The largest property in Framingham Pigot is the manor, behind a thick and tall hedge and a chestnut paling fence. This was the house of Mr Christie. I knew it as “Christie’s place” but I have only recently learnt that he was the Christie who gave his name to the famous London Auction House. The manor was built by George Henry Christie in 1863 who also rebuilt the Framingham Pigot church of St Andrew at about the same time. By then the trains gave a speedy device from Norwich to the capital.
In the 1970s the Feathers pub was just that; the only thing you could eat was a packet of plain crisps. In other words it was not the restaurant it has since become. It has also changed its name to the Old Feathers. It closed in 2009 and was boarded up for a time but has been acquired by Christie Finance and reopened. [There’s the name of Christie again!]
The most unusual thing about the Feathers in those far off days of 1970 was that it was a pub without a bar. There was what you would normally have referred to in those days as ‘the public bar’, but having no bar I suppose it must just be a public room. To the south side of the building was a quieter room which faced the afternoon sun and corresponded to the ‘saloon bar’, but this also had no bar. On entering the pub you found yourself in the public room and this was where my father and I normally sat. The buxom landlady would appear from the tap-room (where the drinks were served, not open to public), take your orders and return to the tap-room. She would return in due course with your beer mugs. In the evenings you might be served by the landlady’s husband, a slim and slight man who was obviously not the landlord, whatever his official title was. During the day he worked in Valori’s fish shop, four miles away on Timber Hill in Norwich.
Framingham Pigot extends very nearly to Poringland; the boundary runs through Poringland Wood which, confusingly enough is not in Poringland but in the Framinghams. This boundary is marked on the ground by an earthen bank which is thought to be an ancient way of denoting parishes, probably medieval in origin.
A regular afternoon walk when I was about 4 was with Margaret (Tiggy, but that name came later) the younger of my two sisters (but still 11 years older than me). It went from our home at Caistor Lane Corner in Poringland to Framingham Pigot church. Also of the party would be Daisy Chaplin who lived next door. Because the walk was rather long for my little legs we took my pram in which I sat for the return journey. I was much too old for a pram and the obvious mode of transport was a pushchair. We didn’t have one, so the pram it had to be. Those three people, my sister, Daisy and me completed human component who made up the walkers, but I must not forget that we were also accompanied by our dog Flossie.
Although the church was a convenient landmark to form the turning round place it was not the real objective of our walk. This was the paddock adjoining the church, the home of Kitty, an elderly retired grey mare, who was living out her days in Framingham Pigot. Kitty was very partial to sugar lumps, and we always took one or two with us. It may even have been three or four.
Just before reaching the church we passed a row of cottages where, a few years later Joe High began selling bedding plants from a bench by the road outside his cottage. So began Highway’s Nursery which is now a large garden centre a few hundred yards away on the Lowestoft Road. Joe High only sold out a few years ago.
Just down the road it divides in two and near the junction was an old abandoned Baptist chapel (built 1808), dilapidated but not ruinous. The chapel building has long been pulled down and if one did not know where it once used to stand you would never guess that it once was there.
In the past it had four pubs (the Feathers and the Gull remain along the main road) a shop and a blacksmiths. Three shoemakers, a butcher and in a tradition that survives (in Highway Nurseries) several market gardeners feature in the 1883 trade directory. Since I was familiar with Framingham Pigot a superior restaurant has opened in Manor Farm barns, a branch of Brasteds. In 2001 there was a population of 167 in 62 households.
A short distance beyond the church, on the other side of the road was a hollow tree. On another occasion when I had not walked all the way, travelling instead in the car with my father, he insisted on stopping and putting me inside the hollow oak. “There,” he said, “ now you can tell your grandchildren you have been inside an oak tree.” Grandchildren have yet to appear but the tree has, I am sure, vanished years ago.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA