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Historic Heroes & Villains of Norfolk, England
By Glynn G. Burrows -
Owner of Norfolk Tours in England
It is relatively easy for anyone to name at least one Norfolk Hero as there are several
Norfolk pubs named “The Hero” or even with this person’s name on the pub sign, that
person is, of course,
Admiral Lord Nelson.
He was born in Burnham Thorpe, a tiny little village in North Norfolk, the son of the village Rector and went on to become one of this Country’s greatest naval commanders. A simple search of the internet, for Admiral lord Nelson, will bring up 835,000 results, so I won’t even start to tell you about this local man, I will simply refer you to which includes much of his life story. One of the most interesting facts for me, is that his daughter Horatia was the wife of the Rev Philip Ward and was obviously known to my family who lived in the Birchams. Rev Ward would have carried out Christenings, marriages and funerals of my own ancestors and I can envisage my forebears knowing Horatia as she would have been an important person in the villages.
There are a lot of less well-
Some people that we can equally call heroes include Elizabeth Fry and Sarah Martin for their work in the prison service reforms, Henry Blogg, the lifeboatman from Cromer, Hugh Seagrim who won the George Cross fighting the Japanese, Nurse Edith Cavell who was shot for her involvement in helping many soldiers to escape from Belgium during WWI and Robert Kett who was a leader of the Norfolk Peasantry, complaining about the enclosure of common land by wealthy landowners, leaving common folk nowhere to graze their animals.
Finding out about villains is much more gory and there are more books written about villains than there are about heroes, something which we ought, perhaps address as a society!
There have been many murders and villainous exploits in this large County over the
years and many of them have become internationally renown, but for this article,
I will concentrate on one event that is much less well known. The event which I’m
going to tell you about took place in the middle of the day, on Friday, November
25th 1853 in the middle of Norfolk, between the villages of Wellingham and Tittleshall
and involved a jeweller from Norwich. The unfortunate victim was Lorenz Beha, a watch-
It seems that about halfway between Wellingham and Tittleshall, a person travelling on the road, discovered a quantity of blood which led to a ditch. There he discovered the body of the murdered man. The head had almost been severed from the body, by a blow from the back and the face was dreadfully cut and mangled. A hatchet, such as was used for felling timber, was found nearby, covered in blood The supposed contents of his pockets had been taken but a box of valuable jewellery had been left untouched. A young man named William Thompson was arrested shortly after and was later tried for murder.
Another report of the murder appeared in The Household Narrative in 1853:
“Another barbarous Murder, with Highway Robbery, has been committed in Norfolk. The victim was Lorenzo Beha, a silversmith, who resided in Norwich. He had two assistants in his shop, to whom he left the care of his business while he travelled through the county to obtain orders and to sell his jewellery. He usually carried a box of gold and silver watches and other jewellery in a bag, suspended from a stick on his shoulder, and his custom was, when he sold goods to the country
people, to take payment in small installments. He was last seen alive, walking towards the village of Wellingham, about one o'clock on Friday, the 18th inst. About three o'clock the same afternoon a person named Robinson, who resided in the neighbourhood, while walking along the road, observed a great quantity of blood, and noticed that some portions of it had been partially covered by dirt scraped from the road. At this moment two young gentlemen, sons of the Rev. Mr. Digby, of Tittleshall, came riding up on ponies, and two ladies in a gig, a Miss Shepherd and Mrs. Digby.
The whole party stopped, and their attention was directed to the blood. One of the
young gentlemen observed that there was a trail of blood to the hedge, and Robinson
jumping upon the hedge, saw that the trail was continued through the fence into the
ditch, on the other side, where a horrible spectacle presented itself. The body of
Mr. Beha was found with the legs towards the hedge, and the coat collar turned up
as if the murdered man had been dragged by his coat through the fence. By the side
of the body lay Mr. Beha's box of jewellery, unopened, but removed from the bag,
and his stick and umbrella, and also a large hatchet, such as is used for felling
timbers. The blade of the hatchet was covered with blood and hair, and it was evidently
the weapon by which the unfortunate man had been murdered. His trousers pockets were
turned inside out, and rifled; but in his waistcoat pocket a watch was found, still
going His head had been nearly severed from the body by a blow at the back of the
neck, and there were four deeply-
Further reports appeared elsewhere and this tells of the rather horrific end that became of William Thompson:
At the Norfolk Assizes, before Lord Chief Baron Parke, William Thompson, aged 21, was charged with the murder of Lorenzo Beha, at Tittleshall, on November 18th, 1853. Mr. Evans prosecuted, and Mr. Carlos Cooper defended. The prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced to death. The execution took place on the Castle Hill, Norwich, on April 8th. "The criminal's struggles continued five minutes."
More details about these stories and the lives of all of these folk can be found in the Norfolk Studies Library and the Norfolk Record Office and some information is freely available on the internet, but if you are unable to find what you are looking for, do drop me an email and I will be pleased to help.
Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England -