Blo’ Norton looks back over unlikely history with Indian prince

MDEP-03-08-2016-044 Historian Geoffrey Leigh Blo Norton Church Prince Frederick Duleep Singh Diss Express 03.08.2016 ANL-160308-224553005
MDEP-03-08-2016-044 Historian Geoffrey Leigh Blo Norton Church Prince Frederick Duleep Singh Diss Express 03.08.2016 ANL-160308-224553005

A quiet South Norfolk village will remember fading links with Britain’s colonial past at a special weekend of events.

For 17 years, Blo’ Norton was the home of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh — also known as Prince Freddy — the son of Duleep Singh, Maharaja of Lahore.

His father had grown up accustomed to fabulous wealth and a life in palaces in a vast kingdom.

But by the age of ten he had lost it all to the British, including the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is now one of the crown jewels.

The maharaja settled at Elveden Hall, near Thetford, where he lived a hunting and shooting life.

His Eton and Cambridge-educated son was much more modest and was described by Blo’ Norton historian Geoffrey Leigh as a “quintessential English country gentleman”.

He settled at Blo’ Norton Hall in 1909 and according to articles on his life he was a careful collector of paintings and a passionate restorer of old buildings.

His interests also included archaeology, Suffolk Punch horses and Red Poll cattle, and he was a Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association vice-president.

According to one description, he walked to services at the village church wearing a chalk-stripe suit and hat and carrying a stick. He sang in the choir, and was buried in the churchyard when he died in 1926.

His connection with Blo’ Norton placed the village on the Sikh Heritage Trail and the Sikh community restored his headstone last year.

Mr Leigh, who is one of the speakers during the weekend, said that in the 90 years since the prince’s death, awareness of his life in the village had become obscured.

“He is part of our heritage and of the heritage of the Sikh community as well,” he said, and he hoped the weekend would renew interest in him.

As well as an exhibition in the village hall and an Indian-themed flower festival, there will be a talk on August 13 by Peter Bance, the Sikh biographer of the Duleep Singhs — admission by ticket only from 01953 681396 — and a talk by Mr Leigh on the prince the following day.