Market Gardens

Market Gardens

Market gardening was important in the Swardeston, Mulbarton, Bracon Ash area - between four and six miles from Norwich on a reasonably good road. There was also a good train service to London from Swainsthorpe Station, and to the Midlands and Manchester from Hethersett station.

Along the road to Norwich it was mainly market gardens. The people here were tenants of the Stewards of East Carleton Manor until the 1920 Estate Sale, when they were able to buy the freehold of their property.

Frank Carver grew flowers, fruit, etc. and had a 7-acre orchard. He is listed as 'Farmer' in 1922. Their cottage was known as 'The Thatched House' but had to be rebuilt after a disastrous fire (see Services) and became Orchard House. This was LOT 16 of the 1920 Estate Sale. Their grandson, Vic Gray, still has greenhouses and runs a small nursery on the opposite side of the road.

His mother, Nesda Gray wrote:
"My mother was born in this house in 1887, I was born here in 1914, my sister in 1921. In 1926 a 'thrashing' engine coaling up to climb the hill set the thatched roof on fire with sparks. It was rebuilt and my father, Mr. Carver, carried on as Market Gardener and 'flowerist'. He also had 7 acres of fruit trees, so he was well-known in the 'Early Market'."

Frederick & Alice Muskett lived in the quaint thatched cottage, Hill House, and grew the same sort of crops. Hill House Nursery is mentioned in Directories as a market garden run by William Church in Victorian times, followed by Alfred Hardiment in 1904 (see list below).

Frederick Muskett was born towards the end of 1870 in Carleton Rode, Norfolk, the son of John Muskett, 'ag. Lab.' and Jane (nee Kemp, both born in Bunwell). His wife, Alice Christina (nee Ladbrooke) was born in Norwich about 1875; they married in 1893. Alice came to be known more usually by her second name Christina (often listed as Christine). In 1901 they were living on Norwich Road in Kirby Bedon (where both Fred's and Alice's occupations are given as 'Publican') and had 3 children, Celia, Frederick and Christina. They had moved to Mulbarton by World War 1 when their son, Cecil, was killed in 1917 and is commemorated on the war memorial in Mulbarton Church. Their daughter married Tom Bobbin. Their nursery was LOT 15 of the 1920 Estate Sale, and mortgage documents survive to show that they bought 'Hill House plus garden plus stabling plus greenhouses and land totalling 8 acres'  from Mrs. Steward for £800 on a mortgage arrangement made with her. Part of the property was conveyed to their daughter, Celia Florence (now Bobbin), in October 1928.

In the 1922 Kelly's Directory, Fred Muskett is listed as 'cowkeeper' of Hill House, and Mrs Christine Muskett (i.e. Alice) as 'florist' - the description she keeps in the 1933 Directory. A plan of the house and land dated 1958 clearly shows greenhouses both to the north and east in two adjacent fields. The house and garden was then the property of Mrs Alice Christine Muskett, amounting to a total of 1/3rd of an acre which is marked on the map.

“Family at Hill House, 13 March 1917” = Muskett family
“Family at Hill House, 13 March 1917” = Muskett family

From a Funeral Report in the local newspaper:
Dec. 31st 1931 - Mr. F. Meskett (= Muskett), who died on Boxing Day aged 61. Family members included several Bobbins... Wife, Children: Celia, Cissie, Tom

Alice Christine Muskett died in the West Norwich Hospital on 29th July 1963.  

Mr. James Bobbin was the next one along. He grew flowers and fruit. His house was in Swardeston parish, but his land extended into Mulbarton. This was LOT 13 of the of the 1920 Estate Sale. His son, Arthur, carried on the business and his plant-stall at the annual Chapel sale was a real draw! Michael Lambert lived at the Old Mill House next door: he remembers helping to pack flowers into boxes in the school holidays and transporting them to Hethersett Station on the back of a lorry. There, they had to be loaded quickly into an allocated wagon when the steam-hauled goods trained stopped. If it was a bit late, the signalman would be shouting to them to hurry up, as a passenger train was due - there were no sidings until Wymondham.

A number of small-holders in the parish were market-gardeners before and just after World War 2:

Allens, "Rose Growers and Nurserymen" owned Rosary Nursery, east of Long Lane (now the Bluebell Road estate). Their head office was in Bowthorpe, Norwich, and they had quite an extensive catalogue of roses. They won a gold medal for their roses at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1924. 'Rosary Nursery' is clearly marked on older Ordnance Survey maps. Later, the land became Jordan's timber yard (hence 'Woodyard Close' today), and later still the land was farmed by R E Cross from Lodge Farm.

Round the corner, in The Rosery, Mr. Stackyard (who kept cows and sold milk) had a large orchard and sold apples, pears, plums and damsons.

Mr Hooney had greenhouses on his land opposite Mulbarton Hall, at the corner of Rectory Lane and Long Lane. He grew tomatoes, and had a "Stephenson's Rocket" type engine to steam-sterilise the greenhouses during the winter. Mrs Hooney was a founder member of the Mulbarton WI and produced the 'birthday posies'. Later, the holding was bought by Pordage Wholesale Greengrocers. The greenhouses were there till around 1974-5 when the land was sold for housing.

William Arthur (Billy) Emms had a market garden with large greenhouses and sold flowers, fruit and vegetables in Birchfield Lane. His wife did a lot of the work in the nursery. They lived in a clay lump cottage fronting onto the lane, with a well next to the road. In fact Birchfield Lane was nicknamed 'Emms Lane'. When Mr. Emms dug the well, he kept finding red bricks, so he thought there must have been an earlier one on the site. But there was not enough water for the greenhouses, too, so a deep bore was put down and a windpump filled the tank which installed on a tower to give a head of water. In 1932 he purchased 'the enclosure of arable land known as Common Field Pightle' adjoining his property, Lot 2 at the Sale of Dairy Farm. He paid just over £92 for the 2 acre field. Billy Emms drove an old bull-nosed Morris, was a JP and bandmaster of the New Buckenham Silver Band. He played cornet in the band for 64 years - and was still playing with them in a band concert in St Andrews Hall in 1962. His two sons continued this tradition - Thomas Emms became bandmaster of Drayton British Legion band; William Richard Emms, and his son Timothy, played in the Watton & District Band.

Corner of Mr. Emms’ cottage and orchard in Birchfield Lane, taken from the garden of ‘Crosstyx’ looking south-west. 1958-9.
Corner of Mr. Emms’ cottage and orchard in Birchfield Lane, taken from the garden of ‘Crosstyx’ looking south-west. 1958-9.

After Mr. Emms died, his property was auctioned and the cottage pulled down. George Whitmore continued the tradition of growing plants, fruit and vegetables as a side-line to his normal work. Much of the land was sold for housing around 1980, but Mr. Woolnough still sold his surplus produce from the same bungalow near the Post Office.

Brenda Ford (nee Collins) remembers: 'My mother used to buy tomatoes from a lady called Mrs Emms. She had a nursery business along Birchfield Lane and there were several glasshouses where she grew amongst other things tomatoes. She had a pet monkey in her front garden which always fascinated me as a child, but I was not allowed to touch it as it was of uncertain temperament. She had a little girl living with her for part of the war ‑ she was probably evacuated from somewhere.'

Mr. Ladbrooke Snr. bought a small piece of land south of the Common, next to Captain Carver's house (Birchfield House). The back entrance was off Birchfield Lane. He had a large greenhouse grew flowers for drying which were sent to London by train. Gradually the land was divided into plots for bungalows - some for the family and the others sold off.

Mrs. Nicholls, by the pond, grew fruit, vegetables and flowers and had a stall on Norwich Market.

(Information from Vic Gray, Tony Kent, Cynthia Ladbrook, Michael Lambert, Queenie Wasey, 1920 Estate Sale document lent by Ingrid Fairman)

Market Gardeners from the Directories:

1865 & 1875 William Church, market gardener
John Whitaker, market gardener

1883 - John Catchpole, cucumber grower
William Church, florist and nurseryman, Floral Nursery
Jeremiah Gowing, market gardener
John Whittaker, market gardener

1890 - William Church, florist and nurseryman
John Rix, market gardener and well sinker

1896 - James Barrett, market gardener
William Church, market gardener, Hill Nursery (= Hill House)
John Rix, market gardener and well sinker

1904 - James Barrett, market gardener
Alfred Hardiment, florist & market gardener, Hill Nursery
John Rix, market gardener and well sinker

1922 - William Emms, market gardener
Mrs. Christine Muskett, florist, Hill House
(Frederick Muskett entered as 'cowkeeper', Hill House)

1933 - A J & C Allen, nurserymen, The Rosary
Thomas Bobbin, Florist
Frank I Carver, Market Gardener
William Arthur Emms, market gardener & carpenter
Charles H Hooney, market gardener, The Rosary (sic)
Mrs. Christine Muskett, florist, Hill House
Arthur Nicholls, market gardener