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Mrs Beattie Fletcher (June 1994)

Mrs Beattie Fletcher, who lives next to the Post Office where she and her late husband Charlie used to have a fish and vegetable shop, recalls her earlier life.

I was born in Hockwold where my father worked for Charles Hawkins who had a forestry estate there. It was something to do with Hockwold Hall and the trees were drawn from the forest by horses up to the wood yard at the Hall, where they were cut into planks which my father would sometimes use for his work. When Charles Hawkins sold up we came to Feltwell, because Mrs Newcombe, of Newcombe Hall, said we could have one of her cottages. She also let Father have a shed, and he set up as an odd job man in the village.

Newcombe Hall was on the site where Newcombe Drive now is: the gardens extended down to Oak Street and where the wall is broken down at the moment was a door which led right up to the kitchen door. She had two fields; one is now the football field, which she left to the village when she died. She had a lovely croquet lawn. The tombs of her family were in Hockwold Church and Mr Basil Vincent would take her over there in his taxi and Mother and I would join her there and we would clean them. Her cook would make us a picnic and we'd sit and eat it in the grounds of Hockwold Hall in the middle of the work. It was said that Hockwold Hall was haunted, and there were tunnels from it to the church. A dog was put down once to test it and it never came out.

I went to school in the building which is the engineering works now, and left at 14. I went up to London to stay with my aunt, and after I'd settled in she went to an agency and found me a post as a lady's maid with Lord and Lady Malcolm at 20 Sussex Square. I was there for nearly five years, until the War broke out, and then they called you up and older people had to take on our jobs in houses. But I really enjoyed working for them: I didn't actually like being a lady's maid, but I changed to under parlour maid and then parlour maid, which meant I looked after the table and served tea in the drawing room. They were very generous: we were asked to choose what we liked for Christmas, and several times a year we were allowed to go to dances which were held at the Albert Hall. Her Ladyship sent us in the Rolls Royce with the chauffeur: he didn't like it much but we did! I saw a lot of people in that house; they had what were called round table dinners, and Lady Malcolm would go out and people like Churchill and Chamberlain would come to those, We got a good tip for taking a hat on those occasions!

I went in the forces when the war started, into the WAAFS, and I was stationed at Watton for most of the time. I looked after the Officers' Mess, because I was trained to look after a table properly. I had a good time there, too! Before the bombers went on their missions to Germany they had to do a practice flight around the field just to be sure that everything was in order, and my friend and I would go up with them, just for a spin round the field in a Lancaster Bomber! The last time the wheels didn't come down and we pancake landed!

After the war I came back to Feltwell and married Charlie. He had land down the fen and with his brother grew carrots, potatoes and some sugar beet. I've still go 20 acres down there, but I rent it out now. We had two fish shops, one in Long Lane and one next to this house. We sold both wet and fried fish. The fish used to come on the railway and Mr Brown sometimes fetched it from Lakenheath for us. I used to work in the shops but we had help too, particularly from Miss Secker.

Life was quite different then, particularly for children. We went to church three times a day on a Sunday, and my grandmother had her own pew in Hockwold church; if there was a big do she was sure of a seat. My father was strict.- I remember once dawdling a bit on the way home from school and suddenly realising the time. When I did get home my Father gave me go a good hiding and sent me to bed without any tea - but Mum crept upstairs after a bit with some lemonade and a sandwich. But we had a happy life, probably much happier than children today who've got more money and can't be smacked!

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