METFIELD Tales from a Suffolk Village could, of course, be any Suffolk village, but at the same time it is most distinctively not. For me, it starts with names, the names that keep coming back and back, names that I knew for the short time I passed through Metfield – Rusted, Eastaugh, Reilly, Shadbolt, Hubbard, Brennan, Godbold, Runnacles. There is pleasure in tracing back the origins of the people that I knew, from Johny Reilly’s converting a USAAF abandoned building into a motorbike repair shed, to the naming of Honeymoon Row. Through this recent generational history, we can observe the repeated interaction between the families, their marriages, and home swaps.
Known is mixed with unknown but within touching distance – ‘tramps often walked through the village, harmless, only wanting a slice of bread and a cup of water’. Familiar is discovered: ‘Parravani, an Italian family who lived locally, made ice cream from their own Jersey herd.’ The bare revelations of the 1841 and 1881 census – 76 homes, 116 families, 611 inhabitants, and 22 paupers living in the poorhouse – revealing more families than homes.
The devil is definitely in the detail here and what pleasure it is to come across Honey (Ambrose) Clutterham, with his distinctive white moustache, often seen wearing a long dark overcoat and flat cap, counting out aniseed balls from glass jars for the children.
How delightful to see more recent history like Apple Day incorporated into this village record – Aisha eating a scrumped apple, Ann Wolfe welcoming walkers. The photographs are particularly poignant, both those of people I knew, like Jane and Jeffrey Smith outside Metfield Stores, to those I don’t know but can look at and wonder at, such as Tristram Cary, working in his studio at Wood Farm.
The index was particularly useful, and naturally I looked up Half Moon Cottage, which had been my home, to discover the touching story of Eva Fance, who had lived there and had a penchant for ignoring the motorists on her way to the shop. ‘”All right my dear”, she would say, continuing to walk in the middle of the road. They would just have to wait until she reached the shop.’
This is a book for any villager and most definitely for those who live in Metfield or who, like me, have passed through Metfield, but never quite left it, and find ourselves returning to it again and again. Now we can do our returning through these pages.
I am glad Christine Brennan recorded this collection of her memories and those of others, and I can imagine it sparking many more, which, with the help of internet technology, can be shared, enjoyed and built on as time passes.