from Bill Gayford
I thought that, - for the
younger generation, I would put down some memories of what went on
during W W 2 in the Colkirk area.
As I wrote in my earlier Email
I was 10 years old when war was declared, and so I was old enough to
remember a lot, but perhaps not to realise much of the nastier side
of the war.
A significant factor throughout was the number of airfields in the
area. Within a radius of 10 miles there were 10 active airfields,
and this number almost doubled if the radius was increased to 25
miles. At the end of the war there were 47 active British and
American airfields in Norfolk, so there was always a lot going on.
During the '' phoney '' war, for the first year life was fairly
normal, though food rationing was beginning to be felt. The effect
for us was not so great because, being a rural area, most people
grew vegetables and fruit in their gardens, and rabbits and game
birds did help to offset the meat rationing. Fish, which had not
been a large part of most people's diet, became more scarce, because
the fishing boats were very restricted in their activity.
After Dunkirk, and the start of the ''blitz'', German aircraft were
more active in the area and RAF West Raynham was bombed a couple of
times in daylight, and myself and family were machine gunned in the
garden by a very low flying Junkers 88. Children from the areas most
affected by the bombing started to be evacuated to the area, some
coming to stay with relatives, while others were housed with
families who had expressed a willingness to give shelter to children
being directly affected by the bombing. Boys from a London school
arrived in Fakenham, and shared the Secondary School building for an
Each set of pupils shared the school for half a day.
Much more intrusive was the period that followed, when the Germans
started to bomb by night. Because of the proximity of the
airfields, the bombers would drop flares when looking for these, and
it would be like daylight, even on the darkest of nights. One night
an 'oil bomb'' was dropped on the outskirts of the village, and B
Falconbridge told me that quite a lot of people in the village were
affected by the pungent smell of the oil, which lasted for a few
The blackout had been instituted in 1939, and so it would be very
dark during moonless periods. The Air Raid Wardens, who were older
men not called up for military service, would be out looking for
chinks of light, and woe-betide any house where light could be seen.
During this period, when the Midlands were being bombed, many of the
bombers flew in over Norfolk, and could be heard overhead. This
would mean that the air raid siren would be sounded as they
approached and the all clear would not be sounded until the bombers
had flown back over, on their way to Europe, making for some lengthy
periods of sleep deprivation.
At this time too, Norwich suffered a fairly brief but severe period
of raids, and these were clearly visible, with the glow of the
fires, searchlights, flares, gunfire and bombs exploding lighting
the night sky.
As the war progressed, the German air activity got less and the RAF
and American air activity gradually got much greater. From the end
of 1942, the American B24 Liberator bombers started to become a much
more frequent sight, as they climbed up from their bases to form up
into large formations, before setting off for targets in Europe. The
British bombers were mainly operating at night, and so were not seen
in such numbers until the middle of 1944, when they too started
bombing by day. Then large numbers of them would also be seen as
they flew south from their bases in the Midlands and Lincolnshire.
It will be difficult for you to visualise literally hundreds of
bombers heading off to targets in Europe. To us at the time it was a
great morale booster!!
It must have been in 1944 that an RAF B25 Mitchell aircraft crashed
on the N E outskirts of Colkirk. I had seen the 3 aircraft fly over
Pudding Norton and heading towards Colkirk. Only many years later
did I read that the crew were Polish, and were on a Sunday afternoon
formation flying practice from Swanton Morley.
There was no explanation of what had happened, - perhaps it was
In February 1945 a returning B 24 Liberator crashed very close to
Norton Hall. Again I read that it has lost a considerable part of
it's tail on the raid, and most of the crew bailed out near it's
base at Wendling. It was then being flown North to be abandoned in
the Wash. However a further problem occurred, and so the pilot left
the controls to bail out. As soon as he left the controls, the
aircraft went out of control, and broke into 3 main bits, which I
watched descending, with the pilot on his parachute in amongst them.
The main parts impacted only a few hundred yards from the Hall.
When V E Day came it was a day of much rejoicing, though there were
those whose menfolk would not return, there were still men in the
Far East fighting the Japanese, and food rationing would continue
for some time to come. Still the blackout was ended and the church
bells could be rung again, a great sound for everyone.
Thought this might interest a few people, and I have thoughts about
my own life during the period, for the future.
My name is Bill Gayford.
When my wife died in
2009, my son and daughter decided that I should have a laptop.
As I became more
proficient and started ''surfing the net'' I discovered the Colkirk
website. I found it very informative, and have now decided to write
something for it.
I grew up in Pudding
Norton, and as a family we worshipped at St Mary's Church in Colkirk.
In fact we were at the Morning Service on Sunday 3rd September 1939,
the day on which World War 2 started.
At this time I was
just starting at Fakenham Secondary School and was in the same
class as Bill Falconbridge. We often used to cycle home together as
far as Pudding Norton.
On leaving school at
the end of 1945, I joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice, but
Pudding Norton remained my home for a while longer, though my father
had died in 1942, and my mother died in 1947.
They are buried in
the churchyard at St Mary's, along with my grandparents.
My two sisters had
also moved away from the area, and so the house was eventually
My mother had lived at
Norton Hall during the early part of the 20th century, and my
grandfather had started Fakenham racecourse in 1907.
During 1915 a number
of troops of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry were based at Norton,
prior to departing for France, and there is some information about
this on the ''net''.
I have attached 3
photographs which I took in 1947, while on leave, which show men at
work in the harvest field at Norton, and who I got to know quite
well as I had worked on the farm every summer holiday from 1940,
when times were very labour intensive.
I suppose Bradley (
Briar ) Cubit was the best known, as our family sat in the pew
him on Sundays. He was
the church warden and bell ringer for the whole time that I attended
There is much more that
I could relate, but I will settle for this now.
Names to the
photographs are as follows:
Photo 1 Herbie Coker
on his Oliver 80 tracker
Photo 2 Charles
Chaplin (L ) and Sidney Parker (R)
Photo 3 Herbie Coker ,
Moon ? , Urban Lake, George Parker , unknown , Briar Cubit on the
Colkirk's Dad's Army by Bob Wayne
Apprentice Indenture of John
High to James Nelson, carpenter, in 1884
Provided by Gordon Gale
The story of Jarvis Drive
James Leech Ridgway died in 1862.
The Executors and Trustees of his will were James William Ridgway, Edward
Carrington Ridgway and William Hearn Ridgway.
Part of his possessions was a 6.5 acre piece of land known as Rise Close which,
in 1892, was sold for £2 10s 6d to Walter Marsham Hoare, Rector of Colkirk.
In 1897 George Nelson, Builder, from Colkirk, bought 2.25 acres of this land,
bounded on the North by a field owned by John Chambers, on the East by the
public footpath leading from Dereham Road to Hall Lane, on the South in part by
a field belonging to Mrs Philippo and in part by a piece of land belonging to
the Colkirk Co-operative Society and on the West by the highway leading from
Fakenham to Whissonsett. He paid £135 for this piece of land.
George Nelson died in 1926 leaving the land to his son, Geoffrey James Nelson,
also a builder.
In 1949 Geoffrey James Nelson sold the land to Kathleen Mary Drew for £100.
In 1959 Kathleen Mary Drew sold the land to Francis Edward Melton and Arthur
Albert Melton, builders from Beetley, for £300
Seven bungalows were built on the land in the early 60’s and the road was called
Jarvis Drive to honour Donald Jarvis, Headmaster of Colkirk School from 1934 to
Jarvis Drive was
named after Mr. Jarvis who was Head Master of the school from 1934 to 1958.
Mr. Jarvis died
from a heart attack on Boxing Day 1958 at the age of 61.
He was also
Church Organist, a Parish Pouncillor, Charity Trustee, member of the PCC and
Head Warden of the ARP in 1938, which was re-named the Civil Defence in 1946
when he still remained a member.
both at school and in the village, a casket containing his cremated remains was
buried under a tree on the Camping Land side of the churchyard.
taught at the school for 15 years. She retired in 1952 and died in 1965.
married the daughter of Mrs.Beck ( senior ) and it was from Mr.Jarvis ( junior )
that this information was acquired
The following articles are
taken from a school project run by Mrs. Constance Cox ( Teacher at Colkirk
School from 1975 to 1981 )
Colkirk is a village near to
Mr. Whitmore and his family are
living at " The Crown "
Mr. Clements keeps the Post
Office and the Village Store
We have to rely on Fakenham for
the keeping of the law
The chapel down the Dereham Road
has services each week
For our entertainment the
Village Hall we seek
The Rector welcomes us to
Church, the doors are open wide
The people come to learn, sing
and pray when they are inside
Our school was built in 1847,
improved by Rev. Hoare
Who wanted us all to be clever,
learning more and more
The memorial stands on the
corner showing we'll never forget
The men who fought for their
country, the bravest ever met
Our fruit we buy at
Selbys, on the Fakenham - Dereham Road
To several different markets it
is taken in a load
blackcurrants, apples too
High class and delicious
especially grown for you
planted in 1949-50, strawberries in 1966, blackberries in 1967 and blackcurrants
There were 62
acres altogether, house was built in 1952, bungalow in 1963.
Fruit was sent to
markets at Birmingham, Liverpool and Covent Garden, London.
Also sent to
Wisbech to be repacked for shops.
This fruit farm
provided work for a number of local people in the district.
Crown Public House
Collison, a farmer and woodman died in 1767, leaving £100 to the Parish. With
this money the Parish Council bought " The Crown Inn ". The rent paid was used
as a charity fund to help the poor in the Parish.
In 1959, as the
Crown was in a state of disrepair and Mr.and Mrs.Colman were retiring, ( having
been licensees for over 25 years ), it was decided to sell the pub by public
auction. It was bought by East Anglian brewers, Greene King and Sons Ltd, for
the sum of £1500. After expenses of the sale were paid, the remaining money was
placed in the Bank and the interest is paid out to charities each year.
payed to Mr.Collison when his tombstone was cleaned in 1830.
started a butcher's business in 1936 in the Crown yard ( the building now being
the toilet block at the pub ).
He killed a pig,
a sheep and bought beef, making his deliveries by bicycle. At the end of the
first week he had made a profit of 15 shillings ( 75p today )
Later he bought
a small Austin Van. He gave up his business in 1939 when he joined the forces.
asked in 1936 to lay the Bowling Green at The Crown ( now the beer garden )
1971 - Gift to " The Crown Inn "
hand made at Colkirk has been given the The Crown by Mr.Marshall of Sidmouth,
Devon who was on holiday in Norfolk. It contains an inlaid photograph of the
maker, the late Mr.Frank Wright.
considered that the horse-shoe rightly belonged to the village and, in accepting
it, the licensee Mr.G.Frost told him that " it would hang in a prominent place
in the bar ".
The smithy where
the shoe was made ( down the Dereham Road, near the chapel ) was demolished,
together with the cottage, in October 1970.
A rectory at
Colkrk was first mentioned in 1346.
building had alterations and additions in 1820-30 and again in 1870 when the out
buildings were removed to a new site and the Parish Room was built.
There was a
disastrous fire in 1922 necessitating reconstruction of the south and west
In 1954 part of the old
rectory was converted into a separate flat. The Old Rectory was finally bought by Mr.and Mrs.Hugh Beck.
1964 - Members
of the family of a former Colkirk Coachman returned to the village to attend the
dedication service of a memorial to a daughter killed in a New York street
accident in 1961. The woman who was killed was Miss Margaret Agatha Dunn,
daughter of Mr.Oscar Dunn, a one time coachman to the village Rector. She was 65
years of age, born 6th May 1899.
One of her
brothers, Mr.Ernest Dunn, of New York State, who had also emigrated, expressed a
wish that there should be a memorial to her at Colkirk and sent a sum of money
for this purpose. The money was used in carrying out improvements in the school
and for three new oak pew fronts in the church which were dedicated to her
memory. Three electric clocks were bought for the school.
Do you remember?
The Sweet shop at the top of Hall Lane
The Post Office at The White House, Dereham
The Home Guard, based in The Co-Op Stores in
Cut-out wooden replicas of German Soldiers,
placed in ditches, for practicing defensive tactics
Playing football on The Molst in Colkirk's
familiar green and white strip
The Blacksmith's Shop and Methodist Chapel
in Dereham Road
The World War II evacuees in Colkirk House
The Village's first School of Motoring
The Colkirk Crown Bowls Team
Cricket teams playing in the meadow,
adjoining the " Church Pit " ( village pond ) opposite the Village Hall
The "V" Bombers passing overhead on their
way to RAF Marham
The Iron Snack
Jack Ramm, village postman for 41 years
Frank ( Jigger ) Wright, village blacksmith
Mark Makins, village milkman
Mr. Charter-Starte, village dentist
Alf and Doris Colman running The Crown
Bradbury ( Briar ) Cubitt, sexton and
Jack Hall, ratcatcher