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Weird Norfolk: The cursed goat's head of Strumpshaw

PUBLISHED: 14:50 02 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:57 02 March 2018

The haunted goat's head of Strumpshaw on display at Strumpshaw Gravel Pit. Date: Aug 1972.  Picture: EDP Library

The haunted goat's head of Strumpshaw on display at Strumpshaw Gravel Pit. Date: Aug 1972. Picture: EDP Library

Archant

It had hung above the bar of a Norfolk pub for 60 years but reports of illness, discord and misfortune surrounded the goat's head of Strumpshaw.

Frank Walpole with the Strumpshaw goat's head, Date:  Feb 1970. Picture: EDP LibraryFrank Walpole with the Strumpshaw goat's head, Date: Feb 1970. Picture: EDP Library

For almost 200 years, The Goat Inn was an integral part of village life in Strumpshaw, a bustling local whose name was a nod to its rural location rather than the haunted head of a goat which for decades refused to leave the pub where it was slaughtered.

The strange tale of the goat’s head that got in to the Goat Inn and then kept coming back has haunted the Broadland pub for decades. In 1908, Mrs Newton, the landlord’s wife, took a fancy to a magnificent white goat which was brought to the inn by an itinerant pedlar. She resolved to buy the goat and paid half a crown for him.

In an interview in 1958, Harry Thompson, who was 82, remembered slaughtering the creature so it could be preserved for perpetuity and hung behind the bar – with its long horns and beard, the head surveyed all who came into the pub, glaring balefully with black and hazel eyes.

Twelve years later, the goat had disappeared from the bar. Landlord Frank Walpole, who came to the pub in 1967, was significantly less fond of the goat’s head than previous landlords (there had been 10 between Newton and Walpole) and removed it from the bar after a series of mysterious events.

Wondering what to do with their find are, left to right, Mr Keith Sturman, Mr Bob Rowland and Mr Trevor Webb. Date: 15 Aug 1972. Picture: EDP LibraryWondering what to do with their find are, left to right, Mr Keith Sturman, Mr Bob Rowland and Mr Trevor Webb. Date: 15 Aug 1972. Picture: EDP Library

He said mirrors had “flown” off walls, the pub piano had played by itself while the top was down, water had poured through the ceiling and his wife Lily and daughter Jane, 16 had seen figures walking about the inn at night. Most worryingly of all, a 17-year-old boy was killed in a car crash the day after he’d touched the goat’s head.“That made me think seriously about taking the head down. Now I’ve done it,” said Frank, “some of the regulars don’t like it, but it’s for the best.”

Mr and Mrs Walpole’s theory was that the ghost was the latter’s cousin Alfred, who died on the British destroyer HMS Harvester on March 11 1943 and spoke to both a medium and a priest about a possible exorcism. But despite the Walpole’s misgivings, the goat was missed by customers and so, two years later, he was reinstated behind the bar.Misfortune was not far around the corner and this time it was the family pets who suffered: a minah bird dropped dead, a monkey died from a head injury, one of the family’s three dogs ran away while another died giving birth and its companion passed away the next day. The EDP of Valentine’s Day 1972 noted that Mr Walpole “…once again removed old Capricorn, weighted the shaggy head and threw it in the river. He had been told he must ‘drown’ the evil spell. Only Mr Walpole knows just where the goat’s head lies. He is hoping the place will not bode ill for any Broads visitors this summer.”

Within a month, reed-cutter Alfred Stone caught sight of the head in Rockland Dyke, “looking more malevolent than ever” after its five-mile journey along the River Yare – he passed it to Mr A Loades of Broad Hall Farm in Rockland St Mary, whose son Dennis, 24, hung it in the barn saying he’d “start his own museum”.Within days, the dogs on the farm started behaving aggressively and Dennis’ grandmother Evelyn Todd, who was staying on the farm, had such a prolonged attack of nose bleeding that she had to go to hospital.

The head was given back to The Goat Inn (“I’m not saying why,” said Mr Loades) but by August of the same year, ‘Old Capricorn’ was discovered in a shallow grave at Strumpshaw gravel pit where the creepy cranium was found “in the ground, as if it was alive”.

As ever, spooky coincidences followed the discovery: tyres deflated, a driver was shot in the arm, dogs were filled with fear – and from this time on, the trail goes cold. In 1984, the Goat Inn was bought by Paul Cornwall who renamed the pub The Huntsman, but were keen to bring back the goat to his rightful home.“I’m all for local superstitions, and I am interested in the whole history of the place,” he said, “I’m not a believer, but, having said that, we have all got to go some time and you might as well die through touching a goat’s head. Of course I’d like it back – I am a glutton for punishment.”

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