Harkstead Village History

If you have any information or photos on the history of the village please let us know.

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Julian Scales Retirement

It is with a great sadness that Julian announced his retirement from the Committee/Trustees of Harkstead Village Hall at the AGM in May. He felt it was time to hang up his keys, pen and forsake the well trodden path up to the front door of the hall. Obviously, his continuous battle with his Parkinson's Disease has been the trigger for this and we admire the way he has kept actively involved right up to now. Julian has been a wonderful kind, generous and knowledgeable friend and we will miss his enthusiasm and effectiveness in the running of the hall.

Of course behind every great man there is a great woman, and we also thank Anne as well for all her support for Julian and the hall over the years. Julian has been involved with the hall administration since the early 1990's and was a member with Chris Stoddart and others with the New Hall Steering Committee at that time.

He has held all the official positions on the committee, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer as well as a being a major instigator and helper in arranging for the ongoing inside and outside maintenance. One of Julian's greatest inputs has been in applying and obtaining grants from external bodies for the New Car Park Surface, New and replacement Carpet Bowls Equipment, Committee Room Furniture, and New Kitchen Equipment.

I think his greatest legacy though is the Millennium Book, which is kept in the Village Hall. He was the person who went round all the residents of the village, asking for background notes on the individuals and on most occasions taking notes and writing it up. He arranged for the printing and binding which didn't go as smoothly as planned, so I understand.

He will also be remembered for the hard and very wet work he undertook down an excavation for the water supply connection for the hall. Unfortunately though, Julian broke his hip tripping over a coat rack which at one time was kept in the hall store room. That was a most tragic and painful accident. Julian could always be relied on for helping with the Village Fetes, VE Day Celebrations, Farmers Markets, Auctions which enabled the mortgage on the new hall to be paid off, much sooner than anticipated.

We trust that his knowledge of the hall and the village will still be available for us to call upon, for along time to come. On behalf of the Trustees, David Looser presented Julian with a small token of our thanks and best wishes for the future.

Village Sign

Sign top

After many years of discussion Harkstead is finally about to have its very own ornamental name sign. The project had been resurrected by the History Group who raised the major portion of the cost but further funds were generously given by various village organisations and private individuals.

The design was produced by Louise Harward and depicts the familiar view of the church seen from the village together with the barge, Cygnet. This barge was built in Kent in 1881 for Walter Wrinch at Erwarton and is now restored and based at Snape Maltings. There will be an inscription on the sign’s post in memory primarily of Rita Paine and other members of the History Group, but also includes all the past residents of Harkstead who would have known this view of St Mary's.

It is proposed to have a ceremonial unveiling later this summer and full details will be displayed on the village noticeboard, in the pub, hall and church and on the village website, www.harkstead.com.

All residents, past residents, families and friends are welcome to attend.

Margaret Garnham - August 2014

An acknowledgement and thanks from Richard, Netty and the Garnham family to all our friends in Harkstead:

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all the Garnham family to say a big thank you to all the residents of Harkstead Village following the death of our dear Mother. I'm sure many of Mum's happiest memories centred on her thirty years in the village.

We would like to acknowledge the support of all those who sent messages of condolence and to those who attended mum's funeral. It meant a lot to Dad and all of the family to see those who knew her out in force and we are keen to record our family's appreciation for their support in the organisation for the funeral. Allowing us free use of the hall was a most thoughtful gesture. Both the hall and church looked magnificent on the day and that was due to the efforts of her many friends in Harkstead. The burial plot chosen was just where the family would have wanted it. The residents of Harkstead did us proud.

Thanks for everyone's support and best wishes.

Cyril & Margaret Garnham - June 2012

A group of neighbours met at Cyril & Margaret Garnham's house on Friday 15th June 2012 to wish them well on their move to Woodbridge. The Garnhams came to the Harkstead 30 years ago and have played a central role in the life of the village. Margaret has been involved in just about every village event through the years and they both played a large part in the rebuilding of the Village Hall. The Best Kept Village Competition must be one of Margaret's most satisfying moments. We came second at her/our first attempt and then won it at her/our second. I don't think anyone else would have had the determination to keep chivvying everyone to make that final effort to trim hedges, tidy front banks etc, but it was a very proud moment when the bigwigs and press attended the unveiling of the sign in the middle of the village and Harkstead featured on the front page of The Anglian. Cyril has entertained us all over the years with tales of Ipswich past, the sporting achievements of his sons and grandsons and, of course, his beloved Ipswich Town. We will miss them, but wish them all the best in their new life in Woodbridge.

September 2005 Harkstead Village Reunion

In September 2005 around 70 residents of Harkstead from the 1940s and 50s, and many of their partners, assembled in the village hall. They came from across the county, and in some cases across the country. Although some still live locally, many had not met since they were teenagers in the village and had set off into the world. Name badges, with names as they were in youth, were worn as a reminder since faces had changed over the 50 or so years: the Gallingtons, the Abbotts, the Godbolds, the Westmacotts and so many more.

A good day was enjoyed by all, and those attending thanked the organisers; Jim Grimwood; Robin Paine; Wendy Sadler (nee Abbott); Michael Billett and Olive Tobin (nee Williams) for their considerable efforts in making the reunion happen.

To assist with the nostalgia, a number of photographs from the 40s and 50s were on display. The challenge was to recognise the faces from so long ago. A number of photos from those days are included in this website.

Many of those attending, most of whom were in their 60s and 70s, were surprised to see one of their teachers. For those who attended secondary school at Holbrook, which was most, Miss Nunn was a well known teacher at the school. Now 96 years old, she enjoyed chatting to her former pupils.

In the Photo Gallery on this website you can see an album with photographs contributed by those attending. It includes separate albums for named and general photographs. If you wish to take a copy of any of these, a reminder that "Right click" on the image; select "save picture as" will allow you to capture the image on your computer. To download the best copy select 'Full Size' on each photo before downloading.

Only a few weeks after the event Robin Paine who, like the other organisers, worked so tirelessly to make sure that the reunion was a success, sadly died. However he did at least see his work come to fruition and have the pleasure of meeting up with some of his old friends again, which is something he said had particularly given him so much pleasure and satisfaction.

A copy of the original Harkstead Reunion website can be accessed by clicking here.

Appeal for Historical Information and Photos

February 2010

Laura Brockman is looking for historical photos of Harkstead. If you have any photos or information which might be of interest please contact Laura on lrm_brockman@yahoo.co.uk.

My connection with Harkstead is via my Great Grand father John Alfred Smith died 1847 and my Grandfather Ernest Alfred Smith 1887 - 1977. My family are buried to the left hand side of the entrance to the church.

They were both schoolmasters during their lives at the village school and were organists in the church. My mother is 88 years old on March 1st and I was wondering if anyone in the village has any archive pictures of that period in time which I could copy and give to her for a present. All family photos of that time have been lost in a fire many years ago and it would be nice to let her revisit the past in any way I can.

If you can help me in any way I would be very grateful.

Laura Brockman on behalf of Margaret Lester Ambrose (nee Smith)

Memories of Michael John Billett [1932-2009] - A Harkstead Boy at Heart

Michael was born at Walnut Tree lane, Harkstead but spent most of his boyhood at the Nook, now known as Rectory cottages, where the family were to move to. Like his Mother and sister, Audrey, he was a regular churchgoer and all three sang in the church choir. As a boy Michael excelled at football and in his late teens was a prolific goalscorer with Chelmondiston Lads and later a much feared centre forward with the Lilywhites of Woolverstone. His good looks and charming manners evidently made him a hit with the girls judging by a poem entitled ‘Mike’ thought to have been written about him around 1941 by two lovesick girls, Jean and Dot, which was found on a scrap of paper beneath the organ in the village church in 1995. The poem can be found in the Village’s Millennium book.

His first job on leaving Holbrook school was with the boat building firm of Webb’s at Pin Mill where he also learned to make coffins but soon he was to join the Royal Marines where he was proud to wear the uniform and ever since has continued his Naval interest as a member of the local Naval association.

He met and courted his wife Diana who being a town girl set him an ultimatum... ‘move to the town with me or forget about marriage'. Having a strong bond with Harkstead this proved difficult for Michael but it is said that love will draw you further than gunpowder can blow you and so they married and settled in Ipswich where they raised three children, Susan, Jennifer and Stephen. He was a follower of Ipswich Town and also joined Diana in worship as a member of Museum Street Methodist chapel. He spent most of his married life working for various small local firms as a painter and decorator until a rare disease meant he had to undergo a major operation and have a Liver transplant in the early 1990's. His faith together with the support of Diana and his family saw him recover although needing lifelong medication and regular health checks.

On his retirement he paid frequent visits to his beloved Harkstead and would even walk from Holbrook along by the shore in order to recapture some of his boyhood memories of his old village before meeting up with some old friends at the church run coffee mornings. He always supported St Mary's church and deep down always longed to return to the village to end his days. Sadly he lost Diana in May of 2008 and with a new disease, Diabetes, now affecting his own health he never recovered from her death and despite one or two trips back to his beloved Harkstead he spent his final few weeks in hospital undergoing painful surgery before joining his beloved Diana in February 2009.

He will always be remembered in his old home village as there are many photos of him taken over the years which are kept in the archives of the history club. Also like many young boys who pumped air for the church organ his initials are among many etched for posterity somewhere on the back of the organ. Apart from those years in my own early childhood when I remember playing football with Michael using two Fir trees as goal posts our paths never crossed again until about 1998 when like Michael I too started visiting my family roots in Harkstead. From that time he became and remained a very good friend and was instrumental in helping to organise a reunion of old war time Harkstead school chums in 2005 which he told me was a day he would never forget. I will always remember Michael as a quiet, meek and generous man and someone who simply loved Harkstead.

Jim Grimwood

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