Memories of life around the green in Shouldham

Shouldham village green from an old postcard. ANL-160804-150904001
Shouldham village green from an old postcard. ANL-160804-150904001

Today we feature the reminscences of Syliva Ackland (nee Woodward) who lived in Shouldham from 1926 until 1942.

She was born in the school house, next to the school.

William and Esther Woodward and Sylvia Woodward in 1926 ANL-160804-145416001

William and Esther Woodward and Sylvia Woodward in 1926 ANL-160804-145416001

Her father was the village schoolmaster.

She remembers a lot of people in the village, many living around the green.

When war broke out she was 13 and she went to school in Lynn on the Co-Op milk float. She also remembers giving a purse to Queen Mary when she visited the hospital in 1935.

Here is her story: “I was born in the school house of the pretty village of Shouldham in April 1926, two weeks before the Queen.

the school house in Shouldham ANL-160804-150700001

the school house in Shouldham ANL-160804-150700001

“My father, William RO Woodward, came from Little Downham. He was headmaster of the village school.

“The school took children up to the age of 14 and the oldest ones were taught by my father. Other teachers included Mrs Fitch, a real old dragon who used to grab girls by their hair.

“My first teacher was May (Georgina) Kite who came to the school as a pupil teacher at 17 and still helped out after she retired.

“We lived next door, in the school house. Things have changed so much since I was young; we had no inside lavatory or bathroom and all the water came from the well in our back yard. Later on my parents were able to install a bathroom (at their own expense). How lovely it was! Hot baths in a special room with a big airing cupboard.

“Of course, all the water had to be pumped up by hand from the well. Every day we each had a turn – a hundred double pumps each – to fill the tanks.

“Life was hard. Like most people we had a scullery, with a very cold stone floor, for washing clothes. These were boiled in a big copper heated by a coal stove. I can’t remember when electricity was laid on but before then we had lamps and candles.

“Under the hall stairs was a big cellar and, during the second world war, the cellar stairs were our air raid shelter – as we were only three miles from the Marham Air Base the area was a target for German bombers. I don’t think they did any damage to the village, most of them fell in the fields around us.

“I remember being one of the children chosen to give purses from hospital subscribers to Queen Mary in February 1935 at the West Norfolk and Lynn Hospital. £3,850 was donated towards the new wing. We children formed a queue and approached the Queen, who was standing on a platform to receive us.

“The child in front of me tried to turn round and go back and the Queen had to gently turn her round to go out of the right exit.

“After King George V’s death in Sandringham I remember standing by the side of the road as the hearse passed on its way to the train from Sandringham to London.

“Around the village green were shops, houses and several public houses.

“I bought sweets, biscuits from the general store, which was run by the Hippersons. Cis Hipperson ran the post office at one end and Dick Hipperson ran the grocery store at the other end.

“I would walk across the Green to buy milk and cream from Mrs Kirchen. Their son, Alfred Kirchen, went on to play for Arsenal. Next door to them was the village blacksmith, Mr Young, and I would watch him shoeing horses.

“The Second World War broke out when I was 13 and everything changed. We sold our car, an Austin 7, because petrol was rationed and hard to come by. Many buses stopped running and I went to school in Lynn on the Co-Op milk float. The driver, Henry, would pick me up at our front door after he had collected milk from the farms. I think my parents gave him a 100 cigarettes a week for the lift!

“When evacuees came from Hackney Downs school in London my mother became billeting officer. One teacher, Amy Henderson, lived with us and from time to time we had Air Force Officers too.

“The road running through the other side of the village was known as Back Street (Westgate Street). Verney Preston, the butcher, had his shop there; he slaughtered pigs on Tuesdays and I would cover up my ears!

“Farmer Lionel Oldroyd lived in the big house near the Green. My friend, Iris Dennis, was the daughter of one of his cowmen. We would go across his fields and climb the trees.

“Near the village was Shouldham Warren; the road to it went through the Plantation. Now there are bungalows there; the road is called Woodward Close, after my father.

“Shouldham Warren was a lovely place, with a stream running through and sweet chestnut trees hidden amount the conifers.

“In 1942 I left Shouldham to train as a shorthand typist in London. Later I was “called up” and served in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). I was sent to Germany where I worked in BAOR (British Army of the Rhine).

“When my mother was in her late 90s she came back to live at Shouldham Hall, then a retirement home. She died there in 1991, aged 103, and is buried in the churchyard, alongside my father, who died in Great Massingham in 1958.”