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West Bilney

West Bilney lies on the busy A47 seven miles south-east of King's Lynn. The writer, actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry has a second home in the village which he uses as a place to write. He originally bought the house from the proceeds of re-writing the script for the musical Me and My Girl.

Stephen Fry's House

Stephen Fry's House

Fry moved to Booton in Norfolk in 1965 with his family and he attended  Cawston Primary School, Paston School in North Walsham and City College Norwich. Fry has written three novels: The Liar (1993), The Hippopotamus (1994) and Making History (1997). His work has clearly been influenced by the county and he is a self-confessed Norfolk-phile. And for a 'furriner' - he possesses a shrewd understanding of the attraction of the county:

'You either get Norfolk, with its wild roughness and uncultivated oddities, or you don't. It's not all soft and lovely. It doesn't ask to be loved.'

In The Hippopotamus - the central character Edward Wallace stays with Lord Logan on his estate in Norfolk. Fry's autobiography Moab Is My Washpot (2000) deals intimately with his years in Norfolk before attending Cambridge University.

While filming the ITV series Kingdom (which was shot on location at Swaffham and Wells-next-the-Sea) Fry used to stay at his house in West Bilney.

West Bilney also has another fascinating literary link - for it was here that the Norfolk poacher Fred Rolfe worked as a gamekeeper. According to research by Charlotte Paton, who has written a book on Rolfe called The King of the Norfolk Poachers: His Life and Times, he lived in the cottage on the West Bilney estate.

Fred Rolfe: King of the Norfolk Poachers

Rolfe was born at nearby Pentney, but spent his final years at Bungay where his memoir I Walked By Night came to the attention of Lilias Rider Haggard. Lilias received a 'dog-eared' manuscript from a farmer's wife but quickly realised its significance in terms of Norfolk country lore.

Rolfe was frequently imprisoned but remained unrepentant about his activities:

'I have always had the idea that game was as much mine as anyone else's.... I envy not the Ritch man's lot nor the Prince his dream. I have took a fair share of the ritch. I am well over 70 and waiting for the last Roll Call. If I had my time to come over again I still would be what I have been - a Poacher.'




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