Diana Mansell: Local historian and recorder of Burnham’s heritage

An enthusiast for recording the local history and heritage of the Burnhams in north Norfolk, Diana Mansell, has died aged 83.

Her family has had connections with Burnham Overy Staithe for more than a century and her father, Roland Crichton Sherar, who had a rubber plantation in Malaya after the first world war, moved to Norfolk.

In October 1934, he bought the 100-acre Burnham Westgate Hall Farm, which had long been on the market.

Born in Malaya in 1927, Diana went to St Monica's School, Overy Staithe, and just as war was declared in 1939 became a boarder at Dereham High School. In 1944, she took her school certificate and four years later obtained her diploma of art at Edinburgh. After qualifying as a teacher, she also taught design and crafts at Hereford School of Art before moving to London to work in publishing from 1953.

In 1956, she married Gerald Mansell, who became managing director of the BBC World Service. Together they built a holiday home at Burnham in 1965.


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She was keen on sculpture, archeology, natural history, wildlife and birds, and also became fascinated by local history, as she noted in a book of Characters of North Norfolk published in 2003 by fellow Burnham inhabitant, Raymond Monbiot. 'I got hooked on genealogy in the 1970s. . . so I began delving myself.'

She painstakingly transcribed her local parish registers throughout the 1980s. 'I want the Burnhams to have an archive that can be handed down to posterity,' she said.

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She collected local postcards and photographs to record the area's heritage.

She leaves two sons, Francis and James, and an older sister, Jean Fitzgerald. A funeral service will be held at Mintlyn Crematorium, King's Lynn, on Friday, March 4, at 12.15pm.

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