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Dersingham Folk
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Jannoch's Court and the Dersingham Lily Nursery
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
On October 29th 1925 the villagers of Dersingham woke to the sad news that a well respected member of their community had passed away. Thus it was that on Monday November 2nd they gathered to pay their last respects as the Rev. J. Douglas Willan conducted the burial service in the church and at the graveside. The coffin was brought across from Dersingham Hall and Theodor Carl Wilhelm Jannoch was laid to rest in a grave lined with moss, chrysanthemums and dahlias. Among the many floral tributes placed alongside was one inscribed,"Sandringham: From Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria." Theodor's final resting place, in the shadow of the church tower, was just a few steps from Dersingham Hall and Brandenburg House the two homes he had occupied for the forty years he had lived in the village. So who was this man who commanded such respect and was remembered by the Royal family? Theodor Jannoch was resting far away from the land of his birth.

Theodor was born in 1850 in Pomerania, Eastern Prussia. Prussia was a large powerful state bordering the Baltic Sea. At this time the country we now know as Germany had not been formed. There were just a number of fiercely independent states, electorates and cities. It would be the state of Prussia lead by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 that would unite them all as Germany. Also since 1517 when Martin Luther had attacked the Roman Catholic Church the area had divided into a Protestant North and Roman Catholic South. For this reason Theodor's grandparents, being protestants, had migrated from the then Kingdom of Bohemia, a Roman Catholic state in the south where the modern Czech Republic can now be found, to Prussia.

Mr. Jannoch's father married the daughter of the Chaplain to the Court of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her family had been closely associated for many years with the Lutheran Church. Near to Theodor's place of birth was the independent state of Mecklenburg and the Electorate of Brandenburg names which would become significant to our own village in the future.

As a young man Theodor studied sculpture and intended to adopt it as his career but he suffered from delicate health and perhaps the dusty atmosphere of a sculptor's studio exacerbated his condition. So he decided an outdoor occupation would be preferable and devoted himself to the study of Horticulture. This led him as a young man to leave his home and travel to England where he entered the Botanical Gardens at Kew to study for several years.

He left Kew in March 1874 and around this time he married. I often wondered before I started this research what had brought Theodor from London to this small village in West Norfolk but the census return of 1881 gave me the answer. His wife Mary who was born in this village in about 1855 was the daughter of James Frost the master blacksmith.

In 1875 while still living in London Theodor and Mary celebrated the birth of their first child Daisy. It was shortly after this that Theodor, Mary and baby Daisy left London and travelled to this village as Theodor had decided to set up his own nursery. The family settled in the house at the bottom of Sugar Lane now known as Lane End but shortly after Theodor's arrival it became known as Brandenburg House.

Lodged at The National Archives, Kew is Naturalisation Certificate: Theodore Jannoch, from Germany. Resident in Dersingham. Certificate A3312 issued 30 July 1880. [Reference: HO 334/10/3312].

The Dersingham map of 1884 shows the property at the bottom of Sugar Lane with many greenhouses and the nursery extending up the hill towards Hill House (#145).
The following report copied out of the newspaper reveals that not long after moving here he had demolished the original cottage to build this smart new house. It also paints a vivid picture of the thriving business he ran from this site.

Report from The Lynn News and Advertiser May 1884

DERSINGHAM. The lily nursery of Mr. T. Jannoch is now becoming a great attraction to visitors. The old dwelling-house which has weathered the storms of the past two centuries has been pulled down and in its place a neat and commodious residence is being constructed by Mr. Foster, builder, the plans for the immediately adjoining grounds being ornamental in design and quite in harmony with the proprietor's artistic profession. During the time that Mr. Jannoch has occupied the premises he has effected a variety of improvements and he has done much to promote a genuine taste for the floricultural art. He raises during the year something like a quarter of a million plants of the graceful lily of the valley which, in great variety of style and arrangement are sent to almost every quarter of the civilised world. The production of this plant (which may be obtained from October to June in each year) is Mr. Jannoch's speciality and he is admitted to be in possession of a secret which many would like to know. To meet the requirements of his increasing trade he has of late added another forcing house, 40ft. Long and 14ft. Wide and this and the adjoining houses are stocked with thousands of choice plants, including stephanotis, eucharis, Amazon lily, deutzia, gardenias, begonias, bouvardias, roses and ferns in great variety. The show house is a perfect blaze of beauty, the rhodanthes, azaleas, cystisus, heliotropes, mignonettes, hydrangeas, fuschias, etc. being in full bloom. Another house contains thousands of buds of gardenias which during the next few weeks will be constantly coming into flower. In the open grounds are large numbers of standard roses, tulips, shrubs, frames for rearing bedding plants and about half a million lilies of the valley. The packing house is generally a scene of busy activity as from this place are weekly sent hundreds of choice wreaths, crosses, bouquets, buttonholes etc. A very pleasant hour or two may be passed upon the premises.

The village when Theodor and Mary arrived here had a population of just over 1000. It was smaller than today with much more pasture land and marsh. Across the road from the nursery Dersingham Hall was occupied by John and Hannah Goggs and their nine children.

The church, which had become very dilapidated over the years, had been restored at a cost of £5000 and an imposing new Rectory had just been completed on the high ground above the church. The Reverend Edward William Penney had taken up residence there and had no doubt welcomed Theodor and his family to the village. The Methodist Chapel close to The Feathers had been built and the Bethel chapel in Chapel Road was completed shortly after the family's arrival.

A new village school had also been built at the bottom of Dodds Hill and Alfred Firth had been appointed Head Teacher. He was living in the School House which would seem to have been that part of the school building on the corner of Dodd's Hill.

A few doors away from Brandenburg House Enoch Beckett the Post Master ran his Post Office, grocery and Drapers in the long cottage at the end of King's Croft. Joshua Freeman was living with his wife Susan and two daughters at the Manor House and farming 1300 acres.

The railway of course was well established and Matthew Bullock was the station master who supervised the frequent services to Lynn and Hunstanton. Theodor and his wife could also have travelled directly into London and there were frequent special excursions. In 1875 one was advertised at the cost of 12 shillings First Class or 6shillings in a Covered car. The train left at 6a.m. and reached London Bishopsgate at 10.10 a.m. It returned the following day at 5.30p.m. but no luggage was allowed apart from a small bag carried by the owner. There were (six) Public Houses in the village; The Dun Cow, The Cock , The White Horse, The Coach and Horses, and the Albert Victor.

Also high above the village the last remaining windmill was operated by Matthew Fitt the Master Baker and Corn Miller. The village was quite self sufficient with butchers, grocers, bakers, coal merchants, shoe makers, carpenters, builders, tailors, dressmakers and if you so wished Elizabeth Wyer would make you a straw bonnet. There were several farms both large and small with all the trades associated with an agricultural community, wheelwrights, hurdlemakers, blacksmiths and so on. Theodor's nursery would fit into the village pattern extremely well.

Over the next few years Theodor worked to establish his nursery business and soon adverts were appearing in the local press.

In 1880 from The Lily Nursery Dersingham T. Jannoch begged,"to announce that his stock of bedding plants is in excellent condition. Orders for the same are now being booked." Another advert that same year advised that he had Camellias, Azaleas, primulas, cinerarias, Hyacinths and Lily- the- valley for sale along with Palms and Foliage plants of all kinds. Furthermore floral work of any description would be carried out in, "the most artistic designs". Bouquets, wreaths and crosses would be made to order and sent to any part of the kingdom and Hotels could be supplied with plants and flowers on the hire system. The business was clearly flourishing and Theodor took another significant step on July 30th 1880 when he became a naturalised English citizen.

Theodor and Mary's family also grew steadily. Hedwig Theodora, usually known as Dora, their second child was born in 1876, and her sister Alwine Franziska, known as Vena, followed in 1878. But they had their fair share of heart break. Bertha Wilhelmina born in 1880 died just one year later. Their first son , Fritz Wilhelm, was born that same year of 1881 but only lived a few months dying in 1882. Another daughter, Flora Antoinette, born in 1883 lived just six years. When Rudoph Theodore was born in 1885 they must have been very anxious during his early years but Rudolph live well into the 20th century dying aged 75 in 1960.

While at Kew, Theodor was regarded as one of the pioneers in the application of the "retarding" principle to many plants but at Dersingham he also became interested in experiments that would produce the opposite effect by subjecting plants to the influence of ether. . In the biographical details about Theodor recorded in The Kew Guild Journal of 1926 it states that he "founded a somewhat unique business at Dersingham, in the county of Norfolk, devoted almost entirely to the cultivation of Lily of the Valley and Lilacs. He was regarded as one of the pioneers in the application of the retarding principle to many forms of plant life and for a considerable time he interested himself in experiments intended to produce the reverse effect by subjecting the plants to ether. For many years the collections of lilacs in his nurseries was regarded as the finest in England." King Edward VII was a frequent visitor to the nursery.

He also began to specialise in the growing of Lily-of-the-valley and soon proclaimed that he was the largest grower of those plants in England with a stock of over two million. Someone who took a keen interest in his experiments and frequently visited the nursery was The Prince of Wales. On his accession to the throne as King Edward V11 he still maintained his interest so that Theodor advertised that he was "nurseryman, florist and Lily-of-the -valley grower by special warrant to their Majesties The King and Queen Alexandra. "Christmas Day 1909 was the last time the King visited the nursery before his death the following year.

As the twentieth century dawned Theodor's business was thriving. His family were grown up and we learn that his youngest daughter Vena had inherited her father's artistic abilities as the parish magazine reported that she had received the honour of having a picture hung at the Royal Academy of Arts. The year after this Dersingham Hall had become vacant and Theodor had obviously bought it and was advertising it to let furnished. However it was not long before he had moved his family to The Hall and set up his nursery on the land which is now the Old Hall Estate. (By 1908 Brandenburg House was occupied by James La Fontaine J.P. and the property called Mecklenburg House was owned by Thomas Diggle. The house presently known by that name was built around this time or a little later and there is evidence that it replaced the original old cottages that stood on that site when Theodor was there).

There was a significant change in the 1901 census where Theodor was now recorded as a Naturalized English Subject although he had in fact acquired that status in July 1880 as has been stated. He took a full and active part in village life. He donated generously towards the fund for the Clock to be placed in the Church Tower to mark the 1901 coronation as well as making regular donations to the cricket club. He was active in the Sandringham Estate Cottage Horticultural Society and in 1911 he was one of the first names put forward to serve on the committee to consider all the suggestions for marking the coronation of King George V. He was on the committee of the newly built Working Men's Club and gave many floral arrangements to decorate both that Hall and the Church Institute when they were formally opened.

He was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and regularly exhibited at that Society's Spring Show in London where he won both gold and silver medals. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew have many entries in their records of the plants that he sent there. By 1911 his son Rudolf was living in London and working in Islington as a Clerk in a Marine Insurance Office.

The years 1914 to 1918 must have been a difficult and uncomfortable time for Theodor as the war with Germany was fought. It was after all between his adopted country and the land of his birth. The papers were full of anti- German rhetoric and reports of attacks on businesses with German sounding names filled the local press. There was special unease about aliens in Norfolk because of the closeness of the North Sea. In August 1914 the Alien Registration Act was published and all Germans had to register with the authorities by August 17th. Aliens had to have a permit if travelling more than five miles from their registered place of residence and they had to carry an identity document.

In a letter to the local press The Chief Constable reported there were just 4 German males in the county. One was a pauper in the workhouse and the other 3 were found to be perfectly harmless after thorough investigation. One of these I assume must have been Theodor.

Nevertheless it must have been an uneasy time for him especially when in January1915 the Zeppelin L4 flew over the village and went on to cause death and destruction in Lynn (Village Voice No.38) Then the following year another Zeppelin L21, part of the largest Zeppelin raid during the night of 2/3rd September, damaged a cottage up Doddshill and killed the lady living there. I have not found any evidence that Theodor experienced any difficulties at this time. His son Rudolf served with the Middlesex Regiment from 1914 - 1920.

After the war he and his family continued to be held in high regard. By this time Theodor had largely retired from active business and in his final years he devoted his attention to raising new varieties of Lilacs. His collection was considered to be the finest in the country. He had just developed a lilac of primrose hue when he was confined to his room in poor health so it was not introduced to the public. After just six weeks illness he died on October 29th 1925. His wife Mary, who was described as a strong vigorous personality, lived on at the Hall cared for by her daughter Dora until she died in 1933and was laid to rest next to her husband.

Theodor's nursery has disappeared beneath the houses of the Old Hall Estate but his home Dersingham Hall now bears the name Jannoch's Court and on the opposite side of the road the property there still carries the name Mecklenburg House. Older villagers used to call the road by the church Jannoch's corner and I can remember the woods where Croft House now stands being full of snowdrops and lily-of-the-valley and perhaps somewhere that pale yellow lilac still flowers.

Click any of the images below to view a slide show
Slides 1 to 10 depict the Dersingham Hall in the late 1980s; it was empty and in desperate need of attention.

Renovation and development to Dersingham Hall Hotel is underway in slides 11 to 40

Slides 27 and 28 show where there had been an old row of cottages at right angles to Chapel Road just beyond the entrance to the hall; they were called The Chestnuts.  The new owner wanted to demolish them and rebuild but he had to keep the original end wall and include it in the new build. Thus it was saved and there are photos of the old cottages being demolished. The old wall can be seen in the new build photographs; especially 61 and 64. 

The Hotel never really developed, however, the Gamekeeper's Lodge was very successful but the business closed on the retirement of the licensees and it was sold  to be developed for residential use  2005/6

The demise of The Gamekeeper's Lodge and the rise of Jannoch's Court are seen in slides 41 to 44.

As shown in slides 45 to 57 all the new buildings that had been erected in the 1990s were demolished.

The present day result of the rebuild is shown in slides 58 to 70.
01 Dersingham Hall  1990s  Empty and in need of attention
11 Renovation and development to Dersingham Hall Hotel
41 The demise of The Gamekeeper’s Lodge and the rise of Jannoch’s Court
Here was how the news media reported the development of the site in 1988 from its delapidated state:

Lynn news and Advertiser Tuesday August 2 1988
Old Hall has a bright future

The rear of the property showing the decayed state of the building due for a half million face-lift.
A DERSINGHAM building company wants to dispel rumours and growing speculation over the future of the village's Old Hall site. A. Massen Builders has revealed to the Lynn news full details of restoring the Grade 2 listed building to its former splendour. The company purchased the presently derelict building at Christmas and since then has not publicly discussed its proposals for the 17th century Hall. Responsible for the building design, Mr. Raymond Moe, explained plans to turn the Old Hall into a "quality" hotel and leisure complex. "We are aiming to provide a three-star hotel, and in conjunction with that facilities which will benefit the community," he said. The complex will consist of a hotel, lounge bars, restaurant and a leisure area which will include a swimming pool, spa and gymnasium. "The leisure facilities will be available to hotel residents and to people living in the area on a membership basis," Mr. Moe said. "Local residents will have priority on membership," he added. "The £1/2 million project would create jobs and help promote tourism in West Norfolk," said Mr. Moe. He estimated there would be six full time and between 12 and 15 part-time positions in the new complex.

Mr. Arthur Massen, from the building company, has carried ou t several developments in the village. "I want to be able to do something which will benefit Dersingham as a village," he said. "We could have developed it as a residential site, but decided on this because it will provide something for the community," he added.
Permission has been granted to convert the building into a hotel which will provide 18 bedrooms all en suite, some of which are specially designed for the disabled. There will also be a bar in an area to be named The Gamekeeper's Lodge and which has previously been used for auctions and a social club. This bar will be open to members of the public. "There have been rumours to the effect that we will be having an off-licence, which is not true," said Mr. Moe He has also heard that there were fears about cars parking in the road outside the hall. "We are providing a large car park inside the grounds, enough for 65 vehicles, which is actually more than we are required to provide," he said. The main entrance to the complex will be via the existing entrance on Chapel Road. Mr. Moe predicted that traffic would be no worse than it had been when the Old Hall had been used by the public in the past.
Work is due to begin on the Old Hall at the end of this year and it is hoped to be completed for use by the spring of 1990.
The Hall dates back to 1670 when it was built as the family home of the Pell family. Later it went into the ownership of the Royal Estate and was then purchased by a well-known market gardener named Jannoch. From the late 1950s to 1975 the property was run as a social club and in recent years auctions have been held there. Now, in a state of crumbling disrepair, it is hoped it will soon be restored to its former grandeur at the turn of the century.

North West Norfolk Advertiser Thursday May 31 1990
Soap star Seth opens lodge
Stan Richards, better known as gamekeeper Seth Armstrong in the Yorkshire Television soap opera "Emerdale", opened the new Gamekeeper's Lodge at Dersingham Hall last Saturday. He is pictured above with Simon Massen who runs the Gamekeeper's Lodge. Also at the VIP opening was North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham.

The next stage in the four-star hotel and leisure development at the Hall involves the the main hotel building set to open in the autumn.
There will be nine bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. The leisure centre, with swimming pool, solarium and gym, is due to take its first customers early next year.

Work on the hotel will be helped by the English Tourist Board, the Rural Development Council and the East Anglia Tourist Board.
A conference centre called the Pell Room is available for hire at the Gamekeeper's Lodge.

Mr Simon Massen, a director of  Leisure 90 said, "The Lodge is something everyone will be welcomed to; I want it to become a real part of the village."

Luxury homes in the heart of Dersingham
Unfortunately Mr Massen's venture was not the success it was hoped to be and ended up becoming residential.  The public launch of what was described in the Lynn News dated 26 August 2005 as, "an important new homes development takes place this weekend. The Old Hall scheme is creating luxury apartments and mews-style and detached houses in a courtyard setting close to the church and within walking distance of the shops.

Central to the development is the 16th century Dersingham Hall, a traditional manor house which is being converted into luxury apartments, including a penthouse covering the whole of the top floor.  The rest is a mix of conversions and new-build, but has all been designed to blend sympathetically with the surroundings and is contained inside the original estate wall."
Here is an artist's impression of the Old Hall development.