An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.
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At the Confessor's survey, belonged to one of his thanes named Burkart, who owned the chief part, and was patron of the church, which had then 24 acres of glebe; (fn. 1) Aluric, a freeman of Bishop Stigand, had another part; and there was a berewic in Nelonde( (fn. 2)), which belonged to it: Walter de Dol, lord of Habetuna or Hapton, became lord here, and made these two villages one manor; he had them both of Roger Bigot, who held them of Earl Hugh, except two parcels, which the said Roger kept as belonging to his manor of Forncet( (fn. 3)), with which they always passed to this time. This town was a league in length, and half a league in breadth, and paid 13d. ob. to the tax.
The manor was very early in a family, which took their name from the town of North-Creke, where they were lords, and always resided. Sir Robert de Creke much augmented his estate, by marrying one of the heiresses of the Glanvilles family; after whose death, he married again; for in 1233, Richemeia his widow, was lady of the manor, which she then resigned to Sir Bartholomew de Creke, her son, who married Margery daughter of Jeffery Harnes, widow of Le Clerk, who survived him, and was lady in 1251, and in that year, resigned all her right in this manor and those of NorthCreke, Combes, and Flixton in Suffolk, to Robert de Creke, her eldest son and heir; but on his death without issue, she had it again; and in 1274, had view of frankplege and assise of bread and ale allowed her here; about 1258, she founded Flixton nunnery in Suffolk, and at her death, John de Creke, her son, inherited, who in 1285, obtained a charter of free-warren from King Edward I. for this manor, and that of Creke, when it was found that it extended into Hapton and Wimondham, and that one fee of it was held of Chester honour, and another of the Earl-Marshal, as of Forncet manor; but he dying without issue, his inheritance went to Sir John de Thorp, Knt. (called John Fitz-Robert) (fn. 4) in right of Margaret (or Margery) his wife, daughter of Sir Robert de Creke, and at length coheir of Sarah de Creke, sister to Sir John de Creke, and wife to Roger Fitz-Osbert, (fn. 5) and from him it descended to Robert Fitz-John de Thorp, his son, who obtained general releases from Roger son of Peter Fitz-Osbert, and from Agnes daughter and heiress of Jeffery Giltspur of Beccles, who married Agnes de Creke, his mother's sister; Joan de Creke, his other aunt, being dead issueless. And from this time it always passed as the manor of Ashwell-thorp, with which it still remains at this day, as you may see from p. 142, to p. 162.
The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas, and was a rectory appendant to the manor, till Margery, widow of Sir Barth. de Creke, foundress of Flixton nunnery in Suffolk, gave it with a messuage and 12 acres of land, (fn. 6) and many rents and services here, (fn. 7) to Beatrix, prioress of Flixton, and her successours for ever; (fn. 8) and that convent presented till it was impropriated to their house, by William Bateman Bishop of Norwich in 1347, (fn. 9) an annual pension of two marks (fn. 10) being reserved to the Bishop, in lieu of first-fruits; and 2s. a year to the sacrist, as to the high-altar at the cathedral, and the Prioress was to nominate and find, a stipendiary chaplain, to be approved by the Bishop, and pay him for serving the cure; and from that time it hath been a donative, in the gift of the impropriator, who names a chaplain or clerk, and pays him for serving the cure, to which when licensed by the Bishop of the diocese, he is a perpetual curate. John de Creke was rector sometime before Norwich Domesday was made, and had a house and 40 acres of glebe, and it was valued at 15 marks with all the tithes; it paid 2s. 8d. synodals and procurations, 16d. Peter-pence, and 3d. carvage. In 1273, the day after St. Luke's day, there was an inquisition taken in the consistory court at Norwich, on the oaths of John, vicar of Thorp, Roger, vicar of Tharston, Gilbert, chaplain of Hapeton, and others, (fn. 11) who presented that the rector for the time being, ought to repair the church of Fundenhale, and if it should happen, to rebuild it; and that a certain lady called Bertha de Fundenhale, (fn. 12) gave to the said church and rectors thereof for ever, 15 acres of land in Fundenhale field, and a mark yearly rent in the town of Harpol; on condition, the rector and his successours for ever, should repair and rebuild it, as often as it should happen to want; which lands and rent, the rector then enjoyed; and that in a former controversy between the parishioners and Robert du Boys then rector, it was adjudged by the Bishop's official, that the rector should repair it, and not the parishioners: at the Dissolution in 1536, the King granted to Rich. Stephens and George Buck, "all the rectory and church of Funhall in the county of Norfolk, and the advowson of the vicarage of the parish church of Funhall, to be held by the rent of 6s. 8d. per annum, and the yearly stipend of one chaplain performing divine offices, and taking the cure of the souls of the said parish;" and in 1547, Stephens had license to sell it to Sir John Clere, Knt. and his heirs. Afterwards, Thomas Knevet of Ashwell-thorp, Esq. lord here, and the inhabitants, petitioned the House of Commons, that the Lady Clere of Cotton, late wife of Sir Francis Clere, and John Smith, Esq. who purchased the reversion of the impropriation of Sir Edward Clere, brother to the said Sir Francis, who died without issue, might be called to show, why they should not pay a competent stipend out of the profits, sufficient to find a serving minister, that might serve it regularly, and continue with them, instead of such poor stipends as 12 or 16 pounds a year at most, by reason of which, no minister would stay any time on the cure, there having been 40 returns of curates in the memory of one man; but it appearing that one Mr. Symonds, who obtained a presentation from the King in 1608, could not enjoy it, as not being presentative; but that the impropriator was to nominate a chaplain or curate, and pay him out of the profits, a competent stipend, they were dismissed. However, Mr. Edward Voice, the then curate, being returned to the house as a "godly, conscionable, and painful preacher of God's word," was appointed minister, and had a competent stipend (fn. 13) assigned him out of the profits, by virtue of the order of the House, made Dec. 19, 1640. The impropriation now belongs to John Berney, Esq. of Swerdeston.
1603, Mr. John Peay, curate, returned answer, that he was perpetual curate, it being a donative, and there were 93 communicants in the parish, which paid 46s. to each tenth, and in 1627, Richard Punder, A. B. perpetnal curate here, returned much the same account.
The Prior of Wimondham's temporals were taxed at 12d. and the spirituals of the Prioress of Flixton at 15 marks, (fn. 14) and were to pay 20s. to each tenth; but in 1347, the nuns being returned to be very poor, they were excused the tax. Here was a gild of St. Nicholas, and lights before his image, and that of the Virgin in the church, which is built in the collegiate form, with a square tower, under which William Petifer, parish chaplain, was buried in 1374; and in 1460, William Norman, parish chaplain here, was interred in the chancel, and Master Vergeant, D. D. a friar-minor, was to pray for him in his convent at Norwich; he was a benefactor, as was John Daniel, (fn. 15) who was buried in 1418 in Magdalen-chapel in St. Stephen's church in Norwich, and gave 20 marks to repair this steeple, and ordered a priest to celebrate a whole year in the church, for the souls of Roger and Christian his father and mother, &c. There are three bells, on the first,
Next is a [P] with the cross keys, for St. Peter, and the arms of Flixton nunnery, gul. a Catherine wheel, with a cross arg. that house being founded in honour of St. Catherine; next is a crown and mitre, and [S.N.] for St. Nicholas, the patron of the church; there are two or three stones disrobed of their brass plates, under one of which, lies buried John Kemp of Fundenhale, by his mother; Margaret his wife, and John his son survived him, and inherited his estate here.
William Knyvet, Gent. second son to Edmund Knyvet, Esq. serjeant porter to King Henry VIII. (fn. 16) married Dorothy, daughter of Mr. Themilthorp, and by will dated Nov. 26, 1594, ordered his body to be buried in the church of Fundenhale, where he lived, leaving two sons and two daughters; 1, Muriel, married to Jeffry Abbs, and had issue. 2d, Amphillis, married to Mr. Johnson, and left issue, Anne.
Thomas, the second son died without issue. And John Knyvet of Fundenhale, his eldest son, married Joan daughter of Robert Browne of Tacolneston, and had John Knyvet of Fundenhale, who married Joanna Sutton, from whom descended William Knyvet, Esq. of Fundenhale, the present coroner for the county of Norfolk.