Fun & Games on the Common
(Above photo part of one by Terence Burchell)
The Common has long been used for recreation:
Throngs of people assemble on the village green, in Whitsun week, to witness pony and donkey races, and other sports and amusements. (White's Directory of Norfolk, 1845)
A Parish Council Minute suggests the Common was used for entertainment more than in the past: 1907 April: 'Mr. E Eke called attention to the disgraceful way in which parties of showfolks and others of a like character treated the Common, to the annoyance of the inhabitants near at hand....'
Cynthia Goward remembered: 'A Labour Conference was held annually on the common for farm labourers. George Edwards spoke at least once (below). It was held on a Sunday afternoon and evening in July.' [speaking on Radio Norfolk 'Village Voice']
'The first Sunday in July every year was a big day called Demonstration Sunday. The New Buckenham brass band would play and march from the Swardeston Dog to Mulbarton Common for a big meeting [of the Agricultural Labourers' Union]. Mr. Emms and his 3 sons, who lived in Birchfield Lane, all played in the band. At 8 o'clock most of the crowd would drift to the World's End or the Tradesman's Arms.' [From notes by the late Nesda Gray, nee Carver, written for Radio Norfolk in 1988]
Another memory from an entry entitled 'A Bit of Village Life' in 'Norfolk within Living Memory' (2nd vol.), Norfolk Fedn. of WIs, 1995 (Newbury: Countryside Books) pp. 92-3. The contributor identified herself as aged 78 - so was probably writing about life in the mid-1920s.
'When I went to school at Mulbarton we used to spend virtually all year making a big bonfire on the Common ready for Guy Fawkes. We would cut your fence [hedge], clear your rubbish and take anything to burn. The garage gave old spoiled oil and grease and shops had a clear out for us. A number of grown ups used to help us on the night, it was a big thing and very well organised, the village turned out in strength for the occasion.
'One year it had been raining all week and it was difficult to get it to burn. In those days when they cut hedges and trimmed the side of trees, they bundled them into bunches called faggots. The first year they would stick the peas and beans with them, then they kept them to get sear [dry] for kindling. As the fire would not burn, a man helping said to some of the boys, "Can't you pinch a couple of faggots to give it a start?" Instead of pinching they went to the man's wife and said, your husband sent us for two faggots," and his wife told where they were. They took them back and the fire got under way. The man said, "Is there any more where you got them from? If so get them, they will not miss them." So the boys cleared, out all the faggots. He had a great time burning them and learnt of his folly next day.'
Social life in the village continued in spite of the war...There used to be a Fete on the common on August Bank Holiday Monday, which was the first Monday in August in those days. We used to have all sorts of races and competitions and I used to take part in a wild flower competition seeing how many different varieties of wildflowers we could collect. This would not of course be allowed nowadays. Brenda Ford - nee Collins
Special Events were celebrated with events on the Common:
Coronation of King George VI
[Extracts from the Magazine for Mulbarton cum Keningham (St. Mary Magdalene)]
The Coronation programme for the parish will be sports for the children commencing at 3 pm. A meat tea for children of school age and under (if able to come alone) at 6.30 pm at the School, including children who may have just left school. Coronation New Testaments will be given to all children of and under school age. A meal open to ticket holders at the parish Room for adults at 6.30 pm.
By permission a copper beech tree will be planted on the Common in commemoration of The Coronation.
And since that time many other Royal and National events have been celebrated by planting a commemorative tree on the Common - how many can you spot?
The Queen's Coronation
great celebrations in the village for the Coronation of the Queen in 1953.
Unfortunately it rained off and on all day. There were sports on the common
during the afternoon and there was a party in the evening in the Wingfield Hall
with dancing and a 'Miss June 2nd' Beauty Competition which lots of
girls took part in. There was also a coach trip to London to see the Coronation
Decorations in the Mall and around Buckingham Palace. I still have a
commemorative copy of the New Testament presented by Mulbarton Coronation
Committee plus a souvenir tin of Mackintosh's toffees (now very dried up).
Mulbarton was possibly one of the oldest Cricket Clubs in Norfolk. It is on record that in 1811 the Mulbarton Club played a special match against Ashwellthorpe. What was special was the sidestake on the match ‑ the sides played for 22 bottles of cider and 22 pounds of cherries.
Down the years the Club, as with the Football Club, was known as 'Mulbarton and Swardeston', but in the late 1960s the football club became known as Mulbarton and the cricketers as Swardeston. In the 1990s the present Mulbarton Cricket Club was formed.
Cricket Club is mentioned in a few Directories under 'commercial entries':
Secretary, 1883, Mr. Jeffries
Secretary, 1896. Herbert Hubbard
Secretary, 1904, J H Vincent
From 'The East Carleton Magazine', 1914:
East Carleton Cricket Club played its first match on July 8th 1914 against Mulbarton on Mulbarton Common. East Carleton made 38 runs; Mulbarton 84 for 6 wickets.
Evening News, 20th May 1968 (Extract from
item entitled: Mulbarton Winning Common Battle):
[Mulbarton Common] ...has been overgrown for years and the village's cricket and football teams have to play at neighbouring Swardeston.... In an attempt to get local sporting events back to the common, the Common Committee has been working hard... The Cricket Club is digging out its own pitch and hopes to be playing on it next season...
Which brings us to 1969....
cricket is provided under the Bracon-Ash Cricket Club. At present work is in
hand in preparing a first class cricket square on the Common. In three of the
past four years the Club has won the "R.G.Carter Cup" and earlier had won the
Norfolk Junior Cup. Both Clubs [Football and Cricket] are running side shows
today and would like to thank you in advance for your support.
Extract from the Grand Fete & Children's Sports Day programme, Whit Monday, May 26th 1969 - organised by the Mulbarton Common Committee
Ladies Hockey Team - photo reputed to have been taken on Mulbarton Common about 1907. Only known members are Beatrice (Trixie) Corbould-Warren (born 1887) who carved the eagle lectern in Bracon Ash Church (seated middle row, far left) and her sister Winifred Alice born 1885 (seated middle row, far right). They lived at Bracon Lodge, off what is now Cuckoofield Lane.
Village lads formed a Cycle Speedway Club and a good crowd was attracted to the track on a Sunday afternoon.
1959 Annual Parish Meeting: Mulbarton Cycle Speedway Club asked to improve its existing track on the Common. Only sport in the Parish; Council agreed as long as Lord of the Manor informed.
The team went on to give some impressive performances, but when it folded the track became overgrown. It was revamped decades later for BMX bikes, but is now hardly visible.
In the 1980s, people of all types of sport got together to take part in the Norfolk Inter-Village Sports. Peter Mickleburgh was Manager in 1982 (below) and Jane Stevenson in 1983.
Fun for all
Children's Play Area
'The slide and swings erected on the Common were presented by the Mulbarton Young Wives Group. In the main, the funds to purchase this equipment were raised by the group at jumble sales and carol singing expeditions. The Young Wives were always encouraged in their efforts by the generosity and support of local people. The funds were greatly increased by a substantial grant from The National Playing Fields Association, making the purchase of the equipment possible much earlier than had been anticipated. It is hoped that the slide and swings are only the foundation for a larger play area in the future.' (Extract from the 1969 Whit Sunday Fete programme)
Ponds or Pits
The ponds (locally known as 'pits') on the Common were important for grazing animals. The 'village pond' ('Todd's Pit', after a World's End landlord) was carefully watched for the amount and the quality of the water. It seems fish didn't appear until World War 2 - reputedly being brought from 'Scott's Lake' (now The Grove Cheshire Home) by local lads....
MULBARTON POND HOLDS HOPE FOR MANKIND
[The following article appeared in an issue of the Eastern Daily Press under 'Down Nature's Way by E.A.E.' (i.e. by Norfolk naturalist Ted Ellis). Cutting undated, but Ted Ellis was looking at plants on the Common and advising the Common Committee in 1967.]
The village of Mulbarton, near Norwich, is the fortunate owner of a vast "green" which is a common. In the last year or two the condition of this attractive open space has been greatly improved by voluntary effort. Over the greatest part there is now springy green turf, with trees, play areas, and so on where not long ago thistles and scrub were in the ascendant. At the same time a very important little pond and its surroundings have been left to nature, so scientific as well as amenity interests have been served under the new management scheme.
The pond is of special interest because the small club-rushes growing in it produce a rare ergot fungus, Claviceps nigricans. Every summer horn-like ergots develop in large quantities on the brown flower spikes of the rush. These fall into the water and float to the edge of the pond in winter and in May they give rise to bluish violet fruiting clubs shaped like drumsticks, which produce the spore that re-infects the rushes just as they re coming into flower again.
Ergots of another kind are common on rye and many wild grasses. These were notorious in the Middle Ages for causing the gangrenous disease known as 'St. Anthony's Fire' when people ate bread made from infected rye.
More recently several valuable alkaloids extracted from these ergots have been employed widely in obstetrics and gynaecology and for treating varicose veins, high blood pressure and migraine. Moreover, in 1938, the drug now known as L.S.D. was isolated for the first time from these ergots by a Swiss biochemist, although the hallucinatory effects of this substance were not discovered till five years later.
When a rich source of Claviceps nigricans was found at Mulbarton Common a few years ago, scientists in various research centres in Germany and Britain initiated investigations into the biochemical qualities of its ergots, in the hope of discovering further interesting and perhaps additionally useful alkaloids which would benefit mankind. These researches continue and it is therefore now doubly important that the classic source of the fungus should be preserved.