Photos from the 1930s and 50s – can you help?

Jackie.Hall | December 6, 2011

Clearance excavations of Thetford Priory took place in the 1930s and 1950s, with a break for the Second World War. They were carried out by the Ministry of Works using skilled and unskilled labour, with no resident archaeologist and the level of record keeping was minimal. From the 1930s, we are lucky to have a collection of finds sheets which record what was found where – sometimes it is even possible to identify individual objects within the current English Heritage collections. And in 1939, a number of photos were taken of the excavations themselves (kept in the National Monuments Record). In the 1950s, a formal excavation took place at the east end of the chapter house, which was published, but I’ve not been able to find any records at all of the clearance excavations then, except for occasional notes on the few surviving brown paper finds bags.

A fragment of decorative plasterwork with a Tudor rose within stripwork. The fragment is about 8cm acrossPhotographs from the 1930s and 1950 excavations could be invaluable. Perhaps they could tell us where this fragment of decorative plasterwork was found, or the painted glass fragments, the pilgrim’s badge or many other objects. Perhaps you, your parents or grandparents once lived or worked at Thetford and have memories or photographs from either of these periods that will help us understand more about what was recovered from where. If so, do get in touch with me, Jackie Hall at In exchange, I can offer you undying gratitude and a heartfelt acknowledgment in an academic publication – don’t all rush at once.

Share this:


  1. I spent yesterday at Gressenhall going through the secondary files to try to find evidence regarding the excavation of the limestone tympanum fragmant of a lion in the Castle Keep! I could not find records of its excavation in these, although there was some interesting correspondence etc. I would be very interested if its excavation is recorded, or that of the capital depicting birds.

    Comment by Sarah Cassell — March 29, 2012 @ 8:01 am

  2. Hi Sarah
    Unfortunately, there is no information about the lion tympanum, but the bird capital was found ‘Outside East front of Lady Chapel’ on 16/7/35. Do let me know if you find out any more about the tympanum.

    Comment by Jackie.Hall — April 2, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment