North Walsham & District Community Archive

Edingthorpe 1875 - 1975

"North East Norfolk Country Churchman Centenery Magazine 1875-1975"


In the spring of 1875, almost exactly 100 years ago, a daughter was born to William Bartholomew Pestell, painter and shopkeeper of Edingthorpe, and his wife Harriet. This daughter, Iva. was followed by another daughter and then, in 1879, by a son, Charles. Eding-thorpe's oldest inhabitant today is Agnes Pestell, Charles' widow, who lives with her daughter in a bungalow built on the site of her father-in-law's shop, in what was then the hub of the life of the village, fust up the lane is the church and round the corner the rectory, occupied then by the Reverend Joseph Lawson Sisson, who held the office for 41 years from 1850 to 1891. Over the crossroads from the Pestells' shop and Post Office was the village smithy; the blacksmiths in 1875 were Edward and Richard Larter.

There was a brickmaker in Edingthorpe then, by the name of Landymore, and a shoemaker and fish merchant among other tradesmen. Francis Withers, one of the village's half dozen farmers in 1875, also ran a wheelwright's and carpentry business from Croft Farm, on the land now farmed by his grandson John. Francis and the other Edingthorpe farmers of those years took their corn to Paston Mill, or to Bacton Wood Mill, where the miller in 1875 was probably one William Forster. Their main crops were wheat, oats and barley, for sugar beet was not introducd until 1921, but they would all have kept a few cattle and other livestock so that the village was probably self supporting in meat and dairy produce. There were quite a few sheep in the area then, and horses, of course, were everywhere, working on the land and used for transport. Donkeys, too, were very often ridden or used for pulling traps.

One of the main talking-points in Edingthorpe in 1875 must have been the formation in May of a School Board. The Board school was built in 1878, to cater for about 70 children from Edingthorpe and Paston. Its Attendance Officer was Robert Landymore of Edingthorpe and its first mistress was Miss Jane Gardner. Mrs. Pestell, now 91, can still remember being taught by her.

Present-day villagers will recognise most of these surnames, and indeed it is striking how much continuity there is between the Edingthorpe of today and that of a hundred years ago. Many of the families still have descendants in the village, the farms and most of the houses are still where they were, and it is difficult to imagine the lanes and streets being any quieter in the 1870's than they are now. "Edingthorpe, thank goodness, is still a straggling hamlet a few miles inland from the east coast." - the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who spent a summer in Edingthorpe as a child nearly a hundred years ago, write those words when he revisited the village in 1937. And nothing very much seems to have changed in the forty years since then either, at least about the essential character of Edingthorpe. A visitor who lingers can still sense the unassuming charm which Sassoon felt the village possessed, and agree with him that the church has "a very special dignity and simplicity, standing there on its low hill above the harvest fields as though it were the faithful servant of the life around it."

The church was already known a hundred years ago for its elegant 14th century rood screen, and looking at it now it is easy to feel that nothing has changed here in five hundred years, let alone one hundred.