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Cromer, past and present




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Cromer, Past and Present.



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THE IMPRESSION FOR SALE IS LIMITED TO SEVENTY-FIVE
COPIES LARGE IMPERIAL QUARTO, &» FIVE HUNDRED CROWN
QUARTO.



^^X



No. .^4^...yZr. Crcwn Quarto.



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CROMER,



PAST AND PRESENT;



OR,



An attempt to describe the Parishes of
Shipden and Cromer^ and to narrate their History.



BY

WALTER RYE.



It

PRINTED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FUNDS FOR

RESTORATION OF CROMER CHURCH
BY

JARROLD AND SONS, NORWICH AND LONDON.

1889.



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JARROLD AND SONS,

PRINTERS,

NORWICH AND LONDON.



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yisl 0f Slllttstratbns/



Page

94
94

95
96



Cromer Church, with Ruins

Reproduction of Blomefield*s Plate

Plan of the Pillars

"Cappings of Pillars'*

Qerestory Windows

Elaborately-carved Oaken Door at the West of the South Aisle— as

it used to be ... • ... ... ... ... 97

The Church Tower ... ... ... ... ... 102

Bell Inscription ... ... ... ... ... 103

View from the Top of the Tower ... ... ... 104

Lower Stage of Staircase, N.W. comer of Tower, Cromer Church 105

Specimen of Cut-stone Work, Cromer Church ... ... 106

Kerrich*s Sketch of Part of West Door ... ... ... 107

Specimens of Ornaments of the Galilee ... ... ... 108

Specimens of Ornament of Tower Door inside West Porch ... 109

Mutilated Oak Door in North Porch ... ... ... no

Canopy Head, Floral Niche ... ... ... ... in

Specimens of Flint and Stone-work Round the Church ... 113

Variations of Panel Ornaments ... ... ... 114, 115

Specimen of Buttresses ... ... ... ... 116

Specimen of Bosses ... ... ... ... ... 117

Ornaments above Qerestory Windows ... ... 118, 119, 120, 121



* All the above, except the bell inscription, are reproductions of sketches made by my
late brother, Francis Rye.— W. R,



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Snixobuciiotu



To understand what Cromer was like three or four hundred years ago,
one must picture to oneself a great cliff standing much more out to sea
than at present, and under it a real harbour with a heavy-timbered pier-
head like that now at Gorleston, with rough stone walls clumsily contrived
and repaired again and again in our obstinate English fashion, as the in-
coming sea eat them away from time to time. Quite a fleet of trading ships
and fishing boats lazily tossing about inside the harbour, and a large fish-
curing and outfitting population busy on the shore — ^in fact as different a
spot from the quiet watering place of the present day as can well be con-
ceived. There were, no doubt, timber wharves, or «*staithes/' for the
merchants who landed their cargoes of deals and of the straight pine-stuff of
which we then had none in our woods. There were " butchers " in plenty
here, whom some say were really graziers, and who we know bought lean
kine from afar off, and fattened them on the then open common lands and
the not far-off salt marshes — probably partly for salting down the flesh for
the Iceland trade ships, but who, no doubt, also acted as retail " fleshers *'
when they got the chance, and could promote a small syndicate to sub-
scribe for and divide an ox.

Of course the shipping trade was not as good then as it had been, nor
were the people quite as energetic as they had been when Robert Bacon,
spying a strange sail in the ofling, set out from our pier and brought back
a Scotch prince captive ; but the place was still prosperous. There must
have been plenty of business done, and good business men here to send
two men up to London to become Lord Mayors in less than a century.
One must fancy things a little bit going down hill with the trade, as the sea
dashed on the " work" fiercer and fiercer year after year; the pier rate, no
doubt, grew heavier and heavier, and the French pirates were a sore
trouble to us, picking up our men off the coast and holding them to ran-
som, and were playing about on the sands '* as if the place belonged to
them.*'

But in the midst of all their troubles the church, which was and is the

B



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lO CROMER, PAST AND PRESENT.

glory of our village, was at its very prime ; and I like to fiamcy it best as
it must have been then.

Say it is May Day in 1540, and what do we see? A great perfect building
finished about a century ago, still shining with its great double-tiered range
of windows — aisle and clerestory — and shaped flints, and its curiously
carved stone work as sharp and dear as new, with its great tower over 60
feet higher than that of the biggest church in Norwich. From this tower a
peal of five bells, the tenor nearly a ton in weight, are ringing a peal to
usher in the merry-making. Just outside the tower, you can see the plat-
form where '* flares " are burned sometimes to warn mariners on bad nights,
sometimes to pass on the beacon light along the coast. We enter the
church by the north porch. One of the three chaplains attached to the
church lives here, no doubt, and there is a " squint hole " for him to see the
mass. Of course he has to look after the votive oflerings stuck all about.
That silver model of a ship tells how the master of the dogger Nicholas of
Shipden, firmly and correctly considered that it was his prayers to our St.
Peter and Paul that brought him safely home over the " Roaring Middle *'
that bad Christmas night, and not, as the Hunstanton chapel-keeper en-
deavoured to make out, the volunteered assistance of St. Edmund, whose
help we people of Cromer think, though well intended, was slightly officious
and wholly unnecessary.

Let us go through that beautiful doorway into the church. The win-
dows are full of stained glass, and the floors are covered with brasses.
That splendid one looks uncommonly like the great Felbrigg brass, and it
is a curious thing that Weever saw it Acre a long while after; but let that
pass, the Felbrigg people want it worse than we do.*

Right and left are the chapels, so many one can hardly count them.
One chapel I, or my ghostly ancestor, will shew you with pride. It is the
Chapel of " Maid Ridibone.*' We don't exactly know who she was, but
we are extremely pleased to harbour her image, for she is quite the latest
thing in miracle working — almost as interesting as
" Master John Schom,
[Gentleman bom]
Conjured the devil into a boot

• AU thebressesare gone now bat one, and I can't bat think that Kathoine Comforth, if the
knows anything about it now— and I am by no means sore she does not— must feel pleased
that her poor little brass, representing her poor little self, with her folded hands over her
bctast and her bidding prayer at her feet, should have outksted all the monuments of her
grand contemporaries ; and I firmly believe that " William Arnold, bastard," as he, not
unlike a former bearer of the nickname, boldly proclaimed himself must fed chafed and
wronged that his brass is not riveted where it should be, but lies loose in the church diest



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INTRODUCTION. 1 1

Though she is said to have fallen through a mill-wheel and been killed,
and to have been restored to life by the intervention of St. Alban ; she,
however, up to date, is not a pecuniary success, any more than the real
head of St. John the Baptist at Trimmingham hard by.

On the north side of the church we see the image of St. Mary and St.
Ann her mother, painted in flesh colour and ultramarine, and powdered
over with gold stars, just as our descendants will see in Catholic shops in
the 19th century. In St. Mary's Chapel is the great " portiforium," which
that good chaplain, Thomas Tugge, gave us, chained to the desk just as he
told us to chain it. Any lad of the place can come in and learn to read
here, aye, and get learning enough to be Lord Mayor if he is clever
enough. These are good days for clever men. A boy who uhuUs to learn
can always find teaching; but in our foolish 15th century way, we dont
drive people to learn who hav'n't the brains to do so.

Right in front of us is the '' High *' Rood Loft, while to its sides and
above it are the achievements of the lords and ladies who helped to build
the church, painted on cloth and gently stirring in the wind. How the
great beam shines in scarlet and gold, as well it may, considering that one
of our Lord Mayors left us ^40 for its help not so long ago. See how
high and how wide the gallery is, into which the singers are filing up
through both the rood turrets, after taking their service books from the
convenient cupboard, still to be seen in the north staircase. Not that
there are not better than service books in that cupboard, for John Gosseljm,
who left us a missal, a noted portiforium, and a graduale, and who was
also the proud owner of such books as '' De Virtutibus Herbarum'* and
'' Pars Oculi,** also left some treatises of that sort to be the nucleus of a
parish library.

We pass under the beam and are in the grand chancel, with its tremen*
dous east window,* with St Mary Magdalen, St Christopher, and St
Katherine decently depicted on it, at the expense of our vicar, in 1388.
Right and left are two more chapels, each fit to be the chancel of most
churches.

In the middle, " in the entering between the desks,*' lies our fiiend,
William Tugge, the vicar, whose namesake left us a portiforium. He
wanted to be buried here, and so he was buried with the chalice engraved
on the stone over him. He was a good fellow of an old family in our
Hundred, and kin, no doubt, to the chaplain of the same name who lived
here. He was parson of Gunton when he died, but preferred — and small
blame to him — ^to be buried here. His successors were not so fond (rf* the

* Very vnlike to that recently put up, I fear.



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12 CROMER, PAST AND PRESENT.

place. Ryston was a ''brother" of Beeston, and lies in his abbey
church, and Harlow was a canon of Walsingham, and no doubt also went
home.

There stands the High Altar, glorious as gilding can make it ; for John
Ward gave us S3S. 4d. to gild it in 1504. That gold cup, a little old-
fashioned now, must be the one John Gosselyn, our old vicar, gave us in
1384; and that pair of gilt chalices, no doubt, are Thomas Multon*s, who
only died the other day. Good cups, too, they are, with patens, as the
church goods inventory in Edward VI.'s reign will describe them, weighing
39 ounces in all "silver dobill gilt" While right and left are the two
great standing candlesticks and four smaller of latten.

What a fine set of vestments there are hanging up in the vestry I One
suit of red cloth (a cope, a vestment, two tunicles, and two albs), and
another similar suit of black silk. A cope of white silk broidered with
roses, a cope of cloth of gold, a cope of crimson velvet, a cope of white
damask, and a cope of blue damask.

Then there are other vestments of price. A white one with roses, to
match the cope, no doubt, one of cloth of Bawdkyn, another of crimson
velvet, and yet others of white damask, of red silk of Bruges, of red silk
" border Alexander " (whatever that may mean), and of green damask.



To-day, being May Day, is no doubt a great day with the Guilds, of
which we have six. All of them are busy getting ready their " lights " —
the great wax candles — fantastically coloured, to bum so as we trust, on
the lucus a non lucendo principle, to alleviate our purgatorial pains.

But the Guilds have no monopoly of lights. There are other societies
vowed to bum candles here. First and foremost is our ** Plough Light,"
well supported by nearly every will ; then we have the " Women's Plough
Light" (can this have been the gleaner's light?), and still again the
" Plough Light in East Gate." Of course we have no walled gates ; but
we call a way a "gate," just as we talk of a horse's " gait."

We shall have a jolly time of it to-night with the Guilds when the may-
ing is over. It will shock some of our descendants if they ever get to
know that this church (wherein such stirring teetotal sermons will some
day be preached), is now continually the scene of many a merry-making,
many a *• church ale," like that officiously interrupted by John Cecilyson,
in Thurgarton Church, as told on page 53. Feasting and substantial
cookery too, must have gone on also, probably in a guild-house close to
the churchyard, else why will the Church inventory of the *• Guild Stuff,"
consisting of 3 brass pots, 40 lbs* weight [of cups] of pewter, 2 spits



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INTRODUCTION. 1 3

weighing 12 lbs., and the "masour" (can we doubt it was a loving cup?)
with [a rim of] 2 ounces of silver.

But our Guilds are not only feasting clubs. They are charity and bury-
ing societies, but not of the 19th century type. We find it very comforting
to think that our bodies will be carried to the grave on a " hearse,"
which has carried many a good fellow of our Guild before us to his last
home.

It is homelike to think that our friends and our boon companions will
put our vile body away tenderly, and that we shall not have the grim
black mockery of the undertakers round us. There are no undertakers in
our days. We stretch our own dead reverently and not for money. We
do so ourselves, instead of paying others to " undertake" the "job."

Our burial functions are impressively religious. John Gosselyn's will,
with its payments to be made to the chaplains celebrating in the church,
to those who bear the body, to the clerk who bears the holy water, and to
the boys singing a psalm, gives us a very good idea of what they were
like.



Well, such was what I often fancy was the church, the history of which
I have studied in a desultory way for a quarter of a century or so. For
years and years some well-intentioned people have been hard at work
restoring, and spending great sums of money on it I can*t help thinking
that the old founders, the old vicars and chaplains, the stout merchants
and mayors, may still be allowed to look down on our feeble attempts to
match their work. If so, I know it must have pleased them to see the
chancel rise up again, like a slow and expensive ghost, and be roofed in
once more. They must have been distressed to see their tombstones in
the chancel first get weathered and then crumble away.

Who knows that they may be looking down on us with a sort of sub-
dued satisfaction in seeing that our new work is so much worse and so
much dearer than what they did? Of course all this is all rubbish and
nonsense ; but I like to think it may be true.

But whether our new work is as good as the old or not, and whether it
would not have been wiser to have employed an architect with a wider
and closer acquaintance with our Norfolk type fiint-built churches, the
work has to be paid for, and it struck me that if I put in type all I had
collected about the place, it might bring in something towards the Restora-
tion Fund^ and I have accordingly printed the book with this object.
There are plenty of people who will not subscribe a guinea or two to a



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14 CROMER, PAST AND PRESENT.

buildbg fund, but who will buy a book, which, though of no intrinsic
value, contains, at all events, a mass of local material and pedigrees. I
have been greatly aided in this idea by the public spirit and enterprise of
the publishers, who have undertaken the no small risk and cost of printing
and illustrating the work.

WALTER RYE.

Putn^, S. W.



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Cromer, Past and Present.



CHAPTER I.

9^e juried §xttf of ^^ipben anb i^e ^etp "^ton

of gtromer.

*' On Lough Neagh's bank, as the fishennan strays,
When the clear cold eve*s declining.
He sees the round towers of other days,
In the wave beneath him shining ! *^

Moore.

Due north, and twenty-one miles as the crow flies from the
Castle Hill of Norwich, stands, huddled into a hollow and along
the cliff edge, the little village of Cromer, and a quarter of a mile
out to sea the tide rolls in and rolls out over the lost town of
Shipden.

Once or twice in the year, at the very dregs of the lowest neap
tides, the water recedes beyond broken foundations matted with
seaweed — long ridges of what were once walls, but which now
hardly peep above the sand, and a great overturned mass of
squared flint work, which the fishermen call the ** Church Rock,"
once the tower of Shipden Church.*

Even at the ebb of ordinary tides, the " Church Rock " is not
so deep under water that it would not drive a hole in the bottom
of anything bigger than a fishing boat which tried to fetch over

it.t

• This is the generally accepted helief, bat there are others who say that the mint of
the submerged church are half a mile more to the west.

t This was written before a Yarmouth tug. fitted as a pleasure steamer, was lost on
it this (1888) summer.



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1 6 CROMER, PAST AND PRESENT.

The usual guesses at the derivation of both Shipden and Cromer
have been made If we went to work in the style of those bad
riddle-guessers — the derivation -makers of the past century — we
might point out that if the hills which have been washed away
sloped up seawards at the same angle as those which remain, the
noted old harbour of Shipden must have been a very " haven under
a hill," and the Ship-don, or Ship-hill, no inappropriate name for
it Crowmere, too, would have naturally been guessed at as the
lonely mere or lake to which the crows came to drink at nightfall,
with as quiet an ignoring of the fact that there is no mere for
miles among our breezy hills, as is shown by those who derive the
adjoining village of Felbrigg from " field-bridge," suppressing the
fact that there is no brook there to bridge over.

But if I may, once more, air my favourite theory that most of
our Norfolk villages took their names from reminiscences of the
homes of Danish, or other Norsk settlers, either coming here
before the Romans or after the Saxons, according to which inva-
sion you please, I think there is little difficulty in shewing that
Cromer is a Danish place name, and that it is situate in a Hundred,
which itself takes its name from Denmark, and which abounds
with other Danish names.

That there were yet earlier inhabitants than these early Danes,
of course, goes without saying. Three celts were found here after
a fall of the cliff in 1845, and in 1877, Mr. Fitch, of Norwich,
exhibited a neolithic flint implement found on the Lighthouse Hill.
Some notes as to the discovery of ancient British remains near
Cromer by the Rev. G. C. Chester will be found in the Sth vol. (p.
263) of the Transactions of the Norfolk Archaeological Society.

Discarding, as I think I have shewn elsewhere we should do,
Kemble's theory that "ing" meant "ham," or home of "descendants
of" — ^^., that Erpingham means "home of the descendants of
Erp," and coming to the more reasonable conclusion that it means
the new home of those who come from a place called Erping, we
have but to look for the name of Erping in Denmark. This we
find at once in " Herping." After this it does not surprise us to
find a " Krcemmer," which is, of course, not to be distinguished in
sound from Cromer, nor a " Kromerup," also in Denmark.*

* Mr. Hyde Clarke kindly wrote me, pointing out that there is a Croixmare in Nor-
mandy, four miles from Limesi, in the Pays de Caox, from which fact he argued with



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THE BURIED CITY AND NEW TOWN. 1 7

Felbrigg, the adjoining village (the last syllable of which must
be a corruption, for as before-mentioned, there is nothing there to
bridge), finds its prototype in Felborg (in Jutland), Sustead in
Scested, Aldborough in Aldbjerg, Gresham in Groesholm, Repps
in Reppe, Thorpe Market in Thorpe. Seven therefore of the
thirty-one places in the Hundred are practically identical with the
names of places in Denmark, while the prefixes of GimmingYi^m,
Gunton, and Thurgarton are also Danish, as are also the affixes of
Overstrand and Sidestrand, which may be compared with the
Danish Nordstrand and Fladstrand, and Matlask with the Danish
Holmtrask and Bustrask. Allowing these, we have six more (or
thirteen in all) Danish place names, while a closer scrutiny of the
map of the neighbourhood, gives such Danish-sounding localities
as Hagon beck in Gunton Park, Beck Hythe near Cromer, and
Kir^ Hill near Cromer, besides which there are the lost villages
of Mdivket/iorpe and KidcstAorp mentioned hereafter.

There is some historic evidence of Danes here, too, eg., Torstin
held one of our Cromer manors when Domesday was taken, and
our first Subsidy Roll for Shipden has such Danish sounding
names as Sirik and Hermer.

Later on (1327) we find in the neigbourhood (see my "Rough
Notes for North Erpingham") the Danish-sounding surnames of
Lenesson, Wodeson, Dauwessone, Kyrtesson, Edesson, Deynessone,
Rennesson, Catessone, Madessone, Sibbessone, and Rolvesson.

No Roman remains have been found at Cromer, though the
discoveries of a Roman kiln at Weybourne, and of a great hoard of
coins near Baconsthorpe are well known ; and the camp at
Warbury, or Warborough Hill, is supposed to be Roman, while
that at Brancaster, still further down the coast, undoubtedly is.
Roman pottery has been found at Bassingham, where there is a
mound also supposed to be Roman.

The late Rev. Scott Surtees promulgated the startling theory
that Julius Caesar, in his two expeditions, landed at Weybourne


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Online LibraryWalter RyeCromer, past and present: or, An attempt to describe the parishes of Shipden ... → online text (page 1 of 22)