New Buckenham Archive
© The New Buckenham Society 2015  (rev 2023)
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Small building for plucking chickens facing King Street
Barry Leggett lived in New Buckenham aged from 2-19 years old just after World War Two. He writes: I was born on the 26th January 1944 at Heath Road, Banham, a small village south of Attleborough in Norfolk. My father was Charles Francis Leggett (photo on left) and my mother was Irene Constance née Wharton. I had two older sisters Heather Jacolyn, born 1939, and Brenda Joyce, born 1941.  My father was a farm labourer and mother did various household work as a home help, mostly for Norfolk County Council. I don’t remember much about the house as we moved to New Buckenham, two miles away when I was about two years old. The house in New Buckenham was an end of terrace cottage, now called Lawn Cottage, which was later to be regarded as a very important historical house (see The Historic Buildings of New Buckenham, 2006, pub. Norfolk Historic Buildings Group).  This was in  Marsh Lane and stood back from the road opposite the old Village Hall which was a corrugated tin building. The house we lived in turned out to be the servants’ quarters of what was a large house. We had a kitchen range and inside copper boiler,  which were in the lean-to part of the house. The house was of clay lump and roughcast; it had two bedrooms with a landing, two rooms downstairs and a large pantry. This pantry was big enough for a single bed which became my bedroom. The clay lump house was   continually damp. There was no running water, so water was collected in buckets from a tap at the other end of the terrace next to a well which had been decommissioned. There was no modern oven just a very large cooking range which we did not use as our cooking was done on a double paraffin stove. The brick built toilet was about 20 yards away from the house. The other two next to it were for the other tenants in the terrace and were constructed of corrugated tin. They had to walk past the front our house to go to the toilet. The toilets were emptied every week by what was known as the night soil lorry. Some households had to bury the waste in their garden. You didn’t take to long when you went to toilet the smell was awful. As there was no toilet paper available, newspapers were cut up into squares and hung on a nail. There were no lights so after dark it was candle or torch. Eventually toilet paper was available. The house was heated by an open fire in the sitting room. Extra heat was provided by a paraffin heater which caused a lot of condensation, this made the internal walls damp causing problems with the wallpaper. The copper boiler in the kitchen was used for heating water for washing clothes and on bath night. The washing was done by hand and most of the water was squeezed out by a mangle, that being a free- standing device with two large wooden rollers turned by a handle. This was kept outside in a shed. On bath night the fire was lit under the boiler. The galvanised bungalow bath (length 54 inches, width 20 inches, height 15 inches) was brought into the kitchen from the shed and everyone had a bath adding some fresh water each time. Father got the short straw and went last. I don’t think the water was too dirty. In the morning the water was used to water the vegetables. As there was no water on tap or flush toilets there were no drains. There was no heating in the bedrooms. On cold frosty nights it was nothing unusual to wake up with frost on the inside of the windows. As there were only two bedrooms I shared the room with my parents whilst my sisters had the landing. I eventually slept downstairs in the pantry on a sofa bed. It was only after my sisters left home that I actually had a bedroom to myself. If you needed to go to the toilet during the night there was a potty under the bed or a pail you could use. How basic could you get? There was no fridge. The milk was delivered by Mr. Frost from Plum Tree farm in Upgate Street, Carleton Rode. He delivered the milk by pony and trap. He would dispense the milk from a churn into our own receptacle. It eventually was delivered in bottles by other members of the Frost family, Mr and Mrs Arbon.  Newspapers were delivered by Mr and Mrs Ayton who came by pony and trap from Attleborough. They seemed quite elderly when I was 10 years old. When they retired, their son took over delivering papers by a trade bike and eventually by a van. There was no gas. The only plugs were 13amp round pin sockets. However an electric cooker was bought when I was about 12. The garden, in front of the house, where Dad grew vegetables was most important for our meals.  We reared chickens and ducks to eat.   All rationing had ended when I was 10 years old.  There were very few cars about. Dr. Blair, Mr. Gemmell, Mr Tofts and D. Hamerton were, as I recollect, the only owners of cars. Most people used public transport or had a bicycle. There was a regular service from the village to Norwich by the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company. The nearest train station was at Attleborough. There was three lots of drivers and conductors based in New Buckenham as the buses were garaged at Smiths. I went to the local school when I was five years old. The Head was Mrs Honeywood who lived in East Harling. She was not a very pleasant person.  The other teachers were Mrs Feltham and Mr Cook, both lived in the village. I had dark red hair, and it was Mr. Cook who called me Rusty and that nickname has stuck with me ever since. Lots of people today know me as Rusty. The main classroom in the centre of the school was heated during the winter by an open fire. Mrs Honeywood would stand in front of it and raise her skirt at the back taking in the warmth. The other thing was the third of a pint of milk supplied by the government for each child, Unfortunately she had the knack of warming it up. That wasn’t so good. We sometimes had the pleasure of cakes passed over the wall from Kemp’s bakery being next to the school. Attending school had its difficulties, some no doubt caused by me. At the age of nine I transferred to Old Buckenham Area School which was at least two miles away. I would normally have gone there at 11 years of age. There was no bus travel so you had to make your own way by walking as I did in very bad snow or by bicycle. Regardless of the weather you had to go. Later the school actually loaned out cycles for those who did not own one. The Headmaster was Mr. Dazeley. My first teacher at Old Buckenham Area School was Mr. Atkinson who was very pleasant indeed. At 11 years old I moved into the higher school and had various teachers for different subjects. Although I was reasonably academic, I did enjoy P.E. as it was known, with football being my main interest. Getting to school by bike was in the winter sometimes difficult as I would have to go via the Dambrig which flooded the whole road.  Brave hearts went for cycling through it, others took to the high bank. This flooding went on for some years.  I was about 14 when I played table tennis with Peter Mapes, Arthur ? (who was deaf and dumb) and Roger Kerrison in charge. I also, with Peter Mapes, played darts for The Kings Head. I also played football for New Buckenham on a pitch on the common, getting it ready with Clive Rush and the loan of his dad’s tractor  New Buckenham is quite famous for its grid street layout. As a young boy this was totally lost on me, all I knew was that in the village there were: Castle Hill Mr Holl - Vet;  Happy Tofts - Garage Chapel Hill Mr Saunders - Builder Chapel Street Mr Simmonds - Fishmonger;  Mrs Robinson – Publican, The George; Mr Davey – General Haberdashers;  Aldridge Brothers – Builder; Police House  (PC Blakey then PC Mumford);  Methodist Chapel Church Street St. Martins Church, C. of E. King Street Mr. Goffin - Fishmonger;  Mrs Goulding - Baker;  King Bros - General Grocers; Mr Claxton – General Grocers;  Mr Golding – Garage;  Mr Aldous – Post Office; Mr Robbins – Barbers/ Shoe repairer;  Mr Sutton - Butcher; Mr Saunders - Builder Queen Street Mr. Peake - Jeweller/Clock repairer; Mr Fox – Hardware Store Market Place Mr Ratley – Publican, The Kings Head; Mr Kemp – Baker;  Mr Tofts  - General  Grocer;                                 Mr Smith – Garage;  Dr Hamerton & Dr Bruce – Doctors surgery; Mr Reeve - Blacksmith The Green  (south side of Market Place) Mr Gilbert – General Haberdashers;  Mr Clowes – The Wine Press;  Mr Clowes – Solictors Norwich Road Mrs Howling – Ladies Hairdresser Wednesday was half day closing in New Buckenham. The village has a Market Cross with a whipping post. It also has a Norman castle keep hidden from general view by circular mound which itself is surrounded by a moat. From 1945 into the 1950s rationing was still in place following the war and so there were certain limits to what you could purchase. Food and clothes etc. but there was nothing to leave the village for in relation to obtaining food, clothing or entertainment. There was no dentist so I actually went to East Harling in a pub room to have a tooth removed. A bit basic. We did have a doctor’s surgery in a room to the left of what was Dr. Blair’s home.  This was Dr. Hamerton who became quite a friend of the family. I even baby sat his children.  I attended the Methodist Sunday school from about the age of 10. Whilst attending Sunday School there was the annual anniversary. All the children would put on a concert and would sing and recite poetry. I did several singing solo items and had a good voice. The reward was the annual trip to Great Yarmouth by coach. This was a real treat and we, as a family, would spend time on the beach and then go to the Circus in the afternoon which of course had animals in the show. This was the only outing we had to the seaside in the year. The one thing that was possible, in those days, was for any child in the village to leave their house in the morning and be out all day either on the common playing, or venturing across the various farmers’ fields of the various farms without fear of retribution. A penknife and a catapult were handy. No one worried as you were certain to turn up for your tea if not earlier. You could also walk through the village late at night (there were no street lights) and not be in fear of anything. The Market Place is opposite the school and once a year Gray’s fair would set up whilst we were at school. To a small boy it was quite exciting watching it being built. The fair was a very social occasion for the village and the surrounding community. Nearly every Saturday evening Hall’s mobile fish and chip van (from Banham) would park on the Market Place. My main friends in New Buckenham were Tony Cooper who lived next door but one. Chris Davey who lived locally and Michael Robbins who, lived in Old Buckenham but stayed at his grandparents house in New Buckenham.  His grandfather was in fact Mr. Robbins the hairdresser /shoe repairer. Mr Robbins was always willing to let us borrow the football and cricket gear. The one friend who spent most of his time in my company and at my house was Peter Mapes affectionately called Bubbah. With other lads from the village, I played cricket or football on the common which at times had cattle grazing, so before you played you were wise to check where they had been. The village pump on the market was a godsend after playing sport as you could get a very cold refreshing drink from it and douse yourself with the cold water. When not playing sport we would roam around the area, the open common or the nearby fields, doing what boys did then with bits of wood and a penknife, or even a catapult. All part of growing up. During my youth I did several jobs to earn some pocket money. I sold vegetables round the village for Mr. Robbins. I weeded the Market Cross pebble stones. I ran errands after school for two families outside the village. I worked on farms especially in the summertime with the harvest. Helping Dad with sugar beet hoeing by hand in the scorching sun was a real chore. During the winter I helped my dad in the sugar beet field but that was extremely cold and wet. All done by hand, no machinery. But the income into the family was low and every bit helped. As a family I would join my mother and both sisters in blackberry picking at the top of the common. The fruit would then be taken to Reggie Saunders whose wife was an agent for an unknown company and we would be paid by the pound. A van would then collect every so often. Another earner for the family.  I also worked for Charlie Woodrow. He had premises in King Street, the White Horse pub and small holding, and I helped with plucking chickens, all done by hand in the small building illustrated. I would earn money by stumping the carcases. I would be about 14 years old (1958). Also did general jobs for him but no pay but a trip to Attleborough cinema now and again. I remember helping Mr. Reeve in his forge with pumping the bellows leaving him to look after his fire. I also helped when he was repairing a cartwheel standing by with water to douse the hot metal rim. This was outside the front of the forge. I did these odd jobs for something to do. Dad got a job with the Frost family, in Carleton Rode the next village, I went to help and worked there mostly during the harvest. At that time they still had horses (Suffolk Punches) and I did everything there is in farming. Leading the horse on the harvest field, pitching the sheaves, collecting from the field and using an elevator at the stack, helping with the thatching of the stack and being there when the thrashing machines arrived. Muck carting was by way of horse and tumbler (a two wheeled cart), all done by hand. Barry outside his home, now Lawn Cottage. mid 1950s Eventually a combine harvester was bought which made work a little easier. It was a dirty job with the dust. Corn was put in sacks and put in the barn. When I was 14 I had a racing cycle and would ride for miles around the local villages for the sheer pleasure and even as a family we would all have cycles and visit relations. Televisions were not affordable but again to our rescue came Mr Robbins. Some boys would crowd into his house to watch the cup final from Wembley.  Eventually, my parent had a black and white TV with three channels; this with cards or reading the newspaper and radio was the only source of entertainment. At the age of seventeen I passed my driving test and had a grey van which I drove about when I could afford the petrol. I lived with my parents until I was 19 and left New Buckenham to join the Norwich City Police. On my days off I would often visit the Frosts’ farm and help with various chores. I did this for several years until the death of Charlie Frost. Afterwards I occasionally helped Leslie or George Frost. New Buckenham will always have a place in my heart I thoroughly enjoyed my youth in a lovely village. July 2023
Brenda and Heather Leggett outside their front door
A post-war childhood in New Buckenham
Path in front of (now) Tanyard and Lawn Cottages. Mid to late 1940s