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Site by Mike Strange
Roads and Travel
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
At the time of writing, November 2018, everyone in the village is watching as the traffic lights at the crossroads are being upgraded and provision being made for safe pedestrian crossings. It is also a significant anniversary for myself and one that I still find hard to grasp. It is fifty years, (fifty years!!) since I came to live in this village.
The village of course was very much smaller and there were no traffic lights at the crossroads. Yes the traffic was a little heavier during the summer months but not enough to cause a problem. On my daily journeys into King’s Lynn then the sight of a large delivery lorry, that is so familiar today, was unusual and the road was generally quiet. Each morning I would listen to the Today programme on the radio for time checks and I remember the presenter, whose name escapes me at the moment, was from Norfolk and used to comment that the traffic on his journey from Norfolk into work was particularly heavy some days. He had had to pass a tractor and a bicycle.
However, change was on the way for just a few years before I came here as you left Sandringham at Babingley a new road had been constructed leading straight up to Knight’s Hill and on to Hardwick so that traffic no longer had to negotiate the narrow road round “onion corner” and on through Castle Rising. It was no longer necessary to drive through Lynn on the way south. This new bypass was a wide three lane road which was no doubt considered safe when it was built. However, as traffic built up over the years it was soon apparent that three lanes were not a good idea. After several severe accidents, many of them fatal, the layout was changed to that which we know today.
The many old photographs that we have show how the road into Dersingham from Lynn made a sharp left hand bend opposite Heath Road. Where the roundabout would be constructed was an attractive picnic area next to a pair of cottages that in more recent times have been converted into one house. A lady I met on a walk told me that she and her family would always stop at that picnic area on the way to a day out at Hunstanton and you could buy a tray of tea from the lady who lived in one of the Sandpit Cottages next to the site. In Village Voice No. 23 from July /August 2003, recently uploaded to our site, Dick Melton tells us that a Mrs. Borley lived in one of the cottages and would sell pots of tea, cakes and sandwiches, usually lettuce as food was still on ration, to the visitors to the picnic site.
A photograph taken at the crossroads where the new lights are being installed shows how narrow the road to Hunstanton was in the early part of last century and the road we now know as Lynn Road was referred to then as Cow Lane.
The word “road” springs from the same source as “ride” which in Old English meant “Riding” or a hostile incursion on horseback. There are two very ancient tracks or roads close to this village. The Icknield Way ran along the Chilterns, skirted the fens and entered Norfolk at Thetford. There is not much evidence of it beyond Ringstead but it was a line of communication for centuries. It was probably a tangle of tracks heading in the same direction and some came close to this village.
The other ancient route is of course the Peddars way which may have been built following the Boudicca revolt modernising an older trackway. It probably had much to do with the movement of Roman troops.
Many routes were simply farm tracks and village and homestead paths to link one settlement with another. People travelled by walking, horse riding or wheeled carts. There were the driftways and droves where the village drovers herded the cattle to markets and fairs.
We can find the names of many of the old streets and tracks in this village recorded in old documents but unfortunately there is no map to show where they were.
Below is a list of the names of the roads, tracks, byways, here in Dersingham gleaned from documents of the 15th century.
Twertgate, Carlepytgate, Calkgate, Herysgate, Wygate, Bryggate, Anmergate, Snetyshamgate, Snoringhallgate, East Gate, West Gate, The Morgate, Brokgate, Kyrk or Chychgate, Westyn Chapelgate, King’s Highway, East Street, West Street, Haresgate, Ffychamway, Bircham Way, Newton Way
It is possible for some like Anmer Way, Bircham Way, Newton Way, Snetyshamgate, to make a good guess as to their location and direction.
Snoringhall was a small manor situated where the old rectory stands today. Part of its moat still can be found in the garden so that would suggest Snoringhallgate was at the start of the road to Shernbourne.
Chapelgate is interesting in that it is thought possible a small chapel used to stand where the row of cottages next to the old Parker’s Stores (Petal Tea Rooms in 2018) at the corner of Manor Road and Sandringham Hill now stand.
There was a small carrstone quarry in the fields that rise up behind the church and Manor House and the chalk pit can still be found on the left as you drive up Shernborne Road. So Carlepytgate and Calkgate were probably tracks in this area.
Brokgate could be reference to Brookhall Manor which stood surrounded by the moat in the pastures opposite the church.
Mention is made in other documents of a path by the swamp leading to Doddshill called Wadgate. There are numerous possibilities for the position of this track but the footpath featured on older maps that used to run from the old gate opposite the Feathers up the hill behind the school and fire station to the top of Doddshill must be a contender.
In another document there is mention of Moorgate that led to Gelhamhall Moore which seems likely to be the track opposite Manor Road known now as The Drift. This would seem to be the Morgate mentioned above.
A document of 1780 describes two other tracks here related to the two Windmills that stood at the top of the village. One at the top of Mill Road and the other lower down at Hill House at the top of Fern Hill.
One other road of the breadth of twenty feet beginning at the Shernborne Road near the house of Mary Elizabeth Burton and proceeding in a N.E. direction near the windmill in the possession of John Stanton, and in a N.E. direction to the West Newton Road near the mill of William Smith for the use of persons going to and fro from the said mill.
One other road being an ancient lane, beginning at the S.E. corner of the yard of Francis Hill and proceeding in a North direction to and over land allotted to Dixon Hoste, till it joins the last mentioned road, near the said mill in the possession of John Stanton for the use of persons going to and from the said mills.
The latter track is Sugar Lane. I have been unable to find out the origin of the name Sugar Lane but there are many differing theories about it. I suspect it is a corruption of a much earlier name as often happens. One of my favourite examples of this is the Court of Pied Poudre which were courts held to dispense instant justice to vagrants (dusty feet) at fairs and markets in the Middle Ages. We English called them the Pie Powder Courts.
Looking at the 1720 map from the Houghton Hall archive the track we know as Sugar Lane can clearly be seen opposite Dersingham Hall.
Faden’s map of 1797
On this map you can clearly see the first road described above going in a N.E. direction to the Mill where Sugar Lane meets it. It then continues on to Darsingham Mill at the top of the village and meets the road that would eventually take you to West Newton. It would appear these are the roads we now know as Fern Hill and Mill Road.
In 1797 there was a third windmill in the village situated on the higher ground above where the old railway station was built.
Just before the road, we now know as Chapel Road, reached the road to Hunstanton it branched into two. One section continued on to the right to Dersingham Park while the other reached the Hunstanton Road. Opposite was a small road leading down to this third windmill (the future Station Road). A little further back on the road to Lynn another small track leads away to join the previous road at the mill and then to continue onto the marshes and Duck Decoy. Today it appears Whitehorse Drive follows the line of this track.
Bryant’s map of Norfolk 1826
On this map the road layout described above is shown clearly but if you look closely there is now only one windmill at the top of Mill Road. We know the mill at the top of Sugar Lane was destroyed in a fierce gale in 1808 but I have not found any information yet as to when the mill close to the marshes met its fate. If the gale of 1808 was fierce enough to destroy the mill in the village then I would have thought the one down by the marshes was even more vulnerable.
Over the years traffic on these roads and tracks increased especially with the granting of more and more charters to hold fairs and markets in all our towns. There were efforts made at times to improve and maintain the condition of roads but there was for too long no centrally planned roads strategy. Wealthy landowners would sometimes finance the upkeep of local roads especially if it was in their own financial interest. But during winter months, or very wet periods roads would become rivers of mud. In 1339 Parliament had to be postponed because so many were held up by the conditions on the roads. During the 16/17th century the road between Lynn and Gayton (B1145 now) was considered the worst road in all England during winter.
Bryant’s map records an important development in the roads system of great significance to this village.
The Turnpike Road
Whilst it soon became obvious something needed to be done for maintenance of the roads is an expensive business and money needed to be raised. Parliament passed Acts to force provision for the repair of the highways and the Toll or Turnpike Road came into being.
Attleborough to Wymondham 1695 was the first such road here in Norfolk followed by Norwich to Scole in 1708. Then in 1768 an Act of Parliament was passed for “widening the roads from the East gate to Gayton, Grimston and to the North end of Babingley Lane”. The Act directed that the road should run, “from the said Wootton Gaps, through the parish of Castle Rising to the South End of a certain other bridge called Babingley Bridge in Babingley and from the North End of the same bridge to the North End of Babingley Lane in Babingley.”
Toll gates were to be erected and among the Trustees were names familiar to Dersingham villagers; William Hoste, Henry Cornish Henley (Sandringham) Theodore Hoste, Dixon Hoste and William Hudson. The Hostes were large landowners in the area. Life Wood in Dersingham was known for many years as Mr. Hoste’s Plantation.
On April 4th 1811 in the reign of King George the following Act was presented to Parliament. An Act to enlarge the term and powers of the two acts of His Present Majesty for repairing the road from the East Gate of King’s Lynn to the North End of Babingley Lane and to extend the road from thence to Darsingham in the County of Norfolk. The following is an extract taken from this Act:
Whereas the road leading from the North End of Babingley Lane through the parishes of Babingley, Wolferton, and Sandringham to the sign of The Dun Cow in Darsingham is much out of repair, incommodious and dangerous for travellers and cannot be effectually amended and kept in repair by ordinary court of law. It would be a great accommodation to the neighbourhood and of public utility if the same were to be repaired and put under the care and management of the Trustees for executing the said Act. May it therefore please your Majesty that it may be enacted.
It continues to make a plea for an act to be put in place for the purpose of Amending, widening, improving and keeping in repair the road through the parishes of Babingley, Wolferton, and Sandringham to the sign of the Dun Cow in Darsingham.
The next section was of great importance and would have been welcomed by all here in our village and no doubt secured the cooperation of everyone.
No turnpike or Tollgate shall be erected or set up, or toll collected by virtue of the said acts upon any part of the said road leading from the North End of Babingley Lane to the sign of The Dun Cow in Darsingham.
It was also recorded that £950 had been subscribed for paying the expenses of making the intended road.
In the Act of 1768 a list of tolls charged is recorded.
Every horse, mare, gelding, mule or other beast laden or unladen, and not drawing the sum of one penny halfpenny.
For every chaise and one horse, the sum of four pence halfpenny
For every coach, machine, Landau, Berlin, Chariot, Chaise, and two horses the sum of nine pence
For every such carriage and four horses the sum of one shilling and sixpence
For every such carriage and six horses the sum of two shillings.
For every cart or curry and one horse the sum of three pence
For every cart with not more than four horses the sum of nine pence.
For every cart with more than four horses the sum of one shilling
For every waggon having more than four horses and not more than six horses the sum of one shilling and sixpence.
For every waggon having more than six horses the sum of two shillings.
For every drove of oxen, cows, or neat cattle the sum of one shilling and three pence per score and so in proportion for any greater or lesser number.
And for every drove of calves, hogs, sheep or lambs the sum of seven pence half pence per score and so in proportion for any greater or lesser number.
Waggon denoted a road vehicle. Wagon became the term used for a railway wagon.
This gives an interesting picture of the sort of traffic one would meet on early 19th century roads to and from Dersingham. The Directories of the time record cattle dealers and horse dealers being active in the village. Both sheep and cattle were grazed on the marshes so there would have been many occasions when the animals were moved to the markets in Lynn. So although according to the Act of 1811 no toll gates were to be erected on the road from Babingley to Dersingham once approaching and entering Lynn tolls would be collected.
There were certain safeguards and exemptions. For instance the Act states
No person passing through any of the said Turnpikes of gates who shall return or pass through the same Toll gate on the same day with the same horses, cattle, beasts, or carriages and who shall produce a note or ticket of the day denoting that the toll was paid in that day shall be liable to pay the said toll more than once in the same day at the same gate.
This would have been of great importance to the carriers in the village. There were also further exemptions
Beasts carrying materials for repairing roads
Carts with grass, hay or corn to be placed in outhouses on the land of owners
Carts with dung, compost, manure or lime for improving or manuring the land
Owners or their servants going to their lands to look after them
Animals going from one pasture to another
The horses of soldiers on the march
Carriages travelling with vagrants sent by legal passes, or returning having been employed.
Traffic on election business.
Even with all these exemption Toll Roads were extremely unpopular. Faden’s map of 1797 records 40 Toll gates in Norfolk. Tollgates are recorded in Gaywood and at Mintlyn. There were severe penalties for defacing or destroying Toll gates. A board had to be placed at the Toll House containing a list of all the charges.
In 1822 it was ordered that the names of Towns and Villages were to be put up at the entrance and milestones and direction posts were to be set up one mile apart denoting the distances to a town or place. The penalty for defacing them would not exceed ten shillings.
The route of the original road from Hunstanton to Lynn can still be observed by noting these old milestones some of which are still standing at the side of the road. They have recently been restored and painted white. The 8mile stone stands by our village sign as you enter from Lynn. It was often used by the Parish Council in the past to help identification if that area was being discussed. The 9mile stone can be seen as you leave the village on the right opposite Life Wood, and the 10mile stone is in Ingoldisthorpe. Unfortunately the 11mile stone on the left as you go up the hill in Snettisham towards the round-about is damaged which is probably why it was not highlighted like the others. The 6, 7, 13 ,15 and 16 mile stones can still be seen but the others have been lost probably when the new roads were constructed in more recent times.
In 1826 in an attempt to minimise damage to the road surface further regulations were put in place to standardise the construction of the wheels of vehicles. The breadth of wheels for the various wagons and coaches was strictly laid down and owners of carts, wagons, or coaches not complying were fined £5; the driver was fined 40 shillings.
No cart with wheels of less than 3 inches breadth was allowed to be used on the roads. The amount of weight any vehicle could carry was dependent on the breadth of the wheels which were measured at the Tollgate and at some weighing machines were installed to enforce the regulations. Additional tolls had to be paid for overweight and there were severe penalties for unloading a vehicle before the tollgate to avoid paying tolls. If Toll charges were not paid within 4 days then goods could be seized to that amount. (Some of this reminds me of airport travel.)
In King’s Lynn library there is a lengthy publication produced in 1836 which details the complaints of local landowners and farmers concerning the money raised from these roads and the unfairness of the system. Among the signatories are the names Richard Stanton and George Rix both well known land owners here in Dersingham.
The Golden Age of Coach Travel
The 18th and early 19th century heralded the golden age of coach travel. Stage coaches competed with the Mail coaches for passengers. The fares on stage coaches were cheaper but the vehicles were not as comfortable or as well protected as those of the Mail service. By1837 Norfolk’s main links were established to London via Ely, Downham Market, King’s Lynn and Hunstanton. From 1780 macadamised cambered roads had been introduced and provided a harder, drier surface to make travel easier. This with improved carriage designs meant that on these roads speeds of up to 10m.p.h. could now be achieved in most weather conditions. Non turnpike roads were often improved by local landowners to reap the benefits of enclosure and despatch their increased harvests to market.
In 1785 Lynn to Norwich was a seven hour trip. In 1842 the day coach from Lynn to Norwich took four and a half hours at a cost of 10s. for an inside seat and 5s. if you travelled outside.
So if we travelled from Dersingham to Lynn in the 18th/early 19th century we would probably have boarded our stage coach, or perhaps used the services of one of the local carriers, at the sign of The Dun Cow to travel along the Turnpike road past Rice’s Common on our left, with Badger Fen and Cranberry Pasture on our right and on through the Sandringham area. From our vantage point on the coach we would see on our right all the way over the marshes to The Wash. Leaving Sandringham we would pass the road to our left that would take us to the small village of West Newton. The Turnpike would take us through Babingley and then bear right to pass across the bridge over the Babingley River and so up the hill to Castle Rising. (This part of the road now is only open to cyclists and walkers). We would pass the church on our right, the almshouses and then the old castle ruins on the left before continuing through the open countryside with the small village of North Wootton away to our right. In a short distance we would arrive at the equally small sister village of South Wootton and pass on our left the road that would take us to up a long hill and on to Grimston and Hillington. Today of course this is a busy crossroads controlled by traffic lights but then there was no road to the right and as we travelled on towards the village of Gaywood we would be going through open country with a clear view across the marshes on our right down to the River Great Ouse. Perhaps we could have seen the masts of all the ships entering the port of Lynn.
A short distance further on we would cross a bridge over the Gaywood River, close to the present day Marsh Lane, and just before we entered Gaywood where the road from Gayton came in on the left we would have stopped at the Toll gate and the fees would be paid. Then, passing the old Bishop’s Palace, still standing on the right and following the Gaywood River through open country we would finally enter King’s Lynn through the East Gate.
But just how would we have travelled? There were numerous options. From the trade directories of the time we can find
To LYNN REGIS John Mason and Ann Roberson, daily
To LYNN REGIS James Twiss’ cart and a sociable every morning (Sunday excepted) at six
A sociable, short for sociable coach, was an open 4 wheeled carriage which had two double seats facing each other and could be controlled from the interior by the owner-driver or have a box for a coachman. A pair of folding hoods protected the passengers and it could be drawn by a single horse or matching pair.
The cart was a two wheeled wagon drawn by one horse and was a general purpose trade or farm vehicle with no suspension.
More about the coach and cart operators can be found in our Businesses section.
The Mail Coaches
In the seventeenth century a public Mail service was set up by Royal proclamation and Thomas Witherings a London merchant was given the task of organising regular services to run day and night along the great postal roads. The improvement in the roads in the 18/19th centuries heralded the era of the stage coach as discussed above. In the 1830s letters could be delivered the morning after posting in towns more than 120 miles from London.
Mail coaches were four-wheeled covered vehicles drawn by teams of four in seven to ten mile stages. They were painted scarlet, maroon and black; the guards wore scarlet uniforms and carried blunderbusses, pistols and a horn. They must have been quite a sight on the road.
They competed with private stage coaches for the booming passenger traffic.
More about the Mail Coaches can be found in our Businesses section
Carriers were the traditional life line for small villages. Their carts, vans, and waggons provided a passenger and delivery service that was essential to small rural communities. They used vehicles similar to farm waggons but not usually as robust and they would be fitted with a canvas awning.
The waggon was a 4 wheeled heavy farm vehicle usually made by the local wheelwright. The carter walked alongside and controlled his horse by voice or a long whip. It had no suspension and large wheels. They would travel at about 3-4 m.p.h. and nearly all towns and villages advertised their services.
The village carrier would transport goods and passengers for a small fee to and from King's Lynn and other nearby villages. The Norwich Directory of 1783 lists Creaf and Teal's waggon leaving Norwich for Lynn each Thursday and returning on Friday at 10a.m. It would arrange for parcels to be carried on to Snettisham by local carrier and no doubt would stop in Dersingham if needed.
More about the coach and cart operators can be found in our Businesses section.
So we come to the end of the 19th century.
The road through Dersingham to Lynn must have been extremely busy especially on market days. Waggons, gigs, vans, sociables, carts, stage coaches and mail carts were constantly plying back and forth. Carriers from our village as well as those passing through from Snettisham, Heacham and Hunstanton would have been a familiar sight. There would have been constant traffic from the many farms here especially at harvest times.
A most popular form of travel for many of the villagers was the donkey and cart. During discussions on how the village was to celebrate the coronation of 1911 it was suggested donkey cart races would be a good idea as so many villagers had them.
I have found a reference to a very interesting character born here in the village in 1873. She was Elizabeth English who became known as “the cockle woman”. At the age of 9 she began to work for her father Hoddy Middleton and by 14 had her own donkey and cart. She would drive each morning down to the beach to gather cockles and samphire which she would then sell throughout the district.
The following is a transcription of a report found in The Lynn Advertiser dated 12 July 1879. This case heard at the County Court in Lynn gives a wonderful picture of the busy life on the roads of our village as well as a valiant attempt by the reporter to catch the flavour of the local accent.
LYNN COUNTY COURT
JOHN BUNN v. FRANCIS RINGWOOD
Plaintiff is a labourer at Dersingham, and defendant a teamman in the employ of Mr. Johnson, Heacham. Claim for £2/10 for a donkey killed through the negligence of the defendant driving a horse and wagon.
Mrs. Ann Langley said she was driving three donkeys along the lane past The Dun Cow. She saw the defendant coming along the road, and cautioned him not to run over her or the donkeys. No sooner had she spoken to him than he ran over Mr. Bunn’s donkey, and hurt it so that it died a few hours after.
Mr. Wilkin, who appeared for the defendant, asked the witness how old she was, to which the witness objected to answer.
Mr. Wilkin: Well, if you won’t tell us how old you are, will you tell us how old the donkey was ?
Witness: I don’t know how old it was.
Mr. Wilkin: Well, it wasn’t quite so old as you. Was it 20 years old?
Witness: No, I should think not.
Mr. Wilkin: Well, I have given you the benefit of it. I put you down as sixty.
Witness said she was certain there were not nine or ten donkeys on the road.
Mrs. Mitchell deposed to seeing the accident. As well as the previous witness she admitted that the defendant was only going at walking pace.
Mr. Wilkin having opened his case, the defendant said that on the day in question he, with another teamman, was going from Lynn to Heacham, and when they got to the Dun Cow at Dersingham, they overtook a lot of donkeys, some six or seven at least, driven by Mrs. Langley. The donkeys kept “pottering” and “messing” about between the two teams, and in and out of the horses. He sung out to the woman,
“If yow don’t kape them dickies out o’ my way, yow’ll git one on ‘em killed.”
He was only walking his horses, and did not see the donkey till it was knocked down.
John Smith, the other teamman with the defendant, gave corroborative evidence. He said that every care was exercised by himself and Ringwood to avoid doing an injury to the donkeys.
His Honour, in giving judgement for the defendant, said it was rather a hard case.
Mr. Wilkin said hard cases make bad law; but he would write to Mr. Johnson, who would no doubt give Mr. Bunn a sovereign.
A vivid picture is easily imagined of the two wagon teams with the drivers walking alongside making what was probably a regular journey between Lynn and Heacham for them and countless others. Meeting donkeys or indeed cows or sheep. being herded through the village was probably not an unusual hazard at that time.
Donkeys were frequently a cause for complaint as shown in one Parish election. One of the candidates made known that .
”If you vote for me I will see to it that donkeys are kept off your gardens”. I have not discovered if he was duly elected.
The care of all the many wagons and carts in the village, especially in the winter months when the roads and lanes were often muddy, was also not without its problems. In the notes from the parish Council in 1895 there were numerous complaints received concerning the washing of carts on the recreation ground and the nuisance caused by the resulting mess left behind causing the drains to become blocked.
We must also remember that cattle and sheep were herded through the village from the high pastures down to the marshes for summer grazing and at other times to Lynn market by drovers although they did avoid the main roads where possible and use drift and drove tracks if they existed.
Then there would also have been all the private carriages, the phaeton, barouche from the more wealthy families in the district. Tradition states that the last owner of Snaring Hall here in Dersingham drove about the village in a coach drawn by four black horses.
Elizabeth Postlethwaite,in her letters to her sister, who was married to Samuel Kerrich the vicar here 1729 - 1768, frequently expresses the hope that her sister will visit in the chariot. A chariot was a stately four-wheeled carriage with back seats only. The travelling chariot was considered to be the private vehicle of the nobility. Elizabeth writes often of the chariot to London.
It was in 1835 that Parliament passed the Act to make driving on the left a lawful requirement. One can only imagine the chaos on busy days when everyone decided for themselves their position on the road.
In 1861 more action was needed so Parliament passed The Offences against the Person Act to deal with the reckless handling of horses. Those arrested were accused of "wanton and furious driving." It illustrates our continued links to the past when last year, 2017, this Act, still on the statute books, had to be used to prosecute a cyclist in London who had caused the death of a pedestrian by reckless "driving". There was no modern equivalent relevant to a cyclist under which he could be charged. Needless to say Parliament is looking at changes to the law to better reflect modern times.
Many trades and businesses were essential to maintain the smooth running of all this traffic. The horse was King so every village had its skilled blacksmiths, wheelwrights, saddlers and harness makers. Robert, John and James Frost were blacksmiths here from 1836 to at least 1874. William Potter was one of the blacksmiths here who built his smithy,(still standing), on the corner of Post Office Road and Centre Vale and was an essential part of our village for many years. The Flegg family were wheelwrights and there were the saddlers and harness makers who were all essential parts of village life.
The End of an Era
From the middle of the 19th century an ominous puff of smoke could be spied on the horizon. That great marvel of the time, the locomotive, was announcing its arrival.
By 1845 King's Lynn had joined the "railway mania" and in 1848 was linked to London by rail. Other lines soon followed and the rail network spread throughout the county and beyond. In 1862 the line from Lynn to Hunstanton was built and Dersingham Station became an extremely important part of the village. The track that used to wind down to the windmill, as stated earlier, became Station Road with The Alexandra Public House and Hotel, Station cottages, the Station master's House and the station with its cattle and loading yards beginning the process of stretching the village to the west of the Main Road.
Local businesses like Enoch Taylor at the newly built Feathers Hotel began advertising that they had conveyances to meet every train arriving at Wolferton and Dersingham. Waggonettes were available for trips to Sandringham.
The golden age of coach travel was over. In his New Year message of 1900 to welcome the new century to come Edward Penney, the vicar, remarked, "Shall we live to see the locomotive rusting on the scrap heap as some of us may remember to have seen the old stage coach rotting in the wheelwright's yard?
However in the late 19th century another form of transport began to appear on our roads. In the 1890s we enter ....
The Golden Age of the Bicycle
The bicycle was developed from the "dandy horse" the first human means of transport to use only two wheels. The history of the development of the bicycle whilst most interesting does not have a place here. It needs only be said that by the 1890s development had been rapid and many innovations, such as the pneumatic tyre, increased the comfort and ease of riding the new bicycle. The "safety bicycle" had arrived.
The Raleigh Bicycle company was founded in England in 1888 and others soon followed. The "rover" manufactured in Coventry in 1885 was the first recognised modern bicycle.
Cycling clubs were formed all over the country so that the bicycle joined the horse carts and donkey carts to become the mainstays of transport before the automobile arrived.
For women the bicycle was designed with the step-through frame which would allow them to mount and dismount in a dignified way while wearing the long skirts of the time. It was considered most unladylike for a woman to open her legs to mount or dismount. This cycling craze led to the movement for rational dress and had the effect of liberating women from the corset and ankle length skirts. They began to wear the "bloomers" that quite scandalised many in society. Some considered this was all part of the emancipation of women which would lead on to the suffragette movement.
Road travel had always been very expensive and holidays and day trips were only taken by the more wealthy of the village. The railway, especially with the "parliamentary fares," had already put day trips within the reach of all villagers. Trips to Hunstanton, Lynn and even further afield were now regularly enjoyed. The development of the bicycle now also allowed the ordinary villager to travel for leisure into the country and reduced the dependence on the horse. The bicycle began to be used not only for leisure but also in businesses for messengers, mail carriers and delivery boys. This all brought the need for maintenance and repair.
Evidence that the bicycle age had reached Dersingham can be found in the 1896 Directory. There for the first time John Henry Chambers of Dersingham is recorded as Agent for the Coventry, Quinton, Globe and other cycles. As the century closes and the new one begins we find in 1900 not only John Henry but also Albert Jackson, Cycle repairer.