Southery, coming from the Old English ‘Southern Island’ (rather than South Ferry) is the other village on the ‘island’ with Hilgay and owes its foundation to its position above the flood level of the fen. Like Hilgay, it was well established by the time of Domesday Book, when the parish lands were held by the Abbot of St Edmunds. Various agricultural resources were mentioned at the time including a large number of sheep and a fishery.
The earliest archaeological finds are pot boiler scatters representing settlement at the fen shore. A large number of flint implements have also been found scattered around the parish. The Bronze Age is well represented with finds of swords, axe heads and other implements. Two inhumations from this period have also been identified, with one of the skeletons, dubbed ‘Nancy’, being accompanied by eight jet beads and a bronze awl. Both were uncovered about 500 metres south of Little London.
As with Hilgay, few remains of Iron Age habitation have been found but there is rather more evidence of Roman activity dovetailing, no doubt, with the more substantial finds further east. The Saxons undoubtedly settled on the raised land along Westgate Street as excavations have revealed.
The most enduring edifice in the village is the ruined old St Mary’s church. It is certainly medieval though Pevsner does not date it. Blomefield says that around 1800 the nave and chancel were thatched while there was a small tiled tower with two bells. It was replaced in 1858 at the instigation of the new rector Archibald Eneas Julius after he arrived in 1855. He had already undertaken a similar project at Myland, or Mile End, in the northern part of Colchester although it was completed after he had taken up his new living in Southery. Julius officiated at his first marriage ceremony in Southery on 28 April 1855 when Mayes Flack, labourer, aged 20, married Mary Clark Taylor. The avowdson of Southery was held by the rector of Myland and Julius served there from 1849-1855 before moving on to Southery. The Reverend Edmund Hall (1829-1903) succeeded Julius in Myland, having preceded him in Southery. Tansley and Edmund were each sons of Charles Hall, one from each of his two marriages, the second to Harriet Archer, the daughter of an Ely solicitor. Charles was a prominent local businessman based in Ely with brewing interests in particular (Later becoming Hall, Cutlack & Harlock with their famous Ely Ales). He was also one of the people responsible for the straightening of the Ouse between Ely and Littleport, known as Sandall's (or Sandy's) Cut, a distance of some six miles, in 1829. Edmund’s son, the Reverend George Clement Madison Hall took over as Rector of Southery when Julius died in 1895 and was rector there until 1932. The churches of Southery and Myland bear many similarities and there is a brass memorial close to the altar in Southery church dedicated to Katherine (nee Maddison), wife of Edmund Hall of Myland. Edmund’s elder brother, the Reverend Tansley Hall (1811-1893) served in Southery in 1848-54. Both were born in Ely. Of interest, perhaps, to family historians is ‘Clem’ Hall’s wife Catherine Copeman, daughter of Canon Copeman of Norwich, whose brother Charles was part of the firm Metcalfe, Copeman & Pettefar. Indeed, their maternal great grandfather was Charles Metcalfe who founded the firm of solicitors in Wisbech in1784. Charles, his son, is shown as living at Inglethorpe Hall, Emneth, in the census of 1861. The Reverend Edward Stangewayes Morton (1891-1967) became the rector from 1932 to 1947 and enjoyed a fine reputation in the parish. A new cemetery was opened the following year. Morton's successors were the Revs Bill Woodhouse (1947-51), DC Sparks to 1955, KG Merrett to 1969, JSE Harris to 1969, THW Swan to 1979, Alan Cochrane to 1877 and David Evans from 1998 until his retirement due to ill health. The advowson is currently held by the Guild of All Souls which holds the patronage of over 40 parishes. It is one of the Catholic Societies within the Church of England. Find out more at http://www.guildofallsouls.org.uk/
From the north west
Robert Ladbrooke's image of the old church dated 1832. The west tower had collapsed in 1747 taking part of the nave with it.
Hall memorial brass plaque
Unfortunately, the Southery parish registers date only from 1706. They are nevertheless of considerable interest, all the more so because of the many incidental details added by several of the Southery rectors, especially Archibald Julius who was the incumbent for forty years. They provide an interesting insight into village life in the 1800s.
Deaths resulting from drowning, fire and being run over by carts were not uncommon. Elsewhere there is evidence of two measles’ epidemics that carried off 20 children in 1865 and a further 22 children under the age of eleven between 18 June and 11 September 1887. No small tragedies. The latter outbreak came only two years after six children under the age of twelve died of diphtheria in the winter of 1884-1885.
Alongside a burial entry on 17 July 1848, one gentleman, ‘John Davey alias Samuel Douglas’, aged 45, died as a result of ‘being stuck by lightening while sitting on his bed’. In the opposite margin of the register can be found a further note: ‘He went by the name of Douglass as he was a deserter. The coroner’s warrant thus returned the name as above’. Another entry was for William Low, who was buried on 23 December 1863, aged 72, having been ‘killed by falling down the stairs of the Bell Inn’. Another is the burial of John Sayle on 12 August 1856, aged 61, whose demise was caused by ‘Asiatic cholera’. Britain's first cholera epidemic was in the spring of 1832, claiming its first victim in Southery of William Porter, landlord of the Ferry public house, on 3rd April. Officially, the first case was in London on 13th February. There was another outbreak in 1849. As the century wore on the link between cholera and sewage entering the water supply was identified and remedial actions were increasingly effective.
Not that, as was common at the time John was buried the day following his death.
This John Sayle was the father of Robert Sayle who founded the department store in Cambridge. Robert was baptised in Southery on 18 Jul 1816. Some brief biographical notes can be found on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Sayle
Robert Sayle store in the 1950s
Family historians may be interested in the this section of the Sayle family tree
Two other famous sons of Southery are Vice Admiral Sir Reginald Skelton (1872-1956) whose mother’s family lived at the Manor House on Westgate Street around 1871. Mother was Ellen Anne nee Brown - her father's portrait is included below - the eldest of Thomas and Emily (nee Filby)'s six children. Skelton was chief engineer and photographer on Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1912. His cousin, son of the fifth child Joseph John, (Sir) Harold Brown was baptised in St Mary’s on 17 April 1878 and was at the Ministry of Supply in the Churchill government during WWII. Joseph's wife was Caroline Martha Sayle, Robert's daughter. The second daughter and second eldest child, Alice, was born in 1847 and married Arthur Cowper Julius, son of the Rector, who was born in Myland, Colchester before the Revd Julius arrived in Southery. The youngest child, Florence, married John Ashlin Skelton, her brother in law (brother to William, Ellen Anne's husband).
Sir Harold Arthur Brown in 1936. He entered the Navy in 1894 as an engineer student at Devonport Dockyard, qualifying in 1899 as a Probationary Assistant Engineer. He became an engineer lieutenant in 1900, engineer lieutenant-commander in 1912, engineer commander in 1917 and engineer captain in 1924. Between 1921 and 1925 he was Assistant Naval Attache in Washington. In 1930 he became engineer rear-admiral and in 1932 was appointed vice-admiral and Engineer-in-Chief of the Fleet, until his retirement in 1936. He was knighted in the 1939 Birthday Honours and was appointed Director General of Munitions Production at the outbreak of the war. Southery boy makes good! (Photo: National Portrait Gallery) As Engineer-in-Chief he was preceded by none other than Sir Reginald W Skelton. These things seem to run in families. Skelton's career is well documented at http://www.dreadnoughtproject.org/tfs/index.php/Reginald_William_Skelton and
There's more....Arthur Cowper Julius and wife Alice emigrated to Australia just after the 1881 census (when they were living, with their then four children at Crowfield in Suffolk where he was a curate). Daughter Constance was born at Greenponds, Tasmania, on the 4th October 1882 followed by son John in 1886 in the Allora district, west of Brisbane in south east Queensland. Arthur then ran off with a nurse to Sydney from Harrisville in 1889 leaving Alice with six children as related by her great granddaughter still bearing the Julius name in Australia. I'm sure the Revd Julius would be far from impressed, let alone Alice and the six children. Indeed he wasn't! There is much more to this story. Please go to http://www.thekingscandlesticks.com/webs/pedigrees/877.html
The youngest surviving child (another daughter was born in 1865 but lived for only seven weeks), born in Southery Rectory in 1864, was Lucy Adelaide who went on to marry John Lockie Clark. He, having acquired the Southwick shipping yard in Sunderland by marriage to Margaret Thomson, divorced in 1884 before marrying Lucy four years later. The vessel 'Southery' was launched in 1889 and named, presumably, through this connection.
USS Southery shortly after acquisition by the US Navy in 1898. Launched in Sunderland 1889.
Rector Archibald's nephew, Churchill Julius (1847-1938), had a much more celebrated career in the church. Starting as a curate in St Giles, Norwich in 1871 he emigrated to take up an archdeaconry in Ballarat, Victoria in 1884. He became Bishop of Christchurch in 1890 and was Archbishop of New Zealand from 1922-25 from which position he retired. he retired. His career is well-covered in the Dictionary of National Biography and Wikipedia. The concluding paragraph of his entry in the former reads "A large man with a firm and sturdy appearance, a ready wit and brilliant conversation, sensitivity to others but a rather plain bluff philosophy, Julius was every inch the colonial bishop". Churchill's eldest son (born in Norwich in 1873) was Sir George Alfred Julius (died 1946) who also has a substantial entry in the National Biography and is celebrated as an engineer and public servant. Churchill's father, and Archibald's brother was Frederick Gilder Julius, a surgeon (Gilder was his mother's maiden name), sons of George Charles Julius (1775-1866)
There is a good summary of Archibald's life through the available census and other data at http://ghgraham.org/archibaldjulius1819.html
And one last link.... the Rev John Awdry Julius (1874-1956), second son of Churchill, derives his name from the family of the Rev Awdry of Emneth and the Outwell Tramway fame - see the Transport section earlier.
(Norfolk Record Office, with thanks)The Revd Archibald Julius (1819-95),Rector of Southery for 40 years, had a profound influence on the village and its people http://members.ozemail.com.au/~bconlon/george_julius_genealogy.htm
Southery Rectory c1900 from Judith Legge's 'A Little History of Southery and its Churches' (see references). It was built in 1820 for the Revd Wilfred Clark
....and as it appears today in Churchgate Street
Acting as curate in Southery from 1814-1816 was Charles Kingsley (1781-1860), father of the novelist of the same name. There is no mention of Charles’ service in Southery in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Nor is there any mention of the birth of his first son, Charles, who was born on 12 April 1815 and Christened by his father on the same day but buried, aged 3 days, on the 15th.
It takes little imagination to picture the horror behind the burial entry of 02 April 1838 for William Peckett, aged 78. ‘This poor old man was run over at night, near his own house, by a cart containing two granddaughters. He lingered three weeks’.
The first burial in the new St Mary’s churchyard, reflective of the high infant mortality of the time, was on 13 October 1859 when William Frank Scott Rodgers, aged 3 months, was interred. The officiating minister was the Revd Julius.
The burial entry 10 July 1868 for Rebecca Naylor, Rebecca Edwards (aged 27) and her sister Sarah Anne (18) says that ‘These three persons departed from Southery in a cart to Ely. A few hours afterwards they were all found drowned in the river under the cart opposite the mill above Brandon Creek Bridge with no clue how the accident happened’.
Understandably, most additional information comes through the burial registers, but the baptismal register refers to the transportation (to Australia in 1829) of Thomas Osler. He was convicted at Swaffham on 23 July 1828 of stealing a fustion frock from a Mr Beevor of Stowbridge and sentenced to transportation for life. His prison ship departed on 20 May 1929 and he arrived in Australia after 97 days on 27 August. He was pardoned in 1847 on condition that he remained in Australia. His wife, Ann Macrow (born Wilton 1799), who he married in Southery in 1821, then lived with George Porter (they weren't able to marry) and they had seven children. George had been married but his wife Frances Scott was buried in Southery on 24 September 1826, aged 38. George died in 1879 in Downham Market.
There is, inside the church, a brass plaque listing the various rectors of the parish. John Romney was rector from 1788-1807 though he never lived in the village, choosing to divide his time between Cambridge and Kendal. He was the son of artist George Romney (1734-1802) and spent much of his time promoting his father’s reputation. In his time, George Romney was more fashionable than both Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough but an obsession with Lady Emma Hamilton, who he first met as Emma Hart in 1781, did his reputation a disservice following her fall from grace after Nelson’s death in 1805. An exhibition of his work at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 2002 referred to Romney senior as ‘British art’s forgotten genius’.
Robert Constable was rector of Southery for 19 years and there was a memorial to him and his wife Elizabeth, ‘late of Covent Garden’, in old St Mary’s. Robert died in 1689, aged 53. He was appointed by George Purefoy who had married Catherine Willoughby (see above). His ministry was interrupted in 1675 because of his refusal to read the Articles (of Faith) but he was to return in 1685.
A predecessor of Robert was Robert Wylsey, appointed in 1541, but he was removed in 1553 for being married – part of the return to Catholicism driven by the new queen Mary.
The first rector, instituted in 1300, was Peter de Casteleyn, presented by the abbot of Bury. Blomefield lists twenty five rectors ut to and including Wylsey. Thereafter, the list is as follows:
1554 Robert Peerson, presented by Henry Hawe, Gent, on the deprivation of Wylsey; 1554 Robert Morley; 1557 Thomas Disse STP, on the resignation of Morley (Henry Hawe); 1559 William Susan, on the death of Disse (Henry Hawe); George Longe AM occurs in 1562, also vicar of Stow Bardolph; Peter Tye, afterwards rector of Watlington and Barton St Mary; 1578 Lionel Life, on the resignation of Tye (Henry Hawe); 1582 John Smith AM (Catharine Winter, widow); 1583 Thomas Everard (Henry Hawe); 1588 Robert Peame, on the death of Everard (Henry Hawe); Jonas Steward AB, on the resignation of Peame (Henry Hawe) - there were 94 communicants in 1603; 1608 Charles Smith AM, on the death of the last rector (Henry Willoughby Esq); 1625 Elijah Catlyn, on the death of Smith (James Hawe of Berney, Gent; 1642 Samuel Hutton AM, on the death of Catlyn (Sir Henry Willoughby, Bart); 1670 Robert Constable AM on the death of Hutton (George Purefoy, Esq and Knightley Purefoy, Gent) 1675; 1675 Roger Davies AM, (by the King, on account of Constable's not reading the Articles); 1685 Robert Constable iterum (Francis Pawlet Esq, Sir John Sidenham Bart, Sir Thomas Putt, Bart, Edward Heade Esq, and Sir Henry Purefoy, Bart); 1689 Girsholm Malcolm (Willoughby Grey Esq); 1705 Samuel Lees AM, on the death of Malcolm (Elizabeth Grey, spinster); 1737, Cuth. Sewell on Lees' death (Jos Sewell Esq hac vice)
Willoughby Grey (d1710) was the son of Anne Willoughby, the daughter of Sir Henry Willoughby and Elizabeth Knollys (see Hilgay chapter), and her second husband, Anchitel Grey, MP and second son of Henry Grey, first Earl of Stamford. Elizabeth Grey, spinster, was his younger sister (born 1651/2)
There were two other memorials of note in the old church. That to William Stokes of Wyverston in Suffolk, Gent, who died in February 1639, aged 81 (which can be seen in the present church), and that to Jane Tyrell of Gypping, wife of Johan Tyrell who died 07 October 1638. Her poetic eulogy begins
“Here rests that just and pious Jane,
That ever hated all that’s vayne....”
Southery rectors. The earliest known rectors were Peter de Castelyn in 1300 and Nicholas de Wisbeche in 1335 indicating the presence of a church in Southery for over 500 years. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s, the manor of Southery (like that of Hilgay) passed from the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds to Henry Hawes in 1545 and then to James Hawes. Along with this title came the avowdson, or right to appoint the rector. The Willoughby family inherited the manor in 1640 (please see the Hilgay chapter for more information). Charles Mann (Rector 1837-1848) lived in Denver Hall and was also the Rector of Ryston and Denver which inevitably led to his services being spread thinly. A new curate, the Revd William Henry Henslowe, arrived in 1838 and set about trying to improve the moral and spiritual wellbeing of the parish which he perceived to be at a very low ebb.. This led to much dispute and ended up with the Bishop of Norwich having to arbitrate. Henslowe moved on to Wormegay in 1840 where he was in a further dispute which led to his suspension from the ministry for three months in 1845. His career appeared to have pinnacled in 1847 with the publication of his pamphlet entitled "Beard Shaving and Common Use of the Razor: an Unnatural, Irrational, Unmanly, Ungodly and Fatal Fashion amongst Christians".
Around the internal walls of the church are a number of ceramic wall tiles dedicated to various former residents such as Christopher William Porter (1821-92) and wife Elizabeth (nee Ward 1819 and who died before the 1861 census) who were married in St Mary's on 28 April 1845. Two of their children Christopher William (born 1846) and Susan (1857-91) are also commemorated. These plaques are useful reference points for family historians because of the large number of families in the village with the same surname, particularly Porter, Bell and Osler.
John Larman Porter was born in Southery in 1836 and married Mary Ann Bateman from West Head, Stowbridge, in Southery in !860. They had eleven children one of whom, Alice, married Alfred Henry Porter.... So common was the name Porter that families distinguished themselves by using middle names such as the Larman Porters (as above) or the Galloway Porters. And then we have the Porter Bells.... and so it goes on.
A third of the many pays tribute to Isaac Porter:
Isaac married Eliza Ann Osler in Southery on 18 November 1884. Although Isaac died young, Eliza lived to be 91. All four of their children lived to a good age: George Osler (84), Millicent May (87 - mother of Lawrence Edwin 1923-2010. All four of her boys lived into their 80s), William Kibble (80 - the name 'Kibble' occurs throughout the Porter entries in the registers since 1700), and Nellie Eliza (92). Nellie ran a small shop in a lean-to building at the Ferry for many years. Nellie's marriage to George Lack was particularly tragic. They married in March 1918. After three days George embarked on a troopship for the Middle East and was killed in Syria on 30 March - his grave can be found in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Damascus and he is commemorated on the village war memorial.
Another tile commemorates George Edward Osler who was killed on his farm in Williams, Iowa on 10th July 1910, aged 30 years. He was born officially in Methwold but this can be misleading as Methwold is one of the largest parishes in Norfolk and comes very close to the east of Southery on the Feltwell Road. The family farm presumably would be much closer to Southery village than Methwold. The tile was placed in the church by family and friends, many with Southery surnames, residing in the USA. George's grave can be found in the Williams Township Cemetery (Lot 126-N).
George Edward Osler 1880-1910 'killed on his farm', Williams, Hamilton County, Iowa
Apart from the old and new parish churches and Modney Hall there are no buildings of marked significance in Southery. In particular, no medieval manorial site has been recognised.
There is no grand manor house in Southery although a house on Westgate Street went by that name until its demolition in the 1960s. The stables behind the house remain, as does a farm building further west towards Victory Corner. Manor Farm extended westwards for up to 1000 acres across the new route of the A10 road.
Southery Manor House 1906 (Mike Bullen)
The Manor House, earlier
Manor Farm barn
In 1871, Thomas Brown was in residence but he had retired to London by 1881. In 1851 and 1861 he had been tenant farmer of Hill Farm, on Ryston Road, Denver, part of the Pratt estate where he farmed 876 acres (in 1861), employing around 55 men and 12 boys. Hill House and some of the buildings of Hill Farm can be seen in the Ryston & Roxham chapter
Thomas Brown, born Wimbotsham 1798
White’s Directory of 1854 for Denver lists Thomas Brown as a farmer and ram breeder – ‘a great shew of Leicester rams is held at Mr Thomas Brown’s yearly in June’.
In 1881, Manor Farm was being run by George E Daintree from Fenton in Huntingdonshire. It then consisted of 1840 acres and was employing 62 men, 21 women and 18 boys. By 1891 John Luddington Peacock (1842-1919, born Littleport) was resident with his wife Mary and eight children. They were still there in 1901 though two of the younger children were boarding at Mary Markham’s school in Bridge Street, Downham Market. Later the land came into the ownership of the Iveagh estates
The Porters of Southery
In 1646, Charles I went from Snore Hall to Oxford and then on to Newark where he surrendered to the Scots on 05 May. The story goes that he arrived from the Swan Inn in Downham Market, where he spent several days while overtures were made to the Scots. He was then guided through the wilderness of the fens by one Mucky Porter, landlord of the Silver Fleece in Southery.
A full account Mucky Porter’s contribution to the Civil War can be found on the website of the Ouse Washes Molly Dancers. The story also recounts the legend of the grey goosefeather and how Charles II turned up personally to reward Mucky after the Restoration.
‘At the time of the English Civil War there lived in the village of Southery, on the Norfolk border of the great wilderness, a publican by the name of Mucky Porter. One evening he was counting out his money, his takings for the day of which there was very little, when there came a knock at the Inn door. Mucky Porter looked outside and saw two very fine looking gentlemen with two extremely beautiful thoroughbred horses outside in his yard. He wondered what such affluent looking folk could want with him and hurried to the door. “Are you the man they call Mucky Porter?” They asked.
“I might be, it depends on who wants to know”, he replied letting them into the pub parlour. The strangers sat down and quickly came to the point.
“Mr. Porter could you tell us what you think of Old Nol?” “Well I don’t think much about him except he’s the reason that my takings have been rather low recently. Nearly all my regulars have gone to fight in his army as he says that he’ll put an end to the draining of the fen and interfering with their way of life,” he replied.
“And what about the King, Mr. Porter?”
“Well I don’t think much about him neither”.
“Would you be prepared to help the King Mr Porter?”
“Well it depends what was in it for me.”
At this, one of the strangers took out of his pocket a bag of gold coins. Mucky Porter’s eyes lit up. The stranger continued, “Mr. Porter we have heard that you are one of the few people who know the way across these accursed marshes and bogs. The King has been pursued across Norfolk by Oliver Cromwell’s men and needs to get to Huntingdon where his forces are waiting to escort him to Oxford. If you could guide him across you would be rewarded with this bag of gold. It took Mucky Porter at least three seconds to decide and later that night he was brought before the King himself at Snowre Hall at Fordham near Downham Market, the residence of Sir Ralph Skipwith, where he was being hidden. Some of the King’s attendants were dubious that this raggedy looking local could be trusted with the fate of the monarch and Mucky was asked for some proof that he was trustworthy. At that Mucky Porter drew from his pocket a grey goosefeather. He took out his knife and cut the feather in half.
“Your lordships,” said Mucky Porter with all the dignity he could muster, “I am a fenlander, a true fenlander. All true folk of this area carry this token and if in need are sworn to help, unto even their own death, another who carries a grey goosefeather.” With this he put one half feather in his pocket and handed the other to the King. “Now, by my honour, I can do nothing but aid His Majesty.” This seemed to satisfy the members of the court and the following morning Mucky Porter of Southery and King Charles I of England set out to cross the last great wilderness of Southern Britain. At first they passed through populous areas (which must have been Hilgay) and Mucky Porter was concerned that their presence was being noted by those they came across. “Your Majesty,” he said, “I am worried that these great huge horses make us stand out. I think we need to take a detour.”
The detour took them to Southery and the Silver Fleece inn where they stabled the thoroughbreds they were riding and took to two sturdy fenland ponies instead. Mucky Porter also got a couple of old sacks to put over their clothes and as they passed out through the village streets they went unnoticed. Mucky Porter was indeed an expert at finding his way through the fen and they passed through areas that few knew and even fewer dared themselves to visit. Thus they came eventually to the other side, to the ford in the river just outside Huntingdon. There, however, their hearts sank as it was strongly manned by Roundhead troops. “Halt, who goes there?” called the sentries. At this Mucky Porter put his hand into his pocket, took out the split grey goosefeather and held it aloft. The troops turned their gaze on the King who put his hand in his pocket and did the same. “Quick, come across, and then away with you”, said the guards who were, of course, themselves true fenlanders. There Mucky Porter handed the King over eventually to his own men and returned by his secret route towards the pub. In his pocket, which he kept tapping, was the bag filled with gold coins and in his stable back at the pub were the two fine horses, the like of which had never been seen in Southery."
And that might have been the end of the story for Mucky Porter, but not, of course, as we know for King Charles. Eventually the forces of Oliver Cromwell were victorious and Charles was forced to stand trial. As is well known he was found guilty and was sentenced to death. It is said in the fens that on the night before the execution Cromwell was sitting with the rest of his generals near to the place of execution when there came an emissary from the King. He stood before the generals and said: “The King does not ask for pardon for he is God’s anointed monarch and knows that the Parliament has no authority to do what they intend to do to him. All that His Majesty asks is that he is afforded that due to one who holds this token.” At that the courtier drew from his pocket the split grey goosefeather and placed it on the table before Cromwell. Cromwell’s face went white and he dismissed all those who were gathered with him. Long he sat into the night, staring at the feather. For Cromwell too was a fenlander and knew what he should do. But when morning came he did not intervene and Charles was beheaded. It is said that when they heard about this the fenland members of his army refused to follow him. They threw their goosefeathers at his feet and returned to their homes."
And what of Mucky Porter, back in the Silver Fleece in Southery? Perhaps he shed a tear when he heard of the execution of the King in 1649, we do not know. He was still landlord in 1658 when he heard of the death of Old Noll and it was unlikely that he was very upset at that. One day later, presumably in the 1660s, when Mucky Porter was getting very old but still landlord at the pub, there came a knock at his door in the early morning. He went to the window and saw a number of fine looking gentlemen out in the yard. He went outside and greeted them. “Are you Mucky Porter?” asked one of the fine gentlemen.
“I might be, it depends who’s asking”, was his reply.
“I am looking for a man called Mucky Porter”, said the most flamboyantly dressed visitor. “When I was young I heard many times the story of how a publican of that name helped my father to escape from Cromwell’s men across the wilderness. I have always wanted to reward him for his deed.” Mucky Porter very quickly realised who the visitor was and within a few minutes had agreed to accompany King Charles II and his courtiers out into the newly drained lands. The company was amazed when the old fenlander emerged from his stable riding a fine thoroughbred horse, the descendent of the two horses he had obtained all those years ago. They rode out onto the fen where the newly drained land shone with fecundity in the bright fenland sunlight. After they had ridden for a while Charles said to Mucky Porter, “Well here we are Mr Porter. You can have, as a reward for the service that you gave to my father, as much of the land as you would like. Come now, specify the boundaries of your new domain.”
Mucky Porter stared around him. “Well Your Majesty”, he said, “I think I’ll have from that barn over there, to that ditch right over there, to that tree in the distance. How much do you think I’ve got?”
“Mr. Porter, I think that you must have several acres there.”
And ever since that day the land on Methwold Fen has been called the Methwold Severals. And ever since that day it has been farmed by a Porter.”
We shall never know if the story is true or, if true, how much it has grown in the telling. Nor will we know for sure if Mucky Porter is an ancestor of any living Porters since the Southery church records did not begin until later. Various Porters have been landlords of The Old White Bell, or The Silver Fleece as it was formerly known, right up to the present day.
Southery’s Old White Bell in Upgate Street, formerly the Silver Fleece (2006)
Mucky was alleged to have had two brothers, Traps Porter and Barley Porter, but of them we know nothing.
It is interesting to note in the parish registers that when Thomas Porter was buried on 12 February 1900, aged 72, the rector had added in the margin ‘commonly called Mucky’. Old fables die hard.
Mention of the Severals leads to this poem by Abraham Ward which was treasured by Ally Legge, of whom more later, and is now the proud property of his grandson, Ray Starling:
Abraham William Ward, the aged West Norfolk poet, Southery, in his 80th year, dedicated this work to the great districts of Methwold Severals, formerly belonging to H.M. the Queen, purchased in the year 1904 by Mr Keeble. It begins:
From Dereham Abbey Station,
Across the dreary fen,
A railway will constructed be,
And soon it will be done.
That wild neglected District
In Methwold Parish lay,
Was always called the "Severals
Until this present day....
Keeble's ammonia factory at Wissington was supplied by a horse-drawn railway opened in 1905. It was closed in 1917 after flooding and reopened in 1924. The sugar factory opened the following year. This puts Abraham's birth around 1825 or 1845 depending on the railway opening to which he refers. In fact, it was the former which places Abraham's birth in about 1825. Abraham died in 1909. He was a first cousin to Susanna Ward who married Abraham Casbourn, mentioned elsewhere, who emigrated to the US around 1850. (See under the Plough public house in the Hilgay section). Abraham married Rachel Porter in Southery on 16 October 1856, his first wife having died. Rachel was the daughter of Benjamin Porter and Martha (nee Budd), Benjamin being the second of five generations carrying that name, the last two being Benjamin Edward, who died in Southery in 1965, and George Benjamin, son of John William, who died in 2001. The graves of the older Benjamin Porter's and their wives can be found to the south of the church tower.
Benjamin Porter (1777-1852) and his son of the same name (1805-1885)
Benjamin, the father, was married to Mary Savage in 1801 by Banns
Working through the Southery parish registers to build up a picture of the Porter clan is far from easy. By the later years of the 19th century it seems that around a sixth of the population of around a thousand had the surname Porter. The other dominant names were Osler and Bell but Porters were way out in front. There were several Porter families in Hilgay, too – overspill perhaps.
A key document in understanding the Porter family is an administration bond signed by Thomas Porter in 1711. Such bonds were usually initiated when a person with an estate died intestate. Thomas agreed to administer the estate of a close relative and a mass of family information is enclosed in the document. There were up to six sons who reached maturity and had families of their own.
Using this administration bond, the parish registers and the few Bishop’s Transcripts (copies of the registers sent to head office) from before 1706 it is possible to suggest that Thomas and Anne (nee Keeble) Porter were married about 1689 and had the following 12 children:
All known burials are in Southery. Is ‘Keeble’ the same as ‘Kibble’ which later becomes a Porter family name? Thomas Porter was buried on 16 Sep 1727 when he would perhaps have been in his early sixties. Anne, his wife, was buried 17 Sep 1715 when she would have been around 47.
If anyone can add to, or correct, this information I should be delighted to hear from them. In similar vein, those interested in the Porters might like to contact Mrs Jane Porter to share information. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Oslers & Bells of Southery
There is a marriage in Hilgay of George Osler and Anne Hansor on 28 April 1690. They appear, by deduction, to have had at least six children who survived infancy. There is a definite baptism of a son John in Southery Bishop’s Transcripts on 15 October 1693 and that of a younger brother William in Southery registers on 15 October 1706. Rose Osler, a presumed daughter, married Phillip Bovill in Southery on 04 February 1719 and it was their son running Hilgay smockmill later in the century. The son’s burial is recorded in the Hilgay registers on 18 January 1787 where the entry says ‘miller, aged 64’.
There is no trace of George Osler’s baptism in Hilgay and, one assumes, it may well have been in Southery in the mid 1660s. His wife Anne was baptised in Hilgay on 11 February 1663, daughter of Peregrine & Rose (nee Waffin), married in Hilgay in 1660. Her family can be traced back to the marriage of her grandparents William Waffin and Bettina Sandhoe in Hilgay in 1589.
Other Osler entries in the Southery BTs in the 1690s are for the marriage of Elizabeth Osler to John Bent in 1693 and the burial of Robert Osler in1692, no age given.
Southery parish registers become frustratingly patchy in the middle years of the 18thcentury and, as with the Porters, tracking the individual families becomes unreliable without alternative sources such as wills and entries in family Bibles. George Osler is a name repeated frequently in the registers – one such, buried on 25 July 1876, aged 77, was parish clerk for many years. Another, mentioned elsewhere, fell from his cart and was killed in 1861.
Bell is a harder name to work with, being commonly found in other parishes. The earliest record found in the Southery registers is the baptism of Noah Bell in 1706, son of William & Deborah. William’s will of 1734 gives details of his children that reached maturity and the two grandchildren of his son John who predeceased him. His house was left to his wife but on her death the two rooms on the north of the house were to go to his daughter (Mrs) Katherine Galloway and the two rooms to the south were to go to his son Noah. There have been many Noah Bells since. Another William Bell was baptised as an adult in 1758 prior to his marriage – ‘a person of riper years’.
Register and Galloway are amongst the many other Southery names worth tracking. Both appear in the Bishop’s Transcripts before the registers begin. Henry & Frances Register were, presumably, married in Southery in the late 1680s. They had many children though few survived infancy. Several Galloway families already existed and children were born to Will & Rob, John & Ann, John & Elizabeth, Christopher & Elizabeth and Thomas & Rose. A John Galloway was buried on 23 November 1692 but no age is given.
Southery remained very insular as a community right through to the later years of the 1800s. The predominance of some surnames led to the creation of families that combined these surnames to achieve greater individual identity. Thus, Osler Porters and Porter Oslers, Galloway Porters, Porter Bells and so on.
Another Southery family to emigrate to the United States was that of David Bell (24 July 1859 in Southery - 26 Jul 1942) and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Bowers in Southery in 1863 - died Fulton 1927) along with their seven children. They lived in Little London where David was employed as a farm labourer, emigrated in 1893 on the SS Mongolian, and settled in Fulton, Illinois. There route took them down the St Lawrence to Quebec and on through the Great Lakes to Chicago. In the UK census of 1891 there were six children, the youngest one day old and not yet named. A seventh child was born in 1892 and the eighth, Flora Oaty, was born in Fulton in 1895. They became naturalised Americans in 1898. In the US census of 1900 David was described as a farmer, owning his own land, and Arthur had been added to make nine surviving children in all. Three more children were to follow.
David & Sarah Ann Bell, Avon Cemetery, Fulton County, Illinois
Southery in the 1800s
This link takes the reader to a large scale OS map for the last years of the 19th Century http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/norfolk/081/sw It is part of British History Online website and is particularly informative.
In White’s Directory of 1854 Southery was described as a parish and large village on the London Road surrounded by fens and marshes. 7 miles south of Downham Market, it had 350 houses, 1155 souls and 3695 acres of land belonging to several proprietors. Robert Cunningham Esq was lord of the manor. In consequence of a breach of the embankment in November 1852, upwards of 8000 acres of land in this district were inundated to the depth of 6 or 7 feet. Some 250 sheep were drowned and the claims for losses amounted to £21000. There was a ferry over the Great Ouse River about a mile from the church near to which a steam engine was erected in 1842 for improving the drainage of the fens. The church, dedicated to St Mary, valued in the King’s book at £7 10s, was in the gift of Edmund Hall Esq and enjoyed by the Rev Tansley Hall MA. There were about 100 acres of glebe and the tithes were commuted for £650. Here was a Baptist and Wesleyan chapel. The National School was built in 1844. The glebe in 2016 amounts to 46 acres and lies to the west of the A10, between the main road and the River Ouse. The rent goes to the diocese, and not the rector as in days gone by.
Post office at Edward G Porter’s. Letters arrive at 9.30am and are despatched at 4.30pm.
John Attlesey - blacksmith; Matthew Barley - grocer; Edward Barrow - carpenter & builder; Noah Bell - beerhouse keeper; James Bowden - innkeeper, Crown & Anchor; William Burton - farmer; George Dordery - innkeeper, Plough; Daniel Elmer - farmer; Ann Fuller - beerhouse keeper; Rev Tansley Hall MA – Rector; William Hardy - butcher; Henry Headin Kirby - National school master; Henry Luddington - farmer; Henry Martin - farmer; Joseph Martin - farmer; John Mitchell - farmer; Robert Oldham - farmer; Mr Christopher Osler - farmer; George Osler - land surveyor etc; George Osler Jnr – plumber etc; William Osler – shoemaker; Elizabeth Osler - beerhouse keeper; James Osler - beerhouse keeper & blacksmith; George Osler - farmer & parish clerk; William Palmer - grocer & draper; William Peckett - innkeeper, White Bell; John Pickett - corn miller; Ann Porter – shopkeeper; David Porter - carpenter & builder; Edward Galloway Porter – shopkeeper; John Porter - corn miller; William Porter - innkeeper, Ferry Boat; Sarah Porter - beerhouse keeper; Christopher Porter - farmer; John Porter – farmer; Thomas Porter – farmer; William Reeve - corn miller; Frederick Robinson – farmer; Frederick Robinson Jnr - farmer; William Rogers - carrier to Ely, Mondays & Thursdays; John Savage – farmer; William Peacock Savage – farmer; John Sayle – farmer; Thomas Sayle Snr & Jnr - farmers; Francis Simper - beerhouse keeper; John Smith – farmer; William Stokes - shopkeeper; John Taylor – shoemaker; John Thornhill - farmer; Henry Ward – farmer; John George Wyer – farmer
Southery cornmill, close to the ruins of the old St Mary’s, pulled down in the 1930s See http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/southery-postmill.html for more information. There appear to have been five or six windmills in Southery at various times two of which were down Sedge Fen, one either side of the sharp bend close to the A10, and another in Mill Drove. The draining of Sedge Fen was later taken over, when the Age of Steam arrived ,by a large pumping station on the banks of the Ouse at its junction with Sedge Fen drove
A steam engine of 60 horsepower was installed in 1842. The remains of this complex in much modified form can still be viewed. The oft-quoted local gem is that the top of the chimney was the same height as the doorstep of the Old White Bell pub in the village. All the pumping operations to get the Sedge Fen water up into the Ouse are now undertaken by an electric pump housed in a much smaller building on the other side of the A10 road. The A10 doesn't cross the Ouse until the outskirts of Littleport but the Little Ouse has to be crossed at Brandon Creek. Part of the series of early drawings of Norfolk bridges appears to depict the first bridge built to cross the Little Ouse but dates for this and the windmill behind are elusive:
Presumably, the view is looking east from the Ship
White’s Directory of 1890 listed Southery as a considerable village on the London Road on a gentle eminence surrounded by fens and marshes. It was in Downham union and county court district, Lynn bankruptcy district, Clackclose hundred and petty sessional division, Fincham rural deanery, and Norfolk archdeaconry. It had 1176 inhabitants in 1881, living on 3595 acres of land, and has a rateable value of £5200. Its parish, watered by the Great Ouse river, over which there was a ferry about a mile south west of the church, extended to the confluence of the Great and Little Ouse. Near the ferry a steam engine of 60 horsepower was erected in 1842 and three new boilers and new water-wheel were added in 1881 at a cost of £2000. Captain C A Taylor was lord of the manor but the soil belonged to several proprietors.
The church of St Mary was described as a neat structure in the Early English style that was built in 1858 at a cost of £1700 in lieu of the old church which is still standing at a short distance. The building, of carstone, with Caen stone dressings and buttresses, consisted of nave, south aisle, chancel, vestry and tower; the latter contained one bell and was surmounted by a spire covered with slate. The interior was furnished with open sittings of varnished deal and a pulpit and reading desk of carved oak. The altar-cloth was crimson velvet, beautifully worked by a lady of the neighbourhood, and the floor was Staffordshire tiles. The church was thoroughly renovated in 1888 at a cost of £160. There were several stained glass windows. The register dates from 1706. The living valued in KB at £7-10s and now at £800 was in the patronage of the Rev Edmund Hall and incumbency of the Rev Archibald Aeneas Julius MA who has a good residence and 110 acres of glebe. The tithes had been commuted for £588 10s per annum. The Wesleyan chapel, with schoolroom behind, was erected in 1882 at a cost of £1700 and its pitched-pine seats would hold 400 persons. The Primitive Methodist chapel at Brandon Creek was erected in 1875 at a cost of £300 and contained 120 sittings. In the village was also a small Baptist chapel. The National school built in 1844 was by then occupied by the Southery Institute and Library, which was formed in 1877, and consisted of a news room and well-supplied library of 400 volumes. In 1874 a School Board was formed for this parish and a handsome school, with master’s house adjoining, was erected in 1876 at a cost of £2000. Mr Harry Wayman was clerk. The school was attended by 100 boys and girls and 90 infants. Residents mentioned by name were:
George Ash - farm bailiff; George Henry Attlesey - saddler & farmer; Mr John Attlesey; William Attlesey & Son - blacksmiths; Elijah Barritt - carpenter & wheelwright, Brandon Creek; William Barrow & Son - carpenters & wheelwrights, Ferry Bank; John Albert Barton - grocer, tailor, draper & newsagent; Job Bell - farmer & landowner, Little London; Porter Bell - farmer; Elmer Benson - shopkeeper; George Brighton – machinist; James Brighton - butcher & farmer; Thomas Brown - butcher; George Buckenham - beerhouse; John Butcher – farmer; George Henry Cattermole - hawker & parish clerk; William & Mrs M Challenger - Board School master & mistress; James Flack - pig & poultry dealer, Ferry Bank; Joseph Flack - poultry dealer, Little London; William Galloway - carpenter, Little London; Thomas Galley – engineer; George Gillbey - shopkeeper & hawker, Ferry Bank; Thomas Gotobed - farmer, Brandon Creek; William Green – farmer; James Hall - farm bailiff; Thomas Harris - farmer & miller; George Hartley - victualler Ferry Boat, bootmaker & ferryman; Thomas Holman - poultry dealer; George Uriah Howlett – farmer; James Humphries – farmer; Thomas Jolly – baker; Archibald Aeneas Julius MA – Rector; William Lack - farmer, landowner & coal dealer, Ferry Bank; Levi Legge - horse slaughterer; Frederick Lock - grocer & draper; Mrs Mary Mitchell; William Norman - shopkeeper, Little London; George Osler - butcher & baker; George Osler - grocer, draper & farmer; James Osler - farmer & landowner, Little London; Joseph Osler - plumber, glazier, painter & farmer; Robert Osler - baker; Thomas Osler - pig farmer; Thomas Osler - farmer; Wesley Osler - painter & glazier; William - farmer & landowner, Little London; John Luddington Peacock - farmer, Manor House; Rev Vincent W Peake MA - curate, Manor Villa; William Plaice - bootmaker; Alfred Henry Porter - beerhouse, painter & glazier; Alfred William Porter - grocer & draper, Brandon Creek; Mrs Alice Porter - Little London; Benjamin Porter - grocer & landowner; Christopher Porter - farmer & landowner, The Ferry; David Porter & Son - farmer & landowner; David Porter & Son - builders & contractors; Edward Porter - farmer; George Porter - farmer & landowner, White Bridge; George Porter - farmer, White Bridge; Gregory Porter (D & Son) - surveyor & valuer; John Porter - farmer & landowner, Little London; John Porter - victualler Old White Bell; John Porter - farmer & landowner, White Bridge; John Porter - bootmaker; Mr John Porter - Flint House; Joseph Porter - cattle dealer, The Ferry; Mrs Mary Ann Porter; Richard Porter - beerhouse; Robert Porter - cattle dealer; Mrs Sarah Porter - shopkeeper; William Porter - bootmaker, Little London; William Elmer Porter - farmer & landowner, Ferry Bank; Thomas Brewer Porter - carrier to Ely Mondays & Thurs; Downham Fridays; William Lowe Proctor - farmer & landowner, Little London; George Thomas Reeve - corn miller; Robert Register - farmer & landowner, Little London; Daniel Russell - farmer & landowner, Brook House; Ephraim Sellars - farm bailiff; Henry Sellars - farmer; Edward Smith - farmer; John Smith - farmer; John Stubbings - farmer; Franklin Thompson - farmer; William Thompson - farmer; Joseph Thornally - victualler Blacksmith’s Arms, Little London; Frederick Thorpe - victualler Crown & Anchor; Gregory Walker - beerhouse, Little London; William Walker – farmer; Mr William Walker; Abraham Ward - hawker & public crier, The Ferry; Mr William Ward; John Woods – beerhouse; John Wootton - farmer, Hill House; John George Wyer - farmer & landowner
By the time Kelly’s Directory was published in 1896 various changes and additions are noteworthy:
Reference was made to Ryston station, 4 miles hence, on the Downham and Stoke Ferry branch line. The church was referred to as being made of ragstone with Bath stone dressings. The stained glass east window was presented by Mr Robert Sayle of Cambridge and other stained windows by Mrs Dove of Bristol. The old St Mary’s was recorded as in ruins. The living was still in the gift of the Rev Edmund Hall of Myland, Colchester, and was now held by the Rev George Clement Maddison Hall MA, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the Rev Julius had recently deceased. The Baptist chapel was noted as of the Particular branch. Lt Col Frederick Henry Taylor was now lord of the manor and principal landowner and his address was given as Red House, Wrentham, Suffolk. The Rev JC Martin MA of Rathmines Villa, Elm Grove, Southsea, Hampshire was also noted as a landowner. The chief crops were wheat, beans, flax and roots. The population in 1891 was 1122, comprising 187 ‘Porters’, 56 ‘Oslers’ and 42 ‘Bells’. Also note:
Miss Elizabeth Brooks – dressmaker; Arthur Brundle - cattle dealer; Thomas Buckenham - chimney sweeper; (The) Misses Butcher – dressmakers; Thomas Cobbin - beer retailer, Little London; Collins & Barber - builders, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, machinists & building material dealers, also at Downham; Richard Corney - farm bailiff to David Corney Esq; Robert Elsegood - farmer, Ferry Farm; Walter Edward Evans - surgeon & deputy medical officer, Downham Union; Thomas Harris - miller (wind & steam); George Lack - coal dealer; Joseph Missen - mole catcher; William Payne - insurance agent; Gregory Porter - hon sec Institute & Library; Barley Page Porter - grocer & draper, post office; David Osler Porter – farmer; Isaac Porter - beer agent etc, Southery Ferry; Job Porter - farmer, Little London; John Larman Porter - farmer & landowner; Daniel Reed - farmer, Vineyards Farm (west of river Ouse); Robert Starling - farmer, The Chain (farm and toll house, west of Ouse); William Thompson - farmer, Cold Harbour (Black Horse Drove)
Southery in the 1900s
Kelly’s Directory of 1925 describes the village of Southery in some detail before covering the main private and commercial interests. Additional information from earlier editions notes that the oak chancel screen in St Mary’s was a memorial to the Rev Julius while the porch, erected in 1904, was dedicated to the memory of Edmund & Katherine Mary Hall, of Myland, Colchester. A stained window for the east end of the church was presented by Mr Robert Sayle of Cambridge but it was removed in 1917 to the north wall. A new window was erected in its place as a token of thanksgiving for the preservation of Lieut B A E M Hall by his parents, who at the same time presented a handsomely carved wooden reredos.
The soil was of a varied description, one part being strong clay land, but the greater portion was a light black soil; subsoil principally good clay. The main crops were wheat, beans, flax, roots and sugar beet. Parish Clerk was Arthur Younge. Carrier was William Kitcatt, to Ely and King’s Lynn on Tuesdays and to Downham Market on Fridays and Saturdays.
* ’Private’ citizens according to whatever definition was used by Kelly’s; the remainder are ‘commercial’.
# Farmers of over 150 acres.
Stock’s Corner in Southery on Hospital Sunday, 1910. Ben Porter’s shop can be seen in the background. Barclay’s Bank formerly provided a facility from an entrance on the south side of the building.
The Wareing. This marvellous old photograph sadly reflects a piece of Southery heritage that has disappeared forever. It stood opposite the junction of the old A10, before the village was bypassed, and the western end of the Feltwell Road.
In Southery, a National School was inaugurated in 1844 by Rector Charles Mann which, in 1877 after the new school was opened, became a library and reading room for the Southery Institute and Library which was formed in 1877. The land for school and a house for the schoolmaster was donated by the then lord of the manor Robert Cunningham Taylor. It is now a private residence. In 1874 a school board was formed for the parish and a new school and master’s house were opened in 1876 at a cost of £2000. In 1890 Harry Wayman was clerk and William Challenger was schoolmaster, assisted by his wife Marina. In 1892, Miss Kate Annie Porter was infant mistress and there were 220 children on roll. Miss Porter was the daughter of John Porter, one time keeper of the Ferry Boat and then the landlord of the Old White Bell. According to Kelly’s Directory in 1912, average attendance was 255. The school was enlarged in 1899. Extra classrooms, offices and a porch were added in1909 to increase the capacity to 350 and the playground was much improved. By then the master was Joseph Stanley and infant mistress was Mrs Effie Stanley. 94 pupils were on roll in 2008.
By 1925, Southery public elementary school (mixed and infants) was managed by a board of six members appointed partly by the county council and parish council. Chairman was George Henry Attlesey. Joseph Stanley was still master; Miss Kate Payne was infants’ mistress.
Former National school in Southery on Upgate Street opposite the Old White Bell
A School Board was formed in 1889 covering Feltwell and Feltwell Anchor. Four years prior to that, South Hilgay (south of the Little Ouse River) was taken into the district of the Littleport School Board which served the district of Redmere as well. The school at Feltwell Anchor was opened in 1889 for 60 children at a cost of £650. It was enlarged with a classroom to accommodate 27 infants in 1914 after a merger with Little Ouse school, on the other side of the river, was rejected. In the floods of 1915, 1916 and 1917 the school was used as a refuge for homeless families.
School Boards came into existence following the Education Act of 1870, drafted by Gladstone’s minister with responsibility for education, William Forster. School Boards made possible the establishment of schools, principally catering for the 5-10 age range, in areas where no church schools currently existed. They lasted until the Education Act of 1902. Church schools set up by the National Society already existed in the area and a school in Fordham had been established by the Pratt family. The National Society was Anglican but Nonconformists also established schools at home and abroad through the British and Foreign School Society.
The modern Southery school was opened in 1876. Mains water was laid on in 1935 following a report in 1929 of 'no water in wells at the schoolhouse or boys' playground'. Mains electricity was also added that year. For a much fuller report of the school over the years so to http://hbsmrgateway2.esdm.co.uk/norfolk/DataFiles/Docs/AssocDoc28548.pdf
A class photo 1949-50. The teacher is Mrs Feltwell whose son later became head of Feltwell school. Mrs Register took the infants class; Mr Bartholomew was Head. Mrs Webb from Hilgay, Mrs Bartholomew, the Head's wife, and Mr Long were the other teachers. There were five classrooms and this picture was taken in front of the canteen.
The Blacksmith’s Arms. In Little London on the north side, it has also been referred to as the Anvil. Closed by 1938 when the licence was transferred to the Carpenter’s Arms
The Butcher’s Arms in Westgate Street does not appear to have changed hands very often although it was only named in the 1871 census. Francis Simper (born 1812 in Ely) was landlord from 1854 to 1869 and also a butcher. He was succeeded by George Buckenham (1871-1900) who appears also to have turned his hand to gamekeeping (1881) and chimney sweeping (1901).
The Carpenter’s Arms / Queen of Hearts on Westgate Street next to the Oddfellow's Hall. Full licence achieved in 1938, previously a beerhouse. George Cattermole was landlord in 1871. Became the Queen of Hearts in 1948 after a fire and rebuilding and remained open until September 1966. Sales in the year up to May 1962 were reported to be 160 barrels but in the twelve months before closure had apparently fallen to 71 barrels
The Carpenter’s Arms, on the left, showing the Oddfellow's Hall (built 1903) and the old school house on Westgate Street
The Queen of Hearts. On the beam above the entrance is carved ‘Siste viator quod petis hic est’ – loosely translated as ‘Rest ye weary traveller for here is what you seek’
The Crown & Anchor was further west along the south side of Westgate Street and closed in May 1967. Only 78 barrels were sold in the twelve months preceding closure but substantial repairs were also needed to the property. The Norfolk Pubs website records that fines were imposed by the magistrates on 15 July 1935 - £2-4s for selling out of hours and £3-4s for failing to admit a constable, presumably in the course of executing his duty rather than because he was thirsty.
The Crown & Anchor, Westgate Street, looking east with St Mary's church in the background
Margery & Gerald Starling were the landlords from 1954 until the time of closure and continued to live there afterwards. Their son Ray recalls: “In the early 1960s pubs started to lose their customers. People were beginning to afford motor cars and television became more widespread and popular in the home which resulted in the decline of people going to the pub and consequently the closure of public houses. Bullards supplied a couple of pubs in Southery but the rest were supplied by Ely Ales (previously Hall, Cutlack and Harlock). Ely Ales was taken over by Watneys and soon after that the brewery in Ely was closed down.
Gerald Starling is third left in the Southery football team of 1947. Third right is Jack Simper, later an influential Borough Councillor
1947 was the year, in March, when Sedge Fen was flooded - an event dealt with more fully in the Draining the Fens section....
The C&A owned a three quarter sized billiard/snooker table which was upstairs and its access was by a steel spiral staircase sited in one corner of the main bar room. The only other snooker table in a Southery pub was at the Old White Bell and this was a full sized table. When my mother sold the property around the year 2000 the snooker table was included in the sale and I guess the spiral staircase is still there.
The C&A was well patronised by local farmers, potato and onion traders, and local businessmen. Virtually every night would see these locals playing the domino game 'honest John' and the stakes they played for were well above that with which any of the other locals, mainly farm workers, could compete. This group was very much a closed shop to any outsiders but they received much respect from the onlookers.
The C&A had a bowls green with club members at the bottom of the pub premises when my parents moved into the C&A and this had been there many years before. When the village obtained its new sports field at Recreation Drive it included a new bowls green which affected the membership of the C&A bowls club. The green was eventually turned into a tennis court. However, a new hard surface tennis court was built on the new sports field and became the more popular venue for tennis players.
Along the the C&A driveway from the main road, Westgate Street, leading to the rear of the pub, was a blacksmith’s forge. It was derelict (previously run by Jack Attlesey) when mum and dad moved in but I recall spending many a time looking inside this old building which still had the square hearth that contained the fire. We had another Blacksmiths in the village sited on Stocks Corner which was run by the Turner Brothers."
Of life growing up in the Crown & Anchor, Rays adds: "One village farmer who was a regular customer of the pub had a bit of a stutter. He lived in the centre of the village and one story told was that one afternoon he stood leaning over his roadside front gate when a stranger came walking by and stopped and asked how long it would take him to walk to Littleport. He told the man that he had no idea how long it would take him. The stranger walked off and after about fifty yards the farmer called out Stop! It’ll t’t’t’take you about an hour. Why couldn’t you tell me that before said the stranger, the farmer replied, I d’d’d’d’didn’t know how f’f’f’f’f’fast you were w’w’w’w’walking. A’h well, a bit of good ole fen humour.
The Crown & Anchor displayed two or three weird items in the bar. On a shelf behind the bar was a skeleton head which was said to have been found in the local fen and it had been established that the person had died from a blow on the head. On the bar counter were two large vertebrae about four inches in diameter and were estimated to be one million years old. They were used as ash trays. It was said that these items had at sometime been looked at by the curator of the Lynn museum.
Pub closing time in the week was 10.30pm, Saturday’s 11pm. We had our own village policeman and he would frequently make an appearance in the bar on a Saturday night ten minutes before 11pm. Customers were legally allowed ten minutes drinking up time therefore everyone would have left the premises by fifteen or twenty minutes passed 11pm. With all the customers gone I remember dad would offer our policeman a drink, which was always a large whisky particularly during autumn and winter. He would then get back onto his bike and peddle off with dad bolting the front doors behind him.
I recall in the late fifties, early sixties, a Skiffle band playing at the pub one weekend. This was the very early days of skiffle and the bands instruments were a Spanish guitar, a Tea Box with broom handle and cord for the base and an actual washboard scraped by thimbles on the end of the fingers. The guitarist had previously lived in the village and therefore happened to choose the Crown and Anchor for their weekend’s entertainment.
Another band came to the village in the sixties and gave a weekend performance in a marquee on the outskirts of the village. They were a newly formed Scottish Rock Band called Dean Ford and the Gaylord’s. They later changed their band name to ‘Marmalade’ and became quite a successful rock band in the sixties. Their accommodation was the Crown and Anchor. I recall the exotic scented aroma’s that came from our bathroom upstairs.
Feltwell Airbase was home to many young RAF chaps in the fifties and sixties and six of them regularly came for a beer at the pub. They became well known by all the village regulars particularly the local business men who had their domino school of six players every evening. They were often treated to a free beer by the business men and it was once commented on by one of the RAF chaps that you could have more than your fill and spend less than ten bob a week at the bar due to the generosity of the local business men and some regulars."
Ray writes further about his father's war time service....
Its interesting that the football in the picture shows the date 1944-47. The football pitch in those days was the Victory Field named after the Victory pub on the sharp corner as you leave Westgate St. towards Littleport. The Southery by-pass at the Southern end now virtually goes straight down the middle of the old football pitch. Next to the football pitch was an observation tower used by plane spotters for enemy planes during the second world war, built there because it was on a hill.
Dad was in the Royal Artillery and the 8th Army from 1939 until he was demobbed in 1945ish, so if the date on the football has any relevance then it could point to an approximate date of when the photo was taken. I still treasure his four war Campaign Medals with pride: 1939-45 Star (Battle of Britain), Africa Star (8th Army), Italy Star and War Medal 1939-45 (Oak leaf). We can never imagine what the likes of Dad experienced in those six years which is no doubt why most of them never wanted to talk about it. Dad brought back with him a number of paper currency notes, which I still have in my little treasure box of Dad’s memories, from the various countries he was in during the war. I recall him once telling me that he had been during the war in twenty one different countries. The treasure also has the box camera which carried with him in the war plus a few of his photo’s which are much faded now. When we lived at the Crown & Anchor I recall in one of our photograph boxes there were two or three photo’s which he took of the Mussolini family after they had been killed and were hung upside down from the roof of a garage. Unfortunately these photo’s went missing late on together with a hand drawn £5 note which had been made by a German prisoner of war. Apparently the German prisoners exchanged these at night, when the writing detail was not so obvious, with the British guards for cigarettes.
Ally Legge, a true Fenman and grandson of William 'Chafer' Legge (see The Ship, Brandon Creek). Ray Starling remembers his grandfather, so typical of many Southery residents....
Grandad Ally Legge born 12th October 1898 – Albert Abraham Legge
My first recollections of Grandad Ally and Gran Mary were as a 3 or 4 year old. I vaguely recall my early start at school, at nearly 4 years old, mainly due to the afternoon nap we all had on small camp beds aside our class room. Mrs Register was our teacher. Grandad Ally and Gran Mary lived in a disused railway carriage down Common Lane in Southery. I have often wondered what the history of the railway carriage was, where did it come from? How did it reach its destination down Common Lane? I don’t think it was the only railway carriage in the area used as a home, I seem to recall that the Judkin family also lived in one sited between Southery and Hilgay aside the A10. Grandad’s railway carriage stood parallel with the lane behind a high privet hedge. I recall that the home layout was a bedroom at the south end of the carriage, a pantry was at the north end of the carriage and the living area was everything else in the centre and included a cast iron round stove fire some three feet high which had a cylindrical metal chimney going from it which went upward and out the top of the carriage roof. On one occasion, I could have only been five or six, grandad had started the stove fire early in the morning, all his working life he was out of bed around half past five in the morning, and when starting the fire it usually got a little help from some paraffin. I remember some shouts from the living room and we then witnessed flames leaping up from the stove. ‘Do something’ shouted gran Mary. Grandad did. He got the chamber pot from under the bed and promptly threw it onto the flames. Yes, it put the flames out but the smell was awful and lingered for days. It was often a story retold in the family and I think later got out to the village folk.
At the rear of the railway carriage was an open area of rough ground and grass and at the bottom of this area were wooden sheds. I guess grandad kept various working tools stored there and I do remember him shooting rats at night with a four ten double barrel shot gun at the back of the railway carriage. I must have been born in the railway carriage and lived there with mum for a time until mum bought an old two up two down house opposite which I remember being told was bought for £100. Mum married at seventeen, dad was nineteen which must have been at a time when he was home on leave during the Second World War. Mum and Dad’s marriage certificate classed mum as a Land Worker and Grandad Ally as a Smallholder.
Grandad Ally farmed about six acres of land immediately opposite the railway carriage and also farmed six or seven fields, about a hundred acres, at a place known as the Decoy some three miles from Southery just off the Feltwell Road. I remember each farm location had a small wooden farm shed with a galvanised roof, one location was known as ‘Stamps’ which was towards the Wissington Sugar Beet Factory and the other location was known as ‘Sam’s Yard’ close to the ‘old decoy’ and wooded area which included an old man-made ‘duck decoy’. Opposite Sam’s Yard was the Gamekeepers Cottage and it was here that in my early days of going with grandad Ally to his fields that the concrete road ended and became a Drove which was just compressed earth. At the junction of the Feltwell Road and the Decoy concrete road, a pumping station was sited aside Sam’s Cut.
I recall grandad Ally in my early days walking to and from his fields each day at the Decoy, I also recall him cycling as I remember that I cycled with him when I was about fourteen or fifteen which was when dad bought my first bike from Attlesey’s garage opposite the old Waring pond, it was a brand new Rayleigh, colour black, and it was for my fourteenth birthday. Grandad was a very nervous character which I will explain later and although there was very little traffic on the roads in the mid-fifties he would still insist I cycled close to the verge. On one occasion as we approached the Feltwell road junction to the Decoy a sugar beet lorry was approaching us and unfortunately grandad and I collided and I finished up lying in the middle of the road. The lorry stopped inches short of me but I always believed this was intentional just to make sure we were more careful in future. I dread to think what Grandad Ally was saying to me after the event, even if I could remember I’m sure I would not dare put it in print.
I recall two items of clothing that grandad always wore when he went to work in his fields, one was his thigh-length water boots which were worn spring, summer, autumn and winter, and the other item was his cap. I particularly remember his cap because this acted as an extra pocket which would contain his packet of St Julian tobacco, a box of matches and a sack needle, there may have been other items if I could remember them. He occasionally also had in his cap a stick of twist which was a small oblong block of hard black material which he would have to scrape pieces from with a knife into his pipe to smoke. Grandad was a pipe smoker which he lit first thing in the morning and it was not taken from his mouth, other than to eat or drink, until his head hit his pillow at night.
His dockey (food) and a brown beer bottle of cold tea was carried in his dockey bag which was an old army back pack dark green in colour. I’ve always thought that part of the reason he continually wore thigh-length water boots at work over the decoy was because I recall him telling me to keep away from dykes and the side of the decoy wood because of adders which were also known as vipers. Adders are very poisonous and I guess that grandad’s thigh-length water boots would give him protection from them particularly during the summer when they were more active. Perhaps another reason for grandad’s thigh-length water boots was that grandad had fished, netted fish, shot game and duck all his life to feed his family which brought him into contact with rivers, drains, dykes and wetlands.
I previously made mention that grandad was of a nervous character and I think this could well have been because of his misfortune during active duty during the First World War. I’m not sure what age grandad was conscripted but I recall a large framed picture of him hung in the front room of his bungalow at Common Lane. I’m sure this framed picture must still be in the Legge family somewhere today but I recall that he was a good looking young man in his army uniform and peaked army hat. I learned over the years that grandad was sent to France and Belgium and while he was being transported by rail to the front near Ypres a bomb landed aside the railway truck that he and others where in. I don’t recall hearing how old grandad was when this happened but Passchendaele was often mentioned. If this was the year the battle of Passchendaele took place he would have been nineteen. The truck was blown off the railway line and the next I heard was that grandad had been brought back to England where he spent a year or two at Hellesden Hospital Norwich recovering from shell-shock. I recall as a youngster that whenever there was a thunderstorm you would always find grandad either under a table, in a corner or behind a door with his hands over his head. I would often see him during cold spells wearing for work his old army great coat.
Grandad Ally had great knowledge of fishing and shooting which would have been gained from his days of having to provide food for the family. I often found him knitting pheasant nets and fishing nets. The game nets he knitted where mainly for pheasant netting, I spent many an evening with him while he knitted pheasant nets. Once he allowed me to knit one myself under his guidance, I still have in my little treasure box of his memories one of his knitting pegs and spool. The pheasant nets I seem to remember were about sixty feet long and twenty feet wide, the net consisted of little mesh squares about three inches across made from a special twine. Finally a thick cord was interwoven around the perimeter of the net in and out of the squares so that the net was ‘reined’. The net, when in use, had a long wooden pole, one and a half to two inches in diameter similar in length to the long poles used for rakes or field hoe’s and probably bought from the local carpenter or blacksmith. May I just digress, ‘Porge’ Turner was one of three brothers and was our farrier in Southery. There were lots of farm horses – Shires and Suffolks - used on the local farms during my young days. Porge’s blacksmith’s workshop was at the top of Common Lane on Stock’s Corner while his two brothers had workshops at Brandon Creek and Littleport. Let me continue, the wooden poles were attached either side at the front of the net which was then used for pulling the net over, for example, a sugar beet field. The net when used was pulled by two people, one each side of the net, with the sixty foot length between the two people. When the net was dragged over any pheasant or partridge which lay under the sugar beet crop the noise of the net passing over would cause the bird to fly upward but would then be caught in the net. The net was then immediately dropped and the bird taken from the net where it was entangled and killed by breaking its neck.
I recall grandad Ally telling me about his pigeon nets which he made after visiting someone near Whittlesey, Peterborough, who showed and told him how to make them and set them up. The wood pigeon was good family food which was either roasted or pot boiled. The breast was particularly meaty and very tasty and made good gravy. The wood pigeons formed big flocks during the winter particularly when snow was on the ground and any green crop like sprouts and cabbages attracted them. Peas during the summer was another attractive crop for them. Decoy pigeons (made from wood or rubber) were often used to lure pigeons to a particular spot where they could be netted or shot. The pigeon trap was a large knitted net, made from the similar special netting twine as that for pheasant nets. I’m not sure what the measurement was but I guess they must have been at least thirty by forty feet. The net had a long wooden pole either side of the net. The net was laid in position on the ground with a similar sized area aside it so as when the net was sprung it would cover the clear area left. The clear area would most likely have decoy (artificial) pigeon positioned in this area. Stakes were put in the ground near the corners of the net. A long length of thick strong cord was then placed and positioned in such a way over the corner of the wooden poles and stakes the cord being continually tightened. The cord finally ended where the person was sited for example in the bottom of a dyke out of sight of the pigeons. When the pigeons were finally lured into the open space aside the net, the cord, which had been continually tightened, was given a final tug which sprung the net over the pigeon and trapped them underneath.
I remember a large tin chest in the back room of grandad’s bungalow which contained a number of different types of nets for catching birds. These included nets to catch linnets and larks which I guess were sold for house pets. I also remember grandad owning a long ‘bow net’ for catching eels. I think it was at least twelve feet long which was made with a series of circular willow hoops which became smaller and smaller down the length of the contraption. The net was knitted with a very small mesh which was necessary to stop the eel’s escaping. I’m pretty sure that someone talked him into selling it which I think he regretted after a while. Grandad told me about the different nets which were made to drag for fish in the fen drains and the river Great Ouse. The net used for catching fish in the rivers I think was weighted at the bottom of the net with lead so that it sank to near the bottom. One end of the net was attached to the bank and the other end was taken out into the river by a boat and then dragged around and back to the river bank.
I can remember two large brine pots in the pantry of grandad’s bungalow, one contained salted down fish the other salted pork, I can’t, however, remember regularly eating meals with fish or pork from the brine pots. It may be that I was never told or I just ate what was served up to me on a plate without me asking any questions.
Grandad also told me about the snare that was used for catching pheasant. Thin willow tree sticks were cut and pushed in the ground in the shape of a circle or square. Any foliage or small branch was left on the stick so as it made it look natural. Gaps were left in the construction large enough for a pheasant to pass through. At each gap a snare was positioned so as when the pheasant went through the gap its head would go into the snare. The snare was made of horse hair and the secret was that the hair was from the mare (female). Apparently the mare’s hair would not twist up like the stallion and enabled the snare to keep the correct shape. One of the lures used to attract the pheasants to the trap was to place aniseed with cereal grain in the middle of the willow branch construction. Aniseed has a strong smell which can be carried in the air for long distances.
Grandad was an excellent shot with the twelve bore and was frequently invited to hare shoots and pigeon shoots. Grandad’s son retained his dad’s skill and was always renowned for his shooting skills. This was frequently born out when he took part in the local clay pigeon shooting competitions.
During my young days I was also smitten by the adventure of shooting game, however, I was hopeless with the twelve bore and never got the hang of being able to judge how far you aimed in front of the bird and the art of keeping the gun swinging in line with the bird. My admiration for the adventure of stalking game and building hides and waiting for the flight of pigeon or duck always caused me to craze grandad or my dad to take me with them on their shooting expeditions. I was taken by grandad one or two times on a windy night just before dusk into the fen where we would wait in the bottom of dyke waiting for duck to fly over on their way to either sugar beet stubble or a field of lodged wheat which they were able to easily feed on. My adrenalin flowed watching grandad when we saw duck suddenly flying toward us. He had his very own way of crouching into a position in order to be able to quickly stand up and shoot at the duck, and he did all this with his pipe still firmly in his mouth.
Sundays, and some evenings in the week, always saw people coming to visit grandad Ally. They would spend hours talking about shooting, fishing, guns, nets and the old days. I’m sure this is where I was lured by the excitement and adventure of the outdoor life. When I was thought to be old enough I was allowed to regularly clean grandad’s three shotguns, a Webley & Scott twelve bore side-by-side, his original old hammer twelve bore and a single barrel ten bore for shooting duck or geese. The barrels would all be pulled through by a brush on the end of a rod and then finally a soft wading material was pulled through. An oiled cloth would finally be wiped over the outside of the whole gun, stock and barrel. I always showed great care where I pointed any of the guns as grandad had etched on my brain the discipline of keeping the gun broken when walking with it under the arm, and at any other time when not using it to shoot. I recall being with him pigeon shooting in woods during winter when snow was on the ground, he would constantly take the cartridges out of the chamber and look through the barrels to see that no snow was trapped in the end of the barrels. He knew that if the gun was fired when snow was trapped in the end of the barrel then this could split the barrels open and endanger the shooter. I repeated this always during my shooting days because of grandad’s awareness of the dangers with shotguns.
I often found grandad Ally reading during the twilight years of his life, his two favourite books were ‘I Walked by Night – The Life and History of the King of the Norfolk Poachers’ and ‘History of The Fens’ by J.Wentworth-Day. He also enjoyed W H Barrett’s books, ‘Tales from the Fens’ and ‘More tales From the Fens’. Sometimes grandad would ask me to read to him, he became very tired at the end of his life mainly due to bronchitis.
His farmland over the decoy was Crown Land and was farmed under a formal rental arrangement. He grew crops of potato, sugar beet, carrot, onion and celery. Grandad’s farmhand down the Stamps was George ‘Cutty’ Porter who lived in a row of cottages down Common Lane. His dockey, or elevenses as they were called, consisted of half a loaf of bread and a chunk of cheese all wrapped in a tea towel. Drink was a bottle of cold tea. If an onion field was near Cutty would take a couple and add these to his bread and cheese. His cutlery consisted of a very sharp penknife, or a shut knife as they were called, which he used to cut portions from the bread, cheese and onion to eat. Grandad also grew crops of chicory which were grown for the chicory factory at Lakenheath for coffee making. Grandad had to stop growing this crop as he contracted a skin disease which turned out to be ‘impetigo’ said to be caused by contact with the chicory plant. The soil of his fields was a rich fertile peat, in fact, when I was with him down the Stamps one day I recall seeing a trench which apparently was where peat turfs had been dug. The locals called these peat blocks ‘hods’. I vaguely recall these peat turfs being put on my grandad’s old one axle trailer and pulled by his tractor back to Southery for burning on the fire.
He was well known for his celery, the variety he grew was called Cambridge White. It was a lovely crunchy celery, the stalk was string free and pure white. When the binding string was tied around the bundles of celery, ten or twelve in a bunch, you would hear it crackle as the string was tightened. A lot of grandad’s celery found its way onto the Saturday Market at King’s Lynn bought by a local buyer. The customers were attracted not only to its quality but also by the jet black soil left on the celery stick which was eventually washed off by the customer before eating. The black soil on his celery gave it a major identification to which customers became accustomed.
Grandad used his small field down Common Lane for growing the small celery plants in what were known as ‘beds’, these plants after a further few weeks of growth were eventually transplanted into the fields for their final growing period. Grandad’s farmhand at this time was a cousin of his, Horace Legge, who lived in Chapel Row down near the Methodist Church. Horace was eventually grandad’s tractor driver. There were two farm tractors, a Ford Major and a little grey Ferguson. Grandad’s first tractor over the Decoy was a metal wheeled Ford which had spiked wheels at the rear. I remember trying to drive it once but I was too small and could not reach the clutch and brake when setting on the high metal seat.
Grandad had built his own greenhouse near his bungalow for growing the first stage of plants from seed. Seed had to be sown into small boxes filled with soil that had been sterilised. This stage of the celery plant was a big risk because if this failed for whatever reason then no celery crop would be produced that year. I can’t remember grandad ever having a total disaster but I do recall him having his small seedling plants grown by someone near Whittlesey. His tractor and trailer would be driven to the supplier, loaded with the boxes of celery seedling plants and brought back to Common Lane. It was important for the soil of the ‘beds’ to be light and fine to work with and so the final preparation was for the area to be rotavated and then finally raked and worked into beds. The seedling bed area would be marked out with binding string and some eight or ten women would prick out the small plants into rows about five inches apart. During windy periods, the small seedlings when placed in the trench, if not protected, would be blown out of line, so wind-breaks called ‘shelters’ were made. The beds of seedlings would then be regularly watered and after a few weeks, when the plants were about six to eight inches high, they would be dug up, the soil knocked from the root and then transported by tractor and trailer to the field where they were planted into a trench about eight or nine inches apart. A hole was made with what was called a dib and the small celery plant placed in the hole and firmed in. As the plants started to grow they were ‘balked up’ by a specially designed furrowed board implement pulled along up the rows by the tractor. This moved soil to the side of the plant and this was repeated again later during the growing period keeping the plant covered with soil which helped the celery stalks to bleach white until the plant was finally ready for lifting. Again a specially designed piece of machinery with a cutting blade on a curved arm was pulled up the rows by the tractor and this cut through the bottom of the root and at the same time lifted the celery plant. The mature plant was then individually topped and tailed by the farmhand and tied into bundles ready to be transported to market. Grandad’s small plants from the celery beds found there ways sometimes to local growers such as Shropshire’s, now the largest celery grower and salad grower in the UK.
One of grandad Ally’s joys was a stuffed pike in a glass case which was originally in the house of Noah Legge on the Ferry Bank Road. When Noah died grandad became the stuffed pike’s owner. Its original weight was recorded on the casing as being thirty six and a quarter pounds - a monster from the river Great Ouse by anyone’s reckoning. The story goes that one of the Legge’s caught this pike in a ‘bow net’ somewhere near the old Ferry Boat pub. The pike was said to have been taken home and the person who caught it said he was going to ‘pan it’, that is fry it and eat it. However, this course of action was prevented and the pike was eventually taken to a taxidermist for preparation and mounting. The case became a bit worse for wear so one day the pike in its case was put into the back of my little grey minivan and grandad and I took it to a taxidermist who lived close to Ely Cathedral. The pike was given a good overhaul and re-cased to its former glory. I believe the cased pike is still in the Legge family to this day together with grandad’s guns. Grandad would occasionally enjoy singing a song or two in the evenings, sitting in his arm chair he would tilt his head backward, close his eyes and start to sing one of his favourite songs. I remember that some of his favourite songs were ‘I’ll take you home again Kathleen’, ‘The Rose of Traillie’, ‘Colway Bay’, which started, ‘if you ever go across the sea to Ireland, it may be at the closing of the day’, and of course, ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’.
July 3rd 1926 was a tragic day for grandad Ally, gran Mary and all the Legge family. Grandad told me the story saying that he was digging on his farm over the Decoy on this day when a little Robin came and perched on the handle of his spade. He immediately walked briskly back to Southery as he felt that something tragic had happened at home. As he neared home he was met by a neighbour who told him that his five year old daughter Joyce had wandered into the side of a nearby pond, slipped face first into the shallow water and was drowned. Her funeral took place at Southery, St Mary the Virigin Church on July 7th at 3.45pm. She was buried in the cemetery at the back of the church and many years after I remember my gran Mary taking me to the spot where little Joyce had been interred. Little Joyce’s middle name was Kathleen, one of grandad Ally’s sisters was also named Kathleen, and I wonder if Little Joyce was behind his love of the song ‘I’ll take you home again Kathleen’. My mum kept in her private box the memorial card used at little Joyce’s funeral plus another card which had printed on it ‘This lovely bud so young, so fair, Call’d home by early doom, Came but to show how sweet a flower In Paradise could bloom.
It has been said that the ‘true Fenman’ originated from Spanish gypsies who came over to East Anglia to farm the land. They were described as having jet black hair with a long hooked nose. These were grandad’s exact features. He also had eagle eyes, he could spot a rabbit, pheasant, partridge or a pigeon a mile away. Grandad was not particularly tall, probably about five feet nine inches in height, he was lean no doubt through hard work and also very agile. He regularly enjoyed a pint of mild at the Old White Bell pub one of eight or nine pubs in the village at that time, he also enjoyed a game of dominoes with the locals playing either honest John or fives and threes. After Dad and Mum became landlord and landlady of the Crown & Anchor pub in the village in 1954 grandad spent many an hour in the bar over a pint of mild telling customers a tale or two which was so very much part of his character. He was a great story teller and would have people in stitches laughing.
After grandad retired he suggested that we make a Fen Punt similar to the ones used for duck shooting on the washes and in the rivers years gone by. So off we went to Ryston Hall in my little grey minivan to find Harold Holman the estate gamekeeper who he knew well. A priority of grandad’s when making the boat was to have the front of the boat fitted with a large piece of shaped oak selected because the wood was hard and strong. We came away from the estate’s wood yard with the required piece of oak which had been cut to the shape grandad wanted with the circular saw at the wood yard. Long wooden boards about an inch thick and six or seven inches wide were then bought from the local carpenters shop, run by Bill Flack and Jack Stubbing, which was also on Stocks Corner at the top of Common Lane and next to the Blacksmith’s workshop. We constructed the punt to grandad’s specifications in a galvanised building owned by a neighbour, Tom Brown, who lived the other side of the road to grandad’s bungalow. We spent hours together with grandad standing alongside telling me how to construct the boat. Eventually it was completed and the final essential task was to line the bottom of the boat and all the joints with pitch. We fitted some rowlocks to the boat and our next door neighbour at the Crown and Anchor, Mr Thornton the village garage owner, gave us a pair of oars. The Punt was taken by tractor and trailer down to the Ferry Boat Inn where it was put in the Great Ouse River and there it spent the rest of its days moored to the river bank. It was occasionally used for fishing or getting across to the opposite side.
Many years ago I wrote a little verse about our Great Ouse River, it went, ‘Great Ouse, a fisherman’s paradise, its waters are treasured like gold, who knows but a true Fenman the secrets its waters hold’.
My Dad loved his fishing, he was a good course fisherman and fished the Great Ouse, Little Ouse and his favourite fishing venue the Sedge Fen Drain. I spent many hours watching my Dad fish particularly in the local Club competitions
Grandad was taken very ill on the 4th April 1967 and an ambulance was called to take him to Ely hospital. He died in the ambulance along the way. It was said that his last breath was near the Ferry Boat Inn which is alongside the Great Ouse River, the river which provided him and his family with some of their weekly food. If this is true then it was a fitting place for grandad Ally to join his Maker.
The Ferry Boat in its prime. On the right submitted, with thanks, by Michael Burns
The Ferry Boat Inn was on Ferry Bank at the Ferry and closed in June 1985. In 1832 the landlord, William Porter (1787-1832), died of cholera ‘a malignant disease raging in different part of the country’. His widow Elizabeth (nee Constable, 1795) took over until the later 1850s. In 1858 George Osler, also a plumber and glazier, was landlord. He was buried on 21 September 1861 having been ‘killed by a fall from his cart’ and his widow Martha (nee Martha Brown Barton in Hilgay) married, in 1866, the John Porter who is shown as landlord in the 1871 census. Martha was daughter in law to Elizabeth, her first husband being William Christopher Porter, posthumous son of William, who was buried in January 1857, aged only 24. William was buried on 03 Apr while his son was christened on 03 June 1832.
The Jolly Farmers. The original building, opened before 1917, was on the other side of the Feltwell Road and closer to the centre of the village. The present ‘Jollys’ dates from the mid 1960s.
The former Nag’s Head
The Nag’s Head on Churchgate Street between the old and new St Mary’s was closed at the end of August 1969. The landlord in the 1870s and 1880s was another William Christopher Porter, son of Noah, who married Susan Simper in 1858 and was also a (stationary) engine driver. The landlord in 1891 was Alfred Henry Porter, son of Martha Brown Barton’s third marriage to John Porter who was landlord of the Ferry Boat in 1871. Unravelling the Porters is no easy task! In 1901 the pub is in the hands of George John Wyer and his wife Mary (nee Plaice). Mary was the landlady in 1917.
The Old White Bell (formerly the Silver Fleece). William Peckett (1790-1862) had taken over the licence in 1836 and retained it until his death. His widow Mary (nee Russell) then held it until she died in 1872, aged 82. They were married in Southery in 1832 and are both buried by the new church. The new landlord, until the late 1890s, was John Porter who, with his wife Martha, moved from the Ferry Boat. Much more recently, in the 1950s and 1960s, Les & May Crowther took over and then, until 1976, Laurie Porter and their daughter Marion. Records do not go back early enough to include Mucky Porter who, allegedly, was in residence c1640-1670.
The Ship at Poppylot. Actually in the parish of Feltwell, it stands as a private dwelling on the south side of the Southery-Feltwell road approximately half way between the two villages and roughly opposite New Farm. Closed in 1959, though its licence continued for longer, it only managed to sell just over 13 barrels in its last year of trading which is hardly surprising given its remoteness. William Scott Rogers was landlord in the 1871 census. James Maggs was in residence in the censuses of 1881, 1891 and 1901 and his son Herbert later took over.
The Victory Inn, past (far left) and present as a private residence.
The Victory Inn, giving its name to ‘Victory Corner’, closed in 1948. Landlords include Richard Watson from Hockwold in the 1841 census and Richard Porter who did a quarter century service behind the pumps through the censuses 1881-1901. Just to the south, towards Ely, was the Wesleyan Methodist chapel (The 'Prims' has their chapel at Brandon Creek which had 120 sittings)
Southery Wesleyan chapel was opened in 1882 at a cost of £1700 and could seat 400 - there was a school room behind. The first Wesleyan chapel in Southery was opened in 1842 and a new one, more suited to the present day, was built in 1991.
There is also a Strict Baptist chapel in Churchgate Street which was built in 1847. The history of the Strict Baptists is not a little complicated. They emerged from the Particular Baptists in the later years of the 18th Century. The term strict refers to the closed position with regard to membership and communion. Those interested might like to read up on John Gill (1697-1771)
Southery Strict Baptist chapel built in 1847 (to the east of the parish church in Churchgate Street)