Neighbours have been left furious after a historic cottage that belonged to one of the ‘last marshmen’ was torn down and replaced with a jet black modern ‘James Bond villain’ home – despite getting planning permission six years ago.
The modern Norfolk property made from wood and glass and finished in black – and built on the site of an old thatched cottage – has divided opinion.
In fact, many locals have argued that the building is too out of character with the rest of the area, which is largely made up of brick houses and traditional bungalows.
The home has been built looking over one of the most beautiful areas of the Norfolk Broads after owner Andy Burt and his wife applied for permission to replace the old home with something more modern.
Reed Cutters, the old cottage, was home of the Broads legend Archie Taylor, considered the ‘last of the marshmen’, whose job it was to dweller at the marsh; including operate and maintaining the mill and looking after the cattle grazing the marshes.
A couple visiting the area of Rockland Staithe, Norfolk, described the jet black property as ‘shocking’
The original – more traditional looking – property (pictured above) was home of the Broads legend Archie Taylor, who was considered the ‘last of the marshmen’
However, the traditional thatched marshman’s cottage was bulldozed to make way for the house, which is painted entirely in black, including the fence and gate around it.
The demolition of the home was approved in 2017 by planning officials from the Broads Authority and proposals were even supported by the parish council.
What was a marshman?
A marshman was essentially a dweller at the marsh of the Norfolk Broads.
The story of the Marshmen spans nearly three hundred years from when the first windmills began to be built in the Broads in order to improve control of the water levels on the marshes.
From 1753, when Oby Mill was built on the Bure River, 200 wind pumps were built in the Broads region – of which around 71 still stand today.
With 200 mills all pumping water someone was needed to work them – and so the job of Marshman was born.
While their specific job description changed over time to adjust to changes in technology, agriculture and society, their main roles were to:
- Operate and maintain the mill
- Look after the cattle grazing the marshes
- Keep all the drainage channels and dykes clear of mud and vegetation
- Tasked with cutting the reeds in the winter, and hay in the summer
Unfortunately, a marshman’s pay was not so good so they often supplemented their income and diets by trapping eels, catching fish and shooting wild fowl.
But with modern technology, the wind driven pumps were replaced by steam pumps, then diesel pumps and finally electric pumps – which still control the water levels throughout the Broads National Park today.
And by the 1940’s, the number of working Marshmen declined rapidly.
Today, the traditional Marshman’s way of life no longer exists.
This is because during this time there were no objections from the pubic.
Since the property has been built, objections have grown as residents have been left divided over its look and questioning why the earlier structure was allowed to be torn down.
It has been built overlooking the dyke connecting Rockland Broad with the nearby staithe, next to a popular walking route called Wherryman’s Way.
Norfolk local Cameron Self told Norfolk Live: ‘I have fond memories of that place as a kid, my friends and I used to cycle from Poringland and hire boats from Archie Taylor and go pike fishing.’
He continued to say that he has been left ‘horrified’ by the new look of the home, adding that he assumed the new property built would be a ‘tasteful’ holiday home.
Mr Self said: ‘He was a very special character. He was one of the last of the old-fashioned Broads men. That’s why I’m so horrified by it. We lost hundreds of years of Broads culture to build that monstrosity When they said they would replace it I assumed it would be a tasteful holiday cottage but it’s like something out of a Bond film.’
Another resident, Mr Goodson, 62, also shared his disappointment at the new building.
He said he has lived in the village for most of his life and went on to describe the building as ‘totally out of place,’ adding: ‘How it got there, I don’t know.’
A couple visiting the area from Lakenham, who asked not to be named, described the property as ‘shocking’, report Eastern Daily Press.
The pair said: ‘It’s completely incongruous to the area, how did they get away with that? We came here to enjoy the countryside and this spoils the area.’
However, other locals have said that they do not mind having ‘something’ more modern in their village.
Resident Derreck Yallup added: ‘I have lived here all my life and I don’t mind it. The building there before used to flood a lot and it’s good to have something modern in the village and the owner is a nice chap.’
And Martin Burrekoven-Kalve added: ‘I think it sits well.
‘They are very nice people and you can never please everyone. I think we are quite lucky to have it in our village.’