The Brown family
My name was Brown before I was married. I am the fifth generation of Highs I go to visit the village whenever I can, and I wish that I could live there.
Four of my ancestors and countless uncles, aunts and cousins, and many more, lie in Salthouse Churchyard. In my childhood, I used to go across the graveyard and past the church to fetch water from George Dew’s, and I remember when they were mending the church windows. As a little girl, I used to pick up bits of coloured glass because they were so pretty. As I remember it, there was a lovely window right at the front at the altar, and there was a lovely coloured window each side.
I tried to find out about this when I first came back to Salthouse and saw all plain glass windows everywhere. The Rector was on a trip to the Holy Land at that time; I wrote to various people but I never was able to find out what happened to them. They were taken out during the war I think.
I was born in this house at the top of Grout's Lane, the very centre of the picture above. It was called Church Cottage. We couldn’t live in one of the rooms because the boards were bad. I remember that gate into the church yard; I knocked my teeth out on that blessed gate, I did! They used to set fire to the heath about every four years. They never did let it get overgrown, and the furrough bushes as we used to call them (you call them gorse now) their stumps were left. We couldn’t afford much coal and we needed the extra fuel. They sent us out with a barrow and we had to go up and get the stumps out and bring them back to be burnt on the fire. So I was pushing this barrow, and I fell and knocked my teeth out on that gate.
Alice Graveling’s name before she married was Alice Dix, and when we come home from school we used to hang on the back of her bread-cart, and if she didn’t like it, she would hit us with her horse-whip.
Herbert Pigott the Baker, he used to sing duets in Chapel with his niece Alice; but Amelia his wife, she fancied herself as the best singer in the village! We used to enjoy going to chapel: in would come Amelia all dressed up in Sunday clothes. She’d swagger up the aisle, and she’d wear great big hats, and you’d hear Amelia’s voice above everybody else’s. Patty Cubitt, her sister, lived up above Mrs Radley on the right [now ‘Lorcot’].
Every year, we used to have Anniversaries, and we all did a little bit—a piece of poetry or something. My mother Evangeline used to sing and once my young brother Ken had to say a piece; it was called ‘Scotland Bill’, and when he recited it, the last line came out wrong. It should have been: 'and through the crack,
the light came in . . .'
but poor Ken said:
'and through the light,
the crack came in . . . '
Everybody laughed and wiped their eyes—and he was so upset he’s never been up on the stage since!
When I was quite young me and my brother Russell, who was three years older than me, were sent to the beach to collect driftwood. On the way up the Mill Drift we were amusing ourselves by throwing stones at posts the other side of the crick as we walked along, and I got rather behind. My brother heard me call his name but when he looked back I was nowhere in sight. He ran back, and he just saw the corner part of my dress disappearing under the soft mud.
At that time, being the summer, the cricks as we called them were just soft slimy mud. Sometimes it would be just hard enough to walk on, but most times it was deep and soft. I threw a stone, overbalanced, and fell face down in the mud. Lucky for me I called Russell’s name as I fell; he was some way ahead and that call saved my life. He ran back and by the time he got to where I fell there was just a bit of my blue dress visible. He got me out and tried to clean the mud from my eyes and mouth, and he said I shook myself like a dog! Gertie Dawson* ran out, but she wouldn’t have been able to save me, she said—she’d never have got there in time. I would have been about seven and Russell ten. When we got back we were such a sight the neighbours were called to look at us—I can still remember it vividly. Mother put me in a hip bath in the back yard and they just poured water all over me. I was frozen because we didn’t have hot water or anything!
MY FATHERMy father was half Irish and he was quite a character. He was never really accepted in the village. ‘That foreigner’, they called him, but they still looked up to him. He had a certain amount of education, and people used to bring any legal letters or documents to him to read and explain them. He was never too busy to help, and I remember him leaving his tea if someone called and needed him, but he was only a painter and decorator. It wasn’t like today though, he mixed all his own paints and everything. Another thing he did, he put a ceiling up in the public bar at the Feathers in Holt, and it’s still there.
Every weekend he used to go up to the Dun Cow. He was a good worker—but Saturday night was his night, and for years and years I thought he was carrying on with someone called Sally Walker. I’d ask my mother, ‘Where’s Father?’ and ‘Oh’, she’d say, ‘he’s gone with old Sally Walker again.’ He was the first female impersonator! He used to sing and dance at the Dun Cow, and ‘Sally Walker’ was his song—he had to dress up as a woman to sing it—he was Sally Walker.
My father was a tradesman and so he earned more money than other people in the village really, but wages were very poor in those days, and people working on a farm were better off with free milk and your house free, or it was a low rent. But my father had to pay for everything, he got no concessions, and in the end we were no better off than any one else. We were poor. I went out to work Saturday mornings when I was twelve, cleaning silver for George Dew.
My father was Church and my mother was Chapel, and so we went to Sunday school at the chapel in the mornings, and in the afternoons we went to Sunday school in the church. Afterwards, all we were allowed to do was go for walks. We were lucky enough to have a gramophone; it belonged to my elder sister and she was out of work at that time, but although my father wasn’t a bit religious, he wouldn’t let us play records on a Sunday unless they were hymns.
My father’s career came to an end when a ladder he was using, when he was painting and decorating at the Grand Hotel in Sheringham, broke in half and he fell. He was off work for weeks. He never drank any more because he couldn’t, it used to give him a bad head. That was really the end of his career.
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