Conservation of Francis Hayman’s Grisaille paintings

At Blickling Hall, you’ll find a substantial number of fine and unique works of art. And thanks to recent donations from the Ashford Trust and the Norfolk Centre, we have just been able to preserve a series of five Grisailles paintings by artist Francis Hayman – one of the founding members of the Royal Academy.

The paintings are significant due to their type, with the word ‘Grisailles’ referring to the greyish, monochrome colour scheme used. As Painting Conservator, Sally Woodcock reveals…

_R9A8152A Grisailles painting may be created for its own sake, or used as an underpainting for the artist to later finish in colour. In the case of Blickling’s collection, little is known about the original use of Francis Hayman’s Grisailles other than they used to hang in the library, but we know they are very much of their time. The fashion in the early 18th century was to hint towards classicism and antiquity, and the Grisailles resemble the frescos and marble reliefs that were popular at this time.

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What is particularly interesting is that, despite the changes in fashion, with a move towards the Arts and Crafts period towards the later part of the 18th century, these paintings have stood the test of time, and remained as valued pieces throughout their lifespan.

The challenge with conservation is to improve and prolong the life of a painting, without changing too much of its surface characteristics – as this would mean removing elements of the painting’s history. So, along with Painting Conservator, Polly Saltmarsh, we have been working carefully on consolidating and cleaning the surface, treating the framework for woodworm and filling in surface cracks.

Conserving the paintwork has been especially challenging, due to the fact the surface is unvarnished and the paint is quite matt; Hayman is thought to have used a higher proportion of pigment to oil to replicate the look and feel of stonework, and this has resulted in it being very porous.

The canvas itself is also unlined. This means any cleaning liquid or glue inevitably soaks through the thirsty surface, and can easily discolour the paintwork. So, Polly and I have consolidated the painting, by filling in any surface cracking with specialist glue and using a hot air blower pen kindly borrowed from Willard Conservation Ltd to set this in place. Once consolidated, I’ve used deionised water to lightly clean the surface of the painting, gently removing excess dirt and debris caused by insects and bats.


The money donated has also helped to carry out preventative conservation to the frames to ensure that they fully support the canvases. Interestingly, it’s been assumed that these black frames with gilded edges are original, but white flecks of paint seen on the sides of the canvas (only visible when the paintings are removed from their frame) perhaps suggest that the frames were actually white originally.

The conservation work we have carried out on this Hayman series will significantly improve the lifespan of these works, embodying the idea of preserving the past forever, for everyone.

Is this the first lamb to be born on Orford Ness?

National Trust shepherd, Andrew Capell has just increased his 98 flock of sheep by one, with the arrival of the first lamb born on Orford Ness Nature Reserve in living memory. And there’s more on the way…


Photo credit: EADT

These woolly conservationists spend April to December grazing the Ness to encourage ground-nesting bird habitats, before spending the winter at nearby Dunwich Heath and Sutton Hoo, where it’s a little drier.

But this is the first year that the flock is expecting lambs, with around 20 females due to lamb over the next few days and weeks. Many are expecting twins, but the Portland breed tends to have a single lamb. Today, the first lamb was born, which is also the first we think in living memory on the Ness. Now mum and lamb will spend 24 hours in a pen to bond.

photo 2

Andrew, who has been a shepherd since he was 16 and is now closer to 50 than 45; has been like an expectant father the last few days, spending nights on the ‘Island’ to make sure he is close at hand when labour starts for these first time mums .

Growing up in a city, it was on holiday to a hill farm in Wales that got Andrew hooked at an early age and he can clearly remember assisting with his first lamb. So, although these first time mums will have a lot to learn in the days and weeks ahead, Andrew is a dab hand. And as he say’s “lambing is the best part of the job”.


He is firmly attached to his growing flock, which numbered just 29 when they were first introduced to Orford Ness from Wimpole Hall Home Farm four years ago. A mixture of rare and native breeds from white faced woodlands, Norfolk horn, Portland, manx, Hebridian, Jacobs and some cross breeds too, all with different personalities.

Of course, Andrew’s task of rounding up and penning the flock would be impossible without his canine companion Kite, who is still in training to become a fully-fledged sheepdog. Now three years old, it takes four years to train a sheepdog, one year for every leg! And it would appear that sheep are always on Kite’s mind, as he was recently glued to the television screen watching BBC’s Lambing Live.

With a large area to graze, the arrival of these extra ‘little mowers’ will not only be a pleasure to see this spring, but will help in the long term conservation management of Orford Ness. Why not look out for them, when Orford Ness re-opens to visitors on Easter Saturday?


Eggs-ploring the Norfolk Coast

Eggs are synonymous with Easter. These days it’s all about the chocolate variety. But, like so many things, inspiration came from nature.

Eggsploring the Norfolk coast - Oystercatcher eggsEggsploring the Norfolk Coast - Sandwich Tern eggs

Oystercatcher eggs (left) and Sandwich Tern eggs (right)

In the next few days, repair work to the Lifeboat House on Blakeney Point will be complete (following last December’s tidal surge) and rangers Ajay, Paul and Sarah will be moving back in – just in time for the start of breeding season, as Ajay explains…

As spring gets underway and we get ready to move back into the ranger accommodation, the birds of Blakeney Point will be getting ready to lay their eggs. There are currently around 700 Black-headed Gulls on the Point, Meadow Pipits are displaying, Linnets are twittering amongst the brambles and pairs of Shelduck have moved into the dunes.

This week we found our first nest of the year; a Mallard’s underneath a Suaeda bush in the gull colony. A careful look revealed a nest containing 22-23 eggs! However, the clutch size is typically around 12 eggs. There are hints of a possible threesome… after a little observation we spotted two females and a male hanging around the nest – a case of egg dumping, where two ducks have laid their eggs in the same nest. We’ll be keeping a close eye to see how things develop.

Eggsploring the Norfolk Coast - Sandwich TernsSandwich Terns

Throughout the coming weeks our signature birds, the Sandwich Terns will be arriving, having migrated from Western Africa. It was a delight to hear their familiar call, when the first Sandwich Terns were spotted just over a week ago. Last year the first one was not seen until the 1st of April due to the cold winter, this year we had 94 by the end of March!

After courtship displaying, these birds settle down and lay their eggs on the shingle. Then by early May, several thousand Sandwich Terns will be incubating their clutches of one or two eggs. By this time a variety of other species will also be sitting on eggs too.

This is when you’re most likely to encounter Oystercatchers. The large black-and-white wading birds with distinctive long, orange bills and pink legs also lay their eggs on the shingle. They lay two to four large speckled brown eggs, perfectly camouflaged from large gulls flying overhead that are partial to eggs for breakfast. Throughout May and June, visitors landing by boat will encounter these birds and their eggs as they walk towards the Lifeboat House, carefully roped off by our rangers to prevent them being trampled on. Oystercatchers benefit from nesting in busy areas as people will scare off large gulls, reducing the chances of losing their eggs to them. But if they are kept off their nests too long they will abandon them, so please have a quick look and then move on.

Eggsploring the Norfolk coast Oystercatcher(c) David Crawshaw


Eggs less likely to be encountered by visitors and even us rangers are those of Grey Partridges. In the past there would be one or two pairs on the Point, but over the last few years, numbers have increased to nine and their chicks seem to be enjoying a good survival rate. Grey Partridges can lay over 20 eggs in their well-hidden nests amongst the undergrowth.

So keep your eyes peeled this spring and careful where you walk! To follow Ajay and the team on the Norfolk Coast, we highly recommend following their blog.

Wool I never!

Paycocke’s in Coggeshall is a great example of the wealth generated in East Anglia by the cloth trade in the 16th century. Now a new exhibition of specially commissioned photographs is about to go on show that explores the building’s origins in the medieval wool trade.

The exterior of Paycocke's House, Colchester, Essex

The Wool Trade Then and Now will reflect on the similarities and differences of the wool trade of today, compared with 500 years ago when the House was built by Thomas Paycocke, a wealthy Tudor wool merchant.

Simon Cranmer from Paycocke’s tells us a little more about the project…

In recent months, photographer Lucy Dalzell, has embarked on a marathon tour of the former wool towns and villages of Essex and Suffolk, capturing images of buildings that, like Paycocke’s House, show the wealth, taste and power of the medieval wool merchants. Included in her tour were the Guildhalls in Lavenham, which in the 16th century was one of the wealthiest towns in Britain. Paying more tax than populous cities such as York and Lincoln, Lavenham was renowned for the quality of its blue woollen cloth, which was in great demand.

Lucy’s journey also took her to a sheep farm near Shrewsbury to capture both the unchanging nature of the business with the old timber-framed farmhouse and prancing lambs, alongside large modern barns in a business where wool is now subordinate to meat thanks partly to the availability of synthetic materials.

Farmhouse Mid Size

She also visited the British Wool Marketing Board depot at Newtown in Powys where fleeces from all over mid-Wales are brought to be graded and packed prior to transport for manufacture into all sorts of products from clothing to carpets. Here there is a contrast between the remarkable scale of the depot and the human face – two men working side by side are father and son, the boy undertaking a five-year traineeship to learn his father’s trade as a wool-grader. At one time it is likely that Paycocke’s House itself was a factory of sorts, as well as a home.

Depot Mid Size

Finally, celebrating the quality and resilience of wool, Lucy undertook a fashion shoot of knitwear at the ancient Grange Barn in Coggeshall. Clothing was provided by companies in support of the Campaign for Wool, a global endeavour initiated by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in order to raise awareness amongst consumers. Pieces by Barbour and Brora alongside those lent by local clothing shop Phoenix of Coggeshall show off the quality and versatility of wool and show that although the glory days of the 16th century are gone there is still a place for British wool today.

The exhibition opens at Paycocke’s on 26 March, when the house and garden open for the spring season. Wednesdays to Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 11am to 5pm. 

Success in search for Melford Hall’s long-lost owner

Melford Hall in Suffolk has finally unearthed a portrait of its long-lost owner – largely thanks to a mysterious little red bag.

Thomas Savage by Cornelius Johnson (detail) 1- Photo (C) Amy Howe-NTSir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage, who inherited Melford Hall in 1602 and is an ancestor of Princes William and Harry, has for a long time been conspicuous by his absence from the walls of the grand house. That was because there was only one known likeness of him, held in a private collection in Yorkshire.

Now that is all set to change after experts discovered a painting, thought for 200 years to be a 17th century Archbishop of York, which is in fact of Savage.

We asked Wendy Monkhouse, National Trust curator for Melford Hall, to explain…


Sir Thomas Savage was an influential man and held the important post of Chancellor to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I. Whoever held this post was painted with a richly-embroidered red purse of office, bearing the cipher ‘HMR’ for Henrietta Maria Regina.

When a painting arrived for auction at Christie’s listed as John Williams, a 17th century Archbishop of York, it caused some interest because it showed him sitting with the little red purse of office. Williams had never held the post and further research by Christie’s unearthed the truth – that it was not Williams in the picture after all, but Savage.

Savage was Chancellor to the Queen from the mid-1620s until his death in 1635. Comparison with the painting in Yorkshire strongly suggested this was the same man.

Thomas Savage by Cornelius Johnson (detail) 2- Photo (C) Amy Howe-NT

Thomas Savage by Cornelius Johnson (detail) 4- Photo (C) Amy Howe-NTThomas Savage by Cornelius Johnson (detail) 5- Photo (C) Amy Howe-NT


The National Trust acquired the painting at auction and immediately sent it off for conservation work at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge. While there, the hidden signature of Cornelius Johnson, a London painter from a Flemish/German immigrant family, was discovered beneath heavily darkened varnish. Alongside it was the date 1632. This identified both the painter, which had only been suspected, and confirmed the painting dated to when Savage held the office of Chancellor to the Queen.

So, largely thanks to the clues offered up by a mysterious little red bag, a portrait of Sir Thomas Savage will finally take its place on the walls of Melford Hall. The painting of Savage will hang alongside that of his wife, Elizabeth, reunited at last. Their descendants include Princess Diana, Princes William and Harry, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Sarah Ferguson, the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, the scientist Sir Francis Galton, Bertrand Russell and Lord Lucan.

Sir Thomas Savage by Cornelius Johnson- Photo copyright Amy Howe-NT

Photo credits: Amy Howe

Luke Potter, National Trust General Manager at Melford Hall, added:

“To finally have a painting of Sir Thomas Savage hanging on the walls will be wonderful. It will complete our collection and brings a long search to a close. Our volunteers have been looking for paintings of Savage for many years and have worked very hard, visiting the only known likeness in Yorkshire. We are all delighted to have found a painting of him and to have secured it forever for the nation.”

The painting will be on public display when the hall reopens on Wednesday 2 April.

The animals went in two by two…

If someone said to you to start counting sheep, you’d probably think they were offering advice on sleeping techniques. However, at Wimpole it was in fact time for their annual stocktake of animals down at Home Farm!

Piglets sleeping at Wimpole Home Farm, Cambridgeshire. Photo: National Trust Images / Robert Morris

Victoria Hopkins is one of our Finance Business Partners, and although she’s not confined to her desk, once a year she rather enjoys donning her welly boots and heading to Wimpole Home Farm with her calculator in hand. Because let’s face it – counting animals isn’t your average stocktake or day at the office! As Vic fills us in…

As part of our financial year end we have to value all of our assets, whether that’s items in our retail or catering outlets, or the animals we are rearing at Home Farm that we intend to sell on. So, Richard Morris, Farm Manager at Wimpole; our independent valuer, Keith Preston from Savills and myself all meet up once a year for the annual count.

Our day starts at around 8.30am and it takes us about 4 hours to count all of the animals. They are all in relatively small flocks / herds and we don’t move them during the day, so once one area is counted there is no risk of double counting them!

Cattle in the park in July at Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire.

Photo: National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Most animals are counted where they are, with no intervention from us. This is especially important with the heavily pregnant ewes as we don’t want to put them under any unnecessary stress so close to giving birth. The only ones that are different are the lambs, which were born during 2013. We run these through a chute (narrow channel) in single file from one field / enclosure to the next. This allows us to get an incredibly accurate number.

As we’re often counting around lambing time, we have to be sure to only include animals which were born on 28 February or earlier. So, the team let us know the birth date of any lambs or calves that we see.

It does take a few days for Farm staff to get everything prepared, they draw us diagrams of the different areas of the farm and note which animals are where, and do a preliminary count so that we have a rough idea whether we’re counting the right numbers. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to count some of the animals. The sheep are definitely the hardest, as they’re spread out in fields and often lie down behind another, so you can’t see them!

The afternoon is then spent looking at the crops – what’s in the grain store and what new seeds we’ve bought in ready to sow, which takes us the rest of the afternoon. Then it’s back to the office to compare notes.

Shire horses at Wimpole Home Farm, Cambridgeshire; the farm was built in 1794 and is now home to a variety of rare animal breeds

Photo: National Trust Images / David Levenson

So how many animals did we have at the end of this year’s count? There were in fact 409 sheep, 134 cattle, 64 pigs, 7 goats, 11 horses, 320 laying hens and 2 turkeys. That makes 947 animals – many of which are rare breeds. That’s just a little shy of last year, when we had 1,070 animals. The big difference is that we have far fewer sheep this year compared to last.

I can safely say I didn’t have any trouble getting to sleep that night!




Anglo-Saxon royal village is discovered near Sutton Hoo

Archaeologists in Suffolk have found conclusive evidence of the long-lost Anglo-Saxon royal settlement, whose people buried their kings at Sutton Hoo.

Standing with spear and shield in front of mound - R

A team of skilled metal detector users have been working for the last five years on farmland, four miles north-east of the Sutton Hoo burial site, where a diverse range of finds have been discovered. These include fragments of exquisite gold jewellery, Saxon pennies and weights associated with trade, and metal offcuts from a smith’s workshop.

The archaeological survey began in 2008, after landowner Sir Michael Bunbury alerted Suffolk County Council to signs of illegal looting taking place.

Now, for the first time the items will go on display to the public, as the National Trust hosts a small exhibition of the finds, Rendlesham Rediscovered, in its visitor centre at Sutton Hoo. The finds going on display comes in what is already an exciting year for Sutton Hoo, as the National Trust celebrates 75 years since Basil Brown discovered the original Anglo Saxon burial site.


The royal settlement at Rendlesham is mentioned by the Venerable Bede in his 8th century work An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but was not located until now.

Councillor Richard Smith Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning  said:

“We are very grateful to Sir Michael Bunbury who alerted us to ongoing illicit looting on his land and has allowed the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service and the metal detecting team regular access to his fields. From the start it was clear that this site produced exceptionally important finds that could relate to the royal settlement cited in Bede, the combination of the exemplary work by the detector users with other survey methods is allowing us to build a detailed picture of past activity, including international trade and fine metalworking.”

Archaeologists have used metal-detecting, aerial photography, chemical analysis and geophysics – a process of scanning the ground beneath the surface for evidence of buried features – to locate the 50 ha Anglo-Saxon site within a survey area covering up to 160ha.

Horse harness fitting

Professor Christopher Scull, of Cardiff University and University College London said:

“The survey has identified a site of national and indeed international importance for the understanding of the Anglo-Saxon elite and their European connections. The quality of some of the metalwork leaves no doubt that it was made for and used by the highest ranks of society. These exceptional discoveries are truly significant in throwing new light on early East Anglia and the origins of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.”

The survey has revealed human occupation and activity at Rendlesham from late prehistory up to the modern day, with a particularly large, rich and important settlement there during the early to middle Anglo-Saxon period. This means it would have been inhabited during the early 7th century, at the same time that the internationally-famous burial mounds were built at Sutton Hoo.


Martin Payne, the National Trust’s Learning and Interpretation Officer at Sutton Hoo said:

“This exhibition will, for the first time, allow people to rediscover Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham and gain further insight into the Anglo-Saxons who buried their kings at Sutton Hoo. It is a unique and exciting opportunity to find out about how those kings and their dependents spent their days and lived their lives. It is a relatively small exhibition, with around 70 small objects on show, but the finds are of huge historical and archaeological significance and well worth seeing. Looking at these objects up close you really do get a feel for the people who once lived here, more than 1,300 years ago.”

The new discoveries are being temporarily housed at Sutton Hoo before moving to a new, purpose-built permanent exhibition space at Ipswich Museum.

Cllr Bryony Rudkin, Ipswich Borough Council’s Culture portfolio-holder, said:

“This is a significant exhibition and will attract many, many visitors to the impressive Sutton Hoo site. We are pleased to have been involved in this project and to have lent some of our own objects for the exhibition. We’re delighted that we’ll be able to exhibit the new finds at Ipswich Museum in the autumn and to continue the museum’s relationship with Sutton Hoo which began when the Ipswich Museum curator, Basil Brown discovered the site 75 years ago”

The archaeological survey project has been funded and sponsored by Suffolk County Council, the Sutton Hoo Society and English Heritage, with a substantial input of volunteer time. The temporary exhibition display has been funded and is hosted by the National Trust.

The National Trust exhibition at Sutton Hoo will run from Saturday 15 March through to October.

Wimpole wheat goes into new ‘Cambridge Loaf’

A genuinely local loaf has just arrived. The Cambridge Loaf is made from organic wheat grown on the Wimpole Estate, milled at Fosters Mill in the East Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior and baked at Cobs Bakery in Cambridge. In fact, as far as food miles are concerned, it will be under 30 miles in total from the fields of Wimpole to the local shops stocking it.

Wimpole_cambridge loafAbi Erian, Wimpole’s Trainee Farm Manager reveals all…

This is a true first for us, this joint venture between the National Trust at Wimpole Estate, miller Jonathon Cook and baker Alan Ackroyd, means that we’ve been able to produce a loaf with local provenance at its heart.

We grew 100 tonnes of a spring wheat called Mulika last year, which has excellent grain quality, with a very good protein content. Therefore it is good enough to use in baking and what better way than to create a delicious new Cambridge loaf.

Fosters Mill at Swaffham Prior, run by Miller Jonathon Cook, is a fully working windmill; producing a range of organic flours, milled using wind power only. They grind wheat sourced from local farms and Jon is a passionate sourdough baker, rigorously checking the quality of wheat and flours by baking with them to ensure the quality of the product.

Alan at Cobs Bakery has a passion for bread-making and already has a range of organic breads featuring the products of skilled local millers such as Jonathan Cook at Foster’s Mill. Cobs Bakery is a regular feature at Farmers Markets across the area with a local reputation for great bread.

So we’re delighted to say that the Cambridge Loaf will now be available in the Stable Shop at Wimpole on Saturdays (whilst stock last) and will also be available from 12 local farm shops and also online from Cobs Bakery. In addition to the bread, bags of flour will also be on sale so visitors can even try baking at home with Wimpole flour.

Restoring water levels in Oxburgh’s moat

Did you know that the moat at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk helps to keep the building standing? Last year a project was started to restore the water levels in the moat, which protects the foundations of the Hall and has helped to keep it standing for more than 500 years.

The south and west ranges at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.

(photo credit: National Trust Images/Robert Morris)

Our building surveyor, Paul Coleman, explains…

During 2013 staff noticed that the water levels in the moat were noticeably dropping. The reason – the River Gadder, which flows through the Estate and feeds the moat, had started to develop some leaks in its man-made engineering structures (a sluice and weir).

These structures in the river help to manage the water levels in the moat, and in turn keep the foundations of the Hall wet, preventing the drying out and shrinkage of the ground below them. This would pose a risk of damage from subsidence, so urgent work began to carry out repairs to the river’s banks, brick weir and sluice. We also removed 750 cu m of silt from the river bed, as the river and its low lying river banks form a natural habitat for lots of fauna and flora.

We now have a river full of water, flowing into the moat and maintaining higher water levels than we’ve ever had before. The work will also have improved the water quality, which will encourage a greater diversity of species, allowing them to continue and flourish.

The works took place on a stretch of river that flows through My Lady’s Wood on the Estate. What’s great is that the work has also enabled us to partly restore this area of woodland. It now looks more like its original
19th century design, including the opening of more breath-taking views back towards the Hall. The improvements have also provided a water-way for otters to visit Oxburgh and we still have an active water vole population, so keep your eyes peeled the next time you visit.

Discovery under the floorboards

You never know what you’re going to find when you start to lift up floorboards, but when you’re inside a grand historic mansion such as Wimpole Hall, the discovery is all that more exciting. Conservator, Chris Calnan takes up the story… 


Last year Wimpole Hall underwent a major rewiring project, which affected most of the rooms in the Hall at one time or another. Project Conservator, Mary Luckhurst, was in charge of dealing with all of the arrangements to plan and protect the contents, as many of the rooms had to be emptied in order to lift floorboards for cable laying.

The project started in the rooms just off the main visitor route, and it was in one of these that an unusual discovery was made. In an attic room at the front of the house, a floorboard was removed to check on a cable run when Mary’s keen eyes noticed a shoe lying beyond the opening. Remarkably, it had lain undisturbed for over 200 years and had not been spotted when the previous cable was laid.

So, what was a shoe doing under the floorboards? It was not there by accident. Its owner had placed it quite deliberately in a very old superstitious practice – common across the land – to guard against evil and witchcraft! It was thought necessary to place potent charms or devices around the house, especially at entry points, to protect the occupants from any evil. These entry point charms were typically by doors and windows, in chimney fireplaces (witches can of course fly) or under hearths.

Shoes have been found in concealed locations, typically squirreled away under floorboards or inside chimneys. All the shoes that have previously been found have been used and most were well worn like the Wimpole shoe (it was thought that a shoe shaped by its owner would retain their spirit and act as a potent decoy for any evil entering the house).

The shoe found at Wimpole is a right shoe, which belonged to a man who had a pronounced bunion. A typical 18th century shoe, we can narrow its date down to the 1740s to 1760s, due to its heel and toe shape. It has two loose front flaps, which would have been held by a buckle. The shoe has a worn-out sole and the compacted remains of mud and plant fibres would have come from field walking. It is missing its buckle and has a thin rectangular strip cut from one side to reuse the leather.

Although the East of England region is a rich resource for concealed shoes, hag stones and buried bellarmine witch bottles, this is the first concealed shoe that we’ve found in one of our places, although quite spookily we found one at Blickling Hall in Norfolk just a few weeks later! We do have a number of other concealed items and ritual (apotropaic) markings. At Thorington Hall there is a superstitious mark of a roundel with internal petals called a daisywheel that has been inscribed into the old oak newel post on the back stairs, where the post faces a window.

Lavenham Guildhall not only has an inscribed daisywheel on a mantle beam, but also a mummified cat named Ramesses, which came from the roof of a nearby property. However, one of our best hidden secrets and still lying in its original hiding place, is the cat concealed under the attic floorboards at the Elizabethan House in Great Yarmouth. The last find is yet to be fully cat-a-logged!

You can see the newly discovered shoe on display at Wimpole Hall from Saturday 1 March. It will form part of a new exhibition, which will include the 320 other items that were found during the project – from items of food, letters, children’s toys, animal bones, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper cuttings. They all offer a glimpse into another era.