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It is generally admitted that the geological character of a district has
very great influence over its vegetation^ but plants are more affected by
the surface soil in which they grow than by the strata over which they
occur, unless the latter happen to be near to the surface soil. To mark
the distribution of the species throughout the county, it may be divided
into three parts : — First, the eastern division ; second, the central division
third, the western division — each of which presents a different flora. The
great diversity of the soil produces a corresponding diversity in the vegetation.

The eastern division contains the alluvium of the valleys of the Yare,
the Bure, and the Waveney ; the Blue Clay or Wreck of the Lias, which
occupies the higher ground of the same valleys ; next to which we meet
with the larger part of the Crag formation, and then a small portion of
the Upper Chalk at the south-western corner of the division. The plants
of a considerable part of this division, with the exception of the Fungi,
have been investigated by Messrs. C. J. and J. Paget in their "Sketch of
the Natural History of Yarmouth." This work embraces a radius of tenmiles.

The central division, with the exception of the north-east corner, which
is crag, lies entirely in the Upper and Medial Chalk formations. Mr.
E. J. Mann has given its botany in " The Flora of Central Norfolk,"
printed in the fourth volume of " Loudon^s Magazine of Natural History."
This embraces no more than could be observed in a day^s walk from
Norwich. This is nearly all we have of the Flora of Central Norfolk,
leaving the plants of three-fourths of this division as yet unnoticed,
except by the casual observer.

The western division comprises all the rest of the county, and presents
geological features of a much more varied kind ; thus, the north-east
corner is occupied by a small portion of the Medial Chalk, to which
succeeds a belt of the hard chalk, running from Hunstanton to the banks
of the Little Ouse ; then follows a narrower belt of the Chalk Marl,
succeeded by about the same width of Green Sand or Car Stone ; and the
series ends with a very narrow line of Kimmeridge Clay and Oolite,
which runs fi'om Heacham till it reaches the Eiver Wissey.

The extreme west of the county is occupied by the alluvium of Marsh-
land and the valleys of the Ouse, the Wissey, and the Nar. In 1841,
" A List of the Flowering Plants Growing Wild in Western Norfolk " was
printed in the "Annals and Magazine of Natural History;" and in 1843,
" A Flora of the Neighbourhood of Sandringham " was printed in the first
volume of the " Phytologist," by Mr. James Moxen. This flora embraces
a radius of three miles from Sandringham Church.



East Aiiglia is the Paradise of sporting men, the whole district being-
one vast preserve for every kind of game. Extensive plantations are
everywhere full of pheasants^ partridges, and other winged game. Hares
and rabbits swarm all over the country, and eat up a great part of the
produce of the soil. There are wide heaths in Norfolk and Suffolk,
interminable ranges of marshes full of water fowl, rivers and broads full
of fish. The Eastern Counties have long retained the reputation of
possessing as rich and varied a fauna as any other parts of the British
Isles. The three great departments of natural history are there presented
under circumstances very favorable for observations. Less attention
appears to have been paid to the wild animals by naturalists than to the
birds which visit the Eastern coasts.

The Rev. Richard Lubbuck, rector of Eccles, delivered some lectures on
this subject, published in 1848. In giving a sketch of the animals, birds,
and river fish to be found in Norfolk, he said the first division — that of
Mammalia — might be comprised within a narrow compass, as species grew
gradually scarcer and scarcer. When we looked at the trim fences and
high cultivation of a great part of this district, a wide stretch of imagination
was necessary to carry the mind back to the time when the urus, the
bear, and the wolf ranged the forest or traversed the marsh, pursued by
hunters nearly as savage as themselves. "The Norwich Museum contains
very fine skulls of the animal first mentioned, the urus, dug up during the
excavation of the North Walsham Canal, and it would seem to have been
formerly not an uncommon animal here. It should be remembered that
the skulls of this animal, which from time to time have been found,
betoken a very difierent creature in size to the present wild cattle of
Chillingwork Park, although these are, no doubt the legitimate descendants
and sole remnant in Britain of the urus or unrochs so famous formerly
for gigantic size, unrivalled swiftness, and ferocity.''^

Mr. Lubbock before noticing wild species in detail gave an account of
domesticated animals. " With regard to Black Cattle,^' he said, " we have
not in this country any peculiar breed of the district. Suffolk has its own
peculiar cow, which is in high repute with dairymen in the neighbourhood
of the metropolis. The Norfolk horse used to be a low g^nd rather thick-
set animal, with great trotting powers ; but of late years blood has been
the order of the day here as elsewhere. It has been usual to decry Norfolk
horses, but that celebrated sportsman, Henry Goodricke, who was a heavy
man, and a very hard rider, used to ride horses purveyed for him by a
dealer at Swaffham \Aath great satisfaction. The fair in spring, at Downham,
always attracts all the London dealers. The reason that Norfolk horses


SO often disappoint those who breed them is the too common plan of
keeping them badly when young. No animal can develop its powers if
unfairly stinted in food whilst growing rapidly.'^ It may here be added
that Suffolk can boast of a very fine breed of cart horses^ as well as the
best riding horses.

" There is one species of dog very common here, though not entirely
peculiar to the county — the Yarmouth water dogs, as they are generally
termed in other parts of England. The sagacity of these dogs in pursuit
of wounded birds and their hardihood in the water must be seen to be

■^^The pole cat or foumart is much more common than it at first appears.
It is strictly nocturnal, and then so erratic in its habits that detection and
capture are difiicult. Formerly it was supposed that this animal, having
established itself in a wood, pi eyed in that veiy cover without straying far
away ; but the pole cat is similar in its habits to the fox, and, like that animal,
will travel miles for booty, when it might satiate itself close at home.^^

" Some naturalists supposed that the ferret is nothing more than the
polecat domesticated. The one is certainly a most active, the other a slow
and torpid animal, but this may arise from close confinement."

''^The stoat, here provincially called the lobster, makes head against
constant persecution and the increasing efforts of the gamekeepers.
Probably the extensive rabbit warrens and the open nature of a great
part of the county have encouraged its increase. Where the country is
enclosed, and a trapper knows his business, it is easily caught."

" The Norfolk sheep is, indeed, sui generis. This is the most remarkable
of our domesticated animals, possessing nearly the agility and erratic
propensities of the deer. These qualities have led to its disappearance ;
very few remain, and those only in the open country. They are penned
with difficulty. Deer hurdles will hardly confine them, and if they get
out they mu5.t be sought in the next county." We may add that the
native breed has been almost entirely superseded by the Southdown and
Leicester sheep.

" Hares are most plentiful, as might be expected in a county which is
almost entirely a game preserve ; and rabbits have long been reckoned
one of the staple commodities of the district. The variety, a black rabbit
with white hairs intermixed, called silver grey, would seem to have been
long established here."

There are very extensive rabbit warrens in the neighbourhood of
Thetford and Brandon. The rabbits breed rapidly, and hundreds of
thousa,nds are killed every year, and sent to all the markets.

Mr. Lubbock mentioned among other animals found in Norfolk, the
wild cat, the martin cat, the weasel, and the otter.


" Tlio wild cat has long been extinct, not only in Norfolk, but in the
greater part of England. Every now and then mention is made of an
immense cat of a cypress colour taken by a gamekeeper ; but these are
merely individuals which have left the cottage fireside for liberty and
plunder, and have fattened by their marauding course of life.^^

" The otter is taken at intervals, was formerly very common upon our
rivers and broads, and is still much more frequent than it appears. Sir T.
.Browne, in his letters on the Natural History of Norfolk, notices the
abundance of this animal. If in a narrow stream, with a host of pursuers
on each bank, and a pack of veteran dogs hi full pursuit in the water, an
otter will elude capture for two or three hours, we see that in the inter-
minable reed beds surrounding our broads he must completely defy
enemies of this kind."

Eats of different kinds are common in Norfolk and Suffolk.

" The brown rat is too common everywhere, and the black rat, the
original rat of Britain, is still found in the City of Norwich."

"■ The water rat is abundant everywhere in low grounds."

" The common mouse occurs everywhere of course. The long-tailed
field mouse is general."

" The common shrew is general. The water shrew, however, occurs
not so generally ; and the third lately-discovered species, the oared
shrew, has been taken near Norwich."

" The hedgehog is still common, though much persecuted for its
depredations upon the eggs of game."

" The squirrell is found more or less in all plantations."

" The mole is abundant, particularly in our low wet grounds. Its
powers of swimming render it fearless of common floods. An Albino
variety is not unfrequently found."

" The seal is mentioned by Sir Thomas Browne as occurring in the
Norfolk rivers, and coming up to Surlingham, within six miles of Norwich.
In those days probably fish were far more abundant, and there is reason
to suppose that salmon often visited our rivers. These, as the owners of
Scotch and Irish fisheries know to their cost, are the favourite prey of the


The birds that are resident all the year round in either Norfolk or
Suffolk, or any of the eastern counties, are nearly all of the same species,
and arc all well known, such as every kind of -winged game and the com-
mon birds ; but there are many visitors to the sea coasts and broads of
Norfolk and Suffolk which are not found in the interior of the country.
The greater variety of birds in Norfolk appears to have very early


attracted the attention of naturalists^ among whom may be mentioned the
folllowing : —

D. Gurney, Esq., who pubHshed extracts from the Househokl Privy
Pm'se Accounts of the L^Estranges of Hunstanton from 1519 to 1578,
containing notices of birds of the county.

Sir Thomas Browne, "An Account of Birds found in Norfolk/'
published m 1682.

"John Hunt's British Ornithology/' pubHshed in 1815.

" A Catalogue of the Norfolk and Suffolk Birds, with Remarks," by
the Rev. R. Sheppard and the Rev. W. Whitear, 1826.

" Transactions of the Linnaean Society."

" A List of Birds contributed by Mr. Hunt to History of Norfolk,"
pubHshed by Stacey.

" Sketch of the Natural History of Yarmouth," by C. J. and James
Paget, 1834.

" Observations on the Fauna of Norfolk," by the Rev. R. Lubbock, 1845.

"An Account of the Birds found in Norfolk," by Messrs. J. H. Gurney
and W. R. Fisher, published in the Zoologist for 1846.

The bold projecting coast line, extending from the Wash of Lincoln
to the Thames, is very favourable to the advent of every migratory species
of birds. Along the coast there are strange alternations of sand and
shingly beaches, salt marsh, cultivated land, and low sandy hills, or lofty
cliffs, with rich grassy summits, and thick woods near the sea. Migratory
visitants find an inexhaustible supply of food on the banks of the tidal
channels of Lynn, Blakeney, and Breydon ; and, more inland, the shallow
waters and reedy margins of the " broads " form the natural resort of
many of the aquatic tribes.

Messrs. Gurney & Fisher, in their "Account of the Birds found in
Norfolk," published in the " Zoologist" for 1846, give the total number
of species at that time as 277; and the total number at the present time
has been estimated at 293. The progress of drainage and cultivation
have to some extent diminished the wild denizens of the marshes.
Reclaimed salt marshes no longer afford feeding grounds for the various
tribes of wild fowl. The enclosure of waste lands and commons, as well
as improvements in agriculture, have also affected other classes of birds.

The great bustard, within the present century, was a resident in
Norfolk, and might often be seen flying over the county ; but that fine
bird is now extinct in its last abiding place in this island. The last
bustard killed in Norfolk was a female, obtained at Lexham, near
Swaffham, in 1838, the remnant of a small flock of hens which had for
some years frequented that neighborhood. The bustard is now only an
accidental visitant. The rage for wholesale shooting has also caused


many birds to disappear, except as temporary sojourners in their migratory

In Norfolk and Suffolk, on most of the estates, game is strictly
preserved. Consequently pheasants and partridges are abundant. The
dense woods kept up for game afford both food and shelter for smaller
birds — the finches, buntings, larks, sparrows, and others. Of these there
has been at times a barbarous slaughter. But it has been found very
unwise to destroy the insect-eaters for the sake of saving a little corn.

The birds resident and breeding in Norfolk and Suffolk are the kestrel,
the sparrow hawk, marsh harrier, owl, missel thrush, song thrush, black-
bird, redbreast, great tit, golden-crested regulus, various tits, wagtail,
lark, bunting, chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch, linnet, redpole, crow,
rook, jackdaw, magpie, jay, woodpecker, wren, nuthatch, kingfisher,
ringdove, stockdove, pheasant, grouse, partridges, peewit, king dotterel,
oyster catcher, heron, redshank, snipe, waterrail, moorhen, coot, mute
swan, sheldrake, shoveller, wild duck, teal, great-crested grebe, little
grebe, gull, sparrow.

The spring and autumn migrants in Norfolk and Suffolk are the osprey,
merlin, goshawk, buzzard, hen harrier, fly-catcher, ouzel, hoopoe, rose-
coloured paster, plover, tm-nstone, sunderling, white stork, white spoonbill,
curlew, whimbrel, spotted redshank, sandpiper, woodcock, snipe, knot,
strut, grebe, common guillemot, razorbill, cormorant, gannet, tern.

The summer migrants in Norfolk are shrikes, spotted fly-catchers, red-
starts, storechats, wheaterns, various warblers, nightingales, pepits, wag-
tails, wrynecks, swallows, martins, swifts, great plovers, landrails, crakes,

The autumn migrants are numerous, including most of the gulls,
bramlings, hawfinches, mealy redpoles, philacopes, geese, pintails,
widgeons, velvet scoters, common scoters, pochards, ducks, golden eyes,
smews, red-breasted mergansers, divers, auks, puffins, skuds, fulmar
petrels, cappedpetrels, manx shearwaters, stormy petrels.

The winter migrants in Norfolk are the red^^^ng, fieldfare, common
crossbill, swan, hoopoo, and others.

There are many accidental and irregular migrants appearing at various
seasons of the year.

Among the accidental visitants to Norfolk and Suffolk may be mentioned
falcons, kites, woodchat, shrikes, common dippers, golden orioles, pine
grosbeaks, nutcrackers, rollers, white-winged crossbills, bee-eaters, Alpine
swifts, bustards, sand grouse, collared pratincoles, herons, avocets, stilts,
strays, Polish swans, eider ducks, hooded mergansers, ringed guillemots,
Caspian terns, roseate terns, gull-billed terns, whiskered terns, capped
petrels, fork-tailed petrels.


There are various lakes in Norfolk and Suffolk tlie resort of water birds.
Fritton Lake is more than two miles in length, and in some places of
considerable breadth. The banks of this water, fringed with woods and
glades, are highly picturesque and beautiful. It abounds with a great
variety of fish, and is the resort of widgeons, ducks, teal, and every other
denomination of wild fowl. During the season, which begins in October,
and continues till April following, vast numbers are caught, and
produce a considerable sum to the proprietors.

The method of taking the wild fowl is as follows : — Creeks or canals
are cut in particular parts of the decoy, over each of which is a long net
or pipe, wide at the entrance, and tapering at the further end like a purse.
Into these the fowls are enticed by ducks bred up tame for the purpose,
who are constantly fed at these places, with which they are quite familiar.
As soon as the decoy-man perceives the flock fairly settled in the water,
he goes down secretly behind a reed fence, and throws into such places as
the decoy ducks are accustomed to, a quantity of corn, to which they
immediately resort, followed by the strangers until they are all at length
insensibly led into the pipe without perceiving it above them. When the
decoy man has ascertained that they are all within the net, a dog, who is
perfectly trained, rushes from behind the reeds into the water swimming
directly after the fowl, and barking at them, they immediately take wing,
but being beat down by the net naturally swim forward to avoid the dog,
until they are hurried into the purse, and there become an easy prey to the
decoy man, who immediately sets the tame ducks at liberty. The whole
business is conducted with so little noise as not to alarm the fowl in the
other parts of the decoy.


Mr. T. E. Gunn, Naturalist, of Norwich, contributed the following
account of Fishes in Norfolk and Suffolk : —

The County of Norfolk has long retained the reputation of possessing
as rich and varied a fauna as any in the British Isles ; the three great
departments of Natural History being here presented under circumstances
especially favourable for development and observation. But while the study
of ornithology has been well and ably worked out, and has perhaps
received more attention here than in any other locality in Britain, the
original observations on the other branches — the mammalia, fish, reptiles,
and insects — from want of efficient publication, are lost to the public.
Selecting one branch, " The Fishes," I will endeavour to give a brief
outline of the extent and importance of this valuable order.

The north, east, and part of the western boundary of Norfolk, formed


by an extensive and irregular coast line ranging from lofty clialk cliffs,
sand banks, and shingly beaches, intersected by rivers and numerous
inlets or bays, is peculiarly favourable to the capture of both resident and
migratory species. Beside the large number of rare and accidental
visitors to this coast, the products of the fisheries are important and
extensive, giving employment to a great number of men and boats in the
herring, mackerel, and trawl fisheries, a large proportion of the population
near the coast being engaged for a great part of the year in catching,
preparing, and packing the fish.

Sir Thomas Browne, who ^vrote some two hundred years ago, published
in his work a list of the coast and river fish of Norfolk ; but as far as I
am aware, no further particular information on this subject was published
until 1834, when a catalogue of the species, with reference to the
occurrences of the rarer ones, was included in Messrs. Paget^s " Sketch
of the Natural History of Yarmouth and its Neighborhood.'^ Subsequently,
notices of rarities have occasionally appeared in the Zoologist and our
local newsjDapers. In 1848, the Eev. K. Lubbock published his '' Fauna
of Norfolk,'' which embraced several notices of both coast and river fish,
especially treating of those inhabiting our broads and rivers. During the
last few years, I have collected notes and observations on the fishes, and
having received valuable information from several gentlemen, particularly
from J. H. Gurney, Esq., who has kindly placed his MS. notes at my dis-
posal, I venture to offer the following catalogue.

The fisheries, as I have before observed, are of great importance, and
form the principal occupation of the inhabitants along this coast. The
seaport towns of Yarmouth and Lowestoft are the largest and perhaps the
most important fishing marts in Britain. The produce from this branch
of industry has so greatly increased of late years that in 1860 the exports
to foreign parts from Yarmouth alone were 54,684 barrels of herrings,
and 20,399 tons weight of other sea fish, beside the enormous quantities
used for home consumption.

The whitebait, the subject of much contention amongst ichthyologists
as being no true species, has recently been identified by Dr. Gunther as
the fry of the herring. Thousands of these fry, which are so much prized
in London, are thrown away on this beach and wasted. They are caught
by the fishermen about August, when fishing inshore for other fish.

The sprat, which is also taken in immense numbers on this coast soon
after the herring season is over, is still considered by some as the young
of the herring, as very few specimens are found with the roe or milt fully
developed; but according to Dr. Gunther's recent classification of the
clupeidae, it is constituted a genuine species.

The sturgeon, apparently a rarity in the time of Sir T. Browne, has


of later years been obtained frequently. A few large specimens are taken
every season, particularly about Yarmouth, and Lowestoft (I have seen
three very fine ones and heard of a fourth this season) . An extract from
" Harrod^s Gleanings/^ p. 32, states that in the eighth and ninth years of
the reign of King Edward III., when that king visited bis mother at
Castle Rising, the commonalty of Lynn presented him with sturgeons and

Amongst the varieties occurring about this coast, recorded by Sir T.
Browne, Messrs. Paget, and others, may be mentioned, the two gilt
heads, mailed gurnard, sword fish, pilot fish, sea horse, trumpet fish,
gemmeous and sordid dragonetts, anchovy, fire-bearded rockling, spotted
dog fish, hammer-headed shark (the head of the only specimen obtained
in Europe in late years is preserved in the Norwicb Museum, being the
specimen figured by Yarrell), blue and porbeagle sharks (a skull of this
latter is in this Museum), angel fish, saw fish (tbe only British specimen
was obtained off Lynn in the time of Sir T. Browne), short sun fish, and
the shagreen, sandy, and eagle rays. Of recent years the following
varieties have been noticed : — The Spanish, black, and rays sea breams,
tunny (one in Museum), plain bonito, sword fish, opah (one specimen in
Museum), spotted goby, flying fish (of which one specimen taken
this season off Yarmouth is believed to be the only one caught on the
Eastern coast. One of the pectoral fins only was preserved by a fisherman,
and this has passed into my possession; Dr. J. E. Gray has identified
the species to wliich it belongs as Exocetus solitans, specimen exhibited),
anchovy (a single specimen captured this season in the Lynn river),
lesser forked beard, blue and fox sharks, tope, short sun fish, and the
eagle ray.

Of accidental varieties a double-headed haddock, and a whiting with
three eyes, obtained off" this coast, are now in the Sailors' Institute at Yar-
mouth, and J. H. Gurney, Esq., mentions in the Zoologist a singularly
malformed casse, wanting the superior maxillary and intermaxillary bones.
This is preserved in tbe Norwich. Museum.

The broads and rivers are abundantly supplied with fish, affording excel-
lent sport for anglers : these are the pike (for which the Norfolk broads
have long been famous), perch, carp, tench, bream, roach, dace, gudgeon,
rudd, melt, and the sharp and broad-nosed eels. Among the river fish
rarely occurring are the German carp, Pomeranian bream (specimen in
this Museum), chub, bleak, and snig eel.

In May, 1866, I obtained specimens of what Yarrell calls the smooth-

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 70)