West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton


September 2009

A report on the june meeting of the West Dereham Heritage Group

The June meeting was held in Kings Lynn and was the second of our guided tours of Historic Lynn with Dr. Paul Richards. A group of about 20 members started off where we left off last year and proceeded to the Old Customs House. The tour took in Queen Street,the Tuesday Market Place,site of the old Market Cross and from there into St Nicholas Street. The group did not have sufficient time left to enter St. Nicholas Chapel so it will be a starting point for next years tour.

On the 16th of July Richard French conducted the third of his Village Walks. The area of this walk was from the site of the Old Free Chapel at the east end of the Row/Ryston Road. On hand with knowledge of the area were Paddy Murfitt and Fred Lucas who have lived on this street for coming on for forty years. Some weeks previous Richard and Paddy spent an afternoon with Ken Barker who was born on the Row during the 1930s. He has a great store of memories going back to 1940 when the cottage he was living in along with his parents and siblings was bombed by the Luftwaffe, the Nazi Air Force. Fire bombs lodged in the roof and this and the ajoining cottage caught fire and were burning fiecely by the time the local Fire Brigade arrived. Fortunately the family got out safely along with those next door and nobody was injured. Both homes were badly damaged and eventually were pulled down. You can still see the gap made in the group of terraced cottages to this day as they were never re-built. The Barker family were re-housed in Methwold but came back to West Dereham after the war. Ken lives a little further on today in a modern bungalow built in the 1960s and has now retired.

Many of the small groups of farm labourers cottages have been demolished to make way for modern homes in this area and this is very evident when comparing the old O.S survey of 1904 with that of today. By the 1950s many were in a very poor state having had little money spent on maintenance for perhaps fifty years. With no piped water,toilets or bathroom most had demolision orders placed on them by the local health authorities. some have survided of course, Fiddlers Roof is a typical example having been three at one time converted to one home in the late 1960s. There is clear visible eveidence in the brick work to show where the old divisions were and the fact that like most of the cottages and farm houses in West Dereham were all single storey, thatched roofed up until about the 1830s.

It was in one of these cottages that the lover of a woman lived who it is alledged, poisoned her Husband in 1938. After a tip off the Police had the body exhumed and from the autopsy conducted found to have died from a poisoning. The wife was arrested and charged but when the case was brought before Kings Lynn Magistrates Court it was thrown out due to insufficient evidence. All the people concerned left West Dereham soon after the case was closed.

This brings us to Willow Farm and what was know for some time as Thorrolds Farm later called Church Farm. A vast complex site of various buildings at one time, very little of which remains today apart from one farm house and the remains of a stable block. Council built properties in the same area were started in 1946 and continued up to the 1970s. Bell Barn is on the opposite side and to continue up to the junction with Lime Kiln Road you arrive at the site of The Bell Inn. This pub closed in 1940 and has since been demolished. Further along near to Bath Road junction is the White Horse Pub, this building is now a private residence but did not close until 1965. This site also had a Blacksmiths shop ajoining and where the bungalows are now was a paddock which went right up to the Bell Yard. Traction Engines were also kept here up to the 1950s. Cecil Page was landlord in 1937 and Len Hunt up to the time it closed. The Bell had Thomas Porter in 1854,Elijah Sharman 1883 and Frederick Garner 1904.

One of the bungalows off to the left was also a shop at one time and run by a Mrs Smith who was Len Hunts sister. This establishment closed in the late 1960s.

A short walk from there up to the Old Vicarage now the home of Clair and Nick Cann where we were entertained with wine and a buffet which rounded off the evening very nicely. Jack Walker proposed a vote of thanks and those asssembled showed their appreciation in the usual manner. The weather managed to remain dry throughout the evening but by the time some of us had walked back to the Village Hall from where we started it was raining . I am very gratefull to Paddy and Fred for their input during the course of this walk.

West Dereham Heritage Group.

Richard C.French.

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