In the Twentieth Century, Gislingham has seen more changes than in any comparable period of its long history.
Sixty-two men went from this small village to serve in the First World War and seventeen of them made the supreme sacrifice. The names of all sixty-two are proudly recorded on tablets in the Methodist Chapel, together with the name of one Gislingham serviceman who fell in the Second War. The names of the eighteen fallen are also recorded on the War Memorial in the churchyard.
The Second War brought a gun-post to the junction of Mill Street and the Burgate Road, a searchlight station on the crest of the Burgate Road hill and a Home Guard which had its headquarters in the shed, formerly a blacksmith’s shop, which still stands opposite the village school. Just before the First War, a startling new development invaded Gislingham, for the summer of 1914 Dr. Proctor, the village doctor, purchased a Model-T Ford.
Within two weeks Elijah Fisher did likewise. Elijah’s son Tom tells me that the car was delivered by a man from Mann Egerton’s of Ipswich who stayed at the farm for a week and taught his father to drive. When Elijah took Tom for a spin after the instructor left there was a brush with a grey cob, outside the White Horse at Finningham and between the White Horse and Cotton casualties included one chicken and a dog. The chassis of that Ford is still in existence supporting a footbridge leading to a bungalow next to the Finningham Water Tower.
In 1920, Mr. L. V. Tuffs introduced Gislingham’s first Motor Lorry, also a Model-T driven by Tom Martin, who still lives on the Street. At long last, the horse and waggon that had transported Gislingham’s goods for hundreds of years had a rival. For some years thereafter a carrier with a horse and cart maintained a thrice-weekly service through Gislingham, and a pony and trap conveyed the villagers to and from Finningham Station “but the motor had come to stay”.
The years between the Wars saw the building of Council Houses on the High Street and Spring Lane. The latter took the place of allotments, which were then transferred to the Mellis Road. Older houses, including a house for the poor of the Parish which stood on Town Green near the Six Bells, were torn down. Mr. Prike recalls between twenty five and thirty houses which have disappeared in his lifetime.
Since Time immemorial there had been a horse-pond where the Village Hall now stands. Within living memory it was also utilised as a source of drinking water, and one resident avers that his father would use no other for brewing his home-made beer. The Village Hall was built, mostly by voluntary labour, in 1955.
The Nineteen-Sixties brought sewers and street lights to much of the village. A new estate of modern bungalows has been developed and an even bigger estate is rumoured for the near future.
The Government has designated Gislingham a “growth village”, and a modern central school is scheduled to be built.Obviously, Gislingham is entering a new phase of growth and expansion, the decline of Gislingham’s population has been halted and reversed. Older people are coming here for retirement, while younger people are moving in to bring up their families in a healthy rural environment, even though the husbands must work elsewhere, this latest phase must however be reserved for a future chronicler of the history of Gislingham.(from the 1970 text by Ronald J. Elliott)