North Walsham & District Community Archive

Swanton Abbott 1875 - 1975

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


Swanton Abbott is a village on the road from Norwich to North Walsham. The Church is dedicated to St. Michael and has a fine brass of Rev. Stephen Hulton dated 1477 and the Church Register dates from 1538. There were originally two Chapels - Wesleyan and Wesleyan Reform - but the former is no longer used for worship but as the village garage.
The structure of the village has altered very little in the last 100 years, there being 2 parts - the village proper and the hill common. Several old properties have been replaced by modern homes and others have been brought up to date since the advent of electricity and mains water.

Strictly speaking, the village was more self supporting than at present owing to lack of transport and communication.
There were then two forges and the blacksmiths were kept busy by farmers and gentry who kept ponies, horses and donkeys for farm work and riding as well as domestic use. Now one smith comes daily but lives outside the village.
There were carpenters and wheelwrights, a baker, two shoemakers, two windmills where the corn which was grown locally was ground into flour for bread making by the baker who delivered it by horse and cart to the surrounding villages. Cakes and biscuits too were made in large quantities. Housewives could take their cakes and pies to be baked in the large oven after the bread was taken out.

Resident dressmakers made clothes for the families and homes and midwives lived in the village and were able to assist in cases of birth and death. Families kept a few hens to supply the household with eggs and poultry for the table and one or more pigs were fattened and later a village pig slaughterer came along to kill a pig on the premises and at least part of it was used for the family.

There were two public houses which still carry on business and one house had an off-licence where beer was sold from a window and taken away in jugs etc.

Fresh milk could be fetched from the farms each day and as the cream was allowed to rise on large earthen pans of milk in the dairy, and then skimmed off with a kind of ladle, the resulting skimmed milk was very suitable for puddings and cheap too. The farmer's wife made butter in a huge churn like a barrel which was turned by hand until the butter formed. It was then weighed and made into fancy "pats" of butter. Some ladies helped the family budget by taking in laundry to wash and iron for the well-to-do families and others worked in the fields or helped out in the farm house.
The village school catered for all ages and the schoolmaster, parson and squire all took part in the education of the children who were ruled with a rod of iron.