THE COMMON is the glory of Mulbarton: over 45 acres of open land, mostly within a triangle of roads. One of these is the New Buckenham Turnpike, the B1113, which links Mulbarton to Norwich, five miles away to the north.
Today, the Common is a recreation area for the rapidly increasing number of people in the village - and their dogs. Its football pitches are used by all ages. Even in the 19th century, there were day-trips from Norwich to Mulbarton for games on the Common and liquid refreshment at the World's End. A move to enclose the Common aroused great opposition in 1865, and modern development on the perimeter has been resisted with partial success.
In earlier times, the Common must have been vital to the community: a place to graze the cattle and keep them from the surrounding open fields. The name Mulbarton is 'Mokebertuna' in the Domesday Book, and probably means 'an outliying dairy farm'. It is just possible to imagine that a clearing in the forest where the dairy cattle grazed has become our present Common.
(First published in the W.I. Gazette, August 1984)
Dorothy Tungate remembered:
"The main part of the common is triangular in shape with at least five ponds on it. It was used for cricket matches during the summer, and football later in the year. In the 1930s, Mulbarton Common was used for grazing cattle, and at times for sheep, and a man - or a young lad in the school holidays - used to 'walk the green' as one old chap called it. But in the winter it was mostly used by children. When the snow lay thick and deep in those days, Charlie and Jack Cooper (who lived by the Tradesman's Arms) used to cut 2 ft wide pathways down one side of the common so the children and others could get to the school and to the butcher's shop."
A Common Story
The following was written by Ella Collier, a 'lover of the old common' who was born in Feb. 1871, and had ridden on Mulbarton Common with her father. She was glad to hear of the restoration of the Common in the 1960s, and sent donations of 1 guinea (£1.05) and £1 to the Common Committee Fund for clearing the common, but said she was sorry to know that a machine had to do the work of the sheep, goats and horses that once grazed there.
Legend of Mulbarton Common
as related to my Father, the Rev. James Spurgeon Green when a boy, by his maternal Grandfather, the Rev. Richard Spurgeon, Rector of Mulbarton 1812-1843:
The story runs that many, many years ago, an old couple, Billy Grimes and Sally his wife, lived in a small cottage on the edge of the Common. It was winter and there had been a heavy snowfall and blizzards which kept people indoors. The old couple had been in the habit of trotting across the Common to the World's End every evening for a glass of beer, but the weather had prevented them for the best part of a week.
One evening the old man said, "Sally, maw, I can't go wi'out my sup o' beer no longer. The snow ha' stopped, I kin git across the Common to the World's End."
"No! No! Bill - yew aint tew good. I'll go for yer and fetch a pint back."
"That yer don't mawther. Yew bide here. I'll have my stick an' tis munelight."
The old man went off. His wife waited. An hour passed: two hours - and he wasn't home. Frantic with worry, Sally put on her hood and cloak and went to look for him.
The next day, a neighbour called at the cottage, and getting no answer to her knock, tried the door, found it unfastened and went in. No one there!
Some six weeks later when a rapid thaw set in and the snow cleared from the Common, they were found: each in a separate hollow. The 'holes' had been filled with snowdrifts six feet or more deep and it was evident that first Billy and then Sally had blundered into each hole separately, and had been suffocated by the snow. In their feeble old age they would have had no strength to struggle.
(Donated by Jil Wheeler, who found this item among the Rich's Charity papers)
A Mulbarton Poem
People who praise Mulbarton tend to think first of the Common. This poem was written by the late Gwen Debenham in 1985: she moved with her husband from North London to Birchfield Gardens and they became 'pillars' of the Mulbarton Methodist Chapel.
nicest village one could find,
The folk all friendly, warm and kind,
Young and old, and in between,
Help to make the village scene.
lovely common vast and wide,
The village church stands by its side,
And as its bell tolls time of day
Children on the common play.
the road and just beyond,
Lies the lovely village pond
With water lilies pink and white,
Ducks and Coots, a pretty sight.
farms and leafy ways,
Remnant of the bygone days,
Fields of barley, oats and wheat,
Peas and beans and sugar beet.
corn and poppies red,
Larks and swallows overhead,
The beauty of the countryside:
May it always here abide.