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Chapters in the Life of Robert Marsham

Chapters in the Life of Robert Marsham 1708-1797 – By Tim Sparks and John Lines

This 64 page illustrated book provides an insight into the man described by Gilbert White as a “painful and accurate naturalist”. The book is divided into 16 sections. It includes excerpts from letters to cousins near and far, to the then Prime Minister and, of course, to Gilbert White himself.

Marsham himself provides a fascinating insight into the winter of 1739/40, the coldest year on record, when the contents of his chamber pot frequently froze overnight and the turnip crop was completely destroyed. Turnips, being a Norfolk speciality, feature elsewhere: he regularly recorded turnip flowering dates (needed when turnips were to produce seed) and was amazed at the size a giant turnip achieved. If you want to know how big it was you will have to read the book!

Marsham’s comments on birds are included (he is still the only person in Norfolk to have recorded the wallcreeper) and, of course, his passion for trees, timber and woodland are apparent. In 1736 he began recording 27 signs of spring that were continued by successive generations of his family until well into the 20th century and provide us a wealth of knowledge about how spring is influenced by prevailing weather conditions; now of huge interest in the climate change debate.

Proceeds from the sale of the book contribute to the upkeep and care of St Margaret’s Church, Stratton Strawless. Copies of the book can be obtained by sending a cheque for £5 (inclusive of p&p) made payable to “Stratton Strawless PCC” to Mrs Waddingham, Church Farm, Church Road, Stratton Strawless, Norwich NR10 5LN.