A Tale of Two Hoaxes

If you are going to pull a hoax what better place than a public house to be the operation headquarters. It seems from the following hoaxes that the alcohol intake at the Lord Nelson in Southwold and The Bell of St Olaves definitely inspired brilliance.

Exterior of the Lord Nelson public house, East Street, Southwold, 1970 (1176/1/13/1/2/9)

The first of these hoaxes started at the Lord Nelson in 1983 in response to a customer remarking that he had missed the last bus home only to be told by one of the regulars that he could always catch the last underground train from East Street!  And from a passing jest the East Suffolk Underground Railway came into existence. The regulars at the pub took up the idea and ran with it and proceeded to put flesh on to this wonderful tale and before you knew it timetables were drawn up, maps of the system were drawn and it was even possible to buy special tickets to mark the centenary of the underground; but they didn’t stop there.  T-shirts bearing a map of the system went on sale and a traditional folk song all appeared to mark the centenary.  Unfortunately we do not hold any of this ‘centennial memorabilia’ but we would love to hear from you if you have any relevant items relating to this hoax.

One wonders just how many pints it took to be this inspired…..

……and did they drink more or less than the regulars at The Bell of St Olaves who invented in the winter of 1962 the game of ‘nurdling’ and passed it off as a traditional pastime/game/sport.

It is said that after a ‘few jars’ talk in the bar of The Bell drifted to spoofing visitors and they set to drawing up the rules of nurdling. To give it an air of authenticity Harold Jenner, the then landlord of the pub, made a mock papyrus from Norfolk reed setting out ‘in an ancient fashion’ the rules of what they referred to as an ‘age-old’ game.  The papyrus was duly hung in the bar and the regulars sat back to wait to see how long it would be before an unwary holidaymaker took the bait.

The moment an innocent ‘foreigner’ showed the slightest interest in this ancient game the regulars sprang in to action elaborating on the joys of nurdling and kept up the charade until the ‘victim’ was positively begging to be allowed to take part in this ancient rite.

General view of the street looking from the bridge and showing the Bell public house, c1910
(1300/119/4)

It was at this point the ‘victim’ should have ran as fast as his or her legs could carry them as the next step was to get the ‘victim’ dressed up in a smock, gaiters, hat and holding a nurdling pole [described as a birch stick festooned with coypu fur, bottles, and various other embellishments]. The next step was an elaborate initiation ceremony in the bar of chanting and the lighting of candles on the end of the nurdling pole and then and only then was the ‘victim’ ready to experience the world of nurdling!  It could only have been one massive let down as the ‘victim’ was instructed to burst through a door into the world of nurdling only to find him/herself outside the pub, the ‘victim’ of a massive hoax and the butt of the regulars’ elaborate practical joke.  One nurdler stated in an interview with the local press “We are only following what it says in the Bible – ‘He was a stranger and we took him in’”

The moral of this tale is to be VERY cautious of local traditions when entering East Anglian pubs because they may be beer induced!

The Bell of St Olaves actually has a second claim to fame, much more serious than nurdling, and that is that it claims to be the oldest public house on the Broads with parts of the building dating from around 1520.