Village Voice 1985             


Deopham Village Voice

Over 30 years ago Radio Norfolk broadcast a series of programs called "Village Voice" and on the 23 April 1985 it was the turn of Deopham. The program was presented by Wally Webb and he interviewed the following locals :-

Mike Flowerday,  Chairman of the Parish Council and pig farmer

Alan Phoenix,  farmer

Barbara and John Rogers,  village post office and stores

Martin Creasey,  local artist

Michael Allen,   farmer and church warden

Reverend Ernie Wilks,  local rector

Lily Woods,  local resident


Interview 1  

Mike Flowerday  (Chairman of the Parish Council and pig farmer)

Mike explained that the area of Deopham was mainly agricultural with no industrial development; the nearest industry being Hingham, about 3 miles away.

The village consisted of three hamlets; Deopham Green, Deopham Common and the village of Deopham itself. It had a population of about 500 with mainly agricultural properties and a few residential. There was no development, only infilling.  

The parish council would like to have seen more development as the village was dying; with the loss of the school, public transport and having only one public house.  

He went on to say that the village was a dormitory, with most of the people working in Norwich.  

There was also very little social activity apart from the WI and the fortnightly bingo. Deopham also had a football team, but most players were from outside the village.  

Mike explained that he was an auctioneer for over 26 years with a local firm but “got a little bit bored” so he went freelance and also expanded his pig farm.


Interview 2  

Alan Phoenix  (farmer at Walnut Tree Farm, the Stalland)

Alan left school in 1929 and, after 5 years in agricultural engineering, worked for his father operating thrashing machines; using steam engines from about 1932 until 1946, and tractors from then on.

He bought Walnut Tree Farm, which was then 29 acres, in 1949, and has since increased it to about 180 acres.

Alan was married in 1950 and has two sons and one daughter. One son is in engineering and makes machinery for the brush trade and the other son, after initially being an accountant, now works on the farm.  

Alan explained how the scenery around the farm was “very pretty” with roadside verges filled with oak trees. This all changed around 1941 when the Americans flattened the area to build the aerodrome. The road was blocked off just beyond the farm until about 1951.  

He explained how the arrival of the Americans changed the village life, “putting all us young fellers’ noses out of joint”.  

When asked if the Americans put any work his way, Allen said they didn’t, as they were very much self-contained. Anyway, he was kept very busy during the war running five thrashing sets and that was quite enough for him to maintain. Allen explained that he was probably the last engineer in the area to repair steam engines and often had five or six other contractors’ engines in his yard to do up.  

Alan was, at the time of interview, starting to take things a little bit easier. He had an interest in sailing, having a boat on the Broads for several years, but had to give it up owing to ill health.  

Referring back to the previous interview, about the village becoming a dormitory, Alan explained how, with farming becoming more and more mechanised, there wasn’t the need for the labour anymore.


Interview 3  

Barbara and John Rogers  (owners of the Sub Post Office at the Green)

Before moving to Deopham, Barbara was working for the Social Services in Kent and John was running a glass factory in Southend.

John had been commuting for over ten years and decided, having had an ambition for some time, he would like to run a shop so they could be together more.

They moved to Deopham Green six months ago and liked the countryside and the area very much. They initially found running the shop and the sub post office a bit chaotic, having not done anything like this before, but are now gradually settling into a routine.

Barbara is the Post Mistress and has found it very difficult for some time getting used to what entails running a Sub Post Office, especially Friday nights, when she has to balance the books. She says she is getting used to it and the people around here have been very supportive.

In the mornings John is up early busy with the news papers. These are delivered to the shop between half past six and eight o’clock and have to be got ready for the paper boys. Although there are a small number of papers to deliver, they have quite a big area to cover.  

Asked about passing trade, Barbara says there is not a great deal, but they do get farmers coming in on their tractors and lorries turning up and occasionally people asking for directions, but being new, they find it hard to direct them sometimes.  

They’ve now opened another shop next door following a demand for hardware stock. This leaves more space for groceries in the other shop. Some locals now jokingly call it the ‘Deopham shopping centre’!!  

Asked if they were now settled in after six months, Barbara was still not sure as she says they still have a lot to learn, but John says he was really enjoying running the shop having settled in quite well.


Interview 4  

Martin Creasy   (local artist)

Martin professors to being ‘yet another immigrant’, having moved to the area from Bournemouth . He was attracted to East Anglia as a child when his father, who was a writer, used to visit the printers at Bungay.  

As an artist he splits himself into two. He does studio paintings during the winter but his love, during the summer, is to draw in Norfolk. At the time of this interview he had just gone around all of Norfolk and had drawn as many things as possible.  

He has a particular interest in old Norfolk houses with their various styles of construction. Whilst drawing a house for someone, this led him to the idea of drawing houses as a profession, which he thourorly enjoys. He tries to keep his prices down so that he can draw houses of all different sizes.

His wife Lyn is also an artist, mainly interested in colour and shape, and more of a modern artist. He thinks her pictures are “delightful” and wishes he could do them.  

When asked about their cottage and all of the work they have done to it, Martin says he is always on the lookout for other places, and admits he would ideally have about 200 houses, being able to move from one place to the other. However they really like Deopham and would probably stay there.


Interview 5  

Michael Allen  (farmer)  

The interviews now left the Deopham Green area and moved down to the Low Common where Wally met up with Michael Allen at Hall Farm.

Michael is the forth generation to have farmed at Hall Farm; his great grand father took over the tenancy of the farm from the Kimberly Estate in 1875.

Hall Farm is mainly of dairy, with about 65 Friesians, and most of the feed is also grown here. Michael’s recollection is that it has always been a dairy and arable farm, at least since his grand father’s time.  

Wally’s attention was then drawn to the inside of the large barn which has painted on the end wall some union jacks, a crown and underneath saying 'God Save the Queen'. But this was not for the present Queen, but for Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887. For this occasion, on June the 21st, the barn was used for a large celebration dinner where over 350 people of the parish attended.

Michael still has the menus and bills from that event; the total cost being £27. 18s and 2d halfpenny. As an example, they had 36 gallons of beer at a cost of £2. 1s and 9d. “Surely that’s what they mean by the good ol’ days” said Michael.  

There haven’t been any events in the barn since George VI coronation (1937), but Michael hopes perhaps, for some future occasion, they might be able to do the same again.  

Michael does still have garden fetes at the farm and, as he is the church warden, is particularly keen to have fund raising events there for the church. He went on to say he is very fond of the church and is the forth generation to be the warden at the church of St Andrew.  

Wally went on to ask “what’s it like to farm in this area” saying it is very flat. Michael said he loved this area and wouldn’t like to farm anywhere else. He went on to say how the job had changed slowly over the years; as an example, how dairying is far more mechanised, even from his father’s time, which has greatly reduced labour requirements. With all of the modern technologies and mechanisation available today, Michael believes it is for the better.  

The interview concluded with a discussion about the old farm house with Michael saying he doesn’t know how old it is, but he thinks it hasn’t changed much over the years even after its various add-ons over time.  


Interview 6  

Reverend Ernie Wilks  (local rector)

Wally then moved further up the road to interview the Rev Ernie Wilkes at the church of St Andrew’s.  

Ernie explained he looks after five churches “at all points north, south, east and west” saying Deopham is “the most powerful and perhaps the most beautiful of all five”.  

Wally described the church as having a lovely tall buttress tower with a chequered type of pattern running up it that makes it very distinctive.  Ernie said the church’s structure was original, being built probably around 1450 and likened it to that of the church at Hingham.  

Moving past the arched double west door, which isn’t used now, Ernie explained how, in the future, they would like to get the tower cleared and the bells put back up into place and “by God’s grace we shall get there eventually”.  

Then on to the south side of the church, Ernie described how the windows had changed over the 14th and 15th centuries.  

Passing into the porch, Wally admired the beautiful stonework and Ernie explained that it had been restored in 1844 and about 1888 and was hoping there would be major restoration work again sometime in the next 10 years. It was then pointed out that the two half doors leading to the church, which had just been linseed oiled, were probably dated to shortly after that of the tower, around 1475.  

On into the church and, as it was just after Easter, they were greeted by a magnificent display of daffodils. Ernie went into great detail about the impressive roof and how it had changed over the years. Wally mentioned that there were no pews in the south isle, so Ernie explained that there were once two chapels, but only the one on the north side was still used. On the south side, the organ has been placed in the old chapel.  

Moving on to the tower, Ernie described its past and present structure. How there was once a floor which was probably used by the bell ringers. The existing floor is that of the silent chamber and above that is a magnificent room where the bells are housed; hanging, but not in use, as they probably stopped ringing sometime after the war. However, Ernie was “hoping they would be re-ringing again in the next few years”.  

They then both climbed the spiral staircase, which leads to the floor chamber, where Ernie described there future intentions of getting the bells ringing again. 


Interview 7  

Lily Woods  (local resident)  

Lily was born in Gt. Yarmouth, where she lived until she was about nine. Because there was a “famine” of work in Gt. Yarmouth at that time, her father, who was a carpenter, decided to move the family to Deopham.  

Lily attended the Old Tin School until she was 13. As it was the time of the 1st World War, Lily went to live with a family at Kettringham whose husband had been taken to war. However, Lily didn’t enjoy her stay there so she moved back to Deopham and, at about the age of 15, started work at the village stores. The first day she started, on the 22nd March, “there was snow up to the top of your boots” and she had to help deliver the goods around the village with the donkey and cart. The donkey was housed at the paddocks, near the vicarage, and had to be collected and returned there “night and morning”. To keep the village store stocked up, this involved a half day trip, with the donkey and cart, to Kimberly station. Along with usual groceries, Lily also had to help load the cart with 1cwt bags of animal feed and 5 stone bags of flour.  

Wally then asked about how things changed in the village with the arrival of the Americans during the Second World War. Lily explained that she was working at that time in Hethersett and was travelling there daily, so she didn’t have much to do with them, apart from helping out one night a week in the aerodrome canteen.  

When asked about Deopham today, Lily explained how the village had changed after the 1st World War with new houses being built around where she lived. She went on to say the village was made up of mainly elderly people and that “there is nothing here”. However, Lily has got the church where she has lots of friends and, “when there is anything on”, she says “they always manage to rope me in” and that they are “the best lot of people to deal with you want”.