Social History...

Recollections of Wicklewood past and present

Thirty-six years with the Rural District Council by Ms. Edith Cook.

Edith Cook

It was in 1925 that I was first elected on the Rural District Council Guardian for the Forehoe District of Norfolk. The first recollection I had was of going into the Board Room at Wicklewood and seeing a lot of men staring at me. There were only three or four ladies on the Council and they were all elected to serve on the House Committee and the Children's' Boarding-Out Committee. The House Committee met at 10.15am on a Monday morning and we had to deal with matters about the running of the Workhouse, as it was then called. There were all kinds of people there, some sick, some homeless and always some tramps.

Stocks of groceries and clothing were taken every quarter and, as I lived in the parish, I was generally asked to be the Guardian to sign the book after seeing all the goods. At 11 o'clock the Guardians met, reported and discussed and the Relieving Officer brought the cases to be examined. This generally lasted until lunch when we adjourned for a short time for refreshments; these consisted of bread and cheese or dripping and a cup of coffee for which we paid twopence for drinks and two pence for food (slightly less than 1 pence decimal, respectively)

The District Council meetings arranged road working for the unemployed who were given so many days in the gravel pits, depending of the size of their families.

The Boarding and Children's' Committee met every three months or more often if necessary. There were between thirty and forty children in the Guardian's care in my early days there. I used to visit them in the district and make a report every quarter when allowances were arranged. When a child started work, £5.00 was allowed for outfitting girls going into service and, if boys were apprenticed, they took an allowance too. There was an 'Allotments and Child Welfare' committee which met once a month and allowed a pint of milk to expectant mothers and babies.

There were only three or four ladies; I think more women ought to take up this work. The late Miss Crawshay was a very keen member and visited the boarded out children. When she died, I took her cases and at one time I had eleven children to visit and report on every quarter but now there are none. We used to have thirty or forty. I have been Chairman of that committee for several years but now there is no need to hold meetings. I have been on the House Committee ever since I was first elected and think I have done the same, taking meetings, ever since.

At one time we had a bachelor chairman of that committee and it used to be rather difficult when we had to see samples of the women and children’s' underclothes.

In 1927 a party was given to the inmates to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Wicklewood House of Industry, as it was originally called before the Poor Law act took over.

In the early 1930's Wymondham became an Urban District and Henstead combined with Forehoe. After that, meetings were held in Norwich at Tombland and Council meetings at the Shirehall. In course of time, Tombland offices were not big enough and No. 10, The Close was taken over.
The Children's Welfare Committee, (No. 5 area) of Norfolk County Council was held at the Shirehall for some years and there were paid officials to do the work that some of us had done voluntarily for years.
For many years we paid all our own expenses for travelling, but after the war, travelling expenses and loss of time for workers were granted to members if they wished.
We also held our meetings at the Assembly Room, Tudor House, Rose Lane and the N.F.U. in Ber Street when the Shirehall was not available. In course of time 58 Ber Street, Norwich was bought and all offices and meetings held there.
During my membership, in about 1933/34, the High Oak Water Works were started to supply water to Wymondham and Hingham. I attended the opening at High Oak and the sewage works at Chapel Bell and also of the Water Tower at Hingham.
Water was also supplied to Costessey from Norwich in the early days at Wicklewood.
Now every village has piped water and there are only a few isolated places without it. There were hardly any Council houses anywhere, but about 1800 have been built during the years I have been a member.