An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 6. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1807.
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This village takes its name from the ford or passage over the river Nar, on the south side of which it stands. In the grand survey it is called Nereforda. Phanceon was then the lord of it, being part of the honour, and held of Alan Earl of Richmond: in the Confessor's time Alfach a Saxon was the owner of it; there were then 3 carucates in domain, and the same at the survey, and 6 carucates held by the tenants, and 4 freemen held 1 carucate of land; there was one mill and the moiety of another, and a fishery, &c.; it was a mile in length, and as much in breadth, and paid 18d. gelt, being first valued at 4l. and at the last survey at 5l. per annum. (fn. 1)
The Manor of Narford, alias Oldhall.
Phanceon, who was lord at the survey, was most probably the ancestour of the noble family of Narford; he or his immediate descendant might take up that surname from this his lordship, as was the common and general practice of that age, derived from the Normans; that the family of Narford had lands here, and in Norfolk, nigh to the time of the great survey, appears from ancient records.
William de Narford was witness to a charter of the abbey of St. Bennet at Holm in Norfolk. In the reign of Henry II. Geldewine de Nereford owed King Richard I. 20s. for his lands in Norfolk; (fn. 2) Sir Peter de Narford was lord in 1218, and then gave the rectory of Stanfield in Suffolk to the priory of Haveringland, alias Mountjoy, in Norfolk; of this family, was Robert de Narford, who married Alice, daughter of John Pouchard, and was principal governour or warden of Dover castle in the reign of King John, under Hubert de Burgh, lord chief justice of England, who with his wife founded the priory of de Prato or Pree, (that is in the meadow,) between North-Creke and Burnham.
In 1219 Margaret de Ponte (or Brigge,) and John her son, were summoned to answer to John de Narford, to show why, contrary to the King's prohibition, they impleaded him in the Court Christian for a lay-fee in Nereford, which they acknowledged, and for which they were fined; (fn. 3) and in 1227, a fine was levied between Maud de Pagrave and John de Narford, whereby Maud released a messuage and lands here; and in the same year, there was another fine, between William son of John de Narford, petent, and Peter de Narford, tenent, of the moiety of a knight's fee here, who acknowledged it to be the right of Peter, who gave the mill called Well-Mill to William; and in 1239, Thomas de Nerford held half a knight's-fee of the Earl Warren, as of the manor of Lyng, and the Earl of the honour of Richmond, and at the same time Petronilla de Nerford, (mother of the aforesaid Thomas,) and Edmund her son, held here half a knight's-fee of Robert Fitz Roger, and he of the Earl of Richmond, and that Earl of the King in capite, and paid to the scutage then granted on the marriage of Isabell the King's sister to the Roman Emperor.
By an inquisition in 1274, (fn. 4) William de Narford was found to be lord, and to have free-warren, not only in his domain lands, but in those of other men in this town, which were held of the honour of Richmond, and the bailiffs of the Earl of Richmond kept the lete; and in 1277, the aforesaid William, then a knight, and Joldewin or Geldewin, son of Eudo de Narford, held one knight's fee here, and paid to the ward of Richmond castle 10s. per annum. This Sir William married Petronilla, one of the daughters and coheirs of Sir John de Vallibus, or Vaux, who brought a very considerable estate to this family; (fn. 5) and on a division of it, in the 16th of the aforesaid King, between her and her sister Maud, married to William de Roos, Petronilla (fn. 6) had assigned to her the lordships of Thirston and Shotesham, and a moiety of those of Holt, Cley juxta Mare, and Houghton by Walsingham in Norfolk; with many knights fees in Norfolk and Suffolk. Sir William was one of those great men, who were summoned to attend King Edward I. at Portsmouth, in an expedition to Gascoigne in his 22d year, to recover that province, and was in that year, and in the 25th of the said King, called to parliament as a baron; by a deed of his, sans date (reciting that he had granted to Sir John de Aspall and Sir Roger his brother, the manor of Stonham Antegayn in Suffolk, with the advowson, to be held of him and his heirs,) he revokes the said grant, and regrants it to Roger le Bigot Earl of Norfolk, and his heirs; the witnesses were Sir Thomas de Wayland, John Lovetot, Roger Loveday, Peter de Bedingfeld, William de Eiresy, William le Fleming, Robert de Boys, &c. He died in the 29th year of the aforesaid King, and was found to hold 32 knights fees and a quarter. His arms were, Gules a lion rampant ermine. Petronilla survived him, and was lady of this manor in 1315, and died in 1326, and was buried in the neighbouring priory of Pentney, founded by her ancestour, Sir Robert de Vaux: in 1321 she gave to the canons of Langley in Norfolk, her lands in Thirston, for the health of the souls of her father, and husband deceased. She had by Sir William three sons, Sir John de Narford, (who married Agnes, daughter of William, and sister and heir of Edmund de Berford, and died in 1320, without issue, by Narford, and was buried at Pentney;) the said Agnes was relict of Sir John Argentein, by whom she had issue; and lastly, wife to Sir John Matrevers, by whom she had also issue;) her 2d son by Sir William, was Sir Thomas, heir to his brother Sir John; and her 3d son was Edmund, who died in 1330, sans issue, and left his brother Sir Thomas his heir, to whom the King, in 1334, granted a mercate and two fairs at Narford; this knight resided chiefly at Panworth-hall. (fn. 7) In 1342, he licensed the prior of Mountjey to take lands in Heverland of his fee in mortmain. (fn. 8) This Sir Thomas had two wives; Alice, who was alive in 1343, and Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of John Perers of Holt, son of Perers, by Gunnora, daughter and coheir of Thomas de Ormesby, Esq. as appears from an inquisition taken in 1374, on the death of Julian, sister to the said Elizabeth, wife of John Falconer, who died without issue. The will of Sir Thomas is dated at Holt, and was proved in November 1375, whereby he ordered to be buried at Holt.
Sir John de Nerford was his son and heir by his first wife: Dugdale says that he was slain in the wars of France in the 38th of Edward III.; (fn. 9) but it appears that he survived his father, and died the year following, seized of several lordships in Norfolk, and 12 knights fees and an half in Suffolk, and that Margery his daughter and heir, was then 18 years old. Le Neve says, that in 1396, she was then wife of John Brews; others say, that she vowed chastity, but they seem to be mistaken; for it is evident from her will, (fn. 10) that she died in a single state and unmarried, about 1417. This Margery, conveyed by fine in 1382 to Sir John de Cobham of Couling castle in Kent, the manors of Panworth-hall and Narford, the moieties of those of Holt and Cley, with the advowson of Holt, which Alice de Nevile held for life; which Alice was, as I take it, her mother, and married to Sir John Nevile of Essex; and in 1385, it was certified, that this village being part of the honour of Richmond was Toll-free.
In the 3d of Hen. IV. Edmund Oldhall held here, half a fee of the honour of Richmond; and in the 14th of Henry VI. the jury present Sir William Oldhallto hold half a knight's fee of the said honour; (fn. 11) this family gave name to this manor, though their interest herein was short; for in the 2d of Edward IV. John Cocket was lord of the manor of Oldhall; and in 1494, he was found to hold the same of the manor of Lyng.
Between the terms of St. Michael, (fn. 12) in the 9th and 10th of Elizabeth, and those of St. Michael in the 14th and 15th of the said Queen, Richard Beckham had livery of the manors of Narford called Cockets, and that called John Crofts, and John Beckham, Esq. died about 1658, lord of the same, and left Richard his son and heir, (fn. 13) which said John had license on the 7th of April, in the 7th of Charles I. to alienate the manors of Narford and Sawtrey, 4 messuages, 6 tofts, a watermill, dove-house, 2 gardens, 600 acres of land, 30 of meadow, 100 of pasture, 500 acres of heath and furze, and 60s. rent, with liberty of two foldages in Narford, Custhorpe, and East-Walton, to Martin Southouse, Gent.
About the end of King Henry III. Edmund le Leche and his parceners held a moiety of a fee here, of the Earl of Richmond, and the Earl in capite; (fn. 14) and in the 8th of Edward I. the heirs of Roger de Cressey held lands, who were probably the parceners abovementioned. In the 33d of the said King, Edmund le Leche of Beeston had a charter for free-warren here; and in the 15th of Edward II. Edmund and Margaret his wife, conveyed them to John de Horsted and his heirs. Soon after this, it was in the priory of Westacre, and the prior, in 1345, paid 20s. for the aid then assessed, and in 1401, he paid to the aid on the marriage of Blanch, the King's eldest daughter. On Wednesday after the feast of St. Dunstan in 1503, Thomas Clerk, S.T.B. prior of Westacre, held his first court at Narford, on Thursday after the Epiphany; in 1522, Thomas Brygett, S.T.B. prior held a court; and in 1524, William Wingfeld, prior, held his first court. On the dissolution of the priory it came to the Crown, and was granted on the 6th of January, in the 2d and 3d of Philip and Mary, to Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange at London, to be held by knight's service in capite, about the 26th of Elizabeth, Sir Henry Nevile, couzin and heir, in right of his wife, to the aforesaid knight, had livery of it.
The whole village now belongs to Sir Andrew Fountaine, Knt. of whose family I shall take occasion to speak here; (fn. 15) that learned and worthy knight having his residence in a seat of his own erecting, at this place, called Narford-hall, which for elegance is truly curious; the valuable library of books, (fn. 16) excellent collection of pictures, coins, and many other rare pieces of antiquity, (fn. 17) the whole furniture and ornaments herein, are sufficient to excite the curiosity of the learned, and preserve the memory of their judicious owner.
John de Fonte, called also often, De Fontibus De Salle, who lived in the latter end of Henry the Third's time, was much in favour with Roger Bigot Earl of Norfolk, of whose gift he had divers lands at Briston in Norfolk; he died in the beginning of Edward I. from him descended a numerous family, which in a few generations, settled in many of the adjacent villages; but
John Ffunteyn of Salle was returned as one of the chief gentlemen of the county in 1430, he was a principal benefactor, if not the sole founder of the north isle and north transept of the present church of Salle, in the latter of which he was buried in 1453, together with his three wives: his stone, with his own effigies, and that of his wives and three children, is now in the said transept, and is here exhibited to your view, at the expense of the aforesaid worthy knight, to whom I am much obliged, for this and many other favours. His eldest son by his first wife Alice, was
Mathew de Fonte, or FFunteyn of Salle, who added to his fortunes by marrying with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Walshe of Colby, by Margaret, daughter and heiress of Simon Damme, Gent. of Susted, in whose right this family have ever since quartered the arms of Walshe, (fn. 18) Harsick, and Damme, they had many children; William their son lies buried by them, in the nave of Salle church, with this inscription on a brass plate;
Arthur Fountaine, Esq. who married Frances, daughter of Clement Palgrave, Esq. by whom he had 4 sons and 4 daughters; 1, Palgrave; 2, Mary, married to Thomas Parkington; 3, Dorothy, to John Hobard; 4, Beatrice, to Robert Cubit. His 4th son was Martin Fountain, his 2d Thomas, and his 3d was Arthur, who married Anne Stanhowe, by whom he had three sons, Martin the youngest, Arthur his second, and John his eldest: in the north isle of Salle church is a mural monument with the arms and crest of Fountaine, with a crescent for difference and this inscription.
JOHANNES FOUNTAINE, Serviens ad legem, filius primogenitus Arthuri Fountaine de Dalling in hoc Comitatû, unius Filiorum Arthuri Fountaine de Salle, obijt decimo quarto Die Junij, Ano Dni' 1671, Ætatis 70. Et in hâc Insulâ jacet Sepultus.
John, eldest son and heir of Arthur Fountaine of Salle, married Mary, daughter and heiress of James Brigge of Salle, (as in Brigge's pedigree, vol. ii. p. 223,) in whose right this family have ever since quartered the arms of Brigge, Beaupre, (fn. 19) and St. Omer.
Brigg Fountaine, Esq. of Salle, was the eldest son and heir; he died in 1661, and by Joanna, eldest sister of Robert Henley, (fn. 20) Esq. he had
Andrew Fountaine, Esq. who married Sarah, eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Chicheley, who lies interred in a vault, at the east end of the south isle of Narford church, and a mural monument against the south wall there, is thus inscribed;
In the Vault adjoining lies the Body of ANDREW FOUNTAINE of Sall, (in this County) Esq; who died the 7th of October 1661, and of JOANNA HENLY, eldest Sister of Robert Henly, Esq; who succeeded the Duke of Buckingham, in the Mastership of the King's Bench Office; the said Andrew served in three several Sessions of Parliament, in the Reign of King Charles 2, He married Sarah Chichely, youngest Daughter of Sir Thomas Chichely Master of the Ordinance, Chancellour of the Dutchye of Lancaster, and privy Councellour to King Charles and James II. by whom he had several Children, and left surviving, Sir Andrew, Brig, and Elizabeth, ob. lmo Februarij 1706, Æt. LXXIV.
At the east end of this isle, is an altar monument of white, on which is placed a sarcophagus of Egyptian, and on that a pyramid of gray marble; on which, are the crest, arms, and supporters of Fountaine, with this motto;
On the outside, in the churchyard, is a very neat altar tomb, placed like an altar; against the east wall of this isle, at the south end, is a shield of Fountaine, with a crescent for difference on the fess; it is of Portland stone covered with a black marble, and on the east side is this:
January 14, 1725, John Anstis, Garter King at Arms, by order of King George I. granted by patent to Sir Andrew Fountaine, Knt. (fn. 21) then vice-chamberlain to the Princess of Wales, and tutor to his highness Prince William, for whom he was installed (as proxy) knight of the honourable Order of the Bath, supporters to his arms, viz. on either side a lion gul. with wings erected or, with the old family motto of, Vix. Ea. Nostra Voco, and the ancient arms of Fountaine, or, a fess gul. between three elephants heads erased sab. (fn. 22)
There was a chapel also here formerly; for many human bones, and a stone coffin were dug up; this was the cell and chapel of some hermit, for they generally chose their station near some frequented road or passage over a river, as this was.
This village now consists of but two or three houses, besides the Hall; but that it was considerable in the reign of Edward III. appears from his grant of a mercate and two fairs here, to Sir Thomas de Nerford, and the court-rolls of the manor in the reign of Henry VI. show that there were then above an hundred dwelling-houses, besides an hamlet called Custhorpe, or Cowsthorpe, situated in the meadows, near the river towards Westacre: and mention of it is made in the 7th of Charles I.
The old tenths were 3l. The religious concerned here, besides the prior of West-Acre, were the prior of Pentney, who in 1428 was charged at 2l. 16s. 6d. ob. tenths for his temporalties; this was possessed by Robert Hogan after the dissolution of that house, and in the 7th of James I. by Robert Angel and John Walker.
William, Prior of St. Pancrase of Lewes in Sussex, gave to the monks of Castleacre, a mill in Nerford and 5 perches of land, near the church of St. Mary Magdalen of Wigenhall in Norfolk, for an anniversary to be kept for him, by deed sans date.
Richolda, daughter of Isabell de Neketon, with the consent of Richard her son and heir, gave to the monks of Castleacre, 4 acres and 1 rood of land lying in Nerford, 5 perches of it laying at Markete Gate, sans date.
Robert, Prior of Westacre, by deed, acknowledged to have received to farm of the prior of Castleacre, all the tithes, which Gregory son of Adam held of them, with the appurtenances in Nerford, two parts of the domain given them by Conan, for the soul of Alan Earl of Richmond, paying one mark per annum.
Robert, Prior of Westacre, released to the monks of Castleacre, the tithe of a mill in Nerford, called Fordmille, and the tithe of a meadow, which they have on the south part of the mill-pool, &c. sans date.
The Church of Narford is a small regular building dedicated to the Virgin Mary, consisting of a nave, a north and south isle, with a chancel, all covered with lead; and at the west end of the nave stands a foursquare tower, with three bells, on which Sir Andrew Fountaine, a few years past, erected a spire of wood, and painted, with a weather-cock and ball gilt.
The south porch is tiled. At the west end of the nave lies a gravestone, having a cross pattée carved on the summit of a staff, the insignia of some knight templar. In the chancel, under the north wall, with an arch raised over it, lies a marble stone, with a large cross floral carved on it, in memory of the founder, no doubt some religious, probably some rector or vicar of the church. In the north isle are stones for
In the beginning of King Edward the First's reign, we find that the prior of Westacre, (fn. 25) had the rectory here appropriated to him, which was endowed with a manse, and a carucate of land, and was valued with the vicarage at x. marks, Peter-pence were 13d. and the patronage of the vicarage was in that priory.
In 1265, Simon Bishop of Norwich confirmed to the priory of Castleacre, two parts of all the tithes of the domain, formerly of Godwin, Jeffrey, and Brundon son of Saul, in Nerford, which were let to the prior of Westacre at 1 mark per annum.
1558, John Hardye, restored on the accession of Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 26)
When the lease of the great tithes of this town (which were granted to the see of Ely in Queen Elizabeth's time) was renewed by Dr. Lany Bishop of Ely, an augmentationof 10l. per annum was reserved to this vicar and his successours, to be paid by the lessee, who is patron of the vicarage. Before this it appears from the accounts of the receiver-general of the court of augmentation in the reign of Henry VIII. that a yearly pension was paid and accounted for by him, of 1l. 13s. 4d. as an augmentation to the vicar of Narford for ever, out of the lands late belonging to Westacre priory, and the same pension I find to be continued and paid by the receiver-general in the 13th of Queen Elizabeth.
It appears from the will of Richard Rand, in 1417, that there was then standing in the churchyard a chapel dedicated (as the church was) to St. Mary; and in 1465, John Broshard by will gave legacies to the gild of St. Mary, to that of the Holy-Trinity, and to that of St. Mary's chapel in the churchyard, (fn. 27) the foundations of which may still be seen in the north part of the churchyard, at some distance from the church.
In that part of the parish of Westacre, which lies on the south side of the river Nar, and is consequently in this hundred; on a hill about half a furlong from the river, between Southacre and Narford, are the ruins of a chapel, commonly called Becket's Chapel. It being dedicated to St. Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, on the day of whose Translation, viz. July 7th, there is an annual fair held here, which in 1478, was granted by King Edward IV. to the prior of Westacre, (fn. 28) to which monastery this was a cell: the custos or master, and 2 or 3 monks, his brethren, dwelt in a house joined to the north-east part of the chapel, and performed divine service daily, it standing by the pass over the river, where the Pilgrims and other travellers passed by Castleacre, to our Lady at Walsingham; the chapel was 60 feet long and 30 broad, and its cemetery or burial-place was walled in, and was as many yards in breadth and length.
The eastern part of this hundred is a very good soil, and chiefly enclosed, and hath its share of wood; the western part is champaign, and a very poor barren sandy soil, though now so much improved by marling and claying, that it often produces very good crops of corn.