Grazing the Common
Mulbarton Common is roughly triangular, with three main exits. Each of these was narrow, to discourage grazing animals from wandering away. On the 1724 map of the parish, there are gates across the road in the SE and SW corners of the Common. Two exits, at the north end (near World's End) and in the south-east corner (near Mulbarton Hall) are still noticeably narrow. The other exit was widened when the Tradesman's Arms was demolished. On the south side of the Common, a ditch known as a 'ha-ha' that divided the Common from cultivated land can still be seen.
The Common was important for grazing - and villagers fought doggedly to keep their grazing rights. In the 1865, people vigorously opposed enclosing the Common (see below). Over forty years later, in 1910, a Parish Council amendment to the proposed 'Model Byelaws' suggests that limits to grazing had to be set:
Propositions: "That no neat stock be allowed on Common"
"That horses and sheep be allowed on the Common only during the hours between one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset"
"That no one person be allowed to turn more than 35 sheep on the Common at one time."'
Tony Kent remembers: 'In the 1930s, Les Smith was a 'keeper' on the common. When sheep were kept there, the shepherd would have his wooden hut on the common. Various villagers kept cows on the common - the Lincolns at Dairy Farm had cows there. John Stackyard, who lived in Holly Cottage in The Rosary, would drive four or five cows up to Mulbarton Common to graze and fetch them back to the the cowhouse by his house to milk them. He'd bike round the village with a can of milk on the handlebars and serve it out with a ladle. His hands and arms always looked so clean. Animals grazed right up to the door of cottages around the common and wandered to the pond for a drink. There was no traffic to worry about in those days.
H E Cross [Lodge Farm] employed a shepherd who looked after the sheep on the Common. He used a horse to set the fold at night, or for the shearing. The fold consisted of iron hurdles ('haddles' in Norfolk). Each hurdle was ten feet long and 3½ feet high and they had two axles on the bottom which contained iron wheels and if they were not oiled, 'blast bor they shrick!' [shriek!] They were pulled into position in a square then supported by wooden stakes. When the children in Sunday School were asked "Who was/is the Good Shepherd?" they replied "Mr. Adams!" - I know, I was there.'
The Pinder was responsible to seeing that the rules were kept. Billy Goward (blacksmith) is remembered as a Pinder of Mulbarton Common. According to Parish Council Minutes, he retired in July 1952 and was succeeded by Len Dack, who seems to have been the last in a long line.
Several people can remember cattle on the common through the '40s and early '50s, when the common was clear of trees. Some remember being late for school when they skirted the common in order to avoid walking past the herd of cows!
Brenda Ford (nee Collins), remembers back to the 1940s: 'The Common was a large empty space in my time with one or two ponds but almost empty grassland.'