them out to dry and then make the ketchup for him. They turned black, fill the jar and pour vinegar and spices over them. I used to make a lot of pickles every year a jar of pickled red cabbage, one of onions, one of mixed vegetables all in those big jars. Theyd last the year. Food was very seasonal.
On how Feltwell has changed. "Look how Feltwell has changed. The roads were made of gravel. They had road sweepers to sweep up where the horses had been. I remember all the lanes. Munsens Lane used to be a lovely green lane with violets growing in the hedge all along and of course all the May blossom in the hedge. Well its all gone. You cant walk along a nice lane and look at the lovely things. I can remember the fens being drowned twice when the banks burst and the water reached the Southery road. For many years you could see marks on some of the houses of how high the water had gone.
Everything changed very slowly. It wasnt until after the first war when the women had had to be called up to work on munitions and things. Well of course when they came back everything had changed; they werent going back to the same way of life they had before they were called up. Things changed altogether. I think this was the biggest change in my 100 years.
Electricity came when the airforce came. People had it put on when they could afford it. Many people didnt bother with it; they stayed with their candles.
And there we finished, after four hours of conversation, which I found totally fascinating. Charlotte, thank-you very much. Paul.
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