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Hethersett in 1999

Introduction - written December 31st, 1998

To call Hethersett a village could be construed as something of a misnomer.

In years gone by it might well have been classed as a town. Today, however, despite an increasing population it continues to have a "village feel" despite being home to about 5,000 people.

It is nevertheless a rather sprawling village situated about seven miles south of the city of Norwich and three miles north of the thriving market town of Wymondham (pronounced Windham).

The heart of the village features numerous activities and outside of the centre it spreads out in all directions to cover a considerable area.

Friday January 1st, 1999

New Year's Day always seems to bring a laid back feel to the village with few cars about, but numerous people out for morning and afternoon strolls.

Today dawned bright and relatively warm. The village was bathed in sunshine and birdsong could be heard.

A walk round the village shows just how large an area it covers and to gain the most from a walk it is important to pick a particular area and stick to the route.

Starting from home we walked along St David's Road before cutting through to Priory Road via Firs Road. St. David's Road is essentially a middle class residential road stretching for about one-third of a mile from New Road to Firs Road. It is a cul-de-sac at the top end with just a pedestrian cut through.

Most gardens are well cared for. It is impossible to walk along the road without hearing the chorus made by the crows from the trees behind the properties nearest to the main road. The birds nest in massive trees and are capable of making a very loud noise indeed.

By using the cut through from Firs Road to Priory Road one misses Woodside First School which is situated on the left. This route also bypasses Woodcote Housing Complex for the elderly.

Priory Road consists of mainly medium sized houses and winds down to the old Norwich Road. Close to the end is a wooded section which runs adjacent to the garden of the King's Head Public House.

On New Year's Day, 1999, the path alongside this stretch of road is partially overgrown and certainly work is needed to tidy up this area.

The Old Norwich Road is now extremely quiet. Looking across the fields the former A11 is just a few yards away. This road has also been by-passed, thus helping the peace and solitude of the village.

There is no better way of spending a warm summer's evening than in the garden of the King's Head. But, this being winter, we must be on our way. Suffice it to say that the King's is a quintessential English Pub.

As we walk the King's Head is on our left and shortly after we come to Norfolk Fire Headquarters (Whitegates). Crossing Cann's Lane we come to Harvey's Garage where petrol prices always seem to be higher than in the surrounding areas (the main reason I have never filled my car up there). The garage also repairs vehicles.

On the right is Hethersett Antiques and the March Hair salon. Both are small modern brick buildings. On the left at the junction with Queen's Road is the Queen's Head Public House. A number of years ago Hethersett boasted three public houses, but the former Greyhound in Henstead Road is now a private house. Over the past few years the Queen's Head seems to have lost some of its popularity.

Turning left into Queen's Road, the village middle school is on the right. Over 250 children aged from eight to 12 attend this historic school.

A few yards further on is the village business centre and then the village social club. A small road leads down on the right to the High School complex which also includes the scout and guide headquarters. At the beginning of this road is the village library which opens on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but which had its opening hours cut at the end of last year.

Queen's Road continues towards the heart of the village (although on today's tour we will ignore this area) where it turns into Great Melton Road.

Today we turn right into Henstead Road. At the junction of Great Melton and Henstead Roads is Grinders coffee shop. Rather strangely Hethersett is the national headquarters for Grinders. This becomes more understandable by the fact that the proprietor is a local man.

Opposite Grinders is the former Post Office which is at present a charity shop, but which is up for sale. The shop occupied by Grinders itself has had a number of identities over the years. I can remember it as a newsagents and also a cross stitch shop.

Henstead Road leads to open countryside going towards Little Melton. As you walk along, the small Baptist Church is on the right and the former Greyhound Public House on the left just before the Church Rooms which are also known as the Old Village Hall and which many years ago were one of two schools in the village.

These rooms are still available for hire despite the building of the new village hall in Back Lane which is off to the right further along Henstead Road.

On today's tour we walk halfway down Back Lane towards the modern Steepletower Development, but double back before reaching it. At this point the new village hall is on our left. It was built as part of the agreement with the developers of Steepletower.

A short way further along on the opposite side of the road is the Jubilee Youth Club (a rather dull standard rectangular brick building). The playing fields of the high school are at the back of the youth club.

Doubling back we now have the village hall on our right. This time we cross Henstead Road and go down Grove Road. This again ends in a cul-de-sac with a pedestrian cut through to a rough pathway leading to what is known as the Parish Pit. On this particular day, the mud makes walking difficult and it is quite tiring.

Winding through to Lynch Green we pass some of the most historic and exclusive properties in the village. These include Cedar Grange. Eventually we are into Lynch Green and at the junction with Great Melton Road.

This time we turn left and pass the doctors' surgery on our left. On the right is the village butchers and chemists and the dental surgery. A few yards further on is the Methodist Church. and opposite this is another walkway leading towards the village's Memorial Playing Fields.

One of the features of the village is its accessibility for pedestrians who can take advantage of many of the short cuts not available to vehicles.

We walk through this cut, being careful not to slip on the wet compacted leaves. On our left is the Memorial Field which, on this bright New Year's Day, is empty!

And so we return via Firs Road and St. David's Road. A wander such as this prompts many thoughts and memories.

On returning home we find the latest copy of the Good News Parish magazine has been delivered. It covers Hethersett, Little Melton and Great Melton and costs just 20p each month.

Businesses advertising in the January 1999 edition give an insight into the kind of activities that are going on in the village as we come to the end of the 20th century.

They include the following: Hethersett Dental Laboratories (established 1972), R.A Foreman and Son Builders, G. J. Fulcher Hethersett Tailoring Service, ABB Cabs Taxi Service, Hethersett Hall Residential Home, Sophie Emms Florists, R.E Burrell Builders Contractors, Aubrey Hammond Cabinet Maker, Hethersett Cattery and Picture Framing Service (a strange combination), Ronald Wales Chiropodist, Jean's Executive Cars, The March Hair, Hethersett Social Club, Yvonne's School of Dance, Hethersett Old Hall School, Hethersett Business Base, Hethersett Village Hall, Barry Foster Decorator, Chris Lewer Electrical Contractor and Harvey's Autos.

Topics featured in the magazine include reports from the Rector, the Rev Di Lammas; the Guild, Good Companions, Senior Citizens, Mothers Union, Church Mission Society, Village Millennium Group, Hethersett Society, Tuesday Club, Village Hall, Happy Circle, Jigsaw Library, Horticultural Society, Hethersett Sports Group, Parish Council, Jubilee Youth Club, Workers' Education Association, Women's Institute, Roman Catholics and Methodists.

Coming diary events include Hethersett's annual pantomime which will be held in the new Village Hall from Saturday 16th to Saturday 23rd January, a slide show of Old Hethersett on Saturday 6th March and Hethersett Church's Summer Fete on Saturday July 3rd.

News topics that promise to continue through the next few months include: The formation of a sports group committee to discuss facilities in the village and the continuing shortage of helpers at the Jubilee Youth Club.

In her address, the rector bemoans the fact that the news of Jesus Christ and God are more often used as swear words or exclamations of surprise. The lack of children attending church is another worrying factor along with the real meaning of the millennium.

No other person (Jesus) has had such influence on the human race...And yet if we did a survey in these villages I guess that the majority of the population would not link the Millennium celebrations in any way to Jesus Christ.

Sunday January 3rd

Wet and windy.

Hethersett is bathed in a drabness with rolling thunder clouds overhead and incessant early morning rain.

The village boasts a thriving youth football set-up which plays on Sundays. The club runs an adults team but primarily youth sides at under-11, under-12, under-13, under-15 and under-17. In addition there is a girls under-13 team. So far this has been one of the most successful seasons in the club's history with the Under-11s, Under-12s, Under-15s and Under-17s all in with a chance of winning their sections of the Norfolk Youth Combination.

Today it was the turn of the Under-15s to play on the Memorial Playing Field. Owing to the number of teams run, the club also uses pitches at the Middle School, the High School and Little Melton.

The Memorial Playing Field is tucked away in the centre of the village and is still a focus for sport in the village with bowls, football, cricket and cycle speedway all featured during the year. Sadly the field no longer seems to play host to impromptu kick abouts between fathers and sons. Obviously this kind of activity has been lost with computers now more of an attraction.

The rain made the pitch more akin to a bog. A late decision was made to go ahead with the game after a considerable amount of emergency drainage work had been undertaken.

The Under-15s won 3-2 against Norwich team Waterloo. It was their seventh win in 12 games and the team consisted of: James Sillett, Iain Hill, Daniel Ganley, Ben Harris, Chris Colwell (captain), Nick Appleton, Steven Beck, Matt Steward, Ryan Breeze, Andrew Milne and Robert Mitchell. Substitutes were Chris Brownbridge, Matt Musson and Chris Smedmor.

The whole question of sport in the village is something of a hot potato at present. A meeting in December was held to try and bring all sports clubs together to ensure the best facilities. Many people, myself included, believe that the best use is not made of existing facilities and that there is too much acrimony between a number of the groups in the village.

Tuesday January 5th

The New Year has brought some very unseasonal weather. It is more like Spring than winter with temperatures in the mid 50s Fahrenheit.

The problem is that illness is rife and many people in the village have been suffering from flu and colds seem to hang on.

Picked up my photographs of the village taken on New Year's Day and they are unique in as much as there are no motor vehicles to be seen. It is only on New Year's Day that this is possible - the rest of the year the village seems to be full of cars. Indeed there have been many complaints over the years about parents driving children to schools and making the traffic problems worse.

Few people seem to walk and that must be a tremendous contrast to the village of a few decades ago.

The village has set up an official archive group to record the millennium and I have been invited to join this. The plan is to produce a record of the village in the year 2000.

Wednesday January 6th

The warm weather continues. Work prevents most people from moving about the village during the week and I'm no exception. Away from the village it is difficult to vicualise life going on.

The evening brought a visit to the village social club for a football club meeting. The club is quite an extensive building just across from the library. On this particular evening myslef and my eldest son Chris joined the club for a modest fee of 5.

Activities available include pool, snooker, table tennis and darts. On this particular evening there was a ladies darts match in progress. We left the social club to find it raining heavily.

Thursday January 7th

To get rid of the flu epidemic e need some cold weather. It is promised for the weekend. Today brought just more rain. It also brought my first visit of the year to the Middle School where I am chairman of governors.

The school is an amalgam of an original school house, now used largely as a store room, and a more modern building.

I have been a governor for about seven years and chairman for two. I was originally elected as a parent governor and continue in that capacity despite no longer having any children at the school.

Today I love the feel and atmosphere of the place. Over the past few years governors have been given increased powers. We are expected to run the finances, hire and fire stafff and bring about improvements. Staff are under more and more pressure from government initiatives and ever-changing demands and increased paperwork.

I see the function of the governing body as supporting the Head and staff, whilst leaving the day to day running to the professionals. It is slightly worrying to realise that lay people such as myself with no educational experience can have such a say in running a school.

Today's visit was for a meeting of the publicity and public relations committee. The function of this is to promote the school both internally and externally. The meeting goes smoothly. The school is now running well under the leadership of Head Tim Strugnell.

Friday January 8th

This evening brought the inaugural meeting of the Millennium Archive Committee which I have been asked to join. The committee will be providing a record of the village in the year 2000 and the preparatory work will be done throughout the year.

An interesting historical point touching on the village came to light today in the form of an Internet site set up to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Kett's Rebellion.

Land Owner Robert Kett joined the common people in their fight against the fencing in of common land. He led a march to Mousehold Heath in Norwich and fought against government armies. Kett, and his brother William, were eventually arrested and Robert Kett was hanged from Norwich Castle.

Now 450 years later Kett is a local hero and his home town of Wymondham will be holding major celebrations in the summer. Kett's Oak, the tree from which the march allegedly set off from is in the parish of Hethersett and on the former A11. I understand that today it is filled with concrete and is held up by fencing. It would normally have been pulled down years ago but is now of historic value.

One of Kett's sworn enemies was landowner John Flowerdew who lived in Hethersett. It is interesting to note that one of the newer roads in the village is named Flowerdew Close. I'm not sure whether that comes from a wish to record history or from support on behalf of the planners to commemorate a rather unpopular man.

Saturday January 9th

Today was a sad one for the village and the youth football team in particular. In the early hours of the morning one of the Under-17 players was killed. He was walking home to Mulbarton (a village about five miles from Hethersett). The boy (Lee Thompson) had played football in the village for about 6 years.

That mad for a tragic day. It was summed up by a drive home from lunch at the King's Head where the gathering storm clouds summed up the dreadful news.

The weather was indeed a mixture of sun and winter showers although the overriding feeling was one of despair and darkness.

Sunday January 10th

A frosty start was followed by bright sunshine. The village looked attractive. Visited the spot where Lee Thompson was killed and it was an unspeakably sad visit that illustrates how fragile life is and how much we should value where we live and the people we share our lives with.

More bouts of unseasonal weather were recorded as the month progressed. A few mornings of frost were countered by periods of mild weather. Late afternoons tended to be dark and dank with the surrounding countryside stark in its flatness.

In the depths of winter the village still has a rather sleepy feel about it. The elderly stay indoors as much as possible although any trip back to the village during the day illustrates what a thriving and busy community there is.

Wednesday January 20th

A sad day for many youngsters and others in the village as we travelled to Mulbarton for Lee Thompson's funeral service

It was an upbeat celebration of his life but that couldn't detract from the huge sadness of the occasion as he was buried in the churchyard.

At the turn of the Millennium Lee would have been just 18.

The youth football set-up at Hethersett was well represented and again it was decided to hold a minute's silence before Sunday's game.

Thursday January 21st

Over the past 30 years Hethersett has had a village pantomime which not only provides an excellent two and a half hours entertainment but also raises money for local charities.

The panto is held over a period of a week and plays to packed houses at the new Village Hall. I can remember cramming into the old Church Hall in Henstead Road where the tiny stage and cramped conditions made it a real village experience.

At first the pantomime group were reluctant to leave this home but eventually moved to the grander surroundings in 1996.

Some people have been involved in the pantomime since its start and most, if not all, have been written by Duncan Pigg.

Pantomime is a curiously British entertainment. There are just a few storylines with recurrent themes and dance, song, drama, farce and comedy all mixed in.

Since 1970 about 24,480 has been donated from pantomime profits to various organisations. In 1998 2,200 was divided between the Village Hall, Church Hall, Parish Church Organ Fund, Middle School Swimming Pool, STEPS Project (Autistic Society), Jubilee Youth Club, Methodist Church, Woodside First School Library, Talking Newspaper for the Blind and Accident Rescue Service.

Since its formation the Panto group has performed Sleeping Beauty, Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Cinderella four times; Beauty and the Beast, Babes in the Wood and Mother Goose twice; and Red Riding Hood, Sinbad the Sailor, Robin Hood and Snow White once each.

The 1999 pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk and took place from Saturday 16th January to Saturday 23rd January.

The starring roles were taken by Deb Wilson (Jack), Lloyd Parfitt (Simple Simon), Barry Foster (Widow Lovejoy), John Freeman (King Harry), June Harrison (Queen Bess), Amy Foster (Princess Rose), Gary Thornton (Giant Rumbletum). The scenery was excellent and very colourful.

Advertisers in the pantomime programme included: Barry Foster decorator, Attractions Unisex Hair Salon, Chris Lewer electrical contractor, King's Head Public House, Sylvia Parfitt Chiropodist, Edwards Pharmacy, Kirsty Lansdell private piano tuition, North Heigham Sawmills Ltd, Sophie Emms Florist, Roger Smith Insurance Consultants.

Friday January 22nd

A drive home from the University of East Anglia leads across country lanes and past Norwich City Football Club's training complex at Colney and onto the old A11. Today the skies were black, but there were indications of the days lengthening again.

Our football club has cancelled its Easter trip to Holland though lack of interest.

The weekly newspaper - the Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury (for which I was once sports editor) ran a story this week on the village pantomime, along with news that Hethersett Old Hall School has secured a 30,000 award from the Wolfson Foundation towards computers and educational software.

Saturday January 23rd

Saturday always brings car parking problems to the village. Scarcely anybody seems to walk into the centre and the problem is a lack of car parking space for all the vehicles. The result is that many drivers leave their vehicles illegally parked on double yellow lines.

Today the sun threatened to come out but never really made it and in the evening the rain came down.

One hundred years ago the village must have been much quieter and more peaceful than today. Certainly there were no computers. Through the wonders of modern science we now receive electronic mail (e-mail) This evening I received correspondence from a gentleman whose friend has just moved into property in Back Lane. He is interested in village history and in particular village ghosts. It is an interesting subject and worth some research.

Sunday January 24th

Sundays in the village are alive with youngsters playing football. Today was bright and dry until the evening when wind and rain took over.

Hethersett Athletic Under-17s dedicated their afternoon match to the memory of Lee Thompson. They beat North Lynn 1-0 in a very hard match. There were celebrations and even relief all round at the end.

Monday January 25th

On New Year's Day I took a photograph of Hethersett Middle School. It was rather unrealistic. The gates were shut and there were no children.

In reality the school is a thriving centre for village life. It has a swimming pool used regularly by a variety of groups and the hall and even classrooms can all be hired.

The school has a number of archive diaries which go back into the last century. One of these refers to the girls section. I was amazed at the trivia included. They seemed pre-occupied with darning and sewing and very little else. I don't think today's pupils would get away with that.

With over 250 pupils the school is now of moderate size for a middle school. The day to day running is down to an excellent staff led by Head Tim Strugnell. Behind the scenes the finance and running of the school is down to the board of governors.

The school consists of four year groups ranging from years four to seven. It can take a maximum of 272 pupils. Some years are at present full, others have vacancies.

Parental choice means that parents can now pick which school to send their children to. Sadly this can mean that at times people move into the village and are not able to send their children to the local school where classes may already be full. This to my mind is not acceptable, but neither is the thought of class sizes growing to unreasonable levels without any control.

The middle school is at present planning a programme of building replacement and improvements designed to take it into the 21st century.

It is only rarely that I have a Monday in the village. Today was such a rare occasion. The village has a slightly strange feeling about it on a weekday. It turned out to be very busy indeed today, but those moving about were either elderly picking their pensions up or mothers with young children. On a weekend walk round the village I would pass numerous people I know. Today was different - they were all strangers.

The day also brought lunch at the King's Head. They are having a new carpet laid at the moment. I can remember going to this pub for a drink way back in the early 1970s well before I knew anything about the village or ever had ideas of living there.

The King's Head is a very welcoming place, particularly in the winter when an open log fire keeps everyone warm. Beer prices continue to rise, however, with a pint now costing around 2.

I received notification today of an archive open day on 23rd February at Hethersett Library where many original and copied documents will be on display. I wonder if anything we are doing in the village at the moment will be on display in 100 years time.

Also today I visited the bottle and magazine banks in the centre of the village. Re-cycling material is a fairly new idea, but the small green receptacles are well used.

Tuesday January 26th

The Methodist Church has a number of groups attached to it. Over the years myself and Anne have been members of a number, although at present I only have a small interest.

Many years ago I was founder member of the Men's Club which meets once a month for discussions, sports evenings, meals and other matters.

Tonight we had a talk on the history of coffee at Grinders. It may be a strange concept to grasp that the national Headquarters of Grinders in this country is in a village such as Hethersett. The reason is simple. The owner of the franchise - Andrew Richardson- was born about two miles away in Great Melton. After spending many years in the USA in the coffee business, he has returned to the UK to set up businesses. Rather than set up an HQ in a large city he decided to return to his roots.

Grinders in Hethersett is mainly the administrative centre but the front showroom doubles up as a coffee bar selling gourmet coffees.

Coffee was first discovered by an Ethiopian goat-herder. Today over 400 billion cups are drunk every year. Grinders takes its coffee beens from around the world. The talk attracted 11 members of the men's club - about twice the usual number.

The February edition of Good News magazine tells us that a Norfolk film archive and chips evening is being held at Hethersett Old Hall School on 5th March. The magazine also poses the questions - In 100 years time what will the residents of Hethersett know about us and the village we live in? The answer is probably a lot more than we know about the residents of 100 years ago.

The beginning of May will bring parish council elections tot he village. I can't say that the present council is very progressive! The magazine is full of dates for the village, illustrating just how many groups exist.

Wednesday January 27th

A governors meeting at the Middle School began discussing far reaching plans to re-furbish and improve accommodation. This could involve re-siting the design and technology block, improving the swimming pool, changing classroom space and re-siting the main offices at the front rather than the side of the building.

The fly in the ointment could be a government ruling that could necessitate the re-constitution of the governing body with more parent-governor representatives.

By and large the remainder of the month alternated between mild and damp weather.

Diary continued