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.

    Across the UK, there are thousands of recorded stories, held in public and private archives and collections. These may be interviews and memoirs, discussing accounts of life, reliving local events, or sharing insights into bygone years. Within archives, these types of personal audio recordings are referred to as ‘oral histories’.

   Norfolk Record Office is currently working in partnership with the British Library, collaborating on a national project called Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH). UOSH is a project that is working to digitise the nation’s sound archives, to ensure that they are preserved for future generations, as well as facilitating public access to them.

      As one of ten UK wide UOSH project hubs, Norfolk Record Office is working with audio collections from across the East of England. Each day of the UOSH project brings new stories, that help us gain a greater connection to our area by enriching our understanding of its past. 

    Often, it is the way that a story is told that makes it memorable; the colour of the descriptions, the infectious laughter of the storyteller that tickles us, or the detail which makes us feel as if we have experienced the recounted events with them. Sound archives not only preserve stories but also preserve the voice of the teller. They allow a story to be passed on beyond the life span of its teller, their children, and their children’s children, while retaining its original narration. As their voices are carried forward by generations to our present day, we are in turn transported back in time through their tales. We can close our eyes and hear them as if they were sitting in front of us, a tea spoon rattling against a tea cup, a ticking clock in the background; an intimate encounter with people we would otherwise never experience.

    To celebrate National Story Telling Week, we would like to share with you some of our favourite stories from the Norfolk Record Office Sound Archives. These stories are snippets taken from interviews from a large oral history collection called The Record of Patricia Daniels. The collection, which was created in the 1980s, consists of interviews with residents of Norwich’s King Street. It provides a fascinating insight into the social history of Norwich, from as early as the turn of the 20th century.

The following stories are extracts taken from interviews from this audio collection, and can be heard by following the links listed below to the Norfolk Record Office SoundCloud web page:

King Street, Norwich. Picture Source: Picture Norfolk

Track 1. Breweries in King Street

At the turn of the 20th century, two large breweries dominated much of the area surrounding Norwich’s King Street. In addition to the influx of traffic, trade, and pubs that this introduced to King Street, one storyteller within the collection recalls fondly how it also brought with it the wonderful smells of cooking breakfast from the workers break room.

Track 2. Childhood Memories

Our childhood antics stick with us in our memories, from the friends, games, toys, and the mischief we got ourselves into. These storytellers recount their childhood on King Street, including an accidental incident involving a snowball and an angry postman.


Track 3. Cows

From as early as 1738, and up until the 1960s the Norwich Cattle Market was situated at Castle Meadow where Castle Mall is today. Pigs were sold on ‘Hogs Hill’ which is now renamed Timber Hill, and horses were sold on Tombland. The cattle market was held upon a Saturday, and cattle would often be walked up from Trowse to the market via Kings Street. This was not always as straight forward, as the cows would often have a mind of their own.

Norwich Cattle Market. Picture Source: Picture Norfolk

Track 4. Friendly Community

“It was like one big community, but one big happy family”.

These storytellers recall the honesty, friendliness, and community spirit of King Street at the turn of the 20th century.

Track 5. Hygiene

At the turn of the 20th century, much of King Street and its surrounding area was made up of a dense network of Victorian style terraced housing. Alleyways would have led to shared outdoor yards, which were used for all manner of hygienic activity, from washing oneself to washing clothes.

Murrells Yard, King Street, Norwich. Picture Source: Picture Norfolk

Track 6. Door to door sales men

From hot cross buns to water cress, milk to vegetables, all manner of produce was sold upon carts by independent vendors up and down King Street at the turn of the 20th century. The produce may have been nice, but the carts used to transport them may not always have been so appealing to a shopper.

Track 7.  Poverty

These storytellers recount the hard work of hard days, the simple pleasures that helped relieve them, and the food that was foraged during the shortages of the Second World War.

Track 8. Rough Street

“Little jolly King Street, knock them into dust”.

These storytellers recount their experiences of King Street in the early 20th century, and its reputation for being a little rough around the edges.

Track 9. Traffic

In the early part of the 20th century, King Street would have been alive with activity, thronging with people, and busy with traffic. These storytellers recount tales of trams, well trained horses, and reveal the number of pubs that once lined the road.

Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. Picture Source: Picture Norfolk

To find out more information about the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, please visit to following link:

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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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‘The beginning of the end’, Norfolk’s textile industry in decline

In 1769, one of Norwich’s largest textile firms went bankrupt. Although abrupt, the downfall of Stannard & Taylor was, as their successors’ financial records indicate, symptomatic of wider changes that marked the beginning of Norfolk’s slow, drawn-out commercial and industrial decline. As such, the wealth of records catalogued under NRO, BR 211 show the impact these changes had on local textile manufacturers – a process which, due to this business’ predominance, would ultimately dethrone Norfolk’s long-standing reputation as the ‘second wealthiest’ county in England. Continue reading

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A brief insight into the history of Team Lotus

Formula One has always been, in my opinion, an incredibly exciting sport and delving into archives relating to the Norfolk born Team Lotus, the sister company of Lotus Cars, was equally as interesting. Setting out on what may be an impossible task, this blog aims to give readers a brief insight into the Lotus Formula One team’s history. The documents which were available to look at, (NRO, AUD 1/1/490), begin at the peak of Lotus’ success in the years where drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet were part of the team.

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The ‘Lonely Sentinel’ of Eccles juxta Mare is Finally Lost to the Sea

This January marks the 125th anniversary of the destruction of the steeple of the church of Eccles St. Mary next the Sea, which was toppled by a tremendous Nor’Westerly storm on 23 January 1895. The steeple, comprising a basal round tower and octagonal belfry, had stood by the foreshore since the church itself was dismantled in 1571 following a series of devastating storms in the previous year. Evidence for this comes from a Deed of Union dated January 1571 contained in Tanner’s Index held by Norfolk Record Office (NRO, DN/REG 31) which states that,

….’ the said Church of Eccles shall be from hensforth aswell by the Authority of us and every of us united annexed and consolidated for evermore to the Church of Hempsted…’

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Norfolk’s Christmas Village

The small village of Thursford in Norfolk is well known for two things. Its steam museum contains a vast collection of traction engines and elaborate carnival organs, as well as two currently operating theme park attractions. One of these is the world’s only working gondola merry go round, designed by Frederick Savage who was known for popularising the carousel. A second thing Thursford is known to be famous for, is its Christmas Spectacular shows. These take place around the holiday season and attract visitors from across the country, many of whom have travelled from afar via coach. The show plays host to a variety of talented performers including musicians, singers and dancers, all dressed in a wide array of bright and colourful costumes that require hundreds of metres of cloth. The Christmas Spectacular adopts the aesthetic of a Victorian Christmas village, reminiscent to something straight out of a Dickens novel.

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