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Norfolk’s Navigator

The World of John Secker 1716-95, Quaker Mariner John Secker was a Norfolk sailor who penned his personal recollections of around 65 voyages, mainly undertaken in British and foreign merchant vessels, to encompass destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas between 1729 and 1755. The son of a Quaker miller and born at Swafield near North Walsham in 1716, he was taught to read and write, and through the influence of maritime relatives, he first put to sea aged fourteen. A remarkable narrative of his working life is among the treasures of the Norfolk Record Office, one of just a handful of autobiographical accounts that survive for able seamen before the Napoleonic Wars. Secker was almost constantly at sea between the ages of 14 and 40 years of age, progressing through the roles of servant, cook and cabin boy, to seaman and chief mate in coastal and long distance Read More

Architecture and family life in early-Georgian Norfolk

John Buxton, Norfolk Gentleman and Architect, Letters to his son 1719-1729 Reading other people’s letters is not obviously legitimate, but past collections can fairly be explored to illuminate the lives of individuals and their families. Between 1719 and 1729, John Buxton (1685-1731), a south-Norfolk landowner remembered as a gentleman-architect, exchanged letters with his eldest son Robert (1710-1751). The letters begin when Robert left home as a nine-year-old for boarding school in Suffolk, and end with his graduation from Clare Hall, Cambridge. The collection is complemented by John Buxton’s account of a tour he made in 1720, visiting country houses, and the record of Robert’s visit to Oxford in 1729. This was early-Georgian England, before industrialisation and the development of modern communications. The documents have been published by the Norfolk Record Society as their volume 69, 2005, edited by Alan Mackley, John Buxton, Norfolk Gentleman and Architect. John Buxton, his wife Read More

Running Tudor England’s Second City

The Accounts of the Chamberlains of Norwich, 1539-45 Accounts are an important source of evidence for students of late medieval and early modern history.  The requirement that officials should produce minutely detailed lists of all the individual sums that they received and all the money that they paid out sprang from a desire to avoid fraud.  As a result, these documents contain a treasure trove of information that is often unavailable elsewhere.  How else would we know that in 1542 torrential rain led to such serious flooding in Norwich that the streets and drains were badly damaged, and piles of debris had to be removed from the marketplace?  The accounts kept by the sixteenth-century chamberlains illuminate many other aspects of life in England’s second city, from the treatment of homeless beggars to the lavish gifts presented to local dignitaries.  Those for the years 1539 to 1545, which have just been Read More