FLORDON HALL FARM
The 1933 Kelly's Directory lists 'William Webster & Son' farming Flordon Hall Farm. William's son was Geoffrey Webster. They rented the farm from Kemp, but Geoffrey was able to buy it when the Mergate Estate was put up for sale in January 1948. He had a thriving dairy business and delivered milk to villages around. His son, Rex, remembers travelling to school at Mulbarton in one of the vans. Others have memories of working there:
Allan Moore: 'I worked at Flordon Hall 1952-56 before going into the RAF. Geoffrey Webster farmed it then. I was Under-Cowman.'
Joy Herrell: 'My father was Cowman at Flordon Hall. But when Rex Webster took over from his father, Geoffrey, he got rid of the dairy herd and went in for pigs so Dad left.'
Margaret Bullen nee Taylor: 'My father and two brothers worked for Mr Webster. They looked after the horses. We had a cottage that you reached by going past the Hall and round the back - I don't know if it is still there. I was born there - we enjoyed ourselves: we could go into the fields and ride the horses. Plenty of freedom then.... They were work horses - pulling the plough and the men walking up and down, up and down.... They wouldn't do that now!'
The cows went in 1971 after a cowman left. Rex Webster kept his own pigs until 1998, but fattened pigs for other farmers for another 10 years. Now the farm of almost 500 acres is almost entirely arable.
There have been a number of interesting previous tenants who have left their mark on Flordon Hall:
Edward Thomas Gaymer (1852-1921) was a 'farmer & grazier' here in 1901. He already knew Flordon as he was living in Flordon Long Lane in 1871 with his sisters Mary and Rebecca farming 126 acres. Edward was part of the Gaymer family of cider fame. He was the son of William Gaymer (1805-1884) and Rebecca nee Page (1813-1883) and it was his older brother William Stewart Gaymer (1842-1936) who was the real founder of the business, seeing cider-making as a commercial proposition.
The Gaymer family were rooted in Banham, where William jnr developed cider production and built a new factory in 1896 to meet demand. Later, production moved to a larger, more modern factory by the railway at Attleborough. However, Edward Thomas stayed in farming, and had land at Banham in 1881 and 1891. There is a Gaymer window in Banham church (below) appropriately showing Jesus between two apple trees!
In 1888 Edward married Alice Pawley Evans in London and both their children were born in Banham. They may have moved to the larger farm and farmhouse at Flordon Hall soon after the stock sale of 1895 (below) and seem to have brought with them a number of loyal workers. Families associated with their Banham farm (e.g. Scarfe & Stebbings) suddenly appear in Flordon! Whilst at Flordon Hall Farm, Edward established two apple orchards - one to the west which has gradually died out, and one to the north of the house which is still refreshed from time to time. Apples of different varieties were planted to give a long fruiting season. There are a few old trees left there, including a 'Norfolk Biffin' (or 'Norfolk Beefing'). The apple harvest went to the Banham cider factory, and some storage boxes are still in the attic of the Hall!
When Edward died in May 1921, he left an estate of almost £6000 to his widow. Both Edward and his wife Alice (died 1942, aged 85) are buried in Flordon churchyard, so his widow may have stayed in the village. Their son, William David Gaymer, 'of Flordon Hall', joined the Royal Engineers during WW1 and was a Corporal in the 430th Agricultural Company by 1918. His parents donated a book stand to Flordon Church in gratitude for his safe return.
Before the Gaymers, Sir Humphrey de Trafford, Bart, bred horses and also kept show-doves - which explains the origin of the interesting dovecote (above) which Mrs Webster saw collapse. Sir Humphrey was the 3rd Baronet of Trafford (now of Manchester United fame!) and a breeder of racehorses and dogs. He is known to have visited his stud at Flordon - it is said he came by train and was met at Flordon Station with a horse and carriage. A distant branch of the family living at Wroxham Hall.
Sir Humphrey owned land in several parts of the county, being listed as 'elector by ownership' in Swafield, Southrepps and Postwick, where he owned large tracts of 'Yarmouth marshes' - in some years all three at once. No doubt he rented land and installed a reliable bailiff, or used land others no longer farmed to rear his horses. He himself lived at Trafford Park until he put it up for sale in 1896. It failed to reach its asking price at auction but was sold privately to entrepreneur Ernest Hooley for £360,000 who turned it into an industrial estate. Sir Humphrey moved to Arlington Street, London, and later to Eastbourne he died in 1929. The only mention of Sir Humphrey's Flordon interests dates from just before the sale of Trafford Park:
E Anglian Daily Times, 2 October & 11 October 1895
Sale of farming stock at Flordon Hall Farm: 'the property of Sir Humphrey de Trafford, Bart who is giving up the holding (after five years' tenure).' [Described in one paper as 'Flordon Stud Farm']
The current owners found a branding iron with Sir Humphrey's name on it, which had been used to burn the name onto one of the wooden pillars in the old stables. When it was run as a stud farm there were stables, a carriage shop and a blacksmith's shop on the farm.
Photo labelled: Aunt Hattie; Aunt Fanny (wife of Robert); Aunt Ida; Aunt Laura; Uncle Robert lived here
The Banham family are listed as residents at Flordon Hall in the 1871, '81 and '91 census returns. Robert Banham (1819-1901) was baptised in Morley St Botolph in 1825 along with 3 siblings, all of whom had been born some years earlier. He was the son of Thomas Banham (1789-1856) and his first wife, Elizabeth Hardy (1792-1826). In 1851 Robert has a 153-acre farm near Stanfield Hall, Wymondham (just over the border from Hethel) in partnership with his younger brother Immanuel, with their sister Elizabeth as Housekeeper. In 1857 he married Frances (Fanny) Rolfe (1834-1916) in Wymondham, and in 1861 he had a 281-acre farm near Wymondham. His brother, Immanuel - with whom he has shared a farm at Wymondham - was farming at Flordon Hall by 1861, with his sister Emily. Their father probably joined them at Flordon as he was buried in the churchyard in 1856, aged 66, along with his second wife, Mary Ann, who died in 1858, aged 63.
Earlier in the 19th century Hall Farm had both benevolent and apparently aggressive owners. In 1851 it was the home of a farm bailiff, Daniel Fiddyment, and 10 years early the farmer is listed as Benjamin Branford.
Norfolk Chronicle, 20 Nov 1847
Benjamin Branford, Esq., Flordon Hall... he is highly respected, as a kind and indulgent landlord, a liberal and generous master, and a firm friend to the well-conducted poor. [In an article expressing surprise that some trees recently planted on his land had been deliberately cut down.]
By 1851 Benjamin Branford was farming 700 acres in Thorpe Hamlet, where some of his children had been born in the 1830s, but he may have kept the tenancy at Flordon and appointed a bailiff. He died in 1857, aged 62, and is buried in Flordon churchyard along with his wife Elizabeth (died 1881 aged 85) and their daughter Emma Rebecca who died in 1843 aged 22. He must have been a man of substance; he made a 9-page Will & Codicil.
But earlier residents were not so kindly, it seems....
Norfolk Chronicle, 7 July, 1810
'Notice is hearby given that Man Traps are set on the Premises of Mr. Church, of Flordon Hall.'
Mr Church was still there is 1824 when (on 11 Sep) he was advertising a large sale of stock and furniture + cottages & blacksmith's shop + land to let - apply to him at Flordon Hall.
There are several 18th century graves for members of the Church family: Benjamin (c.1740-1786); Thomas (c.1695-1769) and his wife Susanna (c.1697-1775) so it may have been a descendent who continued to farm here.