New book captures life in Newbourne in the days of the Land Settlement Association

Author Leigh Belcham has written a book called Newbourne in Short Trousers about growing up in the L

Author Leigh Belcham has written a book called Newbourne in Short Trousers about growing up in the Land Settlement Association project. - Credit: Su Anderson

Watching nine war-time parachutists gently descend on your village is a memory that would certainly linger long in the mind.

Author Leigh Belcham was just three-and-a-half when he saw the men, who had bailed out of a Flying Fortress, land in Newbourne, some hitting the ground between the famous glasshouses.

It wasn’t Leigh’s earliest memory. That came a year earlier in 1942 when his family moved to Jackson Road, Newbourne.

At that time, Newbourne was in the early years of the Land Settlement Association (LSA) when 50 new smallholdings were created around the village to provide a new life and employment as self-supporting growers for people from some of the hardest-hit areas around the country in the 1930s.

It was a time of dramatic change – as the village grew from 80 to nearly 200 in three years, extra housing was built, new streets created, and the glasshouses constructed.

Mr Belcham, 74, who lives with his wife Jill in Western Avenue, Felixstowe, captures what life was like in the community, and for its children, in the 1940s and 1950s in his book Newbourne in Short Trousers.

He said: “When I moved back to the area 12 years ago and settled in Felixstowe, I would occasionally drive over to Newbourne and I would think what great days they had been, what an idyllic place it was to grow up, and it would be nice to write a book about it.”

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While the book does record the adventures of the children, walking across fields to school at Bucklesham every day, playing in the woods, climbing trees, falling in streams, and using catapults, enjoying a carefree life so different from that experienced by today’s children, it is filled with anecdotes about village life and also examines the LSA and its history, and its ultimate demise.

Writing and research was a two-year project for Mr Belcham, who spent 12 years in professional youth work in inner-city Birmingham and rural Cambridgeshire and 26 years managing Christian residential youth activities at home and abroad, and involved hours of research at Suffolk Records Office and also two days at the national archive of the LSA at Reading university.

“It was fascinating and I discovered so much – I even found a letter from my own father to an occupier before he took over his smallholding in 1942,” he said.

Newbourne in Short Trousers costs £8.95 and is available at Newbourne Farm Shop; The Fox, Newbourne; Roselea Nursery, Trimley St Martin; Cliff Top Cafe, Stillwater Books and Bent Hill Post Office, Felixstowe.