Bicycle Journeys through Norfolk in the tyre tracks of Leonard Bolingbroke

The Bolingbroke Bicycle Journal (NRO, BOL 1/87, 739X2) is an intriguing find. It documents cycle rides throughout Norfolk, and further afield, with instructions on bicycle care and repair bills. The journal begins in 1878 and records to 1884. Continue reading

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King’s Lynn’s burning issue

Much has been said about King John, and he is frequently named as Bad King John, although it has to be said it was John who granted various concessions to Lynn, and indeed its charter. But there was among his grants one which, albeit several hundred years later, caused an acrimonious dispute. This is mentioned in the King’s Lynn Borough Archive indices as the Newcastle Suit. Continue reading

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Norfolk’s ‘Downton Abbeys’, and recruiting for below stairs

With the Downton Abbey movie released in September 2019, and the relationship of masters and servants vividly brought to life on the big screen, it was with interest that I reflected on the experiences of Rachel Ketton of Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall, whose diaries are held by The National Trust. Rachel was Mistress from 1863 until her death in 1885. Through the single lines of daily reflection, Rachel’s 1860s diaries create a window into the past and give life to some of those who worked and lived below stairs. Continue reading

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Great Yarmouth’s Battle against Herring Piracy during the English Civil War

I have spent nearly a decade of my life researching and writing about Great Yarmouth’s Civil War history, something which has been rewarding and endlessly fascinating because of the quality of Great Yarmouth’s civic records held at the Norfolk Record Office. My research has evolved from a study of the politics within the town to focusing on the context of Great Yarmouth’s 1645 witch-hunt, encompassing religious factions and violence in the 1620s and the town rising for the King in 1648. A profoundly important but mostly forgotten incident from this period is the town’s struggle with Royalist privateers between 1643 and 1646. The privateering had a low body count, but near destroyed the town’s fishing industry, precipitated a rebellion, and began the career of a great admiral. Continue reading

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The Diary of Paul E. Homan: stories of WWII from an American Aviation Cadet who hoped his diary would keep the heritage alive.

Paul E. Homan was born in the U.S state of Pennsylvania in 1922. His life before his enrolment into the United States Army Air Force is unknown, but from his Diary of Service During WWII (2nd Air Division Memorial Library Archive, MC 376/133, USF 7/2) we can learn amazing stories from his time in the army. His recollections of the time he spent in Norwich with the AAF Station 146, 448th Bomb Group are particularly interesting. Paul E. Homan states how he hoped that his diary would “serve to keep the heritage alive, and possibly be of some factor in helping prevent such an episode [WWII] from occurring again.’’

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Disaster recovery: The impact of the fire at Norwich Central Library and the creation of The Archive Centre

This August marks 25 years since the fire at Norwich Central Library which took place on 1 August 1994. At the time the archives of the Norfolk Record Office were kept in the basement strongroom of the library with some additional strongroom accommodation and a separate microform searchroom available at Norwich’s old Shirehall. Norfolk Record Office staff are often asked how much of the collection was destroyed by the fire. Fortunately, the NRO did not lose a single document but approximately 10% of the archive’s holdings were water-damaged. When considering the record office holds over 11.5 million documents, this was a significant amount of the collection, and it posed many problems for the conservation team. Continue reading

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Change and Continuity in Maps of Norwich

Living in a vibrant, busy and ever-changing city like Norwich can distract us from noticing the changes around us. The streets we live on, the places we work, the pubs in which we drink (responsibly of course) have drastically changed through the centuries, or have they? By using several maps and town plans, that are easily accessible from the Norfolk Record Office, we can see just how our beloved city has changed. Continue reading

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Carrying Coals to King’s Lynn

Before I wrote off my last motorbike and became an ex-biker, I frequently enjoyed cruising on my Harleys along certain sections of the A47 and A10, where, to my fascination, my head seemed to be below the level of the river alongside. The waterway had obviously been straightened and embanked at some stage, and of course, I had heard of Cornelius Vermuyden, but I had no idea of the vastness of the project of which this was part until I researched in Hall Book (KLBA, KL/C 7/13), which covers the years 1731-81.

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