An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.
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Was anciently called Thorp. only, and Ashewell was a hamlet in Thorp, but there being so many Thorps in the county about King Stephen's time, it began, for distinction sake, to be called AshwellThorp; the name of Ashwell (fn. 1) does not once occur in Domesday Book, though it seems to have been a well inhabited place; for in 1131, Sir John de Thorp Knt. founded
The free-chapel of St. Mary the Virgin at Ashwell, and built a house for the residence of a chaplain or chantry priest, to perform daily service in it to the inhabitants of the hamlet, and to pray for his own and wife's souls, and those of his ancestors and successours for ever. Having obtained a royal license of mortmain, he settled the house and five marks a year, for the chaplain's maintenance; but in 1315, thinking he had not fully endowed it, he confirmed to God, St. Mary, and all the Saints, the messuage and five marks annual rent, and another close of land, which he now added to the chantry aforesaid, with the consent of Sir Gregory de Thorp, Knt. his brother, the King, and Sir John de Clavering, Knt. his chief lord, confirming it; the revenues of this chapel were valued at 3l. and paid 6s. annual tenths; but at the dissolution of chantries in the time of Edw. VI. the whole was seized, and granted away by that King; and in 1598, Sir Thomas Knevet purchased the chapel-house, and all that belonged to the dissolved chapel of Ashwell: and ever since they have continued with the manor.
1315, Thomas de Cantiâ, or Kent, was presented to the chapel by the founder, all rights of the mother-church at Thorp being reserved.
1327, John Fish of Therston. Sir Robert de Thorp, Knt.; he held this united to the mediety of Fressing field in Suffolk, which he changed in 1334, with John de Pagrave, for Thorp rectory, and in 1335 rechanged again, but held this till
1344, when Jeffery Kemp of Little Massingham was presented by Beatrix, relict of Sir Rob. de Thorp, who gave him Thorp rectory in 1349; he resigned in 1352, and she gave it to
Adam de Redgrave; and afterwards it was generally held by the rectors of Thorp, upon their giving security to perform daily service in the chapel, by themselves or deputy.
Ashwell was also a distinct manor from Thorp, in a family sirnamed from the hamlet. Ric. de Ashwell was lord of it in Henry the Third's time, (fn. 2) and after him, Sir John Eswell or Ashwell, his son, whose brother was parson of Little-Massingham in 1286, and joined with him and sold it to the Thorps, who joined it to their manor of Thorp, with which it still continues; but the title was not completed till 1347, and then John de Ashwell-Thorp, son, I suppose, of Sir John, confirmed the whole, to Sir Edmund de Thorp, Knt. and his heirs.