A Passion for Records Walter Rye (1843-1929): Topographer, Sportsman and Norfolk’s champion

A Passion For Records

Walter Rye (1843-1929), Topographer,
Sportsman and Norfolk’s Champion

by Dr Christopher Kitching


Dust Jacket of A Passion for Records


Launched at a lunchtime lecture on Friday 9 February 2018 at 1pm

at the Norfolk Record Office, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ


A London solicitor by profession, Walter Rye had three spare-time passions: physical exercise, record-searching, and a devotion to his ancestral county of Norfolk.

Having in his youth set national athletics records and achieved fame as the founder of Thames Hare and Hounds and ‘Father of English paper-chasing’, he remained influential in sporting circles for over three decades. He was also a competitive cyclist and archer, a keen tricyclist, and an enthusiastic sailor on Norfolk’s rivers and Broads.

In later life he liked to describe himself as a ‘topographer’. His pioneering searches in records and archives showed a whole generation how to apply them to the study of genealogy and local history. Many of his 80 books are in print today and can still be read with enjoyment, although as this study shows they should now also be read with caution, in the light of advances in scholarship and editorial methods since his time.

He retired to Norwich in 1900, having already established his credentials as doyen of Norfolk’s antiquaries, a keen preserver of historic buildings, and a champion of public rights of access to the Broads. Then, without ever having held high elected office, he was asked to stand in 1908-09 as Mayor of Norwich, the last person to hold that title before the city achieved its Lord Mayoralty.

Christopher Kitching is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Historical Society. After a career in archives at the Public Record Office and the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts he was appointed CBE in 2004. A chance encounter with Walter Rye as a pioneer among the records led to a decade of research on his life.


ISBN 9781788039215

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For more information about the Lecture and Launch visit the Norfolk Record Office, Events Page.


Please note that is not a Society Publication – but a publication which may be of interest to our Members and supporters.