Haunted Norfolk

Tales from The Underground Street

The Poler Bear King of Norwich

Today I want to write to talk to you about King Gurgunt.

You may recall in the first Tales from the Underground Street; I shared this picture.

The royal skeleton is a prop from the escape room event that the tour operator also runs in the underground street. It is supposed to represent a character from Norwich’s past.

King Gurgunt.

Like Robin Hood and King Arthur it is not 100% known if King Gurgunt was real, though in all probability he wasn’t. The theory is that his story was made up to impress a visiting Queen Elizabeth I.

They really went all out with an actor showing up to greet her, announcing himself as King Gurgunt before accompanying her through the city and telling his fantastical story.

But real or not King Gurgunt story is a lot of fun.

The story goes that our mythical King, the son of Bellinus, decided to settle in Norwich. He was so fond of Norwich that he built the Castle and established the city around it. While he lived in Norwich, he went all over the world fighting in great battles.

After one such battle in the frozen, oversea northern lands King Gurgunt bravery and skill was so impressive that the local ruler decided to reward him with a gift. He gave him a puppy.

But this was an ordinary puppy. By the time the pup was a few weeks old it was bigger than any dog Gurgunt had, several months later and it was bigger than a man.

Turns out this puppy was a polar bear, though having never seen such a beast before King Gurgunt called it his white hound and kept it close to him as a bodyguard of sorts.

Sadly, polar bears don’t do wonderfully well in Norfolk, even if a king is their master and after some years the bear died. Gurgunt had the beast entombed under the castle and when his own time to die came he asked that he be laid to rest with his beloved white hound.

The story isn’t quite done though. As it goes that when Norwich or England is in peril, like King Arthur, Gurgunt will rise up to defend it.

So, while this is a cute story told to impress a queen, it has stuck around. Norwich Castle (which is now an impressive museum and art gallery) was even given a taxidermized polar bear which is now displayed in the natural history display at the castle.

I'd love to hear what you think, please comment below.

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