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Twentieth Century Roads and Travel
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
As the new century dawns in the year 2000 the population of our village of Dersingham is about 1316.
In “The King’s Homeland” by W.A.Dutt published in 1904 the following description invokes this village at the start of the twentieth century. The author approaching from Hunstanton writes, "On entering this picturesque village cross roads are seen. The right leads to the station while the left is part of the main street which runs up to the church and then returns to the Lynn Road again. Some low and marshy meadow land is surrounded by this road around which most of the houses in the village are built but the high ground, which lies on the South, is mostly part-wooded.”
It is not difficult to see modern day Chapel Road, leading to the church and onto Manor Road through to the Lynn Road again in this description. Much of the” low and marshy meadow land” described within this circle of roads has now been built over but the Pastures opposite the church and the sports field next to them still remain as a reminder.
The railway is flourishing with Frederick Albert Paige as Station Master. There are regular services to and from Lynn and Hunstanton and many special day trips were regularly run to local attractions and events.
Although the railway brought about the demise of the stage coach the village carriers continued to thrive. In 1900 George Mitchell and Thomas Rudd travelled to Lynn and back every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. George lived in Liddell House, Manor Road, just opposite the Forester’s Hall. Sidney Mitchell recalled Mr. Mitchell who was a member of his family and Teddy Wyer another carrier, “They journeyed between Dersingham and King’s Lynn,” he said,” and on the way through Sandringham, West Newton, they would call and pick up your instructions. If you wanted to send a pair of boots to be made or repaired, or a pound of sausages they would do this for a charge of about twopence or threepence.”
By 1916 John Edward Wyer, who lived in one of the cottages opposite the present library, had joined him. Albert Ding took over from George and a member of his family still lives in Liddell House in Manor Road. John Wyer and Albert Ding are recorded as carriers up to the last published Directory in 1937.
It was in 1916 that at a meeting of the Parish Council, presided over by Mr. Yaxley with Messrs. Francis, Dyble, Dowdy, Rudd and Balding, that it was decided to standardise the names of many of the roads in the village. It had become increasingly confusing as many roads were known, in some cases, by three different names depending on which villager you spoke to. This is evident when consulting the various census returns.
Thus, it was decided that henceforth:
From the 8 mile stone (Heath Road entrance) to Life Wood was Lynn Road.
From the Temperance Hotel at the cross roads to Church corner would be Chapel Road.
From Church Corner to Parker’s Stores at the bottom of Sandringham Hill was Church Road.
From Parker’s Stores to Senter’s Shop which stood on the corner by the main Road was Manor Road.
Middle Road would now be Post Office Road.
Other names settled were Heath Road, Hill House Road, (from the top of Sugar lane to Mill House), Glebe Road, Brook Road and Station Road.
Once Frederick Linford had built his shop on the corner of Station Road and Lynn Road in about 1906 it was always referred to, even to the present day by older residents, as Linford’s Corner.
In the same way the sharp bend by Dersingham Hall was known as Jannoch’s Corner after Mr. Jannoch who ran his Nursery there from 1875 to 1923.
Further on up to the cross roads where Shernborne Road and Mill Road meet that corner was known as Carpit Corner after the carstone quarry that once functioned there.
Further name changes occurred over time until the present day.
The horse was still the main source of power on the farms and for the transportation of goods so we find the traditional skills are still well represented. William Valentine Dodman and William Potter are operating blacksmith’s shops with William Hudson wheelwright, and Ernest Jarvis ,saddler important members of the community. The skills of Alfred Ducker, carriage builder, were called on for many years into the new century.
No doubt the several coal merchants, Alfred, William and Ernest Boothby, James Bunn, R Coller and Sons, Alfred Green, and Daniel Reynolds who traded in the village and around used heavy horses to pull their waggons .
The several builders and contractors in the village would also add to the horse traffic as well as the general traders.
The mail cart was still operated as it delivered and collected the post from Miss Alice Maud Beckett the Post Mistress from the premises in Middle Road (later to be named Post Office Road).
The donkey cart was also a familiar sight on our roads as many villagers owned one or more donkeys for pleasure as well as business.
The Popularity of Cycling
As has already been mentioned (Roads and Travel) the bicycle was growing in popularity and John Henry Chambers and Albert Jackson had set up as cycle agents and repairers. In 1912 JohnThomas Twaite joined their ranks. New skills were being learned. The popularity of cycling grew steadily and cycling clubs were soon formed. It became a common sight as the century progressed to see groups of cyclists out on daytrips to the country or seaside especially at weekends. It was in 1903 that that the Tour de France was inaugurated apparently to increase the sales of the paper L’Auto. The first winner was one Maurice Garin while one cyclist competed under the name Samson. The Tour of Britain, for a while known as The Milk Race, did not start up until 1945.
During the 20s and 30s there was a shop on the main road to Hunstanton which became known as The Cyclist’s Rest; it was run by a Mr. & Mrs. Middleton. Mrs. Middleton would usually be seen sitting in the front window and a traveller could stop for refreshments or confectionary. There was an out building at the back which contained hardware goods and bicycle spares. Later villagers told me that on Whit Sundays children used to buy sweets here before crossing over the road to The Park opposite for a picnic. This shop was known as Rankins when I came to the village in 1968 but it was acquired by Thaxter’s who ran the shop next door. They operated both premises for a while but the old Cyclist’s Rest was eventually demolished to make way for the present garden centre and car park.
The Age of the Motor Car
Nevertheless, times were beginning to change; by 1908 we read that Walter Read Senter is listed not only as a cycle agent and repairer but also as a motor engineer. The arrival and gradual development of steam powered vehicles and then the petrol engine would radically change village life. The power of the horse would, however, still continue to be important well into the century. Several older residents recalled in their younger days that the milk came from Sandringham in a horse and cart. They remembered the great churns in the cart from which the milk would be dished out by ladle. It was also delivered by a tricycle which had a box on the front that held the milk churns. Bread and coal continued to be delivered this way for some time. I can also remember when I was a child living in Essex, that the supplies my father needed for his chickens were delivered to our house by a horse drawn van. The rag and bone man, trundling along in his horse drawn cart ringing a bell and calling out, was also one of my childhood memories.
It was in 1885 that Karl Benz developed a petrol or gasoline powered automobile considered to be the first “production” vehicle while the Ford Motor Company Model T became the first massed produced vehicle in 1908.
The first four-wheeled petrol driven automobile in Britain was built in Walthamstowe by Frederick Bremer and another was made by Frederick William Lanchester in Birmingham in 1895.
The first all British four-wheeled car designed and built by Herbert Austin as manager of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing machine Company in Birmingham. In 1913 Henry Ford built a factory in Manchester and the names Humber, Rover and Sunbeam began to be familiar. By 1922 there were 183 Motor Companies in the U.K.
Evelyn Ellis owned the first ever motor car in the U.K; he bought it from a company in Paris in 1895. When it arrived he transported it to Micheldever Station in Hampshire by train. The first ever car journey here was when Ellis and his friend Frederick Simms drove it from Micheldever Station to Datchet. It must have caused quite a stir in all the villages it passed through.
It is soon apparent from the records that the change was coming to Dersingham. Walter Senter the cycle agent was now advertising as a motor engineer. In 1920 the motor omnibus service from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton is listed for the first time; it was operated by Johnson’s at first but quite soon the United Eastern County Omnibus Ltd. took over. As it passed through Dersingham the bus used to leave any parcels at Linford’s Store the shop at the crossroads. Later it was in a room at Linford’s that inquests were held to enquire into accidents that occurred at the crossroads.
By 1922 letters and parcels are now collected and delivered by motor mail.
Even on the farms the tractor was beginning to make an appearance. Geoffrey Rolfe recalled working as boy on Mr. Stanton’s farm and being responsible for looking after a horse. He remembered there were about 16 horses on the farm that did the work but that gradually tractors and trailers took over. George Stanton stated that they used two or three horses for ploughing but by the beginning of WW2 they had one or two tractors and in 1942 the first combine harvester was bought.
The Arrival of the motor Garage
It is easy to see the increase in motorised traffic here and it is in Kelly’s Directory of 1925 that we read the following entries.
Eric Hyner & Co. Ltd., motor and cycle engineers, motor repairer, agent and dealers, cars for hire. The Sandringham Garage TN 10 [TN = Telephone Number)
John Twait, Motor Engineer TN 13
Hyner’s garage was on the left as you enter Dersingham from Lynn. In the 1950s it is recorded as Heath Garage run by Charlie Whisker. There is still a motor dealer there today but the petrol pumps which were still in place when I came to the village have long gone.
John Thomas Twaite was born in 1856 and in some entries his name is recorded as Twite but after 1871 it is more usually Twaite. As has already been stated he is first recorded as a cycle dealer but later until almost 1935 he is listed as a motor engineer. Twaite’s garage stood at the corner of Lynn Road and Post Office Road thus giving the area its name. Twaite’s Corner. You will find more about Twaite's in our Business Section.
A little further on you read, "If you are a motorist you should consult Eric Hyner & Co. Ltd. The Sandringham Garage. This firm have experienced mechanics to attend to all repairs and up to date cars for hire. Haulage work of any kind and every description is undertaken at most reasonable rates." The publication date of the article is uncertain but would seem to be just after WW2.
Later Red Pumps garage in Chapel Road was established and Life Wood Filling Station on the Main Road was always busy most days; I remember it as the BP station. Both garages are still in the motor trade but now there are no petrol stations operating in the village.
Sidney Mitchell recalls that the first car in the village was owned by Mr. Parker the grocer, "I had the job of cleaning the car on a Saturday for a shilling. It was a Morris Cowley with a dickey seat at the back. It had to be washed and polished. It had a brass radiator, brass handles and all had to be polished.” One of the earlier cars in the village is seen in the photograph below.
In Bank Road Reg Houchen set up a coach and taxi business. His daughter Gill remembered it all very well and we feature him with a separte Business page.
The growth in these businesses is a direct reflection of the rapid growth in motorised traffic of all sorts throughout these years of the twentieth century. Garages were offering hire cars and deliveries were more and more made by heavy lorry or van. This car is shown outside the White Horse pub (now Jubilee Court) serving as a wedding vehicle.
I have a road map of 1921-22 and it is easy to see the changes made to the main road to Hunstanton necessitated by this increase. At the point where the traffic lights now stand by the Caley Mill cross roads a new section of road was constructed to allow traffic to drive straight on up the hill to Hunstanton instead of having to turn left and go through Heacham.
Older villagers remembered that a favourite pass time on a fine evening was to sit on the seat at the top of the open common and watch the traffic and the frequent break downs that occurred.
A small diversion .... another favoured way of passing a fine evening was to walk round 'The Heater'. Starting from the post office you walked up to the corner with Chapel Road where you turned left and proceeded to the cross roads on Lynn Road. Here you turned left and made your way back to the Post Office. You had 'walked round the heater'. Some reports I have read state that the area enclosed by these roads, now mostly taken up by Clayton Close, was known as Goose Green. I have also been told that Horse Fairs were held here but I have not yet found an original source for this information. There were several ponds here as can still be seen in old photos and Mr. Jarvis the Baker kept his horses tethered here.
New Roads and the closure of the railway
It was in the early 1960s that the bypass from Babingley to Knight’s Hill and onto the Hardwick was constructed so traffic did not have to go through Castle Rising and King’s Lynn to travel south.
A major event that really impacted on the growth of road traffic was of course the closing of the railway in 1969. So all the passengers, and freight that had been carried by the trains was now forced onto the road system. Holidays and Day trips which used to be organised by the train companies were now taken on by the coach companies
As we know things began to change after the war years as the standard of living rose and the car became more affordable for the working family. I well remember the excitement in our house when my father, with Mum in the passenger seat, arrived home with his first car, a grey Standard 8. It was 1956 and that little Standard 8 was the only car in our street at that time. The houses had been built in the 1930s and of course like most then few had a garage or even space for one. When I last revisited my old home both sides of the street were lined with cars not an uncommon sight now in many villages and towns .
The topic of the traffic lights at Linfords Corner is covered in detail here.
The Coming of the Bypass
To conclude this section about the 20th century roads and travel we come to the highly emotive and controversial debate, and finally construction, of the much needed bypass. To read all about it proceed to:
Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham Bypass.