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Julian Kerry

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.

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)

Norfolk Archives Tour – Tuesday 23 May


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.

Bressingham primary school children look for medieval graffiti in Bressingham Church

Bressingham School Church Visit

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.

Visit to Historic Environment Records Office, Gressenhall – 6 July

Roman Brooch

Members of Bressingham and Fersfield History Group attended a fascinating one-day training workshop at the Norfolk Historic Environment Record offices in Gressenhall. (The ‘HE’ offices adjoin the popular museum, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.) Heather was our trainer. She started by asking us how we defined ‘archaeology’. Heather explained how it encompassed far more than artefacts dug from the ground and included the historic landscape. Evidence of cropmarks, earthworks, industrial remains, buildings and important sites in Norfolk such as historic gardens and battlefields are all collated and recorded within the Norfolk Historic Environment Record. We were shown how to use their databases, including the Norfolk Heritage Explorer which is available to the public online: It really is worth visiting this website; you may wish to ‘Search records’ via the Maps tab as this shows sites of archeological interest across the county. The website also links to the intriguing ‘Historic Maps’ where you can search early maps such as Bressingham Tithe.

Left: Image of Roman enamel brooch found in Bressingham

Saxon brooch drawing

We thoroughly enjoyed looking at high resolution copies of 1940s aerial photographs of Bressingham and Fersfield. Photographs are key tools for identifying archaeology: Diana Burroughes was surprised to discover she has what archaeologists believe is a bronze age crop mark showing a ring ditch and enclosure on her land!

Heather emphasised how much they value contributions by volunteer amateur archaeologists and historians. Fortunately, training is available: the team have a Community Archaeologist, Claire, who teaches fieldwalking, building surveying and digging test pits. Inspired by the day, Bressingham and Fersfield History Group is now planning a training day with Claire later this year, fieldwalking and, at a later date, test pit digging. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Linda (01379) 687729. All ages are welcome.

Many thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for paying for this visit.

Right: Drawing of Saxon brooch found in Bressingham

The Fellinghams of Bressingham – By Marsha Bell, Aylsham, Norfolk

My grandfather, Frederick (‘Fred’) Fellingham was born in Bressingham on 7 December 1893, the fourth of six children of William Fellingham and his wife Sarah, née Kerry. Sarah came from Fersfield. The 1911 census states that there were two more children who did not survive childhood.  When he was young the family moved to  Brook Farm in Pooley Street which is just over the border in South Lopham. Fred’s eldest brother William married Phoebe Shepherd and they had four children: Alan James (Jim), Charles (Charlie), Mary and Hilda. In 1935 William Jnr purchased Three Gates Farm in Fen Street, Bressingham. The family lived there for many years, farming in the traditional way, including milking the cows by hand. The last member of the Fellingham family to live there was Hilda who passed away in 1997.

William Fellingham

My grandfather, Frederick (‘Fred’) Fellingham was born in Bressingham on 7 December 1893, the fourth of six children of William Fellingham and his wife Sarah, née Kerry. Sarah came from Fersfield. The 1911 census states that there were two more children who did not survive childhood.  When he was young the family moved to  Brook Farm in Pooley Street which is just over the border in South Lopham. Fred’s eldest brother William married Phoebe Shepherd and they had four children: Alan James (Jim), Charles (Charlie), Mary and Hilda. In 1935 William Jnr purchased Three Gates Farm in Fen Street, Bressingham. The family lived there for many years, farming in the traditional way, including milking the cows by hand. The last member of the Fellingham family to live there was Hilda who passed away in 1997.

(Left: William Fellingham (1854-19)

Fred Fellingham horse at Brook Farm
Frederick Fellingham with horse at Brook Farm, South Lopham
Fred Fellingham in Norfolk Regiment WWI Uniform

Both William Snr and his son Fred worked as carters at nearby Burroughs’ Mill. In fact when Fred enlisted in the Norfolk regiment in World War 1 he was quickly transferred to the Army Service Corps because of his experience with horses. He was posted to the supply line in Egypt and spent some time in Cairo. His medal card states that he was a driver, indicating that as the war progressed, mechanical transport in the army was increasing so he was taught how to drive. Indeed after the war he was one of the first car owners in Rickinghall where he lived.
Whilst in Egypt he was very impressed with General Allenby who had taken charge of the allied forces there. As a result of this, his brother Allen decided to name his son Allenby Fellingham, after the great commander.

(Left: Fred Fellingham in Norfolk Regiment WWI Uniform)

Sarah Fellingham née Kerry (1856-1932)

In January 1923 Fred married Rosetta Musk. The marriage took place in Bressingham church with the reception at Poultry Farm in Fen Street Redgrave, the home of Rosetta’s brother Arthur Musk. They spent the first few years of married life living in a cottage on the Low Common, South Lopham but then moved to Rickinghall where Rosetta ran a sweet and tobacconist shop. Fred used the old outhouses at the back of the shop to run a small poultry business. During World War 2 he served in the Royal Observer Corps, on the Botesdale post, having attended the inaugural meeting in the village. Interestingly the Fellinghams are distantly related to the Bloom family of Bressingham as they share a common ancestor in William Harnwell (1739-1806) who married Mary Knott in 1761.  His granddaughter Sarah Harnwell married Robert Hart and their daughter Mahala (aka Alice) Hart, born on 28th January 1825 and baptised at Roydon in 1827, was Fred’s paternal grandmother. The above William Harnwell was descended from linen weavers in Bressingham back to the 1500s.

(Left: Sarah Fellingham née Kerry (1856-1932))

The Catlings of Fersfield, Bressingham and Roydon by Don Catling

I have been researching my Catling family roots for many years now. I had the chance to travel to Roydon about 27 years ago where my Great Grandfather married Sarah (Hart) to try and retrace the steps of my ancestors William James and Mary Anne (Bailey) her parents were James and Mary (Saunders).  William was born circa 1815 in West Harling.  He married Mary Anne August 18 1839 in Fersfield,  All of their children were born in Fersfield, Emma: 16 Aug 1840, Charles Stephen: Jan 1842,  William James: 18 Mar 1844 (my great grandfather),  Mary Anne: 1847 and Peter: 1851.  The earliest census I have for them is the 1841 Census, their address was in Hall Lane and their first born Emma aged 1.  The 1851 census shows them living on Folly lane in Bressingham so I believe they must have moved after Mary Annes birth in 1847 and then they must have moved back to Fersfield prior to Peters birth in 1851.  In 1861 it shows them living on Hall Lane again.  The children married and moved on to various areas of England.  Mary Anne Catling (Bailey) died in 1870 in Guiltcross according to the register of deaths.  I cannot find any cemetery that has her burial listed.  William remarried a short time later to Clarissa Saverina who was born about 1830 in Diss.  They later moved to Bradford Yorkshire. I would love to find out where Mary Anne Catling is buried.  I know that she may be buried in either Fersfield, Bressingham or even her birthplace which would be North Lopham.  Do you know of anyone who may have connections with my family or may know of anyone who may have access to any information that would be helpful to me?  I have traced most of them through ancestry, family search and my heritage.  With what I do have now, I wish I could go back and truly trace their steps and one day I will. If anyone has any information relating to the Catlings then Don would love to hear from you. Please contact him at