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24 September 2014

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You are in: Norfolk > History > Local History > Oral history at Blickling Hall

Oral history at Blickling Hall

An audio archive capturing the memories of people who remember the imposing Blickling Hall as a private house is being put together thanks to the Heritage Lottery.

Blickling Hall (NT/Fisheye Images)

Blickling Hall

People from around Norfolk and across the world have been telling their stories of life at Blickling Hall, near Aylsham, for a unique oral archive.

The archive has been created to ensure memories of the house during its time in private ownership are recorded for future generations.

"It's all part of a bigger project whereby we're remodelling some of the servants' rooms on the ground floor of the house," said Bob Carter, administrator for the oral archive project.

"Part of that exhibition will be called Blickling Voices and visitors will be able to hear some people from the past talking about what they actually did in those rooms at the time.

"The people who remember Blicking being a private house belonging to the Lothian family are of an age where they're not going to be around in say 10, 15 years' time.

"So to capture those memories has to be done now or we're going to lose it," he added.

Blicking's history

Built in the early 17th century and set in 55 acres of rolling parkland, Blickling Hall is one of the country's great Jacobean houses.

It was privately occupied until 1939 when it was requisitioned by the RAF.

In 1941, after Lord Lothian's death - the last private owner of Blicking - the hall was left to the nation and it came under the custody of the National Trust.

Funding for the oral archive project has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, one of the reasons the community involvement with the archive is so important.

Masque of Anne Boleyn - 1938 (detail)

Masque of Anne Boleyn - 1938 (detail)

"We want ordinary people's memories of the house and the estate to bring to life the history of the place," said Bob Carter.

"So we have descriptions of growing up on the estate dating back to the 1920s, memories of those working in the house back to the 1930s and stories from visitors to the halls and gardens at the time.

"We also have the stories of RAF personnel based here during the war and flying out of nearby RAF Oulton and recollections from those who took over the RAF accommodation in the late 1940s as squatters," he added.

Early memories

It was thought that the earliest working memory of the hall would be that of cook Flo Wadlow and her kitchen maid Kathleen Graver, who have both contributed to the archive.

But archive co-ordinator Bob Carter tracked down Joan Hall, born in 1918, who worked there before them for a short while in 1932 at the age of 14.

Her father was an odd-job man at Blickling and she worked there as a scullery maid.

"I was overworked and I used to go home and cry," she said.  Joan finally managed to get her mother to come to see her at work.

"She took one look and said: 'Come on home with me, this is the finish, you're not staying here'."

Ann Boleyn

Several people who lived on the estate and further afield have come forward with their memories of the pageant, The Masque Of Anne Boleyn, held at the hall in 1938 and attended by Queen Mary.

Bill Cox

Bill Cox

Cheryl Parkes' father Bill Cox, then a teenager, played at the masque.

Afterwards he found himself in the Long Gallery at the hall being thanked by the Marquess Of Lothian who asked him if there was anything there that he wanted as a thank you.

"He laughingly pointed to the grand piano and Marquess just said: 'We'll have to see what we can do'.

"My dad thought no more of it and a few weeks later a three-quarter grand turned up at my nan and granddad's at Silvergate," said Cheryl, whose family still own the piano.

More than 60 people with experiences in and around Blickling have been in contact with the project but contributions are still welcome.

To add your stories to the Blickling Voices project, contact project administrator Bob Carter on 01263 738077 or e-mail

Main picture courtesy NT/Fisheye Images

last updated: 14/04/2008 at 15:50
created: 23/01/2008

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