An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 1. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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Is bounded on the east by Wilby, on the west by Lerling and Snitterton, on the north by Harpham, and on the south by Quidenham; it hath one manor only, to which the advowson of the rectory now is, and always was, appendant. It is often called in French deeds, about the time of Edward III. L'Eglise, or the Church, which hath induced me sometimes to think, that it took that name by way of eminence, it being the Bishop's own church, and a place where most of them, to the time of Henry VIII. often resided in their palace here, (fn. 1) as appears from the great number of persons that were instituted at this place, and from the additional name of Eccles Episcopi, or Bishop's Eccles, by which it was always distinguished from Eccles by the Sea.
The manor was very extensive, including all this town, great part of St. Andrew's parish in Bukenham, (fn. 2) or all New-Bukenham, and the Hagh in Old-Bukenham, besides lands in most of the adjacent parishes. (fn. 3) It was held by Ralf Earl of Norfolk, in the Confessor's time, and after, by Earl Ralf his son; they jointly gave it to Egelmar, or Ailmar, Bishop of Etmham, just before the Conquest, (fn. 4) who held it of them, as did Bishop Arfast, or Herefast, who removed his see to Thetford; he was succeeded by William Galsagus, (fn. 5) Bishop of Thetford, who held it at the time of the Conqueror's survey, not as belonging to the original revenues of his bishoprick, but as part of those revenues that his predecessors had been infeoffed in by other pious benefactors, as I take the title De Feudo in Domesday to signify, and not of his own fee or inheritance, as some interpret it had then 2, carucates in demean, wood (fn. 6) able to maintain 100 hogs, pasture for 180 sheep, it was fallen from 5l. value to 3l. and was two miles long, and one broad, and paid 7d. geld. In the record called. Testa de Nevil, it appears it belonged to the Bishop, but they could not tell whether it was part of his barony, or whether he held it in free alms. (fn. 7) In the year 1200, King John, by his charter under seal, dated at Gaytinton, 28 Nov. in the second year of his reign, confirmed to John Grey, Chief Justice of England, and Bishop of Norwich, (fn. 8) bis great favourite, and to the church of the Holy Trinity at Norwich, and to the succeeding bishops and monks serving God there, all their lands, villages, churches, possessions, rents, tenements, liberties, and ancient customs, whatsoever, which they had confirmed and given them in the time of King Henry (fn. 9) his grandfather, King Henry his father, and King Richard his brother; and also all the charters, deeds, grants, and gifts of all his ancestors. And furthermore, at the request of the said Bishop, by this charter he granted them throughout all their lands, sac and soc, toll, theam, infengenthef, &c. (fn. 10) with the liberty of not serving at hundred courts, sheriffs turns, or any other courts out of their manors, and that they and the tenants residing in their manors, should transact every thing among themselves, at the views of frankpledge in their manors; and that all manner of felons goods, and forfeitures of the tenants and burgesses residing on the Bishop's demeans, should be free from all toll, pontage, paage, lastage, stallage, &c. throughout all England, for all goods which they shall buy, sell, and carry by water or land, except within the liberties of the city of London, with other large liberties expressed in the said charter, all which were exemplified (fn. 11) under seal the 7th of Febr. 36th of Elizabeth, 1593, at the request of Thomas and James Plowman, alias Cann, and Thomas Barnes, inhabitants of Eccles, on the behalf, and for the use of, the tenants, townsmen, and inhabitants of the said town, who had enjoyed the same liberties from the first grant to the present time. (fn. 12) In 1250, Walter Bishop of Norwich had a charter for free-warren here, and in all other demeans of his bishoprick. (fn. 13) In 1286, (fn. 14) he had view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, a ducking-stool, a gallows, (fn. 15) and weyf, and from this time the manor continued in the bishoprick, till
Bishop Nix (fn. 16) unfortunately falling under a premunire, for which he was by law to suffer perpetual imprisonment and loss of all his goods, was forced to purchase his peace of King Henry VIII. by exchanging the large estates (viz. 30 good manors and more) belonging to his bishoprick, for the abbey and revenues of St. Bennet of the Hulme; (fn. 17) and that this agreement might remain firm for ever, the King procured that it should be settled by Act of Parliament, (fn. 18) that the Bishop of Norwich should be always Abbot of St. Bennet of Hulme, and on the contrary, the Abbot of Hulme Bishop of Norwich; by which exchange this manor came to the Crown, and there continued till Nov. 12, 1559, when Queen Elizabeth granted the manor, advowson, sheep's walk, and all other privileges thereto belonging, to Sir Nicholas Baron, Knt. Lord-Keeper of the Great Seal, and to his heirs, to be held by him and them, in as full and ample a manner, as any of the ancient bishops held it, when it belonged to that sec. He conveyed it to Sir Nathaniel Bacon, Knight of the Bath, of Stiveky, or Stukey, in Norfolk, his youngest son, who kept court here, from about 1572 to 1595; (fn. 19) he settled a moiety of it on Elizabeth, his second daughter and coheir, upon her marrying Sir Tho. Knevet, junior, Knt. son of Sir Tho. Knevet of Ashwellthorp, Knt.; and in 1631, this moiety was settled by Dame Elizabeth Knevet aforesaid, on Muriell, wife of Sir Charles Le-Grosse, Knt. of Crostweyt, and her heirs, Sir Roger Townshend, Sir Robert Gawdy, and others, being then concerned as coheirs of the estate of Sir Nathaniel Bacon, who had settled the other moiety on Sir Owen Smith in remainder, after the death of Dorothy, his second wife, eldest daughter of Sir Arthur Hopton, Knight of the Bath, at the coronation of King James, son of Sir Owen Hopton, Knt. which Dorothy was relict of William Smith of Burgh castle in Suffolk; and thus it continued in moieties for some time.
In 1622, Dame Dorothy Bacon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Bacon, kept court here; in 1629, Charles Le-Grosse, and Thomas Smith held a court. In 1638, Sir Thomas Hopton, Knt. and Arthur Hopton, Esq. held their first court for one moiety, and the year following Sir Ralf Hopton, Knt. held his first court for the same moiety. In 1640, Alice Smith, widow, and Sir Charles Le-Grosse, Knt. held their first court for the other moiety. In 1642, Sir Charles Le-Gros, Knt. and Fitz-Nunn Lambe, Esq. held their first court, the Hoptons having sold their moiety (as I suppose) to the Lambs, who after became possessed of the whole, in whose family it continued till about 1712, and then Mr. Edmund Lamb sold it to Mr. William Green of Stafford, whose son, William Green, Esq. became lord, but is lately dead, and Mrs. Mary Green of Eccles, his widow, is now  lady.
The Customs of this manor are, that the fine is at the lord's will, the tenants cannot waste their copyhold without license; the eldest son is heir; there is no leet fec or common fine, and it gives no dower.
The Commons belonging to this town are these, the Wroo, Rowse Hill, the Great Fen, the Little Fen, South Moore, North Moor, West Ling, or the further Heath, containing in all about 180 acres, on all which the lord hath no right of commonage, but it solely belongs to the tenants, who can common horses, cows, and all other cattle, and cut and carry away furze at all times from Rouse Hill, and the further Heath, and flags and turf from the fens, (fn. 20)
There is a hamlet called Overey, which had a church formerly, for I meet with one Bartholomew, rector of Overey; but it never had any institution, which makes me think it always belonged to Eccles, and was served by that rector, because in the beginning of Henry VIII. Overey is said to belong to Eccles, as it now doth.
The Church is dedicated to St. Mary. It hath a round tower and three bells; the nave is leaded, the chancel and north porch tiled; the south isle (which hath a roof distinct from the nave) is thatched. It is a rectory in Norfolk archdeaconry and Rockland deanery, valued in the King's Books at 14l. per annum, and pays 1l. 8s. per annum tenths. It is altogether exempt from archidiaconal jurisdiction, and so pays no procurations, and it being the Bishop's own seat, he always excused the rector from payment of synodals, so that there are none paid, except at the general visitations. It is a small village, having much decreased for some time, by the lord's purchasing many of the cottages and small tenements. In 1603, it had 108 communicants, and now  it hath about 150 inhabitants; it paid 30s. a year to the tenths, and is now assessed at 338l. 10s. to the land tax. There is a rectory-house, which was built (according to report) by Bishop Nix, whose arms, with the arms of the see, were in the windows, but were lost when the house was burnt down a few years since, in Mr. Birch's time, who rebuilt it; there is a convenient quantity of glebe belonging to it.
In Bishop Nix's time, anno 1510, one Thomas, a priest of Norwich, was burned at Eccles: when he was in prison, he was by persuasion led away from his former opinions, wherefore, when he went to be burned, he would for penance be carried on sharp hurdles made of thorns. (fn. 21)
This Bishop was certainly a greater bigot to Popery than could well consist with his learning and station, for when he was very old, he obstinately opposed the reformation then begun, and held secret correspondence with the court of Rome, though he had with a solemn oath openly renounced the Pope's supremacy. But at last being accused and convicted, he was imprisoned a long time in the Marshalsea, so that his own sufferings may in some measure clear him of his vices, and argue his sincerity in his religion, though erroneous. (fn. 22)
The south isle of the church seems a later building than the nave, and was formerly appropriated to the Bishop's palace, but now belongs to the parish; the altar in it, in all probability, was dedicated to St. Nicholas the Bishop, his effigies being formerly painted on the walls. In the north chancel window was a picture of St. German, another of St. Anthony, and another of St. Bennet, and this under them,
SAMUEL BIRCH, A. M. Harborniæ in Agro Staffordiensi natus, Oxoniæ, in Collegio Pembr: Educatus, Hujus Ecclesiæ per Novem fere Annos, Pastor dignissimus, Vir vere Reverendus, et doctus, et pius, et admodum Justus, hic beatam expectans Resurrectionem, placide in Domino obdormit, obijt duodecimo die Decembris, Anno Redemptionis humanæ, 1732° Ætatis suæ 32°.
William Green, Esq. eldest son and heir of William Green, Esq. deceased, (who is buried in the chancel,) hath a seat here,  and is lord and patron, after the decease of Mrs. Mary Green his mother, who holds it in jointure: his arms are, per pale, gul. and az. a chevron between three bucks passant or.
From the old Register, which begins 20 Jan. 30 Hen. VIII. 1538. 1543, Agnes, daughter of Mr. George Briggs of Saul, died. 154—, Edward Nobs and Richard Pollard died at Norwich in the time of the insurrection. (They were killed in Kett's rebellion.) 1580, Dorothy, daughter of Paul Gooch, and Rose his wife, was baptized. 1593, Tho. Wade of New-Bukenham, and Fortuna Chambers were married. 1600, Jan. 27, Math. Baron, Gent, buried. 1601, Paul Gooch, Gent, buried. 1606, George Rogers, rector of Bridgham, and Elizabeth, relict of James Leaver of Snitterton, clerk, were married April 23, 1612, Isaac Bentley, clerk, curate of Old-Bukenham, and Elizabeth Barker of the same, were married 23 Aug. 1626, Michael Robinson of Norwich, Gent, and Dorothy Colby of Banham married.