Hidden East Anglia:
Landscape Legends of Eastern England
In the eastern part of the parish stands Denton Lodge (TL750919). Not far away, on the opposite side of the Brandon to Stoke Ferry road, is Jackson's Hill (now a waterworks), named after a highwayman gibbeted there in the early 1800s. Where the road meets the main road to Feltwell is a grassy triangular area (TL752918), formerly the site of an iron cage for offenders, and later of a single storey house. This house was believed to have been used by smugglers, who took their contraband there and conveyed it to the Lodge cellars by means of a subterranean passage.1
A house in Church Street, the former Rectory House of Feltwell St. Nicholas, is supposed to have a tunnel leading from it to St. Nicholas' church (TL715907).2
In the middle of a junction at the southern end of Oak Street used to stand the dying remains of the Feltwell Oak (TL718907). Both Charles II (who actually did visit nearby Methwold) and Oliver Cromwell are said to have sat under the tree, which was locally believed to be older than Domesday Book. Cut down in 1964, it has been replaced by a new oak, set within an eight-sided brickwork enclosure.
What is said to be the base of a medieval cross sits on a brick plinth at the northern end of Oak Street, where Lodge Road and the Beck meet (TL718909). On the lower section of the modern plaque on the plinth is the inscription: "It is believed that this stone was the base of the settlement cross which stood on this site for many centuries and which was probably destroyed during the civil war. Legend has it that in time of pestilence the hollow in the stone was filled with vinegar so that travellers could disinfect their money." (See also other 'plague stones' at Bury St. Edmunds, Rickinghall Inferior, Felsted, Thetford and Stuston).
A field known as Western (or West End) Close (approx. TL705907) in Feltwell is said to have been the site of a battle. Usually this is supposed to have taken place between the Iceni led by Boudicca, and the Roman invaders; but some suggest it was a skirmish between Royalists and Roundheads during the Civil War.
In the Western Close field mentioned above are the scant remains of a (presumably) medieval moat, at TL706905. Within this moat there used to be a single tree, and beneath this tree was said to be buried a hidden treasure. The story is at least a century old, and led to everyone keeping a close watch when excavations were carried out there in 1967 - but nothing treasure-like came to light.
The dole stone
the many parishes that make up the ancient Hundred of Flegg in the
Norfolk Broadland (e.g. Caister, Mautby, Filby, Ormesby etc.) is said to be a 'dole stone' or boundary marker in a
hedgerow that goes down to drink from a nearby brook every night at midnight.
The Golden Gates
A long, low conical mound exists behind the porter's lodge at Appleton House (TF703273) which is certainly artificial, but bears no resemblance to an ancient barrow.1 That hasn't prevented locals believing that it covers the grave of a Roman general, and that the 'Golden Gates' are also buried there.2
2. Charles Lewton Brain: ‘Mounds, Mottes and Barrows’ in the 'Eastern Daily Press' 17/4/1978, reprinted in Brain’s ‘Walking on Buried History’ (Larks Press, 2009), p.37.
North-east of Flitcham lies Anmer Minque (TF753290), a small patch of woodland occupying part of a triangular field bounded by the B1153, the Anmer-Harpley road, and the Peddar's Way Roman road. Although there are some burial mounds not far away, these date from the Bronze Age, and have nothing to do with the local legend that Boudicca fought a battle against the Romans here.
Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes: 'The Norfolk Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1990), p.15.
The Old Hall here is a 16th century farmhouse, but it's thought an earlier hall existed in the grounds behind it, within the medieval moated enclosure now shrouded by trees (TG035247). In 1842, "It was the current belief that there existed an underground passage running from the moat and the house, communicating with the church porch; which passage, it was maintained, might be very plainly traced by the parched colour of the grass, whenever an unusually long drought occurred".
"With respect to the subterraneous passage, which, it was said, led from the Hall and the moat to the church porch, though of course, little or no belief was given to the story, yet the farther investigation of this matter lately became an unexpected object of interest from the following circumstance. It was positively reported by some labourers of the parish, that while they themselves a few years since were at work in the pasture to the North of the Hall, the ground there had suddenly sunk under them, and they found themselves all at once precipitated into an arch or tunnel. And that,. moreover, a bricklayer, had actually groped some distance along the tunnel on each side of the aperture through which they had sunk, till he was stopped by the earth and rubbish which choked the interior".
1. Rev. Thomas Quarles: 'The History & Antiquities of Foulsham' (Joseph Cundall, 1842), p.103-4.
2. Ibid, p.106-7.
The Old Hall at Little Fransham is a 16th century farmhouse (TF902118) where Queen Elizabeth 1st is said to have stayed. She may or may not be connected with the tunnel "just big enough for a man to crawl through" that supposedly runs from the house to the A47 road 150m away. Or it could just be a medieval drain.
Bell Hill mound (TG466014) is said to be the hiding place of a 'golden plough'. Leslie Grinsell has quoted a letter from William Stapleton to Cardinal Wolsey concerning this legend, which reads: "And there came one Cook of Calkett Hall, and shewed me that there was much money about this place, and especial in the Bell Hill, and desired me to come thither". The hall mentioned is now Caldecott Hall, the last surviving remnant of a lost hamlet of that name.
Although apparently artificial, there seems some doubt now as to whether or not Bell Hill is actually a Bronze Age barrow, as used to be thought, a glacial remnant, or a Civil War gun emplacement. (See also Mill Hill in Belton).
Source: L. V. Grinsell: 'Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain' (David & Charles, 1976), p.137.