Life in Trowse from 1853 – Memoirs of Samuel Fowler

If you have ever wondered what life was really like in Trowse in the 1800s, you’ll enjoy these memoirs transcribed by Samuel Fowler’s (1853-1940) great grandaughter Gladys Fowler in 1946. It depicts in wonderful detail what Trowse was like, how it has changed and some of the characters that lived in the village. All the text is as it was recorded, and I’ve added a few notes in italics.

Old Trowse

It looking back, one cannot help noticing the changes that have come about. Old Trowse Millgate with its level crossing, Public Houses, Blacksmiths shop, and cottages have all passed away to make room for pumping station and railway bridge. The old Pineapple was on the other side of the road. Opposite this was a wood yard kept by one Daniel Johnson who used to preach in Chapelfield on Sunday afternoons-a very loud preacher; and the Norwich Argus dubbed him the old Trowse Roarer. He had a son, a dwarf, a smart little man,  very keen in business. When Sir Robert Harvey gave a great fete, he paraded the grounds with a great French giant, over 7 feet high and he not much more than 3 feet.

The Jolly Millers Public House stood nigh the river. At the back of this was a narrow passage which led to old Trowse Congregational Chapel, a square building with square pulpit and a very shakey gallery. When it was pulled down we found it formerly had been a Baptist chapel. We also found a large font, the shape of a coffin, with steps at each end; it was filled with stones.

Just a word about Trowse Mills, one of the beauty spots of old Trowse. History tells us that the mills were burnt to the waters edge in 1762. Old Trowse had three very narrow bridges, low parapets with large stones like millstones to protect the sides. The one over the river fell in in 1862 and was widened and opened in 1863, and the others were widened later on.

Trowse Mill and Bridge 1800s as Samuel Fowler probably saw them

Old Trowse was practically built on the marshes and when the road was built up nearly all houses had 2,3 and 4 steps to go down. So some had to live half underground. There are two examples left, Bakers old corn shop and the Cafe (now the Manor Rooms).

The houses were mostly 2 rooms and a washhouse, with a few exceptions and a great many were neither windtight not watertight, and these houses were often flooded especially after a storm. The road was muddy, the paths narrow and cobbly and Trowse was generally dirty as it was the dumping place for nearly all cattle and sheep to attend the Norwich market, and thousands to be seen in the course of a year. Trowse at this time was practically agricultural. It boasted 5 farms, the Hall Farm, The Street Farm, Alborough Farm, Plants Farm and Gowings farm. Only one remains, Gowings farm, but the ruins can still be seen, Hall Farm in Whittlingham Lane, Street farm opposite the chapel, Alborough Farm next to Vulcan Cottages and Plants Farm where Mr Hovell now lives (Sunnydale Cottages)

The people were mostly farm labourers, with few exceptions; a few smallholders and the village tradesmen, and nearly al grown men were uneducated. The comical part of it was nearly all the older men wore tall hats at work in the fields; not very glossey. But we must remember there were only tall hats and chummies and caps, no Dr Jemi or Deerstalkers or Multer cut downs. I am writing of the 1860s.

The vicar of that time made himself very unpopular by turning the churchyard into a sheepwalk. This enraged the people. They made a song about it. I remember one verse:

“One port old woman all the way from Trowse Eye, As she passed the Churchyard forced for to cry For a shilling a year she had  to pay To keep husbands grave up now all thrown away”

Trowse was a great laundry place and a great many kept donkeys. These donkeys knew when it was Sunday by the ringing of the bell. They would run into the churchyard seeking pastures green. Sad to say the parson met more donkeys than people.

There were 6 public houses in Trowse. The White House known as Whittlingham White House, I claim it for Trowse, the boundary mark being some distance from Trowse. It was the pleasure grounds for Norwich, multitudes would go by road and river. Up the hills was a large white building called “The Temple” where picnics were held. Nearer Trowse was the famous cave where everyone paid a visit. Tradition had it that it had been a smugglers cave in the old days I believe it ran down 100 yards under the hills and smelled very rafty.

A great cattle plague raged throughout England in the (18) 60s, and sir Robert Harvey’s cattle were all slaughtered and buried in the cave. He had the mouth sealed up and there was an end to the cave.

The Trowse Eye, now the Hythe (and now Hythe Cottage) was a small pleasure garden, the scene of many ‘free and easys’ as they were called; and many carried out the old song “For tonight we’ll merry be, tomorrow we’ll get sober”. The old Lime Kiln public house was pulled down and in its place was built the White Horse (on the corner of the common). The old White Horse was pulled down and thrown into the common, and a fountain erected giving refreshment to man and beast.

The Royal Oak was formerly the Carpenters Arms. Between this house and the church bridge were 2 or 3 arches under the road; we as boys have crawled through them more than once, and I thought how handy they would have been in the flood of 1912. I believe they are there now with the ends blocked up.

Trolly row as it was called, in White Horse Lane, now Russell Terrace was a long row of 2 room tenements with a washhouse, large rooms with thick beams across no false ceilings. In one I first saw daylight. The holes of it was called a disused Lime Kiln and gravel pit, now The Dell. There were two roads leading to Whittlingham, one between the cafe (Mannor Rooms) and the Street Farm. The cafe at this time teneted by a wheelwright and a sawpit was in the small room. The other road was between the Lime and Plants Farm, called the Mill Lane. A short distance up this lane was a large white gate and 2 small lodges. The main entrance to old Crown Point Hall. There were three schools for the young; The Church School (now the parish room), The British School, where the chapel now stands and the Big Boys School, now the Club Room of the cafe, where your Humble not only got education but also the stick.

There were two open yards, one the Workhouse Yard, given that name through the town houses being built there when the authorities had to house there own poor. When workhouses came along they were turned into washhouses. The yard was where the vicarage grounds now use. The other the Mint Yard; why the name i could never find out. People lived in one room. It was an evil smelling place, in fact the slum of old Trowse. This yard was next to the old Lime Kiln public house and I think I have written all I can of except a few of the old characters. Some were peculiar and some comical. I just mention 1 or 2. The herring man who wore a sheepskin coat, the wooly side out, the man who couldn’t’ tell sugar from salt, blindfolded. Little Bob, the dancer. Old Bob, the fiddler and old Josh, the tin whistler. They composed the Trowse Band.

I have endeavoured to write a few things which I remember, but sometimes memory fails. I hope you excuse the writing and spelling, not to mention Grammar. As you know, education was not that good 70 years ago.

Your Sincerely

Samuel Fowler
(written I believe in 1923)

A Few More Rememberances

There was only one entrance to old Crown Point Hall – the Mill lane between where Mr Howell (Sunnydale) now lives and the Lime Kilns. After you past the Lodges you came to a large walled-in garden and leaving to the left the drive took you to Old Crown Point Hall; a beautiful old square building with large verandah in front, no flower garden in particular but it stood with a large lawn or park facing Thorpe and the river having a good view. When I first remember it it was the “Money Family”. I remember General Money dying. I saw the funeral as a little boy. He was buried under the east window of Trowse Church and his portraits were given to all children who attended the Church School. After that Robert Harvey bought the estate when he devastated all farms, threw down all fences and made it all one planting trees and belts for game and had the Crown Point built as we now know it. Then he pulled the old one down. The Mill lane was a straight road to Whittlingham. When you came to the duck pond there was a large gate at the top of the avenue leading to hall farm in Whittlingham Lane, a favourite walk for all Trowse people on a Sunday morning or Summer evening, then calling in the Eye pleasure gardens for a drink.

Trowse at this time was very lively, what with archery meetings, reviews and water frolics. Robert Harvey had three sons, the eldest was an invalid and he had thousands of volunteers and soldiers at Crown Point to interest him to do purpose.He eventually died, then the youngest died also. By entertaining the volunteers and solders is how he became Sir Robert Harvey, then he took his own life. The estate was thrown into Chancery.
You know the rest.

Principal Inhabitants of Old Trowse as I remember them.

Major General Money – Crown Point
WR Day – Solicitor, Trowse House
JW Read – Trowse Mills
G Aldous – Station Master
W Harris – Innkeeper
John Turner – Farmer
George of Gowing – Farmer
Thomas Aldborough – Farmer
Jus Plant – Dairy Farmer
George Hayward – Market Gardener
John Grief – Postmaster
Will Youngs – Butcher
Ed Baines – Baker
W Grief – Parish Clerk
John Spruce – Cowkeeper
Robert Howlett – Bricklayer
Robert Daniels – Blacksmith
John Thurlow – Grocer, Baker
The Inlesses Roundfloor – Grocers, bakers
John Spencer – Carpenter, joiner
H FInch – Wheelwright
Mr Wortley – property owner
W Cannell – market gardener
Thomas Gowen – Smallholder
Josiah Gowen – Smalholder
Mr Jacobs – Butcher
Thomas Denny – Butcher
John LIngwood – shoemaker
Robert Skipper – Blacksmith
Robert Goose – Limeburner
Samual Varvel – Limeburner
George Wurrell – Innkeeper
George Moore – Laundry man
Fred Sparkes – Old Hall
Daniel Witrick – sandman
Ed Cannell – coal merchant
Robert Harris – overseer
Thomas Fox – Bricklayer
Alf Middleton – Carpenter
George Fowler – Farm Steward
Richard Fowler – Shoemaker
Will Plummer – Schoolmaster

More Information

Trowse Mill –

Trowse Pubs – history of the pubs


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