Nine things:

We tame myths, chase birds and find fas­ci­nat­ing facts and fic­tion about Nor­folk vil­lages fea­tur­ing an­i­mals in their names

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rowan Man­tell

Nor­folk place names fea­tur­ing... an­i­mals

Ant­ing­ham. Fee fi fo fum… I’ll grind his bones to make my bread. Ant­ing­ham, at the end of Nor­folk’s only sail­ing canal with locks, has not one, but two bone mills. Mills more of­ten ground grain into flour for bread, but both Ant­ing­ham mills crushed bones from lo­cal butch­ers and abat­toirs un­til the mid 1930s, for farm­ers to use on their fields as fer­tiliser (rather than for gi­ants to bake with). The bones were ground with stones brought as bal­last from all over the world in ships dock­ing in Yar­mouth and car­ried by wherry to Ant­ing­ham, near North Wal­sham.

Bee­ston Regis, or the King’s Bee­ston, if you speak Latin, was once plain Bee­ston-next-the-Sea. But it was part of lands in­her­ited by Henry Bol­ing­broke, Earl of Lan­caster, and when he be­came King Henry IV, hum­ble next­the-sea be­came fancy Regis. The vil­lage, near Sher­ing­ham

has the fa­mous, and dizzy­ingly high, for Nor­folk, Bee­ston Bump, made from the earth and stones brought south by vast ice sheets, and left be­hind the as the glaciers melted.

Buck­en­ham, near Brun­dall. It’s not just named af­ter a male deer (pos­si­bly.) It’s also a won­der­ful place to spot wildlife. Take the train to Buck­en­ham Sta­tion re­quest stop at week­ends (check be­fore you travel) and step into Buck­en­ham Marshes RSPB re­serve. It is one of the best places in Bri­tain to see the taiga bean goose with one flock over­win­ter­ing in the Yare val­ley and one near Falkirk in Scot­land. Tens of thou­sands of wi­geon, teal, lap­wings and golden plovers flock here too and there are fa­mous rook roosts at dusk, plus birds of prey, in­clud­ing barn owls, marsh har­ri­ers, kestrels and pere­grine fal­cons.

Cat­field, near Stal­ham. Six­teen saintly kings and queens are painted on a very un­usual 15th cen­tury screeen in Cat­field church, although only the lo­cals – St Ed­mund, with the ar­row which killed him and St Olaf with a bat­tleaxe – can def­i­nitely be iden­ti­fied.

Horsey. The name of this east coast vil­lage, fa­mous for its seals to­day, means an is­land grazed by horses. The 18th cen­tury owner, Sir Ber­ney Bro­grave, bat­tled coastal flood­ing and pe­ti­tioned

Par­lia­ment for sea de­fences. But he is re­mem­bered in folk­lore for his foul tem­per and even more foul deals with the devil. His five times great grand­daugh­ter re­searched the man be­hind the myth and dis­cov­ered a man crazed by grief, fear and ill-for­tune.

She read tales of floods, ghosts, smug­glers fir­ing can­non balls at his house at night, disease, fist-fights with trades­men over money, and her an­ces­tor cow­er­ing all night in Bro­grave Mill, be­liev­ing the devil was pound­ing on the door with his hooves. He was wi­d­owed twice with just four of his 17 chil­dren sur­viv­ing him. “When I first started re­search­ing, nearly ev­ery­thing I found about Sir Ber­ney was bad,” said Ch­eryl Ni­col, who turned her re­search into the book Sir Ber­ney Bro­grave: A Very Anx­ious Man. “He was a black-hearted man whose soul be­longed to the devil. A rep­u­ta­tion like that doesn’t come free; you have to earn it. So I waded through all the tall sto­ries in search of the real man.”

Oxbor­ough is dom­i­nated by mag­nif­i­cent Oxburgh Hall, now owned by the Na­tional Trust. It is still home to the Bed­ingfeld fam­ily, who have lived here since 1482. Its trea­sures in­clude wall hang­ings made by Mary Queen of Scots while she was im­pris­oned and a ‘priest hole’ room, ac­cessed by a trap­door in a tiled floor, where Ro­man Catholic priests could hide

‘Wren­ing­ham is said to be named for an an­cient story of a witch dis­guis­ing her­self as a wren to es­cape witch hunters’

from Protes­tant search par­ties in Tu­dor times. Even fur­ther back in Oxbor­ough his­tory is the Oxbor­ough Dirk – a huge sword, too heavy to wield in war, which was prob­a­bly cre­ated for cer­e­monies around 3,500 years ago. It is one of just six large dirks found in north­west Europe and was found when a walker lit­er­ally tripped over it in boggy ground in 1988. It is now on show in the Bri­tish Mu­seum.

Swanton Morley, right in the cen­tre of Nor­folk, is ac­tu­ally named af­ter cows rather than swans, with Swanton de­rived from the Old English for a herds­man’s en­clo­sure. Abra­ham Lin­coln might never have be­come one of the great­est Amer­i­can pres­i­dents if his Swanton Morley an­ces­tor had not dis­in­her­ited his son in favour of his

fourth wife. The fam­ily, thrown into poverty, even­tu­ally em­i­grated to Amer­ica. The Amer­i­can con­nec­tion was rekin­dled in June 1942 when the first com­bined Bri­tish and Amer­i­can bomb­ing raid was launched from RAF Swanton Morley. As­ton­ish­ingly both Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill and Pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower trav­elled to Swanton Morley for the oc­ca­sion.

Au­thor Ian San­som has writ­ten a series of comic thrillers star­ring Pro­fes­sor Swanton Morley, named for the vil­lage.

Wolfer­ton is fa­mous for its elab­o­rate rail­way sta­tion, beau­ti­fied es­pe­cially for the royal fam­ily. In June 1886 a circus, com­plete with per­form­ing an­i­mals, ar­rived at Wolfer­ton en route for the 21st birth­day part of Prince Ge­orge at San­dring­ham. One of the ele­phants re­fused to re­turn to the train, up­root­ing a lamp post and de­mol­ish­ing the sta­tion gates be­fore it was per­suaded back on board. The line, and sta­tion, closed in 1966.

Wren­ing­ham is said to be named for an an­cient story of a witch dis­guis­ing her­self as a wren to es­cape witch hunters. The vil­lagers beat the hedges and bushes with sticks to try and flush her out, but she flew away – only to re­turn each Box­ing Day, when vil­lagers would re-en­act the hunt. Ver­sions of the story also ex­ist on the Isle of Man, in Ireland and in France. It could be rooted in pre-Chris­tian mythol­ogy as the wren was con­sid­ered sa­cred by Celts and druids, and it was un­lucky to harm the bird – apart from as a mid­win­ter sacri­fice. Later the feath­ers were thought to pro­tect against witch­craft and pro­tect fish­er­men from ship­wreck. To­day Wren­ing­ham, near Wy­mond­ham, has a com­mu­nity bar called the Witch and Wren and a pub called The Bird in Hand.

A seal rest­ing at Horsey Gap

BE­LOW: Buck­en­ham marshes

ABOVE: Bee­ston Bump near Sher­ing­ham

ABOVE (CLOCK­WISE): Wolfer­ton vil­lage sign, Oxburgh Hall, Bro­grave Mill, Horsey, and North Wal­sham and Dil­ham Canal

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