The Eatons of Easton: The Archive of a Prominent Norfolk Family

The Eaton Collection is an extraordinary archive documenting the history and activities of the Eaton family over several generations from the late eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.  The archive was collected and maintained by Tom Eaton (1918-2010) and includes his personal papers. The archive was deposited with the Norfolk Record Office over several years. In 2011, a project to catalogue the entire collection commenced and was completed in 2012. The collection is unusual because it consists of many different archive genres including estate maps and plans, correspondence, travel diaries and journals, herbarium, sound recordings, photographs, works of art, and scrap books just to name a few.  The collection is vast in terms of scope for researchers providing an important insight into the social, economic, political and cultural life of both Norwich and the county of Norfolk over several centuries.

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Fighting the Plague in Tudor Norwich

People are supposed to learn from history, so it is interesting to compare the present situation with a similar, or even more calamitous, happening in Norwich’s past.  This is the plague, which first came to Norwich in 1349 (that first outbreak usually known as the Black Death) and then continued to exist in waves over three hundred years.  At first people thought there was little they could do except pray, but over the centuries some practical measures came to be adopted, and these were remarkably like the kind of measures adopted in 2020.  I am looking especially at those adopted between 1579 and 1666 (which turned out to be the final year of plague). The Privy Council (the Tudor equivalent of today’s Cabinet) laid down general ‘Orders’, but it was up to local authorities to decide how and when to apply them.

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King’s Lynn’s trading links with Europe: King’s Lynn and the Hansa

(Or, in a travesty of the old saying, Hansa is as Hansa does)

Over time, King’s Lynn’s trading links with Europe have developed and evolved and continue to do so today. Records held in the King’s Lynn Borough Archives can be used to explore the history of trade between King’s Lynn and Europe through the Hanseatic League.

The Hanseatic League, usually referred to in German as the Hanse, had its origins in the Baltic, and was an association of merchants and trading towns; wealthy, influential men and organisations with vested interests, set up to protect and advance their enterprises. It has to be said that the methods employed were not always of the most legal, and at times were tantamount to piracy.

In August 2009, the Norfolk Record Office mounted an exhibition “King’s Lynn and the Hansa”, revisited in this post.

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Sounds in Silence: Journeys by train in Lock down

Jackie Mitchell, a volunteer for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage East of England hub at Norfolk Record Office, records her experiences of transcribing a collection of annotated notebooks that document the UK’s railways, and reflects upon the joy of train travel which has been missed during lock down.

“I volunteered to assist with the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project at Norfolk Record Office in February 2019. The first task I undertook was to listen to recordings of oral history interviews with people who lived in Norfolk. We were asked to make brief notes of the highlights on each tape, to be collated with the digitised recordings of the interviews and archived at The British Library in London.

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Remote Learning with the Coven of Atho

There are numerous references to witchcraft in the archives at the Norfolk Record Office. These references typically relate to cases of people being tried as witches. Of course, the defendants in these cases were victims of persecution but what about ‘real’ witches? It is understandable that there might be few voices from that side of the cloak recorded in the archives from the 16th and 17th century when to express such beliefs could mean death. Fast-forward to the 1960s, where the counterculture and the increased interest in alternative lifestyles would allow Wiccan beliefs to become more widely accepted. In the archives from that decade can be found an unassuming, crudely drawn pamphlet, which gives a practitioner’s view of ‘white’ witchcraft. Welcome to the world of Raymond Howard and the mysteries of the Coven of Atho (NRO, MC 2817/1).

Image 1 MC 2817-1-005

Norfolk Record Office, MC 2817/1

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The Story of Sound part 2: “Canned music” and a war of formats

In the first part of the Story of Sound blog series, we travelled back in time to the late 1800s to discover who the first inventor was to create a machine which both recorded and played back sound, what the first recorded words were, and what common kitchen item was used as a component for the first ‘talking machine’. Find this blog post here

After Thomas Edison successfully developed the Phonograph in 1877, a machine which could both record and play back audio, he moved his attentions away to other areas of invention. However, his progress in the advances of recording sound did not go unnoticed, with other inventors picked up the baton including Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Tainter. The Phonograph, despite its success in both capturing and playing back audio, had its limitations. The design incorporated a recording cylinder covered in soft tin foil, onto which a stylus would imprint grooves as determined by the vibrations of the sound. However, the tin foil was frail, resulting in a poor sound quality when the audio was played back. Bell and Tainter resolved this by replacing the foil coating with wax. Their improvements to Edison’s design resulted in the development of their own machine, called the Graphophone. The potential held within these early machines ignited a competitive market, and, having successfully invented the first electric light bulb in 1887, Edison quickly rejoined the race to produce the most successful recording machine.

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Britten Pears Archive

Way back in January, when we were wrapped up in our warm layers, and indoor hibernation was for no reason other than the cold weather, the Norfolk Record Office Unlocking Our Sound Heritage team hit the road. The destination? The outskirts of the small coastal town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where we would be collecting a new set of sound recordings to be digitally preserved at Norfolk Record Office.

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Norfolk: A County of Welcome

Who was Lewis Ecker? Why did he have to leave his homeland of Russia in the 19th century?

And what happened to him and his family on arrival in Norfolk? In this blog post we use a number of documents find out more about Lewis and his journey to become a very successful tailor in Norwich.

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