Graphic: The day six Suffolk villages moved into Norfolk - and it definitely wasn’t an April Fools’ joke
PUBLISHED: 08:58 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:00 01 April 2014
It was a move that sparked opposition, outrage and even protests as the geographical and political map of the UK was changed forever.
The Local Government Act – which came into force on April, 1 1974 – resulted in a nationwide shake-up of council borders as Westminster sought to bring in a simpler system of power at a local level.
And in East Anglia it caused ramifications that are remembered to this day as Norfolk snatched six villages from Suffolk, cutting off its northern tip and wiping an ancient district from the map.
Belton, Bradwell, Burgh Castle, Hopton, Fritton and St Olaves were all Suffolk communities, lying within the confines of Lothingland Rural District Council.
But 40 years ago today they were all transferred to Norfolk to help boost population numbers for Great Yarmouth’s parliamentary constituency, while bringing income into the town, as villagers’ local rates went into Yarmouth’s coffers rather than Suffolk’s.
For Ted Howlett, who was working as a PC for Suffolk Constabulary and living in Bradwell, the shift saw his village and job move to Norfolk.
The 74-year-old was transferred to Norfolk police and spent 15 years at each force, ending his career as a sergeant in Yarmouth.
He said: “It did mean quite a lot of change and people weren’t very keen. The rates were far lower in Bradwell under Lothingland and I think people always thought they were better off in Suffolk.
“I don’t think some people ever really accepted it; Suffolk people still consider themselves as Suffolk. I still feel I’m akin to Suffolk.”
A national shake up
The Local Government Act was introduced into parliament in November 1971 and became law on April 1, 1974.
It sought to streamline local government by simplifying it to a two-tier system, that of county and district councils.
The shake-up also extended to Wales but the distribution of power was slightly different, with district councils given the option of taking on libraries – a power previously held by county councils in England.
But the act attracted criticism and objection from all over the country.
In Berkshire, a campaign was launched to return the Uffington White Horse back within the county borders, while the removal of Gatwick Airport from Surrey into West Sussex attracted fierce opposition.
The names of some new authorities created under the act also caused controversy and there was opposition from some councils about the loss of local control.
John Redrum, 60, who was born and brought up in Burgh Castle, said for residents in his village however, the boundary change made sense.
“I think we all considered ourselves Norfolk,” he added. “We were right on top of the border and to be honest by that time we never really took a lot of notice of the border changes, other than you could get your road tax in Yarmouth and didn’t have to mess around with having to go to Ipswich.”
For heritage buffs the reshuffle signalled a blow as historic Lothingland was wiped out.
David Butcher, a member of Lowestoft Heritage Centre who has lived in Corton for 43 years, said: “At the stroke of a bureaucratic pen over 1,000 years of history were wiped out. Lothingland is a very ancient district, going back to the Anglo-Saxon period.
“Many people now have no recollection that those six northern parishes were part of Suffolk, it’s a historical loss.”
The move also saw the natural geographical features that separated the counties become blurred, as the traditional border that had followed the River Waveney was altered.
Mr Butcher said: “The River Waveney, Breydon Water and Yarmouth harbour – that’s a pretty major geographical boundary that
no longer exists as far as
civic practices are concerned.
“It was done in the interests of electoral and governmental efficiency, but it didn’t always take account of local feelings.”
LOCAL HISTORY LOST
Suffolk’s loss of Belton, Bradwell, Burgh Castle, Hopton, Fritton and St Olaves was the a major shake-up in the region
under the Local Government Act.
The political change was drastic historically as it removed one third of the settlements in the Lothingland Half-hundred – an ancient Suffolk administrative unit dating back to the late Anglo-Saxon period.
It was argued at the time that the majority of people in the villages saw Great Yarmouth as their local town, so it would only be right that it take the income from local rates.
And for one of the six villages, it gained a new name as well as a new county under the changes.
Hopton became Hopton-on-Sea for the first time in history after the village was given a thin strip of coastal Corton – the remains of the former parish of Newton mostly destroyed by erosion in the 16th century – which ran up to the boundary with Gorleston.
Previous border changes in 1835 also saw Norfolk snap up Thetford, which sits both sides of the traditional Little Ouse River county border.