In 1898, at the age of 6, I went to live with my grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. E. E. Montford, at Swanton Abbot Rectory. One of a family of five, we had lost both parents within a fortnight of each other. My sisters and brothers were adopted by different relatives, two in Derbyshire, one in Yorkshire, my brother continued his education in Cheltenham. Once a year they came and spent six glorious weeks with me at Swanton and so the happy family was kept close together. I never remember being lonely at Swanton, my three Aunts Kate, Eleanor and Rose kept me busy, we did long walks round the village delivering "The Worstead & North Walsham" Magazine. Sick people were visited frequently, an old blind man in a hut to be read to, soup taken to very large and poor families. We sat in the evenings at the dining room table making children's clothes out of grown up ones, blankets and sheets turned and patched and handed out when needed. All this work had to be done by the light of an oil lamp in the centre of the table.
In 1900 my dear Aunt Rose, who had been a second mother to me, married and left home, luckily she did not leave Norfolk and I spent many happy holidays with her on a farm.
Aunt Blanche came to take her place, as Aunt Eleanor had developed a form of paralysis which kept her confined to a wheel chair for many years, she always enjoyed being taken round the village and helped in any way she could; her brave spirit was an example to all. There are still people in Swanton who remember and talk with respect of Miss Kate and Miss Blanche, and all they learnt from them in the Sunday School.
In 1906 my grandfather the Rev. E. E. Montford started the work of restoring the lovely rood screen in the Church which is now so beautiful and well worth a visit. The original screen was 15th Century work and was richly painted and gilt throughout, but unfortunately in later times it was very damaged, much of the carving destroyed, and decayed parts had been filled in with putty and stones, and the entire surface was painted yellow. The carved work on the panels was much mutilated and three of the four shields chopped out. The one nearest the pulpit is the only original shield left, the next is the Coat of Arms of the Abbey of St. Benets' at Hulme whose Abbot was Lord of Swanton. The next towards the north now bears the initials S.M. of Stephen Multon, Rector when the Screen was first made and whose memorial brass in the chancel is dated 1477. The fourth bears the monogram E.E.M. of Rev. E. E. Montford who worked for seven years cleaning and restoring it to its present state and finished in his 84th year. The only help he had was given by Alfred dampen our groom, gardener and Sexton; and Mary Simmons our wonderful domestic help and friend for 30 years, her voice could be heard above all others in the choir! The third helper was myself, in my early teens, an agile member who spent much time running up and down ladders handing tools to my grandfather. The first step of the work was to take the screen down bit by bit and carry it across to the Rectory and put in the large cellar, there the old yellow paint was scraped off and the wood sanded down and repaired. On removing the paint from the panels figures of the Twelve Apostles were revealed but much defaced and the wood was too much decayed to be again placed in front, they are therefore put on the east side of the screen.
All the carved traceried frieze and fan work was made by my grandfather.
The photographs at the West end of the Church were all taken, developed and printed by me in 1913 and I am amazed after all these years how clean they are.
Its been fun looking back, I shall be 83 "come April" but hope to visit Norfolk again this year.
ETHEL H. AUBRY nee MONTFORD.
First published in the North-East Norfolk Country Churchman "Centenary Magazine" 1875-1975.