Record Details

NHER Number:30551
Type of record:Building
Name:Burrell Museum

Summary

The Burrell Museum is housed in the former paint and finishing shop to Burrell & Sons, Engineers. The brick, flint and ashlar building was constructed in 1908 and has a metal-framed front façade supporting 7 bays of double timber doors, each with glazed upper panels. The building has a continuous clerestory on three sides and the roof is supported on Belfast trusses. Although it is uncertain what date the company was founded, Charles Burrell and Son's agricultural engineering works was well established by the 1830's and by 1875 Burrell's were the largest manufacturers of traction engines in the world as well as the largest employer in Thetford. However, following the First World War it became apparent that there was no future for steam engines. From 1920 the workforce was gradually reduced until the works closed in 1928, placing almost one quarter of the town's male workforce out of work.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 868 831
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Burrell Musuem. Listed 1971, grade II.
Paint and finishing shop to Burrell & Sons, Engineers. Now a museum. 1846-7. Brick, flint and ashlar with a metal-framed front façade supporting 7 bays of double timber doors. Frame is tensioned by adjustable cross bars. Felt roof. The double doors each have 4 glazed upper panels. Continuous clerestory on 3 sides of upright glazed panels. Segmental roof. Interior: roof is supported on Belfast trusses.
See (S1) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA) 29 March 1994.

This building is not of 1846, it is of 1908. It does not appear on the 1883 map of Thetford, and Thetford Museum have supplied the correct date.
E. Rose (NLA) 8 July 2002.

November 2003.
Vital roofing work was undertaken.
See (S2) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA) 28 November 2003.

Little is known of the early history of the Burrell foundry. Although trade catalogues from the late 19th century claim that the company was established as a small foundry in 1770, there is little evidence to support this. The first member of the Burrell family to be associated with a foundry is Joseph Burrell, Charles' uncle, who is listed in the 1796 accounts of St Cuthbert's parish overseer as paying for a dwelling house, two shops, and a foundry. This foundry may have been moved to the Minstergate location in April 1802 when Joseph began paying a rate on a house, a close and a stable in St Peter's parish. This location is marked on George Burrell's 1807 map (S3) as 'Mr. Burrell's'. By 1807 advertisements were appearing for Joseph Burrell and Co. and these continued until 1820. In 1837, within a few days of Joseph's brother James' death, James' two sons (Charles and James) published separate advertisements as brass and iron founders, apparently in competition with one another.
See (S4) for further details.
Charles Burrell and Son's agricultural engineering works was well established by the 1830's. The company achieved success by early adaptation of steam engines for a variety of uses and the evelopment of locomotives which could be used as stationary engines to drive agricultural equipment. A large scale expansion was undertaken in 1846-7 during which the St Nicholas works were almost completely reconstructed. In 1848 a lightweight engine was produced which soon developed into the first traction engine and by 1875 Burrell's were the largest manufacturers of traction engines in the world. By 1879 they were also the largest employer in Thetford.
In the late 19th century Burrell and Son began to prodice sawmill engines, marine engines, trams and small steamboats, and after 1890 they specialised in fairground engines and steam roundabouts. During this time the company continued to expand until it occupied the entire area between St Nicholas Street and the Little Ouse.
During the First World War, Burrell's produced shells and gun mountings, but this represented a final period of prosperity for it had become clear that there was no future for the steam engine. From 1920 the workforce was gradually reduced until the works closed in 1928, placing almost one quarter of the town's male workforce out of work.
See (S5) for further details. See also (S6).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 12 August 2008.

Monument Types

  • FACTORY (Modern - 1908 AD to 1928 AD)
  • MUSEUM (Cold War to Modern - 1990 AD? to 2050 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Publication: Clarke, R. H.. 1952. Chronicles of a Country Works.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Scheduling record: English Heritage. List of Buildings of Historical and Architectural Interest.
<S2>Newspaper Article: 2003. Eastern Daily Press. 28 November.
<S3>Map: Burrell, G. B.. 1807. Map of Thetford.
<S4>Article in serial: Osborne, D.. 1990. Burrells of Thetford: further research on the beginnings.. Journal of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society. Vol 4, No 5, pp 175-86.
<S5>Monograph: Crosby, A.. 1986. A History of Thetford.. 2. p 113-114.

Related records

51665Related to: Former factory of Charles Burrell and Son (Building)

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