Wish you were here! Runton Parish Council Minutes, 1927-1934

Runton Parish Council (PC) was responsible for the small villages of East and West Runton in north Norfolk.

Runton Map

During the 19th century both Cromer and Sheringham had developed into popular seaside resorts, especially after the coming of the railway in the 1880s. The Runtons, however, remained relatively undeveloped and seemed to appeal to holidaymakers who preferred a more ‘al fresco’ holiday whether from preference or financial necessity and the impact is reflected in the Minutes.

Conveniences and ‘arrangements’

Public conveniences were built at East Runton in 1930 and West Runton in 1931 both with attendants but this didn’t reduce the problem of ‘camping grounds’ and sanitation. In 1930 the PC agreed to send a ‘strong letter’ to Erpingham Rural District Council (RDC) ‘asking them to take any possible steps…to stop camps in Runton’. In August 1931, the situation was considered serious enough to ask the RDC to call in the Medical Officer of Health to visit all camps in the Runtons. A year later, after more complaints from residents, the PC asked if the RDC knew of any bye-law whereby camps must be at least 400 yards from houses – they didn’t. The situation was still unsatisfactory in 1934 when the Sanitary Inspector was asked to ‘make a close inspection of all camps in the Parish of Runton and that individual tents be examined to see if proper sanitary arrangements are made’.

 Septic tanks at West Runton

These were situated at the beach entrance (or Gangway) at the end of Water Lane and presented an ongoing problem from 1928 to 1931. It’s not clear exactly what the issue was but there is a reference to ‘sewage deposits’ on the beach at West Runton in 1930.

A quotation for remedial work in September 1928 (from May Gurney) proved to be a significant underestimate and the PC felt that it was ‘unfair’ that they should foot the bill as the tanks were still not working properly ‘and if any more expense is needed then it is for Mr. Scott [May Gurney] to meet it’. Responsibility for ensuring the tanks worked properly lay with the RDC and if they didn’t act the PC ‘will consider reporting the whole matter to the Ministry of Health with a view to them sending an expert down to report as to the working of the tanks’. By February 1930 the PC was ‘strongly opposed to any more expenditure’ but did agree to the lengthening of the outfall to the sea. They would not agree, however, ‘to Mr. Scott having anything to do’ with this alteration as ‘they have had more than enough of his wasting public money…when he should have known that the system…would not do what the Council expected it would’. A few months later May Gurney requested settlement of the account but the PC considered it to be ‘an absolute waste of public money’. In January 1931 the RDC stepped in but the PC was adamant that the outcome was ‘totally unsatisfactory’ and Mr. Scott should waive any claim for his services. In March 1931, however, the PC grudgingly agreed to the payment of £31 as ‘there are no legal grounds for refusing’ but put it on record that they ‘consider it most unfair for Mr. Scott to charge any fees for work which turned out to be a complete failure’.

Noise and subletting

It wasn’t only campers causing a nuisance. In 1932 the PC received complaints from residents living near the Church Hall, West Runton about the noise ‘from people who were living in the Hall during the first week in August’. Some residents, however, were keen to benefit from the influx of visitors as in 1930 the PC agreed to ask the RDC to reconsider allowing council tenants to rent rooms ‘to summer visitors providing there is no overcrowding’ but without success.

Control of the beach

In 1931 the PC submitted beach bye-laws, based on those in force at Mundesley, to the RDC for approval and in summer 1933 appointed a Beach Inspector (£2 a week) to enforce them. Duties included ensuring that donkeys and ponies for hire kept to their designated areas; stopping bottles or tins being thrown; preventing any climbing or making of paths on the cliffs that was likely to cause damage to same and generally preventing ‘nuisance’ on the beach.

Motor traffic

Motor traffic was also a problem and in 1928 the PC agreed to take measures to prevent ‘motors’ driving onto parish land on the cliffs and, in 1929, decided to erect posts to stop traffic driving over the Commons in West Runton. They, also, wrote to local landowners looking to rent land for car parks at both East and West Runton and in 1930 agreed to notices prohibiting cars from parking on the roads to the beaches at both Runtons. In summer 1932 the RDC was asked to schedule Water Lane, West Runton as ‘unsuitable for charabanc traffic’.   There are several references to roads having to be ‘made up’ or tarred and in 1929 the Minutes note that ‘the need to find work for the unemployed is so urgent’ that they could be employed on the roads. Speeding was a problem and in 1933 the PC felt it necessary to draw the attention of the police to ‘the dangerous pace of certain motorists through the village’ – nothing changes! There were also complaints about aircraft noise and in September 1931 the Minutes record that the PC had repeatedly asked the RDC to stop the nuisance and when, in May 1932, the PC received a request from the RDC to find a field suitable for (presumably light) aircraft to land near Cromer the PC declined to help.

br 3781047 charabanc-ed

Photograph of holiday makers in a Charabanc. NRO, BR 134/10/47

Compiled by A. Baker, NRO Research Blogger

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The Virginia Adventure

The Borough Archive in King’s Lynn has a wonderful series of large, leather-bound books called The Hall Books, which record the proceedings of the town council over several centuries.

The books covering the 1600s are particularly interesting. It is here that we can read accounts of the Barbary Pirates and the building of St Anne’s Fort, and of the visit of Matthew Hopkins to purge the town of witches. There are also some interesting entries concerning the Virginia Adventure.

It has to be reiterated at this point that a lot of the handwriting in the old books is very difficult to read, and also that there seems at times to be anomalies in the dates- for example, September 1660 might occur before January 1660. This is because the records in the Chamberlain’s Accounts and the Hall Books run on a year which runs from Lady Day to Lady Day. Lady Day is another name for the Feast of the Annunciation and held on March 25th. There is still a residual use of the date today. After the adjustment of the calendars Lady Day now happens on April 6th and marks the change of the financial year.

The first entry is “An acquittance for the supplies for Virginia”, and records one Matthew Clark bringing a receipt “under the hand of Thomas Smith knight for the receipt of £25”, for the transport of supplies “for the advancement of the English Plantation in Virginia”.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 6

Later that same year, the Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council agreed to “adventure twenty and five pounds in the new lottery at London appointed for the plantation in Virginia”.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 24

English settlers had first colonised Virginia in 1580, at Jamestown and Roanoke, and were granted three charters, in 1606, 1609 and 1612 by James I, which differed basically in the delineation of the territory granted to the colony.

The 1606 charter set up a council made up of members of the joint-stock Virginia Company, usually eminent merchants; members of council were ostensibly appointed by the king, in reality by the membership of the company, and more often than not by the inner executive group of the Company. The council in England appointed a council in Virginia for the day to day running of the colony, but when this proved ineffective, a governor, initially Lord Delaware, was appointed. By 1608, the governor was one John Smith.

The young colony faced many early difficulties- in the first winter, half the settlers died, food and supplies were running low, leadership was poor, no one knew how to farm, and the colony suffered from diseases and Indian attacks, as described here.

But to get back to the main thread of our story- the Third Charter, granted on March 12, 1612, is a long and wordy document. It can be read on online here.

Briefly, it names the members of the council, deals with supplies of food, arms and livestock, reports cases of fraud and false pretences, but more importantly for our story, authorises the setting up of a lottery or lotteries, initially for one year, but to be extended thereafter. The lotteries were to be set up in “London and any other city or cities in England and proclaimed throughout the country.

I was not able to find specific details online of how the lotteries worked, but the Archive holds a copy of an excellent small book- Mrs John Rolfe of Heacham by John Haden and the pupils of Heacham Junior School which provides information. The Virginia Company was an investment scheme- much like the later disastrous South Sea Bubble- for the exploitation of overseas territories. Given the long term nature of the undertaking, it was not attracting the necessary level of investment- priced at £12.10s per share; the solution was to organise lotteries- presumably at the same price per ticket, as King’s Lynn “adventured” £25. It is known that a first prize of £1,000, and a second of £500 were won. Not by Lynn, though the town obviously won something- see below on folio 126.

In October 1612, the Hall Book reports that the Chamberlain paid money to the Mayor to send to London, “for the discharge of the fee farmers, the Lord Chancellor’s fee and the Adventure in Virginia”.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 26

In September 1612 there is a receipt for money for the lottery.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 28

The colony obviously recovered from its poor start. In March 1616 there is an entry about the lottery, with a receipt for the lottery being taken out of the Hall and delivered to Mr William Atkyn. It is not clear, but I wonder whether this indicates that the investment was paying dividends.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 111

Again, it is difficult to decipher some of the entries, but as I read the one for January 30, 1617, there was delivered to the Mayor and Aldermen a sum of money from the Lord and others of the committee for the Plantation of Virginia. There is a reference to money which had been “adventured” in the lottery.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 126

In February 1617, there are two interesting entries. The first has the Mayor bringing to the Hall various items “that were gotten by that adventure” including one double gilt cup, one little silver cup and a gilt spoons, all with valuations attached, and money was “voted toward plate”. The town was investing its returns in civic plate, one presumes.

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Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 127

The second entry records that money given by Gabriell Barbour, agent for the lottery, was to be “distributed by the Mayor and Aldermen of this town amongst the poor people of this borough”.

8 kl-c_7-9_127 lottery money to the poor

Hall books. KLBA, KL/C 7/9, fo. 127

There are two interesting links between this area today and the Virginia Adventure. On the way from the front entrance to the Archive and the Tales of Lynn, one goes through a gallery displaying civic treasures. There are various cups, and in a side gallery, behind the King John Cup, there is a large cabinet full of silver spoons of various designs. Were these some of the fruits of the Virginia Adventure? None remain on display of the relevant date, but Dayna Woolbright, of King’s Lynn Museum, tells me that in 1711, some old plate was disposed of to finance the purchase of the civic mases, which are to be seen.

The second link concerns John Smith, the governor in 1608, and the Indian attacks suffered by the colony. John Smith and a group of his men were involved in a skirmish with Pamunkey Indians. The Pamunkey were a sub-group of the powerful Powhatan chiefdom. Two Indians were killed; only John Smith survived, and he was sentenced to death. The story is well known- he was saved when Powhatan’s daughter interceded. Her name was Pocahontas, and she is featured on the Heacham village sign, having later married John Rolfe, son of a prominent local family.

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Heacham sign. Photo copyright Martin Pearman and licensed for reuse.

Compiled by NRO Research blogger, Pete Widdows

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‘My Italian Adventure’: Experiences of an escaped British Prisoner of War

Little did Trooper Gordon Lee, of the 44th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment, know of what was about to meet him when he, along with three other POWS, took the opportunity to escape back to allied occupied territory. The four men would journey across the vast and treacherous Italian landscape, getting to know the often friendly locals and evading hostile Nazi patrols at every turn. His memoirs (NRO, MC 2148/1, 925X6) explain his experiences.

Gordon Lee was captured by enemy forces in Libya on the 5th June 1942. As a POW he was transferred to Macerata, Italy where he became friendly with three other men, Ernest Johnson, Philip Millard and Jim Farnsworth. On the 3rd September, 1943, the Italians made an armistice with the allies and the camp guards became surprisingly friendly towards the prisoners. Two weeks later German troop transporters were spotted flying south, obviously seeking to take control of the country themselves. Noticing this the Italian guards retreated and the camp was left unguarded. Contrary to the wishes of the Senior British Officer, Lee and his three companions seized the opportunity to escape. They shouldered past the military police placed there pretending that they were simply collecting firewood for the kitchens, Lee exclaims ‘So, no exciting Colditz-style escape for us!’. Two hours later as they began their journey on the run, they saw swathes of German troops swoop upon the camp and take the place over. The remaining POWs were later transported to Germany.

In order to stay concealed Lee and his three companions travelled westwards towards the Apennines aiming to meet up with the advancing allied forces. On the way to the mountains, Lee and company walked through vineyards, taking whole bunches of grapes as they did so. In order to be provided with shelter Lee’s company resorted to begging the locals for a place to stay for the night. According to Lee the response was usually good, especially as many Italians from that region felt sorry for them and hated Mussolini. Lee felt this may have been because these locals were country folk and that the city folk may have held different viewpoints.

Some ‘special memories’ soon followed when they spent an evening with the villagers of Pianella working in the maize field. This work left them with a heap of maize cobs and ‘empty wine bottles’. However, their afternoon siesta was interrupted by a German patrol, causing everyone to scatter in various directions. Lee was badly scratched after jumping into nearby bramble bushes to hide but avoided capture and was soon greeted to a bed and some delicious gnocchi. Unfortunately, the next village they arrived at had more inhospitable residents who called the local police to arrest them. The men escaped their assailants by hiding in yet more bushes.

Most of the villages the company came across ultimately ended up being welcoming and one of them would end up being their home for nine months. One of Lee’s fellow travellers Phil slipped while descending a steep and rocky slope and ended up with a bad leg injury. Thankfully a group of local people arrived and assessed the damage, instructing them to stay put. Not long after a ‘stocky little chap’ told the group to wait until the next day when they would be taken to the nearby village. This village turned out to be Tresungo and they befriended and rested in the house of Erbe Petrucci. Alongside his wife he took care of the four men, providing adequate food and shelter. The village itself had the river Tronto running through it and a ‘self-supporting’ population of about five hundred. They lived off the land, growing their crops in the areas around the settlement and keeping numerous animals. Fuel supplies came from the nearby woods where firewood would be stocked by the houses ready for the winter, while chestnuts were collected to feed the pigs.


View of Tresungo taken in 1982

For the majority of their stay they lived in small stone huts just outside the village and dined on the local cuisine which was often ‘very filling’. In good weather Lee remembered the sounds of the tinkling bells coming from the animals as they were taken up the mountain slope to graze. However, there was still the constant threat of sudden German patrols from the town of Ascoli. The consequences if one was caught harbouring prisoners was terrible, as a nearby village experienced when their houses were burned down. Thankfully ‘a bold and fierce character’ a black marketer called Alessandro who regularly supplied the villagers with goods from Ascoli, was able to determine when patrols would visit, and would inform Lee and his companions when to ‘disappear’. In these times the group would wander into nearby valleys and villages before it was safe again to travel to Tresugo. On Christmas Eve they met their new-found friend, Antonio who they had helped previously with the grape harvests when he was ill. Upon meeting him that day Lee describes how Antonio ‘put his thumb to his mouth, the invitation to have ‘’un bicchiere di vino’’ (a glass of wine). Looking forward to starting the Christmas festivities the group followed him into his wine cellar where they started to sing a combination of the local songs they had picked up, together with our own offerings, including ‘’Oh, oh Antonio’’ which of course he loved. Lee spent Christmas day hung-over, something he later felt guilty about, he ‘regained consciousness in a sorry state and they never let me forget it. And neither did I!

Stone Hut home

The stone huts in Tresungo in 1982

Antoino and wife

Photograph of Antonio and his wife in 1982

Gordon spent the rest of winter in Tresungo where starting on New Year’s Eve the ‘white stuff’ fell and left many of the villagers snowed in. Due to the heavy snowfall a German truck consisting of two privates and a sergeant ended up having to camp in the village until the snow cleared, Gordon commented ‘we had neighbours wearing swastikas’. The Germans found out about the four escaped English prisoners and Lee and his friends were invited to meet with them, but they politely declined not wanting to take any chances and were happy to see them leave when the snow finally cleared. Soon after however the four escapees heard on the radio that the Germans were finally retreating and decided that it would soon be time to re-join the British forces. Although sad to leave the former POW felt relieved when they finally met up with a Royal Engineers unit in a nearby town. They were sent to a rest camp in Bari with other escapees to await a return to England. Gordon became bored and managed to hitchhike his way back to Tresengo where he desired to give Erbe a ‘gift of clothes and boots as ‘thank you’ for his kindness’ and was greeted with much delight by the villagers.

Upon returning to Bari the authorities were obviously displeased with his absence stating that as an ex-POW ‘I was not quite sane!’ In 1982 Lee returned to Tresugo one last time with his family. To his surprise and delight, many of the villagers remembered him chanting ‘E Gordoni!’ (It’s Gordon). Antonio was still there too, and they vividly remembered that glass of wine in the cellar.

extract from the journal

Extract from Gordon Lee’s memoirs about his return to Tresungo

Compiled and written by NRO Research Blogger, Rebecca Hanley

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The Bells that Toll Beneath the Waves

David Stannard, local historian and Norfolk Archives and Heritage Development Foundation (NORAH) trustee has written this blog on an aspect of Norfolk’s coastal history, which is reflected in many of the talks on NORAH’s register of talks.

Legends of bells tolling beneath the waves surround many of the East coast churches which have succumbed to coast erosion over the ages. These include Shipden church lying off Cromer; St. Clements’s Church, Keswick offshore of Bacton; several of the churches lost at Dunwich in Suffolk; and the church of Eccles St. Mary-next-the-Sea between Happisburgh and Sea Palling.

Indeed, in this latter case Lieutenant-Commander RN A. Brooks, captain of HMS Boyne reported hearing a bell about 9.30 one morning in May 1930, followed a few minutes later by a second strike, which was also heard by his First Lieutenant.  With both men unable to account for this strange occurrence and knowing of a similar old tale of Dunwich Church, the Commander, on arriving in Great Yarmouth, wrote to the editor of the Eastern Daily Press from aboard his ship asking for help in explaining the sound he had heard. 1

When abreast of Sea Palling, at about 9.30 a.m., I very plainly heard one stroke of a deep toned bell … have [any of your readers] heard any superstition of Eccles Church bells being heard at sea?
Lieutenant-Commander A. Brooks of HMS Boyne


Historical Facts Versus Legend

Sadly, the historical facts do not bear out this or any of the other tales of Eccles church bells tolling beneath the waves. The 1552 Inventory of Church Goods, a national survey of all English parish churches undertaken at the behest of Edward VI confirms that on 31 August 1552  Eccles St. Mary-next-the-Sea held two bells valued at £6. 2

Item ij [2] Belles weyenge by estimacion Eight hundredes [8 cwt] wherof  the gret Belle weyeth vC [5 cwt] the ijde  [2nd] Belle iij C xvlb  [3cwt 15lb] – vjli [£6]
Inventory of church goods for the Hundred of Happing, 1552

However, within twenty years the church had been severely damaged by coast erosion and a decision was taken by the Diocese to dismantle the main body of the church and unite the parish of Eccles with neighbouring Hempstead.3 The steeple of the church, including in this respect the all-important belfry was not demolished, given its significant role as a seamark for aiding mariners to navigate at sea. The evidence for these actions comes from a copy of a deed of union contained in Tanner’s Index, a comprehensive set of administrative documents of the Diocese of Norwich, now held by Norfolk Record Office (NRO, DN/REG 31). The Deed of Union, dated 27 January 1571 (in new style dating), states that;

… the saide Church of Eccles by reason it is situate so near unto the Sea and for want of good Cliffes Walls seabanks and other defences the same Church is much decayed and not like long to stand  And also the soil of the manner within that Parish is also spoyld by the rage of the Sea.
Deed of union of Eccles and Hempstead, dated 1571

In providing arrangements for the combining of the two parishes the Deed also includes a reference to what should happen to the demolished church where,

… the scyte lead Bells and Buildings of the said late parish Church of Eccles and the glebe lands of the same if any there be with their appurtenances whatsoever shall remain and be imployed  to the use and behoofe of the aforesaid Thomas Brampton …
Deed of union of Eccles and Hempstead, dated 1571

As the Lord of the Manor of Eccles Thomas Brampton undoubtedly would have sold off the valuable bells, perhaps to be melted down, or they may still hang, unrecognized in another Norfolk belfry. It seems very unlikely that they would have been left at that time to disappear beneath the waves.


No Mention of the Valuable Bells

This may be confirmed by the probate inventory of Henry Hide, yeoman of Eccles, taken on 6 March 1593, and also held by Norfolk Record Office (NRO, DN/INV 9/314). Henry lived and farmed at Manor Farm, Eccles and he included the old church steeple as part of his property. When his ‘prisers’ [appraisers] made the inventory and valuation following Henry’s death they noted 40 codge swelles, or willow fish baskets; six drage rakes, probably used for gathering cockles or oysters. All the contents were valued at 18 shillings, but significantly no mention is made of any valuable bells.

dn,inv 9,314- ed2

In primis xxxx codge swelles, vj drage Rakes, iij new barrels with other implement[e]s thear – xviij s[hillings]. Probate inventory of Henry Hide, yeoman of Eccles, taken on 6 March 1593.  NRO, DN/INV 9/314.

rfm_1-4-4 ed

Map of circa 1602, which refers to the church tower of Eccles as a lighthouse. NRO, RFM 1/4/4.

The old steeple of Eccles St. Mary-next-the-Sea stood by the foreshore doing its duty as a humble store shed, sea-mark, warning beacon, lighthouse (it was marked on the circa 1602 map by William Smith, NRO, RFM 1/4/4) and Victorian tourist attraction for another 300 years until it too toppled into the teeth of a fierce Nor’Westerly gale on 23 January 1895. In all that time no known historical references refer to any bells still hanging in its belfry or lying at its skirts. 4


What did the Commander and his First Lieutenant Hear?

So what exactly was it that Lieutenant-Commander Brooks heard on that May morning in 1930? A further letter printed in the Eastern Daily Press on 23 May 1930 suggested that it was the tenor bell of Hickling church, with the sound carried by an offshore wind, which the seafarers had actually heard. The informant, who signed the letter ‘The Tenor’, claims that this heavy one-ton bell was rung twice that evening as the bell ringers left the tower, ‘and the time corresponded with the time that Commander Brooks heard the bell.’ 5   However, as observant readers will note, the good Commander said that he had heard the bell at 9.30 a.m. in the morning, not in the evening – so perhaps the jury is still out on this particular strange occurrence: but it surely couldn’t have been any bell of Eccles St. Mary’s church.


David Stannard, September 2018


  1. Brooks A. (1930) ‘Eccles church bells?’, Eastern Daily Press, 14 May
  2.  Walters, H.B. (1952), ‘Inventories of Norfolk church goods (1552)’, Norfolk Archaeology, XXX, pp 370-8
  3. Stannard, D., (2014), ‘The timing of the destruction of Eccles juxta Mare’, Norfolk Archaeology, XLVI, pp 45-54
  4. Stannard, D., (2014), ‘The timing of the destruction of Eccles juxta Mare’, Norfolk Archaeology, XLVI, pp 45-54
  5. The Tenor (1930) ‘Eccles church bells’, Eastern Daily Press, 23 May
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King’s Lynn’s Bohemian Rhapsody

The Borough Archive in King’s Lynn has an important series of large, leather-bound books called The Hall Books. They record the proceedings of the town council over several centuries and are the subject of a new volunteer transcription project.

The books covering the 1600s are particularly interesting. There is an entry for January 1612 referring to Bohemia. It is reported that the council was presented with a letter from the Bishops of Canterbury and Prague, and another from King James I asking for donations for, “the building of a church and great college in Bohemia”.

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Hall Books, KLBA, KL/C 7/9

A donation of £8 was duly made, £3 from the Borough treasury and £5 collected from the inhabitants of Lynn, as was reported on 19th February

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Hall Books, KLBA, KL/C 7/9

I was not able to find a definite reference to the church in question, but a good candidate would be the Church of Our Lady Victorious, the first Baroque church in Prague, built for the Lutheran community between 1611 and 1613.

Religion at the time, as so often, was in a state of growing conflict; the Protestant Union was formed in 1608, and in response the Catholic League in 1609. England did not have a direct link with Bohemia until 1618- more of which later.

King James’ daughter Elizabeth married the Calvinist Frederik, Elector of Palatine, in 1613, and took up residence in the Court in Heidelberg. Frederik was Director of the Protestant Union in 1610.

Bohemia at the time was part of the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was rebelling against its Catholic overlords. On the death of Emperor Matthias, Frederik was offered, and accepted, the crown of Bohemia.

Elizabeth of Bohemia, as she was now known, and Frederik had eight children.

In 1618, the Defenestration of Prague- the “throwing out of the window” of emissaries from the Emperor, triggered the Thirty Years’ War. Frederik had been hoping for armed support from England, the Dutch Republic and the German Protestants, but none was forthcoming.

Bohemia crops up again in the Hall Book in January 1621 when an appeal was recorded for a collection for the relief of Bohemia- no doubt funds to support the war effort.

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Hall Books, KLBA, KL/C 7/9

£100 was raised, “as a benevolence for the King of Bohemia” and recorded as being passed to Elizabeth’s representative at her residence in London in May 1621.

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Hall Books, KLBA, KL/C 7/9

Lacking the armed support he had hoped for, Frederik saw his forces routed by the Imperial army in 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain, and the couple, henceforth known as the Winter King and Winter Queen, due to the brevity of their reign, had to flee, and found refuge in The Hague.

Frederik died in 1632, and Elizabeth in London, while visiting her nephew Charles II after the Restoration.

There, it would seem, King’s Lynn’s connection with the story ended- except that it didn’t.

When the House of Stuart died with Queen Anne, a Protestant successor was required, under the terms of the Act of Settlement, and the nearest qualifying relative was Elizabeth’s daughter, Sophia of Hannover. Unfortunately, she died two months before she was due to take the crown, and the succession passed to her son, who ruled as George I, from whom our current Queen claims descent. Her family has had a close connection with our town since the time of Queen Victoria through the ownership of the Sandringham estate and generous donations to King’s Lynn Museum over the years.

Compiled by NRO Research blogger, Pete Widdows

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The Appliance of Science: Using Science in Conservation

Back in October we were really pleased to run our first ever workshop as part of the Norwich Science Festival.

The workshop looked at how science was used on a practical level within the workplace; in this case focusing on how we conserve our documents. A-level students from Hethersett Old Hall School and Taverham High School participated in the workshop, which included an introduction to the Record Office to help the pupils understand what we do and gave a chance to see some of the documents in our care. Next pupils had a tour of the building and a demonstration of various pieces of equipment in the Conservation Studio.


Learning how Documents are Conserved


Exploring the Equipment in the Conservation Studio

After that the real work started as the pupils and our Conservator, David, explored acids and bases, talked about what pH is, and discussed the dissociation of water. David explained how the more acidic the paper the harder it was to preserve. He went on to demonstrate the 3 ways of testing the pH of paper. Using these techniques the students themselves tested a variety of different papers and then compared the results to see how accurate each method of testing was. Pupils also made a de-acidifying agent used in paper conservation in order to halt the process of deterioration caused by the acidity in the paper.


Making a De-acidifying Agent

Finally pupils put their new found knowledge to the test by building their own conservation kit. Pupils had to think about why some materials were more suitable for preserving and conserving documents than others and work out which of the items given to them should be included in their kit.


Creating a Conservation Kit

Overall the pupils enjoyed the workshop saying:

‘I found the demonstration of equipment and the strong room viewing very interesting’

‘[I]enjoyed the practicals

and ‘Very well explained! Very interesting’.

This workshop is available all year round and we hope to be back as part of the Norwich Science Festival again next year. If you would like to book for your own school or would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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King’s Lynn and The War of the Spanish Succession

We recently told you about our new project, working to transcribe the Hall Books of the King’s Lynn Borough Archives. This blog is an example of something of interest found as part of that project, showing how worldwide events were affecting the borough, and how the Town Council in turn were responding to them.

On Wednesday 19th June 1706, in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession, it was decided that the Town Council would write a letter to Queen Anne, reacting to the events happening on the continent. The war was a European-wide conflict, lasting from 1701 until 1714, which was triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. Thanks to the tangled web created by various European royal families intermarrying and producing offspring, it was unclear who should succeed. Charles II’s will designated Louis XIV of France’s second grandson, Philip (a member of the French Bourbon dynasty) as heir. However, concerned about the European balance of power, England, the United Provinces (or Dutch Republic) and Austria-Hungry formed a ‘Grand Alliance’, and pushed instead for the succession of the Archduke Charles, the younger son of Leopold, the Holy Roman Emperor. This led to war between the Grand Alliance, and the Bourbon Alliance of France and Bourbon Spain.

Queen Anne Letter 1

Queen Anne Letter 2

The Council’s “Address to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majestie”. NRO, KL/C 7/12

By 1706, when the letter was written, Allied victories in Italy and the Low Countries had forced the French army back within their borders, and control of the sea allowed the Allies to conduct successful offensives in Spain. On the 23rd May, an Allied force under the Duke of Marlborough shattered a French force at the Battle of Ramillies, today located in Belgium. The Allies were able to exploit their advantage, and managed to capture the majority of the Spanish Netherlands.

The letter begins as follows:

To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty.

The humble Address of the Maior, Recorder, Aldermen and Com[m]on Councill of Yo[ur] Ma[jes]ties Ancient Bur[rou]gh of Kings Lynn May it pleas Yo[ur] Ma[jes]tie

Having ever since our hap[p]y Revoluc[i]on (w[hi]ch Restored our English Constitution) undergone the various Events of a Long Warr with the utmost Chearfullness and Alacrity. Our Zeale can never Slacken (but Encrease) under Yo[u]r Ma[jes]ties Reigne of Wonders, Who is Raised by Providence to Extricate Us out of the greatest Difficulties, And to put a hooke into the Nostills of that great Leviathan who hath soe long sported himself upon our Waters.

The “hap[p]y Revoluc[i]on” referred to is the Glorious Revolution. This occurred in 1688-89 when Queen Anne’s Protestant sister, Mary, along with her Dutch husband, William of Orange, overthrew their father, the Catholic James II. In the period leading up to this, King’s Lynn was unsettled, with various factions competing for power within the Town Council, and letters arriving from James II purging the Council of those he saw as undesirable, and instructing those that remained who to elect as Mayor. Thanks to the Revolution, however, the Protestant faction were victorious – indeed, the idea that Queen Anne was “Raised by Providence” is a particularly Protestant statement. The invasion, however, was considered a declaration of war between France and the Dutch Republic, leading to the Nine Years War from 1689 until 1697.


Engraved portrait of Queen Anne. NRO, Y/C 2/15

The idea of France as a “great Leviathan” was particularly common in the 18th century. The Leviathan was a great sea monster mentioned in the Bible, and was often used to refer to a seemingly insurmountable enemy, or an overwhelmingly powerful person or thing. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes had written a book of political philosophy, entitled ‘Leviathan’, which argued for rule by an absolute sovereign. In 1706, France was ruled by King Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, one of the most powerful French rulers in history, and who helped to create an absolutist monarchy in France. With the former James II in exile at the French court, and King Louis opposing the new king of England, the French monarchy supported the various attempts of James and his descendants to regain the throne. Being a maritime borough, close to the east coast, it is easy to see why the inhabitants of King’s Lynn were concerned about the French “sporting” upon English waters – whilst the Battle of Beachy Head (1690) had been in the distant English Channel, the Battle of Dogger Bank (1696) was perhaps a little too close for comfort. Such battles could also have an impact on the trade which was a vital part of the borough’s economy.

The letter continues:

It is Yo[u]r Ma[jes]ties Genius that Inspires, ‘Tis Yo[u]r Choise yt Enables Yo[u]r brave Generall the Duke of Marlborough to make our Streets Thus often resound with the Joyfull Noise of Victories, Those Strokes are Masterpeeces not to be found in the Louvre at Versailles. Whilst with One Blow he Reduces the Treacherous Bavarian and makes him Fly his Owne Country, With This Other he drives him out of his French Governm[en]t too…

The Duke of Marlborough was John Churchill, later described as Britain’s finest general in a biography written by his most famous descendant, Winston Churchill. In 1704, Marlborough had triumphed at the Battle of Blenheim (and as a reward had received the palace of the same name), and in May 1706 had overseen the victory at Ramillies, which we can assume this letter was responding to. The “Treacherous Bavarian” is presumably Maximilian II, Elector of Bavaria. He had a stake in the Spanish inheritance, and had allied himself with the French. However, he was disastrously defeated at Blenheim, and forced to flee to the Spanish Netherlands, and again at Ramillies, when he found refuge in the court at Versailles.


John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, artist unknown

…But noe less wonderfull are All the rest of ye Steps of Yo[ur] Ma[jes]ties Governm[en]t upon the Main Continent (Even the furthest parts of Spain nearest France) Wee See the Large Provinces of Catalonia & Valentia (with an Amazeing Success) Reduced to their Lawfull Sovereigne; where our Brave English Peterborough’s Zeal for the Honour of his Prince & Country hath Rivalled even the Longest Experience…

From 14th September 1705, the Allies had been besieging Barcelona. On 19th October, Charles Mordaunt, the 3rd Earl of Peterborough, captured the city from its Spanish Bourbonic defenders. Following this, on 24th January 1706, Peterborough led a handful of English cavalrymen into Valencia after riding south from Barcelona, captured the nearby fortress at Sagunt, and forced the Spanish Bourbon army to withdraw. The English held the city for sixteen months, defeating several attempts to expel them – as the council concede,

… it is as Difficult to Preserve as Gaine…

This was proving to be the case by 1710, when the Allies were expelled from central Spain. Casualties and costs were mounting, and the aims of the various powers involved in the Grand Alliance were diverging. The Tories came to power in Britain in the same year, and vowed to end the war. In 1712, the British ceased fighting, and in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht recognised Philip, Duke of Anjou, as king of Spain, confirming the will of Charles II, but on the condition that he renounce any right to the French throne.

The address ends with a fawning statement somewhat typical of addresses towards monarchs of the 18th century (despite the best efforts of Oliver Cromwell sixty years previously):

Wee are thankfully convince[ed] Yo[u]r Ma[jes]tie is the best Protector as well as the greatest Ornam[en]t and Benefactor of our Established Church, And are best Judge of w[ha]t is for its Advantage. And If any party, Faction (out of a Private Ambition) should Endeavour to Insinuate any Groundless Fears, Or Erect us any other Guarantees (that Yo[ur] Ma[jes]ties Dayly Actions) As Wee are satisfyed It is Endeavouring to Alienate & transfer from Your Ma[jes]tie the Affection of Your Subjects and their just Dependency on Your Person Soe It is to Robb us of Our Peace & Quiett.

That Yo[u]r Ma[jes]tie may be alwayes feared & honoured abroad Beloved and Reverenc’t at home, As It shall be alwayes (In our low Spheer) Our Utmost Wishes & Endeavours Soe may bee deemed unworthy the name of an Englishman That doth not heartily say Amen.

There is also a slightly defensive tone, as the authors distance themselves from anyone who might be wishing to cause trouble for the crown. In the past 100 years, the inhabitants of King’s Lynn had seen a monarchy, Civil War, a republic, a restoration of the monarch, and what was effectively an invasion by a foreign prince. There had been only three peaceful successions between six monarchs (and two Lord Protectors). It was, then, perhaps best to ensure that they were in the good books of the current sovereign.

Queen Anne only lived to be flattered by her subjects for another eight years. In December 1713 she became seriously ill, and the country dreaded a civil war. The events of the previous thirteen years had shown what could happen on the death of a childless monarch. Anne hung on until 1st August 1714, when she died, and a remote German cousin, George of Hanover, was invited to take the throne.

Proclamation of King George I

Proclamation of King George I. NRO, KL/C 7/12

For your chance to find out about other events like this, try your hand at transcribing the King’s Lynn Hall Books here.

Chloe Phillips, Project Officer.

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The Work of an Archivist

At the very beginning of this month, the Education and Outreach team were out and about delivering our new The Work of an Archivist workshop to the Year 5s at Mundesley Junior School.

The workshop explores the work of not only the archivists but the conservators, the searchroom team, the digitisation team, the strongroom team and of course the education and outreach team here at the Norfolk Record Office.

We started by playing a game based on a type of document called an indenture,  this was an agreement between two people written on one piece of parchment and then cut with a zig zag line so both could keep a copy of the document without fear of fraud.   The game involves finding the other half of your question/answer, having fun and finding out more about the Norfolk Record Office (NRO).  The children discovered many interesting facts including;   the NRO looks after over 12 million documents and that our oldest document is over 900 years old.

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Palaeography skills in action

Our second activity  gave the children the opportunity to look at copies of documents and put them into chronological order.  The documents included letters from Nelson, a 19th century letter from a child to an uncle and a document to fill in if you were injured during the First World War and our oldest document.  The children showed impressive palaeography skills.

We next explored how to handle documents, thinking about what we could do to prevent the documents from any damage e.g.  having clean hands, using pencils not pens, not leaning on documents.


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Putting into practice what we have learnt today.

The final activity put into practice what we had learnt during the day, thinking about the Journey of a document from attic to archive.

Find out more about our free workshops for schools here 





Quotes from Mundesley Junior School Year 5

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