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Literary heroes of Broadland

2017 marks the Year of Literary Heroes, such as the 50th anniversary of the death of Arthur Ransome, author of the much loved Swallows & Amazons children's book series. These famous tales see his characters adventure in scenic Broadland locations such as Wroxham and Ranworth. But this is not Broadland’s only literary connection; the area has been home to famed authors and poets, as well as the inspiration for some incredible works.

Some of Broadland’s other literary connections include...

Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty

There are a number of theories behind Anna’s inspiration for Black Beauty. Many believe it was her love of riding, which she often enjoyed in the Norfolk countryside, despite her disability. What is known though is that she wrote the famed novel at a house in Old Catton and when Anna died in 1878 she was buried in the Quaker Cemetery in Lamas.

The chapel is now a home and Anna’s grave has been set into the wall by the gate which is visible from the roadside.

Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein

Formerly known as Mary Godwin, Mary Shelley’s grandfather was the minister for an early Congretional Chapel at St Peter’s Church in Guestwick.

John of Gaunt, appears in Shakespeare’s play Richard II

John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, was the Lord of the Manor in the town of Aylsham and is believed to have founded St. Michael's Church. He appears in Shakespeare’s Richard II and his death-bed speech is one of the most well known in English theatre.

Aylsham church

Michael Mackmin, The Rialto

Aylsham is also home to the poet Michael Mackmin. In 1984 he established ‘The Rialto’ poetry magazine with John Wakeman, which has become a highly respected journal in literary circles.

Reedham Marshes by Edwin Brock

In the poem Reedham Marshes, Edwin describes his experiences of the Reedham waters.

Reedham river and bridge

Parson Woodforde, author of the Diary of a Country Parson

Parson James Woodforde was the priest at All Saints' Church in Weston Longville from 1776. The diary he kept whilst living there is now a recognised record of rural life in the 18th century. It gives details in a wide variety of daily activities and heavily remarks on his meals. This diary is still available to buy today, but the original manuscript is now held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Janet Mark’s Thunder and Lightnings, inspired by RAF Coltishall

The famous RAF base, located at Coltishall, was the inspiration for the children's story Thunder and Lightnings. In the book, Andrew's family move to Norfolk and he becomes captivated with the Lightning fighters which are based at the RAF site.

RAF Coltishall

Norfolk Poem by John Betjeman

The River Bure features in this poem, and the poet laureate later claimed in his BBC programme ‘A Passion For Churches’ that St Peter’s Church in Belaugh began his passion for them. This leads many to believe that this is the church he refers to in the poem.

Wraiths and Changelings by Gladys Mitchell

Ranworth Broad is used as a location in the Wraiths and Changelings, and the scene described in the book is also illustrated on the front cover of the first edition.


Booton Church, Booton

The Church was built by amateur architect, Whitwell Elwin. Elwin, who is thought to be descended from the Native American heroine Pocahontas, was the editor of the Quarterly Review publication from 1853-1860.

Letters collected also show that he had close friendships with literary greats such as Dickens, Thackery, Sir Walter Scott and John Murray. Elwin was also the editor of Alexander Pope's poetry.

Booton is also the village that writer and TV star Stephen Fry grew up in.

Booton church