A slice of village's notorious history is baked in a pie
PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 October 2011
A Norfolk woman has come up with a tasty and unusual way of celebrating her village's most infamous scoundrel.
We’ve all heard of Melton Mowbray pork pies and Yorkshire puddings and, on Saturday, the Pentney Poacher Pie was launched.
Angela Prior Cooper was concerned that Pentney, between King’s Lynn and Swaffham, was lacking an obvious identity.
So she challenged people in the village to create a pie or pudding, to be named after Fredrick Rolfe, who was born in Pentney in 1862 and went on to be known as the “King of the Norfolk Poachers”.
A competition was held at Pentney Abbey on Saturday when entries were judged by local chef Matt Owsley-Brown; historian Charlotte Paton, who has written a book and made a DVD about the Pentney poacher; and Nell Steel, who is organising a food fair at East Winch Village Hall this Saturday.
Entrants had to live or work in Pentney and the recipe had to be original.
Mrs Prior Cooper said: “There are lots of holiday cottages in Pentney but nothing to say ‘this is Pentney’. I feel it is important for the village to have an identity.
“Frederick Rolfe is an infamous character from the village and a part of our history. He used to poach around Pentney Abbey so we thought this would be an ideal place to hold the competition.”
She added: “I’ve been amazed at the turnout and the enthusiasm from people in the village.
“If the winning pie is successful we may give the recipe to pubs in the local area and, hopefully, some of the money from the pie sales will be put back into Pentney.”
The winner was Tina Schafroth, 21, whose pie included sausage, bacon, apricot, venison, chicken and duck.
She said: “This has been a really good event to get community spirit up in Pentney.
“It’s all about getting people to take pride in the village and the local community and I am really happy to have made the winning pie.”
Mr Rolfe spent several stints in prison for illegal poaching and was consistently unrepentant for his crimes.
Mrs Paton, is author of King of the Norfolk Poachers and maker of the documentary, The Truth Behind ‘I Walked by Night’ based on the book which Mr Rolfe himself wrote.
Her interest in the poacher started in 2002 when, after reading the deeds to her home at Common Road, West Bilney, where she still lives, and then investigating further, she discovered that she was living in Mr Rolfe’s former home.
She said: “Frederick Rolfe wrote one of the very first books about the struggles of life in the lower classes to be written by an insider looking out. Most of these sorts of books were previously written by people such as vicars.
“He had his childhood in Pentney during the agricultural depression and he wrote about life in the area at the time.
“All of the poor people had to poach to put food on the table. I actually don’t think he was a very good poacher because he was arrested on more than 30 occasions. He was no good at not getting caught.
“He was unable to get a regular job because he had broken the law. He was a day man who got work as and when he was needed.
“Many people in the lower classes had homes tied to their jobs so didn’t dare to speak out about the suffering they endured from their bosses because they feared they would become homeless. But this was not the case with Fred Rolfe and he spoke freely about injustices of the time.”
She added: “He was always in trouble but he said that if he had his time over again, he would do things the same way.
“He was not well educated at school because he was expelled but he wrote beautifully.
“The local vicar asked him to join the boys’ club, which he said he didn’t want to do if he was to be preached at. Instead the vicar taught him how to write.
“I don’t know how he would feel about having his name on the village pie. He was always unconventional and I think he would have been gob-smacked.”