Fun & Games
Memories of village events
Much of the information comes from Gladys Watling's memoirs, Within Living Memory, produced as a duplicated booklet in 1985, supplemented by other contributors.
Gladys Watling: 'Around the middle 1920s there was a spate of Garden Parties held in the summer time and villages vied with each other to provide the most attractive! We called ours 'A Grand Fete' and it was held in the grounds of Mergate Hall by kind permission of Mr. and Mrs. Dupuis on the 16th July 1925. The money raised was in aid of the Bracon Ash Church Restoration Fund. There was a great variety of competitions and amusements and different people in the parish took charge of these tournaments. They were chiefly as follows:- Tennis: Miss Courbould Warren, Bowls: Mr. A.C. Westgate, Sport: Mr Waters, Decorated Bicycles: Miss Hammond, Baby Show: Miss Berney. Teas were available at 1/- or 6d. The New Buckenham Brass Band gave us a musical background and they also played for the dancing in the evening for which an extra sixpence was charged. Admission to the Fete was sixpence for adults and half price for children under twelve. The joint secretaries for the event were myself and Mrs. Dupuis's brother.'
Far more recently, Mergate Hall has been the venue for 'open afternoons' to enjoy the lovely grounds and some refreshments to raise funds for Bracon Ash church. In 2005 this splendid steam car was one of the attractions:
Gladys Watling: 'At a certain time in the 1920s we thought we would like to provide a Christmas Party for the children and started to raise money. Imagine our surprise when Mrs. Dupuis announced that she would like to give a party in the servants' hall at Mergate Hall so we began to think of something else for a treat and later it was arranged to have a summer outing to the seaside. When the day arrived lots of parents wanted to join the company which meant we had to hire the private buses then just becoming available and which looked such an assortment of sizes and design (below)....
'The outing was to Gorleston and it was a lovely summer's day so everyone enjoyed themselves. Some children had never seen the sea so it was a sensation for them. There were two little girls who belonged to a very precise family and they walked up and down the beach hand in hand keeping their gloves on! One little boy strayed away on his own but was soon found. I expect he had his best suit on as he was wearing a lace collar!'
The annual village outing continued to be something to look forward to right up to the 1970s, with trips to London as well as seaside resorts.
Bracon Ash had a renowned cricket team that played at various places in the clubs history: the meadow between Hawkes Lane and the 'loke' to the Common, and latterly on a field next To Woodlands, Long Lane, Peter Finch lived at the house. There were knock-about and practice games at Bracon Lodge, too, so that Dr Fletcher could watch from the house. The team was going strong before WW1 and closed down in the 1960s.
Gladys Watling remembered that when she was young, '....the team was really a mixture of lads consisting of local farmers, a corn merchant, a collector of taxes, a market reporter for the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, a couple of village lads who were extremely good and a gentleman's valet from Mergate Hall... Anyhow they made a good team and won the Tas Valley Challenge Cup. Various people have shouldered the responsibility of holding the Cup and it is now on display in the Village Hall with a photograph of the team which I managed to find up among my treasures.
From Ted Moore: 'Come in through Home Farm and there was a cricket pitch which belonged to John Betts's grandfather. Johny Martin, Ray Martin, George Martin, Kenny Feltham all played in the team. Bracon Ash always had a good team since before the war. Look at all the cups in the village hall cabinet! Swardeston club was the Bracon Ash team! Members of the Bracon Ash team went to play at Swardeston when their pitch was sold.'
Ted Moore also remembers: Bracon Ash also had a good football team, too, which played on the meadow at Bracon Lodge and also on the '11 acres Meadow' on Berney's land: where you go in to the back of the wood up School Road. No longer a football team.....
Again from Ted Moore: 'Bracon Ash had a bowling green and the Bowls Club was run as part of the Sports and Social club. I was Chairman of the club and kept the green - it cost us about £1,000 a year to keep it right. There were regular matches, we were in 3 different leagues. Then suddenly bowls went indoors and we couldn't get an outdoor team together after that.'
Jubilee Celebrations, 1935
Gladys Watling: 'In 1935 the village elected a Committee to make arrangements for our loyal celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. There was the usual church service and planting of trees - one tree was interesting as it was on the border of Bracon Ash and Hethel as the two parishes had just become merged into one. We still talk of Hethel but it has disappeared from the official list. The usual funds were raised and a feed provided in the Rectory Barn. Plenty of food and drinks were available and in the afternoon a program of sports and games was carried out. We couldn't rise to having a Brass Band but somehow it was arranged to have some music going on to make a happy occasion.'
Miss Caux, the Headmistress, wrote a pageant for the occasion....
'Performed by the children of Bracon Ash School at 2.30pm on 2nd June 1953. This was followed by Sports and tea for all in the Village Hall. In the evening there was a Social & Dance in the Village Hall, during which people listened to the Queen's broadcast and toasted her Majesty, and lit a bonfire and enjoyed a firework display.' From the programme:
Our Pageant today contains three scenes from the history of Bracon Ash followed by a Grand Finale:
The first is set in the village shortly after the Norman Conquest when the Manor was infeoffed to Ralph Peverel.
The second moves to Norwich - May Day 1403 - when William Appleyard, Lord of the Manor of Bracon Ash was made first Mayor of the new City of Norwich.
The third portrays the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Bracon Ash on Saturday 16th August 1578. We cannot convey to you the whole splendour of her visit for she was accompanied by Ladies in Waiting, three French Ambassadors, 600 Gentlemen, and the Sheriff of Norfolk!
Our fourth scene is not historical but consists of a tribute to our Country, our Empire and
Dancing in the garden of the (old) Rectory during the Coronation celebrations in 1953
More recent celebrations
'In 1977, was the Queen's Silver Jubilee. There was a big party in the village hall. Two silver birch trees were planted in the village and underneath each was an oak box with a new 50 pence piece in it. One of the trees was broken down and there was a plaque put down, but somebody stole that. After planting the trees we were up at the playing field and the children had sports. The party was in the village hall.
There was a party too for Charles and Diana's wedding and the unveiling of the village sign. Mrs Marian Wilson arranged for one of the students from Wymondham College to do the design as an A Level project in 1994.' More recently the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 as celebrated with a 'Progressive Lunch' in Bracon Ash & Hethel churches and the Village Hall.
[Thanks to Ted Moore, Alan Hammond, Peter Nichols & Susie Whitehouse for many of the photos]