The Housing Estates

New Homes in Old Fields

This air view of Mulbarton (below) taken in 1975 shows something of the story of the development of the housing estates in the southern part of the village:

The road running north-south from the Common up the centre of the picture is Birchfield Lane. The houses in the foreground are the former Council Houses built by Henstead or Forehoe & Henstead Rural District Council. In the right foreground, to the right of Birchfield Lane, are Council houses with large gardens built in the 1930s. To the left of Birchfield Lane (with smaller gardens) are Council houses of the 1950s and '60s.

Between the Council-built houses and the Common are 5 small estates built on fields that were sold off with Mulbarton Hall (in 1947) and Malthouse Farm (1950s). These are now Birchfield Gardens, Rosary Close and Lakes Avenue (to the right of Birchfield Lane); Southern Reach, and Tudor Way + Brindle Drive to the left of Birchfield Lane. All of these were built by local builders (e.g. Mickleburgh & Rutland) or builders in the Norwich area.

Also in the foreground (to the left of the pale field, centre) is Hanover Gardens, a complex of sheltered houses for elderly people opened in November 1975 by Princess Alexandra.

The new largescale housing estates were built by major developers, often from outside Norfolk. On the extreme left of the photo are the first few streets of the Lark Rise estate, where most roads are named after birds. The rest of the field is awaiting development. On the extreme right is the entrance to the Mulrose Park estate via Bluebell Road, where most roads are named after flowers or trees (with the exception of Gowing Road and Woodyard Close on the old Woodyard site).

In th left foreground corner is part of the field in which the Catmere Herne estate will be built in the 1990s - with roads named after animals or old field names.

The rest of the foreground - from Hanover Gardens to Long Lane (far right) are the fields now occupied by the Mulberry Gardens development - where a number of roads are also given old field names.

The newest development - Oakleigh Park - is on land out of the picture beyond the lower right-hand corner....

MORE AIR VIEWS (click on them to enlarge them):

Memories of Moving

From Parish Council minutes:
1964, May: '...it was the opinion of the Council that as the Planning Authority had designated Mulbarton as a Planning envelope the County Council should see that the roads and other services were adequate for the increased population.'

Harvesting the field that is now Lakes Avenue. c.1959. The building is in Birchfield Lane.
Harvesting the field that is now Lakes Avenue. c.1959. The building is in Birchfield Lane.

Memories of Moving

Birchfield Gardens was built on land owned by Arthur Fairman of the Malthouse until 1934 when it was sold to Mrs G M Robertson.  Her son built 'Tayton Lodge' on a piece of it beside Birchfield Lane. When his mother died in 1958, Thomas Robertson inherited the rest of the field, which he sold to Tom Cotton, a tractor driver living in East Carton Road, for £600. With planners allowing more building, Mr Cotton sold the land to Norfolk Garden Esates Ltd (of Hoveton) for £5750 in 1963. They piped part of the ditch and built a small estate of bungalows.

Birchfield Gardens, c.1963
We moved to Mulbarton, into a bungalow on the Birchfield Gardens Estate. The 'estate' was in fact a road, formerly two fields divided by a ditch. There were no birch trees in sight, but after hearing a talk by the late Revd. Sanderson, I discovered why our address was so-called. Originally the land was known as Birch Field - and had nothing to do with birch trees at all!

The day we moved in was wet, and as a made-up drive was not included in the bungalow's price (£2350), we had to borrow deals from the local building site to help keep us and our furniture, etc. out of the wet clay! By lunch time we were all rather thirsty and decided to patronise the local Tradesman's Arms (where we were called 'foreigners', and needless to say we did not call there again!)

We settled in with our new neighbours, and soon the next generation started arriving, keeping the local midwife very busy. One thing we discovered was the fact that a modern septic tank did not work in the clay - particularly when it rained a lot. Having had the council empty the tank once, this became a continuous job and nightmare for many of us. Lakes Avenue was aptly named at this time! Our second daughter really enjoyed the visit from the council wagon and used to 'help' carry the pipes - in fact it was the highspot of her week. It was a great day when we all had mains drainage (in 1968/9).

(From an article by Jane Burgess, in Parish News, Summer 1993)

Birchfield Gardens, 2005, when the 30mph signs were replaced with 20mph signs
Birchfield Gardens, 2005, when the 30mph signs were replaced with 20mph signs

Southern Reach, c.1966
I came to live in the village in 1966 when I bought a plot of land in the area which became Southern Reach, from Eric Kett, Builder, who had bought the land from Mr. F. Mann. My plot was approximately 165ft x 38 ft and cost £570. When the house was being built there was a lark's nest in the garden, and in the long grass of the neighbouring the house I found a harvest mouse's nest. A barn owl quartered the field at twilight. The 3-bedroomed chalet and garage cost £3000. Water was laid on at completion but at that time sewage was disposed of through a septic tank. This was emptied at intervals of about 9-12 months by tanker. Mains sewage arrived in 1969, and the pipe was laid through the bottom of the garden instead of under the road as the site plan had suggested. Until the road was surfaced in 1970 there was only a muddy track leading to Birchfield Lane - we lived in wellies - and visitors always removed footwear at the door. Longstanding friends who visit tend to do the same now!       (O.Burrell)

Jim Rump on a friend’s bike on the building site at the far end of Southern Reach in 1973.
Jim Rump on a friend’s bike on the building site at the far end of Southern Reach in 1973.

Mulrose Park, 1976

From Parish Council Minutes:
1973, July 30th - 'Colroy Homes Ltd asked if it was the wish of the Council that they should provide for Public Lighting. The Council agreed unanimously that they did not wish them to do so. Estate plans available for inspection at RDC offices.

The Bluebell Road / Gowing Road area: built by Colroy Homes from 1974 onwards, and described as 'a beautifully designed development of detached houses and bungalows - all with garages or garage space...' In 1976, prices ranges from £9,575 to £10,850. The early residents formed the 'Mulrose Park Residents' Association' and here is an anonymous poem from News Letter no.1, May 1978:

Home Sweet Home

What problems we all give ourselves,
When we think of moving house.
Where shall we live? How large a place
For husband, kids and spouse?

Mulrose Park - by Colroy Homes
Would seem the place of dreams;
But Oh my God - illusion shattered -
Can't you hear the shouts and screams.

There's problems with solicitors,
Things we all can tell:
Agents' and surveyors' fees,
Completion dates as well.

One by one we all move in,
New neighbours, friends as well.
Removal vans and hire trucks -
It's sheer and utter hell!

The colour of the curtains,
Beige or pink - or green.
There are many other problems
At present unforeseen.

The plotting of the garden,
Crazy paving to be laid,
A fruit tree here and a rose bed there.
Why aren't they ready-made?

I'm sick to death of all the fuss,
And I write this verse to tell
If I decide to move again
I will - to a hotel.

Lark Rise - the 'bird'estate

'Marlborough Holdings built Phase 1, which was contracted out to Havant Homes Ltd to build at 12 houses per acre. One of these firms went into liquidation, and after a considerable gap the rest of the field was built (at a higher density) by Wilcon Homes.'     

(From memories of a former resident)

Mulberry Gardens

Most of the land on which Mulberry Gardens is built was owned by the Council and housing development was expected as early as 1973:

1973 May 7th Annual Meeting held in the Old School
'Residential Development - Cuckoofield Lane: A letter from the Forehoe & Henstead RDC dated April 10th confirmed that planning permission had been granted for phase 1 of this development, comprising some fifty dwellings immediately adjoining Cuckoofield Lane; the remainder of the development to be the subject of further planning applications.

1973 July 30th [Deputy County Planning Officer present at opening of parish Council meeting:] '...regarding the development of 30-40 acres of land to the south of Cuckoofield Lane....the County Planning Committee and the District Council have accepted the principle of development on this site, and that it was unlikely that work would be started before two to four years... [PC asked for] 'Adequate provision of schools.... Road improvements.... The question of a speed limit through the village was also raised....'

The Local Authority changed to South Norfolk District Council. The land continued to be rented out to Mr White, farmer of Bracon Ash (above). Government policy on Council housing changed. And development of the land south of Cuckoofield Lane did not commence until 2000. One problem that had to be solved was drainage. Not many people will remember that underneath the large grassy area facing Cuckoofield Lane is an enormous holding tank built to drain the new development. After being fully enclosed, it was covered with earth and 

Beginning to cover the holding tank by Cuckoofield Lane, Sept. 2004
Beginning to cover the holding tank by Cuckoofield Lane, Sept. 2004

grassed over. However, everyone will have noticed the bumps and dips in Cuckoofield Lane - marking the line of the overflow pipe from the tank to the 'River Mul' (unofficial name!) at the bottom of the hill.... Until building began at Mulberry Gardens, the area where the tank was dug was the site of a small pond with crested newts and other interesting wildlife.

First School children help plant a tree at Mulberry Gardens, 2003. The tree will always be as old as the estate.
First School children help plant a tree at Mulberry Gardens, 2003. The tree will always be as old as the estate.