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Our History

History of Bressingham Steam and Gardens

1946 - Alan Bloom comes to Bressingham
Alan Bloom first came to Bressingham when he purchased Bressingham Hall, an impressive "Gentleman's Small Estate" set in 220 acres of grounds. Originally designed as a farmhouse, the house was of Georgian origin, built in the 1760's for Norwich surgeon and farmer Robert Colman. Upon purchasing Bressingham Hall, Alan Bloom wholeheartedly threw himself into building and enlarging the farm and nursery.

1955 - Alan creates ' Island Beds'
Alan began work enlarging the small pond in the grounds to form an impressive two-acre lake, which can be seen in the gardens to this day. Alan then decided to take advantage of the magnificent trees and meadow by creating an informal garden. At first, the intention was not to make a public display garden but to develop a collection of hardy plants. In order to achieve the ideal setting for his plants, Alan developed the idea of 'island beds' and over the next five years, his garden grew at the rate of an acre a year.

1961 - From Stems to Steam
The nursery business had by now grown to become the largest nursery of its kind in Europe , with success in both wholesale and retail. Having achieved so much, Alan turned his attention to his other passion - steam! In January 1961, Alan collected his first traction engine, a Burrell traction engine called 'Bertha'. By the end of 1962, Alan had collected 14 engines, representing all types of road steam engines. 1965 - The Garden Railway
In 1965 the first of the narrow-gauge railways was laid. Several different routes were tried, eventually leading to the four railways which remain in the gardens today.

1968 - Steam Trains and Roundabouts
Alan had erected the first of the locomotive sheds designed to house standard-gauge engines, soon also to be in steam giving footplate rides. During this time the Gallopers roundabout arrived and on August 19th 1968, 'Oliver Cromwell' and 'Thundersley' joined the Bressingham Collection.

1972 - Royal Scot arrives at Bressingham
Four further locomotives arrive, including the famous 'Royal Scot' which was initially on loan from Butlin's. Shortly afterwards, Bressingham Steam Preservation was formed as a Charitable Trust with Alan Bloom as chairman. Development has continued with the building of the museum to house the many traction engines, the Royal Coaches and railway memorabilia and the stationary engine display. The Fire Museum complemented the steam pumps and engines perfectly.

1995 - The 'Alan Bloom' locomotive
The Garden railway was re-laid and the 'Alan Bloom' locomotive was built by Bressingham Steam Museum engineering staff for the line.

2000 - Dad's Army arrives at Bressingham
The official Dad's Army Collection of original memorabilia and items used in the BBC TV series was opened, set in a perfectly re-created ' Walmington-on-Sea' High Street.

2005 - Alan Bloom 1907-2005
Alan's achievements are recognised with the Award of the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society and an MBE. In 2005, having devoted so much of his life to developing Bressingham Steam and Gardens, Alan Bloom died at his beloved Bressingham Hall, home for over 50 years, aged 98.

2011 - The Collection reaches 50 years of age
The first item of Alan's Steam Collection has been at Bressingham for 50 years.