A Lifetime In Tunstead

Derek Kirk’s account of growing-up in Tunstead.
Derek Kirk
I was born in 1939, in a bungalow in Anchor Street, which has since been demolished to make way for what is now Bracken View.

I was too young to remember very much about the Second World War, although I have a vivid memory of being in the garden with my mother, who was picking raspberries, when a German bomber flew very low over the house.  It dropped three or four bombs a couple of fields away, before crashing over towards Wroxham.

It was a slower pace to life in the mid to late 40s. We walked to school in Sloley, which was about 2 miles each way. I hated those early years at school and ran home several times. Life was far more interesting watching the men working on the farms or those who came around with the Threshing Tumouts.

Hawthorn Cottage, Tunstead

Hawthorn Cottage, Tunstead (c. 1950)

As boys we could keep track of the time of day by whoever came down whichever road we happened to be on. The postVan around 9.30am; Grimes Baker’s Van between 10 and 11am; and around 1.30pm it would be Mr Reid from Smallburgh Post office starting his deliveries. One day, my pal Bill and I whipped our wooden tops from our bungalow, all the way down Anchor  Street to the turn to High street Sloley and back without meeting any traffic.

Warld War 2 Case Tractor

World War II Case Tractor

Village life in those days was mostly associated with the farm. There were sixteen men and two women working full time on Fir Tree Farm and twenty six men working on Daniel Brothers Farm, which was later to become Tunstead Farm. Now there are none! All the work is done by contractors with massive machines, operated by only a handful of men.

Apart from the farms, there were eight or nine ‘Litile Doers’ – small holders farming 30 to 50 acres. After a hard day on the land, spring and summer, the ol’ boys would spend-evenings working in their gardens, perhaps taking half an hour to lean over a gate or fence to yarn with neighbours or anyone who happened to pass by. Then they would slip down to ‘The Grome’ (Horse & Groom) for a quick pint, where Ted Bristo would play the squeeze box, or tap out a tune on the spoons.

ln 1952 there was great excitement in the village when Sir Edward Preston, the High Sheriff of Norfolk, opened our Village Hall. The entertainment was provided by Sidney Grapes who writ the ‘Boy John Letters’ in the EDP. Tuesday nights saw the hall crammed full to watch the travelling pictures. ln those days we had one of the best youth clubs in Norfolk, thanks to Mr Hewitt, the school headmaster. The hall was used by the Women’s lnstitute and for dances, whist drives, bingo and many other activities. lt was a time in the village when everyone knew everyone.

Progress has not helped village life. Shops have closed and the pub, as we knew it, has gone. There used to be a regular bus service, but that’s gone too. At least we still have the school and a football.team playing in Tunstead, after many years without one, but, what we need more than anything else to bring a spark of community spirit back into the village is a new Village Hall.

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