‘Norfolk’s Oldest Working Farmer ‘
Carbrooke Farmer and local celebrity who was still farming aged 100 years, and lived to be 104 years.
Daniel Bullen was quite a celebrity in Carbrooke during the 1940’s and 1950’s. He was born in Stow Bedon, and travelled to Durham when young to work in a coal mine. In those days it was easier to go by sea, and he set sail from Kings Lynn. He returned back to his Norfolk roots and rented what is now ‘Bullens Farm’ on Broadmoor Road, where he farmed for the rest of his life, it was claimed he was ‘Britain’s oldest working farmer’ at the age of 100 years. He died in 1951 aged 104. Articles written to celebrate his 100th birthday and later his obituary, make fascinating reading, he obviously attracted much attention from the local press.
Nick Palmer is a relative of Daniel Bullen and sometimes visits the area, he has provided some historical background to Daniel. Nick now lives near Cambridge, but is descended through one of Daniels brothers who also travelled to Durham to mine with him, another brother was killed in a pit accident.
Correspondence with Nick Palmer 30th June 2012
I found the Carbrooke website recently and wondered if the following information would be of any use, and if you possibly had any further information on one of it’s past residents and farmers, Daniel Bullen? I dont know where to start so an introduction to myself might be as good a place to start as any. My name is Nick Palmer and I live in a village called Needingworth just outside of St Ives, north of Cambridge. I’m 45 and have been in Cambridgeshire since 1996 with my long term partner and our 2 little boys. Before moving to Cambridgeshire I lived in Newcastle upon Tyne which is where my immeadiate family roots are. Well partly Newcastle, but mostly County Durham.
It was while looking through some old papers that my dad had in his garage that I came across an article from the “Farmer and Stock Breeder” dated March 6th 1951. I’ve attached a digital photo of the page. It shows a picture of an elderly gentleman with a small article about him. It was Daniel Bullen who died at 104, but had worked on his farm in Carbrooke, Norfolk right up until his death. When I showed my mum she said that it was my grandmother’s uncle. It was my grandmother (my dad’s mother) Polly Palmer’s uncle.
She was actually Polly Bullen until she married. My mum has been researching the family history recently so gave me a little bit more information on the Bullens. I’ve also attached a couple of pieces from an ancestry website which has the Bullens being resident in the area during the 1700’s and 1800’s and that they lived in the Civil parish of Stow Bedon. The registration district is stated as Wayland with the sub-registartion district being Watton. I know that Watton is nearly the next town to Carbrooke.
As an incidental, I work for an agricultural plant breeding company just outside of Cambridge and have dealings with Ian Leonard who is a farmer in Shipdham, so not a million miles away from Carbrooke itself. I often pass through Watton on the way to Shipdham. From the information I have the following is how I see the links within the Bullen family chain:
Simon Bullen was married to Mary Bullen. They lived in Stow Bedon. Mary’s estimated year of birth was 1779. Mary Bullen was the mother of Henry Bullen and Robert Bullen. I understand that Robert may have been a butcher in Carbrooke. Henry Bullen married a girl called Sarah and they had 6 children. One of these children was Daniel and one was John. Henry was my grandmother’s (Polly) grandfather. I think it was John Bullen who was Polly’s father, but Daniel was her uncle.
I’ve known for a while that my grandmother’s uncle was a farmer in Norfolk so I can only presume my father kept the article for this reason. Polly married a man called William (Billy) Palmer hence my surname from my dad’s side. My dad is in the later stages Alzheimers now and is in a care home so it’s proving very difficult to track the Bullens any further, but I’d be immensely grateful to find out any further information about Daniel and if the farm is still in existence.
I hope the above is of some interest (and makes sense) to you and that you may have a little more information with regards to Daniel. Thank you for reading this email and I hope to hear from you soon. Many thanks and kind regards, Nick Palmer
Reply 30th June 2012
Dear Nick, Thank you so much for your letter, I have posted a photo album of Daniel Bullen onto our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/carbrookehistory as some of the images are rather large, and would take a lot to post them all to you by email. I will try and be as helpful as I can, as I am only a ‘naturalised’ Carbrooke resident! having lived here since I was married in 1985.
Daniel Bullen was obviously something of a celebrity in Carbrooke by 1940’s and 50’s, but these days Carbrooke is a very different village from then, still very much in the countryside, but agriculture no longer plays much of a part in the local economy, most of the residents are so called ‘newcomers’, but most of us are very proud of our village, and there is a good community spirit. I have a number of other newspaper cuttings and pictures of Daniel which have been given to the Heritage Group.
Our Heritage Group is fairly new, so we are always looking for new information, we haven’t really started on much in-depth research. We are all hoping to work on what we each have an interest in, but there is so much! I thought it would be interesting to find out more about Daniel, especially with his agricultural links, as he was not actually born in the village though, it may not be quite so easy. Your information is very interesting. The farm where Daniel farmed is still there, and is now called Bullens Farm, (although it isn’t used as a farm per se) after the man himself. I believe he was also a miller, but the mill has since been demolished, and I’m not sure whether it was situated in the same location.
I’m not sure how much of the website you viewed, but the 13 local villages surrounding Watton, each produced a History booklet, amongst them Carbrooke and Stow Bedon. Quite strange that you should have travelled through the area so often, – farming is obviously in your blood! Stow Bedon is a very small village, which I don’t know much about, but I get the impression it is rather a ‘spread out’ place. Would you mind if I published your letter to the website and facebook? it may lead to further information of interest to you, the facebook page has proved very useful, as it has more photos on it, and has led to some surprising contact.
Incidentally we will be holding a village harvest heritage weekend 29th/30th September, with a display in the church. If you have any information relating to Daniel you would like to have displayed there, we would love to include it. Regards…..
Reply 3rd July 2012
It was fantastic to read your email and hear that Daniel was a local celeb. I knew he worked well in to later life, but 100 is an unbelievable age to still be going! I’m very keen to pay a visit to Carbrooke and will definitely make time for a detour when I’m back up near Shipdham. It’s good to read that there is still a farm as such and to still have the name Bullen is amazing. What I’ll do is try and gather as much information as I can because it’s my mum who has a lot more info about the Bullen side of the family. We’re going to Hereford for a week on the 13th July so I’ll ask her to bring what info she has and we can see what we can link up for you. There’s a couple of small incidentals – my grandad (Billy Palmer, Polly’s husband) was a baker in Durham for many years so there’s a slight milling link there, and also, after looking at the Carbrooke website I saw there was a Sarah Barker who was married to the labourer William. Well my niece is actually called Sarah Barker and just started some work in the labs where I’m based. She’s just finished a degree at Leeds Uni. Please feel free to use my previous email on Facebook and /or to add it to the village website. Hopefully some more information will come to light. I’ll try to make the village heritage weekend aswell but September is normally a very busy period work wise and in agriculture in general. Thank you so much again and here’s to unearthing some more news and family details. I’ll be in touch again soon. Kind regards,Nick
4th July 2012
As a result of your letter I re–read the newspaper cutting which I had previously skimmed over, and which is posted onto facebook, it is amazing how family history suddenly clicks into place. I presume you managed to read it , as it details how and why the whole Bullen family decided to ‘emigrate’ to Durham and become coal miners! and why some of them came back – such a change from sleepy agricultural Carbrooke.
4th July 2012
Thank you for your further information. That was a great article to read and especially about the mining links. Life was seriously harsh in those days. Strangely enough on my mums side, her father called Joseph Davies was actually the pit foreman at Kelloe coalmine in Durham. It would be very interesting to find out which pit Daniel worked at. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Davies’s and Bullen’s paths crossed in another way. There’s also an American link aswell because my mum is in contact with a lady called Ann Bullen in the states who has been working here way through a lot of the history. I’ll contact her to see exactly how the American links are connected. I’ll try not to bombard you with dribs and drabs of information but a much more informative picture. I feel a major project coming on now aswell. Thanks again for your help and for putting the article on to facebook.
Family Photos to celebrate Daniels 100th Birthday
Page Last Updated 08.08.22