‘Such Facts as Seem to Throw Light Upon Each Other’ Conserving The Papers of Dr Richard Bright

On the 30 May our collection care team welcomed a project conservator, David Parker. For the next two years, he will be working for the new project involving the conservation of the 19th century papers of Dr Richard Bright.

Richard Bright is a key figure in the history of medicine and intellectual life, famous for his work in nephrology and discovery of Bright’s disease, but also active in other areas, including natural history, geology and travel. He is particularly noted for his geological work, especially in connection with his early voyage to Iceland with Sir George Mackenzie. Bright was a notable figure on the London medical scene and was particularly active at Guy’s.

The Bright paper collection held at the Norfolk Record Office contains notebooks, sketch books and letters written, drawn and received by Richard Bright. Together they chart the early years of Bright’s career as a doctor and author. However, the collection is in danger of being lost forever because of its dire condition; 78% of the collection is in need of extensive conservation work before all but a small part of the collection can be handled. To make this resource accessible the project aim is to conserve around 700 letters, 800 pages of notebooks and a sketchbook.

A grant received from the Wellcome Trust has enabled the NRO to employ David to carry out the conservation treatments. During a two year period we aim to complete approximately half of the archive as the first phase of the project.


David working on the material

Conserving this significant collection is a major step towards the next phase of the project, during which we will digitise and catalogue the archive. Once the project is complete it is anticipated that the collection will attract interest from historians of medical science, geology and natural history as well as making Bright’s key contributions better know.

Yuki Russell, Project Coordinator



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Mapping the War: The King’s Lynn Bomb Map

I have recently been cataloguing a run of maps from the list of uncatalogued material here in King’s Lynn Borough Archives. Out of this series of eight maps one was the King’s Lynn Bomb Map (NRO, KL/SE 3/8). It was transferred to King’s Lynn Borough Archives from the Planning Department of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk on 11 January 2002. It is similar to the Norwich bomb map which has been the subject of recent conservation work. However it appears that the Lynn map has seen less use and display over the years, and so is still in reasonable condition.


King’s Lynn Bomb Map


The map is very large at 200cm high and 275cm wide. It is fixed to a wooden support at the top edge and has a smaller wooden weight at the bottom. It would likely have been displayed vertically hung on a wall when not in storage. It is made out of nine Ordinance Survey map pieces which have been stuck together. These maps date from either 1928 or 1929. Later housing developments have been stuck onto the map.

In September 1940 the government started to collect and collate information relating to damage sustained during bombing raids. Information was initially collected on London, Birmingham and Liverpool but by September 1941 the ‘bomb census’ had been extended to cover the rest of the UK. The purpose of the bomb census was to collect a complete picture as possible of air raid patterns, types of weapons used and the damaged caused by them. Particular attention was paid to strategic sites such as railways, shipyards and factories. The UK was divided into 12 civil defence regions, with King’s Lynn being covered by the Eastern Region which had its headquarters in Cambridge. Reports of damage collected by the police and local air raid wardens were sent to the Ministry of Home Security and collated.[1]

Unlike the Norwich map the bomb location pins are no longer in place. Instead there are a series of colour coded dots. Blue indicates a high-explosive bomb while orange represents an incendiary device. The town, and the surrounding area, are divided into numbered sections.

You can see the location of the bomb that hit the Eagle Hotel on Norfolk Street on the night of June 12th 1942 which killed 42 people. The single dot is just visible on the boundary line, above the ‘k’ in Norfolk Street. Some air raids were followed up with more detailed investigations. The June 12th bombing was one such event. The files of which can be seen, along with others, at the National Archives in Kew (TNA, HO 192/207).


Pin marks showing the location of the bomb on the Eagle Hotel, Norfolk Street


King’s Lynn was not heavily bombed during the Second World War. Less than a hundred bombs were dropped on the town over the duration of the war. Upon closer inspection there are pin marks all over the map. This is especially evident when looking at the reverse side of the map while unrolling it. Unlike the pins that note where the bombs landed these holes are not all in straight lines. Instead many are in seemingly random patterns. It is possible that the map was used for other projects after the war.

Due to the size of the bomb map researchers are requested to make an appointment to view it. This can be done by emailing norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk

[1] Information from the National Archives website. Accessed 23/05/2017 [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/bomb-census-survey-records-1940-1945/]

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Researching Life in a Village: From Cradle to the Grave

At the end of last half term we welcomed 9 pupils from Marsham Primary School to The Archive Centre. The pupils were involved in researching the people buried in the church graveyard for a village leaflet. On the morning of the session, the children visited the graves to look at the names on the headstones before heading on to Norwich.

The pupils were given materials to enable them to research 4 of the villagers; Harriet Howlett, Thomas Crane, Letitia Randell and Thomas Babington. Pupils worked in small groups, each researching a different resident. They started their research by looking at the burial register to double check the age and date of death of their villager. Next, pupils looked at a trade directory to see what jobs their villager held at different dates, before using census returns to find out about their villager’s life, including their place of birth, job and family. Lastly, pupils looked to see if we held any other documents connected to their particular villager.

Letitia Randell burial

Burial entry for Letitia Randell. NRO, PD 231/14


Pupils discovered that the villagers they researched had very diverse lives despite all living in Marsham. Thomas Babington was the Governor of the Reformatory, which looked after children aged twelve to fifteen who had been sentenced to five years detention. Pupils looked at plans of the Reformatory and discovered that there were two rigged masks in the playground so that the boys could be taught seaman’s duties. Letitia Randell, by contrast, took over the running of the Star pub, after the death of her husband.

In addition to working from copies of documents, pupils were able to have a go at using the microfilm of the parish register and see the original. The pupils also had the chance to visit the strongrooms and see where the documents are stored. This was a favourite activity of many of the students, with one saying ‘The strongroom was very cold, there was 1000s of boxes’.

Marsham Sch May 2017 (12)-ed

Pupils using microfilm


Feedback showed that the pupils had an interesting morning, with one teacher commenting, ‘It was nice for the children to connect with the past and handle real documents’.

We wish the pupils well in their continued research and look forward to seeing the final leaflet.

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Help shape the NRO’s school programme for 2017-18

We are currently in the process of updating our offer of workshops for both Primary and Secondary Schools in Norfolk.

In order to ensure that we provide workshops tailored to the needs of schools we are asking if teachers from schools in Norfolk would be able to complete our short questionnaire. Forms need to be back with us by Wednesday 14 June and any completed forms will be put into a draw to win 2 Behind The Scenes tour vouchers.

Click here to find the forms:

consultation form Key Stage 2

consultation form Key Stage 3 and 4

Many thanks!


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Disaster on The Grand Tour


During the seventeenth century the grand tour became a popular pastime for aristocrats, wanting to complete their education and to see the fine examples of art and different culture in Europe. We know of their travels through the art work, and antiques they collected, and the letters and diaries they write.

The tour itself usually lasted one or two years, and incorporated a trip to Paris and a tour of the principal Italian cities, such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples.

By the eighteenth century transportation in Europe was well developed. There were several ways for tourists to get hold of carriages.

  1. Hire a private carriage and horses.
  2. Rent a carriage and travel Post. The travellers hired horses and a driver at designated stations spaced every 6-7 miles along main roads. By the 1760s there were detailed rules regarding the number of horses and men required for different types of coaches and the intervals they had to be changed. Guide books listed every post station and major intercity routes and included detailed maps.
  3. Public transit. This resembled 3 coaches hitched together with a platform across the top for luggage and extra passengers. They could carry up to 30 people and travelled between major cities.


The Norfolk Record Office has a number of documents written by eighteenth century tourists.

In 1792 Anne Gunn travelled from Irstead to Rome with her husband, Revd William Gunn. In her journal she recounts her experiences of travelling by Post along the coast road from Marseilles.

Anne writes:

‘We had still the same mountainous country and the road very bad indeed, and the Frejus horses very unequal to the journey. We were to have crossed l’Estorelle and slept at Cannes but the Postilion was unacquainted with the road or he would never have attempted it. Night came on it rained very fast and we were stuck upon the mountains where I would have willingly stayed till the morning. We had soon occasion to wish that we had determination to do so for in ten minutes we were overturned, but thank god none of us hurt worth mentioning. The coach laid partly over the edge of the road, a very little more and we should have been down to the bottom of the precipice or if we had been going faster it very likely would. I shall never forget what I felt like at the time nor how surprised when it stopped. I believe now that the man was asleep for there was great stone 1 yard high laid in the road which were very plain to see. We got out as well as we could, thankful that we were none of us hurt, but then what was to be done, there was no horsemen and the coach could not be got up without assistance nor did they not like to leave it alone. So we sent the coachman to the Post which was 2 or 3 miles off and the rain drove us into the coach again, much against my inclination, and never shall I forget in what a dreadful manner the time just before anyone arrived for I felt every minute as if it was going to roll down the precipice. In less than 2 hours he returned, to my great relief with 9 men, and with some difficulty they raised the coach, which had sustained no injury and we all set off on foot as I was determined to ride no more, but we came onto level ground at last I was quiet done for and glad though afraid to get in to it again’.




Journal of Anne Gunn. NRO, WGN 3/1


Anne’s experiences show how traumatic travel can be.

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Anthony Hamond: A Victorian County Councillor

As Norfolk goes to the polls for the county council elections on 4 May, it is probably no surprise that the Norfolk Record Office holds many records relating to local politics. Norfolk County Council was established in 1889 by the Local Government Act of the preceding year. The records of the Council form one of the NRO’s core collections. However, the official records of signed minutes and registers of electors are complemented by literature published by the various candidates and their political parties as well as the personal records of the individuals involved. Such records can provide a wonderful insight in to the political manoeuvrings not covered by the official record.

The NRO has recently purchased a series of diaries of Anthony Hammond (1834-1895) of Westacre High House. They were acquired at the Morningthorpe Manor House Sale as a result of an appeal made by the NRO and its charitable partner, the Norfolk Archives and Heritage Development Foundation (NORAH). Hamond owned a large landed estate and unsurprisingly was interested in such matters as horse breeding, hunting and estate management. Hamond’s extensive involvement with hunting in west Norfolk meant he was closely acquainted with the royal family. Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham Hall in 1862, as a home for her eldest son, the Prince of Wales and the future King Edward VII.

Hamond was also interested in local politics. He was involved in the transition of responsibility from the Norfolk Quarter Sessions to Norfolk County Council as both a Justice of the Peace and a member of the first cohort of county councillors.

HMN 4-33 Hamond brothers c 1890

Anthony Hamond, 1834-95 (left); Thomas Astley Horace Hamond, 1845-1917 (centre) and Richard Horace Hamond, 1843-1906 (right). Norfolk Record Office, HMN 4/33, 737×2


Photograph: Norfolk Record Office, HMN 4/33, 737X2.

Despite Hamond’s difficult to read handwriting, the diaries offer a wonderful insight into the life of the late Victorian landed gentry. The diary entries shown below currently feature in an exhibition at The Archive Centre in Norwich. They neatly summarise Hamond’s interests, which include local politics as evidenced by the entry for 3 February 1889 (Norfolk Record Office, MC 3243/21).



In his diary, Hamond indicates that he was an ally of John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley, who was a senior Liberal politician who had held many senior government positions, including Foreign Secretary. Wodehouse was also amongst the first cohort of county councillors. The minutes of the provisional county council, which first met on 7 February 1889 (Norfolk Record Office, C/C 22/1), contradict this somewhat. They record Hamond voting instead for Robert Thornhagh Gurdon, later Lord Cranworth (1829-1903) as first Chairman of the Council, namely. This may have had something to do with the fact that Gurdon was also the Chairman of Norfolk Quarter Sessions. Gurdon had sat as a Liberal MP before joining the Liberal Unionists in 1886 because of his objection to Irish Home Rule.

The powers of the early Norfolk County Council were not very extensive. A Joint Committee of the County Council and Quarter Sessions, of which Hamond was a member, controlled the police and courthouses. Responsibility for the County Lunatic Asylum and 267 County bridges was transferred from Quarter Sessions to the County Council. The Council also had responsibility for the maintenance of 824 miles of main roads and control of the contagious diseases of animals.

The generosity of those who contributed to the NRO and NORAH Morningthorpe appeal have enabled the eight diaries of Anthony Hamond, as well as many other documents, to become publicly accessible at the NRO where they complement the official records of Norfolk County Council as well as the Hamond of Westacre family and estate archive.

Compiled by Jonathan Draper, Partnership and Development Manager, Norfolk Record Office

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‘I had never imagined the ear-splitting noise’: A Norwich girl’s experience of the Baedeker Raids

The Record Office has a number of vivid accounts from people caught up in the Baedeker raids, such as that of Betty Jacques (later Betty Crouch), who was sleeping in Norwich Training College in College Road the night that it was bombed, exactly seventy-five years ago tonight. She recalled:

The sirens sounded at just past eleven and shortly the raids began. There were anti-aircraft guns in Heigham Park on the Avenues and although I had seen them under camouflage netting I had never imagined the ear-splitting noise they would make in action.  Soon College was hit by incendiaries.  We had a beautiful chapel which blazed quickly as did our science laboratory which contained much woodwork.  We forty girls were in the corridor between these infernos….

We went on to the recreation ground and into an air raid shelter.  It was like a large rabbit burrow with wooden forms against the walls. Pit props held up a planked wooden ceiling.  The heavy thud of bombs falling nearby caused soil to drip through the gaps in the planks.  Miss Duff called the register and asked if we had any injuries.  She had a first aid box.  We were all present and amazingly unhurt.  I have to own up that all our knees were knocking and we felt clammy cold…. It suddenly dawned on me that eight months paperwork was gone for ever as well as my new shoes, dress and coat, which I had hoarded coupons and money to buy.  The noise of bombing faded and at 1.15 the all clear sounded.  We left the shelter and were marshalled into a crocodile to walk to a rest centre on Colman Road, still in our nightwear and slippers.  We passed small groups of people who either wept at the sight of us or waved miniature Union Jacks and cheered us on.

At the rest centre there were more tears at the sight of us from the white-coated ladies who gave us each a very large mug of very sweet cocoa and a huge doorstep of bread overspilling with golden syrup. I presume all the sweetness was an antidote for shock.  We were given a grey army blanket to wrap ourselves and we lay on the classroom floors, hopefully to sleep.

Betty’s parents lived at Aylsham and on the next day she got a lift there with her uncle:

In less than an hour I was home, being hugged by my Mother and Father. They had watched Norwich burning from Aylsham Market Place.  And, having two daughters living in Norwich, wondered if they would survive the Norwich inferno.  Cousin Bill had checked that my sister Angela was safe after a traumatic night in her Aunt’s house in Essex Street.  They had an Anderson shelter in the garden.  When they came out, the chimney stack was on Angela’s bed, half the roof was missing, there was no glass in the windows and no front or back door.  I remember weeping over my brand-new coat, lost in the fire and mother said, ‘We can always buy you another coat, but not another You!’. Norfolk Record Office, KHC 115.

The Record Office has other descriptions of the nights of the Baedeker raids, including recordings made in 2012, the seventieth anniversary. There must still be many people living in Norwich who have recollection of the raids, either their own experiences as children, or stories told to them by their parents and other relatives.  The Record Office would love to hear from you of such memories: otherwise they will be lost for ever.

Compiled by Frank Meeres, Archivist at Norfolk Record Office

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The Wail of Sirens, the Distant Throb of Engines: Norwich and the ‘Baedeker’ Raids

By far the most serious air raids on Norwich were the ‘Baedeker’ raids on the nights of 27/28 and 29/30 April 1942, exactly seventy-five years ago. There are several collections of archive material in the Record Office that relate to them. Books of photographs on the open shelves include one by F C Le Grice who sets the scene in fine prose:

A lovely night. The old City bathed in moonlight, looking peacefully beautiful from the heights in which George Borrow delighted. The ancient Cathedral lay in the foreground, clothed in the mystery which only Moon and purple skies can give. The historic old city, nestling in the quiet valley seemed almost dreamlike.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the wail of sirens, the distant throb of engines, the menacing roar of aircraft growing louder, and the night sky was illuminated with the red glare from floating chandeliers of coloured lights like giant fireworks hovering over the city.

Then all hell was let loose over a defenceless people, and Norwich was facing the ordeal of 1942.

These raids were in retaliation for R.A.F. raids on German civilian populations at Rostock and Lubeck. A German foreign office spokesman announced that the Luftwaffe would bomb every English building marked with three stars in the Baedeker guide book—the cities bombed were Bath, Exeter, Canterbury, Norwich and York. On the Monday night some 185 high-explosive bombs and a large number of incendiaries were dropped: 162 people killed and 600 wounded. After a respite on Tuesday night, the raids resumed on Wednesday night when 112 high-explosive bombs were dropped and even more incendiaries than on the Monday: 69 people killed and 89 admitted to hospital. About two thirds of those who died in air-raids in Norwich during the war were killed on these two nights, including eleven elderly people killed in a hit on Bowthorpe Lodge on 28 April.

Caley’s chocolate factory, St Benedict’s church, the Teacher Training College in College Road and Curl’s department store were among the buildings destroyed in the raids. Most of the dead were buried in the Earlham road cemetery.  A large number of grave spaces were prepared for the dead of future raids, but fortunately few of them were needed: Norwich never again experienced such devastation as on those two nights in late April 1942.

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