History of Blofield and Blofield Heath
“Blofield” is written Blafelda and Blauuefelde in the Domesday Book. It is said the prefix possibly comes from the Icelandic word Blaa which means yellow or from the Anglo-Saxon Blech or Bleo meaning blue.
Indeed the first syllable could also derive from the Anglo-Saxon Blowan meaning to blow or even Bloo, meaning to blossom.
The suffix could have derived from the Anglo-Saxon Feld meaning field or the Danish Felt also meaning field, pasture or an open neighbourhood.
The Domesday Book says “In Blafelda Bishop Almar held in King Edward`s time two carucates of land. Always two ploughs in the demesne and half a plough of the tenants. Pannage for eight hogs and four acres of meadow. The whole was worth £8.”
By 1251 Walter de Suffield, the Bishop of Norwich, had free warren at Blofield. Then in 1265 Blofield became the curious defendant in a court case. It seems one William de Newton “complained against several particular persons and against the townships of Blofield and others for being assaulted and beaten there”. The townships were bailed and obliged to appear at the King`s Bench. The result is not known.
The manor remained in the see of Norwich until 1536 when the land was exchanged, by Act of Parliament, between Bishop Rugge and King Henry VIII. In 1541 the land was granted to Sir Thomas Paston in exchange for other assets in Norfolk and Surrey. By 1640 the Manor still remained in the Paston family when Edward Paston appears as Lord and patron. After his death in 1713, Samuel Burkin bought the Manor but, for reasons unknown, shot himself in 1726. The Manor then went to his brother John and on his death in 1763 to his sister Diana. She married Jeremiah Burroughes and it was this family name which continued as Lord of the Manor.
Of the many Inns and Ale Houses which existed in Blofield up to and after the Second World War, perhaps the most notable was The Globe which stood on the old Turnpike road between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Now demolished to make way for housing, The Globe was the site of the Petty Sessions held every alternate Monday in the days long before the Blofield Court House was built. This Inn boasted one of the oldest bowling greens in the county which had been in existence long before 1770. As well as being the venue for the Hiring Fair for Servants, held a few days before Michaelmas, it was also one of the few centres for the long-lost art of Norfolk Wrestling. On the first Tuesday after Whitsun the “Collars and Elbow” men gathered in the courtyards and gardens of Inns around the county with The Globe at Blofield being one of the most popular. It was a particularly brutal sport and few left the “arena” without some injury.
In later times, to quote local historian Roy Granger, the Norwich to Great Yarmouth Road entered the parish from the former parish of Witton at Witton Run, climbing the hill to pass the Globe Inn. At the King`s Head (the only public house remaining in the village) it continued left up The Street passing the Swan Inn (now semi-detached houses called Swan Corner) to The Griffin (now modern houses) at the junction with Doctor`s Road. At the eastern end of Doctor`s Road were routes leading to Lingwood, Burlingham and Acle. The section of the old A47 between the King`s Head and Doctor`s Road was built in 1813.
The Reading Room and Parish Room – now the library – was presented to the Parish in 1897 by Philip Steward to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Following the First World War the Parish Hall (the Margaret Harker Hall) was given to Blofield by William and Mrs Harker. William Harker also gave the Heath Recreation Ground to the Parish. The Blofield Recreation Ground was purchased by the parishioners as part of the memorial to those fallen in the First World War.
Between the wars the principal landowners in Blofield were William Harker, Myrus Sutton, Harry Edrich and Norfolk County Council.
In 1937 Frederick Barrett was the newsagent, Edgar Bickers was the butcher and Mr M C Underdown ran the Blofield Service Station. The Globe Hotel (Globe Inn) was operated by Roy Everard while the publican at the Swan Inn was Stephen Shred (one of the longest serving publicans in the UK, who held his licence for 50 years until the early 1980s). Stanley Earl was the publican of the King`s Head and George Ellis was at the Two Friends in Blofield Heath. Horace Webb looked after the Post Office and Lilian Procter was the District Nurse while John McKelvie was the local physician, surgeon, Medical Officer of Health and Public Vaccinator. Miss Foulger was the secretary of the Reading Room and Bertie Skedge was the Clerk to the Parish Council. Finally the Secretary of the Margaret Harker Hall was S J Starr and at Blofield Heath it was Arthur Holmes who looked after the recreation ground.
A Village Divided
Tuesday, October 12th 1982 saw the opening of the bridge across the Blofield Bypass which would ultimately reconnect Blofield with Blofield Heath when the newly constructed trunk road was completed. The bypass was opened to traffic early the following year and cut a swathe between the two communities. The impact on Blofield was immediate with a massive reduction of traffic on the old A47. Previously, especially on summer Saturdays when holiday traffic was at its peak, Blofield was virtually cut off from neighbouring Brundall as traffic backed across the lights at the junction of the A47 with The Street.
Once Mousehold Heath stretched all the way out from St James in Norwich to the northern part of the village which is called Blofield Heath.
Blofield Heath with its sandy fertile soil has long supported farming, market gardens and nurseries. Soft fruits, salad foods and flowers were grown to be sold locally and in Norwich. Cut flowers, particularly chrysanthemums, were sent by rail to Covent Garden in London and also to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
Some families involved in agriculture and horticulture are remembered in names of roads and lokes. Bulley’s Way recalls the Bulley family who were pork butchers and had a small holding along Mill Road; Francis Lane tells of the Francis family who had Orchard Market Garden in Borton Road; Bond Road is where the Bond family has farmed since 1920 at Heath Farm. A holding in Dyes Road, called Heath End Farm, was held by the families of Earl, then Youngman, followed by Wheelhouse, then Neave, and is now in the hands of SHES (Sheltered Horticultural Employment Scheme.)
Other market gardening families in the 1930s were the Bunns in Rosemary Road, the Carters at The Heath at the end of Francis Lane and the Nicholls in Blofield Corner Road.
Mill Road contained a number of attractive old properties with large gardens, well spaced out, with many orchards and pastures. In years gone by everyone grew their own vegetables and fruit. The orchards and pastures have vanished as lokes and closes of newer housing have appeared.
Market gardens stretched along most of the northern side of Blofield Corner Road with a plantation of trees along the southern edge. When the first house was built after the belt of trees was felled Mr Waterson built his own house using some of the timber and carting water from Town Pit. Most farms had a pond or pit for the cattle and farm horses. When the horses came home after a day’s work they would go down into what was called the pit to drink.
Town Pit is remembered as a watering place for the animals and as a place of fun when it froze over when the older boys from the school went in their dinner hour to skate and slide on it.
Mr Myrus Sutton was a big, local, land owner with several farms in the area including Minns Farm and the farm in Field Lane. Mr Charles Skedge was Sutton’s foreman in the 1930s and went round with a pony and trap.
In Mill Road the Rogers family operated a mill, Sarah Rogers in 1850 and by the 1920s and 1930s Ernest Rogers was in charge. The Heath Filling Station opened as a garage when Sidney Webb had it built where his greenhouses used to stand.
The ‘Bird in Hand’ in Mill Road was a public house from 1836 until 1930 with its own bowling green at the back. In 1915 the licensee was Joseph Colk followed by Herbert Wright. It is said that cattle were driven along Mill Road to the marshes and the men stopped to refresh themselves at the pub. The ‘Two Friends’ in Woodbastwick Road had a 6 day licence until the ‘The Bird in Hand’ closed in 1930 when it became fully licensed. ‘The Trowel and Hammer’ was in Blofield Corner Road towards Little Plumstead. It closed in 1930.
A laundry in Laundry Lane was initially private for the household of Blofield Hall. Mrs Freeman took it over in 1936 and ran it as a public laundry. In 1954 Roy Snelling bought and enlarged the building in which he set up his radio and television business. In 1890 there was a sub post office run by Mr F. Rogers at Blofield Corner.
By 1908 Herbert Rix managed a shop, post office & the Two Friends Public House. In the 1930s George Ellis was at the Two Friends, Frederick Barrett was the newsagent and Horace Webb looked after the Post Office. Mr Webb produced a series of local post card views [as did Mr Tuck at the Blofield Post Office].
A small shop in Mill Road run by Mrs Bailey was later enlarged by Mr and Mrs Neave and sold many everyday requisites.
Boot and shoe repairs were done in the first half of the 20th century by Hardley Symonds who lived opposite the wooden village hall in Woodbastwick Road. He mended shoes for villagers and also dealt with sack loads of boots and shoes arrived from Little Plumstead hospital to be repaired.
In 1922 Major William Harker gave 4 acres of land to the Parish of Blofield for recreational purposes. It was soon a venue for football and cricket matches, fêtes, shows etc. A football team was formed in 1928 with the colours blue and amber. Their secretary was R. Webb.
Blofield Heath Bowls Club was formed there in 1926 by a group of men from the village. They laid the green on the present site and carried out the work needed to make it playable. Mr F. Spanton was elected as chairman, Major Harker was invited to be president and Mr J. Earl was chosen as club captain.
For some years a wooden hut on the recreation ground served as a village hall. After much work to raise funds a new building called Heathlands Community Centre was opened by Lord and Lady Bacon in the early 1970s.
Blofield Heath WI was formed and met in the hut from 1965 and then in the new centre.
The Methodist Chapel in Woodbastwick Road was built in 1868 as a Primitive Methodist Chapel. A Sunday School began in 1883. By 1977 the number of children attending was 40 and a schoolroom was built beside the chapel.
Cuttons Corner – a thatched, wattle and daub cottage here was home to Mr Cutton and later the Barber family. Mr Cutton’s son built himself a house next door and gave land in front of it for the erection of the chapel. Annual chapel outings by charabanc were much enjoyed by children and their mothers.
Two schools in Blofield – the Education Act of 1870 required that board schools should be set up offering universal and compulsory elementary education with qualified teachers. Initially parents would pay fees but this could be waived in cases of hardship.
The elected Board Members were in favour of building one school in the Callow Green area, arguing that no child from north or south would have more than 1¾ miles to walk. But the recommendation in 1874 was for a school for 122 children in the southern part of the village and another for 127 by Hemblington Corner for the northern part. And so in 1877 two schools were built in the parish. The builder was John Withers who had lived in The Turret House which he had built for his family in Yarmouth Road. Both schools opened in January 1878. To avoid confusion the one in Mill Road was called the Hemblington Board School and the southern one the Blofield Board School.
History of Blofield Heath kindly supplied by Mrs Barbara Pilch.