Countryside Notes – January

COUNTRYSIDE NOTES VILLAGE SIGNS.
I‘ve always found village signs interesting because they’re usually the result of local people getting together to create a design depicting a characteristic feature of the village, part of its history, a local legend and often to mark a significant national occasion. They all began when Edward V11 made the suggestion, when cars were first appearing on roads, that a picturesque sign in a prominent position would aid the identification of places. The first four village signs were erected on the Sandringham Estate in 1912. Prince Albert, Duke of York, further encouraged the idea in 1920 and King George V1 voiced his support in 1924. Barton Bendish once had three churches, St Mary’s, St Andrew’s and the long gone All Saints; these are shown on our sign together with a sheaf of wheat depicting the importance of agriculture to the village. Above are two blue and white symbols of St Andrew. Money for the project was raised from ‘bonanzas’ held in the village and the fibreglass sign was unveiled in 1990. Beachamwell’s sign is the village name created simply in wrought iron by architectural metal worker Barry Rowe of Demax from Narborough, a business he founded in 1971. It is supported by an oak post shaped by John Sanderson and was erected in July 1978 to commemorate the Queen’s silver jubilee. Originally the Boughton sign, unveiled by the Bishop of Ely in 1972, depicted a horse drawn wagon but the more recent one was carved from oak earlier this century by Boughton resident Denzil Davies. It shows the Domesday name of Buchetuna, the pond with ducks rising on either side and the church in the background. Best kept village awards won by Boughton are displayed on the supporting post. Wereham’s wooden sign depicts the church of St Margaret with a red cloaked priest kneeling in front. Included are cameos of Billy the seal, a resident of the village pond in the 1920s, and the village pump. Unusually on the reverse side is a further picture of a man offering Billy some ale with the pub in the background. Other signs that have attracted my attention are the wrought iron one at Harpley representing local flora and fauna with oak leaves, a sheaf of corn, a pheasant on the left and a hare on the right; I used this in my Hare book. Weeting, near Brandon, has a lovely sign showing the terrace of ten dwellings, believed to be the longest continuous row of thatched houses in England, with a rabbit on one side and a stone curlew on the other. One of my favourites though is at Wretham, near Thetford. On it are a ram’s head, marking an old tradition of letting a ram loose among the tenants which they could keep if they could catch it. There are also trees representing the surrounding forestry, French partridges, the shooting in the 1800s and a witch because witchcraft in the village persisted until the 19th century.

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