On the left is a fine thatched house (formerly a copyhold messuage) with a pair of cottages built onto the eastern wall (to the right) on the corner of Church Street (the Street) Chequers Lane & Long Street. Postcard courtesy Carol Ewin
The Story of the Owners and Occupiers
In Parts I, II, III and IV of a series of blogs, I have been able to take the history of a fine thatched messuage (dwellinghouse, buildings and land) in Church Street from the early 1700s to 1907.
I have discovered that during the 19th century, a pair of cottages were built onto the eastern wall of the Messuage. For many years, these cottages remained in the same ownership as the messuage.
I have also discovered the names of the owners and occupiers of the messuage, as well as the adjoining cottages, and have been able to unearth some of their stories.
Until 1861, the messuage was copyhold of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken. It is consistently described in the Manor Court Books as “one rood of land copyhold with a Messuage thereupon built of the Tenement Greenhouse“.
Going Foward into the 20th Century
We left Part IV in 1907, when Sarah Ann West sold the property to Harry Smith. In this blog, we begin with Harry Smith’s purchase and take the history through to the 1960s.
Harry Edward Leonard Smith was a month away from his twentieth birthday when on the 11th October, 1907, he completed his purchase of a row of five cottages in Great Ellingham from Sarah Ann West.
The 1907 Conveyance Deed tells us that Harry paid the sum of £75 for the following:
"All that row of five Cottages with the gardens stables cartshed and other buildings thereto belonging situate opposite the Mill in Great Ellingham in the County of Norfolk and comprising the pieces of land Numbered 489 and 490 on the Tithe Map of the said Parish which cottages are now or late were in the occupation of Collins Warren and Kerrison .."
Who was Harry Smith and did he live in any of the cottages?
St Mary’s Church, Attleborough. Postcard courtesy BCV
Harry was born in Attleborough on the 18th (or 8th) November, 1887. Just a month later, he was baptised in the Parish Church of St Mary’s on the 18th December.
The census of 1901 captures 12 year old Harry with his parents, Harry and Mary Jane Smith, and eight year old sister, Edith, at their home in High Street, Attleborough. Harry Smith senior is a builder.
Ten years later, the 1911 census finds 23 year old builder’s clerk Harry E L Smith still living with his parents and sister in a six-roomed property in High Street, Attleborough. Accordingly, Harry Smith’s properties in Great Ellingham were still being let to tenants.
Properties Continued to be Let
I do not believe that Harry Smith ever occupied any of his cottages in Great Ellingham.
Both the 1912 and 1914 Register of Electors list Harry Edward Leonard Smith as the owner of property in the Street, Great Ellingham. However, Harry’s place of residence is Attleborough. Further, the Register of Electors for 1914 specifically state Harry Smith’s freehold cottages in the Street were occupied by ‘Warren & Others’.
Sale to Mabel Evans
Harry Edward Leonard Smith’s ownership of the properties came to an end when on the 13th April, 1937, he sold the properties to Mabel Ellen Elizabeth Evans.
Resident in Ipswich
Harry Smith moved away from the area. The 1939 Register finds Harry E L Smith with his wife Edith L and (presumably) son John at Freehold Road, Ipswich. Harry is working for himself as a grocer.
Occupiers During Harry Smith’s Ownership – 1907 to 1937
The 1907 Conveyance Deed to Harry Smith refers to the five cottages being occupied by Collins, Warren and Kerrison. I have talked about these families and their occupations of the cottages in Part IV.
Thirty years later when Harry Smith sold the properties, the 1937 Conveyance Deed to Mabel Evans mentions the properties as being occupied by Mrs Dixon, Mr Bilverstone and Mr F J Oakley. However, pencil annotations on the Conveyance Deed indicate that earlier occupiers were Mr Hudson, Mr Bilverstone and Mrs Dixon.
Although not mentioned in the 1937 Conveyance Deed, saddler and harness maker, Henry Warren, continued to live in one of the cottages for some years during the period of Harry Smith’s ownership. I presume that he continued to occupy the cottage at the western end of the row, which includes his shop.
Postcard showing Henry Warren’s saddler and harness shop on the corner of Chequers Lane and Church Street (then known as ‘the Street’). The shop adjoined the western end of the ‘Messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse’ and abutted Chequers Lane. Much later, the shop building was demolished. Postcard courtesy Christine Bell
This is confirmed by the Voting Registers for 1920 and 1925 which lists Henry Warren as still living in the Street. However, widower Henry Warren died in 1928. Accordingly, the end cottage with the shop would have been re-let.
John Carlton Bilverstone
The Voting Registers for 1920 and 1925 also lists John Carlton Bilverstone as occupying a dwelling in the Street.
From Great Cressingham
John Carlton Bilverstone was born in Great Cressingham in 1861. He married Brandon born Emma Maria Wigger in 1883, and the couple initially settled in Great Cressingham.
John and Emma Bilverstone moved to Great Ellingham before the birth of their daughter Florence (born Annie May) in 1897.
The 1901 census captures 39 year old John C Bilverstone with his 37 year old wife Emma and their seven children at ‘Whylands’ in Great Ellingham. John Bilverstone is working as a horseman on a farm, his 16 year old son, Charles, is employed as an agricultural labourer and his 14 year old daughter Louisa is a general domestic servant.
The census of 1911 finds John Bilverstone with his wife and four children living in a four-roomed property in the Street, Great Ellingham. Their neighbours are Edward Collings and his family and, further along the row, is Henry Warren. Accordingly, it follows that John Bilverstone was also a tenant of Harry E L Smith.
Loss of son in WWI
The Voting Register of 1920 lists John Bilverstone’s daughter in law, Emma Agnes Bilverstone, the widow of his son, Charles Frederick Bilverstone, also living in the Street. It is possible that Emma Agnes was living with John and Emma Bilverstone. However, she may have been living in a nearby dwelling.
Charles Frederick Bilverstone was a Sergeant with the Machine Gun Corps. Tragically, he was killed in action in the First World War. Charles Bilverstone is commemorated at the Loos Memorial, France. His name is also inscribed on the Great War 1914-1918 memorial tablet set into the wall next to the west door of St James’s Church.
The Great Ellingham Invasion Committee Records of 1942 lists Mr and Mrs Bilverstone (aged 81 and 76 respectively) with 38 year old Mr W Bilverstone living in the Street. Mr W Bilverstone – likely their son Alan Walter Bilverstone, is listed as being ‘fire service’.
The Poll Registers of 1920 and 1925 also reveal Bloomfield (Blomfield) and Edith Hudson occupying a dwellinghouse in the Street, Great Ellingham.
Marriage in Brisley
Gateley born Blomfield Hudson was aged 24 when he married 19 year old Edith Gould in Brisley, Norfolk on the 26th May, 1909.
Two years later, the 1911 census finds Blomfield and Edith Hudson with their one year old daughter, Irene Bessie, in Stanfield near Dereham. Blomfield is working as a cowman on a farm.
Move to Great Ellingham
By 1920, Blomfield and Edith Hudson with their growing family were in the Street, Great Ellingham. Five known children of Blomfield and Edith were baptised in St James’s Church, Great Ellingham, including Dora, who was born in May, 1919, before the Hudsons moved to Great Ellingham.
Loss of Daughter during WWII
Sadly, Dora Hudson, died on the 21st August, 1943 at the age of 24. Although Dora was a serving member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, she died as a result of illness and not in relation to her work.
At the time of Dora’s death, the Hudson family had also moved from the Street to one of the newly built council houses in Hingham Road.
Mabel E E Evans
On the 13th April, 1937, Mabel Ellen Elizabeth Evans, a spinster of Glebe View, Attleborough, purchased ‘ALL THAT row of cottages with the gardens stables cart shed and other buildings thereto belonging…‘ from Harry Edward Leonard Smith, a builder, of Attleborough for the price of £150.
It appears from pencil annotations on the Conveyance Deed, that the properties are now occupied by Mrs Dixon, Mr Bilverstone and Mr F J Oakley.
Accordingly, once again, it seems that the owner of the properties did not occupy any of the cottages.
Who was Mabel Evans?
The 1939 Register undertaken two years after Mabel Evans purchased the property, reveals 22 year old Mabel E E Evans living with 57 year old widow Amy J Evans in Watton Road, Great Ellingham. 61 year old carpenter Leonard R Hardiman completes the household. Mabel is working as an usherette in a cinema.
I am certain that 22 year old Mabel Evans is the owner of the row of cottages in the Street as a later notation on the 1939 Register, confirms that Mabel Evans became Mabel Atkins. Indeed, when Mabel later sold some of the cottages in 1946, she did so as Mabel Ellen Elizabeth Atkins.
Born in Great Ellingham
Mabel was born in Great Ellingham on the 15th July, 1917 to farmer Frederick John Evans and his wife Amy Jane. Just a few months later, Mabel was baptised in St James’s Church on the 16th September.
The 1915 Register of Electors lists Frederick John Evans as occupying a dwellinghouse in Watton Road, Great Ellingham. Accordingly, it is likely that Mabel was born at home in Watton Road.
Grandfather George Purdy
Mabel’s maternal grandfather was George Purdy who, for several years, was the landlord of the Prince of Wales Public House in Watton Road.
How did Mabel Evans fund her Purchase?
The death of a Frederick J Evans aged 59 was registered in the Thetford District between July and September 1933. Given that Mabel’s mother, Amy Evans, is a widow by 1939, I believe it is likely that this registration relates to Mabel’s father. Further, Mabel’s grandfather George Purdy died in 1930.
Accordingly, I wonder whether Mabel Evans received an inheritance from her grandfather and/or her father which subsequently funded her purchase of the cottages in 1937. I think it is questionable as to how a cinema usherette could otherwise afford to purchase property.
At the age of 24, Mabel married 31 year old William Raymond Atkins. The marriage took place at St James’s Church, Great Ellingham on the 7th September, 1941. Both William and Mabel were of Great Ellingham, and working as civil servants.
Mabel and William Atkins began married life living in Bow Street. The Great Ellingham Invasion Committee Records of 1942 reveal a household comprising Mrs Evans, Mrs Atkins and Mr Hardyment [sic] with two children in Bow Street. Mrs Atkins (Mabel) is listed as ‘casualty service’ and Mr Hardyment ‘homeguard’. Given that William and Mabel had only married the previous year, I wonder whether the two children were evacuees.
1946 Sale of the Adjacent Cottage to the East of the Messuage
On the 25th June, 1946, Mabel Atkins sold the following property to Frederick James Oakley:
'ALL THAT cottage with the garden buildings thereto belonging situate opposite the Mill in Great Ellingham in the County of Norfolk and comprising part Number 301 on the Ordnance Survey Map for the said parish which said property is now occupied and was formerly in the occupation of Mrs Dixon...'
The Conveyance Deed also confirmed that Mabel Atkins retained the two adjoining cottages (to the west). The ‘retained cottages’ once comprised the copyhold property referred to in the Manor Court Books as ‘Messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse‘.
In addition to the purchase price of £245, Frederick Oakley paid (and would continue to pay) a proportionate part of the annual rentcharge which was imposed by the Lord of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken on the enfranchisement in 1861.
I assume that Frederick Oakley was for a short time Mabel Atkins’ tenant, as he is referred to as occupier Mr F J Oakley in a pencil annotation on the 1937 Conveyance.
When Mabel Atkins sold the cottage (formerly a double cottage) to Frederick Oakley, she was living in Long Street.
Mabel Atkins sells her remaining Cottages
Just a year later, Mabel Atkins sold her remaining semi-detached cottage which, nearly two hundred years earlier, is referred to in the Manor Court Books of Buckenham Close Outsoken as the ‘Messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse‘.
On the 24th July, 1947, Mabel (then living at No.2 Prospect Avenue, Attleborough), completed the sale of the semi-detached cottages to publican Harry Robert Hawkins of the White Lodge Public House, Attleborough.
For the price of £500, Harry Hawkins purchased:
'ALL THOSE two cottages with the gardens stables cart shed and other buildings situate opposite the Mill Great Ellingham..... being the residue now vested in the Vendor.... all which said property was formerly in the occupation of Mr Hudson and Mr Bilverstone and now as to the one unoccupied and the other still in the occupation of Mr Bilverstone and is bounded by The Chequers Public House towards the North by the road leading to Hingham towards the West by Church Street towards the South and by property formerly belonging to the Vendor and now sold to Frederick James Oakley towards the East..'
The Conveyance Deed also refers to the right for the owners and occupiers of the semi-detached cottages (the subject of the sale) to take water from the well situate on Mr Oakley’s property (to the east). The Deed also mentions a right of way along the rear of the two thatched cottages. These rights were all abandoned in 1957 and, therefore, became historic.
Accordingly, it seems once again that the owner of the ‘Messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse‘ never actually lived in the property.
Occupiers during Mabel Atkins’ Ownership
During the ten years that Mabel Atkins (née Evans) owned the cottages in the Street, one of her cottages was occupied by John C Bilverstone and his family. According to the Great Ellingham Invasion Committee Records, the Bilverstone family were still there in 1942.
Blomfield and Edith Hudson were also tenants of Mabel Atkins. However, the Hudsons moved to Hingham Road not long after the 1939 Register was undertaken.
The same Invasion Committee Records show the Bilverstone family’s neighbours on one side to be 42 year old Mrs T Dixon with one child, and, on the other side, Mrs Dixon and Mr A Dixon.
The records also show that Mrs T Dixon signed up for ‘casualty service’ within the village. However, it is also noted that Mrs Dixon ‘refused to do anything whilst her husband is away’.
Thomas & Beatrice Dixon
I believe that ‘Mrs T Dixon’ is the 39 year old Beatrice L Dixon listed on the 1939 Register as living in Town Green with Thomas W Dixon (aged 36) and 6 year old Robert J Howe. I wonder whether Robert was also an evacuee.
Born in Great Ellingham in 1903, Thomas Dixon was the son of Attleborough born John Dixon and his wife Elizabeth née Barnard.
The 1911 census finds 7 year old Thomas Dixon with his parents John and Elizabeth Dixon and 9 year old brother John living in a six-roomed property at Town Green. Thomas’s paternal great uncle, 84 year old widower James Dixon, completes the household. John Dixon is a farmer and an employer.
Beatrice Dixon was born as Beatrice Lily Newby in Thompson in 1900. She was one of several children born to farmer Harry Newby and his wife Sophia, formerly Sophia Thurston née Ryder. Sophia already had children by her former husband John Thurston when she married Harry Newby.
The marriage between Thomas William Dixon and Beatrice Lily Newby was registered in the Wayland District between October and December 1929.
Mrs Dixon & Mr A Dixon
The ‘Mrs Dixon’ and ‘Mr A Dixon’ who were also neighbours of the Bilverstone family are widow Ann Maria Dixon and her son, Arthur.
James & Ann Maria Dixon
Born as Ann Maria Wright on the 10th April, 1861, to Jonathan Wright and his wife Elizabeth née Lincoln, Ann Maria married Attleborough born James T Dixon in 1880. By coincidence, in 1881 Ann Maria’s sister, Angelina was a domestic servant to a former owner of the property, Attleborough Doctor Carteret George Ellis!
For many years, James and Ann Maria Dixon lived in Swamp Lane. The 1911 census captures the couple (both aged 50) in Swamp Lane with three or their six surviving children, including 12 year old Arthur. James Dixon died in June 1916, and is buried in the churchyard of St James.
The 1939 Register finds 78 year old widow Ann M Dixon with her 41 year old son, Arthur, in the Street. Arthur is working as a factory hand at the local cyder works (Gaymers) in Attleborough.
Ann Maria Dixon died at the age of 84 in October 1945. She too is buried in the churchyard of St James.
Prior to purchasing his cottage from his landlord, Frederick James Oakley was a tenant of Mabel Atkins.
The 1946 Conveyance Deed to Frederick Oakley indicates that ‘Mrs Dixon’ (Ann Maria Dixon) formerly occupied this particular cottage.
Accordingly, we can surmise that Thomas and Beatrice Dixon occupied the western side (abutting Chequers Lane), the Bilverstone family the next along with Ann Maria Dixon occupying the cottage (formerly a double cottage) on the eastern side, which Frederick Oakley subsequently occupied and then purchased in 1946.
Given that Ann Maria Dixon died in 1945, perhaps her son Arthur moved out of the cottage following his mother’s death, and Frederick Oakley moved in?
Six years earlier, the 1939 Register finds 69 year old farmer Frederick J Oakley with his 62 year old wife Elizabeth living at Cades Hill, Attleborough.
Frederick and Elizabeth Oakley married in the Parish Church at Bridgham on the 26th October, 1895. Shropham born Elizabeth Oakley was formerly Elizabeth Copeman. Frederick was born in Tibenham.
Resident in West Harling
The 1911 census captures estate woodman Frederick Oakley with Elizabeth and their six children at The Green, West Harling.
Move to Great Ellingham
Given that the names of Frederick and Elizabeth Oakley are not listed in the 1942 Invasion Committee Records, the couple must have moved to Great Ellingham after 1942.
Death of Frederick Oakley
Frederick Oakley died at the age of 80, just four years after he had purchased his cottage from Mabel Atkins. He is buried in the churchyard of St James.
Death of widow Elizabeth Oakley
Elizabeth Oakley died at the end of April, 1956, at the age of 79.
Considering that the entry in the Burial Register for St James gives Elizabeth Oakley’s address as Mill Cottage (which I believe to be the cottage next to the Mill), it seems likely that Elizabeth Oakley moved out of the cottage (which her husband purchased from Mabel Atkins) following her husband’s death.
Owner Harry Hawkins
When Harry Hawkins purchased the two (remaining) cottages from Mabel Atkins in 1947, only one of the two cottages was occupied. The Bilverstones were still there.
Born in the village of Quidenham in 1890, the 1939 Register captures Harry with his wife Agnes and young son Paul at The White Lodge Public House in Attleborough. Harry’s occupation is a farmer, publican and police constable. Agnes is listed as a housewife, although the register states that she is also a trained nurse.
Harry Hawkins owned the double cottage for some 11 years before he died on the 7th June, 1958. At the time of his death, his address was given as Church Street, Great Ellingham. Accordingly, it seems that Harry Hawkins also lived in the property – or at least, in one of the two cottages.
Owner Agnes Hawkins
Following her husband’s death, the ownership of the two cottages passed to Agnes Hawkins. Agnes also continued to occupy the cottages. However, I am uncertain as to whether or not Agnes let one of the cottages. Agnes died just months after her husband on the 20th November, 1958.
Period of Further Change
Following Agnes Hawkins’ death, the Hawkins family retained ownership of the property until 1964. It was during the 1960s that further significant changes were made to the cottages.
Chequers Lane/Long Street junction with Church Street. Courtesy of Susan Fay
In 1963, land to the rear of the double cottage (and which abuts Chequers Lane to the west and the Chequers Public House to the north), was sold off. Subsequently, a bungalow (now a chalet bungalow) was built on the land. The bungalow is just in view on the left hand side of the above postcard.
The following year in September 1964, the adjoining cottage to the east was sold off. Further, the other thatched semi-detached cottage (which abuts Chequers Lane) also changed hands.
At some point during the 20th century, the building which was once attached to the far western side of the semi-detached cottage and which abutted Chequers Lane (and which once housed Henry Warren’s harness and saddler shop), was demolished.
1753-1847 Manor of Buckenham Castle, Lathes, Close and Priory. Court Book. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: MC 1833/8 -MC 1833/16. 1595-1847 also available at https://www.familysearch.org/
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD609. Also available at www.familysearch.org
Brisley Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 664. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
Attleborough Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 438. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1901 census RG13/1867/38, RG13/1867/79, RG13/1867/82
Bridgham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 395. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1911 census RG14/11471/8, RG14/11473/124, RG14/11537/36, RG14/11473/149, RG14/11473/104, RG14/11487/6, RG14/11744/67
1912, 1914, 1915 Norfolk, England, Register of Electors, 1832-1915. Ancestry.com. Norfolk, England, Register of Electors, 1832-1915 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Harry E L Smith. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6606A. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Mabel E E Evans. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590H. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Beatrice L Dixon. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590H. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Ann M Dixon. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590H. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Frederick J Oakley. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590D. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1939 England & Wales Register. Harry R Hawkins. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590C. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations), 1858-1995. Harry Robert Hawkins. 1958. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
1920 Spring Register. Southern Parliamentary Division of the County of Norfolk. Parish of Great Ellingham
1925 Spring Register. Southern Parliamentary Division of the County of Norfolk. Parish of Great Ellingham
Marriage Bilverstone, John Carlton & Wigger, Emma Maria. Dec Qtr 1883. GRO Index. FreeBMD website. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=5Qp3SetACuLbHYJUFjWvqw&scan=1
Marriage Dixon, Thomas William & Newby, Beatrice Lily. Dec Qtr 1929. GRO Index. FreeBMD website. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=C1H1agbUKSX2H1joUdhntQ&scan=1
Marriage Dixon, James & Wright, Ann Maria. Dec Qtr 1880. GRO Index. FreeBMD website. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=u1EuuD0qWPSSWChh59p7Bw&scan=1
Sg. Charles Frederick Bilverstone. ‘Find a Grave Index for Burials at Sea and Other Select Burials Location’. Ancestry.com. Global, Find a Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
Gt Ellingham Invasion Committee Records. Lebbell, W R. 1942. Sue Fay.
Original data: Find a Grave. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.
Death. Evans, Frederick J. Sept Qtr 1933. GRO Index. FreeBMD website. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=1CrQ2NwIaxzbr5qW2jkwiw&scan=1
Marriage Certificate (Photocopy). 1941, September 7th. Atkins, William Raymond & Evans, Mabel Ellen Elizabeth. Private Deeds Collection. Gail H Dorrington
Private Deeds Collection. Gail H Dorrington.
Huge thanks to Gail H Dorrington