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Stories & Norfolk legends & Stories for Christmas

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Norfolk -history -xmasNow the evenings are drawing in and Christmas is on the horizon it's the perfect time to tell a seasonal tale or two.

Like any rural area there is no shortage of Norfolk Legends and myths, but finding some specifically Christmassy ones is a little trickier.  After a little research and rummaging we found a few to help you get in the festive spirit.

True Crime at Christmas (in Cawston)

Very often Christmas stories are not all joyful and triumphant (just think about “It’s a wonderful life!”).  Christmas can be a time of great happiness, but it can also be a time of great disappointment!

Cawston is a village in north Norfolk, between Reepham and Aylsham, and it was the setting for a story of Christmas skullduggery related by Michael Yaxley on the Cawston Parish website (which has a terrific collection of other Cawston Christmas stories).

The first story Michael tells is every Christmas loving Child’s worst nightmare - a case of stolen presents!

Set some time in the 1950’s, the story involves what initially seems like a harmless, lonely old man who turns up in the pleasant little North Norfolk Village just before Christmas.

He wins the village’s sympathy as he relates a sad story “...that he always travelled away at Christmas and sought refuge in a boarding house or hotel so that he could be alone as he hated the thought of Christmas.”

To their credit a kindly local family extended an invitation for him to stay at theirs over the Christmas period.  Suffice to say the lonely old man turned out to be a bit of a rotter!

You can read this and some more cuddly stories on the Cawston Parish website.

Incidentally the next of Michael’s stories, “The Poor Cawston Family”, contains a very good description of what makes a Christmas in Norfolk so magical that I very much agree with:

“…the charm of a Norfolk Christmas is the contrast between nature in winter and the warmth and light in ones own decorated home”.

Have A Super(natural) Christmas!

Christmas stories very often have a supernatural element to them (just think of “A Christmas Carol”) and those you find in Norfolk are no different.

Probably the best known supernatural Norfolk Christmas tale is that of the Magic Oak - It is a remarkable tale referred to in the Ballad of Ashwellthorpe.

This story, which takes place in Ashwellthorpe Hall around 1600 and involves the real-life Sir Thomas Berners - who rebuilt the Hall around that time.

A man of high reputation, Sir Thomas Berners generosity was renowned in the region.  The tale goes that at Christmas time a Londoner arrived at the Hall with guests in tow.

The mysterious Londoner showed the assembled company an acorn informing them that it had magical powers, having fallen from a magic Oak.

He set it down in the middle of the Hall and miraculously an oak tree shot up immediately, filling the space with great limbs covered with acorns.

Not particularly keen on the idea losing a lot of his living space to an oak tree, Sir Thomas ordered his servants to cut it down which they dutifully set about doing.

Once the tree was chopped down they found they were unable to remove all the pieces from the hall whereupon (and this is where it gets slightly random) a brace of goslings appeared and drew it away.

Much to all the guests amazement, when they looked outside to see where the bit’s of tree had been deposited they had vanished - “Not a Chip then could be found.” as the Ballad states.

Reportedly this is why there are geese on the moat of the Hall to this day, and those from London are viewed with great suspicion!

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By Alastair Baker at 9 Dec 2015, 00:00 AM