Silver Well, Shouldham, Norfolk

Holy Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – TF 6753 0817

Archaeology & History

Once found in the small woodland known as the High Plantation, this holy well has, seemingly, long since fallen back to Earth.  Mary Manning (1994) included it in her survey where she told that in earlier days it could be seen

“in a field which has drainage ditches and cultivation. Here was formerly marshy land draining to the Nar and lying on the south slope of the Nar valley.”

She thought that the title ‘Silver Well’ meant it was a holy site, but others told that it was due to a silver scum that formed on the surface of the waters—and it was a chalybeate (or iron-bearing spring) this is possible.

It was described in Francis White’s (1854) Directory of Norfolk for Shouldham:

“On Mr. Cotton’s estate is a fine chalybeate spring, called Silver Well, which gives rise to a small rivulet which passes through the village.  Near this a new spring was discovered about 20 years ago, and both of them possess similar properties to those of Tunbridge Wells.”

This secondary “spring” was another chalybeate well, above which a stone obelisk was erected in 1839.


In relation to the object found in the well, Manning (1994) thinks “the objects found could have been pagan votive offerings in a venerated well.”  She also told that:

“The well is the subject of a local legend, which takes two forms.  One version is that at the Dissolution, treasure from one of the abbeys was hidden in the well.  The second says that workmen repairing the well brought up a container/box of silver ware, which was inadvertently dropped back and never recovered.  Both tales attribute the silver colour of the well water to the effect of passing over silver treasure.”

A variation on this was noted by folklorist W.B. Gerish (1892) who told that the silver which the workmen dropped back into the well, did so as a result of the devil fighting them over it, and they fled!


  1. Anonymous, Kelly’s Directory of the Counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, Kelly’s Directories Ltd 1925.
  2. Gerish, W.B., Norfolk Folklore Notes, 1892.
  3. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  4. Manning, M., Taking the Waters in Norfolk, NIAS: Norfolk 1994.
  5. White, Francis, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk, 1854.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Ox-Foot Stone, South Lopham, Norfolk

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TM 052 809


This slab of sandstone apparently used to stand upright in one of the fields of Oxfootstone Farm and on its surface is supposed to be the burnt impression of a cow’s hoof-print. Legend tells that there was a fairy cow which would come into the area when times of hardship occurred. During such periods she would freely give her milk to the people, but when the drought was over she stamped down on the stone upon which she stood, burning the imprint of her hoof onto it and magically vanished back from whence she came. A variation of the tale tells of a normal cow whose milk normally supplied the local villagers. But one night a drunken man (in another tale it is a witch) milked the cow dry through a sieve, until only blood came from her udders. At this point, the cow cried out in pain and kicked the stone so hard that she left the mark of her hoof-print on it.

Another tale tells that an ox got a large thorn stuck in its foot and rampaged through the local village, eventually stamping its hoof onto the stone so hard that it left the imprint of its foot here.

Now this might sound presumptious of me — but this tale has all the hallmarks of it being an old folk-remnant telling the origin of some cup-and-ring marked stone.  We find a number of cup-and-rings with creation tales similar to this.  Are there any local archaeologists or enthusiasts in Norfolk who might be able to locate any remains of this possible carved stone?


  1. Burgess, Michael W., The Standing Stones of Norfolk and Suffolk, ESNA 1: Lowestoft 1978.
  2. Dutt, W.A., The Ancient Mark-Stones of East Anglia, Flood & Sons: Lowestoft, 1926.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Gull Stones, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TG 524 035

Archaeology & History

Several local history records describe there being a circle of ten standing stones in a field called ‘Stone-field’ or ‘Stone-piece’ – now covered by a housing estate at Gorleston-on-Sea, south of Yarmouth.  In 1875, C. J. Palmer said that,

“there is a tradition that the Druids had a temple at Gorleston, some remains of which existed down to a comparatively recent period. It is supposed to have stood on a field next to the road to Lowestoft, upon what is called Great Stone Close; and it has been asserted that some huge stones remained standing until 1768, when they were destroyed by digging round their base and dragging them down by ropes. There are also two fields called Further Stone Close and Middle Stone Close, so that it is possible the Druidical circle, if it ever existed, may have had a wide extent”.

A painting of the site was reported to have been viewed by members of the Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society in 1888, but I’ve been unable to find out where this has gone.  Anyone out there got a copy?  Or know where it hangs?  An image of this lost stone circle would be hugely welcome!


  1. Burgess, Michael W., The Standing Stones of Norfolk and Suffolk, ESNA 1: Lowestoft 1978.
  2. Palmer, C.J., The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth – volume 3, George Nall: Gt Yarmouth 1875.


  1. Hidden East Anglia: Ancient Sites & Legends

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian