An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 6. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1807.
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SPORLE. (fn. 1)
The church of Sporle is a lofty and spacious building of flint, &c. dedicated to the Virgin Mary; it has its nave, a north and south isles, covered with lead. At the west end of the nave, stands the tower of flint, with quoins and embattlements of freestone, and therein are three bells; to this tower there has been annexed a large porch embattled with freestone, and over that a room, probably for some anchorite or recluse, but it is now in ruins and uncovered. There is an old Gothick font, standing on 9 pilasters, and on the pavement lies a stone in memory of Thomas Prettyman, Gent. who died 15th October, 1724, aged 39. And another for Thomas Prettyman, Gent. who died April 9, 1716, aged 72. In the south isle lies a stone for Samuel son of Matthew and Sarah Clements, who died August 9, 1723, in the fourth year of his age. Another in memory of Samuel son of Mr. Matthew Clements and Sarah his wife of East Bradenham, who died February 8, 1717, in the first year of his age: at the east end of this isle is an ascent to an altar.
In the chancel, which is covered with tiles, lie several gravestones; one in memory of William Nelson, late of Little Dunham, who died 27 January, 1718, aged 59. Another for Dorothy wife of Thomas Nelson, daughter of Thomas Prettyman, Gent. and Dorothy his wife, 31 January 1711, 32. And a third, for Barbara wife of Thomas Nelson, who died 12 May, 1725, aged 35; and within the rails of the communion table, is one for William son of William Edwards late of Wisbeach, Gent. who died 19 November 1724, aged 63. On the north sipe of the chancel is a little chapel parted from the north isle, by a screen, at the east end is an ascent to an altar, and on the pavement, there lie several gravestones, with their brasses, &c. reaved; this is no doubt the chapel of St. Mary, wherein Agnes Garleke requested to be buried in 1432.
In the reign of Edward I. we have this account of it, that Sporle with Pagrave Parva was appropriated to the prior of Sporle, who had the great tithes, and the vicar the small, that it was valued with its portions, besides the vicarage, at 7 marks, the portion of the monks of Florence at x. marks, that of the monks of Roan at xx s. Peterpence 18d. (fn. 2)
1449, Nicholas Watyrman, ob.; he was the first presented by the Provost and Fellows of Eaton college. (fn. 3)
1501, Thomas Legate, ob. (fn. 4)
1543, Thomas Sadler. (fn. 5)
10l. 3s. 6d. ob. Spurley, alias Sporle vicarage, with Little Pagrave (rectory) pay one pound and four-pence halfpenny yearly tenths, and being undischarged is incapable of augmentation. The Archdeacon's Revision in 1630 says, that the church or rectory of Sporle, pays 2s. 8d. per annum synodals to the Bishop, and visitatorial synodals to him 2s. 6d. ob. and to the archdeacon for procurations 7s. 7d. ob. It paid with its hamlets, 10l. to every tenth.
Sir Matthew Holworthy, lord of the manor of Sporle, &c. gave to the town 600l. to purchase an estate, the product of which was to be assigned and given to the vicar for the preaching a sermon here in the afternoon all the year, excepting the winter quarter; with which an estate was purchased, now rented at above 60l. per annum.
Near to the church of Sporle stood the priory, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, but of the foundation I meet with no certain account; though King Henry II. who was Earl of Anjou, was probably the founder. It was a cell to the monastery of St. Florence at Saumers in the diocese of Anjou in France, of the order of St. Bennet.
Thomas Elyot, prior, resigned in (fn. 6)
1378, William de Sporle, a monk of Castleacre, was admitted prior, on the death of Godes, and was presented by King Richard II. the temporalties of this priory being then in the King's hands, on account of the war with France.
This priory was dissolved in the parliament held at Leicester, in the 2d of Henry V. 1424, (fn. 7) at which parliament, all the alien priories throughout England were suppressed, and given to the King and his heirs for ever; but as few of these lands were alienated at this time to the laity, till the general suppression of monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII. but were for the most part continued to sacred uses; so this priory, with all its dependencies, were given by King Henry VI. to his college of Eaton, upon the founding of it, in the 19th year of his reign; and has continued in that college to this day: on the 12th of September in the said year, that King settled many priories aliens tenths, fee-farm rents, pensions, &c. on his feoffees, Henry Bishop of Canterbury, John Bishop of Bath and Wells, John Bishop of St. Asaph, William Bishop of Salisbury, William Earl of Suffolk, &c. and amongst others, this of Sporle, which feoffees the same year reconveyed them, in order to the settling them on Eaton and King's College in Cambridge.
Before this, in the 15th of the said King, we find that Joan Queen Dowager of England, wife to King Henry IV. died possessed of this priory alien, with all the tenths and tithes of the church of Sporle, and a pension out of the church of Southacre, of 13s. 4d. per annum, a pension out of the rectory of Hunston of 20s. per annum, in Norfolk, and Creting priory in Suffolk.
This town was royal demesnes, and the Confessor gave it to Ralph Earl of Norfolk, (who forfeited it by his rebellion against William the Conqueror,) at the great survey; it was managed and held for that King by Godric; in the Confessor's time there were 32 villeins, at the survey 20, and 3 borders, then 1 carucate in domain, now 4, one mill, pannage for 60 hogs, 2 beasts for burthen, 180 sheep, and 1 freeman, had half a carucate, and this town was one mile in length and half a mile in breadth.
The whole manor, with its beruites, in the time of King Edward, was valued at 10l. and when Godric received it, at 22l. now at 24l. 2s. and paid for a fine or income 60s. Sporle and Pagrave paid 18d. gelt, when the hundred was taxed at 20s. (fn. 8)
Sir Ralph le Briton, who by his deed sans date, gave to William le Briton (his brother) and John his son and heir, all his land at Sporle, Cotes, and Kersingham, with the appurtenances, which he had of the gift of Henry de Veer, on the condition of entertaining him there three times in a year, if he came in person. In the 25th of Henry III. the aforesaid William le Briton was impleaded in the King's Bench, to show by what warrant he held this manor, the King claiming it as an eschaet, as he did all the lands of the Normans, and of all other, who withdrew their allegiance, and of those whose heirs are not of the King's side? (fn. 9) His plea was, that he was infeoffed by his brother Sir Ralph, (fn. 10) and he, by Henry de Veer, by a deed (which he produced) for 100l. sterling paid him, and to acquit him the said Henry of 200l. which he owed to the Jews, the witnesses to which deed were Herbert de Alenzun, then sheriff of Norfolk, William de Rokele, Robert de Rokele, &c. and Robert Passelewe, who sued for the King, acknowledged that he had this manor of the Jews; and it appeared so enrolled in the Jews exchequer. In 1274, Sir John le Briton had the assize of bread and beer of his tenants here and in Cressingham Magna; (fn. 11) and in 1286, had view of frankpledge, tumbrel, gallows, weyfs, &c. in this manor, and other his domain lands: John le Briton, lord of Sporle, was in the 29th of Edward I. one of those noble barons, who sent a letter from the parliament held at Lincoln, to assure Pope Boniface, that the kingdom of Scotland was not of his fee, and that he had no jurisdiction over either kingdoms. Soon after, in the 33d of the said king, he was constituted one of the justices of Trail Baston, with William de Ormesby, William de Kerdeston, and Richard de Walsingham in Norfolk and Suffolk, and died seized of this town in 1310, leaving it to John, his son and heir, who died in the following year seized of the same; and Maud his sister, wife of Richard de la Rivers of Angre or Ongar in Essex, was his heir, and in right of her was lord. (fn. 12) A branch of the noble family De Riparijs or Rivers, who were created Earls of Devonshire, by King Henry I. continued so about 2 centuries, and bore gules a griffin sejant or.
This family of De La Rivers, or De Riparijs, took their name from their habitation near a river, or from the conservatorship thereof, Angre, or Chipping Ongar, (as it is called at this day,) their seat, being on the river Rodon in Essex, which falls into the Thames: the hundred and manor of Angre or Ongar, &c. came by the marriage of Maud the 1st, or rather by Aveline the 2d, daughter of Richard de Lucy, Lord Chief Justice of England in the reign of King Henry II. sister and coheir of Herbert de Lucy her brother, to Richard de la Rivers, ancestor of the abovesaid Richard. In the 7th year of King Edward II. a fine was levied between Sir Richard de la River and Maud his wife, querents; (fn. 13) and William, rector of Mundeford, defendant, of this manor, and 1 messuage and a carucate of land in Cressingham-Magna, &c. which were settled on Richard and Maud in tail, remainder to the right heirs of Maud, (fn. 14) and in 1315, he was lord of this town and Dunham-Parva in Norfolk. But in the succeeding reign, Sir Thomas de la River, his brother, enjoyed it; this Thomas, in 1365, married Beatrix, widow of Sir Thomas de St. Omer of Mulbarton in Norfolk, who had then an assignation of dower; and in 1374, two fines were levied between Sir Rob. Corbet, senior, Knt. and Beatrix his wife, (fn. 15) querents, Sir Rob. de Swillington, Knt. and Margaret his wife, John Garleke and Sarah his wife, defendants, of the manors of Sporle and Dunham-Parva, late Sir Thomas de la Rivers, one messuage and a carucate in Cressingham-Magna. By the first fine, settled on Sir Robert Corbet and Beatrix in tail, and by the 2d, (in which John Garleke and Sarah were querents, and Sir Robert Swillington and his wife Margaret defendants,) this manor and that of Cressingham-Street Hall, were settled on Sarah and her heirs. The aforesaid Margaret was daughter of Roger Belers, by Margaret his wife, daughter of Sir Richard de la River, and was married to Sir Robert Swillington of Ditchingham in Norfolk; and Sarah was sister to Sir Thomas and Sir Richard de la River, and the wife of John Garleke, Esq, which John was accordingly lord of this town, and so occurs in 1388, and after him Walter Garleke his son, whose wife Agnes, by her will dated in 1432, bequeathed her body to be buried in the chapel of St. Mary in the church of Sporle. (fn. 16)
Soon after this, it was in the Pastons, and Sir William Paston the judge held it, and John Paston, Esq. his son, died seized of it, and Street-Hall in Cressingham, in the 6th of Edward IV. held then, as it is said, of the Earl of Oxford, by the rent of one pair of gilt spurs of 6d. price. In the reign of Henry VIII. Sir William Paston was lord of this and Easthall, alias Wottons, and a capital messuage called Rands in Pagrave-Magna, with three fold-courses in Sporle, Pagrave-Magna and Parva, and North Pickenham, &c. Sporle sheepwalk on the moor was for 500 ewes, that on Cotes-Moor for 300 ewes, 183 acres, and 206 acres of land in Sporle, with Sporle-wood of 100 acres, making two farms; in 1611 Sir William Paston died seized of it, held, as it is then found, of the Countess of Arundel, as of her castle of Rysing in Norfolk, in soccage and 6d. rent; and in the Paston family it continued in the reign of King Charles I.; but in 1660, John Thetford was lord, (fn. 17) and after him Sir Matthew Holworthy, and his son, whose widow enjoyed it in 1730.
In the parish of Sporle, south of the town, is a farm or hall corruptly called Pedigates, for Petygards, the name of a family that anciently possessed it; Richard Petygard of this place, as appears from an old deed in the 3d of Edward II. sealed with demi-lions passant guardant, impaling Tretty, chief ermine.