May 22 2013 Latest news:
Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Monday, September 24, 2012
A hand-written Norfolk family memoir, bought at a car-boot sale for £12, has been sold at auction for £2,000 - roughly four times its £500-£700 guide price.
The battered, 227-page book was written in about 1849 by Catherine Gurney, older sister of the great prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, whose picture appears today on £5 notes.
Both women belonged to the Quaker Gurney family, of Norwich banking fame. Many Gurneys made their mark as social campaigners and philanthropists.
The Gurney bank later became part of Barclays and Gurney descendants still live in Norfolk, including members in Northrepps, near Cromer, Heggatt Hall and Hoveton Hall.
The manuscript was discovered at a boot sale in Arundel, West Sussex, by Sarah Russell, who did not realise the value of her find until she researched Catherine’s family on the internet.
It went under the hammer this afternoon in an historical document sale conducted by auctioneers Mullock’s at Ludlow Racecourse. The firm declined to disclose details of the buyer.
The book contains a 44-page portrait of Elizabeth “Betsy” Fry’s early life and in particular the influence that the American Quaker Preacher William Savery had on her thinking.
“Catherine tells how when Betsy went to listen to William Savery she was wearing purple-laced boots with scarlet, but afterward turned deliberately plain in her dress,” said Mrs Russell.
“Catherine observes that many of the ‘bad’ traits Betsy had as a child became positively advantageous to her as an adult.”
Mrs Russell, from Chichester, Sussex, also learned that the family spent winter in Magdalen Street, Norwich, summer in Bramerton, and later moved to Earlham Hall. After her mother’s death, Catherine helped care for her 10 younger siblings.
Susan Maddock, principal archivist at the Norfolk Record Office, said the Gurneys were an important county family.
They were “prolific” creators of manuscripts, often borrowing one another’s and copying sections into their own work. Many examples were held at the record office.