NORFOLK, UK—A hundred and fifty years ago this month, a child was born to a Maharajah not in India but in London. The child was Prince Frederick Duleep Singh. His father was Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Punjab. Prince Frederick was an avid collector and his interest in local history will be celebrated on Saturday 20 January at Ancient House, the museum he helped found and at the nearby Thomas Paine Hotel.
Prince Frederick Duleep Singh was born on January 23, 1868. During his youth he lived at Elveden Hall and was educated at Eton and studied history at Magdalene College, Cambridge. The Prince lived in several homes in Norfolk, Old Buckenham Hall, Breccles House and finally Blo’ Norton Hall where he moved in 1906. He was a keen gardener and had a folly built which looked like a Greek Temple at the end of a long avenue of lime trees. He would walk down from the Hall to the church on Sunday mornings in a chalk-stripe suit, with hat and stick. In the summer of 1906, Virginia Woolf had stayed at Blo Norton Hall and it provided the setting for her short story, The Journal of Miss Joan Martyn.
Frederick joined the Suffolk Yeomanry as Second Lieutenant in 1893 and was promoted through the ranks. In 1901, he was transferred to the Norfolk Yeomanry as Major. In 1909, he resigned from the Yeomanry, but at the outbreak of war in 1914 he re-joined. He served in France with training units from 1917 to 1919.
Frederick became an amateur archaeologist and historian, specializing in East Anglia and its gentry. He contributed to a number of local periodicals. He was a member of a number of societies, including the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society (President in 1925–6), the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, the London Society of East Anglians (President), the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, and the Diss Choral Society, and belonged to White’s and the Carlton Club in London.
Using his income from the India Office of £2,000 a year, Prince Frederick built up a collection of books and objects of antiquarian interest. As his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says “Dreading the restorer’s zeal, he advocated repairing old landmarks to retain their character, urging local residents to ‘preserve every bit of tangible history’ that still existed in parish churches.’” In Norwich he was instrumental in saving a number of churches including St Peter’s, Hungate, St Peter’s near Elm Hill and St Swithin’s which is now Norwich Art Centre. Prince Frederick was approached by Thetford Borough Council to help create a museum for the town and in 1921 bought Ancient House in Thetford and gave it to the town as the ‘Public Museum’ charity and paid for its restoration for use as a museum. He also donated paintings and artefacts which are still on display.
To celebrate Prince Frederick’s 150th birthday, Ancient House is throwing its doors open for free on Saturday 20 January 10am to 4pm.Visitors will be able to find out about Prince Frederick’s life by meeting costumed characters playing a solider from the Anglo-Sikh Wars, servants at Elveden Hall and a First World War solider. A family trail will highlight artefacts donated by Prince Frederick and Oliver Bone, Curator will be on hand to answer questions about Prince Frederick’s legacy. Speaking about the event curatorial trainee Sam Bellotti said: “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to say thank you to Prince Frederick and also explore the story of his wider family. We are hosting a pop-up display about this father, Maharajah Duleep Singh and we will also have a costumed suffragette character talking about Prince Frederick’s sisters and their links to the suffrage movement. This is particularly relevant as 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time.”
In the evening the Thomas Paine Hotel is hosting a dinner and quiz in Prince Frederick’s honour. The quiz has been devised by Peter Bance, Sikh historian who wrote Maharajah: Sovereign, Squire, Rebel and was a consultant on The Black Prince movie released in 2017. Dinners will enjoy a guided tour of Ancient House and have the opportunity to win wonderful prizes including a signed copy of Peter Bance’s book, a luxury afternoon tea for two or a bottle of prosecco.
Happy Birthday Prince Frederick Family Event at Ancient House
Saturday 20 January 2018
10am to 4pm
Prince Frederick Duleep Singh’s 150th Birth Anniversary Dinner and Quiz at the Thomas Paine Hotel
Saturday 20 January
£25 per person
To book your place please call: 01842 750372.
About Ancient House, part of Norfolk Museums Service
Thetford’s Ancient House is an atmospheric museum where visitors can discover and enjoy the remarkable story of the Brecks and the people who have made it their home. Alongside the beautiful collections, displays, interactives and special exhibitions, the museum has an events and activities programme throughout the year that is designed to enhance this experience in fun and stimulating ways.
Ancient House was recently named the winner of the EDP ‘Visit Norfolk Tourism Awards’ Best Visitor Attraction in the under 50,000 category. The warm welcome, variety of activities for different audiences and enthusiastic staff were particularly noted by the judges. The museum offers a stimulating environment for learning and enjoyment. The events programme forms part of our audience development work and is designed to be interactive, accessible and appeal to all.
We are excited to announce that the shop at Ancient House has been awarded the Let Toys Be Toys ‘Toymark’ Good Practice Award. This award credits retailers that are doing a great job of offering toys to girls and boys alike. We join other museums, including The Manchester Museum, in gaining this recognition.
Ancient House is part of Norfolk Museums Service. This partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s district councils is funded through council tax, earned income and grants.
Melissa Hawker, Norfolk Museums Service can be reached at email@example.com