As the new millennium approaches one becomes aware that our life style has changed enormously in the last decades. Earlier contributions in this volume reveal this clearly, and it was decided to explore these changes a little more thoroughly, so later generations reading this text will have an idea about our current life style. Interviews were carried out with almost every household and a short questionnaire was completed. The information has been drawn together in the following sections.
The picture painted today, from the information gathered from the village survey, is a far cry from the first Domesday reference described in an earlier chapter. The village of Little Thurlow now has 210 inhabitants and the profile of their ages show that currently over 50% of the population is over forty years of age, and only 6% are in the age bracket 20-30 years. This means that the population has a far higher number of people who are either retired or approaching retirement age than one would ordinarily expect in a national survey. This is a reflection of both the diminishing numbers of job opportunities for younger people locally, particularly on the Estate itself, and the high cost of housing in the village. A public meeting held some years ago to establish the potential interest amongst the younger generation in affordable housing supplied by joint initiative with a Housing Association was extremely well attended. Many young families would like to live here but they cannot afford it. The small numbers of Little Thurlow children in the village school is also an indication of the imbalance in the age of the population. The village is, however, very stable with 60% of the current villagers having lived here for more than ten years. Over half the villagers live in their homes either on their own, or with one other person. The days of multiple occupation of the houses are long gone.
Positive and negative reasons for living in Little Thurlow
The reasons for living in the village are varied, but many people agree on the key attributes of living here. Villagers when asked painted a picture of a peaceful, unspoilt, attractive village with friendly people, plenty of access to the beautiful countryside and country pursuits, with abundant wildlife to enjoy. Other reasons included availability of the shop, garage and pub, ease of commuting, good weather, the hunt, proximity of school, and safety. Inevitably in such a survey as the one that was carried out, there is another side to the story. The peace referred to by some would have to be qualified according to where exactly one lives in the village! A major negative factor has to be the noise, speed, volume, size and danger of the traffic in the village. The lack of public transport, travelling costs, parking problems and always having to drive were also seen as negatives. Others mentioned the lack of local facilities such as cinemas, take-aways and diminishing local services. The hunt and the use of unknown chemicals on the fields were also mentioned.
Shopping habits have changed considerably in recent years as the village has moved away from self-sufficiency. Nowadays, by far and away the majority of people (over 50%) in the village use Sainsburys for their grocery shopping, with Tescos, Leos and Waitrose in Newmarket taking an equal share of the remainder. Twenty two people also use the village shop regularly and two the mobile shop. The slogan ‘use it or lose it’ comes to mind. A handful of people use Aldis, Iceland and Marks & Spencer. The local towns are used regularly for larger shopping items, with Bury St Edmunds mentioned most frequently, followed by Cambridge, Newmarket, Haverhill and SaVron Walden. Other places much further afield were also quoted but often because other family members lived there.
The occupations of the villagers take some far afield to work, to places like London, Epping, Stansted, Huntingdon and Colchester. The majority of the working population work within a distance of 520 miles away, while 23 people stay in the village to work and only 8 work on the estate. The occupations of the work-force are extraordinarily varied and contrast vividly with those identified in White’s Directory in the last century.
The school population also reveals some interesting information. Little Thurlow has been lucky enough to retain its village school, although there have been several threats to its continuing existence in recent years as numbers have þuctuated. There are three pre-school age children in the village, who attend the new pre-school play group in the grounds of the village school. There are 10 first school age children, of whom half attend the village school and half attend schools outside the area. The 14 middle school age children attend schools in Haverhill, with only two attending a middle school in Bury St Edmunds.
The pattern changes again as the children reach senior school age when they attend a much wider range of schools: 3 at Castle Manor Upper School in Haverhill; 2 at Linton Village College; 1 at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds; and 1 each at the Sixth Form Colleges at Long Road and Hills Road in Cambridge.
It appears that some parents chose first schools out of the area so that their children could access the village colleges in neighbouring Cambridgeshire.
During the past twenty years there has been a great deal of publicity about the dawn of the leisure age. As the new technology was being developed there was a growing anticipation that people would have a great deal more leisure time as the job market decreased and more and more people took early retirement or were made redundant. To some extent that has happened in the village, with redundancy becoming part of the work experience of many, along with early retirement. For others, the rhetoric has not been recognised, with United Kingdom workers having longer working hours than any of their European neighbours. However, the leisure pursuits of the villagers of Little Thurlow reveal a fascinating variety of activities and what should be a very healthy population!
The most popular activities are shown in the table below:
The remainder include activities for almost every taste: concerts, keep fit, embroidery, tapestry, motor cycling, rowing, family and grandchildren, underwater exploration, fish keeping, fossiling, squash, cookery, darts, house renovation, TV, pets, circuit training, basket ball, chess, wine, skiing, steam engines, partying, astronomy, horse racing, theatre, dining out, local pub, puzzles, photography, woodwork, cribbage, snooker, pool, hockey, horse racing, family history, þower arranging, shopping, fishing, poetry, bingo, roller-skating, bell ringing, aerobics, drama…
Some of the leisure pursuits that are mentioned take place in the village itself. Although small, the village hosts a variety of events during the year both for entertainment and fund raising, mainly for the church and the village hall. The biggest event by far is the annual Thurlow Fayre, held in Great Thurlow on the first Sunday in September. The attractions are varied and many relate to the countryside, including sheep dog trials, falconry, cart horses and the clay pigeon shoot. The fayre has replaced the traditional village fete which used to be held in the grounds of either Great or Little Thurlow Hall. It now attracts 23000 people, making it a very busy day for the villagers. Around £4000 is raised annually and the profits are distributed between the various clubs and organisations in the village including the Churches.
The fayre also includes a car boot sale which has replaced the erstwhile jumble sale, which always used to take place regularly. Now only the Village Hall Committee and the Bowls Club hold them, although they too can raise considerable, much needed funds. The Bowls Club raised £176 in just one hour in 1998.
Other fund raising entertainment includes the racing nights held in the Village Hall where bets are placed on home made wooden horses which are ‘raced’ by pulling them across the floor on strings. Quiz nights are also popular, involving small teams of village people answering general knowledge questions. Competition is often fierce. There is also an annual bonfire and barbecue on the nearest Friday to Guy Fawkes night.
The Harvest Supper has been revived and has been combined with a concert. The concert is organised by the village postmaster who also acts as organist, and the programme consists of items sung by the Village Voices Choir drawn from the villages between the Thurlows and Newmarket. The Thurlow churches benefit from plant sales and lunches held in the homes and gardens of parishioners, and from the annual Thurlow Steam Rally which is now held in neighbouring Little Wratting. The youth club meets for the children in the Village Hall on a Friday night.
The most significant event to have disappeared is the Thurlow Point-to- Point which used to be held between Great Thurlow and Withersfield, and which has now migrated to a permanent home at Horseheath some 6 miles away. The Thurlow Hunt still has its opening Meet in the village in November and the hounds can be seen regularly as they are exercised in the surrounding fields.
Thriving cricket, football and bowls teams still exist, although they are no longer comprised solely of villagers.
For all its size Little Thurlow cannot be said to be sleepy or dull. The author of Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes (1929), who signs himself Yeoman, is somewhat scathing in his view of the villages, when he suggests that there is nothing here ‘to stir the admiration or quicken the pulse’. Deeper investigation would seem to reveal a fascinating microcosm of the world with as much variety and interest as is necessary to both quicken the pulse and to stir the admiration. All is not as it might seem.