Harold Davidson became the Rector of Stiffkey in 1906; standing at five
feet three inches he was nicknamed ‘Little Jimmy’ by the
parishioners of Stiffkey. Harold was deeply concerned with ‘fallen
women’ and spent a large part of his time in London, rescuing poor
‘unfortunate girls’ who had descended into prostitution. He would
sometimes spend as much as six days a week in London, catching the train
back to Norfolk on Sunday morning and arriving in Stiffkey – Norfolk
just in time to deliver his sermon and to kiss his wife before returning
again to London.After service in the Great War of 1914-18 he returned
home to find his wife pregnant and not by him. After this marital
relations (which had always been rocky) broke down and Harold threw
himself into his ‘good works’, spending more and more time with the
fallen girls in the Soho area.
A Fleet Street reporter heard stories about a Rector misbehaving with
prostitutes, and this together with complaints from his neglected local
parishioners led to a trial which opened on 29th March 1932; Harold was
then in his sixties. The story made World Wide news and was considered
to be the first real UK Sex Scandal. Despite his protestations of
innocence he was declared guilty on July 8th of ‘systematically
misbehaving’ himself with young women and ordered to pay costs.
The Church of England held a ceremony at Norwich Cathedral on 21st
October where he was ‘removed, deposed and degraded’. So what did
Harold Davidson do? Why he joined the circus of course!
During this time he spent a year sitting on a barrel on the promenade at
Blackpool proclaiming his innocence to holidaymakers, who had paid
tuppence to see the deposed Rector.
He also applied for the job of Blackpool football manager and it is said
that he also started a naturist colony.
He eventually ended up in Skegness taking the part of Daniel in the
lion’s den and preached from the Bible inside a lion’s cage. On 28th
July 1938 the lions, that had always been quite docile, took offence to
his preaching and one named Freddie knocked him to the floor. The lion
then grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and stalked around the small
cage shaking the poor Harold back and forth. The audience thinking it
was part of the act roared with laughter and therefore it was some time
before help was called. Unfortunately it was too late for Harold
Davidson and he died from wounds sustained a few days later.
However, this is not the end of the story as the Rector's granddaughter,
Kathryn Collier has discovered evidence which challenges the stories
about her grandfather. For more details go to http://www.rectorofstiffkey.co.uk.