Norfolk Burrell steam engine legacy remains despite family death

The legacy of a Norfolk family known for the production of steam engines at the turn of the 20th century will live on despite the death of its last direct descendent, according to those who knew him.

Peter Burrell, the great-grandson of Charles Burrell, who ran Charles Burrell and Sons in Thetford, was 73 when he died at The Manor House care home in North Walsham earlier this month.

Although not involved in the family business, at its height it was the largest employer in Thetford, with 350 workers.

But the company went into decline after the first world war when internal combustion engines started to become a cheaper alternative to steam engines.

It finally closed in 1928, with the last engines being built by Richard Garrett and Sons at Leiston, Suffolk.


You may also want to watch:


A museum is now established in the original paint shop in Thetford, and Charles Burrell steam engines remain a focal point at many fairs and shows.

Mr Burrell's cousin, Nigel Faulkner, 80, of Aldwincle, near Kettering, Northamptonshire, said: 'The significance was Peter was at the end of the line but some of the engines were thundering and big and will be kept going by steam enthusiasts until the world peters out.'

Most Read

Born in Manchester in 1939, Mr Burrell grew up at Nunthorpe House in Thetford and attended the family preparatory school in Suffolk and Marlborough College, Wiltshire. Following school he worked in the London stock market before dealing antiques in Suffolk.

At the age of 40, however, he suffered a stroke which forced him to live with his parents at Hill House, Aylsham.

Mr Faulkner added: 'After he had it I remember going to see him and he could hardly stand up. The problem was he never had any rehabilitation and for about 33 years he was incapacitated. When his father died though he bought a ride-on mower and cut the grass at the house in Aylsham. He also planted a lot of trees to help the garden.' A family friend, who asked not to be named, said Mr Burrell, who had no children, had a thorough knowledge the family business and added: 'They made the most beautiful showmans' engines and I would think that 70pc of the production at Thetford is being restored by enthusiasts around the world. He was very proud of the family association but mechanical things weren't his forte.

'By the time his father died Peter had become fairly immobile but he never complained and was always full of fun and laughter and would talk for hours about the stock market and antiques – he was a good raconteur.

'He enjoyed stocks and shares and was a shrewd guy – he was a very precise person. The thing that impressed me so much about him was that despite his disability he never complained. He was always the happy guy and never wore it on his sleeve. He was a very easy man to make friends with.'

Peter died on April 4 from arteriosclerosis, or a hardening of the walls of the arteries, around the heart and pneumonia.

The funeral service will be held at St Faith Crematorium on April 30 at 2pm. Family flowers only, although donations if desired may be made to the Stroke Association.

Rebecca Gough

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus