Sprowston's role in supplying the war effort

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Sprowston's role in supplying the war effort

Sprowston Iceni Tribe.

The Iceni were a British (Iron Age) Celtic tribe who occupied the areas of Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire during the Iron Age. They were wealthy farmers who spent their lives on the rich and fertile farmlands of East Anglia cultivating and harvesting crops, managing woodland and tending herds of animals such as sheep, cattle and pigs. Most families would have owned several horses, as to the Celts, “horses” symbolised great wealth. The first conflict concerned the Iceni tribe, who inhabited our region prior to the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, after which they built roads, forts, villas and towns. The Iceni decided to ally themselves to the Romans after the invasion and became a client Kingdom. But the Romans increased their taxes; they also asked them to give up their weapons, in 47 AD the Iceni rose in revolt after the Romans tried to enforce a law forbidding the carrying of weapons. The revolt was put down and Prasutagus established as a client King. Prasutagus decided that it would be prudent to make his will assigning half of his personal property to the Roman emperor. In AD 59 King Prasutagus died and his wife Boudica became the leader of the Iceni. The Roman officials decided to interpret his will as a submission to the Roman state, so they moved to appropriate all of the Iceni lands and disarm the tribe, eventually this led to rebellion, headed by Queen Boudica, she later addressed her troops on land near Sprowston Hall, before going into battle against the Romans. Boudica's rebellion in 60 AD, caused by the imposition of direct rule by the Romans, was followed by order and peace, which lasted until the Roman armies left Britain in 410 AD. The subsequent arrival of the Anglo-Saxons caused the loss of much Roman and British culture in Norfolk. With the advent of invading forces such as the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, I suspect our Sprowston settlers had to take up arms and try to protect their families, homes, animals and crops many times.

Battle of Agincourt ~ 1415.

Walter Aslake, Lord of Aslake Manor, Sprowston had two manor`s, most likely had some of his retinue (people from Sprowston), whilst he was attached to the retinue of John, Duke of Bedford. Another Knight was Sir William de Mounteney, who was killed in the battle, also had connections to a Sprowston Manor. King Henry VI signalled to the English archers, who opened a devastating fire on the mass of French knights and men-at-arms. After the initial shock, the front line of the French army moved forward to the charge. In the narrow confines of the muddy rain soaked ploughed land, the French Charge quickly reduced to a stumbling walk, they were impeded by their floundering men and horses. Shot down by the archers, the arrow storm from the front compounded by the fire of the English concealed in the woods on the flanks. The battle raged over the stake fence along the English line, the archers abandoning their bows joining the Knights and men-at-arms in hand to hand combat with the French cavalry, much of it now dismounted; the soldiers from the woods attacking on the flanks. Within two hours of the battle beginning it was clear that the English had won.

While individual French soldiers fought hard, it was from desperation as the English knights, men-at-arms and archers overwhelmed the struggling mass, taking as prisoner those who might be worth a ransom and killing the rest.

Walter Aslake received part of the ransom that was given for Charles, Duke de Orleans. I wonder how many men from Sprowston died in this battle.

Kett`s Rebellion – 1549. (Part One)

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk was imprisoned in the Tower of London for six years, during the reign of Edward VI. The absence of the Duke of Norfolk and the power he had in the City, made it a lot easier for the rebels to get a hold. Thomas Howard had his lands and estates restored by Queen Mary.

The rebellion started at Wymondham, Norfolk, people gathered for a feast on July 7th 1549. Over previous weeks in nearby villages the enclosure fences put up by the Lords of the manor, had been thrown down, these fences were erected to keep the sheep enclosed. The people from the surrounding villages had agreed a common course of action. They set off to destroy the fences of one Robert Kett, a local landowner who in sympathy with their views, apparently assisted them in throwing destroying his own fences and then led them on to other Estates, to repeat the process.

Kett placed himself at their head and the next day led them off to the City of Norwich, gathering more followers as they marched. When they reached Norwich they did not enter the City but camped outside. On the day July 9th 1549, they had thrown down the quickset hedge and filled up the ditches that enclosed the common a pasture of the City, called the Town Close, which hedge and kept in the neat cattle of the poor Freemen of the City, which were there pastured and looked after by the “neatherd”, who received off every owner, by custom, a halfpenny for every beast kept there; and so that ye fence which, by good and provident advice of their forefathers, had been raised for the common profit of the City, was thus cast down by the very persons whose interest it was made for. Each day more and more people arrived to join him including many of the poor townspeople from the City itself. Kett did not hurry to enter Norwich; he needed time for his army to build up. The Sheriff of Norwich proclaimed them rebels and ordered them in the Kings name to disperse. The Mayor of Norwich also talked with Kett but to no avail. This group of labourers, husbandmen, butchers, coopers, thatchers, lime burner`s, tailors , masons, millers, mercers, weavers, fishermen, surgeons, tanners and shoemakers, all had gathered on Mousehold Heath.

We pray your grace to give licence and authority by your Gracious commission under your great seal to such commission as your poor commons hath chosen or to as many of them as your majesty and your council shall appoint and think meet, for to redress and reform all such good laws, statutes, proclamations and all other your proceedings, which hath been hidden by your Justices of your Peace, Shreeves, Escheatores and other your officers, from your poor common, sins the first year of the reign of your noble grandfather, King Henry VII.

During the seven weeks that Kett`s Army camped on Mousehold Heath a form of government was set up. Representatives from every district of the County formed Kett`s council.

They drew up a list of demands for submission to the Kings council; these demands were in accord with the Laws of the land. It must be understood that the rebels did believe that they were, but bringing to the attention of the King that they, the people, were only requesting that they be protected from the landowners and the enclosure of land. Kett established courts of justice and hauled in many of the local magnates, putting them on trial for maladministration of the King's justice. The City gates were closed and the defences prepared for siege.

The battle was a foregone conclusion and in a very short time Kett and his men took the City. The King's Herald re-read his mission in the market place, now filled by Kett's men and was allowed to depart for London. The York Herald must have made his report to the King`s Council on or about July 24th. Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset acted promptly and within a week the forces under the Marquess of Northampton were in sight of Norwich. His force numbered about fifteen hundred men and included some Italian mercenaries.

Also with Northampton, were a number of Norfolk gentlemen and landowners holding estates throughout the county. There was a closing of the ranks and a unity in the defence of their county and their class against a common enemy. Kett knew that it was only a matter of time before a stronger force was sent against him and he sought to extend the rebellion throughout Norfolk.

Kett`s Rebellion ~ 1549 (Part Two)

Kett`s army devoured 1000`s of sheep grazing on Mousehold, they belonged to the Landlords (Rackheath, Sprowston and Thorpe) who lived near Mousehold Heath He had by now some ten thousand men and some cannon at his disposal. He sent a force of one hundred men to Great Yarmouth to take over that town and raise more men to his side. Yarmouth however was not disposed to join him and the town was defended. The rebels had to return to Norwich but not before they had captured several more cannon to add to Kett's armament. A small force from King's Lynn declared in his favour and set off for Norwich but on Kett's instructions remained on the route that the Marquess of Northampton must take, when he moved into Norfolk again from Cambridge.

Kett knew that, in the longer term, the only chance he had of success was to extend the rebellion throughout Norfolk and into the neighbouring counties. Warwick sent the Norroy York Herald to order the City to receive his army. As the Herald approached St. Stephens’s gate, the news of his coming was sent to Kett who ordered Augustine Steward, the deputy Mayor, and Robert Rugge, a former Mayor and brother to the Bishop, to go out to meet the Herald. Stewart and Rugge were chosen because they both represented the lawfully constituted authorities of the City. Why Kett did not go himself to meet the Herald or bar the City gates against him is not clear. It might be taken as a sign that Kett did not rule out the possibility of surrender to Warwick on suitable terms. Steward and Rugge had suggested to the Herald that the offer of pardon on condition of surrender terms should be repeated to the rebels.

When the Herald returned to Warwick he agreed that an offer of pardon should be made. Both sides seemed to want to avoid bloodshed. Warwick was certainly outnumbered and a victory in the event of battle was by no means certain. Whilst Kett occupied the better high ground of Mousehold Heath, he realized that nothing could be gained by another victory. The York Herald (Bartholomew W Butler) went on to deliver an undiplomatic speech accusing them of treason and other crimes and warning them that if they did not accept this last offer of mercy they would forcibly be put down by Warwick's Army.

The anger of the crowd and threats were made against the Herald. What happened next was unforeseen and put an end to the negotiation which had been initiated. As the Herald was making his second speech, a boy in the crowd made an insulting gesture, exposing his buttocks before the Heralds face. A soldier from Warwick`s army, who had strayed into the crowd, was so incensed by this that he shot and killed the boy with an arrow. There is much to indicate that Kett was in favour of a personal meeting with Warwick to discuss terms of surrender, but the moment was not propitious.

His forces were not under his control at this point of time and it would have been obvious to Warwick that Kett was not in a position to speak for the camp. The mood of the camp was distinctly belligerent and hostile to any idea that Kett should go to Warwick to discuss a general surrender. The moment had passed, Kett remained with his army and the Herald returned to Warwick to report that his final offer of pardon had met with no response. Kett's rebels could not survive for long without access to the City's markets and warehouses, so he decided to gamble everything on one battle in an area called Dussindale.

Kett`s Rebellion ~ 1549 (Part Three)

The Battle of Dussindale was fought on the 27th of August 1549.

The rebels, although outnumbering the Royal troops, had little or no cavalry and were quickly broken by the strong Royal forces. The rebels ran, and during the chase, many thousands were slaughtered. Thousands more were taken prisoner. Robert Kett was captured a few miles away and was taken to London. He was held in the Tower, tried and found guilty of treason, and he was sentenced to be executed. He was then taken back to Norwich for his execution. He was hung in chains from the walls of Norwich Castle and left to die of hunger and cold. His body was left hanging there for many months as a reminder to the people of Norwich of the fate that awaited traitors. One of Kett`s prisoners was Sir Roger Woodhouse of Hellesdon. Forty eight other rebels were hanged at Norwich Castle. Some of these rebels (30) were taken through Magdalen Gate to gallows that were situated on what is now Sprowston Road, near to Point House.

In June 1550, a fisherman named John Oldman fondly recalled the fellowship of Mousehold Heath, where the camp men feasted on the voracious allies of the gentlemen: “it was a merry world when we were yonder eating of mutton”.

A Ralph Claxton insisted that he did well in keeping in Kett`s Camp and he thought nothing but well of Kett, and trusted to see a new day for such men as I was.

William Mutton, an ailing camp man, refused to repent for breaking down Norwich penthouses during the rising. Asked if this might anger potential employers, he responded with an eloquent, moral-economy elegy for himself: “he would never work more, for the Lord had enough for us all”

“Kett`s men and the Sprowston Dovecote”

Lazar House was owned by the Corbet Family, who united the two Sprowston Manor`s, in 1549 Kett`s rebellion took place and Kett based his army on Mousehold Heath, using a nearly ruined Chapel as his Headquarters. The rebels were threatening to burn the house (formerly St. Magdalene Chapel, Lazar House) and deface the Dove-Cote (it was destroyed), property of Master Corbet's of Sprowston, committing many other outrages wherever they came.

English Civil War (1642–1651)

Our Lords of the Manor the Corbet family were divided by this War. Miles Corbet (Regicide) was hung drawn and quartered for signing the King`s death Warrant. He was the son of Sir Thomas Corbet of Sprowston, Norfolk and the younger brother of Sir John Corbet, 1st Baronet, and MP for Great Yarmouth from 1625 to 1629. He entered Lincoln's Inn and was appointed Recorder of Great Yarmouth. Miles succeeded his brother John as MP for Great Yarmouth, England, serving from 1640 to 1653, and signed Charles I's death warrant. In 1644 he was made clerk of the Court of Wards. In 1655 he was appointed Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. Miles Corbet the Regicide, seemed to be a young man of promise, he became a Barrister and was entered at Lincoln`s Inn; soon after he was appointed Recorder of Great Yarmouth. He represented Great Yarmouth in two Parliaments (1628 and 1640) and he was a hot Parliamentarian, later he became a devoted follower of Oliver Cromwell. This showed that his he was a strong MP during the early difficulties and was soon a member of the Committee for the County of Norfolk. He pursued his course in Public life, dealing harshly with those who differed from him! He was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Examinations, which gave him full scope for his powers and the arbitrary, inquisitorial procedures that he gained from this position. These decisions that he and this committee made were to prove very unpopular with part of the general public and he was most disliked, perhaps unfairly. In 1644 he was appointed by Parliament to be Clerk of the Court of Wards and after a few years he was made one of the Registrars of the Court of Chancery, in the place of Colonel Long who was one of the impeached members. The following December Miles Corbet acted as one of the King`s Judges, he also signed the death warrant for King Charles Ist. Some years after this event he was Appointed one of the four commissioners for settling the affairs of Ireland, then Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland. It was in this capacity we learn that “he manifested such integrity in his different employments” while in Ireland; he improved his own estate for the Public service whilst he was the greatest husband of the treasure of the Commonwealth.

The more moderate Parliamentarians, who were turned away from the House of Parliament, regarded Miles Corbet as an extremist and only those who supported Cromwell’s views were allowed in. Miles became one of Oliver Cromwell’s trusted lieutenants; he went to Ireland and became Governor of Malahide Castle, near Dublin in1655. Notwithstanding these self-sacrifices we find that in 1659 in December, Dublin was surprised by a party of officers; Miles Corbet was arrested as he was coming from church by a Major Warren and returned to England. (The Castle was later to become the home of Isabel Gurney.)

The following year a charge of High Treason was preferred against him by Sir Charles Coote and others, Ludlow who was involved in the same charge, persuaded Miles to appear in spite of it, in the House of Commons. The House fixed a day for the two accused to answer their charges; but the hearing was adjourned. A few days later miles was called before a Council of Estate and had to enter into an engagement not to disturb the existing government. In spite of those events Miles succeeded in getting returned as member for Great Yarmouth, in the Convention Parliament, but there was a double return and the election was annulled. Miles Corbet (Regicide) who was imprisoned for corruption was released early in 1660, he received a letter from a William Bridge, Minister of the Independent Church, he was offering Miles the services of Bailiff William Burton`s son Puckle. By May 1660 King Charles II had returned to take the Throne and Miles Corbet was in Great Yarmouth, James Puckle and Thomas Ellis (Burton`s Servant) hired a vessel and arranged Miles Corbet escape to Holland. Said Puckle and Read were arrested and eventually released, but William Burton thought he was at risk and he too went to Holland, he eventually returned to Great Yarmouth where he died a few years later. The Puckle family were related, possibly by marriage, to the Corbet family.

Events seemed untoward and Miles thought it best to flee from England, which he accomplished safely in the company with Barkstead and Okay fellow `Regicides`. They were seized by Sir George Downing and sent back to England. The end soon came as they were tried and executed In the April of 1662. Miles Corbet`s life was forfeit, but King Charles II (1660-1685) behaved with an unexpected equanimity towards his widow; for we have a copy of a Proclamation restoring certain Lands towards his widow Mary.

Sprowston and two World Wars

It not only provided soldiers for the military in the two world wars but in both conflicts the population at large played very important roles. It is a well-known fact that many women took on jobs previously considered as a male only occupation both within public service such as transport and the manufacture of the essentials of war. Situated on the outskirts of Norwich, Sprowston saw workers employed both on the land and in the production of armaments. The civilian population quite frequently used to have to fulfil their daytime occupation and war time commitments in such things as, the Home Guard, Air Raid Wardens, WRVS. People often find themselves doing jobs totally alien to their normal work such as becoming a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Sprowston became home to various army units whilst in training before deployment overseas, many being remembered with affection by the Sprowston residents who were children at that time. Unfortunately along with many other parishes in both conflicts people of the parish made the ultimate sacrifice, now remembered on the war memorial and a recently published book. This isn't the only legacy of war since Sprowston has two sets of housing " The Memorial Cottages" provided for disabled military personnel, a role they fulfil to this day.

World War 1.

The area around Salhouse Road was at one time a Cavalry Barracks, but in 1914 the site was purchased by Boulton & Paul Ltd, who built hangers for the Workshops and Airfield. Aircraft and buildings were supplied by this company to our Army and RFC (Royal Flying Corps).

In 1921 the Mousehold Estate as the site was known, was bought by Barnards Ltd.

During the 1914 -18 War, Barnards Ltd supplied the Government with upwards of 7,000 miles of wire netting for road making across the Egyptian desert and the formation of revetments to trenches in the War Zone. In addition to the netting, the Company produced many hundreds of yards of special hand-woven wire lattice for the Balkan Theatre of war; large heating stoves for the American army in France; wire screens for high explosive factories; hundreds of tons of castings for the Admiralty and other departments; and cooking ranges and heating stoves for the various camps and training centres. Two hundred of the workers enlisted, and fifteen died, including the Managing Director‘s son, Charles F. Bower, who was killed near Hill 60, just as he had been gazetted to the rank of Captain. Between the wars they continued to make a great variety of items, and in 1928 started manufacturing chain link fencing, which was considerably stronger than the wire netting.

Names on the WW 1 Memorial Plaque ~ St. Mary & St. Margaret Parish Church.

John J Anger, John E Betts, Ashton Bircham, Ernest Blackett, Ernest A Blyth, Frank G Blyth, George E Brock, James Browne, William Burrows, Arthur J Cann, Charles A Clarke, Charles J Cox, Walter G Curson, Percy C Curson, Joseph J Deacon, Edward H Dungar, James E Dungar, Frank J Edwards, Ernest E Ellis, Charles S Fowler, Ernest G Gibbs, Herbert C Gibbs, Herbert J Gilham, Samuel W Goffin, Robert Goldsmith, Robert Goldsmith, Hugh Grehan, Herbert W Grey, Frederick T Gris, John Hawes, George Haydon, Walter E Haydon, Robert Hobart, Jacob Hurn, Frances H Jay, Charles Land, Frederick G Land, Charles T Lincoln, Frederick J Mason, James Mason, William Matthews, Herbert Mobbs, Frederick C Neville, Harry J Neville, Bertram W C Osborne, Albert Parke, Ernest Parker, Ernest Pointer, Walter Pointer, Ernest C Potter, Herbert Quantrill, Nathaniel H A Ready, Robert Richardson, Henry S Robinson, Edward Rogers, Joseph J Rudd, Henry Rushmer, Herbert Sadler, Charles Scott, Walter G Scott, James Smithson, George R Smithson, Herbert Smithson, Harry Stone, Reuben S Stone, Reginald G Stracey, Walter Sutton, Arthur E Thorn, Thomas Thorn, Arthur Vincent, Horace G Webb, Ernest G Webb, Herbert Webster, Henry Whiting, Ernest Woollard, Harry Wright, Robert Wright.

World War 2.

At the start of the Second World War, Barnards Ltd became a munitions manufacturer of shells at their factory on Mousehold. They employed 1,200 people who worked on the production of 4.5in. gun shells, 4.5in. howitzers, anti-tank mortar bombs, and parts for the Hurricane aircraft. Three quarters of a million telegraph poles were made for the North Africa campaign, as well as ammunition trucks, and wire netting for temporary airfield runways. They also produced propellers and steam gear assemblies for motor torpedo boats for the Japanese War.

Names on the WW 2 Memorial Plaque ~ St. Mary & St. Margaret Parish Church.

Alan R Adcock, Gerald W Allerton, Charles J Barker, Russell Barrett, Stanley Barrett, George E Chapman, Reginald G Cohen, Ronald Couzens, Richard A Duffield, Sidney Dunham, Ernest Edwards, Frederick Freeman, Benjamin H Goodson, Harold A Goodyear, Claude Goymer, Alan C Gregory, Richard Hazell, Henry Humphries, Peter D Ivins, George Jenkinson, William Kay, Alan Lack, Ernest Lansdowne, Eric W Lumkin, Ronald Marshall, Herbert McKay, Peter Miller, Cubitt H B Page, Frank Popay, William L A Read, Cecil Rush, Maurice H Skedge, Horace Smith, John S Smith, Richard Spooner, Bernard W Wakelin, Julien Wanbon, Frederick M Warren, Jack Whitlam, Arthur Whittal, John G Whitworth, Reginald Wilch, Claude Wilson, William P Wright, Alan Young.