Revealed: The meanings behind 15 mystery symbols in a Norfolk market town

Fakenham's Market Place, and some of the symbols set in stone there PICTURE: Ian Burt

Fakenham's Market Place, and some of the symbols set in stone there PICTURE: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

When Fakenham’s heritage trail launched earlier this year, many people were surprised to hear the town going by its official name of Fakenham Lancaster.

A Fakenham heritage trail plaque outside The Crown pub, in the town centre PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

A Fakenham heritage trail plaque outside The Crown pub, in the town centre PICTURE: Matthew Farmer - Credit: Archant

It took the name the Duke of Lancaster, who was given the town in 1377. There are plenty of other surprises around Fakenham, and most are represented in symbols you will see on plaques, dotted around as part of the heritage trail which opened in July. Clockwise from top, these are:

1. The Helmet.

The first symbol comes from Fakenham's first surviving building, Cromwell Cottage. The helmet shown is one of those worn by roundhead troops, who fought for Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War. It it believed roundhead troops were stationed in the house, giving it the name.

Fakenham town sign. Photo: Archant Library

Fakenham town sign. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

2. The Penny-Farthing.

Fakenham-born inventor John Cousins Garrood re-engineered the penny farthing, and passed on his ideas to the modern 'safety bikes' we all use today.

Mr Garrood, born in 1851, had plenty of time to think about improving bikes as he cycled from Fakenham to King's Lynn every day of his apprenticeship. After some years in America, he came back to Fakenham to run his father's cycleworks on Wells Road.

Fakenham Newsboys football team on October 3, 1983, in front of News-Klip and the cyclists' symbol P

Fakenham Newsboys football team on October 3, 1983, in front of News-Klip and the cyclists' symbol PICTURE: Archant Archive

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There, he started adding grips to pedals and making bike's front forks out of metal tubes, meaning they were lighter and more manoeuvrable than before.

He was also a member of the Cyclists Touring Club, now known as Cycling UK. The club used place a large seal of approval on places which gave cyclists good accommodation. The seal can now be seen on the side of stationers Paper-Klip, hinting at its past use.

3. The Lamp.

The gas-fired lamp of the heritage trail, shown by David Yates, curator PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

The gas-fired lamp of the heritage trail, shown by David Yates, curator PICTURE: Matthew Farmer - Credit: Archant

This symbol is based on a lamp in the town, at Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History. In a ceremony every year, Robert Louis Stevenson's poem The Lamplighter is read as the gas lamp is lit at dusk.

Fakenham's gasworks is the last surviving one in England, outliving the rail line which brought coal to the furnaces.

4. The Horse.

Thrills and spills at Fakenham racecourse. Photo: SONYA DUNCAN

Thrills and spills at Fakenham racecourse. Photo: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The stallion is a symbol of Fakenham's racecourse, one of the attractions setting the town apart from its neighbours. Despite having one of the country's cheapest cinemas and plenty of sports facilities, a resident once walked around the town on a Wednesday afternoon and declared it 'one of the most boring places on earth' in an online travel guide.

Plenty rushed to the town to find out what made it so boring, but others leapt its defence. Even Jeremy Clarkson said he would "rather live with a sheep in Fakenham than in the West Country, where, he said, angry yobs have turned town centres into bottle-strewn war zones."

The town was later voted as the seventh best place to live in the country by Country Life magazine, and then shortlisted as one of the country's top market towns in 2005.

Controversial homes plan for Fakenham in NNDC Local Plan. Pictures: Planning documents

Controversial homes plan for Fakenham in NNDC Local Plan. Pictures: Planning documents - Credit: Archant

5. The Tractor.

This representation of Fakenham's agricultural heritage may not be as relevant in the future. Developments around the new medical centre will soon see an assisted living complex and over 500 homes built in the north of the town. At early consultations, people voiced concern the development would not integrate with the existing centre of town.

Two other sites on Fakenham's fringes are expecting development, meaning a lot of growth is still to come.

Fakenham's Thursday market PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

Fakenham's Thursday market PICTURE: Matthew Farmer - Credit: Archant

6. The Cow.

The car park for Miller's Walk, on Whitehorse Street, was once a large cattle market.

The town's main market is supposedly cursed by a witch from Walsingham or Swaffham, depending on who tells the tale. When the market moved to Fakenham, she cast a spell making it rain in the town on market day, every Thursday.

The building, now HSBC, has been a bank since it was built PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

The building, now HSBC, has been a bank since it was built PICTURE: Matthew Farmer - Credit: Archant

7. The Sack - or money bag.

Banks have a long history in Fakenham, with one of the first setting up in 1791. Barclays banks has remained in the same building on the Market Place for 92 years.

8. The Plough.

A service to mark 150 years since the birth of union founder Sir George Edwards, beside his grave in

A service to mark 150 years since the birth of union founder Sir George Edwards, beside his grave in Fakenham PICTURE: Graham Corney

This tribute to Sir George Edwards also appears on the town sign, commemorating the man who was born into poverty but whose funeral was attended by Clement Attlee.

Sir Edwards struggled for work after being in the military, and was sentenced to hard labour for stealing a turnip to eat. Educated by his wife, he then became a force in the first workers unions, creating his own and becoming an MP aged 70.

See next week's article for the next seven symbols, including the true story of a bull, in a china shop, with a queen.

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