WEIRD NORFOLK: As two men began to haul the treasure chest from the gloomy water, a black hand emerged to reclaim the stolen gold…
PUBLISHED: 18:00 14 December 2019
A chest filled with gold and thrown to the bottom of a Norfolk pond and a battle with the Devil to claim the treasure – there could only be one winner.
The gloomy pond in Southwood is said to hide many secrets. Said to have been a hiding place for smugglers and other n'er do wells, Callow Pit on the boundary of Moulton St Mary and Cantley has had an uneasy relationship with those who live nearby for centuries. Said to be patrolled by the ghost of a headless horseman, legend had it that a large quantity of gold had been sunken in its deep waters, the spectre ensuring that no one dared to try to claim it as their own.
But there are always foolish souls who think they deserve more than they are entitled to and who will recklessly try to claim what is not theirs, despite the danger. The treasure chest was, legend has it, just visible through the dark water, the iron ring on top of the iron-clad box glinting in occasional shafts of sunlight through nearby trees. It tempted two local men to chance their luck at raising the sunken treasure from the pond-bed and initially, it seemed as if the water was ready to give up its bounty.
The East Anglian Handbook of 1885 takes up the story: "They placed ladders horizontally across the water so as to form a bridge, and began groping with long poles in the depths beneath, at first unsuccessfully. "Persevering, however, they at length struck some hard substance, and feeling cautiously around it with their staves, they found a large ring on its upper surface, through which, after some trouble, they managed to pass a stout pole, and with great exertion raised a huge iron-bound box to the surface, and on to their platform. Overcome with glee at their haul, one of the men couldn't contain his joy and cried out: "Ha! We've got it now! Even Old Nick shan't take it from us!"
The words had scarcely left his lips when suddenly, the pair were enveloped in a thick cloud of sulphurous vapour - they watched in horror as, from the choking mist, a black hand and arm rose through the water and grasped the chest."They struggled manfully for their mysterious booty," continues the Handbook, "…but the infernal grip was too much for the box, which sank with a splash into the pit, leaving the ring still upon the pole. Crest-fallen, the disappointed treasure-seekers wended their way home without the prize for which they had toiled so hard, and in memory of their adventure caused the ring to be affixed as a handle on the door of Southwood Church."
The church at Southwood is now a beautiful ruin and the door - and the Devil's Doorknocker - is no longer there: when the church fell into disrepair at the end of the 1800s, it was removed and taken to nearby St Botolph's Church in Limpenhoe and placed on the north door: somewhat appropriate, as the north door of churches was commonly called the Devil's Door - now he has his own doorknocker.
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