Gruesome goings-on in Old Hunstanton

There is a slim uncatalogued file in the King’s Lynn Archive which contains some 14 documents, dated to the 24th year of King George III’s reign labelled, “Customs Murder Suit”. George III reigned from 1760 to 1820. These documents include a small scrap of paper which is basically a list of expenses to claim, “expenses incurred in conveying Kemball and Gunton to Norwich Castle”, receipts, lists of guards, one interesting one referring to the Wells party and the men who were “all very near Green when shot”, who “took Gunton on the beach”, and “took Kimball lying under the wall”, a list of vital questions to be asked, an account of the fray, the examination of Sergeant Leishman and his identification of Gunton, the statement by Mr Rounds of Snettisham who carried out the post mortem and the indictment document.

1 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Post mortem

Post Mortem. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


Fascinating stuff, but what was it all about? The website for The Lodge, Hunstanton, refers to the story, and there is much to be found online about Norfolk smugglers. The fray in question took place on the night of 26-27th September 1784, when, according to The Norfolk Chronicle, a group of smugglers came across two groups of revenue officers and light dragoons, one from Wells, one from Lynn, who had taken possession of contraband from Dunkirk and were lying in wait for the smugglers to try and get it back.

2 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Wells and Lynn party

List of Members of the Wells Party and Lynn Party. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Cusoms Murder Suit


The captain of the smugglers, and the lugger Vipel, was one Thomas Kimbell (or Kemball) of Thornham, and two of his seamen, Andrew Gunton and Thomas Williams, are also named.

3 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - ID document

Document of Identity. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The soldiers involved were from General Eliott’s Light Horse Dragoons. George Augustus Eliott, PC, KB, 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, had seen service in the Seven Years’ War, the Great Siege of Gibraltar, where he was Commander in Chief, and the American War of Independence. He first raised the 15th King’s Hussars in 1759; the regiment was merged with the 19th Royal Hussars into the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, but was named after their general. Interestingly, the regiment was involved in 1819 in the Peterloo Massacre, when it was led by Lt Colonel Guy L’Estrange, another family name with local connections. During the fray, a revenue man, William Green, and a dragoon, William Webb, were shot dead.

4 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Account of murder

Account of the murders (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


5 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Account of murder reverse

Account of the murders (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


Among the documents in the file, there is one which includes a directive to select one of the gang to be persuaded to turn king’s evidence, and a request for the baptism certificates of Green’s children, to arrange financial relief for his family.

6 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


7 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


8 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Evidence and benefits

Evidence and benefits (3). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The three smugglers named above were taken to Norwich Castle and tried for murder at the Thetford Assizes in March 1785.

9 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - Conveyance

Conveyance to Norwich Castle. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


10 Uncat Customs Murder Suit -Expenses Chit

Expenses List. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

They were acquitted, and a retrial was ordered, where they were once again acquitted. The prosecution came to the conclusion that no Norfolk jury was ever going to convict smugglers!


11 Uncat Customs Murder Suit - List of questions

List of Trial Questions. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


The gravestones of Webb and Green can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Old Hunstanton. The epitaphs read: “Here lie the mangled remains of poor William Green, an Honest Officer of Government, who in the faithful discharge of his duty was inhumanly murdered by a gang of smugglers in this parish September 27, 1784, aged 37 years.

12 Green headstone

Gravestone of William Green. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


And: “William Webb, late of the 15th Light Dragoons, who was shot from his horse by a party of smugglers on 25 September 1784 aged 26 years. I am not dead but sleepeth here And when the Trumpet Sound I will appear. Four balls thro’ me pearced there was. Hard it was I’d no time to pray. This stone that here you Do see My Comrades Erected for the sake of me.”

13 Webb headstone

Gravestone of William Webb. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit


There are some obvious mistakes in grammar and spelling, and, it seems, a doubt about the date. Spooky, but that date just happens to be my birthday!

Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Pete Widdows

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A Seaside Holiday in Sketches

Inspired by Norfolk Record Office document MC 2784/G/16.

In 1884, Juliet Mary Seebohm – later wife of Sir Rickman John Godlee, one of the first surgeons to remove a brain tumour – holidayed in Cromer with her family and the Weber family. Her sketches show a charming insight into what the families got up to during their stay.

Fourteen cartoon-strip-esque panels show various events from a day at the beach. The

subjects vary from waiting impatiently for an empty bathing machine on the beach, to capsizing a boat in the sea, to playing cricket in the evening. Rhyming verses on the back give us an idea of how Juliet Mary Seebohm saw and interpreted the events. My favourite is the verse on the back of the drawing titled ‘Desertion’:

‘One day the sea is raging wilde

But gentle mayds are brave

One false mayd leapes – the other sinks

Head-first into the wave.’

Eight more, smaller sketches are stuck to a page which looks as if it has been

MC 2784

Preparatory Sketches NRO, MC 2784/G/16

ripped out of an exercise book. The artistic talent ranges from an intricately drawn child wearing a striped jumper and holding a cricket ball, to a sketch of a lady labelled ‘Hilda’ who isn’t really much more than a glorified stick figure.

M. Seebohm herself doesn’t feature in any of the sketches, showing that she was probably more of an onlooker than a swimmer. But her drawings give us the chance to see her

holiday for ourselves, and to see that, despite the 120 year difference, beach holidays haven’t really changed all that much. The verse on the back of ‘Paradise’ still hold the essence of the joy a beach holiday today can bring:


‘These laydes are in Paradise

All bright, with gladfull glee

Disporting them for houres in

The greene and sunnie sea.’

Written by Eleanor Johnson July 2018

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Schools Programme 2018-19

We are really pleased to announce that our schools programme for the next academic year is out now. Containing a number of new workshops, alongside some of our more popular ones, we have something for offer from Key Stage 2-5. The programme for both Primary and Secondary schools can be downloaded below:

schools programme – 2018-19

Thanks to those who have already booked for next year, many of whom are repeating a workshop they had this year. If you haven’t booked with us before, and are interested in a workshop, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we can talk through the workshop with you.

We look forward to hearing from you, and hope you enjoy your summer break.



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The rise and fall of Woolworths: A case study of the Norwich Store

In 2009, during the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, Woolworths finally closed all of its stores, resulting in thousands of job losses. The company had been operating shops in the UK for over a century. In the aftermath Woolworths products, particularly its legendary pick ‘n’ mix brand were made available online until the UK brand closed its doors once and for all in 2015.

Woolworths first opened its UK doors in 1909, and some may consider the store a product of its time. After all, the concept of a store with almost anything available is regarded as a largely 20th century idea. In addition, some may consider the company, which followed the formula of the increasingly developing and vibrant USA, as out of place in a rigid Edwardian society that was stuck in past. In a society where American influence had not yet taken hold, a place like Woolworths was an ‘ugly duckling’ so to speak. While many today think of Woolworths as a British company, it was American in spirit. America’s class system was not as strict as Britain’s and this is what likely made the idea of the company so appealing to working class British civilians. Woolworths with its fixed prices made a variety of goods, which were previously unobtainable for members of the lower classes, affordable.

The 1928 Norwich building plans for the company (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015 and N/EN 12/1/10071), show the soon beloved Woolworths store on Rampant Horse Street was being developed around this time. One plan in particular (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015) discusses how a drainage system will be incorporated with the building. A good drainage system was crucial as buildings posing potential health risks to the public were rejected across Norwich. The Rampant Horse street store was approved however and it would become the heart and soul of the street. According to a later building plan, the final design would have four floors in total, including the basement, as well as a lift (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10071). When it was first built, the upper and middle classes of Norwich most likely considered it a ‘poor man’s’ version of John Lewis but to the not so fortunate majority in Norwich, the store would soon go on to become a local hit with customers.

n,en 12,1,10015

First Floor Plan for Woolworths. NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015



n,en 12,1,10071

Front Elevation of Woolworths. NRO, N/EN 12/1/10071


In the 1940s, Woolworths was one of the unluckiest stores in Norwich. Woolworths was due to reopen in 1939 around Christmas time, following a large extension, but when war was declared with Germany the opening of the store was delayed until September 1940 due to the difficultly of obtaining supplies. It was around this time that a mysterious photograph named ‘girls on the roof’ was taken. This photo displayed mostly female employees from the store, as most of the men would have been conscripted into the army. Due to the lack of men in the nation, it was up to Britain’s women to bear the brunt of the workforce back home, including shop management which would have previously been considered a ‘male occupation’. Little did these women know what was to become of the store in two years’ time. In April 1942 it was blown up by Nazi bombers. Due to Britain’s poor economic situation during and after the war, the store would not be rebuilt until 1950. By that time it had been drastically modernised and employed approximately 300 people.

By the 1960s it had a restaurant, a food hall and even escalators, reminiscent of the numerous large department stores in New York. American influence after the Second World War had dramatically changed post war Britain. In a country and economy which had still not fully recovered from the Second World War and had only recently abandoned its ration system, trendy American styled convenience stores would have been welcomed unlike during the start of the century.

Following three fires in the 1970s Woolworths began to lose its reputation. In 1988, possibly due to the poor national reputation of the business and subsequent financial losses, the Rampant Horse store closed its doors. It was moved to what is now the old Sainsbury’s site at St Stephen’s and then to Riverside where the Norwich chain limped on until it closed for good.

It is obvious that the concept of a store like Woolworths has not aged well with British public, despite its widespread appeal in the second half of the twentieth century. This is perhaps due to the greater and more accessible variety of businesses which specialise in one particular item, rather than many lower quality items. The British public seems to have moved on from the days of convenience and even today, for better or worse, mixed produce stores tend to be looked down upon by society. Norwich is an exception however, and the locals as well as local media, cherish the memories of the store that helped to bring the community together, even in times of war and economic stress. Most significantly, Woollies despite it being regarded as a prominently British business, introduced the ‘American Dream’ to Norfolk and this can still be seen and experienced in places like Castle Mall and Chapelfield. Even today the Norwich store is beloved and though the store itself is long gone, the nostalgic memories of those who walked through its doors will remain.


Pete Goodrum, Norwich in the 1960s: Ten Years That Altered a City, Amberley Publishing Ltd, 2013

Derek James, Mystery of Norwich Woolworths picture solved, Eastern Daily Press, 29 March 2011

Courtney Pochin, Take a trip down memory lane with these Woolworths photos, Eastern Daily Press, 03 May 2017

 Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Rebecca Hanley

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News from the Classroom: May and June 2018

Since our last school blog at the beginning of May, we have packed our suitcases and visited eight different schools, and hosted a group from Broadland High School. It’s been another busy couple of months!

In May, a group from Broadland High School visited us ahead of their school’s 60th anniversary celebrations.


Students from Broadland High School using a microfilm reader in the Searchroom


Students from Broadland High School in the Strongroom

The students and their teacher, Mr Laycock, had an ‘Introduction to Archives’ session with Kären from the Education and Outreach team, and got some advice on cataloguing, had a tour of the building, and saw some original documents relating to their local area, including plans for the site of their school. The group also got some advice on document handling and displaying items from our Senior Conservator Nick. Feedback from the students included this salient point “I have learnt that organisation is very important in archives”. We agree!

Over two weeks in June, we visited six schools, delivered our Refugee workshop 15 times to over 400 children, all as part of Refugee Week. We can run this workshop at any time of the year, but it is particularly significant around Refugee Week, and helps to raise awareness of the contribution that refugees have made to our county. One of the activities involves a timeline of 500 years of refugee history.

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Children from Worstead CofE Primary School working on their timeline of refugee history

During the workshop, children discover things that refugees have contributed, not just to Norfolk, but to our every day life. Did you know the canary came over with Dutch refugees? The symbol went on to be used as part of the Norwich City Football Club emblem. The Dutch also gave us the frying pan! Feedback from the children following our workshops included “I have learnt that so many different countries have relied on England as a safe place” and “I found it interesting to put myself in their shoes”.

Aside from refugee history, we have also been delivering workshops on the Second World War, and the work of an archivist. At Catton Grove Primary School, we delivered three workshops in one day to classes of year 3. The workshops include looking at different objects from the time and working out what they were used for, and, in the case of the bandage and warden’s helmet, trying them out!


Children from Catton Grove Primary School looking at objects from the Second World War

If you are interested in hearing more about the school workshops we offer, or would like to book one for your school, please get in touch. Email us at and mark your email FAO Education and Outreach.

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog and finding out what we have been up to. Enjoy the sunshine!

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The Struggles of Motherhood Recorded in the 19th Century Norfolk Lunatic Asylum

Mental health issues are a feature of modern life and the archive of Norfolk Lunatic Asylum, or St Andrew’s Hospital as it was renamed in the 1920s, shows this is not new. It is interesting to compare the ‘causes of insanity’ in the 19th century with the causes of stress and depression cited nowadays.


Female wing, c. 1857. NRO, SAH 794

If we examine the case histories of patients admitted to Norfolk Lunatic Asylum in the years 1845-1870, the female admissions were 25% higher than that of males. Looking at the possibility of gendered diagnoses, i.e. conditions that were peculiar to women, 12% of female patients were diagnosed with insanity assigned to female issues. Most of those related to the process of childbearing: accouchement, childbirth, confinement, lactation, miscarriage, parturition, pregnancy, puerperal and suckling child, which accounted for 7% of all female admissions.

The term puerperal insanity describes the condition that developed in women before, during or after the process of childbirth and the multiplicity of symptoms associated with this condition are quoted as being: ‘sleeplessness, rapid pulse, pallor or flushed skin, vivid eyes, furred tongue, constipation and delirium, …. great excitability, expressed through constant chattering, delusions, singing, swearing, tearing clothes and lewd sexual displays.’[i]

Medical superintendents were reporting a growing number of patients with this condition in county lunatic asylums throughout the country and their experience linked the symptoms with ‘moral’ issues such as poverty, physical exhaustion, malnourishment or, as they would now be termed, social problems.

Extending the period of lactation when their physical health was frail could result in insanity among women. According to the case books for Norfolk Lunatic Asylum, two patients were admitted in July 1863 and July 1864 with acute mania, the cause being recorded as superlactation: Elizabeth D had been suckling a child of two years old as well as a baby of seven months old which had ‘much reduced her strength, and to this her mental derangement is attributed’, whilst Mary H had also been suckling her youngest child for almost two years ‘causing her to become excessively weak.’ Both mothers were discharged recovered after only two months and five months respectively. (NRO, SAH 263)

Hannah H was admitted for the first time at the age of 38 in 1866 when it was recorded that she was the mother of ten children. (NRO, SAH 264). By the time of her third admission in 1870 she was the mother of twelve. At the time of her sixth admission in 1874 the case book entry recorded ‘No known exciting cause. Patient has not suffered privation her husband being in employment and well-paid.’ (NRO, SAH 265). Although Hannah H’s husband had been in ‘well-paid employment’ as a railway labourer she must have been severely strained to feed and clothe her family adequately on his wages. The intervals between attacks shortened and the time she spent in the asylum increased although the pattern of her illness was unchanged; on admission she was restless, excited, noisy and destructive but within weeks she became good tempered, rational and quiet.

Hannah H - SAH 265

Hannah H. Case book, St Andrew’s Hospital (NRO, SAH 265)

This was frequently the result for many patients; just a short period of respite within the Asylum, away from the endless struggle of daily life, and their physical and mental health improved immeasurably. Some women’s symptoms mirrored those associated with the malady now termed post-natal depression, but rest and regular meals quickly improved their mental health as well as their abysmally poor physical condition.

In her book The Female Malady, Elaine Showalter suggests it is ‘the suffocation of family life, boredom and patriarchal protectivism’ which ‘gradually destroys women’s capacity to dream, to work, or to act.’[ii]  However, within the casebooks of the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum there is no evidence that women admitted with puerperal insanity had feelings of frustration or confinement stemming from an inability to pursue activities of a more fulfilling nature. Their issues were connected with the pressures of daily living: poverty, ill health, domestic problems, work and/or the lack of it, and the asylum provided just that: asylum, in other words a refuge, from the struggles of daily living.

There are many personal tragedies contained within the records of St Andrew’s Hospital.


Compiled by Julie Jakeway, NRO Research Blogger


[i]       H. Marland, ‘At home with puerperal mania: the domestic treatment of the insanity of childbirth in the nineteenth century’, in P. Bartlett and D. Wright (eds), Outside the Walls of the Asylum, The History of Care in the Community 1750-2000, (London, 1999), p. 52.

[ii]      Showalter, The Female Malady, (London, 1985)

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Norfolk Lunatic Asylum/St Andrew’s Hospital

Case notes for the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum show that the admission of a significant number of female patients in 1845-1870, was due to women’s mental health after childbirth. The notes suggest that their physical condition was frail and the physical demands of parturition and lactation further drained their strength, already weakened by hard labour and malnourishment.

Harriet D, a patient on five occasions, was first admitted when she was 25 years old in March 1858. She returned in 1859 following childbirth when ‘the attack was brought about by puerperal causes’ and was sent home recovered after eight months (NRO, SAH 262).  Five years elapsed before her next admission which was brief, just two months in the asylum before being discharged recovered, followed by another three years of mental health before admission in May 1867 with the cause listed as poverty.  On this occasion she remained in the asylum five years before discharge and her final admission was in September 1873, 16 months after her last discharge when it was stated she was the mother of seven children, the youngest 12 weeks old; her weight was 7 st 10 lbs, and she was ‘badly nourished’.  Immediately on admission her health improved: ‘She works very well in the laundry and is very useful. Is essentially being cheerful, rational, contented and no trouble whatever. Under ordinary circumstances she would therefore be discharged, but as she invariably relapses when sent out,…. she will at all events be kept on here for the present.’. (NRO, SAH 265)

Harriet D - SAH 265

Harriet D. Case book, St Andrew’s Hospital (NRO, SAH 265)

Another woman admitted with the cause of insanity stated as ‘accouchement’, i.e. the act of giving birth, was Lydia D. On admission Lydia D was ‘exceedingly thin and weak being unable to stand’. She was discharged recovered after nine months, having received regular meals, a consistent pattern of rest, and encouragement to participate in the daily routine of the asylum, which for Lydia included work in the laundry.

There was an additional factor in Lydia’s illness: ‘she is very bitter towards her husband who has ill-treated her and is much addicted to drink, she frets much about him’ and when he visited her two months after her admission ‘he threatened to go to London and put his children in the workhouse if she did not come out of the asylum’, causing Lydia to suffer a relapse. (NRO, SAH 264).

Jane F’s husband was identified as a contributory cause in her admission after the birth of her third child when she was aged 21.  She had ‘a very bad husband and she has no desire to return home where she is badly treated by him and is nearly starved.’ Fortunately for Jane, her father ‘came forward and offered her a comfortable home and she was therefore discharged recovered.’ (NRO, SAH 262).

It was not only the women admitted with post-natal conditions who made startling recoveries; many patients with diverse causes of insanity also responded positively to the combination of sufficient food, regular exercise and adequate rest; medication was rarely given, because there had been little developed for mental illness at this time.

Very few patients were admitted with poverty as the given cause of insanity, but many implications of poverty were cited such as ‘reduced circumstances’, ‘reverses’, ‘pecuniary problems’, ‘want’ and so on. Norfolk suffered a decline in craft employment in the mid-Victorian era and agriculture became the predominant means of making a living, despite offering poor wages and poor housing conditions.[i]  As patients at the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum were drawn from rural Norfolk the severe hardship suffered in terms of overwork, malnourishment and physical exhaustion may well have affected not only their physical health but also diminished their mental ability to cope with the harsh realities of life.

Today mental health problems remain as prolific as ever: depression, stress, an inability to cope with the requirements of modern living – the result of pressure continuing to have the same effect although the causes may have altered in the last hundred and fifty years. Physical exhaustion and starvation are less likely to be diagnosed as causes of mental illness nowadays, yet the pressure of daily living continues to affect our society: intense media pressure has been identified as just one contemporary cause of anxiety and distress.


Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Julie Jakeway.


[i]       A. Armstrong, The Population of Victorian and Edwardian Norfolk (Norwich, 2000)

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Whales, Kidney Stones, and The Charming Sally: Records of Life on and off Board in the late 1700s

At first glance, a calendar regarding the petitions and decisions by the King’s Lynn port Trustees under the ‘Act for the relief of maimed and disabled seamen and widows and children of those killed in the merchant service’ may not seem like the most riveting document. The Act’s name alone proves quite the mouthful. Yet, once you start reading, there are countless glimpses into human journeys, feats, and tragedies. From cutlass wounds and battles with French privateers, to gruesome injuries and boats sunk by whale; to be a seaman in the late-18th to early 19th century required nerve and determination.

Image 1 - photo of documents

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

The documents record the minutes from meetings of the port Board of Trustees. It spans from 1756 to 1809 and has over 150 petitions and cases. Often, and sadly, the petitions are made by widows whose husbands have been lost at sea – in so many cases the entire income and means for living lost along with their partner. Esther Booth is one such widow. In 1766 her husband, Thomas Booth, drowns while in the service of the Dixon leaving Esther with three children. Five years later she takes her family to Great Yarmouth and just a year later, in 1772, The Board stops her allowance. Two years pass and we learn that Esther is in very bad health – another petition is sent on her behalf by the minister and churchwardens of her parish in Great Yarmouth. Esther’s main worry throughout is her inability to support her children after the death of her husband and it is sad to know of her illness and struggle. The Act was clearly a lifeline for families who often had nothing to fall back on.

Image 2 - Esther Booth

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 9

Some people have more easily resolved requests, such as sailors who’d lost weeks of work from illness or non-life-threatening injury. However, due to the nature of the Board and the terms of the Act they were working under, the minutes can be a harrowing read. On one occasion, a petition names Robert Wiggin as requiring assistance due to his foot having rotted from the rest of his leg. There are cases of small pox, falls causing broken limbs, ropes cutting fingers off, freezing alive on rigging, accidents resulting in blindness, various scrapes with the main sheet and main beam, two fractured skulls. Not for the faint hearted, on board the Partridge, James Harrison suffered a collapse and “voided a great deal of blood both before and after he died”. Perhaps more mysterious still, there are two cases of sailors dropping “dead by the visitation of God” – a phrase I now know to mean natural causes, but initially caused some surprise especially as one incident took place aboard the Enterprise.

Image 3 - Enterprise

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 9

A handful have exciting, and sometimes tragic, stories of battles lost and men dispersed. The Charming Sally, a ship of King’s Lynn, has quite the adventure and there are 3 separate petitions to fill in the story. The first is from William Ayre on behalf of Thomas Trummel, who had tragically died from a cutlass wound. Their ship had been sailing under government orders to the coast of Africa, but from there they had headed to the West Indies on the merchant service. On the 30th November 1759, off the coast of Antigua, three French Privateers attacked the Charming Sally and captured her and presumably her crew too.

Image 4 - Trummel

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

Thomas dies in this attack and another sailor, James Shelly, is also wounded by a cutlass. James’ petition is made by Richard Jenson, a mariner on board who survived the battle. He states that, during April 1760, James makes the journey from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to Norfolk safely but due to his injury he is sent to St Thomas’ hospital in London. Unfortunately, James dies there. Both Thomas’ and James’ cases are endorsed by the Board.

Image 5 - Shelly

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

However, in October 1760 Richard Jenson petitions his case to the Board. Being involved in the attack on the Charming Sally, he was imprisoned by the French in Martinique for five months causing him to catch a fever. Richard made it home to England but was still very sick and his request was for financial support due to the work he had missed while imprisoned and suffering from illness. The Board rejected his petition and that is the last time his name appears on the document.

Image 6 - Jenson

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

When reading through the documents, it is occasionally frustrating to see just a glimpse of what must have been an epic tale. There are mentions of voyages across the Atlantic; to Halifax in 1759 (on the Richard & Mary) and another to New York in 1760 (on Fortune’s Industry) – both ships were lost but what a voyage it must have been for those King’s Lynn men. Later, in 1779, the Archangel was in Greenland (more likely off Svalbard, which was considered Greenland at the time) when it was overturned by the stroke of a whale tail. One would hope the whale survived to fight another day, but all we know is that two mariners drowned in the incident.

Image 7 - Whale

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 9

Though there are countless tales of many injuries and fatalities, there is a petition that shows one man to be incredibly lucky. In mid-December 1755 Charles Broome boards the Norfolk for a journey from King’s Lynn to London and then onto Sunderland. His petition to the Board is put forward by Thomas Fayers, who states that on 20th January 1756 Charles is taken ill from kidney stones and is left in London at St Thomas’ hospital.

Image 8 - Broome

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

Five days later, the Norfolk and all her crew sail from London but before reaching Sunderland the ship is lost. Three years later, in February 1759, Jane Adamson petitions the Board believing her husband, King Adamson, to be drowned along with the rest of the Norfolk crew. She has been left with two small children and has had no support for a very long while. Unfortunately the Trustees do not endorse her petition with a note at the bottom of the page stating “rejected not being within the Act”.

Image 9 - Adamson

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

In the summer of 1759, two more widows come forward – Mary and Fayers and Francis Marshall. Mary is the wife of Thomas. The petition writes that “there was no word from them or the vessel for such a long time […] Whatever befell the vessel has deprived the two petitioners of their husbands and their means of supporting themselves”. There is no note to say whether their similar petition was endorsed or rejected.

Image 10 - Fayers&Marshall

Norfolk Record Office, King’s Lynn Borough Archives, KL/TS 8

So many families – women and children – must have been affected by the loss of so many men. Lucky Charles Broome, and his kidney stones.


Compiled by Ellie Smith, Research Blogger

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