The History That Surrounds Us – Thetford Grammar School, Norfolk

In 1999, at the age of 10, I left my local public school and started at the Junior School at Thetford Grammar School.  It was a big change going from public school to one of the oldest private schools in the country.  I stayed there until 2005 when I had completed my GCSEs. The entire school consisted of around 400 students (from ages 5-18).

aa-016-june-thet-grammar-231 Photo Credit: Thetford Grammar School (

Pictured above is Old School Hall.  This is the first thing you see as you pull into the gates of the school (although that sidewalk must have been added after I had left).  There has been a school on this site since 631 AD, as well as a monastery. The remains of the monastery still stand behind this building.  On the walls by the front gate, a plaque gives a little background about the school –


Old School Hall had 2 classrooms in it (one upstairs, one downstairs) and the main Hall.  The Main Hall is a beautiful, wood panelled room with the original masonry arches inside.  It is used for weddings and concert recitals.  I remember taking my clarinet music exams in there because of the amazing acoustics.  At the back of the hall is the library.  It used to creep me out a bit going back there by myself, as it was always cold and dusty!    My form room for Year 7 was the upstairs classroom (named the Roger North Room).


The building behind the sign contained the classrooms for German & History.  One of the people who had the most profound effect on me when I attended the school was my history teacher Mr Seymour.  I absolutely loved his class and he is one of the main reasons I am continuing on this journey with genealogy.  He always referred to me as his star pupil – I would even put ‘star pupil’ on some of my tests instead of my name!  Now that he has retired from teaching, he wrote a book about the history of the school – ‘Thetford Grammar School’ by David Seymour.

Also on this side of the street were several other classroom buildings and a sports hall.   This side of the road was called the Fulmerston side and it was named after Sir Richard Fulmerston who refounded the school.

Fulmerston Hall

The other side of the road was called the Williamson side – named after Sir Joseph Williamson who left money to help build the Victorian Girls Grammar School.

Gary TroughtonPhoto credit: Gary Troughton Flickr

Pictured above is the School House.  It housed some classrooms, the school reception, staff room and the Headmasters Office.  If you got in trouble, you would get sent to the Headmasters Office and have to stand outside his room (whilst any visitors/teachers walked past and gave you a look of shame!).

Past the School House leads you first to the music room – I used to take clarinet lessons in the tiny practice rooms.  You then reach the Junior School where I spent my first year at the school.


The upstairs held my year 6 classroom and the large windows to the left held a small hall. You would enter the building through the little blue door.  Opposite this building was the other large sports hall – Williamson Hall.  That building also housed the art rooms upstairs and the cafeteria.

Williamson Hall and the Rose Garden

I had many good and bad memories from the school, but nothing can take away from the beautiful historic buildings.  I hope one day to be able to take my own children to tour the school.  I haven’t been back since 2005 and I still vividly remember where everything is!

The History That Surrounds Us – Croxton, Norfolk

Growing up in England, I spent every day surrounded by historical buildings.  They are so common that is just the norm, and you don’t stop to appreciate them.  Churches built in the 15th/16th centuries are common place and a lot of town/city centres have shop buildings built in the 19th century.

Once I moved to Georgia, it was a culture shock to see people referring to buildings built in the late 1800s/1900s as ‘really old’.  That is still relatively modern in England!

I also was lucky enough to spend a year living in Germany – another country rich in history and full of old, beautiful buildings.  I will save that for a future blog post!

From the age of 7 years to 19 years old, I lived in a tiny village on the outskirts of Thetford Forest – the largest lowland pine forest in Britain.  As you entered the village of Croxton, you came over a hill and the first thing you would see is All Saints Church.

Photo Credit : Flickr – Gary Troughton (Croxton: All Saints Church 2014)

At night, it would be lit up and looked rather ominous.  I remember being scared to walk past it in the dark (there were no streetlights in this area of the village).  In the bottom left of the photo above, you can see the building that holds the village shop and post office.  When I was younger, I would help my mum clean the church every couple of months.

It is thought the main tower was built in the 13th Century, and the main body of the church is dated as a 15 Century building.  The church was restored extensively in 1856.

Now as a genealogist, I wish I could go back and visit to truly appreciate the history of this building (and have a look around the graveyard!).


The Dolls House of New Eltham

Heirlooms have always been a source of fascination for me – I come from a small family and was always so jealous to hear people talk of owning their great grandmothers jewelry, or great great grandfather’s war medals.  Now I finally have my own heirloom!

This is a dolls house built by my great grandad Ernest Donald.  He built it sometime in the 1960s for my mother & aunt.  I spent a large portion of my childhood at my Nana’s house in New Eltham, South East London and I always looked forward to playing with the dolls house.

When my parents moved to the US in 2008, they took the dolls house with them.  It remained in the moving box in the basement until earlier this year.  They were clearing their house of ‘junk’ and asked me if I wanted this.


I was excited to see it again and for my kids to have the opportunity to play with it.  I was not expecting the wave of emotion that came over me when I unwrapped it all.   Besides the carpets coming unstuck, the house and contents were in perfect condition.  As I opened its doors, the smell of my Nana’s house hit me.  This caused me to immediately burst into tears, because I miss my grandparents and their house terribly (they are still living in the same house that I visited as a child).  So many memories as I unwrapped all the little furniture.


My children were curious when I pulled it out of the closet today.  We have a lot of pets, so I keep the house tucked away in there to protect it from claws & bites.  They have never played with a dolls house before, and especially one that looks like this!  It is solid wood with real glass windows, opposed to the usual flimsy plastic that modern doll houses are made of.

It made my heart so happy to see their faces light up as I showed them all the little pieces of furniture and the dolls.  My daughter played for with it for well over an hour (a miracle with a 2 year old!).  I have always felt an extra special connection to my great grandad, so it makes it even more bittersweet.  I wonder when he was building it, if he knew that one day his great great granddaughter would be playing with it?   This is one heirloom I hope will continue down through the generations.