18. FAKENHAM TOWN SIGN
This was erected at Leach’s Corner in 1978.
FEATURES ON THE SIGNS
The Coat of Arms illustrates Fakenham’s connection with John of Gaunt progenitor of the Plantagenet House of Lancaster with its three lions and three fleurs-de-lis.
The Printer depicted on the sign represents the importance of the printing industry to the town, starting with Stewardsons whose first-floor expansion led to the formation of the arched passage from Upper Market to the church. Stewardsons remained part of the Aldiss business there as a stationer until Aldiss moved to its present site. The Miller family’s printing business grew and morphed into Wymans and then Cox and Wyman employing 600 people. When foreign competition forced its closure, ex-employees started many smaller printing businesses which continue to this day.
The Ship represents the life of Sir Robert Seppings. Born in Holt Road in 1767, he was orphaned at the age of 14 and was adopted by an uncle living in Plymouth. He became an apprentice in the dockyard and worked his way up to be Master Shipwright at Chatham where he roofed over most of the dockyard so that work could be more easily done in bad weather. By 1816 he had become Surveyor of the Navy and was knighted at sea aboard the Royal Yacht.
The Cycle represents John C Garrood. Son of an engineer he was born in Fakenham in 1851. After an apprenticeship in Kings Lynn he moved to Newcastle. From there he joined the Merchant Navy as an engineer and later worked Belgium. In the 1870s he came home and started a cycle manufacturing business in Wells Road. He introduced the strong but light-weight tubular cycle forks and grips for the pedals and was also an early user of ball bearings.
Sadly, his patents were infringed by larger manufacturers and he emigrated to the USA. He married a Canadian and moved to Boston where he ran a cycle works. After the death of his wife, he returned to Fakenham where he invented a paper feed for Miller’s printing business. Later he went back to America and worked on the design of lock gates for the Panama Canal. Just prior to the Great War he returned to Fakenham and carried on his business here. He died in 1936.
The Plough represents the life of Sir George Edwards. He was born in Marsham, Norfolk in 1850 to poor parents. His father was a farm labourer/brick maker who struggled for work because of the prejudice against ex-soldiers and had to steal turnips from the fields to keep his family alive, but was caught and sentenced to forced labour. George & the rest of the family went off the workhouse. The scale of rural poverty at that time is truly shocking. George started work at the age of six, he scared crows for a shilling a week. He worked long days with no breaks except for lunch and suffered a beating if he dared to fall asleep. Parents could not complain as children would lose their jobs. George began to get an education from his wife, primarily to help him deliver services as a Primitive Methodist preacher. Around this time he also began to think about labour rights and was one of the first agricultural trade unionists, following Joseph Arch's first such union.
He then began a life in the Labour movement and politics: he started as a Liberal then moved to Labour. He created his own agricultural union that was to become a national union which eventually merged with the Transport & General Workers’ Union (now Unite). He was central in getting basic rights for labourers and proper regard for agriculture generally. He was active as a politician both at County Council level and as an MP. Aged 70, he was one of the oldest people to enter Parliament for the first time in a by-election. There is an annual George Edwards memorial lecture held at Gressenhall Museum.
The Quaker with a Bible represents the Peckover family. Edmund Peckover was often in trouble for holding illegal Quaker meetings and prior to the Act of Toleration was fined a total of £200 an enormous sum. After the Act the Quakers quickly developed a Meeting House in Quaker Lane. Edmund Peckover's family enterprises grew and the Peckover name did not die out here until the death of Joseph in 1836. There is a Quaker Burial Ground in the town.
The Ox-Wagon represents the missionary life of Reverend Henry Buckenham. He was born in Holt Road in 1844, he became a Primitive Methodist and attended the then new chapel. After marrying a Burnham girl he became a missionary on the Orange River in South Africa. After five years there, he and his wife trekked by ox-wagon some 2000 miles to the Zambezi where they set up a successful mission. He is buried there on the banks of the river. His wife returned to Fakenham and laid the foundation stone of the New Methodist Church in Oak Street dedicated to his name. This has recently been converted to housing.
On the way to the Junior School in Queens Road you pass the Post Office and adjoining Telephone Exchange. This was built for the old Strowger electromechanical telephone switches. These were very bulky, hence the huge building, now largely redundant due to modern microcircuits. Depicted on the side of the Exchange you will see the symbol of a Trimphone, the height of 1960s style with its unique ring tone.
The next plaque is on the Junior School wall.