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Mucky Porter and The Grey Goose Feather

Mucky Porter and The Grey Goose Feather

It’s the 17th century and England is in the throes of Civil War. Only Fenland people know safe paths through West Norfolk’s treacherous quagmire which could suck a man down in moments. Mud defined Fenlanders, seeping even into their names, like Mucky Porter, landlord of the Silver Fleece (now The Old White Bell) in Southery.

Cromwell’s men had harried King Charles I across Norfolk. To reach his army in Oxford the King must cross the Fens. Mucky Porter agreed to guide him, but the Royalists suspected this ragged Fenman would betray them. It was the Fenland custom that whoever carried a split goose feather was entitled to protection. So Mucky pulled out a grey feather and sliced it with a knife. Keeping half, he gave half to the King. Bound by honour he guided Charles safely through the marsh.

Eventually, Charles was captured. On the eve of his beheading the King sent a messenger. ‘All that His Majesty asks is that he is afforded that due to one who holds this token,’  he said, placing a split feather in front of Cromwell. A Fenlander himself, Cromwell paled. But he allowed the execution. And, perhaps cursed, lost the war.

Twenty years later Charles’ son, Charles II, rewarded Mucky with ‘several’ acres of newly drained fertile land between Southery and Feltwell. That land has been called the Methwold Severalls ever since. And it’s still farmed by a Porter. When you stop at the The Old White Bell, raise a glass to Mucky!


Upgate Street, Southery, Downham Market PE38 0NA, UK


30 minutes






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