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Dersingham Folk
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Site by Mike Strange
The Senter Family
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
If we had been living in the village in the 1920s we could have bought a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate or a bag of our favourite sweets at the shop which used to stand on the corner of Manor Road and Lynn Road.  This shop, with the house adjoining, belonged to the Senter family who had run a business there for many years. 

The old photo illustrates this perfectly with the adverts for Cadbury’s Chocolates clearly visible in the window and the name Senter in capital letters above the door.  The lady, standing in front in her beautifully clean, pressed apron, gazing rather fiercely at the camera, is most probably Mrs Leah Senter, the Confectioner.  Villagers used to refer to this part of the village as Senter’s Corner. Today the lintel where the shop front was can be clearly seen

The Senters were a large family and served the village in many ways.  Mike and I began our search to trace this well-known family at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

John Senter 1806-1890
John Senter was born here in 1806.  In 1827 he married Sarah Grimes the daughter of another well known Dersingham family.  They had a son John Grimes Senter in 1828 but their happiness was shattered when Sarah died shortly afterwards.  However, a few years later in 1831, John married again to Frances Sheldrick, born 1811.  The entry in the register records that they were married in the presence of Ann Sheldrick and Thomas Senter.  It is interesting that neither John nor Thomas signed the register but made their mark. X

John was an agricultural labourer working on one of the village farms.  In 1833 they had a daughter Ann.  Thomas followed in 1835, Mary in 1836, Francis Sheldrick in 1838, Jane in 1839 and by the time of the first census in 1841 the youngest George was just 4 months old. John Grimes, their half brother, was now 12.

In the 1841 census a Francis Sheldrick is recorded, aged 72 a shoemaker.  At the same address with him are John Holland, 30, Jane Holland, 38 and George Anmer Sheldrick but also Ann Senter, aged 9, John and Frances’ oldest daughter.  Francis Sheldrick is obviously the grandfather.

A year after the census in 1842 Martin was born to complete the family.  A few years later Frances died leaving John a widower once more which is noted in the 1851 census.

This census also tells us that daughter Ann was back living with the family again but John Grimes, who would have been 22, is not recorded.  The other missing names are Mary aged 15, and Thomas 17.  All three were of an age when they could have been employed and living elsewhere.
The census of 1861 gives further information to add to the picture.  Addresses are now recorded and the family were at Malthouse Yard which was in Chapel Road opposite the present day library.  Here, with the other cottages, was situated the Malting Office run by George Chadwick a farmer of Oak House Farm situated a little further down Chapel Road.  Dersingham Pottery is all that is left of the large farmhouse and outbuildings that used to stand on that site.  The Oaks, as it came to be known in later years, was seriously damaged in a fire in 1965 and was subsequently demolished to make way for a new surgery, infant school and residential estate.  However, the initials G.C. and date 1823 picked out on the front gable of the pottery serve as a reminder of the original owner.

John Senter is now 55 and still an agricultural labourer.  Francis, George and Martin are living at home, with Jane, 22, now acting as the Housekeeper.  Martin is an agricultural labourer like his father.

In 1871 we find John still living in Malthouse Yard, but Martin is now recorded as a groom.  Sadly, we do not know for whom he worked.   His brother Francis 33 is an engine driver and local preacher.  The Railway line from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton had opened in 1862 and from that date onwards Dersingham residents are often filling various positions from porters, engineers, drivers and even Station Masters with the Great Eastern Railway.

1881 records much change in the Senter family.  John is now living alone, aged 75 but still recorded as an agricultural labourer, while his four children have moved on.  He dies just 9 years later in 1890.
Francis Sheldrick Senter 1838-1883
From the 1881 census we learn that Francis married had Harriet Malby a few years before.  Harriet was born in Ingoldisthorpe. They had had a son, Henry born, in 1872.    Francis is listed as a gardener.  We find him recorded as a Market Gardener in the Kelly Directory of 1874.  Here the middle name is spelt Sheldrake.   Henry is listed as a scholar and no doubt attended the recently opened village school where Mr. Firth was the headmaster. 

Francis died in 1883 and is buried in our churchyard.  The executors were his widow Harriet and John William Parker, grocer and Draper.  John Parker’s large shop still stands on the corner of Manor Road and the start of Sandringham Road.  It once proudly displayed the Royal Warrant Coat of Arms as suppliers to the Royal Household.  These can now be seen in the church. The smaller older part that used to be the Drapery is now a private residence, but the large Victorian style shop still trades.  It has changed hands many times over the years but, at the present time of writing, 2020, it is the Petals Tea Room.

In the 1891 census we find Harriet described as a widow living on her own means in Heath Road with her son Harry, a gardener. Harriet died in 1894 and is buried with her husband Francis.
Henry/Harry Senter
There are several further references to Henry /Harry Senter.  In 1897 he is one of the Trustees for the Dersingham United Charities.   In the Directory of 1900, we find him listed as a Market Gardener while in the electoral roll of 1904 he is recorded living alone in the freehold house with land in Heath Road.  Here it was he established his market garden business. As in the 1891 census his record comes immediately after that for Ralph the photographer whom we know lived at the top of Heath Road in the last cottage on the left.  In the 1908 Kelly’s Directory he is recorded as not only a Market Gardener but also a tobacconist.  It is entirely possible, as shall be seen later, that his tobacconist business was in the shop in Manor Road owned and run by his Uncle Martin and Aunt Hannah.  In the census review of 1912 Henry Senter is recorded in the ownership Voters list with  a freehold house and land but now  in Manor Road.  He is recorded on the electoral roll in 1915 in the same way but after that he disappears from the records.  Perhaps, if a family member reads this, they could tell us what happened to Harry.
Martin Senter 1843-1908.
Martin was the youngest in John’s family and Harry’s uncle. As stated earlier in 1871 he was recorded as an agricultural labourer.  On the 28th May 1876 he married Hannah Read and they had two children, Emma Jane in 1878 and Walter Read in 1882.  From the 1881 census we learn that Martin is a Groom but there is no indication for whom he worked. Hannah was a Milliner.

In the electoral roll for 1889 he is listed first as an Ownership Voter with a Freehold house on Lynn Road. 

He is also recorded on the list for Occupation Voters with a dwelling house, described as a cottage near Lynn Road.  This seems to suggest that they owned   the main house that faces onto Lynn Road and round the corner in Manor Road adjoining the Main House was the cottage that provided room for the shop.  It is in the Directory of 1890 that we find Martin listed as shopkeeper although the census of 1891 lists him as Stableman and groom.  So perhaps the shop was more Hannah’s concern as she is a milliner.  The two children are scholars, again most likely at the local school.  As stated previously, in 1900 Harry Senter is listed as a tobacconist and I think he most likely conducted that business from this shop alongside his Aunt Hannah. .   By the time we reach 1901 Walter Read the son is recorded as a carpenter.  Sometime in the next few years Martin retires and his death is recorded as June 19th, 1908 aged 65.   He is then described as a retired coachman, (How I would like to know for whom he worked), probate was granted to farmer James Jackson with effects of £289.

In the 1908 edition of Kelly’s Directory for we find Hannah Senter listed as Milliner and Shopkeeper.  Walter Read Senter is now a cycle agent and repairer and Motor Engineer.   I was told that Walter Senter’s cycle show room was on the corner of The Drift directly opposite Manor Road.  There is a large white-washed house occupying the site now.  In the same list we find again Harry Senter Market Gardener and Tobacconist.  I wonder if he ran his tobacconist business from Hannah’s shop.

So, by the time of the 1911 census Mrs. M. Senter is recorded living at the House with a General shop in Sandringham Road and her son, Mr. W. Senter lives there also but there is no mention of daughter Jane. 

Prior to 1911 the roads in the village often had different names depending on which villager was spoken to.  So, in 1911 the Parish Council, to avoid the obvious confusion, standardised the names and the road was officially recorded as Manor Road.   Hannah continued to feature in the various Directories as a Milliner and Shopkeeper until sometime before 1922 after which she is no longer recorded.   She died in 1937 aged 82.
Walter Read Senter 1881-1956
Walter, the youngest son of Martin and Hannah, married Leah Rose Daniels shortly before his father’s death.  They had two sons, Martin Marcus born in 1908 and about two years later Neville John was born.  In the school photo of 1914 Martin Senter, a small fair-haired boy can be seen standing on the left in the third row among his school friends in Class B1.

The census of 1901 records Walter as a carpenter but in 1908 Kelly’s Directory lists Walter Read Senter as a cycle agent, repairer and motor engineer.  I have been told in the past by older Dersingham residents that Walter’s cycle show room used to be on the Main Road opposite Manor Road on the corner of The Drift.  A large whitewashed house occupies the site at the present day.  As this is directly opposite the family’s house and shop this does seem highly probable but, to date, I have found no photos or adverts to support this.  The census of 1911 enforces this listing Walter Read Senter, aged 29, as a carpenter and joiner but also as a cycle dealer on his own account carrying out that business from his home.

Leah Rose is listed alongside their two sons Martin Marcus and Neville John then only 7 months old.   However, in the review of the 1911 census mentioned earlier Hannah is recorded living in the Manor road property with Mr. W. Senter but there is no mention of Leah.

For the next few years records show Hannah as the shopkeeper and Walter as a cycle agent.  It is in1925 that we find Leah Senter listed as a confectioner running the shop and I think this who is found in the photograph.  Also, at the same time around 1925 we find a Martin Senter, who would now be 17years old, working as boot repairer.  It would seem likely to me that he worked from the same shop while Walter is still listed as a cycle agent as well as pursuing his carpentry and joinery interests.   If Harry Senter had also at one carried out his tobacconist interest in the shop as well as running a market garden this was indeed an enterprising family.  No wonder the locals referred to the corner as Senter’s Corner.

The photograph below (apologies for the poor quality) shows an extension that has now gone as well as what appears to be the remains of another structure which is probably where Walter Senter taught carpentry. It is quite likely that the man stood in the doorway is Martin Senter. 
According to the Directories through 1919 to 1933 this still appears to be the situation, but Mike has found Walter and Leah living in Leicester Street Leamington in 1932.  So what was their connection with Worcestershire and when did they move there? Was it his carpentry interests that had taken Walter there?  In 1937 Walter’s mother Hannah died and now lies with her husband Martin in our churchyard.  In another twist to the story Mike discovered Walter and Leah had moved again and in 1939 were living in Perne Street Cambridge.  Walter is described as an estate carpenter which links back to the earlier listings of 1901 and 11 when Walter is described as a carpenter and joiner.  In Cambridge the record goes on to show he was acting as an air raid warden whilst Leah, in the fashion of those days, is described as carrying out “unpaid domestic duties”. So, which estate employed Walter?  Who was taking care of his cycle business in Dersingham?  Was son Martin now in sole charge of the Family’s business in Dersingham?
Moreover, in this photo taken of the Canteen workers in Dersingham during WW2 a Mrs. M. Senter can be found (back row, 2nd left).  So, is this young Martin’s wife?  Were they looking after Walter’s other interests?
Another interesting fact can be gleaned from the records as in 1955 Emma Jane, Walter Read’s sister, died in Cambridge aged 77.  Just one year later on April 7th, 1956 Walter died but he was now back in the village.

We glean a little more information from the report of his death. His address is given as Brookside, Manor Road. This would be an appropriate name for the house on Manor Road as directly opposite is the old Manor House of Westhall.  This area was once known as Wash house yard as occupants of the old cottages there used to run a laundry business.  Older villagers remember on a Monday morning as they made their way to school they would see all the steam arising out of the small outbuildings as the water in the old coppers was heated ready for the washing.  The coppers were filled with the water from the stream that ran all the way down Manor Road from the fields high up behind the school, then under the main road and out onto the marshes.
I remember one of the older villagers, now no longer with us, telling me once that during one of school holidays he and a few friends were up in the fields behind the school where they had built a raft.  Then together they dammed the little stream to create a lake to float their raft.  They were very successful and succeeded in creating a lovely lake just right for their enterprise.  They were having a rare old time but down in the village there was consternation as the stream carrying the water for the laundry had all but dried up and no-one could understand why.  For a while the boys enjoyed themselves playing on the raft but the increasing pressure of the continually running water eventually proved too much and  burst through their  little dam and escaped in a sudden rush down Manor Road flooding the surrounding area.   My informant did not exactly tell me what punishment they faced when they were found out but smiled ruefully and said they never tried it again!
Leah Rose died in 1963 and she and Walter both lie together in the same grave in our churchyard.

There is so much we still do not know about this interesting family.  An E.W. Senter is one name among the many who lost their lives in WW2 which is recorded on the War memorial. This is for "Eric Walter Senter. Private 7382072. 215 Field Amb. Royal Army Medical Corps. Died on 3rd November 1943. Aged 30. Son of Walter Read Senter and Leah Senter; husband of Betty Joan Senter, of Littlehampton, Sussex. Buried in Kirkee War Cemetery, India. Ref. 3. H. 6." [Source Commonwealth War Graves Commission].  The name is also recognised by the naming of Senter's Road, off Manor Road.
Our good friend, Dick Melton, kindly sent this information and photograph to us:

"I took a lot of interest in your write up about the Senter  family as Walter Senter lived in No. 2 Manor Road and I lived just round the corner in No. 63 and Bernie Twite lived just up the road towards The Dun Cow.  Mr Senter was a carpenter by trade and I am sure he worked at the Princess Alexandra Carving School at Sandringham teaching school leavers the trade of cabinet makers. If you want any more information about the carving school you can find it in a book called “Sandringham, A Royal Estate for 150 Years.”

A friend of mine went there when he left school in 1954.  I cannot confirm this as he went away to live when he finished at the school. I have this copy of a photo of who I am sure is Mr. Senter at the Carving School.
At the bottom of his garden Mr. Senter had an old shed where he used to teach some of us boys, including Bernie, to do carpentry.  About six of us used to go there two nights a week. We used to pay him one shilling a week towards the cost of the wood and the electricity.  Mrs. Senter would give us a glass of lemonade. 

When his son Eric Walter died in the Second World War in India on the 3rd of November 1943 aged 30, there was a lot of rumours going round the village as to him being killed in the war or not. 
Mr. Senter was also our Sunday School teacher at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Post Office Road and here is a photograph that Bernie Twite had of us boys with Mr Walter Senter on a Sunday School outing to Hunstanton; Bernie thought it was in front of the Blue Lagoon pool around 1950.
Rear, left to right: Bob Reid, David Lines, John Playford, Peter Hooks, Malcom Nurse
Front: Dick Melton, Ivan Green, Alan Goff, Mr Walter Senter, Melvyn Green and Bernie Twite