On this day from the Norfolk Annals

March 22, 1833
Mar 22 all-day

At the Norfolk Assizes, at Norwich, before Mr Justice Bolland, Mary Wright, aged 28, was found guilty of the murder of her husband and of Richard Darby, by poisoning them at Wighton, and was sentenced to be hanged on March 26.

Pregnancy was pleaded, and a jury of matrons were empanelled, who returned a verdict adverse to the prisoner. By direction of the Court, she was examined by Messrs Crosse, Scott and Johnson, surgeons, upon whose certificate she was respited generally.

The prisoner on July 11 gave birth to a female child and sentence was afterwards commuted to transportation for life. The unfortunate woman died in Norwich Castle on November 1.

23rd April, 1648
Apr 23 all-day

Norwich was rocked by ‘The Great Blowe’. This city dust-up had its roots in growing discontent in the wake of the civil war.

In the aftermath of King Charles I’s surrender in the spring of 1646, puritanical religious reformers had tightened their grip on Norwich and other places in eastern England. They even banned Christmas.

By early 1648, the city was in a funny mood. Norwich apprentices and workers were up for a fight. Rumours spread that popular Mayor John Utting was about to be arrested by the authorities, and sent to London. The city gates were locked and by midnight a crowd reckoned at about 2,000 people had gathered in support of the mayor, shouting for ‘God and King Charles’.

Things got out of hand. As Parliamentary cavalry were summoned to break up the unrest, rioters decided to seize arms and ammunition stored at the headquarters of the County Committee.

What happened next is unclear, but there was an explosion. . . and when the dust had cleared 40 people were dead, many more were injured and the windows of St Peter Mancroft and St Stephen’s Churches were blown out. Which was why Norwich people recalled the incident as the ‘Great Blowe’.

The authorities cracked down. Some 300 people were arrested, and eight ringleaders hanged at Norwich Castle the following January.

At a national level a second civil war broke out, and Colchester was besieged by Parliament. In January, 1649, King Charles was tried and beheaded in London. England became a Republic.

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.

June 17, 1381
Jun 17 all-day

The city of Norwich opened its gates to Geoffrey Lister’s rebels. This all happened during what is now known as the ‘Peasants’ Revolt’, a few days after the men of Essex and Kent had marched on London, and Wat Tyler had been killed.

The unrest affected much of southern England, and Norfolk and Suffolk were no exceptions. Geoffrey Lister, ‘king of the Commons’, was a successful businessman and property owner from Felmingham, near North Walsham. No peasant then, but a substantial character, as were many of the insurgents in 1381.

Most of them felt justice was on their side, and they were redressing the balance against over-mighty, corrupt royal officials and churchmen, particularly in the wake of the hated poll tax. Like so many, they misread the signals coming from the young king, Richard II, unaware savage retribution was at hand.

After seizing property rolls and records at ecclesiastical sites, such as Binham and Carrow, the rebels marched on Norwich. Lister seized Norwich Castle and imprisoned some of the gentry and judiciary.

It was the Bishop of Norwich, Henry Dispenser, who led the counter-attack. Lister and his rebels withdrew to the north. The bishop’s army caught up with them on the road to North Walsham, where they were defeated.
Lister was captured, and hanged, drawn and quartered on the spot. His quarters were sent to Norwich, Lynn, Yarmouth and his home village, Felmingham.

Bishop Henry put up three crosses to mark the battle site, one of which can be seen just off the Norwich Road.

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.”