A renowned Great Yarmouth naturalist’s personal passion is set to become a public collection under a generous bequest made by his family.

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Percy Trett’s archive of more than 6,000 photographs was amassed at the garage where he lived and worked for more than 60 years next door to what was to become the Time and Tide Museum. Volunteers there are preparing to digitise every image of the well-ordered and meticulously kept legacy, largely unseen for decades.

James Steward, Eastern Area Manager for Norfolk Museums Service, said the collection was unrivalled and had the potential to reveal new information about Great Yarmouth’s past.

“It is the most significant local studies collection that has been donated to the museum in my time,” he said. “It is a comprehensive and documentary record of the town’s development. The photographic collection is unequalled in terms of a visual archive of Yarmouth’s history.

“Before the latter part of the 19th century we had to rely on illustrations and people’s interpretations. Photographs are an accurate, visual record. For those who are interested you can never see enough pictures of the Rows.”

He said the museum service would keep the images together as the Percy Trett Collection and make it accessible to the public on-line through a programme of digitisation being undertaken by volunteers and likely to take at least a year.

Alongside that, research was being carried out to identify locations and people, using local experts Peter Allard and Michael Bean.

The collection complements the museum’s 20,000 strong store of photographs, mainly of maritime scenes. Mr Trett’s collection, probably itself built from donations people knew would be in safe hands, springs from his insatiable interest in local history.

Starting in the late 19th century the number of images relating to the Rows (tiny Medieval streets where people lived in compact poverty) and the town wall, show they have long been of interest historically.

It also includes unique images from Yarmouth and Gorleston featuring landmarks, as well as a comprehensive visual record of the herring fishing industry.

Despite being well known for his passion for nature, the former EDP columnist was also a magistrate and chairman of the Great Yarmouth and District Local History and Archaeological Society,

The donation will ensure the preservation of the collection in the town for future generations.

Mr Steward added: “This collection is important to the town, and the region, because it contains so many unique images that detail the borough’s development and changing landscape, particularly during the 20th century. Mr Trett was a judicious and learned collector and his hand-written notes and observations annotate much of the collection.”

Mr Trett’s daughter also works at the museum within the visitor services team, continuing a family love for history.

Ormesby-born Mr Trett died in November 2012 aged 86, having retired from the garage business just two years earlier.

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