On this day from the Norfolk Annals

30th November, 1813
Nov 30 all-day

A wrestling match took place at Barford between “the noted Game Chicken” and the “East Tuddenham champion”. There was a vast concourse of spectators, and the odds were seven to one on the Game Chicken, who won with the greatest ease and was offered to be backed for 100 guineas against any 11 stone man in England”.

5th December, 1791
Dec 5 all-day

The eccentric George Walpole, Earl of Orford, died. Grandson of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, he was the owner of the magnificent Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Orford, born in 1730, was a profligate rake who squandered much of his family’s fortune on good living. On the other hand, he was a generous and much-loved local patron, and dedicated himself to country pursuits.

He founded Swaffham Coursing Club for greyhounds in 1776 as well as a Falconers’ Society. As Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, he was the monarch’s representative in the county.

To help pay off his stupendous debts, he sold off his grandfather’s renowned art collection to Empress Catherine the Great of Russia in the late 1770s. Norfolk’s loss was Russia’s gain, as many of these works are on show at The Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Sadly, Orford was diagnosed insane. He died, without legitimate heirs, aged 61.

7th December, 1549
Dec 7 all-day

Robert and William Kett were executed for treason. Robert, a Wymondham landowner, had led a huge peasant rebellion in Norfolk that summer which had shaken the Tudor regime to its foundations.

The Ketts took up the cause of the people, whose common land was being enclosed to create large and profitable farms. Eventually he led a force of up to 10,000 rebels to Norwich, where they massed on the heights of Mousehold Heath above the city.

When they failed to obtain guarantees that enclosure would be stopped, they crossed the river and defeated government forces. The rebels briefly seized the city.

Eventually, the Duke of Northumberland, who governed the country on behalf of the boy King Edward VI, raised fresh forces, partially consisting of mercenaries hired from continental Europe. The poorly armed peasant levies were not match for these professionals. They were defeated with great loss of life, most likely in an area outside Norwich called Dussindale.

The Kett brothers were taken prisoner. They were tried for treason in London, and returned to Norfolk for execution. Robert was hanged in chains from Norwich Castle – a cruel device intended to prolong the agony – while William suffered the same fate at Wymondham Abbey.

10th December, 1836
Dec 10 all-day

The skeleton of a gigantic whale, taken at Plymouth in October, 1831, was exhibited on the Castle Hill, Norwich. It measured 85ft in length and was advertised as ‘The Prince of Whales at Home’.

25th December, 1836
Dec 25 all-day

Christmas Day was ushered in with snowstorms and hailstorms, thunder and lightning. On the 26th the roads were almost impassable by the drifting snow which, in some localities, was from ten to twelve feet deep.

The Ipswich mail coach, which should have arrived in Norwich on Christmas Day, did not reach the city until eleven o’clock on the night of the 29th. One of the passengers, Captain Petre, walked to Norwich from Thwaite, a distance of 28 miles; he arrived in the city on the 28th.

The Newmarket mail could get no further than Bury St Edmunds. The eventual thaw came in January – and led to widespread flooding.