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Bressingham School

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

The Blooms

The Blakes

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. 

Image of Chequers Inn

Amicable Society of Bressingham

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.

Members 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)


NAHRG Lecture Programme 2021/22

NAHRG is the county local history and archaeology club. Every winter, we organise a monthly lecture series at the UEA on a Saturday afternoon. This season’s programme is attached and your members are cordially invited. Non-members of NAHRG are welcome to try one or two lectures free of charge before joining.

This season has been arranged later than usual so I apologise for the short notice of the first talk (this Saturday, 30 October)

Visit our webpage: NAHRG – The Norfolk Archaeological & Historical Research Group

Press Release image

Press Release

Residents demand “STOP” to the development of a massive Anaerobic Digester at Bressingham in South Norfolk

Bressingham and surrounding villages rally against the construction of an enormous Biomass AD plant being built without planning permission that will put more than 10,000 extra vehicle movement onto single track roads.  

French parent company Engie SA and developers BioWatt Limited stand to make millions from Government subsidies at the expense of the  environment and communities. Feeding the plant will involve 10,000+ heavy vehicle movements through single-track country lanes.  Maize will be grown for the AD plant  creating soil erosion, soil mineralisation and flooding. Maize requires large quantities of artificial fertiliser which contributes 10% of the worlds CO2 in its manufacture. Growing crop monocultures damages wildlife and the soil. 

Growing crops for fuel is not green energy and it takes hundreds of hectares to produce the same energy as one wind turbine.  More energy is put in than comes out. The government has announced that there will be subsidies to stop burning gas in domestic boilers while at the same time government is subsidising gas production from land that could be growing food to eat. There are better ways to produce energy than burning gas. 

The impact on local ecology and biodiversity is now an issue of national and international priority.  Biogas production is not carbon neutral, as some of its advocates argue, it is a considerable contributor to carbon emissions from pesticide and fertiliser manufacture and  lorry and tractor exhausts.  Up to 10% of the methane the plant makes can be lost in leaks and poor sealing. Propane is burnt in the methane production and added to the gas produced to increase its calorific value.  These are well documented issues and have been known for a number of years.  Digesters in other countries have been closed after only 5 years because of the problems they caused.  

There is huge concern, opposition and anger to this development from communities and local councils. The current development will be four times larger than its original plan.  Biowatt hope to finish the construction then get retrospective planning permission for what they have built. Biowatt has used this strategy on a number of other projects. Consultation with local communities has been at a bare minimum with no consideration of the problems that the 10,000 vehicles on single track roads driving through small villages will cause.   

This development takes advantage of an arbitrary feed-in tariff set by the government to encourage green energy. This strategy is wrong because they have failed to take into account the scale of these developments. Large scale anaerobic digesters allow those who have enough money to invest to profit by compromising the environment and the community at the expense of the taxpayer.

Please contact:-

Sue Butler –

William Hudson 07879 666100

Christine Merton –

Parish Councillor Vacancy

Your Parish Council Needs You

Would you like to play a part in your community?

There is a vacancy for a Parish Councillor


You must live or work in Bressingham or Fersfield or live within 3 miles and have no serious criminal record

To find out more contact

Mike Mortimer – the Parish Clerk

01379 641909