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Village Archivist Retires

Chairman of Hethersett Parish Council Fred Watkins thanks Bill Reekie for his contribution to the heritage of Hethersett. Looking on is new village archivist Gary Wyatt


After over 20 years looking after the heritage of Hethersett, village archivist Bill Reekie has retired. 

Bill was the first person to take on the role of collecting and looking after Hethersett’s historic documents back in 1994 and has helped to build up a collection of over 5,000 photos, press cuttings and original documents going back to the 18th century. Now he is handing on the role to well known Hethersett environmentalist and former parish councillor Gary Wyatt. 

The official handover took place at Bill’s Hethersett home with chair of the parish council Fred Watkins thanking him for his efforts to keep history in Hethersett alive: 

“Bill has helped to ensure that through the archives we have a social history of the village and a marvellous reference source and something that can be developed and added to. Bill can be very proud of what he has achieved as very few, if any, Norfolk villages have anything comparable,” Mr Watkins said. 

The original idea of setting up an archive for the village came from Hethersett Parish Council which was looking for a way of marking the national centenary of parish councils: 

“We were short of information and documents on Hethersett and suggested the setting up of an archive and Bill applied for the voluntary post of village archivist,” Mr Watkins said. 

“I had just completed a history degree and it seemed the logical way to put it into practice,” said Bill who is a retired dental surgeon. As the collection began to build following appeals and by word of mouth, Bill obtained a lottery grant to have the collection professionally catalogued and a web site set-up. 

Today much of the collection, which is currently kept in Hethersett Village Hall, comprises copies of documents, the originals now being kept in Norwich. Bound copies of the Hethersett Parish News going back to the 1890s are still kept in the village, however. 

Bill rates a parchment from the 1700s showing that the Queen’s Head Public House was at the time owned by the parish as the most interesting item in the archive. 

Gary Wyatt, who has lived in Hethersett for over 30 years, says that he is “very flattered to be asked to take the collection over and is hoping to add to it and also mount public displays of material during the year, probably with specific themes. 

Gary is also happy to give talks to groups and organisations about the archive and will be available in the Humphrey Back Room in Hethersett Village Hall on Mondays between 2 and 4 p.m. He is currently researching material from the village covering the period 1910 to 1920 to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.