The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

High Lodge Labour Camp

The Labour Camp at High Lodge was set up by the government to provide work for the unemployed and to help the then Forestry Commission, now Forestry England, develop Thetford Forest.

High Lodge Camp 1929-1930
High Lodge Camp 1929-1930

Throughout the 1920s unemployed never fell below 1 million and in early 1930s was three million out of a population of forty six million, with the worst unemployment in the North-East where it was close to 30% of those of working age.

From 1928 up to 1938, twenty one camps and a further ten only used in the summer months housing a total of 6,000 men, were established in forests across the country and this unemployment scheme only came to an end with the onset of the Second World War.

The camp at High Lodge was, like the others, run on military lines with parades before and after work. The work done was manual: quarrying; road building; scrub clearance; digging ditches and even filling them in afterwards!

From 1934, receipt of 'dole money' was withdrawn if a man refused to attend.

High Lodge Ministry of Labour Camp with road, which is now beside the turn into Oak Lodge
High Lodge Ministry of Labour Camp with road, which is now beside the turn into Oak Lodge

A small allowance was given to the men, together with boots, overalls and an oilskin but money was not enough to finance return visits to see family in the north of England during the three months they were at High Lodge.

The huts housing the men were purpose-built, probably by Boulton and Paul from Norwich. Their concrete bases can still be found on High Lodge Field when it is exceptionally dry; the line of the road through the camp shows as a slightly raised bank and the lower area on the field was the parade ground

Offical records of the labour camp, now stored in The National Archives, have been transcribed and may be read here.