Conserving the Richard Bright Collection

Dr 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, anthropology and travel. Bright was a notable figure on the London medical scene and was particularly active at Guy’s Hospital.

The Bright paper collection held at the Norfolk Record Office (MC 166/299, 633X7-8) consists of approximately 850 individual manuscripts and 13 notebooks containing about 830 pages in total. These items, housed in two boxes, date from 1808 to 1858 and were either written by or received by Richard Bright. Together they chart the early years of Bright’s career as a doctor and author.

Grants received from the Wellcome Trust, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust, and from other generous donors has enabled the NRO to carry out the conservation treatments.

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Royal Greenwich Observatory

The ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ Project has received many collections for digitisation since it began. One such collection is the sound archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO), currently housed within the Cambridge University Archives. This collection has a vast range of interviews and recordings that give an insight into the work of RGO, its employees, and its history. In it you will find interviews with some famous names in astronomy, including Sir Richard Woolley and Sir Bernard Lovell who both served the position of Astronomer Royal. In addition to well-known names, the collection has interviews with a wide range of staff of the Observatory and from it we can get a first-hand glimpse into the history and changes that RGO went through over the years.

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Much Ado About Nothing?

A Letter from Edward Harbord 3rd Baron Suffield, to his sixteen-year-old son starts ‘With an aching heart and a trembling hand, I take up my pen to reply to your note…’

The eleven-page letter written in 1829 and held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO, MC 350/1, 711×2) describes the scandalous and dishonourable behaviour surrounding the Harbord Family of Gunton. The letter is addressed to sixteen-year-old Edward Vernon Harbord, later the 4th Baron Suffield (referred to as Edward in this post), from his father, Edward Harbord at that time the current 3rd Baron Suffield (referred to as the Baron Suffield, or Baron for the remainder of this post). It outlines how Edward broke his father’s trust, consequently leading to the threat he would be removed from the family inheritance.

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William Curtis: an 18th century farmer, debtor and habitual complainer

Corruption always tends to capture our interest- reading the tabloids indicates that- and it is very easy to identify what looks like corruption when we research documents from the past. We tend to forget that in previous centuries different rules applied, and what was legal and acceptable then would not be today with the progress that legislation has made. Two recent such instances have been when I was researching the long drawn out saga of the history of Snettisham Farm and the story of the Angel Inn. Continue reading

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The Angel Inn of King’s Lynn

It sometimes seems strange- though on second thoughts it’s only to be expected- how researching one topic recalls previous ones, with one thread leading to another, then another, until they are all intertwined. While browsing the records at King’s Lynn Borough Archives, I came across a mention of the Angel Inn, except that this wasn’t the one I expected on Saturday Market Place, but one on Tuesday Market Place, on the site of King’s Lynn Corn Exchange. Such apparent anomalies always arouse my curiosity, so my latest blog explores the history of the inn, beginning with Amfles family of Snettisham Farm…. Continue reading

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Beer, Frying Pans and Canaries: Norfolk’s Strangers workshop

By the end of the 16th Century one third of the population of Norwich were Dutch or French speaking. These citizens were known as the Strangers and were based not only in Norwich but in other towns and villages across Norfolk. Last week we trialled our new Norfolk’s Strangers workshop with two year 4 classes at Wensum Junior School.

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Dressing as Thomas Peche

The workshop uses modern and contemporary maps to show that the strangers came from the low countries. Using these maps pupils can understand how short the distance between Norfolk and Holland would have seemed to the strangers when coming over by boat. Next, pupils are shown documents from Queen Elizabeth I inviting the strangers and their families to Norfolk to boost the weaving industry in Norwich and the fishing industry in Great Yarmouth.

Once the children have an understanding of why the strangers were in Norfolk we move on to how they found their new country. We look at letters written by strangers to their families describing Norwich, their journey over, and how welcoming the locals were. Many of the strangers talk about their trades and ask for their families to bring over some of their home comforts (something we come back to later in the workshop). Pupils are encouraged to imagine themselves in a strange new city and think about how they would be feeling.


Pupils read a letter by one of the Strangers about their experience in Norwich

We use inventories of the stranger’s possessions to look at the clothes that they would have worn. Many of the strangers integrated with the locals and dressed in the fashions of the day. However, a few inventories contained items such as a Dutch cloak, showing that some strangers brought their own styles over with them. During this activity the pupils get to dress as Thomas Peche and Lady Jane Butts, using items made specifically to replicate those listed in their inventories.

Finally, the pupils look at the legacy of the Strangers, by playing the indenture game to understand what the Strangers bought over to this county. They discover that items such as beer, the frying pan and canaries were all introduced the newcomers.

The pupils at Wensum Junior School had a great morning, and really helped us to bring some of the strangers to life. The workshop is now available to book for all schools across Norfolk. Please contact us to find out more details or make a booking.



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National Story Telling Week

Did you hear about the time that cows ran loose up Norwich’s King Street, and ate the vegetable displays in a shop? How about the time a boy threw a snow ball at a post man by accident, and was chased all the way down the street?

We all love a good story, a tale recounted by a friend down the pub, an insight into our family history as told by a relative, a feature on a local radio station.

This week is National Story Telling Week, and what better project to celebrate the weaving of words with than Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

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The Norwich Bread Riot of 1766

If you heard about bread riots in the 18th century your mind might go to France, where the peasants waged war against the upper classes in order to simply be able to afford food. However, these images may be closer to home than you might think.

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