THE VILLAGE with two names.
Lenwade is a village on the river Wensum, ten miles north west of Norwich. The parish in which the houses of Lenwade stand is known as Great Witchingham. The two names of Lenwade and Great Witchingham appear to be used almost capriciously. The road sign announcing the village reads “Lenwade (Great Witchingham)”. What is going on? The school and Post Office (now closed) are called Great Witchingham, but the mill (now housing) and the Bridge Inn are always referred to as being in Lenwade.
Maxim’s, the popular restaurant and tea room in the village, used to be another pub (the Bridge is the other one and is still going strong). This was called several names during its long spell as a pub, including the William IV and the Kings Head. Since then it was used by the Maxims as tea room. The Maxims have now sold it and the new owners again have acquired a licence, meaning it is halfway back to being a pub! But is the building in Great Witchingham or in Lenwade? Take your pick.
Lenwade used to be pronounced “Lennard” in the eighteenth century, a fact we can deduce from Parson Woodforde’s diary. Sometimes he spelt it “Leonard” and at other times Lenwade. (Woodforde used Lenwade mill on occasion for the corn he took as his tithe, although his more usual miller was the one at Trowse.) The brewer’s wife Mary Hardy, another eighteenth century diarist, also refers to Lenwade where her family spent some time at the Bridge Inn on the way from Whissonsett to Coltishall. Before the bridge was built (a long time ago) it used to have a ford on the river Wensum, which is how it got the “wade” part of its name – “wade” denoting a ford in Anglo-Saxon. The “Len” part of the name is more obscure; it may mean lane.
The village hall which used to stand next to the school has recently been pulled down. When my wife started to work as supply teacher at the school nearly 20 years ago (and which she has continued to do ever since) the village hall was used for school meals. It had been condemned years ago, but in its day it was a useful building. I am almost certain it was one of Boulton and Paul’s flat-pack structures.
Another unusual feature of Lenwade/Great Witchingham is the fact that it extends both sides of the river. A river almost always forms a parish boundary unless the course of the waterway had moved, which appears not to have happened at Lenwade; the contours of the ground do not suggest this. The industrial estate which occupies the roadside on the southerly bank of the Wensum always goes by the name of Lenwade. The Newsagents by the river also goes by the name of Lenwade News.
People tend to assume that the bit of village to the south of the A1067 is Lenwade and that Great Witchingham is to the north, where Great Witchingham church is situated. The map which appears in the EDP What On pages (to help you find venues) has Lenwade marked in this way. This is not true, and even the alternative division between east (Lenwade) and west (Great Witchingham) although closer to the facts is also misleading. It is all rather confusing.
Until 1959 Great Witchingham had a railway passenger service although the station was called Lenwade. Goods traffic remained for two more decades, Lenwade station finally closing for freight in 1983,one year after its centenary (it having opened in 1882). The reason for it lasting so much longer than most of the M &G N was of course the industrial estate. The main user of the railway was the manufacturer of reinforced concrete girders, and when that business ceased to use the railway the line was closed. A good ten years after the rails had been pulled up and the trackbed had become Marriott’s Way, a long distance footpath, I was surprised to see a complete London underground train standing in the Lenwade scrap yard. It had obviously come there by rail while the line was still open, although it would have to leave in pieces by road.