Dame Armine le Strange of Old Hunstanton in Norfolk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography
A church has existed at Upper Sheringham since the Doomsday survey of 1086. However the existing building dates from about the middle or later part of the fourteenth century. During the fifteenth century the aisles were mostly rebuilt, and to this day many of the fifteenth century bench ends still remain, together with their carvings. One of the carvings is of Upper Sheringhams legendary mermaid. The story goes as follows:-

The north door of the church of All Saints in Upper Sheringham, or Siringeham as it used to be known, creaked open and the face of a young girl peered into the church's interior. Her face was the same colour as a moonstone and was framed by abundantly flowing locks of silver sea-green hair; long tresses in which were tangled tendrils of green seaweed, tiny pearly shells and small baby pink crabs. Slowly and awkwardly the young girl began to enter the church. For she was no ordinary mortal but an enchanted creature of the sea with the head and body of a woman and in the place of legs a long silvery fish's tail. 

The church beadle who was in the middle of a service spotted the young mermaid, for that is what she was, and cried out "Git yew arn owt, we carn't hev noo marmeards in 'are!" And rushing over slammed the door in the mermaid's face. Perhaps his reason for doing this may have been that it was believed that mermaids had no souls and therefore, he thought, they should not be allowed inside God's House. 

Outside the door the young mermaid waited; for she had swam a long way to see inside the Parish Church and was not going to be deterred. After a suitable interval she again pushed the door open and this time, unnoticed, glided slowly inside on her silvery tail to the pew nearest to the door. And there she sat and listened to what the beadle had to say.
"What evidence is there of this event?" I hear you ask. A natural enough question I grant you. Well if you go into the church at Upper Sheringham through the north door and look at the pew nearest the door you will find on the end of the pew a carving of a 'Mermaid'; a mermaid who perhaps had come to church to seek a soul.

The Mermaid is also commemorated on the village sign of Upper Sheringham with two mermaids bracketing the name of the village. 

Nota Bene:
Mermaids and their male counterparts, mermen, have been a part of maritime mythology since ancient Babylonian, Semitic and Greek civilizations. In Elizabethan times the image of a mermaid was the recognized symbol of prostitution. Mary Queen of Scots herself was depicted as a mermaid in a sketch of June 1567. This was after her fall from grace in the eyes of the population when she married the Earl of Bothwell who, it was widely believed, had murdered her second husband, Lord Darnley. Could this be the reason behind the legend that a prostitute visited the church and offended the Beadle at Upper Sheringham?

 Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography