Plan to preserve Norfolk’s Egyptian connection

Norwich Castle is joining forces with a wherry charity to preserve Norfolk's historic Egyptian connection.

Those who have been on board the Norfolk Broads pleasure wherry Hathor will no doubt know about the beautiful inlaid woodwork of her cabins and saloon, featuring Egyptian hieroglyphics.

But this very visible link between Norfolk and Egypt goes much deeper, and the fascinating history connection between the two will be on show in Norwich on September 2 at a fundraising event at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

The Hathor was commissioned in memory of Alan Colman, a member of the Colman's Mustard family, who died in Egypt after going there to recover from tuberculosis. Her many Egyptian-inspired motifs make her unique among the few remaining examples of these craft.

Owner Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust will soon turn its attention to restoring the Hathor, which has been out of commission since 2009, and is seeking to raise �100,000 before beginning work in 2013.

While in Egypt, the Colman family bought hundreds of antiquities which now form a large part of the little-studied Norwich Egyptian collection. Work is currently focused on creating a catalogue of these artefacts, and in it will be included the story of the wherry Hathor and the Colmans. A fundraising target of �10,000 has been set for the work.

At the Sunday afternoon event, illustrated talks will be given by Norwich Castle research associate Faye Kalloniatis, and Hathor's previous owner Peter Bower. Guests will also be able to explore the museum's galleries.

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Faye Kalloniatis said the cataloguing of the collection is needed in order to fully understand the items' importance.

She said: 'A particular gem which has been highlighted by recent study is a shroud, now dated to around 1550 BC, filled with hieroglyphs from the Book of the Dead. Taken to the British Museum for conservation last year, it is now considered to be the most important of the Colman donation but until then no-one had any idea of its rarity.'

John Ash, chairman of Wherry Yacht Charter's trustees, said: 'We've always appreciated Hathor's special history, but this is a unique opportunity to place it in context and join forces with Norwich Castle to launch our respective fundraising efforts.

'Together, Hathor and the collection form a unique part of Norfolk's history, but they both desperately need support in order to preserve them for future generations.'

Following the completion of wherry yacht Norada's restoration this year, and with sister vessel Olive's restoration underway, the trust's focus is now on securing funding for the painstaking restoration of both Hathor's structure and her interior, including the delicate hieroglyphic marquetry.

The event begins at 2pm on Sunday, September 2, with tickets priced at �7 and advance booking is essential.

They are available from John Ash, 22 Brecon Road, Brooke, Norfolk NR15 1HS or by email at Details of this event, as well as chartering and sailing opportunities which support the trust's work, are available online at

Do you have a story about Norwich's heritage? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email