Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Trimming Gun Flints © Ancient House Museum

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.

The project started off by training volunteers in archaeological fieldwork, to find and then record flint buildings and artefacts. There was an archiving training session with Norfolk Records Office to learn how to research effectively and also oral history recording training to capture the stories of long since retried flint workers. 35 volunteers were trained in total. It was originally anticipated that there would be two flint working skills sessions, but they were so popular that six were held in total for 22 participants, run by one of the country’s leading flint experts John Lord. 17 Students from Otley & Easton College also spent a day clearing a gun flint mine site in preparation for a new interpretation panel.

The research done by the volunteers and members of the Breckland Society uncovered so many new stories about flint in the Brecks. One of the most interesting was the discovery of the diaries of Frank Norgate, a keen naturalist who wrote detailed notes, diagrams and sketches of flint mines at a time when it dominated life in Brandon. The significance of the diaries was not fully recognised until this project. The comprehensive report compiled by the project compresses the vast swathes of information uncovered into a very readable and well presented document which is available in print and online.

There is also an associated leaflet which is now available in TICs in the Brecks. An interpretation panel was also designed and installed at Elm Plantation gunflint mining site to provide information to visitors on a very locally important site that now may not visually represent it’s significance. As an example, in 1813, 14 Brandon flint masters and 160 knappers were contracted to supply 1,060,000 musket flints per month for the British Army, for use in the Napoleonic Wars.

You can download the project's illustrated report by clicking on the file on the right, or read it below.

Visit the Breckland Society's website for more details.


  • On-going opportunities for education and raising awareness of Brecks history.
  • Interpretation panel installed and maintained for communities and visitors.
  • Report available for local planners to consider when building new homes.
  • Skilled volunteers involved in other BNG and wider landscape research projects.

...this was a really 5-star day: John Lord is a magician with people as well as flint. All four of us felt the same, as if we'd been shown how to peel an orange except that we had a lump of flint and what came out at the end was something both useable and beautiful

Day School Attendee


Student Work Party
Student Work Party
Flint Workshop

Flint in the Brecks Report

Download your FREE copy here: