On a blissful summer’s evening walk along the River Wensum a couple of weeks ago, we came across one of the city’s ghostly storytellers regaling a sizeable group with tales of the women suspected of being witches who were ducked and drowned from Fye Bridge.
Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, and his colleague in terror, John Stearne, carried out the witch hunts between 1644 and 1647. You can read more about their evil endeavours at CulturaObscura.
The bridge itself looks innocently picturesque in the balmy evening light, but once it held nothing but terror for some of the folk of Norwich, mostly women, but also dishonest tradesmen.
Fye Bridge is the oldest known bridge site in Norwich. Even older than Bishop Bridge, the bridge was rebuilt in the early 1930’s, so it has a more modern appearance. The bridge site dates back to 1153, a timber structure replaced with stone in the early 15th century. You can see more details and images of the construction of Fye Bridge via George Plunkett.
Personally, I love the shape of Fye bridge, the low curves and contrasting brickwork. It’s nice to sit with a drink at the Ribs of Beef and watch river life glide by.
Sometimes you can see Kingfishers doing a spot of fishing. I’ve heard otters are sometimes around, but we have yet to see one.
As with many old sites in Norwich, there are stories of a ghost. I will return to ghostly goings on in more detail as this Wensum series progresses, but the likelihood of me ever catching one on camera is extremely remote. If I ever do, the images will appear here first!
From NorfolkLive.co.uk—”Fye Bridge still stands today, and although the days of dunking suspected witches into the river are over, the bridge is said to be home to the ghost of a woman who was tried at the site. She was later burned for witchcraft at the nearby Lollard’s Pit, which is now a local pub. According to those who have had sightings of the ghost, she is dressed in rags and begs strangers to help her pick up a dropped bundle of sticks that were used to kindle the fire that killed her. It’s also believed that those that are kind enough to stop and help her will die in a fire within the year. “
It is always in my nature to help where needed, but I may avoid helping this ghost, I’ve far too many blog posts to get done yet!
The name Fye, comes from Magdalen Street which was originally called Fybriggate meaning the street leading to Fye Bridge. (Heritage Norfolk).
Please visit the sites I have linked for more information. I find the George Plunkett site particularly fascinating because of the old images of the bridges along the Wensum. It is well worth a look.
If you are interested to learn more of the history of old Norwich, the sites mentioned above give great information. Nick Stone of Invisible Works also makes for a fascinating and in depth read.
If you are new to Norwich I hope you will enjoy learning more about this fine city with its incredible history. If you already have lived here for years, I am sure like me, you are always learning new things about this remarkable place. Hopefully my River Wensum series will spark more interest and you will enjoy my images.
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Please see other posts in the River Wensum Series below. It begins with the bridges, and I will go on to write about the buildings and wildlife (including some of the humans) along the river.
Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn.
I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls.
Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen.
My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all.
Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters.
Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift.
Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart.
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