Five years after Mr. Gladstone's Education Act and when Disraeli was Prime Minister, Hoveton had about 180 inhabitants, most of whom depended more or less on farming. St. John and St. Peter were one parish, as they had been since their Churches were served by priests from the abbey of St. Benet at Holme. Geographically Hoveton St. John was then, as now, in three parts: The Bridge, a few houses between the river and the new railway station: Upper Street, that part of the Yarmouth road nearest Horning: Lower Street, down the New Lane, nearest to the marshes and Hoveton House.
The vicar was then the writer's great grandfather, who had succeeded his own father in that office. The Parish Clerk was Thomas Curtis, who left an account of his life and of parish affairs, which is an invaluable record of the activities and interests of a country village. This account and the parish registers provide most of the information in this .brief account of Hoveton as it was a hundred years ago.
The Education Act 1870 was beginning to impinge, a meeting "in the School room" being held in June to consider it. The children were then taught at a Dame's School in Lower Street and there had been a village school for a long time. The immediate problem was whether to come under a School Board or to carry on with a certificated governess which it was decided to do. St. John would pay £24, St. Peter £12 and the Vicar the balance, expenses being, Governess £50, her lodging £6 and books, fuel, repairs etc. A new building was discussed and thought likely to cost £1100. This was eventually built in 1886, by my grandfather.
Notable events were few but in August a menagerie came from Ludham to Coltishall and included 22 horses, 12 carriages, 20 men, 2 elephants, 2 dromadaries and a camel. Tombland Fair in March, Wroxham Regatta and Horning Fair in July were highlights.
The general picture is of a simple village life, coupled with great neighbourliness and a keen interest in its own community. No central authority interfered much, though orders for the doctor were obtained and relief also. The local doctor, Dix, was readily available, much respected and it seems his charges were modest. Many of the families then in the village have living representatives today either in Hoveton or the neighbourhood who have every reason to respect their forebears. Materially life in 1875 was hard; but the work of the farms and the village seems to have made for content and the small events and incidents of the day led to an enjoyment of life that is not always evident in 1975.