There were usually one or two lady magistrates on the Bench and in those days what we now call four letter words were not a regular feature of conversation in polite society, and certainly never in mixed company. If, therefore, there was a case before the Court of using obscene language on the public highway or insulting language to a police officer there was a genuine desire that embarrassment should be avoided. The prosecuting officer would say to the police witness "Will you please tell the Court exactly what the defendant said to you". The witness would then write down, in full "The defendant called me a ————— old —————" and the folded piece of paper would be passed to the. male magistrates only, thus ensuring that the laws of evidence were observed and matronly blushes spared.
It was only on very rare occasions that a prison sentence was given at Watton Court and in circumstances where this was even a possibility the case was heard and completed early in the day. This was necessary because there were no squads of police cars available and, after sentence, there remained the physical problem of transferring the unfortunate miscreant from Wayland Hall to Norwich Prison on Mousehold. After sentence the prisoner would be walked to the old police station where he was given a mug of tea, and could have a meal, if he could eat it. Next a walk to the railway station to catch a train for Thetford, change at Thetford for Norwich Thorpe and a long walk down the Riverside to the prison gates. All this had to be accomplished within a time table which would enable the police escort to catch the trains necessary to arrive back in Watton the same evening.
As he sat in his lonely cell our new apprentice convict might well feel that there is some element of adding insult to injury about the whole procedure because in the event of guilty verdicts it was not unusual to add a rider "with costs against the defendant", and he could find himself debited with the cost of the train rides, single for himself, return for his escort. During escort duties of this kind handcuffs were very seldom used because the combined effect of the close proximity of a large policeman, and shock were usually enough to curb any tendency to run away.
Among its many other functions the Wayland Hall has been the venue for celebrations to welcome Watton Servicemen back from the wars. Young men took a light-hearted view of going to war, and many were the jokers who said "We'll make the Germans run — after us", and when conscription came in during the First World War joined in the ditty of the day,
"Take my father and my mother, Take my sister and my brother, But for Gawd's sake don't take me."
But when the call came they were quick to the colours. As the names on the Dereham Road War Memorial testify, many Watton grandads and great-grandads fell on the poppy fields of Flanders. During the Second World War Watton men served in every branch of the armed forces. Sadly, some did not come back, and of those who returned not all escaped unscathed. The local Territorial Unit was part of the Royal Norfolk Regiment which was overrun at Singapore, and there are men living amongst us now who will never be free from the ill effects of life in the Japanese prison camps or on the notorious railway of death.