Gareth takes a ‘horrible history’ look at Cromwell at West Norfolk venues

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West Norfolk author Gareth Calway is presenting his own dramatic monologue Cromwell’s Talking Head at two local venues.

The first date is at the Gin Trap in Ringstead next Friday and that’s followed at Great Massingham Social Club on Monday, February 3. Both performances have a 7.30pm start with tickets at just £5 (Gt Massingham SC members free).

The evenings will start with a lively account of the siege of King’s Lynn by Roundhead forces in 1643, followed by the true gothic tale of the life and afterlife of Cromwell’s head, written and performed by Calway (pictured below).

Cromwell was embalmed and buried as a king (against his express wish) after his death in 1558. At the Restoration, vengeful Royalists exhumed, hanged, drew and quartered his corpse and placed the head on a traitor’s pole on the roof of Westminster Hall for 25 years.

Over the next 300 years it was hidden up chimneys, presented in freak shows and dodgy museums, losing bits to trophy hunters and gathering legends of a terrible curse on anyone who owned it, before the head – authenticated ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ by cranial detectives – was laid to rest in his old Cambridge college (Sidney Sussex) in 1960. Though identified by a nearby plaque on the chapel wall, its exact whereabouts are known to only three people, kept secret for fear of royalists digging him up again.

Calway’s monologue takes a ‘horrible history’ approach to the head’s story, trading on the gothic and gory aspects of England’s only Republican Head of State’s life and after-life. A grave robber is imagined digging up the head in its Cambridge college at night and hearing a tale to make his hair stand on end. And it’s all true.

Further performances will be given by Calway at Jurnet’s bar in Norwich and at the Lord Protector’s former home in Ely at 2pm next Thursday, January 30. Ely tickets are £7.50 and include a tour of the house with a costumed guide (value £4.50) and a glass of Cromwell cider. Surprising facts about Oliver – like his tolerance – will emerge.

Looking further ahead, the Cromwell theme will continue through Calway and Dr Paul Richards at Marriott’s Warehouse in Lynn in early September, Watch this space!

For further information, call on 01485 571828 or visit