Smethdon Hundred

Pages 285-286

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1809.

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Called in the Book of Domesday Smetheduna, and Metheduna, that is an hundred with a mixture of meadows and hills. At the survey Smethdon contained only the towns of Hitcham, Holm Hunstanton, Ingaldesthorp, Ringstead Magna and Parva, Snetesham, Sedgford, Thornham, and Gnatyngdon;—Brancaster, Stanhow, Frenge, Sharnburn, the three Birchams, Berwick Magna and Parva, Choseley Southmere, and Docking, making another hundred, called the hundred of Docking.

King William II. gave it with the hundred and half of Fredebruge and Docking hundred, and the manor of Snetesham, in this hundred, to William de Albini, his pincerna, (or butler,) being part of the possessions of Stigand the Archbishop of Canterbury, (a great favourite of King Edward's) and on his deprivation was granted by the Conqueror to Odo Bishop of Baieux, his half brother, who, on his rebellion against his nephew, King William II. was deprived of it, (as may be seen in Snetesham,) and confirmed on William de Albini.

The two hundreds were united thus, and in this family and descendents it continued, who were Earls of Sussex and Arundel. Issue male failing in Hugh Earl of Arundel, Isabel his countess was found to hold them in dower, and to have many royal privileges belonging to them, viz. wreck at sea, assise, gallows, return of writs, &c. (except in the liberties of the abbot of Ramsey) in the reign of Henry III.

On the death of the said Countess, it came to the Lords Montalt (of whom see in Rising,) by the marriage of Cecily, one of the sisters and coheirs of Hugh Earl of Arundel, &c. aforesaid, with Roger Lord Montalt. And in the 15th of Edward I. Roger Lord Montalt, his grandson, was lord; and the hundred was found to be worth 12l. per ann. and to pay 40s. per ann. quitrent to the Crown, and to have besides the above named privileges, those of infangtheof, &c. view of frank-pledge, weif, &c.

After this, Robert Lord Montalt, and the Lady Emma his wife, (having no issue,) settled it on Isabel, Queen Dowager of England, in the reign of Edward III. and so coming in to the Crown, the said King granted it June 25, in his 46th year, to John of Gaunt, his son, Duke of Lancaster, and thereupon was made part of the duchy.

About the year 1700, Mr. Cobb was lord of it; and Mr. Robert Cobb, conveyed it to Nicholas Styleman, Esq. in which family it continues, held, as I take it, of the aforesaid duchy.

The hundred court is said by some to have been kept at a place in the parish of Bircham Magna, called the Barrow, which is diked round, except 20 yards in the south-east side, for the better ascent; though I find it kept at Frenge, ao. 36th of Henry VIII.

It is probable, as there were 2 hundreds anciently, Docking and Smethdon, so there might be two distinct places for them.