Launditch Hundred: Wesenham

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

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'Launditch Hundred: Wesenham', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 10, (London, 1809) pp. 75-81. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

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The principal manor of this town was held under Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own right, as a lay fee, by twelve socmen, in King Edward's reign, who held 2 carucates of land, and 4 borderers; there were 4 carucates in the whole, 2 of which were demean land, and one acre of meadow: 3 carucates amongst the men, &c. valued at 40s. in King Edward's time, but at 60s. at the survey, which was on account of an exchange of land lately made; the whole was one leuca long, and half a one broad, and paid 20d. gelt, whosoever was lord. Wimer was lord then, under the Earl Warren. (fn. 1)


Of this Wimerus, who was dapifer to the said Earl, and enfeoffed by him in many lordships, a full account is given in Gressenhale; from Wimer's family and descendants it came to the Stutevills, then to the Foliots and Hastings; but on the death of John Hastings, Esq. of Gressenhale, (son of Sir Hugh Hastings,) his two sisters were his heirs; Anne, married to William Browne, Esq. second son of Sir Anthony Brown, master of the horse to King Henry VIII. &c. and Elizabeth, married to Hamon L'Estrange, Esq. of Hunstanton; and on a division of the Hasting's inheritance, this lordship was assigned to Anne, the eldest sister and coheir, as in Gressenhall.

Anthony Brown was lord in 1572.

A descendant from the said William, was Thomas Brown, Esq.

who kept his first court with the lete on Tuesday next after the feast of St. Michael in 1631.

From the Browns it came to Richard Jackson, Esq. the present lord, in 1757.

Castleacre Priory Manor.

This was made up of several benefactions to the said priory. In a charter of Will. the second Earl Warren, sans date, but about the year 1100, it appears that Wimer Dapifer, before mentioned, had given all the land which his nephew Jeffrey, the capellane, held of him, 2s rent in land here, and 2s. in Gressinghale, to that priory.

Roger, son of William, dapifer, sewer or seneschal to the Earl Warren, gave lands, with the homages of certain persons for the soul of his father.

Drogo, son of William, dapifer, gave or confirmed the two churches of St. Peter and St. Paul of Wesenham, with the tithe of his demean, 14s. rent per ann. in land, and the tithe of Herbald his man.

Beringer de Cressi gave for his own soul and that of his wife, and that of his predecessors, who before him held land at Gaersighnehavill (Gressenhale) one mark rent here, and Ysabel his wife confirmed it; witnesses Hugh de Cressi, Robert de Mortimer, Richard de Besvill, Ralph de Bellomont, &c.

Ysabella de Gressingehale (fn. 2) quitclaimed to them the homage and tenement of Hugh de Crec in Wesenham; this Isabel was daughter and heir of William de Gressenhale, who was grandson to William, son of Roger, son of Wimer, which William assumed the name of De Gressenhale; she married first Beringer de Cressi; then William de Huntingfield, by whom (as I take) she had no issue, and after, Osmund de Stutevil; this Osmund, in his confirmation of the grants of the family of Wimer, &c. in or about the year 1220, excepts the advowsons of the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul, which had been granted to this priory, and in a deed sans date, with the assent and advice (as it is expressed) of Ysabel his wife, he confirms the donations of Wimer (herein called senescalli, senescal, or steward) de Gressenhale, of Roger, son of Wimer, and of Walter, son of Wimer, and of William, son of Roger, of Roger son of William, of Drogo his brother, of Beringer de Cressi, and whatever his men belonging to the honour of Gressenhale had granted to these monks, and gave himself, William, son of Alan de Wesenham, with all his family (tota sequela) and appertenances, and his tenement, also Harvey Salle, another villain, with his tenement, cum totâ sequelâ.

Ralph Fitz Stephen de Upgate, in Wesenham-Torp, (Thorp,) gave a messuage, a croft, with land and rent here, and Richard, son of William de Weseham, quitclaimed his right of foldage, for 14s. paid him, and for 6d. per ann.

Reiner, son of William de Acra, gave 6d. rent, which Richard Clerk of Wesenham held of him.

Durand L'Estrange, with the advice and consent of his heirs, and Prudence his wife, gave 5s. in Wesenham Torp.

Robert de Salle, with the assent of Roisia his wife, gave lands.

Roger de St. Denys quitclaimed for 20s. 7 acres of land here.

And in the 15th of Edward I. the prior, as lord, claimed the assise of bread and beer of his tenants, view of frank pledge, &c.

On the dissolution it came to the Southwells, as I take it; and then to the lord chief justice Coke, in whose family it still remains, the late Earl of Leicester dying lord in 1759.

Sir Richard Southwell, on May 5, Ao. 37 of Henry VIII. had a grant of it, with the manors of Wendling, Swanlon Nowers, Kerdeston, Brancastre manor and advowson, and a portion of tithe in Burnham Depedale, in exchange for Haynford, Upton manor.

At the survey we find another lordship in this town belonging to the Conqueror, and farmed of him, or kept by Godric, consisting of a carucate of land and an acre of meadow held by four freemen, and 2 borderers belonged to it, with 2 carucates, in King Edward's time; but the soc belonged to Stigand's manor of Mileham, which was at the survey farmed, or kept by William de Noiers, as steward to the King, who was lord of Mileham, and this was valued in Sporle. (fn. 3)

North Hall.

In the third year of Henry III. Thomas de Wesenham held half a fee of the honour of Mileham, which belonged to John L'Estrange, who held it of the Fitz Alans, Barons of Clun, and they in capite, of the King.

In the 10th of that King, Roger, son of Alan de Wesenham, conveyed the fourth part of a fee in Wesenham, and Wesenham Thorp, to Alan de Wesenham, to be held of the said Roger; and Gilbert de Wesenham, in the 26th of the said reign, paid half a mark fine for not accompanying the King into Gascoin.

Thomas Fitz Alan of Wesenham was lord in the 3d of Edward I. and claimed the assise of bread and beer, &c. of his tenants, and Robert Wesenham was lord in the 9th of Edward II.

In the 1st of Edward III. John de Bokenham, parson of Intwood, conveyed by fine to Roger de Wesenham and Cecilia his wife, the manor of Northall in Wesenham, and the rent of a moiety of a quarter of salt in Tirington, settled on them in tail; and in the 20th of that King the heirs of Roger were found to hold the fourth part of a fee of John de Harsick, and he of the Earl of Arundel, which Thomas de Wesenham formerly held.

Of this family, and probably lord of this manor, was Sir John de Wesenham, Knt. who in the 23d of the said, King, being then the King's butler, (Pincerna Regis,) had a grant or license to take 12d. of every hogshead, and 2s. of every pipe of wine imported into England by merchant-strangers, who being also a rich merchant of London had about this time the King's crown in pawn; and in the 34th of the said reign was with Sir Robert de Causton, in commission to seize all ships from the mouth of the Thames northward, to the King's use, (fn. 4) and to provide them with men at arms, archers, &c. to resist the French, then threatening an invasion; and in the 2d year of Richard II. John de Wesenham and Petronilla his wife, conveyed by fine this lordship to John de Leverington.

Soon after this, it came to the Beaupres, and Nicholas Beaupre, Esq. was, in the 3d of Henry IV. found to hold the fourth part of a fee of the Earl of Arundel.

In the 24th of Henry VIII. Nicholas Beaupre, Esq. of Outwell, was lord of Northall manor in this town, and Edmund his son, conveyed it by fine, in the 30th of that King, to Nicholas Rookwood, Esq. and not long after we find it in the family of the Southwells; and in the year 1560, Sir Richard Southwell was lord of Northall manor, and paid a rent of 27s. to the lord of East Hall, due from that of Northall.

In the 40th of Elizabeth it was possessed by Edward Coke, Esq. afterwards lord chief justice, lord also of Northall-Kyptons, WesenhamKypton, Wesenham-Castleacre, Fulchers, Molls, and Gamages, and John Coke was lord in 1659, in which family it remained, the right honourable the Earl of Leicester being the late lord

I have seen an old writing wherein it is said that Edric held, in the time of the Confessor, 80 acres of land in this town, with a church of 18 acres valued at 18d. and Edric had added to it two socmen; that afterwards Ralph Earl of Norfolk, and the King had the soc, and it was valued at 5s. but at the survey Ralph had forfeited his right, and Godric held it of Alan Earl of Richmond.

In a valuable copy of the Book of Domesday, for this county, which I have consulted under the titles of the King's land, and that of Godric, held for the King, also that of Alan Earl of Richmond, I have not met with the account as above represented: that there was land in this town belonging to the Earl of Richmond I shall show, but then it belonged to the lordship of Horningtoft, which extended into Wesenham.

Horningtoft was at the survey a very considerable lordship, and farmed of, or kept by Godric, for the King, and was not granted to the Earl of Richmond till after the survey, as appears from the state of that town in the Book of Domesday, and for a proof of this I refer the reader to my History of Horningtoft.

By a fine levied in the 3d of Henry III. Peter de Nereford granted to John de Nereford, a carucate of land here, and Thomas Buhord was querent, and Simon de Rudham and Emme his wife, deforciants, in a fine levied in the 15th of the said King at Westminster, before Thomas de Muleton, William de Raleigh, Robert de Lexington, William de London, Mr. Robert de Shardelow, Ralph de Norwich, William de Ebro, and Richard Reing, justices, of certain customs and services for lands in Wesenham-Thorp, Thomas requiring Simon to pay 8s. per ann. and foreign service, with 8d. at the feast of St. Botolph, to the custody of Richmond castle, and that they should make a feast at Christmas, and carry his arms at the charge of the said Thomas, as often as the King was with his army, also by this fine, Simon and his wife released to Thomas 5 acres of land here.

Roger de la Ware impleaded several persons in the 10th of Edward I. for lands in Hey Wesenham, Rugham Magna and Parva, and Fransham, as his right, whereof his ancestors were seized in the time of King John, and before this, in the 3d of the said reign, when a Quo Warranto was issued out, the lord of this manor claimed assise, &c.

Nicholas de Castello, or Castell, and Cecilia his wife, purchased in the 19th of Edward I. of Thomas Burt of Horningtoft, several lands, with a mill, on the death of Sir William de la Ware and Arabella his wife: see in Horningtoft, and in Kypton.

The temporalities of Castleacre priory in 1428, were 2l. 3s. 9d. ob.; of Westacre 8s 9d.; of Massingham priory 5s.

Concealed lands in Wesenham Thorp belonging to the rectory, granted by the abbot of Wendling to John Corbet, paying 3s. 4d. per ann. were given by Queen Elizabeth, February 9, in her 12th year, to Nicholas Mynn.

William, the third Earl Warren, &c. confirmed to the monks of Castleacre the advowson of the churches of Wesenham Thorp, All-Saints, and St. Peter's, with the appertenances, and the tithe of the demean of Wimer, the dapifer; (fn. 5) and Eborard Bishop of Norwich confirmed the same.

Also Drogo, son of William the sewer of Gressenhale, confirmed the gift of his father of the said two churches; but after this, their right of presentation seems to be contested, and by a fine levied in the 40th of Henry III. John, the prior, and convent of Castleacre, conveyed to William de Stutevile, lord of this town, the advowson of the said two churches, with that of East Lexham, and Stutevile granted back to the prior the church of St. Andrew of East Lexham, with the yearly rent of a mark to be paid by Richard de Bavent and his heirs, out of lands held of Stutevile in Ansing, (Elsing,) and Tudenham, reserving also to the prior the old pension out of the said churches of Wesenham, before Henry de Bath, Mr. Simon de Wanton, Robert de Shotindon, and John de Cokefeld, the King's justices. And in the following year the said two churches were granted by fine, to the abbey of Wendling, by the said William de Stutevile, and were after appropriated to the said abbey, and vicarages were established.

By the consent of the Bishop of Norwich, a composition was made in 1320, by which the prior of Castleacre let to perpetual farm to the abbot and convent of Wendling two parts of the tithes of the garbs (or corn tithe) of the demeans which formerly belonged to William de Stutevile, and Alan Fitz Roger, and Jeffrey his son, and of John Lambert, in the fields of Wesenham, for 4l. sterling per ann. viz. to the prior 40s. to the sacrist 40s. payable on the feast of St. John Baptist, dated on Saturday next after the feast of St. Scolastica the Virgin. (fn. 6)

The ancient valor the rector of the church of All-Saints was 18 marks, and St. Peter's 20 marks: and they paid 20d. Peter-pence; the present valor of these two vicarages united is 15l. 9s. 11d.


Roger de Hunting feld occurs rector in the time of John of Oxford, Bishop of Norwich, about 1190, of All-Saints and St. Peter's.

Master Lambert was instituted parson of St. Peter's with the chapel of St. Paul annexed, also of the church of St. Andrew of East Lexham, presented by Hugh, the prior, and the convent of Castleacre, about the year 1195.

Adam de Walsingham was rector of St. Peter's in the 12th of Henry III. when a fine was levied between him and Roger, son of Matthew, who granted 4 acres of land, and 3 in this town, to his church; and in the said year Matthew, son of Pagan de Wesenham conveyed by fine to Adam aforesaid, 6 acres, Adam paying 10d. per ann.


John vicar, sans date.

William, vicar, sans date.

1309, John de Tutington was collated by the Bishop of Norwich to the vicarages of All-Saints, Wesenham, and St. Peter's of Wesenham Thorp, with the chapel of St Paul annexed.

1322, William de Oxwick was collated to the same.

1349, Thomas de Whatton collated to them: it appears that the abbot, &c. of Wendling, presented, at the Bishop's nomination.

John de Hardingham, vicar.

1365, Andrew de Colney collated, &c. to both vicarages, with the chapel.

1371, John Harcourt.

In the 50th year of Edward III. the vicar had a patent to enlarge his manse.

1379, Thomas, son of John Hugh de Helaghton, collated by the Bishop.

1384, William Wardeboys, by the King, the temporalities of the see of Norwich being in the King's hands.

1385, Thomas Saunders, by the King.

1393, John Sergeaunt, by the Bishop.

1396, Edmund Fysher, by the Bishop.

1406, William Barton. Ditto.

In 1427, Robert George resigned to Nicholas Essex.

The Bishop of Norwich nominated to these vicarages till the Dissolution, after that the Crown had the patronage.

Miles Gill, occurs vicar in 1556.

Robert King in 1589.

John Baker in 1648.

Mr. Wilson in 1720.

1729, John Franklyn, the present vicar, by the King.

At the south-east end of the nave, or body of the church, was the stone stair-case leading up to the old rood loft; over the door or entrance I saw some years past an old painted board with the portraiture of King Henry VI. painted thereon, in his robes, with the arms of France and England, quarterly, and

'Rex Henricvs Sextvs' with an antelope at his feet.

On the screen under the rood loft, which has been well painted and ornamented, with the figures of Saints,

Orate. p a'iab; - - - - - - - - - D'nj vicarij

Thomas Fusant, Martini Skyppon, Joh. Davy, et Ric. Hovel, et Thomas Scorth, qui istam - - - - - - fieri fecerunt.

In north window a saint with a bell, probably St. Anthony, and on a label,

P. sonitum hujus campanæ hostes tui confugiunt; and in a south window,

Orate p. a'iab; Rogeri Wylkyn, et Joh. - - - - - - - -, et p. o'ib; tenentur; in another window,

I count and cast to gadyr goodys fast, I spare for truth, to farewell, or I past.

In a north window of the chancel, argent, two bars, azure, a bend over all, gules, Grey of Rotherfield.

This church of All-Saints, called South Wesenham church, has a nave, north isle, and chancel, and a square tower.

The church of St. Peter's has a nave, north and south isle, with a chancel, covered with lead.


  • 1. Tre Willi de Warenna.—In Wesenham tenuer'. xii soc. Stigandi T. R. E. ii car tre. mo. vi soc. plus. semp. iiii bord. tc. iiii car. int. totu' q'ru' due st. in dominio et i. ac. p'ti. semp. iii car hominu'. modo. vi an. et viii porc. et lx ov. et ii runc. tc val. xl sol. modo lx; hoc est de esca'gio de nova terra; totu' ht. i l'g. in longo, et dim. in lato, et xxd. de gelto q'cuq;' ibi teneat. Wimerus tenet.
  • 2. She was at this time the wife of William de Huntingfeld, and this grant was with the consent of him.
  • 3. Terra Regis qua' Godric'. servat —Wheenham iiii lib. ho'es i car. tre. et i ac. p'ti. sep. ii bor. et ii car. Stigand' soca' T. R. E. mo. W. de Noiers in Melesham; hoc e' in p'tio de Esparlea.
  • 4. Rymer's Fœd. vol. vi. p. 167.
  • 5. Reg. Castleac. fol. 111.
  • 6. Reg. Castleac. fol. 133.