Heydon has a timeless quality. The whole village has belonged to the Bulwer-Long family since 1640, and at Heydon House they still live. Although built on a smaller scale than nearby Blickling Hall, it is reminiscent of that National Trust property. Heydon House is slightly older, being built in the Elizabethan period, whereas Blickling is a Jacobean mansion. A photo of the village from a hundred years ago shows it looking exactly the same as it does today. I think an ornate brick roof on the well (as seen it above painting) is the greatest alteration in the last 150 years! Although this covering is a comparatively recent addition, that was built in 1887, a well is in itself an archaic part of country life. We all rely on mains water today, but every country dweller needed a well until the middle part of the last century.
On St George’s Day in 2006 the village was holding an early summer fête on the green. There was a barbecue and games, and the centre-piece of the festivities was a tug-of-war competition. There was also a meeting of Morris Minor owners with their cars parked around the common. Our family were there, and in the position of master of ceremonies the tug-of-war teams was David Barratt. I had first come across the Barratt brothers nearly 50 years before, when I arrived as a new boarder at Gresham’s School in Holt, a bewildered little ten-year-old. I had not clapped eyes on Dave for over 40 years, but he was instantly recognizable. His brother Charles lives in Heydon, so it was not particularly strange to find his brother there. David Barratt has run the family firm of car dealers – Duff Morgan, currently handling Citroen sales in Norwich– for many years. Charles, his younger brother, is Chairman of Barratt and Cooke the Norwich stockbrokers.
You can walk through the park of Heydon Hall to the Holt road (the B 1149). We would go there more often, but the presence of livestock means that dogs must be kept on their leads, and our Wesley likes to run free. The entrance gateway to the Park may also be seen in the picture, just beyond the church of St Peter and St Paul. My wife and I attended a choral recital in the church a few years ago given by the Crickets, a choir of Gresham’s School. (A grasshopper, or cricket, was the crest of the Gresham family and therefore of the school.) The choir has changed – improved too – since my days at the boys-only school; then of course it was a male voice choir, but is now for mixed voices because the school is co-educational.
Heydon village is down a short cul-de-sac and isn’t on the way to anywhere else; but although it is small and on a dead-end road, it is a magnet for tourists. It has a fine old pub, the Earle Arms, and a coffee shop. At the time of the tug-of-war competition and until 2007 there was still a blacksmith’s forge in Heydon; it belonged to Jack Barber, who worked there for 64 years. Blacksmiths’ forges were once a common sight in the countryside, but are now increasingly rare. It just shows how slowly things have changed in Heydon that it retained a smithy until recent years. When the forge closed and items were auctioned off the pride of place went to the life-sized sculpture of a horse and foal, made out of old horseshoes that had accumulated over the years. The blacksmith’s premises later reopened as a bakery and confectionery shop.
Jack Barber was not kept fully employed in shoeing horses, and during the summer he also ran trips in a horse-drawn carriage from The Feathers Hotel in Holt (the nearest town, some five miles away from Heydon) to the North Norfolk Railway station in the town.