Roads & Transport


An Act of Parliament 'for Repairing and Widening the Road from Ber Street Gates to New Buckenham' was passed in 1772. The route followed the line of the present Hall Road out of Norwich, through 'The Hamlet of Lakenham' and Tuck's Wood. At Harford Bridge it crossed the Turnpike to London via Ipswich (now the A140) where there was a toll-gate at the river bridge. The rest of the route to New Buckenham is the current B1113. The Turnpike was administered by Trustees on behalf of the Shareholders. Shares were obviously valuable: in 1816, the auction of the estate of Richard Moss of Norwich had 2 lots: his 'exceedingly good and convenient freehold dwelling in Rampant Horse Street' and two shares in the New Buckenham Turnpike!

Norwich Mercury 27 Feb 1830 (repeated 6 March): NEW BUCKENHAM TURNPIKE
Meeting of Trustees of the New Buckenham Turnpike to be held at the King's Head, Ashwellthorpe, on Thursday 18th March at 12 noon to apportion Statute Duty and other business. Tradesmen's Bills to be delivered to the Surveyor of Roads by 1st July.
John Sendell, Clerk to the Trustees.

Milestone by wall of old chapel
Milestone by wall of old chapel

The Norwich Record Office has a detailed map of the road made in 1832 to show planned road improvements. The Mulbarton section shows both windmills, marks the old silk factory as 'the late Manufactory', names the World's End, the Blacksmith's Shop and bridge. The map shows a proposed alteration to cut across the bend near the junction with Catbridge Lane to straighten the road. This never happened in the 1830s, but the same alteration was suggested in the 1960s - and again did not happen! But the road was straightened in Bracon Ash parish where the right-angle bend at Poorhouse Lane was totally realigned.

ROAD ACCIDENTS are not a modern phenominon:

From school Log Books:
1897: Feb. 12th - As George Williams (an infant) was coming to school he was knocked down by a horse driven by a butcher and was badly cut about the head and face. He was at once carried home by his brothers and will be driven to Norwich Hospital for treatment, I understand.

1902: Oct. 7th Alfred Rumsby when coming to school got run over by a wagon and was carried home again.

Funeral Report in local newspaper, June 8th 1935:
"The funeral took place at Mulbarton Church on Saturday of Mrs. Alice Maria Whurr... of Bracon Ash, who met her death whilst cycling in Mulbarton on Wednesday in a collision with a motor lorry. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved husband and two children, a boy [James] and a girl [Dorothy]. The daughter was cycling with her mother at the time of the accident." Among the mourners listed is "Mrs. Larter (mother)" and Jean, Margaret and Jack Larter (sisters and brother).

Villagers protest as tempers fly over blackspot
News report in Eastern Evening News, 25th August 1981:
Angry Mulbarton residents say they regularly have to turn their homes into temporary accident centres for victims of traffic accidents at a dangerous junction on the busy Norwich Road.
The residents all live in East Carleton Road which joins Norwich Road on a bend. They say accidents at the blackspot are becoming increasingly regular....
"...Last night we had to lift the victim out of her car and it wasn't long ago since we pulled some other people out after an accident....We are always bringing people, often covered in blood, into our home until the ambulance comes."
...A speed limit should be set and banks which hampered visibility for traffic pulling out of East Carleton Road should be cut away..."People come down the Norwich Road too fast...." Pedestrians were in just as much danger as car drivers. At least three had been killed on the road over the past few years.....

When road repair gangs came to the village, a steam-roller came with them. The driver slept and lived in a large wooden caravan. The local youngsters kept well clear as these old drivers were rumoured to be cannibals. They were a special breed - unmarried, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, but kind to animals.
This accident demolished the bus shelter near the World's end (mentioned below).
This accident demolished the bus shelter near the World's end (mentioned below).


Tony Kent's Memories:
The roads were kept in order by "Length-men". They were employed by the Council - in those days Forehoe & Henstead (nicknamed 'Beethoe & Bedstead'). The Norwich end of the village was looked after by "Uncle" Ben Wymer, and the other end by Charlie Brighton.
To get to Norwich it was a bicycle or Humphries' buses. In those days, the road into Norwich split at the King George pub [now the Marsh Harrier] and heavy and horse-drawn traffic kept right up Hall Road then down Ber Street. On a Saturday, vast herds of cattle used Ber Street to get to 'the hill' [cattle market]...
Sugar beet and corn could be seen going along the turnpike (Norfolk for main road, B1113) on steam-propelled lorries. Most of these had solid block rubber tyres. The drivers invariably smoked short-stemmed pipes ('snout-warmers').

When road repair gangs came to the village, a steam-roller came with them. The driver slept and lived in a large wooden caravan. The local youngsters kept well clear as these old drivers were rumoured to be cannibals. They were a special breed - unmarried, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, but kind to animals.

Roads in the Parish Council Minutes:

Norwich Road looking North - c.1907
Norwich Road looking North - c.1907

1910 July 12th Lanes to Mulbarton Wood in a bad state - District Surveyor to be asked about the matter.
Dec. 2nd Reported that it was difficult for children in the area of The Wood to get to school because of the state of the footpath.

1920 April 20th Annual Parish Meeting at the School, chaired by Mr. Chas Frost
Letter had been sent to AA asking for signs on roads where children play:
'Letter from the Automobile Association was read indicating the 'Warning Signs' would be provided if the Council would undertake the erection of the same....this would be done by the Council.'
[In the same year, County Surveyor informed that the Main Road between the World's End and the Post Office was unsafe at The Pit. Repaired in January 1921.]
1922 Retaining wall by The Pit agreed.

1927 Annual Meeting: Complaints about roads in the Parish - around The Pit; from Common to crossroads on way to Swainsthorpe Station; another road to Swainsthorpe. Problems around The Pit referred to the Lord of the Manor - caused by heavy horse water carts, which seem to have been stopped. Other roads to be patched up 'in due course'.

Ford & footbridge, Catbridge Lane
Ford & footbridge, Catbridge Lane

1934, Jan 23rd 'A letter from Norwich City Electrical Engineer suggested that the Parish should have 'Public Street Lighting'. Particulars as to cost of each lamp etc were given in the letter. Full discussion was given, and the Council, whilst appreciating the offer of the City Engineer, felt that at present the cost be too great for the Parish and the Clerk was instructed to reply accordingly.' [Even offered free trial of a lamp to tempt a rethink, but Council stuck to its decision. Almost identical decision appears in May 1974!]

1935 Aug. 27th A letter from RDC asked the Parish Council to recommend any roads in the Parish which they considered should be made subject to the "Road Traffic Act 1934". Mr. Lake propd, Mr. Woolmer secd. That the main road from the Norwich entrance to the Village up to the Mill corner near the Common be subject to the 30 miles per hour speed limit.

1946 May - Proposed to have two more 30 mph signs, at Trademan's Arms and Paddock Farm. 
Oct. - Road improvements needed to make them safe for children to reach school from Paddock farm to pond and Rosary to Mulbarton Hall. Reminder to be sent on speed limits.

1948 Ministry of Transport refused speed limit, but would accept 'SLOW' painted on road at each end of village. Complaint that Birchfield Lane is in a 'deplorable state'.

1952 July: Accidents at Rosery Corner [County Council plans to change layout amended by Parish Council in Nov. Another accident there in 1956]

1952 Nov. Fatal accident causes the Parish Council to request white lines on main road [Still wanted in 1966].

Norwich Road improvements c.1952 (compare with photo above)
Norwich Road improvements c.1952 (compare with photo above)

1954 New fencing erected round school for safety, but thought the gate in a dangerous place.

1964 - Council tries again to request County Highways for 30 mph limit, 'Road Narrow', 'Slow' and 'Bend' signs. [Speed limit refused again in 1965, although population doubled since first application.]

1967 May 30th The Clerk asked to approach the appropriate authority to have a kerb put in at that portion of the main road between Paddock farm and the Surgery known as Jackson's Bend and at the same time to join with the Swardeston Parish Clerk in asking for a speed limit through the two parishes. [The Surgery was then in the building that now houses the Vet.]

1967 May: New Council elected. Again request speed limit; footpath to surgery. Also ask for St. Omer Close to be 'made up'.

1967 Oct. 23rd Parish Meeting in the Wingfield Hall - Request for new road surface and 'cat's eyes' on main road.

1973 May 7th Annual Meeting at the Old School: The Chairman apologized for the delay in starting the Bus Shelter at the World's End; this should commence shortly.'



by David Wright, with additional memories from villagers and items from Parish Council Minutes added in 

Our buses have been a 'lifeline' for Mulbarton people for many, many years. We don't know when the first bus service started, but we do know that the Parish Council was complaining about the 'dangerous speed' of buses near the pond - in 1924! It was over 80 years before this complaint was fully dealt with....

'1924 Oct. 20th Although no reply had been received from the County Council with reference to the speed of motor buses through the village, it was noticed by members of the PC that a great improvement on this matter had taken place.'

One of the few additions in the entry for Mulbarton in Kelly's Directory 1933 is the 'frequent motor omnibus services to Norwich, New Buckenham, East Harling and Thetford, and a daily coach service to London'.

Before World War 2 there were several independent bus operators. People can remember: BRIGGS - a fawn-coloured bus;

RELIANCE - a green bus;

HUMPHREY - a deep red bus

...but we have no colour photos from that era - though any photos or tickets are welcome! People remember the fare as 5d or 6d to Norwich, and 9d return. Some buses terminated in Ber Street, and others in Chapelfield, Norwich. 'One of the drivers was named Bob - a round-faced man'. The last bus from Norwich was at about 6pm, with a late bus on Saturdays.

Miss Burrell remembers:
I first knew Mulbarton around 1937 when I visited Mr. & Mrs. Oswick who had recently built a bungalow, "Peacehaven" in the Rosary. It was set in the middle of a large meadow which in summer was a mass of wild orchids. I travelled by bus (Eastern Counties, or United) from Norwich - it was a fairly frequent service with the last bus from Norwich, Mon - Fri being 9.20 pm, Sat 10.20, Sun 9.20 (I think). The fare, I cannot be certain, but 9d rings a bell. Sometimes I came by train to Swainsthorpe and walked past the Vale, then a Poor Law Institution.

After the war, the bus frequency was obviously not good enough, and a complaint went to the Parish Council:

1946 May - Request for improved bus service: hourly on Wed, Fri, and Sat pm.

And there were complaints again 10 years later:

1957 Annual Meeting - complaints about no.27 bus service - service needs improving, especially later buses.

The next mention is an attempt to get buses routed via Cuckoofield Lane and Long Lane:

1964 '...the bus company would not provide the alternative services requested because the County Surveyor would not allow buses to travel along Rosary Road and...nothing could be done to improve the road at this stage.'
[The 'Rosery Road' referred to is now the eastern end of Cuckoofield Lane, between Birchfield Lane and Long Lane]

Remembering back to the later 1960s:

'The local bus to Norwich ran about four times daily - but only on the main road (B1113). It was a long trek to either the Tradesman's Arms corner or The World's End with a pushchair.'
(From an article by Jane Burgess, in Parish News, Summer 1993)

Even fares became an issue at the Annual Parish Meeting though this Minute seems a little unfair:
1967 Oct. 23rd Parish Meeting in the Wingfield Hall - 'The Council were asked to make a formal protest to the Bus Company about the exorbitant fare between the World's End and the Tradesman's Arms.'

A generation - and more - of Mulbarton people knew that "our" bus was the Eastern Counties No.27 to and from Norwich bus station. One Parish Councillor remembered using the slipstream from the buses to cycle faster into Norwich!

Even in 1972 there were long gaps in the bus service - up to 2 hours between buses, a few of which came through the village via Cuckoofield Lane and Long Lane. The weekday bus times from the Cuckoofield Lane phone box were 8.05; 10.52 & 13.48, but there were additional buses that kept to the B1113 to Norwich from the World's End stop at 7.08; 8.06; 8.29; 10.20; 13.12; 16.18; 17.00; 15.45; 16.18; 17.00; 18.10; and 20.31   Most buses came from New Buckenham; a few came through from Kenninghall, and a couple of extra buses had been put on to serve Mulbarton's growing population which turned at Wreningham or Bracon Ash.

Eastern Counties double-decker on the B1113 near Mulbarton Bridge, Dec. 2004.
Eastern Counties double-decker on the B1113 near Mulbarton Bridge, Dec. 2004.

Then the service was reorganised, and we became the 801 route - and the frequency increased a little. After that, reorganisations came thick and fast. The bus number and the route changed almost every year in the 1990s! For several years we had a "midibus" service - every 15 mins, then reduced to every 20 mins. In addition, in the 1990s, Spratts (of Wreningham) ran a service through Mulbarton to Norwich Rail Station - using a comfortable coach.By 2004 we had settled down to a half-hour daytime service on the No.10 route, recently changed to the Purple Line No.37 route. 

Spratts coach with Jimmy Thurston (left) and Clifford Allison
Spratts coach with Jimmy Thurston (left) and Clifford Allison

Coaches through Mulbarton

Motor Coaches? Yes! The 1933 Kelly's Directory lists a daily coach to London, and names Mr. Middleton (postmaster) is the agent for Westminster Coaches for tickets to London.

Even in the 1970s, Eastern Counties ran a regular daily service to London, down 'The Turnpike' via Bury St. Edmunds, Sudbury, Braintree and Chelmsford. What a pity I never caught it!



The London - Norwich railway through Swainsthorpe opened in 1849, after which local directories stated that Mulbarton is " mile and a half from Swainsthorpe station, 5 miles south-west from Norwich, 6 from Wymondham, and 109 from London...."

In 1889, trains took NINE MINUTES from Norwich Victoria to Swainsthorpe! And Norwich Victoria station was a very convenient location, on Queens Road, near what is now the St. Stephen's roundabout and the bus station. In 1889 there were eight trains each way each weekday (Mon - Sat). Fares were NOT cheap: in 1889, a single from Norwich was 10d (first class); 8d (second class); or 4½ d (third class) - when a farm labourer's wage was between 10/- and 13/- (shillings) a week. [N.B. 12 old pence to 1 shilling]. Swainsthorpe was also used for freight, as a notification to James Turner of a coal delivery in the 1880s shows.

According to Mulbarton Parish Council Minutes, July 9th 1914, 'Petition against closing Victoria Station GCR Norwich.... was signed by all present.'

In 1922, the last year of the Great Eastern Railway before it became part of the LNER, Swainsthorpe still had eight trains each way each weekday - but by then Norwich Victoria had closed to passengers and trains took 15 minutes from Norwich Thorpe station. Some also stopped at Trowse - ideal for County Hall, but it wasn't to be built for another 50 years! Most of the trains south carried on to Ipswich, and three were through trains to London. Occasional trains turned east at Tivetshall Junction and travelled via Harleston and Bungay to Beccles - eventually!

Local people remember using Swainsthorpe Station - to travel to and from Norwich; and for a school outing to London in the 1930s. Mr. Middleton, postmaster, would cycle to Swainsthorpe Station to take the post office takings to Norwich for banking. Mrs. Eileen Gowing remembered arranging with station staff to have hunt horses loaded into a horsebox which was then attached to a train and horses, grooms and riders would travel to a more distant hunt in Norfolk or Suffolk. It was also used for goods, as this entry in the Mulbarton School log book  shows:

1928 Oct. 17th - 8 dual desks received from the Educational Supply Association Ltd, Stevenage, Herts. Mr. Broom carted these from Swainsthorpe Station this afternoon.

Swainsthorpe signal box, relocated to Wells in 1987.
Swainsthorpe signal box, relocated to Wells in 1987.

Sadly, Swainsthorpe station closed in 1952 - even earlier than Flordon (closed 1964) and Forncett stations. But one piece was preserved: in 1987, the signal box (above) was taken apart and rebuilt at the Wells station of the Wells - Walsingham Light Railway. Now, the ground floor is a shop, tearoom, and waiting room, whilst the upper floor provides office and staff rooms.

Just think - Swainsthorpe could have been the 'Park & Ride' for trains to London and for Norwich Victoria! IF Swainsthorpe station had stayed open, maybe that village would have expanded instead of Mulbarton.... A nine-minute rail service to Norwich sounds much more attractive than the slow crawl on our "main" road at rush hours! In fact, if it took 9 minutes by steam train in 1889, couldn't it be 6 minutes Swainsthorpe to Norwich by now?

Hethersett Station was further away, but was on the line to the Midlands and Manchester. Mike Lambert remembers taking boxes of flowers there to be loaded onto a freight train - a job that had to be done slickly as there was no sidings here.

AND FINALLY...did you know that Mulbarton parish reaches the railway? The boundary extends to the embankment at one point south of Brickiln Lane.