Mysteries of the 'Brockdish' Diary



I first learned of the existence of the Brockdish diary at a local history exhibition, staged by David and Anthea Case back in 2005. The diary was in the news around that time as it had only recently been donated to the Norfolk Records Office. It was rescued by Mr. John Hall from a waste paper facility in Portsmouth. Just how it got there is only the first of the mysteries surrounding the diary. He kept it in a drawer for 40 years, double- wrapped in brown envelopes. His widow, Kathleen, returned the diary to Norfolk in 2005.

Local historian Stephen Poulter read a photocopy of the document last year and found himself challenged by the 'anonymous' label in the NRO catalogue. In the diary entry for 1816 the diarist wrote,


"My daughter the wife of S Reeve was safely delivered of a son".

Stephen (a resident of Needham) researched records from St. Peter in Needham showing that S.Reeve and his wife, Phoebe (maiden name: Souter) had a son who was baptised in August 1816. Charles Souter was Parish Clerk in Syleham (not Brockdish) and died, aged 92, in 1828. He is quite properly buried buried in Syleham churchyard. So the Brockdish Diary is really the Syleham Diary!

For a recent visit made as part of our local heritage project, the excellent Norfolk Record Office prepared a collection of documents from Needham and Brockdish and I was immediately gripped by the diary for, as I wrote at the time:

...to sit quietly and read the words of an 'anonymous' local farmer from the time of the Napoleonic Wars and the mundane day-to-day things he chose to write about in his beautiful script was real time travel...


One part of my project is to transcribe the whole diary but, for me, one mystery needed to be solved urgently - where did Charles Souter live? The answer I have come up with can be found here and just to tantalize you further here's part of a shot from Google Streetview. Can you guess where it is?


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