The inside story
PUBLISHED: 07:41 17 March 2014
Tales to tell
You may know that the young Maharajah Duleep Singh left India in 1863 following colonial expansion and was given money from the British Government to buy the Elveden Estate, where he lived as an unlikely country gentlemen for many years.
But a Norfolk insider knows that . . .
Although there are many people who choose to move to Norfolk, few take it to the extremes of May Savidge who transported her entire medieval hall house, brick by brick, 100 miles from Hertfordshire to Wells after the council wanted to demolish it to make way for a bypass. She was almost 60 years old when she started and it became a 23-year long labour of love. After she died, her family completed the majestic building and it is now a bed and breakfast.
And another thing . . . nearly 200 years ago, at 7ft 8ins and 32 stone, West Somerton man Robert Hales was signed up by P T Barnum and exhibited in a New York museum as the Norfolk Giant.
First and foremost
You may know that Norwich has a great heritage of shoe manufacturing, stretching back to the 1400s and an industry that employed thousands in the city up until the 1960s.
But a Norfolk insider knows that . . .
Norfolk is home to many historical firsts – such as the first provincial newspaper in 1701, the first non-denominational cemetery in England in 1891, the first long-distance commercial phone call, in 1878, and the first driving school in the country opened here in 1919.
And another thing . . . but Norwich is the only city to have been excommunicated by the pope, following the riot of 1274.
You may know that in 1994 Norwich City became the first, and still the only, English league side to beat Bayern Munich at the Olympic Stadium
But a Norfolk insider knows that . . . four-times Olympic gold medallist rower Sir Matthew Pinsett was born in Holt, iconic cricket commentator and voice of Radio Four’s Test Match Special Henry Blofeld was born and brought up in Hoveton, and England’s most famous cricketing family came from Lingwood – brothers Eric, Brian, Geoff and Bill Edrich and cousin John Edrich all played first-class cricket during the 1930s and 40s.
And another thing . . . the Canaries’ chant On The Ball, City is thought to be the world’s oldest football song still in use today.
Only in Norfolk!
You may know that one wonderful Norfolk tradition is the World Snail Racing Championship, held at Congham in west Norfolk since the 1960s.
But a Norfolk insider knows that . . . on February 14, a mysterious figure knocks at your door and leaves a gift before disappearing into thin air. It is of course, the unique tradition of Jack Valentine!
And another thing . . .forget celebrating New Year’s Eve – we still like to call it Old Year’s Night.
You may know that Norfolk has its own pyramid - at Blickling Hall, built by Lady Caroline Suffield in 1797 for the remains of her father, the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire John Hobart.
But an insider would know that . . . close to the north Norfolk shore is Europe’s longest chalk reef, millions of years old and teeming with sea life and biodiversity.
And another thing . . . the Outer Trial Bank is a circular island in The Wash, two miles off King’s Lynn, which was built in the 1970s as a scientific feasibility study into water storage. It’s now an important breeding bird colony and a National Nature Reserve, only open to the public once a year.
All in a name
You don’t have to have a Norfolk accent to be a true insider, of course, but you do need to know how to pronounce some of our more unusual place names, such as:
Mike Loveday, chief executive officer of Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust, says the city’s Guildhall is his insider’s tip.
“It is the largest and most elaborate medieval city hall in the country, completed 600 years ago this year. It boasts one of the earliest brick undercrofts in the UK, exceptional medieval stained glass and an association with people like the first Protestant martyr and Robert Kett.”
Broadcaster and champion of all things Norfolk, Keith Skipper says the county’s greatest secret is its dry, understated sense of humour.
“It doesn’t rush up and thump you on the back and demand an instant belly laugh. More likely to tease you into submission and sudden enlightenment in a gentle and subtle way.”
Our horrid heritage
From the wonderful Nasty Norfolk by Trevor Heaton (Bosworth Books), we love these grim gems:
Fed up with paying tax? So were the peasants of East Anglia in 1381. After hundreds revolted, the authorities made an example of leader Geoffrey Litester, chopping him up and sending parts all over Norfolk.
When Lynn Hospital was built in 1835, patients had to abide certain rules: No playing cards, no patients under six (unless for urgent surgery) and no-one who was dying or incurable!
Thomas Bocking, one of the first Norfolk policemen in 1839, had a unique approach. When a farmer’s logs kept getting stolen, PC Bocking drilled a hole in the logs and filled them with gunpowder. He bided his time, then arrested the person whose fireplace exploded!