Memories of Coddenham Suffolk c.1900
I cannot remember the exact year that my family came to live at Coddenham "Willow Farm", but it was pre-1905. My youngest brother (Edward Arthur Everrett Baldwin b.Oct 17,1907) was born there, and the midwife, namely "Old Mother Keeble" who lived in one of the church cottages, told my mother that he was the first baby born there for 100 years, and there has not been one since to my knowledge.
Mother Keeble always wore a frilly quilted bonnet, she taught me to say the alphabet backwards. In the summer a German Band came to play on the "Three Cocked Hat" one Sunday attracting a crowd. A collecting box was handed round, and another time an Italian Organ Grinder complete with monkey came, and every year the French String Onion Men called selling their produce.
I attended Coddenham School. Mr. Hall was the master and lived in the school house next door. One afternoon a week some of us had a gardening lesson on the allotment land. My plot was #5 mostly flowers for girls. We also did pruning and grafting. We had spinning tops to help us on our way to school Some boys had iron hoops with a grid. We had sports in the playground, mostly high jumps.
On Empire Day we sang patriotic songs and dance around a huge maypole with coloured ribbons. We visited Barham school so that Lady de Saumarez could watch. At Christmas time we learned plays and gave concerts. A highlight one year was when Queen Mary was on a visit to Shrubland Park, and some of us were chosen to act a guard of honour at Lodge Hill Gates waving our Union Jacks.
Barham Workhouse was run by the Cheeseman family (Master and Matron). My eldest sister used to visit there at Christmas with a choir party to give the inmates a concert.
The Harfitt family came to the bakers shop in the main street. Mrs. Hannah Bloomfield had a general shop and pork butchers near Love Lane. Mrs. Butcher kept the toy shop opposite. Mr. Turner was at the Dukes Head, Mr. Moore the butchers shop lower down later Mr. Fenn. Miss Lee had the Post Office the same side of the road, Mr. West was at the Crown inn and Mr. Lewis at the Grocers shop. There was also another butchers shop in School Road, a little bell tinkled when you opened the wicket gate kept by a Mr. Carter. There were two carriers Mr. James Barrell and Mr. Bickers. Mrs. Bickers kept a little sweet shop opposite the school. Mr. Aaron Smith was a harness maker and his wife ran the hardware shop at the house. There were two undertakers, Mr. Fisk and Mr. Lummis. The latter was father to Canon Lummis who was then a regular soldier. Mrs. Butcher's (toyshop) daughter married a Mr. Crisp and went to live at Primrose Farm, Hemingstone.
Dr. Addison lived at the "Shrubbery" - Rev Wyles was Vicar of St. Mary's. Mr. Osborne was Church warden and Mr. English was a sidesman. Postmen were Mr. Spruce and Mr. Scarff among others. If they couldn't cycle they walked and were gone almost all day.
In due course we moved to Jordan Farm as it was then called we had 3 local men working for us, Mr. Herbert Offord, Mr. Josh Offord and Mr. Ernest Waspe. The latter being with us at both farms. We had a milk round in the village. We sold farm butter at 8d 1/2lb, rabbits at 4d each, milk was 3d a pint and skimmed at 1/2d a pint and special milk from a separate cow for babies and eggs were 15-18 for 1 shilling.
One day some members of the well known Longe family called to ask us if they could look over the house as it was their old home. They told us of the underground passage that led to the church which a rich merchant used in days gone by. The misses Susan and Harriet Wiseman lived opposite. They were wonderful church workers who played the organ which had to be pumped by someone. At festival times I used to help these ladies decorate the church with flowers from their garden There was a wooden lattice like screen from the pulpit to the reading desk. We tied dozens of Bovril bottles covered with moss to the screen which we then filled with flowers. This was a lengthy process but looked beautiful when finished. Alas the screen has gone and also the "Shrublands" pew. We had Sunday school treats on the vicarage lawn. In the summer my father arranged donkey and nanny goat rides complete with a little cart for small children not forgetting the giant bonfire on November 5th on the Plantation Meadow.
In 1914 the first world war came. The police asked my father if he would take an advance party of 8 men and their Officer in the house and 50 men in the barn, with horses and mules plus wagons. The men slept on straw and the officer who was in charge in the house was Major Richard Lloyd-George one of the sons of the Prime Minister. When the company marched into the village 4 abreast, we went outside to watch. My mother was amused when one man called out "There are 4 girls living there!".
We had to feed the men in the house and as so many other people were having to do the same thing, the butchers shop could not cope with the demand. So, my sister and I walked both ways to Needham market twice a week for supplies. The army cooks built up brick fires in the farmyard and the men used a receptacle called the "Billy Can". They were supplied with a large quantity of jam which they got tired of and the cook asked us if we could exchange for something else. We did so and I still have that jar.
They marched to Crowfield everyday to dig trenches. They were so young training to become a soldier and some couldn't put their ? (puttees) on properly and they washed at the pump. Those in the house were lucky in the evenings as my eldest sister would give them a musical hour, especially the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as they loved to sing. We also had a Cheshire regiment and Essex. They all stayed about 3 weeks each and then left for further training and France.
The war went on and women did war work. Shrubland Hall was a hospital for the wounded recuperating. They wore a blue uniform trimmed with white and miss Gladys Saumarez would bring them into the village for shopping or the post office in a horse and trap. There was also a number of conscientious objectors living at the tower they had to chop wood and perform various tasks. Their families sent them food parcels which they collected at the post office They were not very popular. There was a large land army of girls led by a Miss Woolworth from America.
The Post Office was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Richer. Mr. Richer had been in the Lifeguards so he was called up to help train young men in London. They came to ask my parents if I would learn the work and live in which I did. I was still only a teenager and had to use the telegraph machine almost like a clock face. The sad thing about it was I often had to take messages off from the War Office stating that certain men locally were missing believed killed etc. This was a grim task concerning young men I knew,
In time my father retired from farming and we left the village.
Copyright: Hilda M. Smith (Mrs.) nee Baldwin