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Diss and Framlingham land archive could be sold abroad
Diss, Norfolk (Photo: Mike Page)
The land ownership around Diss has changed greatly over the years

Local historians fear a unique collection of documents about land use in Diss could be sold to buyers abroad.

Dating from 1303 to 1700 they show how land in Framlingham, Suffolk, owned by Diss, changed due to the Black Death.

The archive is expected to reach £10,000 at an auction in Ludlow, Shropshire, on 18 November 2010.

"The uniqueness of this archive is that it deals with the same area of land over 400 years," said Richard Westwood-Brookes from Mullock's auctioneers.

"It tells you who owned it or who owned bits of it, what they did with it, how they passed it on and there's also a number of documents to do with a big legal dispute that went on between a local resident who felt that he owned it rather than the people of the town," he added.


The archive is so unique because records of this kind are very rarely found in their complete form.

It details clearly how land passed through a number of hands during a turbulent time in Britain's history.

"It's a fascinating record of how there has been social change and cause by outside influences," said Richard.

"The Black Death wiped out two thirds of the population of England and Wales, so ownership of land changed quite radically. Then you've got the developments of the enclosures when big landlords took over land and enclosed it for their own purposes," he added.

Currently in private hands, there are many bidders abroad who are interested in the archive material and Richard is worried that it could leave the UK instead of remaining in its native Norfolk.

Diss archive documents, Norfolk
The documents show that Diss once owned much of Framlingham in Suffolk

"We are not the only ones who are interested in English history," he said.

"There are many people overseas who are interested in the development of English social cultures, particularly in Japan and in the natural overseas places such as America and Australia, where there are a lot of people from a maritime county like Norfolk.

"I have to wear two hats in this sort of business. My personal cap that I wear is that I always want this sort of material to go to the right place.

"This is all about Diss and this is the place it should end up," he added.

Local hands

Finding out about the auction, Diss Town Council has decided to get in on the act to help the documents land in local hands.

"I forwarded the information to a number of key people in the town and within an hour we had two anonymous pledges amounting to £6,000, so there's definitely a lot of excitement about the possibility of purchasing it for Diss," said town clerk Deborah Sarson.

"We're incredibly excited about the possibilities of the information that they hold and how they could help us with developing various funding bids.

"Most of the people I've spoken to had no idea that at one time Diss owned parts of Framlingham and it creates a very interesting story that we were not aware of.

"Apparently there's information available about family names that run right through the theme of these documents which would be fascinating for those wanting to trace their family history.

"It would be a dreadful shame if they were to be purchased by an overseas buyer and leave the country."

The archive is being auctioned on 18 November 2010.

For more information, visit Mullock's auction house website.

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