4 new Norfolk books inspired by history

Sally Francis of Norfolk Saffron has helped translate a 350-year-old book about saffron from Latin t

Sally Francis of Norfolk Saffron has helped translate a 350-year-old book about saffron from Latin to English. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

War between Yarmouth and Kent, gold from Norfolk fields, living through lockdown and how a single photograph revealed First World War tragedy

I Shall Not Be Away Long by Andrew Tatham Picture: The Estate of Lt Col Charles Bartlett, and Andre

I Shall Not Be Away Long by Andrew Tatham Picture: The Estate of Lt Col Charles Bartlett, and Andrew Tatham - Credit: The Estate of Lt Col Charles Bartlett, and Andrew Tatham

Did you know that fishermen of Great Yarmouth were at war with sailors from Kent and Sussex through the 1200s?

The herring wars sound vaguely humourous to modern ears, but were literally deadly serious in 13th century Yarmouth, when the town’s herring was exported as far away as the Mediterranean. Skirmishes erupted into a battle in 1297 in which 184 Yarmouth men were killed and 23 of their ships burned.

Their enemy were the powerful officials of the Cinque Ports of Kent and Sussex who levied their own taxes and tolls and were given an official role in Great Yarmouth’s annual herring fair. Huge numbers of fish were sold at the fair and much money could be made so Yarmouth people did not appreciate this foreign interference. The herring war is just one of the intriguing shipwreck facts in Ian Friel’s book Britain and the Ocean Road. Ian also voyages through sea travel and trade, pirates and slavery as he explores the human tragedies behind eight shipwrecks including a British-made warship which fought against Nelson at Trafalgar.

Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks and People, 1297–1825, by Ian Friel, is published by Pen and Sword.

Michelle Gant, of Dereham, with her four-year-old daughter Thea, and the book When the World Paused

Michelle Gant, of Dereham, with her four-year-old daughter Thea, and the book When the World Paused Picture: Michelle Gant - Credit: MICHELLE GANT

Artist and historian Andrew Tatham spent years researching a single photograph. The result is two highly acclaimed books – and the fleshing out of the fascinating lives and often tragic deaths of the 46 men photographed in 1915, including his own great grandfather. First, Andrew of Fulmodeston, near Fakenham, wrote the acclaimed A Group Photograph. The sequel, I Shall Not be Away Long, focuses on one of the men from the original photograph. Andrew found a cache of letters sent almost daily between Lt Col Charles Bartlett and his actress wife Peggy. In the foreword to I Shall Not Be Away Long bestselling novelist William Boyd says: “Of course, these letters were never intended for posterity – and thereby lies their appeal. The voice, the attitudes, the feelings, the anecdotes, the remorseless toll of warfare reverberate in them with an absolute authenticity.”

“The achievement of it, the depth, breadth, humanity, suspense, the 300 strong cast, the meticulousness, brilliant structure and design... It is more than a worthy sequel to A Group Photograph and the two fit beautifully, seamlessly, together.”

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A Group Photograph - Before Now and In-Between told the stories of 46 officers of one battalion, including Andrew’s great grandfather. More than half died during the First World War and many of the 21 survivors were left with terrible physical and psychological damage. Andrew initially thought of it as an art project and the beautifully designed book was published alongside an exhibition in a museum at Ypres in Belgium. It won plaudits from Michael Morpurgo and Melvyn Bragg and Jeremy Vine chose it as one of his Radio 2 books of the year.

Andrew has served as an infantry officer in the Territorial Army and degrees in chemistry and computer science led to a career in the brewing industry and as an information technology lecturer before his work as a historian and artist.

I Shall Not Be Away Long, The First World War Letters of Lt Col Charles Bartlett, curated and designed by Andrew Tatham is published by Arvo Veritas.

Norfolk saffron farmer Sally Francis spent five years helping to translate a rare book about her beloved saffron from the original Latin into English. “Some time ago I learned of a book called Crocologia, published in 1671 and completely dedicated to saffron,” said Sally of Norfolk Saffon, near Burnham Market.

“It sounded fantastic, but it was written in Latin and also extremely rare.”

Sally, an Oxford-educated botanist, worked with Dr Maria Ramandi to translate the book and said she learned a lot about saffron – including some fascinating uses for saffron petals, as well as the threads which are the main crop.

The book explores the origin, cultivation, and properties of saffron, including 17th century beliefs that it could cure various diseases and is updated with a biography of Johann Hertodt and details of the current production and uses of saffron.

Crocologia – A Detailed Study of Saffron, the King of Plants, by Johann Ferdinand Hertodt, translated by Sally Francis and Maria Teresa Ramandi is published by Brill of the Netherlands.

The very recent past is the subject of a remarkable book edited by Michelle Gant of Dereham. In March she began a lockdown blog, partly to capture the experience in words for her young daughter. It attracted contributions from more than 70 people which Michelle has turned into a book, When the World Paused, for sale via Amazon in aid of NHS charities.