Sunday, 5 April 2020

Some Old Buckenham history

Memories of Marjorie Westfield

A link with Old Buckenham’s past stretching back almost 100 years has been broken with the death of Marjorie Walshe (nee Westfield), who was born in the village in 1926 and whose father and stepmother ran a garage and shop on the Green for many years either side of the second world war.
Marjorie’s father was Herbert Westfield who came to the village from Essex in the early 1920s and set up his business and home in the former village Reading Room, nowadays the premises of the Laurel Tree Centre. He did general engineering, specialising in cycle repairs, and installed petrol pumps to sell fuel to the growing clientele of motorists in the district. In the early 1930s, Westfield’s petrol was among the cheapest for miles around, at a halfpenny under a shilling a gallon – equivalent to just over 1p per litre.
His wife Elsie looked after the adjacent shop which sold household items, confectionery and tobacco. She had originally been employed as a housekeeper after Herbert’s relationship with Marjorie’s mother broke up.
They married in 1930 and had a son Raymond who died when just over a year old. Herbert, who died in 1955, and Raymond are both interred in the churchyard.
Marjorie was among the first pupils to attend the current High School when it opened in 1938 as Old Buckenham Area School. In the war years she worked for her parents in the shop and, in her late teens, attended village dances which attracted an eclectic mix of locals and American airmen newly arrived at the wartime aerodrome. 

The date 1944/1945. Marjorie is on the right, the American is Mike. Do you recognise the young lady on the left who is thought to be 'Vera'.
She inherited a love of music from her father who was an accomplished pianist and had played accompaniment for silent movies in earlier years. After a hard day’s work in the garage, he loved relaxing at the keyboard and Marjorie often recalled listening in awe to the music of Beethoven, Grieg or Liszt drifting up to her bedroom. She too learnt to play the piano and sometimes acted as organist at the Baptist chapels in Old Buckenham and Attleborough. 
A deep Christian faith was central to her life. She was baptised and taught in Sunday School at Old Buckenham before moving just over the parish boundary to Foundry Hill, Attleborough, in 1951 after her father retired and sold the business.
She joined the congregation of Attleborough Baptist Church but retained many links with the village via the friends she had made through family connections, school and as a member of the chapel community.
In the 1950s, she started her own Sunday School, called “The Children’s Church”, in a disused building adjacent to Bunn’s Bank on land which had been part of the aerodrome. There she gave spiritual and often social support to many deprived youngsters and their families living in makeshift accommodation on the site.
Marjorie herself had a challenging time in her 20s after she became a single parent, being forced apart from the man she loved. It was nearly 10 years before they were reunited, marrying in 1960.
Some villagers may recall Marjorie and her mother Elsie for their connections with Gaymers cider works in the 50s and 60s. Marjorie was employed in the canteen and served meals to the villagers who worked there, many of whom made the daily five-mile round journey by cycle. Elsie picked apples in late summer and autumn in the orchards which then adjoined the factory; she also worked at the United Dairies depot, or “Creamery” as it was known, on Buckenham Road.
Marjorie and her husband Tom moved to Stowmarket in 1970. Nine years later, and by then mother to another three children aged between 16 and 11, she was widowed at the age of just 53.
She continued to live at Stowmarket for the rest of her life. In later years she became a prolific artist and poet, some of her verse* inspired by her earlier days in Old Buckenham. She always loved returning to the village which held so many memories.
She remained active well into her 80s, lovingly tending her garden and doing DIY work in the house. Her physical and mental health declined in the last few years, though she remained living in her own home until just before Christmas. She died at the West Suffolk Hospital on March 18th and a family funeral took at Stowmarket Baptist Church on April 1st.
The family hope to hold a further celebration of her life later in the year when current restrictions have ended. If anyone who remembers Marjorie would be interested in attending, they would be most welcome. Please contact her son, Tom, on 01953 789510 or email:

* A piece of her poetry will be posted later

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you have any memories of Marjorie you can leave your information here.