An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.
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CASTOR, (fn. 1)
The ancient Castrum, or one of the chief camps of defence when the Romans possessed this country. I take it, that after Claudius Cæsar entered this land, which was about the 46th year after Christ, and Ostorius, his Proprætor, or lieutenant, had vanquished the Iceni, the old inhabitants of these parts, who openly opposed them, and defended their country to the very utmost of their power, that then they first settled here, raised camps, appointed colonies, and fixed stations, in order to keep the new conquered country in subjection, and to fortify themselves against any future attempts of the natives; that in case of any turn of adverse fortune, they might not be destitute of strong camps, and large fortifications to retire to, till they could either turn the scale themselves, or gain time to send to their allies to come to their assistance; and that in case of necessity, such help might not be hindered (like a wise and warlike people) they always took care so to fix their camps and stations, in all places where the situation and course of rivers would permit, that they might have a free passage by them to the ocean, either to have assistance by men or provisions, whenever they wanted them; or if they could not keep their ground, a safe retreat at least, for their persons and effects; thus landing at the Garienis Ostium, or mouth of the Yare, where Yare-mouth now is, they fixed a strong castle on the south side, placed a garrison of the Stablesian horse there, named it Gariononum (from its situation on the Garienis, or Yare) (fn. 2) and so made it a guard as well as an entry, into that part of the country which is now called Suffolk, the remains of which still are very perfect; the town that belonged to it assuming the Saxon name burgh from this fortification, at this day called Burgh Castle; where abundance of coins, fibulas, and other Roman antiquities are now found: opposite to this, on the northern side of the water, as an inlet into, and guard of, that country which is now called Norfolk, they made another camp, and called it Castrum, and the village in which it was, is now called Castor or Castre. And following the river up into the country till the course of it divided into two streams, they turned with that on the southern side, and at the first streight where it was easy to command the passage over, fixed this Camp, which for its dimensions and strength was named Castrum, or the camp, by way of eminence; and is still called Castor; it was certainly their most considerable fortification in these parts, as appears from its dimensions, which remain very conspicuous to this day: it is a square single vallum and rampart, and hath been enclosed with a strong wall of flints and Roman bricks, still evident in many places; the grand entrance was in the middle of the east part, at each corner of which, there were mounts, or watch-towers; and below on the west part, which was washed by the Taüs, or Tese, was a water-gate with a round tower by it, where the vessels used to unload: the whole site contains about 30 acres, at the south-east corner within the rampart, stands the parish church, placed there, on account of the convenience for the materials of which it is built; for the whole is of flints, and pieces of Roman bricks, taken from the old walls of the camp; (fn. 3) and indeed, most of the houses in the parish, are built of the like materials; at the south-east end of the chancel, in the bottom of the trench, is a small spring or well of water, about five feet deep, which is always full and very cold. I never heard of any urns found, which makes me think, there was no burial-place appointed here, but at the Venta Icenorum; which, though Mr. Cambden and others have thought fit to fix here, I can by no means join with them, for reasons already given in my 2d volume, at the 2d and 3d pages; [see vol. iii. p. 2, 3;] but imagine that place to have been at what we now call North-Elmham, where there is by far a greater number of urns found, than at any place in the counties of Norfolk or Suffolk; (fn. 4) all the several known Roman burial-places, being far less than that: the country people now call it Castor-castle, (fn. 5) and the part of the tower by the water, when it stood higher than it does now, might give rise to its being so called. I take it, when the Romans in general quitted this land, which was about the year 418 after Christ, that this camp, being deserted in a good measure, the remaining Romans and natives joining together, became one people, and the situation where Norwich now is, being much better than that at Castor, as standing on rising and high ground, and on a far better stream, this at Castor declining, as the sand at Yare's-mouth increased, most of them left this place and settled there, as well for the better convenience of fishing, as for carrying their goods higher up into the inland parts of the country, even to Venta, which though then in the decline, yet remained a place of more note than this; till by the fixing of the sand on which Yarmouth now stands, the water so far retired, as to cut off all commerce to it by that element, and then Venta wasted very speedily as Castor had done; out of the ruins of which, the new-founded city of Norwich suddenly sprang up to great maturity; but yet, Castor was a place still regarded, as as fit for defence, and as such always belonged to, and was in the hands of the Saxon, English, and Danish kings, both before, in, and after the Heptarchy; till King Edward the Confessor gave it to the monastery of St. Edmund his kinsman, (fn. 6) with Mildenhale, and the eight hundreds and an half, in Suffolk; and Thurketel, a noble Dane, who had obtained the keeping of this place, with a grant of part of it, gave his part with Thorp, in common, to the monasteries of St. Edmund and St. Bennet at the Holm, (fn. 7) and upon the Abbot of Bury's releasing Thorp wholly to St. Bennet, the Abbot of St Bennet released their part in Castor to St. Edmund and so the whole became vested in Bury abbey, and continued so till the Conquest.
The great number of Roman coins daily found here, (fn. 8) convince us of its having been a place of great repute during the most part of the time, when that great people were concerned in Britain; I have seen above an hundred, found by Mrs. Susanna Long of Dunston, who hath many more found by other people; I have a great number myself, besides several which I gave to the cabinet of coins in the publick library of the city of Norwich, among which, the following inscriptions may be read on the several obverses and reverses.
There are great numbers of the denarij, with Romulus and Remus sucking the wolf; and those, with Constantinopolis and the Genius of that city on the reverse; the most common are Constantine's, with the reverses of Gloria Exercitvs, and Militum Reparatio, with a Roman taking a Briton captive; made probably when Constantine appeased the British insurrection, and his soldiers had recovered the credit they had before lost in a battle with them.
Belonged to the Abbot of Bury, (fn. 9) was worth 40s. a year at the Confessor's survey, and 5l. at the Conqueror's, when this town was three quarters of a mile long, and half a mile broad, and paid 16d. to the geld. (fn. 10) The church had eleven acres of glebe, and its advowson belonged to this manor; the abbots always presented to it till the Dissolution, and had lete and free-warren allowed them in Eire; the manor and a carucate of land belonging to it, was appropriated to the chamberlains, to find shoes and clothes for the Bury monks; and the chamberlain was taxed for his temporals at 11l. 4s. 9d. q. At the Dissolution it vested in the Crown, and continued there till 1553, and then Queen Mary, in the first year of her reign, granted it to Sir John Godsalve, Knt. for life, and then to her son Thomas Godsalve, Esq. and his heirs male; with the advowson of the church, and court baron, lete, and all other liberties, in Castor, Howe, Poringland, and Ameringhall: this Sir John was second son and heir of Thomas Godsalve, Esq. (fn. 11) register of the consistory court at Norwich, who was the first raiser of the family, and died in 1542, leaving Sir John his eldest son and heir, (fn. 12) who was one of the clerks of the privy seal to King Henry VIII. and was succeeded by Thomas Godsalve, Esq. aforesaid, his son and heir, (fn. 13) who died seized of this manor and advowson in 1587, when he held it by the 40th part of a knight's fee; leaving Roger Godsalve, Esq. his son and heir, then 20 years old; (fn. 14) who in 1606, sold the manor, advowson, and state, to
John Pettus of Rachithe and Norwich, Esq. and his heirs; and it hath continued ever since in that family, an account of which will occur under Rackhithe; Sir Horace Pettus, Bart. is now lord and patron.
Was a part of this and the adjacent village of Merkeshall, (for which see p. 46,) which was given by the Conqueror to Ralf de Beaufo, (fn. 15) as was the Merkeshall part, which belonged to Godwin, and soon after to the Bigods Earls of Norfolk, in which family they continued; and when the settlement was made by Roger Bigod on King Edward I. this manor, with the lete and assise of bread and ale, of all the tenants was excepted, and in 1303, was sold by Roger le Bigod and Alice his wife, with Merkeshall advowson, to Walter de Langton Bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, and his heirs; and in 1306, the Bishop sold it to Giles de Munpynzon, and lady Christian his wife, with the advowson of Merskeshall, which belonged to it, and joined it to Merkeshall manor, as you may see at p. 47, and continued with it till it was purchased by Tho. Pettus, and was joined to Castor-Over-hall, with which it still remains. This town is now in the liberty of the Duke of Norfolk. (See vol. i. p. 237.)
This church is in Brook deanery and Norfolk archdeaconry; it was valued in the first taxation at 15, and in the second at 19 marks, and pays 2s. 3d. Bishop's procurations, 2s. synodals, and 6s. 8d. archdeacon's procurations; it is laid at 9l. in the King's Books, pays first-fruits, and 18s. yearly tenths, and so is incapable of augmentation; it paid 18d. Peter-pence, and 8d. carvage; and the chamberer of St. Edmund's monastery received ten marks temporals every year, from this town, which paid clear to every tenth 2l. The arms of Bury abbey are in the windows, and the arms of England and France in a bordure bottoné az. and or. The rector hath a house and above 20 acres of glebe.
He resigned in 1557, and Thomas Godsalve, Gent. presented Thomas Palmer, at whose death in 1559, he gave it to Nic. Parker, who was buried in 1568, being succeeded by George King, on the presentation of Thomas Godsalve, Esq.; he was buried in 1592, and one
The Rev. Mr. John Freeman, who was presented by Lady Pettus, mother to Sir Horace Pettus, Bart. the present patron; and holds it united to the consolidated rectory of Rackhith-Magna and Parva, in Norfolk.
The church is dedicated to St. Edmund the King and Martyr; its north porch and chancel are tiled; there is a square steeple and three belis; the nave is 28 yards long and 7 broad. In the chancel there are inscriptions for William Brereton of Norwich. Gent. Apr. 25, 1691, 83.
E. H. D. (fn. 16) Petrus Brereton de Trowse, Gulielmi, de Caston, F. Gen. xi. 1° Die Nov. A. D. M. D. C. L. X V.
William Brereton Gent. April 6, 1708, 52, He was a Person of Piety, Justice, Charity, and Sincerity, which made him deservedly esteemed by all that knew him; His loving and sorrowfull Widow have placed this Stone to his Memory. Catherine his Wife died Aug. 8, 1708, 63.
Memoriæ Johannis Brereton de Catton, Gulielmi quondam de Caster Gen. Filij, qui obijt iii° Die Dec. A. D. M DCLXXXVI° nec non Rosæ Uxoris Johannis Lynes de Caster Gen. Filiæ, quæ obijt, - - - - - - - - et Johannis eorum Filij, qui obijt - - - - - - -
Debemus Morti, nos, nostraque: S. H. M. (fn. 17)
Thomas Neale of this town, by will dated Sept. 21, 1597, and proved in the Archdeacon's Office at Norwich, gave 3s. 4d. a year to the poor, to be distributed every Christmas day; and tied two pieces of land in this town, called Shortlands, of about an acre, for payment thereof.
Thomas Pettus, Esq. (fn. 18) by will dated Oct. 14, 1618, proved in the prerogative court of the Archbishop of Canterbury at London, gave 5l. 10s. a year, for ever, to be distributed by the overseers for the time being, in this church, every Sunday, as equally as may be, to six poor people inhabiting in this town, (fn. 19) and tied all his lands in Shimpling in this county, being about 30l. per annum for payment thereof.
William Middilton of this town, blacksmith, by will dated Jan. 20, 1647, proved in the Archdeacon's Office, gave to the poor 3s. 4d. a year, to be distributed every Christmas day; and tied all his house and ground in this town for payment thereof, which are now in the possession of Benjamin Cogman.
This Table was erected by Thomas Blondel, who at his own expense, recovered the said donations, after they had been buried in oblivion for a time; and do here set them in publick view, to prevent the like for the future.
The font here seems to be made by that good man, Richard de
Castor, (fn. 20) whose life you may see at vol. iv. p. 147. On it is carved
in stone, the emblems of the Holy Trinity, the four Evangelists, with
the instruments of the Passion; the arms of the East-Angles, WestSaxons, and Bury abbey; and round it at bottom is,
Orate pro animab his ici de Castre
1588, The 19th of Nov. was a day of thanksgiving to God, for the great and wonderfull overthrow of the Spanish navy, which came to fight the Pope's battle against this island, for their gospel; at which overthrow, the very enemies were so astonished, that some of them said, Christ was become a Lutheran; and all that saw it did say, that it was the Lord's work: so this day was appointed by our church, to be spente throughout the realme, in preaching, praying, singing of psalms, and giving thanks, for a thankfull memorial of the Lord's mercifull mercies yerelie.
1613, Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Herne, married Apr. 14. And the same day Mr. Rob. Davies and Mrs. Anne Fountain. 1666, Rob. son of Rob. Bendish, alderman of Norwich, and Sarah, daughter of Mr. Tho. Johnson, late alderman, married 22 July. 1667, Rob. Connold, clerk, minister of Washbrook in Suffolk, married Mrs. Alice, daughter of Mr. Samuel Stead of Berghapeton, 3 Febr. 1682, Sam. Hancock clerk, of Framlingham-Picot, married Mrs. Anne Berney of Swerdeston, Aug. 15. 1690, Mr. Thomas Havers of FramlinghamEarl, widower, and Mrs. Honour Hammond of Keswick, married 22 Apr. 1692, Charles Kett of Diss, Gent. and Eliz. Beaumont, married Oct. 24. 1626, Anne wife of Mr. John Aldrich buried.