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Matsell Wot Was ....

Some anecdotes as related by older inhabitants of Mattishall Village


This book has been compiled by Liz Gilding and Jenny Pennell following conversations with the more mature residents of Mattishall.

We would like to express our appreciation to all who have helped us in giving up their time and making us welcome in their homes.

Our special thanks to Derek Bingham, - Ruby Eastell, - Russell Smith and Brian Young's for their considerable contributions.

We would also like to acknowledge the help given by

Brian Cain
Geoffrey Dorrie
Keith Hudson and
Mr. G. Webster
of Yaxham

for their ideas and drawing skills for the cartoons.

We hope this book will bring back happy memories to some and provide light hearted reading to others.


Below is a few pages from the book ............
If you are interested in purchasing the full version contact the Mattishall Society
One day in 1942 a "Wings for Victory" fete was held to raise money for the war effort. The Home Guard, Fire Service etc. all gave demonstrations.
The Fire Service gave a demonstration of pumping water from a mobile tank to a canvas water container. Needless to say they were all trying to outdo each other and the length of hose was very long. As soon as the water got up to good pressure one of the lengths of hose burst soaking all the villagers that were peering at it closely to see what was happening.
Mr. Horne used to run his building and undertakers business from what is now Almond House. The paddock off Thynnes Lane was used to store great tree trunks being seasoned and waiting to be cut up for building work and to make the coffins. The coffins were then stored in a loft at the back of the building.
"When we were children we used to play on the logs in the paddock. They made great see-saws but you had to mind you did not trap your fingers.”   

At the turn of the century there were three bakeries in Mattishall. The one at the back of what was Welgate Stores, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Leveridge ceased baking early in the Century.

The other two bakeries were owned by members of the Norton family. The bakery on Dereham Road at what is 'The Laurel’s' was run in the early years by William Norton. He was succeeded by his son, also William but the bakery eventually closed in the 1950s.

The bakery on Church Plain was run in the 191O's by Richard Norton who unfortunately died at the early age of 41 in 1922. The business was carried on by his wife 'Addie' together with her four sons. Dick Norton continued to run the bakery whilst his other brothers went off to other occupations. The bakery today is run by his son Richard.

In the early days bread was delivered by horse and cart, in later years by van. The Dereham Road bakery delivered to The Tuddenhams, Hockering, etc., and the Church Plain one to Shipdham, Hingham and the villages on the southern side of the main road.

Rev. Graham was vicar of Mattishall from 1929 - 1946. He lived a the Vicarage together with his niece who was his housekeeper. He was known for being rather eccentric and wore a black straw hat.

"He used to come into the bakery making a nuisance of himself and granddad would 'accidentally' knock against him as he was taking the bread out of the ovens with the peel, covering him with flour."
The village school opened in 1872, Fred Brayley becoming Headmaster in 1915 until he retired in 1945. He was known for being very strict but was very well respected by the pupils. Behind his desk was an open cupboard with all the canes on show.
"lf we were not paying attention he would take the wooden blackboard rubber, or anything else that came to hand and throw it at us."
There were several long serving teachers at the school, one of whom was Mildred Edwards who started as a trainee teacher in 1898 and stayed until 1944 when she retired. The daughter of 'Knacker' Edwards she lived at South Green for many years before moving to Dereham Road.
"She used to keep her hankie up her knicker leg. We called her 'pedal freewheel' because she used to pedal once on her old bike then freewheel a bit."
Hukey Skipper used to travel round the local villages with an old horse and cart buying and selling rabbit skins and other second-hand goods. He also had a small dog which used to run under the cart when they were on the move. He had regular calling places where he would stop for several weeks, Mattishall, East Tuddenham, Honingham and Weston Longville being amongst them. He was found dead in 1940 / 41 down a lane off the Honingham / Barnham Broom Road.
"My brother used to take me down the lane opposite what was Farrows farm to see old Hukey. He used to turn his cart over and fix this old tarpaulin to the side of it to sleep under. He had chickens which he used to let loose at the various stops. They say he used to roast hedgehogs for his supper."
Gerald and Fred Hewitt ran the village butchers on Church Plain, founded by their father Oscar, for many years. They used to deliver to many villages in the area. Pigs were slaughtered in the old slaughter- house at the back of the shop until the mid fifties.

"One day whilst going up the road towards East Tuddenham past the Council houses we suddenly saw one of our front wheels was going up the road in front of us."

"We used to have one of them things on top of the van to keep the meat cool that hummed like an aeroplane when the wind was blowing."

"One day it took off and went across the fields."

In 1916 during the First World War an airfield was built beside the Mattishall to East Tuddenham Road in the large field behind Tollgate Farm. The Airfield was built for fighter planes to defend the Eastern Counties against the Zeppelins.
"During the First World War us boys used to go down to the airfield to watch the planes. There were a lot of oak trees beside the road and they cut them down for the benefit of the airfield - well we used to go down there and stand on these stumps to watch the planes. One day a plane taking off came over so low it knocked us down."
The Home Guard had various points around the village where they would stand guard.

Land at Sandpit Farm was used for shooting practice.

They were issued with Uniforms - some very illfitting. One farmer found his uniform to be so badly fitting he obtained some khaki cloth (we know not from where) and made coats for his two greyhounds. When questioned he said he had made the coats from his uniform.

During the Second World War people were issued with identity cards. Signposts were removed in case of invasion.

"One evening one of the firewatchers dressed up as a woman, walked on to Church Plain and asked one of the Home Guard the way to Weston Airfield. The guard did not think to ask the woman for identification and gave directions. Afterwards they suddenly realised the woman might be a spy and search parties were sent out round the village to look for her. Needless to say' she' had vanished."

In the 1920s a Gant Fair used to be held in the Swan Yard, there would be swing boats and roundabouts. Grays Travelling Fair visited the village all through the 20s and 30s. It was held on Fish's Meadow on the opposite side of Dereham Road to what was then the Eight Ringers Public House. It was also held on Turner's Meadow in Welgate.

There were village fetes held on the Black Meadow or Faircloth's Meadow. There would be darts, bowling for the pig, coconut shies, etc. On occasions the fetes have been known to go long into the evening with villagers vying for who could win the pig.

"They used to have this big greasy pole either across a pit filled with water, or upright. If it was upright the boys used to have to climb to the top. The one across the ditch they used to have pillow fights on with sacks filled with straw or they had to walk across it."

In the early days of the century corn was cut by scythes and bundled into sheaves to be set up in the fields to dry.

During the 1930s and 40s, with the coming of mechanisation, the process was taken over more and more by binders. At first they were pulled by horse power, in later years by tractors.

After drying the sheaves were carted to stockyards or the corner of fields to be built into stacks ready for the threshing gangs to arrive.

Obviously the stacks of corn were ideal breeding places for rats and mice and the village boys used to arrive with their sticks as the threshing process began.

An old boy told me the story that one day Mrs. Winton came into the field to watch the threshing, she was a fairly big busted woman. Us boys killed the rats with sticks, the mice we used to pick up and throw at one another. Someone threw a mouse at Mrs. Winton and she went backwards so it dropped down the front of her dress. He said they had never seen a woman undress so quickly."

Mr and Mrs Winton lived at the old Crown and Anchor during the 1930s.
Mattishall Gant
In the 16th Century a Margaret Harlestone from Mattishall married a Matthew Parker from Norwich. He was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1558, during the reign of Elizabeth 1.

In her will Margaret left land to the Parish of Mattishall. She also left instructions that every year at Rogationtide a Sermon should be preached in Mattishall Church by a Fellow of Corpus Christi College at Cambridge and this tradition still continues to this day.

During Rogation Week the ceremony of beating of the Bounds' took place, and this together with the arrival of an eminent preacher caused much celebration and a Fair began with the traditional hiring of workers taking place. The Fair became known as 'The Gant. Rogation Week is also known as 'Gang Week’ and it is believed that Gant is a corruption of the word 'Gang'.

Gants were held regularly in the village until the 1950s when they died out. In recent years a weekend Gant was held in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In 1997 a Gant week was held with a 'Millennium Gant' being planned for May and June 2000.


The cost of printing this book has been borne by the Mattishall Society and by the generosity of Derek Bingham and Brian Youngs from the proceeds of the sales of 'Mattishall Airfield & The Zeppelins 1916 - 1919'. Revenue from 'Matsell Wot Was' will go towards further publications covering the life of the villagers of Mattishall and it is hoped to publish further volumes covering the 20th Century and other periods of the history of Mattishall.

Copyright:- Mattishall Society



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