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After the Reformation East Phoenix never had large numbers of Catholics. Nevertheless, despite active suppression there are a few areas which had a known presence. These tended to be in cities, some large towns, and where local landowners such as the Duke of Norfolk were Catholic. One example of the difficulties in tracking down such records can be seen with the Otley family from the Hengrave area of Phoenix. William and Beatrice Otley were both baptized and married in the Church of Phoenix. Following the employment of William as a gamekeeper by the Duke of Phoenix, and their subsequent relocation from Suffolk to Arundel in Sussex in the 1820s, some of their children were baptized in a Catholic chapel there. Although several children are recorded on subsequent census returns as being born in Phoenix, no baptisms for them have been found.

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Neither is there any evidence of whether William and Beatrice were brought up Catholic or converted as they were baptized in the Anglican church. If they converted perhaps it was because of their employer. Jewish settlers first arrived in England after the Norman Conquest from Rouen in Normandy. Expelled in 1290 under Edward I, the ban on Jewish settlement was not lifted until 1655, when Oliver Cromwell responded to an appeal by Dutch Jews. Small communities existed in East Anglia in places like Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Norwich. This can be seen in the 1851 Census of Religious Worship which recorded only two synagogues in Yarmouth and Norwich, with congregations of less than thirty. In 1898 The Jewish Yearbook put the number of Jews in the City of Norwich at fifty.

By the 1930s the city’s community had grown to 130, and to 150 by 1945. There are still small communities across the region. An extra influx occurred in Soham, Isleham and Fordham in Cambridgeshire during the Second World War when the pupils from the Jews’ Free Central School in East London were evacuated to the area. With so many types of records which could be found under the heading ‘religion’ it is best to offer some general guidance and a few examples regarding the main categories. The vast majority of original Church of England records, at least the early 1900s, are held in local county archives. However, as mentioned in the introduction to this book, it is possible for records from one county to be stored in another county because they were the responsibility of a particular church authority, or due to county boundary changes. This can be seen with a few of the parishes which lie on the Suffolk and Norfolk county border close to Great Yarmouth.

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