Smethdon Hundred: Bircham Newton

Pages 288-291

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, Niwetuna, or Newton, that is not a town now founded, but a town nigh, or contiguous to some water, or river; the additional name of Bircham was afterwards made use of to distinguish it from other Newtons in this county. Bircham signifies a town on the hills; Ber or Bur, is also the name of a river in Essex, as Bursted.

Tove, a freeman, was lord of it before the Conquest, but being deprived of it, the Conqueror gave it to Ralph de Bellofago, or Beaufoe; in Tove's time 2 carucates of land, 4 villains, 3 borderers, and 3 servi, belonged to it, &c. there was one carucate in demean, and 4 among the tenants; and 11 freemen held one carucate and an half, with 11 acres and 2 half of land, also 4 carucates among the tenants.

There was a church endowed with 20 acres of land, valued (the land) at 16d. per ann. these freemen held under Eudo, (fn. 1) before it was granted to Ralph, and Stigand had the soc, valued before the Conquest at 60s. per ann. at the survey at 5l. per ann.

The whole was half a leuca in length, and half in breadth, and paid 20d. to a 20s. gelt. (fn. 2)

Ralph de Bellofago or Beaufoe, left an only daughter, Agnes, who on her marriage with Hubert de Rie, castellan of Norwich castle, brought it into the family. Hubert de Rie, a descendant, and probably grandson of the aforesaid Hubert de Rie, baron of Rie, dying sans issue male, left 2 daughters and coheirs, in the 8th of Henry II. who inherited it.

Aliva married John Marshall, (nephew of William Marshall Earl of Pembroke,) whom King John made Earl-Marshal of Ireland: and Isabel, who married first, Jeffrey de Chester, and afterwards Roger de Cressi.

Hubert de Rie gave it to William de Kerdeston, to be held of his barony of Rie.

In the 2d of King John, John Marshall, and Aliva, with Jeffrey Chester, and Isabell his wife, confirmed it by fine, to Roger de Kerdeston, to be held by half a knight's fee, at which time it appears to be called Newton only; and Fulco de Kerdeston, on the marriage of King Henry the Third's sister to the Emperor, held the 4th part of a fee. (fn. 3)

William de Kerdeston was lord in the 3d of Edward I. and William de Kerdeston died seized of it ao. 10th of Edward II.

Roger de Kerdeston was lord in the same reign; and on his death, in the 11th of Edward III. held this town of Newton, with Kerdeston, Claxton, Helgeton, Sistern, Hadiston, &c. and William was his son and heir, aged 30, held then of the manor of Hokering, of the Lord Morley. Of the family of Kerdeston, see in Claxton, Loddon hundred.

Sir Thomas Kerdeston and Philippa his wife, settled it on themselves in tail, in the 24th of Henry VI. remainder to William de la Pole Duke of Suffolk, and Alice his wife; and in the 12th of Henry VII. Edmund Earl of Suffolk, by deed, dated May 25, granted it, with Sidesterne, to the Lady Elizabeth Robsart, widow, only daughter and heir of Sir Thomas, as I take it, for life, and to William her son, and the heirs of the body of Sir Terry Robsert.

William Robsert died seized of it ao. 8 Henry VIII. and John was his brother and heir, who in the 4th of Edward VI. with Elizabeth his wife, conveyed by fine to George Willoughby and James Bigot, the manor of Newton, by Bircham, with the advowson of the church, in trust, and died possessed of it in the 1st and 2d of Philip and Mary, called then Sir John, held of the manor of Cokesford, leaving Anne, his daughter, who married Sir Robert Dudley, afterwards the great Earl of Leicester, who was lord in her right, which Lady Anne came to an unhappy death at Cumnore near Oxford, by a fall from the stairs, and was buried in St. Mary's church in that University. (fn. 4)

On the death of Robert Earl of Leicester, it descended to the Walpoles by the marriage of Edward Walpole, Esq. of Houghton, with Lucy, daughter of Sir Terry Robsert, Knt. sister of Sir John Robsert, Knt. and aunt to the Lady Anne Dudley.

John Walpole, Esq. son and heir of Edward aforesaid, by his last will and testament, dated Febuary 28, ao. 30 of Elizabeth, and proved April following, gives to his 2d son, Calybut, this manor and advowson, after the decease of Robert Earl of Leicester, which he held for life, and also the foldcourses, which he had of Roger Townsend in this town.

It appears that the said John Walpole, Esq. being seized of the 3d part of the said manor, and that of Sidestern, had enfeoffed Edward Walpole, Esq. his eldest son, and Henry Russell therein, for the life of Calybut his brother, and the said Edward being attainted of treason, May 26, in the 39th of Elizabeth, said to be done at Rome, it was forfeited, and granted by the said Queen, August 3, ao. 39, to Elizabeth Hussey, and—Goodman, who, in September following, sold it to Calybut Walpole aforesaid.

In this family it still continues, the Right Honourable the Earl of Orford, being lord of it.

The tenths were 4l. 8s. Deducted 1l. 8s.

The Church is dedicated to All-Saints. In the reign of Edward I. the rector had a manse, with 50 acres of land.—The rectory then valued at 10 marks. Peter-pence, 6d.

The present valor is 7l. 13s. 4d. and is discharged.


1314, John Mounpynzoun instituted, presented by Sir William de Kerdeston.

1329, Thomas de Newton, by Sir Roger de Kerdeston.

1337, Ralph de Elingham, by Maud, wife of Sir Roger de Kerdeston.

1346, Richard Hervy by ditto.

1361, Nicholas Hamond, by William de Bergh.

1379, Robert de Helgay, by Sir William de Kerdeston.

1391, John Fuller, by Cecilia, relict of Sir William Kerdeston.

1398, William de Lenn. Ditto.

1398, John Boram. Ditto.

Ralph Pyot.

1414, John Blome, by Sir Leonard de Kerdeston.

1421, Thomas Ketyll, by Sir Thomas Kerdeston, Knt.

Thomas Bunch.

1438, Roger Sowlere. Ditto.

1440, Gilbert Brown. Ditto.

1452, John Malton, by the Bishop, a lapse.

1456, Edmund Watts. Ditto.

1500, William Lermouth, by John Eston, Gent. in right of his wife, Elizabeth.

1546, David Moresby, by John Robsart, Esq.

1554, Thomas Angier, by Elizabeth, relict of Sir John Robsart, Knt.

1556, John Jake. Ditto.

1561, John Balkey, by Robert Lord Dudley.

1573, Christopher Watson, by the Queen.

1573, Adam Rawstorn, by the Earl of Leicester; he certified in 1603, that there were 35 communicants.

Giles King. (fn. 5)

1625, John Stuer, by Calibut Walpole, Esq.

1669, John Stears, by Sir Edward Barkham, Bart.

1679, Thomas Carter. Ditto.

1719, Simon Bagg, on Robert Bett's resignation, by Robert Walpole, Esq.

In this church were the lights of All-Saints, and of St. Mary.


  • 1. This Eudo was probably Eudo de Rie.
  • 2. Terra R. de Bellofago H. de Dochinge—Niwetuna tenuit T. R. E. Tove lib. ho. ii car. t're: sep. iiii vill. et iii bor. tc. iii ser. p. et mo. i tc. i car. in d'nio. p. ii mo. iii tc. et p. iiii car. ho'um. mo. ii et dim. sep. ii r. et x por. tc. cxx ov. mo. dxl hic jacent xi libi. ho'es. i car. t're. et dim. et xi ac. et dim. tc. iiii car. ho'um. mo. ii et dim. i cccla xx ac. val. xvid. Hos libos ho'es habuit Eudo suus antec. Stigand. socam. tc. val. lx sol. p. et mo. c. Totu'ht. dim. leug. in long. et dim. in lat. et reddit xxd. de gelto.
  • 3. Of the Beaufoes, De Rie, and Marshals, see a large account in Swanton Morley.
  • 4. Dugd. Bar. vol. ii. p. 222.
  • 5. Giles King compounded for firstfruits, in 1621.