By Philip James Gooderson  
John Bailey Gooderson came across various wills for Goodersonne in the Croft area of Lincolnshire, between Wainfleet and modern Skegness, in the late l6th century, and wondered if this was the area of our true origin. However he seems to have revised this view as he worked back from the late to the early 18th century and the name Gooderson began to disappear from the registers, to be replaced by Goodeson, Gooderston and Goodwinson. The implication was that our Goodersons were not derived originally from Lincolnshire, but might have developed separately - albeit only a few miles across the Wash - from a handful of Norfolk surnames handed down orally and translated rather indiscriminately into the written vernacular of the parish register or court record. Philip James Gooderson’s weak contribution to this debate was to point out the Norfolk fashion of dropping the middle syllable of a name to achieve a more convenient two-syllable version. An example is the tradition of calling the place Gooderstone, ‘Goodson’. However, firstly this custom is not confined to Norfolk; secondly it probably existed side-by-side with an official awareness of the need to use more than two syllables for many names; and third it is not confirmed by reaching the name Goodson in our genealogical research. So this theory is not a strong one, at least on present evidence. Goodson is a popular Norfolk name, but perhaps more from the east of the county. Nearby at Dersingham, and probably in other villages, are lurking variants such as Gotterson - and even that half-expected Goodson.  
Our Goodersons came from West Norfolk, particularly that five or ten mile margin of land which lies between the higher ground of Norfolk proper characterised by masses of heath land - much reduced by agricultural improvement in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries - and Marshland, the area of fenland bordering on the great Ouse as it pushes northward from Downham Market to King’s Lynn, beyond which it meets the North Sea (German Ocean) or at that time the salt flats of the Wash.

The biggest mass of surviving heath land is Massingham Heath, stretching from Swaftham and Castle Acre to the south towards the famous estates of Houghton and Sandringham in the north. This dry heath provided an ideal site for a major means of communication, the ancient track way, Peddars Way which bisects the heath as it runs south-eastwards from Ringstead near Holme-next-the-Sea, past Swaftham and Walton, south to the banks of the Thet and the Little Ouse on the boundaries of Norfolk and Suffolk.

These heaths were ideal for sheep-grazing, and the priories of neighbouring Westacre and Castle Acre lived off their proceeds in the Middle Ages. By the 19th century many of the best sheep-walks were the property of great landlords such as the Marquis of Cholmondely (Houghton) and the Earl of Leicester (Holkham) and some gentry on a less huge scale. In between the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the emergence of the great estates was a period of 200 years when smaller landowners and freeholders may have been more prominent. (?)

The proximity of the port of King’s Lynn, with its markets and docks and its coastal and foreign trades, must always have been a stimulus to this area of West Norfolk. The glory days of King’s Lynn were in the Middle Ages, but it flourished again in Tudor times. In the 17th century it suffered from bad outbreaks of plague and from some silting up of its harbour. However the port befitted from the drainage of the fens, and the 18th century brought peace and good trade with Holland, the continued importation of wine. There was a major development of the coastal trade, especially in coal from the north-east and in barley sent for malt to Norwich and London. Sir Robert Walpole as a local MP (for Lynn itself and then Castle Rising) and then Prime Minister, looked after its interests in the early 18th century, and government bounties encouraged the export of corn at least up to the 1780s. Improvement of the navigation with the Eau Brink Cut in 1818-21 did not prove as beneficial to shipping as was expected, but the town continued to grow and flourish until to some extent bypassed after the 1840s by the age of steam and rail. When Lynn stagnated from 1850 West Norfolk tended to follow suit, and commentators said that the Lowlands of Scotland were now the area where agricultural improvement was making greatest headway. Those with most to gain from investment in farming, the gentry and aristocracy, so active in Norfolk in the late 18th and early l9th centuries, were now tending to spend their time and money elsewhere. By then Norfolk, which for centuries had been one of the most heavily populated counties of England, was becoming more of a backwater.
John Bailey Gooderson is to be congratulated on tracing us back to John Goodwinson / Goodeson / Gooderston buried at East Walton in 1760 and identifiable as the husband of Elizabeth buried in 1753 as Gooderson in the same place. What is more, John is identifiable as a freeholder in Castle acre, an elector of the county of Norfolk and a voter in the General Election of 1734, and as attending the Court Leet in 1756 and 1757, as a resident in Gayton and Gayton Thorpe. This is not only a very solid base from which our family tree may grow, but it achieves, without fraudulence, that aim of all genealogists - amateur and professional - to trace their family back to freeholder or yeoman status. This idealised and much romanticised group were numerous in the years between the Black Death and 18th century Enclosure. Between the semi-slavery of serfdom of the high Middle Ages and the various types of agrarian and industrial toil of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the years of the dominance of the yeomen of England have always seemed a golden age of independence and security to those looking back nostalgically into the past. The yeomen were supposedly the backbone of England and we have ours in JG (John Bailey Gooderson 100) 1699-1760).

In fact, freeholders were a big category - although steadily diminishing between 1600 and 1800- covering a wide range of wealth and status. We do not know how much land JG had or how much he supplemented it, if any, with rented farmland. Anne Digby writing in Pauper Palaces (1978), about the Poor Law in 19th century Norfolk, refers to Castle acre, where JG had his freehold, as a place well-documented in the l9th century as an ‘open’ village where landownership was fragmentary, and labour was abundant thanks to the plentiful supply of dirty and badly-built farm cottages, run up by speculators and eagerly sought by refugees from the growing(?) number of ‘close’ villages - kept neat, tidy and controlled by resident landowners - in west Norfolk, as the area became profitable and fashionable for agricultural improvement and large estates in the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries. One is tempted to conclude that this picture was not very different in the mid –18th century and that JG owned one of those fragments of Castle acre. By 1845 White’s Directory of Norfolk gives a very comparable picture of the village with its large population of '1495 inhabitants, and about 3,000 acres of fertile land broken into bold and picturesque swells, and including two commons, on which the poor have pasturage of their stock’. However, ‘the Earl of Leicester, is lord of the manor, and owner of all the soil, except a few copyholds, subject to arbitrary fines’. This Earl was the son of ‘Coke of Norfolk’ who transformed the main part of his very sandy estate at Holkham between 1790 and 1819.

Castle acre would seem to have been only on the fringe of the family activities which might be one explanation for its ‘open’ character. The Cokes seem to have bought up all the freehold by 1845. (White, 1845, only gives four farmers of Castle Acre, one of whom, John Hudson, was probably the Mr Hudson, one of "those princely yeomen of Norfolk", whom Armstrong, Vicar of East Dereham met in a railway carriage in December 1856 and heard - once Hudson had alighted at Wymondham to go shooting - that he was formerly "postillion to Mr Hammond in which capacity he saved £100. He then married a widow at Lynn by whom he had an accession of fortune, became Lord Leicester's tenant at Castle Acre, and is now worth £100,00." (quoted from Armstrong's Norfolk Diary, 1963)

Gayton and Gayton Thorpe, where perhaps JG farmed, and his son Thomas (John Bailey Gooderson 98) was christened in 1733 (Gayton) are next door to East Walton, which becomes the next focus of interest, as the place where Thomas married Mary Clarke or Baker in 1756, where three of their five children were christened between 1758 and 1778, and where he was buried, as farmer, in 1819.

Gayton was a village divided into three manors by 1845, all with non-resident landlords, and with two Methodist chapels, often the indicator of an ‘open’ village. Gayton Thorpe by 1845 was all the property of the Hamond family, as was most of East Walton. However, East Walton is described as a ‘small, but scattered village’ (not typical of the ‘close’) with about 450 acres of warren and the same of open heath. With access to so much open heath (the fringes of Massingham Heath), especially before the enclosure of 1841, the Goodersons could have supplemented either freehold or farm with some sheep on the heath.

The heath land was a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife. Walpole coursed hares and hunted foxes - as did later the West Norfolk Foxhounds - but the heaths were most famous for their immense rabbit warrens which must have kept all the local families well supplied with meat. Armstrong of East Dereham recorded in his diary in August 1853 that he was told that formerly "these animals were so common that servants stipulated that they should not be given them to eat." It seems doubtful that our ancestors were so choosy. Norfolk was already famous for its turkeys. (Swan was the most special Norfolk delicacy, but was a luxury reserved for the well-to-do.

Pentney, where Thomas and William were christened in 1760 and 1763 respectively, was just across the Lynn-Swaftham turnpike from East Walton, and is situated on the north bank of the river Nar, a tributary of the Great Ouse. According to White 1845, Pentney’s marshes were drained by an Act of 1815 -likewise nearby East Winch - but even at the later date three quarters of the village land belonged ‘to a number of copyholders and leaseholders’, again showing clear opportunities for the smaller husbandman.

Close links with the Netherlands made Norfolk a pioneering county for agricultural improvement, from at least the early seventeenth century. Colonel Walpole, Sir Robert's father, was growing turnips and marling at Houghton from the 1670s. The western part of Norfolk became increasingly famous for agricultural improvement as the 18th century wore on - associated with nationally important figures such as ‘Turnip’ Townshend of Raynham, Sir Robert Walpole of Houghton and finally Thomas Coke of Holkham. Such men built up large estates, as other families did less well or died out.

Yet there was still a place for the freeholder, often farming the land of another as well as his own. So in the mid-18th century East Walton was probably still a village where freeholders, farmers and landowners rubbed shoulders within a society not of equality but still held together by the ‘chain of social dependence’. This was a dynamic society linked to nearby centres of intense capitalist exploitation of the land (as at Raynham, Houghton and Holkham), converting and improving sandy soils and able to make a good profit out of their labours, by using local ports, notably King’s Lynn, to send barley to Norwich and London for beer and wheat to Holland for bread. It was characterised by a number of small farmers, but it was the minority of farmers with over 1,000 acres each who won the attention of agricultural journalists such as Arthur Young, who declared: ‘It will at once be apparent that no small farmers could effect such great things as have been done in Norfolk. Great farms are the soul of Norfolk culture; split them into tenures of an hundred pounds a year, and you will find there nothing but beggars and weeds in the whole county.’ (quoted in A. Briggs, A Social History of England, 1994.)

The large landowners encouraged large farms which probably reduced the number of freeholders and small farmers. Sir Robert Walpole of Houghton, Britain's first Prime Minister from 1721 to 1742, inherited a family estate at Dersingham and bought more land at West Winch near Lynn and at Massingham (the latter out of profitable speculations in the stock of the South Sea Company) - as well as more land further east in the neighbourhood of North Walsham. Walpole was a Whig, as were the Townshends of Raynham and the Cokes of Holkham. Castle Rising and Lynn were Whig boroughs, but the county constituency was less predictable. In 1734 it went Tory, electing Sir Edmund Bacon Bt. and William Woodhouse Esq. Our John Goodeson was one of eight freeholders in the Freebridge Lynn Hundred - and the only one to vote Tory. This might have gladdened the hearts of some of his twentieth century descendants on the William Gooderson side - and indeed of a Mr John Gooderson who was Conservative deputy mayor of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk in 1995 - but can scarcely have done him much good at the time. Walpole (according to J.H. Plumb, 1956) was highly hospitable to his neighbours in his regular "Norfolk congresses", held annually before Christmas, to which he invited a vast range of Norfolk society including anyone with the vote, landed friends and distant relatives, parsons and freeholders. The food and drink flowed freely, but would our JG have been welcome with his politics?

In his General View of the Agriculture of Norfolk (1804) Young makes four references to a Mr Goddison at Houghton (probably the John Gotterson who was churchwarden of Houghton-next-Harpley from 1809-but the Archdeacon’s Transcripts between 1760 and 1812 show no other details of Gottersons or Goddisons). Mr Goddison farmed for Lord Cholmondely, (the successor of the famous writer, Horace Walpole, Sir Robert’s son who inherited his father's title of Lord Orford and the Houghton estate from his very popular - according to Parson Woodforde - elder brother in the 1790s. Horace also died a bachelor soon afterwards in 1797 and was buried in Houghton). Mr Goddison was clearly a model farmer (probably with a large farm of about 1,000 acres) who is mentioned by Young for what he considered exemplary farming practice. Mr Goddison improved the sandy soil partly with marl, but especially by spreading manure or muck and ploughing it in with the seed (‘ploughing both in together into six-furrow ridges’). He sowed the seed broadcast rather than using the seed-drill, invented by Jethro Tull. Like others in the area he followed a five-shift (five course) pattern of rotation - oddly to us when Norfolk was famous, as every History pupil knows or used to know, for its four course system.

Where our Goodersons fitted into this economic jigsaw we do not know. If they were among the small farmers, ‘the same plain men which farmers generally are’, as William Marshall another farming journalist, wrote in The Rural Economy of Norfolk (1795), they were living and working alongside their servants and farm workers and were not the ‘posh’ sort castigated for their social pretensions by William Cobbett.

Parson Woodforde, the diarist of Weston Longville, gives us an idea of some of the events in the Norfolk village year at that time. (see J. Woodforde, The Diary of a Country Parson, 1924) On Valentine's Day he, the parson, gave one penny to any child under 14 in Weston (like East Walton and Beeston, a "scattered" village) who visited him and was old enough to say "Good Morrow, Valentine". In May there was a beating of the bounds with the marking of trees and setting up of boundary stones, often with a variety of mishaps and hilarity. The local benefit or purse club might also be involved in such perambulation and jollification. Around Whitsun there might be races, with boys competing for a prize of a smock and girls a shift. After the harvest there was a dinner for the bigger farmers - sometimes kept over until later in the autumn as a "tithe frolic" when the farmers bought the rectors their tithes and were deluged in food and alcohol. Farm labourers were also treated to food and drink at harvest or "largesse", at a shilling a "set". Once the harvest was in and preparations were being made for ploughing there was some hare coursing. When December came round St. Thomas's Day was another day for the poor to expect charity from the parson. Uglier features of the year were the bad winters of 1795 and 1799, the grim visitations of smallpox, the devastations caused by mad dogs, poverty, bankruptcy and occasional problems with robberies and highwaymen - the latter usually caught and punished. One miscreant in 1785 was hanged in chains on Badley Moor. This was the period when chimney sweeps used climbing boys, and Woodforde notes in 1797 how a new boy at the job got stuck in one of the chimneys in Weston House and nearly "likely to have lost his life". After 1793 the wars with France brought serious inflation, recruitment for the army and navy and the invasion scares of 1797 and1801. Norfolk became increasingly proud of its all-victorious native admiral, Horatio Nelson. Yet the need for intensive farming was never greater, as the country struggled to make itself self-sufficient in food.

Of the Goodersons’ various activities, farming in the end proved the least enduring, although of course farming proved difficult for many after 1815, by which time the golden century of West Norfolk farming was over. Perhaps the dynamism of this West Norfolk society in its heyday would provide the roots of enterprise elsewhere, such as the two grandsons of Thomas and Mary who would seek their fortunes successfully in the cities of London and Norwich. Less excitement and prosperity was in store for the majority of Goodersons who continued to rely on the Norfolk countryside for their living. Yet this was perhaps the norm in Norfolk, at least before the railways, when the county seemed like a huge island and its people reluctant to migrate.

Of great importance in all this was education. We might assume that every village would have its own school, but this was probably far from the case. (Armstrong of East Dereham as a newcomer to Norfolk was struck by the shortage of parish schools even in the early 1850s.) East Walton had an ‘English’ school, the first master at which was licensed in 1717. Thomas and Mary had four surviving sons, John (John Bailey Gooderson 83: b. 1755), (John Bailey Gooderson Note: All the Marham Gooderson's are descended from John (John Bailey Gooderson 83)) James (b. 1757), Thomas (John Bailey Gooderson 82: b. 1760 chr. at Pentney) and William (John Bailey Gooderson 208: b. 1763 chr. at Pentney). John became a farmer (and perhaps James too), but Thomas at the age of 19 was licensed to teach at the school of East Walton, on 27 April 1779. The nave of East Walton church has the big perpendicular windows and clear eighteenth century glass that it would have had in Thomas Gooderson's day and one wonders if that part of the church would have been used as a schoolroom. Thomas would have taught writing and arithmetic and one hopes that he was better equipped than the teacher at Dennington in Suffolk who merely had a sand tray. He no doubt occupied the position of parish clerk as well. East Walton still has a three-decker pulpit, and Thomas would have led the responses from the reading desk or bottom deck. (Again from Armstrong of East Dereham, we learn that morning or evening prayer would, even in mid-Victorian times, often consist of a mere dialogue between parson and clerk with the congregation taking no part whatsoever even in the responses.)

In a period when curates were only given £30 per annum for their services, parish clerks were paid even less and often combined the post with that of village schoolmaster and/or other occupations. Parson Woodforde of Weston Longville makes frequent references to his clerk in his diary and makes it clear that, in his parish at least, the clerk was a lowly mortal and the recipient of charity who dined with "the Folks" in the kitchen - rather than in the parlour or study - when entertained at the parsonage. Woodforde's clerk, James Smith, was elderly as well as poor and was the object of fun on one occasion when he tried to lead the singing in church. Smith's successor Tom Thurston did not last long and was described on his death in the diary in December 1798 as "an harmless, industrious working Man as any in the Parish and very serviceable". But neither Smith nor Thurston seemed to have combined the post with that of schoolmaster.

John Rule in Albion's People (1992) reminds us that "village schoolmasters fared poorly", close to the bottom of "middling" people", and, judging by the Rockingham estate in the 1760s, unlikely to earn more than £6 per annum in this capacity Yet Oliver Goldsmith suggests that for all his lowliness, the village schoolmaster enjoyed status and respect within his small community:
  The village all declared how much he knew
'Twas certain he could write and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides pressage,
And e'en the story ran that he could gauge.
(from The Deserted Village, 1769)
For the sake of balance we should point out that William Cobbett made some critical remarks about a young village schoolmaster "sleek-looking...... and (eating) as much as any ten of them ( the 36 little fellows in smock-frocks in front of him)". In similar vein John Clare, the labouring poet from Helpstone, castigated the parish clerk as "a shepherd's dog they (meaning churchwardens and overseers) kept to bark and gather rates", doing "whatever dirty jobs they chuse" in The Parish (1821). Cobbett and Clare clearly saw the clerk on the side of the classes rather than the masses, but both may have had some personal grievance against parish clerks.

We may sense the importance attached to education at East Walton in the late eighteenth century from a memorial in the chancel to the Reverend George Lemon, vicar of the parish and Rector of Geyton-Thorpe annexed, for 42 years, and ten years Head Master of the Grammar School, Norwich, who died in 1797 aged 71. Lemon is not a common name and this may be the same person as the Mr Lemon, a clergyman whom Parson Woodforde of Weston Longville, much nearer to Norwich, met at a dinner party at Weston House, given by Mr and Mrs Custance on 7th November 1788. This was a "society gathering". The implication is that Mr Lemon moved in genteel county circles and may well have enabled some of the young Goodersons to make contact with people of influence and patronage, or find apprenticeships which would give a good start in life. Who knows? Clerical patronage - or more colloquially, a good word from the vicar - has often been a help in getting on in the world. (There are no Gooderson memorials or gravestones extant at East Walton or Houghton.)

However, Thomas Gooderson did not stay long at East Walton. Within three years, he was married to Phoebe Swingle (of the same surname as his sister-in-law Mary from Castle acre) at Beeston (next-Mileham), ten miles to the east, and there together they would give birth to fifteen children (not all surviving infancy or childhood). Thomas did noble work as witness of most of the marriages at Beeston between 1787 and 1804. His second eldest son, James, would follow in his father’s profession of schoolmaster and parish clerk, witnessing marriages between 1810 and 1832, and then supplement his earnings by opening a beerhouse after the Duke of Wellington’s Act of 1825. (The P.... Gooderson, wife of Thomas, schoolmaster (perhaps their eldest son?) who died on 5th October 1800, aged 19, but is apparently not recorded in the church burials for that year, although recorded on a fine and rare Gooderson headstone in Beeston churchyard, remains a mystery.)

The third son of Thomas and Phoebe, Robert (1782-1850) would go to London, as a painter and bookseller and father a family of artists, the best known of whom was his second son, Thomas Youngman Gooderson (fl. 1845-60). C. Wood's Dictionary of Victorian Painters (1971) describes him as a portrait and genre painter, who exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the Society of British Artists, Suffolk St.

The fourth son, John (1790-1860) would go to Norwich and become a successful linen draper in the Heigham district and would leave an estate worth £12,000 at his demise. For these Goodersons Beeston was merely their birthplace and where they were brought up. One wonders how different the village was at that time. It is still a scattered place, and one feels little sympathy for that inexhaustible traveller, Prof. Nikolaus Pevsner who wrote in 1962 in his Buildings of England, Norfolk South and West, that Beeston had "The best church by far in this strangely obscure and inaccessible area". No doubt Pevsner was unaffected by the delights of shooting which, according to Armstrong, was the attraction of the remotest parts of Norfolk in Victorian times.

The school at East Walton is not mentioned in White 1845 which makes one wonder if it was a victim of the inflation of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars period as so many free schools were. White claims that the Free School at Beeston for 12 poor children was founded by the Rev. William Barnwell in 1806, who gave the school house and large garden and endowed it with £6 a year for the master and £1 a year to provide bibles for the scholars. This foundation does not preclude its existence before 1806. By 1845 the school and beerhouse were kept by different people. One wonders if the Barnwells, church patrons and lords of the manor of Beeston, but non-resident by 1845, appreciated James’s decision to open a beerhouse. Beerhouses were low dives where the labourer could get a drink in someone’s converted front room. They were not particularly approved of by village authorities and were associated with the kind of rural discontent which led to the Swing Riots of 1831-2. This part of Norfolk does not seem to have been badly affected by the Swing Riots of 1830, judging from Rude's study, Captain Swing (1969), but beerhouse - keeping and rural school mastering were as much subject to economic fluctuation and at the mercy of big landowners as was farming.

The incumbent at Beeston through these years was the Rev John Nelson. Armstrong of East Dereham became a good friend and refers to mutual social calls in his diary. Mr Nelson - who had been Rector of Beeston from at least 1820 - by 1859, was 73 years of age, but "his complexion was like a girl's. He still rode around on a cob, even in dense fog. "He is one of the 'old school' and takes matters so easily that time seems to make no inroads upon him." Perhaps that means that, like a lot of older parsons, he stood praying into his hat before a formal service - a practice described ad "diving" by Armstrong, one of the first Tractarian clergy of West Norfolk.

The fourth son of Thomas, farmer and his wife Mary, of East Walton was William, from whom the William Goodersons descend. A mystery single man, William Gooderson (John Bailey Gooderson: 208) was buried at East Walton in 1796, aged 23. No baptism could be found for him, but it has been presumed that he is the same man who went to Holt in 1789 to marry Christian Baker (John Bailey Gooderson: 208a), whose birth was at East Walton in 1768. She was the granddaughter of ‘Mr’ Nicholas Baker (d. 1745) of East Walton -with that title, perhaps a big farmer or a bigger freeholder than JG (John Bailey Gooderson:100)? Christian may also have been the niece of another Mrs Gooderson, Thomas’s Mary. If so, she married her cousin. They had one son William (John Bailey Gooderson: 87) born at Beeston in 1790, but by 1797 Christian was a widow and she was marrying William Tann at Beeston. The link between the William who had been the first husband of Christian Baker and the rest of the East Walton Goodersons was not established until the ever resourceful John Bailey Gooderson visited South Africa in 1995, contacted a Robert Gooderson of Durban and discovered, through looking at his pedigree carried out by the Society of Genealogists, the christening of a William, son Thomas and Mary Gooderson at Pentney in 1763. Although this would make him 33 not 23 at the time of his death, if his was the burial of 1796 - and of course not a single man - it seemed that the christening at Pentney, marriage at Holt and burial at East Walton all relate to the same man - the first of the William Goodersons.

The Tanns were probably also farmers - a John Tann features in White 1845 as farmer at Beeston. Many Norfolk farms were under 100 acres at this time. William the second was presumably brought up on his mother and stepfather’s farm at Beeston. In 1823, at the late age of 33, he got married to Amy Mary Sidney (John Bailey Gooderson: 87a) from Hainford, north of Norwich, perhaps on farm service at Beeston? The witnesses were James Sidney and William’s step-sister, Ann Tann. William and Amy had four daughters and one boy between 1824 and 1833, and at each christening he is entered as ‘farmer’ in the baptism register. White’s Directory of 1836 also shows him as farmer at Beeston.

Wheat prices in the 1820s and 1830s were down by one third of what they had been during the Napoleonic Wars, and farming conditions worsened in 1833-6, 1842-4 and 1850-2. Many farmers survived and the mid-nineteenth century would seem a golden age of farming, retrospectively from the great agricultural depression which set in after 1873. Yet even in the 1840s and 50s pressure was on from landowners to improve yields, to drain and to use more machinery. Payment of tithes and poor rates must also have been critically onerous for smaller farmers, and Digby suggests that there may have been a temporary shortage of labour after a surge of migration to other counties by Norfolk labourers in 1835-6.

Small family farms perhaps seemed no longer worthwhile. Armstrong of East Dereham commented on some outlying farms around Shipdam in 1853 that "these little 'Masters' are often worse off than the labourers who work on large farms." William’s cousins did some farming, but had mainly gone into rural trades, particularly shoemaking in Marham and East Winch. Perhaps the decision to give up farming was influenced by William the third, born in 1827, the only boy among four girls. Whatever the reason the William Goodersons left farming. They seem to have sought a living in the new fashion for farming by machinery, for which Jethro Tull had preached in a false dawn of rural mechanisation a century before. Now there were threshing machines and increasingly mechanised reapers and other inventions which the farm labourer had to accept and the farmer to afford, after the failure of the Swing Riots. These were something of an East Anglian speciality, made famous in Suffolk by Garrets of Leiston and Ransomes of Ipswich. Dereham may have been an important centre of mechanisation in Norfolk. At least Armstrong writes on 20th March 1858: "Visited a farmer who is so celebrated an agricultural machinist that when Napoleon (III) was at Osborne some time back they actually telegraphed for him to come from Norfolk to show the Emperor a model of the drill!" Armstrong also saw a steam engine being used to saw up a felled tree and was equally impressed. The William Goodersons must have thought that this was where the future lay, without accounting for the cheapness of manual labour in Norfolk compared to the industrial Midlands or the North.

There are few Goodersons to be found in the Beeston registers after 1833. Whereas their Gooderson cousins had mainly stayed fairly close to East Walton - and there was a Mrs I. Gooderson on the altar flower rota when we visited East Walton church in 1977 - and some stayed still in the ambit of King’s Lynn, the William Goodersons continued to move eastwards. William the second , by 1851 was a ‘machine man’ at Shipdham, south of Dereham, although he is described as ‘machine maker’ in his son’s marriage certificate for 1850. William the third (John Bailey Gooderson: 88) had moved to Norwich, married Sarah Deary Daines (John Bailey Gooderson: 88a) the daughter of a prosperous innkeeper (Robert Daines of the Coach and Horses, Bethel Street). This was a large in which still survives, and Daines was landlord there for at least 30 years. It was close to the centre of the city and John Crome, one of the Norwich school of painters, apprenticed in 1783 to a sign and coach painter next door (see L.P. Collins, Norwich Inns). Young's Old Norwich Inns refers to the festivities at the Coach and Horses after the beating of the bounds of St. Peter Mancroft parish at Ascentiontide., 1827. It was supposed by WCG to have been mentioned in R.H. Mottram's The Borough Monger, a 20th century novel about 19th century Norwich politics but Philip James Gooderson has found nothing to confirm this.

William and Sarah were married in that superb church, St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, which was Sarah's parish church, in 1850.

Armstrong of East Dereham confided to his diary in February 1854 that "all wedding are alike." (Did he mean middle class weddings?) "The mind reverts to new well-fitting gloves and bouquets imported from Covent Garden - post boys with huge favours and smirking servant girls - a handsome breakfast with lots of champagne - wretched speeches on the part of the men and tears on the part of the women. Then come corded boxes; the bridegroom has another glass; an old shoe is thrown into the carriage for good luck and off they go." No doubt some, at least, of these features were common to Sarah's and William's wedding.

Sarah is the first of the William Goodersons of whom a photograph survives - probably taken in middle age. This is a shame if again we listen to Armstrong who wrote that (even) "cottages in the remotest part of this parish (Dereham) are adorned with sixpenny likenesses of sons who have enlisted or of daughters who have gone to service" (Feb. 1861).

William set up as a master machine maker and then wheelwright in the Chapelfield Road in the suburb of Heigham, not far from his first cousin once removed, John, now the principal partner in the successful linen draping firm of Gooderson and Moll. One wonders if the two knew each other or not. Would William have known about this rich relative who was not at all in the same line of business? John was probably aware that he had many poorer relations in West Norfolk, any number of whom might beat a path to his door in West Pottergate Street and ask for help. William was no doubt too busy with his own little business to make social calls, and by 1861 he had moved to Costessey, a village on the west side of Norwich.

His father, William the second, seems to have lived on the breadline in Shipdham. By 1861 he and Amy were both elderly - he was 74 he told the enumerator, but in fact he was only 70. Both were described in the census as ‘pauper’, but they lived at home in Bradenham Road, presumably on outdoor relief, probably much less well cared for than if they had gone into the House, judging by Anne Digby’s conclusions, but maintaining perhaps a shred of their dignity. They were clearly not going to burden William and his young family - although this may have been the time when William the third was about to move to Hampshire to see if business was better there? By the l871 Census William and Amy are found in Market Street, Shipdham, no longer described as paupers - perhaps helped out by their son or his widow - and he once more with the dignity of the occupation ‘Ag Machine Man’. According to John Bailey Gooderson both died later that year. Of their daughters, John Bailey Gooderson shows that Mahalah (John Bailey Gooderson: 212) married in 1853 and Mary Anne (John Bailey Gooderson: 275) died at Beeston in 1871.

Meanwhile William the third had become established as an ‘agricultural implement maker and wheelwright’ at Costessey (pronounced Cossey), with six children to feed by 1871 (although none of them seem to have been christened at Costessey). One of his children was born in Hampshire. Armstrong noted farming links between Dereham and Hampshire in 1857, all made possible by the power of steam, so we should not be too surprised.

The last of William and Sarah's children was Amy Ellen (Helen) who may have been born posthumously, as her father died suddenly in 1870 - perhaps after a trap accident. This left his widow Sarah to carry on the business in her own name, with the help of sons, William Robert (John Bailey Gooderson: 89)(b. 1851) and Arthur (John Bailey Gooderson: 90) (b. 1857). No wonder it was said of Arthur later, that in spite of his great mechanical flair, he ‘lacked formal education’(WDG). Like the others he must have had to help his mother and elder brother keep the business afloat. They clearly managed successfully, as blacksmithing was added to their description in the trade directories of 1875 and 1878. Arthur is described as blacksmith at the time of his marriage to a farmer’s daughter, Esther King (John Bailey Gooderson: 90a) in 1878. (They would live to celebrate their golden wedding at Kunzle’s Cafe in Birmingham in 1928.)

By 1878 William Robert, the elder brother, had set up on his own as a blacksmith in Bawburgh (pronounced Baber), near Costessey. This does not seem to have worked, perhaps because of too much competition. Arthur had gone to join him, because his first child was born (and christened) at Bawburgh - William Charles in December 1878. Within 18 months, however, he had found his own business as smith, farrier and blacksmith at Brooke, south of Norwich, on the Bungay road. There at Brooke two more children were born, Arthur (John Bailey Gooderson: 221) in 1880 and Kate in 1882.

In 1883 Sarah was still operating the wheelwright’s business in Costessey, but William Robert was no longer at Bawburgh. He may have gone home to help his mother. When she became bedridden in 1887, he probably took over the business. Certainly the Kelly’s Directories of 1896 and 1900 show him as wheelwright and blacksmith in Costessey, but he had gone by 1904, apparently for a time in his brother’s footsteps to Birmingham. His subsequent whereabouts and fate are a mystery, although Mr H.E.Gunton, Costessey’s local historian, recorded him as first secretary of the Jerningham (the family name of the Roman Catholic Lord Stafford who lived at Costessey Hall) Lodge of Oddfellows, remembered him as a short thickset man who was fairly popular. Mr Gunton thought (in 1962) that he had got into business difficulties and left Costessey. His wife Lucy stayed behind and died a widow in Costessey in 1926. (Another William Gooderson buried in 1884 aged 39 is unidentified and may or may not be related. There are no Gooderson gravestones at Costessy; wooden crosses would have sufficed for most people at that time, but another reminder that money was not plentiful.)

The writer Flora Thompson and the historian G.E.Mingay may both be quoted here. Thompson in ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ about rural Oxfordshire, wrote: ‘After the Jubilee (1887) nothing ever seemed quite the same .... People began to speak of "before the Jubilee", much as we in the 1920s spoke of "before the War", either as a golden time or as one of exploded ideas, according to the age of the speaker.’ Mingay has written: ‘The new ease of communication between country and town, the new products and means of making them, drove the country tradesmen into a town business and the village craftsmen into a factory.’ It was an urban factory for which Arthur Gooderson - and his brother William Robert - were destined.

Brooke was the scene of William Charles’s ‘Early Memories’, but his parents did not stay there very long. What made them decide to leave? Was it the terrible weather of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s so ruinous to many East Anglian farmers, on whose custom they relied? Was it the general depression in trade which kept undermining their efforts? Was it the lack of prospects for their two bright young boys? Was it an advertisement in a newspaper? Was it the chance of seeing first class cricket, if not at Derby, perhaps at nearby Nottingham? Was it that in fact they had always been on the move and now they were just making one bigger and more decisive step? Whatever the reason or combination of reasons between 1883 and 1887- and probably nearer to 1887 - Arthur sold his shop and stock and took his family off to Derby, where he had found work in the new railway engine construction workshops of the Midland Railway? and where his family shared in the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, receiving mugs at school. He had exchanged country for town life and independence for the greater economic security and prospects of working for a big firm. He had exchanged horses for railway engines and later he would build his own car, a master craftsman to the end of his days. After a few years at Derby where the family realised, perhaps for the first time, the poverty and conditions of an industrial town, they moved to Birmingham and he had a job in Aston, getting up at 5 am and walking a distance to work as so many industrial workers did, but he had never done before. At least he could still sing in a church choir, at St. James Handsworth. Later he became a foreman at Metropolitan Cammel Ltd, thus recovering something of his lost status, and enabling his sons to take advantage of scholarships to Wolverhampton and Handsworth Grammar Schools, opportunities which his early years had not afforded him. Once both had got themselves jobs as bank clerks and then as managers, their rural past became a matter of history, even of romance. They took their dressmaker maiden aunts on summer holidays to Heacham in the family party, and talked of going back to their birthplaces together once they had retired, but Arthur died before this at the age of 56 and somehow Will did not want to make the journey on his own. Will's love of the countryside showed itself in his preference for living in suburban villages whenever possible and he retired to Abberly, deep in rural Worcestershire. Genealogy became the only link which survived with there rural past.
[Philip James Gooderson   Dec 2002 - Feb 2003]  

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