Church exhibition to recall the blaze that destroyed a house in Carleton Rode

"Wheelwrights", Carleton rode, built in 1601. Photo: Supplied

Friday, July 4, 2014
3:12 PM

For many years, the large thatched house in Carleton Rode occupied by the Balls family was well known as a place of work for many of the villagers.

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"Wheelwrights", Carleton rode, built in 1601. Photo: Supplied"Wheelwrights", Carleton rode, built in 1601. Photo: Supplied

The five bedroom home and neighbouring workshops were associated with a number of trades, including wheelwright, carpentry and blacksmiths businesses.

However, on July 13, 1954, the workshops and house, which dates back to the 17th century, were devastated by a fire which gutted the workshops and severely damaged the property, rendering the home uninhabitable.

The 60th anniversary of the blaze, which featured on the front pages of the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News, will be recalled as part of a forthcoming exhibition to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

At the time, the property was owned by Arthur Balls after the home and business premises had been purchased by his grandfather George.

However, on the day of the fire, Mr Balls’ wife lay in hospital while recovering from an illness, so he had to face difficulties on two fronts.

The blaze was believed to have started in the workshops on a very hot and dry day and the sparks were carried on the wind to the thatch, causing that to ignite as well.

The lack of a nearby water supply hampered the firefighters from Wymondham and Attleborough who were called to the incident and hoses had to be laid to a pit in a field nearly half a mile away.

The flames had been witnessed by 30 men who were haymaking in a nearby field. They tried, unsuccessfully, to save the burning roof using buckets of well water.

However, the men were able to salvage most of the furniture on the ground floor, which was moved by lorry to Messrs Cook’s garage.

Sylvia Betts, Arthur Balls’ niece, who lives at Wisbech, recalled visiting the house as a child and being impressed by the size of it as it had a pantry and also housed an undertaking business.

She also remembered having large family gatherings at the house at Christmas time.

“For me, it was quite an experience living in a house like that. All the water came from a well and the toilet was an old fashioned type where you would sit on wood over a hole. As a small child it was quite a magical place to be, with its staircases and rooms,” she added.

The exhibition will take place at Carleton Rode church from November 8-11 and will feature memorabilia relating to the two world wars and particularly the soldiers listed on the village war memorial who served in the wars, but also their families.

The New Buckenham Silver Band may also be performing at the exhibition, organised by the Carleton Rode History Group, while the village school is also set to be involved.

On November 9, the padre from RAF Lakenheath will also be visiting to lay a wreath and there will also be a remembrance service on the same day for all those who fell during the two wars.

Can you remember the blaze in 1954? Email dominic.bareham2@archant.co.uk

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