On this day from the Norfolk Annals

1st June, 1070
Jun 1 all-day

Hereward the Wake and his Viking allies sacked Peterborough Cathedral.

Renowned as the last English warrior to successfully oppose William the Conqueror and his formidable Norman soldiers, Hereward’s tale is seeped in legend.

Although it is hard to separate the man from the myth, it seems likely Hereward was a noble English thegn from Bourne in south Lincolnshire. He was in exile during the Norman invasion of 1066, but on his return to England he became leader of the rebels in the east defying King William.

By the summer of 1070 he was operating alongside a Danish fleet led by their King Sweyn. On June 1, as a new French abbot Torold was abut to take over the wealthy religious establishment at Peterborough, Hereward and the Vikings struck first. They stormed the monastery, brushing aside the monks, and made off with “treasures in money, cloth and gold”.

With that, the Danes made a separate truce with William and made off with their loot – which was probably their intention all along. As for Hereward, despite making enemies of the Peterborough monks, he fought a highly successful guerrilla campaign based in the fens around Ely. There he defied the Norman army, which struggled to make headway in the marshy ground, until (by some accounts) some more monks betrayed him.

With the fall of Ely, Hereward leaves the pages of history and enters those of legend. It seems that, despite later making peace with King William, Hereward was ambushed by some of the Norman knights he had earlier defeated – and died making a last stand.

17th August, 1802
Aug 17 all-day

A duel was fought on Mousehold Heath, Norwich, by Mr Robert Alderson, a well-known barrister, and Mr Grigby.

“The latter conceived he had been unfairly treated in cross-examination by Mr Alderson at the Suffolk Assizes, and, refusing to accept his explanation, sent him a challenge.

“Mr Alderson was attended to the field by Mr Mackintosh and Mr Grigby by Mr Turner. Two shots were exchanged, with no effect than that of Mr Grigby’s first ball passing through the skirts of Mr Alderson’s coat. A cordial reconciliation was afterwards effected.”

26th September, 1818
Sep 26 all-day

The Phenomena day coach was advertised to run from the Angel Inn, Norwich, and the One Bull Inn, Bury, to the Bull Inn, Aldgate, London, in fourteen hours. It set out from Norwich at a quarter to six. The proprietors prohibited racing on the part of their coachman. The rival coach, the Norwich and London Original day coach, started from the Norfolk Hotel every morning at a quarter to seven and ran to the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street and the Swan with Two Necks, through Bury, Sudbury, Chelmsford and Romford.

2nd October, 1825
Oct 2 all-day

It was quite a family affair in East Anglia two centuries ago. This excerpt from the Norfolk Annals marks the death of Mrs Hannah Want, of Ditchingham, aged 106. “She was born on August 20, 1720. On the anniversary of her 105th birthday she entertained a party of her relatives, who visited her to celebrate it. She lived to see five generations, and at her death there were living children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren to the number of 121.”2

9th October, 1600
Oct 9 all-day

A brutal duel took place in Norwich. Just outside the city’s Ber Street gates, Sir Robert Mansel and Sir John Heydon set to with rapiers. The result was a severed limb, and a scrap that went down in Norfolk legend.

Heydon was a member of a distinguished Norfolk family, and a supporter of the Earl of Essex. Mansel was a naval captain who had been present at the sack of Cadiz in 1596, an Elizabethan sea dog, and supporter of Queen Elizabeth I.

The cause of their dispute was linked to the waning fortunes of Essex, former favourite of the Queen, who was on his way to rebellion and ultimate execution.

The two men fought on October 9. There were no seconds present. By Mansel’s account it was a vicious battle, which ended with Heydon losing a hand. The severed limb was mummified, and is today in Norwich Castle Museum.

As for Mansel, he was elected MP for King’s Lynn, his naval career went on, and he lived until 1656.