home parish council planning our churches groups businesses church blog gallery
Welcome to the Bressingham and Fersfield Community Website
 
HISTORY  
 
Bressingham primary school children look for medieval graffiti in Bressingham Church

It was a fun and informative day (25 May) for Bressingham Primary School years 5 and 6 who visited Bressingham Church for a Medieval Graffiti Worskhop led by buildings archaeologist Matthew Champion. Escorted by two school teachers, fourteen children attended the morning session, and thirteen came to the church in the afternoon.

The children were asked to be archaeologists for the day and were instructed how to interpret the building and its contents so that they could understand how the church had changed over the centuries. Matthew encouraged the children to be observant by setting them several challenges such as mapping out the nave, pulpit, chancel and other areas in the church and he then questioned them about their purpose. The children had to look closely at the features and artefacts in the church: they had to count the number of faces and angels on the magnificently carved early sixteenth century bench ends, find all the locks on the church chests, and count the windows on the 14th century font.

Matthew asked the children if they thought graffiti was a good or bad thing; most thought it bad, some cleverly said it “depended”. Matthew explained that graffiti was condoned by medieval society, and often had spiritual or superstitious purposes such as to ward off evil. Matthew shone torches on the church walls, revealing lots of graffiti - some dating from when the church was constructed which fascinated the children. Before they left, Matthew gave the children worksheets with the alphabet in medieval script so these new graffiti hunters will be able to read graffiti when visiting other churches. The children also enjoyed jaffa cakes and lemonade


TUESDAY 23 MAY - NORFOLK ARCHIVES TOUR
Bressingham and Fersfield History group enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of Norfolk Archives in Norwich on 23 May. In ‘the green room’, Karen Chancellor and a colleague welcomed the group to the Archives and explained how we could access documents via the online catalogue, order original documents or maps, and look at digitized documents on microfiche. Karen stressed that all the staff are more than happy to assist visitors should anyone not know how to use some of the equipment such as microfiche readers. We then moved to one of the heat and humidity controlled strong rooms and saw many rows of cabinets stacked with acid-free storage boxes containing the historical documents. Karen then escorted us to the main conservation room where frayed documents can be repaired. We were shown how wafer thin, delicate Japanese paper pasted with wheat glue to the damaged and frayed paper could prevent further decay. The group were fascinated by a large, beautiful 18th century estate map undergoing further restoration.

The visit culminated in viewing multiple Bressingham documents, some dating as far back as the 13th century, laid out (supported by Norfolk Archives cushions) on long tables for the group to read. Bressingham Tithe and Enclosure maps from the 19th century fascinated everyone.
The group would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding the visit.


WORLD WAR ONE RELATIVE REMEMBERED
A lovely, poignant memorial service was led by Reverend Wendy Evans in Bressingham Church on Sunday 14 May for the relatives of Norfolk Regiment Private Albert J Fortis who was killed fighting in the Battle of Arras, France, 100 years ago.  Albert, already serving in the 1st Norfolk Regiment when WWI broke out, died on 15 May 1917 defending the village Arleux en Goelle on the Western Front.

Several generations including a granddaughter, great-granddaughter, great-great-granddaughters and family travelled from Essex to Bressingham Church and the War Memorial to lay a wreath and commemorate Albert on the anniversary of his death.  Family research reveals that he was born in Chequers Lane, Bressingham in 1880, married Mabel Jane who bore him 4 children, and today has over 40 surviving living relatives.

Albert’s great-granddaughter’s ‘thank you’ note to Wendy and Bressingham Church best sums up the event: it was a “lovely fitting tribute to my great grandfather and I'm sure he would be honoured that we arranged this memorial to pay our respects”.


Bressingham and Fersfield History Group Walk - 22 April 2017

Sixty-two attended the History Walk in Bressingham on Saturday 22 April. Starting at Bressingham Village Hall (a 17th century barn), the group wound its way along lanes and footpaths in Bressingham.  Luckily, the weather held out and there were no showers!
Click here to see the photos taken by Krys Wakefield >>

Professor Tom Williamson kindly led the event which inaugurated Bressingham and Fersfield History Group which has some funding support from a £250,000 Heritage Lottery fund award to Bressingham Church to make the building watertight.  Tom’s expertise and enthusiasm was much appreciated by the group; Tom has the rare ability to ‘bring history alive’ through his brilliant communication skills, making complex history clear to all.  Subjects included changes in farming practice from the medieval period to modern times and the location and survival of vernacular buildings and moats.  The group also benefited from geologist Tim Holt-Wilson’s expertise; Tim suggested many of the browner flints on Bressingham Church tower had anciently been brought to the locality by prehistoric Bytham River.  The walk concluded with welcome tea and home-baked cake in Bressingham Church, where Tom was heartily thanked.

Notes from the Archives

I do find it reassuring that this document corroborates reports by Fersfield resident and antiquary, Francis Blomefield (1705-1752), who wrote (in Topography of Norfolk) that Salter spent 40 pounds building 14 pews of wainscot following south aisle church seating reordering.

It is also fascinating to find surviving documentary evidence of local efforts to ‘beautify’ the church, reflecting Archbishop Laud and Charles I’s 1630s emphasis on the “beauty of holiness”.  As Blomefield noted, the church had been “much unbeautified within, the pavement and seats being decayed…the parishioners sitting in no order, the font standing in an obscure place behind one of the pillars, etc” -  17th century ‘improvement’ assumed an orderly environment promoted conformity and obedience.   One also wonders whether ‘Midleditches’ still survives, and if so which house?

And perhaps some of the pew seats were reused in the church……Many of us admire Bressingham pews, especially the pew ends.  Towards the end of a Wildflower Talk’ day in the church in May, several attendees enjoyed meeting a Medieval Reenactment group who popped in en route back to London.   One had expertise in wood carvings, and, as well as pointing out which were 15th century and which were later, showed us how some ends had been left unfinished.   Something else for you to check out on your next visit! 

References: Norfolk Archives, DN/FCB1
Francis Blomefield, ‘An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 1’

Pew Ends - photos by Liz Handy
 
Unfinished Pew Ends - photos by Liz Handy

A Norfolk Archive document: the War Memorial, Bressingham
As almost every village in England has its own War Memorial which we may drive, cycle and walk past on a daily basis, perhaps we can be forgiven for taking them for granted and not knowing more about how they came to be built. Over 100,000 War Memorials, erected throughout the United Kingdom after the Great War, are testimony to a groundswell of support for sites and symbols to honour local men who had died.  The Armistice Day, 1920 unveiling of Lutyen’s Cenotaph in Whitehall perhaps inspired local communities to build their own memorials.  The authors of World War I Memorials  (Wikipedia) succinctly convey the emotion and conviction underpinning their creation:  memorials were “ a tragic but comforting, noble and enduring commemoration of the war dead”.  Perhaps they helped heal and exorcize the trauma communities suffered. 
Hand-written Minutes taken at a Public Meeting held in Bressingham’s “Council School” on October 5, 1921 to discuss the “ways and means of raising money to erect a Public Memorial to the men of the Parish who fell in the War” provide fascinating insight into Great War commemorations.  The spare, formal and precise language, written neatly on faint blue-ink-lined notebook paper, is poignant; the unsentimental nature of the Minutes is revealing, suggesting stoicism and principle.    A Memorial Committee, which met on seven occasions between October 1921 and January 1923, was religious in its structure: most meetings were closed with prayers led by Reverend Nock, rector of St. John the Baptist Parish Church.  Yet the ethos was collaborative and consensual rather than hierarchical.  Members from each local faith group - the Church of England, Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist and Baptist - were included in decision making to represent the entire community.

During that first meeting, attended by 70, attendees agreed that the Committee should canvass villagers for their preferred location.  Suggested Memorial sites were:

“ 1.  In front of the Blacksmith’s Shop.
2.  Mr Finch’s field, opposite the Council School.
3.  Rev. J. A. Nock’s meadow.
4.  Mr. Fisher’s meadow, and
5. Front of the Church Hall.”

Subsequent Committee meetings indicated that the Blacksmith’s shop site was the overwhelming choice.  The photograph shows its original placement, prior to relocating in the late 1940s to its current position.   The railings did not survive this move, but everything else remains in accordance with the original instructions, including the inscription “1914-1919” which was “unanimously…substituted for the letters R.I.P in the wreath shown on the design”.    The next of kin were contacted for “their consent to the names being placed on the memorial”.   

The Minutes from March 7, 1922 are brief and convey a sense of reflection, discussing what form the Memorial should take.  Having concluded that they had raised sufficient funds to choose a design, after “much careful consideration” of the designs submitted by Perfitt’s of Diss  and “Messrs. Cooley & Son, of Diss, and Messrs J. Want & Son, of Norwich” , the Cooley design (which ended up costing £81, 10 shillings) was selected.  Villagers had managed to raise the considerable sum of £89, 3 shillings and 3 pence  - extraordinary when one considers that there was an economic slump in the early 1920s.  

Minutes taken on September 28, 1922, stated that there should be an Unveiling Ceremony on Sunday, October 15th at 2.30 p.m.; Colonel Edward Mornement (a Royal Engineer, also a JP, CBE residing in East Harling) was invited to lead the ceremony; invitations would be sent to “relatives of the men whose names appear on the memorial”; and “all the religious denominations in the parish should be officially represented” and included in the ceremony. 

The Minutes reveal a quaintly alien era: the “Kerrison School Band” was brought by “motor char-a-bane” to perform, free of charge, at the ceremony.  A ‘Google’ search indicates that they were a military band from a Reformatory School in Thorndon.  They must have looked impressive in their blue uniforms with red trim. (see: thorndon.onesuffolk.net) Ladies provided band refreshments to the band following the ceremony.  Cupiss & Co printed 250 Forms of Service (costing £1, 14 shillings and 6 pence) and a notice was placed in Diss Express the Friday preceding the ceremony.   The Minutes record the origins of a custom central to all subsequent Remembrance Sunday ceremonies: the Committee decided to place a wreath on the memorial and “that the ex-service men of the parish be asked to contribute towards a second wreath”. 

Reading the Minutes, one senses the profound loss communities experienced.  The March 7, 1922 meeting reinforces this, ending, not with customary prayers, but with their chosen Memorial inscription: “To the Glory of God, and in honoured memory of the men of Bressingham who gave their lives in the Great War”.


What was the purpose of this wooden box inscribed 1631? by Linda Jolly

We presume this box or “slipper” is a collection box, one of three safeguarded for St John the Baptist, Bressingham.  Each is inscribed with the date 1631.

During the 1630s, Charles I and his Archbishop, William Laud, demanded the reordering of church interiors to promote the ‘beauty of holiness’ as an aid to religious instruction – and more importantly, to religious and political conformity. Many rural parish congregations either ignored or partially implemented the reintroduction of ornamentation such as stone altars, chalices and stained glass – changes that provoked ‘puritan’ resentment.

Was this collection box used to gather funds for church ‘improvements’ in Bressingham?  Perhaps the altar rail in St John the Baptist dates from this period, and is evidence of local religious conformity. Or was the collection box instead used for more ‘puritan’ purposes, raising funds for preachers such as the ‘Trustees for the Religion in Norwich and Norfolk’, formed in 1631 ?  Irrespective of whether our villagers were conformist or puritan, the box reminds us of a period in English history when deep religious convictions led to division theologically, and ultimately, politically, resulting in Civil War and the execution of Charles I.

Matthew Reynolds, Studies in Modern British Religious History, Godly Reformers and their Opponents in Early Modern England: Religion in Norwich c. 1560-1643 (Gateshead, 2005)

For further reading: C.S.R. Russell ed., The Origins of the English Civil War
N. Tyacke, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism and Counter Revolution
J.P Sommerville, Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640
John Morrill, The Nature of the English Revolution and The Revolt of the Provinces
September 2014 - by Linda Holly
Does anyone have any information on The Chequers being used as a club meeting house? Pubs were used for many purposes in the past, and The Chequers is no exception.  A fascinating organisation called 'The Amicable Society of Bressingham' , where members paid subscriptions for financial assistance during periods of ill health and even death, met at the pub in the early 1800s. What prompted its formation?
 
Amicable Society of Bressingham, 1804
 

Deposited on one of the many archive shelves in Norfolk Record Office is a gem of a printed booklet titled Articles: Agreed and made by the Amicable Society at Bressingham and dated 21 January, 1804. The 36 Articles codify the conditions that entitled the 31 members, aged between 18 and 41, to financial benefits following sickness or death.

The ChequersMembers met monthly  “at the Sign of the Chequer in Bressingham”, paying 4 pence beer money each meeting and 2 shillings on the annual Feast Day. Attendance by non-members had to be approved by the Stewards and included a condition that non-members must spend 6d in the “club-room” and 3 shillings on the Feast Day. However, the Amicable Society was much more than simply a club and drinking society; a contribution of one shilling per month ensured members who fell “sick, lame, or blind, so as to be incapable of doing any work” received 7 shillings 6 pence per week for any illness lasting up to six months, and long-term debilitating ill health merited 3 shillings 6 pence per week for life. But support was conditional; the Society valued thrift and discouraged drunkenness. There was a strong moral code: men “disguised in liquor” were fined, members with “venereal disease” and fathers of illegitimate children were excluded from benefits, and “counterfeit” claims of illness resulted in exclusion.

Written during the Napoleonic Wars and at a time of rapid price inflation, members of the Amicable Society of Bressingham would have experienced profound agricultural change as a result of land improvement schemes such as the Parliamentary Enclosure of common and ‘waste’ lands in Bressingham and Fersfield and developments such as threshing machines. In the new age of Enlightenment and reason, self-help was deemed a greater virtue than Providential guidance. Hence mutual societies had emerged during the eighteenth century to insure and protect members against the vagaries of life, especially individuals without recourse to other forms of relief. Whereas the ‘deserving poor’ could appeal to the Poor Law when they were unable to work due to ill health, the ‘middling sort’ had fewer options.  Members of the Amicable Society of Bressingham were apparently relatively well off as they were sufficiently affluent to employ “servants, workmen, or assistants”, and were therefore unlikely (and undoubtedly unwilling) to rely on the Poor Law handouts.

Waveney Valley Studies, 1963, records a similar Society called the “King’s Head” club of Dickleburgh, which was established during the late eighteenth century. The “King’s Head” and Bressingham Amicable Society had much in common, such as monthly fees which were safeguarded in a chest or box – and holding meetings in pubs.  Interestingly, the Bressingham articles mention a “box or chest with 5 locks and keys (for safe keeping the money, books and papers)”. Diana Burroughes, Churchwarden for St John the Baptist Church, Bressingham wonders whether the heavy, centuries-old chest with five locks in St John the Baptist is the very chest once used by the Amicable Society. And finally, the Bressingham Amicable Society articles (and the “King’s Head”) are a poignant reminder of the important role pubs have played in English life for so many centuries. Diana has also pointed out that her late husband, Eric, always referred to the room most recently used as the main dining room in the Chequers pub as the ‘club room’ - the Amicable Society articles refer to the “club-room” as their meeting room. History surely reminds us of our important links between past and present which should not be discarded lightly.

Please note the following references for the 'Amicable Society':

'Articles agreed and made by the Amicable Society at Bressingham on the 21st day of January, 1804'', Norfolk Record Office, C/Scg 3/2
'Dickleburgh's 18th Century friendly society' , 1963, in Pursehouse, Eric, Waveney Valley Studies: Gleanings from Local History (Diss)
Overton, Mark: Agricultural Revolution in England: The transformation of the agrarian economy 1500-1850 (Cambridge, 1996)

 


Anthea and Jaime Blake met at College in Liverpool. They started their married life in Peterborough where Anthea was a teacher for special needs and Jaime worked for the local parks department. In 1988 Jamie was asked to work at Bressingham Gardens as deputy head gardener by his father in law Alan Bloom.  So they returned to live in Bressingham where Anthea had been brought up in Bressingham Hall. 

Both their children, like their mother, went to local schools. Ellie is now a teacher working in Dereham and David has just finished University in York where he studied film and television.  Anthea teaches at a special needs school in Attleborough and Jaime is now the curator of the garden his father in law created at Bressingham Gardens. Anthea’s sister, Jenny, is a garden designer and lives in London.

Anthea has done some extensive research on her family the Blooms. She discovered to her surprise that her great, great, great, great grandfather was William Harnwell who lived at Fen Side in Fen Street, Bressingham. He was a blacksmith he also owned land around his house which presumably he farmed. Anthea was able to trace the Harnwell family back to the1500’s when they were linen weavers. The family cannot be traced as living in Bressingham after around 1850, dispersing around the area as a result of a poor rural economy at the time. She also discovered that Robert Harnwell’s son John was a pupil at Elizabeth Barker School in Church Lane around 1811.  Anthea’s great grandmother was Amelia Feake (married name Whitworth) who lived in Palgrave and worked in Diss at Gosling’s Chemist when she was 16.  She was born in Rickinghall.

Alan Bloom - Anthea’s father came to Bressingham in 1946.  Although he had been told that his grandmother had been born locally, he had no idea that there was a Bressingham connection. He came from Cambridgeshire where his family had been shopkeepers for several generations. Before the war Alan’s plant nursery was the biggest in England and he had also developed new  herbaceous perennials. The wholesale nursery was recognised as the most successful and largest  in England. He owned about 200 acres of farm land, and during the war he reclaimed 350 acres of Fen land, the largest drainage and reclamation scheme of its kind. This was most successful and, as a result, a lot of extra food was grown for the war effort. Even the King came to admire what he had achieved. Unfortunately, after the war, this reclaimed land was given back and reverted to Fen. It was then he decided to make a new start and was able to buy a 200 acre shooting estate in Bressingham - where it was suggested the Water Board would drain some of the Fen Land. It was because of Alan’s previous success and knowledge of draining land in Cambridgeshire that he was able to persuade the water board to go ahead with their plans.

Alan was acknowledged as one of the leading plantsman in England of the 20th century, awarded medals and honours in the field. But this was not without  set backs. His first Bressingham winter in 1946 was the worst in many years and was followed by a summer of drought. He left a manager in charge and decided to go to Canada to start a nursery  there. However there he encountered the worst Canadian winter in 30 years. The plants he had sent for from England arrived by boat but were mostly dead on arrival.  He returned to Bressingham and with, a lot of hard work, developed his nursery in Bressingham to be the size of his Cambridgeshire one. When his sons Robert and Adrian grew up they took over the nursery and Alan concentrated on developing the Dell Garden.  Here he made history by creating the island beds. The Dell Gardens had originally been the site of where they extracted clay for bricks, so most of the soil was light and sandy and suitable for plants. People visited the garden from all over the world.  At this time too Alan began his collection of steam engines, initially traction engines, which were being sold for scrap at the time. Enthusiasts emerged to help him develop what is now the Steam Engine Museum and is open to many visitors and enjoyed by so many. The Bloom family have provided work for many people in the community over the years.  Eventually the museum became a charitable trust and the main nursery and plants centre were sold, leaving  the gardens and a smaller nursery to be carried on by the family.  The Hall is open to bed and breakfast - and the third generation of Blooms in Bressingham are producing plants. 

 

This photograph was given to Diana Burroughes together with a list of their names: 

Top Row (left to right):
Alen Flatman, Willie Cobb, Geff Hubbard, Willie Green,
Reggie Buck, Eric Flatman

Second Row (left to right):
Rosie Scott, Viola Pearce, Cathy Symonds, Gertie Delamore, Ruth Downing, Evelyn Maidment, Mike Shipley, Cissy Flatman


Bottom Row (left to right):
Joe Wade, Doughlas Scott (Tod), Nora Harvey, Hilda Frost, Ivy Flatman, Duggie Smith, Basil Harvey


 

Julian Kerry is living in the house which his great great grandfather Willie Garland bought. He remembers visiting this house since he was a child.   The home is Croft Acre, Fersfield  which like many homes round here was a small holding.

Julian thinks that Fersfield (unlike Bressingham) has not changed much in appearance as there have been no new buildings. Julian remembers Fersfield had 2 or 3 pubs and a post office - but they are now gone.  Does anyone remember these and can tell us something about them? Julian’s grandfather came from South Lopham at Fen Farm and he married one of the Garland sister. They then moved to Willow Farm in Fersfield. Julian’s father lived in a house near Pillar Box Corner, Bressingham. So Julian  has lived in either Fersfield or Bressingham most of his life.

His father like Julian was a builder. He worked with Maurice Peachey and they called themselves Kerry and Peachey until 1971 when Julian joined his father and they worked as Kerry and Son.  They  built another house at Pillar Box Corner and then they bought Drift House in Bressingham which was derelict and which they restored.  Later when his father sold the house for £2,000 he spent £1,000 on buy a new Jaquar car!  Julian said that as a child he spent a lot of time living in a caravan while his father either built or restored their home.

In 1971 Julian worked with his father as a builder and they became Kerry and Son. During the years Julian and his father did a lot of work in the community including the churches. Julian went to Bressingham School and then on to Diss Grammar.  Later when he married he had 3 daughters - 2 live in Norfolk and 1 in Essex.  Sadly Julian’s wife died 8 years ago. Julian has a medal which he inherited from his Great Aunt Hilda Garland (who later became Welch).
It is dated 1910 and it is for 'Regular School Attendance'.

Julian also has the photo of the Stool Ball Club dated 1915.  His mother Myra Kelly found this photograph and thought that the girl on the bottom row, third in on the right, is one of the Garland sisters. Julian  wonders if there is anyone in the community that can help him identify any of the other girls? If so please be in touch with him via the website email.

I asked Julian in what way things had changed since he as young and especially since he was working with his father as a builder. He said everything was 'hand tools' then - nothing electrical.  His father in the early days, would ride to jobs on his cycle rather than in a van, so life was very hard.  His father died comparatively young. 


Sarah's parents on their wedding daySarah Dungar lives in Bressingham where she was brought up. Her father, Bunter Allen, was half brother to Willie Green who is in the school photo featured above. Bunter was born in 1915 and his father drove carriages for Whitelys in London. His parents lived in a mews. Bunter's father was killed at Ypres in 1917 in the First World War. (see photo above of Bunter as a baby with his parents). Bunter’s mother then moved back to Hoxne and later married Arthur Green and became landlady of the Chequers.  So Bunter along with Willie Green and their younger sister Olive and brother Lenny were brought up in the Chequers. Bunter left school early and went to work with the Gladdons who owned Bressingham Hall before the Blooms. He looked after the fowl. They owned a big chicken farm which extended to Roydon Hall.  He also worked for the Fellinghams at 3 Gates Farm and the Soars on their farm. 

Sarah Dungar

Bunter joined the army and was in the 2nd World War. After the war he married Jean Vincent from South Lopham who was in service in Ipswich. Lenny his half brother was best man at their wedding he was also the last person to be born in The Chequers pub 83 years ago.  (He lives now in Roydon).  Bunter worked for Harry Burroughes and drove lorries for them for 30 years.  Bunter also rang the church bells at Bressingham twice a week and was very involved in the flower show for many years.

When Sarah’s parents were first married they lived in the Mission Huts up on Fersfield Air Field. The 3 families - the  Bartrums, the Francis’s and the Allens moved from there to the new houses at the top of School Road when they were first built. Sarah says as a child she was in and out of her neighbours houses all the time. It was like one big family.   Vera Francis made most of her clothes.  The back gardens were used for chickens and growing vegetables - and so the children played out on the road.  At that time the War Memorial was still on an island at the top of School Road. Sarah went to Bressingham Primary and then on to Diss High.  Sarah and her brother Allen did not qualify to take the school bus although the Soars a few doors away did. They did a lot of cycling as they did not have a car until Bunter retired. She remembers her Aunt towing her bike with a rope behind her moped. Vans came round the houses selling vegetables, meat and fish. So things were very local. Dr Scott who was Vicar after Canon Knock ran a Sunday School in Bressingham on Sundays and another one in Roydon on Saturdays. She says Bressingham church was always packed.

Today Sarah has followed her mother being the “dinner lady” at the school as well as their cleaner. She has lots of friends and relations locally aAnd she would not want to live anywhere else even if she won the lottery! SEE MORE PHOTOS plus larger versions of the ones above click here>

Joan Hubbard was married to Willie Green (in the school photo above, Willie is on the back row third from the end). Willie Green was brought up in the Chequers Pub in Bressingham. Willie’s mother died when he was 9 and his father when he was 19. The children (Bunter, Willie, Lenny and Olive) moved to Pine Tree Cottage (known as White Gates) in School Road where their aunt Gertie Martin looked after them. Bunter Allen was his half brother, father to Sarah Dungar (more about Sarah to come!). Shortly after this Joan’s parents Jesse and Nellie Hubbard took over the pub in 1939 when  Joan was 13.

 

Joan was only at Bressingham School for a year as at 14 she left to work at Emms in Diss - a clothing factory. Joan would cycle to Diss every day to start work at 8am and leave at 5pm rain or shine. She earned £2.10 shillings a week of which she gave £1 to her parents for board. Joan was one of six children - and they all loved living at the Chequers. Five siblings were married at Bressingham Church. Joan herself had a joint wedding with her sister Monica. So much of life revolved around the church and the pub. Joan remembers going to Sunday School in the Barn next to the Elizabeth Barker Charity Cottage in Church Lane (this ceased in about 1968 and 3 years later the Maidens bought the barn and cottage from the charity). She remembers the post office in School Road, the shoe repair shop that Wilfred Buck had (he is in the photo top row 2nd from the end) near the War Memorial. Joan also remembers the horse drawn hearse (which is now in the church) being used for funerals. The hearse used to be stored in the first cottage in Chequers Lane known as Parish Cottage, which used to belong to the church. Vera Francis’ parents in law rented this cottage. (Vera Francis played the organ for many years in Bressingham Church and so played at all the family weddings).

When war broke out Willie joined the army.  He and Joan wrote to each other throughout the war and Joan still has all their letters. When Joan was 18 Willie proposed to her by post and sent her money to buy a ring.  In this photo, Joan is showing off the ring and also the blouse she made herself from a parachute.  They got married in 1949 soon after Willie left the army and came back to Bressingham.

Joan did not have to move far when she got married. They lived in a cottage in Chequers Lane a stone’s throw from the pub. The cottage was owned by Canon Knock the Vicar. They had to move  when their children grew older as the children were not allowed to share a bedroom.  Alan Bloom sold them a piece of land in the lane where they built a bungalow in 1960 and where Joan still lives. Alan Bloom had bought the land off  Mrs Pearce who owned Old Hall Farm. Willie worked for Blooms for 34 years. Joan helped clean their offices and worked in the museum shop for 32 years. Joan’s brother Donald worked with the steam engines at Blooms for 50 years.  Joan also helped Canon Knock for 3 years - his wife had a very bad car accident and was mostly looked after by Nurse Harrington. 

Joan knew all the people in Chequers Lane. Ruth Downing (2nd row far right in school photo) lived next door. Percy Piper lived opposite the bungalow (where Nigel Gooderham  his great grand son now lives).

Lacons took the licence away from the Chequers in 1959, so Joan’s brother Peter (married to Elsie) bought the pub so that his parents could go on living there. Jesse and Nellie lived in the pub for a further 18 years with  Donald their son and Edith - Nellie’s sister  as a  private house.  After  Edith died  in 1979  Elsie got up a petition in the village to get the pub’s licence back. And it opened again under new management called The Garden House.

Joan and Willie had 2 children, who luckily have not moved too far. Marion worked for Blooms for a while as did her husband - he too lived in Chequers Lane in a caravan on Bloom’s land.  Marion now lives in Roydon and Terence in Shelfanger. Their children have gone a bit further afield - two in Norwich, one in Diss and one in Roydon.  They are a very close family and see alot of each other although Joan is the only one that still lives in Bressingham.

Terence, Joan’s son, remembers his father going across the road each week to wind up the Church Clock. For this he was paid six pence.He would then cross the road and spend seven pence in the Chequers. He used to say it cost him one pence a week to wind the clock!

Marion, Joan’s daughter, got married in the church in 1975 and went by horse and carriage to the Park Hotel in Diss for the reception.  She remembers waving to her grandmother at the Chequers as she made her way to Diss.
Read some some interesting facts written by Terence Green >
Read the History of The Chequers >>
 

Viola Pearce was born in Bressingham and is now buried here.  She is the second girl on the left  in the second row of the Bressingham School photo above, taken we think in about 1929.

Viola’s mother Hephzihah was a teacher at Bressingham School - she had to resign when she married Arthur Pearce a local joiner, who was born in 1896 and was wounded at the Somme.  They lived in West View on Common Road.  He made the lych-gate at Bressingham Church and also the door between the vestry and the church. He also made coffins and was one of the team that restored the church clock. You will see Arthur’s photos in Liz Handy’s book on Bressingham  “Behind the View” on pages 66 and 82 ( available from Bressingham Village Store - £10)

Viola worked in Norwich where she  met her husband Alex McPherson Walker who was stationed there in the army. They lived in Norwich and had 2 sons Andrew and Stuart - who both went to university.  One becoming a tribunal judge and the other a health and safety inspector.   Viola, despite having spend her married life in Norwich, wanted to be buried in Bressingham where her family came from. She died in 2012 aged 90.

This photograph is of Viola as a small child riding in the side car with her parents  
 
We want to make this community website a useful and fun source of information covering all that’s happening in our villages so we need YOUR HELP - if you have any news, event information or items of interest please email us Privacy & Cookie Policy
2011 © Bressingham & Fersfield Parish Council