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Site by Mike Strange
People of Dersingham
This page will deal with historical records of people who live or have lived within the village and stories they have to tell
1851 - Summary of Dersingham Residents
1968 - Not so much a census but certainly a comprehensive listing of Dersingham residents in 1968/9
Directories of Private Residents and those in a commerce are an excellent resource when researching people and can be related to census for the early ones. These links go to all the transcriptions we have undertaken from available material; if you have additional years we would appreciate a copy so that we can transcribe and add them here. As you will appreciate the task has not been small and the possibility of errors in typing is high; if you have spotted a mistake we would like to hear from you so we can correct it.
1831 1836 1839 1845 1854 1856 1864 1869 1874 1877 1883 1890 1892 1896
1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1922 1925 1929 1933 1937
Note that telephone numbers appear by 1912 and are shown as TN.
Interviews with Dersingham Folk
This page contains audio recordings and transcripts of interviews of personal experiences in the village that were recorded as the Dersingham villagers for the Dersingham 2000 History Project. An additional recording relates to experiences and memories of the two World Wars.
St Nicholas Church Monumental Inscriptions with burial plot numbers are available here. We believe that these were recorded by members of the Women's Institute. You will be required to register a free account to access these records. The site is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is perfectly safe; registration is to try to prevent automated download from the site.
Notable People and Families
Nathan Coward - A Dersingham Character
Alfred Richard Firth - The Schoolmaster's Son
Samuel, Barbara and Thomas Kerrich - A portrait of an 18th century Dersingham family
Thomas Kerrich - Dersingham 18th and 19th century
The Pell family of Dersingham in 1643 - Conflict, Conspiracy and Espionage - The strange affair at Appleton Hall
George Skelton - Builder of Duck Decoys
Arthur Harry Cross - Professor of Music, organist ad choirmaster at Sandringham Church
Ralph - a family of photographers
NEAVE - Information from Ken Parker
SOFTLEY - If you are studying the surname of SOFTLEY in Dersingham from 1853 this is a good resource
THWAITE, TWAITE & TWITE - A short item from Bernard Twite
Comments from Dersingham Folk
Dick Melton - Frequent contributor to Dersingham Village Voice magazine. Here follows verbatim transcriptions of letters from Dick to Elizabeth Fiddick concerning this web site content and other historical notes about Dersingham:
- Dick Melton Letter 1
- The concrete road that runs from the by-pass near the old station as far as the last big drain was not laid down for to extract shingle from the pits, it was laid down in 1941/42 so as farmers could get down and plough up the marshes to grow crops due to the war and the shortage of food, it was laid down by W.A.R.G. which was a department formed by parliament to look after farmers and agriculture as a whole.
The shingle pits have been there for 150 years or more, the shingle was either taken away by barge from the old Snettisham jetty or by lorry along the Snettisham beach road, my great uncle tom drew ran lorry's during the war taking shingle from the pits to make runways on airfields through out East Anglia as did a Mr Hodge who kept lorries at Ingoldisthorpe.
Decoy Farm was renamed in the 1960s, up till then it was Station Road Farm and it was farmed by the Lincoln brothers. The decoy was right down the marsh in some trees on land that was used by a farmer from Ringstead to graze his sheep on. In the 1950s and 60s there was a bird trap in the decoy called a Helgoland Trap not unlike the old traps of years ago with a large mouth supported by iron hoops set in the water with a narrow end. It was used by the RSPB to trap and ring any sort of birds not just water fowl so that they could keep records of where they flew to and from
Over on Dersingham fen was another decoy that was made out of a bomb crater that was made when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb there during the first world war. This decoy was used a lot by King George the sixth to shoot flighing duck at dawn and dusk as far as I know it is still there but not used.
The Methodist Chapel in Manor Road opposite the bottom school was hired out to the school in 1951 so as it could be used as a dinning hall for the children to eat their lunch in so as they did not have to walk home to dinner like myself and Bernie had to. The dinner's were cooked at the top school (St George's) and brought down to the bottom school in containers and dished out by the dinner ladies. The Chapel was not sold to the Feathers until after the school was closed down.
When I was a lad a Mr Walter Senter still lived at number 2 Manor Road he had been a carpenter on the Sandringham estate. In his garden he had a shop that had been a boot makers, about six of us lads who live in that area would go round there two nights a week give him one sixpence a night towards the wood for him to teach us carpentry.
Hurry home drift, I have never heard it called that before, it was always just the drift, there was a young man called Billy Hurry who lived at number 33 Lynn Road so it might have been named after him, before the second world war it was the only way to get down the marshes and Dun-Cow Lane ran from Dun-Cow corner (now the Cooperative store ) as far as Pleasant Place. Then it was Lynn Road past Sandpit Cottages then on to King's Lynn, next to Pleasant Place was an area of open land next to the common where us lads played football in the far corner in a hovel lived and old man called Hoddy, another old man lived over the Shut Up Common in the old water works shed, both of these men done odd jobs around the village. Also at one time another man lived in Goggs Winn (the little wood ) down the Drift but I did not know much about him.
You mention the three windmills in the village one of these stood on high ground to the east of the station, when the second world war broke out pill boxes were erected all over the place and one was erected near the site of the old windmill. This pill box is still there today just off Mountbatten Road.
When the bungalows were built on Manorside just off Manor Road there used to be a lot of fires on the common along there southern boundary so the residents paid to have a twelve foot wide fire break made to stop the fires from spreading.
One thing that might be of interest is that in the late 1960s or early 70s the Weetabix company ran a competition the top prize was to have a house built on any plot of land of your choice any where in the British Isles and the winner chose a plot of land in Heath Road Dersingham where the house was also built (Brackendale).
You say that Dodd's Hill or previously Dodd Hill has been named as such for 500 years, yet if you look in Bryants map of Norfolk for 1826 it is called High Crof's.
When Mr Stratford took the old hall over after the second world war the hall itself was turned into flats , there were barns and out buildings a small wood and a meadow, one of the out buildings was turned into a club run by Joe Jary; one of the barns was turned into a small dance hall with a stage. A Mr Jacobs kept chickens on the meadow and at one time Peter Oliver Leech (the man in the red waistcoat ) ran an auction centre in some buildings out the back of the hall. A friend of mine lived in an old caravan in the grounds with his mother and brother and sister. Also the old scout hut was in the grounds.
I very much liked the new web site for Dersingham that Mike Strange and your goodself [Elizabeth Fiddick - Ed] have set up, so I just thought that I would send you a few bits and pieces that might be of interest to you, I liked the recordings , especially my old mate Bernie Twite.
All the best to you both
- Dick Melton Letter 2
- Just a few more bits to add to your dersingham history i have sent them now as if i leave it i might forget.
Dodds Hill Dersingham quoted in an Eastern Daily Press book of 700 Norfolk villages as a village (hamlet) 8 miles north east of Kings Lynn
Decoy Farm, Station Road, Dersingham was known as Glebe Dairy and run by the Lincoln brothers.
Fishers fish and chip shop opened up at no 4 Hunstanton Road around about 1938, a potato crisp factory was opened up by Mr fisher in some buildings attached to the fish and chip shop after World War 2, the trade name was Norfolk Golden Crisps, after a while the crisp factory moved to bigger premises at Hill Street, Hunstanton that before the war had been a laundry. At the same time the Fisher family opened up two fish and chip shops in Hunstanton one of them still trades under that name today (2017).
Then the Fishers gave up the Dersingham fish and chip shop, it was taken over by a Mr and Mrs Stevens. By 1965 the Stevens had sold up and went to live in a bungalow in Chapel Road, the fish and chip shop then traded as Big Fry and was owned by a Mr Brian Cholerton. In 1987 the chip shop was damaged by fire , it was re-built in 1988 and re-opened under the name of The Flag, it changed hands once again and is now the Lotus House.
When Mr Fisher had the crisp factory he would take tins of salt to people along with small squares of blue grease proof paper then the salt was wrapped in the paper and the people doing this would be paid so much per hundred.
Brooke Road is called by many local people Laundry Lane as there used to be a laundry at number 8. There was also a laundry behind number 61 Lynn Road which was run by a Mrs Crow.
On the new village map you have a small wood down the drift that has been called By-Pass Wood since 1990 when the by-pass was built. This wood had been named Fiddler’s Wood since 1916. Mr ‘Fiddler’ Mitchell was a carrier in the village; he kept his pony on a field next to a small wood. When it passed away it was buried in the wood and from then on it was named Fiddlers Wood. When I was a lad I would walk through this wood looking for rabbits and I always walked by the mound where the pony's grave was.
There had ‘always’ been some of the Mitchell family living in Dersingham; two of them had been hurdle makers. My father went to school with some of them over one hundred years ago and there was always one of them called Fiddler. In the nineteen seventies one of the Mitchells called Fiddler bought the house called Four Winds at the top of Fern Hill. Now here is a bit of history about Four Winds; Billy Smith rented Hill House Farm off the estate for many years and he lived in Hill House. When he decided to retire in the early nineteen sixties he had to give up the farm and house but Billy did not want to move away from the top of Fern Hill so he asked the Sandringham estate to sell him an area of land at the top of Fern Hill, which they did, and he had Four Winds built. After Billy passed away Fiddler Mitchell bought the house and changed the name to Mitchell House; Four Winds is now (2017) owned by a man from Cambridgeshire.
Many years ago my wife's parents lived in Hill House Lodge so I spent a lot of time up there.
There was a competition in the Eastern Daily Press for the best view in Norfolk. I entered and came third with the view across the wash from the top of Fern Hill.
- Dick Melton Letter 3
- Dick Melton
No 3 Willow Road
Norfolk, PE36 5DE
Phone 01485 535348
I have been going through the Dersingham history web site and you say on it that you would like any comments about it.
The first thing is The Drift; going back to 1910 when my father first used it has never been called Hurry Home Drift or Senters Drift [It was referred to as Hurry Home Drift by a couple of long-time residents during their interviews; we rather like it – Ed]. The big house on the corner was lived in by the Senter family who had three small sheds (shops ) in their back yard and this area was always known as Senters Corner.
As I have said many times the shingle from the pits was never brought up the ‘Concrete Road’ as wagons could not get over the old sea wall and the grader was always up the Snettisham end [other sources tell us differently; conveyors could easily have been used to get over the old sea wall – Ed]; the shingle company was called ETNA [Etna Stone and Shingle Co (Source see NHER 13757) – Ed]. After the 1953 floods the name of the company was the Snettisham Concrete Company and it moved to a stye in Common Road, Snettisham; it was run by Fred Easton from Dersingham.
Next the Alexandra Inn or Hotel down by the station was closed down in 1937 the last landlord was Mr Isaac
David Bird who passed away the same year.
Earl close on the Hipkin Estate was named after Nurse Earl who was the Dersingham District Nurse for many years.
I would think that some of the Albert Victor cottages (middle ones) were the oldest cottages in Dersingham. These cottages were always called Wash House Yard as a lady had a laundry there and she done a lot of washing for the Royal family when they were staying at Sandringham House.
The German and Italian prisoners of war who helped lay the concrete road were billeted in the Prisoner of War camp down Snettisham Beach; some of them were not repatriated until the summer of 1947.
Dodds Hill, a few years back, was first called Doddshill in a book called ‘Queen Alexandra’; first published in 1969 and written by Georgina Battiscombe [now Doddshill Road – Ed]. In 1916 a Zeppelin dropped a bomb up Doddshill; Queen Alexandra, who lived and owned Sandringham House , went up there next morning to see the damage for herself.
Well that's all for now keep up your brilliant work on the history of Dersingham.
All the best
- Dick Melton Letter 4
- Dick Melton
No 3 Willow Road
Phone 01485 535348
Mrs Elizabeth Fiddick
First of all thanks a lot for putting my three letters on the Dersingham History web site.
I am still a bit confused about The Drift being called "Hurry Home Drift". I lived right near to The Drift at 63 Lynn Road from 1945 till 1966; I also worked for the late Ken Martins who had a small holding down The Drift, he helped to keep The Drift in good repair for over 50 years. He also went up and down The Drift every day but I never heard him call it "Hurry Home Drift" nor did I hear anyone else who lived in the vicinity of The Drift, including my father, who lived near The Drift for over fifty years. I just wondered where this information came from, as the first time I ever knew that the drift was called "Hurry Home Drift" was when I read it on the Dersingham History web site on my computer.
Now I just have one more problem and that is the statement that shingle could have been moved by a conveyer belt out of the pits then put on lorries and brought up the concrete road, this is just not so. My late father, a very well known Dersingham man by the name of Jim Melton, first took me down the shingle pits when I was eight years old in 1947 to teach me to swim. We would go down The Drift past the Little Wood till we got to the first bit of concrete road. We would then turn right past Mr Jackson’s strawberry fields till we got to the main concrete road then turn left, go past the carr stone track that leads to the Wolferton pumping station leaving the old duck decoy on your right. Then over the first drain, then on to the next bridge which took you over the River Ingol. Once you got on the rough track the other side of the bridge you are now in the parish of Snettisham. The track then takes you to the old sea defence bank (1867), scramble up the bank and you were in the shingle pits. There was a causeway here across the pits that took you to the jetty and the creek. The shingle grader and other works were right up to the north of the pits next to Snettisham Beach Road where all the lorries were loaded and weighed on the near-by weigh bridge. A narrow gauge railway ran between the pits and the foreshore taking the shingle in small trucks from the grader to be put on barges but most of the shingle was put on lorries at the grader site.
During the 1953 floods the middle of the causeway was washed away and a lot of the rail track was washed into the pits along with some of the machinery from the grader site and, as far as I know the old track, trucks and machinery are still in the pits.
There was a large concrete and asbestos Dutch barn type shed at the grader site and after the shingle works were shut down after the flood. Ken Martins bought this barn which was still standing and I helped Ken, ‘Bricky’ Simmons and another chap take this barn down. We then moved it on tractors and trailers to Ken's small-holding down The Drift where it was erected again for Ken to store his hay and straw in. As far as I know it is still there to this very day.
We swam in the pits again after the flood for many years. Mr Mitchell, who was head of the Sandringham division of the police and lived in the police house in Manor Road, would often swim with us lads in the pits as would his son John.
In later years the RSPB took over the pits and fenced them in, but I can assure you that shingle was never taken out of the pits at the Dersingham end and brought up the concrete road.
I spoke with my cousin John Hunter who has lived in close vicinity to the drift most of his life and he has never heard it called "Hurry Home Drift" or "Senters Drift". Then I was looking through the 100th edition of Village Voice and at the end of my page I wrote a copy of a poem about Dersingham that was written by Mr J E Hare who lived up Dodd's Hill and one bit of the poem goes like this.
Calling to mind a bungalow
Light streaming from a room
And written on the bank in shining pebbles
So there could be a connection there, maybe some day we will find out. In the Dersingham History there is a line or two about the sandpits which are through the gate just to the south of the George Pratt roundabout which is on your right as you go to Lynn, in this mention of the sandpits it mentions some tunnels. My father told me that many years ago when the sea came up to the hills some smugglers built a tunnel in the Dersingham Woods more or less opposite the George Pratt roundabout. My father and his friends played in it when he was a boy; us boys used to play round it though a lot of it had caved in and it was hidden by bushes and trees but there must be some traces of it left.
There used to be a small wooden gate off the main road (A149) that took you up to the house in the woods that was built by the estate around about 1900 for a gamekeeper, it is still there and can be got to by going along the Queens Drive.
Just one more thing from 1908 till 1912 my grandfather (Tom Drew’s brother) Will Melton was the chimney sweep at Sandringham House them days there was 365 rooms and nearly as many chimneys. He done this job till 1912 when they had central heating put in and then he looked after the boilers.
Well that's all for now
- Dick Melton Letter 5
- February 2018
Dick Melton writes from his recollections from c1945:
This is a list of shops businesses and their proprietors and the approximate position nearest to the location on the road that they were situated in that were in the village from about 1935 to 1960. A lot of these shops ,from 1945, I can remember myself.
Parker’s Stores, grocers, boot and shoe warehouse at the bottom of Sandringham Hill (premises still there) holder of Royal Warrant.
Whiskers Grocers stores to the right of The Drift, was also owned by Mr. Pullen, then M.r Mason, now a private bungalow.
Lindford’s Stores, then Co-op Grocers now Tropic Fast Foods.
The Norfolk Stores grocers next to the Red Pumps garage in Chapel Road, still a garage but no petrol sales.
Dan Andrews green grocers shop on the corner of Post Office Road and Chapel Road (premises still there).
The Post Office in same place as it is today in Post Office Road
Haberdashers shop, Mrs. Ewer, near Post Office was also at one time run by a Mr. Cook a painter and decorator, now the Council Office.
Haberdashers, Mrs. Connie Wyer, Hunstanton Road also Rankins Stores knocked down to make way for Thaxters car park.
Fish and chip shop, Mr. Fisher, Hunstanton Road. Next door was Mr. Fisher’s Norfolk Golden Crisps factory, now a Chinese Take- away.
Butcher’s shop west end of Chapel Road run by Mr. Bird, Mr. Towers and Ray Scholes, now a private house.
Butcher’s shop corner of Heath Road and Manor Road, first owned by Mr. Terrington, then Mr. Kerry and then Ken Milton, now private house.
Funeral parlor next to Milton’s butchers was at one time garages, then a betting office.
Men’s hairdressers, Manor Road, owned by George King for many years, then taken over by Nickola Napolitano, now a florists.
Radio, TV and Electrical shop run by Mr Dobbs from 1945/46 till 1952. Before that it was a fish and chip shop run by Ted Dew after Mr Dobbs left it was turned into a flat, this shop was right opposite the florists.
Men’s barbers No 5 Hunstanton Road opposite the Chinese, closed down many years ago.
Ladies Hairdressers No 18 Lynn Road was built many years ago by Tom Drew and run by his two daughters Eleanor and Doris Drew. During World War two it was a private house and was lived in by Oscar Humfrey who had been Queen Mary's chauffeur. It was turned back into a hairdresser’s after the war when Mr. Humfrey moved up to Heath Road to live at "Cromarty" with his niece Miss Fraser.
Hairdresser was also in Chapel Road opposite the chapel, run by a Mrs. Hill. Cycle shop was half way along Lynn Road No. 40 run by Mr. Fred Wagg. It has been a private house for many years.
Blacksmith,s shop run by George Blowers next to No. 4 Manor Road opposite the Albert Victor Public House.
Blacksmith,s shop stood on the corner of Post Office Road and Centre Vale, I believe a mounting stone still stands there. For many years it was also a builder’s yard.
Garden Centre and Nursery run by the Reynolds brothers, demolished and built on. Now Orchard Close.
Baker,s shop, Playfords, in Manor Road opposite police station Playfords had a Royal Warrant as did the two butcher’s shops.
Fitt’s Bakers in Chapel Road
Mrs. Terrington had a shop next to Playfords that sold groceries and medicines and remedies. Half of it was later turned into a ladies’ hairdresser’s shop.
A newspaper shop was in the same spot as it is today run by Mrs. Rayner and then Ray Dilks. Ray also had an ice cream trailer that in the summer time he would stand on the grass up Sandringham where the visitor centre is today.
Boot and shoe repair shop run by Mr. Ernie Riches at No 3 Lynn Road. This shop is still there and trading today though it may have changed hands a few times.
Coal merchants in the village - there was three coal merchants, Mr. Nurse, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Bird who also had a haulage businesses down the Glebe; Mr. Nurse’s coal yard was on Station Hill.
Taxi service run by Mr. Bunn also near Station Hill.
There had been another butcher’s shop opposite the Coach and Horses; this closed down during the second World War. Then Riches and Gilbert turned the slaughter house at the back into their milk depot. The front shop was at one time a fish and chip shop but in later years new houses were built on that land.
Apart from all the shops in and around the village lots of people just sold things from their door:
Mrs. Riches, at the top of White Horse Drive, sold cloths.
Mr. Tuck in Manor Road, opposite the ‘Albert’ sold fruit and vegetables as did Ken Martins at "Rose Cottage" on Lynn Road.
Mr. Thaxter sold plants and vegetables from his greenhouses on the opposite side of the road to where his shop is today.
A Mr. Higgs, who lived next to Mr. Thaxter, sold free-range goose and hens’ eggs.
Then there was Mrs. Borley who lived in Sandpit Cottages, next to George Pratt roundabout, who sold cups of tea, cakes and sandwiches to the passing motorists that parked on the picnic site next to her cottage.
Fried fish dealer, Charles Houchen, had this little shop or large shed next to No. 2 Post Office Road.
Shop keeper Mr. William Drew-Melton had a small shop in the garden of "Tresco Cottage", Manor Road opposite Brooke Road, where he sold paraffin and hardware goods.
General store owner Mrs. Agnes Neave had a very small shop in Post Office Road near the old chapel.
Photographer Mr. Walter Ralph had his studio was in a small bungalow at number 38 Lynn Road.
Somewhere in the village a Mrs. Agnes Middleton had a small shop as did a Mr. Drew have a harness maker but I cannot find which roads they were in
One more place I would just like to mention is "Wellswill" a private school which was in Manor Road opposite Manorside. It had a large swimming pool in the grounds; I think it closed down around 1955 when the building and the fields that went with it was used as a chicken farm by a Mr. Eton Rose. It was later sold to Scotts the furniture people from King’s Lynn who changed the name of the house to "Wood Royal". There were many horse chestnut trees in the grounds and us boys would sneak in to get the conkers.
I hope this will be a help with your history of Dersingham , I did put a similar list in the Village Voice issue No 33 for April 2005.
Keep up the good work it is just really fascinating what you are doing and hard work no doubt.
- Dick Melton Letter 6
- Hi Elizabeth,
Very interested in your write up about the Ralph family, I found two photos with their name on the first one is of the Albert Victor public house sometime between 1896 and 1912 as the couple in the door way were related to my grandfather Will Melton, before that William Melton kept the Albert Victor from 1877 to 1879, then from 1879 to 1883 Ted Melton kept it , my great uncle Tom Drew kept it from 1925 to 1933, my grandfather Will Melton kept the Fox and Hounds at Marham from 1927 to 1934, after Fred Hartley left the Albert Victor in 1912 he took on the White Horse till 1916 , Fred’s son Bob Hartley took on the Union Jack at Roydon in 1929 he was married to Flo Melton my grand father’s sister he died in 1937 so his widow Flo and her daughter Peggy ran the pub till 1975 so it was in the Hartley family for 46 years many of the Melton families were in the pub trade including myself as I worked at the Kit-Kat pub in Hunstanton for 30 years , going back to the photo the sign at the top says Morgans Ales & Stouts, the sign say the Albert Victor was on a 20 foot pole on the edge of the car park in Manor Road.
The other photo was taken after the Working Men’s Club was open in 1912, also if you look on the back of the photo Mr Ralph held a Royal Warrant as did lots of other shops in the village.
Dick Melton, Sunny Hunny
[Note that the photos can be found on our Ralph family page]
- Dick Melton Letter 7 - The Three Dersingham Commons
- The Three Dersingham Commons
First The Fen. This 79 acres of land starts to the east of the by-pass on the B1440 (Lynn Road) it goes south west across the A149 (Dersingham by-pass) until it gets to the second hill and the parish boundary where the parish boundary marker posts go across the area known as Cranberry Fen as far as the old railway track, until the by-pass was built (in 1990 ) there was a foot path that started in the northern corner (B1440 Lynn Road) went down beside the red dyke and then along the side of the railway line to Wolferton village. This foot path was laid down so as the people from Wolferton would have a short cut to Dersingham to do their shopping, the Fen not bog is in fact common land the common rights to this land were granted to the people of Dersingham in 1779 by King George the third, these rights to dig, cut and cart away, to let, sell and graze on Dersingham Fen, the Shut-Up-Common and the Open Common still apply to the people of Dersingham till this very day.
Next we have the Open Common. It is named such as it is only fenced in on the northern boundary, the Open Common starts just past no 81 (Pleasant Place) at the southern end of Lynn Road. 70 years ago if you went on to common just there you were on an area of flat grass, about the size of a tennis court , this was named Hoddy's Hole after an old boy that lived up the corner in an old hovel made from wood and turfs. Us lads played football and tin can on this area and we had a set of goal posts made from silver birch trees if they broke or rotted away we would just go over the Shut-up Common and cut some more. Along the northern boundary there was a foot path that took you through to Heath Road, when Manor Side was built on (Tucks Field) a fire track was bulldozed out in case one of the many fires we had on the common got near the bungalows.
There was also a path from Hoddy’s Hole that went through the furze (gorse) bushes to the top of the common where there were two wooden benches. Lots of people would sit up there as you could get a very good view on a clear day across the wash to Boston and if it was extra clear you could see Boston stump. The area of common that ran along the side of Lynn Road as far as eight mile stone corner was all furze bushes we had many fires on the open common and all the greenery would get burnt but the wooden stems of the bushes just went black. After a day or two people from the village would go up the common and cut the stem off near to the root, bundle them up to burn under the copper to heat the water to wash there cloths, at the top of the common all around the old concrete stone was grass with a little bit of heather. As I said, the common would get on fire a lot most of these fires were started by the sparks and ashes from the steam trains these ashes and sparks set the fen on fire and if the wind was right the fire would go across the Lynn Road and spread across the common sometimes the fire would spread to the Shut-Up Common, it was very handy that in them days the Dersingham fire engine was kept in Mrs Mann’s barn at the top of Heath Road, No 18. Many people used the Open Common just to sit and watch the traffic or admire the view. Whilst there children played on the grass , my mother and father loved the common so much that, their ashes were spread there when they died.
Now we come to the shut-up-common the best place in the world. If you go along Lynn Road to King’s Lynn you turn left into Heath Road. When you get to the top of the hill before you get to the houses on your right is a five bar gate go through this gate and you are on the Shut-Up Common, so called as the whole area of the common is fenced in so as the people of Dersingham could graze their animals on there I can only remember Norman Towers the butcher grazing his pony on there that he used to pull his butchers cart with meat in around the village to his costumers. I well remember my father telling me that when he was a boy over one hundred years ago many of the villagers grazed their ponies, horses and donkeys on there.
As you went through the gate if you looked to your right there was the village rubbish tip, in 1950 it was covered in and a new tip was opened-up on the second hill on the fen, just inside the Dersingham boundary. This was a good place for us lads as we would go up there and shoot the rats with our air guns. As you carried on one path went to the left and the other path went straight on past the cycle speedway track over the stream where we got our water cress from and on over the big dyke and through the swing gate you were then in the southern end of Dersingham Wood. The path then took you out on to the Queens Drive, named so after queen Alexandra, turn to your right after about 100 yards turn left and follow this path through to the visitors center and Sandringham church.
Now we go back to the five bar gate and take the path to your left this path takes you past the cottages (Heath View) then carry on past the gate to the allotments. Then carry on with the allotments on your left when you get to the big dyke the path goes to your right parallel with the dyke just along there a few yards is a bridge over the dyke and then a locked and bolted gate that took you to the head woodsman’s house and the nurseries where they grew all the young trees for the foresters to plant on the estate.
Keep going along this path cross over the path that leads to the church and keep going along side the dyke you will then go past the water works in the wood where the best chestnuts grew. When you got to the big wood (Jocelyn’s Wood) the dyke went straight on to link up with another stream in the woods but the footpath turned sharp right and it went downhill till you came to a wire fence. You climbed over this fence and you were on the Lynn Road opposite the Sandpit Cottages. Then if you walked towards the village when you got to the eight mile stone corner there was another small stream where there was water cress. This stream went under the road and into the long drain on the fen.
When I was a boy there was some birch trees and gorse bushes to the south of the this stream there was also some birch trees along the top of the common. The rest of the common was grass and bracken (bracks). The Shut-Up Common was a working common as many men from the village would go on there to cut down the silver birch trees and use the branches for pea sticks. The trunk of the trees made good poles for bean poles, linen props and my father mad some trellis work out of these poles for my mother to grow her rambling roses on. Also a lot of men cut the green bracken when it was fully grown they would let it lay in the sun for a week or two then when it had turned brown they would gather it up and take it home or up there allotment to use it on their potato graves ( clamps ) then chuck some soil over the top to keep the potatoes over the winter, free from frost, also many people used bracks to bed their pigs on. Funny enough not many people used birch wood as fire wood. My dad and my uncle Sid used to go over the fen to get our Christmas tree.
Now we come to the wild life on the common there was plenty of rabbits on all three commons until in the 1950s they caught a disease called myxomatosis, rabbits caught this easily when they all lived together in warrens a lot of rabbits nowadays live above ground. This also affected other wild life like Shellducks, hundreds of Shellducks nested on the fen and the top end of the Shut-Up Common but after the rabbits went and they never kept the burrows open this affected the Shellduck as they used to make their nests about three feet down the burrow. The Shellduck would fly straight into the burrow without leaving foot prints so predators could not find them. When the young Shellduck were about a month old the hen duck would take her young out of the burrow and walk them down to the sea.
On all three commons there were many more birds than there is today such as Red-backed shrike, White throat, all sorts of Linnets, Blue tits Long-tailed tits, Mistle thrush, Partridges, Pheasant, Snipe and always on the open spaces shut-up-common many Skylarks a lot of these are gone. At one time the last of the Great bustard bred on Dersingham common it then went extinct in 1838.
That’s a bit about Dersingham commons the best place in the world
Dick Melton in Sunny Hunny