Many are the changes that have taken place in Watton since I was a boy and although most of them have improved the character of the town, or provided it with modern amenities there is one thing I have always felt rather sad about. This was the removal of our ancient town pump situated in a place of honour in front of the clock tower. Unlike most village pumps that were operated by a long iron handle heavily weighted at the lower end, being lifted up and down, our pump was unique as it had a circular wheel with a short handle attached to it at an angle of 90 degrees. To obtain a supply of water this handle had to be rotated in a circular motion whereupon the water came out of the curved spout and into a bucket placed beneath it. Any water that overflowed was channelled down to the roadside into a drinking trough (or passing cattle on their way to the market and for the tradesmen's horses. The pump was protected on three sides by sturdy oak posts and iron railings and all were demolished in the week commencing September 13th 1948. I was not alone in feeling sorry to see the old pump go as it had served both man and animal faithfully for many generations and it never failed them, even in the worst periods of drought. It was a familiar landmark in our small town and today it would have been an immense tourist attraction that could well have bought increased trade to the town. Until the town was connected to the mains supply in the 1930's most of the residents living near the town centre had to get their water from this source.
A favourite game for children was for one of them to jump onto the horizontal handle and balance himself over it on his tummy, a friend would then turn the handle at a steady speed to give him a thrilling circular ride. With the clock conveniently situated above the pump these rides were usually timed to last two minutes; then it was the turn of the next boy, or girl, as the case may have been. During these joy rides one always had to keep a sharp look out for Police Inspector Earle with his cane, but at least these escapades ensured that the cattle trough was always full.
When helping to form a barricade of sand-bags around the Police Station in September 1939, I was speaking to Police Inspector Brunson when a young sandy-haired lad of about eight went past and the Inspector had a little chat with him. Turning to me again as the lad was leaving, he asked if I knew him and I replied that I did not. The Inspector then said, "I'll tell you a little tale about him". He has not lived in Watton long, but every Wednesday lunch time you will see him at the market, taking a keen interest in all the animals. During the recent school holidays I saw him looking at the few goats for sale, so I said to him, "Do you like them sonny", whereupon he replied, "Yes, I would like to have that one, pointing to a young one". I told him that I also liked that one. An hour or so later the police station bell rang and when a constable answered it, a young lad said, "Please could I see the Inspec tor". When I went to the door, there stood this lad with a goat who said' "Please sir, I have bought you the goat that you liked". Asked how much he paid for it, he replied 1/6 (7'/.p). Well sonny, that was good of you to buy it for me, but as I have no where to keep it and you also said you liked it, here's 2/6, now take it home and look after it. The Inspector went on to say, "That boy will go a long way". How right he was. Have you guessed? His name was Noel Abel.