Norfolk village’s bid to capture history with resident’s voices

PUBLISHED: 15:52 01 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:23 07 October 2019

Stubb Mill in 1996. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

Stubb Mill in 1996. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling


Memories of life in a Norfolk village are being captured like never before as part of a “remarkable” project.

Ocean Rambler. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingOcean Rambler. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

Memories of life in a Norfolk village are being captured like never before as part of a "remarkable" project.

In a project launched by the Hickling Broad branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A), Voices of Hickling is a journey throughout life, told by those who know the village best best.

Dozens of 'voices' - residents in the village, many of who have lived there all their lives - have shared their stories with group leaders in a bid to keep an audio account of Hickling's history.

Maggie Prettyman, chair of the Hickling Broad U3A said: "The knowledge and skills in this area is immense, but that can be lost over time. The world would be a much poorer and less informed place if people didn't record history.

Ralph Lamb Cutter. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingRalph Lamb Cutter. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"Without the help of everyone who has told their stories, there would be no history to record. They have given their time to share the history of this community. Without that commitment and dedication, this wouldn't have been possible.

"It isn't always easy. There are difficult moments along the road that people have had to remember, but the importance of recording this history cannot be underestimated.

"We hope people will be inspired to have a go themselves. The more recordings we get, the greater the records will be for the future."

To help with the project, the group was donated money to pay for recording equipment from Ursula Jackson following her death.

PHOTO: Voices of HicklingPHOTO: Voices of Hickling

For many of those involved in the project, the importance of their work is never clearer than with the death of a 'voice'.

Martin Johns, who helps the group with their website, said: "A lot of our voices were born in Hickling, or moved here and stayed for the rest of their lives.

"The eldest voice we had was Mirrie Lambert, who turned 100 in June 2018. She was the most amazing woman, but has since sadly died.

"When someone dies you realise how extraordinary it is to hear them on these recordings."

Hickling Post Office. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingHickling Post Office. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

The village was rocked five years ago when the 18th century Hickling Hall was destroyed following a chimney fire.

Bernard Ellis owned the home at the time, becoming the third generation in his family to do so, and he described the night of the fire, on Boxing Day in 2014, as the "worst night of my life."

He said: "We had Christmas Day there with our family and they came again for lunch on Boxing Day and we lit the fire again.

"My eldest daughter was with me and the lights went out, so she went upstairs to have a look but couldn't see. It was just solid smoke.

Hickling School. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingHickling School. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"I phoned the fire brigade and they came quickly. I took them upstairs but they just said 'get out' and that was it."

The fire wasn't the only disaster to hit the village, with other blazes and floods also remembered, with Mirrie Lambert remembering the Town Street fire in 1931 which gutted seven cottages and a house, leaving 22 people homeless, while others, including Harry Nudd, Kathleen Deary and Megan Butcher, recalled devastating floods in 1938 and 1953.

For some, reminissing about years gone by highlights some of the less favourable changes over the decades, including the loss of several key shops, pubs and services.

Anne Lomas, 66, said: "I have lived in Hickling all of my life and I just love talking about it. We all grew up here together.

Mirrie Lambert in uniform. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingMirrie Lambert in uniform. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"It is really important because younger children growing up today wouldn't know how we lived. They don't realise I never had a TV until I was 12 or 13.

"We used to have all these shops in the village, but now there is next to nothing."

To find out more, including how to get involved in the project and share your history, go to

Centenarian Mirrie Lambert told the project of her ride with royalty as a youngster. Sadly, Mirrie passed away shortly after her 100th birthday last year.

PHOTO: Voices of HicklingPHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"I had a lift with old Queen Mary. I had been up to the north and I was coming back home and I knew I had to cross the road to get onto the Norwich Road.

"I crossed the field and crossed the road where I was going and I thought 'oh yes I'm on the Norwich Road now and I started walking.

"This car passed me by and you always hoped you might get a lift but you might not.

"You had your tin hat and your gas mask on your back and your kit bag with you, so it wasn't all honey. You had to drag it along.

Hickling School top class in 1952. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingHickling School top class in 1952. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"This car pulled up and came back and this man got out in his big hat and said 'the lady would like to know where you're going because I'm now going to take the lady sailing on Hickling Broad'.

"I said I'm going to Hickling and he went back and said something to her, then he came back and said 'the lady said she will give you a lift. What part of Hickling do you want to go?'

"I said I want to go to the middle of the village by the sign because that is near to where I lived.

"He came back and said yes, but told me I had to sit in the front with him.

Holly Cottage Shop, in Hickling. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingHolly Cottage Shop, in Hickling. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"He brought me and dropped me down there. When I got out she wound the window down and spoke to me and shook hands and said goodbye and that she was sure she was going to enjoy herself on Hickling Broad.

"After that whenever I came home I often used to see her and she would wave to me if she saw me because she used to stay a lot at Sandringham."

Among Doddo Sheppard's contributions to the project is his recollections of the Hickling Home Guard, including training with broomsticks and hammers.

"The Home Guard in Hickling was a good thing. I was one of the youngest at about 15.

Hill Farm in 1925. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingHill Farm in 1925. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

"We didn't do training. We had nothing to train with. It was broomsticks and hammers.

"It was interesting at the time.

"We used to go up there and spend all night up there in the old mill. When you got to the top of that you could look all around and see what was happening in Yarmouth and everywhere.

"You couldn't see much at night, but when they bombed Norwich or Yarmouth you could see all the fires starting. Norwich took a real pounding really."

Dyke dipping mill in Hickling. PHOTO: Voices of HicklingDyke dipping mill in Hickling. PHOTO: Voices of Hickling

Many of those involved in the project recall freezing winters, from snow seven feet deep to skating on the broads, as David Platten remembers.

He said: "We had winters where the Broad would freeze over. One year it was for four or five weeks. They cut the ice out so the Easter influx of holiday makers could go out on the Broad.

"We used to go out skating at night in the dark. We used the moonlight.

"It was a bit eery but we just had to watch out where we were skating but we had a good go. Nothing happens now at this point in time. Not like that.

"I used to like skating and hoped not to fall in.

"I love the Broads."

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