The Messenger Online

Life in Gislingham 100 years ago

For this month’s article, I have trawled back through copies of GNUS, dating back 20 years, to an article that was written by Mr. C. W. Carter about life in Gislingham in 1920 - 100 years ago. I have also managed to source the names of the various tradespeople courtesy of Kelly’s directory.

“Many changes have taken place over the years. We had to rely on candles and oil for lighting and cooking. We had no electric or telephone, no street lighting, and no pavements. Nearly all the houses had their own water well and there was a street pump near the Six Bells Public House, and another in Mill Street.

Gislingham pub

There was no sewer, and toilets were outdoors using a pail, which was emptied weekly in the garden. There was no refuse collection. There were no council houses, no houses on Broadfields, or West View Gardens, or on Thornham Road and Burgate Road. There was a small house in the Churchyard, and only two houses down Spring Lane.

There was a Post office and General Stores (Joseph Newman), two other small shops (James Rollinson & Mrs Emily Smith), two Public Houses – the Six Bells (Frederick Tuffs) and the Prince of Wales Inn (William Pizzey); two Blacksmiths (Charles Bird and Charles Steggall), a Wheelwright (George Vincent), a Rector (Rev. Bennett), a couple of Boot makers (William Riches & Frederick Seaman), a plumber & painter (Thomas Robinson) a thatcher (Samuel Lingley) and a wheelwright (George Vincent). In addition, there was a Carpenter, a Doctor, a Vet and an Undertaker and Gravedigger.

There was of course, St. Mary’s Church, complete with six bells, a Chapel Mission Hall, a Brass Band which records them playing at Wickham Skeith in 1884.

A school in Mill Street, rebuilt in 1870 for 100 children with three teachers; Mrs Spindler was the Headmistress.

Gislingham Mill

There a was a fine windmill in Mill Street, which ground corn for feeding livestock.
All land work was done by horses. There were no tractors or combine harvesters, the corn was cut with soil reapers. Wheat and oats tied by hand, the barley carted loose, some was cut with a scythe if laid.

People were driven to Finningham and Mellis railway Stations and town by pony and trap. There were no bus services. The first car I saw was a Ford with brass headlights between about 1920 and 1925.

A Postman brought the mail from Eye on a bicycle and delivered it around the Parish. There were livestock markets at Stowmarket and Diss, both sold cattle, pigs, poultry, and eggs.
Both towns had Corn Halls, where farmers sold their corn. Most farms had milking cows, the milk collected by horse and cart and taken to Mellis Station, then later collected by a milk lorry.

Farmland was drained by hand during the winter months to a depth of 18-20 inches, dug by hand, first stocks were buried, later clay pipes.”
Much has changed over the years!

Photos courtesy of The Gray family.