Mary Trett – Happisburgh historian and artist

By Alex Hurrell – Published in the EDP 23 October 2013

Mary Trett played a major role in preserving and recording the unique history of the north Norfolk coastal village where she was born, lived and died.

Miss Trett co-wrote The Book of Happisburgh, with Dr Richard Hoggett, then coastal heritage officer with Norfolk County Council’s historic environment service.

The work, acknowledged as the first scholarly published history of the village, drew extensively on Miss Trett’s collections.

She was also a mainstay at Happisburgh’s St Mary’s Church and a well-loved and respected member of the close village community.

The only child of Esther and Bert Trett – a cabinet maker and undertaker – Miss Trett was born and lived all her life in the same house, close to the church.

The young Mary took a keen interest in the past and would scour Happisburgh beach looking for fossils or Roman pottery. After training as an art teacher in Norwich, she taught at Notre Dame school in the city.

Miss Trett was a skilled artist and painted both watercolour landscapes and still-life subjects. On one occasion, in the 1950s, she produced an illustrated bird’s-eye view of Happisburgh.

The Book of Happisburgh was a part of North Norfolk District Council’s coastal heritage project, using money from the government’s Pathfinder pot aimed at helping communities on erosion-threatened coastlines adapt to change.

The work has provided a lasting legacy of and for the village, much of which will eventually be lost to the sea.

Dr Hoggett said Miss Trett’s contribution to public understanding of Happisburgh’s history was very great.

He added: “Over a number of years she produced a large number of displays about the village – many of them hand-written and beautifully illustrated – and she had amassed a large collection of historic photographs, notes and reminiscences. It was an honour and a privilege to work with Mary on The Book of Happisburgh.

“I know that she was very happy with the results and the publisher described the book as ‘one of the jewels in the crown’ of the series.”

Miss Trett had been a churchwarden at St Mary’s for many years taking a monthly service, mounting exhibitions and arranging flowers.

She died in hospital on October 8, aged 86. Her funeral will be held at 2pm today, Wednesday October 23, at St Mary’s Church