Frank Curtis ( - 1972)

Photograph of Frank Curtis.

Frank Curtis. (© NCC)

W.F. (Frank) Curtis was a native of Feltwell and lived his life there apart from serving in the army during the first World War. He is remembered as a man endowed with a remarkable and endearing personality and with inexhaustable energy and enthusiasm. He explored the gamut of local natural history and archaeology while employed as a farm worker and carpenter. He was a man who habitually fieldwalked as he ate his lunch, while his workmates sat down, and who began to excavate in the evening, after a day's work on the land. His rare capacity for investigation and recording in addition to collection is seen in the quantity of settlement evidence from the Wissey Embayment.

The Curtis papers, mainly photocopies made in 1972 after his death, by Norwich Castle Museum take the form of a catalogue, assorted descriptions, including sketches, of particular sites and finds and sketch maps. Some of the artefacts collected by Mr Curtis have been sold, the rest remain in the Curtis family. Frank Curtis' catalogue records the collection of surface finds, mainly flint implements, from at least 1948 and the conduct of small-scale excavations from 1959. Most objects are recorded by field, generally denoted by Mr Curtis' own series of field numbers. These covered the fen edge and part of the upland in Hockwold-cum-Wilton, Feltwell and the southern part of Methwold.

After the second World War, many pasture fields in this area of Norfolk were brought into cultication, while the construction of the Cut-Off Channel in the 1960s not only involved large-scale earth-moving but accelerated peat wastage by improving drainage. Archaeological response to these developments was slight, consisting almost entirely of piecemeal excavation of already-known sites on the line of the Cut-Off Channel. The haphazard tally of contemporary discoveries reported to Norwich Castle Museum and King's Lynn Museums by members of the public shows that countless prehistoric sites were being exposed. Museum staff, with almost non-existent resources for fieldwork, struggled to record and salvage as much information as possible.

In this period the work of Mr W.F. Curtis almost single-handedly excavated and recorded sites which would otherwise have been destroyed without record. This work was invaluable when The Fenland Project started in the early 1980s.

F. Healy

Extracts from:

Healy, F., 1996. "Introduction" in The Fenland project Number 11: The Wissey Embayment: Evidence for Pre-Iron Age Occupation Prior to the Fenland Project. East Anglian Archaeology Report No. 78 (Field Archaeology Division, Norfolk Museums Service, Gressenhall), 1-6

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