May Burrell – known by everybody as ‘Auntie May’ was a kind hearted soul who dedicated her life to Beeston and its inhabitants. She was interested in everyone, she delivered babies, looked after the sick and laid out the deceased, carefully washing and dressing them for the undertaker. She cleaned and cared for Beeston Church, bicycling up the hill on Sunday mornings to light the coal fires so it was warm for the morning service. She hosted and cared for many children during school holidays while parents worked, and they have fond memories of the weather always being sunny and warm and never a dull moment whether playing tag in the garden or cleaning the church brass and scrubbing the step!
May Burrell was born on 10th April 1902 in the village of Alby to Joseph and Sarah Burrell, one of the younger of twelve children. The family moved to Itteringham and then Erpingham before eventually settling in Beeston, the village where they had relatives (the Holman family of Racecourse Farm) and where the eldest daughter, Louisa, had married Herbert Scott in 1917.
May trained to be a nurse in London qualifying in April 1926; she then qualified as a midwife in 1927 living and working in Maplestead in Essex. In 1930 she was recommended for the post of Head Staff Nurse at Leytonstone for a salary of £60 per annum. During her career as a midwife she delivered countless babies (over 1000 and was proud to ‘have never lost a mother’).
In 1939 she started work at Saham Hall caring for mothers and babies then drove an ambulance in Holt as a civic nurse. She later moved to Stow Vicarage which became a maternity home for pregnant mothers bombed out of their homes in the London Blitz.
After the war years she returned home to Beeston to care for her parents at what is now known as May House in the Street. Her father died in 1953 and her mother in 1961, her brothers and sisters also returned home to her loving care for their final years, and many of the villagers relied on her for nursing care and midwifery.
She did not own a car, and was always seen out and about on her trusty cycle, when quite elderly she undertook the Norfolk Churches Sponsored Cycle Ride visiting all the churches she had known from her childhood days in the Aylsham area.
She died 10th August 1992 and is buried in Beeston churchyard.