An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 9. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1808.
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Called in the grand survey, Guella, as seated on a rivulet, near the great German ocean: Gui, Qui, and Wy, are British words, and many rivers there are which bear these names. The Conqueror gave the principal part or lordship here to Aldit, (and it was the only one that he possessed in this county,) on the deprivation of Ketel, who held it with 2 carucates of land in the reign of the Confessor; 5 villains and seven borderers belonged to it, and there were two in demean, with one among the tenants, pasture for 200 sheep, 4 cows, and at the survey 16; also a mill, and it extended into Warham, there being 19 socmen with their lands, who resided in Warham, as I have there observed. (fn. 1)
In the 14th of Edward I. Gilbert de Clare Earl of Gloucester, &c. claimed wreck of sea, and it was found, that if a ship was in danger of a wreck, none of the men of Wells, Holkham, &c. dared to help, for fear of the Earl of Gloucester's bailiff; that if the ship was broke, and all the men drowned, the Earl had all the goods, but if a dog was left alive, then only a moiety; and that the Earl had a court in North Greenhow hundred, in which, if any one was injured, it was difficult to have any remedy. He had also assise of bread and beer, gallows, tumbrell, infangthyof, &c. and free warren; and this lordship, with that of Warham, was valued at 30l. ob. q. per ann.
On the death of Gilbert de Clare, the last of that name, Earl of Gloucester, in the 7th of King Edward II. his estate being divided between his 3 sisters and coheirs, this lordship came to Margaret, or Maud, who married first, Piers de Gaveston, (the King's great favourite,) and after Hugh de Audley, who in her right was lord of this town, and Earl of Gloucester; and on his death, in the 21st of Edward III. it descended to his only daughter, Margaret, wife of Ralph Lord Stafford.
In this family it continued till the attainder of Edward Stafford Duke of Bucks, who was beheaded May 13, 1521, being then valued at 30l. 11s. 10d. per ann. and on July 12, in the 14th of Henry VIII. it was granted to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and so remained in that family till the attainder and death of the Duke of Norfolk, in 1572.
By indenture, dated in the 13th of Charles II. John Dix, alias Ramsey, of Wickmere in Norfolk, heir to his uncle, John Dix, deceased, (a trustee for Thomas, late Earl of Arundel) being seized of it, for the payment of that Earl's debts, granted and released it to Sir William Playters of Sotterley in Suffolk, Bart. and Sir Richard Onslow of West Clendon in Surry, Knt.
After this, it was possessed by Thomas Lord Astley, and by him sold to Sir Cloudesley Shovell, an admiral, and so passed to Sir Charles Turner, Bart. whose nephew, Sir John Turner, Bart. is the present lord.
Part of this town was a beruite to the Conqueror's lordship of Wighton: here and in Warham, one carucate of land belonged to it. (fn. 2) This seems to have remained in the Crown till King Henry I. granted it to Robert, son of Ernisius, and was afterwards forfeited to the Crown, and granted to Jeffrey Fitz-Piers Earl of Essex, as may be seen in Northall manor in Warham.
At the survey the Conqueror had also a lordship of which Godric was bailiff, or his steward, and was a beruite to his manor of Stifkey, in King Edward's time, when Toke was lord: there was one carucate of land, but when Godric entered on it, there was none; 4 borderers then belonged to it, with half a carucate, &c. and 4 socmen, with 8 acres and half a carucate, also 13 socmen, with 40 acres of land, and half a carucate in King Edward's time, then valued at 4l. now at 6l. (fn. 3)
There were also 2 men belonging to the Bishop of Thetford's lordship of Hindringham, who had 12 acres, with pasture for 100 sheep. (fn. 4)
Peter Lord Valoins' manor of Bynham extended into this town, consisting of half a carucate of land, and one borderer, valued at 4l. at the survey, after at 20l. together with the lordship of Bynham, &c. (fn. 5)
Roger Lord Valoins, son of Peter, who founded the priory of Bynham, gave to that priory all the land of this fee here, which Robert Godchild held, and Robert his son confirmed it. (fn. 6) Richard, prior, and the convent of Norwich, with the consent of William Bishop of Norwich, about 1156, gave to the priory part of Wells-Marsh, for 5s. rent. Several of the family of De Snaring gave lands here.
In the 25th of Henry VI. the prior had a lete, and goods of felons belonging to his manor. About this time their temporalities were valued at 102s. and 1d. per ann. At the dissolution it was granted November 15, in the 33d of Henry VIII. to Sir Thomas Paston.
The Church is a rectory, dedicated to All-Saints, anciently valued at 32 marks, Peter-pence 9d. ob. The prior of Bynham had a portion of 10s. per ann. On a complaint made by Thomas, rector of this church, to the Pope, sans date, for tithe, it was ordered that the priory tithes should be demised to him, for 10s. rent per ann. who released to them all their small tithes for 3 lambs, and 3 cheeses per ann. and for the tithe of the mill; if a layman held it, he should pay to the priory two parts of them, and one to the rector.
The present valor is 26l. 13s. 4d. and pays tenths, &c. Sir William de Clare gave the church of Warham (as it is said) to the abbot of Fonteney in France; and the abbot, by fine, in the 35th of Henry III. granted to him the patronage of this church.
1376, Mr. William Langeton, by Hugh Earl of Stafford, lord of Tunbridge; he was prebend of Apeldurham, in the church of Boreham, and of Priestcomb in the church of Crediton, benefices belonging to the church of Chichester.
The church is a regular pile, built of flint and other stone, as most churches are in Norfolk, consisting of a nave, a north and south isle, with a chancel, covered with lead, and a four-square tower.
On a gravestone near the communion table, is the portraiture of a priest, in brass; on 2 labels—Jesu mercy;—Lady help;—and Orate p. a'i'a. Thome Bradley qui quondam fuit rector eccl'ie de Wellys, et qui fuit p'bendarius eccl'ie de Plessy, Oct. 5, 1499.
Lector hoc est monumentum Kentigerni Moravi, theolog. philosoph. astronom. ingenio felici et exculto, et vitâ integerrimâ; qui inter Scotos oriundus, antiquâ Moravorum familiâ liberalium artium cognitione animum Andreopoli in Leonardino collegio induit, et ibidem p. undecem annos philosophiœ professione nobilibus undiq; juvenibus frequentata optimam bonœ mentis culturam auxit et probavit, omnibus. Exinde in Angliam commigrans, alieno solo degens, indigena est habitus, nam hic annor. triginta duor. sacro defunctus ministerio, pastor gregis amantissimus, eiq; suo merito charissimus mysta, symmystis conjunctissimus; desideratus obt. moriens collegio Leonardino lectissimis smultis instructam libris suam legavit bibliothecam, nostrorum pauperum inopiam redditu sublevavit, annus, et successorum suor. commodis manificè prospexit.
In the east window were the arms of Lord Stafford, or, a chevron, gules, impaling those of Thomas of Woodstock Duke of Gloucester; also Stafford and Nevill, and argent, three lioncels passant, in pale.