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Sam WARNES, Martham 

During the war I was working for Hubert Pratt at Grange Farm, Martham, a good bloke to work for with good heavy horses and up to date gear for those days, I believe there was ten of us working there at the time , and just like all other farms there was always a good sized herd of cattle in the yards to feed, or turned out on the marshes. Today I don't believe there are any cattle on any of the farms in Martham, and Grange Farm employs one man.

     In about 1943 old Hubert Pratt, took over the hire of Fords Farm at Horsey, for his son John to run; Starlings had run the farm till then.

 The farm house had to be done up, and I spent some time over there , doing a bit of brickwork and such like to trim the place up, a Mr and Mrs Powles were living there then and Mr Powles worked for John Pratt feeding cattle and such.

   One day I was working on building a new fire back in the kitchen fire place, and Ted Gotts from Repps was working in the barn, there had been a problem with the water pump that was used to lift water from the well, which is built in the barn floor . Old Ted was a real tradesman, and would have no problem making bits up that were needed if he had to, the well was not too deep, and the water was crystal clear. which is a bit of luck considering the sea with salt water is not too far away. I doubt this is the case today , with so much chemical being put on the land instead of real manure; I bet the water is contaminated, and would need to be purified.

     During the morning I had a chat with Ted and then got on with my job , a bit later I came out to mix a drop of cement up, and old Ted was sitting on the barn floor, as white as a sheet, he looked terrible. I asked what was wrong, and he said "nothing to worry about, I was on the ladder down the well fixing the pipe back to the wall, and came over dizzy and felt sick so I climbed out", he said "do me a favour Sam, just nip down that ladder and screw that pipe back to the wall and the jobs done and I can go home"

   Just then, Harry Page from Somerton turned up with an old truck, with some Land Army Girls on board, to do some work on the farm. They soon sorted old Ted out, Mrs Powles brought some tea out , and he started to look a bit better.

   I climbed down the ladder into the well, and started fixing this pipe back...............
The next thing I knew, was laying on the barn floor soaking wet, with these Land Army Girls around me, my head was spinning round I was sick and had no idea where I was or what had happened.  After a while I came to my senses, and it soon sank in what had happened to Ted and me.

    For some reason or another some sort of gas had crept into the well and settled at the lower level; there was no smell that I can recall when I was down there, clearly I was breathing it in and passed out. Luckily for me, Harry Page and old Ted were there to pull me out. After a few hours my head cleared, and I started to come home on my bike, I still felt queer, and along the track I saw Jack King , Ernie Kings brother, he said he was then going to Martham with this horse and cart and he would give me a lift. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time, but first he had to round up a calf off a marsh there and get it onto the cart, this took ages, then he had to call in at Hall Farm to get a net to put over the cart to stop the calf jumping off, the horse plodded along to Martham - it seemed I could have walked quicker, but I got home safe and sound in the end.


      In 1958 I started working for old Mr Buxton at Horsey Hall, reed and sedge cutting, and dyke cleaning , I worked most of the time with Hunney (Ronald) Long from Somerton, Kenny Applegate , Arthur Tubby, were there as well but they mostly worked on the gardens and such, old Mot Dove looked after the windmill, and Dick Creese was the game keeper.   

     In those days the estate was well maintained , Ernie King had the Hall Farm, and employed several men.

 The reed and sedge cutting was seasonal work and we got paid per bunch, each bunch had to be mowed by hand with a sythe, gathered and tied up by hand with string, carried across the reed beds to the nearest dyke, loaded up onto a lighter, ( a flat bottomed boat), then quanted to the staithe near the mill, which was quite a way from the reed beds, unloaded and stacked up to be carted away when the thatchers needed it. It was hard-earned money sure enough, but I was fit then I suppose, and I have to say the work had an enjoyable side to it, the reed and sedge beds are a world away from anything else, a bit of land not many people get to see , and wildlife was everywhere in those days.

    One day I recall mowing sedge, and a Bittern flew up , and sure enough there was a nest with eggs - even that long ago these birds were becoming rare, and I left the area well alone. Later in the day I told John Buxton , he was thrilled and soon set about setting up a hide and made a film of the nest and the young birds hatching out. Years ago we used to hear these Bitterns booming out across the marshes, the sound would carry for miles seemed like it, but they disappeared for some reason, and I don't recall when I last heard one.

    From about 1954 or so, a real menace hit the reed and sedge beds all over Norfolk , also the dykes and river banks were in danger of breaking away in places. The problem was Coypu, a big rat looking creature, but I don't believe its from that same family. These were vegetarian and ate the roots and young shoots at a relentless pace, not only that but they would breed just about all the year round , the river authority set up a programme to eradicate these animals , which seemed a shame really, as they were nice to see sometimes when they swam along the dykes with their young ones , and they were never aggressive like rats but would hang about and sit there like a beaver you see on television sometimes. 

    At times complete areas of sedge would be eaten and there would be none to mow. This was as important a crop as the reed and was a great loss to the estate. Over the years the River authority got on top of the problem and the Coypu disappeared completely. I don't think there are any left now anywhere.

          I hope my experiences of working in Horsey are some interest to your web site and wish you all the best with your venture......Sam Warnes.



Horsey Photohistory

A Genealogical CD, in PDF format so can be read by any computer, containing almost 200 high quality photographs, all from private sources, depicting the life and times of this idyllic Norfolk Broadland village.

Never-before-seen photographs of the Horsey Flood of 1938, together with people and events in village life, covering the past 120 years.

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