My father had always told me that his great-grandfather lived to be a hundred, and that he almost recalled meeting him. He assumed that this was his grandfather on the maternal side of his family, the Rudducks. However, as with many family stories the truth had become slightly blurred. In reality, the centenarian was my father’s mother’s grand father, Robert Flatt.
Flatt is a relatively common name in parts of Norfolk; in 1881 census there were 43 Flatts in the nearby Methwold. Robert Flatt was born in 1823 in Feltwell, Norfolk and christened at St Nicholas’, Feltwell. In the 1841 census he is an ‘agricultural labourer’ living with William Flatt, a year older than him and almost certainly his brother. The address is ‘The Barracks’ (or more likely ‘The Borough’) and they are living alongside a family called Pettit. In 1851 he marries Martha Gathercoole (Gathercole) in nearby Thetford. Martha was christened in 1825 also at St Nicholas in Feltwell; her mother was called Sarah Gathercoole and was probably not married, although she does marry later. Martha cannot sign her name on her marriage documents, simply making her mark; Robert however does sign his name.
By 1861 he is living at 26 Cook Street, Feltwell, with his wife and four children Mary A (Ann) 9, Sarah M 5, Martha 3 and Jane 1. In 1871 a further daughter Eliza is one year old. In 1881 he is living at Malling Yard, Thetford with his wife and daughter Janet. In 1891 he is living at 55 Castle Street, Thetford still with his wife and Janet. He is described in the census as a gardener. By 1901 he has moved to 124 Old Market Street and is still working as a ‘domestic’ gardener despite his advancing years. His wife probably dies in 1904, but Robert lives to be slightly over 100, receiving a telegraph from the King and Queen in late March. He died in September of that year and is buried in St Nicholas Church, Feltham.
His obituary in the local press describes a man who valued his hard-won education and had been very much part of the community. He had for a time been Head gardener at Feltwell Hall, then owned by Clough Newcome who was famous for his interest in hawking. He had played cricket for his county, he had been a bell-ringer in St Nicholas’ Church and part of a hand-bell quintet. His funeral was attended by family and friends. (Obituary kindly supplied by member of family)
His daughter, Martha, married Thomas James Rudduck in Thetford in 1877. Thomas was a shopkeeper initially running his own shop in the Norwich area. Later, according to his grandson, he fell on hard times and became the manager of a branch of Lipton’s in Cromer. They had four children, Laura 1884, Robert 1887, Arthur born and Kathleen, my grandmother 1896. Thomas died in 1916; his wife Martha died in Thetford in 1938; Robert Thomas Rudduck, a chauffeur, inherits her ‘effects’ of £554 3s 5d. My father identified him as his ‘Uncle Thomas’ and recalls that there was some bad feeling in the family concerning the distribution of Martha’s effects.
My father, who was born in 1923 and died in 2011, believed he had met his great-grandfather, although this is not possible, since he was born a month after Robert Flatt died. It is possible that my father’s slightly older brother, born in 1919 and died in 2010. had met Robert Flatt. It certainly illustrates the length of time that generations can cover in families with longevity.
Names of interest include Flatt, Pettit, Gathercoole, Rudduck and Crossland