Rare civil war document discovered in Norfolk house clearance to go under the hammer

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:09 22 March 2020

The Norfolk Civil War letter which is to be auctioned at Keys. Picture: Keys Auctioneers and Valuers

The Norfolk Civil War letter which is to be auctioned at Keys. Picture: Keys Auctioneers and Valuers


A rare and fascinating piece of Norfolk history is set to go under the hammer next week, dating from the middle of the English Civil War.

The letter, sent by the Duchy Chamber in 1646, is addressed to the Standing Committee for the City and County of Norwich.

It is signed by several prominent Norfolk and Suffolk parliamentarians, including three men who were regarded as regicides for the role in the condemnation and execution of Charles I in 1649.

David Broom, managing director of Keys Auctioneers and Valuers, which is overseeing the sale, said: “This is a fascinating and very rare piece of Norfolk civil war history.

“Civil war documents like this, especially in such good condition, appear very rarely in the auction room, and we are expecting a lot of interest from local historians and civil war collectors, of which there are many.

“This is a piece of real local significance, and it would be great to see it stay in the city.”

The item will be auctioned by Keys in Aylsham on Wednesday, March 25, as part of the auction house’s two day Fine Sale.

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The letter calls for the Standing Committee to comply with various parliamentary Ordnances, which were issued by the Long Parliament due to the refusal of the king to sign legislation as an act.

Most of Norfolk, with the exception of King’s Lynn, was supportive of the parliamentary cause during the civil war.

Signatories to the letter include:

- William Heveningham, former High Sheriff of Norfolk and member of the high court which condemned Charles I, although he refused to sign the death warrant.

- Miles Corbet, MP for Yarmouth, who signed the king’s death warrant, was eventually executed after being brought back from the Netherlands where he had fled after the Restoration.

- Sir William Leman of Beccles, who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1645 and 1660.

The civil war letter, which has a pre-sale estimate of £300 to £500, is one of a number of ancient documents in the sale from a collection which was found in a box during a house clearance in Norfolk.

Other lots include a late Tudor property inventory written on vellum, and an indenture dating from 1589 complete with wax seal.

· Keys’ two day Fine Sale takes place at its Aylsham salerooms on Wednesday, March 25, and Thursday, March 26, with live online bidding via a live video of the sale available at, so people do not have to attend the auction in person.

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