sign Hempstead



Long Sal
(Sarah Ann Dagless)

Long Sal c.1912
Sarah Ann Dagless (Long Sal) with one of her sons at a studio in Sheringham - c.1912

Sarah Ann Dagless or Long Sal, as she became known, due to being very tall (unproven rumour of 6ft 2ins) became somewhat of a legend thanks to the account of her time at Smokers Hole in Hempstead, along with her voiciferous dog and belligerent pony, as related by Jane Hales in 1971.
Born in Salhouse in 1868, Sarah variously lived in Salhouse, Catfield, Briston, Edgefield, Hempstead and finally Baconsthorpe.

Sarah Ann's mother, Emily Rice was the 7th child of Edmund Rice (b.1811) and Sarah (née Land) (b.1814)
Their children were:
Ann (b.1839); Edmund (b.1841; Thomas (b.1843; William (b.1845); James (b.1847); Sophia (b.1849);
Emily (b.1850); Martin (b.1853); Eliza (b.1855); Mary Ann (b.1858)

Sarah Ann's mother Emily Hubbard (née Rice) (1850-c.May 1933) was born at Rackheath/Coltishall/Horstead (as enumerated in various census listings). She gave birth to Sarah Ann on 31st October 1868 after a liaison with Thomas Hollit, it is thus believed she was probably illegitimate. The only record of Thomas Hollit found so far, is his listing as Sarah's father on her marriage certificate and only her mother's name appears on Sarah's baptism record.
Understandably, Sarah appears to have chosen to be known by her mother's name, rather than her father's.
Two years later in March 1870, aged 20, Emily married Thomas Hubbard (1848-Feb1933) at Salhouse) and thereafter Sarah Ann was sometimes also known by her stepfather's surname.

Emily and Thomas Hubbard had 8 children -
Henry (b.1872); George (1874-1962); Edward Richard (1882-1972); Emily May (b.1891); Thomas William (Salhouse 1870-1894); James Henry (Salhouse b.1873); Herbert (Horsey b.1877); Edmund (b.1883).

9th April 1848: Thomas Hubbard christened at Woodbastwick
The 1861 census records Emily Rice (aged 10) living at Salhouse

Census 1871: Thomas Hubbard (23) b.Woodbastwick, Agricultural Labourer
Emily Hubbard (21) b.Coltishall
Sarah Ann Hubbard (2) b.Salhouse
Thomas W. Hubbard (8mnths) b.Salhouse
Address: Lower Street, Salhouse (living next door to Emily's father & mother
Census 1871
Census 1881: Thomas Hubbard (33) b.Woodbastwick, Agricultural Labourer
Emily Hubbard (32) b.Rackheath
Sarah Hubbard (13) b.Salhouse
Thomas Hubbard (11) b.Salhouse, Scholar
James Henry Hubbard (8) b.Salhouse, Scholar
George Hubbard (6) b.Salhouse, Scholar
Herbert Hubbard (4) b.Horsey, Scholar
Address: Catfield Street, Catfield
Census 1881
Census 1891: Thomas Hubbard (42) b.Woodbastwick, Agricultural Labourer
Emily Hubbard (40) b.Rackheath
Sarah Hubbard (22) b.Salhouse, domestic servant
Henry Hubbard (19) b.Salhouse
George Hubbard (17) b.Salhouse
Herbert Hubbard (14) b.Horsey
Edmund Hubbard (8)
Emily Hubbard (10mnths) (christened 12th June 1890, Briston)
Address: Briston
Census 1901: Thomas Hubbard (56) b.Woodbastwick, Labourer Railway Worker
Emily Hubbard (53) b.Coltishall
Henry Hubbard (29) b.Salhouse, Labourer Railway Worker
Herbert Hubbard (24) b.Horsey, Labourer Railway Worker
Edmund Hubbard (18) b.Stanfield, Labourer Railway Worker
Emily M Hubbard (10) b.Briston
Address: West End, Briston
Census 1911: Thomas Hubbard (65) b.Woodbastwick, Farm Labourer
Emily Hubbard (63) b.Horstead
Herbert Hubbard (30) b.Horsey, Farm Labourer
Address: Edgefield Green Lane, Briston
Emily Hubbard died in Erpingham, c.May 1933 aged 83

On 23rd December 1894, Sarah's half brother, Thomas William Hubbard was killed at Briston, when he was struck by train on the Midland & Gt Northern Railway. Thomas was 24 years old.

In 1881, Sarah was living with Thomas, her mother Emily and family in Catfield. At some point in the next 9 years, the family moved to Briston.

Emily May Hubbard
Emily May Hubbard known as 'May'

Sarah had a younger sister, (Emily) May (1890-1966), who according to the back of the above photograph was described as being a rum 'un. May was born and baptized in Briston. She married Arthur Chilton (b.1887) and moved to Middlesex.

On 21st November 1859, William Dagless (b.Saxthorpe 1838 - d.Edgefield 18th January 1918) married
Elizabeth Howman-Wade ( b.14th April 1839 - d.1st December 1915).
They had a son, James Dagless, who was born in 1861.

Charles Dagless William Dagless
Charles Dagless (brother of William Dagless) 1856-1941
married Esther Ann Williamson b.1861 on 14th February 1878
Charles Dagless farmed at Dotsel, Edgefield
- c.1915
William Dagless (father of James Dagless)
farmed at Valley Farm, Edgefield
- c.1900

William Dagless' final receipts - 1918 William Dagless' funeral expenses and final accounts - 1918
William Dagless' final receipts - 1918
William Dagless' funeral expenses and final accounts - 1918

Sarah Hubbard worked as a midwife who attended women in their own homes.
She would also go to lay out the dead.
This was probably when Sarah was living in Briston.

Sarah Ann Hubbard (Long Sal) met James Dagless in Saxthorpe through her work as a midwife and after James' wife Harriet (née Chapman 1858-1893) died, Sarah moved to Edgefield to become James' housekeeper.
Sarah Ann Rice (Hubbard) subsequently married James Dagless on 15th July 1894 at Edgefield Church.
They had 6 children -
Emily Mary (Edgefield 1895-1984); Henry James (Edgefield 1899-1983); Arthur Clifford (1904-2000);
Alfred William (1907); William (b.1909); Florence Edith (b.1910).

James Dagless and his first wife Harriet (née Chapman, Edgefield 1858-1893) had 6 daughters -
Leah; Gertrude Elizabeth; Thirza Amelia; Dorothy Daisy; Nellie (b.1889); Emma Martha (b.1891).

The records for my husband's family tree show Long Sal's birth name to be Sarah Ann Rice (1868 - 1956) born in Salhouse. I have now found the marriage banns and the marriage of Sarah Ann Rice to James Dagless on Ancestry.
The Banns were called on June 10th, 17th and 24th 1894 in the parish of Edgefield.
The marriage took place on 15th July 1894 at Edgefield parish church.
The father of Sarah Ann Rice is given as Thomas Hollit.
My daughter, Judy has been to visit Heather Handley (1938) who is the last surviving child of Emily and Walter Smith.
She doesn't remember much about Smoker's Hole, but said that Long Sal was housekeeper to James Dagless after his wife died, to look after the children, before marrying and having lots more.
June Melvin - 22nd August 2020

Sarah Ann Rice (Long Sal) and James Dagless' Marriage Certificate - 15th July 1894
Sarah Ann Rice (Long Sal) and James Dagless' Marriage Certificate - 15th July 1894
James Dagless was Christened in Saxthorpe on 24th February 1861 and had 13 siblings

Census 1861: William Dagless (23) b.Saxthorpe, Agricultural Labourer
Elizabeth Dagless (42) b.Edgefield
James Dagless (4mnths) b.Saxthorpe
Address: On The Hill, Saxthorpe
Census 1861
Census 1881: William Dagless (43) b.Edgefield
Elizabeth Dagless (42) b.Edgefield
James Dagless (20) b.Saxthorpe, Bricklayer's Labourer
Harriet Dagless (16) b.Edgefield
Sarah Dagless (13) b.Edgefield
Robert Dagless (9) b.Edgefield
Alice Dagless (6) b.Edgefield
George Dagless (4) b.Edgefield
Address: Main Road, Edgefield
Register of Electors 1885-6: James Dagless, Farm house, private road to street, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1887: James Dagless, Farm house, private road to street, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1889: James Dagless, Near Norwich road, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1895: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1897: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1899: James Dagless, Chapel Street, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1900: James Dagless, Chapel Street, Edgefield
Census 1901: James Dagless (40) b.Saxthorpe, Agricultural Labourer
Sarah Ann Dagless (33) b.Salhouse
Nellie Dagless (12) b.Edgefield
Emma Martha Dagless (10) b.Edgefield
Emily Mary Dagless (5) b.Edgefield
Henry James Dagless (2) b.Edgefield
Address: Barningham Road, Edgefield
Census 1901
Register of Electors 1904: James Dagless, Chapel hill from Barningham road, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1905: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1907: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1908: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1909: James Dagless, Chapel Hill, Edgefield
Census 1911: James Dagless (50) b.Saxthorpe, Farm Labourer
Sarah Ann Dagless (43) b.Salhouse
Henry James Dagless (12) b.Edgefield, School
Arthur Clifford Dagless (6) b.Edgefield, School
Alfred William Dagless (4) b.Edgefield
William Dagless (2) b.Edgefield
Florence Edith Dagless (1) b.Edgefield
Address: Ramsgate Street, Edgefield
Census 1911

Register of Electors 1912: James Dagless, Ramsgate Street, Edgefield

Register of Electors 1914: James Dagless, Ramsgate Street, Edgefield

Sarah Ann and James Dagless went on to have 8 children -
Emily Mary (Edgefield 1895-1984); Henry James (Edgefield 1899-1983); Florence Edith (1901-1902)
Arthur Clifford (1904-2000); Alfred William (1906-1982); William (b.1909); Florence Edith (b.1910); Eliza.

Little is currently known of Sarah's and James life between 1914 when they were living in Edgefield and when they moved to one of the two cottages at Smokers Hole in Hempstead, where they certainly were in the 1930s.

Hempstead_Hall_watermill is one of the lost mills of Norfolk and has completely disappeared except for some traces of brickwork. However, it was once there in a place known as Smokers_Hole, a smugglers' haunt and the two semi-detached single storey cottages next to it were called Mill Cottages. Sadly, the cottages have also disappeared save for some low walls of brick and flintwork. Earlier maps show the cottages as Mill House, which was split into two cottages at a later date.

Smokers_Hole, according to local historian Jane Hales, referred to a depot or rendezvous used by smugglers in the process of moving their contraband inland as fast as possible. In William Newman's book of 1728, three buildings are shown on the site, one of which could well have been a barn.

29th September 2002
Track to the Mill cottages - 29th September 2002


29th September 2002

29th September 2002
29th September 2002
The old brickworkof the mill is on the left

During the early years of the war, the army used the area for practicing working with incendiary bombs and the site became unsafe due unexploded devices, one of which was found in 2008. After the war the cottages gradually became derelict and eventually collapsed.

29th September 2002 More old brickwork on the nearside bank
29th September 2002
More old brickwork on the nearside bank

The poem below referring to Smokers Hole and its inhabitants is sadly undated

Good Friday

Dear Mother
I hope you sometimes remember
The happy week we spent with you last September
We arranged to leave the street called Great Titchfield
For a short time, and pay you a visit at Edgefield
Jenny Harriet Jack and I left London that wondrous City
Strange mixture of wealth and objects of pity.
We travelled to Norwich by the Great Eastern Rail
Very fast travelling compared with the old Mail.
We arrived at Norwich met Sarah at the Station
But missing our carpet bag put us in a consternation
We went back at 9.P.M. to see if they had recovered it
And were gratified to find that at Wymondham they had discovered it.
We found a lodging comfortable and clean
Near the Market Place at a house kept by Mr. Dean
Harriet slept at Mrs. Bennetts who kept a dairy
And she was very kindly treated her with the children of Mary.
An ancient City is Norwich and famous for manufacture of shawl
From London Street Norwich to London St Pauls
We went to see the Castle a building of great antiquity
From castle Hill you have a good view of the City
In days of yore the Castle height
Was the scene of many a gallant fight
We saw the statue of Nelson non more famed in English History
He was born at Thorpe and fell at Trafalgar board the Victory.
I saw Mr.Wyndham start for Cromer with Coach and Team
Some think him mad others that he is very green
But mad or green a good coachman is Wyndham
And the Coach and Team was a credit to the proprietor Mr. Bingham.
We visited the Cathedral and took tea with Sarah on Sunday
And got ready to start the first thing on the Monday.
When Gent had got his goods safe carted
We mounted inside all very light hearted.
At Nine we started in the cart of the carrier
Determined in Norwich no longer to tarry here
An odd collection there was in that three-horse van
With Gent the driver he was such a noisy man
How he shouted come you back to anyone ahead
And we had many a laugh at the funny things he said
Jack sat in the front with the driver close together
On the other side was a man with lots of leather
The rest of us inside on boxes quite snug
To soften the seat I used a railway rug.
An odder lot together one very seldom sees
Bacon and boxes and parcels of groceries
There were three youngsters without any cares
Three men three women on the top were some chairs

When Gent delivered his parcels we had some fun
For we whipped up his horses and made him run.
A pleasant ride we had there were lots to be seen
The country around looked beautiful and green
Comfortable farm houses meadows dotted with cows
And fine Norfolk horses drawing the ploughs
Fruit trees and hawthorn and fields of clover
While old oaks and elms the road arched over
In the corn stubble we heard the report of the gun
The September shooting had just begun
Some with the gun acquire great fame
But those gentlemen were only shooting for game
Dividing Copstone from Saxthorpe as a clear running brook
I guess the horses were pleased when the water they took
We stopped at Saxthorpe Castle to have some ale
And to do justice to the Governors hospitality we did not fail
The Carrier had brought us eighteen miles from Norwich
So he took his horses in the stable to give them some forage
When the horses were sated for home we were bent
So we bade aunt farewell and away we went
Oh well I remember when set down by Gent
And Harriet and Jack for the cart were sent
The rest of us stopped with our luggage at the top of the lane
And the first to meet us came Emma and Jane
Next Father who gave us a welcome so warm and so hearty
I felt happy that I was one of the party
Then back came Jack the young monkey
Up in the cart whipping up the poor donkey
We soon arrived at the home of Farmer Bacon
If it is not a happy one I am much mistaken
We reached the cottage about half past three
And Jenny soon got us a nice cup of tea
Tis a neat little Cottage with a blue tiled roof
From hail rain and snow may it long be proof
We had got over the journey so quick and so well
And the joy of the meeting is more than I can tell
As soon as I entered I began to look round
There was something to eat I very soon found
When I saw the table how I opened my eyes
Hungry we were so we soon eat up the pies
For me it was surprise and delight
To see the stairs so clean and so white
The cool little dairy so neat and so trim
And the pans with new milk filled to the brim
We had the run of the garden which did me just suit
For apples were plentiful and they are my favourite fruit
Tis pleasant in the morning to hear the song of the lark
Or form a circle round the fire after dark
Father looked happy as opposite you he sat
And mother you looked contented and fat

Then Sarah the little one nursing the baby so good
She looked quite motherly as she gave it some food
Next Harriet making us laugh with her double share of clack
The Jane and Emma of course between them sat Jack
Then Jenny a dutiful daughter the same
Although at Church she had altered her name
With my beloved wife at my side
Down the stream of life I hope smoothly to glide
What happiness once more to visit childhood's home
When destined so far from you to roam
Tired I was so I retired to rest soon
Up the white stairs to my little bedroom
For remember the proverb, Early to bed early to rise
Makes a man healthy wealthy and wise
On Tuesday I was woke up at early morn
By the steam engine thrashing Mr. Stratten's corn
Mr. Stratten is a fine specimen of an English Yeoman
With an army like him we could thrash any foeman
We went into see it for an engine is always an attraction
I hope the produce turned out to Mr. S's satisfaction
In the afternoon we went to see Cousin Hutton
And we had some fun bringing home the mutton
Cousin made us tea and with good things spread the table
We were all very merry for they made us comfortable
On Wednesday we went to Holt over the Hill
The remembrance of it is with me still
When we looked back how Harriet and I halloed
As up the hill she with you followed
On our return we called at Alcock's had a warm by the fire
It wa so cold out of doors I was loath to retire
Corner of Holt Heath we found Wright waiting in the fog
To guide us to Smokers Hole without getting in a bog
Mrs. Wright made us tea and gave us some mead
I wish I had some just now I do indeed
Thursday Morning I went in the backhouse to see you churning
When Mrs. Williamson called I kept the machine turning
We went for a ramble across the Green and through the Wood
Where Jenny had passed many days of childhood
We sat down for a rest upon a stile
And I from my love won many a smile
We talked of the well known Norfolk so sad
Of the Children so good and the Uncle so bad
Who to get them their money wanted them assassinated
I cannot vouch for the truth but so it is stated
Two ruffians took them to a wood one slew the other then the children did forsake
He promised to return and bring each a slice of cake
But he never went back but left them to their fate and so
They died in the wood and were buried by Robins and Co.
Back to dinner we had Norfolk dumplings so nice
And for breakfast next Morn we each had a slice

After did we went to Church with its Chancel so quaint
Can you tell me Mother if it's dedicated to a saint
The interior looked pretty with the floral decoration
To Mrs Marcon and Sister it must have been a gratification
To Mr Marcon the Rector we all did look
As he read the prayers from the Good Book
The Sermon was preached by the Vicar of Briston
While the congregation with attention did listen
He said the bountiful harvest was a source of congratulation
And if we put faith in the Lord we should ne'er be forsaken
After Church I walked to the Green with Jenny and Sarah
Tis a pretty Village Green I have seldom seen fairer
There was a pond for the ducks and a school in the centre
With a small Gothic door for the children to enter
We had a gossip with some of the old folk
And gathered in the evening round the fire to have a joke
About Jimmy the fat boy eating till no more he could cram
For his Granny had helped him so plentifully to bread and jam
And Jack riding the donkey till he could ride no more
A(t) the absence of a saddle he had got rather sore
We all ran away from the supper table
To see Jenny milk the cow in the stable
On Friday I went to the Sea-side at Cley
Avery pleasant walk it was all the way
Tis refreshing to ramble on the sand
To any one fresh from Cockney land I bought home some starfish I found on the beach
But not a vessel was there to be seen as far as the eye could reach
On my return I overtook Father and Jack
He looked a young keeper with the rabbits on his back
When we reached home he talked as we sat round the fire
About going out shooting with Alcock and the Squire
His tongue ran on and he seemed so merry
The Squire he told us had given him some sherry
Jane and Jack went to Broughtons who kept the White Horse
For at supper we wanted some ale of course
As they came back they thought they saw a phantom
For in the middle of the road Harriet had put a lantern
After supper I thought to set you all wondering
But the sharp eyes of Emma baffled my conjuring
Too soon came the time to return so we departed
One and all great and small very down hearted
We bade adieu to Norfolk famous for turkeys and punch
Meat and drink fit for a Prince for dinner and lunch
With sincere thanks to all friends for their kind hospitality
So agreeable because it was devoid of formality
I never enjoyed a trip in my life
As the one down home with my dear wife
For a trip down home if we have fine weather
Is a jolly sort of thing when we be all together
I finish by telling you we are all well in London
And with our united loves I remain your
Affectionate Son John

Jenny has just reminded me to say
We wish you many happy returns of the day

My mother mentioned I did not list Sarah and James' other children; Henry James born 1899, Arthur Clifford born 1904, Alfred William born 1907, William born 1909. I think William was the 'lovely little boy' my grandmother used to speak of who died as an infant. There seems to be a Florence Edith born 1910 and I'm wondering if the same thing happened with her as we had never heard of my grandmother having any full sisters.
Andrea Cooke - 23rd August 2020

'Long Sal' of Jane Hales fame was my father's maternal grandmother. Her name was Sarah Dagless, née Rice. She was married to James Dagless. We do not know quite when they moved from Edgefield to live in one of the Smokers' Hole cottages. My father often described the Sunday afternoon family visits there which took place when he was a child in the thirties.
Water was got from the stream but my father described it as coming out of a spring in the the bank and ablutions were performed outside.
James Dagless was a woodsman and carried out coppicing work and made hurdles. He died in 1939 and Sarah left some time during the war, probably when they started using the area for military purposes. My mother remembers talk of the family in the other cottage, the Thurgartons? Sarah drove a pony cart to visit her daughter's family at Baconsthorpe and would sometimes take her grandchildren to the seaside at Sheringham. She ended her days at Baconsthorpe.
My parents visited the cottage site when there were still walls existing that you could step inside. They said it was extremely small. When my grandparents were without a home they went to live at Smokers, with a young baby, and we think they stayed a few years, till after their second child was born. How they all fitted in is a mystery.
I never worked out exactly where Smokers was, but knew there was nothing much left to mark the place where my great-grandparents lived. Thanks to my grandmother and fathers' tales though, it has always been and always will remain in my imagination as a place quite magical.

Andrea Cooke - 9th July 2020

My husband's grandmother was born Emily Mary Dagless in Erpingham (1895 - 1982) her mother was Sarah Ann Rice (1868 - 1956) she married James Dagless from Saxthorpe. My husband can remember his great-grandmother as being very tall.
June Melvin - 10th July 2020

James Dagless James Dagless c.1937
James Dagless outside the Mill Cottages
at Smokers Hole - c.1932
James Dagless in the garden of Walter and Emily Smith's larger house in Baconsthorpe - c.1937

Sarah Ann Dagless - Long Sal c.1932 Picnic near Smokers Hole - c.1932
Sarah Ann Dagless
(Long Sal) c.1932
Picnic near Smokers Hole - c.1932
Front left to right - Sarah Dagless, Emily Smith (daughter),
Walter Smith (husband)
Frederick Smith (their son), Henry, Peter (b.1928), James Dagless - far right
Family at the back - unknown

My late Granny, May Ellis lived nearby at Valley Farm. I was always told Long Sally was very tall and regularly drove her horse and cart along the lane (now a muddy path) up to the Norwich Road. Her house at Smokers Hole got taken over by the army in WWII and was used for target practice.
Sarah Hurry - 10th July 2020

O. S. Map 1885
O. S. Map 1885
showing the track leading from Smokers Hole, (Mill House) up the steep hill to the Holt - Norwich Road

Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1886
O. S. Map 1886
Mill House Lane leading from Hempstead Hall to the mill
The section of track running through the woods had a steep incli
The original course of the Glaven following the parish boundary can be seen to the west of the present and straighter course

Courtesy of NLS map images

Tracks map 1905
O. S. Map 1905
showing the tracks leading from Smokers Hole, up to the Baconsthorpe Road and also across to Hempstead village

Courtesy of NLS map images

Mill track - 3rd Aug2020 Mill track - 3rd Aug2020
The track wall with the later barbed wire fence line is in the foreground with
the paved track running parallel and a drainage area between - 3rd August 2020
The substantial track cut into the hill clearly visible - 3rd August 2020

In order to access Hempstead Hall Farm, which probably supplied the mill with corn, nother track was constructed that cut through the hill leaving a small southern hill area that became known as Split Hills. The track through what is now the wooded area is steep and any horse with a cart would have had a difficult time in either direction. Once up the hill and onto Mill House Lane, the track immediately levelled out before going down the more gentle slope to the Hall.
The footpath that connects Mill House Lane and Clamp Lane that leads directly into Hempstead was also used by horses and carts to access the village. Indeed, Long Sal would travel that way on occasions.

22nd August 2020 Clamp Lane
Mill House Lane running through the wood just above and looking towards Smokers Hole track
22nd August
Clamp Lane running beside Church Farm, looking towards Smokers Hole - 31st July 2020

It is the Selbrigg_Pond that is the main source of the Glaven. It was made as a decoy in the opening years of the last century. Nearby, the great Hempstead woods were felled in the last war, and replanted by the Forestry Commission with dark conifers. They stretch along the Glaven valley to the first_mill by the Hempstead-Holt road. Below the mill, the stream flows through wet meadows, the boundary between Hempstead and Holt, to Smokers Hole, where there are the ruins of another very old mill house. In it lived Long Sall, all alone. She had to leave during the war because the explosions, made by the soldiers on the adjoining common of Holt Lows, threatened to tumble down her house.
Jane Hales, Looking at Norfolk - October 1971

Less than a mile and a half from the busy little town, which is thronged with people from the villages on a Saturday afternoon, and the sides of the Street are stiff with cars, is that secluded spot called Smokers Hole. Once there were two ways of approach - down the common land, by a bridge over the stream, or by a well-worn path, in a fold of heath, leading off the main Norwich road. Both paths brought one to the long meadow, sheltered on the north by the slopes of the Common, and on the south by rising woods and fields. Here was a cottage by the bridge. ln it lived a family of children, but the meadow was also a playground for many from the town. It was not strictly public property, but nobody was turned off. Men went there fishing, some tickled trout, children paddled or even bathed by the bridge. Boys from the Grammar School blocked the flow of the stream, and increased the depth, for their steeplchases.
Here, too, came sheep, to be dipped, each frightened animal being thrust in to emerge in a rush on the other side. The place was full of excitements. There were brown butterflies about ; one could gather water-cress or water-lilies, amid an overall scent of water-mint. Years before there had been a mill here ; even modern ordnance maps mark the cottage “Mill House” and show “Mill Lane”. Faden's map of 1798 calls the stream “The Hempstead Beck”, not the Glaven, by which name it is now dignified. Last century, Volunteers came to practice shooting here, and lay down in their scarlet and blue uniforms on the damp grass.
Later on the cottage was occupied by a widow called Long Sal. She had a dog which barked wildly when anybody was nigh, and a pony which she harnessed to a high cart, and drove up to the town once or twice a week.
“That may be a bit lonely, but that's home when you get back”, said Long Sal. She had also a gander, which had been a pet, and had been given to her so that it might live out its old age in that highly suitable spot. “When I go for a bit o' kindling, he come an' all”, said Sal, “and that's not a bit o' good hushin' him back, acause he don't pay no regard.” But some time after that, she was callous enough to contemplate making meal out of the bird. In this she was disappointed, for though she boiled the carcase for hours, the flesh remained tough as leather. Long Sal had a son who went away to serve as a soldier in the Great War, “Along way off, yin side o’ Norwich.”

At length total war penetrated even Smokers Hole. There were soldiers on the Common, practising with nefarious weapons. Loud explosions sounded in the valley ; the walls of the cottage trembled. Woods were falling flat, as trees were felled for the nation's need. There was sorry desolation side abroad.
Then, one November day Long Sal saw an officer approaching, with a paper in his hand. He told her it was no longer safe to stay in Smokers Hole, and she must go elsewhere. So the widow got together her few belongings, and someone “moved”' her to Baconsthorpe, where she had a good house in the village. But she was not happy there, she longed for the freedom and quiet of her old home, to which she never returned.

More than twenty years passed, and Smokers Hole was almost a forgotten place, no longer visited by company from the town. The path over the Common had disappeared in a tangle of birch thicket, and the opening to the path on the Norwich road was concealed by a growth of young conifers. Suspecting that the way to Smokers Hole was altogether grown over with bracken and heather, I put on my slush boots for protection against adders, and began struggling through trees and undergrowth. Suddenly the old well-worn path, along which Long Sal had driven her pony and cart, opened up before me. ln its old style, it ran downwards to the little wood at the bottom of the valley, where some cypresses had been planted, an incongruous sight in that well-remembered setting.
The gate beyond the wood was padlocked. Inside the meadow some electric pylons strode across the meadow. There had been cattle here, and someone had been cutting the rough herbage into swaithes. The stream flowed between clean cut banks ; there were no water-lilies, no water-cress, but a single brown butterfly was on the wing. The ruins of the cott age were almost hidden by undergrowth, and the fruit trees behind were naked and dead. Smokers Hole was no longer a home and a pleasure ground, but a place of sombre utility. It must not be idle longer, but made to take a part in the economic scheme. Change in the country is so often for the worse, but memory survives change ; shut the eyes, and there is the delicious meadow, full as ever with life and colour and enchantment.
Jane Hales, Looking at Norfolk - October 1971

Henry James Dagless joined the army and served overseas in the Norfolk Regiment.
He was enrolled on 9th November 1915 aged 16 and was discharged in 1919 aged 20 due to unspecified sickness, possibly malaria. In October 1918, Henry was moved from a hospital in Haifa to one in Alexandria before coming home.
Henry's war record states that he was 22 at the time of his discharge so it's possible that he lied about his age.

Emily Mary Dagless - c.1917 Emily Mary Smith at Smokers Hole - c.1935
Emily Mary Dagless - c.1916
Emily Mary Smith at Smokers Hole - c.1930

Emily Mary Dagless - c.1917
Walter Smith - c.1917

Walter Smith (1894 - 1971) lived in Baconsthorpe. During WWl he joined the 10th Essex Regiment. It was said that while in a trench on the Somme, a mortar bomb exploded next to him and he was buried alive except for his hand. Luckily someone saw his hand moving and he was rescued but very badly injured in the leg from shrapnel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

Walter Smith c.1918 Walter Smith c.1918
Lance Corporal Walter Smith recuperating from his leg injury
at West Bridgeford Military Hospital, Nottingham

Walter Smith's brother Henry John Smith (1898 - 1917) also lived in Baconsthorpe. During WWl he joined the Duke of Cambridge Own Middlesex Regiment and was killed at Ypres, Flanders in 1917.

Sarah and James Dagless' daughter Emily Mary married Walter Smith in 1919 and they had seven children -
Henry James (b.1920), Edith Mary 'Mattie' (b.1924), Frederick Walter (b.1926)
Peter John 'Scrubby' (b.1928), Raymond Edwin 'Jimmy' (b.1932), Winifred May (b.1936) and Heather Anne (b.1938).

Walter Smith with his eldest son Henry at Smokers Hole - 1920 Emily Mary Smith at Smokers Hole - c.1935
Walter Smith with his eldest son Henry, at Smokers Hole - 1920
Emily Mary Smith at Smokers Hole - c.1930

I believe Walter Smith began as a gardener.  After being badly injured in WW1 he was left with a limp as one leg was "dead". He was rehabilitated to do carpentry and I think this is what he mainly did thereafter. He worked on airfields where a lot of building went on for WW2
Andrea Cooke - 22nd July 2020

Walter Smith also worked as a carpenter and probably helped with the construction of Matlaske Airfield. After the war he worked at Greshams School in Holt.

The Lodge, Baconsthorpe - c.1922
Walter Smith's parents' house - The Lodge, Baconsthorpe - c.1922
left to right - Thomas Smith (Walter's father) holding Walter's son Henry,
? lady, ? man, Emily Mary Smith, Walter Smith

Walter Smith - c.1923
Walter Smith - c.1923

Long Sal with Henry and Mattie Smith Walter Smith with Frederick and Peter
Long Sal with Henry and Mattie Smith
at Sheringham beach - c.1926

Walter Smith with Frederick and Peter
at Baconsthorpe - c.1932

Emily-Walter Smith c.1932
Emily Mary Smith (Long Sal's daughter)
with husband Walter Smith at Smokers Hole - c.1932

Lots of the tales involved 'Granny's old pony'. It had a mind of its own and would sometimes bolt home before Sarah could get into the cart, from Baconsthorpe to Smokers. When she got home by some lift or other it would be waiting at the gate to its field, unable to get through. According to some who drove it, it always turned into The Feathers in Holt! It eventually kicked out the bottom of the cart and a new one was acquired. Eventually the pony was replaced too, and its successor proved just as intractable. Neither of them had a name.
Andrea Cooke - 26th August 2020

Sarah Daglass in Baconsthorp Emily & Walter Smith outside their house in Baconsthorpe
Sarah Dagless in Baconsthorpe preparing to go to Sheringham
with grandchildren Edith Mary, Peter John and Frederick Walter Smith
- c.1932
Emily & Walter Smith outside their house in Baconsthorpe
with Peter (b.1928) Frederick (b.1926) and young Raymond (b.1932)
- 1933

Above location - 22nd July 2020
Above location - 22nd July 2020

In the pony-cart are my father [Frederick] and two of his siblings. They are getting ready to go on a trip to Sheringham. The pony would be taken into the stable at the Robin Hood pub, my father told me. Their grandmother would tell them to stay where they were and go into the pub where they would see her at the bar.
Long Sal was very tall, reportedly six foot two and rather manly - but this may well be exaggeration. Her husband was a small man. My mother remembers visiting her in her old age and also recalls awaiting the return of the family after her funeral.
Sarah worked as a midwife who attended women in their own homes. She would also go to lay out the dead. She met James Dagless when she went to attend his first wife as midwife. The couple already had several children. Then when his wife died she married James and they had my grandmother Emily and several other children. 

Andrea Cooke - 14th July 2020

1904 map
1904 map of Baconsthorpe Street showing where the pony and trap were standing
Courtesy of NLS map images

The photo (of the pony & trap) is taken by the garden wall of the White House, home of Jake Moncur. I can remember when there was another cottage beside the small one at the top of Daphne Allards drive. This was demolished along with the barn behind, which can be seen in the photo. This was done I think in the early 70’s to make way for a Danish type circular piggery, which were fashionable at the time.  This building didn't last very long because the smells, so close to the houses, was too much for the residents close by. In those days farmers could put up buildings where they liked. In exchange for taking down the building Harry (Allard) was given permission to build the house behind the row on the road.
Richard Youngs - 15th July 2020

Postcard 1939 Postcard 1939
Postcard sent by Emily Mary Smith (née Dagless) to her son Ray (James) at Smokers 'Place' - 14th May 1939

Henry James Smith served in the RAF during WWll and Frederick Walter Smith joined the army and saw active service during the latter stages of the war.

Polly Dagless
Polly Dagless - 1923

Sarah's son Arthur Clifford Dagless married Mary Ann Doy in 1925. Arthur Clifford was known as Cliffy and worked as a gamekeeper, living at Keeper's Cottage, Hillington, Norfolk. Mary Ann, known as Polly was born in Holt in 1900 and died in Wellingborough in 1987.

My Mum said the house wasn't destroyed by the army - it just fell down soon after the war. It was a wonder Long Sally wasn't killed though as she just drove her pony very close to the firing. Teddy Jones lived there after Long Sally.
Sarah Hurry - 10th July 2020

29th Sept 2002 21st March 2020
One remaining wall of the Mill Cottages
29th Sept 2002
21st March 2020

21st March 2020 21st March 2020
Cottages wall with river beyond - 21st March 2020
Mill House - later two cottages, interior - 21st March 2020

21st March 2020 21st March 2020
Mill race - 21st March 2020
Mill remains - 21st March 2020

Pottery remains found on site - 29th March 2020
Pottery remains found on site - 29th March 2020

Smokers Hole - River Glaven and gable end of Mill Cottage - 24th July 2020
Smokers Hole - River Glaven and gable end of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020

Gable end remains of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020 Mill Cottage south wall remains - 24th July 2020

Gable end remains of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020

Mill Cottage south wall remains - 24th July 2020

Sarah Ann Daglass (Long Sal) - c.1950 Sarah Ann Dagless - c.1954
Sarah Ann Dagless (Long Sal) in the garden of Walter and Emily Smith's larger house in Baconsthorpe - c.1950
Sarah Ann Dagless (Long Sal) in the garden of Walter and Emily Smith's larger house in Baconsthorpe - c.1954

Long Sal family Sarah Ann and half sister May in Gt Yarmouth - c.1952
left-right back
Emily Mary Dagless, Sarah Ann Dagless, Edith Mary Melvin née Smith
left-right front
Heather Smith, John Melvin (1946-2012), Winne Smith
Outside Emily House - 1947
Sarah Ann and half sister May in Gt Yarmouth - c.1952

When my husband was about 4, he remembers that he and his twin brother went with their mother (Edith Mary Melvin) every morning to Long Sal's council bungalow with an electric kettle as, she didn't have one. Their mother made her tea and gave her breakfast. Then one morning she told the two boys to wait outside, because Long Sal had died!
June Melvin - 18th July 2020

My mother told me she had suddenly remembered very vividly seeing Sarah in her coffin! In the days before the funeral the coffin was laid in my grandparents' (Emily and Walter) front room and my grandmother assumed my mother would like to view her dead mother and remarked how lovely and peaceful she looked but my mother thought she just looked dead. She was not struck by the coffin looking extra long, apparently.
Emily and Walter lived in that demolished cottage! Hence the pony-cart is parked there just beside it. The cottage was very small. They moved to live in a big house down the other end of the road, probably in 1935.
Since happening upon your website I seem to have fallen ever deeper into the haunting spell of Smokers Hole!  It seems now such a simple and peaceful way of life. Then one remembers that they had the Great War to contend with and another equally terrible one before them. (Emily's husband was wounded at Ypres and one of his brothers killed, though I don't think Sarah's sons were old enough to be involved.)

Andrea Cooke - 15th July 2020

My gt grandmother, Blanch Dagless lived at Great Yard, Saxthorpe and she told my mother that there was a big turnout for Long Sal's funeral and a special long coffin was made for her.
Holly Thompson - 13th July 202

Grave of James & Sarah Ann (Long Sal) Dagless in Edgefield Churchyard
Grave of James & Sarah Ann (Long Sal) Dagless in Edgefield Churchyard
10th July 2020


DIED 20TH JANY 1956,

I only remember seeing Long Sally once. She was with another woman in her (Sally’s) pony trap coming up the Loke beside Church Farm from Smoker’s Hole.
I knew her residence, of course. This was before 1939.

Diana Spalton - 18th July 2020

Emily and Walters' house is opposite the junction where a road goes up in the direction of the old hall/castle. [Baconsthorpe Castle] It had no name when they lived there but the people who bought it afterwards called it Emily House after my grandmother. Behind there was a large garden, an orchard, a meadow and a yard surrounded by outbuildings;  huge barn and carpenters' shop with loft, stable, and much much more (though when I first knew it there was still no indoor toilet). It was built by a builder. He left his accounts book behind which made fascinating reading. It was a big step up for the family when they moved from what was always referred to as the "little house" to the big house.
Andrea Cooke - 22nd July 2020

Emily House - 22nd July 2020 Emily House - 22nd July 2020
Emily House - 22nd July 2020

Heather. Jimmy and Wyn Smith c.1945
Heather. Jimmy (Ray) and Winnie Smith

Edith Mary (Matty) Smith - c.1933 Edith Mary Smith (1924-1984) with mother Emily Mary Smith (1895-1982
Edith Mary (Matty) Smith - c.1933
Edith Mary Smith (1924-1984) with mother Emily Mary Smith (1895-1982

Edith Mary Melvin (née Smith)'s sons at Emily House, Baconsthorpe
Edith Mary Melvin (née Smith)'s sons at Emily House, Baconsthorpe

The above photo was taken in Emily and Walter Smith's garden at Baconsthorpe, in about 1960. They are Long Sal's great grandsons, the Melvin boys. At the back John (left) and Peter (right) the twins Tom and Charlie at the front. Grannie Smith always called them both TommyCharlie as they were identical. My husband is one of the twins, but not sure which!
June Melvin - 28th July 2020

I have a family connection with Long Sal. She was stepmother to my great grandmother Thirza Amelia Dagless.
Shirley Strohm - 31st August 2020

Long Sal and James Dagless are the great grandparents of my husband, Tom Melvin. James Dagless had a lot of children with his first wife Harriet Chapman and then Sarah Ann Rice (Long Sal). There are a lot of their descendants still in Norfolk.
June Melvin - 31st August 2020

31st October 1868: Sarah Ann Rice born

Census 1871: Sarah Ann Rice living at Salhouse

Census 1881: Sarah Ann Rice living at Catfield

Census 1891: Sarah Ann Rice living at Briston

15th July 1894: Sarah Ann Rice married James Dagless

Census 1901: Sarah Ann Dagless living at Edgefield

Census 1891: Sarah Ann Dagless living at Edgefield

Census 1921: James & Sarah Dagless, Smokers Place

1932: James & Sarah (Long Sal) Dagless, Smokers Hole

26th April 1939: James Dagless died

Register of Electors 1939: Sarah A Daglass, Smokers Place Cottage

Register of England & Wales
29th September 1939:
Sarah A Dagless (70) Widowed, Unpaid Domestic Duties,
Smokers Place Cottage, Erpingham

c.1943: Sarah Dagless left Smokers Hole on orders from the army, to live in Baconsthorpe

20th Jan 1956: Sarah Ann Dagless (Long Sal) died and was buried in Edgefield churchyard

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

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