© 2017 Bulmer & District History Group

Bulmer & District




        Bulmer & District History Group



Imagine numerous children playing here, for the Village School was situated nearby from 1840-1965. Note also the massive oak tree. The school’s first football was purchased by the children gathering acorns - for pig feed - from beneath this and many other local oak trees.

Imagine also during the second World War a night-time exercise of 'Dad's Army', to ''capture a lantern in the middle of this 'ere green and the immortal line:

''Psst ....... Jack .....come and capture us quick - the Blackbirds is going to close in twenty minutes!''

Picture also the Church in early medieval times with a ' thatched roof, rushes strewn on the floor and murals on the internal walls. Yet there is also a mystery - look at the chancel (the eastern end.) Why is it so large? (The chancel is usually much smaller than the nave. For more, see Richard Slaughter's guide inside the church.)

Within the graveyard lie many local heroes - threshing contractors, shepherds and horsemen whose memories we recorded. Yet there are also surprises. On the left, one gravestone mentions the second Afghan War of 1878-80. (Local enthusiasts have recorded all the gravestones and conducted considerable research into those whose names are listed on the War Memorial, which can be found on this website).

Proceed through the Churchyard along the path through avenue to roadside opposite the late 'Cock and Blackbirds' Public H0use..


STOP TWO: BY PUBLIC NOTICE BOARD (OPPOSITE THE ERSTWHILE 'COCK AND BLACKBIRDS' (Sadly this closed in 1999 and is now a Grade 2 listed property called “The Blackbirds).

The pubs sign is especially important. The traction engine records the THREE families who once ran threshing machines from Bulmer Street. Imagine then, the traction engines being refurbished to their pride and glory each summer in nearby yards and meadows.

But on one occasion, in ration stricken World War Two, ''We couldn't get any proper coal for the traction engines, so we burned wood and some funny coke stuff together - huh! 11 smoked Bulmer Street right out!''

Look further, bove the sign. And see a metal 'cock' with a hole in the 'tail'. The latter memento was shot out with a revolver before leaving for the Burma Campaign of World War Two. (K.C. p. 162 .

The pub witnessed many other happy evenings. After one harvest horkey a 'highly jolly' labourer staggered up the path to the Church and collapsed amongst the gravestones. The village's policeman followed. ''Tell some of the other buggers to move!'' said the labourer, pointing to the gravestones - when requested to ' 'move on'! The gate from the Church graveyard is of interest. In the 1930’s mischievous schoolboys would place a small stone in the latch to hinder the schoolmistress opening it. Next day the estate carpenter would be dispatched to offer a 'repair' ...... The schoolboys would quickly remove the stone and hide up to watch.

''Oh, you have improved it'' the schoolteacher inevitably exclaimed to the bemused estate carpenter sent to repair it! ''Not surprisingly, recalls one erstwhile truant, ''the ol' carpenter didn't half look puzzled!!''

The adjoining meadow was sometimes used as a football or cricket pitch with rocketing balls occasionally landing in Brickwall Farm. (The wall is actually mostly flint and is just opposite the meadow.) In those days there were still cows, pigs and chickens in the farmyard. (“Wonder the bloomin' milk kept at all!'' was one comment)

In 1800 the traveling agriculturalist Arthur Young observed: ''At Brickwall Farm, Bulmer, finer land is rarely to be seen (L.F. p.41)

Now look to your left. A wheelwright operated here in bygone years. Almost opposite is a large shed, with a rounded corrugated roof. It once housed a 'Model T' Ford bus, whilst a traction engine operated from the same site. Further along is the magnificent former Chapel. Note especially the patterned roof slates, ridge tiles and ornamental brickwork. But there is also a human aspect.

For the heating originally came from a stove UNDERNEATH the pulpit. One sweat-drenched preacher reputedly exclaimed, ''Preaching at Bulmer is like going to Hell!'' (Bulmer Then and Now).

(Cross the road and turn left. After 50 yards turn right onto track beside the large shed. After a further 50 yards turn left along footpath beside gardens on your left behind Bulmer Street. After 200-300 yards look for 'Waymark' signs by ditch. Cross the ditch then turn right along the edge of the field - keeping hedge to your right.



In open countryside picture others who have trodden this path before us. Generations of teenage lads striding from Belchamp Walter to Sudbury on Saturday evenings, courting couples, children, aging patriarchs and earnest lay-preachers preparing to give the sermon at Bulmer Chapel.

In 1893 a farm workers' strike occurred at Belchamp Walter. News of the fraught negotiations were carried along this path, for Bulmer at the time had over a hundred farm workers. Attempts were made to form a National Agricultural Labourers Union. The great workers' champion, Joseph Arch of Warwickshire, spoke in the area. (L.F. pp 50-53)

Yet, horse era agriculture had numerous stratifications. Every field witnessed intense competition.

''You were always out to beat the man you were with - to plough or drill straighter - to make a better job,” remarked Horace  Elsey.

Tom Rowe (b. 1903) recalls, ''My dog went and lay in a furrow once on Church Field, and the ol' horseman was FURIOUS! ... An inch was an inch that time of day''!

Picture, also, another local lad, 'Pod' Marten, nervously attempting his first day's ploughing on this very field:

“It was with three horses on a two furrow plough .,.... one of the mares was in foal, and I was told to let her have a 'good blow' at the end of each bout”.


In the distance are the 'famous' telephone poles to Goldingham Hall. On one Home Guard training evening a reprimanded private had to “march up and down the drive and salute these 'ere telegraph poles.”

(He was soon joined by his best mate who couldn't help laughing).

As you follow the path you may well glimpse the front of Belchamp Hall. In morning sunlight the architecture is especially pleasing. The bricks are reputed to have been imported from the Netherlands.

Belchamp Walter and Bulmer have long shared the same rector. In the 1920's he lived near Bulmer crossroads. “He had a boy who worked in the garden,” recalls Bob Raymond, “but he often had to nip along the footpath with a message for Belchamp Walter's sexton or schoolmistress.” Eva Surridge remembers, “Rev. Pannell often walked along that footpath himself when he was taking a service at Belchamp Walter.

Follow the path for ¾ mile to the valley at the bottom of the field and turn left. After about 200 yards the path branches. To the right is Belchamp Church. To continue the circular walk, turn left. At the junction, however, is Stop 4