All Collections Great and Small

September 2017

By Wayne Kett

Visitors to Norfolk Collections Centre are able to see some very large and cumbersome objects; a giant wooden mustard stamper used by Colmans, our two Snap Dragons, industrial machinery used by Rowntree Makintosh and even a Hawaiian Canoe. But thus far we have had little opportunity to showcase our smaller stored collections. So we jumped at the chance to acquire a couple of plan chests no longer needed by Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse following their excellent Voices from the Workhouse re-display.


This plan chest allows us to display some of our smaller stored collections.

The first plan chest has been filled with objects and I have collated some details about each object in an information folder for our visitors. I thought it might be of interest to share this more widely via our blog………

Drawer 1

Two posters advertising Billy Russell’s ‘Grand Circus’ at the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, early 1960’s

GRYEH : 1983.13.15-16

The Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth was recently described as one of ‘the seven wonders of the British seaside’. It is indeed unique – The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is the only circus left in Britain that is still used for its original purpose.

Popular acts in the 1960s included; the French Bario clown family, Gentleman Jack ‘the pickpocket’, Arno and Rita Van Bolen who performed a magic and illusion act and many others.

         Left; Gentleman Jack ‘the pickpocket’ Right; Circus performer Sue Yelding. Both photographs taken at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 1963.

The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is still entertaining locals and holidaymakers alike. Visit their website for details of their upcoming shows.

Drawer 2

Rag Rug, made from old clothing in various fabrics including tights and stockings.

NWHCM : 1974.712.1


This rag rug was made using the proddy technique. This involves prodding or poking strips of fabric through a hessian backing. Rag rugs, popular in the 19th and early 20th century, were a cheap and effective way of creating a rug by recycling old otherwise unusable materials such as old clothing.

Drawer 3

Two pine door panels, painted with designs of women in classical drapery, surrounded by fruit and flowers. These panels are estimated to be from about 1840.

NWHCM : 1962.209.3-4

These door panels were found by the donor in a builder’s yard on Park Lane in Norwich in the 1960’s. This unfortunately means we do not have any information about which property they were removed from.

Drawer 4

Brass plaque commemorating the laying of the foundation stone of Norwich City Gaol, St, Giles’ Gates, Norwich, May 31st 1824.

NWHCM : 1970.28         9

Construction of the new city gaol was completed in 1828 at an expense of £50,000. Prisoners from the city Bridewell (now the Museum of Norwich) were transferred to the new gaol on the 18th February 1829.

Jail or Prison?

Since the 14th century the county prison had been at Norwich Castle, this was where the more serious offenders were housed.

From 1597 until 1826 the city gaol was opposite the Guildhall, before moving to its new site at St Giles Gate in 1829. The city gaol was for minor offenders and those awaiting trial.


Plan of the new city gaol (designed by Phillip Barnes)

Brass plaque, formerly attached to the City walls, 19th Century.

NWHCM : 1980.272


Work begun on the city walls in 1297, but construction was not complete until 1343. The walls were 3ft thick and 20ft high, with battlements. In front of the walls was a bank and a ditch, measuring 25ft deep and 60ft wide.


At the time of this photograph (1957) the area behind this section of the city wall contained the Mackintosh factory, producing chocolate and confectionery. It is now the home of Chapelfield shopping centre.

13It was beyond the capabilities of the authorities to maintain law and order everywhere, but within the city walls their power could be exercised more easily.

Taxes, levies and tolls were due to be paid for many different reasons. The city walls restricted the movement of goods and people, allowing the authorities to ensure they gathered the correct taxes and tolls.

Over 800 years after their construction the city is still defined by its walls. Despite the wall only surviving in fragments, it still persists as an invisible demarcation of what is inside the city and what is outside.


Rectangular brass plate with white enameled lettering, listing the subsidiary companies of Norvic Shoe Co Ltd, 1950s. 14

NWHCM : 1995.130 

Norvic Shoes started in 1846 and grew rapidly, manufacturing and selling women’s shoes to a global market.

During the 20th century they faced increasing competition, particularly from North America. This forced them to concentrate on the domestic market and led them to broaden their product base and begin manufacturing men’s shoes.


Ladies black leather Derby shoe manufactured by Norvic – NWHCM: 1982.441.304


Hand lasting at Norvic factory, 1954

In the 1960’s they were still capable of producing 30,000 pairs of shoes a week at their Vulcan Road site in Norwich. However following the loss of a large Russian contract the firm went into sharp decline. The company was finally closed by the courts in October 1982.

Van Dal Shoes

Norwich is famous for manufacturing shoes. In fact in the 1930’s over 10,000 people were employed in the shoe industry. That’s 15% of the workforce!

Sadly almost all of these companies have either closed or moved their manufacturing operation overseas.

However the Florida Group are still manufacturing shoes under their Van Dal brand in Norwich. They are the last remaining traditional ladies shoe manufacturer in the UK.

Drawer 5

Model of Claud Hamilton, locomotive and tender, 1910

NWHCM : 1952.37


The Claud Hamilton class of steam locomotives were operated locally by Great Eastern Railway (GER).

These locomotives were used on the express services between Norwich and London. The Norfolk Coast Express route was especially popular, this allowed Londoners a taste of the Norfolk seaside, setting off from Liverpool Street and going all the way to Cromer.


A Claud Hamilton leaving March station in August 1958

When the railways were nationalised in 1948 there were still 117 Claud Hamilton’s in operation. However their decline was swift – the 1955 modernisation plan sought to bring the rail network up to date and it recommended a switch to diesel trains. The last Claud Hamilton was withdrawn from service in 1960 and sadly none have survived.

For more information about Norfolk Collections Centre, including details of Norfolk Collections Centre opening times, you can follow us on Twitter.

To learn more about NMS collections – Visit our Collections Website

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3 Responses to All Collections Great and Small

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron says:

    All very interesting items. I was particularly struck by the rag rug – my grandmother Alice Cordy (n. Abel) made these, as did her mother, in Cantley. As I child I remember them being on the floor at my grandparents’ two up, two down railway cottage. They warmed up a rather chilly floor in the winter.


  2. What a fascinating collection, especially the material on the Old Gaol – thank you.


  3. Glad you’re making excellent use of our planchests!


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