View from the Village – 4

Although I left Gresham at a young age to move to Bodham just a few miles away, the association continued, as my Dad still worked in the village and I had a lot of family still living there.
I have fond and vivid recollection of life as it was then, very simple but with a strong neighbourhood and lasting friendships. Money was tight but used in the best possible way to make life comfortable. 
My Dad worked as a farm labourer for Major Batt as did most of the men in the village. We lived in a small cottage belonging to the Batts and then later to a larger one , No 48 further down the village going with the job.

One of my earliest memories is of my Dad bringing home wild rabbits from the harvest fields, and my fondness to dress them in doll’s clothes and push them round in my doll’s pram, much to my Mother’s annoyance as she waited to prepare them to cook.

Our neighbour of whom I was very fond prepared me newly delivered bread crusts spread with golden syrup which were enjoyed sitting on the door step. 

Bread was delivered three times a week from a bakery in Aldborough as was meat also from Aldborough.

Mr Mingay was headmaster at the school and lived at the school house in the grounds.

There were big pine trees which I think are still there now.

Miss Day who was my teacher came from the village, also Mrs Hill who came in daily from Sheringham.

We had a big open fire in each classroom, the only form of heating.

Mrs Farrow was the cook and in the winter she kindly heated our small milk allowance and made us cocoa at break time which we all enjoyed.

At Christmas we performed a concert for the residents of the West Beckham workhouse. I remember once being dressed as a little Dutch girl, clogs and all and having to sing, “In a shoemakers Shop”, along with the actions.

I vividly recall an elderly Gentleman who went poaching and walked into the village to sell his gains for tobacco money.

Again at Christmas we were invited to go to a pantomime with the children from the Children’s Home in the village, which was followed by a tea back at the home.

On Coronation Day we all had fancy dress and stood in rows on the playing field to be judged. I was Miss Moffatt. Later we were presented with a memorial mug to commemorate the occasion.

For play we collected tadpoles from the pond in the Loke using a jam jar tied with string. We collected car numbers on a Sunday afternoon sitting on the wall outside our house and was very excited if we got two as there were very few cars on the road in those days. Whip and top was another shared game. We collected conkers when in season from outside Chaucer Farm and would then put them on a string and have a competition. 

Our lives were busy in their own way. Fruit and apple picking was done by women of the village accompanied by children who took the baskets of fruit to be weighed and then usually fell asleep in the heat of the afternoon sun in the rows which had been picked.

A lovely part was there was a tea lady who had a huge water urn and we were called and stood in rows with our enamel mugs to get a cuppa.

I loved riding back with the horse and tumbler cart driven by Dad when they finished sugar beeting for the day. On the fields there was much laughter amongst the workers. 

Dad had his own pony and cart and I loved going with him to collect hay and grass for feed. He used to buy rabbits and chickens and his nickname was Dickie and they called him a Dickie dealer. Many a happy hour was spent with him going round local villages. 

There were two shops in the village. The PO was run by Mr Warnes, a friendly man with a happy disposition. The other Mr Searles who was well named with his manner. We bought 2oz of sweets wrapped in white paper. There was a local man George Reynolds who was employed by Mr Searles to go round Gresham and neighbouring villages with his horse and cart selling loose vinegar, paraffin etc.

The local pub The Chequers was run by Charlie and Winnie Lawes and was the social meeting point for many. The Assembly Hall which operated until the new village hall was built catered for weddings, parties etc and on Wednesday evenings a man who travelled round came and showed a film which we watched with a type of 3 D mask. The hall had a tin roof which sounded dreadful when it rained.

I went to Methodist Sunday School which is still active now. Our teacher was Mr Walter Randall and he was employed by Major and Mrs Batt as their car driver during the week. I loved the summer anniversary as I had a new dress and white socks for the occasion. Mrs Randall was Welsh and had a beautiful singing voice. 

I loved the freedom and the friendliness of village life. My favourite time was going with my Dad to let the heavy working horses out on a Sunday morning. They were let out for exercise around the farm yard, dipped in the pond and then back in, tethered and fed. A sad recall is when one of the villagers had hung himself in the rafters of the stable and my Dad noticed and sent me away, and to call on another farm employee and tell him to go to the farm. Then they cut the body down and carried him home. My Uncle was a cowman at Chaucer farm and on a Saturday afternoon we took a knob of butter and a fork and had a jacket potato from the large boiler used to boil feed for the cattle. We took cans and got fresh milk before it was sent away in large containers from the farm.

We lived near to a well remembered character who was one of the first people in the village to have a car. I can recall sitting in the car while Billy cranked up the engine to start it and we were off. Henry the blacksmith was another well remembered character whose temper was sometimes as hot as the anvil he used for the horses shoes.

Other points from the village:

Colonel Batt, Major Batt’s father riding around on a well built horse and looking very commanding.

My Mum was Nanny to the Batt children when their residence was what is today Beeston Hall Boy’s School. There were four children, Christopher, Caroline, Simon and Sarah. 

Sadly Christopher was killed in a plane crash in January 1993 coming back from a cattle show in Jersey. With him was Mickey Regis one of his own cowmen. This changed the whole structure of Gresham, as the estate was in Christopher’s name and much of it had to be sold to cover death duty. The Batt empire dwindled and jobs were lost and houses sold.

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