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22nd May 2015
George Manby memorabilia general picture

A collection of memorabilia relating to a 19th century Norfolk man who, amongst other things, invented the first fire extinguisher, came up with a device to assist shipwrecked sailors which saved over 1,000 lives during his own lifetime, and founded the first Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth, is to go under the hammer at a Norfolk auction house.

The collection, which is to be auctioned by Keys Fine Art Auctioneers in Aylsham on Friday 29th May, relates to Captain George William Manby, who was born in Denver in West Norfolk in 1765, and who died in Great Yarmouth in 1854.

Manby, who went to school with Horatio Nelson, is best known for his invention ‘The Manby Mortar’, a device for firing a rope from the shore to floundering ships.  He came up with the idea after watching the loss of a Royal Naval gun brig The Snipe off Great Yarmouth, when 214 people perished within sight of the shore.

After authoring many works on the subject of saving shipwrecked sailors, Manby then turned his attention to extinguishing fires, and in 1816 came up with the ‘extincteur’ – the first portable fire extinguisher.

In later life Manby became obsessed with Nelson, creating Great Yarmouth’s first Nelson museum at his house in Southtown – which became so full of memorabilia that he ended up living in the basement.

The collection of memorabilia, which includes letters, lithographs, published booklets and even a lock of Manby’s hair, comes from the collection of his contemporary, the artist Cornelius Winter.  It has a pre-auction estimate of £350-£400.

“Manby was quite a celebrity in his day, and was even awarded a £2000 reward for the invention of his mortar,” said Keys head of books Robert Henshilwood. 

“Although perhaps not as well-known as Nelson, he was certainly one of the era’s Norfolk celebrities, and his legacy lives on today, with the principle of his mortar still used by lifeboats today.

“It is rare to see such memorabilia coming to auction – most of the materials relating to Manby are in museums (including the British Museum, which holds many of his medals). “

The Manby Collection goes under the hammer as part of key’s Book and Ephemera Auction, on Friday 29th May.  Full details can be found at www.keysauctions.co.uk