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Bulmer & District




        Bulmer & District History Group

Memories of Life in Bulmer


Effie and Jack Hillier who married late in life and were, I would think in their late sixties when I first remembered them as a child in the mid-forties.

Effie played the harmonium in chapel on Sundays. Having had no children, she perhaps satisfied her maternal instincts by keeping a small menagerie of cats, rabbits, chickens and often a pig. At that time of day if a farmer had a weakling in a litter of pigs, he would give the sickly animal to anyone who cared to take it on. Effie delighted in having these “runts” and devoted a great deal of time “pulling them round”. So proud was she of her little beasts, she would wrap them in a shawl and carry them on her arm – just like a baby. T can hear her now “Would you like to see my baby”, pulling the shawl to one side to reveal a little snout. To me she was just like the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland, maybe she was her role model?

Jack was a bit of a mystery man, he had a slightly educated voice and on one of his hands he always wore a sort of 3-fingered mitten. We kids used to wonder what secrets the mitten concealed. (Dracula claws?).

Jack’s nickname was stallion Jack. Now before misconceptions as to how he gained this name I had better explain. Apparently the only job he had ever had was leading a stallion round from farm to farm to cover the farm mares and ensure another generation of working horses( the equivalent today of a tractor salesman, although a slightly more protracted affair).

Jack’s only vice was drink. By all accounts he didn’t have that much, but what he did drink he couldn’t hold, sometimes coming home fighting drunk. On one occasion he chased poor Effie upstairs with a carving knife. My father, Tom, had to rescue her from a bedroom window with a ladder. “What do you think you are doing Tom Rowe philandering with my wife?”. On another occasion he came home a dug a large hole and proceeded to re-plant a dead plum tree that had been blown over a year before. I don’t remember his coming in that sort of state more than 2 or 3 times, usually he was a kind and placid towards us. On one occasion we certainly put this to the test. My cousin Alan and I were throwing stones. A tin can perched on an oak branch being the target. Jack walked up the lane, as usual smoking his old briar pipe, “You boys can’t throw for toffees”, he taunted, “I’ll show him”.....Alan aimed a stone to just miss him as he walked away from us. At that precise moment Jack turned his head and........ to our amazement and horror, the stone neatly removed the bowl clean off his pipe leaving the pipe stem between his lips. We looked at each other and prepared to run, but Jack’s only reaction was to laugh, “I wont say that again will I?” we breathed again.

How different life was then. Their only water supply was from a little pond (fed by a spring) opposite the houses. We actually had a well complete with a pump. Such luxuries! At times both pond and well would run dry and in such summers our only other water supply came from a land-drain, fed again by a spring, in the meadow a good 200 yards from the cottages. Effie and Jacks little pond did get us into hot water at times because, you see, in it bred the finest tadpoles and newts. Our “fishing” expeditions usually resulted in a the normally crystal clear water looking more like pea soup – not the best liquid for brewing their afternoon tea. Effie’s wrath was usually placated by presenting her with a big bunch of cow mumble (hog weed) for her beloved rabbits. Sometimes if we were lucky she would reward us with a big bag of walnuts from her trees. They lived their lives out at Upper Houses and died towards the end of the fifties. Their house was what is now the right-hand end of “Greensted” (home of Mr & Mrs Dallimore).

Peter Rowe


My earliest memories of cutting Bulmer churchyard are of a happy special gathering. People turning up from all over the village along with scythes and rakes, tips looking quite dangerous and one mechanised mower in the new churchyard.


Women with shears and rakes cutting and raking around gravestones.

The grass and sheep’s parsley was about three feet high in some places. Quite a task as this was before many of the old gravestones were removed.

We managed to quench our thirst with bottles of lemonade. One lady came along to join and said she had just seen a group of pilgrims passing along Bulmer Tye carrying a wooden cross.

All of us serving in our own way. I am glad my mother father included me in this venture. I was quite happy just raking up.

Brenda Weavers (thought to be around late 50s)

In 1934 Evelyn Cornell lived in the Cock and Blackbirds in Bulmer. She was 12 years old and attended Bulmer School.

Nearly 70 years later Evelyn recalled the summer of 1934 ...

‘In 1934 and 35 from March to July I attended cookery classes at Belchamp Otten School, Tuesday one week and Tuesdays and Fridays the next. There were 16 in the class – four from Gestingthorpe, Bulmer, Wickham and Borley.

The first year Henry Cornell picked us up from Bulmer in his car. The next year we had Rippengale's bus pick us all up. He would then use the bus as a coal lorry before he came to take us home.

We all had white caps and aprons and cooked on oil stoves with ovens on the top. I don't know where the water came from but I seem to remember a water cart in the yard. The well down the road was either being dug, or repaired at that time.

We used to cook something for lunch in the mornings and cakes in the afternoon. The teacher one year was Miss Gill, the vicar of Pentlow's daughter. The months we didn't go, the boys went to do carpentry and used the same benches.

We all thought it much better than school as we were allowed to walk round the village at lunchtime. Some of us turned up at the Red Lion one day I don't think that went down too well.’

 Written by Evelyn Reeve (nee Cornell)

If you have a memory of life in Bulmer and would like it  published here, please contact us at info@bulmerhistory.co.uk