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"Off The Tapestry" - Part 1

[Introduction]  [Part 2


Now displayed in the British Museum.  An extract from the Norfolk Directory 1877 reads:-

" Some years ago a gold cross of beautiful workmanship,  containing in the centre  a coin of Heraclius 1 and his son Heraclius Constantimus, was discovered in a gravel pit at Wilton ( Hockwold cum Wilton ).  Three parts of the cross, and the parts surrounding the centre coin are filled with pieces of red glass elegantly set in a mosaic pattern.  The upper part forms a ring by which the jewel was hung."

Standard Report from the British Museum reads:-

"Gold Pendant Cross with coin in centre of Heresies (610-641).  The side arms and base of cross fan out and are decorated with cloisonné garnets, filigree suspension loop.

Height 4.70cm.  Width 4.5cm.

Date 7th Century

Period / Culture:  Anglo Saxon (Early) Byzantine.


Rowell's Cycle Shop was opened by Polly some 90 yesrs ago selling cycles.  It was told that a basic Runwell cycle cost nineteen shillings and sixpence ( 97½p ).  They used gas lamps fuelled by carbide.  This was bought in 1cwt. Kegs and was sold in 1lb. tins.  She also sold radios, accumulators ( with charging service ), Ever Ready HT 120v and grid bias batteries, plus many other goods.  Petrol was sold in 2 gallon sealed cans which were delivered by horse and cart from Thetford until two petrol pumps were put in with 500 gallons capacity tanks ( sold at 1s 2d ( 7p ) per gallon ).  No petrol was sold from the pumps during World War Two but the tanks were kept full for use by the armed forces.  The wooden shop was built by Polly's husband, William, who was a wheelwright by trade but he also did building work and was the local undertaker.  The undertaking business has been handed down the family and is now run by grandson Michael Denney and great-grandson John Denney.  It has been a family run business for one hundred years.

 The showing on the Tapestry was taken from a 1930s postcard.  On the left is William Rowell, his son George Rowell and on the right is Jim Slater, still living in the Village.  The site is now run by Barry and Maz Bye, still selling petrol and running vehicle body repair workshops.


Extract from Kelly's Directory 1896:

" National School ( mixed and infants ) built in 1844 for 100 boys and girls and 53 infants, average attendance 81 boys and girls and 30 infants.  James Watson ( master ), Myra Enefer ( mistress ) Miss Harriet Eliza Pettit ( infant mistress )".

Memoirs of Cyril Denney

( one of a very few surviving pupils at the Millennium who attended the Old School )

I assume that, as I was born in the year 1908,  it would have been 1912, at the age of 4, that I started my education there in the infant class with Miss Hatty Pettit as my teacher.  I only had a short spell there as I was still in the infant class when the school was closed and all the pupils were moved over to the new School.  The teachers at the new School were Mr. Pearce, Mrs. Pearce, Mrs. Dearsley, Miss May Rolph and Miss Sykes ( who was married to Vic Rolph eventually ).

I think good use was made of the Old School premises in the ensuing years. Dances, whist drives, concerts, Church Sunday School magic lantern shows by Rev. Clark were all held there until the WI Hall came into being.  As a matter of interest, I appeared in one of the shows held there in the leading part as king with Peggy Pearce as queen and Cynthia Hutt as my lovely princess daughter.

I have no idea who had the contract to build the new School but I do remember some bricklayers who were employed on the project from Norwich lodging at our home, "The Black Horse".

One other thing comes to mind.  The bell from the bell tower of the Old School never appeared in or on the new School.  The signal to "fall in" or summon the end of playtime was a whistle blown from an open window by C.E. Pearce.

Apart from these few names I can remember no more:  Jasper Ricket, Ernie Clingo, Bob Green, Ted Malt, Billy Hutt, Horace and Bert Stimson, Fred Bailey, Wag Carpenter, Boby ( Bill ) Shinn, Gilbert Johnston, John Murray, John Richardson and George Rowell. 

In the 1970s Harry Hall had the contract from the Church to demolish the Old School and Michael Denney, the then Chairman of the School Governors spoke with Rev. Webb, also a School Governor, about the bell on the Old School.  He explained that it had called the children to class and asked if he could have a frame made to hang it in the new School.  This was agreed and Michael Denney had the bell put in the entrance hall.  Mrs. Joyce Froud, the headmistress, also agreed to place the keystones from the brickwork that had supported the bell  and the stone from the front wall showing the date of the Old School in the entrance hall for safe-keeping.


In 1975 Trevor and Pam Cobbold purchased a parcel of land down Cowles Drove, Hockwold, which was then named Freedom Farm.

Trevor had already been familiar with carrot growing through his father and decided to have a go on his own.  He then built the first carrot wash at Freedom Farm and gradually and successfully expanded the business until he was growing 1500 acres of carrots.  He marketed his carrots under the trade name of "King Cobb", which is still widely recognized and acknowledged in its industry for quality.  Trevor tried to be a perfectonist in everything he did, and, with the aid of Everett Bros. Engineering ( next door ) helped to design and perfect many items of carrot grading and washing equipment.  Indeed there were visitors from America, Australia and New Zealand, to name but a few, to view the techniques and machinery.

At present ( Year 2000 ) there are approximately 40 people employed who carry out all the operations from sowing of the carrot seed in January through to harvesting and transporting.  The dirty carrots are transported by tractor and trailer from a radius of approximately 25 miles back to the carrot wash.  They are then tipped into the receiving hopper, travel through the wash and hydro-cooler ( although now 12 years old it is still one of the most modern in the country ) onto the grading lines, eventually being bagged as Class 1 produce.  They are collected from the farm fresh each day by various hauliers and delivered to the wholesale markets throughout the country.

On the site there is an extensive workshop where most of the repairs and servicing is carried out on the many tractors, machinery and vehicles.

The farm also grows parsnips, onions, wheat, barley, linseed, rye, oilseed rape and sugar beet on land owned and rented locally.

Village Hall

The Village Hall was originally the Women's Institute Hall.  In 1976/77 the WI requested a grant from Hockwold Parish Council to help put an even surfaced pathway from the road to the Hall entrance.  At the Parish Council meeting it was said that a grant had been made the previous year to help with a re-wiring project and the question was asked: "Does the Hall need a modernization programme?  If so we should meet with the WI  to discuss the matter."  A meeting between the Parish Council and the WI was arranged.

At the meeting it was agreed that it should become a Village Hall but that the WI should be able to use it for an agreed number of years at no hiring charge.  There then followed an Open Village Hall Public Meeting held at the WI Hall on Tuesday November 1st 1977 chaired by Mr. M. Denney.  45 people attended the meeting, representatives from Village organizations, members of the public and Mr. G. Crisp, a solicitor from Rudlings invited to give advice and guidance and answer legal questions.  It was agreed at the meeting that the Parish Council would be trustees and that the following organizations would put forward their nominees to form a Management Committee:  Hockwold WI, St. James' Church, Hockwold and Weeting British Legion ( Hockwold members ) Village Club, Playing Field, Pre-School Playgroup, Youth Group, Badminton Club, Autumn Leaves Club and Parish Council.  It was also proposed and agreed that three people be elected from the floor of the meeting.  From six nominees a ballot was held and Mr. G. Allsop, Mrs. I Lawson and Mr. A. Shinn were elected.

The Hockwold Village Hall Committee was formed and with grants, fund-raising and a great deal of hard work put in by many people we now have a first class Village Hall.  It is perhaps worth mentioning that while the Hall was being modernized a great deal of fund-raising was being done.  Two charity auctions were held in the car park of the New Inn, a cheese and wine party was organized and the Mini Market was started and run every Saturday morning at Michael and Shirley Denney's in one of their garages.  The stall was set up by Mike and John ready for the Stall holders to stock up and in the cold winter weeks a gas fire was alight for the good ladies to have a warm.  Shirley would come out with coffees and a bottle of winter warmer to help the coffee go down.  Of course, we know that the Mini Market is still going after all these years and that it has raised a considerable sum of money for the Village Hall.

M. Denney


This started off many years ago and we are told that it was once a cow / cattle shed belonging to the properties that were on the land where the Village Hall now stands. 

It can be remembered as a shop run by a Mr. Tollyfield until it was acquired by Fred Newport soon after the war.  He turned it into a fish and chip shop, also selling wet fish.  He used to collect the fish off the early morning train from Grimsby.  Fred Newport's fish and chips were renowned and customers came from all the surrounding villages.  He cooked then in coal fired pans and used beef dripping. Fred ran the fish and chip shop until the 1970s until it changed hands a few times and became a retail shop.  It was then bought by Lawrence Hurst who sold second hand furniture.  He applied for planning permission to build an extension on the ground that went with the shop. 

It already had an outbuilding on it that had been built by Fred Newport to store potatoes.  The potatoes were washed in a barrel like machine with running water.  It was hand operated.  He also stored coal there for the fires and all the ashes from these were thrown out the back.

Stephen Denney purchased the shop from Lawrence Hurst and, after a year or so, he sold the shop and newsagent's business to his brother John who then carried out the building work for which planning had been given.  John Denney runs the newsagents shop from 5.00am to 11.00am 7 days a week and offers a full delivery service throughout the Village.  As a matter of interest Stephen had bought the newsagent's business from Rita Thompson, his great aunt, thereby keeping the business in the family for eighty years.


Information given by Alan S. Mallett FCA. 

SS Hockwold Official No. 129179.  Signal Letters MSJB or HSJB.  Built by S.P. Austin & Son, Sunderland.  Launched March 1911 for William Cory & Son, London.  245ft. length x 36.2ft. beam x 15.9ft. depth at hull.  1472 tons gross / 854 tons net.  Engine:  Triple Expansion Three Cylinder 19 x 31 x 51.  Stroke 36 / 170mhp.  Approx. 800   indicated horse power. 8 knots.

SS Hockwold was lost on the night of 8th September 1917 in collision with SS Intent.  The Captain was L.H. Albert appointed in 1915.  The tapestry is taken from a photograph showing Cory funnel markings and house flag.


Mention must be made of angling as this area has some of the finest fishing banks, not only along the river Little Ouse but also in the fishing pits, many now owned privately.  One such pit, known as Charlie's Pit was used by local boys and day tickets could be bought from the Red Lion ( from Michael Denney ).  This went on until the area was developed for housing - now known as Lakelands.

There are two private pits in Hockwold:  Cross Drove Fisheries, Cowles Drove, run by Rob Mortor and East Fen Fisheries run by Kim Peckham.  Both pits can be fished by obtaining day tickets on site.  They also run competitions, which yield good catches and are well supported and also charity fishing contests for local organisations.

All fishing requires a rod licence.


St. Peter's Church, Station Road, Hockwold is a plain edifice, as described by J.G. Harrod & Co.'s Royal County Directory of Norfolk and Lowestoft in Suffolk 1877. 

The bell frame supporting three bells is quite rare as it is thought to be one of the very few of this design in the country.

Note from Mr. Richard Peat relating to St. Peter's Church:

" My grandfather ( Sir Harry Peat ) purchased Hockwold Hall in 1933 and the family lived there until 1978.  During this time in the 1950s St. Peter's Church effectively became redundant.  Michael Denney introduced his aunt, Phyllis Rowell, to my sister, Gillian Peat who then introduced her to Ivor Bulmer-Thomas of the Friends of Friendless Churches Society.  Through this introduction funds were put in place to repair the church roof including the carved wooden angels.  This action effectively prevented the church degenerating into collapse."

Plaque on porch reads: 

"The Church is now managed by the Redundant Church Fund, St. Andrew by the Wardrobe, Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 5DE.  Monies provided by Parliament, by the Church of England and by the gifts of the public.  Though no longer required for regular worship it remains consecrated to the service of God.  Please respect it accordingly.  For the key see separate notice."


Perhaps one of the most important panels in this tapestry is that of the Wellington Bomber. From RAF Feltwell, along with the Lancaster Bomber, it is the Wellington Bomber which is so closely associated with this area. It was in one of these aircraft that Sgt. J.A. Ward - a New Zealander billeted in Hockwold during the war - won the Victoria Cross, hence the tapestry showing also a replica of the VC Medal Ribbon.

"It was on 8th July 1941 when 75 Squadron was returning to RAF Feltwell following a raid on Munster that the aircraft piloted by Sqn. Leader Widdowson and co-piloted by Sgt. Ward was attacked by a BF 110. The bomber was badly damaged and a fire broke out near the starboard engine threatening to destroy the whole wing. Sgt. Ward, at great risk to himself undertook to clamber out onto the wing in an attempt to douse the blaze. In this respect he was successful although the fire had unknowingly spread to the fuel line which could not he extinguished. Nevertheless his brave actions saved the aircraft which, despite the secondary fire, landed safely."

 This is but one account of the many examples of bravery displayed night after night by bomber crews flying out of RAF Feltwell. Many of whom unfortunately never returned. Many of these crews were decorated for their bravery and dedication to duty but, of course, those aircrews could not have flown at all had it not been for the tireless efforts of all those operating on the ground - in many respects the "Forgotten Army of the Air Force". Even these airmen were not free from danger for RAF Feltwell suffered a number of raids by the enemy, leaving the airfield badly damaged on many occasions.

Despite this, RAF Feltwell had the distinction of putting more aircraft into the air than any other RAF Station towards the end of the Second World War.

RAF Feltwell opened in April 1937 and continued to be used by the Royal Air Force as a bomber base until the end of the Second World War when it became No. 3 Flying Training School until its closure at the end of April 1958. It then became a Thor Missile Base before being used for the training of WRAF personnel and for signals purposes. Latterly it has become a US Air Force Tracking Station and Families Logistics Site; it is also the location of one of the local American Schools.

The following is an extract from a letter received from Jack Dixon:

                 "The first "trauma" was flying with a crew for the first time, Navigator, Bomb Aimer, Wireless Operator and Gunner - up to then you were always flying on your own and could get yourself lost instead of having a navigator to do it for you!!

Luckily I had a first class navigator but still remember the first night "cross country" when, instead of just stooging round the airfield so that you could see where to land, he told me to fly off into the night and off we went in the dark. I knew we would never find base again and I was unconvinced when, after several changes of course over the next couple of hours, he said "you should see Cottesmore ahead in about five minutes" and we did!! And to think he did it all sitting in a little cubby hole not even being able to see out. I never doubted him after that and we all learned to trust each other.

As to the aircraft itself - it was awe inspiring after simple training craft - all those knobs, switches and dials to learn to understand and they were only the bits that showed -you also had to know what was hidden out of sight - there were some 82 bits and pieces, although I am sure there were more.

The "Wimpy" was a nice aircraft to fly although I nearly came to grief once or twice - once at Cottesmore. I picked up the flaps on take off instead of the wheels! - the levers were side by side and identical. In the dark I had picked the wrong one and, from not many feet up, we just sank lower and lower until 1 realized my mistake.

Another night we were over the Irish Sea, cloud from sea level to above the height I could get, iced up all over, nose up but losing height. We jettisoned everything - guns, oxygen bottles and anything we could unscrew - then a break in the cloud revealed land and an airfield I called the emergency procedure and they switched on the lights. (I was lucky the radio worked, it was often unreliable). As I circled to land, the lights went out and I called up to ask why - they said they were still on. You made your circuit at 1,000 ft and, at this strange airfield, there were two 1,000 ft hills on the circuit and I'd flown between them hence blanking off the lights - I was very glad I had not known about this. As I landed a tail wheel tyre burst, stuck four days in fog.

I had an engine failure on another occasion and called "Mayday" but no-one answered

However, I survived and went on to Stirlings where there were twice as many engine controls but at least I now had an engineer to help and our night "cross countries" got a bit more sinister.



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