Home > Clubs & Groups > History and Film

History and Film


Water, water everywhere ……

We take so much for granted these days; turning on the tap for safe, drinkable water is one amenity we couldn’t imagine being without. Mains water didn’t come to the village until the 1950s and even then it wasn’t supplied to all houses, only to outside standpipes for some. Some houses had their own wells and hand pumps and a few of these are still there. However, most residents had to use one of 3 public pumps. There was one on the Street. (Where was it – can anyone tell me please?) Another was on the Green between the Grimmer and the old Post Office where the two Chestnut trees are. The third one, and the only one we have photos of, was at the end of Church Lane outside 8 Kitchen Close.

Chruch Lane Water Pump 1 

The postcard, from the late Alan Lummis, dates from 1925/6, soon after Kitchen Close was built. The pump can just be seen on the right hand side.

Chruch Lane Water Pump 2 

The close up of the pump is from Marion Bland and shows Cissie with the 2 buckets she was about to fill with water. Collecting water was a daily task and the pump was a place where people would meet for a chat in an era when the pace of life was perhaps a bit slower.

According to Parish Council minutes, the pump here was closed in 1957 and tenants had to use an outside standpipe. The pump on the Green was removed in 1959. As to mains sewerage, that didn’t come until 1968.                                 Pete Davidson





Wickham Skeith & Dr Barnardo’s

 EmmaMaggie Brook 1891EileenDoris

Emma, Maggie Brooke 1891, Doris and Eileen.


Monday 4 May 1890 was a significant day in the history of our village. As the school log book records: Admitted four children from Dr Barnardo’s Home, who are boarded out in this village. Maggie Brooke, Elizabeth Baker, Harriet Martin, Ruth Bailey.


Those few words mark the beginning of a relationship with the children’s charity Dr Barnardo’s which continues to the present day. Between 1890 & 1950 more than 200 children were fostered in Wickham Skeith. During that time up to 20% of the children in the village at any one time came from Barnardo’s.


Why did so many people take in these children? For some it may well have been for altruistic reasons but for others it was the money paid by Barnardo’s for each child. Before WWI they paid 5 shillings a week at a time when the basic agricultural wage was only 15 shillings. So if a family took on 3 children it was like having another wage.


In the years before WWI the Barnardo’s children often only stayed for a couple of years & were then sent to Canada. It’s an extraordinary fact that between 1870 & 1930 over 100,000 children were sent to Canada, 30,000 of whom were sent by Barnardo’s. For many of these children it was a new start in a rapidly developing country & they did well. However, large numbers were badly treated & child emigration has left scars still felt by their descendants in Canada to this day.


Maggie Brooke, one of the 1st four girls to come to the village, was the first from Wickham Skeith to be sent to Canada. And hers is a really poignant story. She settled in well in Ottawa helping a family to look after their two young boys. However, she fell ill & Barnardo’s brought her back to England at the end of June 1899. She came to stay with her original Wickham Skeith family – George & Abigail Dorling of Willow House – but sadly died of TB on 11 August. She was just 19 years old.


After WWI most Banardo’s children stayed here until they left school at 13 or 14. They then had to return to Barnardo’s to be trained – the girls usually for domestic service & the boys either to learn a trade or go into the Navy. Wickham Skeith retained a strong pull for some of them & a significant number returned to live in the area. Many of us remember Doris Mullinger at Green Farm & we still have Eileen Pearce in Bacton & Emma Cable in Grange Road - all former Barnardo’s girls.


Pete Davidson








 THe Mills Wickham Skeith