Ray takes a trip down memory lane in Broads villages

A busy day in Catfield more than a century ago. That chimney looks on the huh!

A busy day in Catfield more than a century ago. That chimney looks on the huh! - Credit: Archant

It is a little beauty of a book offering a window on a lost world which is supporting a 21st-century development... the Poppy Centre at Stalham. Derek James takes a look.

Proud of their shop. Ludham Stores in the 1930s. The van is a chain-driven Trojan.

Proud of their shop. Ludham Stores in the 1930s. The van is a chain-driven Trojan. - Credit: Archant

Retired printer Ray Woolston has already published books packed with stories and pictures illustrating life in and around Stalham and the railways but now he is heading off into the surrounding villages.

Thanks to great support from local postcard collectors and those who have also opened their photograph albums we can now turn the clock back and visit Sutton, Catfield, Hickling, Ludham and Potter Heigham.

The pictures and the stories from Ray about life in the villages where he grew up make for a winning combination and a joy for anyone interested in old Norfolk.

'I hope people enjoy the book. It give me a lot of pleasure doing it,' said Ray, who used to work at the Wymondham printing company of Geo. Reeve Ltd, after serving his apprenticeship with William Clowes.

Ray Woolston's latest nostalgic book.

Ray Woolston's latest nostalgic book. - Credit: Archant

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'As a young lad in the school holidays I would often cycle to Hickling and meet up with my cousin, Albert Beales and fishing in Hickling Staithe or sometimes we would go out in his rowing boat and fish on the Broad,' he said.

'I remember going to Hickling Rectory fete where the famous bird artist Roland Green was in attendance doing quick pencil sketches for a few pennies of any bird of your choice. Roland had a raised thatched studio on Sandy Loke overlooking the Broads,' recalled Ray.

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After leaving school Ray played football at Catfield and the Staithe was another favourite fishing place where her would meet up with his friend David 'Dilly' Gladden.

Let's take a look at the villages featured in the new book out this week and some of events and happenings.


Powell's was in Staithe Road and in February 1941 Arthur, his wife Ethel and their daughters Phyllis and Doreen were sitting at the dining table having lunch when a German plane peppered the building with machine gun fire.

'Doreen who was back to the window turned sideways to look out of the window when a bullet grazed her chest, ricocheted off the polished table and killed her mother. Her father was also hit and died a few weeks later from his injuries,' writes Ray.


Sutton Windmill was originally built in 1789 on the site of a former mill. It is the tallest windmill still standing in Norfolk.

The village had three pubs and in 1890 Robert Piggs was seen by eagle-eyed Constable Chapman to enter the Windmill public house at 6.50am followed by George Neave. Piggs claimed he had delivered some sticks and was rewarded with a free beer.

Neave said he had come to collect his horse and cart and admitted buying a gin. The constable was watching again when Robert Moyes entered the pub on another day at 6.40am and left with half a gallon of beer. He later said he had paid for it the previous day and was going fishing.

Others were also involved. At the magistrates' court some cases were dismissed, others were fined and the landlord called Southgate was fined £2 for keeping his house open during illegal hours.


During the war Harry Neave of Bleak House created a factory in the meadow opposite his house to produce huts for the army. This and the adjoining animal feed mill was the beginning of the industrial estate. His factory later became a mushroom farm and then assorted industrial units.

Mixers developed another shed-building business and other businesses came along including boat window makers Trend making it one of the biggest employment sites in the district.

Potter Heigham:

Its medieval bridge is the smallest on the Norfolk Broads.

'If you ask locals when is synonymous with Potter Heigham then the chances are they would say Herbert Woods or Latham's,' writes Ray.

The Herbert Wood boatyard began in 1929 and during the war he and his workers played a vital role building a wide variety of craft including motor torpedo boats and harbour defence launches.

The tower on the site became a look-out post complete with machine guns.

The Latham's story began in 1963 when Ken Latham opened the general store known as an 'Aladdin's Cave'. It continues to be a much-loved place for shoppers – locals and visitors.


'My late uncle Bill Nudd lived in a cottage at Stubb Mill and my father and grandfather lived with them for a while. Billy was a marshman and kept the dykes clear. As a young boy in the early 1960s I remember going up to the top of the mill, but by the time I was a teenager I wasn't allowed up because the mill was deemed unsafe. A barn owl and a kestrel used to nest up there,' says Ray.

Stubb Mill was decommissioned in 1947 and restoration was completed in 2010 under the auspices of the Broads Authority. Trainee millwrights did the work and did a great job.

Many of the postcards and photographs for the book have been provided by Keith Bacon, Robert Munsey, Ray Cater, David Stretton and Hazel Nudd.

So what's next for the boy Ray?

He is already working a second volume, visiting Smallburgh, Dilham, Honing, East Ruston, Happisburgh, Sea Palling and Ingham.

The Villages Around Stalham – Glimpses Back in Time, Volume 1 is printed and bound by Clover Greetings Cards of Acle and costs £7.95 with £1 from every copy sold going to the Poppy Centre.

It is on sale at Jarrold and City Books in Norwich also at Good News at Latham's, the Crown pub at Catfield, Throwers of Ludham, Forrests and Poppy Shop at Stalham or from raywoolston@hotmail.com

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