Stonehouse Farm

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Stonehouse Farm - J.J. Dixon Dairy.

Stonehouse farm and Dixon's Dairy were for many years synonymous although in latter years the loss of pastures to the ever encroaching housing developments turned what had been a dairy farm into a dairy selling pre-bottled milk. Even this came to an end brought by retirement and the ever-changing methods of milk production based on ever larger dairies. A letter reproduced below from Yvonne Dixon now Yvonne Hewett paints a picture of what life was like.

The Dixon’s of Stonehouse Farm

Although associated with Sprowston the Dixon family were originally from nearby Old Catton where Owen Dixon 1787-1863 farmed close to George Hill. Owen had married Rebecca Ellis 1793-1874 at Icklington Cambridgeshire in 1831 the place of her birth. Both were to spend the remainder of their lives in Old Catton.

Their son Joseph Ellis Dixon 1835-1913 was to make the move to Sprowston after his marriage to Elizabeth Ann Howes 1846-1927 in Norwich in 1863. The census of 1871 found them living at Stonehouse Farm where they remained until about 1900 when by that time they had taken up residency at Wilks Farm. This was later to be taken over by their son Charles Walter Dixon 1880-1966 when Joseph and Elizabeth retired to live at Myrtle Cottage with their daughter Janet Eliza Dixon 1872-1912, who never married.

Charles details of his time at the farm can be found on the Wilks Farm page to be found elsewhere on this site.

Their son George Dixon 1868-1928 remained at Stone House Farm where he was listed as being a butcher but by 1911he and his family had left Sprowston and settled in Hillington in West Norfolk. His younger brother Herbert Dixon 1883-1930 was also to make a move to the Kings Lynn area where his now widowed mother Elizabeth was also to spend her last days.

George`s place at Stonehouse Farm was taken by his younger brother Joseph James Dixon 1879-1951.In 1908 Joseph had married Edith Spruce born in Framingham Earl in 1882, she passed away in 1970. Joseph continued farming in the family tradition building up a dairy herd that grazed in the fields that are now the location of Cozens Hardy Road, Stonehouse Road, Blenheim Road and Blenheim Crescent. This area of land joined that of his brother Charles that farmed at Wilks Farm so it is not known how far each other`s land extended to. He started up a milk delivery service which was well known over a wide area, there was also a bottling plant located on the premises. That was to change in the 1930`s as housing development began to make inroads on the land available. The dairy herd was given up but later pasteurising and sterilising equipment was installed allowing the business to carry on by taking in milk and bottling it for other suppliers. However with the passing away of Joseph in 1951there were changes made once again. Gone were the bottling and other equipment with the business now reverting to delivering ready bottled milk. A former employee remembers driving to Wroxham to pick up cream, butter, eggs, etc. as additional items for the delivery men to sell on their rounds. Stanley S Dixon 1913-1965 Joseph and Edith`s only son joined his father in the business. In 1939 he married Joy G. Marsh 1918-1998 they were to have three daughters all were born at the farm. Yvonne born1943 the oldest has the story of her childhood that can be found elsewhere on this site. Repeating some of the facts contained in her memories were unavoidable as this was necessary to complete this article. Stanley and Joy`s other daughters were Dawn born in 1946 and Susan born 1955. When Stanley passed away in 1965 his wife Joy carried on with the deliveries for several more years before retiring after which the rounds were taken over by Dairy Crest. Joy remained living at the farm for before finally leaving to spend her last years in a retirement home.

The Letter

STONEHOUSE FARM, WROXHAM ROAD, SPROWSTON, ------ J.J. DIXON AND SONS. All is familiar to me being part of my heritage as the house, farm and dairy become treasured family memories.

My grandfather Joseph J Dixon with his wife Edith, build up their dairy business possibly prior to the Great War. The dates are unclear. The herd had plenty of grazing land, named Dixons field now an area of housing development-Stonehouse Road and Blenheim Road.

Sprowston, at that time, with a small population meant sales and delivery is had to be aimed at the expanding Norwich. Door to door service known as "Dip a Can " this being a measuring can with a long handle to extract the milk from the container. The delivery vehicles were by handcart or horse drawn carriage.

My parents, Stanley and Joy, gradually came into the business at the time of change. The 1930s saw the Dixon and grazing land begin to shrink at the expense of housing development, meant the herds would have to go, and to stay in the business by having to import milk for bottling. During the war and for a time after wards, my mother Joy took to deliveries driving the first of the J. J. Dixon vans - no driving test needed. A long serving member of the dairy was George Pipe who partly covered the area by handcart.

In the late 1940s J. J. Dixon had installed the latest pasteurising and sterilising equipment giving the dairy much acclaim throughout the county and duly recognised as the "Model Dairy".

I have memories as a young girl operating these units, also the bottle filling and capping with those cardboard inserts. Another of my duties that put me off milk for years after --- tasting milk samples.

Grandfather died in 1951 and soon after the units were dismantled, therefore closing down the bottling operation. Dixons now became a distributor of "ready bottled milk" and invested in larger vehicles and an electric operated handcart. The business had four large rounds penetrating Thorpe and Norwich, such was the demand for Dixon's milk. When father died in 1965 my mother Joy decided to take the business onwards. That she did for 15 years, then in 1980 she retired and the rounds were taken over by Dairy Crest.

Our old maps show the area as "Gurney of Walsingham" and Cozens Hardy Road shown as “Cattonham”. This Stonehouse was never rated as a listed building and despite the erection of new properties in the vicinity appears to add lustre to the old house.

By Yvonne Hewett nee Dixon (Feb. 2002).