Smethdon Hundred: Bircham Magna

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

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Francis Blomefield, 'Smethdon Hundred: Bircham Magna', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10, (London, 1809) pp. 291-294. British History Online [accessed 27 May 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "Smethdon Hundred: Bircham Magna", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10, (London, 1809) 291-294. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "Smethdon Hundred: Bircham Magna", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10, (London, 1809). 291-294. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024,

In this section


William de Scohies was lord at the survey, and Robert de Ebrois held it under him; it consisted of several tenures; Bern held of King Edward one carucate with one villain, and 2 borderers, and there was half a carucate amongst the tenants, or men; this was valued at 10s. and a church then belonged to it, endowed with 4 acres.

Tor, a freeman, in King Edward's time, under Stigand, had 4 carucates of land, 2 in demean, and 2 were amongst the men; there were 14 villains then, and a borderer, valued at 40s. but at the survey at 4l. per ann. Stigand, had the soc; also 3 freemen held 85 acres then, and 2 carucates, with 2 borderers, and a freeman, with 30 acres. Brunard holds 30 acres, or 2 oxgangs. This was valued at 12s.

Rafrid held these freemen, but now they are held of the King, because there was no one who had a just claim to them.

Rafrid was a Norman, and had quitted it, not having a legal title. The whole was one leuea long, and one broad, whoever was lord of it, and paid 27d. to a 20s. gelt. (fn. 1)

William de Schoies or Escoes, sold this lordship, with many others, in the reign of Henry I. to Walter Giffard Earl of Buckingham: he had a large share of the Conqueror's favours in this county, and held as we learn from the Book of Domesday, lordships in Islington, Clenchwarton, Middleton, Rungton, Geyton, and Massingham, in Freebridge hundred; Bircham in Doching hundred, and Ringsted in Smethdon hundred;—Wilby and Buckenham in Shropham hundred; —Banham, Keninghale, and Herling, in Gilcross hundred;—Letton in Mitford hundred;—Creak, in Gallow hundred;— Sheringham, Salthouse, Repps, Beston, and Runton in North Erpingham hundred; —Reedham, Berningham, Panxford, and Fishley, in Walessam hundred;— Limp'ho, Berningham, Plumstede, and Sowood in Blofield hundred;—Winterton and Ashby, in West Flegg hundred;— Brant, in Lothing hundred;— Witchingham, and Weston in Einsforde hundred;—Attleburgh, in Taverham hundred;—Corpusty in South Erpingham hundred;—Paston, in Tunstead hundred;—Stokesby, in East Flegg hundred;— Colney, in Humbleyard hundred;— Tasburgh, in Deepwade hundred, and Thurverton, in Clavering hundred.

Walter Giffard was Earl of Buckingham, and succeeded by a son of his own name, who dying without issue, in the reign of Henry II. his great inheritance was divided amongst his sisters and coheirs, one of whom, Rohais, brought this lordship to Richard Fitz-Gilbert, ancestor to the noble family of the Earls of Clare.

The family of De Brecham being enfeoffed herein, took their name from it, according to the custom of that age; Ralph de Brecham being lord in the time of Richard I. and in the 3d of King John, Richard de Brecham was sued by the bailiff of the Earl of Arundel, for suit of court, due for lands here to his hundred-court of Smethdon, as was one of the said name, by Catherine de Titchwell, as guardian to the heir of Gilbert de Titchwell, for certain customs and services due for lands in this town, and Hunestanton, in the 34th of Henry III.

This Richard was son probably of Richard de Brecham, who was found to hold it in the 3d of the said King, of the honour of Clare.

In the 41st of the said King, Alan de Meysy impleaded Nicholas de Brecham for 2 parts, and Maud, relict of Richard de Brecham, for her 3d part in this church; and in the 52d of that King, it is said that Alan could not recover seisen against Nicholas de Brecham, till he had granted to Roger of the Exchequer, the said advowson.

After this, the Wesenhams claimed a right, and in the 14th of Edward I. an assise was brought to enquire if Giles de Wesenham, father of John, was seized in demean and fee, of lands in Brecham St. Mary, which John, son of Robert de Brecham, holds.

Gilbert de Clare Earl of Clare, on his marriage with Joan, daughter of King Edward I. granted it May 27, to the said King, ao. 18, with Walsingham, Wiveton, Crimplesham, &c. who regranted it to the said Earl, and his Lady Joane, and their heirs, the said Earl holding it in capite.

Gilbert their son and heir, being slain at the battle of Bannocksburne in Scotland, ao. 7th of Edward II. and having no issue, it was assigned to Elizabeth de Burgh, wife of John de Burgh, son and heir of Richard Earl of Ulster.

About this time, Edmund Tyb held here and in Ringstead, the fourth part of a fee of the honour of Clare.

In the family of the Burghs it remained, till Lionel Duke of Clarence by the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter and heir of William de Burgh Earl of Ulster, became lord of it; who leaving an only daughter and heir, Philippa, married to Edmund Mortimer Earl of March, he was lord of it in her right; and Edmund Mortimer Earl of March, dying seized of it in the 3d of Henry VI. Richard Plantaginet Duke of York, son of Anne his sister, was found to be his cousin and next heir, from whom it descended to his son, King Edward IV.

After this, Elizabeth, (Henry the Seventh's Queen,) Anne, wife of Thomas Howard Earl of Surry, and Catherine, wife of William de Courtney Earl of Devonshire, 3 of the surviving daughters and coheirs of the said King, had an interest herein; and the said Anne and Catherine, conveying their right to King Henry VIII. son of the eldest sister, Elizabeth, in his 3d year, the whole was vested in him, who settled it on his Queen, in part of her jointure.

On December 20, in the 1st and 2d of Philip and Mary, it was granted to Thomas Woodhouse. and Thomas Ranowe, and their heirs, with the advowson, excepting the bells and lead, to be held in capite by the 60th part of a fee, in consideration of 193l. 5s. 5d.

After this, it was in John Darcy and Thomas Audley; and in the 43d of Elizabeth, John Young, and William his son and heir, sold to Thomas Southwell, Esq. for 260l. the moiety of a foldcourse, called Legg's.

About the said time, it appears that Southwell held another foldcourse, called Bylaugh's, with a farm, and was patron of the church, and as such, lord also of the manor.

In Trinity term, ao. 13th of James I. Henry Southwell conveyed it by fine, to Henry Davy, and Christopher Herne.

After this, it was possessed by several lords, who had the patronage, and conveyed to Robert Walpole, Esq. who presented in 1705, and the Earl of Orford is the present lord and patron.

Tenths 3l. 10s. Deducted 1l. 6s. 8d.

Besides the lordship abovementioned, Ralph de Bellofago, lord of Newton Bircham, had also one in this town, held by Fradre, a Saxon thane of King Edward I. consisting of 3 carucates of land, 5 villains, and 4 borderers, 2 carucates in demean, with 2 and a half amongst the men; and 2 freemen had 2 acres, valued in Fradere's time at 2s. at the survey at 20s.; it was one leuca long, and one broad, and paid 27d. gelt.

This had at all times the same lords, and passed as an appendix to the manor of Newton Bircham, so that what has been observed of that manor, equally belongs to this, to which I refer the reader.

Concealed lands granted ao. 16th Elizabeth, April 10, to Edward Dyer, and Hugh Cressener, in the tenure of Thomas Baxtere.

The Church is dedicated to St. Mary. The rector had a manse with 30 acres, in Edward the First's time, and was valued at 32 marks. The prior of Norwich had a portion of tithe, valued at 4s. Peter-pence 2d. ob. The present valor is 22l. and pays tenths, &c.

In the nave on a brass plate,

Orate p. a'i'a. Edithe Cook quond. uxor. Magri. Johs. Wollis notarij.


1304, Leon. de Beauchamp, instituted, presented by Ralph de Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester, &c.

1310, Hugh de Lavington, by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, &c.

1310, Richard de Estdene. Ditto.

1322, Richard de Wyrecestre, by the King, in possession of the lands of Roger Damary, a rebel.

1327, Mr. William de Brompton, by Roger de Brecham,

In 1337, King Edward III. granted license to his cousin, Elizabeth de Burgo, to give the patronage of this church, and appropriate it to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's in London, but it had no effect.

1344, Mr. William Bures, by the Lady Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Clare.

1357, William de Berkway, ditto: buried in the chancel.

1391, William Lane, by the King, in right of the Earldom of March.

1402, Walter Mably, by ditto.

1407, Thomas Libourne, by the King, in the minority of the Earl of Marche.

1408, Robert Hethe, by ditto.

1434, Thomas Feltham, by Richard Duke of York, Earl of March.

1481, Robert Calton, S.T.P.

1501, John Thompson, by the King.

1506, William Hickman, abbot of Stratford Langthorn, (in Essex,) by the King.

1516, Mr. James Mallet, S.T.B. by the Queen.

1522, John Wetwode. Ditto.

1543, Thomas Thaxton, by the King.

1551, Lanc. Thexton, prebend of Norwich. Ditto.

1555, William Holden, by Sir Thomas Wodehouse, Knt. and Thomas Rannow, Gent.

Thomas Carr.

1568, John Babkey, by Thomas Southwell, Esq.

1573, Robert Gray. Ditto.

1583, Alexander Rawlyns, (fn. 2) by the Queen.

1608, John Hassell, by John Jay, Esq. afterwards dean of Norwich.

1639, Samuel Booty, by Richard Parmenter, alderman of Norwich.

1670, John Steares, by Thomas Bacon, Esq. and Nicholas Styleman, Esq.

1672, Alexander Booty, by Thomas Bacon, Esq.

1705, Henry Bland, by Robert Walpole, Esq.

Henry Bland. D.D. resigned in 1744.

1744, Hor. Hammond, rector, 1765, (prebend of Bristol,) by the Earl of Orford.

In this church were the lights of St. Mary, the crucifix, St. Saviour, St. Anthony, St. Mary Magdalen, of the crucifix at the door of the church, St. Christopher, St. John, and St. James, St. Katherine, and St. Margaret, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, St. Ann, St. Mary le Pity, St. Peter, St. Leodegarius, and St. Giles, St. Erasmus, St. Edith, and the Holy Trinity.


  • 1. Terra Willi. de Scohies—Doching hd. Brecham ten. Bern sub Edvardo Rege i car. t're. modo tenet R. de Ebrois tc. i car. p. nulla mo i sep. i vill. et ii bor. dim. car. ho'um et val. x sol. i eccla iiii ac. In eade' ten. lib. ho. Tor. T. R. E. sub Stigando iiii car. t're tc. ii car. in d'nio et mo. tc. et p. ii car. hom. mo. i tc. et p. xiiii villi, mo. ii sep. i bor. tc. val. xl. sol. mo. iiii lib. Stigand habuit soca, et iii libi. ho'es. ten. idem lxxxv ac. t're. T. R. E. tc. ii car. et p. et mo. i tc ii bor. et i lib. ho xxx ac. t're. Brunardus tenet sep. ii bov. totu' val. xii sol. Rafrid. tenuit hos ho'es et mo. sunt in manu regis quia non fuit qi. rationarat. tota ht. i leug. in l. et i leug. in lat. quicunq; ibi teneat, et reddit xxviid, de xx sol. de gelto.
  • 2. In 1603, he certified that there were 190 communicants.