Saturday, 7 November 2020

Norfolk Part 2

 Along with my visit to Muckleborough on our break in Norfolk this summer, we were regular visitors to the local shingle beach, we even swam in the sea a few times although the North Sea is fairly chilly at this time of year. The odd seal came to say hello too, which was a nice bonus.

On the dykes through the salt marshes and on the beach itself were various old defences. Most of the pillboxes had succumbed to the relentless sea, however... 

There was this rather fine specimen half buried in shingle. I'm not convinced North Norfolk would have been the best place to invade Britain, but it was nice to see some of the old defences left. 

Further back in the marshes was this delightful pre fabricated steel pill box, still in its concrete pit. It was missing its hatches but was otherwise in great condition, plenty of space inside for a Bren team plus a few home comforts. 

Along with coastal excursions (which generally seemed to feature eating cakes or scones at some point) we went to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition at Houghton Hall South of Kings Lynn. Along with the permanent and visiting exhibitions, there is a magnificent collection of toy soldiers, well worth the admission price alone. 

The house was established by Walpole in the 1700s and is  close to the Royal Estate at Sandringham,  but the toy soldier collection was started by the 6th Marquess of Cholmondley in the 1920s and now has over 20,000 figures. 

I couldn't really do the whole thing justice, but here are a few things which caught my eye. 

Mounted bandsmen

The British Army in Egypt in review. 

Charge of the Light Brigade 

Camp scenes

British Army review (again). In Britain this time. 

I think this is the relief of Khartoum 

Napoleon and his HQ. 

Wellington (we already met Copenhagen at the Muckleborough Collection) 


21st Lancers charge at Omdurman. I expect young Lt Winston Churchill is among that lot but I couldn't pick him out. 

Another mounted band. 

Various large scale Napoleonic French (with another Napoleon) 

There is a huge diorama of Waterloo, and unlike the Siborne one, it shows different stages of the battle from each of its four sides. This one is the attack of the Guard. I'll let you work out the two above. What a clever idea and very effective. 

Another camp scene. 

Lots of the dioramas featured flats, here are two examples. 

This is what we actually came to see, more magic from Anish Kapoor. This sky mirror was just astonishing, true interactive public art, like The Bean in Chicago. 

Even if you aren't that bothered about the art (although the gardens are beautiful and worth visiting for the Henry Moore alone) the toy soldiers are just fabulous. 


  1. Thanks for an excellent blog entry Martin. I must try to get there when we are free again!

    Cheers Simon

    1. The toy soldier collection at Houghton was a very pleasant surprise.

  2. Nice toy soldier collection.

    Always nice to find the remains of the Sealion defences at the seaside- they seem to have got everywhere....



    1. They pop up in the most unlikely places. I came across one pillbox at an abandoned mill near Aldermaston. It was positioned covering the mill race for some unaccountable reason.

  3. Not seen that type of spherical steel pillbox before , is it regional ?

    1. It is an Alan Williams Turret. Approx 200 were made and they were mainly installed for Airfield Defence. According to Wikipedia 33 still survive, all over the country.

  4. Such gorgeous figures; what a great collection. They must be an absolute treat 'in the flesh'.
    Regards, James

    1. They were far more impressive than I was expecting. Clearly, being an aristocratic toy soldier fan has some advantages!