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Norway House, Bedford Bank, Welney

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Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
entrance drive at the southern end

Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
viewed from the south through the inner gates

Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
seen from the field on the west


A mile and three-quarters north-east of Old Bedford Bridge, and just a short distance north of Cock Fen Pumping station, is a house that is unique. It's late Victorian and of no great architectural merit apart from some fancy brickwork in places, set on a very long strip of land with landscaped gardens and intensive fruit and vegetable plots, all nestling below the bank of the Old Bedford River.

And it's the only inhabited building in the world with the postcode PE14 9TE.
Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
Norway House in June 2010, seen from the river bank, with window shutters closed.

I didn't know about the house when I first came upon it in June 2010, and was surprised to learn later that this was Norway House, which I had previously thought was a derelict house half a mile south that I visited in 2007. 

I discovered that from on an on-line article by accomplished Welney ice skater Adam Giles who had also posted a photo of the house.  It seems it was built by Bernie Sutton in 1892 for another Welney ice skater, James Smart, who was professional world speed-skating champion in 1895, and one of several members of the Smart family to excel at the sport.

The building materials were transport by barge from Welney as there was no road access. I understand the present metal window shutters were installed by Sean Booth sometime in the 1970s (to be checked)

While skating in Europe, James Smart met the Nowegian national champion, Harald Hagen, and they became good friends. Harald was largely responsible for designing a new form of skate which impressed James so much that he set up business at his new house importing and selling them. They proved very popular with fen skaters and eventually replaced the local 'Fen Runners'.

James named his new home Norway House, and gave his second son, born in the same year the house was built, the name Hagen, after his friend Harald.

After James died in 1928, aged only 62, Hagen ("Hargy") Smart, a great Washes wildfowler, continued to live in Norway House until the 1950's. To get to the Washes fom the house, he would have to cross both the Old Bedford and Delph rivers. An irrigation slacker on the bank of the Hundred Foot River a little way north is named after him.

page last updated
22 September 2012

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Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
name/date plaque is now illegible

Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
extensive fruit and veg plots

Norway House in 2010 by Eddy Edwards
this long view looking southwest shows the extent of the plot north of the house
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At a church fete in May 2007 my wife and I got in conversation with a woman who turned out to be a great-granddaughter of James Smart. That chance meeting with Julie Morgan, and her interest in her relative's old home, Norway House, prompted me to find the house and photgraph it for her. Unfortunately I didn't walk far enough along Bedford Bank and mistook another, almost derelict, house for it. It was three years before I realised my error, and it's been another 2 years since then to publish it..

The house was on the market in 2007, and I understand it sold in September that year for £150,000.  I wonder whether Julie Morgan or one of her relatives now lives there?
Later note, 27th April 2011: Kevin Morgan e-mailed:
"Hi, I am brother of Julie Morgan, no we did not buy Norway house sadly, we would love to though! I am now living in Australia, James Smart was my great Grandfather, and Harrald Hagen Smart my great Uncle, we used to stay at Norway House as children. After "Hargy" died in 1957 his wife Anne Sneath remained until too elderly to cope there on her own"
Thanks Kevin for adding these details and correcting your great-uncle's name.
Acknowledgements: text and photos except where noted © Eddy Edwards, 2010-12
The details of James Smart's life are from "Fen Speed Skating - an illustrated history" by John Slater and Allan Bunch, published by Cambridgeshire Libraries in 2000,
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