Harrisons Meadow

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Harrisons Meadow and Cottage

A short history of the site

There seems to be some confusion as to the true area and extent of Harrison's Meadow. Study of old maps reveal the field boundaries in the 1800s. What is certain is the land where both Harrison’s Meadow and cottage stood were registered on the enclosure map as belonging to Morse the Younger. Prior to the enclosures, there is a considered opinion in past centuries the area may have been crossed by a route taken by travellers to the ferry at Horning. It is suggested many of these travellers were enroute to St. Benets Abbey before it’s disolution in the 1530’s. The actual date when this land became part of the Gurney Estate has yet to be discovered but the area around Harrison's Cottage appears to have been leased to the Harrison family hence the name of both the cottage and adjacent meadows.

The Meadow and Sprowston Sports

The name Harrison's Meadow became synonymous with sport within the parish of Sprowston as many of the old records show, prior to the opening of the Sprowston Recreation Ground in the early 1930s both football and cricket were played on Harrison's Meadow. The problem arises as to where the actual site of this was in all probability brought about by the now Sprowston Sports and Social Club playing fields. One must question if this was the site of the football and cricket pitch as early maps show a track going directly over this land to Harrison's Cottage. To add further to the confusion photographs of early sports teams seem to be taken with a sizeable wood behind the team being photographed which means one must consider it was the area adjacent to the bend in Laundry Lane (see map).

Harrison's Cottage

The cottage was of considerable antiquity appearing as it did on the Blackwell estate map of 1770 when two properties appear on the plot. Both were still extent during the tenure of the Gurney family who used the properties for their workers. The second property was demolished during a rationalisation leaving only Harrison's cottage in its isolated position being lived in by the gamekeeper and his family. Just a study of the property revealed how alterations had taken place over the centuries and may have evolved from what had originally been a small wattle and daub cottage similar to the one that survived on the Wilkes farm until the site was cleared for redevelopment in the 1960s. The cottage appeared on the Gurney list as dwelling number 17 and undergone considerable alterations both layout and to raise the roof during its life. Study of the chimneys would suggest that one is far older and could quite well be the original (the one on the right hand side looking from the front elevation) being far newer were probably added during alterations.

Demolition of the Cottage

In the early 2000s this whole area of Sprowston was earmarked for further housing development and in the early 2010s this became a reality and is at present continuing apace. Unfortunately, Harrison's cottage did not fit into the overall plan so in December 2016 the demolition contractors moved in and within 24 hours another old building had disappeared from Sprowston's landscape.

Update to the text above

The naming of Harrison`s Farm and Cottage can be traced back to Daniel Harrison 1769-1831 and his wife Ann 1770-1855. Daniel was born in Gt. Plumstead into a farming family of several generations in that location. In 1799 Daniel married Ann Gale at St Margaret`s church in Catton the place of her birth. Their first four children Henry 1800, Harriet 1802, Matilda 1805 and Maria 1808 were all born and baptised in Catton. Their last three children Dennis 1811 and twin sons Edmund and William 1812 were born and baptised in Sprowston. By using these dates it can be seen that the family must have moved to Sprowston sometime between 1808 and 1812.The cottage that became the family home appears to have already been in existence a number of years before their arrival. Daniel died in 1831 but his widow Ann carried on with the farm consisting of some 30 acres assisted by her two sons Edmund and William along with daughter Maria.

In 1849 William Harrison married Elizabeth Sarah Robertson this was to lead to a later connection with the Robertson family and Sprowston Mill through his son William Albert Harrison`s marriage as will be seen later.

Ann Harrison died in 1858 leaving Edmund and his sister Maria to run the farm which they did for several years and actually increased the holding to 58 acres nearly double the size of the original. It was noticed that the acreage of adjoining White Hall Farm had increased by the census of 1881 indicating that the land vacated by the Harrison siblings at some time after 1871 had been acquired. After the departure of Edmund and Maria Harrison`s Cottage was then used as accommodation for workers employed on the White Hall Farm estate over the years that followed. As for Edmund and Maria in 1881 they were found living at 3 Caledonian Terrace on Dereham Road Norwich, Edmund was then 68 years old listed as a retired Farmer with his sister Maria as his housekeeper aged 70. Maria was the first to pass away in 1883 followed by Edmund in 1885.

William Harrison 1812-1898 had moved away from the farm after his marriage in 1849 in Sprowston to Elizabeth Sarah Robertson 1822-1912. William acquired 25 acres of land in the nearby Acle area, he was to build on that over the years firstly at Low Common Ormesby St Michael with 85 acres and then on to farming at Acle marshes ending with 100 acres there in 1881.In his later years William and Elizabeth were found living at 3 Nelson Terrace Gt.Yarmouth where William was listed as being a Hay Dealer.

It was when the family were at Ormesby that his son William Albert Harrison 1857-1947 was born. After assisting his father in his early years William made the decision to move to London as in 1881 he was found lodging in Hammersmith aged 23 years working as an Ironmonger`s Assistant. However by 1884 he was back in Norfolk as in that year married Rachel Margaret Linford 1861-1950. He then acquired Sprowston Mill from his uncle George Rockhill Robertson. In the census of 1891 he and Rachel were living in Mill Opening his occupation Miller and Corn Merchant. William carried on working the Mill until handing over to his son Horace George Harrison 1890-1976. Horace continued working the Mill until its closure in 1927. Horace then became landlord of the Brickmakers Arms P.H. from 1928-1937 he was later to become a Hairdresser this being mentioned in his mother Rachel`s will.