At the gable-end of the Chancel of St. Mary's Church is a floriated Cross - a Cross with leaves and flowers; sometimes there is a plain Cross surmounting a Church, but as a rule it is floriated. It is a piece of symbolism and is beautiful. Once the Cross was the instrument of shame and suffering; now it has become the symbol of Life and Glory. And that it has broken out into flower is to show that the Church of Christ, planted on Calvary, is flourishing and ever increasing.
Mr. Gregory Walker, of Feltwell, celebrated his 100th birthday on 20th December, 1945, and a telegram congratulating him was received from H.M. the King. Mr. Walker is a Southery born man and has lived over half his life at Feltwell. Another Feltwell centenarian was Robert Flatt,
who died 11th July, 1923, aged 100, and was buried at St. Nicholas.
The Church registers belonging to Feltwell St. Mary commence in the 4th year of Queen Elizabeth, and in the following year, 1563, there is an entry of the Baptism of Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Rudland. The Rudlands, judging by the Church registers, are the oldest established family in Feltwell.
A Dame School was kept at Feltwell by Mrs. Clarke Spencer, widow, and Miss Clough of the Hall paid so much per head for scholars to be taught to read and knit. Mrs. Spencer died in 1870, at the age of 87 years. Her husband, who died in 1833, was butler at the Hall to the Clough family; his stipend was £28 per annum, on which he brought up a family of nine children. He was grandfather to Miss Anna Spencer, and her father, one of the nine, was wont to say that until grown up he had tasted neither tea a luxury in those days - nor butcher's meat. A Dame School is described in the Oxford Dictionary as "elementary, kept by old lady."
Naked Close, or to give the full name, Star-naked Close is, I understand, so called on account of its barrenness of trees.
The house in Church Street owned and occupied by Mr. W. J. Ward, blacksmith, is said to be the old Rectory House of Feltwell St. Nicholas. According to Mr. Phillips, a former rector of Feltwell, there is an underground passage leading from this house to St. Nicholas Church. These underground passages, of which there are said to be many in Norfolk, exist chiefly in the imagination. If report be true the Angel Hill at Bury St. Edmunds is honeycombed with underground passages leading from the Abbey into the town.
At St. Nicholas Church on the jamb of the North Doorway, on the outside, are the initials or letters G. F.
There is a tradition that the field known as the West End Close was the scene of an encounter between the Roman Conquerors and the Iceni led by the heroic Queen Boadicea in her chariot. The Iceni, who revolted against the Romans A.D. 61, were the ancient British people then inhabiting East Anglia proper, i.e., Norfolk and Suffolk. Boadicea, or more correctly Boudicca, had her palace at Kenninghall, Norfolk, and a mound at Quidenham is pointed out as the place of her burial.
Fabian Stedman, who published a book entitled Tintinnalogia or the Art of Ringing, in 1688, is said to be connected with Feltwell. He was born about 1630 and may have been baptized at St. Nicholas Church, but as the registers were destroyed by fire in 1664 there is no record of it. His name stands high in the Bell-ringing world and he is spoken of as the Father of change-ringing. Before his book was published change-ringing was practically unknown in England
Harrods directory of Norfolk for the year 1872 gives the names of Messrs. Isacson & Son as a form of solicitors practising at Feltwell. There was a Veterinary Surgeon, John Keland, whose office was at Beck House. There was also a Ladies School kept by a Miss Grimmer.
In the Borough at the Common Bank is seen, or said to be seen, the ghost of a woman clad in white. Who this restless soul is and why she walks, is not known.
Sir John de Plays (or de Plaiz), of Weeting, by his Will proved 16th July, 1389, "bequeathes to the Church of St. Mary, Feltwell, the sum of 20/-.
Shrub Hill, Feltwell, being an out-of-the-way place in the Fens, was used in bygone days for prize-fighting. On one occasion the police, after being warned, were present, but a certain magistrate who also was present, would not allow them to interfere with the fighting.
The Oak figures largely in folk-lore. In England oak trees planted at the crossroads were much resorted to in past times by people suffering from Ague. This may account for the Feltwell Oak standing at the centre of the roadway. Another cure for Ague is given in the diary of Elias Ashmole, in which he writes on 11th April, 1681: -- I took early in the Morning a good Dose of Elixir, and hung three spiders about my Neck, and they drove my Ague away - Deo Gratias." A still further cure for Ague is the old English Folk-Rhyme: -
Ague, Ague, I thee defy.
Three days shiver; three days shake.
Make me well for Jesus 'sake."
(to be written on a three-cornered piece of paper and worn. round the neck till it drops off).
At St. Nicholas Church and at St. Mary's there is a North Door. In the Middle Ages the North Door of a Parish Church was used for processions, also at funerals and christenings. It is said to have been known as the Devil's Door and was thrown open at a baptism for the escape of the evil spirit on being driven out of the infant.
There are still people in Feltwell who remember the quaint old custom of men standing up and praying into their hats on entering their seats at church. It was known in the language of the day as "Smelling their hats," and is now quite obsolete. In early boyhood I would gaze with wonder at the Churchwarden in my father's Church as he stood erect in his seat and held his top-hat to his face and prayed into it.
According to an entry made in an old scrap-book, the Cock Inn is over 800 years old, and the Mulberry Tree which stood at the back 500 years old. If this is so, then the Feltwell Cock was doing business in the days of William Rufus, 1087-110, which is open to doubt. This Inn was at one time the resort of travellers and sportsmen.
Flint Arrowheads are at times picked up in the fields at Feltwell, specimens of which have been shewn me. Brand in his Antiquities of the Common People, published in 1801, tells us that they were supposed to be weapons shot by fairies at cattle. They were known as Elf-shots or Elf-arrows, and to them were attributed disorders common to cattle. To effect a cure cattle had to be touched with an elf-arrow or drink water in which one had been dipped.
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