Hoe and Worthing Archive: Gorgate
Gorgate Hall is an early eighteenth-century house. It was once the centre of a farming estate which has become famous locally for its blackcurrants and Victoria plums.
From Revd Armstrong's Diary
July 1st 1875
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!
September 1881: perhaps G. W. S. Willins' luxurious upbringing had made him annoying!
Also that year, coal for the Hall was fetched from Dereham station in a tumbril.
In the 1891 census the owner was George Bagnall, a farmer from Warwickshire. By 1901 he had moved 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.
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
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 picking at Gorgate was a seasonal occupation for local people. Here blackcurrants are being weighed by Mr Fitt, 1953.
Press report form 1956. Surprising how often Hoe is mistaken for Gressenhall!
1962 – not Ribena!
Protecting the crop from frost with ice! 1964.
Travellers would come to Gorgate for the fruit harvest. This is July 1968.
A plan for farm diversification from 1970.
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.
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.
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.
In 1949 Norvic Shoes took over the premises. These women are sewing leather uppers.
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.
The supervisor, Mrs Betty Bates, lived in the cottages near Gorgate Hall.
Shoe workers enjoying icecreams in 1959 during their break. Jean Wright, Cynthia Eglen, Jean Russell, Sheila Walton and
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.