An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 11. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1810.
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Seven socmen of Earl Guert held 50 acres of land, and 8 of meadow, with one carucate, but the soc of them belonged to the hundred; on their deprivation it was in the Conqueror, and Godric took care of it as his steward.—This town, with Pankesford, was one leuca long, and half a leuca broad, and paid together 16d. gelt. (fn. 1)
This was granted from the Crown to the Bigots Earls of Norfolk, and so came from the Bigots to Thomas de Brotherton Earl of Norfolk, to the Mowbrays, and Howards Dukes of Norfolk, and so was sold December 5, in the 2d year of King James I. by Henry Howard Earl of Northampton, to Henry Holditch, Esq. with messuages, lands in Panxford, Wood-Bastwick, &c. late possessions of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, attainted, by the ancient service of paying 8l. 7s. &c. being parcel of the lordship of South Walsham.
He was a descendant of Richard de Holditch, lord of Dudlington in Grimshoe hundred, in the 20th of Edward III. as may be there seen. Robert Holditch, Esq. was supervisor of the Duke of Norfolk's estate in the 4th of Hen. VII.
The aforesaid Elizabeth gives to Robert Holditch her son, 500 wethers sheep, going at Ranworth, and elsewhere in Norfolk. Robert Felmingham her son, dying sans issue, she orders her messuages and lands here, (fn. 2) and in South Walsham, and Panxford, to her son Robert Holditch, (paying 100 marks to her 2 daughters, by 10 marks yearly) with all her lands in Upton; and calls Ralph Berney her brother, and John Berney her nephew, proved April 6, 1524
Margaret Holditch of Randworth, widow, late wife of Robert Holditch, Esq. in her will, dated June 13, 1559, mentions Robert Holditch, Esq. and John her sons, her daughter Elianor, wife of —Gourney, and Frances, wife of Rookwood; her sister, wife of Sir Henry Sermingham,—and her niece his daughter.
In the 4th or 5th of Elizabeth, Miles Holditch, Esq. had livery of this manor, &c. and John Holditch in —. Henry Holditch, Esq. in 1600, who by Susan his wife, daughter of— Richers, or of Denney, had Elizabeth his daughter and heir.
This Elizabeth brought it by marriage, with Didlington, &c. to Sir Isaac Sidley, Barl. of Kent, and Sir John his son sold it to John Houghton, Esq. the youngest son of Sir Robert Houghton, judge of the King's Bench, by Mary his wife, daughter of Robert Richers of Roctham in Kent, Esq. Sir Robert was son of John Houghton of Gunthorp in Norfolk, and born there.
Extended into this town. Robert Fitz Roger de Corebrigg, in Northumberland, ancestor of the family of De Clavering was lord in right of Margaret his wife, daughter and coheir of William de Cheney, and relict of Hugh de Cressey. This Robert was the founder of Langly abbey in this county, and gave this church to the said abbey, sheriff of Norfolk in the reign of Richard I. and may be seen in Horsford in Taverham hundred.
In the 20th of Henry III. the prior of Beeston held in this town, and Wickhampton, part of a fee; and in the 15th of Edward I. claimed view of frank pledge, the assise, &c. of his tenants, and in the 15th of Edw. II. was returned to have a lordship.
Sir Henry Spelman says that the river Bure often overflows the low grounds here, and surprising quantities of fish are taken, the neighbours assuring him that 120 bushels have been taken between the drag of 2 nets, and that it was famous for perch. (fn. 3)
The Church is dedicated to St. Helen and was valued at 15 marks, and being appropriated to the abbey of Langley, a vicarage was settled, (valued at 5 marks) and the right of patronage to it, in the 3d of Edward III. Peter-pence 6d. carvage 4d. ob.
In 1237, there was an exemplification of the assignment of this vicarage, consisting of the altarage, small tithes of hay and turf, 20 acres of land belonging to the demean of the church, and a house on the north side of the church.
One of the witnesses deposed that he had heard it said from more ancient times, (fn. 4) that there were two powerful sisters, who enjoyed Randworth and Pankford, and they quarrelled who should take place in Randworth church; that being then the church for both townships, upon which one of the sisters built a wooden oratory in Pankford, (where now is the stone church) but the rector of Ranworth had all the profit thereof; at length, (as the neighbours said) a woman named Elswyd, having the right of the said church and oratory, married Ralph, chaplain or curate of Stokesby, to whom she gave the said church and oratory; by Elswyd he had a son Hermer, who enjoyed it.
Another witnessed, that Mr. Adam de Crelyngham succeeded Hermer in the rectory, on the presentation of Robert Fitz-Roger, who had the right by his wife Margery de Cressy, and then was the chapel separated from the said church, by Alexander de Dunham, senescal of Robert Fitz Roger, who gave the chapel to Reginald his son.
By the said register it appears that Ralph de Stokesby was instituted by Bishop Everard, in the reign of Henry I. and Elswyd before mentioned; after this Hermer her son, by Ralph the chaplain, Hermer being instituted by William Turbe, Bishop of Norwich.
After the death of Elswyd, the manor and advowson of Ranworth, came as an escheat to William de Cheney, chief lord of the fee, and from William to Margaret his daughter and coheir, married to Hugh de Cressy, by whom she had Roger de Cressy; but after the death of the said Hugh, she married Robert Fitz-Roger.
After this, the Lady Margery gave this manor and advowson to her son, Sir Roger de Cressy, and he gave it to the abbey and convent of Langley, is perpetual alms, John Bishop of Norwich confirming it, to their proper use.
On the decease of Adam the rector, the abbot and convent presented Pandalf the Bishop, Mr. John de Ferentine, but Sir Roger de Cressy gave 2 parts or the manor to his banner or standard bearer, Peter de Musters, and the 3d part to Richard La Veile, his valet; from this arose two lordships.
Henry de Veile released by fine in the 3d of Henry III. his right in the advowson, to the abbot of Langley; and in 1235, the abbot of St. Bennet released to the abbot of Langley, all his right in the church of St. Helen of Ranworth.
The history abovementioned of Ralph, the chaplain's marriage, and his wife's presenting him to this rectory, is a piece of antiquity highly valuable, as it fully and plainly proves, that in the year 1174, when Turbut, the Bishop of Norwich died, that the church of Rome, allowed of the marriage of their clergy, and their sons succeeding them in their church preferments; and that there was no positive law, either canon or civil, to hinder it, as their own records, and the register of Langley testify. And it is further to be observed that one of the witnesses in this cause deposed that he knew Ringolf the grandfather, Ralph the son, and Hermerus the grandson, all rectors successively of the church of Ranworth, with Panxford chapel annexed, and the same thing was also deposed by Ralph, chaplain of Ranworth, son of Hermer.
Sir Robert Houghton's eldest son, Robert, died s. p. Francis his second son lived at Shelton, and had issue by Helen his wife; the daughters of Sir Robert, were Elie, married to Thomas Doughty of Aylshom; Margaret, to William Doughty of Hanworth; Alice to John Marshall of Norwich, and Cecily, to Richard Tharlow of Burnham.
John his youngest son, lord of this town, by Doughty his wife, had Robert his son and heir, (and Elizabeth a daughter married to John Tothill of Upminster in Essex,) he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Corbet, and sister and coheir of Sir Thomas Corbet, baronets of Sprouston, and was father of John Houghton, Esq. and of 3 daughters, Elizabeth, married to Sir Nevile Catlyn, Knt. of Kirkby Caam; Lydia to John Say, of Holveston, Gent. son of Suckling Say, and Mary, who died single; this John was also lord of Randworth, and having the lordship of Bramerton given to him, by the will of Thomas Corie, Esq. about 1682, settled at Bramerton, he married Mary, daughter of Richard Chamberlain of Astley Castle in Warwickshire, Esq. by whom he had John Houghton, Esq. who married—, one of the daughters and coheirs of John Baron, D.D dean of Norwich, lord in 1750.