Quite an interesting village sign for Tilney All Saints, in Norfolk. Tilney is ‘Tila’s river or island’ and the All Saints is the dedication to the church. Tilney is in a part of the Fens that was known as ‘The Smeeth’….. in fact, on the old deeds of our house, the land used to be called Smeeth St James, alas no more, they moved boundaries and renamed places through the years….anyway back to the sign.
The Smeeth is an area of land between Wisbech and King’s Lynn. It was a wild area made up of 1,572 acres of boggy marshland. To the south, Fenland surrounded it with reeds and large pools of water. From very early times, the area was common land and belonged to the Seven Towns of the Marshland: Emneth, Walsoken, West Walton, Walpole, Terrington, Tilney and Clenchwarton.
Now we come to the figure on the sign, Tom Hickathrift, who was suppose to have been a giant and its believe that before the Norman Invasion, there was a fight. There was an argument with the new lords of the manor, as they were not respecting the rights of people to use the common land. Apparently it was said that Tom, a local person, who was very big, like a giant, took a cart-wheel for a shield and an axle for a sword and helped fight off the overloads.
It is said Tom is buried in the graveyard, there is a gravestone of over 8 foot and he is said to have been bent double when he was buried, but he was mostly likely just very tall……..thats if he did exist !!!