THE SWING (ARNALL CAPPS)

 

The Swing; Andrew Anderson is the headless person on it; the girls I do not remember.

The Swing; Andrew Anderson is the headless person on it; who the girls I do not remember.

The swing gave me hours of fun, and it proved popular with my older relatives as well. There are pictures of both my sisters and my cousin Andrew on it. It stood in the back yard, not very far from the kitchen door. It was made for me by Arnall Capps at my Dad’s request. He was then living on the north of the road that twisted through the village of Thurton. This road was straightened in the late 1950s, one of the first such improvements to be done in the county, because it was such a dangerous bottleneck on the road to Beccles. It was Arnall’s home and his workshop too, and it included his scrap yard. After his death in 1960 his family developed the business as Thurton Foundries (still in business) but in Arnall’s day he did all sorts of metal construction, welding and fabrication as well. I went over there more than once while he was in his former premises and was very taken with his collection of cacti. I still have one cactus that he gave me almost sixty years ago, and it flowers nearly every year. The flower is a spectacular pink but each bloom only lasts a day.

Arnall's cactus, or perhaps an off-shoot.

Arnall’s cactus

When the road through Thurton was straightened Arnall Capps had a filling station built on the new main road. In 1959 it was the first commission that Andrew (he on the swing) had when he qualified as an architect. He never built another garage, specialising in church architecture. The sign reading ARNALL CAPPS in green on yellow (Norwich City F.C. colours) and done in Andrew’s distinctive medieval style lettering was a familiar sight on the Lowestoft road long after Arnall’s passing. The filling station closed a good few years ago but the forecourt is still used for displaying secondhand vans and trucks for sale. Arnall Capps bins and skip hire is still based at the garage.

According to my father Arnall Capps used to work for Gunton’s, the building and engineering equipment merchant whose shop that to be in St George’s Street by the river Wensum in Norwich. This building is now the Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts. Arnall was the victim of an industrial accident  while working there which caused him to lose the sight in one eye.  With the compensation he set up his metal fabrication business in Thurton.

The swing was all steel apart from a wooden plank which formed the seat. Consequently it was very strong and never let me down. By swinging you legs up and down you could go up about 160˚, but the construction prevented you going right over the top (360˚), which was a possibility with some swings in those days. Swinging is gentle exercise but addictive, so what it lacked in exertion it made up in time. Eventually I outgrew the swing, not in stature but in inclination. It was then passed to our neighbour’s boy Andrew MacRobert who was four or five years younger than me. Eventually he too out grew it, and the last I heard of the swing it was in the children’s playground of Caistor Hall Country Club.

ANDREW ON MY TRACTOR - another of Arnall's creations.

ANDREW ON MY TRACTOR – another of Arnall’s creations.

The swing was free-standing but with its widely splayed feet it was pretty stable. After a long session it would sometimes have tried to ‘walk’ a few inches, but mostly it just dug itself a little deeper in to the ground. It was a silvery colour having been painted with aluminium paint by Arnall Capps, and this was still as good as new when I last saw it at Caistor, but that was over fifty years ago.  My old swing must have returned to the scrap yard many years ago. I was fortunate to have a swing because the nearest children’s playground was miles away, probably behind the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, then near the city centre. I rarely went to any play area, and when I did I concentrated on the slides and roundabouts; for why would I need the swings when I already had one?

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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