Memories of Edith Cook

My experiences as a Rural District Councillor for 36 years.

It was in 1925 that I was elected on the Forehoe and District Council and Guardian. My first recollection is going into the Board Room and signing a paper and seeing a lot of big men staring at me. There were only three or four ladies on the Council and we were all elected to serve on the House Committee and the Children's Boarding Out Committee. The House Committee met at 10.15am Monday mornings once a fortnight and we had to deal with all the management of the Workhouse, as it was then called, staff and nursing problems, kitchen and laundry, etc and take stock once a quarter of the linen and clothing and food stocks. There were all kinds of people in the house, some sick, some homeless children, some mentally deficient and always some tramps who had a separate ward from the main buildings. As I lived in the parish I was nearly always asked to do the stocktaking as it meant going another day and I and my fellow member used to go and he would do the groceries etc while I went with Matron to do the linen. At 11o'clock the Guardians met and reports were read of committee meetings and the Relieving Officer brought the cases needing help and the rate of relief was fixed. At that time there was a lot of unemployment and able bodied men were given so many days work on the roads or in the gravel pits. At lunch we adjourned for half an hour for refreshments, bread and cheese and coffee and sometimes dripping. We paid 2d for coffee and 2d for food as we could not have meals at the rate payers expense, and all our work was voluntary. There was a Sanitary Committee which met at the same time as the House Committee and the reports were read at the full committee. The Children's Boarding Out Committee met once a quarter for reports from the visitors and sometimes monthly if there were children to be boarded out, or leaving school and finding them a job or apprentice them. When I was first appointed there were between 30 and 40 children on our books, and I was one of the visitors who had to give a quarterly report. At one time I had 11 children to visit in my district. I was chairman of that committee for several years and I always found the foster parents pleased to see me. One little boy often used to call on his way to school and ask if I had found him a new brother. At last I was able to satisfy him. Another asked me to find a sister for her little girl and I soon found a little girl and she was taken into the family and had a happy home until she married and had a home of her own. The Committee was taken over by the County Council and I continued on the County Committee until 1956 when I resigned as unable to get to the meetings. When the Guardians Committee placed a girl leaving school 5 was allowed for her outfit and I helped the foster mother to choose it. Boys were generally apprenticed to some trade and tools were provided. This was all voluntary work, now the County Council has trained Welfare Workers to visit and help them. There was a Maternity and Child Welfare Committee held in Wymondham once a month when milk was allowed to expectant and necessitous mothers and babies. This was before any baby clinics were started.

In 1927 a party and entertainment was given to the inmates to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Wicklewood "House of Industry" as it was originally called before the Poor Law was passed. There was also the Isolation Hospital Committee of which I was also a member. There was one ward for diphtheria cases and one for scarlet fever. I remember both wards being built before I was on the Committee. The meetings were generally held at the Workhouse, as on account of the infectious cases we did not often go there, but I used to go when wanted for stocktaking etc. When the Isolation Hospital was built at Dereham ours was closed and all cases sent to Dereham. It was reopened when London evacuees were sent here in 1939, as most of the children were suffering from scabies or other skin troubles and had to be isolated.

In 1935 Wymondham became an Urban District and Henstead was united with Forehoe. Then committee meetings were held at 6 Tombland and Council meetings at the Shirehall. House Committees were held alternatively at Wicklewood and Swainsthorpe. The Children's Welfare Committee area no 5 was held at the Shirehall for several years when reports were read by the trained visitors who had replaced the voluntary visitors, and meetings were held quarterly. Then we met at the Children's Home at Long Stratton until it was closed and I resigned in 1956 as unable to get to the meetings. For many years we all paid our own expenses but in 1948 a law was passed enabling members to claim travelling expenses and loss of time from work if they wished to claim it. The Council Offices were moved from no.6 Tombland to no 12 The Close and all committee meetings were held there, and Food Control and Rations during the war and following years too. When the Shirehall was not available Council meetings were held at the Assembly Rooms, Tudor House in Rose Lane and N.F.U. In Ber Street, whichever was most convenient.

In 1953 Ber House was bought and alterations made and now all offices and meetings are held there.

During the years I was a member, the Water Works at High Oak were started, to supply Wymondham with water in 1933 and later on Hingham in 1936 and all the surrounding villages in later years until 1961 when Deopham and Hackford are supplied. I attended the opening of High Oak Water Works and the Sewage at Chapel Bell, also the opening of the Hingham Scheme, I was on that Committee as Wicklewood is supplied from the Hingham pipes as they pass through the village. Water was also supplied to Costessey from Norwich in 1926 and later. Now every village has been supplied with water from some source, Norwich, High Oak, Wayland, Dereham or a bore. There were very few council houses when I joined the Forehoe R.D.C. But when I resigned in 1961 there were about 1800 and still a waiting list of about 400 applications.

Written and signed by E.A.Cook. (Edith Cook)

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