Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Loddon & District Local History Group - History, Hearts & Heads

Historic sites are so much more than cold old stones. On July 20th, starting at 1:30pm, Colin Howey will be talking to the Loddon & District Local History Group about 'The Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers',  as he discusses their particular way of looking at, engaging with and exploring, a range of historic sites across Norfolk and Norwich. 

Since their founding, in January 2010, the Ragged Ramblers have been travelling across Norfolk (and beyond), exploring the county in search of historic wonders and curiosities. The Ramblers approach these sites through a combination of historical enquiry, creativity and... well, eccentricity. As you will see here, although fascinated by things old and cobwebby, we are also well versed in using online resources to share our discoveries with the wider world. 

This hour long talk will provide a unique insight into the world of the Ragged Ramblers. 

For main site, click HERE

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Stratton Strawless Bluebell Days

We are delighted to announce that once again the Stratton Strawless bluebell woods will be open for visitors (at £2.50 per adult; fund-raising for the local church) on the following dates:

Saturday 30th/Sunday 1st May 2011: 2 – 5pm
Monday 2nd May 2011:  11.00am – 5pm
Saturday 7th/Sunday 8th May 2011:  2 – 5 pm

Members of the Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers will be assembling on Saturday 30th at 2pm, with elbows sharpened, ready for the jostling at the bric-a-brac stall. Munro will be sulking as his medical advisors have insisted that he adopt a gluten-free diet. Alas, the delicious range of home-baked cakes will be off-limits to him. However, the rest of us can have a jolly good nosh-up, so that's okay. 


Friday, 18 March 2011

Ragged Ramblers: Togs & Time Walk

Click on images to enlarge

On Saturday 19th March two members of The Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers will lead a group on an historically focused history walk along the river Wensum. 'Wensum' is an old English word meaning 'winding' - a descriptor; for that is exactly what the river does as it wends its way through Norwich.

Standing here, on Fye bridge, you are looking at what was once the heart of the Anglo-Scandinavian port. 'Norwich' itself is derived from the words, 'north' and 'port' (or, settlement). At some point during the post-Norman period, the port was re-located to the stretch of river parallel to King Street. By the 15-1600s, this was where the ducking (or 'Cucking') stool was located.

On a plaque located on Quayside, it states (erroneously) that the ducking stool was for punishing "dishonest" people. In actual fact, although used sparingly (and only during warmer months), this shaming punishment was primarily used against women who were found guilty of scolding and, especially, brawling behaviour. Therefore, rather than being a form of punishment for dishonesty, there is a very good case for arguing that it was actually aimed at those who were entirely honest and true to themselves; even if the outcome of this was deemed to be anti-social and unacceptable by the authorities. However, there were other offences which were, on occasion, punishable by ducking:

This is an unusually rich description, and allows us to trace the route of Agnes' public shaming. It is also very significant that final destination of her noisy public humiliation is St Stephens, the parish in which she lived (for more on this subject, visit here: The Shaming of Agnes Leman)

On a more contemporary - and random! - note, the day I walked the route in preparation for our Ragged Ramble, I noted a Dr Who DVD case floating serenly on its way. Every time I paused to write notes or take a photograph, it seemed to glide along next to me. Curiously, a few days later I met the actor, Terry Malloy, who played Davros 'King' of the Daleks on Dr Who. I can prove it, as I asked for his autograph...

As I made my way along the river I came to an interesting juxtaposition of and and new... The 1920s Whitefriar's bridge in the foreground, with a 'noughties' construction in glass and steel frame; in the distance, one of the finest surviving Victorian mills in the country, St James' Mill.

Standing here, with my back to the modern-day law court, I do hope I remember to mention the remains of the Norman house which remain intact underneath the current structure. I have visited these, and there are two metres of standing wall remaining; a significant survivor!

St James' Mill in a 'Dutch' angle
Having walked this route previously with my esteemed R.S.A.R. colleague, Thadeus Basil-Snapper the Third, we had been troubled by the disruption of the sight-lines from the willow trees lining the bank next to the mill. Therefore, I ordered that they be pruned in time for our venture...

With the river to my back I took a picture of the only surviving swan-pit in Britain. This sluiced area was where swans were fattened for the cathedral table (that is, for the Bishop and/or Prior and their guests). The pre-Reformation pit had been located within the cathedral precinct. This one dates from the Eighteenth century. 

The birds' beaks were also given distinctive marks in order to designate ownership. Here are some images taken from early Sixteenth century swan rolls held at the Norfolk Record Office...

Source: Norwich Record Office

The elephantine bark of the huge tree; a spray of yellow daffodils - in the distance, the misty cathedral spire...

At the river's bend, stands a late Fourteenth century blockhouse. A fortified tower with embrasures designed to allow canons to fire. Although the top of the tower overlooks the land on the opposite bank, I'm quite sure that the investment in this structure was, in part at least, designed to project the wealth and status of Norwich's civic authorities.

I'm even more convinced that this crack in the wall, facing the river, was not caused by canon fire during the time of the 1549 Kett's Rebellion. It seems far more plausible that it is a settlement crack caused by a structural instability.

Strange to think that when this was built, in the final years of the reign of Richard 11, that it was so very new and just as 'modern' as the 'noughties' glass structure we had noted next to St James' Mill. Curious too that proximate to this grand structure is a simple bench where a local man, Bob Green, used to sit with his dog, Sophie. We Ragged Ramblers love this kind of thing. The Bob Green's and the Agnes Leman's are our Everyman and Everywoman; they are, generally, the 'People without Plaques'. We do our part to recognise their contribution. There are Bob's and Agnes' everywhere we pass - there are "faithful canine friends" too!

Here is the Fourteenth century Bishops bridge. Oftentimes people will say that this is the oldest bridge in Norwich. It isn't; the Norman Norwich Castle bridge pre-dates it.

We like surprising angles. Here is a shot of the river near Pull's Ferry, taken looking through a knot hole in a fence. That is the bench where, several years ago, I sat in the company of R.S.A.R. member, Mr. Many Coats. We were engrossed in conversation when a Cock Robin swooped down and swiped the chicken I was about to eat, clean out of my hand. I yelped! It was like something from a Hitchcock movie.

This was also the place where, aged twenty five I jumped in the river and attempted to rescue a man who was drowning. It was a idyllic summer day. I had been sitting here with my girlfriend of the time, when I saw him disappear. I jumped in and swam to find him, intending to knock him out if need be, as I reached about in the dark water. Three times I went under, but to no avail. Just then a pleasure cruiser went by, and, with a presence of mind that later surprised me, I asked for their boat hook. Using this I managed to pull him to the bank, where my girlfriend and a passer-by attempted to revive him. He was taken away to hospital. Sadly, he died that night. His name was James Shields, and he was a 46 year old homeless man, originally from Scotland. Try as they might, the authorities were unable to find any living relative to pay for his funeral. As a result, me and my girlfriend were the only people to attend his funeral. James Shields is another person without a plaque. He is important too. Every one of us are active in making history - and we carry history in our heads...

I'm skipping a lot of walk and a long stretch of water here, but eventually (after a break for lunch), we will make our way up the precipitous slopes of the Butter Hills. We will ascend the way up to the Carrow ridge, where stands the Black Tower. This section of wall is by far the most impressive survivor from the orginal late Twelfth, early Fourteenth, century wall.

I may have a lot to say here, and folk will have a lot to see. A grand place, then, to end a history-photography 'Togs & Time' walk.

See our Ragged Ramblers' Google Map for the route (starts at St Ethelbert's Gate at Norwich Cathedral: right click to centre map, and then focus in progressively)

~ Munro Tweeder-Harris, Esq. R.S.A.R. ~

Postscript: We would like to thank everyone who attended the Togs & Time Walk today. We were very fortunate to walk beneath such a miraculously blue sky. It was a genuine pleasure to spend time, learning and laughing together. On behalf of the Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers - Huzzah!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Historical Storytelling at Ashwellthorpe Whitehorse

On Saturday March 12, 2011 at the Whitehorse Pub in Ashwellthorpe in Norfolk, Dave Tong, the Yarnsmith of Norwich will be performing:
The Shaming of Agnes Leaman
In 1561 Agnes Leaman was processed through the streets of Norwich before being ducked three times over her head in the river Wensum. She was just one of many men and women who were punished at this time for 'ill rule' and 'evil behaviour'. Theirs were the petty crimes of drunkenness, theft and other misbehaviour. They were real people and this night their deeds will be revealed from court records and the folk stories of long, long ago!

The performance runs from 8.00 -8.50, followed by Marion Leeper of the Cambridge Storytellers performing:
The Kitchen Cat
A mixture of folk tale and family/historical stories, described it as 'a romp through the folk tales and cocktail dresses of post-war Europe

Tickets priced £6.00 and along with further info are availiable from Lisa Vincent on:
01508 481723/489316

For main blog, click here...

Tales from the Horses Mouth -The Black Horse Storytelling Club

On the first Monday of every month there is a new storytelling club in Norwich held at the Black Horse Public House on Earlham road. Old and young, rich and poor - all are welcome to come along and spin a yarn or simply to enjoy a mix stories, riddles, jokes and good conversation!

Sessions start at 8.00 till late and further info can be gathered by contacting Dan at:

For main blog, click here...
The Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tangle & Hump - A Journey Through Time

Tangle & Hump, Peddlers of the Past are pleased to announce that, due to the generosity of Norwich City Council and the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, we will be able to explore a couple of the city's wonderful buildings with you as we wend our way on a journey through time...

St John Maddermarket Church

Photo source: Simon Knott's Norfolk Churches site

The Norwich Historic Churches Trust have kindly agreed to open up the church especially for the tour. A church has stood continuously on this site for around 8,766,000 hours - which, we think you'll agree, is quite a long time! As ever, we will be exploring some of the human stories connected with this fascinating space.

Blackfriars Hall

Thanks to the generous support of Norwich City Council we will be able to take you into the stunning Blackfriars Hall; in what was once the chancel used by the Dominican friars for prayer. As well as explaining the survival of this building - part of the most complete surviving friary complex in Britain -, we will be looking at the wonderful collection of civic portraits. It also provides us with a really special space in which to tell you some medieval stories!

With Heart-felt Best Wishes,
Dan Tangle & Cornelius Hump

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