Woodlands
Long Lane, Bracon Ash

'Woodlands' is a mock-Tudor house entered from the section of Long Lane that is within the parish of Bracon Ash. Long Lane deserves its name - it runs from Mulbarton Common to Flordon and both of those parishes have much longer sections of the road than the short length that falls with Bracon Ash. The house is quite close to Bracon Lodge and there have been close associations between the two houses and the families that live in them.

On the Ordnance Survey 25 inches to 1 mile map published in 1906, the house is clearly shown as Woodlands (below right), with a sizeable wooded area to the south. The plan is almost identical on the 1947 map and, indeed, is very similar to today. However, earlier maps - including the 1842 tithe map - show buildings in the same area named 'Folly Lodge' with Butcher's Plantation to the south (below centre).

The Tithe Apportionment for Bracon Ash, which was surveyed in 1842, lists William Butcher as the owner and the occupier of the 16-acre 'Longham Lane plantation and cottage' plus the adjacent 'barn and yard' (plots 213 & 214 on the Tithe Map, above left). This is presumably how the house acquired the name 'Butcher's Folly' used in both the 1871 and the 1881 censuses. In 1881, George Butterfield, a 24-year-old gardener, and his wife and baby son were in residence. In 1871 there is also a gardener in residence (Samuel High) whose wife is a laundress. The Highs were there in 1861 (though no house name) and the introduction to the 1851 census also lists 'The Folly', where a laundress and a house-maid are living. So do these buildings house servants of nearby Bracon Lodge? There is no obvious pathway between the two.... So presumably William Butcher had already moved away, either selling or renting out the property. If the latter, did he keep some of his possessions there? An advertisement in the The East Anglian Daily Times, 11 June 1880 suggests that Folly Lodge was much more than a labourer's cottage: 

Folly Lodge, Bracon Ash, near Norwich - [to be sold] by auction on Thurs 17 June 1880 the contents of the above, including a collection of oil paintings, china, etc

In 1891 Bracon Lodge must have been quite crowded: the census lists Edward Corbould-Warren, his wife, 6 children, a governess, nurse, cook, housemaid and schoolroom maid - as we might expect from what we know of the residents of the house. But there is another family, too - Henry Wyman Jeffryes, retired army surgeon, his wife and daughter and 2 servants. Were they waiting to move in to a new house on the site of the old Folly Lodge? The Jeffryes family are resident at Woodlands in the 1892 and 1896 Kelly's Directories. This suggests that the house was built in the early 1890s - it looks very modern in the photographs taken by Tom Nokes before World War 1.

Henry Wyman Jeffryes was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1847, had served as an Army Surgeon in the American Civil War and was now retired. He moved to London in 1881. When and where he met and married his wife Louise is uncertain (she gives her birthplace as London), and their daughter Natalie was born around 1882. According to his application to the US embassy for a passport, Henry was living in John Street, London WC in 1888. How they came to visit Bracon Lodge and then live at Woodlands is still a mystery, but they may well have wanted to escape the pressure of London life. Perhaps Louise was already showing the first signs of mental illness.... They did return to London for a while, and then moved out to rural Godalming in Surrey for peace and quiet. Louise was having treatment from a prominent 'mind specialist' and daughter Natalie was her constant companion. Henry returned to London but paid his wife an annual allowance of £900. Mother and daughter were very involved in Busbridge Church, but Louise often had to withdraw to her house and would only allow Natalie to see her. Natalie lived only for her mother but did visit her father in London. On one such visit in March 1913 he realised that she too was heading for a breakdown. A few days later Louise woke at 4am to find that Natalie had gone, leaving a suicide note. Both women were found dead in local ponds. They were buried at 8am in Busbridge churchyard. A sad story of a family with fleeting connections to Bracon Ash.

Woodlands, by Norwich photographer Tom Nokes
Woodlands, by Norwich photographer Tom Nokes

By the end of the 1890s 'Woodlands' was up for sale - advertised in the Daily Telegraph of 20 May 1899: Picturesque freehold residential property The Woodlands - well built, in good order, and conveniently arranged and is approached by a carriage drive. Hall, 4 reception rooms, conservatory, complete domestic offices, 6 principal bedrooms. 17 acres: gardens, grounds, woodlands exceptionally attractive. Keepers Lodge with 4 rooms. [Solicitors and Auctioneers in London]

Presumably this was when Rev Ray Eaton, a retired clergyman, bought (or more probably rented) the property and moved in with his wife Frances and their two single daughters, Alice and Ellen. He is listed in the 1901 census, and in Kelly's Directories for 1904 and 1908. Mrs Frances Eaton (nee Spurgeon) died in August 1901 and is buried in Mulbarton. The daughters married local clergymen: Alice Margaret married the Vicar of Swardeston in early 1908, and her father was living with her in the Swardeston Vicarage in 1911.  In 1910 Ellen Mary married Rev C B P Ramsay, then Rector of East Carleton  who later became Rector of Mulbarton. Rev Ray Eaton moved out of Woodlands once both daughters had 'flown the nest'. He died at East Carleton Rectory in 1915 and is buried with his wife in Mulbarton churchyard. The (hidden) Mary Magdalen reredos in Mulbarton church was carved and donated in his memory in 1937.

Gladys Watling remembers: 'The Woodlands' [is] situated on Flordon Long Lane and occupied in succession by the Eatons - a clerical family; Col. E. Corbould-Warren - an army family on leave; a retired banker whose name was Slack and then, best known to us, Mr. P. Finch who farmed some land at Ashwellthorpe and was also connected with a brewery firm.

The garden of Woodlands - taken by Tom Nokes, probably at the same time as the photos of the house, above and below.
The garden of Woodlands - taken by Tom Nokes, probably at the same time as the photos of the house, above and below.

Colonel E Corbould-Warren (1881-1948) was the eldest son of Edward Corbold-Warren Snr who was living at Bracon Lodge until he died there in 1913. He was one of the two children for whom his mother Rose was advertising for a 'strong girl as a NURSE' in 1882 (see under Bracon Lodge). He joined  the Royal Field Artillery, served in South Africa and India, and during World War I in Mesopotamia. He was awarded numerous medals and was mentioned in dispatches 5 times, and was created brevet Lieutenant Colonel in 1916. He married Joan Steward in India in 1908 and their first daughter Margaret ('Peggy') was born in 1909 in Srinagar (Kashmir). The family must have then returned home on leave, for Joan Corbould-Warren was born on 1st October 1910 at Woodlands. However, they can't have lived at Woodlands for long: in the 1911 census it is recorded as an 'uninhabited dwelling', along with the Coachman's Lodge. Edward Cobould-Warren is remembered on a small plaque at the base of the lectern in Bracon Ash Church.

Woodlands from the garden - another Tom Nokes photo.
Woodlands from the garden - another Tom Nokes photo.

The 1912 Kelly's directory lists Thomas Slack as resident, and the 1922 Directory lists Mrs Dugdale. The Finch family did not arrive until about 1929. The brewery connection mentioned by Gladys Watling would have been back in their family history when an earlier Peter Finch was involved with the Norwich firm of Steward, Patteson, Finch & Co. At Woodlands, Peter Finch, and his son, Tim, were keen cricketers who supported the Bracon Ash team. Dorothy Finch (nee Lonsdale) was very involved with the Girl Guide movement and hosted local Guides and Brownies at Woodlands for campfires and games in the woods. Their daughter, Bridget, married into a Mulbarton farming family. In 1939 the Lonsdales  - probably Dorothy's mother and unmarried sisters - were living with Dorothy and the children in the peaceful surroundings of Woodlands. 
Perhaps 'usually peaceful' would be better: Brenda Ford (nee Collins), whose father worked for Peter Finch and lived in the bungalow behind 'Woodlands' remembers when she was about 5 years old: 'My mother's family were bombed out in Norwich and came to live with us in our small bungalow, along with a land girl who worked for Mr Betts at Braconash. Goodness knows where we all slept, but it was wartime and we managed. A Stirling bomber crashed in the early hours of the morning very near to our bungalow, cutting off electricity and causing enormous damage to trees nearby. Fortunately the airmen all managed to survive without too much injury and armed guards were placed near to the crashed plane until an enormous truck came to take the remains of the plane away.'  The truck was nick-named a 'Queen Mary' and others remember that the trouble there was getting it into the field from Long Lane, beside Woodlands, because it was so heavy and sank in the mud.

The Finch family enlarged the house by adding a lounge, sunroom, and additional upstairs rooms. They also changed the route of the drive. But by 1981 Dorothy Finch decided the time had come to move somewhere smaller and less isolated and bought Manor Cottage facing Mulbarton Common. Although the garden was far, far smaller, she continued to welcome local Guides and Brownies along for campfires and outdoor games.

In 1981, Woodlands was purchased by Barry & Sadie Brooks who continue to run their world-wide farming enterprises from offices in the house. This creates another amazing link with the history of Bracon Ash, for Mr Brooks bought Hall Farm, Reedham and large areas of Halvergate and Reedham marshes to establish an important beef-rearing enterprise, Beckhithe Farms. This is exactly the land which for centuries was part of the estate of the Berney family, Baronets of Parkhall, and where Thomas Trench Berney (born and buried in Bracon Ash) owned land and established the cement works at Berney Arms mill!

Postcard available from Cracknell's shop, Mulbarton - local scenes include Woodlands and its garden (right) despite being in Bracon Ash!
Postcard available from Cracknell's shop, Mulbarton - local scenes include Woodlands and its garden (right) despite being in Bracon Ash!

With thanks to Norfolk Archives and National Library of Scotland for maps (see LINKS); Tithe map details at TheGenealogist.co.uk; bmd records, census data, 1939 register & newspapers at FindMyPast.co.uk; 'The Bridge' Nov-Dec 2013 (magazine of Busbridge Church); Wikipedia; Sadie Brooks; and to Ray Bobbin; Jean Goodrum; Brenda Ford; Mr Martin; Margaret Bullen, and others for memories.