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THE VILLAGE SIGN by A. J. Orange

So often, when admiring town and village signs I have tried in vain to find out from local inhabitants what part of their local history is represented on their sign.

When I designed the Feltwell Village Sign I was determined not only, to pack into the limited space available as much local history as I could but also to find some way of presenting such history to visitors. Explanatory cards were printed for this purpose and these are still available in the village.

The sign, which is about 12 feet high, was carved by Mr. H. R. Carter of Swaffham and the flint base and plinth were built by Mr. A. R. Smith of Norwich. The Trustees of the Moundeford Charity very kindly allowed the sign to be erected on the lawn in front of the Almshouses.

The name of Feltwell is derived from the Saxon meaning "the settlement in the meadow by the stream" and such a meadow forms the backcloth of the sign upon which everything else is superimposed. Large flocks of sheep used to be kept by the Lords and Ladies of the seven Manors in Feltwell and sheep appear on the meadow to represent the ancient "Sheepwalks". The central portion of the village takes the approximate shape of a figure 8 and this fact is perpetuated in the octagonal base which is also meant as a permanent reminder that the turret of the formerly round-towered church of St. Nicholas was octagonal. At the eastern approach to the village, on a large grassy mound, stood a magnificent oak tree. Unfortunately it was considered to be unsafe and was felled on 23rd April, 1964. The massive trunk had a girth of 32' 6" and the tree, which was estimated to be some 1300 years old, is depicted in symbolic form on the sign. On the hill, St. Nicholas' Church, as it appeared before its tower collapsed (25th October, 1898) and before its thatched chancel was demolished (1862) commands a view across the meadow and also represents the Charity of Rev. Thomas Rawlins (a former Rector of St. Nicholas) which was set up under the terms of his Will, dated 26th August, 1729.

But who is the lady, carved in relief with her- hunting dogs? - she is ALVEVA - a Saxon lady who owned part of Feltwell and Hockwold at the time of the Norman Conquest. She owned land in her own right in various counties and her husband was the Earl of Mercia, one of the five great Earls who, between them, held the whole of England during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Her husband died before the Conquest and by 1065 Edwin, her elder son, held Mercia whilst Morcar, his brother, was Lord of Northumbria.

Alveva's daughter Aldgyta, married Harold, son of Godwin, who became King. Alveva died before the completion of the Domesday Survey (A.D. 1086) and her Norfolk lands passed to William de Warenne, who built Castle Acre. In Saxon records, Alveva appears as AELGIFU and although she was thought to have been French there is no proof of this. Her children were all distinguished, Aldgyta, wife of King Harold for her great beauty and the two sons for their rebellious and ambitious natures. They rebelled against each King in turn, Edward, Harold and William 1, nonetheless, they were extremely popular with their own vassals and when Edwin died there was widespread mourning both in England and Normandy. The Conqueror is said to have wept at the news.

Supporting the sign are two coats of arms, Moundeford and Clough. These are to remind us of the generosity of these families in setting up trusts. The Moundeford Charity originated in a Deed of Feoffment dated 10th September, 1642 and the two Clough charities under the Wills of Robert Clough (6th June, 1737) and Miss Pleasance Clough (12th June, 1847).

Yet another of our charities is represented by the shortened shepherd's crook carved on the face of the supporting post. By his Will dated 6 October, 1579, Edward Atmere, a shepherd, gave 60 for the purchase of land, the rent from which was to be paid to the Churchwardens of Foulden, Northwold, Feltwell, Weeting and Brandon for the use of the poor, in such a way that each parish received the benefit of this charity every fifth year. In the 1960's the sites of a Roman Villa farm and its bath-house were excavated on land near Little Oulsham Drove and in the bath-house was found a Saxon(?) sword 29" long. This, too, is carved in miniature on the post. The sign was unveiled 9th August, 1969 by The Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Edmund Bacon, Bart., K.B.E., T.D. who is the Premier Baronet of England and the Service of Dedication was conducted jointly by the Rector, Rev. Roger C. Frith and Rev. A. C. Windridge of the Methodist Church. The collection of subscriptions towards the sign was undertaken by the Feltwell (Historical & Archaeological) Society who presented the sign to the Feltwell Parish Council.

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