Swaffham Pedlar


Swaffham Pedlar
   When the parish church of Swaffham (Norfolk) was rebuilt in the 1460s, one benefactor contributing to the costs was its churchwarden, a rich local merchant called John Chapman. His family pew showed carvings of a pedlar with his pack, and a man and woman in a shop; these figures, together with memories of John Chapman's wealth, inspired the following story, recorded first in 1653 and again in 1699:
   A pedlar living in Swaffham dreamed three times that if he went to London Bridge he would hear very joyful news. So he travelled to London and waited on the Bridge for three days, and nothing happened, till on the third day, a shopkeeper who had noticed him hanging about asked him what he was doing. So he told his story, and the Londoner laughed at him for being such a fool as to believe in dreams. 'I'll tell you, country fellow,' said he, 'I dreamed only last night that I was at Swaff-ham, a place I don't know, and thought I'd find a vast treasure under an oak tree, in an orchard, behind a pedlar's house. But I'm not such a fool as to make a long journey because of a silly dream. Be like me, good fellow - go home, and see to your business.' So the pedlar went straight home, dug, and found the treasure. In gratitude to God, he paid for the church to be repaired, and had a statue of himself as pedlar put up there.
   The plot of this tale is international, and variants were told of Lealholme Hall (Yorkshire), and also in Somerset, Lancashire, and Cornwall (Westwood, 1985: 161-4).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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