An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 9. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1808.
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The abbot of St. Bennet was lord in King Edward's reign, this town (granted by King Canute) being part of the abbot's barony; at the survey he was found to have 5 carucates of land, held by 15 villains and 13 borderers, 2 servi, with 3 carucates in demean, 2 carucates, and half a carucate of the tenants, 100 acres of meadow, &c. and 115 socmen and the moiety of another, held 3 carucates of land with 15 acres; and there were 10 carucates and 15 acres of meadow; four freemen and the moiety of one, had a carucate and 15 acres; there were 3 borderers with 2 carucates, and 5 acres of meadow, of these, the abbot had the protection or commendation only; the King and the Earl had the soc; the whole was valued at 5l. at the survey at 6l. and it was 2 leucas and an half and 15 perches long, and one leuca and an half with 70 perches broad, and paid 5d. gelt. And there was one socman, with 30 acres and 4 borderers, with 3 acres and half a carucate of meadow, valued at 11s. (fn. 1)
By this account it appears to have been a very extensive manor. In the 30th of Henry III. the abbot had free warren; the rents of assise were 6l. 10s. there were 105 acres of arable land, at 5d. per acre, 10 acres of meadow at 6d. per acre, and was part of his barony of Tunstede, which barony is said to be held by two fees, and the moiety of a fee; and in the 14th of Edward I. he had the assise, view of frank pledge, a tumbrel, &c.
In the said year, Robert de Ludham, one of the justices of the Jews, having comitted a falsity or breach of trust, was at the instances of the Queen's attorney, &c. brought before the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer, was put out of his office and committed to prison, probably of a family that had an interest here.
Sabina, daughter of John de Ludham, and John, son of Sabina, gave to the abbot and his successours, 35 acres of land in this town and Catfield, in exchange for other lands in the 34th of the said King.
On the dissolution of the abbey, this lordship came to the Crown, and on an exchange of lands between King Henry VIII. and the Bishop of Norwich, was granted to that see with the impropriated rectory, and patronage of the vicarage.
In the 3d and 4th year of Philip and Mary, the rents of assise were 21l. 4s. 9d. the site of the manor was 40s. and 16l. per ann. for the farm of 100 acres of pasture in 3 closes; the herbage of the park, 33s. 4d. 17 acres of arable land, 30s. &c. with sales of wood, profits of a warren, perquisites of court, &c.
After this exchange, several Bishops resided here, and made it their country seat, being formerly only a grange or farm-house of the abbey; the Bishops Freak and Jegon erected several useful buildings to it. (fn. 2)
In Bishop Jegon's time, August 10, 1611, by the negligence of persons employed in brewing, a great fire happened, which burnt that and many other parts of it, with the Bishop's study, many books, MSS. and rolls relating to the see, with 800l. in gold and silver, great part of which was found unmelted, with much furniture and goods of the Bishop, so that there were left unburnt only the gentleman's and chaplain's lodgings, these alone being tiled and built by Bishop Freak.
The convent had also formerly a lordship here; the rents of it belonging to the cellarer, were 13s. 4d.; to the sacrist, 53s. 4d. ob. q. 4 bushels of oats to the almoner; 10d. ob. to the penitentiary, and 5s. a portion of tithe to the infirmary, which came by the aforesaid exchange also, to the see of Norwich; it was valued at 3l. 6s. per ann.
Edric, a freeman of Edric de Laxfield, had 60 acres of land in King Edward's time, 4 borderers, half a carucate, with 2 acres and an half of meadow, and 11 freemen had 80 acres of land; 19 socmen also held a carucate of land belonging to St. Bennet's abbey in King Edward's reign. (fn. 3)
Edric, a man of Alan Earl of Richmond, invaded or seized on it in the time of Ralph Earl of Norfolk, and was possessed of it when there was a division made of the lands of Ralph, between the King and Earl Alan, and the Earl had a carucate and an half, with 4 acres of meadow, valued at 10s.
Sir Bartholomew de Bacon of Erwarton in Suffolk died lord of it, as by his will, proved in 1391, whose sister and heir, Isabel, brought it by marriage to Sir Oliver Calthorp; and Edward Calthorp, Esq. of Kirby Cane, sold it, with its appertenances in Catfield, HeighamPotter, &c. for 350 marks to John Corbet, Gent. in the 30th of Henry VIII.
The Church is dedicated to St. Catharine, and was a rectory, valued at 43 marks, and appropriated to the abbey of St. Bennet, by Pandulf Bishop of Norwich, on the 6th of the ides of June, in the 4th of Pope Honorius III. and a vicarage was ordained valued at 8 marks.
Here were the guilds of St. Catherine, St. Mary, and St. John; the lights of St. Catherine, St. Mary, St. John, the Trinity, the rood, and St. Nicholas; and in the church the chapels of St. Mary and St. John.
Here were the arms of Marshal, Bacon, Jermy, and Mounteney; argent, a bend between six martlets, or; gules, on a cross, argent five eaglets, sable, Diggs; and Calthorp, quartering Bacon, Wachesham, Withe, &c. also impaling, quarterly, Stapleton and Ingham.