The Slaters of Horning

In 1944, author Charles Carrodus interviewed 103 year old Christiana Elizabeth Tite for his book Life in a Norfolk Village – The Story of Old Horning. Mrs Tite was one of twelve children born to Francis and Emma Slater in the mid 19th century and was a member of a family who were believed to have been one of the oldest in the village.

Charles Carrodus book, published by the Soman-Wherry Press in 1949, is an interesting read as it paints a vivid picture of life in Horning during the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th. His collection of village tales and interviews with some of it’s oldest residents is delightful, and is a valuable historic record too.

James Slater, still farming aged 90

The Slater family feature heavily in the book and of the twelve children born to Francis and Emma Slater, seven were still living in 1944. Their ages ranged between 83 and 103 with only one still living in Horning. One of the twelve had died aged 36 during the influenza epidemic of 1891, whilst the other deceased had all lived well into their 80s and 90s. When asked the secret of their longevity, Mrs Tite commented that “There was not a teetotaler amongst the whole of the Slater family, but they were country bred which counted for much.” She had married Ernest James Tite a maltster and, later, market gardener from Blofield and had been the Horning parish nurse for many years.  She recalled that her mother used to walk from Horning to Yarmouth, where her husband was with the fishing fleet. She would meet him on the beach to hand over his clean clothes and then walk back home with the dirty laundry, a distance of 32 miles a day! James Slater was pictured aged 90 (above left) and was the last of the Slaters to remain on the family farm. Still actively farming at this remarkable age, Carrodus wrote “after a day spent hoeing the beet field, Mr Slater is accustomed to come home with the cows, and to milk them himself – all five.”

His motto was “Hard work, plenty of good wholesome food and straight living.

Christiana Tite passed away shortly after Charles Carrodus interviewed her in 1944 and James Slater died in 1950.  Due to her husband having been badly injured during the Battle of Gallipoli, James’ daughter was forced to give up the tenancy of the farm, but the couple continued to live in the village. My interest in the Slater family was kindled by some recent correspondence with one of James’ descendents, Brian Slater. Brian had discovered the photograph of pupils at Horning School in 1911 (below) on the Broadland Memories website whilst researching his family history.

The photograph belongs to Mary Blathwayt and is part of a collection of old images of Horning which she kindly allowed me to display on the website. Her Aunt, Elsie Cole, and her father, Stanley Cole, are pictured on the far left of the front row. Brian identified his great-uncle, Albert Slater aged 14, second in from the right on the middle row, and his great-aunt, Elsie Slater aged 12, far left on the top row. He thinks other members of the Slater and Grimes families may also be amongst the faces but hasn’t been able to positively identify them yet. These would be Ruby Slater age 10, Muriel Grimes age 11 and Dorothy Grimes age 13.  In researching his family history, Brian has managed to trace 340 descendants of James Slater. Amongst his own family photographs is the wonderful image below which shows the wedding of Albert Slater, seen aged 14 in the 1911 school photo.

Albert married Muriel Joan Grimes at Horning in 1926. Also pictured in the photograph above are: Top row from L-R – Mary Ann Grimes, Elsie Slater and Julie Slater(nee Grimes), bottom row – to the left of the groom is Dorothy Grimes and to the right of the bride is Molly Browne who lived at How Hill. The dresses are absolutely beautiful. Albert, along with his brother-in-law William Temple, helped James Slater look after the family farm until James’ death in 1950.  My thanks to Brian for allowing me to share the photograph on here and for the  information about his family.

There are no longer any Slaters living in Horning and James’ many descendants have spread out across the world. As an interesting footnote, Charles Carrodus also made mention of the Slaughters, another long standing Horning family, who were believed to be related to the Slaters. In the 1940s, there seemed to be two theories for the difference in names. The first suggested that there were once two John Slaters, both of whom were blacksmiths, living in the village of Neatishead. To avoid confusion, one changed his surname to Slaughter. The other belief was that a vicar with a strong Irish brogue was misheard whilst conducting a christening and the name was written down incorrectly in the parish registers.

Life in a Norfolk Village is now long out of print and secondhand copies are rather sought after, but do crop up occasionally. It’s well worth seeking out though for the snapshot of pre 1940s Broadland village life that it provides. If you can put names to any more of the faces in the 1911 photograph of Horning School then please do get in contact via the main Broadland Memories website. You can see more of Mary Blathwayt’s Horning photographs here:

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