April 19 2014 Latest news:

Time was, apparently, when you could enjoy a game of tennis or cricket in the road in sleepy Shipdham and not worry in the slightest about being run over. There simply wasn’t much traffic.

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You’d be ill-advised to try that in 2012: by day, the main street in particular is seldom less than bustling as cars, buses and trucks rumble right through the heart of the village on their way between Dereham and Watton.

Still, thoughts of less congested times linger in the memories of some villagers, and they are having ample opportunity to hark back during a two-day heritage event being held this weekend.

All Saints’ Church and the WI Hall were a hubbub of jovial chatter yesterday as past and present villagers gathered in large numbers to browse among displays and exhibitions covering everything from school sports days to long-lost pubs and fabled traditional musicians.

Exhibits connected with wartime feature prominently: Shipdham was the home village of Great War Victoria Cross and Military Medal holder Harry Cross, whose medals were sold at auction for a small fortune a while ago. And in the second world war the former airbase on the eastern fringes of the village was the first US heavy bomber base in Norfolk.

Pride of place in a GI brides feature is a 1940s wedding dress made of parachute silk; a Mrs Gower, from neighbouring Toftwood, loaned it to event organisers Beanie Brown, Marlene Secker and Sue Dewing within hours of an appeal appearing in the Dereham Times. Home Guard platoons in and around Shipdham and German and Italian prisoners-of-war held locally are also mentioned.

Other curiosities on show include a sixpenny ticket for the Fourth Annual Races and Steeplechases, held on Whit Monday, 1885.

The exhibition is being held five years to the weekend since the last one of its kind, but since then the village archive assembled by Beanie with the help of her friends and many villagers has swelled no end.

She said: “Clearly it is very important to ensure that all these things are not lost because they are of such value to the local community. They tell the story of our village and our people.”

The exhibitions are open again today, and a locally-themed concert in All Saints’ Church arranged by John Ward rounds things off at 7pm.

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