The Strawberry Fruit Box
This extraordinary story is about a humble wooden box made in Martham and used for sending strawberries to London by rail.
The box is thought to be over 120 years
old. But it is also a story about a local
family linked together once again by
diligent research and the thoughtfulness of
Martham Post Office. I am grateful to
Peter Dawson for unravelling the story
behind the Strawberry Fruit box.
The story starts with a letter received in 2020,
‘To the Postmaster at Martham,
We thought this Fruit Box may be of interest to any local farmer, in your area. The box came, with our belongings to Australia in December 1959, on board the P&O Liner, ‘Strathnaver’.
The sender was Andrew Martin
now living in Pinjarra Hills, a
suburb of Brisbane in
Queensland, Australia. Andrew
is 93 and in his letter he tells the story of being taken by three of his sisters to visit his grandparents in Martham. His grandfather,
Jimmy Hewitt, had recently sold
their fruit farm in Martham.
Andrew’s grandmother was
Phoebe Hewitt (nee Wilson) who
came originally from Hope in
Derbyshire. The Hewitts lived at
Sutfield House, White Street,
Andrew writes that his
grandparents had four children:
Mary Martin, his mother, and his
Uncles George and Herbert, and
his Aunt Hannah. Andrew was born in 1927 and Mary his mother (1892-1981) lived until she was 88. ‘The Fruit Box was used by my father’ Andrew continues in his letter, ‘to store the fine carving tools, which he had inherited from Jimmy Hewitt’.
Peter Dawson takes up the story,
…Andrew was looking for a home for the fruit box. The Post Office contacted the Martham Local History Group to see if someone related to the Hewitt family could be traced. The History Group asked me if I could help as I do a good bit of genealogy. I was able to find out that the Hewitts were distantly related to John Wilson who is the very same man that provided photographs for the Group [see John Wilson's photos] and he comes from Liverpool. I spoke to John who put me on to a closer relative of Andrew Martin called Francis Gates. Francis is actually the nephew of Andrew Martin and is very interested in his family history. I have spoken to Francis who lives in Gorleston and he seemed to be aware of Andrew from his family tree, but I don't think they have been in touch particularly. Anyway, Francis would like the family heirloom and is going to write to Andrew in Australia to ask for it. Hopefully it will find its way back to Norfolk and remain in the family.
There are warm memories of James ‘Jimmy’ Hewitt and his wife Phoebe on the pages about John Wilson’s family [see John Wilson's photos].
'Strathnaver' docking at Circular Quay, Sydney, after her maiden voyage in 1931.