It has given me great pleasure to edit and write a preface to this little book "Memories of Westwick". Miss Barbara Eldred loves the village in which she lives and has a considerable knowledge of its history. She has collected together articles by parishioners and records of events stretching back to the turn of the century. They provide us with a picture of life in the countryside in the quiet and peaceful years before motor¬cars were commonplace, when aeroplanes were a rarity and modern methods of farming lay in the future.
Westwick, as William White wrote in his "Directory of Norfolk" (1836), is a village of "sylvan undulations" and "umbrageous foliage". Even today, time seems to have stood still here compared with many English villages. To view the Hall and Church from the Norwich-North Walsham Road, with flocks of sheep grazing in the park, is to step back into the eighteenth century.
The proceeds from the sale of this book will be given to the Parish Church of St. Botolph in which the people of Westwick have worshipped since the Middle Ages. I would like to thank Barbara and all who have searched their memories and made its publication possible.
Parish Priest of Westwick
St. Botolph's Tide, 1985
Westwick, a parish of about a thousand acres, lies two and a quarter miles south of North Walsham, the nearest market town. The area is rich in historical associations and judging from flint axe-head finds and a tumulus between the Arch Farm and Waterloo Plantation, ancient Britons once lived here. The spelling in Domesday Book - WESTUUIC- means "a dairy farm" and it was probably a daughter settlement of Worstead. On the silver communion chalice, made for the church in 1567, the name is spelt WESTWECK.
The lovely church of St. Botolph, appearing above the trees, is a truly beautiful sight. In the springtime, when the churchyard is a carpet of snowdrops, primroses, daffodils and bluebells, I cannot think of any place on earth more perfect and peaceful. St. Botolph (born c620) was an East Anglian of noble, perhaps royal, birth who did much to establish the Benedictine Order in Eastern England. Sixty-four ancient churches were dedicated to him, sixteen of them in Norfolk. His feast day is June 17th.
The building is in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles and consists of a chancel, nave, aisles, south porch and tower. John Batayle, buried in the church in 1460, was a benefactor of the building and John Grundesburgh, Sr., interred here in 1473, left L9 towards the erection of the tower. This has a fine base-course, carved with the sacred heart of Jesus surrounded by the crown of thorns, an emblem of Christ's Passion. Motifs on the battlements include the letter "B" for Botolph and "W" for Westwick. In 1485 Richard Haynes gave L8 for a new bell and there were later three bells bearing the date 1624 but during repairs after a lightning strike in 1795 they were taken down and only one replaced. The entire building was restored in 1845 by J. Petre, Esq.
Walking around the exterior, a delightful epitaph to the memory of Jeremiah Cozens (d.1748) can be seen on the south wall. It is inscribed with the following well-known memento mori:
"All you that do me pass by
Remember death, for you must die.
For as you are, so once was I,
And as I am so must you be.
Therefore prepare to follow me."
Entering the church, there is a holy water stoup to the right of the door. The font (c.1500) is seen at the west end of the nave. It has an octagonal bowl with a series of flower motifs and couchant lions around the base. Over the vestry door, directly behind it, are the royal arms of Queen Victoria. At the foot
of the tower, lead plaques of 1768 and 1926 record repairs to the roof.
At the entrance to the chancel, there is a fifteenth century rood screen painted with the Apostles. The figures are as follows, with their emblems:
1. St. Jude (boat), 2. St. Simon (fish), 3. St. Matthew (halberd), 4. St. James the Great (dressed as a pilgrim), 5. St. John (cup and serpent), 6. St. Paul (sword), 7. St. Peter (keys), 8. St. Andrew (cross saltire), 9. St. Thomas (spear), 10. St. James the Less (fuller's club), 11. St. Phillip (basket of bread),
12. St. Bartholomew (flaying knife).
Parclose screens divide off the side chapels in the aisles on either side. A small stone bracket, abbutting the wall of the north chapel, may have carried a figure of the saint to whom the altar was dedicated. The Blessed Sacrament is now reserved here for tne communion of the sick and housebound. In both the north and south chapels there is a piscina where the sacred vessels were cleansed after the celebration of Mass.
The aisle windows contain roundels of painted glass given by the Revd. Henry John Coleman, Rector of Westwick and Slolev, from the proceeds of the sale of honey produced by his bees. These windows were restored in 1965 when the Revd. E.J. Fellowes-Brown was Rector. The two Victorian stained-glass windows in the chancel show Christ walking on the water (1878) and the Last Supper (1879)
There are several monuments on the north wall of the chancel which will repay special attention. They include those to the memory of John Berney (1730), Elizabeth Petre (1772) and John Berney Petre (1819) Ledger slabs in the floor record further members of the Petre family. The entrance to the vault can be seen just inside the screen. Another Petre vault, outside the porch, is now full and sealed, the last burial being that of the Hon. Ruby Alexandrina Elizabeth Petre in 1955.
The earliest church registers date from 1642 and are well-preserved. They give us a glimpse of the people, their work and how they lived. Most of them had large families and were employed on the Estate, in the Hall as servants and coachmen, in the gardens and woods and on the farms. There were shepherds, gamekeepers, carpenters, blacksmiths, bricklayers, glaziers, millers, shoemakers, toll-collectors, school- teachers and team-men for the horses.
These are some of the family names occuring again and again over the years: Baker, Bullimore, Dugdale, Dunton, Dyball, Drury, Hannant, Hewett, Hicks, Oats, Palgrave, Self, Sidell, Watling and Webster. Some of their descendants are still living in the village today.
Many illuminating details are revealed. In those days, life for most people was short with a high infant mortality rate. In October 1842, Samuel and Liza, two children of the Drury family died but their corpses were not taken into the church as there was a serious outbreak of scarlet fever in the village. The population in the 1871 Census was 211, more than double the present number. A glance at the registers for the year 1878 indicates that there were 7 funerals - three of them babies, two of young women and two of elderly parishioners. Six baptisms took place and two weddings were conducted.
Miss June Hill, Churchwarden of Westwick, recalls the harvest festivals when she was a child:
I remember the church at Harvest Festival being a miniature Royal Norfolk and Chelsea Flower Show. As a fruit farm of importance and fame, the Westwick Estate saw that the church received the best of its produce. I believe the Hall gardeners were responsible for the display of window-ledges piled high with apples and pears of every sort - certainly the fragrance was unforgettable. There were flowers too - dahlias of quite impossible size and colour grown by my uncle, Walter Pank, who was Head f Gardener to Mrs. Petre.
The tenant farmers made their contributions and there was friendly competition for the best wheat to place round the font. I remember my father and Mr. Money discussing the matter - to the indignation of my mother who thought this unseemly talk for church!
Finally, there are memories of the singing - a packed church because everyone in Westwick was concerned with farming in some way or another and for some years I imagined that the "little hills rejoicing on every side" meant us - it was later when I was in the choir that I actually read the words in the Psalm and realised that other villages were singing the same!
The Parish Church Choir met weekly at the Hall for practice and in 1925 there were 25 members. Many times families had to wait before their evening meal could be placed on the table because nobody was allowed home until the singing and words were as perfect as possible.
Mrs. Bullimore was a Sunday School teacher at Westwick Church:
Westwick Sunday school was opened in 1954 by the Revd. Philip Denham and eight little people enrolled. By 1957, numbers had risen to thirteen and by 1962, two children came from Swanton Abbot, where there was no Sunday School, and also three from Sloley.
With the help of Mr. and Mrs. Naylor, we decided to perform a Nativity Play. This proved most successful and was repeated in Sloley Church. During the years we worked hard and organised jumble sales as a result of which we were able to take the children to Yarmouth, Gorleston and Cromer.
In 1964 the children performed another Nativity Play and in 1965, they recited and mimed verses 1 - 11 of the Benedicite, ending with verse 26, "0 ye children of men, praise ye the Lord.".
After fourteen years service, I retired and the children were invited to attend Westwick Church for a family service.
Mr. Peter Eldred, Church warden of Westwick, remembers the treats at an earlier Sunday School:
One year, the older members went to Whipsnade Zoo, but being one of the younger children, I and a few more were 6
taken by Miss Juliana Petre to Sheringham Zoo. I forget the make of the car we went in, but it would be very much a vintage today if it is still around. I rode in the "dickey seat".
We ask you not to leave St. Botolph's church without a prayer for all who worship and minister here and for the countless souls who, down the centuries, have found God in this peaceful place.
O Almighty Father, who art adored by the holy angels, and yet art pleased to accept the praises of sinful men: Let thy glory fill this house of prayer, we beseech thee; and mercifully grant that all who worship thee here may be numbered at the last with those who sing the new song before thy heavenly throne. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.
THE HALL AND PARK
The pretty village is filled with many species of wild flowers, birds and animals, a joy to all who love nature and the country¬side. The stately Hall, near the churchy was built in 1704, although some additions were made later. One of the oldest houses in the village is "Moneys" - the Old Hall Farm. This was built in the late sixteenth century and is merely one wing of the original house of three wings.
The following description of the present Hall and Park is found in "EXCURSIONS IN THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK" (1818)
Westwick House, the seat of John Berney Petre,Esq. was built by John Berney, Esq. grandson of the baronet (Sir Richard Berney, Bart.), and elder brother of Richard Berney, member for Norwich, and recorder of that place for many years; whose daughter married William Petre, Esq. of Newhouse, Essex, and by her inherited the Westwick estate. His father was the younger son of a Lord Petre. The present owner of Westwick, John Berney Petre, is the only surviving son of the late William Petre, and was during the early part of his life presumptive heir to the title. Westwick House is situated within eleven miles of Norwich and three miles of North Walsham. It is deservedly esteemed one of the most delightful spots in the country. There is a handsome lodge at the entrance of the park; and the turnpike road from Norwich to North Walsham runs through it for upwards of two miles, at the termination of which are two lodges, one of them is the turnpike house. This is by far the most desirable road to Cromer. The woods are extensive and beautiful. Mr. Petre has made a carriage drive of five miles through a planatation of 500 acres, for which he has received a medal from the Society of Arts, by the late Duke of Norfolk. The variety of hills and inequality of the ground, all planted to the water's edge, have a most beautiful effect round a lake of about thirty acres. There is also a piece of water near the House, which, from the elevated situation of the place, and the nature of the soil, it was long thought impractical to obtain; but that difficulty is fully surmounted, by Mr. Petre's having made an aqueduct from the large lake abovementioned.
At a little distance from the House is an obelisk, ninety feet high, with a room at the top neatly fitted up, from whence there is a remarkably fine prospect of a large extent of sea-coast on one side; and on the other, a rich inland country as far as the eye can reach; the whole in the highest state of cultivation, and beautifully clothed with wood.
In days gone by, the gardens of the Hall were the pride of Westwick. At one time, there were seven gardeners and the Head Gardener was the well-known George Davison, noted for the daffodils and blackcurrants he created. The daffodils still bloom in the woods and the "Davison Eight" and"Westwick Choice" blackcurrants remain on the market. In the park there was once a colony of wild orchids - purple, mauve, pink and white - but these are sadly lost forever. During the 1939 - 45 War most of the park was ploughed up and used to grow food crops.
Many of the fields around were planted with luscious apples, pears, plums, strawberries, raspberries and "Westwick Cherries". All these crops were a source of extra money for the house¬wives and children when picking started. Old newspaper cuttings show that "George" always won top prizes for fruit and flowers at the Norwich Show. Some of the young gardeners lived in a small cottage in the Hall grounds which was called "The Bothy".
Mr. Leslie Peeke-Vout of Westwick has vivid memories of the fruit farm:
When I left school, I started work on Westwick Fruit Farm and remained there for fifty years. In 1929 I married and went to live in Oak Cottage where I still live today. Men's wages were 28/6d a week, overtime 7d an hour and, of course, boys wages were much less. One ounce of St. Julian tobacco could be bought for lOd.
There were 42 men, 6 boys and 8 women working for the farm when I started. Today, one man's pay for a week would be more than that of all 42 men then!
The cultivation of fruit crops required a great deal of labour. Hand-hoeing, spraying, pruning and picking were all part of the work. The corn was cut by binders drawn by horses. When the field of corn was half-cut men and boys surrounded it with sticks and guns in their hands ready to kill the rabbits which came out of the corn. The rabbits were taken home and cooked for dinner. Sugar beet crops were all pulled and chopped by hand.
In the 1939 - 45 War the Great Barn and part of the buildings of Obelisk Farm were converted into an agricultural canteen, one of the first in England. Two ladies, Mrs. Rounce and Mrs. Hipkin cooked nourishing and delicious food for the hungry men.
Mrs. D. Hook of Westwick tells us about the farm in the years before it came to an end:
My earliest memory is being allowed time off from school to help with the fruit harvest. I can remember rows and rows of blackcurrant bushes, hot sunny days and the smell of fruit. I always went home hot, tired, dirty and smelling of squashed fruit and with a terrible headache, but happy with my pocket full of tickets which I could exchange for cash on pay-day.
After I left school, I went to work in the bottling factory where the fruit was preserved. I found it very boring, popping fruit into jars all day, and longed to be outside. I then volunteered for work in the farm canteen. I worked there till it closed and then went on to the farm I can remember standing in knee-deep snow picking sprouts, cutting cabbages and gathering prunings from trees and bushes for burning. I would sit around a huge bonfire to eat my dinner and listen to the old men talk about "the good old days" - of rationing during the war and soldiers living in the Hall, or aircraft that crashed on the Estate and of soldiers' and airmen's wives working in the fields during the summer to boost their husband's wages. In the spring I helped to pick daffodils which were then packed into boxes and sent to market. They grew in the woods and under fruit trees. Red squirrels dashed about the woods, ewes played with their lambs under the fruit trees and litters of baby pigs huddled against their mothers amongst bales of straw.
I remember picking luscious black cherries, huqe red strawberries and Victoria plums. All these bushes and trees have long since been torn from the ground and burnt on bonfires or the grate. Many of the men have died or moved on to other work, leaving behind open fields now filled with cereals, potatoes and other vegetable crops. The whole landscape is changing and hedges and buildings are disappearing under the impact of modern farming. I look out across the fields and in my mind the men are back leading their horses, steering machinery or bent over a hoe, laughing, joking, teasing and even swearing when things went wrong.
On Westwick Hill there was a laundry for the Hall and great hampers of linen were brought there to be washed. Two ladies did all the work by hand and a small grassy field, hung with lines, was used as a drying ground. Mr. Peter Eldred recounts an amusing childhood incident which took place here:
We lived next door to the Westwick Hall Laundry and before the advent of modern soap powders, soft rain water was the order of the day. This was collected in large, underground cisterns. Our household was in a turmoil, awaiting the birth of my youngest sister, and I was not under very close supervision. Cutlery and table-knives being close at hand, I dragged a tray of them to where the cistern lids had been left open. Toads and frogs frequented the area and became my target. I used every knife and fork available as spears! I don't recall hitting any of them but there was quite a hue and cry for the missing articles at lunchtime!
In the last century, two brown bears were kept in the grounds but during a gale a tree crashed into their cage and they escaped. The poor animals had to be shot but their bodies were stuffed and given to Norwich Castle Museum. Mr. Eldred writes about some of his animals:
Once we had a pet owl and much time was spent catching mice and small animals for it to eat. Afterwards, I often used to think it would be easier for it to catch its own supper! We had a pony named "Whit" and when the roads were slippery and Whit pulled the trap, his knees were protected by leather straps tied over the kneecaps.
My grandmother, who lived next door to us, used to keep ducks which she penned and fattened for Christmas. Can you imagine a young boy coming home from school, I suppose I was about six years old, and finding all the ducks flat on their backs, staring at the sky? I ran indoors, calling out, "Mother, the ducks are all dead!" I wanted to know why their eyes were all open. Apparently, my grandmother had made some rhubarb wine and tipped the residue into the duck's feeding pail. Far from being dead, they were all blind drunk!
Celebrations were held in the Park for the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on August 13th, 1902. The day was marred, however, because while helping to re-load a cannon which was being fired during the festivities, a young man, David Hewett, was accidentally killed.
A Public Elementary School was erected in 1866 by Captain Petre with places for fifty children. An old photograph, taken about 1894, shows that there were then 35 pupils and two teachers. Miss Ivy Critoph of Swanton Abbott can still remember the year 1903 when Miss Betty Green was headmistress:
She was followed by Miss Cottrell. There was another teacher, Miss May Watts. She married a Mr. Ben Copping which quite puzzled the smaller children who had to call her Miss Watts on Friday and Mrs. Copping on Monday morning!
The Revd. Conrad Banks was Rector of Westwick before World War 1 and one morning each week he came to the school to teach Scripture. We all looked forward to his visits as he made the stories seem so real. On other mornings we learnt psalms and long chapters from the Bible, which we repeated rather like we did the multiplication tables. At the outbreak of the war the Rector became a Padre in the forces and each one of us wrote a letter to him telling him of our adventures at home and at school. You can imagine our delight when, some time later, a long letter came from him to us all. We treasured this for a long time.
A few years later, Miss Evelyn Bullimore, one of the pupils, joined the staff as a pupil teacher. In 1925 there were 26 pupils being taught by two strict but very dedicated teachers -Mrs. Chisnell and Miss Rackham - and in 1936 there were 28 pupils. Sadly the school was closed soon after the last war.
Mrs. P. Burdett of Wisbech was one of the Westwick pupils:
The school was comprised of two classes, beginning with the infants who started at five years of age. From there one progressed to the upper class and left at fourteen years of age. A coal fire heated the rooms. It was warm in the front row of desks but jolly cold at the back of the room.
We did gardening in the warmer weather and we had a gramophone which provided music for country dancing on the lawn. Singing lessons I enjoyed, but needlework on Friday afternoons was my pet aversion. Pretending to be ill did not "fool" my mother!
At Christmas we had a school party. We made Christmas puddings which were boiled in a big copper at school. St. George's Day was always remembered and on Armistice Day we all walked to church.
Sunday services, in the morning and evening, were regularly attended by all our family, mother and father being stalwart choir members. Sunday School in the afternoons was usually held in the Iron Room which was not so far for us to walk. For the Sunday School outing we went to Cromer and the choir outing each year was to Yarmouth.
The formidable sounding "Iron Room" is the corrugated iron village hall which was the centre of village life. The people made their own entertainment and very good it was too. Socials, concerts, magic lantern shows and whist drives were all held there.
The children had few toys but made their own amusements. There were hoops, tops, hopscotch, marbles and in the autumn, popguns. These were made from straight pieces of elder wood. A piece of wood, about twelve inches long, had the soft pith in the centre removed. Hazel wood was used as a stick to push down inside the tube with acorns for ammunition. When the acorns were expelled from the gun, it went off with a "pop".
Mr. Jack Petre, who has memories of his grandmother when she lived at Westwick Hall, has found some letters written to her by Westwick schoolchildren on the 31st October, 1907. There were then twentyfour children attending the school. At this time, motor cars were just beginning to make then appearance. There were only two in the district and one of' them belonged to the Hall.
All the village children attended church on Sundays and were usually well-behaved. One Sunday afternoon, however, things got out of hand. "Boys will be boys". They were shouting and daring one another to throw stones and acorns. Unfortunately, one struck the car from the Hall which was passing by. Needless to say, at school on Monday morning, all the children were questioned as to who did it. All had to write letters to Mrs. Petre to say how sorry they were and, of course, the culprit owned up to his misdeed.
The children's handwriting was very good and their names bring back fond memories of them to the people of Westwick. On leaving school some continued to live in the village and worked on the Estate. In 1914 a group of the voung men went to fight in the First World War and some of them failed to return to England and their loved ones.
We have found out who threw the stone at the motor car. I am sorry that the boys shouted when they came out of Westwick Church, and I do not remember doing anything to any motors.
I was not the boy who threw the stones and the acorns at the motor car when it was going along on the high road. And was very sorry to hear that a boy threw a stone at the motor car and marked it. I hope you will forgive them this time, and hope that they will not do it again. I was with some boys who made the noise on the park after coming out of church. I am very sorry and hope none of us will do it again.
I remain your obedient servant
I am very sorry you had complaints from the ladies or gentlemen in the motor cars about the rudeness of Westwick children. I hope never to be rude in any way to a motor car or anything which passes me. When I come out of church I walk home quietly with my mother or alone. I hope that nothing else like this will happen again. I am very glad I was not one of those who acted so rudely.
I was not the boy who insulted the people in the motors, not as far as I know. And I don't want to insult anybody. I did not throw the stone or acorns at the motor car, or get in the way, or shouted after the people in the car. I do not know who it was shouting after church because me and some more friends went another way home. I am sorry to hear the car was damaged.
I am very sorry, but I did not throw the stone or the acorns at the motor car but George Bullimore did. I will be very careful for the future. But I was with the children who shouted at the motor car but I hope it will not happen again.
The culprit, George Bullimore of Scottow, owns up: Dear Madam,
I threw a stone at a motor, and it marked whereabouts it struck. The gentleman in the motor was a magistrate. He stopped at the Arch and told Mrs. Watling what I had done; he held his hand out to me, and looked round. The colour of the motor was a dark blue. I am very sorry I done so much mischief. I will not do it again.
I remain yours respectfully,
A happier memory of schoolchildren in the Park is contributed by Mr. Eldred:
On April 30th, 1930 Miss Juliana Petre from the Hall was married in Westwick Church. The day before, the schoolchildren picked large baskets of primroses to be used as confetti. The children enjoyed picking the flowers but some were sad at the sight of them being trodden underfoot. Still, those thousands of primrose heads were just a drop in the ocean in those days as I can remember seeing great clumps of them everywhere in the surrounding countryside.
Mrs. Florrie Ferguson, who attended Westwick School nearly eighty years ago can remember the visits made by the Hon. Mrs. Petre to see how the children were progressing with their work. At Christmas a Mr. Burrows dressed up as Father Christmas and brought the children presents. Before he arrived they would sing:
"Father Christmas soon will come,
Laden well with treasures."
Mrs. Furguson recalls how one afternoon she travelled from Furze Hill, North Walsham to Westwick with Mrs. Laura Mary Petre, sitting beside her in the "Bronze Carriage", one of the Family coaches. As a small schoolchild she helped to make baby clothes for Miss Juliana Petre and for the Christening of the present Mr. Jack Petre when there was a special children's tea in the stable yard and sports in the park during the afternoon.
Standing in the Park by the Norwich Road there was a home for young children who came from London. Here they were fed and clothed and taught at the village school. On leaving school,! jobs were found for them and many of them went abroad. The buildings disappeared a long time ago but the site is marked by a small yellow rose bush which grows in the hedge nearby.
THE LAKE AND PONDS
There was once a lake in the Park and various village ponds. In 1844 a sea eagle with a wing span of 1 feet was shot over a stretch of water here. Perch Lake is a length of water surrounded by pines and pathways of rhododendrons and heather. Years ago it was one of the sources for feeding the surrounding ponds. An ingenious pattern of small ditches and waterways wound their way across fields to the engine ground where a windmill drove two Archimedian Screws, each one lifting the water supply by eleven feet as it came from Leathercoat Lane to the enormous man-made lake and finally reaching the Church and Arch Ponds.
Both these ponds were quite deep and full of fish. An elderly gentleman, still living in the village, can remember fishing from the roadside and seeing cattle wade through the water. Old prints show boats on them. The Church Pond came quite close to the churchyard wall.
Mrs. Hook writes that:
A neighbour who lived next door to us told us how when he was a young man he was sent to fetch the cows home from milking after there had been a torrential downpour for hours. When he reached the cows on the meadows off Long Common Road he could not get back owing to the depth of water, so he climbed on the back of one of the cows and she swam across carrying him as well.
Mrs. Burdett enjoyed the fishing:
Fishing was fun as long as you did not fall in the pond. Eels and roach were caught, although mother was not very keen on cooking them.
The "Captain's Pond" was constructed by John Berney, although the title is thought to refer to Captain William Varlo who married into the Petre family and took their name. There was a delightful little shooting lodge in the woods beyond the Captain's Pond. Local people called it the "Doll's House". It was built in a mossy glade of beech trees sloping down to the water's edge. Westwick once had a renowned duck decoy which is believed to have been on this pond.
As a girl, Miss Ida Watts of Worstead enjoyed the sport here:
Have you ever thought of Westwick as being a sport's centre? Well I do. Captain's Pond was where I spent one of the most enjoyable and definitely the cheapest Christmas school holidays that I ever had. I remember very well the first Christmas school holiday in World War II. Spitfires were circling overhead, the sun shone and Captain's Pond was frozen. There, at 11am each day, Miss Hilda Rump and I met to skate. Hilda brought the coffee and I supplied the rum, not to help with an extra twirl or two during our gyrations on the ice, you understand, but to help keep out the cold while we enjoyed our lunch at noon under a nearby tree. Others joined us skating, especially on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends we played a kind of hockey with anytning that looked like a hockey stick. We enjoyed this on our feet or hind-quarters according to skill. There was plenty of room for non-players to enjoy themselves too because in those days there were no platforms for anglers and nothing else in the way to trip up skaters.
The whole pond echoed with bursts of laughter, occasional thuds and shouts of "Cracks she bears. Bends she breaks" What fun! At about 3.30pm, Hilda started off on her walk back to North Walsham while I got on my bike to travel in the opposite direction.
Happy days thanks to Captain's Pond, Westwick.
The ponds have been the scene of accidents in the past. In the dip near the Captain's Pond the famous William Cooper, a North Walsham stage coachman, is said to have overturned the Pilot Coach and been killed. On January 9th, 1875 several boys went on the ponds to try the ice for skating. In the late afternoon, five fell through and although four were extricated with great difficulty, one was drowned.
In peaceful Edwardian days, the scene was transformed on Sunday afternoons when people from North Walsham and the surrounding villages took their regular walk to the ponds. They thought they were lucky indeed if they arrived in time to get a seat on the pond railings.
THE STONE CROSSES
On the northern outskirts of Westwick there is a fourteenth century cross, one of three marking the site of a battle during the Peasant's Revolt of 1381. A second stump cross in the same area is on a bank running by the Westwick Woods beside a thatched cottage. The third is on the roadside near the North Walsham waterworks. A clump of beech trees in a field, called locally the "Seven Sister" is also said to mark the site of the battle. The rising, against taxation and enforced feudal labour, was defeated by Henry Despenser, Bishop of Norwich. The local peasant's leader, Geoffrey Litester, was captured, hanged, drawn and quartered.
The Westwick Arch, formerly the entrance to the Estate, spanned the road to North Walsham. It was built in the eighteenth century, but was demolished in 1981, not without strong public protest. Old prints show that it had a toll-gate. The Road to Norwich was to the west of the Arch but was later diverted to pass through it. The Arch contained a room which could be entered through an upper window by means of a ladder. It had been unused for many years, the only inhabitants being a swarm of bees. In a paddock to the west of Arch Cottage a "Gala" used to be held for the parishes of Westwick, Swanton Abbott, Scottow and Skeyton. This event consisted of various races for children and adults. There were football matches, shooting competitions and bowling for the pig. A marquee was erected for vegetable produce, cakes, jam, needlework, rugs and knitted garments and a children's section included handwriting and collections of wild flowers. All entries were judged and prizes were awarded.
THE WOODS AND PLANTATIONS
Who could pass through the lovely Westwick Woods without being touched by their beauty? No artist's brush could capture the many shades of green, too numerous to count, and the rich mellow shades in autumn. There was much hard work to be done in the woods before the days of mechanical help. The men chopped down trees with axes and horses hauled them on drays to be carried away. Some of the smaller pieces of wood were sold for pit props and some ended up as tops for scrubbing brushes.
The Waterloo Plantation was planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th 1815 and Bunker Hill Plantation commemorates the Bunker Hill Battle in the American War of Independence on June 17th 1775. Local people called the Waterloo Plantation "The Old Woman's" but nobody seems to know who the lady was. Poaching was not an uncommon phenomenon in the woods and many stories are told about it. On one occasion, two local poachers (who shall be nameless) outwitted their pursuers. One of them hid himself in the family dog's kennel and the other popped his gun into his mother's copper which was full of boiling water!
A pair of hexagonal houses on the Norwich Road were built by John Berney and used as a toll-gate to replace the original toll-gate at Monument Cottage. The woods behind are said to be haunted by the ghost of a suicide who hanged himself.
A primrose covered path winds its way through the woods from the Hall leading to a mysterious tower - "The Obelisk". On approaching it, the surrounding brambles make one think of fairy tales like "Sleeping Beauty". Standing on a hill, it can be seen for miles around. Many tales about it have been passed down the years. The best known concerns two daughters of John Berney, Elizabeth and Julian. In 1730, Julian married a Brograve and went to live at Worstead while Elizabeth married a Petre and stayed at Westwick. The Obelisk or "Gazebo" was built for one sister to spy on the other.
The Rectory, of red brick covered with slate, was built in 1875. It is 53 feet long and 39feet wide and includes outbuildings and a coach house. The cost of LI,530 was raised from Queen Anne's Bounty. The first Rector to occupy the house was the Revd. Henry John Coleman, M.A.
A house called "Furze Hill" on the Happisburgh Road, North Waisham, has close links with Westwick. It was built by Mrs. Petre, the widow of Lieutenant-Colonel James Duff. She took the surname of her uncle, John Berney Petre, after his death. She resigned Westwick Hall to her eldest son and took her other children to Furze Hill. The Duffs were strong supporters of the Salvation Army. One of them, Mildred Duff, spent much of her time in London helping the poor and needy. There is a Mildred Duff Salvation Army Memorial Hall in North Walsham and Furze Hill was left to the Salvation Army as their eventide home for the elderly.
Westwick had no village shop or public house but it did have a Post Office. Mrs. Burdett recalls:
The Post Office was a great asset and we were able to bug chocolate there and tobacco for Dad. A horse-drawn vehicle came rtiund with provisions and also sold paraffin. The baker called and also a fish-merchant. Milk we collected warm from the cows in enamel cans from the farm nearby. The nearest shop was at Swanton Abbott which involved a cycle ride after school as Mother was always needing extra food for us all. We roamed the fields and woods freely and our parents had no fears for our safety.
The great anxiety of people in days gone by was that of growing old and unwanted. They dreaded having to end their days in the workhouse. When young, they had several children which was regarded as a form of insurance for old age. A married son or daughter could care for them in their declining years. Westwick people were generally very lucky in being able to stay in their homes undisturbed throughout their lives. Widows were given a load of firewood and a joint of meat once a year.
As in all villages, there were some eccentric characters. I can well remember hearing my mother and grandmother talking about "Lou Pestell". We children listened with fear in our hearts, hoping we would not meet her on the road, but she was quite harmless and spoke with a cultured voice. Living in the open air, her face had become tanned and weatherbeaten and she had a pair of piercing blue eyes. She often called on my grandmother at Westwick Hill who gave her a hot meal and a drink. While she was eating her food, her boots were taken off to ue oiled before she travelled on. Lou had lived with her brother who worked for the firm of Cornish and Gaymer near the North Walsham Railway Station. On one occasion he carelessly crossed the line when a train was coming through. As a result, his leg was injured and had to be amputated. It was a great shock to Lou who "changed" at this time. She vowed never to live or sleep in a house again and spent the rest of her life wandering through the countryside.
Most things alter with the passage of time and village life is no exception. Mrs. Burdett says:
The war years brought changes. Military were stationed at the Hall. The orchids, cowslips and other wild flowers disappeared when the parkland was cultivated. Aircraft thundered overhead day and night. Groups of villagers were engaged in A.R.P. work and the Home Guard. Socks and Balaclava helmets were also knitted for the troops. The quiet little village of Westwick joined with the rest of Britain in the fight for freedom.
Mrs. Hook laments the dissappearance of many of the old buildings and landmarks:
The first building I watched as it was knocked down was an old thatched house which stood at Randall Green's Corner (so named after the old gentleman who once lived there). I took my children in the pram to watch the roof collapse, the walls crumble and then the rubble piled on to lorries' and driven away, another piece of history gone for ever. Then farm sheds and barns began to disappear. A picturesque clay cottage near Money's Farm was demolished. I noticed that every beam and spar of its roof was numbered in Roman numerals. The little house consisted of one room up and one room down with a lean-to kitchen. Then the Arch, proudly astride the main road from North Walsham to Norwich was demolished and what an outcry that caused! I remember many years ago, seeing two photographs in the Eastern Daily Press of the Arch and one of the cherry orchards in full bloom. The caption was "gateway to Fairyland". I wonder if the photographer would recognise the scene now?
Many double and terraced house in the village have been modernised and made into singles. The number of families living in the village has been reduced. When our house was modernised we camped in a very old farmhouse. The children loved it there. They went back to our own home every day to feed the cats and collect vegetables from the garden. The work took nine months. It was lovely to move back to an almost new home with a bath and an indoor flush-toilet but somehow, despite the gains, the house has lost some of its character. The children were suddenly growing up, getting married and leaving home. So we moved again, back into a small terraced house, where we hope to spend many happy years, watching the scenery changing around us.
The familiar scene of horse and man, ploughing endlessly across the fields, toiling from early morning till dark, their furrows straight and even, has now gone. All that remain are the horseshoes, lovingly hung on cottage walls in tribute to those workers of the soil.
On January 21st, 1955, Westwick saw the funeral of a well-loved lady from the Hall - the Hon. Ruby Alexandrina Petre - who died at the age of 85. A long stream of mourners and employees from the Estate followed the cortege from the Hall and across the Park to the church she had loved and served so well. This was not only the passing of a lady and a friend, it was the end of an era. Many of the old faces and things have now gone. They are not forgotten, however, but are mingled in time. The spirit of Westwick still remains in the hearts and lives of those who love her.