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Black History at Ancient House

Celebrating Black History Month at Ancient House, Thetford

For the first time Ancient House is running a month of exciting events linked to Black History Month.

Discover how the stories of the Duleep Singh family, the Minns family and many others are integrated into the history of the museum and its collection.

Black History Month is the opportunity to celebrate black prominent figures, past and present, who have lived remarkable, inspirational lives, whose achievements play out their legacies to this day.

This year Black History Month links with the centenaries of Women’s Suffrage and the end of the First World War.

Throughout October, Ancient House will pay tribute to the memory of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Princess Catherine Duleep Singh whose mother was black. Both princesses campaigned for women’s rights.

Black History at Ancient House

The museum will also feature the stories of two black officers who served in the First World War: Allen Noel Minns and Prince Frederick Duleep Singh. Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the museum’s founder served in France and his uniform is on display at the museum. Major Allen Noal Minns, whose father was from the Bahamas, served with outstanding gallantry. He received the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and was twice mentioned in Despatches. This was at a time when the military rulebook barred black or coloured people from becoming officers in the British Army.

A more recent prominent black figure featured in Ancient House’s Pride of the People exhibition is Justin Fashanu, the first £1 million black footballer. He grew up near Thetford and scored 40 goals for Norwich City Football Club.

Museum Curator, Oliver Bone, said “We are thrilled to be celebrating Black History Month here at Ancient House. It is a wonderful opportunity to explore the museum’s black history connections and discover little known stories.”
Dr Allen Glaysier Minns became Britain’s first black mayor when he was elected Mayor of Thetford in 1904. His grandmother, Rosette, was an African slave who was transported to the Bahamas. Dr Minns came to Britain to study medicine, he had a practice in Thetford and was doctor at Thetford Workhouse. His son, Allen Noel Minns, attended Thetford Grammar School.

Princess Catherine, Princess Sophia and Prince Frederick all grew up at Elveden Hall, just four miles away from the museum. Their father was the last Maharajah of the Punjab and their mother, Maharini Bamba, was born in Egypt and was of Abyssinian descent. Explore the intervention exhibition showcasing the extraordinary life of Maharajah Duleep Singh. The exhibition features a display of Sikh miniatures from the 19th Century, a selection of artefacts donated to the museum by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and “Casualty of War”, a painting recording the life and death of Maharajah Duleep Singh by renowned British contemporary artists, The Singh Twins. The painting on loan from National Museums Scotland is a colourful and fascinating examination of the two cultures – British and Punjabi – which shaped the life of Duleep Singh, who lived at Elveden Hall. This exhibition is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Princess Catherine, a dedicated campaigner for women’s rights, lived happily with a woman, Lina Schafer, for most of her life. Their love affair features in Ancient House’s current exhibition Pride of the People: Helping History Out of the Closet. This exhibition was curated by Teenage History Club.

Black History Month at Ancient House is filled with events for all ages. For families there is a fun museum trail to find objects around the museum connected with black history. For adults and teenagers there is Z List Dead List comedy night with Iszi Lawrence featuring black people from history. For everyone there are Queer History Tours with a particular focus on black history, run by Teenage History Club, and fascinating museum displays.

Black History Month Trail
Tuesday 2nd October-Wednesday 31st October
50p plus museum admission

Queer History Tours
Saturday 6th October 2pm
Saturday 13th October 2pm
Saturday 27th October 11am and 2pm
Tours are free but must be booked in advance
01842 752599

Z List Dead List comedy night
6th October 2018 7pm
Adult: £4.50
Concession*: £4.25
Child (4-18): £3.80
(Tickets must be booked in advance)
01842 752599