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Leaflet | Map tiles Stamen Design, data OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA

Contemporary Voices

4 / 7 Naked Norman: The Marshes

'When I was a child, I lived right opposite the woods. I used to play in them, ride horses and cut through them to get to my friend’s house. There were many rumours and stories of what or who lurked in the woods. Stories of a man, a naked man seen in the bushes. All the locals knew him as Naked Norman. It was always accepted that he was there, but that he was harmless.

Sometimes, when I was riding in the woods, my horse would stop and stand completely still, ears twitching as if sensing a presence nearby. On one occasion, this happened and I thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye, just standing quietly in a bush. I was too afraid to take a proper look and even wondered if I had just conjured him up in my mind.

What a coincidence! A long story short, Naked Norman was mentioned to me only a few weeks ago by my dad. Basically I was telling him of a friend of mine (she wants to remain nameless) who has been exposed to recently whilst on her way home in the late evening. She never reported it. Anyway, as I said, I was telling my dad and he then went on to tell the story of Naked Norman from over the woods, to be honest with you I never really took any notice of him, but when I next speak to him I will bring the subject up again to see what he knows.

We were walking back from the lido along the path next to Cotewood School when he jumped from the bushes, my mum chased him with a glass bottle but couldn’t catch him. This was mid 1960s.

In the 1950s, we always came across a naked man acting odd – we would be on our way to the lido having come through the woods, coming up through the alley in Rochester Road.'

Suzanne Morris' call and response piece deftly echoes the collage style of the Centerprise publication The Threepenny Doctor: Doctor Jelley of Hackney. In local lore, Dr. Jelley refused to abide by social niceties, but he was always fully clothed, in a top hat and frock coat. 

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Naked Norman's Woods © Shay Morris