People from the past

From Docking to a place in history


Saint Henry Walpole


Saint Henry Walpole

Henry Walpole was born in Docking in 1558, the eldest son of Christopher Walpole and Margery, heiress of Richard Beckham of Narford. He was educated at Norwich School, Peterhouse, Cambridge, and The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London.

He converted to Roman Catholicism, gave up his law practice and went to Reims, where he arrived on 7th July 1582. On 28th April 1583 he was admitted into the English College in Rome, and in October received minor orders. On 2nd February 1584 he became a probationer of the Society, and soon after went to France, where he continued his studies.

He returned to England, and after being twice imprisoned at Newgate jail in London for religion he returned to Reims, arriving back in 1589 where he was ordained Sub-deacon, Deacon and Priest.

After acting as chaplain to the Spanish forces in the Netherlands, suffering imprisonment by the English at Flushing in 1589, he was at last sent on the mission in 1590. He was arrested shortly after landing at Flamborough for the crime of Catholic priesthood, and imprisoned at York. The following February he was sent to the Tower, where he was frequently and severely racked. He remained there until the spring of 1595 when he was sent back to York for trial where on 7th April  he was hung, drawn and quartered. He was canonized, becoming a saint, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales


Padre George Smith

Padre George Smith

Padre George Smith, born in Docking on 8th January 1845, was an unmistakable man, about six feet tall with a long red beard.  He served as a missionary in South Africa from 1870 and is best remembered for his part in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War of 1877-79.

He played a role in the defence of the mission station, in Natal Province, by keeping the 139 soldiers of the 24th Regiment of Foot supplied with ammunition as they successfully fended off an attack by about 4,500 Zulu warriors.  After the battle he was regularly referred to as “Ammunition Smith”. Despite playing such an important support role in the battle, when the film “Zulu” which stared Michael Caine was made, no mention was made of Padre Smith.

After South Africa he was a chaplain in many theatres of war including Egypt and the Sudan. He later served in posts in England before retiring to Preston in Lancashire, where he died in November 1918.


Docking’s airmen remembered

Docking Heritage Group is researching the histories of four pilots of the first and second world wars whose graves are in St Mary’s churchyard.

Two were members of the Royal Flying Corps who were training at Sedgeford aerodrome, near Docking, in 1917 for frontline service in France.

Second Lieutenant Arthur Dean, a Canadian from Ottawa, died from his injuries in August 1917 after his Sopwith Pup spun and crashed near the Sedgeford-Docking road.  He was 20.

Second Lieutenant James Pearson died in a crash flying from Sedgeford aerodrome in December that year.  He was 18.


Cecil King. MC, DFC, Croix de Guerre



Captain Cecil King MC, DFC, Croix de Guerre was a fighter pilot in the RFC with 43 Squadron in France, an “ace” credited with 22 victories.  He survived the war but was killed in a mid-air collision over Sedgeford in January 1919 while flying from there as an RAF combat instructor.  He was 19.




Ernest Alfred Deverill. AFC, DFC, DFM



Squadron Leader Ernest Deverill DFC, AFC, DFM made his home in Docking in 1940 while flying as a sergeant pilot in 206 Squadron, Coastal Command.  He also served with distinction in 97 Squadron of Bomber Command.  In December 1943 his Lancaster crashed in fog at an airfield near Cambridge returning from a raid.  He was 27.


The heritage group would welcome sight of any documents or photographs that we can copy relating to these airmen.



Dr W E Ripper

Dr W E Ripper

Dr Walter Eugene Ripper was a farmer and landowner in Docking. Born in Vienna in 1908, he was a world-renowned agricultural scientist and skilled entomologist. He left Austria and  moved to America where he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before moving to England where, together with Sir Guy Marshall, he embarked on the pesticidal control of insects with the formation of Pest Control Ltd. This company eventually was absorbed by Fisons and became Fison Pest Control.

It was during mid-1950s that Dr Ripper entered into a partnership with Dow Chemical at Kings Lynn where he built a factory. He left Dow to concentrate on running his spray contract business in the Sudan.

It was while piloting one of the companies planes on 21th March 1965, on flight from Athens to Naples, that Dr Ripper was killed when the plane he was in crashed on a remote mountainside about 40 miles west of Corinth in Greece. He was 57.

During his career Dr Ripper was chairman of Ripper Robots, founder and managing director of Pest Control (1938-1953), vice-chairman of Fison Pest Control Ltd (1953-1958), and managing director of Dow Agrochemicals (1958-1962). In 1940 he introduced the first synthetic selective herbicide to Britain.

With a lifetimes experience in pest and weed control, Dr Ripper’s main work was devoted to the better and more fruitful production of crops, which gave a better return to farmers and helped increase food production, the results of which we still benefit from today. The village hall in Docking, The Dr W E Ripper Memorial Hall, is dedicated to his memory.