We were uncertain whether this story should have been
placed in our Myths and Legend pages, but as John
Chapman who is traditionally called the Swaffham Pedlar,
is actually buried in Swaffham church we decided that
there must be some basis in fact to this tale and
therefore have placed it in Yesterdays.
John Chapman was a poor pedlar who
lived in Swaffham. He was barely able to provide for his
wife and children. They lived in a small cottage in the
shadow of a huge oak tree, which stood in their garden.
One night John dreamed that he stood on London Bridge in
London and that he discovered a great treasure.
Excited he set out for the capital the very next day
with his small dog and made his way to the Thames and to
London Bridge. On the bridge he paced up and down
searching for this great treasure, but with no success.
Eventually one of the shopkeepers, who had observed John
pacing up and down, overcome with curiosity came up and
asked him what he was doing. Chapman told the shopkeeper
about his dream.
The astonished London shopkeeper said
he too had had a dream and in it he went to a town in
far off Norfolk. There he went to a garden belonging to
a pedlar and there beneath a huge tall oak tree, he
found a great fortune in gold.
Hearing this story John hastened back to Swaffham and
his garden, where he dug in the shadow of the huge oak
and sure enough he found a brass pot filled to the brim
with coins. He emptied the pot of its coins, but being a
pedlar he decided to put the pot up for sale. One of his
customers who looked at the pot, told him that the Latin
inscription it bore read ‘under me doth lie another much
richer than I’.So once again John took up his spade and
dug in the exact spot where he had found the pot and
there it is said he found an even larger horde.
This is the story of the Swaffham Pedlar, whose likeness
is shown on the Swaffham Village Sign. He is also
commemorated in the church at Swaffham with bench end
and carvings, the lady figure shown above we have been
told is that of his wife.