THE FELTWELL OAK.
Some years ago there appeared in the local press a picture of "The Ancient Oak at Feltwell" which was then in danger of being taken down, by the Norfolk County Council, for the easement of the traffic where Bell Street, Wilton Road and Oak Street meet. A description was given of the Oak saying that it is mentioned in Domesday Book and is believed to be the scene of the old Hundred Moot of Grimshoe. The Feltwell Oak is not mentioned in Domesday Book for Norfolk, nor any other oak tree in particular; but we do know from Domesday that there were extensive forests or woodlands in Norfolk with oak trees in great plenty; and that numerous herds of swine were kept owing to the abundance of acorns and mast on which the swine fed. The bitterness felt by the people against the Norman Conquerors was, to some extent, due to the Normans enclosing the forests and turning them into hunting grounds, which meant loss of food for the swine; and swine flesh is what the people chiefly lived on in those days. The Feltwell Oak is also said to mark the site of the Old Hundred Moot. In olden times England was divided up into Shires or Counties as we now call them. Shires, again were divided up into Hundreds, i.e., districts of a hundred free families; and each Hundred had its Moot or Assembly for transacting business and settling lawsuits. Feltwell belongs to the Grimshoe Hundred and the Feltwell Oak is said to mark the place where the Grimshoe Hundred held its Moot or Assembly. These Assemblies were held in the open and the Feltwell Oak is, I presume, the Old Hundred Oak under which Assemblies were held. Although this Ancient Tree does not figure in Domesday, Feltwell itself, as well as Hockwold and Methwold, are mentioned as being remarkable for the cultivation of bees; the largest number of beehives for any parish in Norfolk being at Methwold. Honey was of great value, and was much used for making the favourite beverages, especially mead; vast quantities of which were consumed by the Saxons and the Normans. And the fact that bees were highly cultivated at Feltwell means that mead was made here as well. It was an alcoholic liquor composed of honey and water boiled together; in which was infused cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger and the herb rosemary; this being fermented with yeast, when settled, was bottled off for drinking. And the question that arises is this - was this potent and most seductive liquor sold at the Oak when members of the Grimshoe Hundred Moot assembled there to discuss business, in those days of long ago? Because, if so, their tongues were loosened, their speeches long and their words were strong.
A wise old Owl lived in the Oak;
The more he saw, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
A wise old Owl, that Feltwell Bird.
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