William Jackson Hooker

William Jackson Hooker

Richard Mackenzie Bacon

Richard Mackenzie Bacon

These men and women were either born in East Anglia or lived there as adults. William Jackson Hooker was a famous botanist in the first half of the nineteenth century. Born in Norwich in 1785, he attended the Grammar School there and later established an herbarium at his home at Halesworth in Suffolk. He was for twenty years Professor of Botany at Glasgow University and later became Director of Kew Gardens.

Louisa Barwell

Louise Barwell

A near contemporary of William Hooker was another pupil of Norwich School, Richard Mackenzie Bacon (d. 1844). He was the editor of the Norwich Mercury newspaper among other achievements. He had a family of prominent writers and musicians, including Richard Noverre Bacon, who followed his father as editor. Richard Noverre Bacon’s sister, Louise Barwell, was  an educationist, who wrote many books on teaching young people. Her most popular book, which ran too many editions, was written entirely in monosyllables. Louisa Barwell  was also an accomplished musician and writer, contributing to her father’s magazine The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review (the first such publication). Among her closest friends were Lady Byron (the poet’s estranged wife and widow) and the ‘Swedish Nightingale, the opera singer Jenny Lind.

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845) was well-known as social reformer. A quaker, her greatest achievement was to make conditions in women’s prisons more enlightened. Elizabeth Fry came from a family tradition of bankers, and it is appropriate that the £5 note should have appeared in 2001 with her likeness on it; this was the last one to be printed on paper, the current fiver being plastic. It was as a social reformer rather for her connections with financiers that her name is still remembered in the 21st century.

Elizabeth and Joseph Fry had 11 children – not an exceptionally large family by 19th century standards – and most of them survived into adulthood. One of her sons even lived into the 20th century; but you can see why some of her contemporaries accused her of neglecting her duties as a wife and mother by spending so much time looking after the female inmates of London’s Newgate prison. She had moved to London upon her marriage to Joseph, where she also set up a night shelter for the homeless. Another of her humanitarian works was establishment of a school for nurses, many of hom accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimean War

The EARL of SURREY, Henry Howard


The Earl of Surrey (1516 – 1547) was the title of the son of the Duke of Norfolk, and as Henry Howard he lived during the reign of Henry VIII. He spent much of his short life in London (and he even spent a year in France serving the French king) but his official home was Surrey House in Norwich. His residence was where the Marble Hall now stands in Surrey Street, built by Norwich Union to replaced the 16th century building in the early 20th century. Surrey Street gets its name from the Earl of Surrey. He was executed by Henry VIII who was afraid that he and his father were plotting to take the throne after his impending death; in fact he had a very good claim to the throne, though there is no evidence he intended do anything about it. His main fame is as a poet. It was he who introduced the sonnet to English literature, from the Italian original.  This became the vehicle of expression used by Shakespeare, Milton and others in the followig centuries.



Someone who had rather deeper roots in East Anglia was George Crabbe, the eighteenth century poet. He was born in 1754 in the seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. He was sent to board at the Grammar Schools in Bungay and later to that at Stowmarket; these were two market towns in the county. He left his native Suffolk when he was 25 years old. A narrative poet, he chose his subjects from the experiences of people of social low status, which was a new development in literature. His verse was therefore in more keeping with modern tastes than the heroic or mythic muse that had inspired many of his predecessors. The poetry of George Crabbe inspired one of Benjamin Britten‘s best known operas, Peter Grimes. Britten himself was a world-class composer of the mid twentieth century, and he was born at Lowestoft in Suffolk in 1913.

DR BURNEY, 1726-1814 (After a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds.)

DR BURNEY, 1726-1814

A figure with connections to Norfolk was Dr Charles Burney. He was born in Shrewsbury in 1726 but spent the formative years of his career as organist at St Margaret’s Minster, the fine church in the Saturday Market in Kings Lynn. It was during the nine years that he was there that he began planning his great literary work, the History of Music. It is as a writer that he is best remembered today, although he was also known a composer  during his lifetime. His daughter Fanny Burney was perhaps even better known as diarist and novelist, and she was born while her family were living in Norfolk.

Another musician was James Hook (b. 1746), an infant prodigy whose great ability took him to London from his Norwich birthplace. He establish himself as one of the leading English composers of the eighteenth century, although he sprang from a humble background. His father was a cutler and razor grinder. His was the pre-eminent  musician in the tea gardens and theatres of the capital in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. [To hear a piano concerto by James Hook click here.)

There are many other notable East Anglians from Saint Edmund to Horatio Nelson. I cold not possibly deal with all those known to history who have lived in Norfolk and Suffolk, but hope I have given you something to consider.




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