Smethdon Hundred: Thornham

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

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'Smethdon Hundred: Thornham', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10, (London, 1809) pp. 391-395. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


The lordship of this town was in the see of the East-Angles, or Elmham, in the Saxon age; Ailmar, or Agelmar, Bishop of Elmham, held it in King Edward's reign, and Bishop Beaufoe, Bishop of Thetford, when Domesday Book was made, held it in right of his see, with 3 carucates of land; there were always 3 carucates in demean, and 3 amongst the men, with 21 villains, 14 acres of meadow, a mill, 16 socmen, with one carucate and an half, and 5 borderers, &c. formerly valued at 14l. at the survey at 16l. per ann. was one leuca long, and half a one broad, and paid 11d. gelt. (fn. 1)

Bishop's Manor.

Herbert Bishop of Norwich complaining of certain injuries and encroachments made on his men, and tenants here, from those of the Earl Warren, King Henry I. directed his mandate to Roger Bigot, &c. to see it rectified; dated at Windsor, and witnessed by the said Roger. (fn. 2)

In the 35th of Henry III. Walter Bishop of Norwich, had a charter for free-warren, and it was found in the 3d of Edward I. that the Bishop had the assise of bread and beer, and would not permit the King's bailiff, and coroner to enter here; he received all amercements of his men, and all profits in whatever courts they are amerced; and suffered not his freemen through his whole barony, to appear at the assises, or inquisitions, by virtue of liberties granted to him, and his predecessors, and at the same time paid 4s. to the lord of the hundred for the lete.

In the 20th of Edward III. William de Secheford, and Henry de Elingham, held half a fee of the Bishop, and Thomas de Secheford held it in the 3d of Henry IV.

On the exchange of lands belonging to the see, by act of parliament in the 35th of Henry VIII. this lordship, coming to the Crown, was granted by that King the 30th of March, Ao. 29, to his physician, William Butts, M.D. and Margaret his wife, for their lives, with messuages, lands in Ringstead, Stanhow, &c. without impeachment of waste; remainder to Edmund Butts, their son, and his heirs; remainder to Thomas Butts, their son, who was lord in the 34th of Elizabeth.

Doctor Butts was highly eminent in his profession, one of the founders of the college of physicians in London, and knighted by King Henry VIII.

Soon after it reverted to the Crown, and Sir Edward Coke, the lord chief justice, having purchased it of Queen Elizabeth, settled it in the 15th of James I. on Sir John Villiers, afterwards Viscount Purbeck, on his marriage with Frances, a daughter of Sir Edward.

After this - - - - - - Arsdale, Esq. was lord, and his daughter and heir brought it to - - - - - Wilson, Esq. by marriage.

Anciently I find it a custom that if the tenants of the manor found on the shore any wreck, or royal fish, the lord was to have one moiety, and they the other.

Norwich Priory Manor.

In the 9th of Richard I. Mr. Simon de Thornham, held a carucate of land here and in Titchwell, late Robert Batail's, and Nicholas, son of Hugh, surrendered by fine all his right therein, before Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury, &c. and the said Simon granted it, in the 10th of King John, to William, the prior of Norwich; the said Simon, and Gregory his brother, holding it for life.

Silvester, son of Richard de Cumbes, for 10l. of silver granted to Roger, the prior, in the reign of Henry III. his water-mill, and windmill held of the Bishop, and paying to the Bishop 40s.

In the 3d of Edward I. it was found that the prior had this liberty, of not being impleaded in any court baron, or county court, but before the King, or his chief justice.

Henry Spencer Bishop of Norwich aliened to the priory of Lenn, (a cell to Norwich,) lands here, in Hilderston, North Elmham, and Blofield, to the value of 50l. per ann.

On the dissolution of the priory, this was granted to the dean and chapter of Norwich, and so continues at this time.

Tenths 6l. 14s.

The Church is dedicated to All-Saints, and was formerly a rectory in the patronage of the Bishops of Norwich, valued at 42 marks, and was appropriated to the Bishop's table, and the vicarage valued at 6 marks.

In the 20th of Edward II. it was found that all the issues and profits of this church, with those of Hoxne, Terling, and Longham, and of the palace of Norwich, in time of a vacation, belong not to the King, but to the succeeding Bishop.

The vicarage is valued at 10l.

The church is a large regular pile, and has a nave, north and south isle, with a chancel covered with lead, and at the west end a large square tower, but the upper part is fallen down, and now lies open, in which there were 4 bells.

At the east end of the nave, near the screens, lies a grave-stone,

Orate p. a'i'a Joh. Miller, qui ob. 1488; and on the screens, Orate p. a'iab; Joh. Miller, et Claricie uxor. ejus, &c.

On a grave-stone,

Orate p. a'ia Simonis Miller, qu'da' mercatoris istius ville qui ob. 4 Kal. Aug. 1464.

Also one

In memory of Robert Brown, Gent. who died 1711.

On a gravestone,

Walter Walterson, merchant, died March 15, 1721, he bequeathed 100l. to buy lands, now purchased at Ringsted, and ordered the rents and issues to be distributed by the ministers and church wardens of Thornham and Titchwell, on the first Sunday in December yearly, amongst such poor persons of the said parishes as do not receive collection, two thirds to Thornham, and one third to Titchwell poor.

An altar tomb in the church-yard,

In memory of Frances daughter of James Hunt, Esq; and Fran. his wife, of Letheringset in Norfolk, who died 1734.

In the 25th of Henry III. a jury was summoned to find whether 230 acres of land, half an acre of meadow, and a messuage in this town were parcel of the possessions of the rector of the church, or a lay fee belonging to the prior of Norwich; the prior set forth that on the foundation of the priory, Bishop Herbert gave it to them, and that the Bishops Everard, William, John of Oxford, and John de Grey, confirmed the grant; that the prior granted the advowson of the church to the Bishop who took away the land from the prior; afterwards the same Bishop separated the rent of the land from the rent of the church, and granted it out to R. M. who gave it to one Simon, who retained only 5l. thereof as parson, but Mr. John de Eye pleaded that the said land belonged to Thornham church before the foundation of the priory, in the time of the Englishmen, and before the Conquest. The prior produced the charter of Bishop Herbert, viz.

"Herbert, bishop to the monks of the Holy Trinity, whereas ye object to me, that I bought Thorp (by Norwich) for you only, I bought it for myself, and you, giving you the greatest part, I kept the least for myself, which division I always thought necessary for the church, for if the bishop should have no land at Norwich, his frequent coming thither would be very troublesome to you, and therefore I give you in exchange for that part of Thorp, which I keep in my own hands, my manor of Gnatington, with the foldcourses, &c. and the church of Thornham, the land of Thurstan, the deacon, a carucate of land at Gaywood, which was Hugh Calves, which paid one mark farm to the bishop, the land lying in Mintlyng."

The prior likewise produced the charter of Bishop Eborard, testifying that he surrendered the tenement aforesaid, the land of Thurstan, the deacon, and of - - - - Mareschall of Gnatington.

The jury find that Thurstan, the deacon, parson of Thornham, held the church and land, and paid the Bishop 2s. 6d. per ann. that the prior never had the church, and that Thurstan had a son, called Elverick, parson of Thornham, and his son William was parson likewise, who all held the church and land, but after that, the prior and monks remained in possession of the church and lands.


Robert Buttamund, occurs rector 1216.

Ralph de Blunvill, in 1236, collated by Thomas Blunvill Bishop of Norwich.

Roger de Hautesce, occurs rector in 1242, and in 1281.

John Miller farmed this appropriated rectory, with the glebe lands, tithes of corn, hay, &c. of Bishop Hopton, Ao. 4, and 5, of Philip and Mary, and paid 14l. per ann.


Benedict, occurs vicar in 1286.

1330, Adam Anand, collated by the Bishop.

Richard Elyngston.

1394, John Bridford, collated by the Bishop.

1400, John Freton. Ditto.

1405, John Lovel. Ditto.

1412, John Hogan. Ditto.

1434, John Fyket. Ditto.

1436, Thomas Baxter. Ditto.

1439, Thomas Esthaw, by the Bishop's vicar-general.

1462, Simon Rands, collated by the Bishop.

1496, Reg. Bladys. Ditto.

1523, John Grey. Ditto.

1532, William Pacock. Ditto.

1548, Lanc. Southeke. Ditto.

1555, Simon Anderson. Ditto.

1556, George Blunt. Ditto.

1569, Thomas Billingford. Ditto.

1573, Richard Todd. Ditto. In 1603, he certified that there were 220 communicants.

1631, William Tompson. Ditto.

1669, John May, A.M. Ditto.

1670, Robert Browne, A.M. Ditto.

1679, John Hodson. Ditto.

1704, Abraham Wilkins. Ditto.

1733, Robert Donne, ditto, on Wilkins's death.

1739, Henry Goodall. Ditto.

1743, Edward Castleton. Ditto.

Bishop Reynolds, in his lease of this rectory, reserved 20l. per ann. to be paid for ever to the vicar.

In the church were the gilds of St. Mary, Holy Trinity, St. Thomas the Martyr, and St. John Baptist.


  • 1. H. Smetheduna. Terra. Willi. ep. Tedfordensis ad episcopatu' pertinens T.R.E.—Tornham, tenuit Ailmer ep. T.R.E. p. man. mo. ep. in d. p. man. et p. iii car. tre, et sep. iii car. in d'nio et iii car. hom. et xxi vill. xiiii ac. p'ti mo. i mol. et xvi soc. de i car. et dim. et v bor. in d'nio. ii runc. ii an. xxx porc. et d. ov. tc. val. xiiii lib. mo. xvi totu. ht. i leug. in long. et dim. in lat. et reddit ii sol de gelto.
  • 2. Reg. i Ecc. Norw. p. 53.