Help shape the NRO’s school programme for 2017-18

We are currently in the process of updating our offer of workshops for both Primary and Secondary Schools in Norfolk.

In order to ensure that we provide workshops tailored to the needs of schools we are asking if teachers from schools in Norfolk would be able to complete our short questionnaire. Forms need to be back with us by Wednesday 14 June and any completed forms will be put into a draw to win 2 Behind The Scenes tour vouchers.

Click here to find the forms:

consultation form Key Stage 2

consultation form Key Stage 3 and 4

Many thanks!


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Disaster on The Grand Tour


During the seventeenth century the grand tour became a popular pastime for aristocrats, wanting to complete their education and to see the fine examples of art and different culture in Europe. We know of their travels through the art work, and antiques they collected, and the letters and diaries they write.

The tour itself usually lasted one or two years, and incorporated a trip to Paris and a tour of the principal Italian cities, such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples.

By the eighteenth century transportation in Europe was well developed. There were several ways for tourists to get hold of carriages.

  1. Hire a private carriage and horses.
  2. Rent a carriage and travel Post. The travellers hired horses and a driver at designated stations spaced every 6-7 miles along main roads. By the 1760s there were detailed rules regarding the number of horses and men required for different types of coaches and the intervals they had to be changed. Guide books listed every post station and major intercity routes and included detailed maps.
  3. Public transit. This resembled 3 coaches hitched together with a platform across the top for luggage and extra passengers. They could carry up to 30 people and travelled between major cities.


The Norfolk Record Office has a number of documents written by eighteenth century tourists.

In 1792 Anne Gunn travelled from Irstead to Rome with her husband, Revd William Gunn. In her journal she recounts her experiences of travelling by Post along the coast road from Marseilles.

Anne writes:

‘We had still the same mountainous country and the road very bad indeed, and the Frejus horses very unequal to the journey. We were to have crossed l’Estorelle and slept at Cannes but the Postilion was unacquainted with the road or he would never have attempted it. Night came on it rained very fast and we were stuck upon the mountains where I would have willingly stayed till the morning. We had soon occasion to wish that we had determination to do so for in ten minutes we were overturned, but thank god none of us hurt worth mentioning. The coach laid partly over the edge of the road, a very little more and we should have been down to the bottom of the precipice or if we had been going faster it very likely would. I shall never forget what I felt like at the time nor how surprised when it stopped. I believe now that the man was asleep for there was great stone 1 yard high laid in the road which were very plain to see. We got out as well as we could, thankful that we were none of us hurt, but then what was to be done, there was no horsemen and the coach could not be got up without assistance nor did they not like to leave it alone. So we sent the coachman to the Post which was 2 or 3 miles off and the rain drove us into the coach again, much against my inclination, and never shall I forget in what a dreadful manner the time just before anyone arrived for I felt every minute as if it was going to roll down the precipice. In less than 2 hours he returned, to my great relief with 9 men, and with some difficulty they raised the coach, which had sustained no injury and we all set off on foot as I was determined to ride no more, but we came onto level ground at last I was quiet done for and glad though afraid to get in to it again’.




Journal of Anne Gunn. NRO, WGN 3/1


Anne’s experiences show how traumatic travel can be.

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Anthony Hamond: A Victorian County Councillor

As Norfolk goes to the polls for the county council elections on 4 May, it is probably no surprise that the Norfolk Record Office holds many records relating to local politics. Norfolk County Council was established in 1889 by the Local Government Act of the preceding year. The records of the Council form one of the NRO’s core collections. However, the official records of signed minutes and registers of electors are complemented by literature published by the various candidates and their political parties as well as the personal records of the individuals involved. Such records can provide a wonderful insight in to the political manoeuvrings not covered by the official record.

The NRO has recently purchased a series of diaries of Anthony Hammond (1834-1895) of Westacre High House. They were acquired at the Morningthorpe Manor House Sale as a result of an appeal made by the NRO and its charitable partner, the Norfolk Archives and Heritage Development Foundation (NORAH). Hamond owned a large landed estate and unsurprisingly was interested in such matters as horse breeding, hunting and estate management. Hamond’s extensive involvement with hunting in west Norfolk meant he was closely acquainted with the royal family. Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham Hall in 1862, as a home for her eldest son, the Prince of Wales and the future King Edward VII.

Hamond was also interested in local politics. He was involved in the transition of responsibility from the Norfolk Quarter Sessions to Norfolk County Council as both a Justice of the Peace and a member of the first cohort of county councillors.

HMN 4-33 Hamond brothers c 1890

Anthony Hamond, 1834-95 (left); Thomas Astley Horace Hamond, 1845-1917 (centre) and Richard Horace Hamond, 1843-1906 (right). Norfolk Record Office, HMN 4/33, 737×2


Photograph: Norfolk Record Office, HMN 4/33, 737X2.

Despite Hamond’s difficult to read handwriting, the diaries offer a wonderful insight into the life of the late Victorian landed gentry. The diary entries shown below currently feature in an exhibition at The Archive Centre in Norwich. They neatly summarise Hamond’s interests, which include local politics as evidenced by the entry for 3 February 1889 (Norfolk Record Office, MC 3243/21).



In his diary, Hamond indicates that he was an ally of John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley, who was a senior Liberal politician who had held many senior government positions, including Foreign Secretary. Wodehouse was also amongst the first cohort of county councillors. The minutes of the provisional county council, which first met on 7 February 1889 (Norfolk Record Office, C/C 22/1), contradict this somewhat. They record Hamond voting instead for Robert Thornhagh Gurdon, later Lord Cranworth (1829-1903) as first Chairman of the Council, namely. This may have had something to do with the fact that Gurdon was also the Chairman of Norfolk Quarter Sessions. Gurdon had sat as a Liberal MP before joining the Liberal Unionists in 1886 because of his objection to Irish Home Rule.

The powers of the early Norfolk County Council were not very extensive. A Joint Committee of the County Council and Quarter Sessions, of which Hamond was a member, controlled the police and courthouses. Responsibility for the County Lunatic Asylum and 267 County bridges was transferred from Quarter Sessions to the County Council. The Council also had responsibility for the maintenance of 824 miles of main roads and control of the contagious diseases of animals.

The generosity of those who contributed to the NRO and NORAH Morningthorpe appeal have enabled the eight diaries of Anthony Hamond, as well as many other documents, to become publicly accessible at the NRO where they complement the official records of Norfolk County Council as well as the Hamond of Westacre family and estate archive.

Compiled by Jonathan Draper, Partnership and Development Manager, Norfolk Record Office

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‘I had never imagined the ear-splitting noise’: A Norwich girl’s experience of the Baedeker Raids

The Record Office has a number of vivid accounts from people caught up in the Baedeker raids, such as that of Betty Jacques (later Betty Crouch), who was sleeping in Norwich Training College in College Road the night that it was bombed, exactly seventy-five years ago tonight. She recalled:

The sirens sounded at just past eleven and shortly the raids began. There were anti-aircraft guns in Heigham Park on the Avenues and although I had seen them under camouflage netting I had never imagined the ear-splitting noise they would make in action.  Soon College was hit by incendiaries.  We had a beautiful chapel which blazed quickly as did our science laboratory which contained much woodwork.  We forty girls were in the corridor between these infernos….

We went on to the recreation ground and into an air raid shelter.  It was like a large rabbit burrow with wooden forms against the walls. Pit props held up a planked wooden ceiling.  The heavy thud of bombs falling nearby caused soil to drip through the gaps in the planks.  Miss Duff called the register and asked if we had any injuries.  She had a first aid box.  We were all present and amazingly unhurt.  I have to own up that all our knees were knocking and we felt clammy cold…. It suddenly dawned on me that eight months paperwork was gone for ever as well as my new shoes, dress and coat, which I had hoarded coupons and money to buy.  The noise of bombing faded and at 1.15 the all clear sounded.  We left the shelter and were marshalled into a crocodile to walk to a rest centre on Colman Road, still in our nightwear and slippers.  We passed small groups of people who either wept at the sight of us or waved miniature Union Jacks and cheered us on.

At the rest centre there were more tears at the sight of us from the white-coated ladies who gave us each a very large mug of very sweet cocoa and a huge doorstep of bread overspilling with golden syrup. I presume all the sweetness was an antidote for shock.  We were given a grey army blanket to wrap ourselves and we lay on the classroom floors, hopefully to sleep.

Betty’s parents lived at Aylsham and on the next day she got a lift there with her uncle:

In less than an hour I was home, being hugged by my Mother and Father. They had watched Norwich burning from Aylsham Market Place.  And, having two daughters living in Norwich, wondered if they would survive the Norwich inferno.  Cousin Bill had checked that my sister Angela was safe after a traumatic night in her Aunt’s house in Essex Street.  They had an Anderson shelter in the garden.  When they came out, the chimney stack was on Angela’s bed, half the roof was missing, there was no glass in the windows and no front or back door.  I remember weeping over my brand-new coat, lost in the fire and mother said, ‘We can always buy you another coat, but not another You!’. Norfolk Record Office, KHC 115.

The Record Office has other descriptions of the nights of the Baedeker raids, including recordings made in 2012, the seventieth anniversary. There must still be many people living in Norwich who have recollection of the raids, either their own experiences as children, or stories told to them by their parents and other relatives.  The Record Office would love to hear from you of such memories: otherwise they will be lost for ever.

Compiled by Frank Meeres, Archivist at Norfolk Record Office

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The Wail of Sirens, the Distant Throb of Engines: Norwich and the ‘Baedeker’ Raids

By far the most serious air raids on Norwich were the ‘Baedeker’ raids on the nights of 27/28 and 29/30 April 1942, exactly seventy-five years ago. There are several collections of archive material in the Record Office that relate to them. Books of photographs on the open shelves include one by F C Le Grice who sets the scene in fine prose:

A lovely night. The old City bathed in moonlight, looking peacefully beautiful from the heights in which George Borrow delighted. The ancient Cathedral lay in the foreground, clothed in the mystery which only Moon and purple skies can give. The historic old city, nestling in the quiet valley seemed almost dreamlike.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the wail of sirens, the distant throb of engines, the menacing roar of aircraft growing louder, and the night sky was illuminated with the red glare from floating chandeliers of coloured lights like giant fireworks hovering over the city.

Then all hell was let loose over a defenceless people, and Norwich was facing the ordeal of 1942.

These raids were in retaliation for R.A.F. raids on German civilian populations at Rostock and Lubeck. A German foreign office spokesman announced that the Luftwaffe would bomb every English building marked with three stars in the Baedeker guide book—the cities bombed were Bath, Exeter, Canterbury, Norwich and York. On the Monday night some 185 high-explosive bombs and a large number of incendiaries were dropped: 162 people killed and 600 wounded. After a respite on Tuesday night, the raids resumed on Wednesday night when 112 high-explosive bombs were dropped and even more incendiaries than on the Monday: 69 people killed and 89 admitted to hospital. About two thirds of those who died in air-raids in Norwich during the war were killed on these two nights, including eleven elderly people killed in a hit on Bowthorpe Lodge on 28 April.

Caley’s chocolate factory, St Benedict’s church, the Teacher Training College in College Road and Curl’s department store were among the buildings destroyed in the raids. Most of the dead were buried in the Earlham road cemetery.  A large number of grave spaces were prepared for the dead of future raids, but fortunately few of them were needed: Norwich never again experienced such devastation as on those two nights in late April 1942.

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From Grouse to Grousing: Letters From India, 1897-1902

Amongst the letters of the Purdy family is a small bundle from Jock Kennedy, of the 93rd Highland Regiment addressed to  TW Purdy, variously of Camden Town or Woodgate House, Aylsham (ACC 2015/244/64). Col. Thomas Woods Purdy is referred to in the letters as ‘Dear Old Dugger’.

These letters were sent from India at the time of the Boer War in South Africa. The tone of the letters changes over time, from light-hearted discussions about shooting game, horse races or going to dances to more serious concerns about the war in South Africa.

Initially on 21 October 1897 writing from Shahanyanpur (a city in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India) Jock apologises, stating that he has been meaning to write for weeks. He goes on to say ‘This is one of the best stations going for duck and snipe, and of course we are the only people to shoot them. There are only seven of us so we should have a great time. I wish you were a little nearer, I would ask you to come and shoot some too.’

By 26 July 1899 Jock seems less enthusiastic about India. He writes;

‘It rains hard all day and though the thermometer is not so high the heat is far worse as it is damp and makes one sweat like a pig and we are all covered with prickly heat.’

On the 28 December 1899 he has moved on, and is writing from Bareilly (also in Uttar Pradesh). In this letter he is much more critical of most aspects of life in India. He says that:

‘We are all under canvas here and it is very cold indeed in tents at night… We have been having some race meetings here in which I have been riding my own ponies and occasionally other people’s too… Unfortunately there is hardly any shooting to be got in this place –so I have not had the gun out since leaving Shahjahanpur. There are lots of dances and things going on but the ladies are unexciting and the suppers generally rather poor.’

By the final letter written from Fort William, Calcutta on 29 May 1902 Jock is far more focussed upon the events of the war, writing:

‘I wonder if this is the end of the war or not – I think they will have to sink some of the ships that take the prisoners back again –we got a draft from our battalion in S.A. the other day –they arrived in the kit they had come straight down from the Front in –they had been hurled on board with nothing else and had since been escorting Boer prisoners all over India. I never saw such a dishevelled looking lot of ruffians but not a bad physique at all –several of the Boers died of heat apoplexy on the train. One can’t help being rather sorry for the poor devils pitch-forked into this damnable climate under these conditions.’

After this the letters stop completely. We don’t know what happened to Jock, did he die in the war, or return home and continue with his shooting, perhaps we will never know.

Compiled by a NRO Research Blogger

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One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns: The Memoirs of Ethel George

How are you marking Easter this year?

While many people are busy eating hot cross buns, searching for hidden Easter eggs and visiting church it is worth thinking about how people use to celebrate Easter in the past.

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of oral history interviews of Ethel George. Ethel was the youngest of 17 children, growing up in Norwich. The recordings were created by Carole and Michael Blackwell for their book about Ethel’s childhood entitled The Seventeenth Child. The book details Ethel’s life between 1914-1934.

In the recordings (AUD 51/1-15)  Ethel talks about her fond memories of Easter, saying:

‘When I was a little girl my brothers used to, they used to take out the hot cross buns. Mother use to give them a clean tray with a clean teacloth on and they used to go out, that was 6 in the morning, they used to go at 6 in the morning, and I can remember them, oh I loved that because you used to hear all the kids ‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, 1 a penny, 2 a penny, hot cross buns’. You’d hear that all the way round, that was lovely, and then mother used to split them up with their lovely clean cloths, and they used to get sold out in no time. Cos people only bought 2 or 3 and they cut them in halves or quartered them, people didn’t have one each. Mother used to buy some. That was lovely’.

Ethel doesn’t remember having Easter Eggs, but she does remember getting dressed up to mark the occasion at church.

‘Easter was nice, I think we all had to go to church. That was a lovely time. Mother used to buy us a little hat each… a little straw hat, lovely… with all little either you had daisies, you either had the orange ones or the yellow ones, or pretty little rosebuds, they were lovely…. I think the boys had a new collar or something, they used to treat them to a new collar’.

DSC_0810- ed

Whatever you do for Easter this year, I hope you have a lovely and memorable time, just like Ethel did all those years previously.

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Disabled servicemen of Norwich in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Petitions are perhaps the most immediately personal class of document amongst the early modern records of the Norwich criminal justice system. Several different courts sat regularly in Norwich during the later middle ages and early modern period, including the Assembly court, which dealt with everyday matters of government, and the Court of Mayoralty, an equity court. Because Norwich was a “city and county” (an incorporated borough administratively separate from Norfolk), it also had its own Quarter Sessions, which oversaw the implementation at the local level of many areas of national government policy. It was presided over by Norwich’s justices of the peace, who were the Mayor and senior aldermen. An enormous number of petitions to these various courts were generated during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hundreds survive in Norfolk Record Office’s strongrooms, where they have recently been listed in detail.

One aspect of business which fell within the Quarter Sessions’ purview was the granting of pensions to disabled ex-servicemen. Those who had served in the armed forces were entitled to support when they were unable to work for their living any longer due to infirmity. There are a number of petitions by disabled soldiers and sailors among the Norwich city records, from men wounded in conflicts ranging from the Dutch Wars of the mid-seventeenth century to the Seven Years’ War of the mid-eighteenth century. The stories of wartime courage, hardship and survival which they contain are still of interest to us today.

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