The Mistletoe Bride - Norfolk Myth
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Picture
                    (c) by John Ashley Photography

Many old halls throughout England lay claim to the legend of the 'Mistletoe Bride', among them is the fine 17th century hall of Brockdish. The Hall is situated in the village of the same name, which is located on the banks of the river Waveney, just six miles east of Diss. The tale is a sad one that the Victorians (who appear to like all things macabre), put into verse and song. The ballad 'The Mistletoe Bough' was written in 1884 by Thomas Haynes and still appears to this day in many a publication during the festive time of the year.

It is unclear from the many accounts that I have read, as to the exact year that the incident is supposed to have taken place, but general opinion appears to place it mostly in 17th century. The tale is centred upon the daughter of the hall on the day of her wedding to one Lord Lovell. The couple have chosen to wed at Christmas time and after the ceremony all return to the Hall for the reception and merrymaking. After a great deal of feasting and a great deal of dancing, the young girl, who is the apple of her dotting fathers eye, and the love of her young husbands heart, decides she wants to play a game. A game of hide and seek with Lord Lovell and all of her wedding guests.

She of course is going to be the first to hide. With a coquettish quip to her young husband, that he must be sure to be the one to locate her, she gathers her wedding finery and runs away upstairs. She chooses for her hiding place a large oak chest in a remote part of the great Hall. In she clambers, bridal gown and all and there she waits to be found. Time passes, yet neither husband nor guest find her. Finally bored with the inactivity and cramped in the tiny space, the girl decides to return to her guests. However, when she tries to open the chest she is unable to do so. Unbeknownst to her, the chest has a hidden spring, which effectively locked the chest when it closed and which can only be released from the outside. 

It must be assumed that she made every effort to gain her release, as the scratch marks found on the inside of the lid bore witness to. She probably shouted and called and perhaps even screamed, but nobody heard her, so the tale goes. 

After the guests had eventually drifted away the husband and father continued to search the hall, but they never found her. Some say she suffocated, others that she eventually died of starvation and thirst. So there she lay entombed in a coffin not of her choosing, yet of her making. 

Fifty years past, before the old oak chest is discovered and opened. Inside a mouldering corpse dressed in the remnants of a bridal gown. Some say she clasped a sprig of mistletoe, perhaps to claim a kiss from her husband, from lips now withered and rotten. 

So remember this tale when the cold of winter of Christmas drives you all indoors, and a game of hide and seek is proposed. Under the bed, behind the curtain, or perhaps inside a chest that maybe sits at the end of your bed.