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Weird Norfolk: The Warring Brothers of Wickhampton

PUBLISHED: 11:21 19 May 2017

The effigies of a medieval knight and his wife, both originally clutching stone hearts as hers has been defaced, at Wickhampton Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The effigies of a medieval knight and his wife, both originally clutching stone hearts as hers has been defaced, at Wickhampton Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

It’s a heartrending story which for generations has acted as a warning to warring siblings.

On reclaimed marshland where the most frequent visitors are birds, the site of St Andrew’s Church at Wickhampton was once covered by sea, now it stands as a lonely beacon on the haunting expanse of Halvergate marsh. It is a place which inspires calm – unlike the story attached to the stone effigies it guards.

Many a child has been told the cautionary tale of two local brothers who took extreme measures to resolve their differences: this is how the story goes.

Two brothers spent years arguing over their respective lands, which were adjacent to each other. Neither brother would concede and, over time, the dispute became ever more bitter and finally, became violent.

Their final fight was so vicious that at precisely the same point, they tore the heart from each other at the same time with their bare hands – when God looked down on the brothers’ lifeless bodies, he was so appalled by their behaviour that he instantly turned them both to stone.

Local villagers bore the stone corpses – still grimly clutching the heart of their brother – into the church to serve as a reminder of the perils of fighting and the brothers’ lands were renamed Wicked Hampton, now shortened to Wickhampton, and Hell Fire Gate, now known as Halvergate.

Legend has it that, over time, one brother’s heart has been worn away leaving just one grasping a heart with the other next to him.

The effigies are, in fact, the 13th century depictions of Sir William Gerbygge and his wife, who are lying patiently on their beds, waiting for Judgement Day, Sir William possibly raising his heart to God in prayer or towards his wife in a sign of never-ending love.

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