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Don’t Take Up Farming, Old Chap!

When well-known Devon writer Henry Williamson (already famous for Tarka the Otter) announced in 1936 that he had bought a farm on the north coast of Norfolk and intended to farm it himself, the universal response was:

‘Don’t do it. Don’t take up farming, old chap. Farming is dead.’

Farming was in deep depression: and although that meant land was supposedly cheap Henry had no capital to draw on – everyone thought he was crazy! The farm he actually bought, Old Hall Farm in the coastal village of Stiffkey, was even more rundown than most and the current farmer, Mr Stratton (whom HW aptly called ’Sidney Strawless’ in subsequent books), was declared bankrupt before the sale was finalised. The over-riding impression is that the only crop grown there was thistles.

1_ early days_Loetitia and HW survey the thistles2
Early Days: Loetitia and Henry Williamson survey the thistles.

Henry had no experience of farming although he claimed farming ancestry. So why did he take this rather perverse step? He tended to say that he had written himself out of Devon, its animals, its characters, its countryside, and needed a new stimulus, and with twenty-one books on the area already published, this was no doubt to some extent true but it was not the full reason. Immediately after Christmas 1935 Henry drove up to London in his Alvis Silver Eagle sports car and went to see his publisher and great friend, Richard (Dick) de la Mare, son of the writer and poet Walter de la Mare. Henry was in a state of considerable turmoil. Dick invited him to spend the New Year with him and his wife at their home in East Runton on the North Norfolk coast.

It is obvious that Henry unburdened his troubled thoughts to his friends into the small hours. It tends to be taken for granted that this turmoil was about problems with a girlfriend. (Although married and with a family, Henry constantly fell for a succession of admiring young women.) But Dick’s suggestion that he should take up farming to solve things seems a little radical for the failure of a current love affair.

Henry had recently returned from a visit to Germany at the invitation of another close friend, John Heygate (heir to a baronetcy and an estate in Ireland), who worked for the German film company UFA. Heygate was far more involved with German politics than was apparent and he arranged with the authorities that Henry should be shown the best of the current achievements: the new autobahn roads, the fast Auto-Union cars, the ‘happy spirit’ of the extensive youth movement, and topping the list, tickets for that year’s Rally at Nürnberg, staged to impress and awe those present.

Henry was indeed impressed. Everything he was shown was efficient and prosperous. He actually had German ancestry through his paternal grandmother. But mainly he had fought throughout the 1914-18 war. His traumatic experiences, and his deep sympathy for soldiers of both sides, made him resolve to do all he could to prevent war ever happening again. He was convinced that Hitler – also an old soldier from the Great War – must surely think the same and so would never start another conflict. But despite that apparent naivety, he was also astute. A staunch patriot, he would have been aware that all was not as it should have been: that possibly the threat of war underlay the panoply. That was what was troubling him and surely what the two men discussed into the small hours. And that makes sense of Dick de la Mare’s suggestion to take up farming. It was an honourable occupation, and one that would be very necessary if war should break out. Henry would be doing his bit for his country. It would also be a haven for his family, especially his eldest son, as farming would be a ‘reserved occupation’ in time of war. Henry had seen far too many of the fine youth of Britain fall in battle.

The very next day they went to look at a nearby farm for sale – Old Hall Farm in Stiffkey. At first hesitant, a second viewing convinced Henry and he returned to Devon to put the project to his wife. The decision was made and a provisional agreement was signed on 6 March 1936. Henry then set about preparing himself for the new venture, reading books and magazines, The Farmer and Stockbreeder being prominent. Knowing he would need help he asked his brother-in-law, Robin Hibbert, who with his brothers had emigrated to Australia not long before, to return to this country and help manage the farm. Robin (‘Sam’ in The Story of a Norfolk Farm) duly arrived in December.

The legal side was far more complicated and frustrating than Henry had envisaged: valuations, dilapidations, tithes, schedules, and taxes all had to be dealt with. Meetings with the various officials went on for several months. However, the Deed of Conveyance and Mortgage was duly signed in mid-August 1936. The cost of 240 acres of farm land and its cottages (Walnut Tree Cottages) was £2,240, way beyond Henry’s means, but his wife Loetitia had recently inherited a little money on the death of her father, and this was used for the initial payments. He intended to subsidise the farm with earnings from writing articles and books, but this was to mean using a tremendous amount of energy and long hours, physical and mental, in meeting the deadlines of both demands.

2_map of the farm on the endpapers of The Story of a Norfolk Farm, drawn by C. F. Tunnicliffe.jpg2
A Map of Old Hall Farm as it appears on the endpapers of Henry Williamson’s book ‘The Story of a Norfolk Farm’. Drawn by C.F. Tunnicliffe.

Henry had only bought the land (not liking the huge Elizabethan manor house, Stiffkey Old Hall, which went with it – which was then sold separately) and, as the farm cottages were occupied, he needed somewhere to live with his family. On a visit in early December 1936 he found that three condemned cottages were for sale in the village, which he bought for £190, planning to do them up for the family home. These ‘Chapel Yard Cottages’ (called ‘Bugg Cottages’ after the previous owner) became Fox, Owl, and South Cottages (today these cottages are very expensive ‘des. res.’).

3_Bugg Cottages before renovation2
Bugg Cottages before renovation.

In January 1937 Henry attended the annual Agricultural Conference at Oxford, enjoying it very much and gaining some confidence that he would be able to cope. In March he resolved that he and Robin should go and camp on the farm and start some basic work on making up the farm roads and the cottages, so that all would be done by the time he actually took over the farm at Michaelmas. To this end he bought a caravan, lorry and trailer, having arranged to lease the use of a gravel pit for the raw material for making up the roads.

On 20 May, after a very difficult time loading the vehicles with all the necessary equipment the two men would need, a little convoy, Alvis Silver Eagle and caravan, lorry and trailer, set off from Devon for the Norfolk Coast. The Shallowford home was vacated: the family were to stay with their former housekeeper, Annie Rawle, until such time as the Norfolk accommodation was ready for them. The journey was as fraught as the packing had been: everything seemed to go wrong and Henry was in a state of extreme nervous tension. All the details can be found in The Story of A Norfolk Farm, published in 1941 and in the farming volumes of the later Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (see the Henry Williamson Society’s website). Henry’s fictional names for local places, and often people, are very easily worked out: ‘Whelk’ being Wells, for example.

As soon as they arrived and had set up the caravan and a tent at Pine Tree Copse (now known as Pine Tree Camp) they started work on the task of making up the farm roads. This was very hard manual labour, shifting gravel from the leased pit, spreading it and firming it all down (and eventually topping off with a chalk layer from their own quarry). The work was slow and exhausting but production increased when ‘One-eyed Jarvis’ (William Jarvis) offered his services and soon after ‘young red-haired [Norman] Jordan’ was also employed. Later Jimmy Sutton, who had worked for ‘Strawless’, was taken on, and his son Bob. Work also began on the rebuilding of the three condemned cottages, an undertaking beset with every difficulty one could imagine. Everything that could go wrong, did so, including Henry’s secretary/mistress Ann Thomas (daughter of the poet Edward Thomas) going down with mumps, causing Henry yet further angst. Two or three difficult journeys were made back to Devon to collect furniture and this was stored in the capacious Old Granary. When the weather got too cold for the caravan they moved down to camp in the Granary where they established a stove to keep the place warm. The main problem was that Henry and his brother-in-law did not get on. Robin was slow and not terribly methodical: Henry impatient, nervous, quick of mind and body. Inevitably, he blamed Robin for all the problems, and by the end of October Robin had left, to take up a job in electrical engineering.

Henry officially took over the farm on old Michaelmas Day – 11 October – recording in his diary:  ‘The farm is mine as occupier noon today.’ Bob Sutton was appointed ‘head-man’. Henry was by then attending all the local auctions in order to buy equipment. He also bought two horses, Blossom and Gilbert. But his pride and joy was a new Ferguson tractor, known as ‘the little grey donkey’.

It wasn’t long before problems arose over the way the men worked. They were all good local farm-workers, who had farmed in the same way all their lives. Henry was a newcomer and had new – to them very odd – ideas about how to do things. He had been a soldier in the 1914–18 war, and as a Transport Officer had particularly been trained how to deal with, and care for, horses and attendant machinery. He had had to be meticulously organised and efficient in his dealings with armaments, provisions, and the men under him. He was of course used to instant obedience to his commands. Taking on the farm seems to have thrown him back into that mode: fighting the difficulties on the farm was fighting a war. A diary entry states: ‘Here were the fruits of years of neglect. I felt like a soldier before zero hour.’ He had never (and never did) get over the trauma of his experiences in the First World War. He was always in a state of nervous energy – and exhaustion. None of this was understood by the local people. He was ‘hare’ to their ‘tortoise’. The men listened to what he had to say – then went off to do things their own old way.

In October 1937 Henry was visited on several occasions by Lady Downe, who had read his articles and heard his broadcasts. Lady Downe lived near King’s Lynn and her mission was to enlist him into the local group of the BUF of which she was organiser. A lot of nonsense has been written over the years about Henry and fascism. He was not a ‘fascist’ as interpreted in modern parlance. Henry was attracted by the agricultural policy proposed by Oswald Mosley. Mosley was also a soldier from the Great War (as it was still then called) who knew that another war would be disastrous.

The family duly arrived on 16 December and after a night or two camping in the Granary were in residence in the Chapel cottages in time for Christmas. After initial difficulties, alleviated by the kindness of the Cafferatas, new owners of the Old Hall, who invited them for Christmas lunch and baths, things settled down. Then with the New Year the hard work on the farm continued with no let up. Henry at the wheel of his ‘little grey donkey’ to prove its worth to the reluctant men, successfully plowed (he always used the old-fashioned spelling) Hilly Piece. He records Bob, finally won over, as saying: ‘Blast, I like that patent.’ But a visit to Norwich Corn Hall to buy barley seed was a sharp learning curve. Everyone had (conflicting) advice to give. Everyone knew Henry was a novice. Chickens had been bought in the autumn, and now he bought in a few turkeys as well – four hens and a stag. It was Loetitia’s task to look after them. Bullocks got sick. The horses were not looked after in the military way he adhered to. After plowing there was drilling, of barley and oats. Bob harrowed in the seed with Blossom and Gilbert. For once Henry felt things were going well – except he was constantly worried about his overdraft, which was mounting up, and had to write articles into the early hours to earn some money to counteract the situation.

In the summer of 1938 Army camps began to appear around the village and airfields began to be built. The local men had the opportunity to earn ‘good money’. The building standing in the western corner of the old chapel yard was a fish and chip shop and the soldiers and locals threw the used newspaper wrapping into Henry’s garden – to his great annoyance. Litter was always one of his greatest bugbears. He spent a great deal of time cleaning years of rubbish out of the little River Stiffkey, hoping it would once again be occupied by trout. He wanted everything to be clean, tidy, ordered. The farm buildings were done up and whitewashed, the yards, a muddy mire when he arrived, were concreted over and with great pride he set his initials in bricks within the concrete.

4_HW's owl and initials set in brick in the yard2
Henry’s owl and initials set in brick in the yard.

In August 1938 Henry garnered, with various difficulties, his first harvest. But the stacks got infested with rats and mice. At the end of his first year he made up the accounts: depressingly, liabilities seem to far outweigh assets. But considering all the complications that had arisen, there was actually evidence of a big improvement. Henry’s methods were working, although he did not realise that himself.

5_Bob & Jimmy Sutton examining head of barley2
Bob and Jimmy Sutton examining a head of barley.

He finally was able to persuade the occupiers of Walnut Tree Cottage (Mr Francis, whom Henry called ‘Napoleon’, and his rather hilariously mad wife) to move and so, once they had got rid of the swarms of fleas living there, the house could be done up and the family moved in, making that the farmhouse.

In optimistic mood, he decided to hold a celebratory party. This took place in the Granary on Saturday, 19 November 1938. The long family oak refectory table was polished, and packing cases put around for seating. Henry records setting out 51 candles around the room. His guests were Loetitia’s vivacious cousin Mary, who had been bridesmaid at their wedding, his friend John Heygate, John Raynor (Features Editor of the Daily Express), Robert Donat, the film actor, then in the middle of making Goodbye, Mr Chips, his most famous role, and another great friend, the artist best known for his horse paintings, Alfred Munnings, currently staying at Brancaster. John Coast, who came to work on the farm for a short while, was also present. Two of the children, John and Margaret, were allowed to stay up (the eldest boy, Bill, was at boarding school). It was a very jolly affair. Henry had a case of Algerian wine and food came from the farm produce, butter, pheasant, and hams being particularly noted. Everyone wore one of Henry’s large selection of what the children called ‘Horkey’ hats, several of which were ‘cotton-pickers’ that he had brought back from an extended visit to Georgia, USA, in 1934. Munnings was in great form as always, and sang a selection of his well-known bawdy songs.

Party over, farm work continued. The barley market crashed, mainly due to cheap imports, and there was a lot of unrest but little came of it. Business interests came first. The winter brought a great storm but the farm survived without anything untoward. Henry’s drainage system and various improvements saved the day. May 1939 brought the second anniversary of the commencement of the hard work on the farm. Things had greatly improved. But by autumn war was looming and Henry was greatly troubled. With his usual quixotic impulse he went to London to see Mosley to see if there was anything he could do to help prevent it; to be told that it was too late. The curtain was down. Henry was devastated by the advent of another war. He realised, as he was to write in the later Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, using the Morning Star as analogy, that Hitler was not the bringer of light he had hoped, but Lucifer, the fallen angel.

On his return to the farm he found Alfred Munnings by the barn painting a scene of the church and Old Hall. There had been an altercation between the artist and Henry’s son Bill, who had discovered Munnings had removed Henry’s trouser-press from the Granary to paint on! There are two versions of this painting currently housed at the Munnings Museum in Dedham.

With war declared, work on the farm continued apace. Henry’s diary records all the details of ploughing, muck-spreading, calves being born, buying of farm machinery etc. Bill did not return to school and began work on the farm (not yet fourteen years old but, as his headmaster stated, not interested in school learning).

6_Young Bill driving the Ferguson tractor2
Young Bill driving the Ferguson tractor.

New wartime regulations came into being and had to be strictly adhered to. The strain on Henry was immense and his relationship with his wife deteriorated. It was decided that she and the younger children should go and stay for a while with her brother, Robin, now working in Bedford. A couple known as the ‘Tranters’ – actually Freddy Tranter and Mrs Hurt – came to do farm-work and housekeep. They are portrayed as Teddy Pinnegar and Yipps Carfax in the Chronicle. They proved to be rather a disaster, and they left at the beginning of January 1940. There were others who came to work on the farm, usually at their own request; but these people were not prepared to do, neither were they suited for, the hard work necessary. Henry’s nerves being at breaking point, he had no patience with them. None of them stayed very long. Once the worst of the winter was over, his wife returned to the farm.

Although Henry had some good local friends, a faction of the locals was very suspicious of him. From the beginning he was a ‘furriner’. They did not like his ways or his opinions. This intensified in 1940 as the war worsened. He had supposedly improved his farm and made the roads up ready for the German invasion, while the skylight on the landing could only have been designed for signalling to the enemy. Local worthy Major Hammond got the village rag-and-bone man, ‘Goitre’ Gidney, to spy on Henry, and filed an official complaint. But stories that Henry was sent to prison are totally without foundation. On the afternoon of Friday, 14 June 1940 police arrived to search the farm premises. Nothing untoward was found, but Henry was taken to the police station at Wells and put into a cell. He recorded how civil they were, allowing him paper and pencil so that he could continue with his writing (of the Norfolk Farm book). When his wife came to visit, he was allowed to sit out in the yard with her. He could only be released on the order of the Chief Constable at Norwich, who was away for the weekend. On Monday morning he was taken by car to Norwich – and duly released without any charge being made. A complaint had been made: the police had had to respond. The Chief Constable warned him to be careful as he had enemies. Henry returned to the farm and continued with the haymaking. Life on the farm continued to be as difficult as ever: always there was some problem or other. The men still tended to do things ‘their way’ and Henry was often absent. Young Bill did not really carry either the experience or the authority to take charge as his father expected.

Problems also arose over the large amount of military activity in the area. Aerodromes were built all around which meant many of the local men were able to earn far more money than doing farm work. Soldiers were camped locally, some on the farm itself. They careered around in army vehicles ruining Henry’s precious farm roads made with such care and hard work. They knocked down walls and gateposts. Someone even shot one of the cows in the udder. Henry was upset and furious. There was supposed to be adequate compensation for such incidents but all that happened was cursory investigation, time-consuming form-filling and miniscule remuneration.

The Story of a Norfolk Farm was published in January 1941, receiving very good reviews that gave rise to brief optimism, but life on the farm was as difficult as ever. After haymaking that summer, Henry had arranged to make a visit to Devon to cut down a small wood he leased, to sell as firewood. He enlisted the help of Eric Perkins, a lorry driver from Wells. Eric’s girlfriend, Polly, accompanied them when they left on 14 July. The hard work involved in cutting and preparing the wood was unrewarded, for despite advertising locally little of it was sold: most of it was left in Henry’s Field, the retreat he had bought with the prize money from Tarka. Henry later wrote up the episode in a charming book, In the Woods.

In the spring of 1942 Henry came across the well-known artist Edward Seago, on leave from his military work (as a camouflage expert), painting a scene from the farm, and invited him back for tea. This began a close friendship between them. Seago’s parents lived just south of Norwich on the Bungay road. Seago painted a portrait of Henry with fishing rod in hand. This was published, together with a very percipient essay in his book Peace in War, where he states:  ‘I have never met a man more so constantly sincere, nor so steadfast in his search for truth.’ The portrait is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Another friend was the farmer and writer Adrian Bell (father of the broadcaster & ex-MP Martin Bell), who lived near Beccles. Indeed, Mrs Bell and Loetitia (who eventually lived in near-by Bungay) remained friends throughout their lives. After a visit Henry noted how hard-pressed Adrian was – a fellow farmer and writer, with a tendency to dreadful migraines. Another farming friend was the pacifist critic and writer Middleton Murry, who lived near Diss and is perhaps best known for the book Community Farm based on his own farming activities. Henry visited the farm, finding it in a rather chaotic state, worked by conscientious objectors who did not really know (or care) what they were doing. Murry edited The Adelphi magazine, for which Henry wrote articles for many years and actually took over for a short time after the war was over.

When war broke out, farming had become of national importance. In order to optimise the potential an official National Farm Survey was set up, known with affectionate humour as ‘The Second Domesday Book’. When Henry took over Old Hall Farm it was of the lowest grade, ‘C’; by the time of the survey in 1941 it was given the top grade of ‘A’. Henry’s hard work and methods had paid off. Interestingly, the official recorder later added a more personal note to the report, and Henry’s whole entry was used as the example in the introductory explanation:

The author, Henry Williamson, farmed in Norfolk from 1937 and throughout the war years. He recounted his struggle to improve the condition of his farm in The Story of a Norfolk Farm, published in 1941. The farm and its inspection for the National Farm Survey is also described in his autobiographical novel ‘Lucifer Before Sunrise’. He was immensely proud of his “A” Classification accorded by “the New Domesday scribe”.

7_ Farm Survey, classed as 'A'
Farm Survey – classed as ‘A’.

It is obvious that Henry was held in considerable esteem. And yes, he was, after initial fears that he had failed, very relieved and pleased at his top placing. Although life continued to be hard and difficult the harvest of 1942 was good and Henry recorded in his diary on 12 September:

‘Today we finished a long harvest … we have gathered fine crops, and in all have 7 stacks. It has been hard work, and much worry and strain for me . . . but I would not have missed it.’

In his various farm writings there are some superb descriptions of the events that mark the farm year, especially threshing, which was a major event in those days with the huge noisy machines going from farm to farm. Here it was Guy Dappling’s outfit with its Burrell engine pulling a drum and elevator. Henry was a good photographer so there is also a picture record of these events. A large selection of these can be found on the Henry Williamson Society’s website – see the page for The Story of a Norfolk Farm.

8_Threshing time2
Threshing time.

In January 1943 Henry employed seventeen-year-old Douglas Jordan, nephew of Norman who had worked on the farm from the start, to be cow-man. Douglas (‘Ackers’ in the Chronicle farm volumes) was a good worker, and immediately cleaned out and white-washed the cowsheds. Henry was greatly relieved.

Shooting has always been an integral part of most farms. Henry did not want to run his own shoot, preferring to wander around on his own to bag a bird or two for family meals. But he arranged to combine with his neighbouring farmer, Cyril Case, who had better resources for organising that side of farm life. In the autumn of 1943 it was arranged that the Picture Post (the prestigious photo-journalistic weekly magazine) would run a feature on a shoot on the farm. Features writer Macdonald Hastings (father of historian & TV personality Max Hastings) was sent to cover the event. The result was a magnificent spread of photographs and text.

9_Picture Post cover, 4 November 19431
Picture Post cover for 4 November 1943.

Mr Cafferata died and his wife moved back to live with her sister in Yorkshire. The Old Hall was taken over by Father Bruno Scott James, who came to Norfolk to convalesce after a severe illness. His personality was almost as odd as that of an earlier rector of Stiffkey, the Reverend Harold Davidson, whose funeral in 1937 Henry had attended in the first months after buying the farm. He shot at, nearly always missing, everything he saw – including a doodle-bug, when out on the marsh. Henry wrote that story up in one of his weekly articles for the London Evening Standard – to the fury of Scott James and his London friends!

To relieve the shortage of labourers on the farm, Italian prisoners of war were used. Their contribution tended to be making a fire to cook up on and very cleverly setting hair snares for song-birds to provide themselves with a snack. Towards the end of the war, for the harvest of 1945 several soldiers were deployed as farm workers. Henry was rather at his wits’ end by then and (expecting otherwise) was very relieved to find they worked well and did a good job.

By the end of the war the strain of the years of constant struggle had taken its toll on his marriage and Henry and Loetitia decided to part; his raison d’être for farming had gone.  The farm was put up for sale and there was a flurry of preparation for the auction on 24 October 1945.

10_Auction catalogue, 19452
Auction Catalogue, 1945.

The family, including Henry to begin with, moved to Bank House in Botesdale near Diss. Here he wrote a novel based on the farm years centred around the fate of a Reeves pheasant, entitled The Phasian Bird. It has some amazing descriptive passages of the wildlife encountered on the farm, and ranks alongside Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon.

11_ cover of The Phasian Bird, 19482
Cover of The Phasian Bird, 1948.

Henry then returned to Devon where he lived for the rest of his life, where he continued writing, including his magnum opus, the 15-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, of which volumes 13 and 14 are based on the farm years. Interestingly, in a broadcast made soon after the end of the war in 1947 (which has only been discovered in February 2020), Henry stated, proving my own premise, that his reason for going into farming was because:

There was a slump in farming, which under conditions then prevailing, could only lead to war. . . . So I undertook, almost by instinct, a completely new life. . . .  I thought I’d do my little bit on a piece of English land that was in a state of decadence.

Years later, in January 1970, he was approached by the well-known film director David Cobham about making a film for the BBC to be entitled The Vanishing Hedgerows. This was to use, as its basis, Henry’s experiences during his farming years in Norfolk, combined with the problems that modern farm practices (of that era) were causing for wildlife and the environment. This involved filming on the Norfolk farm, and so Henry returned, after many years absence, and met up again with his one-time cowman Douglas Jordan. The film is acclaimed today as a flagship film for conservation.

Henry Williamson died in August 1977, while David Cobham was actually filming the death scene of Tarka for the Rank film of Tarka the Otter. That seemed poignantly appropriate.

POSTCRIPT:

In the 1970s Old Hall Farm was bought by Lord Buxton, who in 1961 was one of the co-founders of the World Wildlife Fund (now the World Wide Fund for Nature), and was also a co-founder and later chief executive and chairman of Anglia Television, being responsible for the long-running ITV natural history series Survival. The water meadows, so painstakingly drained by Henry to grow crops during the war, were returned to wetlands, and they are now a nature reserve. On the formation of the ‘Henry Williamson Society’ in 1980 he was invited to become Patron, and hosted several visits by the Society to the farm. In the Granary, lit by a spotlight, hung C. F. Tunnicliffe’s portrait of Henry, painted in 1934. On his death in September 2009 his role of Patron was taken over by his son James.

Anne Williamson

THE END

Sources:
The above text is copyright © of Anne Williamson 2020 and all images copyright © of the Henry Williamson Literary Estate.

Anne Williamson is Henry’s daughter-in-law, married to his son Richard, and manages Henry Williamson’s Literary Estate.  Brought up in Bungay, Anne was a librarian – working in the north Suffolk area, and then in Norwich City Library (at first in the original ‘Old’ Library).

https://www.henrywilliamson.co.uk/
https://www.henrywilliamson.co.uk/bibliography/a-lifes-work/the-story-of-a-norfolk-farm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Williamson

 

Shared Churchyards.

We are not talking here about Norfolk churchyards that may share their space with grazing sheep or nature conservation; rather it’s more about those churchyards in the County that find their space simply occupied by structures, other than headstones and mausoleums – structures such as other named churches, bell towers and ruins. Each one a legacy from the past and for a reason which is seldom obvious. However, it always seems to raise the inevitable question ‘Why is it there’?

The first thing to be aware of and to understand is that churches which share churchyards are not uncommon in East Anglia, and that there are more than a few examples in Norfolk. The reasons for this are somewhat complex, but made easier if the differences between a traditional village, town and their parish is understood – and also in the context of the medieval functions of a parish church, of which Norfolk alone has many. This point is better explained by a person who has studied these things in depth, Simon Knott. He said in 2004:

“The English parish system is ancient, dating back to Saxon times. In East Anglia more than in most regions, the ecclesiastical parishes pretty much reflect what was there a thousand years ago, apart from the tidying up and rationalisation that have occurred from time to time. Parishes are areas of land, most commonly about ten square miles, and they share contiguous borders – that is to say, there are no gaps between them. It is always possible to step from one parish into another. Everywhere in England is within a Church of England parish.

The great majority of parishes contain a single large settlement [village etc.] within their boundaries, which shares the parish name. To look at them on a map, you could be fooled into thinking that the parish has grown up around the settlement; but of course, this is not the case. Settlements occur naturally and organically over the centuries, almost always for economic reasons. Some parishes have more than one significant settlement, and very occasionally the largest settlement does not share the name of the parish.

Above all, a medieval church is a parish church, not a village church. It just so happens that most of them are in the main settlement of the parish; but in Norfolk, more than in most places other than Suffolk, a significant minority are outside the village of their parish name. And while we may assume that the settlement will be near the middle of the parish, there are plenty of examples where this is not the case at all. Often, it will be towards the edge; sometimes, the main settlements in two adjacent parishes will be joined on to each other, and when this happens it may have been found convenient in ancient times for the two parish churches to share consecrated ground”

On one rare occasion, there occurred a settlement of three adjacent parishes! – at Reepham in Norfolk for instance, a place featured below – however, before that, here are three parishes that never had the complexity of multiple choice and were able to live with just one partner.

Antingham:
The first is the Antingham parish church which shares its name with its neighbouring village, and this deserves a mention before the shared churchyard is targeted. So – the village of Antingham is located about 6 miles south of Cromer and 3 miles north of North Walsham, and with a population of around 360 – give or take. We are told by James Rye, in his book “A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place Names” that the name ‘Antingham’ originates from an Old English word meaning “homestead of the family or followers of a man called Anta”. We see from this that the name of the local River Ant must have also derived from ‘Anta’ – although it is said that the river was formerly known as the River Smale and that this is the origin of the name of the nearby village of Smallburgh. Having said that, Antingham is the source of the Ant, which rises just east of the village at Antingham Ponds and winds itself downstream to feed Barton Broad before entering the river Bure near St Benet’s Abbey. Just below the Ponds, the river’s route has, in the past, been used as a canal which started at what was Antingham bone mill. Centuries ago, following the Norman Conquest, the parish’s main tenants were Roger Bigot and Thurston Fitzguy. Now – what about its parish church!

Sharing Churchyards (Antingham_St Mary's)
St Mary’s Church, Antingham, Norfolk. Photo: Simon Knott 2019.

Antingham’s parish church is St Mary’s and it sits beside the busy North Walsham to Cromer road. Right beside it, and sharing its graveyard, is the ruined shell of its erstwhile companion, St Margaret’s. The once heavily-clad ivy ruin of St Margaret’s dates from the early twelfth century and St Mary’s church was built between 1330 and 1360. Both were parish churches until the Reformation, and may well have continued as independent working churches after the Reformation. To feed off the above general explanation of parish boundaries, the two Antingham parishes here similarly arose from the presence of two different manors which, together with their respective churches, butted tightly up to each other.

Shaing Churchyards (Antingham_St Margaret)
St Margaret’s ruin, Antingham, Norfolk. Photo: Simon Knott 2019.

This makes the present view of the two structures a spectacular sight, the ruin of St Margaret’s sitting next to and parallel to the clean, neat and tidy church of St Mary’s. But that had not always been the case; at the end of the 17th century, both were in a parlous state and the decision must have been made to use the fabric of St Margaret’s to improve the state of St Mary’s. Since then, it has been suggested that lightening must have struct St Margaret’s, for there is a long crack running from top to bottom of the west wall of its tower. With all that has past, looking from the neat and tidy St Mary’s and across the shared churchyard to the ruin of St Margaret’s, it is possible to feel saddened by the view; but there again, both churches could well have gone the same way as St Margaret’s and the County would have lost something special.

Sharing Churchyards (Antingham)

South Walsham:
Some nineteen miles due south of Antingham lies South Walsham; the distance between the two is slightly shorter for a crow. The road between the two increasingly winds itself through fields and wooded copses as you approach the village. South Walsham is, again, not large with some 850 inhabitants. Historically, it comprised two separate parishes, that of St Mary and of St Lawrence; for the same reason as other medieval manors in close proximity, their two churches decided to share the one churchyard and the same consecrated ground. In South Walsham’s case, this consecrated ground is at the highest point, away from the river. Was this the sole reason, or did the topography of the area with its particular layout of roads and lanes also make it more convenient for the churchyard to be placed where it is. Both churches were built as new in the early 14th century, although it is known that there had been two churches there since at least the 12th century.

Sharing Churchyards (South Walsham_St Marys)2
St Mary’s Church, South Walsham, Norfolk. Part of the ruined St Lawrence church can be seen to the right. Photo: Simon Knott.

St. Lawrence itself was gutted by fire in 1827 and was largely abandoned and left to go to ruin, only the chancel was repaired and was later used as a schoolhouse. The tower was still standing up until 1971 when it suffered two disasters in short succession – firstly it was struck by lightning and then the sonic boom from a low flying aircraft caused it to collapse. The remains of the base of the tower can still be seen in the churchyard and the chancel building has now been fully restored and is used as a church hall and concert venue.

Sharing Churchyards (South Walsham_St Marys)3
St Lawrence’s Chancel Building. Photo: Norfolk Museums ^ Archaeology Service.
Sharing Churchyards (South Walsham_St Marys)
The churches of St. Mary and St. Lawrence (foreground) at South Walsham c1910. Photo: Broadland Memories.

Great Melton:
Then 20 miles or so west of South Walsham, on the other side of Norwich and next to Hethersett, is the much smaller village of Great Melton. Apart from the local legend that says that the area is haunted by a phantom coach containing four ladies in white, there seems nothing else to point out here other than All Saints church and another neighbourly ruin. All Saints is a sizable and somewhat unusual building which stands in the same graveyard as the ruined church of St Marys – the church it superseded in 1883. We know also, that All Saints was itself built on the site of an even older ruin, of which the 15th century tower survives today as part of the new church. The rest is the work, overseen by its architect Joseph Pearce, is in Simon Knott’s words:

“an essay in replicating medieval functions in a fairly utilitarian Victorian manner; a successful combination, I think. Especially when seen from the north-east, the church might be an institutional building of some kind, or a house, or even a factory”.

Sharing Churchyards (Great Melton)
St Mary’s and All Saints’ church, Great Melton
Sharing the same churchyard are the ruined tower of St Mary’s church (left) and the parish church of All Saints. Surplus to requirements it was decided to pull the structure down and use the bricks for restoring the adjoining church. The ruined tower is all that remains of St Mary’s. The east window has survived in All Saints’ church. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

From the south, the view of All Saints is more in keeping with what one would expect; it is also on the south side of the graveyard that the ruin of St Mary stands. In the middle of the 19th century, it was the working church, whilst All Saints was almost derelict. However, All Saints was the larger of the two so it was decided to restore it by demolishing St Mary and using much of its materials. When finished, the congregation then moved across to All Saints, leaving St Mary as a ruin. It was never said how the congregation managed for services etc. whilst the work was being done.

Melton Constable:
For the next example of churches sharing churchyards we have to travel due north for some 25 miles. As an aside, you may not have noticed that the journey to these places today has almost completes a circular route – but not quite! Our destination on this leg is to the old church St Mary’s at Burgh Parva near Melton Constable; this is not to be confused with St Peter’s, the Melton Constable church, which is way out of the village in the grounds of Melton Constable Hall. No, our destination is just to the north of the high street on the road to Holt. St Mary’s ruin is the former parish church of Burgh (pronounced burra) Parva – ‘Burgh’ usually being the Anglo-Saxon word for a fort but in this case, we are told that the name almost certainly derives from the local river, the Bure.

Sharing Churchyards (St Marys_Melton Constable)
Remains of St Mary, Melton Constable
The remains consist of the tower and a few other parts of the ruined church of St Mary, including the former entrance. The ruined flint church is medieval and the tower was rebuilt in 1504. It is a Grade II listed building. Photo: © Copyright G Laird

Burgh was always small and never more than a hamlet of Melton Constable, but being in an area of open countryside it provided a pleasant setting for the flint remains of the medieval St Mary’s church tower and its footings. The presence of large conglomerate quoins and rubble dressed openings in the surviving parts of the church suggest an 11th century origin although, apparently, the earliest written record of St Mary’s is from the early 14th century when there were probably barely 15 households in the vicinity. The church was consolidated with St Peters in Melton Constable Park in the sixteenth century, but once the Reformation had firmly established itself, the Burgh Parva village gradually became deserted and, together with Melton Constable, could no longer support two churches; by the end of the Commonwealth, St Mary’s was abandoned. The only fabric that survives today is the pretty much complete tower, the chancel’s north wall and the nave’s ‘Carstone’ south wall, as well as a small section of wall that must have originally been under the east window. The south doorway seems to have been blocked up long before St Mary’s was abandoned.

Sharing Churchyards (St Mary Burgh Parva)
In 1903, the corrugated iron church of St Mary Burgh Parva was erected beside the ruined St Mary’s as a temporary  church –  and is still in use today. Photo: Simon Knott.

It must be pointed out that here there is no question of two medieval churches sharing the same consecrated ground but one, alongside a contemporary metal hut erected during the reign of Edward VII. This was brought about by the coming of the railways to the area the 1880’s, when the population of Melton Constable mushroomed. A new church was required because the Church of England was presented with the threat of non-conformism – and it was faced with a dilemma. The nearest alternative was St Peters in Melton Constable Park, but this was too small and exclusively used by the Astley family; apart from that, having the parish church out on the Hall estate was asking for trouble. There was a clear need for an Anglican presence near to the growing urban area so a ‘temporary’ corrugated iron church was therefore erected adjacent to the ruins of St Mary’s church in 1903. That church is still in use today despite a competition being held to design a new permanent church; the fact of the matter was that the competition was unsuccessful, hence the corrugated ‘tin tabernacle’ still being use today. At least, this modest structure is of historic significance because it reflects the lasting influence of the railway on Melton Constable, and also one of a rare group of tin structures surviving in Norfolk.

Reepham (Three in one):
Ten miles south-east of Melton Constable lies Reepham, our last call in the search for shared churchyards; Reepham is a unique example!  This is a fine but tiny Norfolk town that must have been fiercely independent in years past when there were no regular commuters into Norwich, and before residents preferred to drive miles to the nearest supermarket. However, it can boast of having two churches in one churchyard – Reepham and Whitwell, one hiding behind the other. But once there were three – the remains of the third, All Saints (Hackford), can easily be found.

Sharing Churchyards (Reepham_St Mary)
St Mary’s, Reepham.
The surviving one of the three Reepham churches is tucked away behind the prominent, prettier Whitwell St Michael, to which it is now joined by a corridor. Photo: Simon Knott.

Reepham’s ‘three-in-one’ churchyard is very central, overlooking Reepham’s little market place. The big question is how did it come to have three churches? Well, the answer here is the same as for our earlier examples, with the exception of Melton Constable – the answer being given in the opening paragraphs above. The three churches here were all hard against their parish boundaries, although not actually joined on to each other. It might well be thought that this would make the holding of services difficult; however, it must be remembered that at the time these churches were built they were not used for ‘services’ in the way that these are understood today. Remember also, that they were built as Catholic churches, not Anglican churches and at a time when congregational, worship was a minor part of the life of the Church. Originally, church buildings were designed to allow for private devotions, administration of sacraments, Masses said at different altars by different priests, etc. Worship was active rather than passive and congregational. Medieval churches were busy places, and this would be the case whether or not all these activities were happening in a single building or in two, or even three such as in Reepham. According to Simon Knott in 2004:

“It was only after the Reformation, with the advent of divine service at prescribed times, that churches sharing churchyards became problematic. If they also shared a Rector (as increasingly happened) then it made good sense to take down one building and just use the other. Hackford church’s demise is attributed to a fire in 1546, but this date looks suspiciously similar to that of the many examples of churches derelicted by the protestant reformers. Most often, churches served by monasteries were taken down and cannibalised for their building materials. We know that masonry from Hackford church was used in the expansion of Whitwell church.

Sharing Churchyards (Whitwell_St Michael)
Whitwell’s (St Michael’s) pretty pinnacled tower is the most prominent of the two in the churchyard, overlooking as it does Reepham market place. Because of this, it is the one that people tend to think of as ‘the church’, although in fact it has been redundant for a quarter of a century, and is used as a parish hall. The lovely tower retains its eight bells; Reepham church has just two, and so when the peals are heard over this part of Norfolk it is Whitwell’s bells that are being rung, not Reepham’s. It was inevitable that St Michael would find the role that now it has – here, redundancy has a positive use. Photo: Simon Knott

So Hackford church was lost; but the two other buildings underwent all the considerable changes that the protestant Reformation and the subsequent years of conflict could bring……..The two surviving churches remained in separate parishes up into the 1930s, but this was increasingly an anomaly, and it was probably only the revival that allowed them to sustain this for so long. In 1970, Whitwell church was at last declared redundant, and became the parish hall; a happy outcome for the town, and in reality, no more than just another reinvention of this once-medieval building.”

Sharing Churchyards (All Saints_Hackford)
All that remains of Hackford’s All Saints Church at Reepham. Photo: Simon Knott.

THE END

Sources:
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/antingham/antingham.htm
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/antinghamruin/antinghamruin.htm
https://blosslynspage.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/the-ruinous-remains-of-st-margarets-church-antingham-norfolk/
Broadland Memories
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/swalshammary/swalshamstmary.htm
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/burghparvaold/burghparvaold.htm
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/threeinone/threeinone.htm
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/giants/giants.htm

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Stories Behind the Signs: Starston.

Starston is a small village in the South East corner of Norfolk with a population of 331 at the 2011 Census. Its southern boundary edges to within one mile of the River Waveney, which divides this part of Norfolk from Suffolk.

Starston (Village Sign)
Starston Village Sign.
Situated on Low Road at the junction with The Street. The Sign features a wind pump that was used to transport water from the Beck river up to Starston Place, which was demolished during the early 1900s. The wind pump remained and was restored in 2010, and can be seen from the roadside. Photo:© Copyright Adrian Cable

Starston is mentioned in the Domesday Book and its earliest name recorded as Sterestuna or Steerstown; the latter probably reference to the raising of cattle or stores in the village. If this is correct then it can be claimed that the raising of cattle in the area has been carried on ever since. In the year 1086 Starston was a very small village, being ‘one mile and five furlongs long and five furlongs wide’ according to old maps and references, and the area covered was the northward end towards Starston Hall. As the years went by more and more land came under cultivation and the boundaries of the village grew.

As land became cultivated so more land become in demand for houses and it is recorded that there was a large increase in the population in the years 1698 to 1798, going up from 215 to 381 and by 1877 the total had reached 510. When an informal census was taken in the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee it was found that the population was 545. However, after this growth in population there was a steady decrease, particularly noted at the end of the 1914-18 war.

Starston (The Street)
Starston’s ‘The Street’
St Margaret’s Parish Church overlooks the Beck and the ‘The Street’ with the above village sign located a short distance north of the hollow post wind pump. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

Most of Starston is good agricultural land, loamy with a clay subsoil. The land has been used very much for corn growing and to a lesser extent sugar beet; but in recent years Diss-based Wharton’s, a local firm of Rose Growers, have been growing roses on the lighter lands towards Harleston that originally belonged to Beck Hall. Founded in 1947, the company grows in excess of 1.5 million rose bushes and more than 300 different varieties. This family business must be one of Britain’s biggest rose growers, selling to garden centres and nurseries across the country.

The Beck:
One of the special features of Starston is the stream that passes through the village, known as The Beck; its source is said to be a wide ditch at Tivetshall Hall. By the time this stream reaches the Norwich to Ipswich main road it has become a constantly running stream, running through a brick archway under the road, about a quarter mile south side of Pulham crossroads. When next seen from a public road, near the old railway station at Pulham Market, the stream is much larger.

Starston (The Beck)
View west along the Beck. Photo:© Copyright Evelyn Simak

Along the whole length of the Beck, surplus water feeds into it from the uplands and many minor streams and ditches leading to it. It travels a winding course through the village of Pulham St. Mary and by the time it reaches Crossingford Bridge it has become a stream capable of maintaining a quantity of coarse fish such as Roach, Dace, Gudgeon and Eels.

Starston (Crossingford Bridge)
Crossingford Bridge on Pulham Road. Photo: © Copyright Adrian Cable

As the Beck comes within a quarter of a mile of Starston there is a footpath on the southern side of the road. Roy Riches of Starston, writing in 1969 said:

“……in my boyhood days the Beck was known as ” Gowers Ford “, a wooden plank bridge was there to allow people to cross when the water was too high to ford. This footpath carries on through ‘White House’ farm yard and joins up with Cross Road near the Poplars Farm. Further along the road there is another footpath – this is near the Streamlet Farm, and once again a wooden plank bridge is provided, the footpath then continues through the farmyard of ‘Yew 3 Tree Farm’ on to cross roads, and so the Beck rolls on to the first of four sluices which is situated near The Street.”

The main reason why the sluices was erected at this spot was to hold the water to a depth of not more than 4 feet. About two feet under the water’s surface was a suction pipe which ran to the windmill’s well which stood in Mill Field, quite close to the Beck. The purpose of this windmill was to pump water to a large tank placed on top of Starston Place house; the tank was its main supply of water. Part of this facility was a large indicator on a wall of Starston Place which told when the tank was full and when pumping should stop. Another large tank, used for a similar purpose, was in the farmyard of ‘The Home Farm’; this tank always being kept full, as in years past there was never less than 200 head of milking cows and fattening bullocks, plus a very large herd of pigs. Another use for this water was to maintain the level of water in the farm’s horse pond, fed by an overflow pipe from the main tank.

Starston (Windmill)
Starston’s Hollow Post Wind Pump.
This wind pump, located in the corner of a field south of The Street, is a Grade 2 Scheduled Ancient Monument and believed to be the only one of its type left. It was erected in 1832 and has been restored with help from English Heritage and Norfolk County Council. The wind pump has since been adopted as a symbol for the village of Starston. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

From this point, the Beck continues to be allowed to glide quietly along a further four miles or so before its outfall into the river Waveney at Homersfield.

Starston (Homersfiels_Waveney)
The River Waveney at Homersfield. Photo: Peggy Cannell.

The Parish Church:
The oldest and most historical building in Starston is the parish church of St. Margaret’s. It is situated in a very commanding position in a well-kept churchyard, which long ago was planted with many fine trees. They say that the original church was built sometime between 1150 and 1200, and that the main body of the church and tower were erected about 1300. The first Rector of Starston, according to Blomefield’s Register, was Robert De Beverley, who resigned in 1306, and he could well have been St Margaret’s first Rector.

Starston (St Margarets)
St Margaret’s Church, Starston. Photo: Simon Knott.

Of the church, Simon Knott wrote, after his visit there on a damp, miserable day in 2005:

“St Margaret’s stood proudly, a small church, in the greying light of the wide graveyard. The Victorianised chancel and medieval body and tower made a nice harmony. On the north side is a 19th century aisle, not unpleasing. Most striking is the chequerboard flintwork of the nave and tower parapets – perhaps the medieval chancel had the same……. Inside, St Margaret’s is almost entirely the work of the 19th century, and medieval survivals are few and far between. But it is a pleasant, welcoming interior, and the restoration and rebuilding were done well.”

Starston (Cotton)
Memorial to Bartholomew Cotton, who died in 1613. He was clerk to the Star Chamber and here kneels in piety at a prayer desk. Photo: Simon Knott.

The list of Starston Rectors shows that many prominent people were, at one time or another, been appointed. One, in particular, deserves a special mention – that of the Rev. William Whitear, who was appointed in 1803. During this period of 1803 to 1826, the poor of the villages were poor; often the main provider had to resort to poaching to obtain the food necessary for their families. There were no County or Rural Police in those days, and most villages used an unpaid Village Constable who was appointed by the overseers of the Parish. It was more than likely that many poachers were more than capable of outwitting him, and that was probably a good thing for if caught for rabbiting, sheep stealing, wood stealing or taking linen from someone else’s linen line, the sentence was more than likely death by hanging. In many parts of rural Norfolk vigilante groups were formed in an effort to catch such people. One such group was formed in and around the Harleston district, stretching from Hoxne to Hardwick and from Dickleburgh to Flixton – taking in some eighteen villages. This body included the village of Starston and was known as the ‘Harleston Association’.

There is a true story goes that says that a group of poachers were known to be planning a poaching visit to the woods belonging to Gawdy Hall (demolished 1939); the night in question was 27 November 1826. The Association Committee decided to go out in force, in an effort to catch the poachers red-handed. This armed party, included the Reverend William Whitear of Starston’s St Margaret’s church, together with a young man from Starston Hall named Thomas Pallont. They proceeded to the woods with the others, in conditions that were so dark that ‘it was made difficult to see friend from foe’. There, a shooting incident took place and both the Rev. Whitear and Thomas Pallont fell to the ground wounded; it was said that the latter lost both his finger and thumb. The Rector, who was more severely wounded in the chest, died two weeks later. The Norfolk Chronicle reported the incident, dated 27 November 1826:

“The Rev. William Whitear, Rector of Starston, met with his death under singular circumstances.  He had gone out with a party to apprehend poachers; the party divided themselves into two bodies, and on proceeding to the place where it had been agreed upon to reassemble, Mr. Whitear was mistaken for a poacher and shot in the right side by another of the party, a young man named Thomas Pallont.  He died from the effects of the wound on December 10th, and Pallont was committed for trial on the charge of manslaughter.  The case was tried at the Norfolk Assizes at Thetford before Mr. Justice Stephen Gaselee, on March 26th, 1827, when the accused was acquitted.  “He was so seriously affected during the trial that before its conclusion he became quite insensible, and was taken home in that state.”

Starston (Gaselee)

The Judge by Thomas Rowlandson (c.1800).
(Image: Tate Gallery, number T08531. © Tate, granted under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0.)
The Judge presiding was Justice Sir Stephen Gaselee (1762 – 26 March 1839), justice of the Court of Common Pleas. It was said that Gaselee was the original of the irascible judge represented by Charles Dickens in the trial of Bardell v. Pickwick, under the name of Justice Stareleigh.

One of the most famous 19th century Rectors of Starston was the Rev. Angus Macdonald Hopper, who was appointed in 1845 and remained in the village until his death in 1878. While he was here as Rector, he also became Archdeacon of Norwich, and was very active in the church life of the country. He was a great benefactor to the church at Starston, also to the village school. Archdeacon Hooper left a family of three sons and one daughter. In gratitude to their father’s memory, they presented the church with its Brass Lectern which is still in use today.

The Waveney Valley Railway:

The Waveney Valley Railway was a branch line running from Tivetshall in Norfolk to Beccles in Suffolk, it connected the Great Eastern Main Line at Tivetshall with the East Suffolk line at Beccles, providing an interconnecting rail service to Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Ipswich and many other smaller towns in Suffolk with additional services to London.

Starston (Railway)

The line was authorised by the Waveney Valley Railway Act on 3 July 1851 and the line opened in stages. First, it ran from Tivetshall to Harleston from 1 December 1855, then to Bungay from 2 November 1860, and finally to Beccles. When the line was finally completed, around 1863, it was incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway; it then became part of the LNER from 1 January 1923. In its early years, services on the line were worked by the company’s only locomotive, named ‘Perseverance’; this was a 2-2-2T locomotive, built by Sharp Stewart and Co of Manchester. However, it did not perform particularly well and was rebuilt by the GER in 1864 as a 2-4-0T- it was withdrawn in 1880 and broken up in November 1881.

Apart from stations at Pulham Market and Pulham St. Mary, Starston also boasted a station of its own, but it was only in operation for 11 years, between 1856 and 1866. It was been said that, when the station was at the planning stage, local landowners insisted that no trains should run on a Sunday; however, with the coming of the 1914 war this ruling went by the board, as troop trains very often moved along the line. Also, with the creation of the Pulham Air Station, much of the stores and materials were carried on a loop line connected with the Air Station. With the coming of motor transport however, the amount of business done by the railways declined, and eventually the passenger service was withdrawn in 1953. The line was finally closed in 1966 when the Goods trains ceased to run.

Starston (Starston Station_Wikipedia)
The former railway station on Railway Hill in Starston
(The property is now called ‘Crossing Gates’).
 After its closure as a station the building served as a crossing cottage. Part of this line’s route – between Harleston and Broome – has since been taken over by the realigned A143 road. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

Some of the Larger Houses in Starston:
The largest house in Starston until recently, was known as ‘Starston Place’. It came into the possession of the Taylor family in 1824 when a Mr. Taylor of Diss purchased it, and was known then as ‘Bressingham House’; the owner having some connection with the village of that name which is situated just outside Diss. The original house was demolished just after the second world war, and a smaller house was built which, certainly up to 1969, remained named as ‘Starston Place’. It is believed that a house has stood on the site since 1235, but the earliest date mentioned of ‘Starston Place’ is 1878, when a General Clay was the owner.

Other large houses in Starston include ‘Grove Hill’ built in 1849, ‘Conifer Hill’, built in 1881 and ‘Beck Hall’, the latter first mentioned in 1296. ‘Gunshaw Hall’ is another house, which stands partly in Needham and partly in Starston, it is said that the boundary of the two villages runs exactly through the middle of the house.

Starston (Beck Hall)
Beck Hall, Starston.
Beck Hall is situated on the corner of The Street and Railway Hill and flanked by the Beck in the north. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

Again, writing in 1969, Roy Riches states:

“Until the year 1836 when the Pulham Workhouse was built, every village had its own Poor House, and the first recorded one stood in what is known as the Church Pightle, this was where the unfortunate poor of Starston were put, usually when they were in a very distressed state. However, with coming of the poor law, Authorities built another house by the side of the Pulham Road, and this became the village workhouse, and until quite recently this house was known by the older residents as Workhouse Cottages. During the last few years, this house has become the home of farm workers employed at Starston Place Farm, and was occupied by three families at one time, being known as Stone Cottages. In 1836, it was decided to put all the poor of the district into one building, and Pulham Workhouse standing by the side of the Ipswich to Norwich road was completed. This was a very large building, with accommodation for 500 inmates. In consequence, village workhouses were done away with. Another of these workhouses is still standing at Pulham St. Mary, and known as Workhouse Cottages, they stand on South Green, and like Starston Cottages, these too are now used as ordinary residences.”

Starston is yet another village that is unable to boast a public house. It used to have one, it was known as ‘The Gate Inn’ and was situated near the school. Prior to the 1950’s, travellers and locals used to call in there for refreshments; and, because this hub was something of ‘a social centre’ for the village, all sorts of leading topics would be discussed. It was also quite common for such talk to be centred around crop growing and garden produce, when keen gardeners used to compete with others for which was the best and largest produce. It was often believed that the information exchanged could be far from the truth. It is said that before the ‘Gate’ closed, and turned into a shop (closed 1984), there used to be a wonderful Walnut tree growing in front of the pub, and high up in its branches was a sign which read:

“This Gate hangs high and hinders none – Refresh and pay and travel on”.

Unfortunately, the walnut tree became old and began to rot to the point where it had to be removed – along with that sign. The Brewers then put a twist on things by having a miniature gate made and attached to the front of the Pub. An amended inscription read:

“This Gate hangs well – refresh and pay and travel on”.

It was also said that the nuts from that lost walnut tree tasted far better than those bought in the shops; and it was not unknown for the village boys to throw wooden sticks and ‘cudgels’ into the branches of the tree, in an effort to bring the nuts down; much to the worry of those people living close by who were afraid for their windows. Up until a few years before the Gate Inn closed, it was kept by a Mr. and Mrs. Osborne. Apparently, in addition to Mr. Osborne being the landlord, he was also a fishmonger who took his business around the countryside thereabouts by a pony and cart. He became renowned for the quality of his herrings and bloaters, which he used to cure himself. His most enthusiastic customers would recall how Mr Osborne would always smoke his fish in his very own drying sheds – and he would use nothing other than oak to cure them with. The herring that he selected for smoking always had to be prime ones, with lovely fat roes!

Such memories are long into the past; along with village windmills which used to grind the corn, public houses which used to refresh the body if not the soul, local schools close to communities, and even the traditional village blacksmith shop. Close behind have also long been the loss of rectors and rectories with parishes now combined under one parson. But it seems many Norfolk villages survive – and even thrive. Starston feels like one of them; in 2010 its villagers purchased Glebe Meadow in the heart of the village and converted it into a public space with attractive views of the church!

Starston (Glebe Meadow)
Glebe Meadow, Starston. Photo: Starston Village Site.

THE END

Sources:
http://starstonvillage.co.uk/starston/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/A-Brief-History-of-Starston-Roy-Riches.pdf
The booklet ‘A Brief History of Starston’ was originally published by Roy Riches of Starston, Harleston, Norfolk in 1969. The booklet was designed, printed and bound by The Harleston Press, Station Road, Harleston, Norfolk.
http://starstonvillage.co.uk/starston/

Stories Behind the Signs: Fersfield

There are parts of South Norfolk that, even today, can seem remote – like those that have a maze of lanes, particularly between Diss and Thetford where the villages hide. It is surprising therefore that one of those villages, Fersfield, holds an important place in the history of Norfolk; but not necessarily because of the village itself, or its parish church. Fersfield is famous because of an 18th century incumbent of its church, St Andrew’s

Fersfield & Blomefield (St Andrews)2
St Andrew’s Church, Fersfield, Norfolk. Photo: Simon Knott.

The church of St Andrews at Fersfield sits where some of those lanes mentioned come together, its truncated, pencil-like tower a beacon across the fields and farmlands. According to Simon Knott (2018):

” The capped tower is reminiscent of Culpho and Thornham Parva in Suffolk, and probably dates from the early 14th century. If so, it is probably later than the bulk of the church against which it sits. There were further improvements: money in the late 15th century brought a fairly imposing south aisle and porch, and the chancel is entirely Victorian, I think. But it all works well together, especially when seen from the south-east.”

Fersfield & Blomefield (Village Sign)

This church is depicted on the village sign at Fersfield, and stands next to it. At the brick base of the sign is a metal plaque which reads:

“This sign was given by the people, to the people of the village of Fersfield. 31st July 1988.” Then, in two columns the plaque includes the names of ten individuals before concluding. ‘Between the faces lies our village history.”

Taking this as a guide, it is clear that the residents of Fersfield have every right to celebrate the village’s past. More importantly however is that it was at Fersfield where the first major work on the history of the entire county of Norfolk was written; its author was Francis Blomefield, the 18th century incumbent of St Andrew’s Church who happened to have been born in the village on 23 July 1705.

Fersfield & Blomefield (Blomefield Tablets)
The Blomefield Tablets in St Andrew’s Church, Fersfield. Photo: Wikipedia

Francis Blomefield was the eldest son of Henry and Alice Blomefield, who were yeoman farmers nearby. Later biographies record that he developed a fascination for visiting churches as a child, when he began recording their monumental inscriptions, covering Norfolk, Suffolk and later Cambridgeshire. At the same time he began his education at Diss and Thetford Grammar Schools; then, in April 1724, he was admitted to Caius College, Cambridge from where he graduated BA in 1727 and MA in 1728. While at college, he also began keeping genealogical and heraldic notes relating to local families; then, soon after leaving university in 1727 he was ordained a priest whilst continuing with collecting materials for an account of the antiquities of Cambridgeshire.

Fersfield & Blomefield (Portrait)
Blomefield depicted in the frontispiece to volume 1 of the quarto edition of An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk (1805). Image: Wikipedia.

On 13 September 1729 Francis Blomefield was ordained as an Anglican minister when he was ‘presented by his father, Henry Blomefield, Gent’. His first appointment was a very brief affair as rector of Hargham before moving on to become rector of Fersfield, his father’s family living. According to Simon Knott, it was at Fersfield where:

“……. he would spend the rest of his life. He was not always a well man, and although he visited many of the churches himself, the bulk of his work involved sending questionnaires to Rectors of other churches. Because of this, and because Blomefield himself did not always understand what he was seeing or reading about, the survey needs to be used with care. Moreover, Blomefield did not finish it. I always tend to think of 18th century antiquarians as be whiskered old men sitting with quill pens at high desks, but Blomefield contracted smallpox and died at the age of 47. His work was completed by friends, most notably Charles Parkin and William Whittingham.”

It was on 1 September 1732, when Francis Blomefield married Mary Womack, the daughter of a former rector of Fersfield. They had three daughters, two of whom survived him. It was also in 1732 when the project of collecting materials for an account of the antiquities of Cambridgeshire was deferred when he was given access to Peter Le Neve’s huge collection of materials for the history of Norfolk by Le Neve’s executor “Honest Tom” Martin.

Fersfield & Blomefield (Thomas Martin)
Thomas Martin FSA (8 March 1696/7 to 7 March 1771), known as “Honest Tom Martin of Palgrave”, was an antiquarian and lawyer. Image: Wikipedia.

It is said that during a visit to Oxnead Hall in 1735, Blomefield found a vast number of written correspondences among the papers of the country house. Of the discovery, Blomefield wrote in May 1735:

“There are innumerable letters, of good consequence in history, still lying among the loose papers all which I layd (sic) up in a corner of the room on an heap, which contains several sacksful, but as they seemed to have some family affairs of one nature or other intermixed in them I did not offer to touch any of them…”

This collection, known today as the ‘Paston Letters’, is now regarded as one of national significance. These papers date from the period of the Wars of the Roses and the Black Death and reveal details of everyday life of a notable East Anglian family.

Before his untimely death, on 16 January 1752, Blomefield wrote just three volumes of his ‘An Essay towards the Topographical History of the County of Norfolk’. Determined to protect and control the production of this work, he also installed a printing press in his own home. The first volume, covering his own Parish of Fersfield among others, was completed on 25th December 1739. He was nearing completion of his third volume – having reached page 678 – when he contracted the deadly smallpox during a visit to London. He died in Fersfield on 16th January 1752 aged 47. The Rev. Charles Parkin, the rector at Oxborough and a friend and fellow history enthusiast, was the first to continue Blomefield’s work. He not only completed Blomefield’s third volume but went on to write two further volumes. This initial set of three was subsequently published in various forms.

Fersfield & Blomefield (Portrait)2
Portrait of The Rev’d Francis Blomefield at St Andrew’s Church in Fersfield. Photo: Sonya Duncan

This portrait of Francis Blomefield is positioned on the south side of St. Anne’s chapel in St. Andrew’s Church, allowing him a pleasing opportunity to look down on a memorial which he himself took great pains to conserve. In his own words, from Volume 1 of his work:

“In the south side of St. Anne’s chapel, in the south isle, under the window, in an arch in the wall, lies an effigies of a knight, armed capà-pié, cut out of one piece of oak, which being in a dirty condition, I had it taken out and washed very clean…..… After removing the seats that stood before it, I caused it to be painted in the same colours, as near as could be, and added this inscription:

‘Sir Robert du Bois, Knt. Son of Sir Robert, and Grandson of Sir Robert du Bois, Knt. Founder of this Isle, Lord of this Manor, and Patron of this Church, died in 1311, aged 43 Years.’

Fersfield (Bois Pedigree)
The Bois Pedigree.

He, the most famous medieval survival is the man in a glass case and represents someone who was probably responsible for the rebuilding of the church’s tower. He lies with his legs uncrossed, a rather surprised buck at his feet. Nearby is a relatively plain Norman font. After his own visit to St Andrew’s in 2018, Simon Knott also wondered:

“…… how much Blomefield would recognise his own church if he came back to it today. The furnishings are all modern, and the feel is of a pleasantly light space of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His memorial is in the rebuilt chancel, a fairly simple ledger stone set, not inappropriately, beneath the kind of 17th century panelling which must have been familiar to him. Less happy is the clumsy reredos, which looks as if some of the panelling had been left over and cobbled together with a picture of the Last Supper…… Even today, St Andrew is not without Antiquarian interest. Above Blomefield’s memorial in the east window are three roundels of glass, all of which are continental, I think. They depict St Andrew, St Gregory, and the eagle of St John. They were probably placed here by the Victorians at the time of the rebuilding. Curiously, Blomefield records quite a lot of medieval glass at Fersfield, mostly from the narrative of the Blessed Virgin, which is now all gone……… But despite the modern ambience, this is a church in which to recall the 18th century. The south aisle contains more Blomefield memorials, curly ones on the walls and simple ledgers on the floor. And, looking down on them all, the great royal arms of Queen Anne dated 1703, two years before Francis Blomefield was born.”

Fersfield & Blomefield (Volumes)

Of Francis Blomefield, it has been said that he was one of a generation of 18th century historians who ultimately saved that past belonging to Norfolk churches from being consigned to oblivion – with no thanks to the 16th century Anglicans and 17th century Puritans who seemed ‘hell-bent’ in doing just that. He was a giant among Norfolk antiquarians!

THE END

Some Sources:
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/fersfield/fersfield.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Blomefield
https://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-hist-norfolk/vol1/pp74-114

NOTICE: ‘Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!’ is a ‘non-commercial’ Site seeking only to be informative and educational on topics broadly related to the history and heritage of the County of Norfolk in the U.K. In pursuing this aim, we endeavour, where necessary, to obtain permissions to use another owner’s material. However, for various reasons, (i.e. identification of, and means of communicating with such owners), contact can sometimes be difficult or impossible to established. NTM&M never attempts to claim ownership of such material; ensuring at all times that any known and appropriate ‘credits’ and ‘links’ back to our sources are always given in our articles. No violation of any copyright or trademark material is intentional.

Cardinal Adam Easton – of Easton!

Who was Adam Easton? Well, in a nutshell, he was a man who helped change the course of English history. A 14th century scholar, said to be born to a family of peasants at Easton in Norfolk, England, who rose to become the most powerful Englishman in the Catholic Church, second only to the pope. So why (except for a few scholars of 14th century church history) have many never heard of him – even in Norfolk itself?

Easton (Signs of a Norfolk Summer)1
The red robes and galero worn by the person on this village sign at Easton identifies him out as a cardinal. This person is Adam Easton who was born in the village in the 14th Century. The keys he carries represent St Peter, after whom the local church is dedicated. The book he holds is a symbol of learning. It could perhaps be one of his own: he was a renowned scholar of both Greek and Hebrew and wrote some learned tomes during his lifetime. Equally, the book could be one from the library he left to the monks of Norwich after his death. Photo: Signs of a Norfolk Summer.

Well, Adam was born in the village of Easton in Norfolk, just half a dozen miles to the west of Norwich. Almost certainly the son of peasants, he was taken in and educated by the church. After applying to join the monastery of St Leonards on the Hill overlooking the river Wensum, he was spotted for his potential and moved downhill to the mother Benedictine monastery attached to Norwich Cathedral.

Easton (St Leonard's Priory)
Remains of St Leonard’s Priory.
Kett’s Heights is situated on a hillside between Kett’s Hill and Gas Hill in Norwich. Here at its highest point, overlooking Bishop Bridge and the Cathedral, a flint wall is all that remains of the chapel of St Michael-on-the-Mount. According to the Registrum Primum of Norwich Cathedral Priory, in 1101 Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich, was granted the manor of Thorpe and Thorpe wood by Henry I. There he built the church and priory of St Leonard and, nearby, the chapel of St Michael. St Leonard’s priory was a cell to the Cathedral. Photo: George Plunkett.

As one of the brightest scholars of his generation, Adam was sent by the Norwich Monastery to study at Oxford. There, the Benedictines had their own college, Gloucester College – today known as Worcester College. There, the monks were split into houses, sharing quarters with those monks sent from the same monastery. Some of the old buildings of Gloucester College still survive as ‘the cottages’ and can be seen in the grounds of Worcester College today (see left in photo. below)……. Meanwhile his friend and fellow student from Norwich, Thomas Brinton, was enjoying life at the papal court or curia, in Avignon and Rome acting for the Benedictine Order in England.

Easton (Worcester College)
The main quadrangle of Worcester College; on the left are the medieval buildings known as “the cottages”, the most substantial surviving part of Gloucester College, Worcester’s predecessor. Photo: Wikipedia.

Adam himself soon moved to Avignon and the papal court also, there to replace the same Thomas Brinton as a proctor acting on behalf of the English Benedictines. However, his first major task there did not make him popular in his country of birth; it was to send a message from the Pope telling the English King to restrain the activities of his men at arms in Italy. Fortunately, on his way back to London his route took him through Canterbury where he met with the Archbishop, Simon Langham. Langham was also a Benedictine monk from Westminster Abbey and he persuaded Adam to enter his service. From this moment until Langham’s death, Adam’s fortunes were linked to that of his new master.

Easton (Simon Langham)2
Simon Langham, Archbishop of Canterbury

It was while at Oxford, that Adam first came across fellow student John Wycliffe. They shared a common interest in attacking the successful and increasingly wealthy Friars. Adam owned copies of the writings of both William of St Amour and Richard FitzRalph attacking the Friars and Wycliffe had certainly read both works himself. Adam may even have loaned Wycliffe his own copies while they were at Oxford. Yet increasingly, in the years that followed, the broad thrust of Wycliffe’s life was to attack not just the Friars, but every aspect of the Church, both spiritual and temporal. He raged against the hierarchy, wealth and the power over secular life that the Church had established – he was far from alone.

Easton (John Wycliffe)
Fictional portrait of Wycliffe, c. 1828. Image: Wikipedia

Yet the Church had other things to worry about and just as Wycliffe produced his most vociferous attack in 1376, the Pope packed up the papal Court in Avignon to return to Rome and try and re-establish his secular authority over the states of central Italy that had risen in open rebellion against him. The fact that once again fiscal matters seemed to be governing the fate of the Church rather than matters spiritual gave extra poignancy to Wycliffe’s attacks.

Adam now found himself in strident opposition to his former fellow student. He may not have approved of everything the pope was doing, he may have had doubts about the motives behind the Pope’s return to Rome, but he was now entrenched in the same church hierarchy that Wycliffe attacked. He planned his defence of the Church in two stages. The first was vicious but effective, simply to identify the key elements of Wycliffe’s philosophy that could be identified as heretical, and get him condemned by the Church both in England and Rome. The second and perhaps the more interesting part of the enterprise was to try and set out in writing, through argument and debate, a definitive defence of the power of the Church. This became the vast Defence of Ecclesiastical Power and it was a volume that would have a profound impact in denying the truth of Wycliffe’s argument.

Cardinal Adam Easton, following the death of Simon Langham, really began to find his feet, and his reputation, as a scholar and canon lawyer, grew at the Roman Court or Curia. But then the smooth progress of his life was interrupted by the unexpected death of Gregory XI in 1377. This would mean the one thing that the papacy had dreaded for 100 years and more – an election in the full view of the Roman mob. The honourable way in which Adam defended this election and the selection of Urban VI marked him out. The way he spoke out against the (mostly French) defectors, who finding Urban less generous than they hoped, went off and selected a new (French) pope who might help them more, made the Norwich monk one of the most ardent supporters of Urban VI. The reward for his fidelity was not long in coming.

Easton (Urban VI)
Pope Urban VI

Downfall and Restoration of Adam Easton:
In 1385 as the actions of Urban VI became ever more irrational, he moved his court to the castle above the dusty town of Nocera in Campania. Adam was involved with several other senior cardinals, in a plot to restrict the power of the Pope. However, the plotters were betrayed and the full wrath of the demented pontiff fell upon their shoulders. The situation was made even more uncomfortable when Charles Duzazzo arrived with his army and laid siege to the castle.

Easton (Easton's residence)However, following the demise of Pope Urban VI, the Cardinals loyal to Rome immediately elected the youthful Neapolitan, Pietro Tomaselli who took the name Boniface IX. One of the first acts of Boniface as Pope was to restore Adam to freedom, readmit him to the college of cardinals and restore his power within the Papal Curia. Adam rapidly established himself with a court in Rome and lived close to his titular church of St Cecilia. The 14th century house (pictured left) opposite the church may well have been the sort of establishment the cardinal would have run. Today the colonnade on to the street is bricked in but it gives a flavour of how Adam’s residence might have looked over the plotters were betrayed and the full wrath of the demented pontiff fell upon their shoulders. The situation was made even more uncomfortable when Charles Duzazzo arrived with his army and laid siege to the castle.

Once Adam had been restored to a position of eminence in the Church, he set about building up his wealth and those of his followers in Rome. In this confused time with two popes to choose from, many of the benefices that he would try to get his hands on were contended. This led to a morass of legal disputes which, at least, helped in keeping track of Adam’s activities in his later years.

Easton (St Cecilia)
Church of St Cecilia

Around 1394 Adam, having established a court near his titular church of St Cecilia, several English and German churchmen attached themselves to him and he was obliged to lobby hard to get livings for them from Pope Boniface – not least, if they had funds of their own whereby they could set themselves up at Adam’s court without costing him a fortune! Now,  an essential ingredient of a successful cardinal’s court, was permission for his ‘hangers-on’ to gain a benefice without actually suffering the inconvenience of having to visit it, or worse still live in it. This meant they could make a living from the fruits of the vicarage, without the necessity of having to do the work, whilst remaining at the centre of Church power, be it Rome or Avignon. As to the cure of souls, they could pay a clerk to do that out of their profits as absentee landlords!

Easton (Adam's World)This system was also good for the cardinal as he would be saved the expense of having to pay a salary to his courtiers from out of his own pocket. The courtiers in turn had a good chance of getting a lucrative benefice, as their master, the cardinal had plenty of incentive to get them one. Once they had an income, they could attend on the cardinal and concentrate on studies in his libraries or else working as part of the papal administration, without needing a salary. The fact that Adam was granted this privilege in 1394, suggests that this was the first time that he ran a substantial court in Rome. His was a small world at the centre of power, the image (above left) shows the tower of St Ceclia in the foreground and the great dome of the Vatican in the distance. These two buildings formed the boundaries of Adam’s world, and that of his courtiers, in the final stages of his life.

Easton (Richard II_ Wikipedia)
Richard II

After his restoration by Boniface IX in 1389, Adam tried to regain the income from his two benefices, Somersham in Huntingdonshire and the deanery at York. Unfortunately, Richard II (left) had provided his own candidates to occupy the benefices whilst Adam was been languishing in prison. Although it appears that neither of Richard’s men had yet succeeded in getting hold of the fruits of the benefices, neither was inclined to surrender his claim just because Adam had been released. Both men were courtiers and close confidantes of their king, John Boore who was awarded Somersham and Edmund Stafford the deanery of York, and relied upon Richard’s support in maintaining their position.

By 1394 increasingly heated correspondence passed between the King, Adam, Pope Boniface and Stafford. Meanwhile Adam appears to have been successful in holding on to the cash but Stafford must have felt he would be completely out of favour with his religious superiors. So, when Richard decided that he would like to appoint Stafford as bishop of Exeter he must have feared the worst. Boniface would never accept the appointment without the ‘say so’ of the Cardinal of England.

However, Adam was quite prepared to separate the principle of the authority of the Church over matters clerical, from the authority of the monarch over matters clerical. Stafford had been granted York by his sovereign, but York was not in his sovereign’s gift. By contrast when Richard put forward Stafford for the Bishopric of Exeter, he began by seeking papal approval. There was for an advocate of Adam’s standing, a very clear distinction between the two sets of circumstances. However, much to Stafford’s surprise his appointment was confirmed and he could hardly restrain his gratitude to the English Cardinal. He duly served as Bishop of Exeter until his death and his tomb (below) can still be seen in Exeter Cathedral.

Easton (Exeter Tomb of Stafford)

By 1394 Adam was gradually building his portfolio of livings as he was appointed to more and more churches around Europe and in the process, he started to accumulate considerable wealth. In the text below, taken from ‘The Segreto Archivo’, the Pope grants Adam the Church of Hasselt (pictured below) in Belgium which fell vacant when one of Adam’s own courtiers died:

Easton (Hasselt)
Church of Hasselt
“May your holiness also grant to your faithful servant Adam (cardinal priest of St Cecilia through your decree and also priest of the church of St Severus at Cologne ) the living of the diocese of Hasselt at Liege , the total earnings of which do not exceed 35 silver marks a year , which has fallen vacant through the death of Theoderici Bukelken , Adam’s longstanding companion at the Roman Curia. May you also grant to him anything else which has fallen vacant through Theoderici Bukelkens death. May this be enacted by personal decree and dispensation. Given at St Peters , Rome , Nones of October, twenty first hour, fifth year (of Boniface’s reign)”.

Easton (St Agnes Ferrara)By 1396 Adam was starting to enjoy considerable wealth and prestige and Boniface IX was proving very generous to his senior cardinal. When a significant benefice came up in Ferrara, Adam was given the fruits. 200 gold florins was quite a significant sum and the Benedictine priory an appropriate reward for a Benedictine Cardinal. The monastery no longer stands today but there the parish church of St Agnes (pictured left) stands on the same site.

Easton’s Death etc:
As with so much of Adam’s history, the details surrounding his death are not entirely clear. That he died peacefully of old age is not in dispute, the more interesting question is when? The date is not without significance for the events surrounding the usurpation of Henry IV…… Adam died in Rome, his adopted city, aged around 70. There is some confusion about the date of his death not least because of the inscription on his tomb which can still be seen in the Church of St Cecilia in Trastavere, Rome. An inscription can be found on the tomb today suggesting Adam died in 1398. But the tomb used to have a canopy over it, removed in the 17th century and that tells a rather different story! The inscription on the canopy of Adam’s tomb is preserved in a drawing made of his tomb before the canopy was removed. The drawing can still be found in the Vatican Library records. Roughly translated the Latin inscription read:

“Skilled in all things, renowned father Adam. The great theologian, who was cardinal of England, which was his fatherland, the title of St Cecilia was given to him. He died and ascended to heaven in the year 1397, in the month of September.”

In 1641, Felice Contelori wrote about Adam and once again we have to acknowledge two things. Firstly, that even in the 17th Century Adam was still regarded as one of the more venerated of the cardinals and secondly that already, just 250 years after his death his life story was becoming confused – to say the least.

“On Saturday the 18th day of December in the year 1389 Boniface IX created cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, among the undersigned were: restored to the dignity of Cardinal, Adam of England Bishop of London with the title of St Cecilia. He died on 20th September in the year 1397.”

As stories about Adam’s life were passed on within the Church, within Rome and at a considerable distance from the place of Adam’s birth and early life, so the written record of his life became obscure and increasingly distorted. By 1714 George Eggs was able to write, somewhat implausibly, that Adam was a Welshman who was brought up in Norwich! It is the rare facts that form a common thread in the eulogies of Adam and his work that have enabled some sort of factual historical record to emerge from the biographies of the cardinals in which he is so often featured. Here, even the inscription on his tomb has moved on and his date of death is now shown as November 1397!

In 1792, Cardella, the 18th century Italian historian, also wrote a well renowned history of some of the more reputable Cardinals of the Catholic Church, its title ‘Memorie de Cardinali’. His entry on Adam is fascinating in that it contains a detail of Adam’s legend that is not found anywhere else! Perhaps though it is a tribute to the enduring enigma of Adam’s story, that the account by Cardella contains many factual errors and creates nearly as many questions as it answers. This is also the only biographical account that mentions Adam’s body being uncorrupted when the tomb was moved. It comes from Volume II:

“Adam Easton was born, according to the distinguished Auberius, Ughiello and, most reliably Godwin, to humble parents, in the English county of Herefordshire! He was admitted to the order of St Benedict, where, having distinguished himself at the monastery of Norwich in both piety and learning, he became public professor of theology at the University of Oxford and was nominated by Richard II to be bishop of London, or according to others, of Hereford. At the request of the same monarch, he was created priest cardinal of St Cecilia.

He was suspected of conspiring against the Pope, was taken in chains to the city of Nocera in 1385, together with 5 other cardinals and cruelly tortured. The basis for this suspicion was certain letters written in code (a skill in which he excelled) to Charles Durazzo, King of Naples, which were intercepted by Cardinal Medesimo. The most skilled codebreakers were unable to penetrate their meaning. Some assert that he had spread rumours about the Pope’s cruelty and rich living, others that he had not revealed the plot against Urban, of which he was aware. Whatever it was, one certainty is that despite various requests from the above-mentioned king he was put under the supervision of an official of French nationality and stripped of his office of cardinal.

However , Boniface IX restored him to the honours he had lost and as well as holding him in high esteem, sent glowing letters in his favour to the English parliament, in which he called him a great priest, worthy of the office of officiating cardinal…….He (Adam) produced a prodigious number of works, mainly about the divine scriptures and the others included a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin…….He was able to do this with both ease and erudition because of his exceptionally high level of competence in oriental languages. Almost all the authors are agreed in writing that the subsequent Urban both understood and expressed the innocence of that Cardinal.

Easton (Easton's Tomb_Wikipedia)
Cardinal Adam Easton’s tomb in the church of St Cecilia. Photo: Wikipedia.

He did not reach old age, but ended his days gloriously in Rome in 1398 as can be read in the epitaph on his tomb in the church of St Cecilia…….. after 20 years office as cardinal, he remained buried in the tomb to which he was entitled. Then 200 years after his death, the floor of the church was dug up on the order of Cardinal Sfondrati to create a new pavement and the confessional, as they call it of that virgin and martyr [St Cecilia], and they discovered the body of that devout cardinal, whole and uncorrupted. This is confirmed by the chronicles of the time. The body was carried, with grand ceremonial, to the left side of the aforementioned church, where one can see the ancient tomb with the statue representing the cardinal in his priestly robes, lying on the sepulchral urn. Together with a brief epitaph, there is a representation of his family crest.

It is to the great credit of this pious and learned cardinal that he is praised with sincerity by Bale and Godwin, both heterodox and implacably opposed to the religious orders. The eulogy which these two writers make of Cardinal Easton is reported in full by Ziegelbaver in part 3 of his history of the Benedictine order, page 187ff, in which he gives us an exact catalogue of the many works written by him.”

THE END

Readers please note the following (including the NTM&M Notice at foot:
Most of the above detail is from our Source (below) and contains original material that illustrate events in Adam Easton’s life; much is illustrated with 14th century art from across Europe. However, the images are illustrative of the text themes only; they are NOT necessarily exact of persons or events within the text!

The original material from our source constitutes a Picts Hill Publishing Project – to find out more go to Picts Hill Publishing.

Main Source Used:
https://sites.google.com/site/cardinaladameaston/home
https://sites.google.com/site/pictshillpublishing/home
Feature Heading Photo of the Easton Village Sign: © Copyright Adrian Cable

Useful Suggested Links:

Cardinals of the Catholic Church
Brilliant site listing all the cardinals of the Catholic Church by date of appointment. For many an in-depth biography is also provided together with useful links to other historical information. This is a really valuable tool, for the historian.

 Julian of Norwich and 14th century spirituality
This site contains a great deal of very interesting material, book reviews and theories about the world of Adam Easton and more particularly, Julian of Norwich and the other female mystics of the 14th century. It will be evident that the author of that site, Julia Bolton Holloway is not always in agreement with the content of the site from which the above ‘NTM & More’ version comes. However, it is always useful to compare conflicting theories and accounts and her site offers a number of interesting and detailed perspectives and deserves much more than a cursory glance.

Biography of Adam Easton
Entitled the Most Ungrateful Englishman, this is to date the only substantive biography of Adam Easton, published by Corpus Publishing of Lydney in Gloucestershire.

 Wikipedia entry
The Wikipedia entry on the subject of Adam Easton, the entry does contain a few errors but is a good synopsis for all of that.

NOTICE: ‘Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!’ is a ‘non-commercial’ Site seeking only to be informative and educational on topics broadly related to the history and heritage of the County of Norfolk in the U.K. In pursuing this aim, we endeavour, where possible, to obtain permissions to use another owner’s material. However, for various reasons, (i.e. identification of, and means of communicating with such owners), contact can sometimes be difficult or impossible to established. NTM&M never attempts to claim ownership of such material; ensuring at all times that any known and appropriate ‘credits’ and ‘links’ back to our sources are always given in our articles. No violation of any copyright or trademark material is intentional.

Stories Behind the Signs: Felthorp.

The Felthorpe Village Sign tells three stories, two of which are more prominent
than the third.

Felthorpe (Sign)
Felthorpe Village Sign.
The sign is located beside Taverham Road junction with The Street. Photo:© Copyright Evelyn Simak .

Story 1:
In the forefront of the Felthorpe Village sign is the image of two women in a chaise pulled by a black horse, with St Margaret’s Church in the background. It is believed that one of the women depicted is Mary Wright Sewell (6 April 1797 – 10 June 1884), who was an English poet and children’s author. Though popular for writing juvenile bestsellers in her day, she is better known today as the mother of Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty – the other woman depicted is, understandably, Anna Sewell herself. Mary lived at Church Farm, Felthorpe from the age of 2 to 12 years old, between 1799 and 1811.

Felthorpe (First Edition)Mary Wright (Sewell) was actually born on 6 April 1797 in Sutton, Suffolk. Her father, John Wright, and mother Ann Holmes, were farmers and had seven children, of which Mary was the third. Her upbringing followed Quaker principles. Originally taught by governesses at home, she attended boarding school in Tottenham around 1811, when her father sold his farm to invest in a ship. He was unsuccessful in this enterprise and by the time Mary had turned eighteen she was forced to become a governess herself at an Essex school.

Some eight years later Mary married Isaac Sewell whose parents were also Quaker elders; the marriage took place at Lamas in Norfolk on 15 June 1819. Mary and Isaac settled in Yarmouth where, the following year, their daughter, Anna, was born, followed by a son, Philip, in 1822. Her husband Isaac had a number of ill-advised businesses and he declared himself bankrupt after his son was born. Isaac would go on to become a travelling salesman, while Mary herself would teach her children at home. Alongside this, she wrote her first book, ‘Walks with Mamma’, using words of only one syllable; the income from this helped to pay for books to educate her children.

Felthorpe (Anna Sewell's Birthplace_centre)
Anna Sewell House (Centre) on Church Plain, Gt. Yarmouth. Photo: Great Yarmouth Mercury,  1982 ref. C1779.

Between the years 1858 and 1864, the Mary’s family lived at the Blue Lodge, Wick, Bristol where she continued her great love of poetry. While at Wick, Mary wrote ‘Mother’s Last Words’, which sold just over a million copies throughout the world; the book tells a story of how two boys are saved from sin by their mother’s last words. Then during the 1870s, Mary nursed her daughter, Anna, through her terminal illness of hepatitis, or tuberculosis. During this period, she transcribed the dictation of her daughters only novel, ‘Black Beauty’. In 1878, both her daughter and her husband died; Mary herself died on 10 June 1884.

Felthorpe (Friends Meeting House)
Friends’ Meeting House.
This former meeting house of the Quakers is now a private home. Anna Sewell, author of ‘Black Beauty’ is buried here and the new owners have reset the headstones of the Sewell family graves into the surrounding wall, so that fans can pay their respects. Photo:© Copyright Evelyn Simak

Story 2:
4612940800_168x285At the top of the Felthorpe Village Sign is an image of a Victoria Cross. This represents one awarded to Claude Thomas Bourchier who was born 22 April 1831 in Brayford, Devon. His father was Lieutenant James Claud Bourchier, who served in the Peninsular Wars in the 11th and 22nd Regiments of Light Dragoons, and his mother was Maria, 2nd daughter of George Caswall from Sacomb Park, Hertfordshire.

Claud followed his father into the Army when he obtained his first commission at the age of 18 in  The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own). He served with the Rifle Brigade in the Caffre War of 1852-53 and also in the Crimean Campaign of 1854, including the Battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman, being Aide de Camp to General Torrens at Inkerman, and at the Siege of Sebastopol. It was at Sebastopol on the 20th November 1854 that Claud Bourchier would perform the acts of gallantry which would result in the award of the Victoria Cross.

Felthorpe (Sevastapol_Wikipedia)
Siege of Sebastopol.

On that day, Lord Raglan had devised a plan to drive the Russians from some rifle pits in front of the left flank along some rising ground at Sebastopol. The duty of driving the Russians out was given to the 1st Battalion, and a party consisting of Lieutenant Henry Tryon in command, with Lieutenants Bourchier and William James Montgomery Cunninghame, four sergeants and 200 rank and file, was detailed to carry out the plan. They marched down to the trenches where they lay down until darkness fell. They then advanced stealthily and advanced on the enemy, catching them by surprise. They quickly drove the Russians from their cover, though supported by a heavy column of Russian infantry. Soon, the Rifle Brigade came under heavy fire, and in the moment of taking the pits, Tryon was killed. Bourchier took over command and maintained the advantage, and they captured the pits. They also held the pits throughout the night despite repeated counter attacks. They did this until they were relieved by another battalion the following day. They lost 10 men including Lieutenant Tryon and had 17 wounded.

For his gallantry, Bourchier was given the brevet of Major. He also received the Crimean Medal with four clasps, made a Knight of Legion of Honour, received the 5th Order of the Medjidie, the Turkish Medal and was awarded the Victoria Cross, which was announced in the London Gazette on 24th February 1857. Bourchier was present at the first investiture on 26th June 1857 at Hyde Park, London and was personally presented with his medal by Queen Victoria. Soon, he was posted to the Indian Mutiny and served in the Campaign of 1857-59, including the Siege and Capture of Lucknow, Battle of Nawab-gunge, attack and capture of Fort Oomerea, for which he received the Indian Mutiny Medal and clasp. He also served on the Afghan Frontier, near Peshawar, during the disturbances among the native tribes in the winter of 1863.

4612940799Colonel Bourchier was then appointed Aide de Camp to Queen Victoria in April, 1869, having retired the same year on full pay. Bourchier retired soon afterwards with the rank of Colonel and enjoyed his later life as a member of Boodle’s club in St James’s, London. He had settled at his final home at 38, Brunswick Road, Hove on the south coast. He died, aged just 46, on Monday, 19th November 1877 at his home and was buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard in Buxton, Norfolk. His Victoria Cross is now displayed at the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) MuseumWinchester, England.

4612940917_540x381

Story 3:
Almost as a footnote, the third story behind the Felthorpe Village Sign is represented by an image of a mammoth. This is a reference to the discovery of a number of mammoth teeth in the late 1950s at Sparham Common gravel pit. This site is now Sparham Pools, a nature reserve managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Felthorpe (Sparham Pools_Wikipedia)
One of the Sparham Pools near Lyng.

THE END

Sources:
http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/felthorpe/felthorpe.htm
http://vconline.org.uk/claud-t-bourchier-vc/4585989171
http://www.memorialstovalour.co.uk/vc49.html

NOTICE: ‘Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!’ is a ‘non-commercial’ Site seeking only to be informative and educational on topics broadly related to the history and heritage of the County of Norfolk in the U.K. In pursuing this aim, we endeavour, where possible, to obtain permission to use an owner’s material. However, for various reasons, (i.e. identification of, and means of communicating with an owner), contact can sometimes be difficult or impossible to established. NTM&M never attempts to claim ownership of such material; ensuring at all times that any known and appropriate ‘credits’ and ‘links’ back to our sources are always given in our articles. No violation of any copyright or trademark material is intentional.

Myngs: The ‘Pivateer’ from Salthouse!

On 20 March 2007, the conservators of Norfolk County Council completed the restoration of some historic 16th-century records to their former glory; these had been buried in a village churchyard at the outbreak of the Second World War to prevent them falling into German hands. These documents confirmed much about Vice-Admiral Sir Christopher Myngs’s Norfolk origins and featured in a public exhibition in 2007. Included in this exhibition were items relating to the Salthouse hero, such as his baptism which appears in the Salthouse register for 1625. Other exhibits on display, apart from Myngs’s baptism entry, were deeds relating to the property which he purchased in Salthouse, a copy of a letter which he wrote on board ship, and a transcript of a description of Myngs’s funeral.

Sir Chris Myngs (Lowestoft_RMG)
Flagmen of Lowestoft: Vice-Admiral Sir Christopher Myngs, 1625-66. Image: Royal Museums Greenwich,

From these, and other records it can be deduced, with no 100% certainty you understand, that apart from young Christopher Myngs (1625- 1666) actually being born in Salthouse, Norfolk, his birthplace was believed to have been in the Manor House. He was the son of John Myngs, shoemaker, who had been married at Salthouse on 28 September 1623. The Register also recording that John Myngs was “as of the Parish of St. Katherine in the City of London”. It appears that John Myngs, in turn, was the kinsman or son of Nicholas Myness [sic], a son of Christopher, who was baptised on 8 March 1585 at Blakeney (Marshall, Genealogist, 38-9). – “a good old Norfolk family” according to Bloomfield in his ‘Topographical History of Norfolk’.

Sir Chris Myngs (Birthplace_Val Fiddian 2005)2
The Manor House in which Christopher Myngs was born in 1625. Image (c)  Val Fiddian 2005.

The maiden name of John Myngs’s wife, and Christopher’s mother, was Parr, Her family may also have owned the Manor House. That being the case then the following extract, taken from F.N. Stagg’s ’History of Salthouse’ – researched in the 1930s, would be of interest:

“The Parrs, I think we can safely say, lived in the Manor House—in which case Sir Christopher Myngs was born there. When the latter acquired some small degree of wealth, he bought a property in Salthouse and everything points to it having been what is now called the Hall [here there is a large asterisk in the margin and a ‘no’, and Stagg’s words ‘what is now called the Hall’ crossed out. The handwriting that is not Ketton-Cremer’s and may be that of Stagg himself supplants it with: ‘The building in Long Chats Lane [Long Church Lane] opposite the Hall’. If so, it must have been in that [Manor] House that his daughter Mary died in 1697-8, but Myngs’ second wife Rebecca must have disposed of it probably soon afterwards to one of her husband’s maternal relations, the Parrs.”

There may be little doubt that Cristopher Myngs was the “son of a shoemaker”, for even Samuel Pepys himself says so in his letter of (28 March 1665…) –‘ that his father was indeed a shoemaker and was consulted by the Navy Board about the uses to which leather shavings might be put.’ Bloomfield’s reference that the Myngs family may have been of “a good old Norfolk family” need not mean that Christopher’s father could not have been a shoemaker; Christopher did go to sea as a ‘mere cabin boy’…… proud that he rose in rank due to merit’. However, all this may be erroneous, along with Pepys’s story of Myngs being of ‘humble birth’ – this term possibly an explanation for Myngs’s popularity at the time? More importantly perhaps is the belief that Christopher Myngs was also a relative of the future Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell who was born, some 25 years after Myngs, at the nearby village of Cockthorpe. Here, there are strange coincidences between Myngs and Shovell – and they have little to do with the possibility that the two men may have been related.

Sir_Cloudesley_Shovell,_1650-1707
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Image: Wikipedia

Myngs was reputed to have been of ‘humble birth’, son of a shoemaker, possibly related to a knight, and went to sea as a cabin boy! Sir Cloudesley Shovell was reputed to have been that knight – but the latter was also born, or so it was said, into only ‘middling circumstances’ and was ‘apprenticed to a mean trade……of a shoe-maker’, and also went to sea as a cabin boy.’ What strange coincidences! One could be forgiven for wondering whether it was a prerequisite for 17th century Norfolk lad’s to first serve St Crispin [Patron Saint of Shoemakers] in order to obtain successful entry into the British Royal Navy!

So, as a young boy, Myngs may well have joined the British Royal Navy to serve first as a ‘mere cabin boy’, then as an ‘ordinary seaman’; but he did rise rapidly through the ranks thereafter, and this could well have been due to family connections? It has been also suggested that another reason for his rapid career rise was because, as his career progressed, he sided with Parliament and was its supporter; not to mention that the Council of State thought highly of him and, he was also recommended for promotion by the flag officers under whom he served. Myngs was also a friend of Sir John Narborough who was descended from an old Norfolk family. He married Elizabeth Hill, whose father was John Hill, a Commissioner of the Navy. After her husband’s death, Lady Narborough married none other than Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Well, Well Well!

Battle_of_Scheveningen_Jan_Abrahamsz._Beerstraten)
The Battle of Scheveningen (10 August 1653) during the First Angl0-Dutch War. Painting by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraaten.

Myngs first appeared prominently during the first First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654) as captain of the ‘Elisabeth’ when he captured a Dutch convoy, including two men-of-war taken as prizes. From 1653 to 1655 he continued to command the ‘Elisabeth’ before being given command of the 44-gun frigate ‘Marston Moor’; whose crew happened to be on the verge of mutiny! After quelling the crew’s insubordination, the ship was sent to Port Royal to safeguard England’s new possession – Jamaica. Here, he became the subcommander of the naval flotilla on the Jamaica Station (Royal Navy), with the ‘Marston Moor’ as his flagship. Not bad for a lad from Salthouse.

On his arrival in Jamaica, Myngs assessed that the best defence was to take war to the Spanish. However, the ‘Marston Moor’ was the only English warship available so he decided to recruit local buccaneers. By using the tactic of attacking instead of defending, his buccaneers were to defeat countless Spanish attempts to capture Port Royal. Every potential attack was repulsed before it could begin; then Myngs would successfully counter-attack and regularly defeat the enemy ports nearby. The Spanish government considered him a common pirate and mass murderer, protesting to no avail to the English government of Oliver Cromwell about his conduct. Maybe the Lord Protector of the British Isles was influenced by the opinions that ‘one man’s pirate is another man’s privateer’, and that the Spanish interpretation of Myngs’s behaviour came from a nation that was given half the world by the Pope to rape and pillage. Also, the towns that were sacked by Myngs were cruelly controlled by the Spanish as they loaded their ships with gold. There was also some evidence circulating that suggested that some local populations welcomed the Spanish being given a bloody nose in return!

In February 1658, he returned to Jamaica as naval commander, acting as a commerce raider (privateer) during the Anglo-Spanish War. During these actions he received a reputation for unnecessary cruelty, sacking and massacring entire towns in command of whole fleets of buccaneers. Later in 1658, after beating off a Spanish attack, he raided the coast of South-America; but failed to capture a Spanish treasure fleet despite having a plan of hiding off the coast in wait. Unfortunately for Myngs the timing was not good because most of his fleet’s crew were ashore obtaining fresh water; this was when the Spanish treasure fleet appeared. The Marston Moor and another ship passed through the Spanish fleet and hung on its rear before unsuccessfully attempting to scatter them.

Myngs then proceeded to raid Tolú and Santa Marta, both in Columbia, again with only moderate results. It was then Myngs decided to change tactics. Previously, his large group of ships had pre-warned the local population who would retreat inland with their possessions. But he now divided his squadron into smaller flotillas and so increase the chance of surprise. He also would pursue them inland, sometimes using land troops as marines. Myngs then used his new tactics on three ports on the coast of Venezuela – Cumana, Puerto Cabello and Coro in present-day Venezuela. The latter contained a Spanish silver shipment valued at 250,000 English pounds – roughly £32.5million today. However, Myngs decided to split the money with his buccaneers to keep them interested for future expeditions, rather than with the Governor, Edward D’Oyley, and the English treasury. On his return to Port Royal, D’Oyley had him arrested on charges of embezzlement and acts of piracy, returning him to England on the Marston Moor in 1660 to face trial. However, in the confusion of the restoration of Charles II at the time, the charges were dropped.

Sir Chris Myngs (HMS Centurion_Wikipedia)
HMS Centurion. Image: Wikipedia.

In fact, the Restoration government retained him in his command and, in August 1662, sent Myngs back to Jamaica, as commander of the HMS Centurion, to resume his activities as commander of the Jamaica Station – despite the fact that the war with Spain had ended. This was part of a covert English policy to undermine the Spanish dominion of the area, by destroying as much as possible of the infrastructure. In 1662 Myngs decided that the best way to accomplish this was to employ the full potential of the buccaneers by promising them the opportunity for unbridled plunder and rapine. He had the complete support of the new Governor, Lord Thomas Hickman Windsor, who fired a large contingent of soldiers to fill Myngs’s ranks with disgruntled men. In the October of 1662, the buccaneers’ first target, Santiago in Cuba, fell easily despite its strong defences and much loot was brought back.

Other legendary buccaneers of the time, such as Henry Morgan and Edward Mansvelt, admired Myngs’ personal abilities and success and in 1663 some, including Morgan, accompanied him on next big expedition, as did many other Dutch and French soldiers. In fact, there were some 1400 buccaneers gathered in Port Royal; these were what could be termed semi-lawful sailors and soldiers but to Spain, they were just ordinary pirates whilst to England buccaneers were a lot more than that. These buccaneers were to be aboard a powerful fleet of 14 ships which had been assembled for the next assault on the Spanish which would be the attack on the Bay of Campeche and San Francisco. At one point during these attacks, Myngs was severely wounded and compelled to leave Edward Mansvelt in charge of his fleet and pirate army.

As expected, these raids again outraged the Spanish, who denounced Myngs as a common pirate and a mass murderer with a reputation for unnecessary cruelty; they threatened war with England and this forced King Charles to send a new governor Thomas Modyford to Jamaica with orders to stop the raids. The outcome was that this was to be the last Caribbean raid for hot-blooded Captain Myngs; he returned to England in 1664, still ambitious, but yet to be fully recovered from the injuries he received during the attacks on Campeche and San Francisco. Despite all that had happened to Myngs, the Government still promoted him to Vice-Admiral of the White under the Lord High Admiral James Stuart, Duke of York and Albany. Myngs flew his flag during the Second Anglo-Dutch War at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, and for his share in that action he was knighted.

Sir Chris Myngs (Battle of Lowestoft_Adrianen Van Diest)
The Battle of LowestoftAdriaen Van Diest Image: Wikipedia.

In the same year Myngs then served under Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, as Vice-Admiral of the Blue then, after the disgrace of Montagu, he served under the next supreme fleet commander, George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. Myngs was on detachment with Prince Rupert’s Green squadron, when on 11 June 1666 the great Four Days’ Battle began; however, he was able to return to the main fleet in time to take part on the final day of this battle. Unfortunately, when Myngs flotilla was surrounded by that of Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde he was mortally wounded by musket balls fired by a sharpshooter when his ‘Victory’ was challenged by De Liefde’s flagship, the ‘Ridderschap van Holland’.

Myngs was shot through the throat. He refused to leave the deck, even to have the wound dressed, but remained standing, compressing it with his fingers till he fell, mortally wounded by another bullet which, passing through his neck, lodged in his shoulder (Brandt, Vie de Michel de Ruiter, pp. 359, 363; State Papers, Dom. Charles II, clviii. 48; Pepys, 8 June 1666). The wound was, it was hoped on the 7th, ‘without danger;’ but on the 10th Pepys recorded the news of the admiral’s death. As he was buried in London on the 13th, it would seem probable that he died at his own house in Goodman’s Fields, Whitechapel. Pepys, who was at the funeral, noted that no person of quality was there……… ‘The truth is,’ continued Pepys, ‘Sir Christopher Myngs was a very stout man, and a man of great parts, and most excellent tongue among ordinary men.’ Myngs it seems had brought his family into a way of being great; but dying at this time, his memory and name will be quite forgot in a few months……. nor any of his name be the better by it; he having not had time to Will any estate, but is dead poor rather than rich.’

Sir Chris Myngs (St Mary Matfelon Church)
Christopher Myngs was buried in St Mary Matfelon Church, Whitechapel. This view of the church is around 1830, after Thomas Hosmer Shepherd © Trustees of the British Museum,

Postscript 1:
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 October 1665

Up, and, leaving my guests to make themselves ready, I to the office, and thither comes Sir Jer. Smith and Sir Christopher Mings to see me, being just come from Portsmouth and going down to the Fleete. Here I sat and talked with them a good while and then parted, only Sir Christopher Mings and I together by water to the Tower; and I find him a very witty well-spoken fellow, and mighty free to tell his parentage, being a shoemaker’s son, to whom he is now going, and I to the ’Change, where I hear how the French have taken two and sunk one of our merchant-men in the Streights [sic], and carried the ships to Toulon; so that there is no expectation but we must fall out with them. The ’Change pretty full, and the town begins to be lively again, though the streets very empty, and most shops shut. So back again I and took boat and called for Sir Christopher Mings at St. Katharine’s, who was followed with some ordinary friends, of which, he says, he is proud, and so down to Greenwich, the wind furious high, and we with our sail up till I made it be taken down. I took him, it being 3 o’clock, to my lodgings [Mrs Clerke’s home] and did give him a good dinner and so parted, he being pretty close to me as to any business of the fleete, knowing me to be a servant of my Lord Sandwich’s.

Observations of Pepys’s Entry:
Why did he Myngs tell Pepys that he was ‘a shoemaker’s son’? To admit to a very low birth, in a class-conscious age, was most unusual, especially when he was a Knight by then. Did Pepys keep quiet about his own father being a tailor – which would have been of a higher social standing than a cobbler, referring instead to his father as living “on our estate in the country”. Here, perhaps Pepys was bragging about his closeness to Lord Sandwich, so Christopher Myngs throws in a line “Oh I am only the son of a shoemaker” as if teasing Pepys – the English have always been masters of the understatement! Much depends on how far Pepys wanted to appear. He was the son of a tailor, but also cousin to Lord Sandwich. Perhaps Pepys is a little too pompous a climber to indulge in irony, Myngs on the other hand is obviously more comfortable in in own skin and “with some ordinary friends, of which, he says, he is proud”!

Postscript 2:
The above account of Christopher Myngs’s life and career is very imperfect. The actual details of Myngs’s career are only to be found in the Calendars of State Papers, Domestic; and, more fully, in the State Papers themselves. There are also many notices of him in Pepys’s Diary, for it can be said that he was a friend of Myngs.

THE END

Sources:
http://www.salthousehistory.co.uk/index.html#stq=myngs&stp=1
https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1665/10/26/
http://www.thewayofthepirates.com/famous-buccaneers/christopher-myngs/
https://earlofmanchesters.co.uk/cromwells-pirate-the-incredible-naval-career-of-christopher-myngs/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Myngs
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Dictionary_of_National_Biography_volume_40.djvu/18

NOTICE: ‘Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!’ is a ‘non-commercial’ Site seeking only to be informative and educational on topics broadly related to the history and heritage of the County of Norfolk in the U.K. In pursuing this aim, we endeavour, where possible, to obtain permission to use an owner’s material. However, for various reasons, (i.e. identification of, and means of communicating with an owner), contact can sometimes be difficult or impossible to established. NTM&M never attempts to claim ownership of such material; ensuring at all times that any known and appropriate ‘credits’ and ‘links’ back to our sources are always given in our articles. No violation of any copyright or trademark material is intentional.

Shotesham: A little Village with Big Connections!

Shotesham is a village of around 562 souls; five miles south of Norwich, it has connections, historical, social, political and royal—and that’s where I was heading when I got off the bus at Upper Stoke, a couple of weeks past.

Upper Stoke sits at the highest part of the ‘high place’, the ancient Hundreds of Henstead. I know 90 meters above sea level isn’t exactly ‘high’ but this is Norfolk, and 90 meters is the second highest place in the county. Since I intended to finish my walk in the Tas Valley, at something close to 5 meters above sea level, I expected most of the trek to be downhill. Ha! The land undulates. Unexpected rises and hidden houses in little dips.

Shotesham (Map)1I had enticed my daughter into this walk with mention of the rare southern butterfly, the Camberwell Beauty, I’d seen last year [2016] peppering the steep hillside meadow just south of the Stoke to Poringland road. On that occasion, a very hot day, I was climbing the hill on my way home from West Poringland and places beyond. This time, alas, the wind scoured that hillside with far more vigour than forecast by the Met Office. So much for butterflies, rare or common. Moreover, that wind promised a miserable day.

Glad to be off the hillside, we then hiked a short way along a road, busier than expected – and still windy. But there were these Mallows all in flower, and I so wanted a photo. (See Pretty in Pink)

Shotesham (Poppies)2And the windblown poppies were waving their scarlet petals as if flamenco dancers with their dresses. It was as well this walk wasn’t all about flowers. But at least the squirrel kept still while I clicked it!

Shotesham (Squirrel)3Turning off road, and into a farmyard . . .

Shotesham (Farm)4The buildings found around a farm’s yard are not as quaint as they used to be. But certainly functional. Kinda . . . futuristic and Bauhaus together!

Shotesham (Farmhouse)5And except for a solitary farmhouse almost lost in a dip of the land, there was no other sign of habitation. Just fields upon fields upon fields, all greying into the distance: peas and barley and wheat, and oil-seed rape, now green with their pods, no longer sweet-smelling. But, time to stop waxing lyrical and tell you something of our destination.

Shotesham …:
… or Scotessa or Scotessam as it was first recorded, which could signify ‘the village of Scots’ (Scots here meaning the Irish pirates who made life hell at the end of the Roman Occupation). More likely it means ‘a gathering of warriors’ pieces’, i.e. land given by some long ago Saxon, or maybe Danish, lord to his fiercest fighters.

I favour that king to be King Cnut; he had much dealings with this area, donating Saint Botolph’s church and its parish as a foundation gift to the abbey of St Benet at Holm (near Acle on the edge of the Norfolk Broads). At the same time, a Saxon named Brictrict gave St Martin’s, another of the Shotesham churches (there were four), to the same abbey, along with the adjoining hamlet of Grenvil. Land around here was held off the abbey until the Dissolution.

Shotesham (Village Sign)6
The village sign . . .

So, a Danish king’s land, Shotesham, mostly given in reward to favoured warriors. And then along came William the Conqueror and, after his victory at Hastings in 1066, did much the same thing.

The main manor of Shotesham (later known as Shotesham Hall) included the church of All Saints (still open for business, stood proud upon its hillock).

Shotesham (All Saints)7
All Saints Church, Shotesham

Taken from its Saxon holder, the manor was delivered into the hands of the Anglo-Breton Ralf the Staller, a former toady of King Edward the Confessor who in 1067 William appointed as Earl of East Anglia. Alas, he died two years later and the land went to his son, Ralf de Gaël—who then was exiled for rebellion in 1075. The land was returned to the king’s hands and placed in the temporary keep of Godric the Sewer. It’s believed that this Godric had been steward to the Anglo-Breton Earl Ralf; regardless, he now was steward to the King.

King William (the Conqueror) had loaded this Godric with more confiscated lands than any decent man could manage. So Godric offloaded a few of the manors—for a fee. This particular manor of Shotesham he leased to King William’s half-brother, Odo, bishop of Bayeux—Who in turn let it to Roger Bigod, sometime sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk—Who in turn let to one of his followers, Aitard de Vaux.

And there it remained, in the hands of the de Vaux family until . . . 1288 when, upon marrying Petronel, eldest daughter and coheir of John de Vaux, a half share was assigned to one William de Nerford who held it off the Lord Marshal aka Earl of Norfolk aka Roger Bigod (a lineal descendant of that C11th Roger Bigod, sometime sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk). Petronel’s sister held the other half; they would eventually be reunited.

Shotesham (Churches & Farm)8
The ruins of St Martin’s church (foreground) and behind it, St Mary’s church, with Old Hall Farm seen to the left (it were cumin’ on cloudy that day, it were!)

The manor remained in Nerford hands through generations until only a lone daughter was left. Margery. Margery died ‘without issue’ in 1390. But, wise woman, before she died (in fact, pre-1388) she sold it on, to—Sir John White, a knight already enfeoffed with lands in Suffolk. And there it remained, in ‘White’ hands, until—

Dynastic Disasters!
From Bartholomew White (died 1495) to his son Simon White (died circa 1505) to his son, Edward White (died 1521) to his son George White who . . . oops, died without issue.

So a quick backtrack up the tree . . . to Edward White’s brother, Edmund White, who died in 1538, and to his son Edward White, who died in 1558—unwed.

Luckily, for the estate, Edward had a sister, Anne White. Anne White married one Henry Doyly of Pond Hall, near Hadley, in Suffolk. Phew! And Shotesham Manor became the Doyly family’s seat.

Shotesham (Beck)9
The Beck at Shotesham

By then Shotesham Manor included the former Shotesham Hall, along with another nearby manor, again in Shotesham, of Toft Hall, and also the one named ‘Swans’.

Shotesham (The Common)10
Houses edge the Common at Shotesham

Toft Hall gets a mention in Domesday Book: it had been held, TRE (In the Time of King Edward) by the Anglo-Saxon bishop of East Anglia, Stigand. But Stigand wasn’t to remain in East Anglia, he was destined for greatness. Not only did he become the ‘King’s Bishop’ at Winchester (a much sought-after seat) but also Archbishop of Canterbury. And then was excommunicated for pluralism—at which Toft Hall was taken from him and granted instead to Roger Bigod, that same sheriff already mentioned.

Swan’s Manor had been in the hold of Ulketel (who we’ll meet in a later post, when we finally arrive at the supposed deserted village of Saxlingham Thorpe and its thriving neighbour, Saxlingham Nethergate). William, the wonderful conqueror, assigned Swan’s Manor to Robert Malet, lord of the honour of Eye (Suffolk), someone I don’t intend to deal with here.

Shotesham (St Botolph Ruins)11
All that remains of St Botolph’s church . . .

But to return to Shotesham Manor, now grown large . . .

The Doyly Family:
Like the Bigods, the Doyly family arrived with the Normans in 1066 (Robert D’Oyley de Liseaux, named for Ouilly in Calvados, Normandy).

At that time the said Robert d’Oyley was given lands chiefly in Oxfordshire where he built a castle (at Oxford) and married the daughter of Wigot, the Saxon lord of Wallingford. Their daughter, Maud, inherited her mother’s land (i.e. Wallingford) which, as was the way, passed to her legal lord and husband, Miles Crispen. But despite when widowed she then married Brian Fitz Count (illegitimate son of Alan IV Duke of Brittany), with neither husband did she produce an heir. Her inherited lands therefore passed to her uncle Nigel, Robert d’Oyley’s brother (Constable to King William Rufus).

And so the successions went in regular fashion until—Henry Doyly married Anne White, heiress of Shotesham in or around 1558.

Henry Doyly:
Knight of the shire for Buckinghamshire, in Queen Elizabeth’s time. Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1578. Sheriff of Norfolk again in 1590. Died 1597 in possession of the manors of:

  • Shotesham Hall, Swans, and Toft Hall, Shotesham
  • St. Benet’s manor in Shotesham
  • Warham manor
  • Blackford Hall in Rockley (another Henstead parish)
  • Various granges in Shotesham, Stoke Holy Cross, and ‘other adjacent towns’
  • And several churches besides

Again, descent reeled through the generations in normal fashion until it arrived at Sir William Doyly (the Elder) who, dying in 1677, left the entire estate to his son. Sir William D’Oyley (known as the Younger) who promptly ‘disposed’ of parts of his assets:

Shotesham Hall, Swans and Toft Hall, and the lease of St. Benet’s manor in Shotesham; Blackford Hall (alias Stoke Holy Cross manor), Rostlings and Gostlings in Great and Little Poringland and Stoke . . .

To Samuel Verdon, sometime under-sheriff of Norfolk. (We will meet with the Verduns when we arrive at Saxlingham Nethergate). By 1689, the widow of Samuel Verdon had these manors in mortgage.

However, the term ‘disposed’ apparently does not mean sold. For in 1699, Robert Davy, trustee to Sir Edmund Doyly (grandson of the frittering Sir William the Younger), baronet and one-time resident of my birth-village of Costessey, sold those very same manors to Christopher Gibbs, worsted weaver of Norwich.

But here I confess to encountering confusion.

For this historical account, I’ve been following Francis Blomefield’s ‘Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5′ (London, 1806), pp. 503-519, to be found on British History Online.

As with all writers, Blomefield was a man of his times. A clergyman, born of a Thetford family, and by now (post Cambridge degree in Divinity) with a living in South Norfolk. His style tends towards convoluted sentence structure with punctuation that would give any modern editor a nervous breakdown. So, Blomefield says first of Robert Davy, trustee to Sir Edmund Doyly, selling these manors. And then seems to contradict himself by saying that ‘the lands and estates continued in Sir Edmund’.

Moreover:  ‘In 1739 Christopher Barnard of Yarmouth was lord, and his widow now holds it for life, and at her decease it goes to her husband’s two sisters, who are both married.’ Amazing. For in 1731 it is known that Shotesham Hall (and lands etc) was bought by William Fellowes; he was then aged 26 and was destined for a distinguished career as a philanthropist.

Shotesham (Hollow Lane)12
Hollow Lane, Shotesham, leading down to the Common. Once believed to be a foot-and-hoof worn way, now thought to mark the boundary of a medieval park. Myself, I think it might mark the boundary between the parishes (and/or manors) of St Mary’s and St Botolph’s, for that’s where it’s found.

The Fellowes Family:
Locally, William Fellowes is most noted for his role in establishing the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. But even before that, together with local surgeon Benjamin Gooch, he had set up what must have been one of the very first cottage hospitals in the country, in his own village of Shotesham. As Lord of the Manor—and he was very much lord of that manor, owning almost all the land, and the houses (though those were sold off during the 20th, century)—he cared for the people in his charge. Yet William Fellowes is not the most notable of that family and I did promise you royal connections.

Robert, Baron Fellowes of Shotesham:
According to ‘thepeerage.com‘ the former ‘Lord of the Manor’, Robert, Baron Fellowes of Shotesham was:

  • Assistant Private Secretary to HM Queen Elizabeth II between 1977 and 1986.
  • Deputy Private Secretary to HM Queen Elizabeth II between 1986 and 1990.
  • Privy Counsellor (P.C.) in 1990.
  • Private Secretary to HM Queen Elizabeth II between 1990 and 1999.

He was created:

  • Knight Commander, Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.) in 1989.
  • Knight Commander, Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) in 1991.
  • Knight Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order (G.C.V.O.) in 1996.
  • Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) in 1998.
  • And received Award of the Queens’ Service Order (Q.S.O.) in 1999.

On 12 July 1999, he was created Baron Fellowes, of Shotesham (U.K. Life Peer). But none of this mentions his own, personal, royal connections.

In 1978, he married Lady Cynthia Jane Spencer, daughter of Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer & Honourable Frances Ruth Burke Roche. For those who don’t recognise the name, Lady Cynthia Jane Spencer is elder sister to the late Princess Diana. This makes Robert Fellowes uncle to the Princes William and Harry. Moreover, through his mother, Jane Charlotte nee Ferguson (b.1912 d.1986) he is first cousin once removed of Sarah, Duchess of York, divorced wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York. And further, through his great grandmother, he was related to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother.

Considering the painful events of August 1997, during which period Robert Fellowes was Private Secretary to HM Queen Elizabeth II, it is not surprising that he announced his retirement from the Royal Household that following year, in 1998. But to believe that was the end of his public career is a mistake. Amongst his several appointments since, as listed by Wiki, the one I noticed was Chair of the Prison Reform Trust, in 2001.

But to me, Robert Fellowes will always be known as the landowner who allowed me to freely walk his land (providing I kept to the designated footpaths, of which there are plenty). And that land contains so many gems by way of wildlife (many of the flower photos I posted last year were taken around here), not to mention the wealth of history, two of my passions compactly catered in one.

 

Shotesham (Little Wood)13
Approaching Little Wood, on Shotesham Hall estate. Photo taken on earlier visit, 16th May 2017

Written by Prisina Kemp

THE END

Source:
https://crispinakemp.com/2017/07/01/a-little-village-with-big-connections/

Fincham and Maurice Mason

The first thing to say is that Fincham is a village north-west Norfolk, England, with a population of approximately 500. Located on the A1122, which is a Roman road connecting Swaffham and Downham Market, it is 12 miles south of King’s Lynn. Its neighbouring villages are ShouldhamBoughton, and Barton Bendish.

Fincham is old enough to have had an interesting history, and the first clue to this can be found on the village sign. Notably, this depicts a grand building of Fincham Hall; the couple standing in front of the Hall are said to be Nigellus de Fyncham and his wife, who during the reign of William II (1087 – 1100) were the first recorded Lord and Lady of the Manor. It was during this period when the village was known as Fyncham ; then, the name ‘de Fyncham’ simply referred to the place where the owner of the title came from. It was not the formal inherited surname that we might assume today so, it is impossible to know whether subsequent de Fynchams – and later Finchams – are descendants, or not, of Nigellus de Fyncham.

Leonard Maurice Mason (Fincham Hall_1901)
Fincham Hall as in 1901.

The original Fincham Hall was built by John Fincham, a lawyer in the late 1400s. It was constructed on the site of a previous fortified building which had existed since at least 1337. It was also John Fincham who dropped the ‘de’ moniker when the fashion for French sounding names waned. He died on 6th September 1496 and is buried in Fincham’s St. Martin’s Church.

Fincham (St Martins Church_Simon Knott)
St Martin’s Church, Fincham. Photo: Simon Knott 2004.

A point of particular interest within this church is its font – one of the finest Norman fonts in East Anglia.

Fincham (St Martin's Church)
The Fincham Font.  
Each side has three panels, making twelve in all, and each side depicts a scene from the Bible. On the south side is the nativity; Joseph and Mary inhabit the first two panels, while the third depicts the infant Christ in the manger. Two oxen low above him, facing out of the panel, and above is a magnificent star. This will guide the three Magi on the eastern side. The north side depict Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the tree of Knowledge between them. Adam hides his nakedness, and holds his head in despair. In contrast, the western side depicts a magnificent Baptism of Christ, with John the Baptist on the right and a Bishop on the left. In the centre, a dove descends onto Christ who appears to be standing in a font.

The coat of arms on the left of the village sign is that of Fincham family. Its first recorded use is on the seal of Simon de Fincham, the father of John who died in 1458. He was a generous benefactor to St. Martin’s Church and much of the rebuilding work that took place there in the 1400s would, more than likely, have been funded by him. Simon de Fincham and his wife Elizabeth are buried side-by-side in the church. The Fincham coat of arms appear both inside and outside the church, on the buttresses of the tower and in a stained-glass window.

As for Fincham Hall itself, the next thing to say is that the octagonal tower on the north-east side, left on the above photograph, is the only survivor from John Fincham’s original building. The rest of the Hall, as it stands today, was constructed in the late 1500s and extensively restored in the 1800s. By this time the connection with the Fincham family had been lost. In 1572 William Fincham sold the estate to his brother-in-law, Charles Cornwallis who also purchased a second local property of Talbot Manor.

Leonard Maurice Mason (Talbot Manor)
Talbot Manor. Photo: The Biking Gardener.

The floral display beneath the name of the village, on its sign, celebrates the horticultural career of a much later occupier of Talbot Manor – Leonard Maurice Mason. Always known as Maurice rather than Leonard, he was not only a farmer of some 6,000 acres, but also the most respected amateur grower of tropical and sub-tropical plants in Britain in the mid-to-late 1900s. At one point he had 18 glasshouses dedicated to this hobby at Talbot Manor where he grew a range of species, but specialising in orchids and bromeliads. In an article he wrote for The Bromeliad Society Bulletin in 1953, Mason described the arrangement of bromeliads he had exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in May earlier that year. Covering 640 square feet, the display consisted of around 450 individual plants. It was transported from Talbot Manor to the show in two 5-ton double-decker lorries and took three people three days to set up. The effort paid off: it was awarded a Gold Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society Council. Incidentally, Maurice Mason was also awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS Council in 1960, the only grower to be granted this honour in that year. The award is held by only 63 recipients at any one time to represent the 63 years that Queen Victoria was monarch.

From 1973 to 1985 Mason acted as Chairman of the RHS Orchid Committee. Important specimens from his collection of orchids were donated to Kew Botanical Gardens after his death in 1994.

Leonard Maurice Mason (Grave)
Leonard M Mason – “A Great Plantsman” 
The headstone seen in the foreground marks the grave of Leonard Maurice Mason and his wife. Leonard Mason (1912-1994) was renowned for personally collecting and growing a great variety of species of orchids and exotic plants from all over the world in his glasshouses at nearby Fincham Hall. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak .

Maurice Mason’s headstone is appropriately decorated with images of foliage and bears the inscription ‘A Great Plantsman’. The variegated begonia, Begonia masoniana, is named in his honour. He is buried in the grounds of St. Botolph’s Church, Shingham, which is around 6 miles distant from Fincham.

Leonard Maurice Mason (St Botolph's Church)
St Botolph’s Church
This is a redundant church that is now privately owned. The surrounding churchyard, however, is still in use. At the beginning of the 20th century the nave was roofless and the chancel served as a mortuary chapel. The building has since been re-roofed with sheets of copper which have turned green. The small church dates from Norman times and it has retained the finely carved Norman south doorway, with bands of chevrons, a diaper pattern and an angle roll decorated with stars. The diagonal buttresses at each end of the building are medieval as are the C15 octagonal font and the C15 pews which survived despite the nave having been roofless for some time. The east pew is the only one with its arm rest intact. It depicts the figure of a shepherd with his crook, and his dog at his feet. The carving has retained some of its original paint. The double-decker pulpit is Jacobean (C17) as are the solid altar rails. Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

Christopher Lloyd writing in the Guardian in July 2003 said of Maurice (he preferred his middle name and not Leonard) Mason that:

“Maurice Mason was a wealthy farmer in a part of East Anglia where it was possible for farmers to be wealthy, was a passionate gardener and collector. He and Margaret, his wife, travelled the world collecting. He had a huge number of greenhouses, one of which was devoted entirely to begonias and opened my eyes to the range of this extraordinary genus. His garden, mainly of trees and shrubs, had no pretensions to being well designed, but most certainly to skilful cultivation. It covered many acres and, when more space was required, he simply added to it from the farm. As the soil was alkaline, he bought another property not far off, where it was acid and he could grow a new range of plants.

Maurice was also a great character and bon viveur. His hospitality was prodigious and he was immensely generous. If you expressed pleasure in any plant seen as he took you round his garden, he would say, “You like?” and noted it down, and presently you would receive a large parcel of all these goodies.”

THE END

A Murder at Honingham Hall

Honingham Hall – A Brief Background History:
The small village of Honingham, together with the site of its former Hall, is situated in the English county of Norfolk and located 8 miles to the west of Norwich, along the A47 trunk road. The Hall itself was originally commissioned by Sir Thomas Richardson, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1605. After passing down the Richardson family it was bought by Richard Baylie, President of St John’s College, Oxford, in about 1650 and was then acquired by William Townsend, Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth in about 1735, before passing down the Townsend family. In 1887 it was inherited by Ailwyn Fellowes, 1st Baron Ailwyn and in 1924 by Ronald Fellowes, 2nd Baron Ailwyn who sold it in 1935.

The Hall was then bought by Sir Eric Teichman, a diplomat who, at the age of 60 years, retired there. At some point during World War II he allowed a large section of the Hall to become a Barnardo’s home, retaining a substantial section of it for himself, his wife, their cook and a small retinue of staff.  He must have anticipated a peaceful retirement but, ironically, after so many dangers and difficulties faced on his past travels, Sir Eric died in December 1944 from a bullet to the head. It was fired by an American soldier who was stationed at the nearby US Airforce base; he was caught, along with a fellow soldier, poaching on Sir Eric’s estate. Sir Eric was buried in the St Andrew’s Churchyard where his grave may still be seen. The house closed as a Barnardo’s home in December 1966 and was demolished shortly afterwards.

Sir-Eric-Teichman (Honingham Hall)2
The front of the former Honingham Hall. Image: National Trust.

Sir Eric Teichman:
He, the victim of this unfortunate crime, had been a British diplomat and orientalist who was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. At the time of his death, Sir Eric was serving as adviser to the British Embassy at Chungking.

Sir-Eric-Teichman1
Sir Eric Teichman GCMG CIE (born Erik Teichmann; 16 January 1884 – 3 December 1944 in Norfolk, England. Photo: Wikipedia.

Teichman had been described as “one of British diplomacy’s dashing characters”, flamboyantly enigmatic and explorer-cum-special agent some claimed; he had embarked on a number of “special missions” and “fact-finding journeys” throughout Central Asia, as early as before World War I. In 1943 he began on what would be his final foreign journey from Chongqing. After caravanning as far as Lanzhou, his truck continued along the outer Silk Road, across the Tarim basin, and over the Pamir Mountains to New Delhi. From there he flew back to England where, only a few days later he met his death.

The Perpetrators, Murder and its consequences :
It was on Sunday 3 December 1944 when Private George E. Smith, aged 28 years, of Pittsburgh and Private Leonard S. Wijpacha of Detroit, USA, took a pair of M-1 Carbines from the armoury on their base with the intention of ‘going hunting‘ as they would have described it. Hunting for what with such powerful rifles? The two soldiers were probably the last people on earth to have given this a thought as they set out. It was early afternoon as the two entered Sir Eric’s Teichman’s estate at Honingham and were to pass close by the house as they scanned the trees and undergrowth thereabouts fpr their prey.

Sir-Eric-Teichman (M-1 Carbine)
An example of an Americal WW2  M-1 Carbine. Photo: MJ Militaria.

It can only be imagined what Sir Eric Teichman was doing inside. Lunch was over and quiet would have descended on the big house. It was quite probable that he sat before a cosy fire, more than content with life. But all this certainly changed from the moment he heard the sound of shots outside. It is more than reasonable to suppose that this disturbance would have annoyed him and, being the sort of character he was, he would have gruffly risen from his armchair, mindful of going out to stop this “damned poaching.” As he left the Hall, he told his wife that he had heard some shots in the nearby wood and was going to investigate!

At the moment when Sir Eric was storming out of the Hall towards the sound of gunfire, Smith and Wijpacha were positioned behind two adjacent trees, taking pot shots at one particular squirrel which was jumping from branch to branch trying not to be the next casualty. The two poachers were almost facing each other when Smith noticed ‘this old man’ approaching from behind Wijpacha, calling out “Wait a minute… what are your names?” That was the moment when Smith shot Sir Eric through his right cheek, with the bullet exiting by way of the left shoulder-blade, shattering his jaw on the way through. If Sir Eric had been more upright, his height would have been nearer 6ft, but he was stooped at an angle of about 30 degrees as the result of an old injury caused long ago through a riding accident. Nevertheless, when he was shot, he fell on to one of his arms and seemingly died quickly through shock and a haemorrhage from the bullet wound. The next action of the two soldiers was telling – neither went over to the body but instead made a hasty departure back to base,

Being winter, night fell early and when Sir Eric had still not returned a worried Lady Ellen organised a search party to comb the grounds. It turned out to be a long search in the dark and quite late when they found the master, huddled in bracken some 300 yards from the house. Thereafter, events moved quickly, the police were called, the bullet extracted and confirmed as one fired from a .38 carbine; then the local American airfield was sealed off, and within a very short time Smith and Wijpacha were arrested. The swiftness of their arrest would not have been surprising when it was later revealed that Smith himself had been court-marshalled eight times previously; he must have been high on the list of suspects! He almost immediately confessed with the words “I shot him”, but then retracted this at his trial, arguing that it had been made under duress.

Both Smith and Wijpacha were subsequently court-martialled at USAAF Attlebridge, which commenced on 8 January 1945, and lasted five days due to the repeated hospitalisation of Smith. As part of the preparations for the trial, Smith had been subjected to an earlier psychiatric examination from Major Thomas March of the US Hospital at Wymondham College in Norfolk.

It was sometime close to 9 and 10 January 1945 when The Times newspaper reported on the arrests, Smith’s formal charge of the murder of Sir Eric Teichman and his ninth court-marshal! Amongst many other items of detail, the newspaper highlighted Smith’s statement in which it was revealed that he:

“was single and had joined the army in 1942; to date, he had been court-martialled eight times. With regard to the alleged shooting, Smith said that another soldier had asked him to go hunting through the woods. “Some of us had been drinking beer…. I drank about 15 coffee cups of beer; we saw a lot of blackbirds around and we shot some of them. We went up into the woods. I saw a squirrel, and fired one clip of 15 shots. One of us said ‘There’s an old man’. I think I saw him first and made that remark. I don’t remember the old man saying anything to me, nor do I remember saying anything to him. I raised my gun to my side, pointed it at the old man and fired one shot. I saw the man fall.”

By the 12 January 1945 The Times had again followed the story up with a report on Smith’s mental condition at the time, an examination which had been conducted by a Major L Alexander, a specialist in neurology and psychiatry, attached to a United States Army hospital in England. Alexander said that Smith’s [mental] condition could not be successfully faked. In his opinion, [Smith] was suffering from:

“a constitutional psychopathic condition, emotional instability, and an explosive, primitive, sadistic aggressiveness…… His mental deficiency was border-line, and his mental age was about nine years…… His condition was a mentally defective homicidal degenerate…. and Smith acted almost on automatic impulse.”

The Times also reported, from within the report’s findings, a revealing set of statistics about the United States Army. In a reply to a question, Major Alexander said that:

“…….the average mental age of the Army in the last war [WWI] was 12 – That figure was artificial as it excluded Officers and N.C.O’s. The average age now [WW2] was between 13 and 14. The vast majority of enlisted men was in the 14 group.”

Major Alexander went on to say that Smith knew it was wrong to kill, and that:

“a psychopath such as he fell into the group which the law regarded as sane. In his opinion, Smith “should be removed from society” for the rest of his life! This apparently final remark was followed by a statement from a Dr John Vincent Morris, of the Little Plumstead Hall Institution, Norwich, a specialist in mental diseases. He said that Smith was an anti-social type, who deliberately refused to conform to army rules and orders……Smith showed no signs of emotion or regret about the shooting and spoke about it “as a man talked of killing a rabbit.” It was Dr Morris’s opinion that Smith fired the shot irrespective of consequences, because possibly “Sir Eric interfered with his [Smith] pleasure, and he acted under an uncontrollable impulse.”

Little Plumstead Hall Institution (Billy Smith)
Little Plumstead Hall Institution, Norwich. Photo: Billy Smith.

The outcome was innevitable, Smith was convicted and received the ultimate death penalty; his companion, Private Wijpacha charged with being an accessory to murder, was not sentenced to death. It followed that Smith was imprisoned at Shepton Mallet Prison in Dorset to await execution. But why a British prison in the south of England?

Sir-Eric-Teichman (Shepton Mallet)
The entrance to Shepton Mallet Prison in Dorset. Photo: Wikipedia.
Sir-Eric-Teichman (Shepton Mallet)2
Inside perimater of Shepton Mallet Prison in Dorset. Photo: Mirror. Co.

Between mid-1942 and September 1945 part of Shepton Mallet Prison was taken over by the American government for use as a military prison and as the place of execution for American servicemen convicted under the provisions of the Visiting Forces Act (1942) which allowed for American Military justice to be enacted on British soil. It was staffed entirely by American military personnel during this period when a total of 18 American servicemen were executed at the prison – sixteen were hanged and two were shot by a firing squad. Of those executed, nine were convicted of murder, six of rape, and three of other crimes which carried the death penalty. To enable these executions to take place a new brick-built extension had been added to one of the prison’s wings; it was a structure that looked totally out of place against the weathered stone walls of the old prison building. Inside, a new British style gallows was installed on the first floor of the building and two cells within the main building converted into a condemned cell. Hangman Thomas William Pierrepoint conducted most of these executions, assisted by his nephew, Albert Pierrepoint.

Sir-Eric-Teichman (Thomas Pierepoint)
Thomas William Pierrepoint – Hangman.

It so happened that Private George Smith’s appeals against the death penalty were denied and he was hanged at within the ‘Execution Shed’ at Shepton Mallet Prison on 8 May 1945, (VE Day), despite requests for clemency, including one from Lady Teichman.  It was Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Herbert Morris, who carried out this execution. It took 22 minutes of ‘suspension’ before Smith was pronounced dead.

(The former ‘execution shed’ at Shepton Mallet Prison where Private George Smith was hanged. Photos: Wikipedia.)

Afterwards, he was temporary buried at Brookwood American cemetery; that was until 1949 when his remains, along with every other WW2 executed American servicemen, was moved to Plot E in Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France; Smith’s grave is number 52 in row 3. At this point, a fuller explanation as to why executed American servicemen were buried in France is necessary.

Sir-Eric-Teichman (cemetery)2
The entrance to the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France. Photo: Wikimedia.

Initially, the remains of American prisoners executed at Shepton Mallet were, as a matter of course, interred in unmarked graves at “Plot X” in Brookwood American Cemetery – also known as the London Necropolis. But in 1949 all eighteen bodies were exhumed. With the exception of the remains of David Cobb which were repatriated to his hometown, the remaining 17 were reburied in ‘Plot E’ at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in France – a private section intended for the “dishonoured dead”. The cemetery is home to the remains of 96 American military prisoners, all of whom were executed by hanging or firing squad. Significantly, no US flag is permitted to fly over the section of the cemetery where they lie, and those beneath the soil lie with their backs turned to the main cemetery on the other side of the road. Their final resting place has been described as a “house of shame” and a “perfect anti-memorial”.

Sir-Eric-Teichman (cemetery)
Plot E for the “dishonoured dead” is across the road on the outside of the main cemetery. Image: Google.

As for Sir Eric Teichman, he was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church at Honingham; his grave being in the corner plot, directly in line with the now-demolished Honingham Hall. His widow, Lady Ellen Teichman, was buried in the same grave in 1969. The memorial there to the Teichman’s carries no mention to 3 December 1944 – or the murder!

Sir-Eric-Teichman (St Andrews)
St Andrew’s Church, Honingham, Photo: © Copyright Evelyn Simak

THE END

Some Sources:
http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/sheptonm.html
http://thefifthfield.com/fifth-field/albert-pierrepoints-execution-logbook/

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Martha Alden: The Bill-Hook Murderer!

Saturday, the 18 July 1807 in Attleborough’s White Horse public house on London Road, next to a track named Whitehorse Lane. Inside, it was no different from any other Saturday; the regulars occupied their chosen places and the air was again thick with tobacco smoke. Samuel Alden had a pint in his hand; this was probably not his first of the day, and would certainly not be his last – or so he and his colleagues must have anticipated. Samuel’s wife, Martha, was with him and might have thought otherwise. The time was around about mid-morning, shortly after the pub had opened its doors for the day.

Samuel’s neighbour, Edmund Draper, walked in and joined the couple as any good neighbour would do. Martha, clearly preoccupied with other thoughts, chose that moment to leave; her excuse was to say that she was going home with her child. We will never know the true reason; was she was allowing her husband space to chat ‘man to man’, did she feel uncomfortable in her neighbour’s company; or had there been an icy atmosphere between husband and wife that morning? Subsequent events may well suggest that the latter applied!

The fact of the matter was that as soon as Martha had stepped outside the two men moved away from the bar and sat more comfortably to continue both their drinking and conversation; that went on until almost mid-day. Then they both departed, but not before Draper had taken the opportunity to briefly chat with the wife of the publican; he then accompanied Samuel Alden to his house before moving on in the direction of Thetford to his own home, seeing no one else on the road as he went.

Martha Alden (Inn Scene)
This 19th century oil painting illustrates men drinking in an Inn. This may represent how Samuel Alden and Edmund Draper spent their time together in the White Horse at Attleborough in July 1807.

Draper was clearly quite sober, having been in the White Horse for only a short spell; however, Alden was rather ‘fresh’, for his walking showed signs of a slight stagger along the way. Despite the hampered pace of the two mens’ journey they, surprisingly perhaps. managed to catch-up with Martha; the circumstances of her delay seems not to have be broached and the trio arrived at the Alden’s cottage as one. That was the last time Draper saw his drinking companion and his wife, accompanied by their seven-year-old son, together. He was to say later, after the news had broken, that at no time in his presence had ill words passed between Samuel and Martha.

On the following morning of Sunday, 19 July 1807, a Charles Hill, also of Attleborough, rose very early; it would have been between 2.00 and 3.00 am – very early indeed. He was going to see his daughter who worked at Shelfanger Hall, some ten miles away; so, such an early start was necessary. It was somewhat wet that morning and he decided to take the turnpike road in the direction of Thetford. On the way he also had to pass the Alden’s cottage, which was barely a quarter of a mile from his own home. As he approached, he saw that the door of the cottage was open; Martha was standing within a few yards of it, apparently doing nothing in particular – or so he thought. She did, as it happened, say to traveller from Attleborough that she “could not think what smart young man it was who was coming down the common”; to which Hill replied: “Martha, what the devil are you up to at this time of the morning?”

Martha Alden (Cottage)

Her excuse, if that’s what it was, was to say that she had been down to the pit in her garden for some water; her garden was not attached to the cottage but on the opposite side of the road. Beyond this, Martha did appear to ramble along the lines that she had not been long home from Attleborough where she had been at the White Horse with her husband and Edmund Draper; they all came home together during the day – but her husband had gone back again! Martha then said that her husband had a brother who was going to Essex, and that he swore that he would go with his brother. Hill thought this strange in light of the fact that Samuel Alden had contracted himself to harvest with Mr Parson that year – to which Martha agreed, adding “If he go to Essex, he won’t come back to harvest… I know he will never come back, and if he has got a job, he never will settle to it”! In hindsight, was she looking for an alibi for what would, inevitably, emerge as his sudden and unexpected disappearance? It was a question for the future; something that was absent from Hill’s mind as he continued on his way, and Martha went indoors.

The rest of that day of the 19th must have dragged for Martha; then, as it began to close and evening approached, matters took an even stranger twist. Mary Orvice, a friend of Martha, found the latter on her doorstep; this in itself was not entirely unexpected for both visited each other’s cottages quite frequently. What was totally unexpected was that an agitated Martha asked Mary to return with her to her cottage; Martha did not give a reason why, but waited until both women were inside a closed front door of Martha’s cottage.

“I have killed my husband” said Martha as she led Mary into the main bedroom; she showed Mary the body of Samuel lying on the bed, quite, quite dead! The deceased was still clothed in a shirt and slop, although both heavily stained with blood from horrible wounds to his face – and it was said later that the victim’s head had almost been severed from the body. Clearly, the weapon had been what one could only describe as ‘substantial and lethal’; it was lying on the floor beside the bed. Mary could not help noticing it – along with the blood that stained it. Whether or not it was the shock of her seeing a blood-stained body and weapon, but Mary Orvice was about to plunged herself into deep water so to speak!

Martha Alden (Bill-Hook)2
A Bill-hook, similar to the one that Martha Alden murdered her husband. Photo: Copyright holder unknown.

Martha produced a common corn sack, and asked Mary to hold it open whilst she prised her husband’s corpse into it; she then dragged the laden sack from the bedroom, through the passage and kitchen and out of the house; fortunately, Samuel Alden had been a small statured man and light in weight. Mary Orvice followed, with both women crossing the road outside the cottage and walking through Martha’s garden to the far side – to a surrounding ditch. There the sack, with its contents, were left, but not before Martha had thrown some mould over it. Mary then left Martha with the excuse that she had an errand to make in Larling; but that was a good seven miles away and the evening was drawing in!

It is not known if Martha slept well that night, or what she did the following day, but that evening, being Monday 20 July and between nine and ten o’clock, Mary was again at Martha’s cottage. She saw Martha removed the sack, in which the body of her husband was held and, once again, dragged it to a water-filled pit on the common which lay beside a place called Wright’s Plantation; Mary tailed behind. On arrival at the pit, Martha emptied the contents of the sack into it and left, ensuring that she took the sack with her.

Martha Alden (Martha & Mary)

On Tuesday morning, the 21st, Mary again went to the Martha’s cottage and assisted in cleaning those parts of the bedroom where to assault took place. Firstly, the top coverings and sheets were removed for washing. Then, taking warm water Mary washed and scraped the wall next the bed, followed by the cleaning of the floor. Whilst all this was going on, Martha repeatedly bade Mary to be sure “not to say a word about the matter; for, if she did, she (now an assessory) would certainly be hanged.” However, such was Mary’s confused state upon having help her friend, that she did mention the story to her father that same evening after returning home.

From that moment, matters came to a head. Word got back to the authorities during the following morning, Wednesday the 22 July, – a body had been found! Edward Rush came on to the scene and was ordered by the Constable of Attleborough Parish, to search Martha Alden’s cottage. In a dark corner of one of the rooms he found a bill-hook, on which there appeared to be the remnants of blood on its handle and blade; it would appear that the bill-hook had been washed.

Martha Alden2
Tombland in Norwich in the 18th century – a stone’s throw from the Shirehall where Mary Alden’s trial took place. Picture Archant.

At the Norfolk Assizes, held in Norwich, at the Shirehall in late July 1807, and before Sir Nash Grose when Martha Alden was:

“capitally indicted for the wilful murder of her husband, Samuel Alden, of Attleborough, Norfolk when every circumstance of this attrocious act was corroborated”.

Judge Grose outlined the case by stating that while the man was asleep in bed his wife, with a bill-hook, inflicted terrible wounds on his head, face, and throat.  With the assistance of a girl, named Mary Orvice, the prisoner then, on the 19th inst. deposited the body in a dry ditch in the garden; on the 20th, they carried it in a corn sack to the common and “shot” it into a water-filled pit, where it was subsequently discovered. Martha Alden was to offer little or no defence against the charge.

Martha Alden6a

Witness, Edmund Draper was called and confirmed his meeting with victim in the White Horse and their return home, repeating that he was perfectly sober at the time, whilst the deceased was not. Draper also said that he had stayed at the Alden’s for less than three minutes, during which time he noticed that there was a larger fire than usual, for that time of the year, burning in the hearth. He also confirmed that the deceased was in perfectly good health, and that no ill words had passed between the deceased and the prisoner whilst in his presence. Draper also described the Alden’s cottage as having a kitchen and bedroom on the same ground floor and separated from each other by a small, narrow passage.

Witness Sarah Leeder, widow, of Attleborough, followed to state that on Monday night, 20 July, the prisoner came to her house to borrow a spade; the reason: “a neighbour’s sow had broken into her garden and rooted up her potatoes, and she needed to make good.” This witness then went on to describe that on the following evening of Tuesday the 21st, at about eleven o’clock, she went to the common to look for some ducks she had missed. She found them in a small pit which was alongside another larger size pit next to Wright’s Plantation. In this greater pit, or pond, she saw something lying which attracted her attention; she went to the edge of the pond and touched it with a stick, upon which it sank and rose again. The place was shaded from the moon’s glow and she could not make out what it was; so, went home for the night. However, the next morning, Wednesday the 22nd, the witness returned once more to the pit and again touched the substance with a stick, which still lay almost covered with water. It was then that she saw “the two hands of a man appear…… with the arms of a shirt stained with blood.”

A later newspaper report stated that:

“She [the witness] instantly concluded that a murdered man had been thrown in there, and called to a lad to go and acquaint the neighbourhood with the circumstances, and went back in great alarm to her own house. In a quarter of an hour she returned again to the pond, and found that in her absence the body had been taken out. She then knew it to be the body of Samuel Alden. His face was dreadfully chopped, and his head cut very nearly off. The body was put into a cart and carried to the house of the deceased. The witness afterwards went to look for her spade, and found it standing by the side of a hole, which she described as looking like a grave, dug in the ditch which surrounded Alden’s garden. She further stated that this hole was open, not very deep, and that she saw blood lying near it.”

Witness, Edward Rush, told the court that on Wednesday morning of the 22nd July, and by order of the Constable of Attleborough Parish, he searched the prisoner’s residence. In a dark chamber he found a bill-hook, which on examination appeared to have blood on its handle, and also on the blade, but looked as if it had been washed. He also confirmed the statement of a preceding witness as to the state of the bedroom in the house of the deceased, and described its dimensions to be about seven feet by ten.

Mary Orvice followed as the principal witness. She stated that she had been acquainted with the prisoner for some time, and had frequently been at her house. She described her visits to the prisoner’s cottage on and following Sunday the 19th. She stated that the prisoner slept that night at the father’s father’s house. The witness then confirmed that the prisoner bade her to be sure not to say a word about the matter; for, if she did, she (the witness) would certainly be hanged. Upon being questioned to that effect by the Judge, this witness also confirmed that she had told the story to her father on the Tuesday night, but to nobody else.

The learned Judge, Justice Grose, then summed up the evidence in the usual full and able manner expected from judges. However, on the subject of Mary Orvice’s testimony, he remarked that it certainly came under great suspicion as being that of an accessory to the attempted concealment of the murder. Viewing it in that light, and taking it separately later, he received the situation with extreme caution. He further stated that “if it should be found, in most material facts, to agree with and corroborate the successive statements of the other witnesses whose declarations did not labour under those disadvantages, the Jury were then to give it due weight and avail themselves of the information which it threw on the transaction.”

With regard to the principal case, the jury consulted for a very short time before finding Martha Alden GUILTY! The learned judge then proceeded to pass upon her the awful sentence of the law; which was, that on Friday she should be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck till she was dead – and her body afterwards to be dissected. It was at this point that Martha fully confessed her crime for which she was to suffer. She had indeed attacked her husband, who was comatose after his visit to the White Horse in Attleborough, because he had threatened to beat her during an earlier argument. She also acknowledged and pleaded that her friend, Mary Orvice, had no concern whatever in the murder, but only assisted, at her request, in putting the body of her husband into the sack.

 On Friday, 31st of July 1807, at twelve o’clock, Mary Alden, such an unhappy woman, was drawn on a hurdle and executed on Castle Hill in Norwich for the murder of her husband at their cottage near Attleborough and:

“in the presence of an immense concourse of spectators she behaved at the fatal tree with the decency becoming of her awful situation.”

In the aftermath of her execution, Martha Alden’s cottage was destroyed by neighbours.

THE END

http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ng485.htm
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Tnc0AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP12&lpg=PP12&dq=Mary+Alden’s+execution+in+1807&source=bl&ots=vHqx6Md5nM&sig=ACfU3U0Uob1GniMkTd3V7f1FpdBkJksoZw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj80cGQ1uPoAhWRecAKHbR0DR4Q6AEwBHoECAsQMg#v=onepage&q=Mary%20Alden’s%20execution%20in%201807&f=false
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