Russell Falgate's Memories of Hapton

In May of 2019 Russell kindly committed his early memories to paper.

Born in the cottage, entrance to Cow Lane in 1929 having 3 sisters; Jean, Pamela, Joan and brother John. We then moved to 7 Council House on Norwich Road in 1934 and I started school in 1933. In those days the average number of pupils was in the 90’s and the Head Mistress Sally Everett was inclined to be on the sadistic side. Infant room teacher Miss Woodrow and middle-class teacher Miss Potter used to cycle from Bunwell each day. Flordon and some Forncett children attended Hapton school.

In the early days, pre war, lorries that came through the village were steam wagons and we would always walk in the cloud of smoke they left, also there would be a convoy of gypsy caravans with loose horsed between the caravans and lurcher dogs tied behind and open carts full of children.

The village hall always known as the institute, and Wilfred Cushion organised a boy’s club 1945 -1947 also classes would be held with Olly Bloom playing the piano. The black pit which is now a layby was only about 2 feet lower than the road but was always dry and we would spend quite an amount of time playing here hence the Black Pit Regiment as shown on the photographs and improvised weapons, also remember a lone German raider flying over and machine gunning us when we were playing in the meadow opposite. Surrounded by American airfields, crashes were not uncommon, and if possible, we would be the first ones on the scene.

Sally Everet was over the pensionable age and carried on teaching into her seventies. The average number of pupils was in the nineties, but in my time, we were taught the 3 R’s and I cannot remember anyone leaving our school illiterate.

During the Second World War Happy Land, Shirley’s father was in the army and involved in the attack of Narvik, Norway. Geoffrey Cook was in the Artillery, serving as a gunner on a merchant ship. His brother Morris, joined the Navy in 1935 and served 12 years and brother Derek joined the Territorials in 1937, The 4th Battalion Norfolk Regiment and was prisoner of the Japanese in Thailand; but was drowned when being shipped to Japan in the South China Sea in September 1944. Also, Harry was in the Sheerwood Forresters Regiment and killed on the Anzio Beach assault. Jack Scullfer served in the navy twenty years and James Rees related to Catchpoles and lived with them, was drowned when HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark. Noel Watson was in the Queens Regiment and served in Egypt with the 8th Army. Geoffrey Lemon was in the Army and his brother, Jimmy a Bevan Boy.

The White Horse Public House, known as Hapton Hole, landlord, William Woods was a Sergeant Major in the First World War, and then in the Home Guard, having a family of two sons and three daughters. The eldest, Dennis was a runner in the Home Guard, carrying a message for Major Formby at Long Stratton by bicycle as he left, cycling out of the yard onto the main road, was involved in a crash and killed. He was granted a Military Funeral and his memorial is in Hapton graveyard.

In no. 1 Council House Flordon Road was Mr & Mrs Clare Roberts. No. 2 Ernest Harvey family, No. 3 Harry Hurry family. No. 4 The Lemon family. No. 5 the Watson family. No. 6 The Anscombe family. No. 7 the Falgate family and No. 8 the Moss family. Then further down on the corner was thatched cottage burnt down when the four Thunderbolt fighters crashed in mid air and the one nearest the cottage had set fire to the thatch. This house belonged to Hapton Hall. Also, the house just inside Cow Lane, semidetached, the two Wilson families lived. At the bottom of Cow Lane, the semi-detached house where I was born, and Sheldrake lived next door. Then we moved to No. 7 Council House in 1934.

My father was born in Forncett St Mary and was in the Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry in WW1 and had two brothers also served and in Forncett St Mary’s churchyard my Grandfather George, Great Grand Father Thomas and Great Great Grandfather are all buried there.

Before the war in 1939 we had deprived children from the East End of London spending a holiday in the village, which was organized by someone involved with the old chapel which is now a house, then during the War, evacuees. During the 1942 and 1947 winters, heavy snow fell and the thaw caused heavy flooding. Water flooded the road nearly upto the Electric Substation. Bayes Lane to Forncett was impassable. Mr & Mrs Ramm lived in the cottage down the common, had to travel to Bayes Farm then onto the railway then off at the Hapton Road bridge to get to the shop. R J Read of Hapton Hll was a Colonel in the Home Guard where the HQ was and during the early part of the War the Home Guard had a post where two or three men spent the night on duty at the HQ. Also, weekend camps for training where held. At the beginning of WW2 Army search lights were built in the area by the Royal Fusiliers, one at Hapton Hall and the Training Station was at Tasbugh Hall.

Sept 1942 I joined the Army Cadets at 13 years old which was the earliest age limit and used to train with the Home Guard on weekend camps at Hapton Hall

Other memories of Missionaries pitching their tent on Dunthorne's meadow, behind the cowshed, then holding services for us children and I still remember the hymns that we were taught there.

Before WW2 Hapton had a football team and I still remember most of the team, then in the early fifties we had our team, the secretary was the Landlady of Tharston Queens Head were all meetings took place.

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