A to Z of Norwich knowledge - This week we look at Kabell, Lollards Pit and the Maid’s Head

Henry Kabell, Lollards Pit and Maids Head.

Henry Kabell, Lollards Pit and Maids Head. - Credit: Archant

Every month we look at some of Norwich's most famous sites and stories and the facts behind them. This week we look at things beginning K, L and M.

The grave of Henry Kabell, St. Matthew's Church of England, Windsor, NSW, Australia

The grave of Henry Kabell, St. Matthew's Church of England, Windsor, NSW, Australia - Credit: Archant

K is for Kabell

Henry Kabell can lay claim to the title of the first Australian immigrant, because he carried the New South Wales colony's first governor ashore on his shoulders... from a convict ship.

Lollards Pit. The plaque outside.

Lollards Pit. The plaque outside. - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Kabell (and it is possibly Cabell) was transported in 1787 after a less than distinguished career in Norwich. He was sentenced to hang after being convicted of burgling a widow's house.

Two other felons, one of them Kabell's father, were hanged, but Kabell had his sentence commuted to 14 years transportation. He was held in Norwich prison until transportation could be arranged, and while in jail fathered a baby with Susannah Holmes, another convicted felon.

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It could have ended badly, with the new family being separated, but the turnkey John Simpson went personally to plead the case of the convicts to the home secretary. Remarkably Lord Sydney agreed that Kabell and Holmes could be married and that all three could be transported together.

Kabell's 'first' continued in spectacular fashion after his first trip through the waves with the governor on his shoulders. He took part in the first marriage service in the new colony, later went on to become chief constable, opened a hotel and ran the first stage coach service in Australia.

Maids Head Hotel.

Maids Head Hotel. - Credit: Archant

L is for Lollards Pit

Place of medieval execution.

Located in a hollow on the hillside adjacent to Riverside Road and on the site of a pub which takes the same name, Lollards Pit was used predominantly in the 15th century to dispatch Lollards, but also others who offended the established order.

Lollards were those who were regarded by the then religious and political establishment as heretics and were brought here to be burned alive after a short incarceration at the Guildhall.

One of the first victims was priest William White in 1428, although the most notable was Thomas Bilney, said to be 'the first Protestant martyr'.

Most burnings took place during the five-year reign of Queen Mary, when nearly 50 people were put to the torch.

The 'other offenders' referred to on the commemorative plaque on the site included women accused of witchcraft.

M is for Maids Head

The Bishop of East Anglia had a house on the site of the current Maids Head prior to the Conquest and it is probable that Norman bishops lived here until the new Bishop's palace was built north of the Cathedral. The site was then used to entertain guests of the Cathedral priory and then became a general hostelry. Records as early as 1287 refer to an inn on the site supporting the claim that this is the longest continuously used hotel site in the country.

In 1350 it entertained the Black Prince at a cost to the citizens of £34 7s 6d.

It was originally known as the Molde Fish but by the time that Sir John Paston was referring to it in 1472 it was 'the Mayds Hedde'. One explanation of the curious name change is that the Norfolk colloquialism for the skate was 'the old maid' and that the Molde Fish may thus have become the Old Maid, then Maids Head. In the reign of Henry VIII, both Cardinal Wolsey and Queen Catherine of Aragon stayed there, while in 1549, the Marquis of Northampton breakfasted there before being soundly thrashed by Robert Kett's rebel army.

Over the years famous guests have included Morecambe and Wise, David Niven, Reg Varney, Sir Harry Secombe, Cilla Black and Torville and Dean. It was also used as a location in the film The Go-Between.

• Information kindly republished from The Norwich Knowledge, written and published by Michael Loveday and available in Norwich bookshops.