The Godfrey Burr Collection

The Godfrey Burr Collection

Lawrence Godfrey Burr (1928 - 2005)

Lawrence Godfrey Burr was born on the family farm, Ashlands, near Burgh, Norwich, on 11 April 1928. Educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, he took over farming the family land around Burgh in the early 1950s, where the 'Burrs of Burgh' have lived since 1202. Godfrey, however, embraced new mechanised ideas-he made the first tractor cabs, corn dryers and egg-turning equipment, saving himself much time and preventing himself from inhaling clouds of dust during the summer harvest. He also designed and then manufactured folding caravans and through his love of photography became a founder member of the Norwich Cinema Club. During the 1950s he also began to develop an interest in British banknotes, perhaps encouraged by family connections within the Bank of England. The interest became a passion, despite a rebuke from Threadneedle Street when, in response to correspondence from Godfrey posing a series of questions about the Bank's issues, he was invited up to London only to be told to stop wasting their time and his own.

In the 1960s the hobby was very much in its infancy and some years away from any standard reference works, but Godfrey approached fellow collectors and dealers and continued to acquire notes. However, an article in the Daily Telegraph in 1970 carries a photo of Godfrey with part of his British collection, 'the finest in the world'; the first booklet, Collect British Banknotes, published that same year, paid 'particular acknowledgement to Mr Godfrey Burr and his outstanding collection.'

Godfrey's principal interest was in British paper money, but unusual in that he collected all areas-Bank of England, Treasury and provincials, Scotland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and British military issues. The private issue of notes by Richard Williams of Llandudno, who registered the Prif Trysorfa Cymru Ltd in 1968 and who attracted a bout of news coverage at that time, encouraged him to start a Welsh album and in 1969 he bought his first Irish note.

During the 1980s he sold the majority of his provincial notes and in 1989 took the decision to sell his Bank of England and Treasury collection. The highlight here was his Abraham Newland £1 of 2 March 1797, serial number 4, which realised £17,000, a record price for a note of the Bank at the time. Since then his Scottish and British military notes have also re-entered the collectors' arena. However, that which remains is spectacular. The Isle of Man series is comprehensive and his Jersey and Guernsey collections are among the finest known. In later years Godfrey spent more time focusing on acquiring Irish notes, keeping up to date with the many new issues, specimens and replacements to the extent that it has become the largest part of the collection. He remained in regular contact with other collectors to the date of his death on 16 September 2005, keen to find out as much as he could about his own notes and always happy to share his own knowledge and research, all of which we believe underlines proper recognition for Godfrey Burr as a leading collector of his generation.