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TIMELINE PART 5. 1900-1939
20th Century - Great Changes
As the timeline moves into the 20thC the information used to create each story has come from more than one source, sometimes with occasional disagreements. The information given in the Timeline is accurate to the best of our belief. If you know differently please let us know. We are indebted to Michael Tuffs for his newspaper research from which much incidental information has been drawn, in particular from the Bury Free Press.
Not long after the turn of the century: Chalk Farm and the High Street.
’The Lakenheath Band of Hope’ (Temperance) was active, having been founded around 1870. It continued up to the outbreak of WWI. After the War it was reformed by survivors of the conflict as the Lakenheath Brass Band. The new instruments cost £235.
'Roy Silverlock and Daphne Austin. Gavin Holman in ‘Brass bands of the British Isles.1800-2018’.
The village population was 1,637.
Paraffin oil street lamps were introduced to mark the Coronation of Edward VII.
(See 1933 for the further development of street lighting).
The village Cricket Club was founded.
‘The Cottage’, now called ‘The Retreat’, was extended and refurbished by Sir William Dunn MP.
HENRY FLATT, insurance agent, and his family arrived in the village.
Repairs and restorations were being made to St Mary’s. The roof, walls and porches were repaired and some old pews were replaced. The ancient Rose window which had been blocked up centuries earlier was opened up and re-glazed.
A train was derailed near Shippea Hill on 7th April.
Lakenheath Rovers, the village Football Club was founded.
Lakenheath Football Club (The Rovers) around this time.
An accident in St. Mary’s Church was reported. Two men were working on scaffolding 20ft. above the floor. The scaffolding collapsed causing significant injury to both. One, a‘stranger’ in the village who had just started work that afternoon, broke his wrist and received head injuries. A local workman was also injured. The result of this accident produced evidence which much later led to the discovery of the medieval wall paintings.
The Evening Star and Daily Herald, Wednesday, August 2nd 1907.
Septimus Horrex with ‘Arch’ Curtiss. This is the only photo we have of Septimus.
Sir William Dunn and family at The Retreat around 1890.
SEPTIMUS HORREX was almost certainly the local man mentioned above. Whilst renewing the medieval angels wings he fell, scratching the lime washed wall which exposed traces of coloured plaster and caused the discovery of the medieval wall paintings.
He fought in WWI and survived but was again seriously injured. His son, WILLIAM HORREX was a notable local craftsman who made the new west doors of St. Mary’s Church and the altar server’s seat. He is also credited with the opening up of the original medieval entry to the roof loft which had been destroyed in earlier times of religious troubles.
The Norfolk News. Oct. 17th 1908
Septimus Horrex was charged with assaulting the village constable. The case was dismissed by the magistrates.
Motorists were causing problems in Newmarket. Several were fined for exceeding 20 mph including a magistrate, a barrister, three chauffeurs and a student who had zig-zagged past 59 racehorses!
The Bury Free Press cited on Pip Wright’s website. Pipwright.com>newspapers.
The Golden Wedding of Sir William and Lady Dunn was celebrated in some style.
The Norfolk News, September 11th 1909.
The Manor of Lakenheath was now held by the Ecclesiastical Commission(ers).
The suffragette leader, Christobel Pankhurst, was causing problems in Ipswich and a Mrs. Despard, speaking in Bury stated that,“Cranks were often pioneers. Women needed the Vote to have a voice in government.”
The football club was having a disappointing few games.
Oct. 21st. v Elveden. Lakenheath had difficulty in getting a team together and lost 4-0.
Nov. 25th. v Weeting. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Weeting only had 9 players.
The next season saw Lakenheath lose to Brandon in the Ouse Valley League 4-0. A star player was injured during the game and substitutes were not allowed. There was however, a good attendance at the club AGM held at the Bell Hotel!
Sir William Dunn died leaving £1.3 million. A rough estimate of this today would be £11 million. Following his death Mr. R BILSLAND tenant of Churchgate Farm acted as Lady Dunn’s Land Steward in respect of the sale of the estate.
The Titanic was sunk.
Lakenheath was the venue for a Suffolk v Norfolk cricket match. Norfolk won convincingly. In a very low-scoring match against Sedge Fen Lakenheath won by 14 runs. At this time there were 7 pubs and 3 beer shops in the village.
Chivers and Sons Ltd established fruit orchards and a factory at Sedge Fen providing jobs for the village especially in the picking season. This was to make a big difference to family security in the village.
HENRY FLATT had established a cycle rental business in the village. His shop was near bottom of Mill Road roughly opposite ’The Plough’. Kelly’s Directory of Suffolk for 1912 says that he is a ‘cycle agent’.
Read about Henry Flatt and his family1913
'August saw three continuous days of very heavy rain: the Fen flooded on both sides of Station road. Sheaves of wheat were carried to high ground and ‘carted’ home just before Christmas. The corn was still ‘millable’. *Gerald Miller took bread and cheese to men who were sand-bagging the railway line. In the churchyard some graves had ‘dropped’ due to the heavy rain’.
From Doris Ditchburn’s notes recorded between 1937-77.
* It was this Gerald Miller who built the bungalow on the site of the old windmill opposite the school.
The Lakenheath and District Liberal Party was very active in radical politics.
The 1894 Local Government Act required the establishment of Parish Councils which were to have oversight of local issues. By 1912 the Lakenheath Parish Council had been formed. A Parish Council was usually subordinate to an Urban District Council.
Politics and Poverty: The Liberal Party meetings in the village
After the last Christmas Day before the war:
“The widows of the village desired to thank Lady Dunn for her gift of tea this Christmas; also, the employees on the estate for the usual gift of beef. The employees of Lord Iveagh expressed their thanks for his gift of beef. Mr. Newdick (of Undley Lodge) also gave his employees beef, and for this they return thanks”.
“For the Christmas Festival St. Mary’s Church was decorated. A tree had been given by Lord Iveagh and each scholar received a present and also a bag of sweets, bonbons and an orange. Owing to the condition of the bells there was no ringing”.
"The choir of the Baptist Church went out carol singing on Christmas Eve and the Lakenheath Temperance Enterprise Band was out on Boxing Day and enlivened the holiday”.
Boxing Day …“had seen success for Mr. W J Rolph at the coursing meeting at theQuaine, Ely, winning the silver cup”.
“There was an Entertainment at the Independent Chapel by the Young People’s Society including hymns, carols and recitations”.
The Bury Free Press, January 3rd 1914
On January 31st
“……the football team journeyed to Northwold to play in the Ouse Valley League. The team played one man short in the first half and lost 2-1. The team was, G GARDEN, BAILEY, G HALL, B FLACK, W HARVEY, GEO. BADCOCK, A COLEMAN, A RUTTERFORD, S COOPER, S COLEMAN, H RUTTERFORD.”
The Bury Fee Press.
Of the team Arthur Coleman, George Hall and either Abraham or Arthur Rutterford died in the war. The identification of others is not possible due to the fact that only surnamesare given in the press report and there are some shared initials. It is possible that of the pre-war team only six survived the conflict.
The Bury Free Press reported:
”that the Medical Officer of Health had stated in his report that there was no method of disposing of house refuse in Lakenheath but that his previous reports had borne fruit and he had received definite instructions to proceed with the inspection of houses of the working class with a view of improving those in the worst condition. A certain number of cases of pulmonary tuberculosis from the district had been treated in sanitoria but those who did not come under the Insurance Act had no chance of obtaining such treatment”.
The Bury Free Press, Saturday, March 21 1914.
The Retreat Estate was sold in 48 Lots. The house was sold by auction in London and its land at the Bell Hotel. The house seems to have been purchased by Mr. BILSLAND, who had been the tenant of Churchgate farm opposite the church graveyard. At this time the house was not divided into two. Mr. Bilsland was a prominent village figure, being Chairman of the Magistrate’s Court (the Quarter Sessions), an Urban District Councillor and probably a Parish Councillor as well. He later became a County Councillor. In 1915 Robert and Jeannie Bilsland were shown as living at Brandon House, Lakenheath, by the Commonwealth war Graves Commission. One of their sons, identified as Bilsland, J, (aged 28), is recorded as Killed in Action and is named on our War Memorial.
Front page of the Sale catalogue
World War I began with the First Battle of the Marne. The town of Ypres saw four battles between October 1914 and April 1918. The final battle of the war was at Amiens. During the war Lakenheath warren east of the A1065 was a bombing target area for planes based at Feltwell and Thetford. The army also used the area for artillery practice and ammunition was stored there. Several aeroplanes made forced landings on the Warren. A narrow-gauge railway was constructed to take building materials from Lakenheath station to Feltwell to transport building materials for the aerodrome.
Silverlock in Lakenheath History Topics. Vol 1.
Doris Ditchburn’s notes
In January the Fen flooded.
Anyone wishing to obtain a view of the extensive flood in the Fen can do so from the top of Maid’s Cross Hill on the Brandon Road. Looking to the north west miles of water are visible, and it is a scene long to be remembered”.
The Bury Free Press, Saturday, January 30.
Children were allowed to leave school early to help with farm work because of the floods.
Lakenheath had a Scout troop which had been founded by a Mr POPE. A roll of Honour was on display in the Post Office of Scouts who had ‘joined up’.
This very early photograph dates from around 1910. The Bury Free Press
This makes the Lakenheath troop one of the oldest in the country.
Photo courtesey of Jeffrey Serjeant.
A large number of nationally known figures attended the unveiling of the *Kitchener Memorial in St. Mary’s Church. After the service a reception and a luncheon were held in the grounds of The Retreat at the invitation of Mr. R Bilsland. The proceedings lasted for several hours and large crowds attended the event. Lord Kitchener’s ancestors lived in the village in the 17th C. (See Timeline 3).
Bury Free Press Saturday August 4th. 1917.
*Lord Kitchener was the Secretary of State for War until his death in 1916. He was drowned when HMS Hampshire struck a German mine.
A German Zepplin airship dropped bombs on The Pits Drove. They then went on to drop bombs on Weeting Heath having already bombed West Row Fen. The Pitts Drove, also known as Turf Pits, is about a mile west of Lakenheath not far from Undley.
Zepplin raids, Gothas and Giants. Britain’s First Blitz. Ian Castle
The Russian Revolution began.
Towards the end of the war serious food shortages caused the government to introduce food rationing. This was largely caused by U boat attacks on merchant shipping and the necessity of feeding the army in France. Infringement of rationing regulations could lead to imprisonment. There was a proposal by the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) to buy The Retreat including Churchgate Farm and land, property of Mr. Bilsland, for use as a training centre in all aspects of agriculture for men suffering from shell-shock and the after effects of tuberculosis. The scheme was to be recommended to the Ministry of Pensions on condition that the YMCA should bear financial responsibility! Not much later a Mr.W Salmon became the owner of the Retreat estate.
The Bury Free Press, November 30th 1918
NOVEMBER 16th. The First World War came to an end.
“Lakenheath heard of the armistice about noon and flagssoon appeared on the church tower and in the streets. The school children were given a holiday and took part in a parade, addresses being given in the High Street by the Rev. W S COOPER, the Rev. J G M STRETTON and Mr. W H GILBEY.
In the evening Bells were pealed, and a united thanksgiving service was arranged”.
The Bury Free Press, Saturday, November 16th 1918.
General Elections now had to have the result declared on a single day. Men over the age of 21 and women over 30 could vote.
The RAF left the warren airfield in the Spring.
A ‘hurricane’ struck the village causing serious damage, trees were up-rooted and premises wrecked. There was ‘havoc at Rookery Farm’, Lord Kitchener’s ancestor’s home. A car travelling on Station Road was blown into a ditch. It may have been this storm which destroyed the school bell-tower.
Bury Free Press Saturday December 27th.
The football club was re-formed with MR. W H GILBY, Headmaster being elected Chairman. There were to be two teams with the 1st team being captained by WILLIAM BROWN and the reserves by AUBREY CASH. The pre-war name, LAKENHEATH WANDERERS, formerly Lakenheath Rovers, was to be retained. Mr. S PENSON had “kindly offered his field” again for the coming season. This may have been in Broom Road.
There were disagreements over the siting of the War Memorial.
The building of a Village Hall was agreed and a committee established.
Commemorating the Fallen: The War Memorial and the Peace Memorial Hall
The Parish Council approved the building of a cinema in the village and ‘moving pictures’ were on the way.
Lakenheath village cinema.
A COLLECTION OF STORIES: “VILLAGE MATTERS”
These stories jump about in time. They show how the village changed in the early part of the 20thC.
1. Street Lamps. 1902-1933.
2. Here is the News.
3. The cinema comes to the village.
4. Tom Rolph: Mechanical engineer and shop keeper.
5. ‘My Mother’s Kitchen’. Robert Kidner.
6. The Good Friday Market.
All ‘mechanically propelled vehicles’ now required an Excise Licence (Road Tax). There were complaints about the quality of materials used in the resurfacing of paths, (and possibly local roads), surrounding the village! What’s new?
Adolf Hitler became the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany.1921 ‘The summer weather was very hot, *wells dried up, fenland cracked and ditch banks were cracking. Chestnut trees flowered twice’.
From Doris Ditchburn’s notes
*A considerable number of village houses depended for their water on wells or, for some, the old River Lode. 1921
In November Lakenheath parish council met to consider the results of the work of the sub- committee appointed to inspect the street lamps standards (poles) to carry the new oil lamps.
“The council adopted the committee’s suggestion. It was agreed to light seven lamps at the street corners, Post Office, monument (the war memorial) and other important places in the village”.
The Bury Free Press. “100 Years Ago. Meeting held over street lighting”.
Construction of the Lakenheath Peace Memorial Hall began in June and the Hall was opened on November 11th, Remembrance Day. The cost was £618 and it was built in only six months.
Building the Hall. Bury Free Press. July 1st 1922
THOMAS J GATHERCOLE was summoned for keeping a dog without a licence. PC ALDOUS had seen the dog on the defendant’s premises. He was fined 5/-. Compulsory dog licencing had been in force since 1906.
A gramophone could be purchased for £10 from Curry’s of Bury St. Edmunds; quite a lot of money! A Ford delivery van cost £150 and a Coupe, from Mann and Egerton, again, of Bury, cost £230.
Bury Free Press
Major work was going on in St. Mary’s. The pipe organ was donated by Governess Emma Rolph (see timeline 4) in memory of her parents and the medieval bench ends were re-introduced. The medieval pulpit was re-sited.
Joshua Frank Bennett, JOSH BENNETT, born in 1911, left school at the age of 14 to begin his working life. After a few false starts including labouring for the Forestry Commission, and going into domestic service as a kitchen boy in London he was back at home when he applied to join the RAF. He failed the entrance exam but after help from his old Sunday School teacher was successful at the age of 18 in 1929. In the RAF he trained as a carpenter. He went on to found one of the most successful building companies in East Anglia; Bennett Homes. This company built a large number of bungalows in the village in the 1960’s and a considerable number were marketed in London.
He was a generous man who regularly gave local pensioners the use of his holiday home in Felixstowe, taking them there and back in his Rolls-Royce! The company remained in the village, employing numerous locals before moving to Nowton.
“From the Beginning” -By a Suffolk Countryman. J.F. Bennett. 1972.
The National General Strike began on 3 May and continued for nine days.
The Earl of Iveagh was offering to buy village ancient medieval commoners’ rights on the Elveden side of the Brandon to Mildenhall road, his purpose being the afforestation of the warren east of the A 1065 by the Forestry Commission. Some villagers still had commoner’s rights on the vast Lakenheath Warren which were being administered as a charity by trustees. A £10 payment to each rights holder together with offers of regular employment for villagers and the building of four houses in the village were considered insufficient inducements to agree to his proposal. In a rowdy parish meeting a suggestion that both sides should give up their rights was made. The following possibly ‘tongue in cheek’ offer was made, proposed, and passed, to loud applause, “That we do not give up any right in any way”.
The Bury Free Press November 27th 1926
Note: This issue was to reappear later in the 1990’s.
The first ‘talkie’ movie, ‘The Jazz Singer’, was made, but the Electric Cinema had been demolished in September and the reclaimed materials auctioned off. It seems that the electricity had been provided by a dynamo driven by a petrol engine. Prior to its demolition the building had been used by The YMCA and The Church Army.
The Silver Band (Conductor Mr. HERBERT COLEMAN), had raised £8. 6 shillings and 6 pence which was donated to Addenbrookes Hospital.1927 The Norfolk and Suffolk League of Nations Union held a public meeting in the Peace Hall.
READ ABOUT THE PEACE MOVEMENT IN LAKENHEATH
Women over the age of 21 now could vote.
Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming. He had a house in Barton Mills.
The ‘Wall Street Crash’ started the Great Depression. This continued throughout most of the ‘30’s. In general, unemployment had more than doubled by the end of 1930 and signs of malnutrition like scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis were quite common in many places. Agriculture was particularly badly affected. A good number of men were digging stones and gravel on the warren but were not paid. Instead they received a ticket for food.
West Suffolk CC had purchased the Undley Hall estate and divided it into 12 small-holdings. KEN TURNER’S father took a risk and took one on against the advice of his brother who thought he would go bankrupt like so many others.
Demolition orders were made on houses in Lakenheath by the Mildenhall District Council. (See also Politics and Poverty at 1913).
WALTER JOHN SALMON sold The Retreat and its land to Sir CHARLTON BRISCOE, a Harley Street surgeon and his wife Lady GRACE, who was also an eminent physician.
READ ABOUT SIR CHARLTON AND LADY GRACE BRISCOE
The village population was 1,656.
In September The Parish Council was keen to negotiate a good deal for the operating and maintenance of street lighting and the purchase of the oil for the lights. However by the 8th Sept the Parish Council had reached an agreement with *Mr T A ROLPH for the substitution of the existing oil lamps with electric lights. It was resolved by the Highways Committee that permission be granted and that the annual rent to be charged be left to the Clerk. Later it was reported by Dr Pickworth that permission had been given for the erection of 130 poles along the streets of the parish. He had discovered that the East Anglian Electricity Board were proposing to come to the village in the following year which would mean an additional lot of poles, making the village unsightly. The EAEB had stated that they were the only people who were empowered to put up poles along the street. It was decided that the whole matter should be negotiated between the Board and Mr. Rolph.
Attention was also given to a letter from the Ministry of Health in connection with Housing. The question of the ‘bathing pool’ was adjourned. The Parish Council had asked whether the County Council might make a ‘bathing pool’ in the village as a relief scheme. This was eventually referred to the Mildenhall Relief Sub -Committee who thought that there were sufficient facilities in the River and in the Lode. At this time concerns were also being raised about the village pond. (Possibly due to pollution from sewerage disposal).
The Bury Free Press, Saturday 18th November 1933.
*You can read about Tom Rolph in “Village Matters”.
September 9th. The District Council offered £500 to purchase land in the village to provide 36 houses but the offer was refused. By February an offer had been accepted to prevent sale by compulsory purchase. This land provided the council houses on Eriswell Road.
September 16th. Notice was given of the demolition of twenty-one houses in Anchor Lane with a further four in Dumpling Bridge Lane.
The Bury Free Press.
In October 20 members of the Brass Band made their annual visit to the Band Contest at the Crystal Palace. The conductor of the band was Mr C COLEMAN.
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
“Eight applicants chosen as tenants for the new Council houses erected on Eriswell road were notified on Tuesday”.
The Bury Free Press.
Lakenheath Women’s Institute was formed. The London to Melbourne Air Race took off from Mildenhall (Beck Row airfield). This was part of the Melbourne Centenary Celebrations.
In January the new electric street lights were switched on. The village turned out to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Slum clearance in the village was still high on the Agenda because the First World War had prevented any progress in re-housing poorer families and public health was a major concern in some quarters.
In 1932 ROBERT KIDNER’S family moved from Norfolk to farm Bedford Farm on the Fen. His father, later Captain Kidner, and his brothers, had been farming in Norfolk since 1908. After living in Worlington for three years Captain Kidner brought his family to live at 81 High Street, formerly the Waggon and Horses, which was supplied with electricity by TOM ROLPH who is listed in the 1939 Directory as a Mechanical Engineer. In 1965 Tom is present in the WI scrapbook as a supplier of electrical and plumbing components and equipment.
The arrival in Lakenheath of the Kidner family completed a saga of migration which had begun in 1907 in Taunton, Somerset. Robert’s grandfather thought that farming in East Anglia offered better prospects at a difficult time for farmers and so, together with his large family, had walked the farm animals from Taunton to Stoke Holy Cross just south of Norwich!
“MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN” BY ROBERT KIDNER. IN VILLAGE MATTERS
More of Robert’s memories, ‘A Suffolk Village in the 1930’s can be read in the ‘Times Remembered’ part of the website.
New silver instruments were purchased by the Brass Band and its name was changed to what it is today: Lakenheath Silver Band.
Brass bands of the British Isles. Holman.Gavin.
Lakenheath Silver Band circa 1935. The name can just be made out on the side of the bass drum if the photo is enlarged. The following members have been identified:
Back row. Alwin Barker, ?, 5th from left Charlie Morley, 7th from left John Coleman, ?.
Front row. 3rd from left George Morley.
A new Chicory processing factory was built at The Hiss (Lakenheath Station). Some Belgian workers were brought over to train the locals and some remained here when WW2 broke out.
Silverlock : Lakenheath History Topics Vol I.
Edward VIII became King. His reign ended with his Abdication after 11 months.
Part of a rare mould used in the production of commemorative glass bowls to celebrate the Coronation of Edward VIII”. Property of Martin Taylor.
May 9th. The football club were the winners of the West Suffolk Junior Cup beating Clare easily six goals to one. In 1937 the team were described as having been “a power junior football for some time”.
The Bury Free Post.
Cup Final match report. 'Haddy' Rutterford with the cup.
Production began at the new Chivers Chicory Factory at Sedge Fen. At the time it was the largest of its kind in Europe and provided steady employment for a good number of villagers. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-39, gave a foretaste of things to come.
On the 12th May the country celebrated the coronation of King George VI.
Mr Lummis's decorated lorry. Decorations in Anchor Lane
The coronation of Edward VIII was to have been the occasion for the street lights to be switched on. When the lights eventually appeared it was reported that the “lights were giving general satisfaction to the inhabitants”.
The Bury Free Press
The new council houses on Eriswell Road were occupied. About 1938 West Suffolk County Council were improving the Undley Road turning it from a muddy track into a more durable surface. The Fen flooded again.
The Second World War began. The Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, broadcast to the Nation and Empire.
“I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11o’clock, that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. ……………………………………………..”
BBC broadcast 3rd. September 1939
For the second time in 21 years this country was at war with Germany.