The Parish of Scole
A History of Scole Parish (by Michael Hall)
Four of the five ecclesiastical parishes that now make up the civil parish of Scole were independent communities from before the Norman Conquest until 1894 when Frenze (Frisa, Frense) was joined to Scole (Osmondestuna) and Thorpe Parva (Torp) which had lost its separate identity by the 15th century. In 1935 the then civil parishes of Billingford (Plestuna) and Thelveton (Telvetuna, Telventuna, Thelvetham) were abolished and became part of the enlarged civil parish of Scole.
All five communities are recorded in the Domesday Survey (names in brackets above) but had been established much earlier. Archaeological evidence shows Scole itself to have been a well established settlement from early in the Roman occupation. The recently excavated industrial area either side of the crossing of the River Waveney was almost certainly the northern part of the Villa Faustini – the only known named Roman villa in Britain. This villa straddled the Roman road from Coddenham, in Suffolk, to Venta Icenorum (Caistor by Norwich) but the line of that road, the fore-runner of the Pye Road – later to be the A 140, cuts many field boundaries through Scole and the surrounding parishes indicating a much older landscape. Both artefacts from the excavations and the continuous sucker regrowth of typical ‘Bronze Age Elm’ stock along some local field boundaries would strongly suggest the parish has been ‘occupied’ for more than 3,000 years.
A paved Roman ford at Scole, the Domesday record of a water mill at Frenze, the fact that one of the manors in Thelveton had been ceded to Ely cathedral and the local lord was Gilbert the crossbowman, who had probably given outstanding service during the conquest battle, all show the on-going significance of the parish. This was recognised by a Norwich merchant, John Peck, who ordered the building of the magnificent Scole Inn in 1655, at the height of the Puritan Commonwealth. With the Roman ford still giving a safe crossing of the river it was at the cross-roads of coaching routes from Norwich to Ipswich and London and Yarmouth to Bury St. Edmunds and London and during the next 150 years flourished with the village. The fame of the Inn was enhanced by the visit of Charles II in 1671 and at its heyday more than 40 coaches a day passed through Scole. The fare to London was 30/- inside and 15/- to travel outside with a trip to Norwich, Ipswich or Bury St. Edmunds costing 10/- and 5/- respectively.
Until well after the coming of the railway to Diss, Scole was the postal centre for the area with deliveries from the office in the Inn, and later along Diss Road, to many local parishes in both Norfolk and Suffolk. The railway also brought another entrepreneur to Scole and Frenze in William Betts who built seven miles of private rail track across his estates in the parishes which was linked to the main line at Diss and allowed him to send a train load of market garden produce to London each day and bring a similar load of manure back.
William Betts wasn’t the only 19th century business man of note in the village. A local man, William Pretty, set up an engineering works in the Diss Road and gained renown by inventing a variable transmission for cars and being the first person to incorporate a reverse gear in a gear-box. He also served petrol to the fleeing Dr. Crippen and his girlfriend Ethel le Neve.
Today Billingford is probably best known for its tower mill which was the last working windmill in Norfolk but during the Second World War it was better known as the home to the American 100th bomb group and there is a local museum to them on the Thorpe Abbotts part of the airfield, in the original control tower. Today’s mill was built in 1860 to replace the post mill that had been blown down the year before.
A more recent disaster to strike the village was the destruction, by fire, of St. Andrew’s church in Scole in 1963. When rebuilt, with many additional facilities, the superb east window was designed by Patrick Reyntienne, who executed John Piper’s Baptistry window in Coventry Cathedral, and was the nephew of a Scole resident, Sir Edward Fellowes. Sir Edward, a prominent parliamentarian, had retired as Clerk of the House of Commons to live in Scole until his death in 1970.
Scole is a parish with a very long history that has, at times, been at the heart of the local economy and the home to both humble and famous alike.
The Parish of Scole today (Pearl Fisher & Sue Redgrave)
Scole Village has a population of about 1500 consisting of many young or retired families together with a number of new arrivals who add to the generations of local families. The old Roman Road passing through Scole Village was badly congested with traffic up until the time when the village benefitted from two by-passes constructed during the 1990’s. There is currently a problem of traffic using the village as a short cut between Diss and the A143 in both directions, and also between the A143 and A140, again in both directions. This traffic often ignores the 30 and 40 mph speed limits, which impacts on the safety of pedestrians and local traffic, and in particular passing by the primary school which has no dedicated safe crossing. Scole village has a small shop but sadly no longer a post office which has had a detrimental impact on the whole parish community in particular the elderly. There are two public houses in Scole itself, The Crossways and the 16th century Scole Inn (previously the White Hart). There is a residential care home for the elderly at Scole Lodge and a Church of England primary school which has been expanded to accommodate an increase in pupil numbers; the school has received a good Ofsted report. The Church of St. Andrew in the centre of Scole has a faithful congregation and many community events take place here such as a film club and other social meetings or gatherings of greater than 50 which cannot be accommodated in the Pavilion at the Playing Fields. Children and some adult sports are catered for at the Playing Fields with numerous football teams from 5 years upwards, including girls and veterans, and recently installed up to date play equipment. There is also a well used bowling green, and the Pavilion plays host to after match hospitality. The Pavilion is also used by many local clubs and for fundraising activities or private celebrations. Demand outweighs availability so plans are taking shape to improve and expand these facilities in the near future. The Pavilion is also the home of the pre-school play group who meet here every week day and there is a well used recycling facility at the entrance. The Parish enjoys a good community spirit especially noticeable at annual events such as the village fete, village quiz and concerts held in the Church usually hosted by a certain Mr. Richard Wakeman!
Scole itself is a very safe village to live having a low crime rate and very little vandalism. There is a home watch scheme operating in the village, although more co-ordinators are needed to work the scheme successfully. There are several businesses here in the form of hairdressers, tradesmen, car sales and repairs, and a long standing family building firm the Waterfields. Transport links are favourable with a good bus service both to Norwich city and Diss town centre. The journey into Diss is not to be undertaken lightly as heavy traffic and narrow footpaths put pedestrians and cyclists at risk. A rural bus runs regularly and picks up around the village and there is also a private hire taxi firm based here. The Borderhoppa service is a door to door small bus service used mostly by the retired and elderly which allows them their independence and a chance to socialise.
There are many footpaths around the village for walking with an attractive spot by the river for picnics. There is a small element of irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to foul the walkways even though many dog bins have been provided at some cost by the Parish Council. The Parish Council, although not at full strength, takes a proactive approach and there have been major areas of success outside of business as usual, for example
- Procuring land to create the large Scole Pocket Park with the help of generous donations
- Creation of Permissive Paths across local land to enable circular countryside walks
- Taking over the Grass Cutting and maintenance from Highways and Saffron
- Employing a Ranger to keep the Parish tidy
The parish magazine, the Post Horn is an excellent communication giving the whole community an opportunity to contribute with articles on history, local interest, reasons to celebrate and commiserate, and a directory of up and coming events. Scole is a happy place to live and it is no surprise that the children of the village are keen to put their roots down here as well.
The village of Billingford is divided by the A143, Lower Street being situated beside the busy A143 and Upper Street approximately one mile to the north. The Parish Church of St. Leonard, the Patron Saint of Prisoners, sits proudly on the hill overlooking the Waveney Valley. The church has no tower, but an interesting feature discovered inside the church some years ago is a mural high on the south wall. The church and churchyard are in very good order thanks to the tireless work of parishioners. The venue raises money for various causes, Macmillan Nurses coffee morning is an annual event, summer lunches and a very successful flower festival and Christmas Bazaar are held to raise money for church funds. The small community of approximately 100 persons work well together to make these events successful.
Billingford has a public house “The Horseshoes” which stands alongside the busy A143. Adjacent to the public house is the Common with a magnificent restored Windmill which can be seen working during the summer months. This is a great visitor attraction together with footpaths along the River Waveney bordering the county with Suffolk.
For more information about Scole Click here for the Parish Council website.