Pakenham History : The History of Nether Hall

"The History of Nether Hall and the Various Owners "
A short history written by W.R. Rayner
with kind permission given by his daughter Gill Applegate to publish on
the Pakenham -Village web site.

PAGE - 12

If both stags returned to the paddock the day's hunt was a failure; but this seldom happened.

Mr. Harry ("Tottie") Balls was the driver of the stag cart. He could not read a map, but he knew all the roads of East Anglia by heart. He followed the Hunt to collect the stag in whatever condition it was when it was caught. "Tottie" lived to a great old age in a small two-roomed cottage, which formerly stood on the site of the new village hall. He could tell many stories of his adventures with the stag cart. Three of these I call to mind.

On one occasion a stag, seeing its own reflection in the French windows of the drawing room at "Little Haugh", Norton, charged its own image to finish the hunt inside the house. On another day a stag had to be retrieved from a shop in Stowmarket. But his longest journey was when he had to collect a stag from the sea at Brightlingsea in Essex.

Another story, told against "Tottie", I heard from the late Mr. Ernest Bantick, who, as groom, had to await "Tottie's" return to attend to his horse at whatever time of night he appeared. One night, after 10 p.m. he saw the lights of the stag cart over against the deer paddock. He waited for half an hour, but as there was still no movement of the lights he made his way across the Park to see what had happened. There he found "Tottie" hanging helplessly head downwards with his feet securely trapped in the shafts of the cart, which contained an exhausted stag. When he released "Tottie" he discovered that he had called at too many hostelries on his long journey homewards!

When the stags had to be killed after a hunt they were sold to the local butcher, and many a villager enjoyed a cheap joint of venison. I recall that when my family first tasted venison its flavour was not unduly like that of mutton.

A pleasant feature of Nether Hall Park is the lake, the shining waters of which can be seen in its tree-lined setting from the terrace on the lawn. It is an artificial lake, excavated in the valley of a small stream which runs from Barton Mere across the Park to Pakenham Fen. This peaceful scene is the outcome of a row between Sir Walter Greene and Sir Compton Thornhill, who lived at The Lodge at the turn of the century.