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William Norris



(Information kindly supplied by William’s grandson, Dennis Sheppard)

I live in Wearne Lane, previously known as Wearne Hollow, not far from the old nursery wall.  I was born in Wearne in 1930.  My father was a smallholder and owned and rented land in the parish of Huish Episcopi and I lived in a bungalow on the same property as my father, the farmhouse now known as Wearne Hollow Farmhouse.  I do not remember William Kelway, but I remember James Kelway, who lived in Wearne Lodge until his death in 1952.  He used to be known as Jimmy.

My wife Mary’s father was employed at Kelways and my grandparents and their son and daughter.  I have a picture of my grandparents and children.  This was taken in the early 1900s outside the cottage then known as ‘Vine Cottage’ in Pict’s Hill, which was owned by the Kelway family.

Vine Cottage

My grandfather William Norris and his wife Mary Ann Norris (née Brown) and their son Jack, who was born in 1890, moved from Kingsdon in the early 1890s.  My grandfather had previously been employed as a gardener.

He and his wife and small son moved into Vine Cottage to take up employment by the Kelway family at Wearne Wyche.  My grandfather was the gardener and my grandmother assisted in the house at Wearne Wyche, and as far as I can understand did the laundry for the family.  James Kelway was married and moved into Wearne Wyche in 1896 so my grandparents must have worked for his family.

My mother was born at Vine Cottage in 1902 and Mrs Ella Kelway was her godmother at the christening.  I have the bible given as a christening gift 22nd February 1902.  My mother was Jessica Susan Norris, and she worked in Kelway’s office for a period up to 1921, when she went into service at Langport Vicarage.

It appears that Kelways were involved in a law suit with a Dutch firm over some bulbs and Kelways lost the case.  Consequently they had to stand off employees and in the end my mother had to leave.  In 1928 she married Reg Sheppard.

My uncle Jack worked in the nursery on leaving school and I remember him telling the story how he went to Chelsea Show with the Kelways which must have been in 1913 as this was the first show.  He tells how he visited his school friend Sgt. Reg Slade in the Sergeants Mess in the Barracks at Chelsea.

Reg Slade was killed at Ypres in 1914 aged 23 in the 1st World War.  He was brother to Mrs Maude Scott, the wife of Eli, who kept the Rose & Crown Inn in Huish Episcopi for many years.  My uncle later moved to Bridgend in South Wales and worked for 40 years on the railways.

My grandfather William Norris was still working when the workers were allowed Saturday afternoons off instead of the 6 day week.  Kelways’ bell used to ring at 1pm at Saturday lunchtime.  Latterly my grandfather did not enjoy good health and Mrs Kelway arranged for him to go to a sanatorium at Weston super Mare, but he did not like it there and soon discharged himself.  He died of heart disease in July 1927 aged 64.

My grandmother lived first at Newtown and in 1936 came to live next door to my father’s house in the adjoining cottage.  She died a month prior to her 93rd birthday in 1958.  I remember her being visited by I believe a Christine Kelway who I think lived in Scotland.

I remember as a boy in the 1930s and early 1940s, my father rented a field and orchard from Kelways for £10 per annum.  This property was known as Lower Balls and was roughly the area on which Portland Road is situated, and the orchard was presumably rooted out to make way for the development.  I remember this orchard, which must have been planted by Kelways particularly for the large variety of trees.  There were pear trees, dessert apples, cooking apples and cider apples of many varieties.