Since the end of the last war Weeting has expanded from an estate village with a population of some 400 people in 1945 to over 1,200 in 2001. The population is set to increase even further with the building of houses in Cromwell Road. These new houses replaced the prefabricated bungalows erected in the early 1950's. The question often asked is: who built these and the other bungalows in Angerstein Close and other parts of the village? Well it was a company named J F Bennett Ltd.

The company was created by a local man, Josh Bennett. He was a carpenter in the RAF and on being demobbed in 1947 could not find a regular job so started ‘jobbing building.' After a few months he saw that there was a need for cheap housing for people looking to retire from London and other big cities. Building land in Norfolk at that time was cheap and he saw that by keeping labour costs low he could sell homes at a low price. His first houses were built in 1948. As our illustration shows he was selling bungalows and houses in Weeting from £1,000. Josh Bennett had a humble start; his first employee was his father and his sole piece of equipment was a handcart with such thin wheels that it stuck in the mud on wet days. The company grew and he took on more men, they were expected to be able to turn their hands to any job, no restricted practices then, brick layers were trained by Josh in the skills of carpentry and carpenters had to become labourers if the occasion demanded it. In those days the bricklayers had to carry bags of cement to the sites on their bicycles; it was a standing joke that anyone with straight handlebars had not been working hard enough! As the sites got bigger storage was needed so Josh bought old army Nissen huts to store materials. The first vehicle came after about four years; it was an old van bought for £24. It was a bit of a wreak, but it did the job and saved many bikes from being ruined.

With more contract work being taken on the business needed to be based on a firmer footing so a limited company was formed in 1959 with Josh as managing director and Mrs Bennett who had been keeping the books and his son in law Mr Rutterford joining the board. In 1962 an office was built at Lakenheath, where the company, renamed Bennett Homes, remain to this day.

It is difficult to give an accurate figure for the number of properties built by Josh Bennett and his company in Weeting, for in the early days few records were kept or retained. However the following list was compiled by the Administration Manager of Bennett Homes in 2001 based on such records that still existed and the memories of past employees.

Estimate of properties completed in Weeting pre-July 1973:

  • Approximately 36 prefab properties built before 1959 (built for Goymour's?)
  • 3- Semi-detached council properties (built for Swaffham District Council?)
  • 70- Private properties (including those built for Vincent & Co)
  • 1- House built on estate for Mr Lukaniuki
  • 1- Bungalow and shop (Mr Reynolds)
  • 1- property near Parkfields
  • 1- property at Shadwell Close (Mr Coomber's own plot)
Estimate of properties completed 1st August 1973 to 31st July 1985
  • 53-propertied at Castlefields
  • 35- properties at Parkfields
Estimate of properties completed 1st August 1985 to 7th June 2001
  • 22-properties at Castlefields

Castlefields and Parkfields were the names given to the building sites by Bennetts before the Breckland Council named the roads.

  • From their humble roots the Bennett's has expanded to become one of the leading builders of homes in east Anglia. They have been nominated British Housebuilder of the Year, by the Daily Express, eleven times, runner up, four times ans awarded eighty-six Certificates of Merit. All the prefab houses they built in Weeting have been demolished and on the sites Goymour Homes have built houses (2003).

©Gerry Moore 2003