A printed note on the back of the print dates it to circa 1795.

THERE is so much to say about Whitlingham it is hard to know where to begin. This is not on account of its size. If I were to say that there were half a dozen houses including those on the sewage farm I would probably be over generous. It used to be a much busier settlement. It had a church but that was abandoned in the seventeenth century. A hundred years ago the ruined tower still stood, but that fell soon after. At some time, not all that long ago (but well beyond living memory) there was a flourishing business involving chalk pits, tunnels and lime kilns. There was a tramway which took the lime to the waiting wherries on the river. You could still see the remains of the kilns if you braved the stinging nettles on the steep bank, at the top of which stands the pile of rubble that is all that remains of the church.

I should add for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Norwich that Whitlingham is a tiny hamlet very close to the city. It is reached through Trowse of which it now forms a part. Trowse adjoins Norwich, so Whitlingham is close to the bustling heart of the city as the crow flies. Bearing in mind how close it is to the hubbub of the city it is incredibly remote in feeling. Just across the river trains to Sheringham, Yarmouth and Lowestoft regularly trundle by, but Whitlingham is on the road to nowhere.  It is reached down a long lane. There is no access to the Southern Bypass, and access to the farm is restricted to those who have business there. Not only is the road quite long, it is (or was in years gone by) very narrow and pot-holed.

I will turn next to Whitlingham station. It was in fact across the river in Thorpe, not in Whitlingam, but Thorpe was the name of the main station in Norwich, where trains from London terminated. Whitlingham Station was only accessible from Whitlingham itself by a rowing boat ferry. When my “Uncle” Hubert (not a relative) was brought from London to be fostered by a farm worker and his wife and her sister in Whitlingham he was brought by train to Whitlingham station and then across the river. The year was 1905 when he was a babe in arms. He was the illegitimate child of the daughter of a wealthy London family.  I must tell you more about Hubert Catchpole at a later date. This station at Whitlingham has been closed for well over half a century but I am fortunate enough to have used it. I was going to Thorpe (not Whitlingham) where my Nanny lived at the time. I can’t have been more than four years old. It was dusk when we got off the train and I would certainly have forgotten all about the trip if the kind guard had not made it memorable for me by giving the little boy his oil lamp to wave at the engine driver. I held up the green oil lamp and off the engine steamed. Magic.

SONORITY aground at Whitlingham, 16 March 1970.  The police launch is alongside.

In the 1970s it was a favourite place to walk my dog Fido or go fishing for eels. In those days  I lived in Poringland and the Southern Bypass had not yet been built. I passed the turning to Whitlingham every day on my journey to work in Norwich. In Whitlingham there is a part of the river which runs alongside the road, near to where the church once stood. It is on a right-angled bend of the river, a difficult place for sea-going coasters to navigate, even with the assistance of a local pilot, who travelled up from Yarmouth. As you can see from this photograph, they did not always make it! (The Sonority, pictured here, belonged to F. T. Everard & Sons Ltd, a firm which had possessed a number of Thames Barges. She was a frequent visitor to Norwich.)


I haven’t mentioned WHITLINGHAM BROAD, that relatively recent gravel pit. It is down to the construction of the Southern Bypass, which needed large quantities of aggregate from nearby. When I was a regular visitor to Whitlingham the whole area was water meadows and cattle pens. It is at the Trowse end of Whitlingham Lane – the far end is relatively untouched but Whitlingham Broad is a busy place of recreation.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

A remarkable Norfolkman, Dr Hubert Catchpole, has died in Chicago, seven weeks short of his 100th birthday next month.  Brought by train from London to Trowse Station when two weeks old to live with foster-parents in Tower Cottage by the river at Whitlingham, he helped them in the holidays to deliver milk by horse and cart from the Norwich Corporation Farm where his father worked to houses in Lakenham.  Readily spotted as an outstanding six-year old by my great-aunt who was a teacher at Trowse School, he gained a prized free place to the City of Norwich School in 1920 and went on from there to win an open scholarship – and another instituted in Whitehall after the war for the sons and daughters of agricultural workers – to study Biochemistry at Downing College, Cambridge, where he got a First.

Emigrating to America in 1929 after five years of graduate research at Cambridge, Dr Catchpole gained a doctorate at Berkeley in 1934 and progressed over the years via lectureships at Harvard and Yale to hold three professorships – Professor of Pathology and Professor of Histology at the University of Illinois and Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Rush University, Chicago.  He toured extensively with his young wife after the Second World War – never failing to visit his Norfolk home and family on his visits to England.  His many friends on this side of the Atlantic included, in the early days, Lord and Lady Nuffield.  When Lady Nuffield found herself in America at the outbreak of war in 1939 he took charge of her welfare until she was able to return (under the name of Mrs. Morris) to England.

Dr Catchpole continued lecturing until he was 90, held a driving licence at the age of 95, and was writing papers for learned journals up until the time of his death. He remembered King Edward VII’s visit to the city in 1910, the announcement of hostilities at the beginning of the First World War (mistaking, aged eight, “Austria” in a newspaper headline for “Australia”), the Armistice in 1918 when he walked three miles to the City centre to listen to the bells of St. Peter Mancroft ringing out and, as a sixth-former, the Royal visit when King George V drove along Eaton Road and got out of his car to receive the cheers of the Headmaster, staff and boys of the school. 


THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF                                EAST ANGLIAN LIFE


One response

  1. […] large adjoining car park. A fleet of sailing dinghies is based on the broad. See my other blogs on Whitlingham  & Trowse to learn more about this corner of […]


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