North Walsham

During August 2021, The Norfolk Dumpling was commissioned to write and perform tales for North Walsham on their Market Cross.

Here are the tales that were written…

The Missing Hand

I’m sure it is common knowledge here that the Market Cross burned down in the great fire of 1600.  However, there is a little lesser known story about 

the clock, and how it got to where it is now. 

Back in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for clocks to just have an hour hand.  It was easier to see further away, and kept in tune with the slower pace of life in the 17th century.  So when the Market Cross first got a clock in 1787, it was one handed.  It wasn’t until 69 years later that a minute hand was added to the clock.

This is one version of why the clock only had one hand…

It was the great fire of 1600 that destroyed the Market Cross
and the town of North Walsham was left reeling from it’s loss.
Bishop Redman came to the rescue in 1602,
and the Market Cross was rebuilt, this one here, in front of you.

It wasn’t until 1787 when a clock was installed
but it was a bit different from the clock you see now, it was a little bit odd.
For it didn’t have a minute hand the hour hand was all alone.
It was common in those days to not have a hand for minutes, as it was just the hours that were shown.

That is the story they all want you to believe,
as what really happened to that minute hand?  Just you wait and see!

I’ll start this story by introducing you to the Mayor of North Walsham
She was bold, she was fiery, she was kind and got the job done.
Her name was Sarah Marsh, Mayoress of North Walsham.
She was respected and loved by all in the town, they all thought she was pretty awesome!

Sarah had a child, a son called Dean
who was only small when this story began so let’s not be too mean.
Mayoress Marsh was happy, she’d just managed to score
a new town clock from her friends at Worstead Hall.

She wanted this new clock to be hung at the Market Cross
so everyone nearby could keep track of time, no matter what the cost!
So she and her friends who lived at Worstead Hall
decided North Walsham could have their clock to be enjoyed by one and all.

The clock was huge but normal, with all the hands you’d expect…
Sarah knew this because she had been the one to check and double check.
Sarah and her family headed over to Worstead Hall
to make the final arrangements for the clock to be hung here for you all.

She took her son Dean with her to play with her friend’s kids
and what happened that night haunted them all for 69 years.
For without Sarah knowing, Dean and his friends decided to play
Knights and Kings and all of the dragons that they needed to slay.

They were out in the woods playing with their swords of sticks
when they decided that their wooden sticks were no longer doing the slaying trick.
They wandered round and round the house to see what they might find
a broomstick, a hoover hose, a curtain rail…these things were just not quite right.

Then they found the town’s new clock and the hour and minute hands
and Dean could not believe his luck, his new sword he had just found!
He heaved the hand up off the floor and gave his friends the biggest smile
“Now we can kill ALL the dragons!” and off they went, dragging their new sword for miles.

Time soon ticked by and it was time for Dean and Sarah to go home
So she gave him a ring on his mobile phone.
“I’ll be there in a minute mum”. Dean cried.
“Don’t be long son,” Sarah replied.

Dean was super tired he could lug his sword around no more
so he hung up his phone and ran to find his mum leaving his sword in the woods, on the floor.

Finally, when the time came to hang the new clock, the minute hand could not be found
Sarah could not believe it and began searching and asking all around
to see if anyone knew what had happened to the hand that counted minutes.
She was looking for the culprit but only found a dodgy witness
who was convinced that they had seen
Benji, the local troublemaker fleeing the crime scene.

Now, for Sarah, this was enough
to make an arrest and try and call Benji’s bluff.
Poor old Benji who had been on a lot of ale
started to believe Sarah’s handy tale
as he honestly had no idea
if he had stolen the hand like they all feared.

Time passed again, but only by the hour
and poor old Benji was put in the town’s stocks by those who hold the power.
Little Dean who was blissfully unaware of the troubles his playtimes had caused
wandered past the town stocks and asked his mum why Benji was there.  She paused.

“He stole something that didn’t belong to him” She told her son nice and loud.
“Something that you would never do my son, and of that I am very proud”
“Well, what did he steal?” He asked his mum, feeling sorry for this man in stocks.
“Look up there Dean, what can you see?”  “Why mum, it’s just a clock!”
He then realised what was missing and his stomach hit the floor
as in his minds eye he can see the minute hand acting as his mighty sword.

“Mum”, he whispered, his face paler than the moon.
“Mum!” he cried, “you need to release him and soon!”
His little face crumpled in tears
and Sarah knelt down to face her fears.

“Dean, son, is there something you want to say?”
“I’m so sorry mum, we just wanted to play!”
And Deans little story came out in one long spiel
and poor old Sarah didn’t know how on earth she was meant to feel!

Immediately she went to Benji and looked him in the eyes
“Benji, I can only apologise, for it seems my son was telling me lies.”
Benji was released and went on his way
but poor little Dean, well, he had to pay!
So until the minute hand 
was founded
Little Dean was grounded.
and only allowed out to search for the hand
which could have been anywhere on this huge land!

69 years Dean was grounded for
69 years Dean searched and searched for
that blasted missing minute hand
searching high and low across the land!

Finally, in 1856
when Dean was getting on a bit,
he found his minute hand in the wood
and it was placed in its rightful home, for good.

And Dean?  Poor Dean
he learned how to be more honest at the time
for although the long grounding was quite mean,
he didn’t lie again for his entire life.   

The Canal Bet

In the 1800’s it was decided that a canal was needed, a short cut perhaps, to connect Antingham to Wayford, North Walsham to Dilham, via several mills along the way.  The canal is Norfolk’s only artificial locked sailing canal.  It took 100 men 15 months to build a canal that is 8 and 3/4 miles long, with six locks at a cost of £32,000.  

To raise the funds, they sold shares.  600 of them at the cost of £50 each.  The canal was built and traffic was steady.  Sixty years after it was built, it was sold to Edward Press of Bacton wood.  The £600 he paid for it was to be split between any remaining shareholders.  

A solicitor was appointed to do this deed – James Turner.  However, he absconded after paying out to 55 shareholders and was never seen again.   We never found out what happened to him or the rest of the money.  

Until now…

In April 1825
100 Bankers from Bedfordshire arrived
to begin the canal at North Walsham
digging all the way through to Dilham.
The canal was much needed back in those days
to transport stuff like corn, flour, cabbage and cattle cakes.

The only reason though that it was able to be made 
was through the donations of shareholders - £50 each they paid.
Sixty years later the canal was sold
and this is where I pick up this story of old.

For the canal itself was sold to Edward Press of Bacton Wood
but the sale didn’t go as smoothly as it should.
A condition of the sale for £600
stated that the money be shared all around
the original shareholders of which
there were approximately 446.
This job needed to be done and dusted
so a solicitor called James Turner was chosen and trusted.
He was doing well, or so they thought
55 of the 446 shareholders he had sought.
But then our James he went on the run
and the shareholders knew then that he had done one.
But why?  They wondered, no-one knew.
Apart from me, and now, you.

Our James Turner, you see, was a little bit wet
and liked to impress every single person he met.
He was well to do, well dressed and posh… or so it seemed
For James Turner was living well beyond his means.
He was a gambling man, he loved a dare
and had been quite lucky so far to be fair!
For he was quite picky about the dares he would choose
and only picked ones he knew he wouldn’t lose.

Like the time his friend
whose name was Ben
dared him to keep his favourite ball
from ever ever hitting the floor
for at least 24 hours or more.
He kept that ball up in the air for 29 hours and 37 minutes.
He reckoned he could have done more but he knew his limits!

Anyway James was given £600
to give to those shareholders once found.
He figured out that they would receive
a measly £1 35pence each.
On a £50 investment, it didn’t seem right
But, James thought, this was not his fight.

Until he met the first shareholder
whose head was as square as a giant boulder
sat on top of boulder shoulders
and hands and feet bigger than steam rollers
Ok so I may be exaggerating a little here
but I need you to know why James got the fear

from this ogre of a man
of whom James was instantly not a fan.
Especially when he presented him with his tiny cheque
and all James heard was “What the heck!
Are you having a giraffe?
You poshos must think I’m right daft.
£1.35 from a £50 share?
Look at you standing there
looking posher than a millionaire!”
And he gave him a suspicious stare.
James backed his way outta there,
and ran his sweaty hand through his blow dried hair.
‘Well,’ he thought, ‘that didn’t go too greatly,
all he did was try to intimidate me
Its not my fault they have that little,
I’m just the messenger stuck in the middle!’
But, for James, unfortunately,
the next few shareholders did not agree.
They all agreed with boulder head
and would look at the cheques and instantly see red.

James Turner kept on going.
He saw 55 people whose hate for him kept growing.
55 shareholders is what it took,
for James to stop in his tracks and think ‘Ok, look,
I can continue to spread misery wherever I go
or I can disappear, and no-one will ever know!’
But before he could disappear,
again poor James got the fear
as although they weren’t getting a lot of money
they’d rather the small amount than nothing.
So he called round to speak to his friend
sat him down and said, “Ok Ben,
this is the situation
I’ve found myself in
and I am incredibly unsure
if I can cope with the pressure any more!”
He looked up at Ben
who was grinning down at him
“Oh great! You’re not even listening!”
he cried, ready to go off at him.
“Calm down!’ Ben smiled
his eyes looking slightly wild.
“I’ve just had a mad idea,
involving you, the canal and a crazy dare.”

You see Ben was rich
I mean super rich.
And bored.  Super bored 
and he loved nothing more
than to get his friend doing stuff to entertain him
and if he called it a dare then he got to pay them.
So Ben’s idea was one of his milder
but James couldn’t think of anything wilder
and Ben was promising all sorts of money
for he just thought it would be funny
to get his friend to do whatever he liked
so off to the North Walsham to  Dilham canal they both hiked.

So what was the dare?
What did James have to do?
Well James, to be fair,
didn’t care what he had to do.
He just wanted to make more money
to save him from being treated funny
by all the canals shareholders.
He just wanted this weight off his shoulders.
So although James didn’t care
what he was about to do for his dare
I’ll share it with you
as I know you do!

Ben dared James to float for at least a day
and he will double or nothing the shareholders pay.
Like a Norfolk Dumpling, sink or swim…
James just knew he had to win.
So there he was on that fateful day
ready to gamble with the shareholders pay
All he had to was float
and avoid the boats
that were also using the canal
into the water he stepped and the floating began.

James had thought it was going to be a walk in the park
and it was to begin with, until it got dark,
and his mind began playing tricks on him
and all of the animals were creating a din
which made James want to sink and hide - not float and win!

But James was strong
although he knew what he was doing was wrong
he was determined to keep afloat
if only so he can gloat
at Ben
who always Lords his money over him.
He was thinking of all the ways
he could go and pay
the money to those that were owed
while he dozed and floated, floated and dozed.

He woke up and rolled over onto his side
and that was when he realised
he had drifted onto the shore!
The money he’d dreamt of would be no more!
Ben was just grinning at him.
“Well,” he said, “at least you didn’t sink.
And he wandered off.
five hundred and something pounds better off.

James?  Poor James, you have to feel a bit sorry for him
For he was so sure he was going to win 
and put his little world to rights.
So you can imagine the fright
he felt knowing he no money left to share
so he decided to stay put.  Right there.
on the side of the canal in the woods.
Helping the boats stay afloat as they should.

He lived the rest of his days hiding there, determined to float
stealing food off of passing boats
Mainly cabbage unfortunately for him
as now, if you’re there, in the right wind…
You can still smell him.

Better the devil you mow

Back in the days of church building, you would usually find a small door inserted into the north wall, to allow the devil to get out of the church. In the North Wall of Worstead church is a coat of arms. This coat of arms is for Sir Berney Brograve and his two wives. He inherited the manors of Horsey, Waxham and Worstead. Sir Berney was an eccentric, he was always betting people and ended up in a lot of debt. This story is a great local story of how he meets the devil and what goes on between the two of them… Hope you enjoy! 

During the middle ages
whenever a church was created
it was common to install a devil’s door
into the church’s north facing wall.

The devil’s door was there for the
devil to be able to leave
allowing all the churchgoers a
huge sigh of relief.
You may wonder why
I’m telling you this fact in time
But I just want you to bear it in mind
While I tell you the tale
of Sir Berney Brograve.

Sir Berney inherited the manors 
of Worstead, Waxham and Horsey
and he was known to be eccentric
and a little bit naughty.
He loved a fight, a wager or bet,
but would often find himself in debt
as he was always unable to resist
a dare, a challenge, or a fight with fists.

He once invited all the manor’s ghosts
to dine with him, some tea and toast 
and his servants could hear the clinks of glass
several chatterings, movements and plenty of laughs.
When midnight came, they all disappeared
leaving Sir Berney white-haired and a little more weird.

There was also the time, at Waxham Hall,
when Sir Berney Brograve had the gall
or he thought it would be a right old laugh
to pick a fight with one of his weary staff.
His chimney sweep had charged a fair fee
but Sir Berney Brograve did not agree
so of course he felt he had the right
to challenge this poor worker to a fist fight.
Sir Berney could not afford his cost.
Sir Berney could not afford this loss.

What silly old Sir Berney didn’t bank on
was the chimney sweep keeping his work clothes on.
Sir Berney rolled up his sleeves
ready to fight his poor chimney sweep.
But with every punch, up came a black cloud
and Sir Berney’s eyes and nose it would shroud.
With every kick of Sir Berney’s foot
up would come a cloud of soot
until he was blinded, coughing and choking
unable to see, his voice was croaking.
One last punch from the chimney sweep
knocked Sir Berney to the floor, 
where he admitted defeat.

Now, not only was Sir Berney full of charm,
but he also ran a successful farm
one where he harvested black beans
and as a farmer he was quite keen 
and liked to show off to his farm hands
and show them how good he was at farming
his own land.

Onto his farm, in his combine harvester he would go,
as he liked to show off how fast he could mow;
“I can outmow the devil” he would shout
until one day, the devil himself arrived 
and called Sir Berney out.
“So you think you can outmow me?” the devil asked,
“Only if you think you’re up to such a task”
Sir Berney cheekily replied,
with a grin and a definite twinkle in his eye.

The devil agreed and they set a date
Both were sure that they would outmow their new mate
But Sir Berney was more devilish than the devil was
and he had a plan to swap the devil’s beanstalks with metal rods
which of course would slow the devil down
and Sir Berney would retain the mowing crown.  

The day of the bet rolled around
and it of course had drawn quite the crowd
for word had spread that Sir Berney had met his match
but no-one was aware of the plan he had hatched.
They both started their engines at the same time
and off they both went in their straight lines.
Soon enough the crowd heard the first clunk
and screech and scrape and bang and crunch
as the first metal rods were sucked into the mower
which of course made the devil’s mower a hell of a lot slower.
The devil could not mow any more of Sir Berney’s crops 
and reluctantly he came to a noisy stop
and got out of his cab redder than ever before
the red devil was redder than the reddest red, thats for sure.

Sir Berney won that bet on that day
but the devil knew that one day he would have to pay.
And soon enough that day came along
when bankruptcy and prison began to beckon.
So he sold his soul to the devil to clear his debts
but that didn’t stop him from living the rest of 
his life as an eccentric, with no regrets.
Until the time when Sir Berney sadly passed away
and he called to the devil, whose hair was surprisingly grey.

He cried out to the devil; “Take me with you”
and the devil honestly did not know what to do.
For he’d done his homework on Sir Berney
so he shook his head and said “Sorry!
But if I take you with me you’ll soon be top of the table
so taking you with me?  I’m just not able.
There isn’t room for two of us in that fiery pit
so stay here you must, and here you must sit,
in the north doorway of the Church of Worstead
where the devil’s may escape but they must be led
to their rightful home, here in hell,
That’s your job now, so please do it well!”

And that is why, in Worstead church above the north door
you will see Sir Berney’s coat of arms making sure
the devils are able to leave
allowing churchgoers a huge sigh of relief.

Twin Terrors

Im sure you all know the story of the church tower here in North Walsham.

How after a very busy bell day – the ascentiontide fair – combined with heavy winds made the tower fall?

And how it was competing with Cromer church to be the tallest?  

That is what happened – but why?  I’ll tell you more.

What would you be, you wide East Anglian sky,
Without church towers to recognise you by?
Lovers of Norfolk churches can never agree which is preferred.
For there are hundreds of churches to choose from, hundreds of stories to be heard.

I’ll tell you one now, this is a tale of caution
about a beautiful bell tower and the church in North Walsham.
They said no-one was hurt when the church tower fell,
But let’s see if you agree after this story I’m about to tell…

I’ll need to take you back in time to many moons ago
when a set of identical twins were born; one called Mary, the other, called Flo.
Two peas in a pod those young girls were
everything was identical, from their toes to their hair.
Even their mum sometimes struggled to tell them apart
She was the only one who was able, it really was an art!

As children, Mary and Flo would always play games
to see if anyone would call them by their correct names
They’d switch clothes on purpose, to confuse their family
and then switch clothes once more, very cannily.
They were constantly getting into trouble for stuff the other one had done
but they were sisters, they stuck together, and the trouble was half the fun!
And as they grew older, they’d still play switch-a-roo
but the reasons why they did it changed, as they do.
Like the time Mary passed her driving test first time
but Flo just kept on failing no matter what she tried.
So Mary sat her test for her, and passed with zero minors
And Flo claimed all her glory knowing shamelessly that they were both liars.

As they are older, they weren’t growing much wiser
and rather than grow closer to Flo, Mary was beginning to despise her.
You see Flo was lazy, and relied on Mary far too much
she didn’t make any effort in life and used Mary as her crutch.
So when Mary had the chance to move for work to North Walsham,
she didn’t give the contract a second glance that was it, she was gone.
And Flo was left on her own
in the town of their home; Cromer.

Now, a bit of sibling rivalry is to be expected 
but the lengths the twins went to, ended up being quite reckless.

Mary was enjoying her life in North Walsham on her own
while all Flo could do in Cromer was whinge and moan
about how her sister Mary had abandoned her
when actually, weekly, Mary handed her
money to make sure she had some food
so there was no need for Flo to be so rude!

But Flo didn’t think that, she thought it was the least Mary could do.
While Mary couldn’t do anything right she constantly felt split in two,
with her commitment to her twin sister; Flo
but also to her brand new husband; Joe.
Joe who did not like Flo at all
and could not believe Flo had the gall
to constantly expect Mary to bail her out
and if she didn’t, my god Flo would pout and shout.

So Mary just did as she was told
and would dream of the day when she would be so bold
to stand up to her bullying twin
and finally, just once, she would win
but she knew it would never work
for although she knew Flo was hard work
she loved her sister with all of her heart
and hated how they had grown apart.

What’s this got to do with North Walsham’s Bell Tower?
I’ve been droning on about these twins for several hours…
Well bear with me, as you’re about to hear
all about what happened to the bell tower thats so near.

Flo, unfortunately had no friends left 
and would often wander round Cromer feeling quite bereft
but she would not let anyone around her know
as she was good at putting on a show.
But all of this left Flo feeling quite bitter
although she would never admit to missing her sister
So she had to think of a way to bring Mary back home 
as Flo knew Mary was happiest when she was looking after Flo.
But Flo knew she could never tempt Mary back home
not while she was happy and married to Joe

Joe who worked hard for his little family;
He was an architect by trade, and worked quite happily
designing buildings all over the world
but it was home in North Walsham where he preferred.
So when a contract was won to design the new bell tower
he laughed to himself and thought of all the saved hours
he would gain by working from home
Oh Joe, poor Joe, if only he had known
the troubles this job was going to create
he would’ve turned around and said “No thanks mate!”
But, he didn’t, and this is where the real story starts
all about the tower that sits in North Walsham’s heart.
For Flo was bitter, we all know she is
and didn’t want the glory of a new tower to be all his.
As everyone knew Cromer’s church was the tallest
so she wanted North Walsham’s to be the smallest
How could she do that?  She held no power there…
But it’s amazing what a girl can do, when she has a grudge to bear.

When Flo heard that Mary was getting involved in the build
She knew she had a way in, and because of that, she was thrilled!
She kept turning up, dressed as her twin,
determined that Cromer was going to win.
She began messing with Joe, and his precious new tower
and would do silly things to annoy him, like mixing the cement with flour
or giving all Joe’s workers an extra days leave
or adding extra windows in the tower so the bells can breathe.
The other thing she did, which really was not great
was re-order the church bells to new, posh ones, with extra weight.

Poor Joe, by now was incredibly flustered
and gathered up all the patience he could muster
For the tomfoolery that Flo had been up to
had delayed the build for a good month, or a few.
The pressure was on him to get the build finished
even if it wasn’t going to be as smooth sailing as he had wished.

He had a time limit to stick to, it needed to be done
in time for the ascentiontide fair bells to be rung.
He was doing alright, tidying up Flo’s interference
making sure no-one knew, keeping up his appearance.
But, he was tired, he wanted the job to be done
and to sit back and hear those bells being rung.
So what, he may not have gotten rid of all of the flour
and there were now a couple of extra windows in the tower
No-one will notice, Joe stupidly thought,
as I said, he was tired, tense, and extremely fraught!

As a final little win for Joe,
he wanted to make the tower as tall as it could go
he wanted it to be taller than Cromer’s church
so on top of the tower, a spire was perched.
Which meant, North Walsham’s church was taller
and Cromers tower was now the smaller!
Joe stood back proud admiring his work,
showing it off to anyone who came by the church
Flo, however, was a bit peeved off
she thought her troublemaking would have been enough
to have stopped Joe, who seemed to have succeeded
in building a bigger tower than what was needed.

Until the Ascentiontide fair bells were rung
all day long, throughout the towns fun.
Which would have been fine for a tower like Cromer’s church,
but not for a tower that had shoddy work.
For don’t forget it was built partly from flour
and there were too many windows in that poor tower!
And the bells were too heavy for the structure to hold
and that spire Joe added?  It caused it all to fold.
The ringing bells had weakened the tower, so down it fell.
Brick by brick, bell by bell.
It crumpled and crashed, onto the floor,
and Joe knew then, he was done for.

He tried to tell Mary what Flo had done
But Mary would not believe the words from his tongue!
Because she would not believe him,
Flo convinced Mary she would have to leave him
and come back to Cromer for a fresh start
to be closer to her sister, and never apart.

Joe, poor Joe, From North Walsham he was banished
he packed up his bag and he just vanished.
But Flo and Mary still hang around those two towers
causing chaos to one another, and picking on any cowards.

The trouble with Nelson

Paston College is known for being the school that taught Admiral Horatio Nelson and his brother; William.

Horation was ten by the time he started attending Paston College and he had been to a few different schools prior to going to Paston.  

And of course Paston College has the brick that has Nelson’s initials carved into it.

That to me meant that Admiral Nelson was a troublemaker.  So I thought I’d explain to you about how he ended up at Paston school, and eventually, the Royal Navy.  

Of all the folk in Norfolk’s history
Admiral Horatio Nelson is our most well known
This is his story…

It all started in the kitchen sink
with 8 year old Horatio trying to sink
his little brother; William, which may seem quite mean
but Nelson had already sunk his submarine
and favourite teddy and dads car keys
and all of his mums posh jewellery
some of which was down the loo
which had caused a heck of a to do
between Nelson and his mum and dad
which left him feeling a little bad
but not enough to seriously stop him
from seeing if his little brother can sink or swim.

Don’t worry, William was fine
but it seemed that Horatio had crossed a line
His parents were tired of him playing the fool
and decided to send him to a boarding school
“Let him be the teachers problem” they smiled and laughed
and went home to rescue their TV from the bath.

It wasn’t long before teachers started to see
Nelson’s obsession with water (although unhealthy)
He’d had some fun with soaking his school books
and the schools bells, and the schools chooks.
He even sunk his school desk and chair
and that was when they really started to despair.
So they wanted to teach him, to get him to see
that water isn’t something you mess with, it can be quite scary!
So what did they do?  They put him in a boat
and sent him off around the schools old moat
to teach him about the perils of water
do you think it worked…?  Well, it oughta.

But all this was fun for young Horatio
who decided to put on a bit of a show
for his young school mates who cheered him on
to put a hole in the boat, so he did… and the boat was gone.
Something else that Nelson had sunk!
Oh his obsession was worse than the teachers had thunk.
Sinking the school boat was the last straw
Nelson could go to that school no more!

But where would he go?  What would he do?
His parents needed to think things through.
They needed to be careful about his next school
and had to make sure it didn’t have a pool
or be near a river, lake or moat
or anywhere he may get onto a boat
so nowhere near the Norfolk broads
or by the sea or any kind of water course.

So where did he go?  Here to Paston College
Where, to the best of my knowledge,
he was taught the languages of Latin and Greek
but that doesn’t mean he became a geek
far from it, trouble still followed Nelson around 
although not on water, this time, on ground.
He left his mark on an old red brick
and then made his getaway from that school, pretty quick.
His initials are still there for you all to see
HN carved onto a brick, before he went to sea.
And turned his obsession with water into a well formed career 
as the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson, who went to school so near.