Save for some of the larger farms and houses, very few of the dwellings in Great Ellingham were named (or even numbered) until at least the 21st century.
Added to this, the various census schedules for each household in the village from 1841 to 1911, do not always follow the order as they appear along a road. Accordingly, it can be difficult to establish exactly who lived where.
In this blog, we look at a ‘cosy’ thatched cottage to the southern end of Long Street. With information from the 1921 census, electoral registers and family memories, we discover who lived in ‘Sparrows Nest’ during the 20th century.
‘Sparrows Nest’ was a two bedroomed thatched cottage at the southern end of Long Street. It was on the opposite side of the road to Cherry Tree Farm. The cottage – or at least its origins, date back from at least the turn of the 19th century.
The black dot on the above Inclosures map of 1802 shows the position of a cottage which may well be the very same cottage which, a century later, became known as ‘Sparrows Nest’.
The arrow on the above extract from an O.S. Map c.1945 also shows the position of ‘Sparrows Nest’. With the top of the map being north, the farm to the north of ‘Sparrows Nest’ is White House Farm. To the west, along the track (dotted line) – and nearly out of view, is Cherry Tree Farm. Primrose Farm is to the north-west – again, just out of view.
North facing Kitchen
The cottage was ‘end on’ to the road, and was approached by a path across the meadow fronting Long Street. The kitchen door and window faced the village (north). There was a range for cooking in the kitchen, and a well just outside the back door.
The 1921 census lists William Fox and his family living at ‘Sparrows Nest’, Great Ellingham.
The household comprise 60 year old William Fox, his wife Ellen Elizabeth (also 60) and their two unmarried daughters, Ida aged 27 and Violet aged 20. Boarding with the family is 50 year old James Sushams.
Rockland St Peter born William Fox is a fish hawker. Ida’s occupation is given as a ‘domestic – out of work’ and Violet is a ‘mother’s help’. It may be that Violet is working for a local family, or helping her own mother with household chores.
Caston born James Sushams is a single man. The census describes his occupation as a farmer, and he is working for himself at ‘Sparrows Nest’.
From Rockland St Peter
Until at least 1901, the Fox family lived in Rockland St Peter.
The 1911 census captures William and Ellen Fox with five of their children at the Mill House, Mill Lane, Great Ellingham. James Sushams is boarding with the family at this time. Indeed, Sushams lived with members of the Fox family for most of his adult life.
The Electoral Registers show that William and Ellen Fox lived at ‘Sparrows Nest’ throughout the 1920s. I believe that James Sushams continued to lodge with the couple. Kelly’s Directories of 1925, 1929 and 1933 lists James Sushams as a farmer in Great Ellingham.
Ellen Fox leaves ‘Sparrows Nest’
The Fox household was probably still at ‘Sparrows Nest’ when William Fox died at the age of 70 in June 1931. He is buried in the churchyard of St James.
By 1939, widow Ellen Fox and her boarder, James Sushams, moved from ‘Sparrows Nest’ to a dwelling at the northern end of Long Street. The 1939 Register captures retired farmer 69 year old James Sushams with 78 year old Ellen Fox in Long Street (but not at ‘Sparrows Nest’).
‘Sparrows Nest’ had new occupiers.
William & Mary Purdy
Kelly’s Directory of 1937 lists William Purdy as a smallholder in Great Ellingham. I have no doubt that William with his wife Mary were living at ‘Sparrows Nest’.
Mary Purdy née Lebbell
The daughter of Robert Barnard Lebbell and his wife Mary née Mann, Mary Elizabeth Lebbell was born in Great Ellingham on the 17th September, 1879.
In 1909, Mary married William Purdy. Following the marriage, the couple lived in Hampshire. However some thirty years later, William and Mary Purdy returned to Great Ellingham.
Return to Great Ellingham
The 1939 Register captures the couple living in Long Street, Great Ellingham. Again I am confident that they were living at ‘Sparrows Nest’.
Visitors to ‘Sparrows Nest’
With many members of Mary’s family still in Great Ellingham, it is no surprise that members of Mary’s family were regular visitors to ‘Sparrows Nest’.
Mary Purdy’s great niece recalls being taken by her grandmother, Lily Lebbell, to visit Lily’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law, William and Mary Purdy, at ‘Sparrows Nest’.
She recalls that William Purdy always seemed to be working in the garden in his vegetable patch. There were two or three beehives at the bottom of the garden. Great-Aunt Mary kept six chickens in a small enclosure at the back of the cottage. The garden was beautiful.
‘Sparrows Nest’ itself was not a big cottage, but it was cosy. It had two bedrooms. ‘Tea’ (which always included bread and honey), would be taken in the kitchen. Visits continued throughout the duration of WW2.
William Purdy was a member of the Home Guard during the Second World War. His wife Mary supported the community with ‘general duties’.
The Purdys leave ‘Sparrows Nest’
It was during the 1950s that William and Mary Purdy moved out of ‘Sparrows Nest’ to a cottage in Bow Street. I do not know whether ‘Sparrows Nest’ was ever occupied again.
It is believed that during the 1950s or 1960s that the cottage suffered a major fire to the thatched roof. At some point, the cottage was demolished.
1921 census RG15 RD 231 Great Ellingham Sch 117
1911 census RG14/11473/56
1901 census RG13/1868/76
1891 census RG12/1550/80
1939 Register England & Wales. The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG101/6590h
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 609.
1942 Great Ellingham Invasion Committee Records. Sue Fay
1925, 1928 & 1929 Electoral Registers. Parliamentary County of Norfolk, Southern Division. Great Ellingham.
Thanks to Sue Fay