Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Mausoleum at Brandon Country Park © Nick Ford

A Window into the Past

The Brecks is steeped in human history, with stories stretching back to the Stone Age. A Neolithic flint mine, rabbit warrens, Christian buildings, landed estates and infamous inhabitants all have stories to tell. But we didn't just want to tell these stories, we wanted to bring them to life and make new discoveries.

Click on the project titles below to find out more.

  1. Forest Planters, 1930s © Forestry Commission

    The People's History of Thetford Forest

    Thetford Forest was created artificially to provide a managed resource of wood for the war effort and the future in general. This represents the largest lowland land use change in the British Isles and was undertaken by hundreds of hard working individuals, a lot of the time, by hand. This project aimed to record and archive the first hand experiences and accounts of the ageing foresters who were part of this feat. Read more »

  2. Brandon Engine House Restoration

    The Engine House and Bothy at Brandon Park played a key role in the history of the estate, and were in desperate need of repair. As one of the flagship projects of Breaking New Ground, they were restored and connected with a new link building to provide a new space for training, meetings and community use. Work commenced in January 2017, undertaken by Gipping Construction Ltd and the building was officially open on 9th August 2017 by 91 year old Ronald Rule, who was born in a house opposite in 1926 and remembers the buildings in operation. His father was the chauffeur and general mechanic for Brandon Park. Read more »

  3. (c) Ancient House Museum

    Connecting the Landscape with its Archives

    This project’s aim was to introduce new audiences to collections and archives which will illustrate the distinctive story of the Brecks. Using objects not normally on public display, new exhibitions were created to help people understand heritage and how objects and documents can help inform present and future management of the landscape. Read more »

  4. Trimming Gun Flints © Ancient House Museum

    Flint in the Brecks

    This volunteer led project aimed to research and record the history and distribution of flint mines in the Brecks and uses of flint as a building material, especially for ecclesiastical, public and vernacular buildings through a community led thematic research project. Flint has essentially shaped the Brecks, through it’s early use by humankind as tools such as axe and arrow heads, to building materials and the gunflint industry in later centuries. Read more »

  5. Warreners

    The Internal Archaeology of the Warrens and Lodge Sites

    This project set out to investigate a selection of warren sites, determine the extent and condition of surviving internal archaeological features and compile a standardised record for each, producing a more complete picture of the structure of the warrens and how they functioned. The project also produced a detailed report and on-line information resources. 11 warren sites were investigated to determine the extent and condition of surviving internal archaeological features and lodge sites. Volunteers undertook this work, having been trained in archaeological surveying and recording techniques and in archival research. As a result of the project, the existence of two more lodges on Thetford Warren was confirmed. A further exciting discovery was made to the north-east of the site, where the outer face of a section of the Thetford Warren boundary bank was found to be faced with flints. This is the only known warren in the Brecks with such a feature. Read more »

  6. Lambs © Nick Ford

    Sheep in the Brecks

    This project engaged volunteers to research and record the historic presence, and role of sheep in the Brecks landscape. The project team documented and investigated the various aspects of this lesser understood land-use heritage and promoted the use of sheep as a habitat management tool for conservation via workshops with land management professionals and small holders. A 40 page report was published, containing more information than originally planned due to the amount of new information uncovered by the volunteer team. The planned leaflet was sacrificed in order to expand the scope and scale of the report which was subsequently distributed to local outlets and available free as a hard copy or downloadable online. Read more »

  7. East Wretham Heath, former military site.

    Brecks' Military History

    The aim of this project was to identify and record the military history of the Brecks and it’s key sites from 1900-49. A volunteer group was set up by the Breckland Society and individuals have attended training events and conducted independent archaeological fieldwork, LiDAR analysis and archival research. The ‘Military History Research Group’ will continue beyond the end of Breaking New Ground, supported by the Breckland Society, continuing research in new areas of the Brecks. Read more »

  8. Edward Bliss's Mausoleum at Brandon Country Park © Nick Ford

    Journal of Breckland Studies

    The Journal of Breckland Studies is a brand new illustrated, technical journal containing articles and information about the Brecks, it’s inaugural edition created as part of Breaking New Ground, overseen by The Breckland Society and with the intention of making it an annual publication. The first edition was published in June 2016 and available free in both hard copy and online. An editorial panel was convened, including members from the University of East Anglia, Breckland Society, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, National Trust, and Breaking New Ground. Ten paper were submitted for the first edition and six were accepted. Three not included in the first edition will be included in the second edition, along with a fresh round of submissions. Five of the six papers were directly linked to Breaking New Ground projects. Read more »

  9. © Chris Knight

    Landscape Revolution

    This project, delivered by the landscape history team at the University of East Anglia and keen volunteers, discovered the changing landscape of the Brecks in the period 1700 to 1930. The main topics tackled by the project included uncovering the growth of landed estates and their influence on the landscape, changing designs of parks and gardens, tree planting and enclosure. Volunteers were trained to carry out detailed surveys of cartographic and other documentary sources to establish past land use, vegetation and landownership to create an extensive GIS dataset. The number of volunteers was almost double the original target of 50, and 27 of these went on to conduct independent research projects of their own using their new-found skills. Read more »