Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Flint Rocks!

Our new exhibition at Ancient House in Thetford explores the many facets of flint; everything you ever wanted to know about flint but were afraid to ask! From fossils to flakes and soldiers to strike-a-lights, Flint Rocks!’ presents the fascinating story of this versatile rock and the many uses it’s been put to over the years. The exhibition is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Norfolk County Council.

The story of flint is a highly distinctive one for the Brecks area of Norfolk and Suffolk, the flinty core of East Anglia. It includes the building of the black flint terraces and churches in towns like Thetford, the world famous prehistoric flint mines at Grimes Graves and the highly significant Brandon flint knapping industry which supplied hundreds of thousands of gunflints each month to the British army during the Napoleonic wars. 

Flint was formed hundred million years ago when the area was submerged by a warm tropical sea. This was a time when dinosaurs ruled the land and giant reptiles were top predators of the seas. As the chalk was laid down so flint was formed. On display in the museum will be a variety of flint fossils selected from the county collections dating from 70 to 100 million years ago.

Also on show are the flint artefacts used by our ancient ancestors. Norfolk has become famous for its evidence of early human occupation and among the finds displayed will be a selection of black flint tools left behind 60,000 years ago near Lynford north of Thetford where flint tools were found with mammoth bones.

The flint mines at Grimes Graves are featured with a modern Lidar image which shows the prehistoric mines minus the vegetation. In more recent times the Brecks area was the centre of the gunflint industry and a large 18th century flintlock blunderbuss is on display. The flint knappers developed great skill in working this versatile stone and their craftsmanship is displayed in the exhibition. Bill Basham of Brandon made an alphabet and necklace from pieces of flint while William Carter produced a mosaic picture of a galloping horse.

A selection of prehistoric obsidian tools from Japan, kindly lent by our ‘sister museum’ in Nagawa in central Japan, lends an international perspective to the displays; while at Grimes Graves our ancestors mined flint for their tools, in the Nagawa area they mined obsidian.

Artist in residence, Dan Morgan has created mining models where flint miner Arthur ‘Pony’ Ashley meets a Neolithic miner from Grimes Graves. Other exhibits include archive film of flint mining and knapping, a Wedgwood teapot made using ground up flint, polished flint figurines, and the sound of a flint xylophone.

As part of the exhibition, there's a programme of family events at the Museum including Christmas 1815 Lights On event on 27th November 5pm – 8pm, (with re-enactors and flintlocks), Feb half term Fantastic Flints Discovery Day event on 17th February 10.30 – 1pm.  Schools are always welcome and the Museum’s Schools Programme includes a hands-on session on the Stone Age. 

See Ancient House's website for more details


This is part of our Connecting the Landscape with its Archives project