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The following article was taken from the Chronicle and Mercury of Friday the 3rd. of June, 1949.
Sadly the original was in such poor condition that scanning resulted in a lot of unreadable text. Consequently, the following content is faithfully reproduced, but retyped and presented in a slightly different format.
A compact little village as villages go, Kettlebaston has unfortunately been showing increasing signs of neglect of late. When the Rector complained at the R.D.C. recently that the village was becoming "more and more untidy," he was describing the symptoms of a disease against which there is no effective remedy - depopulation of the countryside.
With the young folk away to the towns, and with the increasing mechanisation of land work, there are few strong young arms to trim the hedges or dig the gardens, and the old-world cottages are tumbling slowly into decay. The older generation, with bright memories of their own young days, cannot understand what is happening to their world.
"Kettlebaston? Where is that? Few people seemed to have heard of this tiny village of 90-odd inhabitants, without a pub, without a bus, without running water, gas or electric light, tucked away deep in the leafy West Suffolk countryside, two miles from Hitcham on the high road to nowhere.
With its lavender and lilac, its overgrown hedges, village pump, and old thatched cottages, Kettlebaston came into the news lately when, at the Cosford R.D.C., the Rector, the Rev. H. C. Butler, commented that in the twenty years that he has lived in the parish it has been growing more and more untidy.
In particular he mentioned a Nissen hut, recently erected in the village, describing it as "an absolute eyesore," and "a blot on the landscape."
Old Kettlebaston residents - and the majority are old - seemed agreed about the progressive untidiness, according to our reporter who visited the village recently. "It looks like a gypsy encampment right now," said one local resident, And it used to be a picture in my young days. All the cottages used to have gardens in front. And there were no weeds or rubbish about. Nobody cares now - it distresses me."
"It was a nice little village once. But Kettlebaston isn't like the same place anymore. It's got all overgrown with brambles said another."
"It seems that there is no one to do the work these days," said a third. "But years ago you could eat off people's doorsteps. Some people tidy up a little - but you'll have a job to find them."
"I have nothing to add to what I said at the R.D.C.," the Rector told our reporter. "As to other matters - what would you like to know? The housing position? There's no overcrowding in the village, though a great many are put down as category five. In normal circumstances that would mean an order for demolition. No order has been given, however, and though the survey has been made, that is for future use. "Water? Well, there's a deep pump in the village. That never dries up. And then I have my own bore, and so do one or two of the outlying farms.
Not an inn sign, but the village sign of Kettlebaston, erected by the villagers at the time of the Coronation, and the only one of its kind in West Suffolk. There is no pub in the village, but the inhabitants of Church Farm, seeing the sign and mistaking Durrant's home for an inn, enter their house and call for beer. "No beer, no pub," reads the sign that the boy is holding.
(Photo.: Wilden, Stowmarket).
"Amusements? There's a small picture-house at Bildeston - some people go there and some cycle to Stowmarket. No - Kettlebaston is a "dry" village. If people want a drink they go to the "White Horse" at Hitcham or to Preston "Bells."
In the old Norman church, with its clean walls and bright decorations, the Rector led the way to a monument, commemorating the burial of Lady Johan Jermy. "You see - it's her tercentenary," he said. "She died 300 years ago this month. But I can't find out anything much about her, except for what it says here." He then turned his attention to several unusually hideous faces which leered down from the walls with bulbous eyes and protruding tongues which made their mouths resemble the letter Q. "Those are grotesques" he said," the masons jokes."
Of the church itself the Rector said, quoting J. N. Comper, "It prays of itself," and pray indeed it seemed to with its surrounding belt of lime trees and, in the blurred distance, Lavenham church rising straight and shapely, another prayer on another hilltop.
"The type of people have changed," said Mrs. C. Barton. "There's no real Kettlebaston left. In the old days you had to be born a Kettlebaston person, and marry a Kettlebaston person, otherwise you would bring in a foreigner, and foreigners were never found to be satisfactory.
"Of course there used to be witches in Kettlebaston - or so the legend says", she went on. "One of them was meant to live here in this house." Miss Barton who lives in a tiny stone cottage covered with ivy, possessing one round window, which must certainly of helped to confirm Kettlebastonians suspicions of old Mumpshy Brett. "They say she charmed her husband and son," said Miss Barton. "They wanted to go to Bildeston, and she didn't want them to go. They got the donkey and chaise out, and she transfixed it in the lane outside the house. The had to sit in the chaise all the day. That's the story, anyhow."
"Water round here? Well, there's the village pump, of course, but my sister and I prefer rain water. We cling to the old fashioned ways. Would you like some?" Our reporter sampled a glass, and very pure and fresh he found it. "In the old days," said Miss Barton people used to drink water from a pond at the side of the road - the Kip pond, they called it. It was cleaned out once a year - and they did it without pay in those days. The water used to trickle down to the pond through the earth, and it was very pure. But it became polluted when they tarred the roads.
"Most people had no means of baking for themselves in the old days," she went on, "so there was a bake-office in the village. They would bake you a dinner on Saturdays. If you made your own cake, you would take it down to the bake-office too. Of course the village has changed. Lots of houses are "condamned," said with Miss Barton with a smile.
Down the road lived Mr. Harry Hales, a Kettlebastonian, who keeps his garden very tidy indeed. "I was in the Marines," he said, as he strolled in his garden, "and I like to see things tidy. This is what a Marine can do when he tries," he said with justifiable pride. "I joined the Marines in 1903, and I was on the first ship into Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war. I spent 31 years in the R.M. And if I was 17 again, I'd show these young chaps how - I'd be off in the Marines again."
In the centre of the village, opposite the church, stands the village pump, and next to it the village sign. Like an inn sign, it bears the name "Kettlebaston," and two crossed sceptres. The only one of its kind in West Suffolk, it was put up at the Coronation, and it also serves to commemorate the fact that in 1445, Henry VI. granted the Manor of Kettlebaston to William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk, to hold in return for the service of carrying a golden sceptre at the coronation of all future Kings of England, and an ivory sceptre to carry at the coronation of Margaret of Anjou, and all future Queens.
Unfortunately our reporter was not the first to mistake the village sign for an inn sign.
So runs the rhyme, which proclaims that the pump water is free, and that refreshment spiritual may be sought at the church opposite. However, a number of strangers to the village, mistaking the sign for an inn sign, and recking nothing of William de la Pole, have applied to Church Farm from time to time.
"We have had people walk right indoors and ask for a pint," said one of the occupants . "And only yesterday there were some people speaking of buying 'a drink and a packet of fags' at the pub opposite the church. There's no pub in Kettlebaston."
"There used to be a number of witches in Kettlebaston," said Mrs. Ward. "I was young in those days, and I heard all the tales from my father. One of them was called Mumpshy Brett. She loused my grandmother - covered her with lice from head to foot. People were afraid of witches in those days. Now it is different. When I see young girls smoking cigarettes nowadays I say to them, "In the old days people would think you were witches - you are following in their footsteps."
"But things are altered now," she went on. People used to take a delight in things then. There used to be a lovely surpliced choir at the church. But now young people seem to take no delight in anything. No one would believe the alterations I've seen. There's no one left to do the work, you see. The hedges and gardens are overgrown, and the fowls wander anywhere."
The tale of Kettlebaston is that of a thousand villages and hamlets; the slow, sad story of the drift from the land. Five hundred years ago East Anglia was the seat of a high proportion of Britain's population and wealth, and Kettlebaston, like many another village, stood in the midst of a rich and prosperous countryside. Today, however, although the fields are as fruitful as ever, tractor, helicopter, and combined harvester are lightening the back-breaking toil of old. The young blood is draining slowly away to the bright lights of the towns, leaving behind in the lonelier villages overgrown gardens and tumble-down cottages. Pull down Kettlebaston's "condamned" houses, and precious little would be left on this pretty Suffolk slope.
That old tales of witches linger on in this village is proof of its remoteness, and the increasing untidiness is a sign of its accelerating decay. Yet may the day never come when the thirsty traveller finds nothing but a rusty and disused ruin where the village pump once stood, or hears no bell ring out across the fields from the steeple of the "public house" across the way.
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