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Swaffham pedlar returns to town to star in musical adaptation of folk story

PUBLISHED: 10:15 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 12 September 2017

Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Dick Whittington and the Pied Piper of Hamlin are both familiar folk tales, of travellers going to seek their fortunes.

Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

But one such story you may not have heard of is the tale of the Pedlar of Swaffham.

This Norfolk folk story is to be brought to life in a production by the theatre group, Eyeswrite.

And the pedlar himself will shortly be going back to his roots, as the musical is performed in Swaffham, where the story originated.

The tale is based on the life of a poor pedlar, thought to be known as John Chapman, who travelled to London to find his fortune, and learned that it was buried under an apple tree in his garden in Swaffham.

Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt Tim Hall is the star of the Pedlar of Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

He put his riches towards rebuilding the village’s church, St Peter & St Paul, and carvings of the generous man and his loyal dog are still adorning the pews of the church to this day.

The adaptation has been written and will be performed by the Eyeswrite Theatre Group, and the performance in Swaffham will be in aid of the Swaffham & District Lions Club.

There are 16-17 cast members involved in the production - including a real dog. It will take place in the The Barn Theatre, on Mangate Street, in Swaffham, on Saturday, September 23rd. Tickets are priced at £10 per person, and doors are at 7pm, for a 7.30pm start.

Activities and publicity chair of the Swaffham Lions group, Dennis Tallon, described the venues for the production as a “beautiful theatre”.

He added: “We raise money with a lot of enjoyment and pleasure.

“We collect for foodbanks fortnightly.”

EyesWrite is a not-for-profit amateur dramatic group, which has been putting on plays with East Anglian writers and performers for more than a decade.

The evening is in support of the Lions charity, the largest community group in the world.

With more than 1.4m members worldwide, and operating in more than 208 countries, the Lions are often first on the scene to natural disasters and relief efforts.

They provide funding, aid, and relief straight to those affected, via local Lions groups, rather than going through third parties.

The Lions Club is celebrating its centenary in 2017. In Europe, Lions Club members volunteer around 6 million hours of service and raise £88m each year.

The Pedlar of Swaffham: about the importance of following your dreams?

The story of the Pedlar of Swaffham could be seen as a tale about the importance of following your dreams.

Once, in Swaffham, Norfolk, a poor pedlar lived in a cottage underneath a tall oak tree.

He worked hard, but he could barely afford to feed his family. One night he dreamed about London and in the dream he received good news that changed his life.

He set off to the city. After standing in the spot from his dream for three days, he was approached by a man, who told him he had dreamt about a great fortune, buried under an oak tree, in Norfolk.

The pedlar rushed home, to dig underneath the tree, and found buried there a pot of gold coins. Even though now he was a very rich man, he spent his money wisely, and helped to rebuild the church of St Peter & St Paul.

A statue of the pedlar and his dog stands in the church to this day and he is depicted in the Swaffham town sign. His name, John Chapman, is still listed in the 15th century book of records inside the church building.

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