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comprises the two archdeaconries of Norfolk and Norwich, in the former
of which are the deaneries of Brooke, Burnham, Cranwich, Depwade,
Fincham, Hingham, Hitcham, Humbleyard, Redenhall, Repps, Rockland,
and Wacton ; and in the latter, those of Bloficld, Breckles, Brisley, Flegg,
Holt, Ingwortli, Lynn, Norwich, Sparham, Taverham, Toft Trees, Wal-
singham, and part of Thetford. There are in the county 756 parishes,
some of them of large extent, and containing ancient spacious Churches.

Cobbett, treating of the Eastern Counties in his "Rural Rides^' (1821),
remarks that " their great drawbacks are their flatness and their want of
fine woods." But he praises the farming and the Churches, and notices
that the latter, with few exceptions, are built on the highest sites
within the parishes. He argues, " These Churches prove that the people
of Norfolk and Suffolk were always a superior people in point of wealth,
while the size of them proves that the country parts were at one time a
great deal more populous than they now are." But we must remember
that in fonner times the Churches were the only places of worship.

Norfolk and Suffolk, ^vithout either hills, or mountains, or broad rivers.



A DESOKIPTION OF NORFOLK. 147

or glassy lakos^ being liiglily-cultivated counties^ are like extensive gav-
dens in tlie summer and autumn seasons. Both counties present every
variety of rural scenery, and some of the towns are of no mean importance,
either in the past history or in the present social position of the kingdom.
The district of the ancient Iceni offers many attractions for the historian
and the antiquary. It abounds in relics of the olden time, and it is no
less rich in the attractions which modern art, refinement, and improve-
ment have introduced. There are no counties more remarkable for the
number of fine old Churches of mediajval architecture.

How beautiful they stand,
These ancient altars of our native land !
Amid the pasture fields, and dark green woods,
Amiil the mountain's clouds and solitudes ;
Uj rivers liroad, that rush into the sea.

By little lu'ooks, that with a lisping sound,
Like playful children, run by copse and lea,

Each in its little plot of holy ground.
How Ijeautiful they stand,
Those old grey churches of our native land !

Many of those ancient edifices have been well restored.

Norfolk and Suffolk are noted for their antiquities of every period —
ancient British, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman ; and of these
an account is given in the order of tim.e in the following pages. Ancient
Churches stand in all the parishes, about a thousand in number, in the
two counties. To describe each Church, however briefly, would be to
compose a treatise on ecclesiology, that few persons would care to read.
Ancient halls, the seats of the nobility and gentry, stand in almost every
Hundred in the two counties.

The families receiving titles from places in Norfolk are the Howards,
Dukes of Norfolk ; the Gordons, Earls of Norwich ; Conways, Earls of
Yarmouth. Thetford confers the title of Viscount in the Fitzroys. The
Townshends are Viscounts of Raynham and Barons of King's Lynn ; the
De Greys are Barons of Walsingham; the Nelsons, Barons of Hil-
borough ; the Howards are Barons of Castle Rising ; the Hobarts, Barons
of Blickling ; the Calthorpes are Barons of Calthorpe ; the Walpoles are
Barons of Walpole and Wolterton ; the Harbords are Barons of Suflield ;
and the Wodehouses are Barons of Ivimberley.

For the purposes of civil government, Norfolk is divided into the
Hundreds of Blofield, Brothercross, Clackclose, Clavering, Dep-
wade. Diss, Earsham, North Erpingham, South Erpingham, Eynsford,
East Flegg, West Flegg, Forehoe, Freebridgc Lynn, Freebridge Marsh-
land, Gallow, North Greenhoe, Grimshoe, Guiltcross, Happing, Henstead,



148 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

Iloltj Humbleyai'd, Loddon, Launditcli^ Miti'ordj Sliropham^ Smithdon,
Taverham, Tunstead, Walsliam^ and Wayland. It contains the city of
Norwich -, the seaports and market towns of Yai-mouthj Lynn Eegis, and
Cley ; the borough of Thetford; the market towns of East Dereham,
Diss, Downham, Fakenham, Foulsham, Harleston, East HarHng, Holt,
Loddon, Reepham, SwafFham, North Walsham, Watton, and Wymond-
ham.

Having in our last chapter given a brief description of the whole fen
region, we shall now proceed through the same district where it extends
and terminates in Norfolk, noticing the physical features of the county
from west to east, along the Norfolk line ,of railway. We shall then pro-
ceed along the line from south to north, or from Wymondham to Faken-
liam and Wells, making a tour of the Western Division.

HUNDREDS AND PARISHES IN WEST NORFOLK.

This division of the county extends from Norwich forty miles in a
straight line to Lynn in the west. It is watered by the Rivers Ouse,
Lark, and Wensum, which latter stream flows through the county from
Rudham for thirty miles eastward. It includes a good part of the fen
district, which has been drained by the Eau Brink Cut from Ely to Lyim.
The principal roads are from Norwich, through Dereham and SwafFham
to Lynn ; also from Norwich to Fakenham and Wells. The Norfolk
Railway crosses the district from Brandon, passing Thetford, Attle-
borough, and Wymondham to Norwich.

CLACKCLOSE HUNDRED



miles in length from north to south, varying' from ten to fifteen miles in
breadth. It is watered by several streams, the Great Ouse intersecting it
from north to south, the Wissey crossing it from east to west, the Nar
bounding it on the north, and the Welney dividing it from the Isle of
Ely. It abounds in woods, seats, and large villages, and the upland parts
are bold, fertile, and picturesque, but a large part is in low marshes and
fens, which extend into several counties. Claokclose includes 88,506
acres, and thirty-three parishes with a population of 21,420.

The parishes are Barton Bendish, Beechamwell, Bexwell, Roughton,
Crimplesham, Denver, Downham Market, Fincham, Fordham, Hilgay,
Holmc-next-Runcton, Marham, Roxham, Ryston, Shingham, Shouldliam,
Shouldham Thorpe, South Runcton, Southery, Stoke Ferry, Stow
Bardolph, Stradsett, Tottenhill, Walliugton-cum-Thorpland, Wat-



A DESCRIPTION OP NORFOLK. 149

lingtoii, Welney^ Wereham, West Dereham, Wimbotsham, Wormegayj
Wretto]!.

DOWNHAM MARKET (ST. EDMUND),

A market town and parish in the Hundred o£ Clack close, eighty-five
miles (north by east) from London. In the reign of Edgar, the town
was granted to the Abbey of Eamsey, in the county of Huntingdon ; of
which establishment the Abbot, in the reign of Edward the Confessor,
obtained for the inhabitants the grant of a weekly market, and subse-
quently, in the reign of John, permission to hold an annual fair. Near
the bridge was an ancient hermitage; and adjoining the Church there was
in early times a Benedictine Priory, subordinate to the Abbey of Ramsey,
to the Abbots of which Henry HI. granted very extensive privileges.

The town is pleasantly situated on an acclivity, about a mile to the east
of the River Ouse, commanding an extensive view of the fens on the
west, with which it is connected by an old bridge, and consists of two
principal streets which are well paved and lighted. The market, which is
nmply supplied with corn and provisions of all kinds, is on Saturday ;
and fairs are held — on the 3rd of March for horses. May 8th for cattle,
aud November 13th for cattle and toys. The fair for horses is one of the
largest in the kingdom, and is attended by many dealers from London
and other towns, and owing to the great number of horses brought for
sale, the show takes place for three or four days before the fair. The
town is a polling-place for the election of candidates for the Western
Division of the county.

The parish comprises 2,490a. 2r. 24p., of which 1,600 are arable, 62G
pasture, and 64 woodland ; the soil near the town is light and sandy, in
other parts a loamy clay, and in some marsh and fen. The living is a
discharged rectory; patron, W. Franks, Esq. The tithes have been
commuted for a rent-charge of £500, and the glebe comprises 29i acres,
with a good glebe-house. The Church is an ancient structure in the Early
English style, with a low embattled tower surmounted by a spire. Bap-
tists, Independents, Methodists, and the Society of Friends have chapels
in the town.

GRIMSHOE HUNDRED

Is nbout fourteen miles in length, and from six to eight miles in breadth,
bounded on the south by the Little Ouse river ; on the east by Shropham
and Wayland ; on the north by South Greenhoe ; and on the west by
Clackclose. It is watered by the river Wissey, which is navigable for
small craft. The soil is chiefly sand, upon a substratum of chalk and
flint, and much of it is open in sheep-walks and heaths, except the west



150 HISTOEY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

end running into tlie fens. The neiglibourhood abounds in rabbit warrens,
and the rabbits are esteemed as of fine flavour. The Hundred comprises
G6,G82 acres, sixteen parishes with a population of 7491. The parishes
are Buckenham Parva, Colvestone, Cranwich, Croxton, Feltwell St. Mary
and St. Nicholas, Hockwold-cum-Wilton, Igborough, Lynford, Methwold,
Mundford, Northwold, Santon, Stanford, Starston, Weeting All Saints,
and West Tofts, nil rural parishes.



This borough and market-town is locally situated in the Hundred of
Grimshoe, West Norfolk, but partly in the Hundred of Lackford, in the
West Division of Suffolk, on each side of a river now called the Thet,
which flows into the Lesser Ouse. The town is distant seventy -nine miles
(north-north-east) from London, and is now a small place compared to
its former extent, when it could boast of many streets, churches, and
monasteries. The Eomans took possession of the town during the first
century, and occupied it till the year 435, when they left this island.
The town is said to have been the Sitomagus of the Eomans, but this
is very doubtful. Julius Caesar, in his Commentaries, states that Sito-
magus was a large and populous city, but he does not mention where it
was situated. As he did not advance beyond the country of the Trino-
bantes (Essex), the city of Sitomagus was probably near their territory,
and not so far inland as Thetford. Where Dunwich formerly f=>tood on
the sea coast is more likely to have been the Sitomagus.

Thetford appears to have been a very important fortified town in the
Roman period, judging from the number of coins that have been disco-
vered there. It seems to have flourished most in the reigns of Claudius,
Nero, Vespasian, Domitian, Trajan, and Antoninus Pius, of all of whom
many coins have been found there, but especially of the latter, in whose
time it was probably at its greatest height during the Roman occupation
of the country.

John Brame, a monk of Thetford, in his M.S. history in Bennet College
Library, in Cambridge, states that one Bond, a valiant man of Thetford,
who flourished in the time of King Vortigem, seeing the Roman forces
withdrawn, and the remaining Romans sluggish and inactive, and per-
ceiving Vortigern fully employed against the Scots and Picts, he there-
upon usurped the supreme government of the city, and became King
thereof. Probably the inhabitants were satisfied with it, especially if he
were as popular as ho seems valiant, for he did not continue idle when he
became King, but endeavoured immediately either to subdue his neighbours
or to bring them under his power. This was not bad pohcy in the then
state of things, because by so doing he made himself and his people the



A DESCRirTION OF NORFOLK. 151

stronger to resist the approaching invasion of the Northern tribes. But
neither native policy nor strength were sufficient to withstand the grow-
ing power and continual invasions of the Northern barbarians. They soon
drove out the natives, took possession of the country, and made Thetford
the chief seat of government.

Thetford appears to have been a fortified town, and to have flourished
exceedingly during the whole of the Anglo-Saxon period, for then many
churches were built, and many monasteries were established there. The
Anglo-Saxon churches were St. Mary's, St. Peter's, St. John's, St. Mar-
tin's, St. Margaret's, and some others mentioned in Domesday-book. The
Panes took the town, and having retained possession of it for fifty years,
totally destroyed it by fire in the ninth century. In 1004 it sustained a
similar calamity from their king, Sweyn, who had invaded East Anglia,
and in 1010 it became for the third time the scene of a conflagration by
these marauders, into whose hands it again fell. In the reign of Canute,
Thetford began to recover from the effects of these repeated calamities,
the population increased, and was far larger than in the modern period.
Long before the Conquest there was a mint here, in which coins of Edmund
the Martyr and Canute were struck, and the place was the residence of
Anglo-Saxon Kings.

Blomefield says : " It appears that there were in the Confessor's time
thirteen parish churches, if not more (in Thetford), but in the time of
Edward III. I find there had been and there were no less than twenty,
whereof thirteen stood on the Suffolk side, and seven on the Norfolk side of
the river, of which St. Mary the Great, or the Mother Church, was without
doubt the most ancient." There are now only three, in the parishes of St.
Cuthbert, St. Peter, and St. Mary the Less, all in the diocese of Norwich.

According to the survey made by William I., Thetford contained nearly
1000 burgesses, besides villeins, sockmen, borderers, or cottagers, and the
common people, showing that the town must have been of considerable
size and importance at that period. Many of the burgesses were persons
of substance, some having mills, which appear to have been then impor-
tant property; others were large farmers; others, merchants and tradesmen.
The King derived considerable revenue from the town, and he had lands
on both sides of the river — in Norfolk 1300 acres, and in Suffolk 1100
acres. The land held by the burgesses paid a heavy tax to the Treasury,
both in money and in kind. The Abbot of Bury claimed a church and a
house free of taxes ; and the Abbot of Ely three churches, one house
free of taxes, and two custom houses, one of which was used as a dwell-
ing. Bishop Stigand had twenty houses free, one mill, and five churches.
Roger Bigot had one free house, a monastery, and two bordars belonging
to the monasterv.



152 HISTORY OP EASTERN ENGLAND.

According to statements of the old historians, such was the ancient
extent and importance of the place, that in the reign of Edward III. it
comprised twenty-four streets, five market-places, twenty churches, six
hospitals, eight monasteries, with other religious foundations of which few
remains can now be traced. After many explorations at different times,
we could never discover where so many streets, market-places, churches,
and other buildings could have been situated within any reasonable limits
of the borough. A charter of incorporation granted by Elizabeth in
1573 was surrendered to the Crown in the 34th of Charles II., and a very
imperfect one obtained in its stead, which in 1692 was annulled and the
original restored by a decree in Chancery. The Mayor is chosen out of
the Corporation, which now consists of four Aldermen and twelve Coun-
cillors. The borough formerly sent two members to Parliament, but is
now merged in the county. The County Assizes, held here from 1176
till this centmy, were removed to Norwich, but Quarter Sessions are
held in the borough. The religious houses in Thetford were the Priory
of St. Sepulchre, founded by William Earl Warren in 1109; the Free
Chapel College or Guild, founded by Mr. Gilbert de Pykenham in 1274;
the Augustine Friars Convent, founded by John of Gaunt in 1387, and
others, which covered a large space of ground in and near the town. Of
late years archaeologists have made many explorations, and uncovered
some of the foundations of several monasteries. The ruins of the priory
may be seen on the Suffolk side of the river.

Thetford Abbey .:was one of the most important of all the religious
institutions of the middle ages. Its temporalities and spiritualities were
large, and its possessions enormous. The monks of the abbey had estates
in 125 parishes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Cambridgeshire, from which
they derived a vevj large annual income, and their spiritualities were also
considerable. The revenues of the canons of the Priories of St.
George were proportionately large, so that the town was considered a
centre of ecclesiastical power and wealth. But after the dissolution, its
monastic institutions were divided and scattered, and fell into the hands
of private individuals. The Duke of Norfolk became the proprietor of
the Abbey and Manor of Thetford, and Eichard Fulmerston of the nunnery
and its possessions. Several of the churches and chantries had already
fallen into decay, and other parishes were united, so that only three
churches Avere preserved for future generations.

The present town has been partly built out of the ruins of religious
houses. The relics of antiquity consist chiefly of fragments of a nunnery
founded in the reign of Canute by Urius, the first abbot of Bury St.
Edmund^s ; some of the walls, buttresses, and windows are still standing.
The Conventual Church has been converted into a barn, and a farm-house



A DESCRIPTION OF NORFOLK. 153

has been built with other portions of the ruins. Of the old abbey^ only
fragments of the church remain. The monastery of St. Sepulchre has
been converted into a barn, and no traces can be discovered of the site of
St. Augustine^s Priory. The first idea that impresses the mind when
glancing" over the ruins of old buildings is the great antiquity of the
place. It would seem that the very ashes of our forefathers are mingled
with the dust at our feet; and that many modern buildings are constructed in
great part out of the durable fragments of ancient churches and convents.

The hill or mound at Thetford, with its surrounding ditches and ram-
parts, bears a very strong resemblance to what the hill at Norwich was
before its outer works and parade ground had been used for building pur-
poses. Thetford hill is about 100 feet high, and measures 784 feet
in circumference at its base, and 81 feet on its summit. Its diameter at
the base is 338 feet. The summit of the mound appears formerly to have
been surrounded by a parapet of clunch, the centre being concave to the
depth of twelve feet below the outer surface.

The scene presented from this mound or hill is highly picturesque. The
summit of the hill is crowned with fine stately trees, whose thick foliage
may be discerned for many miles on a clear day. A portion of the sur-
rounding ramparts is also thickly studded with trees, and the southern
side of the mound has been planted in a similar manner. From the sum-
mit of the hill there is a fine view of the surrounding district, and of the
valley of the River Thet, extensive plantations and warrens, cultivated
fields and meandering rivulets.

THE HUNDRED OF SHROPHAM.

Shropham Hundred is about fourteen miles in length from east to west,
and from six to eight in width, being bounded on the west by Grimshoe,
on the north by Wayland, on the east by Depwade, and on the south by
Guiltcross. The soil is various, but much of it is a light mud, watered
by a number of small rivulets, which unite these streams on its southern
boundary near Quidenham, where the River Thet flows westward to
Thetford. Shropham contains many small allotments for the poor, and
comprises 47,585 acres, and 21 parishes with a population of 8596. The
parishes are Attleborough, Besthorpe, Brettenham, Bridgham, East
Wretham, Eccles, Great Ellingham, Hargham, Hockham, Illington,
Kilverstone, Larling, New Buckenham, Old Buckenham, Rockland All
Saints, Rockland St. Andrew, Roudham, Shropham, Snetterton, West
Wretham, Wilby.

ATTLEBURGH, OR ATTLEBOROUGH (ST. MARy),

A market town and parish, in the Hundred of Shropham, West Division



154 HISTORY OP EASTERN ENGLAND.

of the County of Norfolk, fifteen miles (soutli-west by west) from
Norwich, and ninety-four (north-east by north) from London. In
the reign of Eichard II., Hobert de Mortimer founded a College
for a warden and four secular priests in the Church of the Holy
Cross, of which there are no remains. Though situated on the
high road from Thetford to Norwich, it is now only a very incon-
siderable town. The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on
the Thursdays before Easter and Whitsuntide, and on the 15th of
August.

Attleborough formerly comprised two parishes — Attleborough Major, a
rectory, valued in the King's books at £19 8s. 9d. ; and Attleborough
Minor, a vicarage, valued at £8 2s. 6d. They are now united, and com-
prise by measurement 6257 acres, constituting one rectory, in the pat-
ronage of the Rev. Sir E. B. Smyth, Bart. ; the tithes have been
commuted for a rent-charge of £1500, and the glebe comprises 17 acres,
valued at £25 17s. per annum. The Church is a spacious cruciform struc-
ture, in the Decorated style of English architecture, with a square
embattled tower rising from the centre, and a fine porch ; the chancel,
which had some portiqns in the Norman style, has been demolished ;
there are several monuments to the memory of distinguished personages,
of which the most prominent are those of the Mortimers, Ratcliffes, and
Blockleys. Her Majesty's Commissioners have made a conditional grant
for the erection of a new church. There are places of worship for Bap-
tists and Wesleyan Methodists ; and a school is endowed with nine acres
of land, producing £16 10s. per annum. Two miles and a-half from the
town, on the road to Wymondham, said to have been the first turnpike
road constructed in England, and for which an Act was granted in the 7th
of William III., are the remains of an obelisk erected by the county to
the memory of Sir Edward Rich, who in 1G75 gave £200 towards
repairing the highways.

GUILTCKOSS HUNDRED, .

Adjoining Suffolk, extends about fourteen miles from east to west, vary-' |
ing from two to six miles in width, bounded on the south by the Little
Ousc, on the north by the River Tliet, so called, near Thetford, and on
the cast by Diss. The western part near Thetford has a light, sandy
soil, resting on chalk, but the other parts rise in gentle swells, and have a
strong soil of clay and loam.* The Rivers Waveney and Ouse have their
sources here near Lopham, and flow from thence in opposite courses.
The Hundred comprises 28,340 acres, twelve parishes, and a population
of G,748.

The parishes are Banhani, Bio' Norton, Bast Harling, Garboldisham,



A DESCRIPTION OP NOEPOLK. 155

Gmitliorpe^ Keiiningliall, North Loplmm, Qiiidenliam, Eidflleswortli,
South Lophaiiij West Havhng-.

EAST HARLING

Is a small market town on the gentle acclivities above the vale of the
rivulet now called the Thet, about four miles (south-south-east) of Harling
railway station of the Great Eastern line, twenty-one miles (south-west)
of Norwich. The market, held every Tuesday, is well supplied with
corn, &c. There are three fairs for cattle — held May 4th, first Tuesday
after September 12th (a sheep fair), and October 24th.

KENNINGHALL

Is one of the most ancient places in Norfolk. It is usually stated that
Queen Boadicea held her court there, and that the Eoyal Castle was
the seat of the East-Anglian Kings ; but there is no evidence as to the
connection of Boadicea or even of ' the Anglo-Saxon Kings with the
place, though there is no doubt that it was inhabited as a settled residence
by the Saxons. Blomefield observes that ''*' Kenning " in Saxon signifies
King, and Kenninghall King's house, so that he thought it had been the
seat of the East-Anglian Kings, who were said to have had a castle
there. Now Kenninghall simply means the hall of the Kennings, n
Saxon family of that name. Thus it appears that there was a substantial
dwelliug at Kenninghall. That the Saxons dwelt there in considerable
numbers has been proved by the field discovery of their graves. During
the year 1SG8, workmen were employed to dig, and found several graves
containing various antiquities, including iron bosses of shields, spear heads,
bronze fibulas, amber and glass beads, buckles, &c. A mile and a-half
cast of this village are the earthworks, which consist of double banks of
considerable height, with a diteli between them, nearly rectangular in
shape, and enclosing a space of eight acres. Within these works, which
more resemble the Roman than the British in the shape, stood the old



Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 70)