The seeds for this book were sown in the winter of 1971. After showing my illustrated programme of "Breckland Through the Ages" to a small group of friends, I concluded by putting on a few slides of "Old Watton".
This gave George Adcock the idea that we should collect as many old photographs of the town as we could and reproduce them into slides to make an illustrated programme of "Watton Through the Ages". A letter in the Thetford & Watton Times appealing for the loan of any interesting photographs of Watton brought an overwhelming response, some even being received from Canada.
It took 16 months of my spare time to sort out. reproduce the best, and compile the programme. Finally, the first showing was given on March 20th 1973. 450 tickets were sold within a fortnight and with so many people being disappointed in being unable to obtain one, the programme was repeated six months later. It has now been shown five times with all the proceeds going to local charities. Many people who saw it, suggested that I should put it into book form and this I decided I would do when I retired. But then I found that writing articles, lecturing, leading nature excursions, giving commentaries to coach parties and maintaining a large garden, took up all my time. However, I decided to start writing the book last autumn, after having to give up gardening.
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the dates and other information, but in some cases different dates are shown for various events in old publications, the Great Fire of Watton being one of them. I had always read that this occurred on Saturday 25th April 1673, but when researching I came across a statement saying this date was incorrect and that the year was 1674.
To everyone who purchases a copy of this book, I hope that it will give them much pleasure and recall many happy times spent in the town. I would also like to say "Thank You" for supporting two worthy causes. The construction of an up-to-date swimming pool should prove a great asset to the town, especially to the younger generation. The Minibus service has proved its worth since its inauguration but still needs more money to maintain it.
Two thirds of any profit made from the sale of this book will be given to the Loch Neaton Swimming Pool Fund and one third to the Minibus Fund.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me in any way to produce this book, especially the staff of Watton Library, Norwich Central Library, Colman Rye Library, Norfolk Record Office, Eastern Counties Newspapers, Rev. P. Harrison, Watton Town Clerk, the businessmen who gave information about their firm's history in answer to my appeal in the two local papers and to Patrick Julnes for allowing a few extracts to be used from the "Watton Almanac" of 1891 that he discovered when modernising William Kendall's former shop.
Also, I would like to thank everyone for the loan of photographs, including Wiley Noble in America for risking sending a few of his treasured collection, taken during the American Air Forces stay at Watton during the war. I am sorry that there was insufficient space to print them all. Hopefully, one day, I shall be able to follow this book with one of "Watton Through the Years in Pictures", so save all your old Watton photographs.