Blo' Norton is a small village on the Norfolk-Suffolk
border. It lies on the River Little Ouse just above Blo' Norton Fen.
The name probably derives from a 'bleak or cold north
enclosure' (blaw + north + tun).
In the summer of 1906 Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) came
to stay at Blo' Norton Hall. The hall, a moated
Elizabethan manor, lies at the end of a long avenue of
lime trees immediately before Blo' Norton Church.
Blo' Norton Hall
(Photograph by Dale Reynolds)
The hall provided the setting for her short story
The Journal of Miss Joan Martyn. In the story the
main character, Rosamund Merridew, is a historian
researching England's land-tenure system.
This part of Norfolk is particularly isolated and
Woolf records in her diary the journey from Diss
'...every mile seemed to draw a thicker curtain than the
last between you & the world. So that finally, when you are set
down at the Hall, no sound whatever reaches your ear;
the very light seems to filter through deep layers; &
the air circulates slowly, as though it had but to make
the circuit of the Hall, & its duties were complete.'
While staying at Blo' Norton, Virginia used to cycle
around the Norfolk lanes and visited various places
including Thetford and Kenninghall.
Nearly a century later another visitor - this time the
nature writer Richard Mabey (see
Roydon) - noted the Woolf connection in his
exquisitely written book Nature Cure:
'One evening, free-range reading, I discovered that
Virginia Woolf had spent a summer here in 1906, when she
was twenty-four years old. She was staying at Blo'
Norton hall, and rode to Diss on her bicycle. She must
have passed by our farmhouse. In her journal she
described a watery landscape, humming with dragonflies
and the marzipan smell of the meadowsweet, and confessed
to falling into the river ('though a walk in the fen has
a singular charm, it is not to be undertaken as a way of
In 1906 Prince Frederick Duleep Singh rented the hall
and lived there for the last 20 years of his life. (He
had previously lived at Breckles and Old Buckenham
Hall.) Although not a writer, the Prince bequeathed a
unique collection of Norfolk manuscripts to the county
when he died - including papers belonging to the
Yarmouth shoemaker poet David Service. The collection is
now housed by the Norfolk Record Office.
Grave of Frederick
Frederick claimed that Blo' Norton Hall was the oldest
inhabited house in Norfolk. Frederick, who was the son of the Maharajah Duleep Singh who
lived at nearby Elveden Hall, died in 1926. He is buried in
Blo' Norton churchyard
and there is a memorial to him inside
Both Elveden Hall and Blo' Norton are now on the
Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail.
More photographs of Blo' Norton