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Blo' Norton

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

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 railway station:

'...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.'

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

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 getting places').'

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 Duleep Singh

Grave of Frederick Duleep Singh

Prince 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 the church.

Both Elveden Hall and Blo' Norton are now on the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail.


More photographs of Blo' Norton





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