Norfolk's Princely Family exhibition opens

29 June 2022

A new exhibition is being held at the Norfolk Record Office, exploring the life of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last emperor of the Punjab, and his family.

Over 150 years ago, the Duleep Singhs purchased the Elevden Estate near Thetford and made East Anglia their new home. For the next century the family continued to live in the region, from Old Buckenham, Hockwold, Blo’ Norton, Breckles, and Walcot.

On 4 July the doors will open to a three month exhibition on the lives of this extraordinary family, with artefacts and objects loaned from the renowned collection of Peter Bance, who has spent 25 years amassing this largely unseen archive, much of which will go on display for the first time.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, said: “We look forward to welcoming people to this new exhibition. Norfolk is a diverse county which is proud of its history.

“This project celebrates the life and work of a very influential family who made a real impact on the county, which one can still see today.”

The Peter Bance Collection is one of the largest associated with the Duleep Singhs, with many items being sourced directly from the family’s friends and associates. Highlights include the Maharajah’s velvet Indian Jacket, his shooting paraphernalia with which he shot game at Norfolk parties with the Prince of Wales, textiles and apparel of the Princesses, the family’s photograph albums, and personal intimate letters.

The family’s legacy is still present today, from the Ancient House Museum, which was donated by Prince Frederick, to the numerous Norfolk churches he saved from closure and restored. He went on to join the Norfolk Yeomanry and later served in the First World War, and even built War Memorials for those who fell.

The Princesses were not only active Suffragists supporting the rights for women to vote but the youngest, Sophia, belonged to the renowned Suffragettes and gave a gift of over 200 portraits to the Town of Thetford from the family collection. The town is home to the Maharajah’s equestrian bronze statue at Butten Island.

The exhibition will be open from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday from 4 July until 29 September at The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, NR1 2DQ.

The exhibition has been organised by the Anglo Punjab Heritage Foundation, and supported by the Essex Cultural Diversity Project.

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