Hoe and Worthing Archive: Gorgate 


Gorgate hall

Gorgate Hall is an early eighteenth-century house. It was once the centre of a farming estate which in recent times has become famous locally for its fruit farm producing blackcurrants and Victoria plums.

Francis Mowatt sale

This sale advertisement almost certainly describes Gorgate Hall – 'a convenient sash'd house' – with its service buildings, fish ponds and farm land, the labourers' cottages 'at a proper distance'.

Norfolk Chronicle 17th June 1780

                      livestock sale

Mowatt was selling his farming stock as well.

Norfolk Chronicle 30th September 1780

Francis Mowatt mortgaged the property in 1773 to Edward Pratt of Ryston Hall for £900. It subsequently belonged to the Rev Thomas Crowe Munnings, rector of Beetley and East Bilney. Munnings was also a farmer, celebrated for his promotion of turnip growing. He published Plans for the Protecting and Preserving Turnips in Dereham in 1817.


This handbill calls on his parishioners to pay their tithe dues at Gorgate, in return for which he will provide a dinner at the Punch Bowl. There was an inn at Beetley of that name.

The handwritten note below the poem reads: ‘Mr Munnings was the first who practised the method of placing turnips in rows upon the ridges (in furrows) and backed a furrow against the row to save the turnips from the frost.’

Thomas Crowe Munnings left his estate in trust for his daughter on his death. The will was proved in 1834 and some time after that Gorgate was purchased by William Grounds of Hoe Hall. In his rent book for the 1860s, George Willins is his tenant.

Willins rent

Willins lease

Carthew & Girling were the Grounds' Dereham solicitors. This bill, dated 1865, for drawing up Willins' lease, shows that Thomas Byam Grounds was taking over from his father, William 'not being capable'. William died the following year.

From Revd Armstrong's Diary

July 1st
Called out to take a private baptism at "Gorgate", at the extreme end of the parish. The child was an infant who had been deserted in London, and which Mrs Willins, of Gorgate, having no children of her own, has brought into Norfolk and adopted, though she is entirely ignorant of its parentage.

The child was baptised George William Simpson Willins and was literally cradled in luxury. This good hearted woman is a queer one – dresses almost like a man; commits assaults on her grooms; keeps a racer or two, and is well known at Newmarket, Ascot, and Epsom as "Croppy" by reason of her hair being cut quite close to the head!

George Kirk

September 1881: perhaps G. W. S. Willins' luxurious upbringing had made him annoying!

coal cart

Also that year, coal for the Hall was fetched from Dereham station in a tumbril.

In the 1891 census the resident was George Bagnall, a farmer from Warwickshire. By 1901 he had moved as a tenant to Hoe Hall. George was most likely to be the first person in Hoe to have owned a car. J. J. Wright, engineers in Dereham, were agents for a wide range of makes including Ariel, better known later for motorcycles. The Wright company records show the sale of a car in 1899 to George Bagnall of Hoe Hall. It was probably a Quadcycle, costing 120 guineas.

Jack Wormald

Major Jack Wormald won the Military Cross in 1915 at Hooge. When on leave he stayed with his brother at Humbletoft in Dereham. In 1919 he retired from the army and came to live at Gorgate Hall. His regiment, The Kings Royal Rifle Corps, has his war diary written from the trenches. It is a remarkable document.

In 1935 he and Mrs Wormald gave the 'Inner Room' to the Parish Room in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of George V.

Farming at Gorgate

walter wicks ccombining 1952

factory field    Two photographs of the cereal harvest
    at Gorgate farm in 1952.

    The combine driver is Walter Herbert
    Wicks, whose father had also worked
    on local farms.

    This picture is of the 'factory field' – the
    building in the background was a shoe
    factory at the time (see below).

fruit pickers

Fruit picking at Gorgate was a seasonal occupation for local people. Here blackcurrants are being weighed by Mr Fitt, 1953.

gorgate farming

Press report form 1956. Surprising how often Hoe is mistaken for Gressenhall!

traction engine

March 1957.

alcohol    1962 – not Ribena!

ice    Protecting the crop from frost with ice! 1964.


Travellers would come to Gorgate for the fruit harvest. This is July 1968.

caravan scheme

A plan for far
m diversification from 1970.

golf course

Another plan for farm diversification from 1994 when the Hall and estate were for sale. The nine-hole course at Quebec would have been closed, redeveloped for housing and replaced with this eighteen-hole course.

tin bungalow

There was a large corrugated iron bungalow at Gorgate that is said to have been part of a hospital before being moved here. It was lived in for many years before demolition. Novus House stands on the site.

Gorgate Chambers

Gorgate chambers

This building in Gorgate drive has been used for several
very different things – built as a laboratory in about 1948, it became a shoe factory a year or so later, then a farm office and it is currently the office of a solicitor.

asthma lab

asthma lab

shoe factory

In 1949 Norvic Shoes took over the premises. These women are sewing leather uppers.

shoe factory

Maureen Webster working a folding machine. Jean Woods, who worked there from 1956, worked on the next machine. She recalls that the hours were 8am to 6pm with 1 hour 15 minutes for lunch because these were the hours of the Norvic factory in Norwich. Jean cycled to work, first from Fransham, then from Wendling. In bad weather she would leave her cycle in Dereham and get the works transport to Gorgate.

There was a small canteen where workers ate their packed lunches. It looked out towards the river where there were 'masses of rats' (possibly because crusts were thrown out there). One day one got inside. Jean spotted its tail in a stack of folding chairs and she went after it while everyone else backed away.  (They don't make them like Jean anymore!)

The lunch hour was so long with nothing to do that they often walked to the Gravel Pit pub in Beetley for a shandy.

    Sheila Willis worked as a skiver (skiving
    is thinning the edges of the leather
    where a join is to be made) at the Hoe
    factory in the 1950s. She won the Miss
    Norvic competition and subsequently
    became a fashion model.

shoe factory

The supervisor, Mrs Betty Bates, lived in the cottages near Gorgate Hall.

shoe factory

shoe girls

Shoe workers enjoying icecreams in 1959 during their break. Jean Wright, Cynthia Eglen, Jean Russell, Sheila Walton and

xmas shoes

shoe xmas

Christmas party, 1963. Heather Hudson (centre, with glasses) enjoying the fun. Jean Woods recalls that the women would put their hair in rollers at lunchtime ready for the evening – if you kept your headscarf on, the supervisor didn't notice.

When the shoe factory closed, the building became the offices of Mid Norfolk Farmers.