An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 1. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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Was so called from the bridge, which was the passage to Rowdham Cross, and was a remarkable and much frequented way for all pilgrims that travelled from Suffolk, and other parts, to our Lady of Walsingham. (fn. 8) This town was given by Ethelwold Bishop of Winchester, and confirmed by Edward the Confessor, to the monks of Ely, (fn. 9) in whose hands it continued till the erection of the see there, and then it became part of the demeans of the bishoprick. In the Confessor's and Conqueror's surveys it appears that it belonged to St. Audry, and was then two miles long, and three quarters of a mile broad, and paid 12d. geld; (fn. 1) that the priest (or rector) belonging to the manor held land of 2s. per annum value, as belonging to his church, but could not sell it; there was also a socman, that held half a carucate of land, whom Roger Bigod claimed as one of his freemen, but the abbot disseized him, and then held it; there were 30 acres in Bretenham, and 30 more in Rowdham, that belonged to this manor. In 1229, there was an extent of this manor, in which it is said, upon the oaths of the tenants then upon the jury, that this town is in Shrophamforde hundred, (fn. 2) of which Rob. de Tateshale was lord; (fn. 3) notwithstanding which, the Bishop had a gallows, pillory, view of frankpledge, conusance of bushels, gallons, and other measures, and liberty to hold plea of all things, which the sheriff might, with writ or without. The advowson belonged to the Bishop, and is in the archdeaconry of Norfolk, and deanery of Rockland, but the nuns of Ponteverard in Normandy had a yearly pension of 10 marks out of this church, by the gift of Bishop Eustace; the demeans are all particularly abutted, and amount to about 400 acres, the whole being to be ploughed with two ploughs, four oxen, and three scots, two carts, and one pair of harrows being allowed to do the work; and every acre is valued at 8d.; there were 3 acres of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture; the several heaths called Longhill, Suthfrith, Mikelehill, Stapelfrith, Ringemeskele, Waterdelefrith, containing 260 acres, were to be fed by the whole town only, but none could dig, cut heath, &c. but the Bishop; but in Bukesdelescote-Bury, Heroldescote, Perngate, (all which contain 155 acres,) the whole town not only fed, but might dig, cut turf, &c. but not to sell. There was also a marsh between Bretenham and Bridgham, and another marsh called Est-Etthe, in both which the whole town might feed dig, cut turf, fish, &c. except in the lord's separate fishery, which is between West-Mill and TuneMill, half a mile long. The tenants owe their suit to Tune [or town] Mill, and none to West-Mill. The stock belonging to the manor was 8 cows, a free bull, 24 hogs, a free boar, 500 sheep, by the great hundred, beside the customary sheep, which ought to be in the lord's fold. At this time Walter de Bokenham held 90 acres and an half, freehold, which was late Ralph the parson's, at 8s. 2d. per annum, and suit of court, and had a fold-course. And William de Hakeford held above a 100 acres free, divers rents and services, and a fold-course, and did suit to this court, [for this his manor called Hakeford's.] With this manor also, the Bishop held the advowson of Bretenham. The tenants paid chyldwite, tallage, heriots, and reliefs, besides seven score and 15 hens, 24 chickens, 647 eggs, 2724 days works, 34 days work called studework, which is done by the molmen, 245 days and half ploughing, during which time the lord maintains them, and every day's work at plough is valued at 6d.; 512 days work in autumn; they were to thrash 105 combs of oats and barley each year, or pay 2d. for every six combs if they did not do it; they were to do 997 perches of ditching and fencing, about the stack-yards and woods, every year, and have no maintenance from the lord during that time; the molmen, in number 70, were obliged to make up 15 carriages, and attend them, to carry in the lord's corn; and besides these and many other services, he received yearly in money rents above 18l. 16s. In 1285, the jury of the Crown side for the hundred of Shropham, present, that Hugh Bishop of Ely had in Bridgham, infangthef, a gallows, view of frankplege, &c. assize of bread and beer, weyf, return of all writs, free-warren, and all other privileges as before, (fn. 4) and from this time it continued in the bishoprick till by act of parliament in the first year of Queen Elizabeth it was settled by way of exchange, among the rest of the Bishop's manors in this county, on the Crown, at which time it was under a lease, made in 1546, by Thomas Bishop of Ely, for 60 years, at 39l. per annum, (fn. 5) which was to commence from Michaelmas 1562, to Will. Drury of Besthorp; this was assigned by Dorothy, late wife of Will. Drury, to William Brampton of Bridgeham, Esq. from whom Tho. Brampton of Kenton in Suffolk had it, and was possessed in 1573, and lived in the hall, which he repaired, and glazed the windows with his own arms, viz. Brampton, gul. a fess arg. in chief three plates, impaling Waxton, erm. on a fess gul. three plates quartering pally of eight, arg. and sab. Brampton impales Leventhorp, arg. a bend compone gul. and sab. cotised of the second; these arms were taken down by Mr. Robert Haylet, (as I suppose,) at whose sale I bought them. The remainder of this lease being bought in by Bassingbourn Gawdy, Esq. the Queen, in 1594, let it to him for 30 years, to commence at the end of the said term, at 29l. rent, the advowsons of Bridgham and Bretenham being excepted; (fn. 6) and from this time it continued in the Gawdys as lessees to the Crown, till the 6th of June, 1609, and then the King granted it to Framlingham Gawdy, Esq. and his heirs, in fee, in which family it continued till Sir Bassingbourn Gawdy, sold it to Tho. Wright, Esq. of East-Herling, who is now dead, and Mr. John Wright is his son and heir. The fines are at the lord's will; she eldest son is heir; the quitrents are 13l. 14s. 1d. ob. a year.
Was originally part of the manor of Hackford in West-Herling, that extended hither, and passed with that, (as you may see at p. 300.) till it was released to Henry de Elmham, and Elizabeth his wife, who was one of the daughters and heiresses of Sir William de Hakeford, who, jointly with Margery his wife, settled it on Ralph de Hakeford, parson of Couteshale, in trust for his two daughters, in 1278; in 1485, Will. Tymperley had the custody of this manor, &c. for 20 years, paying 43s. 4d. per annum, and maintaining the houses and fences. In 1516, John Harewell and others had it settled on them by Robert Fuller; in 1550, Sir Tho. Lovell of East-Herling had it, in which family it continued, and was joined to the other manor after that was purchased, and so remains. There were three other parcels of land in Bridgham, added to this manor by different purchases; the first was granted by Hugh Bishop of Ely, in 1229, to Roger the chaplain of Bridgham, and contained 60 acres; the second, in 1267, was settled by fine by Hugh Bishop of Ely, on Walter de Hemenhale, and contained 24 acres of land, 40 acres of heath, 20 acres of marsh, 10 acres of meadow, and 6s. 8d. rent; the third was held by Ralph of Illington, at a quarter of a fee, of Adam de Cayly, who held it of the Earl Warren, and William de Bokenham held one half of this quarter of Ralph de Illington, in the time of Henry III.
Was appendant to the manor till it came to the Crown, and was excepted when the manor was granted from it, and the Bishop of Ely always presented till the exchange, and the Crown ever since; the rectory of Bridgham alias Brigham, is valued in the King's Books at 11l. 1s. ob. and pays 1l. 2s. 3q. yearly tenths, 1s. synodals, and 7s. 7d. ob. yearly procurations, though it paid none before the time of King Henry VIII. At the time of Norwich Domesday, the rector had a house and 50 acres of land, and now he hath a house by the north corner of the churchyard; but there remains but 39 acres and an half of glebe. In 1603, here were 128 communicants, and now  there are about 30 houses, and 180 inhabitants. It paid 3l. 6s. 8d. to the tenths, and is now assessed at 403l. 10s. to the land tax. In 1411, Hugh Stoppusly had license in mortmain to amortise a messuage, 200 acres of land, 8 acres of meadow, 26s. rent, a free fold, and separate fishery in Bretenham, Bridgham, Rushworth, Thetford, &c. which were held of the King, as of his dutchy of Lancaster, to the Prior and convent of monks at Thetford, on condition the King should have 50s. at every resignation, vacation, or death of a prior. This was part of the Prior's manor in Bretenham that extended hither.
The Church hath its nave, north porch, and chancel, thatched; it hath no steeple, but there are two bells, which hang in a house in the churchyard. In the windows, and on the font, are the arms of the Bishoprick of Ely; in the chancel there is a stone for Francis Goldwell, clerk, who died 27 Aug. 1691. Another for Margaret Goldwell single woman, who died 15 July, 1690.
Rectors of Bridgham St. Mary.
1601, 11 Jan. George Rogers, alias Thomas, A. B. He married Elizabeth, relict of Ralph Leaver, rector of Snetterton, April 28, 1606, (fn. 7) and was buried here 25 Feb. 1636.
1663, 23 Febr. Francis Goldwell, A. M. on Pell's death, buried in the chancel, 1691, he bare az. a chief or over all a lion rampant arg. gutte de poix. His son and heir, Henry Goldwell, married a daughter of Porter of Bury, who bare sab. a fess erm. between three bells arg.
From the register, which begins in 1558, it appears that many of the Drurys, Goldwells, Bramptons, Grygsons, Buxtons, Lovells, Bells, Chamberlains, Bedingfields, &c. were baptized and buried here. 1550, Joseph Churchman married Agnes House. 1570, Tho. Lovell married Margaret Fayer. 1585, Tho. Drury married Ursula Brockley.