Written Articles


 Memories from Bill Gayford

I grew up in Pudding Norton. 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 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 even though my father had died in 1942 and my mother 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 so the house was eventually sold.  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 thought that I would put down some memories of what went on during WW2 in the Colkirk area for the benefit of the younger generation. 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, while 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. We were machine gunned in the garden by a very low flying Junkers 88. Children from the parts of the country most affected by the bombing started to be evacuated to our 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 extended period. 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 - I was told that quite a lot of people in the village were affected by the pungent smell of the oil, which lasted for a few days.


 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 up 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 never known.
 In February 1945 a returning B24 Liberator crashed very close to Norton Hall. Again I read that it had lost a considerable part of its tail on the raid, and most of the crew bailed out near its base at Wendling. It was then being flown North to be abandoned in the Wash. However a further problem occurred and 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.


Memories of Colkirk's Dad's Army by Bob Wayne

Before it is forgotten, it should be recorded that, in the early 1950's, Colkirk had its own Home Guard platoon. This was at the height of the “Cold War” during the period of the Berlin Airlift and Korean War, so presumably there was a real fear it could develop into a hot war. The Home Guard that had been stood down at the end of WW2 was reactivated. 

The platoon commander was Major Woods who lived in the bungalow at the top of Market Hill. There was a full time clerk, (Mr White??) who lived at Foulsham.  

The office was upstairs in the old groom’s quarters of the stables at Colkirk House and the armoury was below in the old tack room. The window of the tack room was barred and a new substantial outer door was provided for the armoury. Somehow another rotten door leading into the coach house was simply nailed up. I don’t know whether our parents Fred and Eve Wayne were paid rent.  

I have no memory of there being parades or any training taking place there so possibly that took place in the village hall or in other villages. The Company HQ was in the Drill Hall at Dereham. I remember being told of how they went to the ranges and that there were women members who were also doing their bit feeding the belts into the Vickers machine guns. I do also remember there being escape and evasion exercises with the Home Guard  trying to capture aircrews from local RAF stations. I think the only people they caught were Ned and I doing our own bit of scouting. 

The armoury started with about 20 x Mk4 Lee Enfield rifles with bayonets, 10 x Sten guns and 2 Bren guns. These were later supplemented with additional SMLE rifles, Sten guns with skeleton frames and a PIAT anti-tank weapon. The weapons with a lovely oily smell were held in racks with a locked chain threaded through the trigger guards. After a year, security was heightened following IRA raids on TA centres, the bolts and breach blocks were removed and stored elsewhere (leaving very little of the Stens!). I suppose that now there is no-one left to charge. I can say that Ned and I were allowed to play with the guns, at one point they also had a Geiger counter and radiation sources, again great fun. 

By coincidence, the same building stored some of our father’s war time leftovers. Father had been an explosives officer with the “Auxiliary Units” – the wartime “secret army”. Whilst he would talk about it, he was always a bit non-specific. His sergeant kept a book shop in Fakenham, beyond that I don’t think he ever named names. One of his favourite stories was about him doing explosives training on Fakenham Race Course - as a final set piece he set  off a large charge in one of the ponds expecting it to produce an impressive column of water - it did but it was hundreds of discarded gin bottles that rained down on the students. On Father’s death, Ned (by then an army officer) and I dug a hole in the field and discretely (if not quietly) disposed of a store of time pencils, ammunition including 12 bore single ball cartridges , pressure switches and explosives. We must have been away at school, but one day no doubt a lorry arrived and it all disappeared into history!

 Why didn’t we take photos? 

Bob W


Extracts from letters written by Peter Bradshaw, Rector of Colkirk, 1952-1958

February 11th, 1953

Naturally, our chief anxiety has been the floods. All we knew about them at first was a tempest of wind from the North which struck us on the Saturday night and went on howling throughout the weekend.

 I fiddled about here on the Monday feeling rather useless but on Tuesday I went to the coast to see what there was to do. I went to Wells first as it is the nearest to us. There was some water in the middle of the town and round the station and when I drove to the quay I saw that a large naval vessel which is usually moored there had been lifted bodily out of the water and was sitting on the road. I thought I would go on to Holkham but soon found that the road was under the sea. It is, as you know miles inland but all the area of marsh was ocean and I could just see the trees leading down to the beach sticking up out of water far out.

As I couldn’t get anywhere near Holkham, I turned back and drove through some water to Blakeney.

There was havoc here as all the ships laid up for the winter had been lifted out of the basin and hurled against the fronts of the hotel and other buildings nearby. There were large boats lying in the garden at the back of the hotel and of course the little café was shattered. You will get some idea when you remember how the sea is normally miles away. There was not much to do there so I drove through water on to Cley. Cley is a fully occupied fishing village and it looked like a shelled town in Flanders. 

I found my way up to the Manor house where the owner was co-ordinating the relief of Cley. A great number of people had lost everything in one minute. No homes, no clothes, no food, heat or light and no water. The owner had so far got them temporarily housed and fed with free meals from the village school. The next job was clothes so I spent the rest of that day helping to issue outfits of free clothes to everyone and we did it all the next day too. There was still furniture all over the streets amongst the mountains of seaweed. Although the Americans were beginning to bring in a little water, there was still no heat and though the lights returned late on Wednesday and people were beginning to trickle back to their soaking, stinking homes, they had nothing to sit or to sleep on.

So I came back here and we have since sent down as a gift from Colkirk quite a lot of clothes, mattresses, blankets, sheets, boots and so on. We gave the church collection to them on Sunday and now there is a house to house collection going on. I went back to Cley yesterday and things looked much the same. The streets are still full of sand, seaweed, furniture and wreckage. There is still no water as all the wells are polluted. I asked the owner of the Manor whether she thought the place would ever be Cley-next-the-sea again. She said that unless they were very lucky it would be Cley-under-the-sea this coming weekend.

On my journeys to and fro, I have driven past the next village Salthouse which was entirely engulfed.

 Before I leave this mournful topic I must tell you about the “jolly man of Cley”. I met him on my last day as I was driving away and he told me his story with bursts of laughter. It appeared he had been at the other end of the village when the first small flood came and had got soaked to the skin, so he went home to his family to tell them it was rather like a high tide. When he got home and the waters began to go down, he took off all his clothes and hung them round the room to dry. He was standing there warming his behind when the door burst open, the tidal wave rushed in snatching his clothes out of the windows. He swam naked around his cosy parlour for a while but then made a run for higher ground absolutely starko in the midst of the crowds and the whole village. I spent the rest of last week raising things they need and on Sunday preached two sermons about “Why are these things allowed to happen”.

 February 25th 1955.

Although there has been little more snow since last Saturday’s historic blizzard there has been no thaw whatsoever and last night’s winds have made the roads worse today than they have been all along. On our return from my London convalescence, my limited vigour has been spent equally upon funerals and weddings. I was quite unable to follow the reason behind the rush of joyful couples who besieged me to seal their union. After all, it was the vilest time of year. The Church did not approve of nuptials being celebrated during Lent. Spring was coming, etc. etc. But still they came, slithering about in the inky frost to put up their Banns and to submit themselves to the three weeks of instruction on which I insist.

I was puzzled as I have said, until I discovered that it is all to do with Money and Income Tax. Apparently, Mr. Butler has so arranged affairs that people of limited means are compelled to get married in the jolly months of Jan, Feb and March. All this, while a new form of flu has swept the parish -  terrible throat, swollen glands, nausea and a lasting cough. It has also swept through us while the blizzard raged outside and the Ashtons were visiting on their way back from Sandringham. Finally, on Friday morning after the Ashtons had left, Daphne collapsed into bed, hoping for a quiet weekend.

We were to be disappointed. The first really heavy fall of snow came on the Friday night and we awoke to a deeply white world. This was just the Curtain Raiser! It started again at 11a.m. and snowed as I have never seen until the afternoon.

All this time, preparations were going on in the Church and Hall for the service and reception of one of these weddings. From noon until three a heroic struggle went on to keep the church path clear for the Bride. At three precisely, it stopped snowing and the sun came out for one hour. At 3.30pm the Groom arrived with his Best Man. Both their purple suits were drenched to the thighs and they brought the news that their entire party including his mother, were stuck in a ten foot drift on the main road at Sculthorpe. They thought they would be there all night.

 The Bride’s sister had for some time been drying out her taffeta dress by the Church furnace and just as it began to snow again, the Bride arrived and was passed hand to hand down the now hopelessly blocked path. I urged them to warm and dry themselves but they were anxious to get on. As we reached the last verse of “Praise My Soul” the great South door burst open and in lurched the Bridegroom’s mother and the entire bus party. They had been bulldozed out of their drift by the American Airforce. After the signing of the Register I was invited to the Hall for the Reception where I stayed for a while before cutting a way back to the house to write my Sunday sermon.

I suppose it was about 6.45pm that I saw a few lights faintly waving as a small party approached the front door. It had been snowing very hard now for many hours and there was no path to the house at all. I was not at all surprised to see them and when they asked to use the phone, I realized much else would be needed before the night was done. We had roaring fires going in every room and after a short chat with the wedding party, I went up to Daphne who was in bed and told her that there would be at least eleven strangers for the night and that Colkirk was completely cut off. While Daphne and Celia sprang into action I went out. Three trees were down in the garden blocking the way from the Hall to the house. We went through the Churchyard clambering over broken shrubs and drifts. Once in the Hall I realized I had underestimated the numbers. There were four children, an elderly man, the Bridegroom’s mother and twelve other guests. They were all wearing the most flimsy clothes, satin shoes, nylons and hats. I told them that they would have to march in these clothes a hundred yards through the howling blizzard and in thigh deep snow before reaching The Rectory and when the husbands of those with children looked reluctant to accompany their families on this operation, my voice took on that of a Sgt Major willing them to chivalry.

So the giggling cavalcade made its way through the wilderness into the drawing room where Daphne and Celia greeted them. They had somehow moved and made beds up everywhere, while we, the family were all together in our room. The men slept in armchairs in the drawing room. The wedding children stayed up playing until late and I had to go out again to forage for food but I think all twenty-three of us were asleep by midnight. In the morning, I got the men to wash, shave and have their breakfast first before the women came down in their crumpled taffeta to eat porridge made in the preserving pan and tea in the Mothers Union pot, with toast and marmalade. The men got on with trying to dig out the bus and the ladies helped with the washing up. It was a cloudless day of quite unforgettable beauty and they were all away by 10. We had some very touching letters and White Wedding at Colkirk ran the headline in the Eastern Daily Press.

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 1958.

Jarvis Drive

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 Councillor, 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.

Sadly missed, 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.

Mrs Jarvis also taught at the school for 15 years. She retired in 1952 and died in 1965.

Their son 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- Our Village

Colkirk is a village near to Fakenham Town

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

Strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, apples too

High class and delicious especially grown for you

Selbys Fruit

Fruit trees planted in 1949-50, strawberries in 1966, blackberries in 1967 and blackcurrants in 1975.

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.


The Crown Public House

Mr. Samuel 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.

Gratitude was paid to Mr Collison when his tombstone was cleaned in 1830.

Mr Myhill 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.

Permission was asked in 1936 to lay the Bowling Green at The Crown ( now the beer garden )


May 1971 - Gift to " The Crown Inn "

A horse-shoe, hand made at Colkirk has been given 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.

 Mr Marshall 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.


The Old Rectory

A rectory at Colkirk was first mentioned in 1346.

The current 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 wings.

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.


A Colkirk Coachman

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.


The Sweet Shop at the top of Hall Lane

The Post Office at The White House, Dereham Road

The Home Guard, based in The Co-Op Stores in School Road       

Cut-out wooden replicas of German Soldiers, placed in ditches, for practicing defensive tactics

Playing football on The Molst ( Hall Lane ) 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" (the Village Pond) opposite the Village Hall

The "V" Bombers passing overhead on their way to RAF Marham

The Iron Snack (proper name the track across the blackcurrant fields)

Jack Ramm with one arm, 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 Churchwarden

Jack Hall, Ratcatcher    


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