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Man whose ancestors built Norfolk history celebrates 90th birthday

PUBLISHED: 11:10 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:10 14 July 2020

Laurie Brettingham at his 90th birthday celebrations. Picture: Peter Steward

Laurie Brettingham at his 90th birthday celebrations. Picture: Peter Steward

Peter Steward

A Hethersett author with world-renowned ancestors has celebrated his 90th birthday.

Laurie Brettingham writing in his office. Picture: Laurie BrettinghamLaurie Brettingham writing in his office. Picture: Laurie Brettingham

Laurent ‘Laurie’ Brettingham was born in Barking, Essex, in July 1930.

His daughter Viv Mountain, a keen family historian, discovered his ancestors whom he knew nothing about - Matthew Brettingham the Elder (1699 to 1769) was his five-times great-grandfather and Matthew Brettingham the Younger his four-times great-grandfather.

Both were internationally renowned architects, with the Elder acting as clerk of works for the building of Holkham Hall and then remodelling Norwich Shirehouse, designing Lenwade Bridge and overseeing repairs to Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral and St Margaret’s Church in King’s Lynn.

He designed Hanworth Hall, Gunton Hall and properties in London, Sussex and other parts of the country.

Matthew Brettingham the Elder. Picture: Laurie BrettinghamMatthew Brettingham the Elder. Picture: Laurie Brettingham

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Matthew Brettingham the Younger (1725 to 1803) worked largely for his father and also became an architect of some repute.

As a schoolboy Mr Brettingham, who has the middle name Matthew, lived through the London Blitz, leading to an interest in wartime history. After leaving school he worked for a news agency in London as a copy boy and then did national service in the RAF before becoming a police officer in London and subsequently a primary school teacher in Hertfordshire.

He met his wife Daphne Thrower in 1952. Daphne came from Rockland St Mary. They married in 1954 and Mr Brettingham was a frequent visitor to Norfolk and moved to the county permanently 15 years ago, before she died in 2016.

Laurie Brettingham with a portrait of his ancestor Matthew Brettingham. Picture: Laurie BrettinghamLaurie Brettingham with a portrait of his ancestor Matthew Brettingham. Picture: Laurie Brettingham

He turned his hand to writing when he retired. His first book ‘Beam Benders: The Story of No 80 (Signals) Wing RAF 1950-45’ describes the work of the unit set up to help combat – by means of radio countermeasures – the threat to the UK of Luftwaffe attacks from occupied Europe.

He followed this up with ‘Even When the Sparrows Are Walking’ which describes the work of No 100 (Bomber Support) Group RAF and the part it played in the Allied bomber offensive upon occupied Europe from 1943 to 1945.

Laurie has also written ‘Secret Wartime Mundesley – A Norfolk Village Story From the Second World War’. His books can be purchased from his website.


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