Gilbert Vincent
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Gilbert Frank Vincent

A well known character, who has lived in the village since he arrived with his mother at the age of one, in 1909, is Gilbert Frank Vincent. Always cheerful, humorous and with a kind word, a meting with Gilbert always leaves a favourable impression. Gilbert is a descendant, of an old village family, the Blinkers.

Gilbert Vincent c1920Life for Gilbert started unhappily, Gilbert's father Frank, met Agnes Blinker when he was working as a drayman for brewers Greene King, delivering to the Shepherd and Dog Inn, Moulton then owned by the Blinkers. Romance flourished and they were married, moving to the Fox Inn in Pakenham, where Frank had become the licensee and Gilbert was born. The family then moved to the Unicorn Inn at East Gate Street Bury, it was there that Frank left them, Gilbert tells how his father threw five shillings on the table, telling his wife, that was all he could do for her. They never saw him again, all efforts to trace him were in vain, it is thought that he went to Australia.

Agnes and her son then moved back to be with her parents in Moulton. The Shepherd and Dog, in those days, was a popular place, far more in fact than the Kings Head, much of the success being due to the efforts of Emma Blinker, who's catering was renowned. Gilbert must have grown up in a congenial atmosphere of a village inn with all its comings and goings, greatly influenced by his grandmother who helped bring him up, after his grandfather died in 1916, and his mother in 1923. Gilbert was hampered throughout his life, due to a badly set broken arm, which was the result of a falling down stairs.

The village school was run by Bobby Mills, his wife, and daughter Gladys. There was a great deal of military activity in the days of the Great War, with soldiers camped near to the church. Gilbert recalls the camp was extensive perhaps up to 300 men living in tents, the camp had a flagpole and artillery, with their horses tethered near the river, reveille was sounded by bugle, at 6.30am. Gilbert and his friend Jack Scrivener would go to the camp early in the morning, collect the soldiers water bottles and fill them with skimmed milk, at a half pence each, from Manor Farm (Mr Camps), he also remembers playing truant to see the aeroplanes land (as they thought ) on bonfire hill, he especially remembers the sports and games being played at school, mornings and afternoons started by lining up outside the main school door to have your name checked on the school register. Writing was by pen and ink, the playground was divided between boys and girls, any wrong-doings were acted upon by Mr Mills, exercising a ruler on the subjects behinds!

Home was just around the corner, so it was in easy reach for lunch. Church was attended twice on Sunday, morning and evening services. Gilbert being in the choir, also services during school time were common, the rectors being the Reverend Smith, until 1916 and then the Reverend Child, both whom Gilbert remembers well.

All the children used to enjoy sweet scrambling in the meadow, which was organised by Johnny Griffin (Gazeley Rd), who used to buy a large jar of sweets for the occasion. School holidays were spent working on the land, horse leading, for Pat Robins of Manor Farm, collecting the sheaves of corn for stacking. The foreman at Manor Farm was Jeremiah Fisher, who treated his men well, his wife Lavinia, as well as other women, would glean the fields, for ears of corn left after the corn had been cut.

Mrs Fisher used the corn she collected to make "Corn Wine". (Mr Fisher died in 1937, aged 84, and his wife in 1946, aged 91). Gilbert recalls at the time there were no thatchers in the village, thatching was carried out by Joe and Dicky Wade from Ashley, they were good thatchers but were reluctant to start work without drinking 4 or 5 pints of beer.

Gilbert's social life was restricted to the village with the occasional trip to the seaside, which was organised by Walter Talbot. A wagon and pair was used to ferry people to Kennett station and to collect them again at 10pm. Dances were held at the Priory, organised by the Rev Child, the priory games room being turned into a dancing area. Later the room was enlarged and a stove added, Gilbert recalls having much fun there, the church choir also provided an opportunity for young people to get together.

Gilbert left Manor Farm in 1940, after twenty years, due to a disagreement with the foreman George Reed, Lindsay Lane was unhappy about his leaving and asked him to reconsider, but under the direction of Bill Johnston (foreman), he started work at Moulton Paddocks Estate. Work on the estate was varied, consisting of forestry, maintaining roads, hedge cutting, edging lawns and general estate maintenance, also to help on the farm, when needed especially at harvest time. The work was cleaner and more enjoyable, wages were a pound a week for labourers and one pound five shillings for horsemen.

One of the worst jobs on any farm in those days was manure spreading. Firstly the manure had to be dug out of the cattle pens and loaded onto a horse drawn cart, then taken to the fields where it was put into heaps about 3 meters apart. There were 6 to 8 heaps to a cart load. Once the field had the necessary density of heaps, the manure was spread, by hand of course, loading and unloading were all carried out by hand. Manure spreading was often carried out by 'Piece Workers', these men would work for a given rate, which in the case of manure spreading was one half penny a heap. Moving to Moulton Paddocks meant Gilbert could leave that part of farm work behind him. Moulton Paddocks estate was owned by Dudley Joel, who entertained a great deal, with house and shooting parties. Gilbert remembers him to be a kindly man who would always speak. After a shoot, sometimes giving game to the employees.

When Dudley's wife Esme died in 1940, all the staff of the estate lined up outside the house entrance to show their respects as the cortege passed. On the death of Dudley Joel on war service, each estate worker received a legacy, Gilbert, 50, even men who had been there only a short time received two weeks wages.

Gilbert first met Mabel Partridge when her parents brought her to the Shepherd and Dog one evening, Gilbert recalls that they sat in the little room, behind the door, and keep looking at each other he said, two days afterwards Mable came to see me by herself and thats how it started. Gilbert used to get his cousin Frank Clark to look after the Inn when he was courting.

Mabel's father Ted was not in favour of the relationship, and threatened to shoot Gilbert on one occasion. Nevertheless, after a short courtship ( 3 months) Gilbert and Mabel were married, that was in 1935, their marriage lasted 42 years, until Mabel's death in 1977.

A year after they were married, Gilbert's grandmother died and Mabel took over running the Shepherd and Dog, the inn was especially busy during the war years. Mabel's sister Emma and husband Hugh casualties of the bombing in London stayed for the duration of the war.

The Shepherd and Dog sadly closed and was sold in 1947. On the sale of their home and with two young children to bring up, Mabel and Gilbert moved to an estate house, firstly in Brookside (Number 5) then to The Street (number 5). Gilbert worked at Moulton Paddocks for 20 years, during the war he volunteered for war service, but was rejected due to his injured arm, joining the home guard instead.

After the War, Moulton Paddocks estate was gradually run down and the number of men needed reduced. Gilbert then found employment with Suffolk County Council, moving from Moulton to a Bungalow at Kentford. Gilbert finished his working live working for Maclarns construction in Kentford. Mabel was never happy living in Kentford, so when a bungalow became available in Church Road Moulton, they moved back, not far from where their life together had first started. Sadly Mabel died in 1977 aged 66.

Retirement for Gilbert meant part-time work. working until he was 80 at the Priory. Gilbert still lives in Church Road, at the time of writing this , 1992, he still enjoys life, although he is not as mobile as he was, one of his enjoyments being a flutter on the horses, one of his qualities is his ability to bring into conversation people of all walks of life. Even though life has been hard, Gilbert remains an inspiration to us all.

Gilbert Vincent's 90th birthday party 5/6/98 at village hall. l-r Lisa Gilbert (great grandaughter), Joshua Gilbert (great-great grandson), Elaine Pownall (grandaughter), Annabell Harris (daughter) and GilbertOn Sunday the 5th of July 1998, Gilbert's 90th birthday was celebrated with a party at the Village Hall. Together with 16 members of Gilbert's immediate family, 5 generations in all. 80 guests attended including the Rector, Father Brian Hayes and Gilberts first 'home help', Joy who came all the way from Swaffham to attend. Preparation for the party started several weeks before, the Village Hall was booked and the sending out of invitations to all Gilberts friends was quite a task. Luckily the Village Hall was not booked the night before, so the tables and chairs could be put out. Sunday morning Gilberts daughter Ann together with Pam Greening and Gwen Gunson prepared the food. Many people sent cakes etc. to provide a marvellous spread. The party started at 2.00 pm with Gilbert seated near the door welcoming arriving guests, most of whom he remembered straight away.

Some guests had to be picked up from the surrounding villages including Gilberts old workmate Jack Marsh from Gazeley, who worked with Gilbert at Moulton Paddocks for many years. All but one of Gilberts immediate family attended. Father Brian made a moving address which was followed by photographs. The party lasting about three hours. At the end so much food was left, parting guests were encouraged to take some home. Clearing up was made less of a drudge by many members of the family helping. Gilbert enjoyed his party immensely, enjoying meeting many old friends again.

John Gunson Moulton Village Recorder 1998.

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