Growing up in Trowse in the 1920s

MEMORIES OF PIGS AND COMBIES
Cecil Howlett recalls growing up in Trowse during the 1920’s and 1930’s

Cyril Howlett’s father died in 1928 leaving a widow and two children. The three of them had to manage on one pound, two shillings and sixpence per week – £1.25 in our present currency. They were helped by the fact that Cyril’s father had worked hard to provide for his family during his lifetime, but it still meant long hours of physical work for his mother, as well as for himself and his sister as soon as they were old enough to help. The hard work his father did is something which Cyril remembers vividly…

“Father had two allotments where he raised pigs. These animals were kept well fed by Dad going around collecting waste from cafes in Norwich which would then be boiled up, along with household scraps, bran and cereal, in a big copper lit by my sister. On Saturdays he delivered pig manure to people wanting to buy H. When the time came, the pigs would be driven to an abattoir up Whitlingham Lane, owned by Mr Betts and Mr Symonds, where they would be slaughtered after tea. Very early the next morning my father would get up, load the carcasses onto a trolley and take them to two pork butchers in the city – one, Proctor’s, was in St Stephen’s, and the other, Goodson’s, was on Ber Street. He would then go on to his “paid” work as a Starch Labourer at Colman’s, taking with him one jointed pig to sell to his work mates. The whole business would then start all over again, with Dad buying in ten week old “store pigs” to fatten up.

“We also grew vegetables and kept chickens, so we were quite self sufficient. Around Christmas, my Grandmother was kept busy as she was an expert at killing and plucking. The chickens were “drained” outside Russell Terrace, where my Grandmother lived at number thirty-two.”When he wasn’t looking after the pigs or working at Colman’s, my father would collect kindling from Carrow. My sister took our pony, Fluffy, and a little cart to meet him so they could help bring it home again where it would be bundled up and sold. Dad also bought pea (support) sticks, to sell on.

“Later on he got another pony, Peggy, which he broke in himself and, to go with her, a light varnished trap big enough for two. I remember him and my mother going on holiday to visit my aunt at Rougham, near Bury-St-Edmunds where my aunt and her husband had a pub, The Crown. It took quite a time for them to get there, so they rested Peggy at Dereham.
“The 1914 – 18 war saw many dead, but the ‘flu epidemic which followed also killed thousands. My mother was one of those who caught it. Apparently the doctor came to see her one day and, finding me – a three week old baby – lying on the bed with her, gave orders that I should be removed immediately as mother was too weak to look after me. There were no vaccinations against illness in those days, so everyone was equally vulnerable. The road through Trowse was covered with straw at that time, to quieten the noise of passing traffic.
“Eventually, the illness my father left the First World War with became too much for him. When he was too weak to walk, my mother pushed him around in a Bath chair, but after two years he died. His hard work in providing for us had paid well, though, as
he left my mother £300 – a large sum in 1928.

“At that time there was no Social Security so my mother, whose name was Harriet May, had to manage as best she could, which meant that she had to go out doing other people’s cleaning and washing. Mother also took washing home, but I would deliver it back for her, all neatly pressed by irons heated on the grate. Later she got a job cooking and cleaning at Crown Point for two lady gardeners, which made things easier for us at home. Mother enjoyed cooking and, although we had a gas cooker later on, I can remember that she had a wall oven first which was heated by coal or wood. She worked so hard that she had callouses on her hands but, like many youngsters, I had no thought for how hard she worked to keep the family going. If Mother could have had anything from the present time, I think she would have chosen a washing machine!

Trowse was a very different village seventy-odd years ago and had several shops. There was Hewlett’s Bakery (where I would help on Saturdays), and a Village Store, run by Mr Cage, a very enterprising man. The present Village Store was then a newsagents run by Mr Simmonds, who had sugar mice and watches in his window at Christmas time. Opposite this shop, on the common, there was an orchard and a boot and shoe repair shop. The Post Office, run by Mr Howson, was where May Gurney’s now is. Everything – bread, meat, milk and parcels- was delivered to your house by a delivery boy, and every business had a bike. At 4.00am on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, market gardeners from outlying villages would come through Trowse with their ponies and carts on their way to the early morning market in, Norwich which was held behind the Bell Hotel

“One person I remember very well from my childhood was a Mr Ketteringham,as he did so much for the children of Trowse. Every year, he would produce and take part in a village pantomime which was performed in the Cafe (now the Manor Rooms). An entry fee of 6d (two and a half new pence) was charged but, as this did not cover the expenses, Mr Ketteringham would subsidise the event. We even hired a bus so that we could take the pantomime “on tour” to other villages. When it was all over Mr Ketteringham gave a party, complete with fireworks, for the children who had taken part. One year we performed “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” Dressed as a detective, I had to crawl across the stage, looking for clues, wearing my grandfather’s big coat!

“Mr Ketteringham also ran a camp at Gorleston once a year, when we slept in six bell tents left over from the First World War. We would leave Trowse in a lorry on the August Bank Holiday, and boys were charged fifteen shillings (75p) for the week and men £1. Everyone took it in turns to do the cooking and cleaning and, if the weather was good, we swam a lot But how different were the swimming costumes we had then compared to the ones which are worn today! Mine was a “combie” – a one piece thing, complete with arms and legs. Made of cotton, it sagged terribly as soon as it got wet. But those few days away were a real holiday, and I remember them well.”

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