The past three years have seen us travelling down under for an extended winter break. In 2020 we are spending the winter at home. This has given me the opportunity to explore our village and the surrounding area on foot in the depth of winter.
We live in Wicklewood, a small village about 12 miles from Norwich. With a current population of around 1000 people, a church, village hall and a pub, it is a small place.
Left: Wicklewood Village sign; Right, The Village Pub – The Cherry Tree -with namesake blossom in the foreground
The most prominent building is St Georges, now a smart residential area, but it has a dark history, first as a Workhouse then as a Hospital and Sanatorium. According to local records St Georges was built around 1776 at a cost of £11,000 as a “House of Industry” to house the poor and destitute. In the UK, Workhouses had a chequered reputation but their origins date back to the passing of the 1601 Poor Relief Act which empowered parish officials the authority to collect money from rate payers to spend on poor relief for the sick, elderly and infirm. This “poor relief” usually took the form of food, clothing and fuel and was usually non-residential.
By the early 1700’s this welfare had grown to providing care under one roof and was thought to be the most effective way of providing poor relief. This led to a rapid expansion of the “Workhouse” so by the end of the 18th century there were over 2000 across the UK. They were run by “Unions” – groups of parishes presided over by a locally elected Board of Guardians. Each union was responsible for providing a central workhouse for its member parishes. For the able-bodied poor, it was the workhouse or nothing. Their regimes were harsh and the Workhouse was regarded as the last resort of desperate people, to be avoided at all costs.
There is some debate around when the Workhouse system was ended. The system of the Board of Guardians was abolished in 1930 and these places were redesigned as “Public Assistance Institutions” under the responsibility of local councils. However, when the UK National Health Service was introduced in 1948 many former workhouse buildings were turned into Public Hospitals, including St Georges. It became Hill House Hospital in 1951, caring for geriatric patients, and was finally closed in 1974. The building lay derelict for many years until an enterprising developer restored the building to residential properties.
St Georges – now a smart residential building with houses and apartments, but holding a bleak past.
Tucked away, half way down the main street of the village is a black and white windmill dating from 1846. It was last worked in 1942 and fell into disrepair. In the 1980’s the mill was restored and opened to the public, but low visitor numbers meant it was closed and abandoned. In 2005, it was bought and over a 7 year period repaired and restored, re-opening in the spring of 2013. The mill continues to attract visitors in the spring and summer months each year, opened and run by volunteers.
Wicklewood’s historic Windmill
I am part of a photo-sharing website called Blipfoto (www.blipfoto.com). It’s ethos is simple, post an image a day, add words if you wish, and by doing so, build a record of your life, one day at a time. I started posting randomly a number of years ago after attending a photographic workshop in the Lake District, but gradually faded away. This year I have resolved to upload an image at least once a week, and through this blog, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of those images.
Around our locality we are blessed with huge skies and few trees. I embarked on a small photo-project to try and capture the shape and form of some of our trees in silhouette as I think they present more interesting shapes and patterns.
Three images from my Local Tree Project.
Our garden has provided a number of images for my Blipfoto project as you can see:
Top row: Snowdrops in our front hedge. Bottom left: Beautiful white flower of unknown variety, inherited when we moved here. Bottom right: Hebe flowering in January. This plant always flowers in June!
Finally, a few random images taken whilst out for our winter walks.
Two Churches: Left – Morley Church from High Oak. Right: Our village church.
Top Left: Rainbow over a farmhouse, viewed from my office. Right and bottom: Norfolk’s big skies means we often get amazing sunsets and cloudscapes.
Finally, my favourite image, of a horses eye, taken whilst out for a walk one Sunday afternoon.