In September 2016, the Norfolk Record Office purchased a wide range of documents sold at auction in the Morningthorpe Manor Country House Sale. A keen local collector had accumulated this eclectic array of documents over a number of decades. It ranged in date from the 15th to the 20th century and included diaries, deeds, maps, photographs, playbills, manorial records, estate records, travel journals, business records and political broadsheets. However, there was one strong theme linking everything together: Norfolk. It was estimated that the Record Office would require about £30,000 to secure the items of clear significance to the county’s heritage. However, the Record Office did not have purchase funds available – it needed to raise money and to do so very quickly.
A major contribution was made by the Friends of the National Libraries who not only provided a grant of £5,000, but also were able to make a decision extremely quickly. This meant that the £5,000 could be used as a seed of a campaign from which the Record Office’s fundraising partner, NORAH (the Norfolk Archives and Heritage Development Foundation) was able to secure an additional £25,000. Having reached its target the Record Office was able to secure 86 lots at the sale. With such a heterogeneous array of documents it is impossible to give a summary. Instead, to give a flavour of the sale, some of the highlights are detailed below:
- Ten journals and diaries kept by the Hamond family, illustrating the workings of a medium Norfolk estate (Westacre) and their travels on the continent, 1872-1888.
- Around 240 deeds and documents from the Great Hospital, 17th century to early 20th century. This is an important addition to the Record Office’s Great Hospital Collection deemed of such outstanding importance that it is inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
- A map, section and land ownership details for a proposed navigation of ships from Foundry Bridge, Norwich to the sea at opposite Lake Lothing, 1825.
- A confirmation and patent book of the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral, 1621 -1675
- A map of land in manors of Whinburgh, Westfield and Carbrooke belonging to Sir William Clayton, 1735. (illustrated)
- The diaries of Horatio William Walpole, Later 4th Earl of Orford 1826, 1831, 1836-39, 1848-50, 1853, 1860, 1863-65, 1868-72, 1882 and 1884. These record his early sexual encounters, and resultant disease and treatment, along with his gambling, at which he was far from successful. It also contains information on his notorious adulterous affair with Lady Lincoln with whom he fathered a child.
- The log of the Mary during a voyage on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads in August 1861. This is the earliest known surviving manuscript logbook of a leisure trip on the Broads.
- Posters for the Bijou Theatre in Wells next the Sea, c1870 detailing forthcoming attractions.
- Various collections of deeds including the earliest documents in the sale: Stratton Strawless deeds from 1431 to 1578, relating to the Marsham family.
- Manorial documents from Wells next the Sea, Watton, Slolney, Ellingham, Saham Toney, Tunstead, Sporle, Redenhall and Paston Sacre, 17th to 19th century.
- Programmes of Norwich Municipal Concerts from the 1920s and 1930s.
- A saddler’s account book detailing the work he carried out for clients work in the East Dereham area, 1908-11.
- Autograph letters from Jacob Astley, 1747; William Taylor, 1820 and William Windham, 1784.
- A manuscript thanksgiving song to be used by all the female inhabitants of Norwich on 29 July 1784 containing what might be perceived as slightly risqué verses.