Hundred of Earsham: Billingford

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.

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'Hundred of Earsham: Billingford', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5, (London, 1806) pp. 318-323. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]

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The original name of this place, is Preleston, or the Town of the Battle, in all probability so called from some remarkable battle fought here, when the Romans possessed the land: and by this name only it is mentioned in Domesday: its present name first occurring in Henry the Third's time, when the inhabitants began to fix themselves by the ford, or pass over the river into Suffolk, for Billingford, signifies the dwelling at the ford by the low meadows; (fn. 1) and such is the situation of the village at present.

Stigand the Bishop was superiour lord here at the Confessor's time, and Roger de Ramis at the Conquest. (fn. 2) One part of the of the town formerly belonged to the Abbot of Bury, and another to the Abbot of Ely; (fn. 3) all which Warenger held under the said Roger, and retained the superiour jurisdiction to himself, in those lands which formerly belonged to Bury; the one part was given to Bury along with Thorp, and the other to Ely with Pulham, to which manors they then belonged.

Soon after, they were divided, and one moiety continued in Roger's family, till 1249, and then Richer de Remes sold it to Roger de Herdebarow, or Herleburgh, who by this purchase became lord of the whole; for the other moiety went to the Bigots, and in 1211, was sold by William Bigot to Hugh de Hurleburgh; the whole was held always of Forncet manor at one fee, and 2d. ob. per annum castleward; Isabell de Bosco, widow of Hugh, held it, at whose death it went to their son Roger, and in 1238, it was settled on Ida, widow of Roger, for life, with remainder to Ela and Isabel their daughters, in tail; but, in 1285, Isabel was alive; for then she impleaded Ida, widow of Roger, and her daughter's guardians, for her dower here and in Great Harborow manor in Warwickshire; (fn. 4) and this year, Roger Bigot claimed liberty of free-warren, as superiour lord of the fee; after this, it divided again into moieties: Ela, one of Herleburgh's heiresses, married Walter de Hopton, and presented here in 1300, and John de Peyto married the other; whose son, by the name of John de Petto, junior, presented in 1337, it having been settled on him and Alice his wife in 1326, by John de Watevile, who was to have an annuity of 20 marks for life, but in 1338, they all joined and sold the whole to Sir Walter de Hopton, Knt. who in 1345, settled it on Joan his wife. In 1360, John de Clinton was lord for life, jointly with Sir Walter de Hopton; and in 1375, Agnes, relict of John Brown, and Ric. Brown, clerk, their son, sold it to

Sir Simon Burley, Knight Banneret, (fn. 5) the great favourite of Edward the Black Prince, and tutor to Ric. his son, afterwards King Ric. II. who advanced him to many honours, and places of trust and profit; (fn. 6) he being Knight of the Garter, one of his privy council, chamberlain of the household, governour of Windsor castle, constable of Dover castle, and lord warden of the Cinqueports: in 1378, he obtained a grant from the King, of the castle and lordship of Llan Stephan in Pembrokeshire, late Rob. de Penres; and in 1382, another, to be master of the King's falcons and game kept at Charing, with the manor of Barrock by Gravesend; and many other lands, &c. in consideration of his great services done to him from his infancy, before he was made a knight, and at that time, and after, when prince of Wales, and since, when King of England; (fn. 7) but being so great in his master's favour, it raised him to such an intolerable degree of pride, and its consequence, oppression, that he incurred the displeasure of the whole nation, and being attainted in parliament, was beheaded on Tower-hill in 1388; but this manor was not forfeited thereby; for in 1375, Sir Simon conveyed it, after his decease, to Sir John Burley, his brother, and he settled it (or rather a moiety of it) on Sir John Hopton of Shropshire, Knt. who married Isabel Burley, his daughter, and their heirs; and the other moiety, afterwards called

Corbets Manor,

Belonged to Sir Nic. Dagworth, Knt. and in 1401, to Tho. Young, Esq. of Sibton, and after to John Corbet, Esq. in whom the whole united again.

Sir John de Hopton left Sir John his son and heir, whose son Walter, was dead before 1423, for then Joan his widow presented. Their son Tho. de Hopton, in 1444, was found heir to Will. Burley, who then died without issue, being son of John Burley, lord of Elmyn castle in Caermarthenshire, son to Sir Roger Burley, Knt. brother to Isabel Burley, great grandmother to Thomas de Hopton, by his first wife, Lucy, daughter of William Guildford, relict of Sir Aymer Browne, Knt.; and at the death of Walter Hopton in 1460, John Corbet, Esq. was found his heir, in right of his wife Katherine, only daughter and heiress of the said Walter; Sir Roger Corbet, Knt. his father, being now infeoffed in trust; and it continued in the Corbets a long time; Roger Corbet, Esq. was lord in 1531, and died in 1539, leaving

Andrew his son and heir, who sold it, jointly with Joan his wife, in 1544, to

Sir Robert Southwell, of whom it was purchased by

Christopher Grice, Gent. who died in 1558, and was buried in this church, leaving the manor and advowson to Anne his wife for life, and then to Robert their son and heir, who married Susanna, daughter and coheir to Thomas Ayre of Bury, Esq.; he died in 1583, and Christopher le Grice, their only child, inherited; he married Margaret, daughter and heir to Thomas Whipple of Dickleburgh, Gent. and dying in 1601, lies buried here, leaving only one daughter,

Frances le Grice, (fn. 8) who married to Sir William Platers of Satterley, Knight and Baronet, deputy-lieutenant and vice-admiral of the county of Suffolk, and member in parliament; they left

Sir Tho. Platers, Bart. their only son and heir, who was highsheriff of Suffolk, and a colonel of a regiment of horse to King Charles I. and afterwards had a command at sea under the King of Spain. He married Rebecca, daughter and coheir of Thomas Chapman of Wormley in Hertfordshire, and died at Messina in Sicily, Ao 1651, without legitimate issue, but settled this manor and estate on

Elizabeth, his natural daughter, who married to Sir Edward Chisenhall, Knt. of an ancient family in Lancashire, and had issue William Chisenhall, of whom it was purchased by the Carters, and in 1704, Edward Carter, senior, was lord and patron; and afterwards by the Holts, and

Rowland Holt, Esq. of Redgrave in Suffolk, is now lord and patron.

9l. Billingford rectory. 45l. clear yearly value.

This rectory being discharged, pays neither first-fruits nor tenths, and is capable of augmentation. When Norwich Domesday was made, the rector had a house and 10 acres of land; the house stood near the summer-house at the hall, and was long since burnt down, and never rebuilt; the terrier hath 37 pieces of glebe; it was valued at 16 marks, and paid 22d. synodals, and 10d. Peter-pence; and the village paid 46s. clear to every tenth. It is in the liberty of the Duke of Norfolk, who in right of his hundred of Earsham, is lord paramount here. There was a family sirnamed of the town; in 1260, Mat. of Preleston, and in 1316, John of Prilleston and Margaret his wife lived here.

The church is dedicated to St. Leonard; the nave and south porch are tiled, the chancel is thatched; there was a large square tower, which is fallen down, so that it is no higher than the church, is covered in, and hath one bell in it.

On a brass plate,

Here lyeth buryed the Corps of Christopher le Grys Esq; sometimes Lord and Patron of this Church, only Child to Robart le Grys Esq; and Susan his Wife, Dr. and Co-heire to Thomas Ayre of Bury in Suffolk Esq; lineally descended from Sir Robert le Grys of Langley in Norfolk Knt. one of th' Equerris. to King Richard the 1st. he married Margaret Daughter and Heir to Thomas Whipple of Dickleborough in Norfolk Gent. and Elizabeth his Wife, Daughter and Co-heire to John Garningham of Belton in Suffolk Esq; and had Issue by her, only Frances, who married with Sir William Playters of Satterley in Suffolk Knt. and Bart. He ended this Life the 19 of Oct. Ao. 1601, and in the 23d. Year of his Age. Resurgam.

1, Le Grice, as at vol. i. p. 199. 2, Whipple, gul. a fess erm. between two chevrons, arg. 3, Jarnegan. 4, as 1.

On another brass,

Here lyeth buryed the Corps of Christopher le Grice, Esq; sometimes Lord and Patron of this Church, Sonn to William le Grys of Brockdish, and Sybell his Wife, Dr. and Heire to Edmund Syngleton Esq; he married Ann eldest Daughter to Robart Howard of Brockdish Gent. by whom he had 3 Sonns and two Daughters; he died 19 Jan. 1558.

Grice impales quarterly, Singleton and Howard of Brockdish.

Here lyeth buried the Corps of Charles le Grys Gent. the only Sonne of Henry le Grys and Ann his Wife, Daughter to Anthony Yaxley of Yaxley in Suffolk Esq. He dyed 4 Sept. 1634.

In the chancel windows are the arms of De la Pole, Hastyngs, and Valence, of Anthony Grys with three martlets on the top, and of Hen. Grys with a crescent. And on a tree, hangs a shield with the arms of Brewse on it.

The font hath the arms of St. Edmund, St. George, and a chevron and chief in one shield, all carved in stone.

Rectors of Preleston, or Billingford.

In 1267, there was a vicar here, one Walter, at whose death the vicarage was reunited to the rectory, and so it continued a rectory ever since.

1300, Geffery de Halton, rector, Walt. de Hupton, Knt. and Ela his wife.

1316, Alice de Hannonia Countess of Norfolk, as guardian, presented

Will. Freeman of Dickleburgh, who in 1337 exchanged for Kedeley in Rochester diocese, with

Tho. de Bilney, who had it of the gift of John de Petto, junior; he changed in 1339, for Dunchurch in Litchfield diocese, with

Will. de Chulton, who (as also the three following rectors) was presented by Sir Walt. de Hopton, Knt.; which William, the same year, changed this, for Colton in Litchfield diocese, with

James de Runham.

1349, John Fittes.

1361, Will. de Easthawe of Wingfield; he was buried in the ehancel in 1385, and made the lattices between the church and chancel.

1385, Rob. Daventre. Sir Nic. Dagworth, Knt.

1394, John Fornham, Thomas le Younge of Sibton.

1403, Thomas Smith; he was buried here. Thomas Younge, Esq.

1423, Robert Drake. Joan, late wife of Walter de Hopton.

1465, Thomas Dekyn. Sir Roger Corbet, Knt.

1471, Robert Clifton. Sir Will. Stanley, Knt.

1486, John Hunger, lapse.

1502, Ric. Greneleft, ob.

1506, John Batson, lapse, resigned.

1517, Roger Morley, ob.

Anthony Malery.

1530, Henry Lockwood, resigned. Roger Corbet, Esq.

1532, Elisha Lache, resigned. Ditto.

1536, Will. Triste. Ditto.

Will. Stowe, ob.

1552. Henry Watson, deprived in 1555. Chris. Grice, Gent.

1556, Nic. Calverd. Ditto.

1560, Anne Grice, widow, gave it to

William Hudson; united to Thorp-Abbots. He was buried here Dec. 7, 1560, and was succeeded by

William Walleyns, who was buried March 7, 1566, being succeeded by

John Inman, on the presentation of Robert le Grice. He resigned in

1582, to John Richards, and he in

1585, to Thomas Buskard, and both of them were presented by the aforesaid Robert.

1587, Nic. Grice, clerk, as patron of this turn, gave it to

Edw. Calley, who returned 80 communicants here in 1603; he was buried Nov. 23, 1617, and John le Grice, Gent. gave it

William Owles, who held it united to Brockdish, and resigned in 1642, and Sir William Platers, Bart. presented

Edward Cartwright, A. M. who held it united to Thelton; he was buried here Sept. 13, 1679, when

Thomas Searank had it, and held it united to Ashley in Cambridgeshire; being presented by Sir Edward Chisenhull, Knt. and upon his taking Cheveley in Cambridgeshire he resigned this, and Edward Carter, senior, Esq. gave it to

John Bryars, A. M. in 1704, (fn. 9) who held it united to Diss, (for whom see vol. i. p. 18, 32,) at his death in

1728, Samuel Birch was presented by Rowland Holt, Esq.; see vol. ii. p. 138. He held it united to Little-Thorp, which at his death in 1739, was consolidated to Billingford, when Mr. Holt presented

The Rev. Mr. John Gibbs, at whose resignation in

1742, the Rev. Mr. John Barker, the present rector, was presented by Elizabeth Holt, widow, mother, and then sole guardian, to Rowland Holt of Redgrave, Esq. the present patron.

There were formerly many arms of the Grices, with their impalements and quarterings, both in the hall and church windows, but are now some of them removed, and the rest so broken and defaced, that there is no depending on them for the exactness of the several coats.

East of this town, on the great road from Yarmouth to London, which passes here, is the village of


  • 1. Lambert, page 417.
  • 2. Terre Rogeri de Ramis. H. dim. Hersam. Doms. fo. 275. In Prelestuna tenet idem (sc. Rog. de Ramis) xxiv. acr. terre, sed fuere in aula Sci. Eadmundi xii. liberi homines Sci, Eadmundi, qui nec dare nec vendere poterant terram suam sine licencia Sancti, et Stigandi qui habuit socam et sacam in Hersam, habent homines lx. acr. et ii. bor. tunc et post ii. car. mo i. et dim. tunc et post val. xs. modo v. In eâdem, tenet idem, adhuc xl. acr. terre quas tenet Scs. Eadmund.T. R. E. teste hundredo. Modo Warengerus (sub Rogeri de Ramis) sed hund. nescit quomodo.
  • 3. Heinesteda (by mistake of the scribe for Hersam) hund. dim. Doms. fo. 198. In Prelestuna tenuit liber homo sub Sancta Adeldreda T. R. E. i. car. terre modo tenet Rogerus de Ramis de Abbate, semper v. bord. et i. serv. tunc et post ii. car. in dom. mo i. semp. dim. car. hom. silva xvi. porc. viii acr. prati tunc et post valuit xx. sol. modo x. habet v. quarant. in longo et v. in lato, et de Gelto ivd. plures ibi tenent. "De terra vero quam Sanctus Eadmundus habuit in hoc dimidio hundredo, tenuit socam, in Prelestuna, detinuit Warengerus, ad feudum Rogeri de Ramis." Doms. fo. 53.
  • 4. Dugd. Bar. p.49, 62. Warwicksh. p. 62.
  • 5. Burley manor in Herefordshire, settled by John de Burley, on his son Roger in 1315. In 1316, Sir Ric. Burley, Knt. died, and Simon Burley his brother, was his heir, and 33 years old, being son to Sir John Burley, Knt. a famous warrious under Edw. III.
  • 6. He could dispend but 20 marks a year of his own inheritance, but by his Prince's favour attained to 3000 marks of yearly revenue; he gave sometimes 220 liveries in a year, of scarlet, &c. (Erdswick, fo. 136.)
  • 7. Reymer, vol. vii. p. 348. Weever, 367. Stow, 158, and Sir Will. Dugdale's Hist. of St. Paul's, p. 47, 103. Edit. 2d, p. 50. His tomb, p. 104, epitaph p. 105.
  • 8. See vol. i. p. 198, 9, for her inscription, and an account of the family.
  • 9. 1713, he was appointed perpetual curate of Wingfield by Bishop Trimnel, whose chaplain he was.