SOME 20th CENTURY RESIDENTS OF COSTESSEY.
Frank Welch the Sub-postmaster and local photographer of Costessey was himself photographed in about 1908; it was around this time that he took the photograph of White Hart Plain outside the Post Office. You will see the double dwelling house to the left is still there. To the far left is the shop which is now the village Post Office for Old Costessey; it looks from things in the window as if it was already a shop, which it certainly was by 1914. Charles H. Dunnell (born 1872), “Cycle Engineer and Agricultural Machinist”had a wooden garage at the far right of the picture. It and the adjoining shop which was a blacksmith’s were demolished in 1925. Note the cart horse waiting outside the blacksmith’s shop for some farriery. No doubt the lad on its back had stopped the horse for the picture to be taken. The three children too are looking intently at the camera.
The only person not looking at the camera is the gentleman by the blacksmith’s shop who has just got off his bicycle and appears to be locking it up. The Post Office was known as the GPO until re-organised under Harold Wilson’s government in 1969. The organisation must be about the oldest in the country, having been established in its modern form by Charles II in 1660. The official in charge until 1969 was the Postmaster General, and his position is more than 100 years older. Since I first wrote this down the Post Office has been privatised, a development I would regret much had the email not made letters a thing of the past.
This next photograph show the sorting office of the old Post Office at Costessey in 1989; sorting mail for Old Costessey is now done at Bowthorpe. It shows Tony Cork who has his breakfast of a can of Lilt and a bag of crisps beside him. We worked in the shed which stood outside the Post Office. In those days we started work shortly after 5 a.m., and I was meant to have finished my part-time round by 9 o’ clock. It normally took me longer. There were three of us, all part timers, to do all Old Costessey except the outlying houses which were done by a van from the next village of Drayton. Tony lived in a council house in Lime Tree Avenue which was on my walk. (We always called our delivery rounds walks, although we did not walk them but used bicycles.)
A couple who lived in West Hill were Martin and Audrey Kinder. Where exactly this was I cannot now discover, but presumably it was in West End. Martin ran the Walpole Press from there where he specialised in limited editions of high quality hand-set books. He set up his press (first called the St William’s Press) before the First World War in Elm Hill in Norwich. He did the theatre programmes and playbills for Nugent Monck whose earliest productions were at the Music House in King Street. Later in 1921 Monck established the Maddermarket Theatre. Before moving to Norfolk Martin Kinder had been inspired by a visit to Nugent Monck in Dublin. There he visited the Cuala Press which had been set up in 1908 by the sisters of W. B. Yeats, where they printed his poetry. Most of the work produced at the Walpole Press at Costessey was such jobbing work as theatre tickets and Christmas cards. After running his private press for over 50 years Martin Kinder died in 1967.
My first call of the day was to Father Richard (Dick) Wilson at the Roman Catholic Church Presbytery of St Mary and St Walstan. Father Dick died in 2010 just three weeks before his 80th birthday. This was next door to the Post Office. Past the row of council houses which come next as you go up the hill was Hinshalwood Way which grew from nothing to an estate of large houses while I was their postman. This road was named after a respected local doctor. Beech Cottage stood on the corner and was occupied by two elderly spinsters Miss Lewis and Miss Bates. Judy Hines then lived in the old Coach House from where she ran her business of art gallery, and her sister Isobel Ford lived next door in Eastwood Lodge. She opened her shop in Drayton selling clothes for the larger lady about 20 years ago.
Off Lime Tree Avenue is a row of council bungalows in Green Hills Close where Harry Serruys first lived when he came to this country from his native Holland. He was a deck-hand on a Dutch freighter plying the North Sea and up the river Yare to Norwich, a job he left to work for Archie King the scrap metal merchant. He had left Costessey many years before I was a postman there; by then he was a very wealthy man. He had however been known to Barney Welch in his early days.
To call on Roy Dashwood meant a scramble up the steep hill to his house just into Folgate Lane. Mostly I could leave his post in a box on a tree near the road, but if I had something that needed signing for I had to climb up to his house, or go the long way round by his drive. He subsequently moved to Guernsey, but at the time he was still the owner of the Bell Hotel in Norwich and a number of gaming and gambling establishments in the city.
There were plenty of other people of interest in Costessey, some of whom lived on my post round. One was a very old gentleman, Mr Gibling, who had been my dentist as a small boy in the 1950s. My first visit to his surgery in Unthank Road resulted in an extraction and I can still remember the strange dreams I had under gas. He lived in a bungalow on Townhouse Road in Costessey where he retired after leaving his dental practice. Almost the last house in Townhouse Road was occupied by an old man who used to run a small factory making sausage skins – the real kind, made from pigs’ intestines – just across the river Tud. The last house of all was lived in by Damian Conway the optician. I have mentioned only a fraction of the characters who have lived in Old Costessey in the 2oth century. Perhaps one day I will return to tho subject.