Thousands of us pass over it every day without a passing thought for the role it played in the city dark past.
This is the story of Fye Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, Eastern England, built in 1933, that holds a brutal history.
It is a tombstone’s throw from nearby Tombland and leads to Magdalen Street, and It stands where the original wooden bridge would have laid, the earliest reports of which were in 1153, when it would have been a timber structure before it was replaced with stone in the early 15th century.
Below it flows the River Wensum, a stretch of water once used to determine whether or not an accused person was practising witchcraft.
It was the mid-1600s when East Anglia found itself in the throes of the witch trials, headed by the infamous Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, self-styled “Witchfinder Generals” active during the English Civil War. During this time, was responsible for more people being hanged for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years.
During this time, between 1644 and 1647, many people, mostly women, were tried and killed for allegedly partaking in witchcraft.
Fye Bridge is said to be where the city’s medieval ducking stool was situated, a chair which was formerly used for the punishment of disorderly women, scolds, strumpets and dishonest tradesmen in England and Scotland.
But during Hopkins’ reign of terror, it took on an even more macabre purpose.
It became a contraption into which an accused witch would be placed and dunked into the river below.
Water, in fact, was considered so pure an element that it repelled evil, so if a woman survived the ducking, then she was a witch.
On the other hand, If the woman drowned, they were innocent of witchcraft, though unfortunately….dead.
Today, Fye Bridge is said to be home to the ghost of a woman who was tried on the site and later burned for witchcraft at the nearby Lollard’s Pit Pub, which is now the site of a local pub.
Drinkers have reported hearing screams and, according to those who have seen her, the ghost is dressed in rags and begs strangers to help her pick up a dropped bundle of sticks that was used to kindle the fire that killed her.
But beware, helpful citizens, for they say if you do, you will die in a fire within the year, or within six months, depending the story you heard.
Images from web – Google Research