That interesting book "The Land of the Babes in the Wood" by Charles Kent, at one time rector of Merton, speaks of Methwold, and says that in this district, which I presume includes Feltwell the two dread bogies are Shiner and Shuck. Shiner is the Will o the Wisp of the Fens, and when out and about, mischief is brewing. Shuck is known throughout Norfolk as the hound with blazing eyes which haunts the hedgerows at night. This legend we are told was brought over by our Scandinavian forefathers. In some parts of Norfolk Shuck is said to be headless yet with eyes ablaze.
According to Rye's Norfolk Families, published in 1911, Henry Morris Upcher, J.P. and D.L., of East Hall, Feltwell, and Sheringham Hall, Norfolk, was the owner of the only private life-boat in England.
I am told that before the Fens were drained, a lighthouse stood on the Hill just beyond St. Nicholas Church. It is possible, but most highly improbable. Almost the first British lighthouse was built in 1696 on the Eddystone, a narrow rock 14 miles from Plymouth. It was built of wood and destroyed by storm; it was re-built of wood and destroyed by fire; eventually it was built of stone.
Formerly there were two footpaths through Western Close and early one morning a Feltwell man named Thomas C-, now long dead, was making his way along one of them. Being Michaelmas, it was dark and misty, when suddenly he stumbled and fell over something alive, lying across the path, which started to move and make strange sounds. He thought it was the Devil, and let out shriek after shriek in his terror. It was a donkey asleep that he had fallen over and disturbed.
In Westminster Abbey, according to a lately published pamphlet on heraldry, can be seen the Coat of Arms belonging to the de Warenne family, who, centuries ago, owned a great part of Feltwell. It is described as "Gold and Blue Chequers;" in other words squares like a chess-board coloured gold and blue alternately. There are many ancient Inns in England, such as the Inn on the Hill, which takes the name of Chequers from the de Warenne Coat of Arms. And if the Feltwell Chequers Inn displayed a Sign, which it does not, it would, I presume, be a Chess-board with squares of gold and blue.
Times are changed. Today, owing to taxation and the servant problem, many of the larger Norfolk Houses have ceased to exist. Within a few miles distance Weeting Hall is demolished; also Didlington Hall; the beautiful Riddlesworth Hall near Thetford is a Girls' School; Garboldisham Hall and East Hall, Feltwell, have been turned into flats; while Feltwell Hall is now a Hostel. So great is the change that even some of our old Nursery Rhymes have been re-written, such as, -
The Queen was in the parlour,
Polishing the grate.
The King was in the kitchen,
Washing up a plate.
The maid was in the garden
Eating bread and honey;
Listening to the neighbours
Offering her more money.
On the iron frame of the light over the-south door of Feltwell St. Mary's Church is the inscription-"Mizpah. A.R.H.OR.-I.OR. 22 June 1936." These are the initials of Ashley Robert Howard O'Rorke, who died on that date, and of Isabel O'Rorke" his widow. He was the second son of the Rev. H. T. O'Rorke, rector of Feltwell 1879-1912. Mizpah means a Watch-tower and is much used for rings given as love-tokens. A Mizpah-ring is a ring inscribed Mizpah, the place where the well-known words were spoken - "The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another." Genesis xxxi. 49.
Wentworth-Day, in his history of the Fens, says that in 1952 he was shewn thousands of tons of pre-historic trees, dug up in Feltwell Fens by the Weasenham Farming Company; the age of which has been computed in many cases as 70,000 years. These trees formed part of a. dense forest and the thickness of the bark indicates a cold climate. There are two remarkable facts connected with these trees for which no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming; most of them lie pointing north-east; and most of the trunks have snapped off about three feet above ground level. About 80 per cent of these pre-historic trees are oak.
William Valendine and Temperance Moundeford were married in 1638 at Feltwell St. Marys Church, not on February 14th, but on July 6th. She was sister to Sir Edmund Moundeford at whose death in 1643 the family ceased to exist, there being no male heir to carry on the name.
There once was a school-boy at Feltwell;
Whose writing, though good, was not spelt well.
Now look here my lad;
Your spelling is bad;
Said the master; and then used his belt well.
The Parish Church has two Wardens and several Sidesmen whose duties are to assist the Wardens or to act as their deputy. The word Sidesman is a corruption for Synodsman; and originally their duty was to watch the parson of the parish and report any misdoings on his part to the Archdeacon at his Visitation or Synod; in fact they were Official Spies, which accounts for the name of Questmen, by which they were also known. That there was some need of them is shown in Archbishop Cranmer's Articles of 1548 and Q. Elizabeth's Injunctions of 1559 where the question is asked whether Parsons, Vicars and Curates are haunters of and resorters to Taverns or Alehouses. Those were the days of the Reformation when the country was in a most unsettled state, and we cannot possibly judge the clergy of those days or anyone else by present day standards. In 1500 Thomas Wolsey, who, at one time owned part of Feltwell, was put into the stocks for being drunk at the village feast where he was vicar. It in no way seems to have damaged his career, as later on he became Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, and a Cardinal: but it is hardly surprising to find that the rank and file of the clergy were not of a high standard.
The Church Clock, which recently has had its face cleaned, painted and re-gilded, was put up in 1833, and is still a good timekeeper. It was made by a London firm, Messrs. John Moore and Sons of Clerkenwell.
William Andrews, of Payne's Lane, fought and fell in the Crimean War. His medal is in the possession of his niece, Mrs. White, formerly Miss Flossie Andrews. This makes a total of four Feltwell men who fought in the Crimea; the other three being D. Bartlett, J. Addison and John Willett.
At Stanford Church, a few miles distant from Feltwell, is an Epitaph which could hardly be described as a "Sermon in Stone."
Who lies here? Who do you think?
Poor old Clarke. Give him-some drink.
What! dead men drink ? The reason why -
When he was alive he was always dry.
Of a far different character is an inscription in Latin at Hockwold Church, dated 18th January, 1532, the remaining part of which says -
Whoever you may be passing by. Stop! Read! Weep!
I am what you will be and have been what you are;
Pray for me, I beseech you.
Good Night! God Bless You!
Go to Bed! God Rest You
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