EASTON lies just to the east of Weston (naturally enough) and to the west of the Norfolk Showground, which has been in the adjoining village of Costessey since the early 1950s. My grandfather, William Mason (1884 – 1945), was born in Easton. His mother, my great grandmother Rebecca Buxton was also born in the parish. In the 1861 census my Great Grandmother, the same Rebecca was 4, having been born in 1857. Of her elder siblings William (16) was a groom, Sarah (10) and Elizabeth (6) were scholars, but Charles (aged 8) was already an agricultural labourer. James, her youngest brother was just 8 months old. He was the most successful of the family, joining the police and ending up as a Detective Sergeant in London. He had retired by the age of 50 as was living with his family in Romford. In 1861 the baby boy was living with his family in Easton at the Cottages at Upper Barn; I wonder where that was? Rebecca’s father, also called James Buxton (my great great grandfather) was born in Easton in 1811. His mother, Sarah, was born in 1771 and in 1841 she was living with her son James who married Sarah Coe in 1843. John Buxton, parson Woodforde’s curate’s ‘man’ married a servant girl in the late eighteenth century. As Easton is in the next parish I wonder if he was a relation of mine- perhaps even the husband of Sarah herself? The date fits.
The main village street used to be on the A47, but this has been a quiet lane since the building of the Norwich Southern Bypass. Easton is namely for the REMBRANDT fish and chip restaurant which I have been to with my family, but I don’t see what is so special about it. It seems just a fish and chip shop to me.
My first memories of Easton concern the time in the 1950s when my sister’s friend Ann Jolley lived there. I was very small at the time, but I thought Ann was very special; I called her the Queen Mouse! Her father, the Reverend Frank Jolley was the Vicar of Easton at that time, although he later moved to Thorpe St Andrew parish. It was at Thorpe that Ann was married (to John Spriggs) in 1962. In the time he was at Easton he occupied the Rectory which is now the Diocesan House for Norwich. It is a large house. Before that Frank Jolley was the Rector of Taverham in the days when that Rectory too was a large house next to the church. All these buildings are now the former Rectories going by the term of Old Rectory. The Revd Paul Seabrook of Taverham lives in a smaller property nearby. It is not that long ago – in my lifetime – that the clergy inhabited the large houses that had been built in the 18th and 19th centuries when the clergy had retinues of servants. Not that all were well off, but it was common for men with large private incomes to go into the church. The Bishop’s Palace where the bishop lived in the Close in Norwich was just that; palatial, but the bishops were themselves from rich families. It is now used as classrooms and a lecture theatre for Norwich School.
A more recent event at Easton concerns the opening of A National Memorial Garden for the Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps in 2008 at Easton College. This was inaugurated by a member of the Bacon family (which includes the premier baronets in England). Although it is no longer called an Agricultural College Easton still has an earthiness in its nature, and the garden is no exception. It is very much a working garden of fruit bushes and vegetables, not flowers. This is of course only right, as the wartime raison d’etre for the WLA was the need for food. My wife Molly’s mother was a member of the WLA during the war. Subjects that can be studied today at Easton include dog grooming, construction, engineering, equine studies, sports and leisure as well as agriculture.
My picture shows the Easton Dog in a view taken over a hundred years ago. On the main road from Norwich to Lynn it did a good trade, but before the growth of the internal combustion engine the road was peaceful. The Pub is now a restaurant and it has taken the rather exotic sounding name of Chez Denis, but the building is still recognisably the Easton Dog; at least it is still used as a place of refreshment. It is an eighteenth century building that was on Parson James Woodforde’s way home from Norwich, although alternatively he could go home through Costessey. According to his diary Captain William Woodforde RN, his adventurous nephew, was for a time staying at Weston. He got to drinking at the Easton Dog and stayed all day and all night! I don’t think the parson approved. This was in 1784, so you can tell the Dog is a venerable institution.
From 1832 until 1879 the publicans were all members of the Buxton family – undoubtedly relatives of mine – and there is a family tradition that Buxton babies were born at the Dog. So for nearly fifty years from 1832 the Easton Dog was kept by members of the Buxton family, first Henry, then by his widow Mary and finally by their son Frederick who took the pub on in 1877.