An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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Joins to the east side of Breccles, and is commonly called StowBreccles, to distinguish it from other towns of the same name; it was formerly called Stow-Bydon, from its ancient lords; [stou] signifies a house, or place of habitation, and often, by way of eminence, a church, that being esteemed by the ancients the most eminent of all habitations. In the Confessor's days the whole village belonged to Alfere, a Saxon, who had 5 carucates in demean, and it was worth 10l. per annum. It afterwards came to Earl Ralph, upon whose forfeiture the King seized it, and let it to Godric at 12l. 13s. 4d. a year, and as long as the soke belonged to it, Godric let it for 13l. 13s. 4d. and 20s. income; but when the soke was taken away, it fell to 7l. for then the King had the parts of several manors, as Caston, Griston, Thompson, &c. which belonged to this, laid to their own manors, and so reduced the value of this. Stow was then two leagues long and half a one broad, and paid 10d. ob. 1q. gelt. (fn. 1)
Bydon, or Bedon Manor,
Continued some time in the Crown, but how long I cannot say; in Henry the third's time it was in the Bydon family; and in 1345, was held in dower by Maud de Bydon, daughter of Thomas Fitz-Berward, and widow of John de Bydon, junior, afterwards married to John de Bokesford, the manor being then valued at 11l. 12s. and Eugenin, mother of Thomas Fitz-Bernard, had the custody of it, after the death of John de Bydon, junior, it being held of the King at half a fee, and was part of the honour granted to the Bydons, which Humphry de Bydoun, lord of Kirby-Bidoun, formerly held. In 1254, the aforesaid Maud died seized. In 1256, Thomas, son of Robert, was lord and patron of this church, he sold the manor this year to Walter de Hide, reserving the advowson and divers lands, and thus the manor and advowson were separated, the former of which, in 1273, was settled on the said Walter, and Joan his wife, by fine levied between them, and Jeffry de Suthorp, and Margery his wife, who reserved to themselves the advowson, which they had purchased, with the lands that Thomas, son of Robert, reserved upon his sale of the manor, all which lands they settled on Walter, and Joan their daughter, on her marriage with Walter; and in 1281, the said Jeffry, sold the advowson to Eleanor, Queen consort to Edward I. who gave it to Marham abbey; (fn. 2) but the manor, at the death of Walter de Hide and Joan his wife, returned to Thomas Fitz-Robert aforesaid, who held it of Sir Baldwin Wake, and it had a leet belonging to it, free-warren, and the assize of bread and beer. In 1285, Robert le Veel or Vele, and Hawise his wife, had it, it being the inheritance of Hawise, who brought an action against Fulk Baynard, for 60 acres of land and Sandwade-Mere, and recovered; in 1286, Henry de Gildeford held it for life of the said Hawise at half a fee, of whom Robert de Aula (or Hall) of Thompson held a 6th part, which he had assigned to Robert Crowe and Agnes his mother, who held it of him; the Veles held the whole of the heirs of Wake; in 1303, the said Hawise, then widow of Robert le Vele, settled it on William Paynell, and Margaret his wife, and her heirs. In 1337, Thomas Lord Wake of Lydel, and Blanck his wife, conveyed it to the Prior of Hautamprize in Yorkshire, and his church of St. Mary and the Holy-Cross for ever, and the prior regranted it to him and his wife for life, paying a rent of 10l. per annum. In 1345, the said Thomas held it at half a fee, and Baldwin Buturt, Ric. de Alva, and his tenants in Thompson, held a 6th part of it; in 1348, (fn. 3) John Delves held it of the Lady Wake, (her husband, before his death, having obtained the fee of it of the Prior) by the rent of a pair of gilt spurs a year, but the manor was charged with an annuity of 26l. 6s. 8d. paid to Tho. de Budenhall, Henry de Cotton, Alexander de Bayton, John Wisham, and their heirs. Henry Delves was brother and heir of John, but the inheritance was in the Earl of Kent, for Edmund of Woodstock, third son to King Edward I. married Margaret, sister and heiress to Thomas Lord Wake, and left issue two sons, Edmund and John, who dying without issue, Joan their sister inherited, who married Sir Tho. Holland, Knt. created in her right Earl of Kent, and Lord Wake of Lydell, which Earl became possessed of this manor; it came from the Kent family to Ralph Lord Cromwell, and in 1514, a moiety of it belonged to William Fitz-Williams of Sprotsburgh in Yorkshire, as descended from one of the heiresses of Ralph Lord Cromwell, and the other moiety to Will. Knevet of Bukenham-Castle; (fn. 4) and in 1521, John Spelman purchased of Sir Edm. Knevet, Knt. and Anne his wife, the moiety of the manor, and joined it to the other moiety that he had before, and it hath continued in that family ever since, John Spelman of Narburgh, Esq. being the present  lord. The large water called Sandwade, now StowMere, belongs to this manor.
Is that part of the town which lies next the Bek or river, and is sometimes called Bekerton-Hamlet, and Bekerton, alias Water-House manor. The most ancient lord that I meet with after the Conquest, was John de Rudham; in 1253, Ralf de Camois, senior had a charter, for free-warren here; in 1315, Ralf de Camois, his son, was lord, who settled it on Elizabeth his wife the year following; in 1379, Sir Thomas Camois, Knt. lord of Camoys, settled it on Robert Braybrook Bishop of London, and other trustees; in 1401, Sir Thomas Camois, was lord of this, and trustee of Stow-Bidon manor; in 1423, it was in the King's hands by the death of Sir Thomas, who granted it with the custody of Hugh Camois, his cousin and heir, to Sir Gilbert and Sir John de Ryghley, Knts. and Ric. Iskelay; in 1425, Sir John Ryghley, Knt. released to Gilbert Ryghley, Knt. Rob. Ryghley, Esq. and Ric. Iskelay, chaplain, all his right in this manor, which he had with several others, of the gift of Katherine Golding, formerly wife of Richard de Golding, and daughter and heir of William Cranewell. Soon after this, it came to the Spelmans, which family had been concerned here for some time, for in 1369, John Spelman had lands here; in 1385, a fine was levied between John de Wolterton, clerk, and John Spelman of Bekerton; in 1432, Henry Spelman of Bekerton was lord, he it was that first built Bekerton-Hall, part of which is now standing, and is a good old building, called the Water-House, Bekerton Hall, or Spelman's Place. In the parlour window I saw these shields, viz. Spelman, quartering gul. a chief erm. impaling quaterly, a chevron between three crescents, and a chevron between three leopards faces. Spelman, impaling Manning, and Brotherton's arms. This Henry died this year, and was buried in the churchyard, leaving John and Robert his sons; Isabell his wife was to have her dwelling in his principal mansion, for life: she died in 1444, and was buried by him; in 1460, John Spelman, Esq. was buried in the church, Robert, John, and William were his younger sons, and Katherine and Agnes his daughters; he left this manor to Henry, his eldest son, and his manor of Crow's Hall to Marion his wife for life; in 1470, Henry Spelman held it of Roger Grimston, Esq. as of his manor of Elingham-Parva by fealty, and 13s. 4d. per annum; in 1471, he was dead, and William Spelman, Esq. was lord in the latter end of Henry VII. and in the beginning of Henry VIII; in 1541, John Spelman purchased Bedon manor, and so was lord of the whole town, and Thomas was his son and heir; in 1561, Francis Spelman, Esq. settled Bekerton manor, two fold-courses, &c. on Sampson Hoopes, in trust; in 1570, John Spelman was lord of Crow's Hall and Bekerton; and in 1601, Robert Rolf, Esq.; in 1622, Bridget his widow; in 1626, Brampton Gurdon of Easton was lord, in whose family it hath continued ever since, Thornhaugh Gurdon of Letton, Esq. being now  lord.
Crow's Hall Manor
Was part of Bedon manor, granted to Hawise Le-Vele and Henry Le-Gildeford, to Robert de Aula, or Hall, who sold it to Robert Crowe and Agnes his mother, who held it at the twelfth part of a fee of Bedon manor; in 1287, Jeffry Crowe had it, and so many parts were bought in, that it is said to contain a fifth part of Bedon manor. In 1405, Richard Berney, Knt. was lord; in 1460, it was united to Bekerton manor, and hath continued so ever since; the manor of Cursons, of which I find the name only mentioned, being united also at the same time.
The Church hath a square tower, and three bells; it consists of a nave and chancel covered with thatch; there are no memorials, though there have been several of the Spelmans interred in it. Weaver, p. 821, tells us that William Spelman, Esq. who died in the reign of Henry VII. (it should be Henry VIII.) is buried under a fair tomb, which was taken down to rail in the altar the more conveniently. The register informs me that Grace, wife of John Spelman, was buried here in 1548.
It is dedicated to St. Butolph, and was appropriated to the Abbess of Marham, before the Council of Lateran, the appropriation was valued at 16 marks, and the vicarage, of which the Abbess was patroness, at 5 marks and an half, but was not taxed; it paid 21d. Peter-pence, and there was an annual pension of x.s. paid by the vicar to the abbey. It was valued in the King's Books at 4l. 19s. 4d. ob. and was sworn of the real value of 19l. 18s. before the augmentation.
The impropriation with the advowson of the vicarage was first granted to Nich. Hare, citizen and mercer of London, by Henry VIII. who left it to Nich. Hare, Esq. who sold it to Humphry Marshall and Walter Averell, and they to Rob. James of Little-Ellingham, who, in 1587, settled it on Leonard James, his son, and Sarah his wife; after this, a license of alienation was granted by King James I. on which it was sold to Anthony Style, who conveyed it to Edward Bulwer in 1622, and he in 1655, sold it to Rob. Pooley of GreatFraunsham, clerk, who left it to Christ. Pooley, and he to his son, Robert Pooley of Beetly, clerk, who in 1665, left it to Christopher Pooley, of St. Michael's Coslany in Norwich, who sold it to John Smith of Reymerston, clerk, who gave it to his son, Mr. James Smith, vicar here, and he, in 1719, settled the impropriation on the church, and procured the Queen's bounty, by which means the whole is joined, and it is become a rectory, with the addition of an estate of 10l. per annum, purchased with the bounty-money; the said Mr. Smith left it to his son, the present  patron. While the convent held the impropriation, the vicar was endowed with a sixth part of the great tithes.