Remote Learning with the Coven of Atho

There are numerous references to witchcraft in the archives at the Norfolk Record Office. These references typically relate to cases of people being tried as witches. Of course, the defendants in these cases were victims of persecution but what about ‘real’ witches? It is understandable that there might be few voices from that side of the cloak recorded in the archives from the 16th and 17th century when to express such beliefs could mean death. Fast-forward to the 1960s, where the counterculture and the increased interest in alternative lifestyles would allow Wiccan beliefs to become more widely accepted. In the archives from that decade can be found an unassuming, crudely drawn pamphlet, which gives a practitioner’s view of ‘white’ witchcraft. Welcome to the world of Raymond Howard and the mysteries of the Coven of Atho (NRO, MC 2817/1).

Image 1 MC 2817-1-005

Norfolk Record Office, MC 2817/1

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The Story of Sound part 2: “Canned music” and a war of formats

In the first part of the Story of Sound blog series, we travelled back in time to the late 1800s to discover who the first inventor was to create a machine which both recorded and played back sound, what the first recorded words were, and what common kitchen item was used as a component for the first ‘talking machine’. Find this blog post here

After Thomas Edison successfully developed the Phonograph in 1877, a machine which could both record and play back audio, he moved his attentions away to other areas of invention. However, his progress in the advances of recording sound did not go unnoticed, with other inventors picked up the baton including Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Tainter. The Phonograph, despite its success in both capturing and playing back audio, had its limitations. The design incorporated a recording cylinder covered in soft tin foil, onto which a stylus would imprint grooves as determined by the vibrations of the sound. However, the tin foil was frail, resulting in a poor sound quality when the audio was played back. Bell and Tainter resolved this by replacing the foil coating with wax. Their improvements to Edison’s design resulted in the development of their own machine, called the Graphophone. The potential held within these early machines ignited a competitive market, and, having successfully invented the first electric light bulb in 1887, Edison quickly rejoined the race to produce the most successful recording machine.

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Britten Pears Archive

Way back in January, when we were wrapped up in our warm layers, and indoor hibernation was for no reason other than the cold weather, the Norfolk Record Office Unlocking Our Sound Heritage team hit the road. The destination? The outskirts of the small coastal town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where we would be collecting a new set of sound recordings to be digitally preserved at Norfolk Record Office.

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Norfolk: A County of Welcome

Who was Lewis Ecker? Why did he have to leave his homeland of Russia in the 19th century?

And what happened to him and his family on arrival in Norfolk? In this blog post we use a number of documents find out more about Lewis and his journey to become a very successful tailor in Norwich.

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Distributing the wealth of the super rich in Elizabethan Norfolk


Oliver Haylotte [Haylett] left a very long and complex will and testament running into some eighteen pages dated 10 February 1580/81 and proved at Norwich on 4 March 1580/81 (The will is dated in the Old Style calendar where the New Year started on Lady Day, March 25) (NRO, NCC Moyse 201). In doing so he provides a fascinating insight into Elizabethan life in Norfolk, with his will clearly demonstrating he was an extremely wealthy yeoman farmer and landowner living in Lessingham, and also owning land in neighbouring Eccles, Hempstead and Happisburgh, all in east Norfolk.

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The Story of Sound: The Talking Machine

Whether it was rushing to Woolworth’s to bag the latest CD, patiently recording songs off the radio onto compact cassette tape, or seeking through the slick sleeves of vinyl at a local record store, the analogue formats of recorded sound that pre date today’s digital era hold a special place in the hearts of those that have experienced them. While some would never turn back to the old methods in the wake of endless streaming services, others swear by their favourite analogue devices.

But what, I hear you ask, was the first method for storing recorded sound? This is a question that whisks us far away from today’s digital technology, taking us right back to the earliest recorded words, which marked the beginning of what would turn into nearly 200 years’ worth of captured sound.

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A Luxury London Retreat: The Journal of Margaret Howes

Margaret Howes was approaching eleven years when she recounted her vibrant experience in London during the September of 1855 (NRO, MC 340/7, 710×9). After travelling from Norwich through Cambridgeshire, and sightseeing in the cities of Ely and Cambridge, Margaret, accompanied by her parents Mr and Mrs Howes, her sister Edith and her Grandmother, finally arrived in the bustling capital. In her journal she talks of her experiences of visiting the Crystal Palace 4 years after the Great Exhibition and describes feeding the animals at London Zoo.

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Smells like 1666!

Amongst the millions of documents held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), those connected with probate provide an insight into the homes and workplaces of the county’s citizens.

The inventory of the ‘Goods and Chattles of Robt Wales late Grocer of Norwich’, (NRO, DN/INV 53b/120), is dated 18th April 1666. This was just five months before London goes up in flames and Norwich is experiencing the last recorded visit of the Plague. The parish registers for the city demonstrate the deaths of those unfortunates who succumb.

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