Thetford museum exhibition tells story of how Norfolk and Suffolk flint played its part at Battle of Waterloo

Children from the Ancient House Museum takeover day and Teenage History Club at the launch of the Fl

Children from the Ancient House Museum takeover day and Teenage History Club at the launch of the Flint Rocks! exhibition - Credit: Archant

A new exhibition is set to reveal how a Suffolk town's flint-mining pedigree proved to be the spark for British military success at the Battle of Waterloo.

A flint alphabet created by Bill Basham in the 1920s in Brandon.

A flint alphabet created by Bill Basham in the 1920s in Brandon. - Credit: Archant

From fossils to flakes and soldiers to strike-a-lights, 'Flint Rocks!' at the Ancient House Museum in Thetford presents the fascinating story of flint and the many uses it has been put to over the years.

The Thetford and Brandon area has a rich history of flint mining, through the neolithic mines at Grimes Graves and beyond.

It reached its peak during the Napoleonic wars, when thousands of gunflints a month were ordered from the Brandon flint-knapping industry.

That included every gunflint used by the British Army at the climactic Battle of Waterloo in 1815.


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The exhibition forms part of the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership Scheme and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Norfolk County Council.

The exhibition tells the story of flint going back a hundred million years ago to a time when the area was submerged by a warm tropical sea.

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As chalk was laid down, so flint was formed. On display in the museum will be a variety of flint fossils selected from the county collections dating from 70 to 100 million years ago.

A launch event was held on Friday night, with children from the Takeover Day project helping, along with the museum's own Teenage History Club.

Speaking at the event Oliver Bone, Ancient House Museum curator, said the exhibition revealed a sophisticated past.

'The story of flint is a central part of the heritage of the Brecks area. Thetford is known for its flint terraces and buildings, and Brandon is known for its flint industry.

'We have nationally important archaeological sites at Grimes Graves and Lynford, where flint tools were found along side mammoth bones, dating back 60,000 years.

'The inventiveness, creativity and knowledge our ancestors had in the years before metal tools is very striking and you can see that here,' he said.

Flint Rocks! runs from Saturday, November 21, until October 2016.

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