Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tattersett:

Wicken Pond

Wicken Pond (TF836314) has a similar tradition of its waters rising and falling in sync with the corn prices as Fowlmere and Barton Mere.

Source: 'Norfolk & Norwich Notes & Queries', Note 439 (29/3/1902.)

 

Taverham:

Walstan's spring

Born the son of a mythical king and queen, Benedict and Blide (or Blida, also a saint), at Bawburgh in 975 AD, Walstan left his parents at the age of twelve to work on a farm at Taverham. He soon gained a reputation for charity and piety, and walked unhurt through thorns and performed other miraculous acts. The farmer wanted to make Walstan his heir, but he would only accept two bull calves, which an angel had told him in a vision would bear him to his resting-place. 

He continued his hard labour in the fields until one day, another vision told him to prepare for his end. He asked his master to harness the two calves to a cart and his body placed on it, the beasts being allowed to wander where they would. A heavenly voice called him to rest, and as he died, a white dove soared from his mouth into the sky.

On the spot on which he died a little spring welled up, placed by tradition in a field a little way north of St. Edmund's church at Taverham, in or near a plantation called 'Walstanham' - this was probably the Spring Plantation that used to lie to the north of the church, and known in the 17th century as 'Walstan Wong'. A source of 1859 records the well there, although another tradition places it not far from the church, in the eastern side of the Hall grounds.1

The cart bearing his body continued through Costessey to his final resting place at Bawburgh, other miraculous springs bubbling up wherever it paused.

 

Sources:

T. B. Norgate: 'A History of Taverham' (private, 1969).

'East Anglian Magazine', Vol.1, No.10 (July 1936), pp.568-9.

Mark Knights: 'Peeps at the Past, or Rambles Among Norfolk Antiquities' (Jarrold & Son, 1892), p.68.

W. A. Dutt: 'Highways & Byways in East Anglia' (Macmillan & Co, 1923), pp.159, 161.

1. http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk-Taverham

 

 

Terrington St. Clement:

Secret tunnel

A tunnel is said to run from the church (TF551204) to the haunted, early Tudor Lovell's Hall (TF549195), just outside the village.

 

Source: 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.6 (1946-7), p.184.

 

 

Thetford:

 

The buried castle

 

Castle Hill (TL875828) at 80 feet high is one of the tallest Norman mottes in the country, almost certainly built over much earlier earthworks. It's said that when the early 12th century Cluniac priory founded here by Roger Bigod was ruined after the Reformation, six silver bells (one version says seven) were taken from the priory church and hidden beneath the mound for safe keeping. Another account says they were bells of solid gold.


Also, a story is told how a king once owned a magnificent castle on the site of the hill, but when his enemies landed in strength, he buried not only his treasure but his entire castle beneath tons of earth, forming the huge mound we see today.


Others say that Castle Hill was made by the Devil, Oliver Cromwell, the Romans, or a giant. (See also
Weeting).

thetfordcastlehill.jpg (131211 bytes)

Sources:

Charles Kent: 'The Land of the Babes in the Wood' (Jarrold & Sons, 1910), p.98.

W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), pp.164-5.

R. H. Mottram: 'Norfolk' (Paul Elek, 1948), p.7.

 

 

Devil's Hole

 

A muddy pool in the moat north of Castle Hill's ramparts is called Devil's Hole, from the story that walking round it seven times at midnight will conjure up the Devil.

 

Sources:

'Norfolk Archaeology', Vol.16 (1904-5), p.41.

W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), p.164.

 

 

Frenchman's Hole

 

A pool on Carr Common, filled-in long ago, was called the Devil's or Frenchman's Hole, the latter from a tale that a Frenchman once committed suicide there.

 

Source: W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), pp.164-5.

 

 

Barnham Cross

 

On the Norfolk/Suffolk border just south of Thetford is the Barnham Cross (TL864810), on the common named after it. It is said to have been a 'franchise cross', dividing the Liberty of Thetford from the Liberty of St. Edmund at Bury. All that's left now is the base, broken and sunk into the sandy heath. The outline of the socket-hole can just about be seen, and W. G. Clarke said in 1925 that, because this hollow was sometimes seen to be filled with water, the legend had arisen that travellers to Thetford market during a plague had to wash their money in the basin.
(See also
Bury St. Edmunds, Rickinghall Inferior, Stuston and Feltwell).

barnhamcross.jpg (200354 bytes)

Source: W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), pp.166-7.

 

 

The Trysting Pine

 

On the sandy heath of Barnhamcross Common used to be a pine tree about which curious customs have gathered. Called variously the Trysting Pine, Kissing Tree or Wishing Tree, the trunk had twisted and curled itself into a loop not far from the ground. One tradition said that a person had to pull off or knock down a single fir cone, hold it in the right hand, place one's head through the loop and make a wish. Another version told that couples must hold hands through the loop, then kiss and pledge undying love, hoping the tree would bind them to it with its magic.

 

Source: 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.22 (Nov.1962-Oct.1963), p.67.

 

 

Tunnel network

 

On the north side of the river Thet, the town of Thetford is said to be undermined by a network of tunnels and galleries. While some say these are just the remains from chalk and flint mining, others say they were used, and perhaps made, for 'clandestine meetings'.

 

Source: www.explorethetford.co.uk/trails.aspx

 

 

The cursed gateway

 

"The red-brick gateway which marked the entrance to the Place Farm or Nunnery at Thetford, is blocked by a wall and it is stated that this was built up seven times, and knocked down seven times by a carriage with four horses" (TL873823). My photo dates from the 1970s - the gateway is no longer blocked up nowadays. See it here on Street View.

nunnerygateway.jpg (129292 bytes)

Source: W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), p.166.

 

 

Chunk Harvey's Grave

 

Chunk Harvey was a pirate, says the legend, who was betrayed by an ex-comrade, then executed and buried "where the old road from Thetford to Euston crossed the Icknield Way." The old Euston road ran west of the present one, over Snarehill and past Tutt Hill, making Chunk Harvey's Grave (TL873823) in Thetford itself, between the remains of St. George's Nunnery and the modern estate named Weever's Close, not far from where Icknield crossed the old fords over the Nun's Bridges. 

 

Though not a suicide, Harvey was struck through the heart with a wooden stake, and W. G. Clarke noted that a pine tree could still be seen on that spot 150 years ago, believed to have grown from that very stake. The burial was actually that of a carpenter named Thomas Harvey, who hanged himself after an argument with his wife - an event reported in the 'Norfolk Chronicle' on September 16th 1786.

 

Sources:

W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), p.164.

www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba25/ba25feat.html

 

 

Thompson:

Secret tunnel

"Tradition says there was a subterranean passage connecting the College with the church".1

Local historian John Barnes said that the entrance to this tunnel had been seen by his father at College Farm (TL932966). Thompson is little more than a hamlet now, with College Farm near the church occupying the site of a college of priests founded by the Shardelowe family in 1349.2

Sources:

1. Charles Kent: 'The Land of the Babes in the Wood' (Jarrolds, 1910), p.38-9.

2. John S. Barnes: 'A History of Caston, Norfolk' (private, 1974.)

 

 

Tilney All Saints:

 

The giant's grave

 

When the giant Tom Hickathrift knew his end was near, he stood on the bank of a now dried-up river in the Marshland, took up a massive stone, and proclaimed that he wished to be buried wherever it may land. He threw the rock with all his might, and it landed it Tilney All Saints churchyard (TF568179) three miles away, and there he was buried beneath the stone.


In 1955 a Mr. W. S. Parsons recorded a fuller version, in that Tom "announced that he would kick a stone ball and that wherever it fell he would be buried. He kicked the ball from Tilney St. Lawrence and it hit the wall of Tilney All Saints church, roughly two miles away. The impact caused a crack in the church wall which, it was said, could not be permanently repaired. Immediately below the crack is the alleged grave of the giant".1

The grave identified as Tom's is 7 feet 6 inches long but now split in two. The lid with its curious 'crosses pattée' and decorated staff is in the church.

In the churchyard are two ancient stone crosses, known as Hickathrift's Candlesticks. On the jagged top of the one still upright in its socket near the south porch are five rough indentations said to be Tom's thumb and finger marks.

 

For more details, and the full story of Norfolk's giant, see 'The Quest for Tom Hickathrift'.

tilneygrave.jpg (163922 bytes)

Source: 1. W. S. Parsons, in the 'East Anglian Magazine', Vol.14, p.475.

 

 

Tilney St. Lawrence:

 

Secret tunnel

 

St. Lawrence's churchyard (TF549148) is said to contain the entrance to a tunnel which, as usual in these tales, is blocked after a few metres.1 The passage traditionally led to the now-demolished Aylmer Hall across the road; only a mound now remains to mark the site of the original - perhaps 15th or 16th century - building.2

 

Sources:

1. http://tilneystlawrenceparishcouncil.org.uk/history.html

2. http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk-Tilney

 

 

Tunstall:

 

Hell Hole

 

A fierce fire happened at St. Peter and St. Paul's church at Tunstall many years ago, leaving the tower and nave in ruins, only the chancel being left to be used for services. After the fire, tradition says the parson and one of his churchwardens argued about who should take possession of the church bells. Then the Devil popped up and snatched the bells away, scampering off towards the marshes. "Stop, in the name of God!" cried the parson. "Curse thee!" cried the Devil, dug a deep hole and leapt in, and it filled with water after him, becoming Hell Hole. The bubbles that continuously break the pool's surface are said to be caused by the bells, still sinking slowly down to Hell, while you can sometimes hear the muffled ringing far below the surface.

 

Less than a mile west of Tunstall is a long strip of marshy woodland called in part Hell Carr, and near this alder clump was the boggy pool known as Hell Hole (TG407078 area).

tunstallchurch.jpg (169927 bytes)

Sources:

John Glyde: 'The Norfolk Garland' (Jarrold & Sons, 1872), pp.67-8.

'The East Anglian Handbook' (1885), p.71.

W. A. Dutt: 'The Norfolk Broads' (Methuen, 1903), p.333.