Metfield – Tales from a Suffolk Village

Linda asked me to write a review of this book about Metfield. I was touched to be asked.

Tales from a Suffolk village could of course, be any Suffolk village, but at the same time it is most distinctively not. For me it starts with names, the names that keep coming back and back, names that I knew for the short time I passed through Metfield –  Rusted, Eastaugh, Reilly, Shadbolt, Hubbard, Brennan,  Godbold, Runnacles. There is pleasure in tracing back the origins of the people that I knew like Johny Reilly’s beginnings as converting a USAAF abandoned building into a motor bike repair shed, to the naming of Honeymoon row. Through this recent generational history,  we can observe the repeated interaction between the families, their marriages, and home swaps.

Known is mixed with unknown but within touching distance like  ‘tramps often walked through the village, harmless, waiting a slice of bread and water’. Familiar is discovered: ‘Parravani, an Italian family who lived locally, made ice cream from their own Jersey herd.’ The  bare revelations of the 1841 and 1881 census (76 homes, 116 families, 611 inhabitants, and 22 paupers living in the poorhouse) revealing more families than homes, and doubtless double living.

The devil is definitely in the detail here and what pleasure it is to come across Honey (Ambrose) Rusted, with his distinctive white moustache, wearing long dark overcoat and flat cap, measuring out aniseed balls from glass jars for the children, or wielding his walking stick at young boys scrumping.

How delightful to see more recent history like Apple Day incorporated into this village history, of Aisha eating a scrumped apple, of Ann Wolfe. Yes, the photographs are particularly poignant, both those I knew like Jane and Jeffrey Smith outside Metfield Stores, to those I don’t know but can look at and wonder like Tristram Cary, working in his studio at Wood Farm.

The index was particularly useful, and naturally I looked up my own geography within the village, Half Moon, to discover the touching story of Eva Fance, living in Half moon in 1929, with a penchant for ignoring the motor cars on her way to the shop. ‘‘All right my dear’, she would say, continuing to walk in the middle of the road. They would just have to wait until she reached the shop’

This is a book for any village liver as well as most definitely for any who live in Metfield or who, like me, have passed through Metfield, but never quite left it, and find ourselves returning to it again and again. Now we can do our returning through these pages. I am  this so glad Christine Brehhan and the team of Metfield residents who supported this project, have collected this book together.

As an after thought, I can imagine it sparking many a further memory and that this too, with internet technology, can be shared and enjoyed further.

Rachel Kellett

August 2017

East Lodge, Holton, Halesworth

the Boardman’s dining room became Dr Dinn’s surgery on Thursday afternoons. Patients carrying gifts of cakes, flowers and vegetables for the doctor would wait for their turn in the shop.

The farms

Before the national census began in 1841, a decennial census was recorded in Metfield on 25 May 1811. this was carried out by william squire, a farmer, and robert Collins, who was the school master at the time. recorded were as suggested by the figures, there were far more families than homes. the census suggests that homes were shared, but i believe that the double dwellers may have been counted as one house.

the most prominent family surnames living in the village during 1881 were aldous, Godbold, hunter, Kemp, Knowles, Pearce, riches, seaman, smith and taylor. Descend- ants of some of these families continue to live in the village today. Many families seldom left the village and they were often united through marriage. During my research, i was amazed at the huge number of marriages between families in the village. throughout their lifetimes, most residents would move house several times for various reasons – sons taking over farms, change of status, a larger cottage, marriage or retirement.

Naming of Honeymoon row – rise and fall, and purchase for 600

During the 1930s, Martha Cox bought the entire row of cottages. Percy, her son, was born in 1900 and eventually moved into one of the cottages when he married. it was around this time that three newlywed couples moved into the cottages: harsent and Daisy runnacles, Cyril Valentine riches and his wife Jessie, and Bob and susan (née Cox) Mattocks. one day, will sadd, who lived opposite at rose Cottage, jokingly remarked: ‘with all the newly married couples living in the row, we might as well call it honeymoon row!’ the name stuck; and this row of cottages has been known as honeymoon row ever since.

Tristram Cary Wood Farm

tristram Cary, the son of author Joyce Cary, initially used wood Farm as a retreat, although it later became the family home. the whole family were well known in the village for socialising and shopping. tristram enjoyed many hours with his friends at the huntsman and hounds pub. to local inhabitants, tristram was known as the man who made weird sounding music in a wooden shed adjacent to the Fressingfield road. he was, in fact, a pioneer of electronic music and also co-developed the first portable synthesiser. he became best known for incidental music for Doctor Who and the 1957 film The Lady Killers. tristram Cary’s later years were spent in his homeland australia, in adelaide, where he died in 2008, aged 82.

Search on Half Moon

Eva Fance, born in 1887, was a cousin of the two sisters and grew up in a humble farmworker’s cottage by the common. Eva first met her husband George, a butler for the Rodwell family, in Earls Court, London when she went into service. Widowed in 1929, Eva had lived in Half Moon Cottage and Edale, before moving in with the Squire sisters during their elderly years. It was well known in the village that Eva would have to step in when the sisters had a disagreement. As young women, the sisters proved to be quite a handful; they even rode a motorbike – unheard of back then.

Eva, a gentle soul, would do the shopping for the household in her twilight years. I cannot ever recall seeing the Squire sisters outside the shop during my youth. As she wandered along the street in the middle of the road, motorists would try to pass

by. As they tooted, Eva would turn and smile sweetly. ‘All right my dear’, she would say, continuing to walk in the middle of the road. They would just have to wait until she reached the shop.

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