A number of significant figures contributed to Norfolk’s burgeoning heritage conservation movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Several of them played important parts in establishing and developing the Norfolk Archaeological Trust. Below are the stories of some of these early Trustees. You can also find them featured within the exhibition at the Norfolk Record Office (6th February- 31st may 2024), which also tells NAT’s ongoing story.

Basil Cozens-Hardy (Basil Cozens-Hardy (second from left in main picture)

Basil Cozens-Hardy (1885-1976) was a solicitor and antiquarian who lived most of his life in Norwich. He suffered a severe leg injury whilst fighting in the First World War, although his disability did not stop him playing cricket (with someone else running for him!). However, his primary passions were history and archaeology. He joined the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in 1919 and was also instrumental in the foundation of the Norwich Society.

Basil Cozens-Hardy supervised the national scheduling of Norfolk’s 190 ancient monuments in 1924. Five years later he was the prime mover for getting the Caistor St. Edmund excavations started. He also took an active role in the dig.

Norfolk Archaeological Trust was founded amidst this initial period of activity, and much of its early development was due to his hard work as Honorary Secretary.

Over the course of his life, Cozens-Hardy made many valuable contributions to Norfolk’s historical record. He frequently wrote for the journal Norfolk Archaeology, and contributed to various Norfolk Record Society publications. He remained NAT’s Honorary Secretary for fifty years and remained involved with the body until very shortly before his death.


Frederick Duleep Singh

(1868-1926) was the son of Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire. His father was exiled to Britain after being deposed as ruler of

Image courtesy of Picture Norfolk

the Punjab. The elder Duleep Singh and his family lived at Elveden Hall on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Born in London, Prince Frederick lived for many years at Blo’ Norton Hall in south Norfolk. The prince was a leading and active member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. In 1921 he bought the Ancient House, a 15th-century townhouse in Thetford, to help restore and preserve it. He donated the building to the town council to be run as a local history museum. To this day it is managed by the Norfolk Museum Service.

Prince Frederick was a founding signatory of Norfolk Archaeological Trust in 1923 and was its first Vice-President.


Ralph Hale Mottram

Ralph Hale Mottram (1883-1971) was a novelist and poet who became a best-selling and award-winning author, whose novels were translated into many languages. His first novel, ‘The Spanish Farm‘ was made into a BBC TV drama series in 1968.

Mottram was born in Norwich and lived in Norfolk all his life, aside from military service in Belgium and France, where he fought in the trenches. He spoke fluent French and became an Army Liaison officer, handling compensation claims from French and Belgian landowners until 1919.

Mottram became involved with Norfolk Archaeological Trust in its early years. He was also a founder member and secretary of the Norwich Society. He was involved in schemes to protect many historic parts of Norwich from demolition and development, including Elm Hill, The Assembly House and Bishops Bridge.

Ralph Hale Mottram was elected Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1953. He continued to be a trustee of NAT until his death.


Ethel and Helen Colmam (third and fourth from left respectively in main picture).

Ethel (1863-1948) and Helen (1865-1947) Colman were daughters of the mustard manufacturer Jeremiah Colman and Caroline Cozens-Hardy. Caroline was Basil’s aunt, making him and the sisters cousins. Helen was a founding signatory of Norfolk Archaeological Trust, and Ethel played a significant role as a council member in the 1920s and 1930s.

The sisters were lifelong companions. When their father died in 1898 Ethel and Helen became very wealthy independent women, who pursued numerous philanthropic interests in Norwich, including the acquisition and conversion of Suckling Hall into a public hall and cinema.

In 1904, they decided they wanted to commemorate their brother Alan, who had died aboard an Egyptian sailing boat, by having a pleasure wherry built. The wherry, Hathor, had an ancient Egyptian-themed interior designed by their brother-in-law, architect Edward T. Boardman, also a NAT trustee. It hosted pleasure trips for the staff of Colman’s Mustard works.

Ethel became the first female Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1923 – the first female Lord Mayor of any British city.

Thank you to all the researchers who have contributed information to this article.

Robin Sampson, Project Archivist.

Images courtesy of :

Top and middle Picture Norfolk.

Bottom NRO.