I was born in 1949 and retired from the Post Office in 2009. As you will see, my blog is about East Anglian life, mainly memories (mine and others’) but also including historical subjects such as the local history of printing, local buildings and (much earlier) the story of the Vikings. I am particularly interested in the early cult of St Edmund.
I began my blog in rather a faltering way, and if you look at the first entries you will find they contain mostly my verse. I soon discovered that I had not written enough poems to keep me going for many months and the blog morphed into one on East Anglian history. I try to include at least one illustration with every post. These are mostly photographs which I myself have taken, although obviously before the 1960s they will have been taken by others.
In 1986 I married a violinist I met through playing the double bass. My wife Molly is a teacher who still does supply and private teaching. She covers the whole age range from reception children to A level students in mathematics, and up to the age of twelve in science and English. We have two children, Peter and Polly. They both did their degrees at Sheffield University, and both graduated in 2010. Polly did her first degree in Geography, and her master’s degree in energy engineering at the University of East Anglia. She has now landed a job with the Environment Agency doing Flood Defences in Norfolk. Peter, after doing a first degree in French and Polish, in 2012 did a master’s degree in European Studies at Natolin in Warsaw. He then got a job with the European Universities Federation in Brussels. From March 2015 he was based in Bristol where he had the position of Policy Adviser to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. In October 2016 he moved to London to a new job with Universities UK as Research and Innovation Manager. This involves developing a post Brexit policy. His job involves a lot of travel across Europe.
Shortly after I retired in 2009 I had two strokes which have left me rather disabled, and I can no longer drive, or play a musical instrument. However we bought a dog in December 2011 which has made life rather more interesting, though rather a tie for Molly, who has to do all the dog walking. As for me there is always my blog to keep me interested and it is constantly introducing me to new people.
ABOUT THE MASON FAMILY
The date of this photograph was 1912, and the handsome gentleman was my grandfather William Mason. He had been apprenticed to the building trade,to a carpenter in Trowse. However he spent his life working as packing case maker for Laurence Scott who made (and still make) electrical equipment. The pay was not as good, but unlike building work it was not seasonal. This was the time when Laurence Scott were supplying (among other things) electric fans to the Titanic which was being built in Belfast when this picture was taken. The name Laurence Scott can be clearly seen on the electric motors in the pictures taken of the wreck deep below the waves. My grandfather would have seen them as they were put into packing cases for the journey to Ireland.
The girl sitting on the left of the picture is my Aunt Olive (born 1909) and the baby is my father, Frank (born 1911). The lady sitting is Nanny, my grandmother Emily (née Peachey) whom I remember well. One of Emily’s younger sisters, Beatrice Peachey, was staying at Carlyle Road when the census enumerator called in the spring; she was working as a bookmaker’s assistant according to this record. It was a rather racy occupation by the family’s standards, but quite in keeping with Aunt Beat’s nature. However it is the Mason side of the family which I am concerned with here.
The earliest members of the Mason family that I have any record of are John and his wife Betty. The information about them is very sparse. They would have been born in the last decade of the 18th century and they were living in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire when their son, my great-great-grandfather, was born. He was my namesake, Joseph Mason, and he was born in the year of the Battle of Waterloo, 1815. The Mason family comes not from Norfolk at all, but Staffordshire, and about the only connection with this corner of the county is the Stafford Knot, the symbol used by the Earls of Stafford who lived in Costessey, just outside Norwich. By the middle of the 19th century Joseph was working as a tailor and living in the village of Tittensor near Stone. His partner was Ellen Frost and the couple were married in 1841. They had eight children.
Joseph’s last child Charles was my great-grandfather and he was born in Tittensor on October the 8th 1857. Charles Mason’s Staffordshire accent was quite wrongly identified as a Yorkshire one by his friends in Norfolk, and they gave the nickname of “Yorkie”. Another name he went by was “Lorst” on account of his cry when on one occasion he became lost in a Norfolk wood. He came to Norfolk in his early 20s to marry Rebecca Buxton who he had met when she was in service in Staffordshire. Her home was in Easton a few miles west of Norwich on the main road to East Dereham. Charles had begun his working life aged about 12 in Milwich, Staffordshire, as a domestic servant. Immediately before moving to Norfolk he had been working with horses at Trentham Gardens, the Duke of Sutherland’s home, although I do not know if he was actually working for the Duke.
Charles Mason married Rebecca Buxton of Easton on the 17th June 1879. They moved about a lot in their early years as a married couple; their first child James (known as Charlie) was born in 1880 at Honingham, the village next to Easton, but within months Rebecca and her 10 month old son were living with her mother and step father Samuel Stone in Easton, while Charles was working as a kennelman in Kent. Rebecca’s father James Buxton, an agricultural labourer, had died ten years before in 1870 and her mother had remarried in 1873. Charles’s father had also died in 1870, and his mother in 1872. He was already an orphan when he married.
The family was soon on the move again because in 1883 their daughter Ellen was born in Northamptonshire. The family eventually set up home in Russell Terrace, White Horse Lane in Trowse. By then Charles had got a job with Colman’s the mustard makers. Family tradition has it that he was employed as a coachman at Crown Point, the Colman family’s estate in Trowse, but the 1911 census has him down in the less glamorous profession of working with cart horses, not coach horses, as a carter at the mustard works in Carrow.
My great -uncle Charlie was a starch maker for Colmans and lived in Cozens Road in near the factory in Carrow. His younger brother, William Mason, my grandfather, was born on the 25th of October 1884 in Easton. He was born in the pub the Easton Dog which had been in the hands of relatives of his mother. It may be that in the cramped quarters where his mother was living this was a more suitable place to give birth. He was only 10 when his mother died. He had six siblings, two older and four younger. In May of 1892 his mother had gone through a difficult delivery of twins, John and Joseph. The two sons died within weeks. Rebecca their mother died on the 12th January 1895. The parson of Trowse who conducted Rebecca’s funeral dropped his prayer-book into the grave and young William had to go in and retrieve it for him. What an awful experience for the youngster.
It must have been a difficult time for Charles too, having a young family of five to bring up on his own. He had to employ a housekeeper and within two months he had married her; is it rather cynical to point out that a wife, unlike a housekeeper, does not have to be paid? The woman he married had been born in Howe and brought up in Shotesham. Her mother had also died when she was quite young. She already had a young illegitimate son of nearly four (by an unknown father) when she married Charlesin 1895. Charles went on to have another five children by his second wife Alice née Farrow. She too died relative young in her 50s in 1921, but he lived to be over 80 years old.
Despite the trials of raising a large family on a meagre carter’s wage he did buy William his beloved violin. This was bought for the young lad on condition that he never played it in a pub. I don’t think this was a hard stipulation for my grandfather to observe, but why my great-grandfather insisted on it I do not know. Apparently he himself had nothing against pubs and was a frequently in one himself (no doubt his local, the White Horse, or the Pineapple). The violin which I unfortunately sold when short of money was an early nineteenth century or late eighteenth century German model, with a low fingerboard. It began a family tradition that carried on with father who played the cello and me, who played the double bass. My grandfather William is also said to have played the three string bass, so I wonder how far back this musical tradition goes? Unlike the violin this instrument was never inherited by me. Music was a lifelong passion of my grandfather and he played violin in the Norwich Philharmonic when he was not singing tenor in the Philharmonic Choir and also bass in the Carrow Minstrels. Despite my wife’s violin playing this tradition has not passed down to our children; perhaps we should have been more strict about making them practise. Our son Peter was a good chorister and began to play the bassoon.
Among William’s sisters Millicent (Aunt Milly) spent her life as a single woman working at first in domestic service. In the 1911 census she was one of a small number of servants working for Leonard Bolingbroke, a local solicitor and the last private owner of Strangers Hall before it passed to the council who converted it to a pioneering Social History museum after the First World War. My father was astonished when he was taken to the museum; “Why, this is where my Aunt Milly used to work!” Milly later became a qualified nurse who worked for number of aristocratic families. She was even well-regarded by the Bowes-Lyon family (i.e. the Queen Mother’s relatives). In the early 1950s she was working as a nurse to the Lady Mary Colman’s first child, Sarah at Bixley Manor. Lady Mary was born into the Bowes-Lyon family. The picture to the right shows aunt Milly in her nurse’s uniform I can very faintly remember visiting her at Bixley. As a young woman in her teens Millicent was involved in amateur dramatics, and I have a photograph of her dressed as Polly Peachum from the Beggars Opera.
The last picture is of my father and grandfather when my father was a teenager of about 15. Like me my grandfather has lost his hair quite early in life; my father on the other hand kept a fine head of hair all his life, and it didn’t even turn grey except a little at the edges –silver wings. I never knew my grandfather –he was knocked off his bike and died of his injuries. He was riding home from work in October 1945 when he was in an accident with an RAF lorry on the junction of Carrow Road and Riverside Road. (This junction is no longer there, its place being taken by the Swimming Pool.) The War had only been over a matter of weeks.
I will not say much about my father Frank, as he turns up frequently in other posts in these blogs. My father began his schooling a Carrow School. This was the school for the son of employees of Carrow Works. My grandfather William never was an employee of Colman’s; he spent his whole working life employed by Laurence Scott. My grandmother had been an assistant at the Carrow works canteen at Colman’s before she was married, but this would not have counted. In those days nobody expected that women should be included as employees as they were expected to leave on marriage. Carrow School was also just for boys. Where the girls went I do not know – I wish I had aske Aunty Olive while she was alive. My father Frank was sent to Carrow School because the newly built Lakenham Council school where he should have gone was being used as a military hospital for those injured in the Great War. After the war ended he did go to Lakenham school before winning an Anguish scholarship to the City of Norwich Grammar School. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to an optician, working for the local occulists Cecil Amey. He later fell out with Amey and went to work for D. R. Grey before setting up on his own account just before the outbreak of the Second World War. He had married Joan Rivett in 1935.
There have been more generations of the Mason family. My father Frank had two daughters, Christine and Margaret before the war; Christine married a Canadian, had three sons and became a professor at Calgary University. She has two grandsons and a granddaughter. Margaret remained single and spent her career as a teacher. I married Molly Turner in 1986. My son Peter was born in 1987 and Polly was born in 1988.