The Estate: My thoughts are of two people. One is George, an old man in 1978. He used to work on the Moreton Hall farms which belong to Moreton Hall (now the school on Mount Road). He has just heard that the farmland has been sold off to build a new housing estate. He is devastated, as he loves the countryside and he can’t bear to think that it will be destroyed by these new houses. His cottage, which is on the land concerned, will be demolished and he will be moved, he has heard, into a flat in town. The thought of this makes him unbearably depressed. Even though he is retired, he still thinks of the land as his and he loves to walk across the wide open
spaces where he used to work; his despair at losing it all is tangible. He says: –
“Not sure I can believe it really, Sal. I worked every inch of that farm in my day and I know what you’re going to say – rose coloured spectacles and all that – but thass such a beautiful view and I’ve been here most of my life.
“It says here in the letter what they’ll give me a flat in town. Ha! If I’d ha’ wanted to live in the town I would’ve gone there under my own steam, wouldn’t I?
“Who are all these people what are going to live in the new houses anyway? They won’t have a clue about what they’re destroying. When they’re parking their flashy cars on their flashy driveways, will they give a second thought to all the centuries of seasons – the sowings and reapings buried away under their feet?
“I dunno. I just don’t know.”
The second person lives in 2019. She is Rachel, a young woman, with a young family and she and her husband have just bought one of the newest houses to be built on the Moreton Hall estate on Shackeroo Road. It is their first purchased home together and she is thrilled by the quiet road, lovely neighbours and the garden the children can play in. She thinks her great grandfather used to work as a farmer in this area, in fact she thinks she remembers being told the farm stretched right up to where her house now stands. She can’t imagine this, she just loves her little estate with the children’s play park and the railway line and the bus stop nearby. There is even going to be an Aldi built opposite quite soon. How exciting that will be; a real little town within a town. She says: –
“Go on, touch the wall, Jason? You have to touch the wall because that’s OUR wall. Our very own wall. And so is this one and this one and this one! They’re all ours!
“27 Shackeroo Road. It really is such a brilliant name – Oh my god, the children will have a hilarious time trying to spell it once they’re old enough to try. Shakeroo!
“Come on, come on…outside all of you. Come on – we’re going to plant our feet and grow here.
“It’s funny to think that this is where old Pop worked, innit Jason?
“Grandad reckons the farm Pop lived on must have been right underneath here. All those sowings and reapings right underneath our feet. See over there, Fleur? That’s the park – just over the road. And there’s where we can get the bus into town. And that’s where Aldi is going to be so we can go and buy as many crisps and chocolate buttons as we can carry. I bet Pop would have loved our little house.”
The Well – created by Ellen who lives in Hessett – is inspired by an old well.
“Good day, I am Walter, I am standing next the well of the schoolhouse. This week I am water monitor (whispers) for my sins. Miss tied the tin mug on a piece of string to my trousers. I am skinny after graftin’ all winter, so the cup, it pulls ’em down.
The mister kept me too long catching the piglets. These lug ‘olles still burn where they was cuffed; look at it, it’s
fat an’ sore … Mr Pickles says it will be blue by the morrow. My cheeks sting from Miss McCreedy’s split cane, she don’t like the lateness of us urchins. Says it is ungratefulness, that breeds tardy children. Miss pulls her arm high when dishin’ out punishment. I ‘ave hot ears, a hot backside and the rest o’ me is freezin’.
The water monitor ain’t so nice in the cold, when you already done a day’s work before you get to the raggedy school. I stamp my boots, to get the chill off. Then I show my strength, like a strongman. Liftin’ the lid, turnin’ the handle, I hoist the bucket an’ fill the cup for thirty mouths. It is man’s work, specially when yer fingers is blue with cold.
I saw him once … that strongman, ain’t that the truth, with these very eyes I seen. In Piccadilly, Grandma took me … ‘The Harveys Freak Show’, not many of these raggedy kids as been, I will not forget that day.
We is taught writin’, readin’ an’ ‘rithmatic. Miss McCready bangs a tune with her laced boots against the wooden floor, she keeps time as we chant like the old monks in the Abbey did, tho we chant tables and godly sayins. Miss says ‘cleanliness is next to godliness, and ‘the mills of God grind slowly’. Those words make us raggedys fearful, so we are good. The reverend puts the fear of God into us … for us own good, of course. God’s word is so loud he makes the slates rattle.
My sister Winnie got ‘er legs caned, four strokes, for peeing with fright. Miss called her filth, an’ stood her on the desk so all could see her shame.
When she is six, Winnie will be graftin’, too, the numbers will be needed then. I works ‘ard every day, at harvest it’s all night, till my eyes pain with the dust of it. Mister gives our house and small ‘oldin’ as wage. So here we lives, we works and does family proud. When I have curled bones, and no teeth or hair, this well will still stand … next to the school ‘ouse. Another spinster will be Mistress. I know this for sure, as there ain’t none over fifty in the church yard.
I really enjoyed the images and thoughts you contributed to the lockdown plant share. I’ve worked them into a short film to try and offer a sensory experience at this time when we’re being encouraged to live in a digital world. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the first week of May in the Suffolk countryside.
Thank you for taking part