Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Snapshots of the past

Princely family at the Hall
An album has recently been discovered by a London historian of an Old Buckenham family, dating around 1900/10. The album belonged to a family who were in the service of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the famous Royal resident at Old Buckenham Hall between 1897 and 1906. The album contains some great early photos of the old Hall and its gardens with a few of the Prince’s siblings, whilst the rest are of the family and friends of the Hall’s employees and the person believed to have originally compiled the album.
Prince Frederick was the second son of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the King of the Punjab. As a minor, the Maharajah was deposed by the British Empire and brought to England in 1854 where he fathered six children. Prince Frederick was amongst the most prominent of his children and had a love for Norfolk, and this is where he spent his whole life. He purchased the Georgian country house, Old Buckenham Hall, in 1897 and extended it considerably. The 340-acre ground came complete with a well-timbered park, commodious stabling, gardens with pleasure grounds and shrubberies. It also included four farms with homesteads, cottages and other small holdings, all of which the Prince tenanted. He had a small sporting ground and often hired adjoining shootings for his personal use. It was the Prince’s custom to hold an annual dinner party for all the estate tenants and from those whom he hired the shootings. He also had a cricket ground built to the rear of the Hall. Although he transformed the grounds into a formal garden he showed great dissatisfaction with his efforts. "Nothing goes right, the garden is a is disgusting...peoples' borders are gorgeous - mine are in swarms" he wrote in his diary entry for 9 October 1904. In 1906 he was house hunting again, putting the Old Buckenham estate on the market advertising it as a ‘A Miniature Mansion in a Miniature Park’. The Prince took temporary residence at Breckles Cottage in the summer of 1906 as a tenant of Charles Bateman Hanbury, and renamed it ‘Breckles House'. It was a modest house compared to the grandeur which he was more used to, situated in the tiny Norfolk village near Attleborough. His final home was the 16th century moated Blo Norton Hall, situated off the main road from Thetford to Diss, where he died in 1926.
As for Old Buckenham Hall, it was purchased by the wealthy broker Lionel Robinson who demolished the old building and rebuilt it on a grander scale. It was later converted to a Preparatory School, but a fire in 1952 put an end to the school and to the building. Old Buckenham Hall was again rebuilt as the present country house.
Peter Bance has traced the album back to a Diss saleroom, where it was sold some years ago by an elderly lady whose family had been employed by the Prince at the turn of the century at Old Buckenham, but has not been able to establish the name of this family. Nothing more is known about the album’s compiler or original owner nor the many people contained in its pages. It is hoped that publishing some of the photos in the newsletter and the newsletter blog will jog some memories.
Some of the images from the album are included with this post in the hope of identifying the family and finding out more about their time with Prince Frederick Duleep Singh at Old Buckenham Hall.
Some of the names mentioned in the album are: Fred Chapman, Daisy, Ted, Sasy, Lucy, Franny, Mary Jones, Annie Jones, Herbert Minck/Mitter, Kathleen Ryan, the King family and Babs. The names may be other employees at the Hall or local villagers of the time.
Any information and memories will be most appreciated by Peter Bance who can be contacted on 020 8509 2406 or sent to him at Coronet House, PO Box 64026, London, E17 0GY. If you prefer they can be emailed to


Anonymous said...

Firstly, thank you for the history of Old Buckenham Hall which is most illuminating.

However, I fear you are mistaken on two points. Firstly, the fire at Old Buckenham Hall did not 'put paid' to the school. It moved firstly to Merton Hall 1952-6, then in 1956 to Brettenham Park near Ipswich whence it flourishes with a most healthy vigour. Wikipedia carries a really good and pretty complete account of the school.

Secondly, I have looked at the early edition OS maps and the current Googlemaps images and cannot see that the house was rebuilt. It is apparent that some new building has taken place on the site but a commodious 'country house' is not apparent. It looks like a working farm, with farmhouse. Perhaps this is what you mean?


newsletter editor said...

Thanks for this. I have copied your information on to the person tat supplied me with the story in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read on Old Buckenham, which for some years i have been researching a family connection and will email you direct with hope you might be able to offer some help.

I thought i might offer a small detail to the comment made on the 13th Oct 2009.
It is fact that after the fire at Old Buckenham School pupils were moved to Merton Hall, i beleive i am right in saying all boys. However in 1956 Merton Hall suffered and was almost distroyed completly from fire which three quarters of the Hall was lost. I would be interested to hear from anyone who may have attended Merton Hall during these yrs 1952-56.
Regards Tony.

Tala Werkz said...

Thanks for an excellent article, I have just returned from visiting Old Buckenham village and the avenue of trees leading to the site of Old Buckenham Hall this morning with my wife, daughter and dog. Thirst to know more is growing and would love to contact the author of this blog if there is an e-mail address to which one can write. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Try with your more specific interest and we may be able to put you on to someone who could answer your questions.
Thank you.