Lord Willoughby and ‘the time of rebellion’.


The King’s Lynn Borough Archives received a request for information regarding an ‘apparent uprising’ in West Norfolk in 1548, which was described by Francis Blomefield in 1728. On researching this uprising the archivist discovered a number of references within one of the Hall Book’s (KL/C 7/6). The Hall Books are a series of large, leather bound books which record the minutes, memoranda and proceedings of the Town Council. The references to the upraising include payments of reasonable sums of money. I was asked to look further into these entries and the ‘apparent uprising’, and these are my findings.

Causes of the uprising

Francis Blomefield wrote about the West Norfolk rebellion, attributing its causes to a reaction against the removal of saints’ images from churches in 1548. This surely would have been in contradiction of the claims by Kett’s rebels that the clergy were not doing enough to advance the reformation.

The Norfolk Places website contains photograph of ‘Kett’s Oak’ on the road between Hethersett and Wymondham. However, there is another Kett’s Oak in the grounds of Ryston Hall, reputedly a rallying point for rebels during Kett’s Rebellion of 1549.

Kett’s Rebellion

The Rebellion was part of a wave of discontent which swept the country in the late 1540’s; it was partly due to religious issues – the feeling that the Reformation was not making sufficient progress, and discontent with the availability and general level of education of the clergy – and partly economic. The issue here was enclosures – the appropriation of land for sheep farming, which was seen as more profitable for the major landowners, many of whom had gained possession of the church lands which became available after the Reformation.

In point of fact, it appears that Robert Kett himself was guilty of enclosure and a dispute between him and one John Flowerdew gave rise to the uprising round Norwich. With considerable foresight Kett dismantled his enclosures. Although, there are more generous accounts which have him seeing the error of his ways and offering himself as spokesman for the rebels, who began tearing down enclosures in protest at the overgrazing of common land by the landowners.

Kett set up camp on Mousehold Heath, and the rebels actually succeeded in taking Norwich. The forces of authority surrounded the city and ordered Kett to surrender. It was reported that while this was happening, ‘One of the rebels lowered his hose and tauntingly bared his backside. An archer, with ‘commendable accuracy, shot an arrow into his rump.” (from ‘Spartacus Educational’s British History’)

Rather than face starvation under siege, Kett complied, but as the rebels marched out, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, commander of the king’s forces, sent in the cavalry, the resulting rout seeing the slaughter of several thousand of the rebels.

A special commission was put together to deal with the issue of prisoners, though it has been said that the Norfolk gentry, enraged at what had happened, were not satisfied even by the slaughter of the fleeing rebels. Warwick himself had to step in to stop further brutality, pointing out that the gentry got their wealth from the agricultural classes. He is quoted as saying, ‘Will ye be ploughmen and harrow your own land?‘, an early way of saying ‘Why cut off your nose to spite your face?‘.

Kett and three other leaders, including Kett’s brother William, were arrested and detained in the tower of London. Kett was reputedly twice offered a pardon, which he refused on the grounds that he had done nothing which needed to be pardoned; he was hanged at Norwich Castle on 7th December, 1549.

Effects on the West of the County

The rebellion did not just affect the east of the county though, as demonstrated by the reference to Kett’s Oak at Ryston Hall.

Far be it from me to cast aspersions on the upper levels of society of those times, but Robert Kett himself was, as we have seen, hardly the downtrodden man of the people rising against oppression that he often comes across, and there will be doubts about other players in this drama, as we shall see.

Returning to the earlier uprising and delving into the appropriate Hall Book (KL/C 7/6) and its later transcription (KL/C 7/31) we come across various references to one of the major figures in the West Norfolk rebellion, Lord Willoughby.

Folio 112 of the Hall Book reports:

‘This day there is taken out of the Treasure House to be delivered unto the Lord Willoughby by way of present upon letters directed from my Lord Protector and others of the King’s Majesty’s Council for the furniture of his service here 100 marks.

Folio 112 of the Hall Book. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/C 7/6

This entry is dated 15th August of the third year of the reign of King Edward VI. Edward came to the throne in 1547.

The next entry of note is folio 118, dated 20th November:

‘Robert Houghton has been accounted this day in the hall for £71.7.9 to him delivered for the payment of the soldiers’ wages in the time of rebellion.’ (I have underlined the key words myself).

Folio 118 of the Hall Book. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/C 7/6

Folio 125 mentions the feast of the Purification of Mary. This feast is also known as Candlemas: it was tradition that Jewish women were kept in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth. If we accept 25 December as the Birth of Jesus, forty days takes us to 2 February, when it is calculated that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to present him in the Temple. The entry reads:

‘On the Friday next after the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary Virgin in the 4th year of Edward VI’ (i.e. the Friday following 2nd February, 1550). John Hokes has paid in the hall £53.17.6 in full payment of the arrears of his present account one at Michaelmas last past whereof £30 was delivered to Mr. Mayor and £16.5.8 to the Chamberlains and £7.6.8 towards the payment of such money as was delivered to the Lord Willoughby in the time of rebellion.’ (Once again, I have underlined the key words.)

Folio 125 of the Hall Book. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/C 7/6

Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England, it is one of the ‘quarter days’.

Folio 145 is dated Friday 25th day of January in the 4th year of Edward VI:

‘This day My Lord Willoughby’s obligation of the sum of £25.6.8 is delivered to Mr. Amyas to demand the money of My Lord now at the Parliament which is delivered to Mr. Overend’s servant.’

William Overend and George Amyas are listed in the Hall Book as members of the ‘Congregation‘, and were the two elected Chamberlain’s for the year.

Folio 145 of the Hall Book. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/C 7/6

Other sources

As far as I can work out from various sources, including an excellent website run by the Castle Rising History Group, these entries from the Hall Book, gives details of some of those who played a major part in the events.

Jackie Morrallee has an excellent site, which was researched in conjunction with the Castle Rising History Group. Reading through it, it seems that unrest had been breaking out throughout the country, and throughout Norfolk a year before Kett’s Rebellion.

It was reported that one of the Fermours of Barsham was killed during the riots in the west of the county. This was, I believe, Sir Thomas. This is also noted in Walter Rye’s book Norfolk Families.

The Fermours held land at East Barsham, some of which they had acquired after the dissolution of Hempton Priory. They had something of a record of bad behaviour in their pursuit of expansion to the detriment of tenants, and Sir Henry Fermour stood accused of overgrazing the whole of the common land when he only had rights to a certain acreage and a certain number of sheep. This was as far back as 1520, so the unrest had been brewing for many years.

Sir Thomas was connected by marriage to the Cootes of Blo Norton, one of whom was, some 10 years later, ‘attainted for coining’, and though he was acquitted, it seems he was on the run from someone or something when he drowned in the Thames while trying to escape by boat. We hear in the news these days about criminal families, but it seems that it is by no means a new phenomenon!

Lord Willoughby’s Defence against the Uprising

Things came to a head and erupted in 1547. Malcontents from villages around Fakenham gathered, and they are reported as setting up camp in Rising Chase, a royal hunting area since Norman times. Various local spots have been identified as being what came to be known as Kett’s Castle.

Enter Lord Willoughby. The family are to be found back in 1334 in Lincolnshire. One of them fought at Crecy, and advantageous marriages through the years helped establish family fortunes.

William Willoughby was in service with the Duke of Richmond in 1536; he served in Parliament representing Lincolnshire and was raised to the peerage. He was certainly connected with John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, before the ‘time of rebellion‘.

There was apparently a plan afoot for the rebels in Castle Rising to mount an attack on King’s Lynn, but Lord Willoughby, leading a force comprised of the local gentry and paid for with the help from King’s Lynn, managed to thwart it.

Jackie Morrallee reports that the rebels moved south to Downham, which is where the Kett’s Oak of Ryston Hall comes in. It was, we are told, a rallying point for the rebels, but following what must have been something akin to a kangaroo court, the ‘Reformation Oak‘ was used as a gallows tree, giving rise to a rhyme:

   ‘Surely the tree which nine men did twist on must be the old oak at Ryston’

Having completed his work and cleared the camp at Castle Rising, Willoughby moved a sizeable force of loyalists to Walsingham, where he joined forces with the Earl of Warwick, and the combined force moved eastwards to tackle Kett’s uprising in Norwich.

Researched and Compiled by Pete Widdows, NRO Research Blogger.

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Extending his Grasp on Science even after Death

The statue of Sir Thomas Browne stands in the Haymarket in Norwich, often covered by birds, and occasionally wearing a traffic cone on his head. But how many people passing by really know who Sir Thomas Browne is. Hopefully, with the launch of Talking Statues, the statue of Sir Thomas Browne, voiced by Adam Buxton, will be able to give people an understanding of the man himself.

The man himself

Sir Thomas Browne was a well know scientist and medical doctor. Although born in London in 1605, he settled in Norwich in 1637 and practiced medicine there for the rest of his life.

Finding his remains

His interest in these subjects continued into his death. Browne died on 19 October 1682 and was buried in his parish church of St Peter Mancroft on 24 October (NRO, PD 26/16). However his story doesn’t end there. Browne’s resting place in the chancel of St Peter Mancroft was accidentally disturbed in 1840 by workmen digging a grave for the Vicar’s wife, and the skull and coffin plate (which was broken into two pieces) were removed. They were among the subjects chosen for a new photographic process, the calotype, patented in 1841 and popular for the next decade.

pd 26,16 -ed

The original burial of Thomas Browne, 1682. NRO, PD 26/16

Looking after the skull

The skull was presented to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in 1845, and remained in the hospital’s museum for more than 75 years. It was reburied in the chancel of St Peter Mancroft church following the issue of a faculty in 1922 (NRO, PD 26/41).

pd 26,189-ed

The Burial of Thomas Browne’s Skull. NRO, PD 26/189

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of documents relating to Thomas Browne, including letters, manuscripts of some of his books and his will. They were displayed in an exhibition in the Long Gallery. Information on some of the documents are included in Thomas Browne


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Locating a fitting tribute to Norfolk’s Hero of the Sea

Many Norwich citizens know about Nelson’s statue in the Cathedral Close in Norwich, now voiced by Stephen Fry for the Talking Statues project. But how many people know about the huge column on the coast? At the very south end of Great Yarmouth, as you head towards Gorleston, stands a tall pillar, dedicated to the ‘Norfolk Hero’. It stands at 44 metres high (only 8 metres shorter than Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London). Originally built on open ground, the Pillar is now surrounded on 3 sides by an industrial estate and the other by the sea.

nelson column

Drawing by George Clayton Eaton. NRO, ETN 4/13/9

This image of Nelson’s Monument drawn by George Clayton Eaton, shows the monument as it stood in the 1850s, surrounded by mainly open countryside (NRO, ETN 4/13/9).

Creation of the Column

It was created in 1817-19 by William Wilkins, and was the first monument in England dedicated to Lord Nelson, pre-dating Nelson’s Column by over 20 years. At the top of the pillar is a statue of Britannia, facing inland and holding an olive branch in her right hand and a trident in her left.

Where to locate the Column?

Although the authorities were relatively quick to provide a tribute to Nelson, just over 10 years after his death, the prospect of where to locate the monument proved to be tricky. The records of the Town Clerk’s Department within the Great Yarmouth Borough Archives (NRO, Y/TC 35F/1) highlight a meeting of 1815, were it was decided that the monument should be placed in or around Great Yarmouth. They state that the monument should be a column and that it should be useful for navigation by sea. This information was sent off to the Court of Corporation of Trinity House, to be discussed at their meeting in September of that year. However, they were not so keen on the idea, preferring instead to place the column in Cromer, where it could serve as a lighthouse. This, they thought, would be particularly useful if coastal erosion destroyed the existing lighthouse.

Thankfully the matter was clearly resolved and only 2 years later the monument was built in Great Yarmouth. Many of the visitors to Great Yarmouth’s Pleasure Beach have probably never noticed the figure of Britannia watching over them as they enjoy their rides. Next time you visit, be sure to look out for her.

Other Nelson Documents

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of documents relating to the life and memory of Lord Nelson, from letters written by him, to his baptism and even a lock of his hair. More information on each of these items can be found in Lord Nelson- Norfolk Hero.

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What was the True Identity of ‘Black Bart’?- part 2

Most sources state that US outlaw, Charles E. Boles aka ‘Black Bart’ was born in Norfolk, England in 1829 to John and Maria Bowles. John left a will which mentioned a number of family members and they can be traced through the US censuses. These records tell us that John was born c. 1789 England, Maria was born c. 1793 England and they had children: Harriet (c. 1812), William (c. 1815), James (c. 1818), John Jr. (c. 1819), Robert (c.1822), Lucy (c. 1824), Charles (c. 1829) all in England, then Maria (c.1832) and Hiram (c.1834) in Jefferson Co, NY, USA. There has been some discussion about the change from Bowles to Boles, but the name is spelled in several ways in the censuses, so this is just another spelling variant. Norfolk was not recorded in the censuses, but much of what is known about Black Bart came from people who knew him and there is a further piece of compelling evidence. Leonard Bowles born c.1792 England also came to Alexandria with his wife Mary Ann and family at the same time as John and Maria and there is a surviving naturalisation intention for Leonard stating that he was 44 and had been born in Shelfanger, Norfolk, England. It is very likely that Leonard and John were brothers.

It is commonly stated that John Bowles and Maria Leggett married in Great Yarmouth in 1807 and there is such a marriage in the Great Yarmouth St Nicholas Marriage Register (NRO, PD 28/71) (in the name of Ledgett), but if Maria’s ages in the census and on her gravestone are correct, she would only have been 13 in 1807, which while legal with parental consent, was fairly uncommon and the marriage does not record consent. The children born to this couple in Yarmouth were listed in the Great Yarmouth St Nicholas Baptism Register (NRO, PD 28/30) as being Thomas William (1811), Mary Ann (1814) Harriet Maria (1816) John Ledget (1819), Robert Cropley (1821), Joseph (1828), Harriet (1830) and Richard Leggett (1835). They do not fit with what is known of the family and crucially, their last child was born in Yarmouth long after we know the family were in the USA. They can also be seen in the 1841 (HO 107/794/38/20) and 1851 (HO 107/1806/163/3) censuses in Yarmouth, so they cannot possibly be Charles’ parents. (N.B. They had lost track of their true ages, but are living with two of their known children and a Mary and Charlotte Leggett in 1841, so it is surely the same couple).

As Leonard Bowles reported that he was born in Shelfanger, those parish registers were searched, but neither John nor Leonard’s baptisms were found there. There was just a burial of a William, son of James and Rebecca Bowles, in 1795 (NRO, PD 80/4). Were John and Leonard baptised to this couple before the family moved to Shelfanger? Various genealogy websites were searched for other children baptised to James and Rebecca, but none were found.

The marriages of John and Maria Bowles and Leonard and Mary Ann Bowles were also looked for without success. However, in Bressingham -just 4 miles from Shelfanger – baptisms were found for John (1824), George (1824) and Eliza (1827), the children of Leonard and Mary Ann Bowles, late Stone (NRO, PD 111/4). This must surely be the couple who emigrated with John and Maria. Burials for a Sophia Bowles, aged 14, Martha Bowles, aged 10 and John Bowles, aged 6 were also found in the Bressingham burial register, in 1827 (NRO, PD 111/9). The baptisms of Sophia and Martha were looked for in the Bressingham registers, but were not found. However, on 6th September 1818 Sophia (born 1813), James (born 1815) and Martha (born 1818), the children of Leonard and Mary Ann Birch, late Stone, were all baptised together. So we have a Leonard Birch and a Leonard Bowles both married to a Mary Ann Stone, both in Bressingham and with children seemingly in common. Could Leonard Birch and Leonard Bowles be one and the same man?

A marriage for Mary Ann Stone and Leonard Birch was looked for and found in Fersfield, which lies between Bressingham and Shelfanger, in 1812 (NRO, PD 144/4). Also found there was a baptism of Sophia, daughter of Leonard and Mary Ann Birch, in 1813 (NRO, PD 144/3). Thus it appears that Sophia was baptised twice in the name of Birch, but buried in the name of Bowles.

The Shelfanger baptisms (NRO, PD 80/2) were looked at again to see if any Birch baptisms were found there and the following was noted:

Leonard, son of James and Rebecca Birch, baptised 26th February 1792

Therefore, Leonard Birch was baptised in Shelfanger the very year that Leonard Bowles recorded he was born there. Also his parent’s names were James and Rebecca Birch and just 3 years later a William, son of James and Rebecca Bowles was buried in the parish. Therefore, it seems we have clear evidence that not only did Leonard use the names Bowles and Birch, but so did his father, James. Could John and Maria Bowles also have used both surnames?

There was indeed a marriage between a John Burch and Maria Hall, in 1811, in Shelfanger (NRO, PD 80/6). There were also marriages for Elizabeth Birch and Edward Bell and Martha Birch and Jonathan Bennett, both in 1800. Jonathan Bennett witnessed John and Maria’s marriage. In the Shelfanger Particular Baptist Birth Register (TNA, RG 4/1138) there were baptisms of children of Robert and Martha Birch and Robert Birch witnessed Leonard’s marriage in Fersfield (NRO, PD 144/4). It seems likely therefore that John, Leonard, Elizabeth, Martha and Robert were all the children of James and Rebecca Birch aka Bowles.

Could Charles Bowles aka Black Bart also have been baptised as Birch? The following baptism was located in Bressingham (NRO, PD 111/4), the same parish that Leonard and Mary Ann were living in:

Charles, son of John and Maria Burch, late M. Halls, labourer of Bressingham, baptised 25th October 1829

baptism of Charles Burch, bressingham-ed

Baptism of Charles Burch, 25 October 1829 in Bressingham Parish Register. NRO, PD 111/4

Thus we do find a baptism of a Charles Birch in exactly the year Black Bart is said to have been born.

A number of questions remain:

Firstly, why did the family use two surnames? The most likely explanation is that James was born illegitimately to a woman named Birch and his father was a man named Bowles. James Burch was buried in Shelfanger, in 1837, aged 86 (NRO, PD 80/9) which gives him an approximate year of birth of 1751. There was a James, the base born son of Sarah Birch, baptised in Wymondham, in 1753 (NRO, PD 184/3) and there were Bowles living in the Wymondham area at the time. James’ father may well have acknowledged him and so the family commonly used the name Bowles and took the opportunity of the emigration to take permanently the name they felt was their inheritance.

baptism of James Birch, Wymondham-ed

Baptism of James Birch, on 25 September 1753 in Wymondam Parish Register. NRO, PD 184/3

Secondly, where are the baptisms of the other children thought to have been born to James and Rebecca and the other children known to have been born to John and Maria? We do only have Leonard’s and Charles’ baptisms thus far. There are two obvious explanations for so many missing baptisms. The family lived in an area very close to the Suffolk border, so may have been living in Suffolk when the other children were born. Alternatively, the family may have been non-conformists. Norfolk was a hotbed of non-conformism and there is an established link between those communities and emigres to the US. Jonathan and Martha Bennet (late Birch) had several of their children baptised into a Wesleyan Church and recorded in the New Buckenham Circuit Wesleyan Baptism Register (NRO, FC 72/6) and Robert and Martha Birch had their children’s births registered with the Shelfanger Baptist Church (TNA, RG 4/1138), so other members of the family may well have belonged to churches whose records have not survived. Leonard and Charles may have been weak when they were born and so baptised into the Anglican Church as a precaution in case they did not survive until an itinerant dissenting minister could perform a ceremony.

Despite these questions there are some further additional pieces of evidence that the Birch family are one and the same as the Bowles family and these are:

  • There is no trace of any of the people thought to have emigrated in Norfolk records after 1829.
  • One of the few children born to Leonard in Bressingham who survived infancy was James Birch, born 1815. A James Bowles of that age born in England is found in Alexandria, Jefferson County in the 1855 New York State Census.
  • A baptism of a Maria Halls in 1793 in Fersfield (NRO, PD 144/2) gives her date of birth within just 5 days of the date of birth which can be calculated from information on Maria Bowles gravemarker in the USA.
  • The Bressingham Churchwarden’s Account (NRO, PD 111/70) for Easter 1830 – Easter 1831 records an interest payment for £300 borrowed “to enable certain paupers of the Parish of Bressingham to emigrate”.

The evidence all points to needing to add one more to the list of names that Black Bart was known by during his lifetime. Of course, there is at least one more left to discover: what was he know as after his disappearance from Vasalia in February 1888?

Researched and compiled by Professional Genealogist, Joanne Penn.


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What was the True Identity of ‘Black Bart’?

The Outlaw

Black Bart was an infamous US outlaw who committed some 28 holdups of Wells Fargo stagecoaches, in California, between 1875 and 1883. He was known for his politeness, for taking only the contents of the strongbox and the mail – he never stole from the passengers – for never firing a shot or harming anyone and after the 4th and 5th robbery, for leaving a poem at the scene.

His modus operandi was to halt the stage on foot by brandishing a shotgun, he wore a long linen duster coat, a bowler hat and a flour sack with eyeholes as a disguise. He would pretend that he was part of a gang and indeed the driver would see 4 or 5 shotguns aimed at him from bushes. After requesting that the driver “Please throw down the box” he would use a hatchet to break into the box, take the gold and mail and escape on foot – it is said he was afraid of horses – whereupon the driver would eventually realise that the other shotguns were merely strategically placed sticks.

It is estimated that Bart netted some $18,000 during his career, but his luck finally ran out on the 3rd November 1883. At the scene of his first robbery, on Funk Hill in Calaveras County, Bart held up his last stage. The driver had given a ride to a hunter and dropped him off shortly before the holdup. As Bart was breaking into the strongbox, the driver saw the man and beckoned him over whereupon he opened fire. Bart made his escape, but was hit on the hand.  The alarm was raised and a posse set out in pursuit. Bart was on foot, exhausted and bleeding, he jettisoned his belongings and much of his haul. He did escape, but found among his belongings was handkerchief which bore the laundry mark ‘FXO7’.

A Wells Fargo detective, James B Hume, had been trailing Bart since his early robberies. He set about tracing the laundry mark and eventually tracked it an outlet in a tobacco shop in San Francisco. The proprietor recognised the clothes as belonging to his friend, C E Bolton, a mining man who was frequently away, at times it was later found that coincided with the robberies. Hume had his man. The photograph, which was taken at the time of his arrest, portrays an elegantly dressed man, carrying a cane, wearing a diamond ring and pin, with piercing blue eyes and a thick moustache.

Black Bart - Norfolk, England

At first, he denied the crimes, but eventually confessed. He insisted his name was C E Bolton, however, a bible in his room, bore the inscription:

‘This precious Bible is presented to Charles E. Boles, First Sergeant Company B, 116th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, by his wife as a New Year’s gift, God gives us hearts to which His — faith to believe. Decatur, Illinois, 1865.’

It was signed by Mary Boles.

Charles E Boles aka C E Bolton aka Black Bart was charged with the final robbery only, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 years in San Quinton Prison. He always denied being Black Bart or Charles E Boles, but during his incarceration he did send and receive letters from his wife Mary Boles and other family members, so there can be no doubt about his true identity. On 21st January 1888, he was released for good behaviour after serving 4 years 2 months. He was met by reporters to whom he declared that he was through with crime. He did not return to his family, but did write again to his wife from San Francisco, saying that he was demoralized by being kept under constant surveillance by Wells Fargo and needed to get away. In February 1888, he left his boarding house and did not return. Hume tracked him to The Palace Hotel in Vasalia. The owner confirmed that a man answering his description had checked into the hotel on 28th February 1888 and then vanished, leaving a bag of belongings, including clothes bearing the laundry mark ‘FX07’. He was never seen or heard of again.

On 14th November 1888, a stagecoach was robbed by a masked man who left a poem. Upon comparing the handwriting, Hume declared this the act of a copycat.


 Early Life

Charles E Boles was born in 1829, in Norfolk, England. He was the 7th of 9 children born to John and Maria Bowles. The family left England, in 1830, and settled near Alexandria, Jefferson County, New York where John bought a farm.

In 1849, Charles, or Charley as he was known, and his cousin David went west to join the California gold rush, prospecting in the north fork of the American River, near Sacramento. They did not do well and returned home briefly in 1852, before returning again, this time with Charley’s brother, Robert. Both David and Robert died shortly after they arrived, but Charley remained for a further 2 years before he gave up and came home where he married Mary Elizabeth Johnson.

By 1860, Charley and Mary were living in Decatur, Illinois with their 4 children. In 1863, Charley enlisted in 116th Illinois Regiment and fought bravely in the Civil War and was made 1st Sergeant within a year. He fought in a number of important battles and was badly wounded in the abdomen at a battle at Vicksburg and was lucky to survive. He was mustered out in 1865 and returned home.

However, he couldn’t settle to farming and in 1867, he went prospecting again, in Idaho and then Montana, where he bought a small mine. Men connected to the Wells Fargo Company pressured him to sell his mine and when he refused, they cut off his water supply, forcing him to abandon it. He wrote a letter to his wife complaining about the incident and declared that he would ‘take steps’. In August 1871, Mary received a letter from Charley indicating that he had made money and was returning home, but when she heard no more from him, she assumed he had died. When Charley’s father died a year later, he left a bequest to his daughter-in-law Mary, the wife of his deceased son Charles. It was not until his arrest in 1883 that the family discovered he was still alive and had been living the life of an outlaw for the last 8 years.

Joanne has carried out some research into finding the ‘true’ identity of Black Bart, and this will be uncovered in the next blog post.

Compiled by Professional Genealogist, Joanne Penn using sources from www.blackbart.com; www.sptddog.com; Wikipedia

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Post-war Demining Operations in the Norfolk Wash and Police Invasion Procedures from the Second World War

A closer look at Norfolk Record Office document, C/PO 1/60.

This intriguing document contains primarily Copy Number 500 of the 1942 revised version of procedures that the British Police should take in the event of an invasion by Nazi Germany (the document appears to account for a naval invasion as opposed to a Para drop).

The front of the document mostly revolves around telegrams between a Chief Constable S. Van Neck (based in Norwich), and a West Norfolk police officer, Superintendent Woodeson MVO, Sandringham Division. Detailed within are the copies, recopies and original texts distributed to officers from five different police districts in relation to the demining of the North Norfolk coast, ranging from sea mines in Hunstanton to pipe mines in Holme.

Also contained are several maps related to the demining, as well as a decommissioned AFV (tanks etc) firing range located at what is now the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh. It’s hard to appreciate the slog of reports and telegrams that each police house and district would have had to trawl through following the end of the War – until you read such a wall of text as this.

Secondly, there is a large file in the middle of the folder labelled “Police Invasion Instructions” – dated May 1942. While some of the background information as to the reasoning behind the document (telegrams etc) are not included, the file does reveal that the police would, in the event of an invasion of Britain by Germany, be vital to the defence effort.

CPO 160

Plan of A.F.V. [artillery firing] range at Titchwell showing arcs of fire control. Norfolk Record Office, C/PO 1/60

Details of curfews, movement restrictions, and for prison wardens an especially stark message – “If governors receive instructions to discharge certain categories for either of these reasons, members of the Services who are within the category of prisoner ordered to be discharged will be handed over to an escort to be supplied by a local Army unit, together with a nominal roll”. It can be assumed by reading this that the government intended for quite literally all able bodied men with a prior service record to be inducted into the military..

The document overall gives a “between the lines” viewpoint of what the defence of this country would have looked like, calling for total mobilisation of all adults. Eighty years later, it makes for both unnerving and fascinating reading.

Written by JP July 2018

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Gruesome goings-on in Old Hunstanton

There is a slim uncatalogued file in the King’s Lynn Archive which contains some 14 documents, dated to the 24th year of King George III’s reign labelled, “Customs Murder Suit”. George III reigned from 1760 to 1820. These documents include a small scrap of paper which is basically a list of expenses to claim, “expenses incurred in conveying Kemball and Gunton to Norwich Castle”, receipts, lists of guards, one interesting one referring to the Wells party and the men who were “all very near Green when shot”, who “took Gunton on the beach”, and “took Kimball lying under the wall”, a list of vital questions to be asked, an account of the fray, the examination of Sergeant Leishman and his identification of Gunton, the statement by Mr Rounds of Snettisham who carried out the post mortem and the indictment document.

1 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Post mortem

Post Mortem. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


Fascinating stuff, but what was it all about? The website for The Lodge, Hunstanton, refers to the story, and there is much to be found online about Norfolk smugglers. The fray in question took place on the night of 26-27th September 1784, when, according to The Norfolk Chronicle, a group of smugglers came across two groups of revenue officers and light dragoons, one from Wells, one from Lynn, who had taken possession of contraband from Dunkirk and were lying in wait for the smugglers to try and get it back.

2 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Wells and Lynn party

List of Members of the Wells Party and Lynn Party. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Cusoms Murder Suit


The captain of the smugglers, and the lugger Vipel, was one Thomas Kimbell (or Kemball) of Thornham, and two of his seamen, Andrew Gunton and Thomas Williams, are also named.

3 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - ID document

Document of Identity. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The soldiers involved were from General Eliott’s Light Horse Dragoons. George Augustus Eliott, PC, KB, 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, had seen service in the Seven Years’ War, the Great Siege of Gibraltar, where he was Commander in Chief, and the American War of Independence. He first raised the 15th King’s Hussars in 1759; the regiment was merged with the 19th Royal Hussars into the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, but was named after their general. Interestingly, the regiment was involved in 1819 in the Peterloo Massacre, when it was led by Lt Colonel Guy L’Estrange, another family name with local connections. During the fray, a revenue man, William Green, and a dragoon, William Webb, were shot dead.

4 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Account of murder

Account of the murders (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


5 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Account of murder reverse

Account of the murders (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


Among the documents in the file, there is one which includes a directive to select one of the gang to be persuaded to turn king’s evidence, and a request for the baptism certificates of Green’s children, to arrange financial relief for his family.

6 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


7 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


8 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (3). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The three smugglers named above were taken to Norwich Castle and tried for murder at the Thetford Assizes in March 1785.

9 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Conveyance

Conveyance to Norwich Castle. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


10 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Expenses Chit

Expenses List. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

They were acquitted, and a retrial was ordered, where they were once again acquitted. The prosecution came to the conclusion that no Norfolk jury was ever going to convict smugglers!


11 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - List of questions

List of Trial Questions. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The gravestones of Webb and Green can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Old Hunstanton. The epitaphs read: “Here lie the mangled remains of poor William Green, an Honest Officer of Government, who in the faithful discharge of his duty was inhumanly murdered by a gang of smugglers in this parish September 27, 1784, aged 37 years.

12 Green headstone

Gravestone of William Green. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


And: “William Webb, late of the 15th Light Dragoons, who was shot from his horse by a party of smugglers on 25 September 1784 aged 26 years. I am not dead but sleepeth here And when the Trumpet Sound I will appear. Four balls thro’ me pearced there was. Hard it was I’d no time to pray. This stone that here you Do see My Comrades Erected for the sake of me.”

13 Webb headstone

Gravestone of William Webb. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


There are some obvious mistakes in grammar and spelling, and, it seems, a doubt about the date. Spooky, but that date just happens to be my birthday!

Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Pete Widdows

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A Seaside Holiday in Sketches

Inspired by Norfolk Record Office document MC 2784/G/16.

In 1884, Juliet Mary Seebohm – later wife of Sir Rickman John Godlee, one of the first surgeons to remove a brain tumour – holidayed in Cromer with her family and the Weber family. Her sketches show a charming insight into what the families got up to during their stay.

Fourteen cartoon-strip-esque panels show various events from a day at the beach. The

subjects vary from waiting impatiently for an empty bathing machine on the beach, to capsizing a boat in the sea, to playing cricket in the evening. Rhyming verses on the back give us an idea of how Juliet Mary Seebohm saw and interpreted the events. My favourite is the verse on the back of the drawing titled ‘Desertion’:

‘One day the sea is raging wilde

But gentle mayds are brave

One false mayd leapes – the other sinks

Head-first into the wave.’

Eight more, smaller sketches are stuck to a page which looks as if it has been

MC 2784

Preparatory Sketches NRO, MC 2784/G/16

ripped out of an exercise book. The artistic talent ranges from an intricately drawn child wearing a striped jumper and holding a cricket ball, to a sketch of a lady labelled ‘Hilda’ who isn’t really much more than a glorified stick figure.

M. Seebohm herself doesn’t feature in any of the sketches, showing that she was probably more of an onlooker than a swimmer. But her drawings give us the chance to see her

holiday for ourselves, and to see that, despite the 120 year difference, beach holidays haven’t really changed all that much. The verse on the back of ‘Paradise’ still hold the essence of the joy a beach holiday today can bring:


‘These laydes are in Paradise

All bright, with gladfull glee

Disporting them for houres in

The greene and sunnie sea.’

Written by Eleanor Johnson July 2018

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