St Andrew’s County Asylum portrayed in the Cartoons of George Yates

Users familiar with the records of St Andrew’s, the County asylum, may be interested to know about a new collection of records that show a side to the hospital not typically seen in the official records. George Yates, attendant and bandleader at St Andrew’s, was also a talented cartoonist and produced numerous drawings illustrating his time at the hospital (ACC 2019/146). These were kindly donated to the NRO by George’s family and will be of special interest to those with ancestors who worked at the hospital in the early part of the twentieth century.

St Andrew’s cricket ground. NRO, ACC 2019/146

George Allen Yates was born near Liverpool in 1878, to William Yates and his wife, Elizabeth but lived and worked for much of his life in Norfolk.

George played trombone in military bands with his younger brother Bert [Albert] and played around the country, including Kidderminster and Manchester. He began working at St Andrew’s Hospital, near Thorpe, Norwich, in about 1909 as an attendant and a musician in the hospital band.

He married Grace Ellen Barber in 1910 in Liverpool. Grace, who was born in Swaffham, was also a nurse at St Andrew’s but as relationships between staff were forbidden, the marriage had to be kept a secret. George and Grace are both still listed as single on 1911 census and Grace appears there under her maiden name. Grace also came from a creative family; her brother Ernest having been a character actor on the London stage and proprietor of the ‘Living Marionettes’.

Attendants and nurses at St Andrew’s – George is top row, third left. Used by kind permission of the Yates family

George played the trombone, composing and arranging music for the hospital band, and eventually became the bandleader. He played in other bands, including the Norwich Symphony Orchestra, and his reputation was such that he was asked to help form orchestras for other institutions, including one for the Thorpe and District Ex-servicemen’s Association. George also played on the staff football team and was involved in local politics, serving on the Broadland Ratings Committee in 1935.

The drawings show that George was an accomplished artist and he had previously advertised his services as a ‘black and white artist’ while living in Manchester. He also produced cartoons and posters for the staff magazine and hospital social events. As well as producing classical portraits and landscapes, one of the highlights of the collection are his whimsical cartoons of staff and patients he worked with at St Andrew’s.

Some of the cartoons show named individuals so it may be possible to match them with details of employees from the registers held at the NRO. The archives also hold a collection of score books for the St Andrew’s Hospital cricket team (NRO, SO 377) so perhaps a future researcher will be able to add ‘faces’ to the names recorded there!

Ramblers v St Andrew’s. NRO, ACC 2019/146

The cartoons are a light-hearted commentary of the matches, often making fun of the performance of the hospital team and include little in-jokes for the amusement of his colleagues. George, acting as an informal sports reporter, recorded matches against other local teams, such as the staff of the Gt Yarmouth Royal Naval Hospital and the Ramblers.  He drew portraits of senior staff watching from the side-lines and there is also an amusing drawing of an elderly patient, described only as ‘Ward E’s tooth’.

Yarmouth v Thorpe hospitals. NRO, ACC 2019/146

The images reproduced here are just a small sample of George’s work, some of which is still retained by the donors, along with an extensive family collection. They include the hand-written copies of sheet music and songs that he wrote for the hospital band and photographs of military bands that he played with. The family have kindly allowed the NRO to make a copy of these other records that form their personal archives, which give context to the donated cartoons and are a further testament to George’s talents.

Written by Alison Barnard, NRO Archivist.

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A Variety of Ways to Celebrate Christmas: Exploring the many Christmases of Hilda Zigomala

Those of you who have read out blog posts in the past, will probably remember we have mentioned the journals of Hilda Zigomala many times before. A collection of 15 volumes which chronicles her life from getting married to Jack in January 1889 to the death of her only child, John in 1919. As we turn to celebrating Christmas it seemed like a nice time to look back through the journals again to see how a wealthy family at the turn of the 19th century celebrated the festive period. Despite the fact her journals begin during the Reign of Queen Victoria, Hilda’s Christmases are not always what we imagine as a typical Victorian Christmas.

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Stepping Back In Time

In the beginning

When I first started doing my family history many years ago, I wasn’t surprised to find that most of my ancestors had gravitated to the heavily-industrialised area of Salford and then to the Bolton area of Lancashire where I was born. It was only many years later that I discovered I had links with largely rural Norfolk. The story of how I discovered this link reads like a detective story.

The Clues

Briefly, I had never been able to find a birth certificate for my maternal grandfather, William Morris, who had been killed at Gallipoli in 1915. The only clue I had to his origin was a reference to him in the 1891 census for Horwich, Lancashire. His father was listed as Jonathan Morris born in Abergele, Wales in 1845, his mother as Hannah Maria Morris born in Wymondham in 1843 and William himself born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1875. Like my search for William’s birth certificate, neither could I find a marriage of a Jonathan Morris to Hannah Maria. From the 1851 census records for Wymondham, I produced a list of about 15 Hannah/Anna Marias and either ‘married’ them off or ‘buried’ them. I was then left with about six about whom I knew nothing.

The Breakthrough

William Morris

There my search stalled until a few years later when a photograph of my grandfather appeared in a family history magazine together with a brief outline of my quandary. Someone who’d read the article, emailed me with the news that she had found a marriage of an Anna Maria Buttolph to a James Palmer in Heigham, Norfolk, in 1869. I remembered then that Anna Maria Buttolph was one of those remaining unaccounted for, her father being a John Buttolph of The Lizard in Wymondham, an agricultural labourer. A wild card search enabled me to find a John Morris born Abergele 1845 living in Wymondham together with Anna Maria Palmer and young William, listed as Palmer. Yet still I could find no birth certificate for William under the name of Palmer.

A Sad Death

I knew that Jonathan/John was claiming to be a widower in the 1911 census so I searched for a death registration for Anna Maria prior to that date and found her back in Wymondham in 1891. The death certificate, when it came, proved beyond doubt that Anna Maria Morris/Palmer/Buttolph was my great-grandmother. The informant at her death was none other than Jonathan/John Morris of the same address as the 1891 census entry for Horwich. It would appear that she and Jonathan had gone to visit her family, still living at The Lizard, but had died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. I still do not know if Jonathan/John Morris was William’s real father.

Trawling further back

Will of Stephen Buttolph. ANF will register, 1676.

I have been able to trace back through the generations to a Stephen Buttolph who died in 1676. I have no idea of when he was born but he left a will so I was able to prove the line of descent. It seems that the original Buttolphs were all yeoman farmers with considerable acres of farmland and most of them left wills. And what a joy these have been from a historical point of view! Stephen Buttolph’s will (Ref: ANF will register, 1676, folio 276, no 153) for instance, mentions being written in ‘this three and twenty (year) of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King Charles 1671’. His son Thomas mentions his will being drawn up in ‘the tenth year of the reign of our beloved Soverign Lady Queen Anne’ and, invaluably, gives the names of his grandchildren in his will, thus proving relationships.

As yeoman farmers, with considerable lands, they often left what would have been considerable sums of money. Their wills were quite specific about when and to whom the bequest should be given and what should happen in the event that the bequest was not paid. Much of it is written in legalese which does take some understanding but I soon became used to reading of ‘messuages, hereditaments, lands and tenements’. The writing too, particularly the earlier wills, was hard to decipher with ‘s’ and ‘f’ often looking the same.

A Glimpse into the Past

I loved reading of some of the everyday things that they left, such as ‘To my daughter Sarah, my largest brass kettle and to my son-in-law, Simon Bishop, my surtout coat and my pompadour coat.’ From my limited French I guessed that a surtout coat was a kind of overcoat but a ‘pompadour coat’ turned out to be one of those richly decorated heavily embroidered coats worn around the 1700s. That alone would have been an expensive item which is a clear indication that the Buttolphs weren’t ‘without a bob or two’ as they say in Lancashire! Which makes it all the harder to understand why my own great-great grandfather, Anna Maria’s father John Buttolph, (1808-1881) was listed as an agricultural labourer on various censuses yet his father, William Buttolph (1785-1871) listed in censuses as a farmer with 125 acres employing 6 men and 1 boy and who later was described in his will as a ‘gentleman’ Was John one of those 6 men? I do know that John was caught stealing a bushel of barley from his father, William Buttolph, much to the surprise of the arresting officer. He was discharged after ‘receiving a severe reprimand’. Yet John himself was left £50 pounds by his father William, which in 1871 was still a goodly sum of money.

To Sum Up

It has been such a joy to discover so much about my Buttolph ancestors through the wills that they left and I couldn’t have done it without the excellent resources of the Norfolk Record Office. You can search through the online catalogue via the NRO website

Written by Anne Harvey, NRO Research Blogger

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Golden Balls of Aylsham: A Shining Example of a Funny Name

We enjoy a comedy name at the Norfolk Record Office. Twins called Lemon and Orange Pitcher who were born in Great Melton, Cinnamon Man from Thompson and Snow Frost of Little Walsingham, to name but a few. But one of our all-time favourites is Golden Balls!

Long before this became the nickname of a very famous footballer, Aylsham in Norfolk was home to two generations of Golden Balls. We first found Golden Balls whilst carrying out some family history research. Golden, the son of Golden and Mary Ann Balls was born, and baptised as a Primitive Methodist in Aylsham in 1836.

The baptism register containing the entry for Golden Balls records more biographical details than the Church of England registers of the same period. Additional information in this register, which was not included as standard in the parish baptism register, includes place and date of birth, former name of the mother, and the signatures (or marks) of the parents. Although there was a space for signatures, Golden and his wife Mary did not sign the baptism register. In fact, from the ten entries in total on the page, only three contain signatures of parents. We cannot assume that the Golden and Mary were not able to sign their names, especially as another of the entries on the page contains a cross in place of a signature. It’s possible the signatures were overlooked, especially as this is the first page in a brand new register.

Baptism register of Aylsham Primitive Methodist Circuit (Norfolk Record Office, FC 47/39)

Golden Balls was born in the parish of Aylsham to parents Golden and Mary Ann (formerly Mary Ann Pull). The baptism register shows his date of birth as 12 April 1836, and he was baptised the following month on 8 May. Golden senior was recorded as a Boatwright (boatbuilder) in the baptism register. In the 1841 census, the family were recorded as living on ‘Millgate Street East’ in Aylsham, which maps show to be close to the River Bure, where Golden senior was again recorded as a Boat Builder.

Further research shows Golden Balls and Mary (no Ann) Pull to have married in Aylsham parish church on 29 June 1835, where Golden senior signed the register (further suggesting that the signatures were simply missing from the baptism entry a year later). Sadly, Golden Balls senior died at the young age of 29, a few months after the 1841 census was taken. He was buried on 2 November 1841 in the churchyard at Aylsham. The burial register does not record the cause of death, and to find that out, we’d need to obtain a copy of the death certificate.

But where did the name Golden Balls come from, I hear you ask? A bit more digging in the parish registers revealed the baptism of Golden Balls senior, also in Aylsham, on 26 September 1813, to parents John and Maria Balls. It was interesting to note that John’s occupation was recorded as ‘Waterman’, a person who navigated a boat carrying fare-paying passengers. Then finally, the last piece of the puzzle was the marriage of John Balls and Maria (on 4 December 1810 in Colby, a few miles north of Aylsham) which revealed her maiden name to be… Golden!

Have you discovered any funny names while carrying out your research? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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The ‘eccentric female explorer’

 “Only ignorant fools think that because one likes sugar, one cannot like salt” Marianne North, Recollections of a Happy Life.

For much of the population in 2020, travel restrictions have been a common source of discontent, despite the understandable unavoidability of these measures. However, the relative freedom we would usually have had nowadays would have seemed quite the enigma to England’s Nineteenth-Century women, from whom the ‘public sphere’ was already cut off. In this blog, I would like to share the adventures of the ‘eccentric female explorer (s)’, who became ‘a Victorian icon of adventurous travel’ (Wagner, Travel, 175). Women like Norfolk’s Margaret Fountaine travelled ‘in search of adventure, out of necessity, for health reasons, and to contribute to a growing market for publications on ethnography, geography, botany, or zoology’ (Wagner, Travel, 175), sometimes benefitting from a ‘temporary male status’ (Wagner, Travel, 179).  Some met prominent figures, for example,  Marianne North met Charles Darwin and attended a dinner at The White House (though she had been mistaken for the PM’s daughter!). Those who were ‘flaunting conventions and encountering the extraordinary’ (Wagner, Travel, 176), are admirable, and I would like to introduce a couple of these fascinating women, their pursuits and their travel writing.

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A Generous Gift Compromised by Events? The will of Alice Spratt, widow, of Eccles against the Sea

The will of Alice Spratt [1] dated January 11th 1558/1559 [2] clearly shows counter-Reformation tendencies despite the fact that Catholic Queen Mary had died in the previous November and her younger sister Elizabeth now sat on the throne. Alice bequeaths her soul to ‘Almytghtie god And to our blissed ladye sainte Marye and to all the gloryous companye of heaven’, firmly Catholic sentiments which would have been heavily suppressed in her lifetime during the reign of Protestant King Edward VI [1547-1553] However, Catholicism was restored as the state religion during Mary’s reign and it seems still tolerated in the early days of Protestant Elizabeth’s reign.

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John Fenn – A Dereham Man: The Diaries of Sir John Fenn, 1786-1794

Taken from documents held at the Norfolk Record Office, NRO, MC 525/1

Sir John Fenn was a man most notably known for his publication of the Paston Letters.  But his eight engagement diaries, spanning 1786 to 1794 tell us so much more than that about this Georgian gentleman.  He was a man known for many things but above all else, he was a Dereham man.  This blog focuses on his life in (East) Dereham and Norfolk.

Sir John Fenn (Serpell)
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Examining Marriage Licence Bonds

Illustration of a wedding at Topcroft, Norfolk. NRO, ANF Bishop’s Transcripts, 1828.

Marriage licence bonds for the Archdeaconry of Norfolk, 1704-1886, and for the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral, 1705-1860, have recently been indexed by a group of dedicated Norfolk Record Office volunteers.

In a few cases, the backstory to some of these bonds (rarely given in the document itself) is recounted in other sources.  One such story relates to Mahershalalhashbaz Tuck and Emily Beddoe who applied for a licence to be married at East Dereham on 20th December 1866. Their wedding took place there a few days later.

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