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Photographs from Bressingham's past

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Liz Handy6 (1)

Continuing our historical theme we’ve been talking to local photographer and author Liz Handy about her fascination with the history of Bressingham’s buildings and people, and about being neighbours with Alan Bloom, Bressingham Steam and Gardens founder.

How long have you lived in Bressingham?

We came to Bressingham back in the early 1970’s.  My Husband was teaching then and we were looking for somewhere we could spend the holidays out of London with our two small children.

We found this house, an old farm labourer’s cottage looking out over fields.  It was completely derelict and needed a lot of work, but there were no neighbours and it was cheap - only £3000!

We bought it and proceeded to renovate very gradually, converting it  from two cottages, 2 up, 2 down into one home.  Over the years we have built on several extensions.

Moving from design to photography (and local history!)

Way back then I was an interior designer but when my children were getting older I went back to school and gained a degree in photography.

My first project followed our neighbours in Bressingham, who were farmers - I recorded their lives for an entire year.

I enjoyed photographing local people so much, and finding out how they lived and worked, that I decided to extend the brief and do the whole village.  That became my first book which I called Behind the View - Portraits of a Norfolk Village.

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Whilst doing the first book I discovered a neighbour had lots of old photographs taken by his Father at the beginning of the century (the 20th century, that is) - amongst them were photos of local people and buildings including Bressingham Hall.

This gave me the idea of revisiting all the places in the old photographs and taking new photo’s of what they looked like in the present day, and write about the who lives there and what goes on in them - Since then I’ve published 4 more books.

Which building featured in your book is particularly special to you?

What was really lucky was amongst the old photos I found one of my own house with a farm labourer and his family (The photo at the top of this post!) dressed in their Sunday best taken outside the cottage - that was particularly special.

When the farm labourer and his family lived here they had no running water, no electricity, no drainage and they worked incredibly hard.

For the book I recreated the old photo with a contemporary photograph of myself in the same location - the front parlour which was then my study - on the telephone and computer talking to people around the world.

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They were tenant farmers, so they didn’t own the land - the farm owner lived down the road in what’s now called “Old Hall”.  It isn’t a farm anymore - all the land has been bought up by other farmers and the Hall itself has been divided up into 2 houses.

We bought our cottage from the original farm owner, Mrs. Green - at that point the building had a demolition order on it, but over the years we’ve completely transformed it.

Photographing the Bloom Family

As a neighbour I already knew Alan Bloom fairly well (the founder of Bressingham Steam & Gardens) - he was interested in my husband’s books which he was familiar with, owning a few.  When I was working on my book I asked Alan if I could take a photograph of him and Bressingham Hall.

At the time I also took a photograph of 3 generations of the Bloom family - Alan, his son Adrian and Robert  and Alan’s grandson Jason.  Both Adrian and Jason are still involved in horticulture (it must be something about having the surname  “Bloom”!) - This photograph still hangs in the newly renovated Bressingham Hall.

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Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on local history?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

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By Alastair Baker at 6 Mar 2017, 00:00 AM