Thetford, chapter 13: Of the Dominion, Lordship, or Manor of Thetford, commonly called Lancaster's Manor

Pages 53-57

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

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Of the dominion, lordship, or manor of Thetford, commonly called Lancaster's Manor.

The Earldom and dominion thereto belonging came to the Crown, upon Earl Ralph's forfeiture as aforesaid, (fn. 1) and continued there till King Stephen, in the first year of his reign, made Hugh Bigod Earl of the East-Angles, or Norfolk, and assigned him the third penny of all the profits of the county, which belonged to his earldom, reserving to himself all other revenues whatsoever, and thus the earldom and lordship became severed again. In 1139, this burgh was in King Stephen's hands, and was assessed at 10l. towards raising the aid then granted to that King, but upon paying down 7l. the burghers were pardoned the other 3l.; and soon after the King gave all the Suffolk part, viz. 4 carucates of land, with the advowsons of the churches and tithes thereto belonging, both within the burgh and without, with all other liberties and privileges, to William de Warren Earl Warren and Surrey, the third of that name, who founded the Priory of the canons in Thetford, and gave the whole to that house. The dominion and lordship, with the lands and revenues on the Norfolk part, remained still in the Crown: and in 1158, King Henry II. assessed this burgh at 10 marks, when he raised his second aid or scutage, as the Record calls it. In 1160, it paid 10 marks more to the tallage, and thus it continued till Richard I. granted his whole town and dominion of Thetford, with all his lands and revenues there, to

Hameline (fn. 2) Plantaginet Earl Warren and Surrey, in exchange for his lands in Torone (in France,) viz. Columbers, Balan, and Chamberi, (fn. 3) and William, his son and heir, consented to it; immediately after Hameline had possession of this place, the burghers of Thetford complained that they had not pasture for their cattle, and therefore applied by the Earl, (fn. 4) to Sir Ralf Plays the first, and desired him to have pasture in Croxton, for which they would pay yearly for every cow 1d. on Lammas day, by the name of Gresgovele, and in recompense for this, the Earl granted that the men of Croxton should be quit of all toll and tullage in Thetford for ever. This Earl died seized of this lordship about 1202, leaving it to

William Earl Warren, his son and heir, who died seized in 1240, leaving

John Earl Warren his son and heir. In his time, the bailiffs of this lordship were accused to the King of diverse transgressions committed against him, particularly, that they had seized the goods of divers felons, and detained them, upon which there was a writ issued to the sheriff to take them from them; this was in 1256, but it seems the Earl claimed them, as belonging to his dominion here, for the sheriff did not proceed in it. In 1267, there was a man tried in the Earl Warren's own court at Thetford, and hanged, for which the Earl was impleaded, but justified the proceeding, by proving that the court of his lordship and dominion of Thetford had that power. In 1274, the Earl's bailiffs took toll in Thetford market, of one of the tenants of Gerard de L'isle, lord of the moiety of Munford manor, for which Gerard brought his action against the Earl, and recovered upon it, by proving that almost all the towns in Grimshoe hundred, and especially every one of the Earl Warren's fee, were not to pay any toll in Thetford market. In 1275, the tenants of the Prior of Canterbury had 6l. 10s. per annum out of the toll of Thetford, Sandon, Brandon, Barnham, &c. but whether by grant for a term of years, or that year only, I cannot say. In 1278, the Earl had free-warren allowed him in all his lands that he possessed, or that be or his heirs should ever purchase, in regard of his sirname De Warrena. (fn. 5) In 1286, the jurors for the half hundred of Teford present, that John de Warren Earl of Surrey holds the lordship of Theford, in chief of the King, and hath belonging to that lordship, thol, them, sok, sac, infangeuethef, view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, a pillory, ducking-stool, weyf, separate coroner for the lordship, and a market on Wednesday and Saturday in every week, besides toll and custom every day in the week. (fn. 6)

In 1318, John Earl Warren and Surrey, by the King's license, granted this lordship with all its appurtenances to

Thomas Earl of Lancaster, and his heirs, who being attainted of treason in 1320, forfeited it to King Edward II. who granted it to

Sir Ralph de Cobham, Knt. and his heirs male; he died seized Febr. 5. 1325, and left it to

John de Cobham, his son and heir, then one year old, whom the King seized as his ward; but he never enjoyed this manor, for when

Henry Earl of Lancaster was restored, about 1327, he became lord here, and soon after there was a survey of the lordship, in which it was found that all the aforesaid privileges belonged to it, besides the ferries and toll at Santon and Brandon; after this, it was reconveyed by the Earl of Lancaster to John Earl Warren for life, remainder to the Earl of Lancaster and his heirs for ever; he died in 1345, and the Earl Warren on Tuesday the eve of St. Peter and Paul, A° 1347, without issue, being the last Earl of his name and family; at his death there was an inquisition taken concerning the lordship, in which it appears that he held the manor and town of the King in capite, in free soccage, by the yearly service of a rose, (fn. 7) and that there was a head messuage, (fn. 8) and 12 score acres of land, valued at 10 marks per annum, 20 acres of meadow worth 33s. a year, the pasture enclosed and the common worth 26s. 8d.; two watermills value 5l. a free fishery value 3s. 4d.; the rents of assize 7l.; a market and travers, with the toll, yearly worth 10 marks; two fold courses value 20s.; the pleas, perquisites, and liberties of the courts, with one leet to be held every Easter, value 5l.; (fn. 9) also the market or fair at Santon; (fn. 10) parcel of this manor, valued with the water-toll there, at 18s.; also a certain custom or toll in Brandon, called Travers, parcel of this manor, valued at 13s. 4d.; also at Honeweton or Honington-Bridge, (fn. 11) a like custom or toll, called Travers, worth 2s. 6d. per annum; all which descended to

Henry Earl of Lancaster, son and heir to Henry Earl of Lancaster, deceased, who, in 1347, renewed his charter of free-warren in this and all his other manors in the county; he was elected Knight of the Garter, "and not long after, viz. 25 E. 3. [1350] having merited so highly, by his prudent conduct, and renowned exploits in the [French] wars, he was further advanced to a higher pitch of honour, by the King's special charter, bearing date the 6th of March the same year, viz. to the title and dignity of Duke of Lancaster, which being done by the general consent of all the prelates and peers, then sitting in parliament at Westminster, for his life; he was invested therewith by the cincture of a sword, with power to have a chancery in the county of Lancaster, and to issue out writs there under his own seal, as well touching pleas of the crown as any other, relating to the common laws of this realm: as also to enjoy all other liberties, and regalities belonging to a county palatine, in as ample a manner as the Earl of Chester was known to have within that county." (fn. 12) And thus, this lordship became part of the dutchy, and soon after was called Lancaster's or the Dutchy Manor in Thetford.

This noble Duke died March 24th, 1360, leaving his estate to be divided between his two daughters his heirs, and this dominion, with the advowsons of the canons of the friars-preachers, of Magdalen hospital, and St. John's, which always belonged to it, together with all other the aforesaid revenues were assigned, among others, to

Maud, his eldest daughter and coheir, who married William Duke of Zealand; but upon her dying presently after marriage, without issue, it descended to

Blanch her sister, who married

John of Gaunt, Earl of Richmond, fourth son to King Edward III. who was created Duke of Lancaster, in 1361, the very next year, after his father-in-law's death. He held it during his life, and dying in 1398, left it to

Henry IV. King of England, his son and heir, by Blanch afore said, and so the ducal title of Lancaster was drowned in the regal dignity, and the whole inheritance of the dutchy became united to the Crown, and there continues, except such parts as have been granted off by divers kings, under their broad seal, or the seal of their dutchy.

As for this lordship, King Henry IV. left it to his successour,

Henry V. who demised the demean lands, except the manorhouse, called the Earl's-House, and the Earl's-Barns, to the Prior of the monks of Thetford, and his successours, in fee, who were to hold them by the annual fee-farm rent of 28l. 6s. 8d. a year. In 1414, he settled the lordship on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Winchester, Durham, Norwich, and many other trustees, who were to hold it for him and his heirs; during which feoffment, we meet with courts, &c. held by many different persons, but they were only feoffees or farmers under them. In 1415, (fn. 13) Edmund Oldhall, receiver of the dutchy, received of John Wirlingworth, the King's bailiff of Thetford, by the Prior of the monks there, the fee-farm rents of the demeans, viz. 28l. 6s. 8d. and also by the hands of the farmer of the toll of the market and bridges 6l. and by the rest of the profits of his office for this year, 4l. 16s. 7d. ob. the total being 53l. 16s. 7d. ob. out of which, there was paid to John Woodhouse, Esq. Head Steward of all the dominion of the King's dutchy of Lancaster, in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, 10l. per annum, and also 10 marks more, which the King had added to his yearly pension, by way of reward for his faithful service, both which sums he was to receive, as long as he held his office, which was during the King's pleasure. The bailiff of this town also paid 10l. a year to William Caston, Esq. for life, out of the fee-farm rent of the demeans, which sum the King granted the said William when he retained him, on condition that he was retained by no other person, but served the King only in his wars, during his life. The goal for the dutchy, as well as lordship, was kept in this town, and in 1455, Edmund Clere, Esq. was made (under) Bailiff, Feodary, and Gaolkeeper of the dutchy. After this King's death it went to his successour,
Henry VI. and from him to

King Edward IV. who assigned it in jointure to Elizabeth his queen, after whose death it continued in the Crown, during the lives of

Edward V. Richard III. and

Henry VII. whose successour

Henry VIII. in 1511, demised to William Dwyte, mayor of Thetford, and the commonalty thereof, the fairs and markets, the toll of Brandon Ferry and other bridges, on condition they took no more than 4d. per score for sheep or hogs, &c. and paid the King his rent, who was to maintain the bridges; the lease being for 40 years. At his death it went to

Edward VI. who was seized of the whole dominion or manor of Thetford, but did not long continue so, for by letters patents dated the 11th day of July, in the second year of his reign, (1548,) he granted to

Edward Duke of Somerset, and his heirs, for ever, "all that the "domynion and mannor of Thetford, with the rights, members, and appurtenances thereof, parcell of the dutchie of Lancastre, and all edifices, waters, landes, tenements, meddowes, feedings, commons, wastes, hereditaments, &c. in Thetford, or elsewhere, to the said domynion or mannor, or any part thereof belonginge or apperteyninge, or as member or parcel of the same, before that tyme reputed or used, and all rents and yearely profitts whatsoever, reserved upon any demyses or grauntes of the premises or any parcell thereof, &c." as largely as any dukes of Lancaster, or any of their predecessors, enjoyed the same, or that the King by lineal descent, or by any other means, might have the same, viz. the King's ponds along the rivers, adjoining to the grove of the abbey, and all that severed fishing, sometime in the occupation of John Corbett, parcel of the dominion, or manor of Thetford, and also 400 acres of the demeans in Wether's-Course, and Halwick-Course, and also all that yearly reservation from the monks, for other tenements and lands, that were the tenants copyholds, gathered in by the monks of Thetford, accounted parcel of the value of Thetford manor, which at about 2d. an acre, extend to the yearly value of 32s. 1d. per annum, and also the fishing of the lord's river, used by the Abbot and his holders, or tenants, all which the said Duke, by deed inrolled, dated the last day of July, in the same year, conveyed to

Sir Richard Fulmerstone, and his heirs, who was to hold it of the Crown in soccage, by fealty only, as parcel of the dutchy of Lancaster; and soon after, the said Richard obtained a lease from the Crown, under the dutchy seal, for 30 years, at the yearly rent of 8l. 6s. 8d. of the toll of the bridges in Thetford, Brandon, Euston, and Honington, with the profits of the market, and such other things, as were not granted to the Duke, with the dominion or manor, but remained still in the Crown, in right of the dutchy, and there continued till Queen Elizabeth granted them in 1574, to the corporation, as will afterwards be seen, when I come to speak of the charter, in which all these things are included; and thus Sir Richard enjoyed the whole dominion, and lordship of this town, and all the rights belonging to the dutchy, to his death in 1567, and then left them to

Frances, his only daughter, who married Sir Edward Clere, Knt. who assigned the remainder of the term in his lease to the corporation; he died June 4th, 1606, leaving the manor to Frances, his widow, who died in 1616, and then it was found by the inquisition taken at her death, that

Sir Edward Clere, Knt. her son, was above 31 years old, being heir both to his father and mother, and that he held this dominion, among other things, of the dutchy of Lancaster; and soon after, in performance of a bargain that he had formerly made, he confirmed it with many other revenues to

Thomas Howard Earl of Suffolk, and Henry Earl of Northampton, who settled it on John Holland, Esq. Robert Causfield, and other trustees; and thus all the manors in this town became joined, and have continued so ever since, the fee being always in that honourable family, though it hath been mostly in trustees hands.

In 1701, the most noble Thomas Duke of Norfolk, kept his first court, and afterwards conveyed it to his youngest brother, the honourable Philip Howard, who is now [1738] lord.


  • 1. See chap. ix.
  • 2. Dominus Rex Ricardus habuit totam villam de Thefordia ut dominicum suum et dedit eam Comiti Hamelino in excambio de Columbris, &c. servic. ignorat. Feodar. Norf.
  • 3. Dug. Bar. vol. i. fol. 76.
  • 4. E Regro Thetford, fol. 23, b. int. Col. P. L. N.
  • 5. Dug. Bar. vol. i. fol. 79.
  • 6. Plita Corone. 15 E 1. rot. 33.
  • 7. Inquis. in Cur. recep. Sac. in Baga de Tenuris et Inquisitionibus.
  • 8. The site of the manor being the Earl Warren's seat in this town, was where Sir John Wodehouse's house, commonly called the King's house, now stands, and the Earl's barns stood against Earl's-lane, which is now corruptly called Alice's-lane.
  • 9. This was after called the DutchyLeet.
  • 10. This is called Bromhill-Fair, and now belongs to the corporation.
  • 11. The toll of these bridges now belongs to the corporation, who repair them.
  • 12. Dug. Bar. vol. i. fol. 786.
  • 13. E Compot. Ducatûs Lancastrie in Com. Norf. &c. penes me.