Hundred of Earsham: Harleston

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

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Francis Blomefield, 'Hundred of Earsham: Harleston', An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5, (London, 1806), pp. 355-358. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "Hundred of Earsham: Harleston", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5, (London, 1806) 355-358. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "Hundred of Earsham: Harleston", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 5, (London, 1806). 355-358. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,


Anciently called Herolf'ston and Herolveston, from Herolf, one of the Danish leaders that came with Swain King of Denmark, into these parts, about the year 1010, in order to subdue the EastAngles, and bring them under their power; which they did so effectually, as to seize their possessions: and most likely it is, that Herolf settled here, and gave name to the place, (fn. 1) which is, and always was, of small extent; for it never contained more than 25 acres of land in its bounds, which at the Conqueror's survey, was divided (as it now continues) into two parts; 13 acres of it held by Frodo, (fn. 2) being added to Mendham, to which it now belongs, as the other 12 acres do to the hundred of Earsham, on which the chapel and the town now stand, being the middle-row only: the rest, (though commonly called Harleston) being in the parish of Redenhall, to which parish this is a chapel of ease, (fn. 3) and hamlet.

The manor always attended the hundred of Earsham, and still continues with it, in the Norfolk family; and the houses are all copyhold, except those called the Stone-Houses, which are free. On this spot of ground formerly stood Herolf's stone, or cross, (as I take it,) where Richard de Herolveston, about 1109, settled, and took his sirname from hence; from whom descended the famous Sir John Herolveston, so often mentioned in our English chronicles for his valiant prowess in martial exploits, and particularly for being a great instrument in quelling the grand rebellion in these counties in Richard the Second's time; (fn. 4) of whom much may be seen in Froissart, (fn. 5) Holingshed, (fn. 6) and Stow's Chronicles; (fn. 7) from him descended the family of the Harlestons, of good account in both counties: (fn. 8) they had estates in Shimpling in Suffolk, settled at Norwich, and afterwards at Mateshall in Norfolk; and Archbishop Parker married one of them, as at vol. iii. p. 306, 13, 14.

This town hath a weekly market on Wednesday; (fn. 9) and two fairs in a year; one is held on Midsummer day, being the nativity of St. John the Baptist, to whom the chapel is dedicated; so that this is the feast, wake, or dedication day; and the other was granted by King Henry III. in the year 1259, to Roger le Bigod Earl of Norfolk, and Marshal of England, to last eight days, namely, the vigil, and day of the decollation of St. John the Baptist, (fn. 10) and six days after: (fn. 11) and the said Earl had a hundred court held here every three weeks, and the toll of the market and fairs, assise of bread and ale, free-warren and weyf. In 1570, there was a rebellion intended to have begun here, as you may see in vol. i. p. 344, pedigree; and vol. iii. p. 284.

The chapel of St. John the Baptist, was a free chapel, founded in all probability by Sir John de Herolfston, for his own use; it never had any institution, but was always dependent upon its motherchurch at Redenhall; the rector of which, serves here one part of the day every Sunday; it hath administration of both sacraments belonging to it, but not burial; the street surrounds it, so that there is no convenience for that purpose: at the east end is the market-cross, which with the chapel, was rebuilt about 1726: (fn. 12) it is tiled, hath one bell, and a good clock in a sort of a cupola, for there is no tower. In 1688, being almost useless and deserted for want of fit endowment, that pious and charitable prelate, William Sandcroft Archbishop of Canterbury settled on the master, fellows, and scholars of Emanuel College in Cambridge, 54l. per annum, payable quarterly out of the hereditary revenues of the excise; in trust and special confidence, that they will receive it, and constantly nominate a chaplain and schoolmaster, and pay it so received to him;

"Upon condition, and so long as he the said chaplain and chaplains, or schoolmaster and schoolmasters, for the time being, shall perform and celebrate publickly in the said chapel at Harleston aforesaid, the daily office of divine service, morning and evening, on every day of the week throughout the year, (except only the Lord's days, when the inhabitants of Harleston are bound to repair to the mother-church of Redenhall aforesaid,) according to the Liturgy of the Church of England by law established; and also, to hold and keep a publick school there, for the education of youth, in some convenient place near the said chapel, which the inhabitants of Harleston aforesaid, in consideration of the great benefit which by this donation may accrue to them and their children, are desired from time to time to provide: (fn. 13) and particularly besides the common grounds of learning, shall teach and instruct all his scholars in that excellent Catechism of the church of England, and cause them to get the same perfectly by heart, together with the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds; the Te Deum, and such other prayers, psalms, and hymns, as are contained in the Primmer and Common-Prayer Book, and are fit for every good Christian to learn and use; and also to take care, that all the scholars whom he shall undertake to teach, be constantly present with himself, at the prayers of the church, whenever they shall be publickly performed in the said chapel, and behave themselves soberly and piously there, and be taught to use such gestures, and make such answers as the church prescribes." (fn. 14) The master and fellows under their college seal, are for ever to nominate some able and competent person in holy orders, to be licensed by the Bishop to read prayers and teach school here.

The Rev. Mr. Smith, rector of Homersfield, the present chaplain and schoolmaster, was nominated by the master and fellows, receives the annual salary, and keeps school in a house provided for that purpose by the inhabitants.

Other Benefactions here are,

A rent charge of 40s. per annum, payable out of the profits of the bullock-fair held here, and the annual interest of 200l. given by Mr. Dove, for a schoolmaster to teach poor boys to read and write. With which an estate is purchased in Rushall, and the profits are enjoyed by the schoolmaster.

This hamlet is in the liberty of the Duke of Norfolk, as well as the town of


  • 1. Vol. i. p. 189.
  • 2. Terra Abbatis de Sco. Eadmundo. Hersam dim. hund. doms. fo. 180. In Heroluestuna i. liber homo Sci. Edmundi commend. et soca Stigandi in Hersam xii. acr. terre val. semper xxd. In Herolvestuna tenet Frodo i. vill. et dim. de xiii. acr. et pertinet in Menham.
  • 3. Vol. iii. p. 557.
  • 4. See vol. iii. p. 111.
  • 5. Fo. 136. 8 b. 9 a. 213 b. 246 a. 247 b
  • 6. Fo. 413, 21, 2, 4, 36, 1136.
  • 7. Fo. 293, 666.
  • 8. Harleston of Norfolk, arg. on a chevron S. an annulet or. Harleston of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, or, a fess erm. double cotised sab.
  • 9. Pari distantia Waveneiam occapit mercatorium Harleston, inde in septentrionem rediens per Shelton, quod antiquos suæ, appellationis dominos nuper exuit, ad Tasburgh itur. Spelman Norff.
  • 10. Aug. 29.
  • 11. Ex Rot. Cart. de Ao 44 H. III. No. 30. Rex, &c. Sciatis nos concessisse dilecto et fideli nostro Rogero le Bygod Comiti Norfolcie et Marescallo Anglie, quod ipse et heredes sui in perpetuum habeant unam feriam apud Herolvist in dimidio hundredo suo de Ersham singulis annis per octo dies duraturum, videlicet, in vigilia in die Decollationis Sci. Johannis Baptiste et per sex dies sequentes.-cum omnibus libertatibus et liberis consuetudinibus ad hujusmodi feriam pertinentibus &c. ----Dat per manum nostram apud Westm. xii die Julij.
  • 12. Being a free-chapel, it was dissolved by the statute of Edw. VI. and beeame afterwards vested in the inhabitants, and was by them settled on feoffees to their use: in 1726, it was repaired at the expense of 1100l. as I am informed, 700 of which were raised in the parish by contribution only, and the rest by the neighbouring gentlemen; part of it was formerly made a market-cross and chambers over it, but the whole is now laid into the chapel as at first, and a cross built at its east end.
  • 13. 1433, the Bishop collated Mr. William Kyng, priest, to the grammarschool in this place.
  • 14. From the deed of settlement.