An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 1. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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This village is called in Domesday, Besethorp, and Baconsthorp, and now Besthorp, or the Best Village, from the goodness of its soil, and plenty of wood, as Spelman in his Icenia observes: it was a rectory appendant to the two manors in this town, and each of them had a turn in its advowson; that which belonged to Plasset's manor was given by William Earl of Arundel, the second of that name, to the monks of Wimondham, (fn. 1) and the other, which belonged to Robert de Bautvent's manor, (fn. 2) was by him at that time released, to the same monks; and afterwards Robert, son and heir of Robert de Tateshale, and Hugh, son and heir of Sir Robert de Bavent of Besthorp, confirmed their ancestor's gifts, Simon de Wanton Bishop of Norwich, consented to the appropriation, and it was appropriated accordingly, before the year 1266, (fn. 3) for then that Bishop died; but in or after the year 1262, because John de Alveschirche, the Bishop's Official was witness to it; the prior and convent were to be patrons of the vicarage; (fn. 4) the vicars were to have the house and lands belonging to the rectory, and all other profits, and the whole tithes, except those of 638 acres, and one rood, (fn. 5) all which lands are specified in the appropriation, and the tithes valued at 15 marks per annum, at least; but the vicars are to pay the synodals and procurations; and afterwards, in Edward the First's time, it is thus entered in Norwich Domesday, "the Prior of Wymundham holds the church of Besthorp, appropriated to his convent, but the vicar hath the parsonage-house, and 28 acres of glebe, and receives the moiety of the tithes, and the Prior the other moiety; William Earl of Arundel, son of William and Alice, gave it to the Prior in King Henry the Second's time, in order that it might be appropriated, and its advowson continued in the convent, till Simon Bishop of Norwich appropriated it, reserving the patronage of the vicarage to the Prior, the institution to the Bishop, and the episcopal and archidiaconal dues to be paid by the vicar." At the Dissolution the impropriation and advowson came to the Crown, and there continued till Queen Elizabeth, in the 18th year of her reign, granted the portions of tithes to Richard Brokelsby, to be held at 26s. 8d. yearly rent; and in the 29th year of her reign, she granted to Edward Heron, Esq. and John Nicholas, Gent. all tithes whatsoever in Besthorp, and lands which lately belonged to Wymondham convent, and were concealed and unjustly detained from the Crown; and in the 30th year of her reign, the advowson of the vicarge and impropriation was granted to the Cleres, and was joined to the manors before 1602, by the Drurys, with which they now continue.
Vicars. (fn. 6)
1528, 13 March, Sir Thomas Downyng, chaplain, was instituted at Hoxne, in the Bishop's palace there, on the resignation of John King, (who had a pension of four marks a year assigned him during life,) at the Prior's presentation, and was the last presented by the monastery. In 1555, 4 June, he was instituted to the vicarage of Lowestoft, (or Laystoft,) on the resignation of John Blomvyle, at the presentation of Thomas Godsalve, senior, Esq. by grant of the turn from the Bishop of Norwich, and it was the same day united to Besthorp, during his life, because of the smallness of the livings. This is one of the first unions that I meet with, that assign any reason for the Bishop's uniting them. This Sir Thomas built the vicarage-house at Besthorp; over the parlour chimney-piece is this,
1646, 22 May, Elisha Agas, (fn. 7) A. M. on Donne's death. Lady Mary Drury.
The temporalities of the Prior of Bukenham in this town were taxed at 3s. 1d. being lands given by the lords of Bukenham castle to the priory. The lands belonging to the nuns at Marham were granted at the Dissolution to Sir Nicholas Hare, Knt. and Rob. Hare.
The Prior of Norwich had an annual rent of 12d. paid from a meadow in Besthorp, which was given by Stephen Mengy of Besthorp. The spirituals, or great tithes, belonging to the Prior of Wymondham, were taxed at 10 marks, and the temporalities belonging to that monastery, at 14s. 4d. There was a manor belonging to the rectory before the appropriation, after which it went with it, and so came joined to the other manors. In 1285, the Prior had free-warren in his demeans in Besthorp; in 1288, it was returned, that the Prior held the twentieth part of a fee in Besthorp, of Montchensie's barony, which was heretofore Aymer de Valence Earl of Pembrook's, and this he joined to the Rectory manor.
Ebraud de Melnes gave to God and his church of St. Mary at Thetford, two parts of the tithes of his demeans in Melnes, or Melles, and Besthorp, for which the Prior of the monks of the said church was taxed at 15s. (fn. 8)
The vicarage was valued in the King's Books, at 5l. 6s. 8d. ob. and being sworn of the clear yearly value of 48l. 15s. 6d. it is discharged of first fruits and tenths. In 1603, return was made, that it was in Rockland deanery, and Norfolk archdeaconry, and had 180 communicants, and was late in the patronage of the Crown, but is now granted to Anthony Drewry, the elder, Esq. The town paid 2l. 14s. to the tenths, and is now  assessed at 1087l. 11s. 8d.
The Church is dedicated to all the Saints, and the north chapel to the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin, and had two gilds kept in it, of the same dedications. (fn. 9) Against the north wall of the chancel is a most curious monument of black and white marble, thus inscribed,
Here lyeth the Body of Sir WILLIAM DRURY, Knight, Eldest Son of Sir Anthony Drury, Knt. late one of his Majesties Justices of the Peace, and Quorum, and one of the Deputy Lieutenants of this County, who after the Death of his Father, succeeded him, both in the Commission of the Lieutenancy, and of the Peace for this County; he married Mary Eldest Daughter of William Cokain of London, Esq. by whom he had Issue, 2 sonns William, and Anthony, and 3 Daughters, Bridgett, Jane, and Anne; he departed this Life at London upon the 8th Day of Nov: in the Year of our Lord, 1639, & in the 42d Year of his Age, and was shortly after solemnly interr'd in this chancell, to whose dear and lasting Memory, the said Mary his sorrowing and surviving Lady, hath erected and dedicated this Monument.
CAROLUS HARBORD Eques Auratus, Caroli Primi et Secundi, Regum Angliæ, Supervisor Generalis, Pater (ex Maria Uxore prudentissima) quatuor filiorum sc. Philippi et Willielmi Harbord, Armigerorum Caroli Harbord Equitis etiam aurati, (qui cum prædilecto suo prænobili Comite de Sandwich, in Navali Conflictu acerrimo contra Batavos, Anno 1672, magnanimiter occubuit) & Johannis Harbord Armig. & trium filiarum sc. Annæ, Hester, & Catharinæ.
Favente Deo vivo, et mori spero, Verus Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ Filius, Subditus Regis fidelis, et Servus Regni Veteranas, Fidus Amicus, Pater liberalis, Nulli, nisi malis Adversarins, Justitiæ, Commiserationis, et Humilitatis, Studiosus Amator, Attamen minutissimarum Miserecordiarum, Dei indignissimus.
The following inscription is over the door of a vault, on the south side of the chancel, which was built for the interment of Robert Nedham, Viscount Kilmurrey, in which the Harbords and Shaws have been since interred. Arms are, Nedham's achievement supported by two roe-bucks, with this motto, Nunc aut Nunquam. On each side, Drury and Cokain impaled; underneath are the arms of Harbord, whose hatchment impales, arg. on a pale gul. three saltires of the field.
Memoriæ Prænobilis Domini ROBERTI NEDHAM, Vicecomitis de Kilmorrai, Carolo Vicecomite (in utrumque Carolum Britanniarum Monarchas Temporibus Monarchomachis, fidelissimo) ac Brigetta Vicecomitissa superstite, Gulielmi Drury Equitis aurati & Dominæ Mariæ filia Prognati: Eximia tam Virtute, quam Eruditione, Nobilitatem Geminantis: Proceritate, Venustate, Pulchritudine, Ostenti: Amoris publice ferreo Sæculo, Magnetis: Ingenio præcoci maturæ Vitæ Spem Frustrantis: Anno Dom. MDCLXVIIIo Ætatis xiiio Maij xxixo Sole, Comite, et exemplo, ut alibi luceret, Occidentis: Anastasin Paschatis diem, qui Anno hujus Obitus conscio defuit, æternitate pensaturam Præstolantis: Hoc Monumentum dicavit Avia Quotidie Visitatura.
A Wife, a Friend, a Mother's Dust, Lyes here, that was both wise and just; Whose Soul to Heaven was flown before, Wing'd with the Prayers of the Poor. Whose Sighs and Tears, do prove this Age, Hath few such Ladys on her Stage.
Pronobilis Familiæ Baronis Van Alst. in Com: Flandriæ D. Maria, Ux: Caroli Harbord, Equit: Aurat: Optima Mater, & Nutrix Phil: & Guliel. Harbord, Armig: Caroli Harbord Equit: Aurat: Johannis Harbord, Gen: Annæ Hesteræ & Catherinæ, Pie vixit & Obijt apud Besthorp, 5 Sept: 1666: Anno Ætatis suæ 64.
From the Register: 1589, Will. Harbourne, Esq. and Eliz. Drury, married 16 Sept. 1596, Mr. John Buxton was buried May 15, and taken up again the 3d of June, and buried at Tibenham. 1599, Mr. Will. Plesaunce and Amy Drury, 29 June. 1606, Henry Rokewode of Weston in Norfolk, Gent. and Mrs. Susan Drury, 5 Jan. 1609, John Burman, doctor of the civil law, and Dorotny Drury, 20 Dec. 1624, Mr. Humphry Rant, and Mrs. Anne Drury, 3 Aug. 1625, Arthur Branthwayt, Esq. and Mrs. Bridget Drury, 20 Feb. 1626, Henry, son of Isaac Bentley, clerk, bapt. 7 Feb. 1627, Anth. Branthwayt, Gent. buried. 1632, Will. Rivet of Bildeston in Suffolk, Esq. widower, and Eliz. Drury, 3 June. 1647, Mary, daughter of Francis Vernon, Esq. and Eleanor his wife, bapt. 7 March. 1679, Sir Charles Harbord of Stanninghall, Knt. buried 11 June. 1682, Henry, son of Colonel Philip Harbord, buried 6 May. 1697, Harbord, son of Charles Shaw, Esq. buried 16 Sept. 1700, 10 Aug. Charles, son of Charles Shaw, Esq. baptized. 1703, Anne Shaw their daughter buried. 1703, Charles Nedham, Esq. buried 16 Aug. and Susan his daughter July 31.
Arg. three pallets gul. Ely bishoprick, and Mortimer, which now remains in the chapel of the annunciation, which belongs to Plassing-Hall manor, and is on the north side, and Drury's chapel is on the south, in which Drury impales Kemp. The steeple is square and hath five bells.
This town was held by Chetelbern, of the castle of Bukenham in the Confessor's time, and was divided in the Conqueror's; but the Soke of the whole still belonged to that castle, as a member of Shropham hundred, the lord of which is paramount, and hath the leet and all superiour jurisdiction at this time. Half of this town and part of Atleburgh, belonged to Roger Bigot, (fn. 10) who held it of the castle, to which it was afterwards rejoined, by the marriage of Maud, his daughter, to William de Albany, lord of the castle; and this part was then called Plassey's and afterwards Plasset, and Plassing Hall manor. The other part, in the Conqueror's days, was given to Alan Earl of Richmond, of whom Thurstan held it, (fn. 11) and afterwards Robert de Bautvent, or Bavent, from whom it took the name of Bavent's Hall.
Plasset, or Plassing Hall, Manor,
Belonging to the castle as aforesaid, passed as that did, with the coheiress of Albany, to Sir Robert de Tateshale, who, in 1286, had a charter of free-warren in his demean lands, at Plasset in Besthorp and Attleburgh; in 1283, he purchased three messuages, 185 acres of land, and 20s. yearly rent in Besthorp, (fn. 12) of Peter de Thelvetham, and added it to his manor; but in 1286, Joice, his widow, recovered her dower in it, against Sir Robert; afterwards it descended to the Bernaks; and in 1312, King Edward II. impleaded Wiliam Bernake for hindering him to present to two parts of the church of Attleburgh, who set forth his title, that that advowson belonged to his manor of Plasset's, &c. (as at large in Attleburgh.) In 1345, John de Bernak died seized of it, and it was found to be parcel of Tateshale barony, and was assigned to Joan his widow, as part of her dowry, whose son, John de Bernak, died a minor, and William his brother inherited; and at his death, Maud, his sister and sole heir, carried it to Sir Ralph de Cromwell, lord of Tateshall, her husband, from whose family it went to the Fitz-Williams, and Knevets by moieties, as heirs to Cromwell; and in 1516, (fn. 13) one moiety belonged to Sir William Knevet, and the other to William Fitz-Williams of Sprotsburgh in Yorkshire, Esq. as descendants from the aunts, and heirs of Ralph, Lord Cromwell of Tateshale; and what is remarkable, the manor was returned to be held of Sir William Knevet himself, as heir of Albany, by another deduction of his pedigree, by the yearly service of a pair of gilt spurs, to be paid every Midsummer day. In 1517, William Knevet, a younger son of the family, held the whole manor of Sir Tho. Knevet, and in 1562, it belonged to William Cocket, by purchase from Cressener, and in 1596, to Anthony Drury, in which family all the manors in this town were afterwards united. (fn. 14) In 1497, Maud Willoughby was lady, but it was only a jointure: the manor assumed its name from its situation, to which it exactly answers; the plashes, or splashes, (as we now call them,) are swampy places where the water often stands, and according to this etymology, I find, that in the time of King Edward I. William, del Bernak held 10l. rent at Plasy's, and about that time Will. de Plasy, who assumed his name from the manor, of which he was head tenant, lived as farmer on the site of it, and gave it the name of Plassy Hall.
Belonged to Sir Robert de Bautvent of Besethorp, in the time of King Henry III. who gave the moiety of the advowson of the rectory to Wymondham prior, as hath been observed: Picot de Bavent was his eldest son and heir, Sir Tho. de Bavent of Besthorp was lord after him, who divided it, by granting off that part, which Peter de Thelvetham sold to Robert de Tateshale, he was succeeded by Peter his son, who died in 1369, leaving it to be divided between Eleanor and Cecily, his daughters and heiresses; (fn. 15) and soon after it came to John Warner of Besthorp, Esq. who had no issue; for in the pedigree of Henry Warner, Esq. of Womhill Hall in Mildenhall, Suffolk, it is thus recorded: " Anno Domini, 1374, Thomas Whetenhale, a younger son of Sir James Whetenhale, (of Cheshire,) Knt. being of great acquaintance with one John Warner, Esq. (of Besthorp) in the county of Norfolk, who had no issue of his own, nor any related to him of the name; the said John Warner bequested his estate unto the said Thomas Whetenhale, conditionally, that the said Thomas Whetenhale would adopt himself, whereupon the said Thomas Whetenhale came into Norfolk, and called himself Warner, who did bear for his coat armour, viz. Vert, a cross ingrailed arg. as being Whetenhale's paternal coat, and for the name of Warner adds the other coat, viz. quarterly, first, party per bend, indented arg. and sab.; secondly, a fleur-de-lis or.; third as second, fourth as first, which hath, together with the Whetenhales arms, been impaled and quartered many ages, by the Warners so adopted, and Sir Robert Warner, and Sir Edward Warner, two brothers, finding upon record, that certainly their names were anciently Whetenhale, and that the cross ingrailed, &c. was their paternal coat, resolved to continue it according to their ancient bearing." This Thomas left it to Henry Whetenhale, alias Warner, of Besthorp, who married Cecily, daughter of William Spaney or Spain, of the same, after whose death it came to Robert Warner of Besthorp, Esq. who married Margaret Barton of Besthorp, and died seized in 1488, leaving two sons; Oliver Whetenhale, alias Warner, their second son, was instituted vicar in 1445, and Henry Warner, their eldest son, married Mary, daughter of John Bleverhasset of Southill in Bedfordshire, sister and coheir of John Bleverhasset, her brother; she outlived him, and remarried to William Drury of Besthorp, who had the manor during her life, and before her death it was released to him and his heirs, by Robert Warner of Norwich, (from whom the Womhill Hall family are descended, he being father of Sir Robert Warner of Mildenhall,) and Sir Edward Warner of Plumstede, brother of the said Robert, and so it became united to Plasset's in the Drurys.
Was part of Plasset's, granted off by Sir Robert de Tateshale, to Henry Page of Besthorp, who was to hold it of him at one fee; in 1338, he settled it by fine on John Page of Besthorp, his son, and Margaret his wife, who held it in 1345; and afterwards married to Thomas Spayne, on whom it was settled, for he held it after her death; in Edward the the Fourth's time it belonged to the Dentons, and went with Felice, daughter and heir of William Denton of Besthorp, to Roger Drury of Hausted in Suffolk, who married her; and thus this manor came to the Drurys.
Brettenham's, or Bridgeham's Manor,
Was held by the Curzuns, or Cursons, of East Carleton and Stanfeld, of Sir Robert de Tateshale, at half a fee; and in 1292, William de Cursoun had it. In 1335, Margaret, wife of John, son of the said William, died seized, it being then held of Shropham hundred; and Will. Curson was her son and heir, who, before 1345, had parted with it to Tho. de Hedersete, who then held it, and sold it the same year to Peter, vicar of Hocham, (fn. 16) and John de Brettenham, from whom it took its present name, which in time was corrupted into Bridgham's. In 1401, their heirs held it of the Lady Cromwell; in 1408, Ralph Campayne, or Chaumpanne, and Beatrice his wife, sold it to John, son of Reginald Maundevile, by the name of Curson's manor. In 1562, Will. Cocket of Besthrorp, Esq. had it, and owned it to his death in 1579, in which year he was buried in this church, Oct. 28, and the manor went to the Drurys, and became united to the rest.
There was a part granted off very early from Bavent's manor, which was held at half a fee, of the Thorps, as of Ashwell-Thorp manor; in 1328, Walter de Norwich held it of Sir John de Thorp; in 1329, Edmund de Baconsthorp held his manor in Besthorp at half a fee, of Rob. de Thorp, who had it as part of the fees of Roger Bygod Earl of Norfolk. This after came to William Cocket, Esq. and being joined to Bridgham's, went with that to the Drurys, who became possessed of all the manors, the impropriation, and advowson.
In 1267, Baldwin de Melnes, or Melles, had those lands which Ebraud de Mellnes his ancestor had, two parts of the tithes of which he confirmed to the monks of Thetford, according to his ancestor's gift, but it was no manor.
The whole being thus united in the Drurys, it will be proper to trace that branch of the family that were lords here, having spoken of the family in general under Ridlesworth, at p. 277. (fn. 17) Roger Drury of Hausted in Suffolk had by Felice, or Phillis, daughter and heir of William Denton of Festhorp in Norfolk, William Drury, his second son, to whom he gave Besthorp. He married Margaret, daughter and sole heir of William Briggs, of Whitwell in Norfolk, by whom he had William Drury of Besthorp, who married Ursula, daughter of Rich. Coo, by whom he had two sons; Charles, who died young, and Francis, who succeeded his brother, but died without issue, leaving it to his nephew, William Drury of Besthorp, son of Rob. Drury his brother, by Eiz. Clifford his wife; he married for his second wife, Dorothy, daughter of William Brampton of Letton in Norfolk, who after remarried to Will. Cocket of Ampton, Esq. and left Anthony Drury of Besthorp, Esq. their son and heir, who was high sheriff of Norfolk in 1619, and married Anne, daughter of John Garnish of Kenton in Suffolk, for his second wife, Anne Kemp, his first wife, being buried here in 1571; but Charles and Francis, her two sons, dying without issue, it went, at his death in 1614, to Anne, his second wife, for life, who was buried here, March 31, 1634, by her husband; and it went to Sir Anthony Drury of Besthorp, his son and heir, who was knighted in 1603; he married Bridget, daughter of John Spelman of Narburgh, Esq. by whom he had a numerous issue; Sir Anthony was buried Oct. 16, 1638, and Bridget, his relict, the 28th of the same month, leaving Sir William Drury of Besthorp his son and heir, who married Mary, daughter of William Cokayn of London, skinner, and was buried here Nov. 15, 1639, leaving one son, Anthony, who was baptized Feb. 17, 1638, and was buried Sept. 15, 1640, leaving these and Chauntecler's manor to his two sisters, his coheiresses, Bridget, born Jan. 21, 1635, and Anne, baptized July 13, 1640, being born after her father's decease; Bridget first married to Charles Nedham Viscount Kilmurrey, by whom she had issue, Robert Lord Viscount Kilmurrey, who was lord of a moiety, he died in 1668, aged 13 years, and was buried here, Dame Mary, relict of Sir William Drury, his grandmother, surviving him, till June 1688, when she died, and was interred by him: Anne, the other daughter, married Philip Harbord of Stanninghall and Besthorp, Esq. by whom he had a son named William, who died young, and was buried here Sept. 7, 1678; and on the 12th Jan. following, his mother was buried by him; and on the 13th Sept. 1687, the said Philip was buried here, and his moiety descended to his three daughters, of which Sarah, his third daughter, died unmarried Jan. 31, 1689, and was buried here, leaving her part to her two sisters: Anne, married to Robert Paston, second son to Robert, Earl of Yarmouth, who sold his moiety of the moiety, to Charles Shaw, Esq. second son of Sir John Shaw of Eltham in Kent, Bart. who had married Elizabeth, the other sister, so that he became sole lord of the Harbord's moiety, and of the other also, in right of his mother, who, after the death of Viscount Kilmurrey, married Sir John Shaw aforesaid, for her second husband, so that he became sole lord. He died at Besthorp, April 28, 1716, and was buried there, leaving two sons and one daughter; Elizabeth, married to King Gould, Deputy Advocate of the Admiralty, who hath issue two sons, Charles and Paston: John Shaw of Besthorp, Esq. Captain in the Guards, inherited, and died without issue in 1722, and it descended to Charles Shaw, Esq. of Besthorp, his only brother, who married Frances, daughter of Mr. Lightfoot of Hampshire, and died lately, and is buried here, leaving Elizabeth, his only daughter, who is now a minor, his sole heiress.
There are two halls, or manor-houses in this parish, now distinguished by the names of the Old Hall (or Plassing Hall) and the New Hall, which is a good building, erected by the Drurys, as their arms on the outside shew us, and is now the seat of the Shaws. In the windows, &c. are the arms of Drury, with 1593 under them, the time, I suppose, the house was built, and
Sir John Shaw of Eltham in Kent married in 1675 to Bridget Viscountess Kilmurrey, daughter to Sir William Drury of Besthorp in Norfolk, and was the 755th baronet by creation, and bare for his paternal coat, Arg. a chevron between three lozenges erm.; and for his crest, seven arrows gul. headed, and one feathered, or, one perpendicular, and three and three crossing saltire ways, all within the slit of a girdle, extended at length az. buckle and clasp or. (fn. 18)