Funds needed to safeguard town heritage

Fine china models of a north Norfolk town's historic landmark are for sale at half price in a bid to preserve another area of the area's heritage.

The North Walsham and District Community Archive Group is selling limited-edition ornaments of the town's Market Cross for �12.50 each.

Members hope the proceeds will pay the group's contribution towards keeping a county-wide archive website running next year.

The group, part of the Norfolk Community Archives Network (NORCAN), has been painstakingly collecting and archiving about 600 old photographs from the North Walsham area and loading them on to a website used by NORCAN members where they are freely available to view.

But three-year National Heritage Lottery funding for the project is due to finish at the end of this year and groups who use the website, set up by Cambridgeshire County Council, are unclear about its future upkeep.

Mike Ling, chairman of the North Walsham group, said in its heyday about 23 towns had formed groups which uploaded historic photos for posterity. But now the number of active groups in the county had dwindled to single figures.

The North Walsham group had no idea what their contribution to its future upkeep might be. They had heard a yearly figure of �200 might be required but had no idea whether that was based on the original 20-plus groups contributing. If so, the figure could be far higher as there were now only six or so active groups using the site, said Mr Ling.

Most Read

He added: 'We are in mid-air at the moment but we are just continuing our work as normal. There are about 10 of us and we meet in North Walsham Library once a month. We have put a hell of a lot of work into this and we must make sure it doesn't all disappear.

'This collection has historical significance. The town is changing phenomenally fast. North Walsham now has a supermarket mentality but there were once eight grocers and six butchers. It's important to keep these photographs centrally for posterity - so that our children and grandchildren can see where the town came from and what it was like.

The majority of the collection belongs to retired optician Mr Ling, 72, who began amassing local photographs about 25 years ago after discovering about 30 old glass photographic plates among his late father's property. They had belonged to Mike Ling's grandfather, Ralph Michael, a chemist and optician who had made postcards. Mike Ling's father, Ralph Edmund, a chemist, had also been a commercial photographer at one time.

The ornaments, which are on sale in Bob White's Showcase Gallery, on Market Place, were among 1,000 numbered models made in the Potteries to mark the millennium in the town. The website can be viewed at: