Tom Hickathrift is a legendary figure of East Anglian English folklore — a character similar to Jack the Giant Killer. He famously battled a giant, and is sometimes said to be a giant himself, though normally he is just represented as possessing giant-like strength.
The legend states that Tom lived in marsh of the Isle of Ely and although initially lazy and gluttonous, he was prodigiously tall and it soon became apparent that he had the strength of twenty men.
Various proofs of his strength are given: he carried twenty hundredweight of straw and a tree as if they weighed nothing, kicked a football so far that nobody could find it and turned the tables on four men who tried to rob him.
He eventually got a job carting beer in Wisbech, but the long journey tired him, so one day he cut across the land of the Wisbech Giant. The giant took this badly and fetched his club to beat Tom, but at this point Tom took the axle-tree and cartwheel and fought the giant. After a furious battle the giant was killed. Tom took his land and was from then on held in esteem by the people of the area.
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Julian of Norwich was an English anchoress whose work, Revelations of Divine Love, is the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman.
Very little is known about Julian’s life; in fact, Julian wasn’t her actual name – she was given this name as her cell was built on the wall of the Church of St. Julian in Norwich. Many historians believe she was born in 1342 to a privileged family in Norwich, and became an anchoress in her thirties.
During this time, Julian of Norwich suffered from a severe illness, and had a number of intense visions. She wrote about the visions immediately, and this became the first version of Revelations of Divine Love. Over the next thirty years, Julian attempted a more in-depth theological exploration of the visions, which became known as The Long Text, consisting of 86 chapters, and approximately 63,500 words.
From Julian of Norwich to England’s only UNESCO City of Literature, writing is an integral part of Norwich. Discover more at Writers’ Centre Norwich.
Norwich is the City of Stories, spanning art, people, music, and literature. Create your own story when you plan a trip with Visit Norwich.
Many people won’t recognise his name, but Thomas Clarkson was a prominent figure in the English abolition movement. This picture depicts him as the key speaker at the first Anti-Slavery Society Convention (now known as Anti-Slavery International). Before this, he helped pass the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended British trade in slaves.
Clarkson spent a significant part of his life in Suffolk. He lived in Bury St. Edmunds for a number of years after marrying Catherine Buck, and later moved to Playford Hall, between Woodbridge and Ipswich, where he died in 1846 – there are several areas in the region named after him in remembrance.
Learn more about Clarkson’s extraordinary life here.
On 10 June 1878 Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski set foot on English soil for the first time, in Lowestoft, having arrived on the small British steamer Mavis, which he had boarded on 24 April 1878 at Marseilles. At the time he could only speak a few words of English.
Jozef went on to become the first Polish-Ukrainian to gain a Master’s certificate in the British Merchant Marine service. but that isn’t why most of us know his name.
By 1895 his first novel was published, under the Anglicised name Joseph Conrad, and he became one of the most important English language novelists. His career spans 20 novels and countless short stories, including 1899’s Heart of Darkness.
Architectural Historian James Bettley took very many years updating Nikolaus Pevsner’s two revered Suffolk guides, and in 2015 they were released – all 1,300 pages of them.
Bettley has brought Pevsner’s seminal guides to Suffolk’s architecture up to date, including modern gems such as Thorington’s Balancing Barn and Ipswich’s Willis building alongside Pevsner’s original study of every building worthy of note in the whole county.
Reviewing, the Telegraph’s Christopher Howse says, “The counties of England implicitly argue in their architecture that our ancestors knew what they were about and that their wisdom is worth preserving. No county makes the argument more convincingly than Suffolk”.
Joe Kennedy, the older brother of John F. Kennedy, was a decorated U.S. Navy Lieutenant who served with distinction on motor torpedo boats, and was expected to become president of the United States.
While undertaking a mission as part of Operation Anvil on August 12th 1944, Joe Kennedy’s aircraft exploded above Blythburgh, Suffolk, killing both Joe Kennedy and his co-pilot Lieutenant Wilford John Willy.
The reason for the accident is not known, but it is suspected that insufficient electrical shielding on an on-board camera could have caused the unstable cargo to explode.
What is it about Suffolk that allows the murder muse to descend? This beautiful county, with its wild north sea and vast canopy of sky, provides both setting and provenance for many crime novels by women.
P D James had a house in Southwold and Ruth Rendell lived in Polstead and Aldeburgh. Both women – who were great friends, towering figures in British crime writing, and died within six months of each other – set many of their books in or near the county. Nicci Gerrard, who writes in her own name and jointly with her husband using his surname French, is based near Bury St Edmunds. Southwold moved Julie Myerson, who has a home there, to exploring the repercussions of murder in Something Might Happen. Josephine Tey, the Scottish crime writer, took up residence in a cottage in Suffolk – though this last is fiction itself, the work of modern Suffolk-born novelist Nicola Upson, described as a new and assured talent by P D James.
Is it the unfortunate fate of a Victorian Suffolk woman that has led to this extraordinary proliferation of Crime Queens? Maria Marten was murdered in Polstead’s Red Barn by her lover William Corder. In 1936 the melodramatic film Murder in the Red Barn was released and achieved cult status. It’s rather fitting that Polstead, home to this tale, was also home to Ruth Rendell.
The Norfolk fisherman John Craske, born in 1881, fell ill and spent time in hospital and Thorpe Mental Asylum in early adulthood, before being released into the care of his wife Laura. By way of reducing his ‘stupors’ – which could last up to three years at a time – she gave him the means to paint and taught him to stitch, and so a lifetime of extraordinary creation began.
Craske created hundreds of pieces depicting seascapes, fishing and boats, and was informally sponsored by the poet Valentine Ackland and her partner, the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner, who bought a great deal of his work and encouraged their circle to do the same. Benjamin Britten was a fan, as was John Betjeman.
It’s for his intricately stitched pieces – often from memory or imagination – that Craske is celebrated and his work can be found in galleries and collections including across Norfolk Museums Service and Aldeburgh Music.
Works by John Golding – scholar, curator and artist – were gifted to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art in 2014, and it’s these that formed the starting point for 2015’s exhibition, Abstraction and the Art of John Golding.
Golding’s fascination with cubism grew during his years at the Courtauld Institute, where his doctoral dissertation focused on the form, and was followed by his seminal piece Cubism: A History and Analysis 1907-1914. He curated two Picasso exhibitions at The Tate, one of which – which also covered Matisse – travelled to MOMA in New York.
His own style was abstract, a form he felt should be “heavily imbued with meaning (and) with content” and influenced by his travels, especially as a child in Mexico, and his love of Renaissance painting.
In our celebration of Latitude – itself celebrating ten glorious years – we’re focusing on the little-known local singer-songwriter who in 2010 performed in the festival’s poetry tent.
The next year his single, The A Team, debuted in the UK charts at number three: and later that year his debut album + hit the top spot in the album charts in its first week of release. In 2011, Ed Sheeran was on the Latitude main stage. Since then, his career has continued to rise and his popularity has grown.
This is not a story of a meteoric rise: this is a story of talent, hard work and ambition. And through all this, Ed Sheeran has kept strong links with Suffolk, where he’s regularly seen in local pubs, performs occasional tiny gigs, donates to charity – and sometimes brings his equally famous friends (Taylor Swift caused quite a flurry).
Latitude welcomed him back in 2015 for two surprise sets, at the iArena on Friday and the Other Voices stage on Saturday.