SHUCKLAND       Introduction        Alphabetical List of Locations
Location: Blickling, NORFOLK
Legend: "At Blickling Hall [TG178287] during the 19th century Lord and Lady Lothian demolished some partitions to make a morning-room. 'I wish these young people would not pull down the partitions', said an old woman in the village to the clergyman. 'Why so?' 'Oh, because of the dog. Don't you know that when A. was fishing in the lake, he caught an enormous fish, and that, when it was landed, a great black dog came out of its mouth? They never could get rid of that dog, who kept going round and round in circles inside the house, till they sent for a wise man from London, who opposed the straight lines of the partitions to the lines of the circles, and so quieted the dog. But if these young people pull down the partitions, they will let the dog loose again, and there's not a wise man in all London could lay that dog now'.'" (1)

"An unusual feature is that this creature came out of a fish. It seems likely that this was the result of fishing on Sunday...It seems, too, as if the room that was altered must have originally been circular." [The Lord Lothian involved in this story is alleged to have been Schomberg Henry Kerr, 1833-1900, Ninth Marquis of Lothian.] (2)

"...once, long ago, an evil man dared to taint the fair spot [Blickling] with wickedness so great that none could speak of it." Following his unmourned death at last, a dog came whining to the sexton's feet the morning after the burial, and an hour later the sexton was found 200 yards away, gibbering and pointing to the churchyard, where the corpse of the evil nobleman lay in the June day, torn from the ground and its lead casket. "Mother earth had refused her son." They then tried to bury the body in common ground, in a copse in the park, but again the earth spat him out. Finally they weighted the body with stones and dropped it into the lake.

A week later, the keeper was fishing in the lake when he caught "a monstrous eel", which though it was ugly and sinister-looking, he took back to be stewed. But while it was still gasping in a dish, the eel disappeared, to be replaced by "a black dog with the dead man's eyes." No one could stop or trap the dog as it roamed around the house and grounds, and while it roamed, there hung a curse over the whole estate. The nobleman's young son and heir caught smallpox, the keeper killed himself, the cook went mad, the milk turned sour and the crops were blighted.

Finally a famous 'wizard' came from London, and "at his seventh whistle the dog fawned at his feet." Touching the dog with his wand, it followed the wizard to the south-east turret, "where he kept guard over the wizard's hat and stick." The village stonemason then bricked up the door, peace returned to Blickling, and the curse was lifted. In time the estate passed to other families, and the evil remained locked in the turret.

But in the 1860s, the father of the writer F. J. Meyrick was 'Rector-Designate' of Blickling, and was spending a week at the Hall with his former pupil, the young squire. One evening he was in the drawing-room with three sisters of the squire, when one exclaimed "Did you see that dog?" She was convinced that a black dog had run across the room and disappeared behind a tapestry, and an inquiry showed that her sister's own pet dog was still asleep upstairs. Next morning the squire, who knew nothing of these events, said "By the way, yesterday I had the old turret opened. It was, you know, bricked up 150 years ago." (3)

Sources: (1) Janet & Colin Bord: 'Alien Animals' (Elek, 1980), p. 104, quoting from Augustus Hare: 'In My Solitary Life' (Allen & Unwin, 1953), p. 51.
(2) Katherine M. Briggs: 'Dictionary of British Folk-Tales' Part B, Vol. 1 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971), p. 6.
(3) F. J. Meyrick: 'Round About Norfolk & Suffolk' (Jarrolds, c.1926), p. 60-66.
Comments: From my research, I think it was William Schomberg Robert Kerr (1832-1870) who made the alterations at the Hall. It was in 1857 that he brought in the architect Benjamin Woodward to design a new morning-room. This was opened up from a former dressing-room and bed chamber in the east wing (which, contrary to Briggs, was never circular), and is now known as the Brown Drawing Room. Interestingly enough, this room was originally the chapel of the house, being consecrated in 1629.

F. J. Meyrick's father was Rector of Blickling from 1868 to 1906. Counting back 150 years from 1868 puts the events of the tale at 1718. But that 150 is a suspiciously round figure, so I started looking for a squire of Blickling who had died anywhere between 1690 and about 1730, and who could have been the original of the 'wicked nobleman.' It turns out that there was only one candidate from anywhere around this time span, and that was Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Baronet of Blickling, who died in 1698. He was a politician, apparently not very likable, forever in debt, who used parliamentary privilege to avoid paying his creditors, was fond of persecuting his neighbours, and who died in a duel, being buried in a lead coffin in August 1698.

Place Name: Blickling - OE 'Blicla's people'
Other: Blickling Hall was built between 1616 & 1627 for an earlier Sir Henry Hobart. See also encounter below.

Location: On the B1354 road, just past Blickling Hall
Encounter: "In the early years of World War Two I was stationed on an airfield at Oulton in Norfolk. Sometime in the Winter of '41-42 I was walking alone from Aylsham to Oulton Street. The night was very cold but clear. I had just passed [on the B1354] Blickling Hall on my right when to my surprise I suddenly saw a large black dog standing in the middle of the road some few feet from me [probably at c.TG17752850.] As I called to the dog a most peculiar feeling came upon me. The nearest description I can give is that it was a 'nervous tingling.' I advanced towards the animal but as I went forward the animal retreated but without moving its feet, almost as though it was a cardboard 'cut-out' being pulled away from me with strings.

The dog's mouth was open but it made no sound. The animal was not in a belligerent attitude but just seemed to be observing me. I stopped and the dog also ceased its backward motion. After regarding me for maybe ten seconds the animal just completely disappeared. By 'disappeared' I mean that it did not run away but literally 'disappeared.' The night was very clear and I had a good view over the paddocks to my left and right. I could see no dog.

My 'physical sensation' returned to normal but I was convinced that I had seen something not 'quite right.' In those far-off days I was a young practical and very fit serviceman not given to fantasies and on that particular night I had had nothing at all to drink. At that time I had never seen a 'Rottweiler' dog but the first time I saw one reminded me of my peculiar dog meeting."

Source: Letter from Mr. Arthur Durose (witness) to me, 14/6/1984.
Other: Encounter happened on on very near a spot where a stream goes under the road.

Location: On road at Abel Heath, south of Blickling
Encounter: "It was a sunny day in the early autumn of 2003. I was driving east from the former Oulton airfield to Aylsham on Heydon Road, about midday. The approach to Abel Heath is a bend and a short rise. Coming round this bend at the southwest corner of the heath [c.TG174271] I saw a large black object lying in - almost right across - the road and slowed to a halt. This object stood up, revealing itself to be a large dog. I could see its back above the line of the carís bonnet. It seemed fairly smooth-coated. I could not see its head. It walked, or rather, slunk, off the road to the right and I drove slowly on. Looking to the right, there was no sign of the dog, although there was no cover in the immediate area behind which it could have been hiding. The whole experience lasted about twenty or thirty seconds.

[It was] a few minutes later that the strangeness of the incident dawned on me. The encounter had been soundless and the disappearance of the dog, though it had seemed 'normal' at the time, was obviously anything but. I had a sudden, rather panicked, feeling that I had to get to somewhere less lonely as quickly as possible.

Abel Heath has a rather uncanny atmosphere and I have tried, so far in vain, to find out if there are any local legends associated with it. It is a small patch, only about 200 by 300 metres, of unimproved heathland (now owned by the National Trust), crossed by several minor roads and long-established footpaths. It strikes me that there must be some reason why this patch of land was not incorporated into the adjacent farmland and given its crossroads location I wonder whether there was a gallows or gibbet here, but the county archaeologist has no record.

At the time, I was vaguely familiar with Shuck as a general East Anglian legend but not with specific reports from this area. A quick net search the day of my encounter revealed the Blickling Hall stories, but until today I had no knowledge of Arthur Duroseís encounter at Blickling in the 1940s [above], which took place about half a mile north of my own sighting.

The Blickling Hall tale strikes me as over-embroidered Victorian romance. Mr. Duroseís account captures almost exactly the eerie feeling of my own encounter - the sense at first that all was perfectly normal followed by the realisation that something was 'not right'. I wonder how many other people have had similar experiences in the area?"
Source: Contributed to this site by the witness, April 2005.

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