I've always lived in Feltwell. I was bom in Whitby House (the double fronted house next to the WI Hall) which my father built and then moved into when he was martied. His father had been in the business too; my father used to say that he could trace us back easily for 300 years. I think I'm right in saying that the first cottage he built was for Henry Addison in Hill Street, number 6. The Addisons ran the Methodist church in those days. If you wanted a house then you just said so, and what you wanted it to be like. Planning regulations? No! The Downham Market surveyor for the Rural District council was Captain Hyner; if you got on with him with a drink thrown in you more or less had what you wanted!
Father said that his father and his uncle Billy did all the fancy chimney work on East Hall. Our people did a lot of flint work too; Father could lay flints as fast as anything. He employed quite a lot of people - he built a lot of houses and cottages and the Coronation Hall for Barley P. Porter for £132. Barley Porter let it out for £1 a night so he soon got his money back. I went into the business as a boy; I left school on the Friday and started work on the Monday. There where three carpenters and bricklayers too at the shop; it covered all the ground at the back of Whitby House. We had a horse and cart, and Mr Jim Hicks would cart the bricks from Lakenheath station in his tumbrils, driving a pair, and bring 500 bricks at a time. Sand came from the village pit at the top of the Old Brandon Road, or from Captain Hardy's land which is where Frimstone is now. We also worked on repairs and I remember watching two bricklayers on a scaffold mending the wall of Hill House in Short Beck; they worked it so that every time they moved to the centre they picked up their tobacco to chew.
We did repairs on the Church too. When I was apprenticed I was working underneath the tower, putting a new lock on the door where all the switches were, and I heard the door open. Mrs Martha Wicks, Miss Ellie and Miss Fanny Garner came into clean. The Poor Box had been broken into recently, and I don't know what made me do it but as they started sweeping up the centre of the Church, I opened my door a little way and I went "O-o-o-o-o-h!!", then I did it again. They threw the brooms down and ran out. I went on fixing the lock. Then I heard the door again and Mr Broadwater and PC Cordy came in. I pulled my door shut, but as PC Cordy came near the door I put my hand out and got hold of him. But he laughed and said "It's you, you young ---- !!" It was a long time before Martha let me forget that.
Father retired and I took over when I came out of the Army. I had been working as a B reservist on pill boxes and the roof of the aerodrome. From then on it was 27 years nonstop, Croft House , the Rectory, Newcombe Drive, houses in the Lodge Road and in Short Beck, the first part of Mulberry Close and most of Addison Close, as well as houses and extensions out of the village. Of course I built this house too, exactly as we required it. My son wasn't interested in the business and I don't blame him. We enjoy our retirement and we can keep an eye on the Village from this house - there's a sheep track worn all round the edge of the carpet in that next room!
A lot of our men stayed with us a long time, and some went on to have their own businesses. When you became a full blown tradesman you earned £2 16 10d a week. That was very good in 1932, a farm Labourer was only getting 28/- (shillings)
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