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    The Forum Norwich

    Enjoy amusing names and outrageous comments during HODs archives event

    The Forum Norwich - 13 Sep 2019

    If you love looking through historic archives and have a good sense of humour, then this one is for you.

    Staff at the Norfolk Record Office have been ploughing through their documents to find distasteful names, insulting comments and shocking parish entries containing centuries of outrageous wording and opinions.

    These amusing pieces will form the Outrage*us Archives display during Norfolk Heritage Open Days, with staff from the Record Office on hand to explain the stories behind them and show visitors some of the original documents.

    Karen Gaffney, Education and Outreach Assistant at Norfolk Record Office, said: “Over many years, when we have come across anything amusing or a bit rude, we have put it to one side and made a note of it. So these are things which are a bit too cheeky and rude for a lot of our things, so we thought it would be nice to have an event where we can use them and have a bit of fun.

    “Some pieces are quite mild, while others do have some real swear words in, but we just want it to be amusing.”

    The material, which dates from 1325 to the 1980s, will start off with some milder topics looking at baptism registers referring to illegitimate children before moving onto parish registers which include a vicar’s derogatory terms.

    Karen said: “One we really liked was in the Middleton Parish Register where for a very short period from 1815 to 1823, the vicar starts making comments about the people in his parish. So when describing people’s jobs, he’s written things like ‘farmer and concubine’, ‘whore and a mantrap’, and described one father as the ‘town bull.’

    “It’s just a very short period that he does it for, so we think he probably got told off after that!”

    Other parish registers include comments about a husband selling his wife in Foulden in 1784, and accusations of incest in Great Massingham in 1727. 

    Karen said: “These are general parish registers and you would think that because it is a vicar writing it that they wouldn’t put things like that, but they did.”

    They then move on to amusing names, with one entry in the Aylsham Baptism Register in 1813 recording that John and Maria Balls christened their child Golden Balls. Other documents include an estate map in 1825 of Burnt Fen the property of Thomas Gotobed, and the births of the children of Thomas and Hannah Crotch in the Wymondham Parish Register in the 1700s.

    There’s also a poem with toilet humour in a manorial document in 1480 and an inventory of the possessions of Lady Jane Buttes from 1594 which includes a chestnut horse called Shitt worth 20 shillings.

    Victoria Draper, Education and Outreach Officer at the record office, said: “We were building up such a big collection of these and we thought how else are we going to be able to share them? We could have tweeted the odd one or two, but it’s nice for people to be able to see them all together.

    “We really hope that people will find it all amusing and cheeky, and not see it as offensive. It’s the first time they have been revealed in this way to the public.

    “In the past if we have done an event and something like this has come up we have glossed over it because it’s not normally something we highlight, so it is completely different for us to be showing this type of thing.

    “We’re hoping we might appeal to a different audience with this event. I think some of our regulars will enjoy it but we are hoping that other people who would normally see archives as boring will come along and see that they contain a lot of interesting and funny things!”

    Outrage*ous Archives takes place on Friday, September 20, at 2pm at the Archive Centre in Norwich, and places must be pre-booked in advance.

    To book your free place, call 01603 222599, visit archives.norfolk.gov.uk/events or email norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk.

    The Norfolk Heritage Open Days festival runs from Friday, September 13 to Sunday, September 22. To see the full range of events in Norfolk, visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk