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Weeting

Weeting lies in the Brecklands in one of the oldest inhabited parts of Norfolk. Within the parish are the remains of the prehistoric flint mines known as Grime's Graves which consist of 400 separate mine shafts on a 34 acre site dating back 5000 years. Today the site has the appearance of a pock-marked, lunar landscape due to the in-filling of the mine shafts.

In his moving memoir Nature Cure - Richard Mabey records a visit to one of the mine shafts:
 

'There are two bands of flint in the chalk. Half-way down is a lode of dark, split stones a foot deep, shining, as if they have just been splashed with water. At the bottom is the floorstone, which held the most prized flints. There are little chambers and galleries branching off the main shaft, barred-off but artificially lit. The ceilings are very low. The diggers (were there children and women amongst them?) must have had to lie on their backs to prise out stones.'

This distinctive location also features in Brian Cooper's detective novel The Travelling Dead as the 'chipping fields' and in Colin (Middleton) Murry's autobiography One Hand Clapping (1975). (Murry was the son of John Middleton Murry and grew up at the rectory at Larling. He also wrote under the pen-name Richard Cowper.)

Weeting Castle, Norfolk

Remains of Weeting Castle

Weeting has a couple of other important literary connections. Weeting Castle - which is the remains of a medieval moated house - appears in Hereward the Wake by Charles Kingsley (1819-1875). In the story William the Conqueror was based at Weeting hoping to capture Hereward's stronghold on the Isle of Ely. However, Hereward disguises himself as a potter and infiltrates William's court and discovers vital information before escaping and returning to Ely.
 
Charles Kingsley was a history don at Cambridge University and therefore was familiar with the fens and the surrounding areas. However, there is no historical evidence to suggest that the events portrayed in his novel actually occurred.

Thomas Shadwell

The poet and dramatist Thomas Shadwell (1742-1792) may have been born at Weeting - either at Stanton Hall or at Bromehill Farm. In his day he was well known for his witty plays but, today, he is best remembered for his war of words with the poet John Dryden. Dryden attacked him in both Mac Flecknoe and Absalom and Architophel.

Shadwell wrote some 14 comedy dramas and a number of operas including one based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. He succeeded Dryden as poet laureate in 1689.
 
Just to the east of Thetford lies the village of Shadwell - which may lend credence to his Norfolk origins.
 
 

 

 

 

 

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