Yew Tree Cottage

Yew Tree Cottage, Back Lane, Martham. c1950

Yew Tree Cottage stands on the east side of Back Lane directly opposite Bracey’s Pond. Thatched and built in a fairly traditional farm-house style it stands out because of its ornate stylised porch reminiscent of the arts and crafts movement.

The house does not appear in records of the 1812 Inclosure Award but is listed in the 1842 Tithe Award and so was built sometime between these dates. In 1842 it was owned by Nathaniel Hindle Dunt but occupied by Jonathan Gedge and it was described as a cottage and garden on plot No 671.  Nathaniel also owned plot Nos 677 and 505. He lived at plot 677 which was a cottage and garden situated where the Baptist Manse is now whilst plot 505 was a marsh at Cess.

1842 Martham Tithe Award Map showing plot No671 occupied by Jonathan Gedge.

Nathaniel lived at Martham from 1792 to 1867 and was a painter and glazier but the ownership of a grazing marsh indicates that he also kept livestock or he may have let the marsh to a farmer.
The occupier of Yew Tree Cottage was Jonathan Gedge (1765-1848) and his family. He was a farmer and married Rebecca Hannant (1774-1844) at St Mary’s on 19th January 1797. They died in 1848 and 1844 respectively and were buried at St Mary the Virgin where their grave is marked with a very large stone slab in section F, plot H12 of the graveyard.

The gravestone of Jonathan & Rebecca Gedge at St Mary the Virgin, Martham

Jonathan & Rebecca had six children who grew up at the cottage and one of their sons, called Samuel (1809-1896), lived at the house in 1851 with his wife Hannah, nee Grapes and their five children. Samuel was a cooper and then a pork butcher.

Ten years later the occupiers had changed and William Greenacre lived there in 1861 with his first wife Mary Elizabeth Smith who he had married at St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth on 30th December 1832. William was a carpenter all his life and after Mary Elizabeth died, he married Mary Ann Pearce on 17th December 1857 at St Mary the Virgin. They were at Yew Tree Cottage at the time of each census in 1861, 1871, & 1881 although it was not named as such until 1871. William and Mary Ann had four children at Yew Tree Cottage and they were all baptised at St Mary the Virgin. They were:

  • Adelaide Elizabeth (1858 – 1929)
  • Albert George (1859-1958)
  • Charles John (1861-1861)
  • Edgar Ethelred (1865-1899)

Mary Ann was a monthly nurse in 1871 which was a woman who looks after a mother and her baby during the postnatal period. The phrase is now largely obsolete, but the job continues under other names around the world. She was probably well qualified, in an informal way, to do it as she had had six children from her first marriage as well as the four with William. Mary died in 1877 and William continued to live at the cottage until his death in 1890. He was buried at St Mary the Virgin in an unknown grave.

The cottage was not named in the 1891 or 1901 census and it is difficult to identify because of the way the census returns are laid out but the most likely occupiers in 1901 were John Herbert Fuller (1867-1934) and his wife Annie, nee Halls (1868-1950). John was a police officer at that time but they did not live in Martham for long.

We can be much more certain about the next family who lived there because of this lovely photograph:


Just over the right shoulder of the man in the photo can be seen the shop signage on the window which reads “Fryer & Son Tailor & Breeches Maker”. This refers to Harry Fryer (1851-1929) who had been a tailor and outfitter at White Street in 1901 but moved to Yew Tree Cottage by 1911. He was originally from Fletton, Peterborough and married Mary Jane Scarborough in 1882 at Grantham, Lincolnshire. They had a son called Arthur Reginald Fryer who was 22 in 1911, he helped his father in the business and may very well be the sartorial looking chap in the photograph. Kelly’s Business Directory tells us that they were still there in 1921 but Harry died at Holbeach, Lincs in 1929 by which time Arthur and his mother had also left Martham.

The next owners of Yew Tree Cottage were Thomas & Violet Dyball. Thomas (1899 -1961) was a miller and married Violet, nee Minns, in Great Yarmouth in 1927.  They  lived at Yew Tree Cottage from at least 1931 until they died. Thomas was a self-employed farmer, miller and corn merchant at the steam mill next door to the Cottage. Thomas was born in Martham, but Violet was originally from Loddon and after they married became the head teacher at Somerton School.  They were both listed in the 1939 Register as living at the cottage. Thomas died there in 1961 and Violet in 1974.
During the Dyball’s ownership the former tailors shop had a variety of uses:-

  • Some locals say the small extension was once a Co-op during the 2nd World War before opening at the Green and it was certainly used as a meeting place for the Home Guard during WW2.
  • During the 1950’s Frank Short (1909-1969) was a hairdresser there. Frank came from Nottinghamshire and was a hairdresser and barber all his life. He lived at West Somerton in 1939 but married Edith Maud Cunningham the year after on 21st April 1940 at St Mary’s. In September 1959 the Electricity Board closed its shop at Clarence Villa on the south side of The Green and Frank moved his business there. His son Ronnie took over the business after his father.
  • During the 1960’s Len Spencer & J Bould had a photo studio there which was rented from Mrs Dyball. Len did the usual range of photography including the school photos at Somerton and local weddings. He owned a silver limo which he drove around the village so slowly young boys would overtake him on their bikes.
  • From 1970 to 1973 Barrie Sharrock operated a photographer’s studio there but the premises were a bit small for his needs which accounted for his short stay. He can remember paying his rent to Violet Dyball. He lived at West Somerton with his wife Anne who was a teacher at Martham Primary School.
  • Other people can remember when the ‘shop’ was used as a children’s playroom by the Dyball’s in the 1960’s.
Yew Tree Cottage in 2021.

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