Lowestoft Archaeological and Local History Society

Volume 37  Number 5 – NEWSLETTER – MAY 2009

Society website: www.lowestoftlocalhistory.co.uk


What’s On in 2009

11 June 2009 – Church Outing/Supper – Terry Weatherley will meet us at Henstead church at 7 pm and later we
 go on to Kessingland church. There is no need to book for visiting the two churches, but
 if you would like to join us for a meal afterwards at Livingstone’s, Kessingland, please
 reserve your place(s) and select your meal using the forms provided at Society meetings.
 The final date to hand in menu forms confirming your choice will be the AGM, 28 May.
There is car parking space for Henstead church visitors in the corner of the field
 behind small trees opposite the church, the entrance is close to the nearby road junction.

10 Sept 2009                “Memoirs of a Suffolk Gentleman” by Guy de Moubray – author and economist, and
 the owner of historic Buxlow Manor, he will talk about his travels and experiences.

Please ring bell if the door is locked

Chairman’s Column

We have had some enjoyable outings in the last twelve months. Starting with a walk in the High Street, we then had our annual church visit, after which some members took a meal at the Five Bells, Wrentham. In March we were guests at Lowestoft Record Office and next, on 11th of June, we are to visit Henstead and Kessingland churches with the option of a meal to follow at Livingstone’s Restaurant.

As you know, our Museum opened just before Easter and we must have two helpers on duty together. We should be glad if anyone would come to join us, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Please let me know if you can help.

Tonight is our AGM and we look forward seeing you all.

With all good wishes  Lilian Fisher

Details of recent talks:

23 April 2009 – “Problems Resulting from Owning a Roman Historical Site” – by John Browning

Landowner John Browning spoke about the problems of owning land Nr. Mildenhall, in Suffolk, that contains a 50-acre Roman historical site, including remains of a town and villa. The land was first excavated in 1877, then again between 1974 and 1976 and is now a designated archaeological site. Over 50 burials were discovered, but being a Roman Christian cemetery there were no valuable grave goods. Today there are a large number of metal detectorists who are keen to invade such sites, despite their protected status, and these people have a range of good and bad intentions. Those with a genuine historic interest may be given a cautious welcome, but sadly the majority are driven to search for buried artefacts by greed and self-interest. The mystery of what relics may be underground generates two kinds of reaction – either they wish to own them or they see the chance of selling them on at a profit. Ancient Monument Consent sets strict limits on what may be done at designated sites and there are heavy fines for breaking the rules. The UK law states that items discovered belong to the landowner, but over the years this law has proved woefully inadequate and thousands of artefacts (and more importantly their history) have been lost to the treasure-seekers. The CPS had a very poor record in securing prosecutions for pilfering from historic sites and in tracking down stolen artefacts

Mr Browning gave a fascinating account of his struggle to protect the integrity of the Roman settlement since he took it over in 1976. In the late 1970s metal detecting equipment came into the public domain and has since become ever more sophisticated. It soon became obvious from the footprints that his farm was being targeted after dark and some offenders were caught and challenged. However, unless the culprit had stolen items on their person it was not possible to take them to court, as metal detecting without consent was not a notifiable offence. This fact frustrated the landowner and offered little protection to the site. Also the night hawks could adopt a very threatening and violent attitude when challenged. In the 1980s Mr Browning received rumours that a major hoard had been removed secretly from his land, and was being quietly hawked around for sale to enthusiast collectors. By chance he obtained black and white photographs that showed numerous items of treasure (later described as a collection of 1st-century temple bronzes) believed to have been exported illegally. The story was aired as part of a TV heritage programme.

Then in 1989, the British Museum wrote to Suffolk Police to say that the pieces were in the possession of, and to be put up for auction by, a Madison Avenue dealer. The Getty Museum was said to be keen to purchase one piece for its own collection of antiquities. Although the items, now known as the ‘Icklingham bronzes’ and believed to be worth a seven-figure sum were acknowledged to be those stolen from Mr Browning’s farm, the weak laws failed to secure the return of the treasure – this was because the UNESCO convention designed to stop illegal exports had been signed but had not been officially ratified in the UK, and the CPS had failed to pursue and prosecute the thieves. By this time, as they had been rejected by the Getty Museum as stolen goods, an American collector and his wife had purchased the bronzes for their already huge collection.

The aggrieved Mr Browning decided to take on the system that allowed such flagrant abuse, and over a number of years built up a case for the return of the hoard. With great determination he employed a specialist lawyer who had already succeeded in repatriating stolen artefacts and eventually an undisclosed settlement was reached in the USA courts. The Icklingham bronzes will be returned to the UK and bequeathed to the British Museum after the death of the American collectors. Meanwhile the UNESCO convention has been ratified and the Treasure Bill rewritten to stop crime of this type paying. A better system of rewarding legitimate discoveries and treasure trove is in place, and Mr Browning and like-minded friends continue to prompt major improvements in the control of archaeological sites. These include modern surveillance techniques and police assistance that helps ensure priceless items will remain in the National Archives for all to enjoy.

14 May 2009 –  “Kate Elizabeth – A journey through time” – by June Nice

Society member June spoke about the hardships of Victorian life, when her grandmother Emma died young leaving 3 children. Having lost her first husband Harry Aris, a shoe-riveter, Emma had married a farm-worker named Damon Brion, but he struggled to find employment and the family were frequently on Parish support. After Emma’s death in 1894 a Mr James Brown wrote to the George Muller Orphanage, then well known in Bristol, explaining their plight, and asking the owner to take in the children. Being twelve, son Thomas had to go out to work, but his sister Kate Elizabeth aged 10 and Alfie, being only 8, were found places after the application forms proved they were in good health, possessed a change of clothing, and had no other support.

George Muller, from a well-off Prussian family living in London, made an unpromising start. Growing up a thief, he then took on the unlikely career of divinity student. After some time at this, he was able to throw off his bad habits and became a successful Missionary for Jews in London. In 1834 he founded a Scripture Union and started to prosper, regretting his bad youth, which he blamed on over-indulgent parents. By 1836 he set up the original Orphanage that was to bear his name, starting with about 30 girls in the Ashley Downs area of Bristol. Successive buildings were much larger and eventually catered for over 2,000. Muller died in 1898 having shaped the lives of over 80,000 young people. During all this time it was said that he never asked for money. All needs of the Orphanage were met by donations and gifts in kind of food and supplies – at one Christmas 150 pheasants were received.

The children had a sound Christian education with strict discipline and were given practical tasks to fit them for life. Boys and girls were kept apart and, sadly, siblings were separated. Their day began with a bell rung at 6am and an early breakfast ensured they were in classes by 8.30. The evening meal was at 5.30 and they were in their dormitories (which held 30 beds on average) by 9pm. At one time Charles Dickens went to visit Ashley Downs as he was said to have heard the children were starving. The visit satisfied him that not only were they well fed and neatly dressed but they also enjoyed the benefits of plenty of exercise in and out of the Orphanage. They had to scrub floors, clean shoes and empty their chamber pots and all were taught a trade as part of their education. Girls learned sewing, laundry and domestic skills. Boys did saddlery, gardening and carpentry and both sexes, if thought suitable, might have teacher training. June showed an excellent selection of photos of the children in their classes. Boys could leave at age 14 and girls were sometimes kept on until they were 17. All were sent out in good clothes and with a Bible.

June’s ancestor Kate was to become an assistant housekeeper at Harrow, and later to work for the Rothschild family. Alfie first went as apprentice to a saddler and progressed to the post of Stationmaster at Quainton, Bucks. The family held together, all being christened in Quainton, and June has a remarkable collection of documents and photographs to tell their story. The Orphanage closed in the 1950s, the buildings now forming part of Bristol College, but there is still a Foundation in Bristol providing small homes, and the Muller legacy lives on.

 “GEORGE EWART EVANS – A Celebration”– Blaxhall, Suffolk – 25 and 26 July 2009

The Blaxhall Archive Group are hosting a two-day event in July to celebrate the Centenary of George Ewart Evans, outstanding historian and author of numerous books on social history and country life, ranging from the Welsh valley of his youth to the changing history of farming in East Anglia. The Group are aiming at a mixed programme of events at several venues throughout the village that should appeal to enthusiasts of local history as well as the general public. There will be no entrance fee but probably a small charge for the vintage film shows and for the ­seminar where space is at a premium – booking is advised for the latter features.

Interested local history groups are invited to book a free display space in which to explain their own group activities. A six-foot table and some chairs will be provided and room for display boards – note there is no electricity available within the two large marquees. There should be good coverage by the local media over the two days. Refreshments and a beer tent will be available to fortify visitors.

For more details on events and booking please contact the BLAXHALL ARCHIVE GROUP as below:

Telephone: 01728 688611     Email: archive@blaxhall.com     Website: www.blaxhall.com


Local Archaeologist David Padfield had a Report published recently as part of the AHOB Project.

The Report details findings, early in 2007, following a cliff collapse at Benacre. Hand-axes and flint flakes were discovered in two-days of fieldwork, the aim of which was to confirm the extent of the remains, and record and interpret the stratigraphy of the cliff section. Also to take samples for dating and palaeoenvironmental analyses.