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WAYSIDE ART IN EAST ANGLIA

ANIMALS

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.  

AN INTRODUCTION

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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 in Suffolk.

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.