Elizabeth Bradwell: Accused of Witchcraft and Executed in Great Yarmouth, 1645.

The retelling of history does not lend itself so willingly to the lives of women like Norfolk-born Elizabeth Bradwell. With scarce records surviving that allow us to trace her life, much of our understanding of Bradwell comes from the events surrounding her trial and execution as a witch at the Yarmouth assizes, in September 1645 (NRO, Y/S 1/2). Continue reading

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Saving the Nation’s sounds and opening them up to all

Sound recordings help us to understand the world around us. They document the UK’s creative endeavours, preserve key moments in history, capture personal memories, and give a sense of local and regional identity.

The UK’s sound collections are, however, under threat. Many sound recording formats, from wax cylinders to Minidiscs, rely on equipment no longer manufactured or supported by today’s technology industries. Other formats, such as lacquer discs, are fast degrading to the point of irreparability. Professional consensus is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save many of our sound collections before they become unreadable and are effectively lost.

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Pablo Fanque’s return to Norwich

Pablo Fanque, born as William Darby, was the first black British circus proprietor. Apprenticed at an early age to William Batty, a well-known equestrian and circus proprietor, he was first trained as an acrobat and gymnast and then in horsemanship. He became a well-known equestrian and in the 1840s and 1850s had great success with his own circus before experiencing financial difficulties when competition from tented American circuses rose. This blog post focuses on Pablo Fanque’s early and later performances in Norwich and how he is commemorated in Norfolk today. Continue reading

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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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