An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.
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Takes its name from the Saxon word ben, a cave, or hollow place between two hills, which exactly answers to its situation: (fn. 1) the present church stands on a high hill, and the parsonage-house on the north side of the churchyard, in the very den or hollow, from which the village is named. The superiour jurisdiction over divers freemen of this town, from the time of the Conquest to this day, hath passed with the hundred of Earsham; (fn. 2) but the chief manor of Denton, was held of Bishop Stigand by Alfriz, in the Confessor's time, (fn. 3) and by Eudo son of Spiruwin at the Conqueror's survey; when it was worth 4l. per annum the town being then a mile long, and four furlongs broad, and paid 18d. geld. This came to William de Albany, who joined it to Bukenham castle, with which it passed many ages, as you may see at vol. i. p. 369, &c. Another part which formerly belonged to Bury abbey, was held by Tarmoht, and after by the said Eudo; (fn. 4) this constituted that manor called Payone's in Denton.
Denton cum Topcroft Manor
Passed with the Albanys, and at the division of the estate of that family among female heiresses (as at vol. i. p. 372,) was allotted, among others, to Sir Rob. de Tateshall, Knt. in whose family it continued till the failure of issue male. In 1227, King Henry III. granted to Sir Robert de Tateshale, Knt. a charter for free-warren here, which was confirmed to Constantine Clifton, his heir; and in 1285, Rog. Bigot was found, as lord of the hundred, to have joint free-warren with him: it went from the Tateshales through the Bernaks, Orrebys, &c. as at vol. i. p. 374, &c. to the Cliftons, and continued in that family with Bukenham castle, till 1447, and then Sir John Clifton, Knt. gave this manor (as at p. 377, vol. i.) to Robert Clifton his cousin, (fn. 5) and his heirs; who, jointly with Elizabeth his wife, conveyed the united manors of Denton cum Topcroft, the manors of Hoes and Littlehall in Denton, with the advowson of the church, to Sir Gilbert Debenham, Knt. son of Sir Giles de Debenham, Knt. together with a manor in Denver, and the advowson of St. Giles's chapel in Topcroft; the manors then extending into Denton, Topcroft, Alburgh, Bedingham, Wotton, Hemenhale, Hadesco-thorp, and Dicleburgh; and by a fine passed soon after, they were settled on Tho. Gardyner, as trustee, for the use of Robert and Eliz. Clifton his wife, for life, remainder to Sir Tho. Brewse, of Salle in Norfolk, (fn. 6) and Wenham in Suffolk, and Eliz. his second wife, sister and heiress to Sir Gilbert Debenham, and their heirs: (fn. 7) Sir Thomas's will is dated in 1479, by which he ordered himself and wife to be buried in Wodebridge priory church, of which he was patron, and where many of his ancestors lie; he had four sons, William, Robert, John, and Edward, and a brother named Robert, whose daughter Anne, was a nun at Redlingfield; he gave his manor of Stinton's in Salle, to William his eldest son, after the death of Eliz. his wife, to whom he gave the manors of Hawker's, Denton, Topcroft, Hoo, and Littlehall, with the advowsons of Denton and St. Giles's chapel in Topcroft, for life; and his feoffees settled them accordingly, with remainder to Robert Brewse, Esq. his second son, and his heirs; he married Katherine, daughter of Sir John Wing field of Letheringham in Suffolk, Knt. and was succeeded by Thomas Brewse of Topcroft-Hall and Wenham in Suffolk, Esq. who in 1514 was lord; he married Jane, daughter of Scroop of Bentley in Suff.; their son, Sir John Brewse of Wenham, was lord in 1533 and 1582; and in 1590, Thomas Brewse, Esq. whose son John Brewse, in 1602, was lord, being then six years old; he was afterwards knighted, and married Cecily, only daughter to John Wilton of Topcroft, Gent. (see vol i. p. 364.) and soon after the Wiltons were lords. In 1650, I find that Rob. Wilton, son of Ric. Wilton, brother to the said Cecily Brewse, held a court baron for Denton cum Topcroft, and a lete for Topcroft; that for Denton belonging to the Duke's hundred of Earsham; and it passed with the Wiltons as Wilby did, till Nic. Wilton, Esq. who held court here in 1679, sold it in 1680, to
George Smith, doctor of physick, second son of John Smith of North Nibley, sheriff of Gloucestershire, son of John Smith, sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1569, son of Thomas Smith of the same, sheriff of the said county in 1550, who descended from the Smiths of Elkington in Lincolnshire, who flourished in Henry the Sixth's time, and were returned among the gentlemen of that county, and afterwards of Tremblethorp; and thence about 1527, Thomas aforesaid settled at Nibley, where the elder branch have resided to this day from father to son. (fn. 8) This George took his master of arts decree at Oxford, and afterwards travelled beyond sea 25 years, and on the 24 of Dec. 1638, was admitted doctor of physick at Padua, as a fine diploma now in the family testifies; (fn. 9) in which he is called Nobilis Anglus; he married Mary, daughter and heiress of David Offley of Cheshire, Esq. by whom he had one son, Offley; his second wife was Anne, daughter of William Chilcot of Isleworth in Middlesex, Esq. who survived him, but had no issue; (fn. 10) he is buried in Topcroft chancel, with this on his stone, and the arms of Smith between those of Offley and Chilcott.
Here lies buried Dr. George Smith, Dr. of Physick, he was Son of John Smyth Esq; of North Nibley in Gloucestershire, he died in Topcroft-Hall the 15 of Aug. 170-he had 2 Wives, Mary Dr. of David Offley of London Esq; by whom he had one Son Offley Smith; and Anne the Daughter of William Chilcott of Isleworth in Middlesex Esq; by whom he left no Issue.
Offley his son inherited at his death; who was likewise a great traveller, and never resided at Topcroft, but died at London in 1708, and lies buried in St. Bride's church there, leaving this manor and estate to
George Smith, his eldest son, (fn. 11) by Mary daughter of Thomas Archer of Gloucestershire, Esq; who settled at the manor-house of Topcroft-hall, the present seat of the family; he married Mary, 3d daughter of William Churchman. Esq. of Illington, now living, and his widow: in 1735, he was sheriff of Norfolk, and died in Dec. 1745, leaving a numerous family.
Crest, on a wreath a heron's head erased, with a fish in his beak proper. (fn. 12)
Being joined to Denton cum Topcroft, I choose to treat of it here: it belonged at the Conquest to Bury abbey, and at the survey Berengarius held it of the Abbot, (fn. 13) and the lete then belonged to it, and it was worth 40s. per annum: this man was infeoffed in it by Abbot Baldwyn, and in 1196, Roger de Hoo owned it; in the year 1300, he was returned as holding it by inheritance from John de Hoo his father, in this record he is called Howe; he divided it into two parts, that in Topcroft, Roger de Coggeshale, and the other, Nic. de Falsham had; and being soon after united, it passed through many hands, and was purchased by Andrew de Bixton, citizen of Norwich, whose feoffoes, in 1348, conveyed it to Catherine his widow for life, and then to Jeffery his son and heir, who sold it to the Cliftons, and in 1378, Sir John Clifton was lord, and in 1458, Robert Clifton, Esq. who had it by inheritance from his father, joined it to Topcroft cum Denton manor, with which it still remains.
Little-Hall manor in Topcroft
Is also joined to the aforesaid manor: this had its original in 1302, when Robert de Tateshall, the fourth of that name, then lord of Topcroft and Denton, granted to William de Bernak and Alice his wife, daughter of Robert de Driby, sister and heir of John de Driby, and their heirs, about the third part of the manor, to be held of his capital manor at 2d. a year, (see vol. i. p. 374) John Bernak, their son and heir, had it, and after him Hugh his brother; in 1352, Richard Bernak, and Alice daughter of Ric. de Watervil, his wife, had it; and with Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir John Bernak, it went to her husband John Stonham, Esq. and so to the Greys; John Grey, Esq. of Topcroft, was the first that owned it of that family; he left it to Robert Grey his son and heir, who sold it to John Stanhawe of Bedingham, whose son Ralf Stanhawe was lord in 1409, and before 1447, sold it to Robert Clifton, Esq. and Elizabeth his wife, who joined it to his other manors, with which it still remains.
The eldest son is heir, they give no dower, every messuage pays 6s. 8d. fine certain, every acre of land of the old grant or feoffment, pays 2s. each acre fine certain, and every acre of the new grant 4s. fine certain.
|The quit-rents,||Ex parte Denton are 18l. 19s. 2d.||a year|
|Ex parte Topcroft 19l. 18s.|
A decree in Chancery passed 5 Nov. 1590, between Thomas Brewse, Esq. lord, and the tenants, settling the customs, and decreeing the measure of land according to custom, to be 21 feet and an half, to the perch or pole; the tenants to cut timber as they please, to repair their copyholds; and also, for plough boot, gate boot, stile boot, cart boot, paling, and all other necessary uses, free of all demand from the lord, and no distinction to be made; but may take off Denton to use at Topcroft, and off Topcroft to use at Denton: but in the decree is this, The Lords without Left or Denial of the Coppihold Tenants, in a convenient Time, and without any unnecessary Damage to the said Coppiholders, or their said Lands, may take, have, and perceive, convenient and sufficient Timber of the Trees now being, or hereafter growing upon the Coppihold Premises, or any Part thereof, for, and towards the building, transposing, repairing, bettering, or amending of the Manor House of Topcroft-Hall in Topcroft aforesaid, or any of the Houses, Buildings, or Edifices thereof; or of any Water-Mills of the Lord's, within the said Manors, or any of them, and not otherwise, without the Assent or Consent, of the said Coppiholder or Customary Tenant, that then shall have the present Estate or Inheritance, upon whose Coppihold Lands and Tenements the same Trees been, or shall be standing and growing; Provided that He or They shall not take so, but that there shall be always left by Him or Them, to every several Coppiholder, of whom Timber shall be so taken, sufficient Timber upon his several Coppihold for his necessary Uses aforementioned, from Time to Time."
Westhall, or Payone's Manor in Denton,
Was formerly a considerable one, extending into divers towns. It was in two parts, in 1239, Stephen de Brokedish granted his part (which contained a carucate of land) to John son of Hamon, and Maud his wife, who in 1249 was called John de Denton; in 1256, he claimed to be superiour lord of his own fee, excluding the Earl Marshal, who had only the weyfs of it in right of the hundred. Roger de Denton succeeded, and in 1397, Will. de Wotton had it; and in 1345, Rob. de Occult, and then it became joined to the principal part of the manor, which was infeoffed by Bury abbot in the Bygods, and by them in the Boises of Fersfield, and passed with that manor, as you see in vol. i. p. 74, &c. In 1345, Sir John Howard had it; in 1401, Gilbert Fraunsham was lord; and it was soon after purchased by Stephen Payon of Denton, and left to William Payone, from whom it took its name: the next owner I meet with, was John Bengys, parson of Scarning, who released it to Robert Rous of Dennington, Sir Will. Phelip, Knt. Sir John Carbonel, Ric. Pykot, and Robert Park, to the use of Ric. Pykot; and so it became joined to Starston-hall manor, to which I refer you.
This church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who had her image in the chancel, with a light burning before it. Domesday of Norwich tells us, that it was valued at 36 marks, that the rector had a house and carucate of land, and paid 2s. synodals, 7s. 7d. ob. archdeacon's procurations, and 14d. ob. Peter-pence. The Corography says, there are 80 acres of glebe inclosed, and wooded, lying round the house within itself, and hath a pretty manor, having about 20 copyholders, and six marks a year quitrents, the fines being at the will of the lord. This town paid 4l. 10s. clear to every tenth. It stands thus in the King's Books;
1432, Ralf Wolman. Sir Ralf Lord Cromwell and Tateshall, who had two turns, one by right of inheritance, another on account of the purparty allowed him at the death of Mary Rous, and the third turn belongs to Sir John Clifton, Knt.
1532, Ric. Cornwaleis, who was not eleven years old, was allowed by the Pope to hold it in commendam till he was 18 years old, and then was to become rector and be instituted. Tho. Duke of Norfolk, who presented the following rectors:
1562, and John Porter had it, (fn. 14) who resigned in
1638, Will. Goad, or Good, S. T. B. John Woodward, Gent. (fn. 15) this turn.
1714, by Mathew Postlethwayt, A. M. who was presented by Robert Herne of Denton, patron of this turn; he was afterwards rector of Redenhall, and archdeacon of Norwich; (fn. 16) in 1719, he published a sermon in quarto, on Acts xxvi. 9, entituled, "The moral Impossibility of Protestant Subjects, preserving their Religious or civil Liberties, under Popish Princes, &c. Preached at Norwich Cathedral, Nov. 5, 1718." He was succeeded by his son,
The Rev. Mr. John Postlethwayt, the present rector who holds it united to Thelton. The Archbishop of Canterbury is perpetual patron, but must present one that is, or hath formerly been, fellow of Merton college in Oxford. (fn. 17)
The Church, chancel, two isles, and north porch, are leaded; the north vestry is down. At the west end stands a low square brick tower, in which there are three bells; in the churchyard, on the south side, there are memorials for Rob Tipland 1635. John Jay 1659, æt. 77. Henry Jay his son 1680, æt. 70. Rachel Stone formerly wife of Henry Jay Gent. 1706, 84.
Under this Stone lieth the Mortal Part of Ames Smith Gent. ob. 8 March 1738, æt. 36. whose beloved Wife, was Sarah, the only surviving Child of Robert Tite Gent. by whom he had 6 Children, 4 survived their Father, viz. Tite, Eliz. Sarah, and Ames. Also Robert Tite Gent. who died 23 Febr. 1737, æt. 75. In whom was extinct the male line of the family of the Tites, who have flourished in the parish of Denton, from the 30 Hen. VIII. 1538, as appears by the Register Books of the said Parish, who have also been possessed of Lands in the same, ever since 4 Edw. VI. as appears by the Survey Book of Topcroft cum Denton. Also Ames Son of Ames and Sarah Smith aforesaid, who died 23 Nov. 1742.
Az. a cup between two annulets or, quartered with gul. a leopard's face or. Gul. a cross bottony arg. impales az. and or, a fess between three owls counterchanged. Vert, frette or, an annulet sab. Barry of 8 arg. and gul. a lion rampant or, quartering quarterly, 1, Az. a cross moline or. 2, Lozenge or and gul. Erm. a cross ingrailed gul. Arg. a chevron between three eagles heads erased sab. armed or. Arg. a cross ingrailed gul. between three sinister hands cooped at the wrist arg. Arg. a lion rampant gul. on a bendlet az. three bezants. Crest, a griffin passant or, and six coats in a shield: 1, Gul. on a saltier arg. an annulet in fess sab. 2, Or, a frette gul. a canton. 3, Az. a chief indented or. 4, Quarterly or and gul. a bend sab. 5, Gul. a fess between six croslets or. 6, Arg. a fess between three martlets in chief, and a chevron in base az.
Johannes Sturton de Preston Pluchnet Com. Dorset. 3s Filius Johannis Domini Sturton. Sab. a bend or between six plates, impaling gul. three lions passant arg. surmounted by a bend gobone or and az. Catherina - - -
Hujus Ecclesiæ nuper Patronus, Testamenta legavit 200l. Quibus Tota hæc Fenestra Multicolor conficeretur. Cancelli hi ornarentur Mensâ Dominicâ Instruerentur, Plumboq; cooperirentur, Quæ Omnia perfecit MatthÆus Postlethwayte Patroni nepos Et Ecclesiæ Rector, A. D. MDCCXVII.
In the chancel there are stones for Mary wife of John Jacob 1662. John Tindal 1663. Robert Randall 1649. Robert Randall Gent. 1690. Jane Randall. Bruce Randall 1658. Robert son of Robert Randall 1681. with this;
In this church-yard over against the chancel door, lyeth buried the body of Anne the Wife of William Goode, Minister of Denton, who was the Daughter of Edward Foster of Thorne in Yorkshire, ob. Oct. 4, 1645.
M. S. Robertus Rogerson A. M. nat. xviii Cal. Jul. 1627, hujus Ecclesiæ Curam A. D. 1660, suscepit, quam plus Annos liv Pastor sustinuit, nec nisi cum Vitâ senex deposuit. Dextramque versus hujus ad Muri pedem pulvis futurus pulveri immistus jacet, ubi longa post Divortia rejungitur BarbarÆ suæ benevolentissimæ Gul. Gooch de Metingham Suff. Armig. Filiæ, Denatæ Anno Partûs virginei 1637, Materni 1684. Hic etiam, et parentibus è prole suâ duodenâ bis quatuor condormientes accubant; Thomas et Robertus Filij, Anna et Elizabetha Filiæ, soli è tot suis superstites,
H. M. P. P. P. (fn. 18) Abi Lector et resipisce.
Sub hoc marmore ad caput charissimæ matris suæ spe beatæ Resurrectionis requiescunt Cineres Filij obsequentissimi ThomÆ Rogerson A. M. de Ampton in Agro Suffolciensi, ahquandiù Rectoris vigilantissimi, Viri Pietatis & Probitatis eximiæ, judicij perspicacis & limati, Fortitudinis, et tamen Modestiæ summæ, Prudentiæ et Sagacitatis egregiæ, mansuetudinis et Lenitatis laudabilis, Candoris et Comitatis singularis. Charitatis et Beneficentiæ Memorabilis: Qui peractâ Vitâ verè Christianâ, verè Sacerdotali, tandem in Domino obdormivit, Martij xiv. Anno æt. suæ LXII. Incarnationis autem Dominicæ MDCCXXIII. Huic etiam à Latere accumbit Susanna Uxor ejus, Quam (à nuptijs usque ad mortem) habuit chariorem seipso: Quæque hoc Monumentum marito et sibi condendum voluit: obijt ii Die Nov. Anno Dni. MDCCXL. Ætatis suæ LXXVIII.
This gentleman being a nonjuror, resigned his living of Ampton, and afterwards lived a peaceable, retired life, and died with a fair character; he gave by will, the moiety of the clear yearly rent of six acres, let at 5l. per annum, towards supporting a charity school in Denton, (fn. 19) and if there be no such, to furnish every poor family with a Bible, a Whole Duty of Man, and Christian Monitor; and every poor person with a Common-Prayer-Book; and the rest to be distributed in bread every first Sunday in the month after divine service, among such poor housekeepers only, as constantly keep their church, and frequently receive the Sacrament; the profits to be received and applied by the rector of Denton for the time being, for ever.
Here resteth expectinge the second Cominge of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Body of Margaret Gedge, Wife of Robert Gedge, who ended this Life beinge at the Age of 50, and was buried the 24 of July 1619. Also John Gedge Father of the said Robt. was buried 24 Nov. 1621, aged 87.
There are stones for Katherine, relict of Robert Randall, 1672, and Mary their daughter, 1680. At the west end, Hester wife of Jeremy Thompson, 1712, 45. Sarah wife of Sam. Harmer, 1729, 56. Will. son of John Harvey, Gent. 1689, 3. Eliz. daughter of John and Eliz. Harvey, 1698, 5. Grace wife of Will. Hervey of Bedingfieldhall in Suffolk, daughter of John Cullum of Thorndon, Gent. 1694, 75. Eliz. wife of John Hervy of St. Cross in Suffolk, Gent. and eldest daughter of William Love. Esq. 1718, 55. John Hervey, her husband, eldest son of the said Will. Hervey and Grace his wife, 1732, 84.
I find by the terrier, that the rector receives divers portions of tithes from Earsham, Bedingham, and Alburgh, in which last village there is a meadow belonging to Denton parish : there are 7 acres and an half of town-lands to repair the church; a pightle called Charitable Use Pightle, of 20s. a year, for the use of the poor, which was given by Mr. John Porter, formerly rector; Robert Rogerson, rector, by his will dated 1713, gave a piece of land intermixed with the glebe, for the augmentation of the rectory for ever.
In 1693, Sarah Bidbank gave 8s. per annum, to buy Bibles, to be given away at Easter by the church-wardens. Mr. Warnes gave 20s. per annum to the poor labourers of Denton, which is now paid by the treasurer of the Boys Hospital, in Norwich, for which, see vol. iv. p. 413.