From Tram Conductor to Chief Inspector: The Police Registers of Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn

From Norfolk Record Office documents C/PO 1/58 & C/PO 1/46

Brief History of the Police Force

The first official police force was the London Metropolitan Police set up by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.  The County and Borough Police Act 1856 required a national system of policing throughout England and Wales and towns such as Kings Lynn (KL) and Great Yarmouth (GY) would each have their own forces.  Smaller town forces did not merge until the 20th century.

Registers Held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO)

The NRO holds personnel registers for the GY and the KL police forces.  The first dates from 1871 to 1924, the second from 1845 to 1920.  The KL register has suffered water damage making some entries difficult to read. 

Continue reading
Posted in NRO Research Bloggers, Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ghostly Mystery of Mannington Hall

With the nights drawing in and a distinct chill in the autumnal air, our thoughts turn towards all things ghoulish, ghostly and spectral. If you’re looking for a spine-chilling tale to tell by the fireside on a dark winter’s evening, look no further…

Our story begins in Victorian England, where there was a national hunger for the supernatural. The tradition of the winter ghost story was gaining popularity, and gothic literature surged forth as anathema to the rigid social and religious structures of the day.

Dr. Augustus Jessopp (1823-1914)  made his name as a clergyman and headteacher in Norfolk in the latter half of the 19th century. Although ordained in the Christian church, he was not averse to the rise of the popular new religious movement of Spiritualism.

It came to pass that in October 1879, the combination of a ghostly tale recounted by Jessopp, a trusted ‘man of the cloth’, and the nationwide thirst for all things beyond the grave caused quite a stir both within Norfolk and the wider world.

Dr. Augustus Jessop, 1913
Continue reading
Posted in NRO Research Bloggers, Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Heritage Open Days 2022 at Norfolk Record Office

This year to mark Heritage Open Days (HODs), we invited members of the public to take a peek behind the scenes, gave a talk about Richard Bright ‘The Man Behind the Discovery of Bright’s Disease’ and the Conservation project at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), and hosted an online special Reading from the Archives.

Heritage Open Days 2022 at NRO

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, and thanks to the help of local organisations and volunteers, it provides free access to events and local heritage sites, many of which are not normally open to the public. Each year there is a theme to the festival, and 2022 was ‘Astounding Inventions’.

Continue reading
Posted in Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snuff in 19th Century Norfolk

Snuff, high society’s choice of tobacco inhalation, first appeared in England in the middle of the sixteenth century, along with tobacco imports from America.  Sir Walter Raleigh is usually supposed to have been the first to bring it home to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, but Leonard Bolingbroke, of the Norwich Science Gossip Club, feels that it was more probably Ralph Lane (a lesser- known English explorer of the same period) in 1586.

The Norfolk Record Office has the typed lecture notes which Mr Bolingbroke, solicitor and Registrar of the Diocese of Norwich, used for a talk to the Club in the late nineteenth century (NRO, BOL 1/90, 739×2). He talks about Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America in the fifteenth century, when ‘the natives not only smoked tobacco, but they inhaled the powder of it through a cane half a cubit long into their nostrils.’ (A cubit is about 18 inches or 45.72 centimetres).

Notes for Leonard Bolingbroke’s talk on tobacco and snuff. NRO, BOL 1/90, 739×2

Snuff was, at first, not as popular as tobacco. ‘Early snuff takers had to grind his [sic] own snuff in a grater or grinder’, Mr Bolingbroke continued.  ‘These were made of metal, wood, ivory or bone and beautifully carved or engraved. These days they are very rare.  They are not to be confused with a nutmeg grater.

Continue reading
Posted in Snapshots from the Archive | 2 Comments

Caught Red Handed: Duck Feathers and all!

Looking through the archives can lead to some interesting stories. Take, for example the case of Robert Goffin. He was convicted of larceny at the Norfolk Quarter Sessions in January 1843 .  A contemporary report from the Norwich Mercury newspaper revealed that Goffin (aged 25) was, in fact, charged with having stolen eleven ducks, the property of John Howlett of Bowthorpe on 23 October 1842 and Maria Goffin, his mother, stood charged with receiving the same, ‘well knowing the same to be stolen’.  The deposition of Mary Howard, wife of a farm balliff in Bowthorpe, stated that she had the care of the ducks in question and ‘on the 20th of October I put 20 ducks into the fowl-house; at six o’clock the next morning I missed 11 of those ducks; I have seen a wing and some feathers which were shown to me by police officer Copeman, and believe them to belong to the same ducks that were stolen from my master’s’.

Continue reading
Posted in Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Too common amongst young people’

Engraving of Norwich Cathedral by C. Hodgson, dated 1829. Norfolk Heritage Centre Prints Collection, ref. 1137488. Courtesy of

These words relate to having sex outside of marriage. They were written in a letter of support, dated 3 May 1760, for a James Lacey of Scarning. The letter is just one of several thousand documents which form the archive, held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), of the Norwich Consistory Court. Before the mid-nineteenth century, church courts were responsible for many aspects of human activity, such as matrimony (including sex outside of marriage), probate, church taxes, and defamation. The records produced by the Court, provide a fascinating insight, often salacious, into day-to-day life of ordinary people. The language used in them is seldom found in any other archival document. The records offer a treasure trove for family, local and social historians.

Continue reading
Posted in Behind the Scenes, Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shenanigans in Southrepps: Adultery in the Norwich Consistory Court Depositions

The jurisdiction of church courts used to cover many aspects of human activity. They heard causes, the church court term for cases, on such matters as marriage, defamation and probate. As part of their activity, the courts collected witness statements, or depositions. Often recording the words of witnesses verbatim, depositions offer a fascinating insight into language and human activity. The salacious nature of many of them, has earned the court the moniker of ‘bawdy courts’.

The Norfolk Record Office has an ongoing programme to improve access to the archive of the Norwich Consistory Court, the main church court for Norfolk. During the Covid lockdowns, archivists at the NRO started cataloguing some of the depositions. Together with work done by students at the University of East Anglia, this information has been added to the NRO’s catalogue. In doing so, we get a glimpse into eighteenth century life not offered by any other document.

Continue reading
Posted in Behind the Scenes, Snapshots from the Archive | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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:

Continue reading
Posted in Community Archives, NRO Research Bloggers, volunteers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment