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the Wiltons were lords. It passed with the Wiltons till Nicholas
Wilton, Esq., sold it in 1680 to George Smyth, Esq., of North Nibbley,
Gloucestershii'e. This George Smyth took his degree of M.A. at Oxford,


May 21st, 16(31, and tlicu travelled abroad for twenty-five years. On
December 4th, 1638, he was admitted Doctor of Medicine at Padua, as a
fine diploma in possession of the family testified, in which he is called
Nobilis A'lujlvs. He married Mary, daughter and heiress of David Offley,
Esq., of Cheshire, by whom he had one son Ofiley. His second wife was
Ann, daughter of William Chilcot, of Isloworth, in Middlesex, who
survived him, but had no issue. At his death, Offloy, his son, inherited
the estate. He was also a great traveller, and never resided at Topcroft,
but died in London in 1708, and lies buried in St. Bride^s Church there.
He left this manor to George Smyth, Esq., his eldest son, by Mary,
daughter of Thomas Archer, Esq, of Gloucestershire, who settled at the
manor house of Topcroft Hall. He married Mary, third daughter of
William Churchman, Esq., of Islington. In 1735 he Avas High Sheriff of
Norfolk, aud he died December 1745, leaving a numerous family.
William Smyth, Esq., his eldest son, inherited, and he married the eldest
daughter of Alderman Black, of Norwich, by whom he had issue.

In the reign of Henry III., Robert Bardolph, a priest, inherited an
estate of his deceased half-brother at Banham in the Hundred of Guilt-
cross. This Robert was rector of no less than thirty churches, a
proof of his interest with the Pope at that time, for the Pope then granted,
by way of proviso (as it was called), many rectories to one man under
pretence that the income over and above serving them should go towards
the expenses of the Holy War, the darling enterprise of that age. This
Robert died in 1224, leaving his inheritance divisible among his five sisters.

REIGN OP EDWARI> I., 1273 tO 1307.

Edward I. was the eldest son of Henry III., and was born at West-
minster, June 16th, 1239. The name of Edward was given him in the
reign of Edward the Confessor, which monarch his father venerated as his
titular saint, and whom he in many respects resembled. He acquired the
name of Long Shanks, from the great length of his legs. In 1254 a match
was proposed for him with Eleanor of Castile, whom he married at Burgos.
By her he had four sons, John, Henry, and Alphonso, who died in youth,
and Edward, who succeeded his father on the throne.

Edward I. placed some checks upon the jurisdiction of the clergy, and
in the Parliament (seventh of Edward I.) was passed the famous statute of
mortmain, the object of which was to prevent property from being granted
to monasteries. These gifts were injurious to the interests of the King
and country, as when land was in the possession of the church it ceased
to be liable to the feudal incidents, and thus the taxation on the rest of
the community was increased in proportion. This was sensibly felt in the
eastern counties, wherein so many monasteries existed.


Edward I.^ when lie ascended the throne,, had the city of Norwich,
the castlO;, and all the liberties in his hands, but in 1273, Roger Bigod,
Earl of Norfolk, had the custody of the castle and the liberties granted to
him. In this reign continued broils took place between the bishop and
monks on one side, and the citizens on the other, but the King settled
their disputes.

In 1277, the King himself led an army through Suffolk and Norfolk,
and kept his Easter at Norwich, returning thence by the sea coast of
Suffolk and Essex, making this military progress to see his castles and
forts put in good order and well supplied with all necessary stores.

In 1281 the King seized the liberties of the city of Norwich, because
the bailiffs were not at the Exchequer at the time appointed to answer for
the city debts and to pay their fee farm rent, but upon their appearance
and payment the liberties were restored.

Edward I. committed some arbitrary acts, and before the excitement
was allayed, he ordered the Constable Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and the
Lord Marshal Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, to land an army into Flanders,
while he proceeded to Guienne. Both declined the duty assigned them,
on the ground, that they were not bound to serve out of the kingdom,
except in attendance on his person. Edward grew angry, and in the
height of his passion said, " By the everlasting God, Sir Earl, you shall
either go or hang." The marshal replied, " By the everlasting God, Sir
King, I will neither go nor hang." The two earls retired from the royal
presence, and as they were supported by a large body of the nobility and
people, the King adopted conciliatory measures towards his subjects, and
tried to enlist the Londoners on his side. He was ultimately obliged to
confirm the charters which he had infringed.

According to Oldfield, the borough of Yarmouth sent burgesses to
Parliament as early as 1294, the twenty -third of Edward I. ; but he gives
no names of representatives. In the twenty-sixth year of the same reign,
a writ of summons was ordered for Yarmouth, and in 1299 two burgesses
were returned whose names were the first on record that have been pre-
served — William FastolfiF and Henry Rose, who sat in the Parliament at

Yarmouth continued to be governed by four bailiffs, under articles often
confirmed by royal authority, till the reign of Edward I., when the twenty-
four jurats or aldermen compiled a circle of laws or customs, the original
of which is now lost, but a translation is still extant, entitled " The Copy
of the Olde Boke of the Lawes and Customes of Yermouth, translated
out of Frenssh and English, by T. Banyard, styward there, the year of
our Lord God mcccclxxxxi, in the time of Christopher Moy and John
Bedingham> bailies."


In 1294, the French attempted to invade England with a fleet of 400
ships, assisted by the treachery of Tuberville, an EngUsli knight ; but the
plot miscarried, and the men of Yarmouth, putting to sea a fleet of armed
ships, captured and burnt Cherbourg, in Normandy ; while a fleet from
the Cinque Ports ravaged the whole coast of France within twenty miles
of Dieppe. For this and other services rendered by the burgesses,
Edward I. granted them two more charters, one in 1298 for acquitting
them of tollage, aids, and other taxes ; and the other in 1309 for regulating
their trade and commerce.

In the thirty-fourth of King Edward I., the year in which that King
gave all the possessions of John de Baliol in England to his nephew, John
de Brittainy, the burgesses of Yarmouth thought it the most eligible time
to apply to that monarch for an explanation of the charter of Henry III.,
which they alleged was couched in too vague terms, and solicited one
more explicit by which their right and title to all customs in their port
might be made more clear. This the King granted in the same year, not-
withstanding all the opposition made to it by the inhabitants of Gorleston.
After this all goods were freely bought and sold in the town without
taxation or impediment. Notwithstanding, frequent disputes arose
between the burgesses of Yarmouth and the inhabitants of Gorleston,
who on many occasions claimed and took some of the customs exclusively
granted to Great Yarmouth. But after all the long disputes and legal
contests between the parties, the Courts of Law determined always in
favour of the burgesses of Yarmouth, who retained their ancient rights
and privileges.

Edward I. Avell knew how to appreciate the heroic quahties of some of
his warriors, among whom none was more distinguished than the sixth
Earl de Warrenne, of Castleacre, Norfolk, a man of great military talent.
The King readily availed himself of the powerful aid supplied by the vast
resources of this Earl, who greatly enhanced his reputation by his exploits
during the wars against Scotland, for which he was appointed to the
exalted post of governor of all the castles in the realm.

The King's wars in Scotland are matters of general history that need
not be repeated here, nor the deeds of the Norfolk warrior ; but we must
notice the personal favour of the gratified monarch towards his illustrious
general. Early in the year 1297, when De Warrenne had retreated for a
short period from the cares of his responsible office to the peaceful
retirement of his own loved Castle of Acre, Edward I. honoured him with
a personal visit, attended by the most distinguished members of his court,
and sojourned for three weeks in the ancestral stronghold of the
De Warrennes.

Then did its massy walls ring with the shout of joy and revelry ; its


stately halls were tlirouged with mailed men and all the pomp and
circumstance of military splendour. Eetainers crowded within the walls,
men-at-arms thronged the ramparts, noble knights and squires filled the
spacious apartments ; courtly dames and beauties graced the ample dais ;
tilts and tournaments allured with their gorgeous pageantry; mimes, glee
men, and minnesingers added fresh enjoyment to the festal hours. But
scarcely had the prolonged roar of festivity, consequent on this distin-
guished visit, ceased to echo in its ample courts, than the noble master
was again abruptly summoned from the peaceful seclusion of his home to
play his part in the turmoil and activity of vigorous warfare, for Scotland
was again in open insurrection, and making another fierce struggle for
independence. The Norfolk warrior was not so successful in his last
expedition into Scotland, but the fatal reverses he experienced did not
diminish the confidence reposed in him by his royal master.

Ealph de Hingham, of Hingham, in Norfolk, was Lord Chief Justice of
the Court of King's Bench in the second of Edward I., in the year 1274,
when the King returned from the Holy Land. He held that post sixteen
years, and he was one of the judges who lost his place for corruption,
being fined and imprisoned with nine others. This Ealph was amerced
7,000 marks for bribery, and displaced ; but after his fine was paid, he
gave such signs of a true repentance that he was made Chief Justice of
the Common Pleas in the reign of Edward 11. He died soon after, and
was buried in St. Paul's Church.

Walter de Sufiield, Bishop of Norwich, was duly installed in 1243. He
drew up an account of the value of ecclesiastical revenues in England for
the Pope. He built the beautiful chapel of St. Mary the Great at the east
end of the Cathedral in Norwich, but it was demolished. He also founded
and endowed St. Giles' Hospital in Norwich. He was so charitably
inclined that in a year of great scarcity he sold all his plate, and with the
money he bought bread, which' he gave to the poor. He died at
Colchester on May 20th, 1259, having bequeathed his immense wealth to
religious or charitable purposes. He was deemed a man of so great piety,
that after his death miracles were believed to have been wrought at his
tomb in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral, where he was buried, and this
chapel was afterwards so enriched that it became a shrine to which people
made pilgrimages.

Simon de Walton, chaplain to Henry III., and one of the Judges in the
Court of Common Pleas, became Bishop of Norwich in 1257, and ruled
the diocese eight years. He died on January 2nd, 1265, and was buried
in the Chapel of St. Mary the Great, then at the east end of the Cathedral.

Ealph de Walpole, Archdeacon of Ely, succeeded to the bishopric. He
commenced the cloisters, always considered to be the finest in the kingdom.


and he much advanced the family of the Walpoles in Norfolk. Ho
was translated to Ely in 1299, and dyin«^ there he was buried in Ely
Cathedral. The next Bishop of Noi*wich was John Salmon, prior o£ Ely,
Lord Chancellor of England. He founded the Chapel of St. John, now
the free school in Norwich, which he endowed. He built the chapel in
the Bishop's Palace and the great hall.


The great Civil War of this period under John and Henry HI. was a war
of races rather than of rulers, and it greatly affected the people of the
Eastern Counties. Its real motive was the fear which the barons of Nor-
man origin entertained of experiencing a conquest in their turn on the
part of other foreigners called into England by their Kings, and of being
despoiled of their territories, as they had dispossessed the Angles, Saxons,
Jutes, and Danes.

About the commencement of the thirteenth century, according to
Fleta, in Suffolk, if an acre of wheat yielded only three times the seed
sown, the farmer would be a loser, unless corn should sell dear. Three
ploughings, ]8d. j harrowing. Id.; two bushels of seed. Is; weeding, ^d. ;
reaping, 5d. ; carrying, 3d.; in all, 3s. l^d., which was more than six
bushels of wheat by IM. The same year the price of a bullock was
8s. 6d. ; a hog, 2s. 6d. ; a pig, 6d. ; threshing a quarter of wheat, 3d. ; of
seligo, 2|d. ; barley, Hd. ; peas, 2d. ; drayet, Id. ; oats. Id. A man's
wages for cutting firewood, two days, 4d.

Some idea of the produce obtained from the soil in the time of Edward
I. may be gathered fi-om a remark of the learned Fleta (book ii, chap. 8),
who observes that the farmer could pay no rent and must be a loser, if he
could not obtain six bushels from an acre. This low return was probably
caused in a great measure by the enormous disproportion of arable land to
pasture. Sir John Cullum in his antiquities of Hawsted, Suffolk, men-
tions that there were 1,300 or 1,400 acres of arable and forty-five of
meadow, and in almost every report that has come down to us the same
disproportion appears.


The game laws are a grievance as old as the Norman dynasty, or older.
The forests were sources of feuds and oppressions; and Essex being covered
by one of these royal nuisances, was frequently excited by the ocurrences
and conflicts to which it gave rise. The wild woodlands which at one
time stretched over so large a portion of Essex, became vested in the
Crown, and long after the Conquest these tracts of wilderness were found
in the heart of Essex. Here the sovereigns and gallants of the courts


hawked and hunted during their sojourn at Havering bower, or the palace
of Chigwell, which appears to have been erected solely for a royal hunting
lodge ; or in their visits to the palaces of New Hall and Writtle. The
latter was built by King John in 1211, about a quarter of a mile
from Writtle Green, on the left hand side of the road leading to
Chelmsford, the building covering an acre of ground, and being
surrounded by a deep moat. In this forest the stag was chased,
and the wild boar — an important part of the game of these woods —
brought to bay, for the fox appears to have been looked upon with
contempt by the Nimrods of those days. Here, in later times, the
outlaw, composed of about equal portions of the poacher, the bandit,
and the hero, found ready shelter. And here, too, at a period bordering
on our own days, the burglar and the highwayman shaped their caves
and concealed their plunder. The forest regulations were terrifically
severe, though often set at naught. The killing of a stag in
these hunting grounds of the King was regarded as more heinous
than murder. The slaughter of a man could be expiated by a pecu-
niary fine ; but one of the game laws of the Conqueror enacted that
the killing of a deer, boar, or hare in his forests should be punished by the
loss of the offender's eyes. This law was renewed by Kichard I., with the
addition of further disgusting mutilation. Civilization, with its multiply-
ing people, increasing the necessity for larger supplies of food, and thus
raising the value of land, has laid so steady a siege to the forest of Essex,
as it was originally called, that no idea can be formed of its extent from
the remnants of it which are left, under the name of Hainault, Waltham,
and Epping. It stretched at one time along the whole of the northern
boundary, from nearly Bow to Cambridgeshire, filling up the whole of the
vast space between Hertfordshire and the line of road from Brentwood and
Eomford on that direction — even extending beyond it — and running from
Bishop's Stortford to Colchester. This latter portion was stripped of its
forestal character by King John. Stephen had previously disafforested
Tendring Hundred, and given it over to the husbandman, who has long
since converted it into a fertile and flourishing district. Parts of Bar-
stable abutting upon Eochford Hundred were treated as forest less than
300 years ago. In 1563, £500 was paid to the Crown for leave to dis-
aff'orest Jarvis' Hall and various other lands in South Bemfleet. Even
Chelmsford, the centre of Essex, was hemmed fti on both sides by these
royal hunting grounds. In the twenty-seventh of Edward I. the Earl of
Oxford obtained a license to enlarge his park at East Hanningfield by
eleven acres, " being within the bounds of the forest ;" and the records
of the exchequer show that in the same reign there was a perambulatioii
of "the forest atWrittle,"


Gradually these open woodlands have disappeared. The popular
feeling, in no age very strong in favour of game-preserving, was aided in
this case, when hunting formed so important a part of the pastimes of
the nobility, by the barons and the landowners — the predecessors of those
who are now the greatest sticklers for upholding the laws of the chase —
and the sworn opponents and punishers of poachers of all descriptions.
The rights of the Crown, as they were called, trenched seriously upon
the privileges of the local lords ; lands which had long been granted
out and grubbed up, being still considered as forest. This led continually
to the institution of vexatious suits, and the exaction of heavy fines from
the King's tenants and the freemen. At length it produced open conflicts
with the Crown ; and the united barons, by an act of compulsion, wrung
from King John the Charter of Forests, " a bar," says the historian, " to
oppression, and a happy instrument of improving our agriculture."
" Every article of this charter," adds Eapin, " is a clear evidence how the
subject was oppressed under the pretence of preserving the royal forest."
The spirit of that charter was jealously guarded. In the conditions
exacted from Henry III., an additional Charter of Forests was included,
by which capital punishment for these offences was abolished, and they
were made punishable by fine and imprisonment. Further, the proprietors
of the land recovered the right of cutting and using their own wood at
pleasure. The Commons gave Edward I. the bribe of a fifteenth of all
the goods of the kingdom, to have its provisions carried out. From this
period the forest of Essex rapidly disappeared, as shown by the peram-
bulations made in the reigns of the four succeeding monarchs.

The office of Lord Warden of the forest, now in the Earl of Morning-
ton, through the marriage of his father, the Hon. Mr. Long Pole
Wellesley, with Miss Tilney, the great heiress of Wanstead House, was
formerly a post of great importance and profit. The warden had the same
duty in the forest as the sheriff had in the county. The right belonged
for centuries to the De Veres, Earls of Oxford, the Lords of Hedingham
Castle ; and the receipts from it must have been enormous. The steward
appointed a lieutenant, a riding forester, and three yeomen foresters ; and
the requisites of the warden and steward are thus stated : — " They had
all the deer-browsing wood, all waifs and strays within the limits of the
forest; likewise all the amerciaments in the swan motes and wood
comptes agreeably to the size of the forest (the amerciaments for
venison, and the bodies of oaks only excepted). Upon the sale of
every wood they were entitled to the second best oak contained therein ;
and the buyer and seller .thereof were obliged to present them with
one bow and one broad arrow, paying at the same time each of them
one penny out of every shilling. They likewise received from the sale


of every covert or liedge-row of every sliilling one penny." There was
also a chief forester^ generally a member of some noble family, one of
the Fitz-Archer's, of Copt Hall, holding it in the reign of Edward I. ;
but with the decay and diminution of the forest, the office appears
to have become virtually extinct. There should also be four verderers,
elected by the freeholders of the county at large, but the deaths
of Mr. Sergeant Arabin and Mr. Conyers, whose j^laces it has not
been deemed necessary to fill up, have reduced them to two — Mr. Lock-
wood and Major Palmer. Anciently important duties attached to all
these officers. There were three courts in which they exercised their
power. The verderer's or forty-day court, as it was called, from being
held every forty days, was the first that took cognizance of offences.
The verderers, as judicial officers, appointed to observe and keep the
assizes and laws of the forest, were sworn " to view, receive, and enrol the
attachments and presentments to the swanimote court," where the matters
were decided upon by a jury; and then returned to the court of justice
seat, the highest forest CQurt. This was held by the Lord Chief Justice
in Eyre, under the King's commission, and, though limited to forest
offences, it seems to have been similar to a court of assize. Formerly,
these courts were held at Chelmsford; but as the forest was driven by the
agricidtural pioneer to the northern and western borders, they were
removed to Chigwell. The sittings have taken place there for the last 300
years. Nought but shadows of the two first courts are now left, and the
court of justice seat was extinguished by the tenth of George IIL,
which transferred its powers to the commissioners of woods and forests.



The family of the Pastons, who generally lived at Oxnead or at Paston,
had many estates' in Norfolk, and flourished in the county for several
centuries after the Norman Conquest. They had estates at Sporle,
Palgrave, Cressingham Magna, Oxnead, Gresham, Swainsthorpe, Mautby,
Marlin'gford, Sparham, Matlask, Bassiugham, Hellesdon, and Winterton,
in Norfolk; and manors in Suffolk, Surrey, and Cambridgeshire. Members
of this family intermarried with many other famihes in Norfolk and

The family of the Pastons, of Paston, is said by most historians to have
come into England three years after the Conquest. Wolstan, who was
one of the ancestors of the family, having a grant of lands at Paston,
assumed, according to the custom of the age, his surname from the said
town. The first proof of this family is that the founder of it was Griffinus


de Tliwayto, to whoso son Osborn the priest^ rector of Paston, Anselm,
Abbot of St. Benet^s at Holme, gave all the land of fit. Benct in Pastou
in fee to him and his heirs ; and Williai]i the abbot granted to Richard de
Paston, son of Osborn, son of Griffin de Thwayte, all the land that
convent held in Paston, and the said Richer covenanted with Reginald the
abbot and convent, that when peace was settled in England, and pleadings
were held in the King's court, he at the request of the abbot would
appear in court and give security therein at the cost of the abbot to
release the lands in Paston.

There was also another branch of this family, of which Wystan or Wol-
stan de Paston, who was the ancestor of Sir William Paston the judge,
and the Earls of Yarmouth. This Wolstan lived in the reign of Henry
II. and Richard I., and married a daughter of the Glanvilles, as appeared
from an impalement of Paston and Glanville in the "windows of Paston
Hall at Paston ; his son and heir styled himself Robert de Wyston and
Robert de Paston, who dying about 1242, was buried at Broomholme.

William, son and heir of Clement Pastou, Esq., of Paston, was the
famous Sir William Paston who married Agnes, daughter and co-heiress
of Sir Edmund Berry, by Alice the daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas
Gerberge. This Sir William Paston was bred to the law, and in 1413
made steward of all the courts and leets belonging to Richard Courtney,
Bishop of Norwich, who settled on him £5 yearly out of his lordship of
Blofield. In 1426 he was made serjeant-at-law, and in 1429 Henry VI.

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 64 of 70)