Village exhibition marks ancestral link to Abraham Lincoln

Chris HillThe stars and stripes flew in Swanton Morley as a senior American diplomat arrived to help celebrate the village's ancestral link to one of the greatest US presidents.Chris Hill

The stars and stripes flew in Swanton Morley as a senior American diplomat arrived to help celebrate the village's ancestral link to one of the greatest US presidents.

Acting ambassador Richard LeBaron opened an exhibition at All Saints' Church on Saturday to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, who was descended from inhabitants of the quiet Norfolk village.

The Lincoln family is one of many links Swanton Morley has with America, from the Pilgrim Fathers to the pivotal role of its US air base during the second world war.

Mr LeBaron, fresh from attending the Trooping the Colour ceremony for the Queen's birthday in

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London, said Lincoln's legacy was one that would echo throughout history.

He said: "Although we are known to be a forward-looking people we cannot forget Abraham Lincoln and what he did.

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"He kept our country together during the civil war, our country's greatest crisis. He also made the monumental decision to end slavery. His heritage is important for the whole world and it is important to celebrate it in places like this."

Swanton Morley was home to churchwarden Richard Lincoln, the grandfather of Samuel Lincoln, from Hingham, who was forced to flee to the newly founded Hingham, Massachusetts, after he was left out of his father's will. Samuel's great-great-great-great grandson was Abraham Lincoln, the 16th

president of the United States.

A reproduction of the will which shaped American history appears alongside marriage certificates and other artefacts secured from the Norfolk Records Office at the exhibition.

The display also includes information on Henry Ainsworth, who wrote a 16th-century psalter carried to America by the pioneering pilgrim settlers on the Mayflower. There are also details of the first air raid on occupied Europe during World War Two, carried out by American airmen based at Swanton Morley, watched by General Eisenhower.

Other guests at the exhibition launch included the vice lord lieutenant of Norfolk, Viscountess Knollys, the Bishop of Lynn and Mid-Norfolk MP Keith Simpson.

Mr Simpson said: "Abraham Lincoln has always been a great hero of mine. It is quite awe-inspiring to think that, through his family, he has a direct link with Swanton Morley.

"That link is doubled because this village is very precious to the world war two generation of Americans. They came across the Atlantic having never left the States before and these communities took them in and made them part of their family."

The exhibition, researched by David Stone, is one of several Lincoln Festival events organised by the Friends of All Saints' Church.

The Pilgrim Fathers to World War II exhibition runs from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sunday, 2pm to 4pm, until July 19.

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