Ploughing deep into town’s rich heritage

Just Regional
Nov 10, 2023 3 mins read

Two new sculptures are digging into the rich history of North Walsham area.
The pair stand sentinel next to steps leading from the parish church to the St Nicholas precinct.
Shaped like ploughshares (the main cutting blades of ploughs), they give a steely snapshot into local heritage ranging from farming and fire, to markets and manufacturing.  
They are particularly geared at giving younger people an insight into the town’s past  – with a QR code which, with the click of a smart phone, unlocks more information about bygone days in the community and its surrounding area.

Artist Berni Marfleet (centre) with Community Shop chair Annie Abbs and panel designer Richard Crossley. Richard is also pictured with the panel he designed.  Pictures: RICHARD BATSON

One sculpture explores North Walsham’s early history with features including sheep shears representing the thriving wool industry, flames to mark the devastating Great Fire of 1600, and  a  Fleur de Lys symbol of the famous local Paston family. 
The other focuses on the past 200 years, with a gas burner linked to the Bacton terminal, a spanner marking local engineering firms, an anchor reflecting links with the canal and Lord Nelson, and a heavy horseshoe highlighting the foundation of the national agricultural workers’ union in the town in 1906.
Both were made by local sculptor Berni Marfleet using found and donated items which are welded to the 1m high ploughs.
He said: “The aim is to provide an entertaining way of learning about the history of the town we live in for residents and visitors.
“It is particularly focused at younger people, hopefully giving them a sense of belonging to a rich and proud local tradition and heritage and also an opportunity to find out and explore more.”
A nearby interpretation board, designed by Richard Crossley, briefly explains the significance of each piece together. A QR code opening a links to the North Walsham Heritage Centre which can provide more information and background.

The project came about through the idea of the late Paul Oakes, founder of the Community Shop. It is sponsored by the town council and Regenerate North Walsham, as a part of the Market Towns Initiative works to the area.
Funding was also boosted by a grant from the Community Shop and there was support from the church and other organisations such as the Heritage Centre. The sculptures were officially launched by the local Priest-in-Charge David Warner.
Town mayor Bob Wright said the sculptures were a great example of co-operation between community groups, adding: “We hope the sculptures will encourage residents and visitors, especially younger generations, to explore our past.”

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