Archaeology Folk & Facts Features Last Century

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The Estate Workshop

The Estate Workshop lies to the north of the milking sheds and was traditionally used to refurbish the estate dwellings and supply their distinctive tongue and groove interior panelling.

In the 1930’s a building attached to one side of the workshop was used as a game larder. Here the head gamekeeper Jennings and his under keepers and warreners Fred Gooch and ‘Willy’ Staff hung all the game which were then collected by G. A. Thornalley the game dealer from Worlington.

Recollections of George Thornalley the Game Dealer

George A. Thornalley’s son, also a George, recalls the working habits of his father and grandfather, Carden. 

“At the turn of the century Carden was the warrener for Cavenham Heath capturing the rabbits and hares with snares, nets, gin traps and ferrets” selling them door to door straight from the pole hung over his shoulders. After sale he would skin the animal on the doorstep taking the pelts up to the Brandon factories of ‘Lingwood’ and ‘Rought - Rought’. The rabbit pelts, which were worth more than the meat, were prepared for export far and wide where they were turned into felt hats. “

Carden was known for his interest in whisky and George’s mother claimed he hid a bottle down each rabbit hole. George jokes; “are there any empty whisky bottles now on Cavenham Heath?”

In time George became the local game dealer visiting Cavenham once a day to collect 100 wild rabbits and many pheasants. His son recalls.. 

“In total my father, George dealt with 10,000 wild rabbits and 2, 000 pheasants per week. His main rabbit outlet was the motor industrial town of Luton where he journeyed three times a week. The pheasants went to large hotels and many transatlantic liners of the day...Selling the rabbits for between 6d and 1 shilling.... a 75% profit on each rabbit was made, making this more profitable than agricultural work. Working through from August to March he was free in the summer months to tend his garden and play bowls”.

George would accompany his father on these trips and was struck by his ability to recognise the source of any rabbit. Once there was a cross breed of rabbit sold from Cavenham workshop with a white brown patch (probably 5% pet) for some reason these were an embarrassment to his father. Cavenham pheasants, on the other hand, were the best quality he ever had. The business did not appeal to George and he became a farmer. Receiving the following advice from the manager of the day: 

“When you hire 40 odd workers to pick the sugar beet leave them for a couple of hours and then sack the first 3 or 4 you see however well they are working, this will set things right for the rest of the season”.

ref 1946 Estate auction papers


A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival ©2000 Designed by ArtAtac