Clavers cottage is a 17th century Grade II listed building that was probably built around the same time as Church farmhouse. It almost certainly always served as accommodation for the labourers on the farm and their families.
In the earliest reference to the cottage (the 1839 tithe records) it appears to have been a double cottage, as seen in the photo below. However, it may well have been built as a single, typical, tripartite dwelling and divided into after the central chimney stack was added (see The Great Rebuilding). Each dwelling had a living room below and a bedroom above; the larger cottage being about 14' x 14' and the smaller one, 13' x 9'. A lean-to at the side of each cottage probably served as the kitchen. So, these were very small abodes for a family that could number up to eight people; a couple and their six children!
The name "Clavers" is almost certainly derived from Clavers manor which was originally part of Forncett manor and lay predominantly within Forncett. The manor is mentioned by Blomefield in his history of Norfolk which was published in 1805 after his death. Frances Davenport's 1565 map of Forncett shows "site of Claver's Manor House" on Low Road almost directly opposite the present location of Clavers cottage.
On the 1813 enclosure map of Forncett, the cottage is part of Edward Betts' estate and, on the 1839 tithe map, when John Ringer was living in the farmhouse, the occupants of Clavers cottage were "Moore and Brooks". In the subsequent census returns for Forncett, Clavers cottage can really only be identified as the dwelling adjacent to Church Farm. So, we can't be absolutely certain of the occupants, but the 1841 census suggests that "Brooks" was Robert Brooks (age 30), his wife and four children, and "Moore" was probably John Moore (age 60) and his wife.
By 1851 the cottage had new occupants – John Brooks (age 32), his wife and four children. John was still there in 1861 but by then he had six children and his wife Ann had died. It's not clear if there were occupants of the other half of the cottage. However, by 1871 John Brookes had moved to Long Stratton and there were undoubtedly two families living in Clavers cottage: James Warren (age 33), his wife and four children; and James Brooks (age 67) and his wife Mary. It seems likely that the Brooks occupants from 1841 to 1871 – Robert, John and James – were related but precisely how isn't clear.
In 1881 James and Mary Brooks were still living in Clavers cottage although James (now age 77) was retired. The other half of the building was occupied by James Blake (age 31), his wife and two children. James was born in Bunwell and his wife Mary in Forncett. James and his wife continued to reside at Clavers cottage for the next fifty years. In 1891, 1911 and 1921 James was helped by his son, also called James, and in 1901 it was his son Charles (age 16) who was working with him. In 1891 the other half of the cottage was occupied by Noah Nicholls, his wife Mary Ann and their granddaughter, and in 1901 Mary Ann Nicholls was still living there alone.
James and Mary Blake (photo - Marjorie Thurston)
From 1911 onwards Clavers cottage may have become a single dwelling for James Blake and his family. James Blake died in 1935 but his wife Mary continued to live at Clavers Cottage. She was there in 1939 and a relative of hers, William Blake, was the cowman at Church Farm. William lived nearby at Stone Cottage. James and Mary's daughter Lucy (born in 1886) lived at Clavers cottage until at least 1939 and from 1911 to 1939 she worked as a teacher at Forncett school.
The remarkable continuity of the workforce who lived in Clavers cottage, members of the Brooks family from 1841 to 1871 and then the Blakes from 1881 to at least 1921, suggests that Church Farm was probably a good place to work. The owners of the farm also seem to have been quite benevolent, allowing occupants to remain in the cottage long after they had retired – James Brook (age 77) in 1881, James Blake up until his death (age 85) in 1935 and his wife, Mary, who was still living there in 1939 (age 86).
It isn't clear when farming ceased at Church Farm but most likely after John Thurston's death in 1942. After that the occupants of Clavers cottage aren't known in detail. However, a sale document in the Norfolk Record Office records the sale of the cottage in the 1960's by a Mr. and Mrs. Goddard. The asking price was £42,000.
With particular thanks to Debbie Sutton for her invaluable help in researching this page.