Cowslips, Primroses and Bundles of Roses

Location :

Where did you grow up – where were you born?


Whereabouts is that?

Just outside Norwich on the Barford Road.

And you said that was the countryside?

Well it is the country.

Still the countryside? What did your parents do?

Father worked on the farm. A farmworker all his life.

What kind of jobs did he do on the farm?

Oh, milking and all the rest of it. Dairy work. Hedge trimming and all sorts of things.

How long did you live there for?

We had a little cottage. That’s still there. When my son took me round a year ago for a ride round, when I said I would like to go back. That’s still there, but they’ve painted the woodwork all green. That is right near the shoe man’s shop – you know, the blacksmith’s shop, and the pub was on the corner.

Is the blacksmith’s still there?

There was a pub on the corner next to the house.

Do you remember what the pub was called?

Yeah, the Queen’s Head. Sorry, King’s Head.

What do you remember about going to school?

Well I only went to Wramplingham School with my cousin M. for a year and then my father changed his job and went to the next farm up in the next village, Carleton Forehoe, that’s where we all grew up.

How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Three brothers. No sisters.

Three brothers! I’ve got one brother …

Took a bit of doing, to cope with the three of them

Were they all older than you?

No, I was the eldest. They didn’t like that. But they’re all gone now.

How old were you when you left school?

Oh, I was fourteen in the April and we left school the end of July, middle of July, the harvest. So I was fourteen and two or three months.

Then you went straight to work?


What was your first job?

Well, Lady R. from the Old Hall came around to the school for one day and somebody told her that there was a girl who would go and work in the kitchens. She used to go and get her own maids to wherever she felt like it. And mother went across the meadow. Father say, “Don’t forget to curtsey”. So, I didn’t know nothing about curtseying, then. But she was a lovely old lady. I really did like her. Funnily enough I never heard any of the other girls at the Hall say so. Neither the cook, the housemaids, parlour maids, even the lady’s maid never used to say so. I never heard one of them say it. “Do yew, do yew?” – when I would say “oh, I do like her.” I used to listen for her coming in the morning through the passage to the kitchen to give the cook the orders. When I knew she was coming, I’d bolt out of the way. One morning I got under the table ‘cos I was scrubbing the floor. That was a great old table and I couldn’t move it so I had to scrub underneath it every morning of the week. After cleaning, blackleading, the steel bar on the stove, we did the floor. Proper old scrubber I was. (Laughs).

Did you have to do that ..

Every morning. It had to be done every morning and I’d hear her dress – she used to have a black, sort of sateen dress, skirts trailed on the floor, and she’d come through there and everybody’d bolt out of her way. One day I pulled myself back and I didn’t hear her coming, she just come to the door and pushed it open. I pushed myself back to get up and I said, “I’m sorry Madam, I didn’t know you were on the way.” “Don’t worry, don’t worry” she said, “carry on.” She really was so nice to me.

That’s fantastic. Were other people scared of her?

I don’t know if they were scared of her. They never used to talk … you know, sort of be afraid to talk in front of her. I don’t know how they managed, I’m sure I don’t. ‘Cos they used to make me angry. She was a kind old lady and I’d always been used to kindness. I’d never been used to people who didn’t talk, you know.

You respected her as your boss, but …

She really was my friend, as well as a boss.

That’s wonderful.

Once a month we used to have to go down into her little study and sign a book for our money and I used to have a pound note once a month. And I had to sign my name on the paper. And she’d put the book away in the drawer and get somebody else’s out …

So she did all that herself?

Yes, she used to do all that work herself.

So it was just her, she owned the house?

Well, she owned the Hall. Her husband was Mr R. of Ipswich. They invented them there. And this was where they lived. They had a son, C. and Lady G. who used to live in a big house at Cromer, her daughter. And Lady H. Two girls, a boy, two women.

When you worked there was only her living in the Hall by herself, she was the only person living there?

There was only herself and the staff living there. Of course that’s recently a girls school, children’s school. That’s a high school there, a private school.

When did that happen? When did it become a school? Was that before the war, that it became a …

Oh yes, before the second world war as we know it. Of course I was married then … But I did like being there.

How many years were you there for?

Oh, she wouldn’t keep teenagers, you know, small girls, when she had to pay insurance for them. You didn’t have to pay insurance for anyone until they were 16. So by the time I was 16, I think I left in the middle of March, I can’t remember, but I think it was the middle of March before my birthday in April. I did miss being there.

I bet you were sad to leave.

Yes, that was a nice place, I like it. I like going that way so that I can go past it.

What kind of jobs were they? You were scrubbing, you scrubbed the floor, and you had to scrub the fireplace. What other kinds of jobs did you do there? Do you remember any other things?

Yeah. Well, they called me a between maid. So when the cook wanted me, the housemaid wanted me, the parlour maid wanted me, whoever shouted for me I had to go, whether I was finished or whether I hadn’t. I had to go back and finish it if I got the chance.

What did you do when you left there? Where did you go to when you left Hethersett Hall.

Oh, Aylsham Road. In service, Mr and Mrs P. and their daughter I. (…) She weren’t a bad person, I used to have to take her out and do, as well as look after the house and what not.

Do you know what her problem was? Do you know what condition she had?

I don’t know what that was called, I never bothered about that. You don’t then, years ago. We didn’t know about all these fancy names the medical people give them these days.

But you had to look after her and the house?

I did all the cleaning and that. That’s all. Mrs P. weren’t well enough to do it. And her husband, he was a nice fellow. I liked him, I got on alright with him. He was a Baptist minister.

Where was his church?

Aylsham Road, next to the school.

That was his house?

His own house.

Did you have your own rooms?

Yeah, I had my own bedroom and what not.

You lived very much with the family?

I did. Well, I had to do the cooking and everything. At that age, an’ all, I didn’t know nothin’ much about cooking.

What was it like cooking your first meal – do you remember what it was like to cook for a family and you’d never …

Oh, they were nice people. The visitors were nice people, too. All the relations were nice people. They had a visitor come from somewhere up in Yorkshire. Every year he used to come, sometimes twice a year. There used to visit … and his name was B. [with an unusual spelling] and that’s why my first son was named B. [spelt the same way]. People often wondered why I did that, because they said that wasn’t English. That was English as far as I could see. I wasn’t going to change it because he was so kind. He was so kind to her, the woman in the house, very kind to her.

A nice thing to do in honour of somebody that you liked. To name your child after them. Someone kind.

They were very, very nice and the second place I went to from there was — Earlham Road, right opposite the Cemetery gates, the end house in the row. And that was Mr and Mrs C. H. B. He was one of the officials at the Norwich Union and her name was A. I didn’t like “A”, so when my daughter was born I was determined I wasn’t going to name her after Mrs B. But that didn’t go down very well, so I had to change it in the finish. I wanted her M. A., but no, that didn’t suit my in-laws. But no, that didn’t suit my in-laws so rather than kick up a row I just changed it and I had to call it after the old woman. Sorry!

What happened, you didn’t like her …

I didn’t get on very well with her. She was very kind and all the rest of it, but she was bossy.


Because my husband was the eldest of the three boys – she had three sons – I suppose she thought somebody was going to run off with him or something!

Your husband? Who was your husband?

C. Her eldest son was my husband. She was quite all right until after we got married but as soon as she knew I was going to have a child then she wanted to be there because she was a carer … not a carer, they didn’t call them that then, I don’t know what they called them then, but they used to go out and look after people when the children were born. Instead of the District Nurse. She used to go with the doctor.

So, how did you meet your husband then?

I was in service for a little while in village at the farm and I met C. when we went on an outing to the seaside. His mother organized an outing, a busload, and I was on the bus with him. Sat on the bus next seat to him and we got talking and that was how it happened.

And then you spent the day at the seaside and how did you end up getting married after that, you just kept in contact…

Oh a couple of years afterwards and we got married. Mother was ill, so I couldn’t get married in the village, so I had to have it at Bracon Ash instead. And of course that pleased her ladyship, she was “lady of the manor” then. Doing everything she wanted, having everything her way. ‘Cos her husband was a baker, he used o make iced cakes and all sorts of things. She said, well, she said, “G. will be able to make your wedding cake for you.” I say, “I don’t care if I don’t have one. I’m not all that struck on wedding cake anyhow.”

So when you were married, you left your job on Earlham Road, was that the job that you were doing ..?

That was the job I had when I got married. ‘Cos they come to the wedding. They just come to the wedding, the church, and back home again. They didn’t come to the house.

So you left there, stopped working there. Did you work again after you were married?

Well, not till well after the children had all started school. On newspaper round, and what not. All sorts of things.

What you did?

Yeah. I looked after all the villages round about with the newspaper deliveries.

What villages were they?

Mulbarton, where I lived. Bracon Ash, Hethel, East Carleton, Swardeston, Swainsthorpe.

I suppose that worked out quite well. You could do that when the children were at school.

Well, I could do it when I wanted to do it. I could go off once the children had gone to school and I knew they were alright. If anything happened and they were ill or anything like that I’d just chuck the job, and wouldn’t go. They’d have to get a man, someone else to do it to get them out again.

What did your husband do?

Oh he was a rose grower. He used to work in Allen’s roses.

A rose grower. That sounds like a good job. Where was that?

Bracon Ash, same village where we used to live next to.

So did they have big fields of roses? That must have looked beautiful. I hope you got plenty of roses.

Oh, I used to get … he used to bring bundles home at night to cut the buds off. He’d bring the head tops (like that) and put them in the dish till they’d start to fall to pieces and I’d have to throw them out. Didn’t like to have to throw them out.

One of the things we are also quite interested in is what people think about this area. This Mile Cross area. Their memories of living here and how it’s changed over the years.

Well, I can’t say nothing much about that can I?

So you only moved here …

Apart from being in service when I was a teenager. On the bottom of Aylsham Road, where Aylsham and Drayton Road join like that and the horse trough – water trough – go across the front. There used to a big concrete trough of water there where the horses used to go and drink from, where the two roads joined. St Augustine’s was the last little bit towards the crossroads.

There was a big water trough for the horses?

Yeah, concrete. A water trough.

So how long have you lived here?

I don’t know, I didn’t come here till seven years ago. I didn’t know there was a place like this here till I broke my leg. I had to come here and give up being at home. That was the worst day’s work I ever done I reckon when I bust my leg and had to come away from home. Didn’t like leaving my home. You can’t do nothing about it anyhow.

How did you break your leg?

I just fell down one day when I went to the sideboard to get something out of a dish and I just keeled over. And that was that. Didn’t even know I was going on the floor till I fell down. This leg fell up underneath me and I went down on the floor.

So you were sad to leave your home. How long had you lived in that house that you left?

We had a bungalow then. My husband was an invalid anyhow, so he had to have a bungalow, he couldn’t have a house. They built a bungalow for him, on the corner. That’s still there, anyhow.

Where is that?

Mulbarton. Yes, Hanover Gardens, up that end.

The Council built him a bungalow?

Yeah, that was built according to how he wanted it. They had to in a way. So as he could get about. They built a ramp at the front so that he could get a wheelchair up the slope and in or down on his own.

How did he become an invalid?

He just had a stroke one day. Lost his voice and everything. All he could do was nod his head, or shake it and that was that.

What age was he?

He was born 1910 anyhow. I can’t remember how old he was then. I know my daughter was the youngest of the three and she went to Australia two years afterwards. I think that’s right.

When you were growing up in the countryside, do you have any memories about your childhood, growing up with your brothers?

Oh, in the cottage on the farm. Rushing through the meadows with cowslips all over the place, primroses, Fen Meadow. They used to be lovely, with the reeds growing up taller than I was. I used to love going out on Sundays with Mother. We used to go for a walk round the Meadow as we called it, Sundays. We’d go out one way down through the meadows, along the bottom and all alongside the river and up through the other meadows round through the back way. That used to be lovely on Sundays. Wintertime when that weren’t so good we never used to like it much. We were shut in.

She made you do it winter and summer.

That was lovely. We had a big garden, Dad used to grow everything he could think of.

Did you have lots of friends? Were there other children in the village that you were friends with?

There was plenty of other children around. Not as many there was there was at Barnham Broom but I still keep in touch with one of the Barnham Broom ones anyway.

What sort of things did you get up to when you were children? Did you all meet in the village?

We used to have parties Christmas time. Someone from Chamberlins of Norwich used to bring parcels. I suppose that was a group in the village that organized it. He used to come out dressed up as Father Christmas and hand the presents out to the youngsters. Call out the names and went up on the stage in the village hall … which is still there I see the last time I went that way. That’s still there. The old village hall in the wood.

What village was that?

Barnham Broom. That’s famous now because of the golf course. There never was before, nothing like that, only farms.

But there’s still a lot of the same … the village hall is still there.

Yes, that’s still there. It’s been added to anyway, so has the school.

Do you like going up there to visit it? Does it bring back lots of good memories when you go up there?

Yeah, but that bring the tears to my eyes. I can’t help it. Every time I see R. turn the car wheel to go that way I think, oh no don’t go down there no more. But he still goes. I don’t know why he like to go. I suppose he think I like it. But that’s an outing anyhow, so I don’t mind too much.

Are there any other memories you’d like to talk about? Anything else you did in your life that you’d …

Well, apart from later years, when I went to Canada. Australia, where my daughter is. We used to go there two or three times … I had half a dozen trips out there.

To Australia?

Oh yes, stayed there for a month or more. That is lovely. Canada was the same. It was a different area – corn fields and all the rest of it. Saskatchewan.

Did your daughter live in Canada as well?

No, she live in Australia. My cousin lived in Canada. I still write to all of them.

That’s fantastic, that’s really good. I think we got some really nice stuff. It’s 26th March 2010.

That don’t seem possible to me it’s the end of March. Three months this year gone, already. We’ve had summer weather out here, some days.

It’s been beautiful this morning. The sun’s gone in a bit now.

No frost, no nothing. They say you’d change your tune if you were outside ‘cos that’s cold.

You should get outside, it’s very mild. You’ve got the window open actually …

I’d rather be outside than shut up in here.

I know, I like being outside. I suppose growing up in the countryside you’re used to being outside a lot. It’s really nice weather at the moment, a bit cold last night.

Yeah, I expect that is now, I seen people going by with their coats turned up, you know, hoods and gloves on, you can tell within a little that’s cold.

Yeah, it’s a little while to go yet before it’s actually summer, you wouldn’t want to go out without a coat on.

There’s a lot of backwards and forwards here, because it’s like a crossroads at the back here. Children going backwards and forwards to school, mothers taking children out in prams to go to the shops, whichever way they come, so there’s generally somebody going by.

It’s quite a busy community, isn’t it.

I’m itching for these trees to come out into leaf again. I don’t like ’em wintertime. They’re beautiful when they come out in summer. Great big rosettes of flowers on ‘em.

What kind of trees are they?

They’re foreign – thorbus.


They have big clusters of leaves up the stems, then a rosette like an elder flower raised up on the ends. Some of the bushes look like a great big rose tree, covered with little roses.

You’ve got like a wall …

Can’t see much of people, dogs you see coming into the garden and out and that’s about all. Or some of the little kids climbing through the rails, coming across the grass and out the other side. I don’t mind that anyhow, some don’t like it, but I don’t mind it. I like to see ‘em. The little tots.

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