West Dereham Heritage Group
A packed and lively meeting on the 19th of April was another popular “Round Table Discussion” in the Abbey Room. Everybody gets the opportunity to speak presided over by our Chairman, Jack Walker.
We were please to welcome three members of one family, Betty Garrett, her daughter and grand-daughter. Betty and her husband lived and worked at Abbey Farm from 1961 until the early 1980s. Mr Garrett was a Herdsman for Mr. G.G.Wright who held the Tenancy of Abbey Farm at that time. The Wright brothers, William (Billy) held White Hall Farm, were of Scottish decent and came to West Derehham in the late 1930s. Betty brought along a lot of her family photographs and has allowed us to make copies for our archives. From the images we were able to see that the herd breed were Ayshires which were famous for the beautiful upward curving horns and rich brown and white colour of their hides.
Work on publishing a twice yearly Newsletter is gaining momentum with Paddy Murfitt in the process of producing a final layout and printing a sample copy.
This will initially be sent to all households in the village and members but after that a charge will be made although members will always receive a free copy.
We hope it will also stimulate interest from abroad as many from West Dereham left these shores to seek a better life in the Commonwealth during the 18th and 19th centuries. The format will be A5 with 8 or more pages and will publish details of all group activity from the previous six months, articles, letters, future meetings and events will all be included.
I was able to tell members that we have recently received two books from Michael Farnum, one written by himself on the National Servicemen of Downham Market and District who served between 1945-1961 when conscription ended. It includes all service details of each man, where he trained and served with many photographs.
I understand Michael was able to get some funding from local businesses and all profits went to the “Help for Heroes” charity.
The other book is a History of the Lancaster Bomber which researchers of WWII will find most valuable in the development of this aircraft of which only two survive and only one of those is airworthy.
Michael has also donated a Memorial Montage to the men from West Dereham who lost their lives during WWII. It has been hung in the Heritage Room and we are most grateful to Michael for his time and effort in providing such fitting memorial to these brave boys one of whom flew in Lancaster bombers with the RAF.
A reminder that the Heritage Room opening is on the 7th of July and we are also planning an event for young people aged between 7 and 13 years of age. It will be during the School holidays in August with specially planned activities relating to the history of village life and with full facilities for researching family history or any other project of interest to participants. The Church, Village Hall and Heritage Room will all be open and it looks like being a lot of fun. You can be from any of the villages within the circulation of this magazine so if you think you would like to come along then contact our Secretary, Pam Walker, WDHG, Fiddlers Roof, The Row, West Dereham, Kings Lynn, PE33 9RH Tel. 01366501426, e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or myself, contact details below.
To conclude this months article I will just mention a very interesting talk with a slide show given by the Fenland & West Norfolk Aircraft Preservation Society on the 16th.of April.
The event was arranged by the Village Hall Committee and Society Secretary, Bill Welbourne spoke at some length about the membership and its aims along with details of the Aviation Museum at West Walton established in 1975 which is registered as a charity.
The Talk “Digging for Heritage Aircraft in the Fens” told of how this dedicated group of enthusiasts dig out and preserve remains of crashed aircraft mainly from WWII.
There is a lot of formality to contend with before any work can begin once a site has been identified from both the Defence and Air Ministry. Some of these sites are designated War Graves and cannot be disturbed under any circumstances. There was one case in 2005 when remains of an aircraft were discovered on the edge of the Wash by a Kings Lynn fisherman who pulled up a propeller which was identified as one from a DH Mosquito fighter/bomber. It was from a crash in which none of the crew of two were recovered so was in fact a War Grave.
Permission was eventually granted for the remains to be recovered and this was done by a special team from the Royal Navy. The remains of the Pilot and his Navigator were removed from the wreckage, one was buried at Marham with full military honours and the other privately on instructions from relatives.
Once this had been completed the Society were able to recover what remained of the aircraft. In some cases, remains and wreckage, a typical example was Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire, which once cleaned up looked almost as new. Being at a depth of nearly 20 feet no air is present in the peat soil thus acting to preserve the metal. Once exposed to the air again corrosion can start almost immediately so they have to act quickly with preservation methods perfected over the years to save these relics.
All these remains can be seen at their Museum at West Walton on Weekends and Bank Holidays.
Tel 01366 500975