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COMMON RIGHTS by AJO

Mr. Arthur Heading of Norwich was born in 1887 and between 1895/1903 he lived at No. 3 The Beck, which is now the Post Office. He was taught at Feltwell School during the headmastership of Enoch Mears, who had only one arm and one leg.

Mr. Heading remembers that around tea-time each day one Alderney cow passed by his window on its way home to Beck House, where its owner, John Skinner Kelland, veterinary surgeon, would put it away for the night.

Mr. Frank Curtis confirmed that in those days villagers who exercised their rights to graze cattle on the Common and on the Fen Droves, used to collect their cattle from the Elm Tree Corner at 5.00 p.m. For a short time, one of Frank's brothers was employed as "cowboy" and it was part of his duties to round up the cattle and drive them up into the village.

Some of the cattle would find their own way home from the Elm Tree. A meeting was held at the Cock Inn on 2nd May, 1827 of the Trustees, Common Rights owners and occupiers of the West Common and from an Agreement drawn up as a result of that meeting we learn that each householder had the right to turn on the Common three head of stock between 1st May and 1st November. Any stock in excess of that number or outside those dates would be impounded.

Each householder also had the right to cut 12,000 turves but only between 1st May and 1st July. The permitted maximum size of a turf was 4 inches square and 18 inches long. William Thompson was appointed by the Trustees to superintend the turf cutting at the rate of 9/- per week.

It was the responsibility of the Trustees to govern the cutting of sedge and litter and "such was not to be sold at less than 3 per thousand". They were empowered to pay 1/6d per hundred to the sedge-cutters who had to ensure "that their sheaves were of a good saleable description" and to pay 1/ - per hundred "for boating the same". The practice was to stack the sheaves of sedge on narrow boats or barges and so transport the crop from the fens, via dykes and drains, along the Common Bank to the "Quay" at the foot of Short Beck (next to Mr. Theodore Barker's cottage).

The Trustees had to "call a sale of such sedge and litter on Fridays by giving notice to that effect at Church on the Sunday previous" and they were directed "not to allow any person not belonging to this parish to take the sedge from the fen-side." A similar directive related to the Litter but it was added that "persons living in Feltwell were at liberty to dispose of the litter as they think proper". The Trustees present at the Meeting were William Nurse, Daniel Bacon, John Spencer, W. H. Roberts, William Lambert and Christopher Young. All were farmers except that William Henry Roberts was also the "Apothecary and Surgeon" for Feltwell. Seventeen other persons signed the Agreement as "Common Right Owners and Occupiers".

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