An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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Joins to the west side of Stanford; [Toft] signifies an house or cottage, and to express the poverty of any person, this proverb was used, that he had not [Toft] or [Croft], that is, house or land, the adjunct West is to distinguish it from other villages of the same name.
In Domesday it is wrote Stoffta, and was at that time the lordship of William Bishop of Tedford, and Bishop Ailmar held it in the Confessor's time, when there were six carucates of land, and eight acres of meadow, valued formerly at 40s. at the survey, at 60s. and was held of the Bishop by Richard and Elias. The whole town was a league long and half a league broad, and paid 17d. to the gelt. (fn. 1)
Caston Hall manor.
At the survey there were only two lordships, one held by Richard, the other by Elias, of the see then of Thetford, but soon after removed to Norwich; in the reign of Richard I. Adam de Breileston held a moitey, (fn. 2) and after him the Katestuns or Castons, which family had a lordship here before 3d Henry III. when a fine was levied between Martin de Bodekesham, and Agatha his wife, Roger de Rude, and Margaret his wife, and Rob. de Katestun, of 6s. rent in Kateston, and 3s. rent in this town, given them by John de Kateston, father of Robert, who held a moiety of the town, by the service of a knight's fee, of the Bishop of Norwich. (fn. 3) But soon after we find this moiety to be divided, 3d Edward I. between Sir Robert de Caston, and John de Caston, rector of this church, which Robert had the assize of bread and beer. (fn. 4) In the year 1300, William de Caston was lord; and in 1313, Isabell, relict of Sir Rob. de Caston, enjoyed it; and 20th Edward III. Sir John de Caston, held half a knight's fee of the Bishop of Norwich, and the Bishop of the King. This Sir John had two daughters and coheirs; Elizabeth, married to Rob. Carbonel, and Alice to William Fastolf; and in 1393, Sir John Fastolf, and in 1400, William Fastolf presented as lord to this church; but soon after 3d Henry IV. Sir John Carbonel was lord, and held it at half a fee of the Bishop of Norwich; (fn. 5) and in the same year settled the manor on himself and his wife Margery for life, remainder to Tho. Peck, clerk, and other feoffees, to be sold, and the money to be laid out in acts of piety, for the souls of himself, and his wife, and of Sir Rich. Carbonel and Margaret his wife; and in 3d Henry VI. the said Thomas Peck conveyed it to Sir Robert Brews, Knt. John Fitz-Ralf, Oliver Gross, William Paston, John Manning, Henry Pakenham, Robert Mortimer, and others; but this settlement did not take effect, for in 1433, John Berney of Reedham died seized of this manor of Caston-Hall, and John was his son and heir; (fn. 6) and in the family of the Berneys it continued, till the reign of King Charles I. when it was conveyed to the Jermyns, lords of the other part of the town; and in 1682, Henry Jermyn Earl of St. Alban's was lord; soon after this, it was sold to Mr. Vincent of Little-Bukenham; from him it passed to Robert Partridge, Esq. and on his death descended to his brother, Henry Partridge, Esq. whose son,
Henry Partridge, Esq. is the present  lord.
This lordship was held in the reign of King Richard I. by Adam de Breideston, and after by the family of the Castons; but in the reign of Edward I. it divided into two manors, one of which was held by Sir Robert de Caston, and this by John de Caston, 3d Edward I. who held a fourth part of the town; and in the 28th of the said King, a fine was levied between John de Toft, querent, and John de Caston, defendant, (rector of this church,) of 12 messuages, 300 acres of land, 15 of meadow, 20 of pasture, 60 of heath, and 18s. rent, settled on John de Tofts; (fn. 7) and in 33d of the said reign, another fine was levied between Richard de Tofts, querent, and Roger de Tofts, defendant, by which the manor was conveyed to Richard; and by the inquisitions taken 20th Edward III. (fn. 8) it appears that John de Tofts held half a fee of the Bishop of Norwich, and the Bishop of the King, but 3d Henry IV. Richard Gegge was found to hold it, and in this family it continued till, by the marriage of Margaret, one of the daughters and coheirs of Richard Gegge, Esq. it came to John Austeyn, Esq. about the reign of Edward IV.; and 10th Henry VII. a fine was levied between Thomas Jermy, Esq. and John Austeyn, and Margaret his wife; (fn. 9) and a fine was levied of the same manor, between the said Tho. Jermy, and Hugh Coo, and Ann his wife, daughter, as I imagine, of Austeyn, by which it was conveyed to Thomas Jermyn, and being thus united to his other manor, it continued in that family till it was sold to Mr. Vincent, as is above observed.
Bigot's, or Dorward's Manor.
This manor contained a moiety of the town, and was probably that part which was held by Elias, of the Bishop of Thetford at the survey, and after by Jeffrey de Melton, father of Peter Le-Constable, (fn. 10) and by his son Reginald's dying without issue, it fell to his three sisters and coheirs, Alice married to Cockfield, Isabell to Birston, and Edith, first married to Sir Stephen de Asteley, and after to Holewell; but John de Cockfield, son of the eldest sister, Alice, seems to have, on a division of the estate, this manor assigned to him, and William Bigot, or Belet, was in the beginning of Henry III. (fn. 11) found to hold a knight's fee here, of John de Cockfield, and he of the Bishop of Novwich. (fn. 12) In 3d Edward I. Sir William Belet held it; and in the 6th of the said King, was found to hold the manor of Alfreton-Hall in Dunmow-Magna in Essex for life, of Ralph Bigot his brother, son of Ralph, son of Bartholomew; Sir William was valet to Henry III. and married Margaret, daughter and heir of Sir Walter de Marham of Marham, son of Mark de Marham, (fn. 13) by Ermelina his wife, daughter of Hugh de Montfort. This Sir William, and Margaret his wife, conveyed lands there in trust to Ingelram Belet, 14th Edward I. which Ingelram was no doubt of the family, and was knighted in the 24th of the said King, at Westminster, with Edward of Caernarvon, the King's son, by bathing, having married Avice, daughter and heir of Robert Bardolph and of Avice his wife, daughter of John de Lound, and sister and heir of Anselm de Lound, lord of Elmswell, Wyrham, Crimplesham, &c. and Ralph, son and heir of Sir William, was found, 9th Edward II. to die seized of a capital messuage, lands, watermill, &c. held by the service (as it is said) of paying 10s. to the manor of Melton, (fn. 14) and Walter, his son and heir, was 23 years old, and Sir Walter Bigot, Knt. his son, died lord of this manor, and that of Alfreton in Dunmow, 49th Edward III. and Walter, his son and heir, was then aged twelve years, and William Bigot, his son, 23d Hen. IV. released to John Doreward and Isabell his wife, (mother of the said William,) all his right in the manor. (fn. 15)
This Isabell died 5th Henry VI. when her three daughters were found to be sisters and coheirs to their brother, William Bygot, who died without issue, viz. Catherine, wife of Robert Hunt, Margaret, of William Galyon, and Elizabeth, of Richard Fox; this Robert Hunt, and Catherine his wife, settled their part, 20th Henry VI. on themselves for life, remainder on Thomas Dayrell, and Isabell his wife, daughter of Robert Hunt and his wife, in tail; and 5th Henry VII. Thomas Dayrell was found to die seized of this manor, and Thomas was his son and heir, who died lord in the 21st of the said King, leaving his two sisters, Anastasia and Beatrix, his coheirs; (fn. 16) and on the marriage of the said Anastasia to Thomas Jermyn, Esq. he became lord of this part: 16th July, 15th Elizabeth, by an inquisition taken at Norwich, Edm. Jermyn, Esq. who who died 1st February last, without issue, was found to be possessed of it, being eldest son of Sir Thomas Jermyn, and Sir Ambrose Jermyn was his brother and heir, who, on 9th August in 19th Elizabeth, was found to die seized of it on the 7th April before, and Robert was his son and heir, aged 30. In 14th Elizabeth, Edm. Jermyn, Esq. fourth son of Sir Ambrose, died possessed, and left it to his son and heir, William, who dying on 12th December in 3d King James, it came to his brother and heir, John; and in 1684, we find it in the same family, when Henry Jermyn Earl of St. Alban's presented to the church; but soon after this, it was sold to Mr. Vincent of Bukenham-Parva, and by him to Robert Partridge, Esq. on whose death it descended to Henry Partridge, Esq. his brother, whose son
Henry Partridge, Esq. is the present  lord.
How the other two parts of the manor that came to Galyon and Fox, by the marriage of the coheirs of Bygot, descended, I cannot say; but in the reign of Henry VIII. one Oliver had some right or share in it, and paid 3s. per annum due for Norwich castle-guard; and on an inquisition taken at Norwich, 22d May, 1st Elizabeth, John Oliver of West-Tofts died 23d November 1557, seized of it, and William was his son and heir, aged 21; and in 1572, Edm. Wright, Esq. held it; soon after this it came to the Jermyns, and so united to the other parts.
15th Richard II. John Methwold and others aliened lands here, and in Langford and Shropham, to the chantry in the church of Thompston; and the next year, John Davy and others aliened lands in this town, Wyrham, Wirmegey, and Forham, to the Prior of Wirmegey. (fn. 17)
The Prior of Thetford had lands here given him with the manor of Santon, by Thomas Bodney; and on 7th August 27th Elizabeth, the Queen, on the humble petition of Henry Lord Wentworth, grants to Theophilus Adams, and Thomas Butler of London, Gent. all the lands here belonging to the late priory of Thetford, which were 100 acres of land, meadow, and pasture; and 41st Eliz. they were possessed by Edmund Jermyn. (fn. 18)
The Abbot of Conches was taxed in 1428, for his temporalities here, viz. a mill, &c. at 6s. and the Prior of Canterbury, for his spiritualties, at 4s. 6d.
The tenths of this town were 3l. 8s. 7d. 1q.
On Monday the 2d of January, 1720, an oaken coffin was found in a moist, springy place, in this town, by some workmen belonging to Mr. Partridge, who were making a ditch to drain the ground; near the place where it was found, is a piece of ground (a little east of the church) moated about, where formerly was the seat or hall of the Castons, and perhaps here might have been some neighbouring chapel; it lay SE and NW and was full of water; in it were the bones of the person interred, and a representation of a face, cut either in jet, or Lancashire coal, with an hole through the upper part of it, and also a blue cipher, which seemed to have been set in a ring, and several blue irregular beads, with a broken golden ferrule, which the workmen said slipt off a small piece of wood like a knitting-sheath; it was broken and bent outright by them; it probably belonged to some small crucifix: they are now  in the hands of Mr. Thomas Martin.
The Church is dedicated to St. Mary, (fn. 19) and is a very ancient building of flint stone, &c.; the nave is in length about 54 feet, and in breadth, together with the north isle, about 27 feet, and is covered with reed.
On the pavement, near the reading-desk, lies a marble grave-stone with the arms of
Partridge, gul. on a fess cotised between three partridges rising or, as many torteaux. Crest, a partridge rising or.
In the Vault under this Stone lyeth the Body of ROBERT PARTRIDGE Esq. of Buckenham-House, Eldest Son of Mr. HENRY PARTRIDGE of Lowbrook, in the Parish of Bray in Berkshire; he departed this Life 26 Decemb. 1710.
Proh Dolor! jam Virtus sola superstes.
In the wall on the south side is a place for the holy water, where
formerly was an altar. The north isle is tiled, and not so antique as
the nave, and has an ascent at the east end, where was another altar.
At the west end of the nave stands a large square tower of flint, coped
and embattled with quoins of freestone, in which hang four bells, the
great bell is thus inscribed,
Uirgo Coronata, Duc Nos ad Began Beata.
This tower was begun about the end of Henry the Sixth's reign, or in the beginning of Edward the Fourth's; (fn. 20) round the water-table is an account of the benefactors, cut in stone, in old characters, in this manner:
|Alle the||Begdners of the Werh.||Andro Mewre.||Tohn Rolff.||Johe oliber, and Amg bgs wife.|
|Mylgam Olyber.||Mgliam Rolff.||John Rolff. John memke.||Robert Rolff.||Sir John Uyse Parson.|
The chancel is of equal height with the nave, and has no arch to separate it, which shews the antiquity of the whole pile, being parted only by a screen; it is covered with thatch, and is in length about 33 feet, and 18 in breadth; here has been a vestry, as appears from the door (which led into it) on the north side.
Here lies a marble grave-stone, with this shield,
Barwick, arg. three bears heads erased sab. muzzled or. Crest, a bear's head erazed sab. muzzled or.
Hic jacet BENJAMINUS BARWICK istius per 46 Annos Ecclesiæ Rector (una cum JUDITHA. Uxore sua præmortuâ) Qui damnas Voti, hujus foret, ut et Consors Thori, idem persolvit, die Martij unde-vigesimo, Anno Salutis partæ 1669, posuit N. BARWICK. Nepos ejus Charissimus, præsensq; Ecclesiæ Rector, sequentis Dec. lmo. ejusdem loci gratum præstolans contubernium.
Adjoining lies another marble grave-stone with the arms of Jermyn, sab. a crescent between two mullets in pale arg. Crest, a talbot passant, gorged with a coronet,
Here under lyeth the Bodies of JOHN JERMYN, late of West-Tafts Esq. and also of THOMAS JERMYN, Esq. his Brother, a Pentioner of the Bodyes of the late King JAMES, and allso of King CHARLES, both of Blessed Memorie.
Another marble stone is thus inscribed,
Here lyeth the Body of JOHN HENMAN, late Curate of this Parish, and Rector of Great-Cressingham, son of Mr. WILLIAM HENMAN of Charing in Kent, he departed this Life the 26 of March, 1730, in the 35 Year of his Age.
Pius filius, fidus Amicus, Vir eximiæ Eruditionis, Ecclesiæ Decus.
In the upper window of the chancel, on the south side, is Caston's shield.
And there were anciently the arms of Wright, Spring, Heigham, Francis, Berney, and Reedham.
3d Edward I. John de Caston, rector.
1300, 3 Nov. Richard de Hemesby. William de Caston.
1313, 18 Sept. Reginald de Denham. Isabell, relict of Sir Rob. de Caston.
1349, 11 Aug. William de Letton. Sir John de Caston. He was also rector of Bukenham-Parva, and vicar of Upton.
1361, 23 Sep. John Kok, on the resignation of Letton. The Lady Catherine, relict of Sir John de Caston.
1393, 16 Feb. Adam Smith. Sir John Fastolff, Mr. Tho. Burgate, and Rob. de Marham.
1400, 4 March, William Usher. William Fastolff.
1408, 10 May, Thomas Peck. John Carbonell; on an exchange with Usher, for the mediety of Sydestrond.
1421, 31 May, Henry Flecke, on the resignation of Peck. Sir John Carbonell.
1433, 24 Jan. John Pryour, vel Powre, on the death of Flecke. John Berney, Esq. by virtue of the manor of Caston-Hall.
1451, 14 Jan. John Vyce, on the resignation of Powre. Osbert Mundeford, senior, attorney to Osb. Mundeford, junior, Esq. then in the King's service at Calais.
1486, 30 May, Rich. Palgrave, on the death of Vyce. Elizabeth Mundeford, of Hockwold.
1498, 11 Oct. John Kechyn, bachelor of the canon-law, on the death of Palgrave. John Berney, Esq.
1518, 8 Sep, John Galyon, on the death of Kitchen. Ditto.
1521, 3 July, Tho. Ward, on the death of Galyon. Ditto.
1546, 6 Aug. John Bowgeon, (fn. 21) on the death of the last rector. John Harwarde, Gent. in right of his wife Margaret, widow of John Berney, Esq.
35th Eliz. Richard Brown; this rector said that there were (in 1603) 80 communicants in this parish.
1616, 8 January, Robert Brown, on the death of the last rector. Sir Tho. Berney.
1628, 24 October, Benjamin Berwick, A. M. James Berwick of Norwich, Gent. by virtue of a presentation of this turn from the King, on account of lapse and simony.
1670, 22 August, Nicholas Berwick, A. M. on the death of Benj. Berwick. Richard Godbold, Gent.
1682, 21 April, Benj. Berwick, A. B. on the resignation of Nich. Berwick. Henry Earl of St. Alban's.
1732, 13 October, the Rev. Mr. Henry Harrison, A. M. on the death of Berwick. Henry Partridge, Esq. of Magdalen College, Cambridge. He is rector also of Munford.
This rectory is valued in the King's Books at 8l. 6s. 1d. ob. and by the late Act of Queen Anne is discharged of first fruits and tenths, being valued at 49l. per annum real value.
Andrew Hook, or Hewke, willed, in 1484, to be buried in this church, before the image of the Holy-Trinity, and gave to the building of the steeple 30l. and John Olyver, by his will in 1482, gave to the steeple 4 marks; both their names are on the steeple as before.