Harry Apling, Mill historian [Norfolk Records Office Newsletter]
Vera Apling (1908-1999) Obituary
Stanley Apling (1899-1997) Obituary
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HARRY APLING (8.1.04 - 22.12.90)

Born Manor Park, Essex, shortly before his family moved to Ilford.

Married Olive Sainty on l9th May l936, who predeceased him on 28th February l952.

Died East Bilney Nursing Home, which he entered from Dereham Hospital on 11.12.89 after being admitted to hospital on 9.10.89 from Lincoln House, Swanton Morley, where he had been from 27 August l989.

He is survived by an elder brother and a younger sister and brother.

Harry was a Norfolk man by adoption. He is particularly well-known as the premier historian of Norfolk windmills, but there can hardly be a nook or cranny of Norfolk he had not visited, about which he could not give some interesting historical or archaeological information.

He has lived in Dereham since l934 and relished its central position in the county which permitted him to visit any part of it on a day visit.

He first came to Norfolk on a family holiday visit to his aunt in Hingham in l908, a visit that was repeated every year until he left school (Ilford County High School) in l920 - and included his first visit to a windmill - Hingham windmill, then still working (by wind and gas) - in l911.

He was a member of staff of Barclays Bank from leaving school until he retired in l964, first joining the branch in Forest Gate, Essex, (now in the London Borough of Newham). In l922 he was transferred to Norfolk at his own request after a very brief interview at Earlham Hall with Mr. Gurney, which Harry recollected as going something like this:

Mr. Gurney: Good morning my lad, and why do you want to come to Norfolk?

Harry: Well, sir, I don't much like working in London, and I have an aunt who lives in Hingham.

Mr. Gurney: I think we can find a position for you. Goodday.

In February l923 he was moved for four years to the East Dereham Branch

and he acquired a motorcycle to transport him between his aunt's house in Hingham and the bank. He then had a few years service at Attleborough (from which branch he serviced the occasional - twice-weekly - sub-branch at Hingham) and at Norwich before returning permanently to Dereham in 1934.

The Branch Manager at the Attleborough branch was a keen amateur archaeologist and Harry joined him on his expeditions and then undertook investigations on his own, leading not only to his pioneering excavation of a trench across the Iron Age settlement at Micklemoor Hill, West Harling, but also to his meeting Olive Sainty, then working on the conservation of relics in the Castle Museum, Norwich, and whom he married in May l936.

Harry and Olive rented Point House, in London Road, Dereham, a fine early l9th century house which used to stand opposite the entrance to Commercial Road. Sadly, Olive died in l952 and Harry lived alone to the end of his life. He also had to leave Point House which was compulsorily purchased for a road widening scheme and he bought a semi-detached house in Swanton Grove, a cul-de-sac around which a group of houses became nicknamed `Barclay square' as two of Harry's bank colleagues acquired houses nearby.

Although many of Harry's archaeological finds are now in Norwich Museum, and several in the British Museum, Harry could never part with anything of no monetary value - so his side entrance had a border covered with flint chippings (all found in Norfolk!) and the skull of his former pet cat, dug up by accident in the garden of Point House, stood in one of his bookcases bearing one green and one red marble for eyes and was always known as the 'ship's cat' (port and starboard).

From childhood Harry had been fascinated by coins, and he studied numismatics as thoroughly as he studied any subject he got interested in, and was for a period President of the Norfolk and Norwich Numismatics Society, for whom he designed the President's chain of office (worn only by subsequent Presidents).

He became interested in colour photography and organised displays on Norfolk landscapes, Norfolk village signs, and Norfolk historic buildings. Windmills were part of this, and when in l958 he bought his first book on the subject he found very little about Norfolk - and determined to rectify this dearth of knowledge.

After his retirement not only did he rapidly visit every known windmill site in Norfolk, but he became an expected visitor at the Norfolk Records Office where he painstakingly searched for information on the history of Norfolk windmills. His detailed records of very nearly one thousand Norfolk mill sites have already been passed to the Norfolk Windmill Trust, who published the first volume of his research in l984.

Harry was an exceedingly self-reliant man, about whom people would say "I can never remember him having a day's illness in his life."

Perhaps not, but Harry would never complain and even in the last two years of increasing frailty not only has he constantly apologised for every little bit of help he was given by family, home helps and others, but it is hard to imagine that a cross word has ever passed his lips.

He was clearly sorry that he never had children, whom he was always eager to help - with their studies or in any other way - and thoroughly enjoyed hearing little children refer to him (with his white beard) as Santa Claus. He was proud to be uncle to three generations, and the youngsters were always keen to be taken on a visit to see Uncle Harry - and each visit was always more fascinating than the last.

Harry will be long remembered by all who knew him - a truly naturalised son of Norfolk.

Notes: (ECA 1999):

Copyright E.C.("Paddy") Apling 1990, notes revised October 1999.

Harry Apling, Mill historian [Norfolk Records Office Newsletter]
Vera Apling (1908-1999) Obituary
Stanley Apling (1899-1997) Obituary
Return to Aplings page
Paddy Apling's Home Page