Blue Cockles and Disgraced Preacher

Towns and villages on the Norfolk coast rely heavily on the tourist industry. So it’s not surprising that many of the businesses I rub shoulders with are marketing to holiday-makers and day-trippers. Over the years, I’ve written content for businesses who want to showcase the wonders of Norfolk. The story of the Rector of Stiffkey is one of my favourites.

First, though, a snippet about Stiffkey’s blue cockles …

Prussian Blue

Stiffkey (pronounced stookey) is famous for its cockles, which are dyed a bluish colour by the blue clay they live in, known locally as ‘Norfolk Stew’ – hence Stoo-key (quay). The blue mud is rich in elements that make up the synthetic pigment, Prussian blue, the traditional blue in blueprints. Surprisingly – to some of us, anyway – Prussian blue is of great value in medicine, and is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.

“Just Part of the Job, Constable”

Harold Davidson (July 1875-July 1937) was the Rector of Stiffkey from 1906 to 1932. Possibly the village’s most notorious resident, Davidson was defrocked in 1932 after being found guilty of immorality. However, he always maintained that he was innocent.

As a young man, Davidson had worked as an actor. After his shameful expulsion from the Church, he resumed his former stage career in the form of bizarre circus acts in order to raise money for appeal. He was once arrested for attempted suicide, but was released after explaining that his actions were part of his performance.

Thrown to the Lions

Harold Davidson died, at the age of 62, from severe wounds to the neck after being attacked by a lion. His dare-devil stunt with Toto and Freddie, two lions in the charge of a sixteen-year-old girl, didn’t go well that day. When Freddie got cross, there was nothing Harold could do to save himself.

Harold Davidson never managed to clear his name. Unfortunately, working in an industry notorious for sexual abuse and cruelty, Davidson didn’t stand a chance. Maybe he should never have left the stage. 

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