ludham archive

     Blaxell Family

Enquiries to the Ludham Archive can come in many forms. In this case, it was a post on the Ludham Village Community Facebook Group Page.

"I found this inscription on a brick in my loft .. I live in one of the houses on Elderbush Lane
It reads this brick was laid by G Blaxell
Any ideas?"

Time for the Ludham Archive to investigate. The pictures below were the starting point. Who was G Blaxell who laid this brick?
Inscribed brick
brick close up

Our enquiries quickly found that it could be either of the two George Blaxells, one born in 1876 and one born in 1850. Part of a large family in the Ludham area. Charles Blaxell, a relative, lived at Broad Mead Farm near How Hill.

The TWO George Blaxells

There were 2 generations called George born in the area round Ludham. They were father and son.

George Senior (sr) who was born in 1850 at Potter Heigham
George Junior( jr) born 1876 at Thurne and the most likely to have written on the brick.

George Blaxell jr.

In the 1891 census, George jr is a carpenter’s apprentice, his parents are George sr and Mary Ann. They lived in Catfield. George had three siblings, Martha, Alice and Walter.

George Samuel Blaxell married Emma Faith Sadler in December 1896. He was 20.

In the 1901 census, they were living in Thurne with 3 children.

In the 1911 census he was living in Catfield with Emma and five children, May, Elsie, William, Gertrude and Eve.

In Kelly’s Directory for Catfield in 1912, George jr is a carpenter living in the village:

George had a reputation for music, this is from a record about Harry Cox and the East Norfolk singing community:

These men were all great singers in their own right, and they formed a group that received a warm welcome whenever they arrived at any pub. I was told this by Samuel R. Howard (born at Potter Heigham in 1909),  who used to sing with them in the late 1920s and 1930s. Leslie Miller even described them as a sort of 'clique'.  Unlike Sam Howard, and despite his admiration for his father's singing, Leslie preferred to sing with friends in his own age group: 'Singers did not sing each other's songs. I did not sing my father's songs'.  What Leslie means here is that singers would not sing songs seen as 'belonging' to another man when that man was present, without his permission. Harry Cox himself was relatively youthful in comparison to the men who mostly sang with him , but he was clearly committed to the older songs. Although Harry was known to sing 'Red Sails in the Sunset', his preference was very much towards the older material. His only concession to modern 'pop charts' was that he would sing along with Lonnie Donegan's 'Battle of New Orleans', and Judy Collins's 'Amazing Grace', both derived from traditional material.  The membership of such singing groups at a particular session obviously varied according to the singers' other commitments. The group also included a great friend of Harry Cox and William Miller, George 'Gunner' Blaxell (born at Thurne in 1876), because although he neither sang nor drank very much, he did play the melodeon (often referred to in Norfolk as a 'music'), and the fact that he: 'was a devil for a spree'.

George Blaxell was the Catfield village carpenter, but he had also been a herring fisherman on sailing drifters along with William Miller when they were young men. It was common in this agricultural community for men (including Bob Cox, Harry's father) to go to sea in the fishing fleets, and this experience often expanded their repertoire of songs to include many with a maritime flavour. This is not to imply that fishermen only sang maritime songs--Sam Larner of Winterton, another great Norfolk traditional singer, particularly recalled his uncle singing the highwayman ballad 'The Robber', also known as 'Newlyn Town' (Roud 490/Laws L12), whilst working on the deck of their trawler: 'My uncle Jimmy used to sing that when I was cook along him at sea and that's about seventy years ago. And he used to sing that on deck.' (Information from

So if he was referred to as Gunner, had he been in WW1?

No War record found (many of them were lost when a WW2 bomb fell on the records office in London) but his brother Walter Charles Blaxell died of disease in Mesopotamia on 22nd June 1918 aged 29. Walter was married to Bertha Henrietta Blaxell.

Sean Riseborough knew George jr and he writes:

"There used to be a Mr Blaxell who lived in Catfield street. He was Mr Massingham (the builder's) father in law also of Catfield.
I grew up in his old house which my parents bought. He was known as Gunner Blaxell & would often smoke his pipe while in his coffin he made in the front living room."

George jr died 11th October 1965. Did he use his home made coffin?

George Blaxell sr.

George Grimes Blaxell married Mary Ann Scarlett in March 1872. They lived in Catfield but he is not buried at Catfield church.

Mary Ann
                  and George
Mary Ann and George sr

Charles Blaxell

We think this is either George jr's Uncle Charles or Cousin Charles, a farmer who lived at Broad Mead near How Hill, died in 1929 and is buried without a stone in Ludham Churchyard.

In 1881 he was living in Ludham with his wife Harriot and his occupation was farmer. They were still there in the 1911 census.

Charles died 6th June 1929.

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