From Tuesday 6th February a new exhibition will be on display in the Long Gallery of the Norfolk Record Office (NRO)

‘The Norfolk Archaeological Trust: Past, Present and Future’ showcasing a century of NAT’s work to secure, maintain and protect the county’s archaeological sites.

A unique opportunity to delve into the past, appreciate the present, and support the future of archaeological preservation. The exhibition is FREE and open Monday to Friday 09.30am to 5.00pm, 6th February- 31st May 2024, in the Long Gallery, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ.

Visitors will embark on a historical journey, exploring the remarkable achievements of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust (NAT) over its first 100 years. The exhibition not only highlights past accomplishments but also sheds light on the crucial ongoing role NAT plays in preserving Norfolk’s rich heritage.

It is part of a wider project, the Norfolk Archaeological Trust: Its Centenary and Beyond Project (NAT 100 for short), which is made possible thanks to an award by The National Lottery Heritage Fund of £118,000 in March 2023. The project is helping Norfolk Archaeological Trust, in partnership with the NRO, to celebrate its first hundred years and improve its resilience for the future.

NAT was founded in 1923, a time when the post-war drive for slum clearance, road widening, and other improvements were putting many buildings under threat of demolition. Many people are familiar with the crooked frontage of the timber-framed Augustine Steward’s House on Tombland, but did you know that it was NAT rescued and restored it in 1924?  The exhibition raises awareness of NAT’s early history and sheds light on the lives of its founding council members.

Ethel and Helen Colman, daughters of the mustard manufacturer Jeremiah Colman were two early council members. Outside of NAT they played important roles in Norfolk’s emerging conservation movement in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the acquisition and conversion of Sucking Hall into a public hall and cinema, now known as Cinema City. Ethel was also the first female Lord Mayor of Norwich- the first female Lord Mayor of any British city.

Natalie Butler, NAT director, said “We’ve really pleased to be sharing the stories from the archive about the significant role NAT has played in protecting Norfolk’s monuments and buildings. In particular it has been fascinating to find out more about the lives of its early council members such as Basil Cozens Hardy and Ethel Colman.  We’re delighted to have this opportunity to raise greater public awareness about the legacy of the Trust and its founding members. With thanks to The National Lottery Fund and National Lottery players, the NAT 100 project will also enable us to look to the future and our programme of events will focus on bringing new audiences to enjoy our sites.”

The past 100 years has seen many challenges for NAT; a fire in 1933 that destroyed Sprowston Mill, the day before NAT was due to take ownership of it, bomb damage of its sites in the Second World War, and in more recent years the impact of climate change.

NAT currently cares for ten monuments in the county. Together they tell the story of Norfolk’s history over thousands of years:  Fiddler’s Hill Barrow(a pre-historic burial mound), iron age sites at Tasburgh Enclosure and Bloodgate Hill Fort, Roman sites at Caistor Roman Town and Burgh Castle Fort , medieval monasteries at Binham Priory, St Benet’s Abbey, and Burnham Norton Friary, Middleton Mount (a castle mound), and Pykerell’s House, a privately-leased, Grade II* listed Tudor house in Norwich. As NAT looks toward the future, the exhibition also emphasises the ongoing need for support to ensure its continued success.


On display are fascinating archaeological finds found at NAT sites from NAT’s own collection and from the Norfolk Museum Service collection, original documents from NAT’s archives and other collections held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), and items from the Norfolk Historic Environment Record.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, said: “We’re delighted that the Norfolk Record Office is a partner on this project and are looking forward to hosting this exhibition and sharing items from within the NAT archive and others within the NRO collection. We’ve already gained so much knowledge of and insight into the past thanks to the work of the NAT over it’s first century, and I know future generations will be as grateful for their hard work as we are. Thank you as well to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting this project”

The exhibition has been a real collaborative effort with NAT volunteers providing research for the different themes, and the Norwich Young Archaeologists’ Club curating a part of the exhibition.

There are lots more NAT100 events happening over the next few months, with Morris dancers wassailing the orchard at Fiddler’s Hill, Roman inspired family craft activities at NRO and Burgh Castle, plus much more! Check out the events page of our website to find out more


Top right – Early NAT council members Basil Cozens-Hardy, Ethel Colman and Helen Colman. Courtesy of Picture Norfolk, BRN 712703.

Top left-The burned central post of Sprowston Mill (March 1933) Courtesy of the George Plunkett Estate, GP B506