An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 1. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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THE INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EDITION.
As this work appears in publick, contrary to common practice, without either Preface or Dedication prefixed, I looked upon myself necessarily obliged to say something by way of Introduction, both to inform my readers the reason of it, as well as the design of the following Essay.
It is well known (and it would be the greatest ingratitude in me, to forbear acknowledging it) how much I have been assisted in this work, by that Right Reverend Prelate, the late Bishop of St. Asaph, whose kindness was so great, as not only to help me to the sight of vast numbers of records and manuscripts concerning this county, but also to fix my method, and revise my collections when put together, town by town, as I compiled them. To this worthy Prelate (by his own knowledge and approbation) was this Work dedicated; but alas! to my particular great loss, as well as to the world in general, he is no more: gratitude therefore obliged me to dedicate it to his memory, not doubting but that will ever be valued by all the learned; and as a Dedication to any other Patron could have been no real compliment, I am sure it would have been far from shewing a grateful respect to my deceased benefactor.
And now as to the design in general, which I do not pretend to call a History of Norfolk, but an Essay only towards it, being very sensible that there may be several things of moment, in almost every parish, that may be impossible for me to know, or come at; but thus far I may venture to say, that the successions of the lords of the manors; the patrons and incumbents of the churches; the series of the religious; the ancient and present valuations of each parish, are as perfect as my own collections, the original manuscripts and records that I have met with, and the collections of my friends, could possibly make them: whatever pedigrees or evidences, relating to any families of worth, merit, or antiquity in the county (as far as they concern this History, and have come to my hands) shall be faithfully inserted, together with all the ancient arms and inscriptions, that are any where found in the churches, or other places; as also all publick gifts and benefactions that I can meet with, in order to preserve them, as far as can be, from devouring time, and to animate others by those examples, to a worthy emulation of such charitable works, amiable to God and man. For the same reason it is, that I shall be very exact in my descriptions of the Churches, Chapels, &c. that posterity may know, what signal tributes of honour and reverence our ancestors paid to those holy places, which they generously built, richly adorned, and prudently set apart for God's worship. And I shall be as careful as I can, truly to transcribe the original names of places and persons, and not in the least vary the orthography of the ancients, but always represent them as they are in the originals, whether they be right or wrong, false language or true, by which means it will often happen, that the same word will be spelt many different ways in one page, and perhaps false language may occur as often; and in such places where inscriptions or evidences are partly illegible, I shall give them as they are, without variation, imagining, that though they be imperfect, I ought not to omit them, they being designed to perpetuate the memories of our once-flourishing ancestors, to future ages. At first I determined to have translated all the Latin inscriptions, for the English reader, but was prevailed upon to omit it, because if it be an inscription for any remarkable person, it will be hinted in the History, and then the translation would be of no other use, but to swell the book, and enhance the price, both which are contrary to my design, which is to comprise it in as little room as can be, without injuring the subject. I have added, for the use of the curious, an exact copy of Domesday to every town, and placed it (together with all the references) by way of note, that it may not be any hindrance to the reader, having referred to the several authors and originals that I have made use of, in all cases, except where the originals are either in Mr. Le Neve's or my own collections, which at present I design to join to his, so that being together they may be consulted at all times, and therefore to quote them would be labour to no purpose; but in all cases where my friends have been so kind as to oblige me with a sight of their evidences or manuscripts, I shall freely refer to them, and own their favours.
Several reasons there are that induced me to publish in this method, among which, these are the chief, viz. the improvements that may be made as I go on, by gentlemen's seeing in what manner I proceed, and helping me, as I come to their parts, to a sight of old evidences, or antiquities, or by subscribing for plates of their seats, monuments, arms, ruins, or other things worth observation, which advantage I could not have had, if I had done it at once; besides, I do not fear but I may hereafter meet with several Subscribers who will willingly expend a trifle every month, that would not have chose to lay down half the price before-hand, (as is the common way), nor to have expended it all at once; and this is the reason why I do not design to publish the list of my Subscribers till the whole is finished, because then I can do it complete. And that this work may be done to my own liking, and corrected by myself, I have procured a workman, who hath put up a press in my own house, for the publication of it; so that all that now have, or hereafter shall, subscribe, shall be upon the same terms; neither shall there be any alterations or additions made after it is finished, except such memoirs as may come in too late, all which shall be published by way of appendix, to be bound up with the last volume.
And as to the use of this History, I shall only observe, that the ancient and present lords, patrons, and incumbents, the different customs of the manors, the customs and yearly outgoings of the livings, and the divers valuations of the parishes, are things that will be of use to the present, and future proprietors. Not to insist upon the delight and pleasure that many take in historical affairs, which, though it may be decried and run down by some, yet it must be acknowledged, that History is the light of truth, and life of memory, as the great Orator (fn. 1) formerly observed; and if there be nothing more in it, experience teaches that by recording the lives and actions of the good, those that come after them are thereby encouraged to imitate their virtues, for nothing so much incites the mind of man, to an emulation of others, as the report of the noble actions of them that have gone before them; and on the other side, nothing more affrights people from doing base and wicked actions, than the terrible examples of those, who have deservedly suffered the greatest misfortunes, as the just reward of their evil doings.
It will be convenient also to advertise my Readers, that I design three general indexes to be bound up with the last volume, viz. one of places, a second of names, and a third of the arms, mentioned in the work, though I must own I am no accurate herald, and therefore ask pardon, if I make use of any terms improper in that science. I have diligently examined whatever printed authors I could meet with, in relation to this county, from whom I am often obliged to vary, but it is always when I have the utmost certainty for so doing, and never, unless I am fully convinced they are in errour, from which it is impossible for any one (in a work of this nature) to be altogether free.
I need not quote the Registers or Institution Books, in the Bishop of Norwich's Office, they going in a chronological order, and the series being complete, (fn. 2) (which I believe few, if any office in England, except this, can shew,) and are now kept in good and regular order, by Mr. Marker, the present officer, whose care in this affair ought to be publickly commended, there being too many in such places, who know not what records they have under their care, nor the value nor use of them.
But before I close this Introduction, I should be guilty of great injustice to my generous benefactors, should I not publickly own the many and great favours, helps, and assistances, that I have already, and now daily continue to receive from them, viz.
The Worshipful Dr. Nash, Chancellor of Norwich, who of his great kindness hath assisted me, by a large subscription to the work, and the use of the best records that are any where extant, concerning this county.
But in a particular manner am I obliged to the Reverend Mr. Charles Parkyn, rector of Oxburgh, whose pains in drawing up the whole deaneries of Cranwich and Fincham, besides many other great assistances, can never be sufficiently repaid.
As also to that judicious antiquary, Mr. Thomas Martin of Palgrave in Suffolk, who not only supplies me with whatever occurs in his own large and valuable Collection of Antiquities, but also with the whole Collections of that late industrious and perfect antiquary, Peter Le Neve, Norroy, who for above forty years at his great expense, and immense trouble, amassed together the greatest fund of antiquities for this county that was ever collected for any single county in this kingdom; all which, by the favour of Mr. Martin, I have the perusal of, they resting in his hands till they be properly disposed of, according to Mr. Le Neve's will.
A great many others there are, to whom I am much indebted for their encouragement; but as it would be too tedious to mention them all, I shall refer it to the several places, where their helps will be inserted.
I am well apprized what number of carpers and enemies this work will meet with; but think they must be
such as know not with what difficulty, length of time, and
expense the materials for this Essay, have been got together. Some perhaps may censure me, if they hit on a
thing that I have not seen, or perhaps been misinformed
about; others there are, I do not doubt, who will think
me too particular in many things, and others, perhaps,
not particular enough; so that as it is a thing impossible
to please all, if it is but approved of by my Subscribers, (to
whom only I am obliged,) I care for nought else, not
doubting but that it will be universally allowed, that
there will be much more of the history of this county, than
was ever published before, and if so, my greatest enemies
must allow with the poet,
Est quodam prodire tenus, si non datur ultrà. Hor.
As to what I have related beyond the present age, I
have the originals, or my authorities are always quoted;
but as to the present time, it is either upon the credit of
such persons as had no reason to speak further, or otherwise, than their own knowledge doth reach, or upon my
own inspection, having already seen, or determined to
see every particular place in this county that I shall treat
of; and therefore I hope there will be no such great mistakes, but what the candid reader may well pardon, professing that my chief end is, to deliver nothing but truth,
with an honourable respect to every one. And thus submitting to my readers' courtesy, I shall conclude with
— Si quid novisti rectiùs istis, Candidus imperti: si non, his utere mecum.