Page 12 - Evolve Magazine Winter 2020
P. 12

So how did Bressingham happen? One mans vision
Alan Bloom was born in 1906, started gardening at 12, absconded school at 15, and until he was 16, lived in Over, Cambridgeshire with his shopkeeper parents. Although his Father was more a lover of his Market Garden which grew fruit and vegetables for his shop, it was Alan’s Grandfather that forced his Father into shop life and not a life on the land.
Alan himself thought about being an archaeologist, geologist, politician and briefly a bishop. He and his Father once went into jam production, stacking the finished jars into an out house, only to find by the next morning the shelves
had given way under the weight. Jam production as a career choice was shelved.
The family moved to Oakington, a 6 acre small holding – then when Alan was 24 in 1931 his parents moved away. Alan started his first business with a £50 overdraft, growing plants and selling produce.
In 1938 he bought a 200 acre fen farm in Burwell for £1600. He had
a plant list of 1,870 varieties for
sale. However, by 1940 his Nursery plants were not selling, so they were ploughed in, as food growing was the order of the day ‒ Alan was now a single parent to 3. He farmed and reclaimed 300 acres of bog at Burwell during WW2 that he farmed for food production in Burwell, land he reclaimed and thought he might get after the war, to his disgust this was not the case.
By 1945 he was looking to move east, he found Bressingham described as ‘A Gentleman’s Sporting Paradise’ with 228 acres. Bressingham Hall was built in 1780 and went through periods of hemp and flax farming (for rope production), but it was never a great success as the River Waveney
flooded more often than not, ruining crops. Yes this is Norfolk and yes, this is what we call a valley! The asking price was a smidgeon under £11,000 and Alan and Family arrived in 1946.
Two years of work made the
largest UK Nursery happen, but after achieving it, Alan was bored and on his 41st birthday saw an advert to start a new life in
Canada. 1948 saw them go to Vancouver aboard the Aquitania, with the house keeper and his three children. 32 pieces of luggage and the furniture crated as freight.
Canada was a grave mistake, furniture was burnt to keep warm, no work and in 1950 the bank rang to say if Alan did not return, there would be no Bressingham to go back to. They arrived back to a ruined Bressingham, March 9th 1950. When recounting this story he would always tell me, ‘Never do anything for the love of women’ – words I’ve stuck to since.
The Manager had sold everything including Alan’s beloved Bella, the Traction Engine he used to reclaim all the land in 1946-8, to enable Bressingham to happen.
Alan started again from scratch.
As things improved, the Dell Garden was dug in 1953 and was opened
in 1953 for one Sunday a month in summer. These island beds were new and modern and gave Alan much kudos in the gardening world and by 1962 there were 47 of them. In 1956 Flora, his second wife, was on the scene. Perhaps most remembered today because
Alan bought the Steam Gallopers for her in 1968, the horse Flora, remains to this day the only white horse on the Gallopers.
By the early 1960’s things were
on the up and Alan again began
to think about taking a business back seat and expanding his steam collection (he sorely missed Bella his original Traction Engine, sold to Gypsies in his absence for scrap).
In March 1961 the collection began (and the Gardens opened) with Bertha, another traction engine. Narrow gauge steam arrived in 1964, 1966 saw our first passenger service. 1968 the first standard gauge steam and the Gallopers.
Alan handed the entire collection over to the charity he created in 1972, the same year the majority
of the Standard Gauge collection arrived. Bressingham pre-dates the creation of the National Railway Museum and we are proud to be

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