County’s heritage website reveals more interest than ever in the past

Lifestyle & Leisure News from the Fenland Citizen, fenlandcitizen.co.uk, @FenlandCit on Twitter
Lifestyle & Leisure News from the Fenland Citizen, fenlandcitizen.co.uk, @FenlandCit on Twitter

More people than ever before are logging on to online records about Norfolk’s heritage, as the county’s heritage experts ask people to nominate local heritage sites for inclusion on their database.

Since Norfolk County Council put its heritage records online in March 2007, there have been more than 116,000 visitors to the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website, with more than 30,000 visits so far this year and up to 200 people a day looking at information about archaeological sites and finds, historic buildings, industrial sites, defensive structures, parks and gardens.

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager for Norfolk County Council is delighted with the recent increase in interest. “We get detailed reports each week on the website usage, and over the last few weeks the number of users has just gone up and up.

“I was waiting for the moment when it reached 200 visitors in one day, and that milestone has just been passed and is being repeated on a regular basis. But with so many programmes about history, archaeology and heritage on television, I am not surprised that people want to find out about the history, sites and buildings right on their own doorsteps,” he said.

These days the definition of “heritage” is very broad, so the County Council’s definitive database of heritage sites includes, for example, many not-so-old features in our towns and villages that contribute to local character and sense of place, such as milestones, roadsigns, Second World War pillboxes and structures from the Cold War as recent as the 1980s.

On the website, www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk, which has just been updated with the latest information, people can read records about places near to where they live or work simply by putting in their postcode, or read a short summary about the history and archaeology of their parish. There are now more than 56,000 searchable records on the website, and around 1500 completely new records are added each year.

Norfolk County Councillor for Eaton, Brian Watkins, who is the recently-appointed council’s Heritage Champion, welcomed the sudden upsurge in interest. He said: “The County Council is committed to making as much of its information accessible online, and our online records about heritage just get better and better.

“It is important that local people know about, understand, enjoy and get interested in their local heritage, and we are encouraging Parish Councils and local heritage groups to get more involved in looking after local sites. Access to information is an important first step.”

Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment Service, which is based at Gressenhall, is keen to receive nominations for new heritage records. Anyone wanting to put forward a site for possible inclusion on the heritage database should check first to see if their site or building is already recorded. If it isn’t, then a description of the site, building or structure, its exact location and, if possible, a digital photograph should be sent to heritage@norfolk.gov.uk with “Heritage site nomination” as the subject line.