The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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The name of this village in Domesday Book is Metingaham; and in subsequent records it is written Metynham, and finally Mettingham. It is a compound of three Saxon words, signifying a village or dwelling place situated near low meadows.
The higher part of this parish lies on a range of hills forming the southern boundary of the valley of the Waveney, and commands a pleasant prospect over the meadows below, and the opposite hills on the Norfolk side. The soil is rich, and the air salubrious, bracing, and healthy.
In the reign of Edward I., Sir John de Norwich was lord, and obtained from that monarch, in 1302, a grant of free-warren in Mettingham, Shipmeadow, Redesham, &c. In the ninth of Edward II., Walter de Norwich held it, and in the reign of Edward III. it was the manor of Sir John de Norwich, the same who built the castle. He died in 1361, when the manor devolved to his grandson, also named Sir John, who dying at Mettingham Castle, in 1373, appointed his body to be buried at Raveningham, by the side of his father, Sir Walter, "there to rest, till it could be removed to the new church of Norton-coupe-cors," to the building of which he gives £450. Leaving no issue, his cousin, Catharine de Brews, inherited as next heir, being daughter and heiress of Thomas de Norwich, brother to the founder of the castle. (fn. 1) In the reign of Richard II., Catharine de Brews, being then a nun, at Dartford, in Kent, conveyed this manor to the college in Mettingham Castle, (fn. 2) lately removed thither from Raveningham, in Norfolk. It continued to augment its possessions till the reign of King Henry VIII., who granted it, in 1541, to Sir Anthony Denny. By an inquisitio post mortem, taken at Bury on the 16th of April, in the fourth of Edward VI., Sir Anthony was found to die on the 10th of September preceding, seized, inter alia, of the castle and manor of Mettingham, held of the King in capite. (fn. 3) In the fifth of Elizabeth, Henry Denny held them, with license of alienation to Nicholas Bacon; and in the eighth of Elizabeth, this Nicholas occurs as lord and patron of the church; with right of free-fishery in the waters of Bungay, Shipmeadow, Barsham, and Beccles, with license of alienation to Sir Robert Catlin. This change, however, seems never to have taken place, as the Bacons were lords in the twenty-sixth of the same reign, (fn. 4) and retained possession till 1675, when they transferred the manor and castle to John Hunt, Esq., whose grandson, Tobias Hunt, dying in the following century without issue, these estates fell to Mary and Grace Hunt, his coheiresses. James Safford, of Ipswich, Esq., married Grace, the younger sister, and was the father of the Rev. James Safford, late Vicar of Mettingham, who died without issue; and of John Safford, who married Martha Smith, and was the father of Samuel Safford, Esq., who married Mary Cole, and held, in right of his grandmother, a moiety of the castle and estate, and was the father of the Rev. James Cutting Safford, who resides at the castle, and is the sole lord of the manor, having derived the other moiety of this estate from his great uncle, Burham Cutting, the son of Mary Hunt, the eldest coheiress of Tobias Hunt, aforesaid, by her husband, Burham Cutting, Esq. The Rev. James Cutting Safford, who thus holds Mettingham castle and manor, married Louisa, daughter of the late Rev. James Chartres, B.D., and has issue.
The old court book of the manor of Mettingham Castle is in quarto, and now in the possession of Mr. Safford. All the initial letters are beautifully drawn, and illuminated: it is entitled, "Nomina tenentium in hoc librō Manerio de Mettingham Castle, pertinent: alphabetice descripta."
The family of De Norwich, so early enfeoffed of Mettingham, and to whom the village owes its principal attraction at the present day, is believed by the most judicious genealogists to have descended from the Bigots, Earls of Norfolk. About the reign of Richard I., surnames began to be adopted in England for the distinction of families; and younger brothers, knowing that the elder only kept their father's names, assumed to themselves surnames from the places of their birth, or from manors and lands allotted to them. According to this custom, Sir John de Norwich assumed for his surname the place of his birth, changing his father's armorial cognizance in some particulars, but retaining the same partition and charge; and seated himself at Mettingham. Thus, as the arms of Bigot were, per pale, or and vert, a lion rampant gules; Sir John took for his coat, per pale, azure and gules, a lion rampant ermine; which bearing is remaining in a north window of the nave in Mettingham church. This descent of the family of De Norwich from the powerful Earls of Norfolk is in a great measure confirmed by the fact, that we find it, from its very origin, filling places of high trust and confidence. Mr. George Buck, in his commentary upon Domesday Book, (fn. 5) at the end of the description of Norfolk, says, in title 'liberi homines regis,' there is named a Gozelinus de Norwich, who is styled a Baron by King William the First. I can hardly, however, consider him as belonging to the Mettingham family, which must have branched at a later period. In the year 1204, mention is made of Galfridus de Norwich, "Justiciarius Judæorum," who, with Robert Fitzwalter and Stephen Ridel, was the first agitator of the insurrections against King John. (fn. 6)
In the thirty-seventh of Henry III. occurs R. de Norwico, Chancellor of Ireland; and in the fifth of Edward II. (fn. 7) we meet with Walter de Norwich, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, constituted locum tenens of the Treasurer till the King could provide one. On the 25th of October in the same year, he was admitted one of the Privy Council, and in 1314 summoned to Parliament. Two years afterwards he was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer, (fn. 8) and in the twentieth of the same reign made locum tenens of William de Melton, Archbishop of York, and Treasurer to the King. (fn. 9) This distinguished member of the family married Katharine, daughter of John, and sister to Sir Simon de Hetherset, and was father of Sir John de Norwich, his no less distinguished son, who founded Mettingham Castle. In the eighth of Edward III., (fn. 10) Sir John was appointed Admiral "versus partes orientales," and subsequently summoned to Parliament as a Baron. He was governor of Angoulême in France, where he saved his garrison by a stratagem, in which his finesse appears more remarkable than his valour. (fn. 11) He was, however, a gallant soldier, and several times employed in the wars carried on against France and Scotland, in which he performed such signal services, that the King rewarded him, not only with two allowances out of his Exchequer—the one of £60. 14s., and the other of five marks per annum,—but also granted him a license for a market on Fridays, weekly, and a fair for three days, annually, at his manor of Great Massingham in Norfolk, with permission to make castles of his manor-houses at Mettingham in Suffolk, and Blackworth and Ling in Norfolk. He had a brother, Thomas de Norwich, also a great warrior, who in 1378 received a commission from Richard II. to buy two great and two small cannons in London, or any other place; and also to purchase certain quantities of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal, with large stones, &c., for ammunition. (fn. 12)
Although the manor and castle of Mettingham were transferred to the college there, the greater part of the possessions of Catharine de Brews devolved, on her retiring from the world, to her kinsman, William de Ufford, the son of Margaret de Norwich, who died suddenly while entering the House of Lords, in the year 1382.
His widow, Isabell, daughter of Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, took the veil soon after, in presence of the Lords Willoughby and Scales, who had married her husband's sisters. The transaction is thus recorded in the register of Thomas Arundell, Bishop of Ely. (fn. 13) "Item memorand: qd nobil: D'na Isabella, Comitissa Suff: 21 Marcii supradic: coram summo altare eccl: prioratus prædicti, (de Campesey) in presencia Revdor Patrum et dominorum Thome Epi, Elien, Missam tunc ibidem solempniter celebrantis, et Henr. Norwicen: Epi, pontificalibus induti, et alior': plurimor': Abbatum et Priorum eisdem assistencium, Votum vovit solempniter castitatis prout sequitur in hec verba.
" 'Jeo Isabella, jadiis la feme William de Ufford, Count de Suff: vowe a Dieu, et a n're dame Seynte Marie et a toux Seyntes en p'sence de tre reverentz piers en Dieu, Evesq: de Ely, et de Norwiz, qd jeo doi estre chast dors en avaunt ma vie durante.'
"Et D'no Elien, vice et auctoritate dci d'ni Norwicen votum tune recepit et admisit, et mantellum, sive clamidem, et anulum dicte voventis solempniter benedixit, et imposuit super eam. Presentibus eciam ibidem comite Warwici, d'no de Wyloweby, d'no de Scales, ac aliis militibus et armigeris, et aliis in multitudine copiosa."
On the partition of William de Ufford's property, an interest in Mettingham Castle seems to have remained with Lord Eresby, in right of his wife Cicely, the eldest daughter of Margaret de Norwich; for we find this nobleman and his successors presenting five several masters to Mettingham College, as patrons of that establishment. Their last presentation took place in 1452.
John de Mettingham, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in the reign of Edward III., was probably born here, as there is no other parish of a similar name in the kingdom; though the assertion of some writers that he was a scion of the family of De Norwich is unsupported by any record. His character for learning, justice, and integrity, would, however, reflect lustre on any descent. Fuller tells us, "to his eternal praise, that when the rest of the judges were fined and ousted for corruption (18 Edward III.), this Metingham, and Elias de Beckingham, continued in their places, whose innocence was of proof against all accusations; and as Caleb and Joshua, amongst the jury of false spies, so these two amongst the twelve judges, retained their integrity." The same author informs us that in the twentieth of the same reign, the King directed a writ to John de Mettingham respecting the number of attorneys-at-law. "The Lord the King hath enjoined John de Mettingham, and his assistants, that they, according to their discretion, provide and ordain a certain number out of every county, of such persons which, according to their understanding, shall appear unto them of the better sort, and most legal, and most willingly applying themselves to the learning of the law, what may better avail for their court, and the good of the people of the land, &c. And it seem likely to the King and his Counsel, that seven score may suffice for that purpose. However, the aforesaid justices may add more, if they see ought to be done, or else they may lessen the number."
"Some conceive," continues Fuller, "this number of seven score confined only to the Common Pleas, whereof Mettingham was Chief Justice. But others behold it as extended to the whole land, this judge's known integrity being intrusted in their choice and number; which number is since much increased; and no wonder; our land being grown more populous, and the people in it more litigious."
In 1561, Mettingham had three freeholders out of the one hundred and sixty-nine, which the Hundred of Wangford then contained. (fn. 14)
Amidst the voluminous collection of charters preserved in the British Museum is "Carta Constantini Mortymer, et Johannis fil: Johannis de Norwico, Willielmo Garneys et Elizabethæ, uxori suæ filiæ Radulphi Bigot, Mil: de duobus molendinis aquaticis, cum stagnis, aquis piscariis, &c., et cum terr: in Elyngham, Broom, et Pirnowe, in Norfolk, Metyngham, et Shipmedow, in Com: Suff.;" dated the fourth of Henry IV. There is also, without date or seal, "Carta Danielis de Beccles Roberto Thirkild, de ter: in vill: de Metyngham;" and an indenture, dated the thirty-first of Henry VIII. (1539), between Charles, Duke of Suffolk, and Thomas, Bishop of Ipswich, guardian and master of the college of Mettyngham, concerning the manor of Monkekyrby.
About a mile to the southward of the church stand the shattered walls and massive gateway of the castle,—mouldering emblems of its original grandeur. This fortress was founded by Sir John de Norwich; who obtained a license from Edward III. to castellate his residence here, in reward for his services in the French wars. The foundation deed is dated on the 21st of August, 1342.
Endorsed of the farm and fortified castle of Metyngham, granted to the Lord John de Norwich. (fn. 15)
The seal attached to this deed is an impression, in green wax, of the great seal of England, the matrix of which was made by order of King Edward III., about two years previous to the grant. It is circular, and four inches and a half in diameter; and represents the King on his throne with a rich triple canopy over his head, and seven compartments of tracery panelling behind him. A lion sits at each knee, and beneath a pointed arch on either side is suspended a shield, quartering France and England. The King holds the orb in his left hand: his right rests on his thigh, and behind his arm stands the sceptre. The circumscription reads thus: + Edwardus: Dei: Gracia: Rex: Francie: et: Anglie: et: Dominus: Hibernie. The reverse bears the same legend, and encircles Edward on horseback; charging at full speed. He is completely armed, his helmet closed, his sword drawn, and his shield slung before him; on which are blazoned the arms of France and England, quarterly. The surcoat of the monarch and the trappings of the charger are embroidered with the same heraldic bearings. The execution of this device is spirited and fine.
The form adopted by Sir John de Norwich for his castle was a parallelogram, of which the north and south sides were rather the greatest; and its area, taking in the site of a college of priests, afterwards attached to it, included nine acres and a half. Being compelled to return to the French wars, the completion of the castle was intrusted to the charge of Dame Margaret, his wife, who built the keep, or citadel of the fortress, which she placed on the west side of the first court. We are indebted to old Leland for this anecdote of her ladyship, who says, "Accepi hujus Norwici uxorem antiquiorem castelli partem, eo militante, construxisse: hæc pars antiquior est in interiori parte domus, nec conferenda cum novis ædificiis." (fn. 16) The castle had a massive square tower at each angle, but the principal entrance was through the great gate-house on the north, which remains tolerably entire. Here may be seen the deep groove in which the portcullis was worked, and part of the projecting barbican, with the entrances to the machicolated gallery above it. There is a range of wide windows in the curtain westward of the great entrance gate, which, though placed high in the wall, bespeaks a total neglect of the jealous precaution usually exercised in castellated architecture. They are, traditionally, said to have lighted the great banqueting-hall.
In 1382, the castle was conveyed, as will be presently shown, to an establishment of monks, and became thenceforth rather a monastery than a feudal fortress; and its history furnishes this very remarkable fact, that it existed as a castle only forty years from the period of its foundation, and remained, for about one hundred and sixty, in the hands of ecclesiastics. Its latter possessors must have incorporated much of the church militant into their observances, to have preserved the fortress in a state of architectural integrity.
The keep seems to have been converted into the residence of the master of the college, as the arms of Richard Shelton, one of the last masters, with several matches of his family, ornamented the walls of its apartments. The arms of Ufford, sab. a cross engrailed or, quartered with Beke, gul. a cross flory ermine. Brews, and or, a lion ramp, purpure impaling Brews, were also placed on its walls.
At what period the keep fell into decay as a residence is uncertain, but it seems by the following extract from an original letter in the possession of Sir Thomas Gage, of Hengrave, that the Lord Keeper Bacon resided or visited at Mettingham. Sir Thomas Kitson, writing to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, relates several circumstances which took place "with my Lord Keeper when I awaited on him with my father-in-law, on Easter Wednesday in the morning, at which time we found him newly entered on his journey from his house at Redgrave toward Metyngham, and accompanied him about five or six miles on his way." The castle residence, however, went much into neglect soon after this period, because in 1738, when Buck published a view of it, dedicated to Tobias Hunt. Esq., the remains were then, not much more extensive than they are at present. After Mr. Hunt's decease, the habitable part of the castle was occupied for many years as a farm-house, and the ruins converted into barns and farming buildings; till Samuel Safford, Esq., the father of the present possessor, pulled down the old house, and erected a new mansion on its site, retaining an angle of the old keep.
The writer was resident, as a young man and curate of the parish at the time, and saw much of the work of Dame Margaret de Norwich, which was then laid open. Several of the interior decorations, long hid, were found in excellent preservation,—the colours and gilding of the arms being fresh and brilliant. The discovery of these latter embellishments was the more interesting, as they are recorded in Ayscough's Catalogue, 1301, preserved in the British Museum, which says, "The arms of Ufford, quartering Bec or Beke, are said to be in a parlour in the chapel or college of Mettingham, now in the possession of Mr. Henry Denny."
The family of Bec, or Beke, came over with William the Conqueror. Their name appears in the Roll of Battle Abbey, and is recorded in Domesday Book. They settled at Eresby in Lincolnshire, and from their heiress came the Willoughbys of Eresby, afterwards patrons of Mettingham College.
On the 5th of July, 1382, license was granted to Sir Robert Howard, Sir John Plaiz, Sir Roger Boys, Knights; John Wolterton and Elias Byntre, Clerks; executors under the will of Sir John de Norwich, Knight, the grandson of the founder of the castle, to remove the master and priests of Raveningham College, in Norfolk, to Mettingham Castle, and to endow them with the said castle, and several manors in Suffolk. (fn. 17) This translation, however, was so strongly opposed by the prioress and nuns of Bungay, that it was not fully effected till 1393, in which year the King confirmed the "foundation and incorporation of a chantry at Mettingham Castle, translated from Raveningham to Norton Soup-cours, and thence to Mettingham." (fn. 18) The endowment of this college was very ample, as it embraced the manors of Ling, How, Blackworth, Hadeston, Snoring Parva, Ilketshall, Shipmeadow, Melles, Bromfield, Wenhaston, Redisham, and Mettingham; the advowson and appropriation of the church of Raveningham and Norton; the advowsons of Carlton Rode and Ling; lands and tenements in East and West Wretham, and Illington; lands in Barsham and Beccles; the manor and advowson of Dalinghow; a mediety of Bunwell; the fifth part of the lordship of Alderton in Suffolk; Holm Hall in Raveningham; three messuages, 86 acres of land, 5 of moor, 6 of alder, 12 of reed, and 4s. rent in Norton, &c. (fn. 19) These estates were returned at the time of its dissolution as producing an annual income of £238. 3s. 10½d., and a clear rental of £202. 7s. 5½d.
The establishment of the college consisted of thirteen chaplains at the time of its foundation; which number was reduced in 1535 to a master and eleven chaplains or fellows. Fourteen boys were also supported by the college, who served God, and were educated in it, at a charge of £28. (fn. 20) Richard Shelton, then master, and the fellows, subscribed to the King's supremacy in 1534; but another master was appointed in 1539 by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in right of Catharine his wife, daughter of Lord Willoughby D'Eresby. The college was not surrendered to the King till the 8th of April, 1542; (fn. 21) but on the 14th of the same month and year, the whole was granted to Sir Anthony Denny, with the rectories of Raveningham and Norton. Its subsequent transfers have been shown under the history of the manor.
Sir J. Joscelyne, one of the last fellows, had a pension granted him out of the revenues of the endowment by Henry VIII. (fn. 22)
Rather extensive remains of the college are standing within a quadrangular moat at the south-east angle of the castle. A very picturesque tower, which formed the most attractive feature in these ruins, fell down about seven years since during the night, with so little noise as not to have been heard by the inmates of the castle. It was called Kate's Tower, from Katharine de Brews, who probably contributed part of the inheritance which she derived from her kinsman, Sir John de Norwich, towards its construction; but the tradition, that she therein immured herself for three weeks, to conceal the consequences of an illicit amour, must be altogether false, and a scandalous aspersion on her virtue; because we find her in 1374 a professed nun at Dartford, in Kent, which was several years before the college at Mettingham was built. She was, therefore, not likely to have been at large in Suffolk twenty years afterwards. The chapel of this college was elegantly fitted, and in complete cathedral style, as we learn from the will of Richard Brawnce, master of the college, who by his will, dated in 1506, bequeaths his body to be buried in the church of the college of Mettingham "in choro, coram stallo meo, ubi lapis meus positus est." He leaves also to every priest of the college 6s. 8d., and "cuilibet alii sacerdoti venienti xijd.," and to every other person attending his funeral 1d., and to each boy of the college 1d.
The roof of this chapel, "which was a very fair roof," was carried in 1544 to Great Yarmouth, and placed upon the old Guildhall there, and covered with lead. (fn. 23) The fate of its brasen lecturn has been related in the account of Bungay, whither it was removed to adorn the principal church in that town. Nor was statuary—so profusely employed as an ornament in olden days—wanting at Mettingham. A piece of land, called Nolloths, was left to the college to find a wax-light for ever, to be burnt before the image of the blessed Virgin in the choir. The fame of St. Wandered, whose image also was here, attracted an annual peregrination to his shrine. (fn. 24)
About twelve or fourteen years ago, Mr. Safford, the present possessor of the site, digging amidst the ruins for the purpose of procuring building materials, discovered a vast quantity of fractured sculptured stones, and one of the chapel windows; all of elegant and elaborate workmanship. They were found at the bottom of a crypt—still partly vaulted over, which was about eight feet deep. The size or proportions of the chapel, it is said, could not be traced; but the writer considers that careful digging would yet develop many interesting fragments and sepulchral memorials; as many of the noble families connected with the founder were buried in this collegiate chapel. (fn. 25) It is said that six bells, belonging to the chapel, were found about fifty-years since, in cleansing the moat. Two formidable daggers, each about sixteen inches long, are now in Mr. Safford's possession, discovered within a few years, during a like process.
Some of the music that was formerly used in the collegiate chapel was, at no very distant period, in the possession of a person living within a few miles of Harleston, in Norfolk. Application and interest have been employed to obtain a sight of it, but hitherto without effect. (fn. 26)
The last master of Mettingham College was Thomas Manning. He was Suffragan Bishop of Ipswich, and Prior of Butley Abbey. (fn. 27) Richard Shelton, his predecessor, was Archdeacon of St. Asaph, and "so expert in water-works, that his advice was asked in cutting Yarmouth Haven." (fn. 28)
The register of Mettingham College is in the collection of his Grace the Duke of Buckingham, at Stowe. It is in folio, and written on paper, and contains five hundred and twenty-six pages. The last two leaves are parchment. The writing is of the reign of Henry VIII., and all in one hand; giving the limits and boundaries of the college possessions; their denominations, rentals, &c.; the grants by which they were obtained, copied from deeds of the reigns of Edward III., Richard II., Henry VI., and Edward IV.; with some charters of Popes, granting privileges and immunities. One is a grant directed "Venerabili et egregio viro D'no Willoughby, Militi, ac D'no de Willoughby, patrono Collegii." The last is dated in the first year of King Henry VIII. There is a memorandum in the inside cover, in Mr. Astle's hand-writing, stating that this Chartulary was formerly preserved in the library of Peter le Neve, afterwards in that of Mr. W. T. Martin, and latterly in that of J. Ives, Esq., of Great Yarmouth.
The seal of the college is a large oval, 3 inches by 2 inches. The only impression I have seen is very imperfect. The Virgin Mary is represented as seated on a richly canopied throne, holding the infant Jesus, who stands on her right knee. There is a shield in the dexter compartment, charged with a lion rampant, the cognizance of the college. The legend is entirely defaced.
Masters of the College.
There was a church at Mettingham in Saxon times, but the present edifice, though a very ancient structure, is of Norman foundation. It exhibits a very elegant doorway, on the north side of the nave, profusely ornamented with the chevron mouldings. The stone employed in this elaborate portal is of the very finest quality, and has braved the corroding blasts of our north-eastern gales for above seven centuries with little injury. The hand of man, however, has despoiled it of its columns, and failed to spare what time would have left unscathed.
The church comprises a nave, with a south aisle, a chancel, and a round tower, with a large porch on the south side, in the west wall of which is a fire-place and chimney. The tower is girded, about midway of its height, with a strong band of iron; but an examination of its interior presents no visible rent or decay, requiring such a singular appendage. It was put on about half a century ago, by the then churchwarden; who, as he was also the village blacksmith, has exemplified the truth of the fable, that there is nothing like leather. In the south aisle is an inarched monument, with a handsome canopy: there is also a good octagonal font of stone, with the remains of some very rich stalls, and portions of a once elegant screen.
The interior is kept in a very neat and reputable state, but is sadly disfigured by a barbarous east window. Besides the arms of De Norwich, which yet remain, the windows of this church formerly contained the following cognizances. Ufford quartering Becke; France and England quartered; and, sab. an eagle displayed or.
Having been early appropriated to Bungay Nunnery, this benefice became a vicarage. Upon the suppression of religious houses, the appropriation and advowson were granted, in the twenty-ninth of Henry VIII., to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk; but they were soon afterwards conveyed to Sir Nicholas Bacon, and united with the castle estates; the Rev. James Cutting Safford being the present impropriator, and patron of the vicarage.
The registers of this parish commence in the time of the Commonwealth; and I quote the first page from them to show what advantages were gained by the nation in consequence of the Act of Parliament which deprived the parochial clergy of their custody, and transferred it to laymen.
"Richard Stannard, of the same towne, in the Countie of Suff., Gent., approved by us, whose handes are here under subscribed accordinge to the choice of him made by the Inhabitants of the said Parish, to have the keeping of the Booke, and sworne to performe the Office of a Register accordinge to an Act of Parlament made in the yeare of our Lord God one thousand sixe hundred fifty and three.
Monuments.—William Gooch, Esq., died 1685. Thomas Gooch, Gent., 1688. Attached to the monument are the arms of Gooch; party per pale, arg. and sab., a chevron between 3 talbots pass., counterchanged; on a chief gules 3 leopards' faces or. These gentlemen were ancestors of the present Sir Thomas Gooch, Bart., of Benacre Hall, whose family appears to have sprung from this village. In 1537, I meet with the name of Thomas Gooch, as witness to a deed, now preserved in the parish chest.
There are many monuments of the Belwards, a family of ancient descent; being derived from Hugh de Belward, who came over with the Conqueror. Their arms, which are placed over some of the monuments here, are party per pale gules and argent, 3 pheons reversed, counterchanged.
In the reign of William the Conqueror, Robert Fitz-Hugh was Baron of Malpas in Cheshire, and held above thirty manors under Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, as appears by Domesday Book; but leaving no issue male, this barony, at length, by marriage of the heir female, came into the famous and knightly family of the Belwards, as Camden styles it, of which was John le Belward de Malpas, who lived in Rufus's time: to him succeeded William his son, who was Baron of Malpas in right of his mother, who was Lætitia, daughter and heiress of Robert Fitz-Hugh, and bore for arms 3 pheons, or dart heads. William, who was Baron of Malpas, left no legitimate issue; but Philip, his next brother, and then possessed of the manor of Egerton near Malpas, took, according to the custom of that age, the surname of Egerton from the place of his residence, and spread into many eminent and flourishing families, one of whose posterity is the Duke of Bridgewater.
Viscount Malpas and Earl of Cholmondeley, 1706, descended from William le Belward, Baron Malpas. Robert, by the gift of his father, had the lordship of Cholmondeley, settled there, and assumed the name of the place.
Maria, daughter of William Belward, Gent., died 1731. Anna, fourth daughter of William Belward, died 1736. William Belward, Gent., died 18th August, 1700, aged 54. Hannah, his fifth daughter, died 1753, aged 58. Susanna, widow of the Rev. Charles Cock, A.M., died of the small-pox, 1738, aged 72. Edmund Purdy, died 1618. William Hayward, died 1753, aged 68. John Youngs, died 1671.
The town estate of Mettingham produces a rental of about £100 per annum, and is under the management of feoffees chosen by the parishioners. The lands which produce this fine income were devised some centuries ago for parochial purposes; but the exact intentions of the benefactors are not clearly understood. The proceeds of their bequests are applied to the reparation of the church; in a distribution of coals to the poor; and to other parish purposes, which are, perhaps, not altogether legitimate. Laurence Skete, of Mettingham, and others, gave several pieces of land and meadow ground for the use of the poor. Among the deeds preserved in the office of the Bishop of Norwich is the following record. "Villuta de Mettingham tenet 3 ac: et dim: terræ nativæ tenem'ti Stambornes Manerij in una pecia de Metyngham. Idem tenet 3 rodas terræ liberæ pertinentis gilde, et jac: in Metyngham inter unam semitam."
Richard Umfrey, or Humfrey, Clerk, vicar of Mettingham in 1517, gave to the poor of this parish, lands, now let at £32. 7s. 6d. The original deed is—or was lately—in the parish chest, and is dated "apud Metyngham, ultimo die mensis Maij Anno regni Regis Henrici septimo."
As the above Richard Umfrey was also a liberal benefactor to the parish in other ways, I transcribe his short will, which contains many very curious and interesting particulars, illustrative of the manners and customs of his period.
"In nōie Dei, Amen. in the yere of our Lorde God MCCCCCXVij, the first day of Marche, I Richarde Umfrey, Clerke, Vicar of the church of All Seynts of Metyngh'm, beying in good and hool mynde, make my testamente and laste wille undre this fourme followyng. First, I come'nde my soule to Almyghtie God, to our blyssed Ladye, and to the celestyall Courte in Hevyn. And my Bodye to be buryed in the chauncell of Metyngh'm forsad byfor the sepultur and grave of Syr John Arcente, my predecessor. And at the daye of my buryeng I will that the maist' of the College in Metyngh'm forsad shall have xxd. And every brodre of the same College, xijd. And ev'y yoman servaunte abidyng in the said College shall have iiijd, and ev'y other servaunte and childe of the Almouse ther ijd. Also I will that ev'y other priste that shalbe at my buryeng shall have iiijd. Also I will that at the same daye of my buryeng the Ladye Prioresse of the monast'ye in Bongey shall have xijd. And ev'y other Lady of the same monast'ye vjd, and their convente priste viijd. to praye for my soule. Also I bequeath to ev'y houssolder in the said p'ysshe of Metyngh'm wheras arn man and wiff, viijd. And to ev'y other p'son jd at the sad daye to praye for my soule and all crysten soules. Also I gyff and bequeth to the maist' of the forsad College and to his brodren all that my Tēnt called Pyrtewell in Metyngh'm wt the gardeyn and the cloos to the sad tēnt belongyng wt thapp'tenents, undre this condic'on, that the said maist' and his brodren shall hold my annyv'sary yerly wt placebo and dirige and masse of Requiem for my soule, my fadres and modres soules, for my fryndes soules, and all cristen soules. And moreov' the sad maist' and his brodren shall gyff to thoos p'sones that shall rynge at Metyngh'm Church forsaid in the tyme of saying or syngyng of placebo and dirige at the said daye of my annyv'sary oon caste of brede and oon gallon of drynk. Also I gyff and bequeth to the Tounesshippe of Metyngh'm forsaid oon acr of londe lyeng among the londes of the said tounesshippe, undre this condison, that the Churchwardeyns of the same p'ysshe shall gyffe yerly at the daye of my annyv'ssary to the Vicar of the sad church of Metyngh'm, or to his Depute ther saying or syngyng placebo and dirige for my soule, my fryndes soules, and for all crysten soules, iiijd. And to offer jd. at Masse. Also I will that my cooffeoffes shall dely' or cause to be delyv'ed a state and seisyne of the forsaid te'nt, and all other landes forsade to the p'fourmaunce of this my laste will, when so ev' ther shall be required by my Executors. Also I will have an honest seculer priste to syng and praye for my soule, my fryndes soules, and for all crysten soules, by the space of twoo yers and longer yf yt may extende of my Goodes. Also I gyff and bequeth to the Cathedrall Church of the hooly Trinite of Norwych, vjs viijd. Also I bequeth to the forsaid Church of Metyngh'm my vestymente of blewe Velvett powdered wt flowres. And my chalice for to remayn to the same church as long as ther shall endur. And to the gyldyng of the Tabernacle of Seynt Mychael in the sad church, xxs. Also I gyff and bequeth to the Ladye Prioresse of the monast'ye in Bongay oon Goun wt the hoode. And to Dame Anne Page oon goun wt the hoode and vjs viijd. Also I bequeth to Mr. Thomas Wylkynes wiff a goun wt the hoode: to Mr. Reeves wiff a Goun wt the Hood: to Hamonde Lynstedes wife a Goun with the Hood. And to John Rooses wife a Goun wt the Hood: Also I bequeth to Robte Arwarde my lesser ffedrebedde with the bolster. The residue of all my Goodes wt my detts not bequethed I gyff and bequeth to the Disposicon and orderyng of Mayster Richarde Shelton, Clerk, and Sir Richard Wyburgh, priste, whom I ordeyn and make my Executors of this my Testamente and lastwille, thei to distrisbute and dispose them in Dedys of Charite to the most laude and praysyng of Allmyghty God for the welth and p'fyte of my soule, my fryndes soules, and for all cristen soules.
Vicars of Mettingham.
Appropriatus Priorissæ et Conv. de Bungey. Estimatio eccliæ xvj marc: estimatio vicariæ ejusdem vj marc: ds. Synodalia per annnum iis. viijd. Denarij S. Petri, xvjd. Vicarius solvit. (fn. 29)