An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.
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Commonly called Baber, is a little village at the east part of this hundred, famous for the birth of St. Walstan, whose life we have at large, among Capgrave's Legends, fo. 285.
St. Walstan the Confessor, says he, was born in Bawburgh, of a good family, his father's name being Benedict and his mother's Blida; at 12 years old, renouncing all his patrimony, he entered service at Taverham, and became so charitable, that he gave his own victuals to the poor, and even his shoes off his feet, to a woman that asked his charity; this being told his mistress, she immediately goes to him, with design of rebuking him for so doing, but upon her finding him loading his cart with bushes and thorns, barefooted, without any injury or pain, surprised at the miracle, she falls down before him, confesses her wicked intention in coming, and begged his pardon, which he presently granted. This being reported about, and his master seeing the many miracles he did, loved him much, and would have made him his heir, but he would accept of nothing, only the promise of the calf of a certain cow he named, when she calved, which being agreed, not long after, she had two bull calves, which he carefully brought up, not for coveteousness sake, but to fulfil God's will, an angel having commanded him so to do, which told him that they should conduct him to the place of his burial. After this, as he was mowing with his fellow labourers in a meadow, an angel appeared, and warned him of his death, notwithstanding which, he kept on mowing, till near the time, and then calling his master and fellows together, he told them his will, commending his soul to God, St. Mary, and all the Saints; he ordered them to place his body in a carriage, and yoke his two oxen to draw him, strictly commanding that no body should direct them where to go, but that they should go wherever God pleased; after this, falling prostrate, he earnestly beseeched God, that every labourer that had any infirmity in his own body, or any distemper among his cattle, if he came out of devotion and reverence to visit his body, and to ask remedy of God there, might obtain his desire and have his petitions granted; upon which there was a voice heard from heaven, which said, "O holy Walstan, that which you have asked is granted, come from your labour to rest;" and instantly he expired, in the very meadow where he was at work, and that moment (if we will credit the legend) a white dove was seen to come from his mouth and mount the sky. His fellow labourers took up his body, laid it in his cart, and yoked his oxen, which went directly to Costesseye wood, where this miracle happened, that as they passed a deep water in the wood, the wheels went upon the surface of it, as if it had been solid ground, and the report is, that to this day the traces of the wheels are seen on the surface; to this, another prodigy was added; when the oxen had drawn the body to the top of an exceeding high hill in the wood, they stopped a little, and presently, contrary, to the nature of the place, a spring issued, which still continues; going thence directly to Bawburgh, a little before they came to the place where the Saint rests, they stopped again, and immediately there issued a spring, (which to this day is called St. Walstan's Well, a little below the church,) famous it was for many virtues, especially for curing fevers and other distempers; afterwards going a little further, they made a full stop, and there they buried the holy-man's body, built a church over it, and dedicated it to his honour, and there God wrought divers miracles, for at the shrine or sepulchre of this Saint, not only paralyticks, demoniacks, the deaf and dumb, the blind and lame, those that were troubled with fevers, or had lost their genitals, were said to be made whole and entirely cured; but beasts also that had any illness were healed by this Saint; he is said to die in 1016, on the third of the calends of June. Many other trifling and as fabulous things as these are related of this Saint, in his Legend, all which, for brevity sake, I shall omit, and only take notice of Bale's short account, which he gives us from this Legend, in his own words: (fn. 1)
"Saynte Walstane of Bawburgh iii. Miles from Norwych, was neyther Monke nor Prest, yet vomed he (they say) to lyve Chast without a Wyfe, and perfourmed that Promyse, by Fastynge of the Frydaye and good Sayntes Uygyls without any other Grace or Gyft gyven of God. He dyed in the Yeare of our Lord a M. and xvi. in the thyrde Calendes of June, and became after the maner of Priapus the God of their Feldes in Northfolke, and Gyde of their Naruestes. al Momers and Sythe folowers sekynge hym ones in the Yeare. Loke his Legende in the Cataloge of Johan Capgrave, Provyncyall of the Augustyne Fryeres, and ye shal finde there, that both Men and Beastes which had lost their Prevy Parts, had newe Members again restored to them, by this Walstane. Marke thys kynde of Myracles. for your Learnynge, I thynke Ye have seldome redde the lyke."
In ancient time, besides the vicar, there were six chantry priests serving in the church at St. Walstan's altar, which Saint was inshrined in the north chapel of this church, which was demolished on that account at the Reformation, the shrine being daily visited, not only by pilgrims from all parts of England, but numbers came from beyond the seas for that purpose; and while this place remained in such repute, the inhabitants in general, and the vicar and serving priests, grew exceeding rich, so that in 1309 they rebuilt the chancel, and adorned the church and chapel in the most handsome manner.
There was a hermit also placed in this parish, by the Bishop's appointment, who performed divine service in his own chapel (which was by his hermitage at Bawburgh bridge) to the pilgrims, and then attended them to the town, sprinkling them with hyssop and holy water.
But when pilgrimages ceased, and all such rites were abolished, the inhabitants came immediately to great poverty, and so continued till the church became so ruinous, that it was scarce fit for divine service, neither could they afterwards assemble in it, without hazard of their lives; and so it remained forsaken for some time.
At the revision in 1633, the church was repaired and tiled, there being about 300l. laid out on it, so that then there was scarce a handsomer church in the deanery.
It was a rectory valued at 10 marks, the church being dedicated to St. Mary and St. Walstan, and was given by Alan Viscount of Roan in Normandy, to the Abbot of Bon-Repos (de Bona Requie) there, (fn. 2) and by the Abbot, in 1235, to the Prior and convent of Norwich, along with the mediety of the rectory of Barford; it was appropriated by Bishop Raleigh in 1240, whenever William le Poymur, who was then rector, voided it. It had a house and 17 acres of glebe, and the vicarage was valued at five marks and an half, but was not taxed; the vicar had a house and yard, but no other land; in 1633, the house was down, and the site belonged to the vicar; it contained a rood, and was called in the terrier about half an acre; it paid 6s. 6d. procurations, 20d. synodals, 9d. Peter-pence, 6d. ob. carvage. The Prior of the monks of Rumburgh in Suffolk had a portion of tithes here, valued at two marks, which they held by grant of the Abbot of St. Mary at York, to which they were a cell, and that abbey had it of the gift of the Earl of Britain, it being for two parts of the tithes of the demeans of that Earl in Bawburc: the Prior appropriated this rectory to the sacrist, who compounded with the Prior of Rumburgh, and agreed to pay him for ever yearly 43s. 4d. for them; and in 1528, the Abbey of York released to the Dean of Cardinal Woolsey's college in Ipswich, all their revenues belonging to their cell at Rumburgh in Bawburgh, &c.
1250, Sir Bartholomew de Norwich. The Prior of Norwich.
1278, Sir Barth. de Norwich again.
1315, prid. id. July, William of Eccles, by Bromholm.
1317, 17 kal. May, Nicholas de Bodenham.
Peter de Welles, R.
1348, 8 Aug. Richard atte Grene.
1349, 10 July, Roger atte Stone of Barsham.
Richard de Barsham. Change with Melton Constable.
1353, 27 Nov. John Mey. Ditto.
1394, 9 May, Charles Alleyn of Lammas. Change with Testerton.
1395, 18 Dec. John Mayor. Change with Wickhampton.
1397, 29 Mar. Tho. Verdon of Ibstoke.
1408, 3 Sep. Stephen Sherreve. Change with Langham.
1417, 27 Oct. Godfrey, son of Walter Mayster, of Boton. Ditto.
1419, 11 March, Robert de Bernak.
1434, 30 July, Thomas Esthagh, R.
1439, 4 July, Will. Gybbys of Runton.
1444, 22 April, Thomas Mastryocke, O.
1476, 13 Jan. Robert Butte.
1493, 23 June, Mr. Edward Rightwise, died, and was buried in the chancel, with this on a brass plate still remaining,
Orate pro anima Edmundi Gyghtwys, S. T. P. Ecclestic Same ti Michaelis ad Placita in Norwico quondam Gectoris et Nuins Ecclesie Vicarii, qui obiit rriiio Junii Anno Domini MoCCCCo lrrrriiio. cuius anime propicietur Deus.
1493, 30 July, Mr. Thomas Tyerd, S. T. B. he lies buried in the chancel, with this,
Orate pro anima Magistri Thome Tyard S. T. B. quondam Viearii istius Ecclesie qui obiit io Januarii MoCCCCCovo ruins anime propicietur Deus.
1506, 8 July, Mr. Robert Dam, LL. B. on Tyard's death.
Mr. Edmund Wethir. He resigned in
1518, to Master William Rechers, who is buried here with this inscription,
Orate pro anima Magistri Willi. Rechers quondam Vicarii istins Ecclesie qui obiit rro Jan: Mo. CCCCCorrrio.
After his death, nobody would accept it, and it laid till
1586, without institution, and then Daniel or Robert Howes took the broad seal, and was instituted vicar Jan. 13.
1609, 30 March, Richard Youngs, on Howes's death. Lapse.
1640, 17 March, George Sanders, on Youngs's death. The Dean and Chapter of Norwich. Ever since his time it hath been held by sequestration, as a curacy, the curates being nominated by the Dean and Chapter, who are impropriators of the rectory, and patrons of the vicarage.
1739, the Rev. Mr. Lynne Smear, is the present curate.
On a brass in the church,
Orate pro animabus Roberti Grote et Aguetis Urovis eius qui obiit Anno Domini Mo.CCCCCoiiiio
On Tyard's stone is this on a brass plate.
A fess embattled, in chief three martlets.
Immortalitatem hic præstolatur, quod mortale fuit, Phillipi Tenison, S. T. P. Archidiaconi Norfolciæ, Ecclesiarum de Hetherset et Foulsham Rectoris, de Insula Eliensi orlundi, Collegij Trinitatis in Academia Cant: quondam Alumni Regis, et Ecclesiæ Rebus afflictis ea quæ Pietatem ejus docuere constantiâ compassus, restitutus cecinit Nunc Dimittis. Et exauditus est. Jan. xv 1660, Æt. 48.
In 1528, Sir Thomas Wethyr, master of the charnel in Norwich, was buried in the cathedral, and gave his close in Baber to the vicar of Baber, and his successours, for a certayne, that is, that they should pray for his soul, and his friends' souls, every Sunday in the year, in the pulpit, and every Friday in the year remember him in his mass; and if any vicar neglects it, the alderman of the gild of our Lady and St. Walstone at Baber, and the brethren shall take the close to sustain the gild, giving 4d. to the curate, and offering 1d. on his yerday for dirige and mass for evermore. Sir Richard Wethyr, his kinsman, was rector of Baytone.
The steeple is round, and hath only two bells. The vicarage is valued at 13l. 17s. 6d. being sworn of the clear yearly value of 14l. 4s. 8d. and is called by mistake Banburgh, for Bauburgh. It is discharged of first fruits and tenths. The spirituals of the church of Bawburgh belonging to the Prior of Norwich, was taxed at 10 marks, the Prior's temporals at 6s. and the town paid 30s. tenths; it paid 6s. 8d. archdeacon's procurations, and 3s. 3q. synodals.
At the lower end of the church, on a broken brass plate,
pro anima Richardi Merchaunt (He lived in 1488)
In a north window, Delapole, and Segrave or Mowbray, quartered.
On a brass in the church,
Orate pro anima Roberti, Gylney, et Isabelle uroris eius, quo rum animabus propicietur De us Amen.
By the north door lies a stone for the wife of Henry Stoughton, who died 13 Feb. 1671.
In 1488, there was an extent of this rectory made, and entered in the sacrist's register, of Norwich priory, fo. 113, from which I learn, that the rectory was in the hands of the sacrist, and that the house abutted north on Bawburgh common, called Lokholme; he had also a tenement called Gybald's, abutting on the churchyard south, the rectory-house east, and on two ways leading to St. Walstan's well, west, and north. The meadows lying in Thorp are mentioned, and the lands of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem of Carbrook, and the way leading from Thorp to Great Melton, and a place on the river called Le Crymgyll, and the land of the college of St. Mary's in the Fields, Baburgh common, called the Holme, and all the lands, meadows, and woods, belonging to the rectory, were 98 acres and half a rood.
The sacrist had also in the said town, divers lands by the common, called Occolde, and elsewhere, containing 91 acres and half a rood of arable land, and 10 acres and an half of wood.
It appears from the same register, (fol. 65,) that Eudo (fn. 3) Abbot of the monastery called de Bona Requie, or Bon-Repos, gave to the prior and monks of the Holy Trinity of Norwich, the patronage of Bauburc, and the patronage of the mediety of Bereford or Barford, both which were given to Bon-Repos abbey, by Alan late Viscount of Rohan, who was lord of Costesseye, to which manor they belonged; this donation, though it has no date, was made in 1235, for Rob. de Bilney Archdeacon of Norfolk, and Rich. de Sipton Dean of Norwick were witnesses.
Roger le Clop of Baburc gave to God and the church of Babure, his piece of land between the churchyard and the house of Hubert, son of Henry de Baburc, with a meadow and turbary, or peice of land to dig turf on, to the church and rectors of Babure for ever.
It appears in the same register, (fol. 68,) that Katherine Countess of Brittain gave the monks of Norwich a rent of 4s. a year out of Baubure mill, for the souls of the ancestors of that family.
Beatrice, widow of John le Barber of Norwich, released to the church of St. Walstan at Baubure, and to Sir Jefferey, vicar there, a messuage, with the appurtenances in Bauburc, which Bartholomeu, formerly vicar, purchased of her husband, in the presence of Anselin de Bauburc, and others.
In 1278, it appears from the same register, (fol. 69,) that John de Fereby, Official of the Bishop of Norwich, and brother Hen. de Lakenham, then sacrist, on the behalf of the Prior and Convent, who were rectors impropriate, exchanged with Sir Bartholomew de Norwich, vicar here, for a piece of land which was assigned to build a vicarage-house upon, and settled the abovesaid house purchased of Barber, on the vicarage for ever.
Henry, son of Ralf de Thorp, heir of master Robert, son of Bartholomew de Torp, formerly rector of Stanford, released to the Prior his right in a messuage in Bawbure, next the land designed for the vicar's house, to which Jeffy, vicar here, and William Burc, rector of Horningtoft, were witnesses; this messuage was Barber's also, and was after made the vicarage.
The Prior held his revenues here of the honour of Richmond, at the third part of a fee, to which honour the whole town and advowson belonged at first, it being always a part of Costessey manor, as it now is, the lord of Costessey being lord here; at the survey it was a berwic to Costessey, being five furlongs long and four broad, and paid 6d. ob. to the geld. It belonged to Guert in the Confessor's time, as Costessey did, and we meet with it entered under Costessey manor, in Doms. fol. 62. (fn. 4)
I cannot omit mentioning, that I find in Mr. Newcourt's Antiquities of London Diocese, vol. ii. p. 227, that one Richard Wright of this town went to Dunmow priory in Essex, and claimed the flitch of bacon which was to be given by the Prior, to all those who were married a year and a day, and never repented either sleeping or waking; the said Richard was sworn before John Cannon, then Prior, and the Convent, and many others, April 27, 1444, according to the custom, kneeling upon two hard pointed stones in the churchyard; the oath was this,
You shall swear by custom of confession, If ever you made nuptial transgression; Be you either married man or wife, If you have brawls, or contentious strife; Or otherwise, at bed or at board, Offended each other in deed or in word, Or since the parish-clerk said Amen, You wished yourselves unmarried again, Or in a twelvemonth and a day, Repented not in thought any way, But continued true in thought and desire, As when you joined hands in the quire; If to these conditions, without all fear, Of your own accord, you will freely swear, A whole gammon of bacon you shall receive, And bear it hence, with love and good leave; For this is our custom, at Dunmow well known, Though the pleasure be ours, the bacon's your own.
After the oath, the pilgrim for the bacon is taken upon men's shoulders, and carried first about the priory churchyard, and after through the town, all the convent and townsfolk, young and old, following with shouts and acclamations, with his bacon born before him.
I find three persons only upon record, who have fetched the gammon.