Anna Sewell letters found in Norfolk!


Who would have believed it? Previously unknown correspondence relating to the world-famous Norfolk Authoress has been discovered by this very excited local historian!

This eagle-eyed and passionate local historian has discovered a cache of letters and writings which have lain hidden for years, unknown to researchers and writers. It just goes to show that not everyone who sells on internet auction sites know what they are selling and not everyone who searches these sites know what they are looking at. How could such an important collection be found after so many years? We will never know. The person selling them, bought them in a job-lot and didn’t know what they were.

The collection of over fifty personal, family papers, include a corrected draft of a poem, written by Anna, after the death of her little niece, Blossom Johnson.

The published poem is copied below but the one in this collection has the crossings out and insertions of the writer.

“Seven young trees grew close together,

All fresh and green in the summer weather.

A little one, beautiful, tender, and tall,

Grew in the middle, the joy of them all

And lovingly twining their branches together,

They circled it round, in the fine summer weather.

On the Sabbath eve of an autumn day

The beautiful plant was taken away,

And left a lonely and leafless space

And nothing was found to fill the place —

Nothing of rich, nothing of rare,

Could fill the spot that was left so bare,

Nothing below, nothing above,

Could fill this empty spot but love.

Then closer the young trees grew together,

In the chilly days of that autumn weather

And every branch put forth a shoot,

And new life quickened at the root.

They grew in the winter, in spring they grew,

Silently nourished by heavenly dew

And when they came back to the summer weather,

One beautiful group they stood together

And their greenest leaves hung o’er the place

Where the youngest had stood in its tender grace.

Nothing below, nothing above,

Nothing can heal the hurt but love.”

What a great insight to the thoughts of this wonderful Norfolk woman, at a time of such great sorrow.


I show, below, the signature of this great author, in a letter to her brother, Philip.

Anna Sewell, Norfolk, Letters, Family history, Sewell, Philip Sewell, Sewell Barn,

Signature of Anna Sewell

Norfolk-Tours is an #SBS Winner

#SBS, Theo Paphitis, Norfolk, Vacations





Well, this week has turned into a real hum-dinger to say the least!

Theo Paphitis, one of the famous “Dragons” from TV’s Dragons’ Den, is a great supporter of Small Businesses and, every Sunday, he has what is called “Small Business Sunday” or “#SBS” for short. He asks such businesses to tweet him a message, using the SBS hashtag and he then re-tweets his favourite six to his followers. This last week, Norfolk-Tours was one of those lucky six and life has been one big whirlwind ever since!

Catching up with the tweets, emails and messages has been a full-time job and I’m hoping that it will be a great boost for Norfolk-Tours.

Watch this space.


Parachuting Over Norfolk (and Suffolk).

Well, 2nd February 2013 will go down in my life story, as one of those days! One of those days that are engraved in the mind for ever!

Some months ago, I was talking to two people who are organising a hospitality trade fair in Norwich as I will be helping them while they are looking for traders, exhibitors and other interested parties. Mina, the pretty one of the pair, (sorry Mike,) announced that they were doing a sponsored parachute jump in aid of Nelson’s Journey and something in me said: “I’ll do it!”. Trouble was, I had said it out aloud!

From that moment on, I was busy raising money and getting more and more excited about the big day. I wasn’t worried at all, something which concerned me a little, as I was seriously thinking of jumping out of a perfectly good plane, several thousands of feet off the ground, I really ought to be scared didn’t I?

Anyway, the day came and it was lovely, cold but lovely. We went over to Beccles, my wife, my daughter, her partner and myself, all looking forward to the experience.

After the briefing and getting kitted up, we made our way to the plane. I was sitting in front of my tandem parachutist and he was getting my harness attached to his and tightening up all the straps. The view was fantastic as we flew out over the sea near Lowestoft and back over the Norfolk and Suffolk countryside. Swollen rivers and beautiful green fields lay below us like a little Blue-Peter model train-set! (Check it out HERE )

The first cameraman jumped and then a tandem pair. I was shuffled along the floor of the plane and hung my legs out of the door, tucked my legs under the plane as directed, enjoyed the view and whoosh, we were out. We seemed to tumble for a little while but then I was signaled to put my arms out. The views were spectacular!!! My parachutist asked how it was. I said “Fan-Tas-Tic” and I’m sure I was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

The parachute was opened and we floated down for ages, looking around and chatting. I took hold of the controls for a while and I was surprised at the strength needed to manoeuvre the canopy but the serenity of floating gently down to Earth was beautiful.

Norfolk Tours, Norfolk Expo, Parachuting, Norfolk,

Glynn coming in to land.

As we were getting nearer to the ground, I could see my family and I was waving my arms like there was no tomorrow but all too soon, I was told to cross my arms and lift my legs, ready for landing. The landing itself was like sitting on a settee! Amazing!

After getting up and shaking hands and thanking my parachuting partner, I made my way over the the people on the ground. I was beaming and couldn’t quite believe what I had just done!

Thanks to Mina for suggesting this in a conversation and thanks to all those involved who made it possible. If you would like to arrange a parachute jump, please contact HERE   as you will be in safe hands!

If you would like to add your own donation to Nelson’s Journey, please contact me.

Norfolk Tours, Parachuting, Beccles, Norfolk Expo,

I may have looked silly but it was A-MAZ-ING!!!










Just received my photographs and this is one for the album!

Norfolk, Parachuting,

Downwards at 125 MPH

Here are a selection of some others taken on the way down to Earth!


Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,


Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

Up there, you can see for miles!












Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

What an experience!

Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

I don’t know if I was over Norfolk or Suffolk at this moment!







Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

“Nothing but blue skies do I see”

Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

Slightly happy?







Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

I’d say so!










Parachuting, Norfolk, Vacations, Family History,

Can I do it again please?






Chimney Sweepers

Who would have thought that just a chance comment in an article on a website could give me hours of researching fun? Well, if you are like me, anything I start to look at, usually ends up meaning that I research the subject till I have enough material for a book!

I have discovered many things which are just too painful to think about, children being put up hot flues, children of four or five being sent up chimneys and the terrible conditions  in which they lived.


Below, I quote from some journals and reports of the time before this terrible practice was finally stopped. It isn’t nice to read but, if you are a serious historian, it is important to know what was REALLY going on during the times of our ancestors. Many of our ancestors would have been involved in this trade, either as sweeps, journeymen or customers!

“One boy, who was put into a flue when it was hot, was almost dead when he was got out, and died very soon afterwards. Another boy, ten years of age, was so badly burned that he was rendered a cripple for life. Another boy came tumbling down and died from the effects of the burning. In another case, a boy who was driven up a flue by his master did not come out again alive. There were two cases in which children had been literally roasted to death. The boys in these cases were not more than five or six years old. In June, 1851, a boy named George Wilson, ten years of age, who bad swept nine chimneys, was suffocated in the tenth, up which he had been forced by his master; and a witness said that the place was so hot that he could not have kept his hand on it for five minutes. ”

“These children were regularly sold. It was proved that one boy, who was terribly burnt, had been sold for a guinea, and another child, eight years of age, who had been sold five times over, was taken before a magistrate at Hull, who exclaimed very justly, “They may talk of slavery, but there is no slavery worse than this.””

“The facts of the case were, that this infant was forced up the chimney on the shoulder of a larger boy, and afterwards violently pulled down again by the leg and dashed against a marble hearth ; his leg was thus broken, and he died a few hours after; on his body and knees were found sores arising from wounds of a much older date.”


Some questions and answers about their living conditions:

“Can you give the Committee any information how these boys are in general treated by their masters; first as to their lodging?—With the exception of the few respectable tradesmen, the rest had no better lodging than the cellars in which the soot was deposited; the boys sleeping on the soot bags.

How were the apprentices of the better class of masters lodged ?— They slept in attics, two or three or more together; and even in their cases they were not washed or cleaned more than once a week.

Did they sleep on beds or on mattresses? -They sometimes were found sleeping on pallets, and in one very respectable situation they had nothing but straw; and that was the case in most instances of the respectable ones.

Had you any information how often they were washed, or if any care was taken that  they should be washed, by those persons who were not considered as respectable masters?—We found that among the less respectable class of chimney sweepers, the boys were taken to the New River of a Sunday morning, in the summer season.

During the winter months, do you know whether any care was taken with, respect to their washing?—We had reason to fear there was not, and which would account for the disorders generated by remaining longer than the week in their filthy garments.

What disorders do you particularly allude to ?—The principal complaint to which they are liable is the cancer, which generally affects them in the scrotum.

Has it not sometimes been known to affect them within the lip, and in the eyes?—Yes ; but the affection in the scrotum is the most general, and by medical men is technically termed the chimney sweepers cancer.”

Chimney Sweepers

A cross-section of a typical large Victorian house, showing chimney sweeps at work. Some of these flues were only 7 inches square!

Chimney Seeps

The lower part of the picture above.

Next time you read that your ancestor was a Chimney Sweep, if he was under 15, he was probably a “climbing boy” and if he was a Journeyman Chimney Sweep, he almost certainly started out as a “climbing boy”!



Ancestral Tours & Vacations in England

Ancestral Tours

I was talking to a tourism chief the other day and he wasn’t too sure that ancestral tourism was as important to the local economy of England as I was making it out to be. He couldn’t see how a few people wandering around grave-yards and poking around in the local library could amount to much. How could I convince him? Well, I didn’t bother to try.

All I need to do is to go into the central library in the Forum in Norwich or to pop into the Norfolk record Office to see how many people visit this area simply to learn more about their Norfolk and Suffolk ancestors. It is so common to hear Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and American accents in these places, in fact, perhaps more of those four than Norfolk accents. That’s without the Northern British, the Londoners, the Midlanders, etc. It’s great to sit beside someone at the microfilm readers or on the computers and hear them talk about their ancestors who were from King’s Lynn or Great Yarmouth.

I am one of very few people who offer proper, bespoke, ancestral tourism in England and, if you want to see where your ancestors lived, I can help. I don’t need to convince the “experts”, we know how important it is to visit the homes of our ancestors!

Norfolk grave Ancestral Tours

Find an ancestor’s gravestone and learn so much about their life.

Family History Vacations, I can even make you cry!

Have you ever thought about visiting the places connected to your family’s history? The towns and villages where your ancestors actually lived and the Churches they attended.

With a Norfolk-Tours vacation, that is exactly what you can do and that is exactly what we did on a recent tour around this beautiful area of England.

Vacation, Family History, Church, Ancestors, Graves, Memorials,

Church-Yards can be fascinating places.

The lady in question was looking for the places connected to her family who emigrated to Australia in the 1830’s, a time when many farm labourers were leaving England as the opportunities here were drying up and the wages were going down!

Weasenham, Family History, Vacations,

Some cottages, the centre one is one up and one down and had a ladder to get up to the first floor.

We were able to visit the actual village Church where several generations of  her ancestors had been baptised, married or laid to rest, we were able to have a drink in the village inn, which dates back over three hundred years and would have been her ancestors’ pub too. We were even able to visit one of the cottages where her family had lived in the 1851 census. One of the best things about being based locally, is that I can often gain access to places and, as I had carried out researches prior to this lady arriving, I had found out where the family had lived, visited the village and arranged with the present owners to visit with the lady in question. Walking around the cottage where her ancestors had actually lived was something this lady will remember for a long while I’m sure! I must say here that I did make her cry!

If you are thinking of taking a trip to your ancestral homes, drop me an email and I will be happy to help.

Family History, Agricultural Labourers, Vacations, Laborers,

Farm Workers in 1901.

American Airfields during WWII.

Thorpe Abbotts 100th Bomb Group

Items found during work at Thorpe Abbotts. Was this part of Glenn Miller’s Orchestra?

American Airfields during WWII.
I have just had a really rewarding couple of weeks! First, I took three American sisters and a family friend of theirs, to lots of places associated with the family history. Nothing unusual in that, except the places were to do with the sisters’ parents. Mum was an English Nurse and was born in Norfolk, Dad was a WWII GI and, having volunteered to drive the bus to the dance, he got the pick of the prettiest Nurse! (Family story!)
I was able to take them to the house where Mum was born, houses where Mum and her family lived, they ate a “Mr Whippy” as they walked along the beach where Mum played as a child and, to the Cathedral where the couple were married. I was able to find newspaper cuttings and references to their father in books. As he was from Texas, he helped arrange a Rodeo in the local city to entertain the locals and I found a lot of information about that event but best of all, I was able to arrange a private visit to the airfield where Dad spent most of his time in England during WWII. Two local men showed us around the airfield and we even got to see the buildings which were used by the Servicemen.
Last Friday, I picked up two sisters who were staying in London and brought them up to Norfolk where I had arranged a private viewing of another of our airfields. (We were known as America’s Aircraft Carrier and Little America during WWII because of all the airfields!) This time, there were even photographs of the ladies’ Dad and he was well known in the area because of his flying record. He flew over 50 missions! There were exhibits from the time and lots of information about the men who served. The ladies had even met some of the men mentioned in the records held in the airfield museum.
If you have a family member who served in East Anglia during WWII, why not take a trip to see where your relative spent his or her time. (Yes, there were American women who served over here too!) The airfields are often now open farm-land, some are totally lost and some have just a few buildings or parts of the runways still in tact but those thousands of service men and women deserve our gratitude and we can honour their memories at the places they knew so well.
This list is not exhaustive by any means but includes some airfields used by the American Airforce during World War II:
Bircham Newton, Bodney, Coltishall, Cromer, Deopham Green, East Wretham, Feltwell, Foulsham,
Great Massingham, Hardwick, Horsham St Faith, Langham, Little Snoring, Marham, Narborough,
North Creake, Old Buckenham, Sculthorpe, Seething, Shipdham, Swanton Morley, Thorpe Abbots
Tibenham, Watton, Wendling, West Raynham.

Some of these places have great claims to fame, Swanton Morley saw the first bombing raid of US aircraft from England and was seen off by the President and the Prime Minister. Jimmy Stewart served in Norfolk and I have been told that the great Glen Miller played his last concert in the County.
Why not come over to England and visit those places in your recent family history too? It doesn’t have to be ancient history to be interesting!

Thorpe Abbotts 100th Bomb Group

The Control Tower at Thorpe Abbotts

Goose-bumps, tears, smiles, laughter, memories, these last couple of weeks had it all!!!

Cottages in 1850

One of the many overlooked sources for family history and local history are local newspapers.

Below, I give just one simple advertisement from a Norfolk newspaper on 1850. With this and the 1851 census, I have been able to build up quite a lot of information about these particular cottages.



14 Freehold Cottages with gardens attached

A double-fronted shop and dwelling house & other premises at Docking in Norfolk.

To be sold by auction by Mr J Beck of Friday 15th February 1850 at the King William Inn, Docking at five o’clock in the evening.

All those 14 valuable and substantial Freehold Cottages with the gardens attached, on the site of a piece of land formerly called The Cherry Ground. Also an excellent shop, with double frontage and dwelling house and two cottages adjoining, situated next the Fring Road, in the following or such other lots, as may be determined upon at the time of the sale:-

Lot 1: Two freehold cottages with sheds and small piece of ground at the East end, occupied by John Easter & William Melton, at an annual rents amounting to £7 17/6d

Lot 2: A freehold cottage adjoining lot 1, with garden in front and & privy detached, subject to the rights after mentioned and front and back entrances to cottage occupied by William Davy at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 3: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Robert Claxton at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 4: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Robert Sadler at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 5: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by George Houghton at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 6: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Robert Allen at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 7: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Thomas Bunting at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lots 1,3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 have the right to use the privy part of lot 2

Lot 8: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and privy detached, subject to the rights after mentioned and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Thomas Hudson at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 9: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by John Playford at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 10: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Robert Seaman at the annual rent of £7 10/-

Lot 11: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by William Sadler at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 12: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by Joshua Hendry at the annual rent of £4 10/-

Lot 13: A freehold cottage adjoining the last lot, with garden in front and front and back entrances to cottage, occupied by James Bennett at the annual rent of £5

The last five lots are to have the use of the privy part of Lot 8

Lot 14: An excellent shop with double frontage and dwelling house occupied by James Plillippo, Watch-maker at the annual rent of £10 10/- with an out-house and privy.

Also a cottage adjoining the said dwelling house occupied by Richard Comb at the annual rent of £6 and a cottage adjoining the same occupied by Henry Drew which cottage is sold subject to the right of the present tenant to the use and occupation thereof during his life at the annual rent of £1 5/-

The last lot is copyhold of the Manor of Docking Hall in Docking.

All the above described cottages, shop, dwelling house and other buildings are substantially brick built & tiled and (with the exception of lot 1), have all been erected within the last four years and all, without exception, are in excellent repair.


For further particulars apply to Mr John Lake at the King William Inn, Docking, the auctioneer, Snettisham and Mr Loynes, Solicitor, Wells.

Murder Most Foul!

There have been many murders and villainous exploits in this large County over the years and many of them have become internationally renowned, but for today, I will concentrate on one event that is much less well known. The event which I’m going to tell you about took place in the middle of the day, on Friday, November 25th 1853 in the centre of Norfolk, between the villages of Wellingham and Tittleshall and involved a jeweller from Norwich. The unfortunate victim was Lorenz Beha, a watch-maker and dealer in jewellery, who lived in St. Stephen’s Plain, in Norwich and he occasionally travelled in the county to dispose of his goods.

Norwich Castle
The Castle in Norwich.

It seems that about halfway between Wellingham and Tittleshall, a person travelling on the road, discovered a quantity of blood which led to a ditch. There he discovered the body of the murdered man. The head had almost been severed from the body, by a blow from the back and the face was dreadfully cut and mangled. A hatchet, such as was used for felling timber, was found nearby, covered in blood. The supposed contents of his pockets had been taken but a box of valuable jewellery had been left untouched.

A young man named William Thompson was arrested shortly after and was later tried for murder.

Another report of the murder appeared in The Household Narrative in 1853:

“Another barbarous Murder, with Highway Robbery, has been committed in Norfolk. The victim was Lorenzo Beha, a silversmith, who resided in Norwich. He had two assistants in his shop, to whom he left the care of his business while he travelled through the county to obtain orders and to sell his jewellery. He usually carried a box of gold and silver watches and other jewellery in a bag, suspended from a stick on his shoulder, and his custom was, when he sold goods to the country people, to take payment in small instalments. He was last seen alive, walking towards the village of Wellingham, about one o’clock on Friday, the 18th inst. About three o’clock the same afternoon a person named Robinson, who resided in the neighbourhood, while walking along the road, observed a great quantity of blood, and noticed that some portions of it had been partially covered by dirt scraped from the road. At this moment two young gentlemen, sons of the Rev. Mr. Digby, of Tittleshall, came riding up on ponies, and two ladies in a gig, a Miss Shepherd and Mrs. Digby. The whole party stopped, and their attention was directed to the blood. One of the young gentlemen observed that there was a trail of blood to the hedge, and Robinson jumping upon the hedge, saw that the trail was continued through the fence into the ditch, on the other side, where a horrible spectacle presented itself. The body of Mr. Beha was found with the legs towards the hedge, and the coat collar turned up as if the murdered man had been dragged by his coat through the fence. By the side of the body lay Mr. Beha’s box of jewellery, unopened, but removed from the bag, and his stick and umbrella, and also a large hatchet, such as is used for felling timbers. The blade of the hatchet was covered with blood and hair, and it was evidently the weapon by which the unfortunate man had been murdered. His trousers pockets were turned inside out, and rifled; but in his waistcoat pocket a watch was found, still going. His head had been nearly severed from the body by a blow at the back of the neck, and there were four deeply-cut wounds across the temples and face, any one of which must have caused instantaneous death. The right eye was also driven inwards to the depth of nearly an inch. Indeed the poor man appeared to have been felled like an ox, and dragged through the fence into the ditch. On searching the clothes of deceased more minutely his account-book was found, soaked with blood, in one of his pockets, but the keys of his box were gone. No suspicion was entertained as to the perpetrator of the murder until late in the evening. A man named William Webster, while driving in his cart from Tittleshall to Wellingham, shortly before one o’clock on the same day, had seen a man in the plantation adjoining the ditch where the body was found, and he observed that the man stooped down to hide himself as he (Webster) approached. He communicated this circumstance to the parish constable, stating that the man was William Thompson, a labourer, who lived with his father in the neighbourhood. Thompson, the same night, was apprehended in bed; and parts of his clothes were found to be stained with blood. On further search, a silver watch, with the name “L. Beha” as maker, another watch with the same name, a canvas bag with a third watch, and money in notes, gold, and silver, were found in different places. On the 19th the prisoner was taken before the county magistrates. Several witnesses having been examined he was remanded till further evidence could be adduced. Thompson is about twenty years of age; and his appearance is superior to that which is generally characteristic of his class. He listened attentively to the evidence, but appeared to be quite calm and unconcerned.”

Further reports appeared elsewhere and this tells of the rather horrific end that became of William Thompson:

At the Norfolk Assizes, before Lord Chief Baron Parke, William Thompson, aged 21, was charged with the murder of Lorenzo Beha, at Tittleshall, on November 18th, 1853. Mr. Evans prosecuted, and Mr. Carlos Cooper defended. The prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced to death. The execution took place on the Castle Hill, Norwich, on April 8th. “The criminal’s struggles continued five minutes.”

More detail about these stories and the lives of all of these folk can be found in the Norfolk Studies Library and the Norfolk Record Office and some information is freely available on the internet, but if you are unable to find what you are looking for, do drop me an email and I will be pleased to help.

If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words …..

….. then why can’t I paint you? The world will never know, the you I’ve come to know.

No, don’t worry, I’ve not gone totally mad! I am just thinking about our family photographs and what we do with them. I normally try to remember to write on the back, in soft pencil, the name, dates and details of the person concerned as that will help in the future. How I wish my family had done that with all the pictures I inherited from different relatives!

I have this lovely picture of my great, great, great grandmother, Lydia. (Born Lydia Goll, later to become Lydia Davy and then Lydia Bear.)

Lydia Bear of Weasenham

Mr great great great Grandmother

Born in 1812 and married in 1831. She had her first child in 1832, lost her husband in the same year and re-married in 1834. From her second marriage, she added another twelve children to her family, though two died as infants. Her second husband died in 1868 and she went on to live to the very end of the century, laid to rest on the 29th December 1899. Her photograph shows me an elderly lady, but I know a lot more about this face that looks at me from the C19th. I know some of the cottages she lived in, I know that she took in washing till late in her life, she looked after her father in his old age and she even took in some of her husband’s nephews when they had nowhere to live. Today, her descendants have spread all over this world. They live in Canada, Australia, France and all over England, my Mum, her great great granddaughter, still lives in the same village that she called home and that was where I grew up too.

There is no marker to where she was laid to rest, but her genes live on, who needs a memorial, I’m her memorial!