BBC DOMESDAY BOOK
In 1985, the BBC, with about 1,000,000 participants, aimed to compile a portrait of the United Kingdom - 900 years after William the Conqueror's Domesday Book. Data was collected from every community in the country - each volunteer being responsible for gathering information about an area of approximately 3kms by 4kms, from as many other contributors as possible. 23,000 of these "blocks of information" were put together like a jigsaw puzzle on to 12inch laser discs containing text, photographs and maps giving a snapshot of British life, which could be viewed in any county, country and continent in the world - a computer-based, multimedia version of a modern-day Domesday Book.
Unfortunately, although the Project was completed with a quarter of a million communities included on the video discs, they could only be viewed on special BBC Microcomputers which cost £5,000 at the time! I only remember one place in Norfolk where it was possible to access this 1986 Domesday data and that was Wymondham College in the late 1980s. However, some thirty years' later this project was digitised and can be found via the National Archives catalogue https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk and also on the website https://domesday.computinghistory.org.uk
Old-fashioned typed copies were made by the Ashwellthorpe data inputters at the time and are added below under a Licence from the BBC. These will give a glimpse of Ashwellthorpe nearly four decades ago and those of you who know Ashwellthorpe now, will see how many of the places, events, venues, activities and, indeed. the way of life, have changed.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "This parish is partly woodland with 4, mainly arable, farms on some of which many acres of striking acid yellow oilseed rape are grown for making margarine. The sewered village with treatment works is mainly a concentrated linear settlement of 180 dwellings on both sides of the busy main road, B 1135. Many residents work in Norwich - the self-employed in the village include a hairdresser, piano dealer, nurseryman, general shopkeeper, dairyman, garage owner, hotel keeper, guesthouse keeper, 2 builders, 2 electricians and 2 publicans. Skeleton bus services to Norwich or Wymondham; mobile library monthly; 2 wet fish deliveries weekly; fish & chip van; bread delivery; and daily and Sunday newspapers delivered". Short additional 2023 comments are added below in italics.
Dwelling houses have increased, particularly with infill and a new estate of 30+ houses. The B1135 road is now a declassified road; the general shop, garage, hotel, guesthouse and one of the public houses have closed. There is a three times a day bus service to and from Norwich and a Friday bus service to Wymondham. There are no wet fish or bread deliveries, or a fish and chip van - there is a weekly Kebab van. Daily and Sunday newspapers and milk, three days a week, are delivered. The mobile library still calls once a month.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "Ashwren Drama Group, why do it? It's fun! Anyone, any age, can join in. We get together a group, choose a producer and play, cast it, choose a prompt and rehearse. First in our homes then in our Village Hall, weekly at first then more often; in the week prior to performance - nightly and in our sleep. Words on tape, nerves on edge and work cut out as we also build, decorate and light the set. Finally, at last, we're on. Applause, laughter, congratulations, photos, party. Do it again? Of course.
The above production was performed by the Ashwren Drama Group during the BBC Domesday data collection in 1985. The Ashwren Drama Group morphed into the Ashwren Players but staged its final production on 23 September 2017. Much more about the Ashwrens will be added on the Community pages.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "Ashwellthorpe Village Hall is the hub of village activities. Mothers & Toddlers meet weekly and a popular Playgroup thrice-weekly; Keep Fit, Church youth clubs and Brownies meet once a week and the Happy Circle for older people fortnightly. Whist Drives are held monthly and the WI hold their monthly meetings here. It is also used as the meeting place for one of the local political parties and for the Parish Council and acts as the parish polling station. Also a venue for jumble sales, bazaars, public meetings, wedding and private parties. Soon to start are popmobility and circuit training sessions aimed particularly at village youth". Short, additional 2023 comments are added below in italics. Much more about the old Village Hall will be added on the Community pages.
Ashwellthorpe Village Hall in 2023 is known as the Old Village Hall and the Bramble Bears Playgroup is its sole user. The Church youth club, Brownies and Happy Circle no longer exist in the village. A new Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall Community Centre - Thorpe Hall - has been erected on the new Muskett Road development in Ashwellthorpe which opened in 2021 and is used for various village events. Much more about the "old" Village Hall will be added on the Community Pages.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "Ashwellthorpe Village Shop - in 1981 we travelled Norfolk looking for a village shop/post office and found this one; no-one could ask for a nicer village shop. Date-coding is a nightmare - once on fats/biscuits now on canned/bottled soft drinks/beers dating from 3 months ahead until 1990. Ordering is difficult - orders can't keep pace with popular items then, just as suddenly, popularity fades. Products popular when TV ads appear then don't sell when ads off-air. Recent piece on sausages and large fat content resulted in sales dropping; sales of porkpies/pasties have slumped and cake/biscuits are checked for additives.
After closing, shelves are sorted out, freezers de-frosted, and bookwork done. Open every day except Sunday - the nationwide discussion now is Sunday opening - we feel Sunday is our one day of rest and family day! Ashwellthorpe is more a commuter village - people work and shop in the city and the younger generation think the best only comes from supermarkets. In years to come will there be a shop here? Other villages round here have lost theirs, let's hope Ashwellthorpe doesn't - Sheila Aldis".
Ashwellthorpe Village Shop and Post Office closed down in November 2004; it is still closed and empty in 2023.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "All Saints Church is part of a group comprising 7 churches with 2 clergy, 1 deaconess and 1 lay-reader. Services held each Sunday covering the whole spectrum of evangelical ministry; family and informal services attract some 40 people and traditional prayer book services 20 or less and there is a Sunday school and midweek fellowship gatherings. Pathfinders for 10 to 15yr olds meet weekly in the village hall. The church is financed by direct or covenanted giving and fund-raising with average yearly income being £5500". Short, additional 2023 comments are added below in italics.
In 2023, All Saints Church is part of the Upper Tas Valley Benefice comprising 8 churches with a "Priest in Charge" who is based in Saxlingham Nethergate and two other clergy assistants, all from the Tas Valley Team Ministry, to which the Upper Tas Valley Benefice will be amalgamated soon. It has one Lay Reader. There is a simple Holy Communion and Bible study every Thursday morning at 09.30 and, in the Winter of 2023, there will be an 11 .00 Holy Communion service on the 1st Sunday of each month.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "The Parish Council is one unit for Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall with 598 electors and comprises 3 men and 4 women, the youngest aged 41. Meetings held about 20 times a year for council, parish and planning matters in the Village Hall hired at £6 a time. A few electors usually attend with more crowded meetings recently when significant battles have been won to stop the abolition of the bus services and prevent greyhound racing. Expenditure for the year ended 31 March 1985 was £799.44 and income £920.67, mainly from the rent on the 10 Acre field inclosed in the early 19th Century and owned by the Parish Council". Short, additional 2023 comments are added below in italics.
In the Autumn of 2023, the parish council comprises 7 councillors and there is one vacancy; there is one meeting per month except for August and December when there are no meetings. The meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month, alternating between Thorpe Hall, Ashwellthorpe, and St Nicholas Church, Fundenhall.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - "Ashwellthorpe Hall, the HQ of the Disabled Drivers' Association, is a 24-bedroomed holiday hotel with 21 bedrooms modified for the disabled and the entire hotel is wheelchair accessible. One suite has an electric-operated bed, hoist and toilet. Open all year it is occupied 500 guest days per annum and employs 8 full-time and 8 part-time and casual staff with the DDA HQ employing 6 staff. The Moat Walk around the grounds and a new carpark opened in 1985 and plans exist for conversion of the stable-block to rooms for the severely disabled. A fete and two or three buffet dances - renowned for delicious food - raise funds for extras, e.g. a minibus used for outings and collection of guests from Norwich". Short, additional 2023 comments are added below in italics.
Ashwellthorpe Hall Hotel was later run by the Ashwellthorpe Hall Association, under the auspices of the Disabled Drivers' Association, until 2004 when it closed and was put up for sale. In 2023, it is a private dwelling house. Further articles on Ashwellthorpe Hall have already been added to the Houses and People section with further items to be added later.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood "There are 110 acres of ancient deciduous coppiced woodland untouched by farm technology with a rich boulder clay flora including acres of wild garlic. Grey squirrels have replaced red. Nightingales and hornets nest there. Common toads (800 in 1984) leave the wood every spring and cross The Street to spawn in the pit at Wood Farm, resulting in a gruesome accident blackspot - Rosemary Tilbrook" Short additional 2023 comments are added below in italics.
Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe, open to the public, is now owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. In 2023, only 2 toads were carried across the road to safety on their migration to the pond (pit). More can be read about Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood, and the toad migration on the Flora and Fauna section.
BBC DOMESDAY BOOK - Wreningham School "My day at Wreningham School - First I get up at 7 then I get dressed and after that I have Honeysmacks for breakfast. At 8.30 I go down to the bus stop and wait for the coach to get to school. When we get there, we have assembly and we sing our carols for our Christmas Play. Then we get our reading books out and then we have our milk in cartons and go out to play and at playtime we like playing "IT". Then we come in and do some work. We do Maths, I like that best of all. After that we go to the toilet and wash our hands and eat our dinner. After that we go and play for a long time. Then the bus comes to pick up the third and fourth years for swimming. Then we come back to school. Then we go home on the bus. Tim Preston aged 7 of Ashwellthorpe". Short additional 2023 comments are added in italics below.
In 2023, Ashwellthorpe children still go to Wreningham as their closest school - there is no school bus transport. It is a Primary School taking 4 to 11-year-olds and can accommodate 112 pupils. At the time of BBC Domesday, the school was a First School for 4 to 8-year-olds with children then moving to Mulbarton Middle School until they were 12 years old.