Hundred of Grimeshou

Pages 148-150

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.

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Grimeshoo, or Grimeshoe, is bounded on the east with the hundreds of Shropham and Weyland, on the north, with the hundred of South Greenhoo, from which it is divided by the river Wissey, but at Cranwich it crosses the river, and takes in the townships of Colveston and Ickburgh, on the west with the hundred of Claclose, and on the south with the Little Ouse, which divides it from Suffolk.

It most probably derives its name from Grime, and hoo, a hilly champain country. This Grime was (as I take it) some considerable leader or general, probably of the Danes in this quarter; and if he was not the præsitus comitatus, or vicecomes, that is the shire-greeve or sheriff, he was undoubtedly the centuriæ præpositus, that is, the hundred-greeve, and as such gave the name to it, which it retains at this day.

About the centre of this hundred, two miles east of Weeting, in the road from Brandon to Norwich, is a very curious Danish incampment, in a semicircular form, consisting of about twelve acres, on the side of a hill or rising ground of marl or chalk. In this space are great numbers of large deep pits, joined in a regular manner, one near to another, in form of a quincunx, the largest seeming to be in the centre, where probably the general's or commander's tent was. These pits are dug so deep, and are so numerous, that they are capable not only of receiving a very great army, but also of covering and concealing them in such a manner, that travellers passing by cannot discern them; at the east end of this entrenchment (called by the neighbourhood, the Holes,) is a large tumulus, pointing towards Thetford, (about five or six miles distant,) which perhaps might also have served as a watch-tower, or a place of signal; and here the hundred court used to be called. This remarkable place retains also the name of GrimesGraves, as well as that of the Holes, taking its name from the aforesaid Grime, and from the Islandick, or old Danish word, grafa, fodere, to dig. That this part of the country (being open, and a champain) was a great seat of war between the Saxons and the Danes, appears from the many tumuli throughout this hundred, there being scarce any township without more or less of them. These tumuli were erected by the northern nations for the sepulture of their most considerable men and leaders, who fell in battle, and served not only as monuments of honour to the deceased, but as tokens of victory and terrour, and were trophies of conquest, to shew how far they had led their armies, and conquered.

In these have been often found the bones of men, pieces of old armour, (fn. 2) &c.; and in Somersetshire, under one was found a vault arched, wherein lay a man in rich armour, and two phials of some kind of liquor, by his head, as it were pro viatico. (fn. 3)

This hundred, with that of Weyland, &c. were anciently the demeans of the Kings of England, but King John gave them to Roger de Thony. In the 34th of Henry III. it was valued at six marks, and in the 52d of that King, Will. de St. Omer held it, paying 20s. per annum.

It appears by the presentment of the jury, in the third of King Edward I. when there was an inquisition taken, (fn. 4) that Petronilla de Thony held it in dower, with the hundred of Weyland, &c. and William de St. Omer held it by courtesy, having married Petronilla, widow of Roger de Thony. The commissioners for this hundred, on the King's behalf, were, Sir Robert de Caston, Sir Robert de Hulme, Sir Robert de Saham, Knts. who on the oaths of twelve men for the hundred, and five men out of each town, were to enquire of all privileges that the lords of the manors held, what usurpations were made on the King's privileges, during his absence, and the tenures of their manors.

In the 9th of the said King, there was another inquisition taken by the aforesaid knights inquisitors, and the hundred was then held by William de St. Omer, who paid 50s. blank farm at the castle of Norwich for it.

In the 27th of Edward I. it was held by Robert de Tony, and in the third of Edward II. he died seized of it, leaving it to Alice, wife of Thomas de Leybourn, his sister and heir, who being afterwards married to Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick, it came into that family; and in the 34th of Edward III. Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick died seized of this hundred, and that of Weyland, as parcel of the manor of Saham; and it appears by a pleading in Michaelmas term, 5th Richard II. that Philippa, widow of the said Guy, was lady hereof; she held it also 8th of Richard II.; but in the 21st of the said King, it was granted to John Earl of Salisbury, and his heirs males, (fn. 5) by the King, being parcel of the possessions of Thomas Earl of Warwick, &c.

In the second of Henry IV. it came into the Warwick family again, and Thomas Earl of Warwick held it; in 24th of King Henry VI. Henry Duke of Warwick died seized, leaving it to Ann, his daughter and heir, then but three years old, who died soon after, so that it descended to Ann, sister to Henry, wife to Richard Nevill Earl of Salisbury, who was declared Earl of Warwick, and was that great earl intitled Richard Make-King.

In 21st Edward IV. it was granted to John Earl of Salisbury, as parcel of the possessions of Thomas Earl of Warwick; but in the third of Henry VII. we find it conveyed to that King, by Ann Countess of Warwick; (fn. 6) and it remained in the Crown till the 36th Henry VIII. when that King granted it to Sir Richard Southwell of Wood-Rising in Norfolk; and from the Southwells it came to the Cranes; and, about 1662, was parcel of the possessions of William Crane, Esq. of Wood-Rising.

It is now [1738] in the hands of Mr. Wright, late of Brandon in Suffolk, son of the Rev. Mr. Wright, vicar of Stepney.

The tenths of the towns in this hundred were 90l. 15s. 6d. q. deductions 14l. 13s. 5d. 0b. Rem. 76l. 2s. ob. q.

The whole hundred is in the deanery of Cranwich, and under the Archdeacon of Norfolk.


  • 1. I cannot omit paying my due acknowledgment in this place to my worthy friend and benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Charles Parkyn, rector of Oxburgh and Boughton in Norfolk, to whom I am not only obliged for this hundred, but also for those of Claclose and South Greenhoo, which he hath generously supplied me with, besides many other favours, which for brevity sake, and not want of respect, I shall forbear mentioning.
  • 2. I have now by me the head of a Danish spear, made of brass, which was found under one of these tumuli, in Methwold-Field, in this hundred; it is entirely perfect, except a large gap on its edge.
  • 3. Kennet's Paroch. Antiq.
  • 4. Rot. Hudd. in Cur. Rec. Scacij.
  • 5. Pat. 21 R. 2 P. 1.
  • 6. Fin. Hillar. Hen. 7. N. 1.