Norfolk on a stick: An elephant in the cliffs and a hippopotamus in the mud
- Credit: Archant
One of the largest creatures ever to roam these lands features on West Runton's village sign. As part of an ongoing series, DR ANDREW TULLETT looks at the story behind the sign.
A plaque attached to the supporting post of the village sign at West Runton reads, 'Queen Elizabeth the Second Silver Jubilee 7th June 1977 Runton Women's Institute'.
However, the sign above it is not the same as the one unveiled to mark this anniversary.
The original sign at West Runton was unveiled by the singer and actor Ian Wallace who once lived in the village.
He is best remembered for his rendition of 'The Hippopotamus Song', which contains the famous chorus, 'Mud, mud, glorious mud'.
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The sign displayed a scene showing a flock of sheep grazing near the old brickworks at Oxwell Cross, which was once owned by Gunton Bros. The brick kiln itself is the most obvious feature.
The brickworks closed prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The kiln was used for storage before becoming dilapidated.
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It has recently been given a new lease of life. The remains of the old building are now incorporated into the structure of 'Rocky Bottoms', a seafood restaurant specialising in locally caught crabs and lobsters.
Two other plaques adorn West Runton's village sign. One attached to the base reads, 'This base was given by Jessie M. Moore in memory of her sister Ethel Moore who loved Runton'.
Another, also attached to the base, states: 'This plaque commemorates all those evacuated from London and the Home Counties to Runton Parish during the Second World War. Especially the many children and their teachers who lodged with families in both West and East Runton villages. Presented by Mrs. Betty Martin on the 70th anniversary of her evacuation to West Runton. 4th September 2009'.
The old brick kiln does not feature on the current sign.
Instead it depicts five other local scenes from the ancient past to the present day. It recently benefitted from a renovation by local artist Fiona Davies before being re-erected again in July 2018.
The top left scene contains an image of a huge elephant standing at the base of the cliffs on the beach at West Runton. On December 13, 1990 the remains of a male Steppe Mammoth, Mammuthus trogontherii, the largest species of elephant ever to have lived, were discovered by a local couple, Harold and Margaret Hems, as they walked along the shore.
It was excavated in 1995 with 85pc of the bones being recovered.
The animal would have stood around 4 metres (or 13 feet) tall when it was alive 600,000-700,000 years ago. It is still the oldest elephant skeleton ever found in the UK.
The panel to the right contains three much smaller mammals.
West Runton was home to the Norfolk Shire Horse Centre from 1982 until it was sold in 2007.
The site is now owned and run by Hillside Animal Sanctuary which looks after a variety of rescued farm animals.
Below the horses, campers relax and play games whilst on holiday. A beaming sun overlooks the scene.
Laburnum Caravan Site near the cliffs at West Runton still welcomes visitors as it has done for decades.
To the left of the campers a couple of fishermen, prepared for wet weather in their yellow oilskins, prepare their boats.
A crab has evidently escaped from that day's catch and is shown scuttling away to safety.
The final panel displays a panoramic view of West Runton above a depiction of a scallop shell.
The tower of Holy Trinity Church is the most prominent landmark. It is also the final resting place of the man who unveiled the original sign for West Runton. After he died in 2009 Ian Wallace was buried in the graveyard of West Runton's church.
-Dr Tullett, from Lakenham, researched just about all of Norfolk's 500-plus town and village signs as part of his Signs of a Norfolk Summer project. He now gives presentations on the topic, and anyone looking for a speaker can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.