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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From Victorian Corsetry to 50s fashions: The life of Annie Hardy

In a brown non-descript cardboard box in the Norfolk Record Office, I discovered the uncatalogued accumulated photos and papers of Annie Hardy (NRO, ACC 2001/120) . In 2001, these physical memories were handed in for preservation, and as the first person in 16 years to look at is contents, I wondered about the person they represented.Annie was born on 7th September 1871 in Norwich, Norfolk. Her Father, Henry, was 31 and her mother, Ann, 26. She had three brothers and five sisters, and died on 27th February 1962, exactly 16 years to the day before I was born.

Victorian portrait

Portrait of Annie Hardy. NRO, ACC 2001/120

However, what interested me most in Annie, was that she was a women who straddled the Victorian and Modern era. The first photo, portrays a typical Victorian women: formal and held upright by her corset and starched collar. In the second, she enjoys a visit to the beach (Annie sits on the left next to her nephew), and again epitomises the formal Victorian women in her ankle length skirt, long sleeved jacket and large rimmed hat. Although her nephew has his shorts on, it is reassuring to note his jumper, and therefore, the Norfolk summer beach weather remains somewhat similar to that today.


Annie and family members on the beach. NRO, ACC 2001/120

In other photos, we see the same Victorian women standing beside a 1950s bus, dressed in far more familiar clothing, and we can but wonder at the change she experienced during her life; not only in the changes to material culture, as shown by the clothes she wore, but also radical changes in attitudes towards women, and by women of themselves, and the environmental changes of living through two World Wars and post war Britain.

60s bus

Posing before a bus trip. NRO, ACC 2001/120

Born in 1871, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Annie started teaching aged 14 at St Peters Parmentergate, Wymondham, and remained in education until her retirement 56 years later as the Head Teacher at Barnham Broom school in 1927.

As a working class child (her father was a fitter and two of her sisters became draper assistants), Annie is likely to have benefited from the 1870 Education Act, which was the first piece of legislation to commit to the provision of a national education. She would also, have remained in education until she was at least 10 years old, due to the 1880 Education Act which made school attendance compulsory for children aged between 5-10 years old.

In 1888, Annie qualified as a pupil teacher in Religious Knowledge with the Diocese of Norwich, and aged 18, gained teaching qualifications in ‘Elementary Knowledge of Musical Memory in Time and Sight Singing’. Over the next 5 years, Annie continued to develop her teaching practice and gained qualifications including; ‘Hygiene’, and ‘Domestic Economy’, ‘Paper and Cardboard Work’, and ‘Practical and Solid Geometry’.

teaching certificate

One of Annie’s teaching certificates. NRO, ACC 2001/120

Aged 29, and earning £80 per year, she was appointed Head Teacher of Barnham Broom School where she remained for the next 27 years.

Within the documents were a number of Norfolk Education Board inspection reports which all spoke highly of Annie’s teaching and leadership. It is interesting to read the school inspection reports, showing that they haven’t changed all that much in the last 100 years; is the lesson teacher or pupil led?, is there an appropriate curriculum?, and is behaviour acceptable? A significant difference is the length of the inspection report!


Annie was obviously dedicated to her teaching and her students, and as an unmarried career women she didn’t fit the Victorian stereotype. Dying at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital in 1962 aged 90, she left the sum of £2,688 (approx. £40,000 today) to her nephew, having not had any of her own children. She also, left a legacy of Norfolk educated children, and a box at the Norfolk Record Office to be discovered 50+ years later by another Norfolk teacher.

Compiled by Melissa Marfleet, NRO Research Blogger



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