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Potter Heigham

Potter Heigham is located in the heart of the Norfolk Broads on the River Thurne.

Sidney Grapes (1888-1958)

Sidney Grapes, the Norfolk humorist, lived in the village for most of his life. Originally he owned a cycle shop (located next to the River Thurne) but, with the coming of the age of the car, he transformed this into a garage. He used to live in a flat above the 'shop' with his wife Ella.

The Late Great Sidney Grapes

Grapes' Garage c. 1924

One December he displayed a notice outside his garage which read: ' A merry Chritmas to all my customers wot ha' paid their bills, and a prosperous New Year to them wot hain't.' He continued to develop this humorous use of the Norfolk dialect until, in 1946, he wrote his first letter to the The Eastern Daily Press (EDP) signed 'The Boy John'.

For the next 12 years The Boy John Letters appeared intermittently in the EDP and became something of a Norfolk institution. They detailed the goings on (as narrated by the Boy John) of various engaging Norfolk village characters including Aunt Agatha, Granfar and Mrs W. The letters were full of humour and good sense and are particularly remembered for Aunt Agatha's aphorisms which concluded each instalment - such as: 'Aunt Agatha, she say: All husbands are alike, only they have different faces so you can tell 'em apart.'

Here is one of the early letters entitled Aunt Agatha's Dickey Ride (a 'dickey' being Norfolk dialect for Donkey).

Dear Sar - Well, the time a' cum round agin for me and Arnt Agatha and Granfar, to rite an wish yow, and yar starf an orl, a werry Happy Christmas. Arnt Agatha, she say, specially to that there gentleman wot go about a taken them photos o' pretty plearces in Norfolk, he must a' got a bike, to git about like he dew.

Oh! I must tell you about Arnt Agatha, last summer. We had a garden fate at the Wickerage, an weeks afore-hand you could buy shillin tickets, then save em all up, then spend em on anything at the fate. Well Arnt Agatha, she was wery busy and dint git there till ever so late, an then ewerything wus sold. She had six shillin tickets wot she'd saved, an orl she could spend em on wus on six shilling rides round the field on the Wicar's owld dicker, wot he's lent for the purpus. Well bor she cum home orl o' a muckwash - she looked a job.

Granfar, he mobbed har, and he called har a silly old fule. He fear to ha been a pearkin tru a hole in the fence and see har. He say, "There she wus a bobbin up and down on that old dicker's back, a' holden har hat on wi one hand, an har teeth in wi the tother, she look disgustin."

Poor Granfar, he about about everything nowadays. He go down to the pub every nite, he come back a mobbin about the beer, he say he's right glad when he a' had enuf on it. Arnt Agatha say, "Well yow put em in," he say, "I never put them in, I votted learbor. Well fare you well together, a Happy Xmas to all you wot read this - Yours obediently,


P.S. - Arnt Agatha she say, If you dorn't git orl you want, think of the things yow dorn't want - an dorn't git.

There is a oak-panelled clergy vestry inside St Nicholas' Church dedicated to Sidney Grapes. 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of Grapes' death and to commemorate it there was a new collection of the Boy John Letters  published by the Mousehold Press - featuring an introduction by Keith Skipper.

St Nicholas Church Potter Heigham

St. Nicholas Church, Potter Heigham.

Field view of St Nicholas Church

From across the fields

Arthur Ransome (1884-1967)

In Coot Club Dick and Dorothea and Tom pass through Potter Heigham on their way to Horsey Mere. This is how the village is first described:
'...half an hour later, as they came into a long water street of bungalows, built on the banks that have been made by dredging mud from the river. The little wooden houses took the wind from the Teasel's sails and made things difficult. One moment a dead calm, and then, a good wind slipping through the gap between one house and the next.

They came at last to the boatyards of Potter Heigham, and the staithe and the lovely old bridge built four hundred years ago and maybe more.'

In fact, the base of the stone bridge at Potter Heigham was built in about 1380 and the parapets were added at a later date. The bridge is one of the best known landmarks in the Broads. It is only possible to pass through the central arch of the bridge and even small vessels sometimes struggle  to get through - as the numerous streaks of paint on the inside of the bridge testify.

On their way back from Horsey, the Teasel moors up in the dark at Potter Heigham and the children fail to notice that they are actually right next to the Margoletta - which they are desperately trying to avoid.

In the sequel to Coot Club - The Big Six - the Death and Glories (alias Joe, Bill and Pete) catch a 30½ pike just up stream of Potter Heigham close to Kendal (Candle) Dyke. The pike is taken to Norwich to be stuffed and is later displayed on the mantelpiece of the Roaring Donkey pub.

Potter Heigham Bridge

Potter Heigham Bungalows

Potter Heigham Ghost Stories

The village is also associated with two ghost stories: The Phantom Coach of Potter Heigham and The Ghostly Drummer.

In the first story Lady Carew and her daughter Evelyn swear away their souls in return for a love potion to ensnare the eligible bachelor Sir Godfrey Haslitt. The love potion works and Evelyn and Haslitt are married in 1742. However,on the night of their nuptial blessing a phantom coach appears - driven by skeletons and takes the bride away. The coach bursts into flames as it crosses Potter Heigham bridge.

In the second story a drummer boy - home on leave from the army - falls in love with a girl from the village. Unfortunately the girl's father refuses to accept a soldier as a son-in law and so the couple are forced to meet in secret at Swim Coots on Hickling Broad. Every February the drummer boy would skate across the broad to meet his love - but one evening the ice gives way and he is drowned. Today, apparently, his ghost can be seen on the broad during the month of February accompanied by the sound of ghostly drumming.


More photographs of Potter Heigham






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