The village sign at Great Walsingham in Norfolk depicts a squirrel. The inspiration
for the design came from the family crest of the local Lords of the Manor, the Lee-Warners.
Two members of the family, Sir William Lee-Warner and his wife, have an impressive
tomb in Little Walsingham Church. The squirrel sits on the branches of an oak tree.
An oak dating from 1692 still grows on the green in the centre of nearby Great Walsingham.
The design was that of Mr. Harrington of Little Walsingham and the sign itself was
made by Harry Carter of Swaffham in Norfolk.
Animals have been used as decorative motifs in East Anglia for many centuries, but
early representations appear as rather ferocious creatures, as seen for example carved
in stone on the outside of churches. Then the idea seems to have been to scare away
evil. When benches were installed inside churches, more friendly-looking animals
were carved on them. Since then animals have appeared in all sorts of situations,
but mostly on inn, pub and village signs and on weather vanes.
The following pictures show examples of those animals that are least often represented.
See other pages for the more common ones.
Of over five and a half hundred pubs listed in Yellow Pages for the Norwich area,
none refers to squirrels or badgers. Only two have names relating to cats, The Cat
and Fiddle and The Fat Cat. Both are in Norwich. Just a few pubs have names relating
to pigs. The Blue Boar and Hog in Armour, both in Norwich, and The Boars in Wymondham
are three I’ve found in Norfolk. The Hog in Armour is a curious name that has puzzled
many. It has been suggested that the hog is actually a corruption of ‘hodge’, which
is a name given to a peasant. Perhaps the idea is that a hog dressed in armour is
as ridiculous as a peasant dressed in finery. Another unusual name is The Eels Foot
Inn at Ormesby.
Motifs of squirrels can be found in East Harling Church in Norfolk. The squirrel
is a symbol of the Lovell family, who have been associated with the church at East
Harling since having the manor here from the sixteenth century.
Right: The village sign at South Lopham in Norfolk depicts a spider, strictly speaking
not an insect but an arachnid. It represents the great raft spider, a comparatively
rare spider that can be found at nearby Redgrave and Lopham Fen. Arachnids don’t
appear in wayside art very often.
TO INTRODUCTION TO BUILDINGS
TO MAIN INTRODUCTION
Insects don’t feature as motifs very often, but occasionally there are bees, which
have had symbolic significance of various kinds throughout history. Two pubs in
Norwich are called ‘The Beehive’, and the Norwich School of Art and Design in St.
George’s Street, has twenty bee motifs worked into a mosaic floor in the foyer. For
pictures and further information go to http://www.thejoyofshards.co.uk/mosaicsorguk/norwich/nsad.sh tml
Left: Weather vane with pig at Brockdish in Norfolk.
Below: A house sign showing a hedgehog at Bridgham in Norfolk.
This is the work of local plaster pargeter, Trevor Clarke. To see more of his work
go the page on pargeting in the Plants section.
Left: Weather vane on top of a garage roof depicting a pig at Gissing in Norfolk.
Right: A weather vane depicting a pig and her two piglets on a building in Thrandeston
Below: A cat chases a mouse on this weather vane at a house at Roydon in Suffolk.
Left: Two badgers depicted on a village sign at Browston.
Right: Pig statue seen in the front garden of a bungalow in Gissing, Norfolk.
At Drayton there’s a pub called The Otter.
Above: This village sign, depicting a hare, is in Huntingfield in Suffolk. Situated
on the village green, it was designed by the well-known artist David Gentleman and
erected in 2005. Another hare is depicted in a pargeting panel on the front of a
house in Pulham Market in Norfolk. See below.
Right: A pub sign in the village of East Runton on the north Norfolk coast. Mice
rarely feature in wayside art.
THE SHERINGHAM MURAL
I recently received some excellent photos from a friend (below) of an interesting
mural on the seafront at Sheringham in Norfolk. The mural was completed in August
2016 and celebrates the discovery in 1990 of an ancient mammoth fossil found at nearby
West Runton. It was painted in masonry paint by 73-year-old local artist David Barber.
It stretches nearly 100 metres along the promenade wall and depicts, not only mammoths,
but also other mammals including big cats and rhinos.
The huge bone that was discovered in 1990 turned out to be part of a near-complete
skeleton of a Mammuthus trogontherii mammoth. It was found at the base of cliffs
after it was exposed during stormy weather the previous night. Dating from before
the Ice Age, between 600,000 and 700,000 years ago, it is the oldest mammoth to be
found anywhere in the UK. It is also the largest species of animal ever to have lived
on land, except for the biggest of the dinosaurs, and would have weighed twice that
of a modern African elephant. It was unusually well preserved for such an old fossil.
It took the Norfolk Archeological Unit three months in 1995 to thoroughly excavate
the site where it was found. Specialists from around the world helped to record and
analyse the findings. A few selected bones have been on display in Norfolk museums
in Norwich, Cromer and at Gressenhall.
The Sheringham mural that celebrates the mammoth fossil is not the only mural that
can be seen in the town. One mural shows seals at play and another shows local birds
in flight. Other murals depict people. On the Trades and Professions page of this
website I posted two photos that depict fishermen, but there are other murals depicting
people: a person buying ice cream from an ice cream van, a couple resting in their
deckchairs on the beach, and even one of Albert Einstein with a mug of tea in his
hand! And yet another mural depicts a shipwreck. Sheringham seems to be a very good
place to visit if you want to see lots of wayside decorative art.