Tag Archives: history


The Fen Line runs from Cambridge through Norfolk to Kings Lynn. It passes through the Isle of Ely, now part of Cambridgeshire, though previous to 1965 it was a county in its own right. Before 1923 this line was operated by the Great Eastern Railway; from 1923 until 1947 it was part of the London North Eastern Railway and of course during BR days in was part of the Eastern Region. Now most of the Fen Line is operated by Great Northern, which runs trains from Kings Cross to Kings Lynn, although in normal times Greater Anglia trains from Liverpool Street use the line to Kings Lynn at rush hour. These times are far from normal, and this service is currently suspended. Passenger trains from Norwich to Cambridge and from Ipswich to Peterborough run over parts of the line. Likewise trains from Birmingham to Stanstead Airport use the section from Ely to Cambridge.

Diesel Multiple Unit at Dereham Station, on the way to Lynn

I have used Kings Lynn railway station, but more years ago than I like to admit. Then you could travel to Hunstanton from Kings Lynn, and through Swaffham to Dereham. These routes have long been closed, although I have myself used both these lines. This was in the late 1950s, when steam was still the main form of motive power, although (as you can see from the photograph) DMUs already took you from Dereham to Lynn. The Hunstanton line was however still steam hauled. In those days the obvious way to travel to Lynn from Norwich was by the direct train, which left Norwich Thorpe on the Cambridge line (now the Breckland Line) and at Wymondham it went north. It reversed at Dereham to continue to Kings Lynn. It was theoretically possible to continue on the Cambridge line and change at Ely, to continue to Lynn. Why anyone would want to go this round-about way is unclear. Now of course anyone who must go to Lynn from Norwich by train must use Ely Station. Before 1952 it would also have been possible to travel north to Wells and then west to Heacham and reach Lynn in that way, but the journey would have taken all day; perhaps more than a day. Before 1959 there was a completely different way to get to Lynn – a wholly unconnected railway system. This was the former M&GN. This took you from north (Cromer), east (Great Yarmouth) or south Norfolk (Norwich) through Melton Constable west to South Lynn station. This was not a quick way of going to Lynn, but at least it was via a direct train from Norwich City Station. The point of describing all these other lines into Lynn Station is to point out that I have never used the remaining line through Downham Market. I have only used the Fen Line as far as Ely.

To return to the Fen Line; Downham Market is one of the principal Stations on the Fen Line. First in importance must come Cambridge, then Kings Lynn. Ely has been a Cathedral City since the 12th century (and was a rich Abbey since Anglo-Saxon times), and it is  a major junction on the Fen Line. I have myself got on and off at Ely for the short walk into the City. Downham Market is small town but appears to be a charming one; as I have said, I have never been there. The other stops on the line are just platforms in the open Fens. Some serve substantial passenger numbers, but they are just villages. The whole of the Fen Line was electrified in 1992. I must also mention the carriage of sand from the Lexziate sand pits, which forms a regular freight traffic from Kings Lynn. This uses the stub of the line which used to go to Dereham until 1968.





Thomas Lound came from Tunstead near Stalham in North Norfolk, a few miles inland from the coast. He  was  born in 1831. He grew up to be a strapping lad. His first job was working on a farm, and as a young teenager of about fourteen years of age he would occasionally come to Norwich, driving a cart load of what were termed ‘grains’. This was malted barley, and he delivered it to the Boars Head Hotel in St Stephens Street, where they were used in the brewing of beer. This would have been in about 1845. The Boars Head had been called the Greyhound until about 1843, when it was renamed the Boars Head, referring to the arms of Richard Norgate, who had bought the pub in 1840.

Having unloaded his malt Thomas Lound was told to report to the kitchen, where the cook would give him his breakfast; so, with the kitchen staff, he sat at the long wooden table enjoying cold belly of pork with plenty of fat. He also had a crust of bread and a mug of hot tea. In those days he was still very skinny, so the fat was a welcome part of the meal. Later he became a very big man of over 6ft 6ins tall and wide with it- a veritable giant of a man. Mary Ann Giles was the name of the cook. She had been born in 1827. She came from the opposite end of the county in Attleborough. Her family had however moved to Norwich when she was not much more than an infant. Naturally she became attracted to the handsome young man from Stalham, and in the course of time they fell in love and were married. From a young age Thomas Lound had possessed a great desire to go to sea, and after their marriage he moved with his wife to Yarmouth where he took up the fisherman’s life.  They settled in a house in Blackfriars Road, where they had four children, all girls; Rhoda, Rose, Thurza and Emma.

From beginning as a simple deckhand, Thomas Lound progressed to qualify as a Master Mariner. At the time of the 1871 census he was the skipper of the smack the Cambria – you can see her (YH 444) leaving the harbour mouth at Yarmouth in the picture. She had a crew of a skipper, a mate and four hands. Thomas Lound was in his late thirties, but apart from him the oldest member of the crew was only 23, and the ‘boy’ was  just 17 years old. The members of the crew earned under a pound a week, but the master was paid according to the value of the catch. For most of the year Thomas was away at sea. He trawled the ocean for fish. Cod was then not commonly caught in the North Sea, although haddock was. The beam trawl was invented some time in the early nineteenth century; before that most fishing was done by hook and line. Trawlers did not begin to sail out of Yarmouth harbour until the fishing fleet was transferred to the river Yare from Barking on the Thames in the middle years of the nineteenth century. The trawlers were based not on the northern Yarmouth shore but from Gorleston on the Suffolk side of the river. The earlier type of fishing vessels had been the lugger, rigged with lugsails as the name indicates, where the sail extended fore of the main mast. This simple type of sail was fine for open water, but was harder to handle in confined waters such as the river Yare. ore to the point luggers were not good a handling trawl nets. Unlike the lugger, the sails of these new vessels were attached to the masts, and this allowed foresails to be hoisted. The smack Cambria  was launched on the 25 November 1869 from Messrs Smith’s yard in Yarmouth. The cost of a new trawler at the time was around £650, to include sails, rigging and a rowing tender. This was when ketch rigged trawlers such as the Cambria were the latest thing in Yarmouth, replacing the luggers to become the usual kind of trawler. These ketches had two masts, the taller of them to the for’ard. 


In the spring several smacks left Yarmouth together. They first sailed south, down English Channel and west to Ireland; then it was on to Western Scotland and eventually to Iceland. They returned down the East Coast of Scotland and the East Coast of England. Arriving home at Yarmouth in the early summer it was time for a brief period of refitting and repairs and then it was off again in the autumn to Holland, Heligoland and up the Skagerrak to the Baltic. They called at any port where there was a market for the sale of their fish, and where they could replenish their stock of ice. They returned via the North Sea and the Dogger Bank, long known to fishermen as very productive. Thomas would tell of these journeys to his eager listening grandson. The tales of the people and places and how the fish was sold in foreign parts were all fascinating to the young lad. The master mariner particularly stressed that if his grandson were ever fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark he would have a wonderful sight of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. 

He sailed a smack for 40 years and when he was too old to go to sea in 1899 he was given a job as night watchman on the Breydon viaduct, which was being built by William Marriott for the  M & G N Railway. It was under construction at the time and he was able to stay to see it completed in 1903.

[My thanks go to Karen Cross who gave me this picture of the Cambria. The information on Thomas Lound came to me through his grandson.]





Bluestone Station was closed to passengers in 1916 but remained open for freight until 1959.

My Grandfather was the sub-postmaster of Cawston in Norfolk before the First World War. It was a general store which sold all manner of goods, both comestibles and clothing. His first child (my mother) was born while he was there. This was before the motor car became a common feature in the country, and to travel about he used a pony and trap. There was a railway station at Cawston, and to get the stock he sold he collected most of it from the Great Eastern Railway station in the village. However some things came by Midland & Great Northern train, and the nearest M&GN station was Bluestone in the adjoining village of Oulton. Sometimes his daughter, aged four or five, would accompany him in the trap.

Charles Rivette’s pony and trap outside the shop.

Here is a picture of his trap outside the Post Office in the High Street. As you can see, he made a special point of selling boots. As you can see, boots were the universal footware in the countryside; even the children are wearing boots. This was a magical time in the history of England; the railways had opened up the country to the wider world. Cawston got its railway station in 1880, as part of the Great Eastern line from County School to Wroxham. In 1897 it was joined by the M&GN line to Great Yarmouth at Bluestone Station in the tiny village of Oulton, a couple of miles beyond Cawston. This station was a late comer to the railway map; the line itself had been opened relatively recently in 1883.

C. E Rivett in the uniform of the RFC

Grandfather Charles left the Post Office in 1916 to fight in the First World War, and the family moved to Wymondham for the duration. When he was de-mobbed in 1919 the family left Norfolk for the town of Wolverton in Buckinghamshire (now part of Milton Keynes). There he opened a draper’s shop – he had been trained in drapery and met his wife-to-be while working in a draper’s shop in Great Yarmouth. His wife was daughter to the baker in Stradbroke in Suffolk, and it was there that he was married in the Baptist Chapel in 1908.

The Rivett family. Far left Charles, next brother Reggie and far right sister Maud.

Charles’s eldest child Joan was born in 1910 in Cawston. She grew up to train as a State Registered Nurse in Hastings; while she was living in Sussex her family moved again, back to Norfolk (Kings Lynn). There he ran a successful draper’s, Rivetts of Lynn; this continued under his son Eric and briefly under his grandson. The business closed down in the 1970s.

The second World War was difficult time; Charles’s health was failing, but his son Eric who had been assisting him before the war was on active service in India. Charles died of a heart attack aged 65, on the wedding day of Princess Elizabeth, our current Queen. The date was 20th November 1947. My mother and father were due to visit them in Lyn  on that day with their two daughters. I was as yet un-thought of, so I never knew my grandfather. However I remember Grandma, his wife Connie, very well. She did not die until 1966 when I was seventeen years old.






In the Domesday Book the settlement was called Sniterley; that name comes from the same root as Snetisham and according to the experts it signifies a stream, though I am at a loss to say what stream that was. Certainly no stream flows out to sea at Blakeney, now or in the past. In those olden days the place we now know as a village was called a town, perhaps because this was a substantial seaport. Now the former town of Sniterley is known as the village of Blakeney. The first recorder mention of Blakeney as the name of the place was in the mid fourteenth century (i.e about 1350). A House of White Friars dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin stood to the east of the quay; the site is now the Friary Farm Caravan Park, and some medieval stonework may be found at Friary Farmhouse Holiday Home. Flints are found in abundance in the area, and that rather than wood formed the building material of the town. The White Friars or Carmelites already had an establishment in North Norfolk in Burnham Norton as well as at Lynn, Yarmouth and Norwich . The National Trust site that provides a pleasant place for visitors to relax and view the saltmarshes (that were part of the friary) does not allow dogs, so I have no intention of going there myself without Wesley.

BLAKENEY QUAY in 1957 (it is me paddling the canoe).

John and Thomas Thobury and John and Michael Storm gave 13½ acres of Sniterley to the Carmelites in 1296, and the order proceeded to erect a dwelling place for their members. Storm and Thobury were tenants of the Lord of the Manor Sir William Roos, and Sir William contributed 100 marks towards building the accommodation for the friars, with the proviso that he and his wife (Lady Maud) could stay there whenever they were in town. The site was further extended in the following years.

Blakeney harbour

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 the site of the Friary was acquired by the Crown. It was then purchased by William Rede, a mercer from London. What his connection with Blakeney was I do not know, because he transferred it to fellow mercer Sir Richard Gresham less than a month later, so obviously this was the intention from the start, though why Gresham could not have bought it in the first instance is obscure. Sir Richard Gresham was (unlike William Rede) a local man, born in nearby Holt. His son Sir John founded Gresham’s school in the family Manor House in Holt where ‘Old School House’ still houses the infants’ department.

BLAKENEY BAND (19th century).

The village of Blakeney became increasingly remote from the sea as the saltmarshes accumulated and Blakeney Point extended to the west. The nearby settlement of Cley became the major port of the eastern part of the North Norfolk coast, eclipsing Blakeney. Although in the diaries of Mary Hardy of Letheringsett (around 1800) vessels were still being laden and unladen at Blakeney, en route to places along he coast and even in Europe, Cley got an impressive Custom House. Perhaps this was because Cley lay on the river Glaven,  so it did not dry out completely twice a day as Blakeney does. As the nineteenth century wore on Blakeney became increasingly a port for fishermen rather than cargo ships. In the twentieth century it became concerned with leisure boats  using the harbour for their sailing dinghies, and ferries carrying people visiting the seals on Blakeney Point. It is again a much busier place than Cley.

At the time when the railway from Melton Constable was first mooted it was proposed to route it through Blakeney, but in the end it was taken through Holt instead. This would not have affected the village greatly for the whole line lasted less than eighty years.





The de Haviland DH 60 Gipsy Moth biplane

Like the Tiger Moth, the Gypsy Moth (lymantria dispar dispar) is a type of European flying insect. During my teenage years Gispy Moth was the name of a pioneering singlehanded circumnavigational sailing yacht. In the second quarter of the twentieth century however this name was better known as that of the de Havilland biplane, first flown on the 22nd February 1925.  The Gipsy Moth I refer to in this blog is the biplane.

Before the Second World War air travel was still a novel, and for most people, a very unusual form of transport. The vast majority of individuals never envisage taking a plane journey anywhere. It was reserved for the adventurous even more than the for rich, though you needed to be pretty wealthy too. Even for this well-off  part of population, travel was principally by train (if overland) or by ocean liner (if overseas). Almost nobody went by aeroplane; the airline Imperial Airways was formed in 1924, twenty eventful years after the Wright brothers had initiated powered flight. In 1909 Louis Blériot had been the first to fly across the English Channel. Ten years later, after the great advances brought in by the First World War, Alcock and Brown had been the first to fly across the Atlantic ocean. In these early days the only protection from the elements was a flying jacket and a pair of goggles. In 1930 Imperial Airways introduced the Handley Page Hannibal, a four engined biplane which would carry up to 24 passengers and 4 crew. Thankfully, by then they were all under cover. This plane flew air mail and the bravest travellers; first to Paris, and  services were introduced to the nearer parts of the British Empire. As you can see, the numbers were tiny, even amongst those fortunate enough to travel abroad.

MEMBERSHIP CARD of the Norfolk Gliding Club, 1935

MEMBERSHIP CARD of the Norfolk Gliding Club, 1935. Note my father was flight secretary.

My father was one of those few early aviators. He was very interested in flight and aeroplanes from a young age. In October 1934 he went to RAF Mildenhall with thousands of other spectators to witness the competitors taking off for the MacRobertson Trophy Air Race to Melborne, Australia. (RAF Mildenhall had been established in 1930.) How he go there I do not know; he did not own so much as a motorbike at the time, although her borrowed one from his employer Cecil Amey – perhaps that was how her got there. Otherwise Mildenhall was on the national rail network until 1962, so maybe he went by rail. This race was expected to take the best part of a week to accomplish. In fact the last plane to complete the course took several months to do so. The race was won by Grosvenor House, a DH88 Comet that took just under three days of flying time. This wood built twin engined plane was the predecessor of the WWII de Haviland Mosquito light bomber. Besides witnessing the start of the Great Air Race, my father was also a participant in flying. He was Flight Secretary of the Norfolk Gliding Club (see the membership card to the left), but this organisation was severely hampered in its activities by possessing no glider! However he was frequently taken up in a Gipsy Moth from Mousehold Airfield, just north of Norwich. This is now an industrial estate and the site of several retail warehouses.

A Gipsy Moth cost a modest £650 new, but this was infinitely more than my father could afford. However, his friend Henry Stringer (1901-1977), ten years his senior, owned a Gipsy Moth which he flew from Mousehold. This airfield had been established as a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome during WW1, becoming RAF Mousehold in 1918 when the Royal Air Force was created. It was used by Boulton and Paul to test fly the aeroplanes that they built not much over a mile away in their city factory. The planes were taken up St James’s Hill to Mousehold Heath on special trucks along an extension to the Norwich tramway system. The route which they took across the heath you can still trace in parts. The Norwich & Norfolk Aero Club had been formed in 1927, and Henry Stringer was an important member. He also belonged to the national organisation, The Royal Aero Club. In 1933 the airfield became the first Norwich Airport, although scheduled flights were not then a regular feature of air travel from Norfolk.

The logo of the club from 2010; they now have a glider!

Joan Rivett, later to become Frank Mason’s wife (and in due course my mother ) had trained as a nurse in Hastings, and in about 1933 was working in Brigg in Lincolnshire. There the former workhouse was being used as a cottage hospital. At the time she had fallen out with her boyfriend Frank and had returned his engagement ring to him by post. This breaking off of the engagement he was not prepared to accept, and with Henry Stringer he flew to North Lincolnshire to re-present the ring to her. My mother must have taken it back; perhaps the dramatic way it was presented to her had something to do with it.

On another occasion she was nursing on the Isle of Wight, and my father and Henry flew there from Norwich. All went well, including crossing the Solent, until it came to the landing at Shanklin air strip. In those days there were already plenty of designated airfields (no doubt more than there are today) but they were just grass fields. As Henry touched down the plane instead of coming to rest on its tail skid tipped forwards onto its nose. The wooden propellor had its tips broken off, but otherwise no damage was done to the machine or its occupants. They had to wait on the Isle of Wight while the Aero Club obtained and fitted a new propellor. My father claimed the broken one as a souvenir; this remained in our possession into my time, but it was never mounted with a barometer in the middle as my father always intended. The Moth was of course an open plane, and so you had to wrap up warm.

Marriage in 1935 and subsequent arrival of two daughters interfered with his aeronautical dreams. With the coming of war he might have revived these thoughts had he been drafted into the RAF, but as an optician he was directed into the instrument maintenance branch of the RAOC (later to become REME). By the time I arrived on the scene, ten years after war broke out, such things were distant memories. He didn’t fly again until the 1960s, when my sister was living on Guernsey and the airline age was taking off. Viscounts flew daily from Gatwick, and we used this service many times when visiting her; my father also flew on a 1940s built Dakota to Guernsey from Norwich Airport, once this facility had opened.

CLICK HERE to watch an early film of a Gipsy Moth in flight.





This list incorporates Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. I do not insist all were born in East Anglia, but they must have spent a large part of their lives there. Norfolk has the most resident writers, and if you leave out those who just studied at Cambridge (as I have) Cambridgeshire has the least. The list is short, and even including artists and musicians it would not be long. Many writers have mentioned East Anglia, but only in passing and have no real connection with the area.

HENRY RYDER HAGGARD                                                                                                                     AMELIA OPIE                                                                                                                                          GEORGE BORROW                                                                                                                               SIR THOMAS BROWNE                                                                                                                          GEORGE CRABBE                                                                                                                               STEPHEN FRY                                                                                                                                          ROBERT KETTON-CREMER                                                                                                            JULIAN OF NORWICH                                                                                                                           THOMAS PAINE                                                                                                                                      JOHN KNOWLITTLE [ARTHUR PATTESON]                                                                                       TED ELLIS                                                                                                                                                 ANNA SEWELL                                                                                                                                        JAMES WOODFORDE

JOHN SKELTON                                                                                                                           ADRIAN BELL                                                                                                                                          GWEN RAVERAT                                                                                                                                      LILIAS RYDER HAGGARD






Old postcard of Kett’s Oak between Wymondham and Hethersett

It is important to remember the political context of Kett’s Rebellion. In the year 1549 the boy king Edward VI was on the throne. He was a firm protestant (if he had been otherwise he would have had no claim to be king) and even more importantly he was surrounded by protestant advisers, principally the lord Protector Edward Seymour.

On a completely different note, across the country wealthy Lords of the Manor were increasingly enclosing local commons to graze their sheep. The Duke of Somerset (the Lord Protector) decreed these enclosures illegal, as indeed they were; when enclosure got underway in earnest in 19th century it required numerous Act of Parliament to make it all legal. The fencing of common land led to a small protest in the town of Attleborough in the summer of 1549.

The beginning of the revolt proper, the 6th of July in that year, was the occasion of the annual play in honour of St Thomas Beckett, co-patron of Wymondham Abbey in Roman Catholic times. This performance was illegal, as Henry VIII had removed Beckett from the church calendar some twelve years earlier, and plays of a Catholic nature were in any case of a dubious nature in the newly reformed church. Nevertheless the play had continued at Wymondham regardless, perhaps honouring local tradition more than from any deep theological perspective. The monastic part of the Abbey had been destroyed in the few years since Henry’s break  with Rome, and the stone reused as building material. This drastic reshaping of the town had caused resentment among the people of Wymondham. Sir John Flowedew had been instrumental in the demolition of Wymondham Abbey, and he had also erected hedges around the common land in Hethersett, so the people had at least two good reasons to attack him. Flowedew however paid the rebels off and got them instead to confront the Lord of the Manor in Wymondham.

There one Robert Kett was Lord of the Manor. Rising from humble beginnings – he was the younger son of a moderately wealthy couple from the village of Forncett. He had by all account a successful tanning business and 1549 he had purchased the Lordship of the Manor in Wymondham.  In an unexpected and fateful turn of events, Robert Kett agreed with the protestors and even put himself forward as the leader of a much more powerful and effective rising. Thus the Rebellion was born. Under the branches of a young oak tree- see the postcard that heads this post – Kett (a man in his fifties) harangued the rapidly growing crowd of Norfolk peasants. They had been brought together by economic discontent, but it had always had its religious side, and it is hard to say which was more important..

A strange transformation was taking place in the spiritual side of the protest. Although it was in origin a very conservative affair, harking back to the good old days before the Reformation, the rebels’ demands became increasingly a reaction to the slow rate of progress Protestantism was making in eastern England. In spite of modern historians stressing the reformist efforts of the Government, there was a strong feeling among the protestors that the Lord Protector was not acting quickly enough to advance the reformation. The rebels also demanded better educated clergy.

From Wymondham the rebels advanced to out skirts of Norwich. Camping first at Bowthorpe, then on the 10th July at Eaton. They crossed the river at Hellesdon and after spending Thursdy night at Drayton some 16,000 rebels made their way to Mousehold Heath.






I am a Norfolk boy, but both on my mother’s and my father’s side of the family there are deep roots in Suffolk. My maternal grandmother was born in Stradbroke, and paternal grandmother was born in Lakenheath – and I can trace my direct ancestors in Mildenhall/Lakenheath back to the first half of the seventeenth century. My family gets even more involved with the county as it continues, because a branch of my wife’s ancestors lived in Southwold! In fact we are as much Suffolkers as Norfolkers.

Rebecca Buxton, b. Norfolk


As I am sure you are aware, in the past people did not tend to move far from their native settlements. I have already mentioned Suffolk, where my ancestors ploughed a furrow that was deep rather than wide. Among my Norfolk ancestors I can trace the Buxtons (one of my paternal great grandmothers was a Buxton), who were living in Easton (a village just west of Norwich) back to middle years of eighteenth century – and probably much longer than that, but the trail goes cold after about 1770. The Rivetts (my mother’s maiden name was Rivett) were dwelling in Shipdam in central Norfolk from at least 1655 until the 20th century. Up to the coming of the railways, which among their other achievements brought new blood into the national population, marriage was almost always a local affair. Sons and daughters, their husbands and wives, had lived not far from one another all their lives; how would brides and grooms ever have met if not from a few miles away? Even events that did prise some members of the population away from home (principally wars) did not lead to inter-marriage to any noticeable degree.

Susannah Jones, born in Somerset

Charles Mason, b. Staffs

Once this immovability among the lower orders of society began to break down it was not just the people of Norfolk and Suffolk that began to mingle. A young lady who had been born in Evercrech in Somerset married a young man from Suffolk. A generation before that, when the railways were a-building, a young man from Buckinghamshire (a navvy) married a girl from Cornwall. All these people were my direct ancestors.

My wife’s ancestors too took on new blood from Scotland and Devon. It was now a true nation, not a collection of independent localities that hardly mixed from the time of their first arrival in England 1,600 year ago. It looks as if this mixture of peoples is set to continue with next generation; my son has recently got engaged to a Dutch girl, and we hope that issue may result in due course.

What has been the effect of all this miscegenation? It is really too early to say (a mere three or four generations), and the scope of the new families now encompasses the whole world. It is all a long way from the cosy East Anglia of the eighteenth century.






This is a small village in central Norfolk, just to the west of Dereham. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago the Rector of Scarning was Augustus Jessopp D.D., a prominent historian of Norfolk. He it was who arranged for the building of Scarning Village Hall which is still the centre of village life. Although he did not provide the funds (which were gifted by a rich benefactress from Wimbledon in London) this was erected in 1902. Jessopp, who was born in  Cheshunt (Hertfordshire), was previously the headmaster of what was then known as the Norwich Free Grammar School (now simply the Norwich School). Interestingly he was not the first person connected with the village to teach at the Norwich School; Vincent of Scarning is mentioned as the headmaster in 1240! Jessopp made Norfolk his adoptive home; he referred to Scarning as his arcadia. Among his works is the book of essays “The Coming of the Friars“. Among the books in my library is a copy of an eighteenth century collection of work by the Norfolk writer Richard Gardiner, perhaps better known by his nom de plume Dick Merryfellow. This book was once owned by Augustus Jesopp, whose signature appears on the flyleaf. This all makes me feel very connected with Norfolk’s history and historians.

However I wish to delve rather further into history than a mere 150 years to the time of Dr Jessopp, or even 250 years to the time of Dick Merryfellow in the eighteenth century. Over 400 years ago, in 1604, local landowner and farmer William Seckar died and left his estate towards the founding of a school in Scarning.  This was opened in 1645 after the death of William’s widow who had retained a lifetime interest in the farm. Originally the school taught the sons of villagers, but it soon developed a reputation for excellence, and drew a large following among the sons of yeomen farmers from across Norfolk. Obviously these pupils had to board, and they were kept separate from the dayboys as far as possible. Among the most notable pupils at the school was a descendant of the lawyer, writer and musician Roger North, who had purchased an estate at Rougham (West Norfolk) in 1690. (It is still the home of the North family.) Rougham is only ten miles from Scarning – too far for a day boy to travel before the advent of the motor car, but undoubtedly the best school in the vicinity. Many of these richer pupils went on to study at Cambridge.

By the early nineteenth century this widespread importance of Scarning to the yeoman community was over, but the school continued to educate the sons of the local community, at a time when most children were largely unschooled. With the introduction of schooling for all the establishment was opened up to girls as well. In 1850 the school was rebuilt in the form it still retains today. The William Seckar Trust still maintains a system of grants for educational purposes for the inhabitants of Scarning and the adjacent village of Wendling. It also recently made a grant of £150,000 towards the construction of a new classroom for the provision of pre-school arrangements for the children of Scarning, which is not covered by Council spending. This trust is still fulfilling its original purpose, while other endowments, set up in the same period (like Wymondham Grammar and the Pulham Market School), have vanished over the centuries. It is strange how much of the history of the village concerns  education.

The village used to be on the A11, but it was bypassed when the road was redirected along the railway line through Wendling station. The village is now once more a peaceful place, with a new housing estate in a separate development to the east of the village. The population is nearly 3,000 and it no longer looks merely to Dereham for employment, but to Wymondham, Norwich and central Norfolk in general. A family who are fiends of ours recently relocated to Scarning, and I was looking forward to visiting them there. However this has naturally been put on hold by the corona virus lockdown. I look forward to the return to normality, when I will enjoy a visit to Scarning.


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This line was built by local landowner Colonel George Tomline. Opening in 1877, it was operated for a couple of years very much as the Colonel’s private line – more of a toy. Orwell Park Station  (it was closed in 1959) was built principally to serve as the place for Tomline himself to board the train – it was close to his home in Nacton. Derby Road Station, next along the line, provided those living to the east side of Ipswich with a convenient way of travelling to the seaside, and the fact that the station at Felixstowe Beach was a long way from the town did not matter much to these day-trippers.

At the other end of the line, at Westfield, passengers could transfer to the Great Eastern, where the Felixstowe company’s station was adjacent to the East Suffolk line. There was a connection with the GER metals but normally no through trains ran between the two railways. On special occasions through trains would be run right into Liverpool Street station in London. The Felixstowe line remained under Tomline’s ownership for ten years, although the operation of the line was taken over by the Great Eastern Railway after a short period when Tomline tired of his direct involvement. During Tomline’s period of personal control the railway staff were all dressed like his domestic servants; the uniform of a guard for example was based on that of the butler at Nacton. George was not a shy man -one of the engines on the line was named “The Tomline”.

In 1891 under the GER a station was opened at Trimley. The current terminus of the line at Felixstowe Town Station was opened in 1898. Previously the  principal Felixstowe station was Felixstowe Beach; the line terminated at Felixstowe Pier Station which closed in 1951. The pier was in fact a jetty, now long gone and the site of Felixstowe Pier Station is now within the Port of Felixstowe area. Beach station was closed in 1967 and the buildings were eventually demolished nearly forty years later. With the possible exception of the current lockdown, the line is now more heavily used than ever; the line to the old per station is one of two railway lines into the container port (the other one diverges at Trimley). Felixstowe docks can trace their operation back to 1886, when Tomiline’s firm, the Felixstowe Pier and Railway Company, inaugurated the service. Wealthy Victorian George Tomline  believed that Felixstowe could be developed to rival the port of Harwich on the opposite bank of the Orwell and Stour estuary, and drafted infrastructure plans. In 1966 work began on the New South Quay, which opened on the 1st July on the following year. Now the Port of Felixstowe dwarf the Port of Harwich/


Landguard Container Terminal – as the new facility was called – was the UK’s first purpose-built container port. It has grown to be the largest such port in the UK. Without the traffic generated by the port the line to Felixstowe would have been closed years ago, but now the traffic on the line is almost at capacity. All the penny-pinching economy measures (like the singling of the track along most of the line) have now to be reversed at the cost of many millions of pounds; some economy measure! Eventually the line to Felixstowe will be electrified, although this a long term plan. No date has been given for this advance, but the new ” Bacon Factory” curve (on the junction with the GER mainline), which opened in 2014, was engineered to take into consideration the need for overhead power lines. This curve (of just 1.3 km) cost nearly £60 million.