Today, you could hope to get rich by winning the lottery, but, long ago, poor people stayed poor and finding a horde of treasure was their only hope! The idea of buried treasure or gold has inspired many a myth or legend and one such story involves Callow Pit.
The pit lies on the boundary of the parishes of Southwood and Moulton in Norfolk. There is a tradition that an iron chest, filled with gold, is hidden deep in its depths!
One summer's day, many years ago, two daring and adventurous young men noticed the unusually low level of the water in the pit. They had been firm friends since childhood and had got up to many pranks and many adventures whilst still boys. Now they were grown and had young families of their own to look after. But times were desperate.
Although they were both experienced tradesmen, one a thatcher and the other a carpenter, neither could find work. For three years now the harvests in their parishes had been poor. The times had been unusually hot and dry. Every family was struggling to grow enough food for their own hungry children. There was no money left over to repair roofs or doors or fences.
This morning they had gone for a walk together, both needing to escape from the problems of feeding their near starving families. As they neared Callow Pit, a place they had played at very often in their youth, they were astonished to see the water had evaporated so much.
They peered over the edge, into the forbidding pit below
“Can you see suffin?” said the carpenter. "Any sign uh that there treasure chest?"
His friend shook his head. “No, thass too hully murky. That probably dun't exist no how.”
"But just s’posin that do? That would be our best chance, wunt it? The water ent likely t'be this here low again, is it?”
“Let’s give it a try!”
As they looked at each other, gradually huge grins spread across both their faces. A chest full of gold would transform their lives. It would be well worth the risk of falling into the foul waters. Still smiling broadly they both stood deep in thought.
Suddenly the thatcher turned to his friend.
“Don't they say that there old devil himself is guarding on it?”
“Them old tales, we don’t want to get in a muckwash over that if we do find it!” replied his friend.
“Right, oi’ll get my longest ladders and my shear hook, I will. Can you fasten it t'a broom handle or suffun?”
“That I can,” replied his friend.
Both hurried home. Mid afternoon saw them back at the pit, excitedly laying ladders and fixing them into the ridge of the pit. Then, starting from either side they carefully crawled to the centre of the structure, the thatcher carrying the extended shearing hook and the carpenter a long, very stout pole.
Once in the middle, they began carefully searching the dark waters, prodding this way and that. Suddenly the carpenter’s pole thudded on something. They glanced at each other in excited amazement and then tried pushing and poking around the object until suddenly the thatcher yelled, “I've caught suffun!”
Together, they began to pull the heavy object through the muddied water until they could see what it was.
As it started to appear, they could see the shearing hook caught in a large ring, which was fastened to the lid of a very big chest. Taking no chances on their rickety structure, they hauled the chest to rest between them and took out the hook. They both stared in wonder at their catch.
Without a word, they pushed the carpenter’s stout pole through the ring, and slowly lifted the heavy chest so that the pole rested on a shoulder each. Carefully, carefully, they both stood up, balancing rather precariously, with the chest dangling between them. Slowly, they started placing one foot in front of the other to bear off their prize across the bridge of ladders.
As they did so, the carpenter let out his breath, whooped and yelled, “"We've got it safe, we have. Not even Old Nick can get it frum us now!"
In an instant, the pit was enveloped in a cloud of steam with a strong choking sulphurous smell; a black arm with a claw-like hand rose from the depths and, emerging swiftly through the water, grasped the chest.
A terrific struggle took place. Disregarding their safety, the young men were determined not to lose their prize, their future, and pulled and pulled struggling to haul the chest out of the demonic claw. The devil clung, using his unearthly strength to resist their attempts, intent on dragging the chest towards the murky depths.
Unable to bear the enormous strain, the chest was ripped from the ring holding it to the pole by which the men had secured the chest. The chest, with all its gold, sank beneath the dark water, never again to be seen by a mortal eye.
Dismayed, the young men stared into the gloomy depths. Listlessly, they crossed to the bank and started to collect their tools and ladders. “No-one are gorta believe us,” said the thatcher wearily.
“Yes, that they will, they will. Here’s the proof,” replied his friend, holding up the ring of the chest which had been torn away during the struggle with the devil.
As they were ready for the trek back home, the sky clouded over and a torrential summer downpour began.
They glanced back, and saw that, in no time at all, Callow Pit had filled to the brim. They consoled themselves, as they trudged along, with the knowledge that the drought was over, the crops would grow and bellies would soon be filled.
The young men placed the ring on Southwood Church door, where it still serves to close the door and to remind those who visit the church, both of the truth of the legend and the danger of challenging the devil.
As for the mysterious pit, although the devil's hand was never to be seen again, it is said that a headless horseman rides at midnight, from Callow Pit to a place called Cantley Spong, a distance of about a mile. So the pit may still have new mysteries and stories to tell.