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Books
 Brenda Picking with her book, Portrait Of A Suffolk Village
Capturing a time and place
From the stories of farm labourers to wartime tales, Brenda’s book puts Hessett on the map
Almost 60 years after moving to Hessett, Brenda Picking has published a book about her adopted village. The 160-page
Portrait Of A Suffolk Village reveals how the village has changed, from the days when the land was owned by the abbey in Bury St Edmunds to later centuries when agriculture dominated the lives of every family.
Brenda began collecting information and stories for her book in the 1970s. She was encouraged by the late Frank Whitnall, the headteacher at Beyton Middle School where Brenda worked as a lunchtime supervisor.
Frank knew Brenda was interested in history and suggested she channel her enthusiasm into a book. Brenda had moved from London to Hessett in 1962, a year after marrying Don, who took up a job at RAF Mildenhall.
Brenda and Don, who died in 2018 and to whom the book is dedicated, used to cycle to Suffolk to see family for holidays.
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They bought a home on The Green in Hessett where they brought up their two daughters, Diane and Janice.
When they first arrived the local farms employed many of the men in the village and there was a wide range of home- grown entertainment. News was exchanged in the pub – The Five Bells – and at the butcher’s and local shop and post office. There were also many groups like the Scouts, football and darts teams and social events in the village hall and at the rectory.
The Suffolk Archives has been an important source of information and Brenda has spent many hours at the Bury record office, painstakingly searching through documents like the Census, tax records, court cases and wills, plus maps and photos.
Another rich vein has been conversations with older villagers who reminisced about their lives. Brenda began recording their memories nearly 30 years ago and this social history includes wartime adventures, the village school,
thatched cottages burning down, trips into town by horse and cart, picking wild strawberries for jam, befriending American airmen during the war and life in service.
Jill Carter, a journalist who helped Brenda with the book, says it is focuses on ordinary people but all have had interesting lives. “These are first-hand accounts of villagers, nearly all of whom are long gone. Brenda ‘interviewed’ them from the mid 1990s: retired farmers and farm labourers (remembering pulling sugar beet by hand), women who had worked in service (a 14-year old girl who went to work in London, where the wealthy employer took her to Harrods for new clothes), a World War II veteran recalling vividly his encounters with German soldiers in the desert in north Africa. She really has captured a slice of social history.”
n Copies of the book are available from Rougham Post Office or from the author, telephone 01359 270909. The price is £7.99 with all proceeds going to the Hessett Church Preservation Society.


















































































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