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For the love of Swaffham – teacher to restore Pedlar sign for free

PUBLISHED: 10:35 21 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:35 21 January 2013

Carpenter Colin Yorke is repairing the damaged Swaffham Peddlar Town Sign. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Carpenter Colin Yorke is repairing the damaged Swaffham Peddlar Town Sign. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

A retired woodwork teacher has offered to restore a much-loved sign commemorating Swaffham’s most famous legend for free because he counts the town as part of his extended family.

Swaffham town sign at the Market Place . The sign was erected in commemoration to Swaffham's John Chapman who gave money towards the rebuilding of the north side of the church. Legend tells the story that John Chapman local pedlar who went to London to seek his fortune, where he met a stranger who had a dream of finding a fortune in a garden. The pedlar recognized the garden description as his own and returned home to find his fortune. Swaffham town sign at the Market Place . The sign was erected in commemoration to Swaffham's John Chapman who gave money towards the rebuilding of the north side of the church. Legend tells the story that John Chapman local pedlar who went to London to seek his fortune, where he met a stranger who had a dream of finding a fortune in a garden. The pedlar recognized the garden description as his own and returned home to find his fortune.

The town council had been looking to restore the Pedlar of Swaffham sign, which stands at the junction of the Market Place and Lynn Street, since the top fell off last year, revealing extensive damage caused by rot.

Colin Yorke, who taught at Swaffham Hamond’s High School for three decades, offered to carry out the repairs and only charge for the cost of materials.

The 66-year-old’s best known public art works include the new village sign in North Pickenham, near Swaffham, and a wood carving trail in Oxburgh Hall garden and woodlands which includes a hedgehog, dragonfly and bat.

Mr Yorke said: “I think it’s incredibly important the town should have a sign, which is one of the reasons I am prepared to do it. It helps give a town an identity – especially this one, with the legend behind it.

“There’s a lot of evidence that a lot of tourists remember the town because of the sign.”

The sign commemorates Swaffham pedlar John Chapman, who according to legend had a dream that if he stood on London Bridge he would meet someone who would tell him where treasure was buried.

He walked with his dog to the capital, where a man told him about his dream of finding treasure under a pear tree in a Swaffham garden.

The pedlar duly returned, where he found two pots of gold in his garden and helped fund the town’s church.

Mr Yorke believes the current sign, which shows Chapman with his dog, was carved by Hamond’s Grammar School teacher Harry Carter with help from pupils.

He said the repairs would involve putting a thick oak plank between the two sides of the sign, and re-carving the pedlar’s head into the new wood, creating a more three dimensional figure.

He said: “I’m retired now so I’m not really looking to make a living out of it any longer, so I just thought I would do it for family and friends, and I count the town as extended family.”

Did you work on the pedlar sign, or remember Mr Carter? Contact Martin George on 01362 854703.

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