Billy Arter - a Village Man

Billy and his family lived in Pump Row, a row of tiny terraced cottages which have long been demolished. He attended East Winch School where his teachers were Mrs Bolt and Miss Durrant.

Our Dad, Charles William Arter was born in East Winch on August 30th 1911 to William and Nellie Arter. Throughout his life he was always known as Billy. His father was the local coalman and general haulier. Sadly when Billy was just over a year old his father was killed at the Common Gate, East Winch in an accident involving a horse and cart. Billy, along with his three sisters, was brought up by his mother in a very loving family with the help of both grandmothers.

Billy (Charles William) Arter

Miss Durrant lived in a terraced cottage near the Carpenters Arms. When he left school at 14 he started work with Mr Albert Valentine who had taken over the coal business. He would lead the horses and because he was not strong enough to carry the hundredweight bags of coal they filled half hundredweight sacks for him to carry.

Later the horses were replaced by a Model T Ford which had to be reversed up Flitcham Hill as it was not powerful enough to go up forwards! Then the Bedford lorry was his pride and joy and, in addition to delivering coal, he would also take loads of sugar beet to the factory in King’s Lynn. This involved very long hours as he would do the regular coal round and then take the beet and have to wait ages to be unloaded. He also worked on the land chopping out and knocking and topping sugar beet. There were also the cereal crops to be harvested on the small pieces of land cultivated by Mr Valentine and we would enjoy taking a picnic to the harvest field and playing among the sheaves of corn.

The coal lorry was also used for general haulage and even for furniture removals when the need arose. He was not afraid of hard work - carrying frozen one hundredweight sacks over slippery pathways was no easy task and in pouring wet weather he would have to call in at home to change into dry clothes to finish his round. He continued to work for A.A.Valentine and Son for 55 years.

During the war Milly and Billy took in evacuees from London; in 2003 we were in East Winch churchyard, tending our parents’ grave, when we met a couple who were looking for Arter family graves. It turned out that the gentleman had been evacuated with his mother and brother and had lived with Milly and Billy. This meeting solved a mystery of some photos of two small boys which were among the many family photos Mum had kept. We exchanged addresses with the couple and sent copies of the photos to them, together with a photo of Narbrook; the gentleman showed them to his elderly mother and she remembered the house and confirmed that the two little boys were in fact himself and his brother. What a chance meeting!! Due to the cramped conditions at Narbrook the family eventually moved along the road to live with Mr and Mrs Quadling.

As a young man in the village he really enjoyed the Annual Bonfire Night tradition of setting fire to the Common. Apparently old pieces of sack were tied around sticks and soaked in paraffin for weeks before the event and then on 5th November the annual task of setting fire to the common would take place, hence the trees and shrubs never grew very tall and the appearance of the common stayed the same for years. He was proud of the fact that in 1927 he helped with laying the village bowling green on land which belonged to the Church.Billy married Mildred Chase on Boxing Day 1939 having met her at East Winch Hall (now occupied by Adrian Flux) where she worked as a maid for Mr and Mrs Rodwell. The couple moved into Narbrook in Station Road, East Winch and lived there until Billy passed away. We were born In 1943 and 1949.

Billy was a very keen gardener and had an allotment as well as his own fairly large garden; vegetables were his pride and joy and when we were small it was with great delight that we found marrows growing in the garden with our names on them! He enjoyed working on his allotment where he kept chickens and from time to time, a pig. He could be seen transporting his hen houses across the A47 (ably assisted by his wife and daughter) on a Saturday evening in the summer time – obviously there was not quite as much traffic in those days !!

Visitors to Narbrook would never leave empty handed – there was always gift of whatever vegetables were available at the time as well as eggs from his free range hens.

Billy was a long serving member of the congregation of All Saints Church East Winch. When he was a small boy he sang in the choir and attended church services regularly throughout his life, he was a Churchwarden for 16 years and served in the Parochial Church Council. He was also a Trustee of the East Winch United Charities and a Governor of East Winch Primary School for 25 years. Many years ago the school was under threat of closure and he was delighted when those plans were unsuccessful. He would have been bitterly disappointed that it did finally close in 2009. East Winch Village Hall opened in 1958 and he was a Trustee of the Village Hall for many years.

Billy was an avid bowls player and spent many an evening on the bowling green at East Winch and later at the Conservative Club in Swaffham. There was the Annual Bowls Tournament held at East Winch Hall when Mr and Mrs Cragg were resident there and it was a well attended and much enjoyed social event. Later he was involved with the East Winch Frolic which proved to be very popular.

He loved the village of East Winch and was delighted to be invited to take part in the BBC Radio Norfolk programme‘ Village Voice’ in which he was interviewed by Wally Webb and reminisced with Fred Gould ( the village postman and chimney sweep) about how the village used to be.

A man of strong beliefs and a devoted family man, Billy was never happier than when playing with his 6 grandsons. When our children were tiny babies he would have to take a look at them asleep in their pram when he came to deliver our coal and there would always be a smudge of coal dust on the baby’s forehead when the coalman had gone. When they were older he was thrilled to give them a short ride in his lorry.

In his ‘retirement’ and in addition to his bowls playing, he did gardening and was looking after 10 different gardens at the age of 76 when he passed away quite suddenly on July 13th 1987.

Gillian Goodbody (nee Arter)

Judith King (nee Arter)

February 2014

Webmasters notes.

As indicated early in the piece above, Billy's Father was killed in an accident involving a horse and cart when Billy was only one year old. The death certificate shows that -

'William Arthur Arter died on 29th. October 1912, aged 29 years'. He occupation was 'Coal Merchant' and the cause of death is shown as 'That the said William Arthur Arter was knocked down by a horse pulling a water cart full of nightsoil, which cart went over the body of the deceased and crushed him to death'

During the war Billy was a member of the Home Guard.

The photograph here shows Billy's Mother and Father with their young daughter Doris.