The Barnardo’s Boys at Honingham Hall
By Bryan (“Joe”) Webb
I became a proud owner of my first computer in my seventies. I was searching
through the World Wide Web for information about Honingham Hall. (I have
lived in Honingham Village all my life), and came across a reference to
“Honingham Hall Dr Barnardo’s Home”. As I viewed further on I saw the
stories and names/photos of the boys who I had spent most of my childhood days with, especially at school. I felt I just had to write down my memories of the times I spent with them between 1941-1951.
I would like to dedicate all these memories to all the boys who passed through the Dr Barnardo’s Home at Honingham Hall during that time, joining in with activities and most of all schooling at the Honingham & East Tuddenham School. Although I have set out all my memories, they are there specially for the boys who may go on the internet and find a local school friend has written this story about them. Throughout my memoirs I shall always refer to them as “The Boys”, as that is what we were all called in those days. My father was a gardener at the Hall, looking after the flower beds, lawns and the usual estate walled garden. It was full of fruit and vegetables, making the Hall self sufficient. Sadly, all this is now gone, including the Hall. The only building remaining is the old coach house and stable block which in the early days was used for horse drawn stage coaches which would arrive at the Hall via the Norwich Drive from as far away as London. The coach house was used for general maintenance to the carriages, and a resting place for the
horses before their return journey.
The best time to make friends with the boys was at school. Although I only had about a mile to walk to school, the boys had to travel at least two miles or more in all weathers. The younger ones were lucky enough to be taken by a bus driven and owned by Charlie Hart from nearby Easton. On school days he would journey westwards along the A47, up the Norwich Drive to the Hall.
After picking up the younger boys he’d take them out on the Honingham Village Drive to the school at the top of the Warren, on the junction with the East Tuddenham road, with a return journey in the afternoon. The bus was very old, (from the side view it had the shape of a boat with windows in it, with a bull nose front), but it was better than walking. The older boys had to walk, although I remember a cycle firm in Norwich giving Dr Barnardo’s about a dozen new cycles, so some of the older boys could cycle to school (with others on the crossbar).
As I had a good home life I felt sorry for the boys, knowing their backgrounds, but we got along alright. There were several entertaining times at school when the boys played truant, especially on foggy days. They would go to the school main gate (maybe two or three of them) wait for an open truck to stop at the crossroads and jump in the back. Others would climb on the school roof and hide behind the large chimney, or on other days they would “do a bunk” down by the nearby sandpits or the ice house in the woods, but usually they would be back in time to be there when the others were about to go home in the afternoon.
They may remember the headmasters nick name was “CHAD” – yes, you’ve got it – that
cartoon character looking over the wall. WOT NO HAIR?
Very often the boys would have some sort of a party – birthdays etc. Usually at Christmas the boys invited their school friends from the village to their parties. Many gifts were given to the home by various businesses in and around Norwich including friends young and old; likewise we would invite our best friends to our functions back in the village. My best friend was Frankie Moon. (Frankie – are you still out there somewhere? if so please contact me).
I would say the highlights where the Christmas Parties by the Americans at the Attlebridge Base known as the 466 Bomber Group. They would invite the boys from the Hall and the village back to their camp. The Yanks would send two or three trucks which were the GMC 6 wheeler personal carriers with the racked seats in the back and the canvas top. You had to climb almost 5-6 feet to get into the back of the truck, and then we would be transported to the Attlebridge bomber base. After disembarking from the trucks, we would then be taken into an army billet and each one of us on entering would be given a picture book.
The tables and benches would stretch the full length of the billet, completely covered in food and soft drinks for all of us to sit together as one happy family. On the tables was food I had never seen before – bananas, ice cream in different colours and butter (what was that for?). From there we walked a few yards to another billet which was a cinema and given candy and spearmint chewing gum before seeing a film, then finally time to go home in
the army trucks. The Americans gave us several parties in the early 1940’s.
When the boy scouts group started at the Hall, we were asked if we wished to join them as we did not have a group in the village. We spent a few years with them, which took place in the old tin hut next to the coach house about once a week.
Sunday was church for me and the boys, who would walk over a mile down the Norwich Drive to the church. Although there were several local people at the church the majority of the congregation were the boys and staff from the Hall. Between twelve and fifteen of us made up the choir. They were lovely services and it was great listening to the bells ringing before the services.
On Saturdays the boys would be given their pocket money (just a few pennies). Then they would walk down the Village Drive to spend their pennieson sweets from the shop which was then run by Alice Curtis. The boys had probably eaten them all by the time they got back to the Hall!
I remember also the boys spent several weeks away from the Hall at Watts
Naval Training School with many starting their career in the Navy straight from
Alf and Flo Baldwin (Housemaster and Housemistress at Honingham Hall) spent most of their retirement in the village cottage. In his spare time Alf would get his paints out and paint some lovely landscapes and scenery. The most popular painting I saw
was of the Honingham Buck Inn with a red Ford Capri on the car park in the foreground.
This car was then owned by ex Dr Barnardo boy Eric Burnett. These paintings would usually finish up in the hands of the locals, and I am pleased to say I was
presented with one, which I have still got. He painted the same picture on several china
plates. Alf had been a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers, and also spent
time making wooden plaques and painting lots of regimental badges on them. At one
time they were hung on the beams in the bar at the Honingham Buck, the place where he
enjoyed a pint or two. I was lucky enough to have one made up by Alf of the badge of my
own Army Regiment.
One other little story about the Buck…………….
Although the Hall was situated in the middle of park land, most of the driveways were lined with trees. During the day the scenery was outstanding, but at night walking in the dark was not very pleasant and quite frightening. Lady Teichman’s general maid at the Hall was Maggie Crowe, who often used to walk down to the Buck for a drink in the evenings, leaving before closing time in all weather conditions making her way back to the Hall on her own, owls hooting -very scary – she must have had nerves of steel!
The village of Honingham was well supported by Dr Barnardo’s from 1940/1966 in the early days. Now bypassed, it was then a small village, located on the A47 west of Norwich. The public buildings were only a stone’s throw away from one another – the Chapel, Water Mill, Police House, Grocery Shop, Public House, Village Hall, ( reading room ) War Memorial, Blacksmiths Shop, Water Pump, and Fuel Pumps. All we have now in the same area are The Chapel, Public House, a New Village Hall, War Memorial, Blacksmiths
and the Water Pump (not working).
In the early days the Hall was in a picturesque setting, especially taking a view
down on it from the old Cricket ground park, you could see the large covering
of Rhododendron in front of the fir trees in the wooded area together with the
ivy covering most of the Hall and the lawned gardens with the Lake to the
I have a copy of the following Photo taken on an educational outing to London.
It was taken outside the Houses of Parliament in 1948. The group in the picture is from the Honingham & East Tuddenham School (including Colton).
This outing was arranged by the then MP for the area Sir Frank Medlicott, who is in the dark suit in the centre background. I am to the left and the headmaster is on the right with glasses. Also there are six Dr Barnardo Boys in the photo, two with dark coats on and four in beige uniforms with matching ties & the only boy I remember by name could be Cliff Gould on the extreme left of the front row. I know the faces of the other boys but can not put a name to them.
My final story took place August 2010. I was driving through Honingham and saw a friend of mine by the name of John Skipper. I wanted to speak to him, so I stopped to have a chat. At the time he was speaking to a gentleman named Norman Bateson. John said I might be able to help this person as he wanted knowledge of the village of Honingham as he had spent his childhood as a Dr Barnardo Boy at the Honingham Hall. He had come up from London to bring back some memories of over fifty years ago. I had the time and the
transport, so I told him to jump in the car. For the next couple of hours we toured the boundary of the village, starting off in a anti-clockwise direction. Our first stop was St Andrews Church which stands very close to the A47. We walked down the pathway to the church, Norman stopping for a while looking and mentioning the lovely stained glass
windows, and that he had spent most Sundays singing in the choir. Although the church doors were locked we continued round the back where the gravestones are and I took him to view the grave of Sir Eric Teichman, who owned the Hall. It was said that Sir Eric, only months before his tragic murder, had arranged this plot in which he wanted to be buried.
His grave is in the corner plot of the Honingham churchyard, directly in line with Honingham Hall. Sir Eric was laid to rest in December 1944, followed later by his wife, Lady Ellen, in 1969.
Back on the A47 we headed for the Hall lodge on the Norwich Drive which used to take you down to the Hall but is now closed after the river bridge. So back on the road taking the left turn to Ringland over the Brecks for a mile still in an anti-clockwise direction, then turned left to pass by the Estate’s gamekeepers’ cottages. Then on to the second Hall Lodge – again this road is now closed, so we continued on the road to Broadway, turning left into Wood lane which took us back down to the A47.
We continued along the road, taking the left turning into the Village Drive which is the only road down to the Hall today. (The part of the drive which years ago went round by Starcover is no longer, and it is just a farm track). The journey now took us through Hall
Farm past the site of the old cricket ground and down to the area where Honingham Hall once stood. I parked the car up on the top drive facing the front to where the Hall was. The wood was behind us, with the lovely Rhododendrons which covered the area in front of the fir trees, As Norman and I stood there I pointed out to him where the Lake still is, and we looked down on the only remaining brick building which was once the Coach house (stables), now a farm store. Behind the Hall there was the Park which the village played cricket on, with an old thatched pavilion in the background, (since gone). Norman could not believe the old Hall which once was his home had been demolished. We then left the area for tea/cakes at my home (about ten minutes drive away) where we discussed more sights to look at locally.
On the road again we went to view the Vicarage near the school, which is now a residential home for the elderly. Some three hundred yards on we arrived outside the good old Honingham & East Tuddenham School where we were first taught (Things like how not to have six of the best from the headmasters cane!). The school closed in 1995 but the building is now used as a children’s support school. We then returned to the village via the Top Road, past the old windmill on our left and then taking the road down to the village where I first met Norman. I dropped him off at the Buck Inn which he well remembered. I
showed him Corner Cottage, where Mr and Mrs Baldwin spent their retirement, and left Norman there to catch a bus back to Norwich. We shook hands and he thanked me for the tour, I was only too pleased to help him. He was a very nice guy.
Norman and I have been in touch since, and I understand that he came back to the village again later that week to have another look around. He visited the Baldwin’s old cottage (on the right of the picture above), and met with another local man who took him back to the church at Honingham and then to the Ugly Bug Public House at nearby Colton.
The purpose of this visit was to see a photo of the Hall which had been left there by another Barnardo’s boy. This had on the back a collection of names of other Barnardo’s boys who had visited the area. The landlord phoned that man, who lives in Norwich. He had been a friend of Normans during their time at the Hall, so of course hurried to the Pub for a good old chat. John Skipper made contact with Norman later, and sent him a few village pictures. Norman said how much he had enjoyed his visit, but his only disappointment was the fact that he had been unable to look up the people who fostered him when he left the Hall. Luckily John was later able to trace the family and put him in touch. We understand he has now visited them – a lovely end to this story.
Since this story was written Norman has been over regularly to meet up with his foster Aunt/Uncle and their family in Norwich, and every time he phones or meets up with us. He can’t thank John enough for tracing his family. Sadly his foster uncle passed away in 2013 at the age of 87, but Norman still comes to Norwich regularly to see the rest of the family. August 2015.