Bush Family: a Needham Dynasty

Needham Mill c1900s (with Albert & Son on bridge?)

In 1898 36 year old Arthur Bush left both his job as a wheelwright working for E J Knights of Harleston and his mother-in-law’s home in Wortwell where he’d been living with his wife Ellen (30) and two young sons to become tenant of Needham Mill. In 1901 the growing family consisted of 5 sons: Arthur H (11), Edwin George (10), Herbert Victor (6), Albert Sydney (3) and 2 year old Frederick Austin plus two daughters – Hilda Ethel (4) and baby Rosa Annie. It was the youngest three siblings who became key figures in the village through most of the ensuing century. The family appeared to have financial resources, as Arthur’s brother Fred was the family’s near neighbour up the hill at Instead Hall.

Thanks to Albert’s ‘Memoirs of a Miller’s Son’ published in 1985 we have a wonderful and evocative picture of the family’s life at the mill through the first third of 20th century. However, in 1908 a newspaper report reveals that 46 year old Arthur was in a serious accident when a horse bolted as he tried to get into a cart and suffered a broken thigh and severe cuts to his head and knee. According to Albert, the doctor only used splints on the injury and the bone failed to mend and had to be broken again and re-set leaving dad “laid in bed eighteen months with a pail of water tied on his foot,” and probably in considerable pain for some time! Fortunately, he recovered to continue to be a stalwart of village society, serving for many years on the Committee of the Brockdish Unionist Association and periodically hosting lunches for the Eastern Counties Otter Hunt when they were in the area.

Arthur and Ellen Bush at Wortwell 1889 copyright Greg Bush
Arthur and Ellen Bush c1930s copyright Greg Bush

Younger brother Fred also lived in Needham all his life, but tended to be a bit accident-prone which sometimes got him into scrapes with the law, as the press cuttings from 1930 indicate. He married Una Gower and they had 6 children. He also had one daughter with Winifred Sturman. He died in December 1978 in Needham at the age of 80. Rosa Annie lived in the village for most of her life too, she clearly was very musically talented and was in great demand at numerous local events as a singer and pianist attested to in many newspaper reports. She never married and died in November 1998 in Brighton, Sussex at the grand old age of 98.

ALBERT BUSH 1897 – 198

Albert Sidney Bush was born on 10 April 1897 – the year before his family moved to Needham Mill. However, at the age of five, he fell into the Waveney right outside his front door when his parents were away and almost drowned as he was unable to swim. In the Diss Express of 7th Nov 1902 we find a report of the incident, and news that Arthur had written to the mill’s Trustees demanding the inadequate fencing on the bridge should be repaired or replaced. Another spat then ensued between the Trustees and both County Councils over who was liable to make the repairs which was still rumbling on unresolved over 3 years later.

Albert Bush c1914 copyright Greg Bush
Albert Bush aged 71

Another time when his parents were out and Albert was supposed to be looking after his dad’s herd of large pigs, he went out on the marshes to play with his catapult only to return to find someone had stolen the largest porker and left a runt in its place. He began singing in the Parish Church choir at the age of eight which became a life-long passion – when he started there were 8 men, 8 women and 10 boys singing together, 75 years later in the early 1980s Albert was the lone voice remaining. He later recalled “The choirmaster was then Mr Albert Valiant – a strict man. There was no messing about with him in charge.” In those days he had to attend two Sunday services as well as going to Sunday School with his older brother Arthur. He later served as churchwarden for over 50 years, and was a Needham Parish Councillor for over 40 years.

At 14 Albert started an apprenticeship in the grocery trade in Brockdish and after serving in the army during World War One returned to that business – he was still working for Devereux’s Grocery store in Harleston in his early 70s. He married Hilda Noble in 1921– they were lucky enough to be the first residents of one of the new council houses built in Brook Lane in the 1930s where they brought up their six children. In 1980 the couple celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary with a gift from Needham Over 60s Club – Hilda is noted as being the oldest member of the village’s branch of the Mothers’ Union. Having seen his memoirs published in 1986, Albert died on 13 November 1988 at the age of 91 and was buried in the village churchyard