Tom Hickathrift was a fenland giant who lived in the Marshland area between King’s Lynn and Wisbech. He was an historical figure and lived the last part of his days at Hickathrift Hall near Marshland St. James and is buried in the churchyard of Tilney All Saints. Many stories are told about Tom but this fragment is the best known. When Tom was quite young he had a job hauling a cart of beer barrels from King’s Lynn to Wisbech. Being amazingly strong he did not need a horse. In those days there was an evil ogre who lived in a God forsaken area called The Smeeth, half way between the two towns. As this ogre was fond of eating passers by the road took a long detour around The Smeeth. One hot summer’s day Tom was pulling the cart and he reached the spot where the road branched off to avoid the ogre’s lair. Tom was feeling tired and decided to cut down the journey by taking the track straight through the Smeeth. As he started along the path he saw the awful evidence of the Ogre’s presence, skulls of foolhardy folk hanging from every tree. Tom kept going.
Eventually the Ogre appeared, with a huge club and shield in his hand and Tom saw that he needed something to defend himself. Quick as a fenland Lada driver he turned the cart over, the barrels rolling down the track and delaying his foe. Tom ripped a wheel off the cart for a shield and tore off the axle to use as a club. The battle was terrible, rivalling the single handed combat between Rama and Ravanna in intensity and the sound of the mighty blows they both struck echoed across the marshes. In the end, of course, our hero was victorious, and with one last mighty blow removed the head of the ogre. He put the axle and wheel back on the cart, placed the ogres head on a barrel and continued on his journey. All the population of the fair town of Wisbech turned out to welcome him and thereafter his name spread far and wide, until, eventually he became the King’s personal hero and the most wealthy man ever to have come from the fen. He took as his heraldic emblem a circle with a line over it, symbolising the axle and wheel that he had used to death the ogre. These symbols can be seen on his huge gravestone in Tilney All Saints graveyard.
Mucky Porter Black Sheet