West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton

West Dereham Heritage Group

March 2012

The first meeting of 2012 was held in the Abbey Room of the newly re-built village hall on the 19th of January. A well attended gathering saw two of three new members attend all from one family who at one time lived and worked at Abbey Farm.

Jack Walker welcomed members and thanked the St Andrews PCC for the time we were able to use the Church for our meetings during the previous year. He remarked how much more attractive and comfortable the new hall was and that the Heritage Room was now open and displaying a small exhibition of items either purchased by ourselves, donated or loaned which had been set up by Richard French.

As the meeting was an open one with no planned agenda all members were given the opportunity to report on their research and projects.

Paddy Murfitt talked about his work on the 1841 Tithe Map which he has copied on to his PC with the aim of making manageable accurate maps that can be used for members research. He has improved the accuracy by overlaying the 1884 Ordnance Survey map which surprisingly shows very little difference and this may only be due to shrinkage of the old parchment map of 1841.

As this is almost complete his next project will be the 1823 private survey map drawn up on instructions of the then principle landowner in West Dereham at that time George S. Kett. The Parish Council own a framed photo copy made from the original about 10 years ago which has been in storage since the work started on the village hall.

This photo copy will be scanned using very high-tec equipment and downloaded to a disc from which Paddy will make a new much improved copy. Permission has now been given by the Parish Council for this to proceed.

The whereabouts of the original is unknown but it was held in the village for many years in a round metal container.

The Garrett family showed some pictures of their lives in West Dereham where Mr Garrett worked as a Herdsman at Abbey Farm and some of the school children taken around 1950.

Ruth Marsters reported on the impending purchase of equipment for the Heritage Room which will included a photo copier/printer, a PC and a wall mounted screen.

Pam & Jack Walker have donated a neat two drawer filing cabinet which fits in very well with the furniture made by Roy Marshall.

There will be other small bits and pieces no doubt and these will be acquired when the need arises.

I had spent the previous days setting up the small exhibition after lining the base of the cabinet with green felt. My thanks to Paddy Murfitt and Peter Starling for the loan of their “finds” which helped make up certain periods in village history missing from my own collection. This enabled me to show windows of village history dating back probably 5000 years with two beautiful stone age flint axe heads to more recent times with examples of the West Dereham Abbey coat of arms on W.H.Goss china from 1895. Pam Bullas also delved into the archives and provided valuable assistance during the setting up. I also must thank John and Michelle Hanslip who donated two framed photographs of the village taken in 1955 which I have hung in the room.

Pam Walker our Secretary provided more details on next months meeting with Peter Bates of Hilgay who was approached by Fred Lucas. As this will be an open meeting a flyer will be produced by Richard and distributed with the village Newsletter.

There was lots of discussion between members and there was ample opportunity to catch up on village life along with refreshments. Best of all after the meeting formally closed Pearl opened the bar of the “White Hart” to serve a number of members who stayed on to enjoyed a pint of best bitter and I include myself as I much prefer a glass of ale in the evening to tea or coffee.


On the following evening, Friday the 20th the Village Hall Management Committee hosted a Wine & Cheese reception for the sponsors, contractors and other contributors to the Village Hall Refurbishment Project. About 60 guest attended a beautifully decorated hall and Abbey Room and were welcome by the Chairmen of the Management Committee, Paula Kellingray, who spoke about the history of the hall from its opening in the early 1950s when her Father was on the original steering committee to its demise in 2007 when usage and hiring declined.

Richard French along with Pam Bullas was able to show guests the progress of setting up of the now open Heritage Room. The exhibition created a lot of interest and the room will provide a focal point for those wishing to trace their ancestors who were born or lived in the village in times past. Richard commented that the aim was to provide a detailed history of the village from 1900 to present day. He said that in the last 50 years there has been greater opportunity due to more disposable income for families to record their own history with film and photography where as before 1960 there were greater priorities for people to content with. As agriculture was the main provider of employment and notorious for low wages local history of the time up to WWII has almost been lost but for the census records. A number of members and other villagers are working on this and hopefully with records we have already obtained a fuller picture will emerge of this “lost” period in due time.


Richard C. French

WDHG February 2012.

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