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Three talks in one week

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In his weekly The Bar Man column, Jeff Hoyle discusses a busy week…Everybody’s Talkin’. Well maybe not everybody, but I have been, delivering three talks in a week. First up was Cattle Droving for the Stoke Ferry and District History Group which was attended by over 30 people on a Monday evening in the very well-appointed community room of the local school.What impressed me was not just the turnout, but the deep interest and knowledge of the people present. It was interesting that as a follow-up, I was sent copies of articles from the Norwich Mercury of 1829 and Bells Weekly Messenger of 1848 on the subject along with details of an auction of grass at the Red Lion in Wretton in 1776 as being ‘very convenient for the Drovers of Beasts from Scotland or Yorkshire, going into Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex’.

Jeff Hoyle

With the demise of local history groups in other villages in the area, it is great to see the support and interest from the Stoke Ferry bunch and I wonder how much of that comes from the sense of community created by the efforts to save the Blue Bell.Three days later it was back to True’s Yard to reprise my Tales from the Tap Room. This covered stories from and about local pubs and one of them, the Bentinck Bank situated way out on the marshes north of Clenchwarton that was so obscure that even Dr Paul Richards had been unaware of its existence. At the end, a woman came up to me and told me that her great-great-grandfather had been landlord of the pub, and a quick check on the wonderful Norfolk Pubs website revealed that William Large had indeed been the man in charge from 1871-1904. Memories go back a long way in this part of the world.My third engagement of the week is one of the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon lectures at Marriotts Warehouse. I am used to fronting the monthly coffee quiz there, but this will be my first time as a speaker, and my subject is the Mass Observation project of the 1930s. Part of this was the examination in great detail of ‘Worktown’ in the north of England.Anonymous in the published literature, this was in fact Bolton, and as well as detailing working life, political meetings, religion and the locals’ attitude to the abdication and subsequent coronation, one of the main strands of study was pubs.The only full-length book that was published was The Pub and the People, a volume that is still available and which contains a wealth of fascinating detail, for instance the section on conversations in pubs. Examples given include the discussion of the tortoise that one customer had produced from his pocket and another the assertion that food and its adulteration as a cause of national decadence. The next event at True’s Yard is a study day on the history of fish and chips on May 25 so I managed to source a second-hand copy of John K Walton’s book ‘Fish and Chips and the British Working Class 1870-1940’. A quick glance revealed some material from the Mass Observation project detailing the sales at Harry’s during a week in March 1938.There is also a quote from a Yorkshire-based spokesman of the National Fish Friers Federation from 1919. ‘Animal fat is the food of a dominant people. The cry for vegetable oil throughout the country was for the feeding of an inferior people. Animal fat for the dominant race. Animal fat for the dominant country within that race.’ Food and fascism. Perhaps it was a joke. I really hope so.

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