How long does it take a cow to walk from Forncett to Norwich?


In the early 1900s, if you were a farmer in Forncett and you had cows to sell at Norwich cattle market, you simply walked there with the cows! Forncett History Group has recently been lent a tape recording made by Edward Thurston (1910 - 1991) whose family owned Corner Farm in Forncett End from around 1914 to 1940. In the interview Mr. Thurston reminisces on farm life in the 1920s and offers some remarkable insights into the life of a farming family in Forncett at that time.

In those days Corner Farm was a mixed farm with both arable and cattle. They had a milking herd and they also fattened cattle over the winter that were subsequently sold to butchers at auction. On the tape Edward describes one of his jobs as a young lad, aged 9, which was to help one of the farm workers to drive cattle to market in Norwich.

"On three Saturday mornings I helped to drive cattle, six at a time, from Forncett to Norwich Cattle Market. We left home at 2 in the morning. It was March or April and pitch black. The cattle had been shut up all winter so when you got them on the road they were like wild animals! After about half an hour they quietened down and then it was a steady walk to Norwich. It took us between 5 and 6 hours to walk the 12 miles to the cattle market by the castle. Father took the train from Forncett station and met us there. When we had put the cattle in pens for Irelands (auctioneers) to sell, we went to a restaurant in Davey Place and father ordered three bacon and egg breakfasts. Then we went home by train, or sometimes by horse and cart: this was before the days of buses even."

In due course it is hoped that this and others of Edward Thurston's reminiscences will appear on the Forncett History website. The History Group thanks Patricia Bright (Edward Thurston's daughter) for access to this marvellous recording.

Mike Merrick