Tom Hickathrift

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A local hero in the Wisbech area of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, amazingly strong, and almost a giant in size. As a lad, he had seemed lazy and stupid, but his huge strength enabled him to walk off with two whole waggonloads of straw on his back, win a wager by draining a hogshead of beer at one gulp, and kill a giant with the axle-tree of his cart. A stone in Tilney churchyard (Norfolk) is supposed to mark his grave (it is almost eight feet long); he threw it from a spot three miles away, demanding to be buried where it fell. Two tall stones in Tilney, originally the uprights of old crosses, are called his ‘candlesticks’; one has grooves across the top, said to be the mark of his fingers. Tom's chief exploits were printed in a chapbook in the 18th century, and were well known in oral tradition too. He was also, until recent times, used as a bogeyman to frighten children into good behaviour (Porter, 1969: 188–92; 1974: 96–101).

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