One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns: The Memoirs of Ethel George

How are you marking Easter this year?

While many people are busy eating hot cross buns, searching for hidden Easter eggs and visiting church it is worth thinking about how people use to celebrate Easter in the past.

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of oral history interviews of Ethel George. Ethel was the youngest of 17 children, growing up in Norwich. The recordings were created by Carole and Michael Blackwell for their book about Ethel’s childhood entitled The Seventeenth Child. The book details Ethel’s life between 1914-1934.

In the recordings (AUD 51/1-15)  Ethel talks about her fond memories of Easter, saying:

‘When I was a little girl my brothers used to, they used to take out the hot cross buns. Mother use to give them a clean tray with a clean teacloth on and they used to go out, that was 6 in the morning, they used to go at 6 in the morning, and I can remember them, oh I loved that because you used to hear all the kids ‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, 1 a penny, 2 a penny, hot cross buns’. You’d hear that all the way round, that was lovely, and then mother used to split them up with their lovely clean cloths, and they used to get sold out in no time. Cos people only bought 2 or 3 and they cut them in halves or quartered them, people didn’t have one each. Mother used to buy some. That was lovely’.

Ethel doesn’t remember having Easter Eggs, but she does remember getting dressed up to mark the occasion at church.

‘Easter was nice, I think we all had to go to church. That was a lovely time. Mother used to buy us a little hat each… a little straw hat, lovely… with all little either you had daisies, you either had the orange ones or the yellow ones, or pretty little rosebuds, they were lovely…. I think the boys had a new collar or something, they used to treat them to a new collar’.

DSC_0810- ed

Whatever you do for Easter this year, I hope you have a lovely and memorable time, just like Ethel did all those years previously.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Disabled servicemen of Norwich in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Petitions are perhaps the most immediately personal class of document amongst the early modern records of the Norwich criminal justice system. Several different courts sat regularly in Norwich during the later middle ages and early modern period, including the Assembly court, which dealt with everyday matters of government, and the Court of Mayoralty, an equity court. Because Norwich was a “city and county” (an incorporated borough administratively separate from Norfolk), it also had its own Quarter Sessions, which oversaw the implementation at the local level of many areas of national government policy. It was presided over by Norwich’s justices of the peace, who were the Mayor and senior aldermen. An enormous number of petitions to these various courts were generated during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hundreds survive in Norfolk Record Office’s strongrooms, where they have recently been listed in detail.

One aspect of business which fell within the Quarter Sessions’ purview was the granting of pensions to disabled ex-servicemen. Those who had served in the armed forces were entitled to support when they were unable to work for their living any longer due to infirmity. There are a number of petitions by disabled soldiers and sailors among the Norwich city records, from men wounded in conflicts ranging from the Dutch Wars of the mid-seventeenth century to the Seven Years’ War of the mid-eighteenth century. The stories of wartime courage, hardship and survival which they contain are still of interest to us today.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Norwich Fashion Week: Jarrold Catwalk events in the 1960s

Are you planning on going to an event at Norwich Fashion Week this year? Maybe one of the many catwalk shows? Looking through The Jarrold magazines deposited at the Norfolk Record Office (JLD 4/7/1/7) gives a good insight into the world of fashion as it was in the 60s. The article, entitled Fashion at Pinebanks, discloses the logistics of putting on a Young Style Fashion Style for Norwich Union Sports Association.

The company started the day with packing up the van, with the catwalk itself, carpets, mirrors and other fixtures and fittings to make the show possible. In the late afternoon a number of Jarrold Fashion Floor staff loaded over 100 dresses carefully on to the rail, ensuring that the already iron items were not creased before they took centre stage. Accessories included hats, furs, gloves and earrings. Staff rushed from closing the store at 7pm up to Pinebanks in order to help with preparations for the show, which started at 8.30pm.

The models had already been chosen, as the writer explains, ‘Mr Page picked out six extremely pretty girls from the Norwich Union and sent them along to the Store where we found them clothes that not only suited them, but were gay enough for the purpose. In addition six of our own fashion girls were brought in to make the number up to twelve for a snappy, crisp presentation’. Each model was given their own dresser to help with the quick costume changes.


The girls who displayed fashion, from The Jarrold Magazine. Norfolk Record Office JLD 4/7/1/7


The writer goes on to list some of the items included in the show, giving us an understanding of what was available and the cost to Norwich shoppers at the time. He writes, ‘We showed all kinds of clothes, from snappy trouser suits, culottes, and unlined tweed suited (8 1/2 guineas) [equivalent to £142.67 around the start of the 21st century] to exotic cuddly fun furs and party dresses. Suddenly gasp of surprise came when tow of the girls entered in really ‘snazzy’ party dress complete with accessories, looking a ‘million dollars’, but in dresses costing a mere 99s. 6d [equivalent to £76.12 around the start of the 21st century].’


On the Catwalk, from The Jarrold Magazine. Norfolk Record Office, JLD 4/7/1/7


The staff were back at work early again the next morning in order to take everything back to Jarrold, before taking their places on the shop floor for 9.30am.

The event was obviously deemed a success as Norwich Union asked them to run another show looking at summer holiday wear the following spring.

If you are visiting an event for Norwich Fashion Week this year you may find yourself more likely to appreciate how much work has gone on behind the scenes to make it all possible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What makes a good Valentines Card?

ETN 4/14/2Did you send any valentines cards this morning? If you did you are following on from a tradition that evolved in the 18th century. Although the notion of sending cards, chocolates and flowers has remained the same since then, cards themselves have changed from handwritten valentines to predominately mass-produced greeting cards we know today.

In the UK it is estimated we spend around £1.3 billion of gifts including 25 million cards each year.

We may not have time these days to write our own valentine poem, or make a card, but it’s really interesting to see some of those handwritten messages. We have been looking through a collection of valentines cards collected and created by George Clayton Eaton (ETN 4/14/2). George married Mary on 17 September 1873, and had two children, Frederic, born 1874 and Florence, born 1878. The letters and cards in this collection date from around the 1830s-1890, so cover the period when George had Mary would have been courting. We thought we would share a couple of our favourites:


Valentines card from the Eaton Collection. Norfolk Record Office ETN 4/14/2




The transcript reads:

Open your eyes and look about

I do not think you’ll find me out

Through sometimes in your bedroom seen

And in your school room too I’ve been


I sometimes meet you in your walk

I do not say I hear you talk

Again a fish, add not a letter

A flower perhaps will please you better


I’m such a simple chattering elf

I almost name my very self

And were you frozen into ice

I’ve power to thaw thee in a trice


I’ll visit soon with gentle breeze

And will not let you longer freeze

Give one kind word I’ll not repine

But be your humble valentine.


Another poem was clearly written by an avid card player, it reads:


Come, cut the cards, and deal the pack,

To every player red and black,

Arrange your hand; observe with care,

What cards are played, and when, and where,

Be very silent, and give heed,

To what your partner first shall lead,

If second hand play very low,

If third, as high as you can go,

If adverse suit keep the command,

Discard from weakest in your hand,

Lead up to weak suit, though the strong,

And you will never far go wrong,

Bring in your long suit if you can,

Support your partner, like a man,

And thus the noble game of whist,

Of which I’ve given you the gist,

Will give you many a happy night,

Until the evening shall be light,

A word of caution too, I pray,

(Not to be found in ‘Hoyle’ or ‘Clay’)

But very useful in its way,

Remember, at this time of year,

Hearts always will be trumps, my dear.


Has this inspired you to write your own valentines poem this year? We would love to know if it did.

Posted in Snapshots from the Archive, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surviving the Holocaust: One Norfolk Woman’s Account

January 27 is Holocaust Memorial Day, and this year’s theme relates to the survivors. The Norfolk Record Office holds the records of one such survivor, Elsie Marechal, born Elsie Bell.  She was born in Middlesex on 21 June 1894. Because of her poor health she was brought up by relatives in Great Yarmouth and attended the Priory School. In September 1913, she went on to the Teachers’ Training College in Norwich, then in College Road. She moved to London in 1915 to take up a teaching job. In the same year she met Georges Marechal, The couple married in 1920, and moved abroad to Koblenz. The family moved to Brussels in 1929. They were in Brussels when Belgium was invaded by the Germans on 10 May 1940: the Marechals became actively involved in helping Allied soldiers to escape from the Germans. They were caught and were taken to St Gilles prison, where they were interrogated and tortured: Georges was shot in October 1943, and Elsie spent the rest of the war, first in St Gilles prison in Brussels, then in German prisons and concentration camps, enduring many months of sheer hell.

These are the kinds of experiences that she went though:

At the beginning of February the old, the thin and ill were sorted out. We passed in a long queue stark naked one after the other before the doctor who put the medical cards on one side of all those picked out as unfit.  All these were sent to a camp, a ‘Jugend Lager’ as they called it, a few miles from Ravensbruck to be specially looked after.  This special treatment turned out to be starvation – no blankets and long poses in the cold.  Several died and after a short time all those who remained were sent on transport – the black transport – none of those in that transport have been heard of since.  Everything leads us to believe that they were exterminated in the gas chambers.

Later she was moved from Ravensbruck to Mauthausen, enduring a terrible journey:

One day, the 1st of March, everybody was ordered out, so in a few minutes we were outside with all our worldly possessions in a linen bag. We left Ravensbruck, a long column of 5,000 women marching five abreast. We each received a loaf of bread and a small packet of margarine and sausage as food for the journey which was reckoned to last four or five days. We waited for two hours until we were cold to the bone before the train arrived. Then we were pushed into cattle trucks – 70 or more women to a truck. Then followed the most painful journey of all. It started snowing and freezing once more. We journeyed south, crossing Czechoslovakia to Mauthausen in Austria, one of the worst reputed camps for men. In each truck was an SS and an offizierin who had the luxury of straw to sleep on; there were also two tin pails for lavatory use. The first day we were able to get water to drink, but the following days we had only snow to quench our thirst. As for washing, that was out of the question.


Elsie’s account of her years in German prisons and concentration camps. Norfolk Record Office, KHC 114


Elsie survived, and lived in Belgium after the war, from where she wrote this account of her experiences which she sent to the Teachers’ Training College. It is now held by the Norfolk Record Office, one of the most moving and tragic of the many thousands of stories held there.


Norwich Training College, where Elsie was trained as a teacher.                             Norfolk Record Office, MC 2532/2

Happy stories, sad stories, inspiring stories, the Norfolk Record Office has them all – come along and see for yourself!

Complied by Frank Meeres, Archivist, Norfolk Record Office

Posted in Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two pamphlets and two letters – “The Hooker Hoard”

Botanical Correspondence of J. D. Hooker

Printed letter to J. D. Hooker from Baron Alexander von Humboldt, on his proposed journey to the Himalayas and Tibet, and printed article on Dr Hooker’s botanical mission to India. Norfolk Record Office, MC 2847/J1/10/4/1-3

Located within the notable collection of the Turner, Palgrave and Barker Families, these pamphlets, written in French and English, hold valuable information about the early plant and geographical study of J D Hooker. They concern ‘Dr Hooker’s Botanical mission to India’ and preparatios for the expedition through correspondence with Baron Humboldt¹.’

So why is this of interest to us in Norfolk?  Sir William Jackson Hooker was born in Norwich and he married Maria (nee Turner). They moved to Halesworth where their son (Joseph Dalton Hooker) was born on 30 June 1817. We owe a significant amount of our botanical knowledge to the eminent Hooker family.

Joseph Dalton Hooker had collected plants from an early age following his father’s interest in Botany (William Hooker was the first official director of Kew Gardens, 1841).

He had gained credibility as a surgeon and botanist on the HMS Erebus expedition 1839-43 to the Antarctic, Tasmania, New Zealand and South America under the command of James Clark Ross and was therefore the right candidate to be selected for this plant hunting trip to India, to a region called Sikkim between Nepal and Bhutan in the Himalayas. Continue reading

Posted in Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disgruntled of Ditchingham: Stories from the correspondence of W. Carr

William Carr of Ditchingham Hall was a Magistrate of many years standing, for Norfolk, Suffolk, and the West Riding. He was chairman of the Norfolk Quarter Sessions, vice-chairman of Norfolk County Council and a Deputy Lieutenant for Norfolk. Hidden among his correspondence for the period 1912- 18, amid election and military matters, is a very odd letter with the postmark October 29th 1917 from a disgruntled resident of Ditchingham (MC 166/37).


Correspondence of William Carr. Norfolk Record Office, MC 166/37.

I have attempted to retain some of the errors to capture the flavour of the letter itself. It begins simply enough, with the author saying “thought I would just drop you a line as (you are) chairman of the bench at Loddon. I think the lights in the parish ought to be seen into more by the policeman in Ditchingham as you cannot tell when the raiders are over, my house is in danger and so are your housings in danger too.” However, as the writer gradually gets into his stride, his spelling and punctuation becomes increasingly erratic. His next complaint is about “bicycles having no rear lights, and no lights at all, I have seen it several times now along the Broome Road, where is acting sergeant Howlett not looking into things as he ought to do”

Continue reading

Posted in Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet the team: Digitisation Work Placements at The Norfolk Record Office

Thanks to funding from MAP and South Norfolk Council, since July 2015, the Norfolk Record Office has been able to offer voluntary 6 week digitisation work placements to young people not in employment, this is for one morning per week. Over the past year, the project has evolved to become a partnership project with Asperger East Anglia and so far 10 young people have successfully completed the scheme. Each young person receives data protection and document handling training prior to beginning their placement.

The project aims to digitise a private collection documenting the personal stories of the 448th Bomb Group, who were stationed at Seething airfield from 1943-1945. The collection consists of a series of folders, which give an insight into the part Seething airfield played in the fight for freedom during the Second World War. The aim of the collection is to document what life was like for the 3000 personnel that were stationed at the base and ensure that their sacrifices will not be forgotten.

Lauren, one of the trainees, shares her experiences of working on the project:

‘Hello, my name is Lauren and I have been working on the Seething Project for around 4 months. I have a great passion for history but I must admit that before starting this project I knew very little about The Archive Centre before Lizzie showed me around. I was shown behind the scenes to the three strong rooms where the documents are stored away safely from anything that may damage them, the search room where the general public can request and view documents from the strong room and the digitisation room where documents are photographed to make them easier to access.


Lauren working in the digitisation room at the Norfolk Record Office.

Continue reading

Posted in Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment