Blickling workers clock up over 80 years

THERE is clearly something in the air at the National Trust's Blickling Hall which makes people stick around - with two members of the team at the historic estate clocking up an impressive 81 years of service between them.

THERE is clearly something in the air at the National Trust's Blickling Hall which makes people stick around - with two members of the team at the historic estate clocking up an impressive 81 years of service between them.

Maintenance operative Dave Cockaday has worked there for 45 years and assistant head gardener Stephen Hagon for 36 years.

The estate has been home to Dave Cockaday since he was five-years-old when his family moved there from Berkshire. He started work on the estate in 1964 as a bricklayer.

Dave said: 'I started work for a building firm in Aylsham where I did the training for bricklaying. I knew the foreman here at Blickling, Mr Grimes, and he asked me if I'd like to work here. My first job was in the garden, renewing the drains. I was part of a team of people including painters and carpenters, and we did whatever was necessary on the estate.


You may also want to watch:


'We used to have a big workshop in Silvergate with two massive saw benches where we would cut trees up to make our own oak and beech timber.'

Blickling clearly suited the Cockaday family. Dave said: 'My father worked as a cowman for one of the tenant farmers. My two brothers and three sisters all lived here. My brother worked here for 18 years as a painter, and my wife Mary worked in the house for 25 years. We've lived in three different houses on the estate, moving to a larger place when our two children arrived, then into a smaller place when they left home.'

Most Read

Dave's work covers all National Trust properties in Norfolk, and an average week can see him mending locks, easing doors and windows, painting garden furniture, decorating offices and repairing garages.

In the gardens, Stephen Hagon started work two days after his 15th birthday in 1972. Now in his 37th year at Blickling, Stephen remembers his first pay packet.

He said: 'We used to be paid cash once a fortnight in those days. I got �8.10 per week in my first pay packet and was charged �2 per week housekeeping and 57p National Insurance.

'When I started I worked for head gardener Sid Peart, who had been here man and boy, retiring after 50 years of service. My very first task was raking up grass, then on to the kitchen garden which served mostly as a flower garden for cut flowers.

'From 1974-76, I went to Burlingham Horticultural College, and took on more jobs at Blickling with the limited machinery available. Back then, we had two cylinder mowers, a ride-on truck and a Hayter. There were no strimmers, Flymos or motorized hedge trimmers - the amount of equipment we have now is incredible!'

The biggest change Stephen has seen over the years is the opening hours. 'The job is more interesting now, maintaining the garden and pushing

it forward for the future. My

favourite job is cutting the famous yew hedge - usually with an audience!'

Asked why he has stayed so long at Blickling, Stephen said: 'When you've got a Rolls Royce, why change? I never get bored!'

Blickling gardens are open from 10.15am- 5.15pm, Wednesdays to Sundays. The house is open from 11am -5pm, Wednesdays to Sundays. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

blickling for more information.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus