A few years back two ladies of Mattishall, Jenny
Pennell and Liz Gilding took time to visit some of our senior member
living in the village and recorded their memories of village characters.
We don't have pictures of them but their stories may be of some
interest - keep in mind these are their personal memories.
PEOPLE OF MATTISHALL
William Cowper -
Another famous person linked to the village was the poet William
Cowper. He often came to visit his cousin, Mrs Bodham, who lived
in the Georgian house at South Green. It was Mrs Bodham who sent
Cowper the picture of his mother which then inspired one of his
most moving poems.
Arthur Savory - painter and decorator (dates
Used to live in Mill Road and was known as Jam Jar because he used
to have a jam jar tied to the front of his bike with a candle in
it to act as a headlamp and also had jars to keep his paint in.
He was also known as 'Putty'. He was a Sunday school teacher at
the Old Moor and although he was a Methodist he used to visit 'The
Ringers' every night and sit quietly in one of the two rooms down
a little passage. One room was for the roughs and the other for
John Mayer - chimney sweep early 1900's -
Used to live in one of the two cottages next to the Ringers Pub
and had a daughter called Elsie. He had a small hand cart in which
he used to carry his brushes. When he was around 60 he fell head
first down into a shallow well in the back yard and Billy Norton
was held by his feet over the well to try and save him by tying
a rope round his feet. Unfortunately it was too late and Mr. Mayer
came out stiff. There was an open verdict recorded. It was known
that Mr. Mayer did get drunk sometimes - The
only death of a John Mayer was in 1935:
1935: Death record – John Mayer at Mitford – Jun quarter
(4b 291) age 74 - He was buried on May 13th at Mattishall Cemetery.
Edward 'Seed' Pearce - harness maker (1920's
His business was situated in a wooden hut under a chestnut tree
in South Green. He was a tall, thin man who walked badly because
he was slightly crippled and used to wear a white coat. People brought
him cricket bats to be bound and they also bought linseed oil from
Jimmy Hewitt - slaughterer (1908 - 1937)
Worked in an old barn which was the slaughter house near the Primitive
Chapel where he killed and castrated the pigs and also slaughtered
old horses. He was very good with animals and used to act as a vet.
Bertie Bell - hairdresser (1920's)
Nicknamed Tiger and 'pudding basin' as he used to cut round a pudding
basin placed on the customer's head. He lived in Allotment Lane,
South Green and had a wooden leg. He worked from a little hut in
Frank Norton's yard and was probably settlement trained. The boys
used to have their hair cut for 2d. He used to ride a bike with
a strap on the pedal to keep his wooden leg in place.
Mr. Grimes - motor mechanic (dates?)
He was the husband of Nurse Grimes and lived in Welgate. He used
to drive an Austin 7 He continued with his business when he moved
to Mattishall, maintaining and servicing Brooke Bond Trojan vans
from Dobb’s yard and repairing 3-4 two stroke petrol engines
at a time, the engines being under the drivers seat.
Bill Rayner - wheelwright (1908 1937)
He lived in Honeysuckle Cottage near the claypit in Dereham Road.
He had one of the few cherry trees in Mattishall and used to sell
them to the children for a penny a bag. He sung in the church choir.
Fred Beckett - shoemaker 1900 - early 1940's
He was a very small man who was very fond of music. He lived in
a little extension in Dereham Road (now No.65) before the war. He
was Ernie Dobbs' wife's brother. He used to sit on the floor to
repair the villager's shoes in his shop which was an annex at the
corner of Mill Road where the chestnut tree next to Dobbs House.
He spent a lot of time in company with Jack Drew who he used to
call 'his secretary'. Next door, around the First World War era
there was a small grocers shop which was run by Fred's younger brother
Tom Beckett (known as Tip) who was also a very small man. He used
to sell slabs of toffee which he broke up with a little hammer to
the children for a penny.
Herbert 'Bedo' Blanch - Blacksmith 1920's
He had a hut where he carried out blacksmithing just past Moat Farm.
He was arthritic and lived in one of three cottages near the Old
George pub with his son Sonny who was found dead in mysterious circumstances
at the bottom of the stairs. Sonny's son Russell, shot his right
arm off while climbing through a hedge in his garden with a loaded
gun. He also had a son called Albert nicknamed 'Bloater' as well
as Vernon and Colin and daughters Sheila and Kathy. He had a forge
in Mattishall Burgh opposite the cemetery next to the bowling green.
The children used to throw stones on the galvanised roof whilst
he was shoeing horses underneath and the boys from Hockering used
to cheek him and he used to hit them with a stick. He was also a
poacher and used to boast a lot. When electricity came to Mattishall
and the current was switched on he said he picked up a bag full
of birds that had dropped off the power lines.
George Crown - blacksmith and farrier. 1890
He lived in the first old council house going out of the village.
He used to make the horseshoes himself and carry out other repairs
including laying harrows which is when the teeth have pieces welded
on after they have worn down. He worked for the Dobbs brothers.
He attended an apprenticeship course during the first World War
and had to make minature anvils. He successfully passed this and
was sent to Russia to shoe the horses during the war.
Edward 'Knacker' Edwards - saddler &
horse trainer-,-early 1900's
He was the father of Millie Edwards (schoolteacher) and Billy who
was a little simple. The family lived in South Green where he used
to train horses on a leading rein in the road which fascinated the
children but also frightened them. He used to repair reins and mend
saddles with pieces of cloth. When the Edwards left Humphrey George
who was a roadman moved in followed by the Arthurton family.
Herbert Tofts - Carpenter (?1922 - 1937)
His nickname was Kiffernick and was a bit rough and ready and his
wife used to have newspapers all over the floor. His father was
Nicholas Tofts a cattle dealer who kept the Duke of Edinburgh in
1890. Kiffernick mostly made ladders but was thought not to be a
very good carpenter. He also kept cows. There was a rhyme about
him:- Kiffernick he bought a cow The way to milk it he didn't know
how He pulled its tail instead of its tits All he got was covered
in !!!!! At the beginning of the war the local defence volunteers
had live amunition of which Kiffernick was one. He with Billy Norton
and Russell Smith were sitting chatting in Farrow's yard when there
was an almighty bang and a hole appeared in the wall between Billy
and Russell - Kiffernick had accidentally let off his rifle. --
Devoney Howard - builder and undertaker (1916
Used to live in what is now kn'own as Walnut House. He had a daughter
named May and son Gerald who had a car hire business He built several
houses in Mattishall and farm buildings and was responsible for
demolishing the Maltings and also four cottages where they built
the four council houses. He also built two houses where the fish
and chip shop is now and Farrow's office. His workshop in Back Lane
remained until 1956 where he worked doing odd jobs even after his
Hookie Skipper - As well as the numerous
trades within the village, Mattishall had many visitors selling
their wares including fishmongers, chimney sweeps and gypsies selling
pegs. One of the most memorable characters was a gentleman known
by the name of Hookie Skipper who used to come round selling winkles
on a Saturday night. He was known to sleep under his cart and cook
and eat hedgehogs.