Local history is all about stories

The ‘Community Archives: Skills, Support & Sustainability’ project has been set up by the Norfolk Record Office with the aim of providing Norfolk’s community archive and local heritage groups with advice, training and resources to help them improve the management of their important and unique collections. Since 2020 the project team has worked closely with over 30 partner groups. During International Archives Week, we will showcase a selection of these groups and the progress they have made during the project.

At Martham Local History Group the Archive Group has been busy developing a catalogue of documents and photographs.  Every stage of the operation has been a learning experience for everyone involved.  Like many other groups we have learned to select and digitize documents, linking them to accession numbers – prior to uploading them onto our website.  It’s not surprising that this final stage may never be complete.  Every time we think we are on top of the process someone else donates their house documents for us to process.  Our brilliant photographer, Chris Harrison, aided by our president Ann Meakin, has been working on building the archive for some years.  One of our members, Peter Dawson, accepted the challenge of ‘telling the story’ about a modest Victorian terraced house in Martham, using the documents and photographs in our collection.  It transpires that the house tells the story of how the land first supported a local wheelwright and his family in the nineteenth century; the later success of a local baker and his care for his two sisters; and how an eleven-year-old boy left a note under the floorboards about his toy car hidden for future residents to find, 35 years later.  This is how Peter starts the story:

This house is not as old as many in the village but has an interesting pedigree because it was run for over 50 years as a bread bakery by William Arthur Rigg who lived there with his wife, Rosa and their three children.

No 58 is only part of our story as it forms a terrace with Nos. 60 and 62 and they are joined in more ways than just bricks and mortar. Taking this into account we should perhaps start long before they were all built. Before William Rigg came along, the land that 58, 60 and 62 were built on was owned by Martha Easter Woods (1818-1899). She had married Nicholas Woods (1807-1887) in 1840 at Tunstead, Norfolk.

The 1842 Martham Tithe Award lists Nicholas Woods as the owner of plots 346 and 347 as shown on the map below. The listing that goes with the map gives the description of plot 346 as a “house & yard cultivated as arable” and 347 as a “house as garden cultivated as pasture”. Dwellings are normally shown in pink on tithe maps with barns, stables, workshops and outhouses outlined but not coloured in. Despite the descriptions being at odds with the map it is almost certain that the buildings there supported his work as a wheelwright…

There are three audiences for this story – those who live in the house now and who lent us the documents to digitise; those who know the characters in the story, or the street; the general public who would like to know more about their own village or local history.  Linking evidence to make a story is what they all have in common.  To read the full story see https://www.marthamhistorygroup.com and click on ‘Martham Archive’.

Peter Lavender

If you wish to know more the contact details for Martham Local History Group are available on their website.

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