A young clerk working for the Steward of the le Strange Estate in North-west Norfolk in 1863 left a diary recording a year of his life, but failed to put his name to it.
The diary, held at Norfolk Record Office (NRO, MC 287/1, 774×5) remained unattributed until it turned out to be a vital piece of a puzzle being worked on by three local historians. When they realised they were working on different bits of the same picture, they teamed up to give personal histories not only to the diarist but also the people he wrote of in his unique record.
Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. The Jarrold’s firewatchers went to war with the rats in August 1940. Youngman took it upon himself to be the chief ratcatcher while the Jarrold’s cat proved elusive and ineffectual: Austin delivered attack upon Rat No 1 which fell easy victim to his accurate fire . . . .One rat decides to pay us a visit but not for long, as it decides to join the “Home Guards”. Two dead men buried with full military honours in Alice’s cupboard.
The rats would enjoy running up and down the piano in the basement: Investigated – rats playing “Kitten on the Keys”. “Ratmaninoff”!
For Refugee Week, we take a look at the Book of Orders for Dutch and Walloon Strangers (NRO, NCR 17d/9). This is a document containing orders for the regulation of the Strangers’ Hall in Norwich and for ordering the life and business of the Dutch and Walloon Strangers, as recorded in signed minutes of a committee for regulating the city’s relationship with the Strangers community.
In 1556 the Mayor of Norwich, Thomas Sotherton, with permission of Queen Elizabeth I, invited thirty Flemish families to Norwich, in the hope that they would be able to halt the decline in the city’s weaving industry. The first thirty families were being persecuted for their Protestant religion within their home country and so readily accepted the offer. They worked on improving the weaving industry using new techniques and providing a form of quality control. Very soon, these refugees became known as the ‘strangers’. By 1579, 6,000 ‘strangers’ lived amidst the city’s population of about 16,000.
The Book of Orders demonstrates how they set about improving the standard of weaving in Norwich. Describing the stages of cloth manufacture, quality of yarn and technical expertise, instructions for dying and quality control, checking for the correct width, length and breadth- once the cloth passed these stages it was sealed with a lead cloth seal and sold. In 1575 council issued a statement saying the city was prospering and it was down to the strangers work.
Strangers also introduced to Norwich introduced rare spices, dried fruits, and canaries. New words also came to the city, e.g. Norwich has Plains rather than Squares, such as St Martin at Plain.
Jarrold’s department store in Norwich had to adhere to the 1940 Fire Watchers Orders by having firewatchers on duty at all times. This log begins in August 1940 and ends in May 1941 (JLD 4/10/16). It records the duties and activities of the Jarrold’s firewatchers who who were part of a city-wide system of supervising the city. There were four watches a day until 1941. The date of the watch generally starting at 6pm the previous evening, the second watch at 10pm then 7am to 1pm and 1pm-6pm.
A Firewatching Fraternity
This log is more about the men than the war itself. Three key characteristics are evident; comradeship, dedication and humour alongside a fair helping of boredom and grumpiness. Some had witnessed the First World War while others were waiting to be called up.
The log records 63 men in total. The 1939 census and Jarrold’s staff records (JLD 2/4/4) identify some. Those of particular note are:
Barker. Barker’s name appears on almost every watch and is clearly held in high esteem. Who was Barker?
Frank Englebright. Stationer’s assistant.
Harry Gaze. Manager at the store and ARP Warden 677. He died in December 1942. Was this as the result of the war?
David Grant. Store manager and ARP Warden. The log refers to him as the Director.
Walter Ringer. Stores dispatch manager.
Jack Trudgill. A fancy goods buyer.
Sydney Vyse. Departmental manager of the china and glass department.
Gordon Wasley. Manager in the book department. Source of much humour in the log.
Austin Youngman. Stationery packer. Expert rat catcher!
The changing face of Norfolk agriculture in the late 20th century saw the merger of smaller farms to much larger holdings, prompted by mechanisation and the need for bigger fields able to accommodate modern large-scale machinery. By this time traditional threshing barns had largely become redundant with the widespread use of initially steam-powered threshing machines, and by the 1950s combine harvesters. As a result many farm buildings became redundant, and across Norfolk barns were sold off and converted into often large and imposing domestic premises. But as the will of Thomas Norffolke,  husbandman  of Hempstead cum Eccles Norfolk shows, the idea was by no means new, albeit somewhat unusual for the last decade of the 16th century.
Written by Christine Shackell, NRO Research Blogger
On Saturday 11 October 1817, Robert Baker, a fifty-eight year old glover and breeches maker, left his home in Wells next the Sea, on the North Norfolk coast to collect debts owed to him. Donning his hat and coat against the autumn chill, he tucked his red leather wallet with its silver clasp into his pocket and bade farewell to his wife, saying he would return mid afternoon for a meal of hot steak pie. But he never returned.
It’s become a historical trope, not to mention a clever marketing ploy, to use forgotten in book, article, blog and documentary titles, whether actually warranted or not (Google ‘forgotten history’). It’s catchy, pithy, and excites curiosity. In the case of Ralph Hale Mottram (1883-1971), one time Lord Mayor of Norwich, it’s actually deserved.
Even the First World War centenary was not enough to generate a buzz. No biography. No new editions of his wartime books. No conference in his name. Nope, nothing, other than a blog here, a laudatory newspaper piece there, not a peep. Indeed if a quizzical look appears on your face; if your lips silently enunciate Ralph-Hale-Mot-tram under your breath, ‘Yes, I’ve heard that name before – but where?’; you’re surely in good company.
An employee of Gurney’s Bank (Barclays, from 1895), where several generations of Mottrams had made a living, young Ralph dabbled in poetry in the pre-1914 era. A bachelor, privately educated, fluently French (his mother insisted on schooling and vacations on the continent), and a congregant of the progressive Unitarian Octagon Chapel, Mottram was a fairly typical Kitchener volunteer, trading a reasonably comfortable existence for khaki in 1914.
Norfolk Archives and Heritage Development Foundation (NORAH) trustee David Stannard discusses the acquisition by the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) of a single manuscript folio, which must have been removed from a set of 16th century churchwardens’ accounts of the parish of Dickleburgh, Norfolk. Initially this manuscript presented queries concerning the origin and date of the document as a result of a poor transcription in the 19th – early 20th century. However, resolving these anomalies only led to a more fundamental, as yet unresolved conundrum.
A manuscript offered on an American online auction site in the summer of 2020 claimed that the document originated from Depybrough Abbey and was dated as 1567. Unfortunately, research from historical and on-line sources for Depybrough Abbey could not confirm the existence of any such institution.
A close examination of the document by Professor Carole Rawcliffe of the University of East Anglia revealed that the manuscript comprised a single page which must have been removed from a set of churchwardens’ accounts of All Saints’ church in Dickleburgh, Norfolk. The parish name is rendered as ‘Dekylburghe’ in the original manuscript. Professor Rawcliffe’s transcription also confirmed the date of the start of the document as March 1545, and on this basis the trustees of the NORAH approved a grant for the NRO to successfully purchase the document in September 2020.