The Forncett History Group

HG logoForncett History Group was set up in 2010 to promote interest in the history of the parish from the very earliest records (Forncett was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1087) up until the present day. The Chairman of the Group since its inception has been John Webster, who has acted as the guardian of a huge amount of material (photos, documents and other items) that has been collected, donated or copied from local parishoners. This Forncett Archive has provided much of the material that now appears on our web site. We are always keen to hear of any material or information that might be added to the Forncett Archive so if you think you have anything that might be of interest to us please contact the History Group Secretary.

The Group undertakes research into a variety of aspects of Forncett history. In the recent past these projects have included:

  • The Great War - research into all those Forncett men who gave their lives in the Great War
  • The 1939 Register - documentation of all those living in Forncett in September 1939
  • The History of Austhorpe House
  • Air crashes in Forncett during World War II

We also arrange occasional visits of particular historical interest.

The History Group meets six times a year; usually on the third Wednesday in the months of January, March, May, July, September and November. Meetings are normally held at St. Edmund's church in Forncett End and new members are always welcome. In addition we occasionally organise local visits to places of historical interest. There is an Annual Membership fee of £10 (payable at the Annual General Meeting in May).

If you would like to join the group and be added to our mailing list please contact the History Group Secreatary

Austhorpe House

Written by Mike Merrick and John Webster on .

Austhorpe historyOur local residential care home, Austhorpe House, is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year, and the Forncett History Group is marking the occasion by publishing a detailed and fascinating history of the house based on research done recently. Copies of the well-illustrated publication will be available, price £4, at the Austhorpe Fete on the 9th June, and also by personal order to John Webster, email or Tel: 01953-788114. Cheques payable to ‘Forncett History Group’.

The 1939 Register of Forncett parish

Written by Administrator on .

The Forncett History Group is currently trying to put together a picture of what Forncett was like just before the very considerable changes that occurred after WW2. Who was living in Forncett? Where were they living and what were their occupations? 

On the 29th September 1939 a register of the civilian population of England and Wales was taken. This record – the 1939 Register - was to produce Identity Cards and to facilitate the issuing of ration books in January 1940. The 1939 Register is not a census, it includes less detailed information, but it does include names and exact dates of birth. Members of the Forncett History Group have made an accurate transcription of the 1939 Register for the parish1. Individuals’ records remain closed for 100 years from their date of birth, or until proof of death is produced, and consequently around 20% of the entries are redacted.

The original images of the Register are copyright of The National Archives  and were transcribed with their full permission.

The “raw” transcription has been annotated to facilitate searches and the database can be searched by surname or by address. The Register lists a total of 205 dwellings in the parish but many of these had no specific name. Using a variety of sources we have identified the addresses and locations of as many of the houses as possible and in our database these have links to Google maps. The link will open the standard view of Google maps but you can then switch to the satellite view and street view to give more details.

A copy of the annotated database can be downloaded here

If you were living in Forncett in 1939 or had family who were you may be able to help us by identifying some of the homes listed in the Register. If you can identify any of the “unknown” homes (ones with no identified Google map location) please contact Mike Merrick by phone (01953 788887) or email and we will update the Register accordingly.

To request a copy of the unannotated transcription please email Mike Merrick

Puzzle for the FHG

Written by John Webster on .

At the latest meeting of the Forncett History Group an item noted on Ebay generated a great deal of discussion. The postcard – acquired in the end by another party unknown to us – showed a young man with a pony and cart/trap.


Click pic to enlarge

Closer analysis of the image showed the name ‘J. HUMPHREYS’ to be on the side of the trap. The Chairman then explained how Dennis Ludkin had been quite challenged by this and set about comparing older larger scale maps to see if a similar range of buildings to that on the photo could be found. Dennis had pinpointed a small group near Chestnut Farm as being comparable. Discussion then turned on the shape of the buildings and established that the building in the foreground might well be separate from the main range, which would correspond with the representation on one of the maps (see detail of map of 1906). One would have to bear in mind that the angle and direction of the photo would mean that Chestnut Cottage was obscured by the other buildings.

Thanks to the detective work of Dennis L. and useful discussion at the FHG it would seem that the location has been reasonably established. We still do not know for certain who the young man is and why he was photographed at this place. James (‘Jimmy’) HUMPHREYS was the baker at Forncett End at Harley House. With evidence from copied documents referred to by the Chairman it was shown that J.H. had fallen on hard times and by 1924 was declared bankrupt. It was pointed out that his fate reflected the social problems of the times. His assets included various fixtures and fittings and ‘pony, cart and harness’, valued at £25.

Visit to Devlin & Plummer Stained Glass

Written by Richard Ball on .

On Wednesday 15th June the Forncett History Group visited the Stained Glass Works of Devlin and Plummer in Great Moulton who recently restored two windows in St Edmund's Church, Forncett End.

The group was shown round by Terry Devlin who explained the numerous processes in detail while we interrupted the work of the various people then engaged in the workshop - and very friendly and patient they all were.

A very interesting visit indeed. Many thanks to Terry and his co-workers for their time and to John Webster for organising it. 

Photos by Richard Ball

Click pic for slide show

Forncett War Memorials - an update

Written by Jackie Scully on .

I now have information regarding Edwin Charles Gostling and have details of his memorial.

I have been given a photograph of Ernest Pymer and now know why George Henry Thomson is buried in Forncett churchyard. My correspondent was unable to supply a photograph of George Thomson. Maybe a Scottish descendant knows of him? His father was William B. Thomson, his mother Elizabeth H. Thomson and they lived in Dalry, Kircudbright.

My thanks go to relatives of these men who took the trouble to contact me and for supplying me with information.

I am still seeking photographs of WW1 victim Walter Ernest Brooks, and Thomas Edward Green and Roy Arthur Tann from WW11.

Many thanks for help already given and that to come. .

Jackie Scully
April 2012

Great Hospital Visit - 25 January 2012

Written by Super User on .

Great Hospital_25_01_12_(17)_(Medium) (1)Forncett History Group members were invited to take part in a guided tour of the Great Hospital in Norwich. This was a wonderful opportunity to explore this building, that has such a long history and is rarely open to the public.

The hospital was first founded by Bishop Walter de Suffield in 1249 for the housing of elderly, poor priests, the sick and infirm and for the education of 7 boys in Latin. No women were allowed, except for nurses who had to be over 50 years of age. By the end of the 14th Century the building had been taken over and its remit changed to purely the care of priests; the poor were no longer considered. During this period much new building took place.

Norwich Walk - Weavers and Shoemakers

Written by Jan Rutter on .

Click image for more
Photographs by Richard Ball

On Thursday 13th October a group of about a dozen Forncett HIistory Group members and friends met at the Erpingham Gate of Norwich Cathedral for a guided tour around the area, where weavers and textile workers of the past had plied their trade.

Our excellent guide for the event was Rod Spokes, who delivered a very interesting and informative talk and commentary, skilfully guiding us around many ‘nooks and crannies’ in the streets and courtyards around the Colegate area. One particularly surprising place was ‘Whip and Nag Court’, a quaint, council restored courtyard such as would have been seen in many areas around central Norwich.

The tour also took in Blackfriars Hall, where we were shown portraits, some dating back to the 16th century, of the Lord Mayors of Norwich. Many of them had were the cloth merchants for whom the weavers worked.

The main manufactured article produced by the weavers was worsted (named after the village in Norfolk) cloth, which was that worn by the wealthy, and, at a later date, shawls worn by Victorian ladies over their shoulders and bustles. The weaving had originally been carried out as a cottage industry and Rod pointed out the large top floor windows of the houses that had been necessary to provide the light required for this intricate work. Unfortunately due to the stubborn refusal of the weavers to accept progress and mechanisation, in order to compete with the factories in the North, the trade was doomed to die out in the 19th century.

Rod was also a fount of knowledge about the architecture of the shoe factories of the district. We were all impressed by the quality of the buildings and the evident pride the owners had taken in them. What a contrast with modern day units! Unfortunately too, this industry has declined and none now remains in use as to their original purpose.

This was a wonderful morning and gave us all a chance to explore an area of historical Norwich, which hitherto many of us had not realised had existed. I, for one, can’t wait for another opportunity to repeat the event with a different theme!

Previous Meetings

Written by Super User on .

The Forncett History Group met on 15 June at Forncett St Edmund’s. The officers were confirmed for the coming year, as was the agreement to have an annual £10 membership subscription. Reports were given on the two recent visits by members of the group.

On 13 May a small group visited the Landscape Archaeology Unit at Gressenhall Museum, where Dr Alice Cattermole had made an interesting selection of aerial photographs of Forncett to back up her talk about the continually developing record of the local landscape in former times. The facility at the LAU has improved noticeably since our last visit; the computerized database is more impressive and also viewable by projection, with various overlays and comparisons possible from a variety of mapping records – tithing and Ordnance Survey maps of various types. These are then used with data relating to buildings and archaeological features to establish ‘snapshots’ of the landscape at various times. Thanks to Alice’s local knowledge and expertise we gained a great deal from the visit and are certainly keen to visit again. It was pointed out that input from Forncett folk would be much appreciated to add to the information already on file. In fact a member brought a number of items found in their house, and these are at present being analysed at the LAU.

Forncett St.Peter War Memorial

Written by Jackie Scully on .

1939-1945I am researching into the backgrounds of the soldiers named on St. Peter’s War Memorial. (St.Mary’s was completed by Raymond Harvey in 2004). I now have much information, and have found photographs of 17 of the 21 WW1 soldiers on these Memorials.

I am therefore trying to trace photographs of:

Edwin Charles Gostling, who almost certainly lived in Bentley Road, Forncett End, and whose family lived in the same house until the mid 1990s. So far I have been unable to find any details of a memorial or grave save he died of wounds in Flanders, France.

Ernest Pymer, son of Mr. & Mrs Pymer of Long Stratton, and husband of Dorothy Pymer, living in Tabernacle Lane, also Forncett End.

World War 2 and Memories of Forncett - History Group meeting 23rd June 2010

Written by Jan Rutter on .

A small group of members met at St Edmund's Church and were interested to learn from John Webster more about Life in the Forncetts 1937 - 1947. He informed us that a Lewis Gun had been mounted outside St Edmund's Church for the Home Guard to practise with. Several members also discussed the possibility of holding interviews with elderly residents of the village to record their own personal memories of those times, so that first hand evidence could be gathered for the archive. The group would welcome any information from other residents about this period too. 

Jackie Scully reported on her research on the names of the fallen from WW1 who have been commemorated on the War Memorial in St Peter's churchyard. It is hoped that when her research is complete the History Group will be able to produce a booklet about them which will be availabe in the Forncett churches for visitors to read.

The third topic for the evening was The Sale Yard and Forncett Station. Once again it was decided that personal memories would be best and it would therefore be beneficial to interview those who had some part in these enterprises. Any memories or information will be valued and should be passed to John Webster.

John Webster and Jackie Scully reported briefly on their participation in the recent Carleton Rode archaeological dig and it is hoped that this type of investigation may be possible also in the Formcetts.