Clackclose Hundred and Half: Bexwell

Pages 303-310

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 7. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1807.

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Takes its name from a spring or well in the town, and a beck, or run of water, that has its rise from it, called, in the Saxon age, Bechesuuella and Bekesuuella.—In that age, it was part of the possessions of the monastery of Ely. At the grand survey, St. Audrey (that is the church of Ely) held one servus, a carucate in domain, and one amongst the tenants, 7 villains, one servus, 10 acres of meadow, &c. valued at 20s. per annum. (fn. 1)

This lordship of Bexwell was held in the 12th of Henry II. by William de Bekeswell of Nigell Bishop of Ely, by half a fee; (fn. 2) and the ancestor of this William was enfeoft thereof, in the time of King Henry I. the lordship appears in the reign of Henry III. to consist of two moieties; one of them was held in the 41st of that reign by William de Bexwell, who was then found to have the assise of beer and bread of his tenants: in the preceding year, the said King granted to this William, son of William de Bexwell and his heirs, free warren in all his domain lands here in Ryston, Fordham, Wygenhale, Walsokne, Marham, Helegeye, Dunham, Crimplesham, and Fincham, in Norfolk, a weekly mercate here on Thursday, and a fair to be held every year for 3 days, on Monday in Whitsunday week, and the two following days; dated at Walsingham, 17th of March: witnesses, Walter Bishop of Norwich, G. de Luzignan, the King's brother, Master John Mansel, William de Grey, Nicholas de Turri, William de St. Ermer, Peter de Everard, Barth. le Bygod, William Gernun, &c. which grant was afterwards, on June 26, in the 4th of Henry IV. exemplified. Soon after, taking part with the rebellious barons, his estate was taken from him by the King, and given to Jeff. de Scalarijs; (fn. 3) but, in the 49th of the said King, he occurs lord, and Peter de Bekeswell is said to be his son and heir.—In the 3d of Edward I. the privileges above-mentioned, with wayfs, &c. and the lete here, and in Ryston and Fordham, were allowed to William de Bekeswell, and, in the 9th of Edward II. John de Bexwell was lord; and, in the 5th of Henry VIII. Richard Bexwell, alias Shordich. (fn. 4) In the 1st of Edward VI. John Bexwell, alias Shordich, died seized of it; in 1577, Frances Bexwell enjoyed it; and Henry Bexwell, Esq. dying in 1654, left it to his daughter and heir, Frances married to Robert Aprice, Esq. of Washingly in Huntingdonshire, who conveyed it to Sir John Holland of Quidenham, in Norfolk, Bart. and from that family, it came to John Holt, Esq. of Redgrave in Suffolk about the beginning of the reign of King George I. in which family it remains.

The other moiety seems to be held by Hermerus de Bekeswell, in the 4th of King John, when Thomas de Ingaldesthorp had the dower of Sibill his wife, assigned him here, she being the relict of Peter de Bekeswell. (fn. 5) This seems to be held by Richard de Almany and Gundreda his wife, and Matilda de Dean, in the time of Henry III.; and, in the 6th of Edward I. a fine was levied between Hugh Bishop of Ely, querent, and Stephen de Bekeswell and Gundreda his wife, deforcients, of the advowson of the church here, and an acre of land, granted to the Bishop, quit of the heirs of Gundreda. About this time, Stephen de Mushill, (who gave name to a house in the parish,) Stephen de Dunneby, and John de Deen, held a messuage, and 120 acres of land, with free tenants, villains, &c. of the Bishop of Ely, had free bull and boar, and assise of bread and beer of their tenants; but, in the 15th of the said King, a fine was levied between Robert de Benhale, querent, John, son of Henry de Deen of Deen in Northamptonshire, and Maud his wife, deforcients, of one messuage and lands here, in Fordham, Ryston, &c. (saving to John and Maud the capital messuage here, with the homages and services of the freemen and villains, and the dower of Alice, widow of William de Bekeswell, held of Maud's inheritance,) the advowson of Ryston, with the advowson of a moiety of Fordham, being granted to the aforesaid Robert, to be held of John and Maud, and the heirs of Maud, paying a rose yearly, and Robert granted to them in exchange all his lands in Deen; and, in the 9th of Edward II. Henry de Dene was lord.

In the 3d of Edward III. a fine was levied between Hugh Catchare of Bekeswell, and Maud his wife, querents, and William Attemere, &c. deforcients, of fifteen messuages, 188 acres of land, 20 of meadow, 29s. per ann. &c. rents, here, in Ruston, Fordham, &c. settled on Hugh and Maud for life, remainder to Cecil, and Alice, the daughter of Hugh; and by the inquisitions made in the 20th of that King, John de Bexwell, and Henry de Deen were found to hold the moiety of a fee of the Bishop of Ely, held formerly by Richard de Almany and his wife, and Matilda de Deen.

After this, I find it possessed by Edward Batchcroft, in the time of Henry VII. and William Bachecroft of Bexwell, by his will, dated 8th of March, 1507, and proved 2d of July following, bequeaths his body to be buried in the church of Fincham St. Martin, and gives 13s. 4d. to repair the steeple of Bexwell; (fn. 6) this manor here, with that of Waterset, in Bexwell (which he bought of Sir Philip Tilney) to his son and heir Richard (and his heirs) when he cometh to the age of 24 years, with all his manors in Norfolk and Suffolk, which were not his wife Margaret's jointure; appoints his brother Gilbert Bachecroft, and John Fincham of Fincham, executors, and his cousin John Fincham of Outwell, supervisor. Richard, his son and heir, died (seized of this moiety, and the manor of Watersett, held of the Bishop of Ely) June 27, 1549, and left by his wife Margaret, Thomas his son and heir, aged 12 years, who was lord in 1572, and Richard Bachecroft in 1642. In 1658, Francis Bachecroft, Esq. dying lord, his sisters and coheirs sold it to Sir John Holland, from which family it came to the Holts, as is above showed.

Hermerus de Ferrers had also a manor here, which, in the Confessor's time, consisted of a carucate of land, held by 7 freemen, and 3 carucates held by 3 bordarers; half a fish-pool, 5 acres of meadow, with a church endowed with 24 acres of land, valued at 16d. the whole was 12s. per ann. (fn. 7) This the said Hermerus seized, but the lord before him had only the protection of these freemen, &c.—Roger Bigot had also at the survey a lordship. R. son of Erluin, who held 20 acres, valued at 2s. 8d. In the Confessor's time, a freeman held it of Herold. This lordship of Hermerus de Ferrers, and that of Bigot, came soon after to the Barons of Wirmegey, and made part of that honour, held by the Lords Bardolf.

In the 41st of Henry III. William de Bekeswell held half a carucate of William Lord Bardolf, and paid to him half a mark per ann. About the same time, Robert Catt, and Margaret his wife, held the 3d part of a fee of the Lord Bardolf. (fn. 8) About the beginning of Edward the First's reign, John de Mushill, and Nicholas de Stradsete held here in dower, with his wife, a messuage, 46 acres of land, and 5 of meadow in domain of the said lord, paying 5s. per ann. and in the 14th of that King, a fine was levied between Henry le Catt, querent, and Walter de Thorp, deforcient, of messuages, lands, rents, 2 pools here, &c. which Nicholas de Stradset, and Agnes his wife held in dower, now conveyed to Henry, and this was held by the heirs of Catt in the 20th of Edward III.

In the 16th of Henry VI. John Stourton, and others, were pardoned for purchasing without license of the dean of Wells, 300 acres of land and meadow here, and in Wroxham, &c. held of the honour of Wirmegeye.—This afterwards came to the Batchcrofts, and so was united to the aforesaid lordships.

Rainold, son of Ivo, is also found to have a lordship here; two freemen which he seized on, who held land in the time of King Edward, one of them 15 acres valued at 2s. 8d. the other 3 acres, valued at 6d. (fn. 9) Before this, the protection only of the first freeman was in his predecessor.

This land of Rainold came soon after to the Earls of Clare, and was, as I take it, part of the manor of Crimplesham, which extended into this town. In the reign of Edward I. William Catchare held one messuage, one carucate, and 18 acres of meadow in Bekeswell, in domain of the prior of Shouldham, paying 30s. per ann. and had a free bull and boar, assise of his tenants; the prior held of Richard Lord Fitz John, and he in capite; and, before this, the family of Belet, in the 52d of Henry III. possessed lands here, held of the Earl of Clare, and paying a quit-rent for the same of 10s. per ann. Robert Belet died seized of it, Ao. 8. Edward II. This came to the Wesenhams, and was conveyed by them to John de Bekeswell, and so became united to the then manor of Bexwell. Robert Wesenham, brother and heir of Thomas, son and heir of Robert Wesenham of Bekeswell, in the 9th of Henry VI. was lord.

Ralph Lord Baynard had also the grant of a lordship here, consisting of a carucate of land, held by 12 freemen, and 4 villains, with 3 carucates and 10 acres of meadow, valued at 40s. One of the freemen who held 30 acres, was claimed by way of an exchange by the Earl Warren. All Becheswell is half a leuca long and half a one broad, pays 8d. towards a 20s. gelt. (fn. 10)

This Lord Bainard's manor lay principally in Fincham, and extended here, as I take it, and was forfeited by William Lord Bainard, in the reign of Henry I. The chief of this fee seems to have been united very early to the other manors. All the account I meet with is, that the Finchams of Fincham held lands here of the Earl Warren. About the beginning of Edward I. William Calchare held a parcel of arable land of Step. de Dunneby, and John de Deen, paying 2s. per ann. which Step. holds of Roger de Well, and Roger of the Earl Warren. (fn. 11) In the 23d of Edward I. a fine was levied between John de Fincham, and Nicholas his brother, querents, and Thomas de la Chambre, and Margaret his wife, deforcients, of messuages and lands here; and in the 45th of Edward III. Steph. de Talbot of Fincham was found to hold lands here; soon after, it is probable, the whole was united to the aforesaid manor.

The lete was formerly in the abbot of Ramsey, and was in Sir Geo. Hare, Bart. Lete fee sixpence halfpenny.

The tenths of this town, with Ryston, were 7l.—Deduct 1l.— Rem. 6l.

The temporalities of the prior of Shouldham here, were valued in 1428 at 30s.

The temporalities of the abbot of Ramsey, at 15s. and 2d.

The temporalities of the prior of Westacre, at 12d.

The prior of Pentney had lands held of the Lord Bardolf.

Bexwell's Pedigree.

The Bexwell's bore quarterly in first and fourth, argent and ermine, a cross, gules, over all a bend, sable, Shorditch;—and in the 2d and 3d, argent, 3, 2, and 1, annulets, sab. in a bordure ingrailed, gules, Bexwell. (fn. 12)

Batchcroft's Pedigree.

The Church of Bexwell is dedicated to St. Mary, and built of rag or car stone, dug out of the neighbouring pits; it has a nave and a chancel, both of equal height and breadth, and covered with lead. At the west end stands a round tower, and on that an octangular one; the quoins of every angle are of free-stone, and the upper part embattled; a work of later date probably erected on the decay of the old round tower about 1517, when William Bachecroft, of this town, by his will bequeathed to the stepyl 13s. 4d. In this tower hangs one bell. The nave is about 46 feet in length, and 19 in breadth. At the west end, on the pavement, lies a marble grave-stone:

Here lyeth the body of Henry Bexwell, Esq. born October, 17, 1581, buried July 8, 1654.

Higher up another:

Here lyeth the body of Gregory Bexwell, Esq. who was born the 19th of Febr. An. Dom. 1577, buried 15th day of March, 1644, with the arms of Bexwell on it.

On a third:

Here lyeth the body of Richard Bachecroft, Esq. who was born December 16, 1562, was buried March 1642.

Against the south wall of the nave is a mural monument of alabaster; on the summit are these three shields; Bexwell impaling, argent, on a chevron, between three pellets, two in chief charged with as many martlets, and one in base with a trefoil, argent, three mascles, or, Pratt; Bexwell alone, and Pratt alone. On a black marble in the centre:

In hac nave subpositæ sunt reliquiæ Henrici Bexwell in hoc agro Norfolc. armig. in quo gens illa nobilis et antiqua mascula desinit, ad senium vergens uxorem duxit Ursulam e proximâ Prattorum de Riston nobili itidem prosapiâ oriundam, e quâ tres habuit liberos, Gregorium Susannam, vivente patre mortuos, et Franciscam solummodo superstitem. Natus erat Henricus Octob. 17, 1581, obiit Julii 8, 1654. Mœrens Ursula hoc sic fixum voluit.—On each side of this inscription is a lace or fillet by way of ornament; over that, on the right hand, is an hourglass, and over that on the left, a book is carved. On the basis;— Tu temet lector lectites diesq; tuos numera, &c. Ut Psal. 90, 12.

Opposite to this, on the north wall, is another mural monument of black and white marble, with this shield; per fess, or and argent, a lion rampant, sable,—Batchcroft; impaling, gules, a saltire engrailed, or, on a chief, of the second, three cross crosslets, of the first, Longe; and thus inscribed:

Hic jacet Franciscus Batchcroft de Bexwell in agro Norf. armig. qui uxorem duxit Margaretam Roberti Longe de Foulden, armig. filiam, adhuc superstitem. Sobolem nullam, cohæredes sorores suas charissimas, Annam, Elizabetham, et Aliciam, reliquit. Quæ memoriœ suœ sacr. hoc condiderunt monumentum. Obiit 13° die Novemb. Ao. œtat. suœ 42, Ao. Dni. 1658.

The chancel is in length about 24 feet. On the pavement are grave-stones thus inscribed:

Richs. et Maria proles Richi. Foster, cler. ex Eliza. conjuge nati sunt utriq; 3 id. Nov. alter 1712, ultera 1717, sepulti cal. Maii, alter 1713, altera 1718. Johs. item qui natus est 5 id. Maii, obiit — 1719.— Here lyeth the body of John Foster, born May 8, and buried September 10, 1722.—Here lyeth Susan, daughter of Henry Bexwell, born April 26, 1645, buried September 20, 1646.


Mr. John de Newton, rector about 1293.

1314, Robert de Luffenham, presented by the Bishop of Ely.

1328, Edmund de Staunford. Ditto.

1349, Thomas Attecross, by Alan, prior of Ely, vicar-general of the Bishop of Ely.

1349, Thomas Bochard, by Alan, &c.

1367, Jeff. de Kerbey.

1377, John Josep; in 1384, he exchanged with John Jay for Laxfield vicarage in Norwich diocese.

1386, Roger Ward.

1397, John Austeyn, by the Bishop of Ely.

1402, Simon Derby, a colyte, (the lowest order amongst the Romish clergy, such novices being admitted very young to great rectories, and cure of souls, was guarded against at the Reformation.)

1403, John Conesby. Ditto.

1403, William Aleyn; in 1704, he exchanged with John Stacy, vicar of Elm.

1420, Thomas Marchale. Ditto.

1426, John Cachero.

1428, Richard Cuts. Ditto.

1445, Hugh Bernard. Ditto.

1446, John Walter. Ditto.

1461, John Denham. Ditto.

1464, John Lyndesay, a Carmelite friar. Ditto.

1476, John Pryour. Ditto.

1488, John Clare, by the Bishop of Norwich, hâc vice.

1490, John Norman.

1491, William Sclater, by the Bishop of Ely.

1511, Richard Thomlynson. Ditto.

1530, John Reder. Ditto.

1533, Richard Heigham. Ditto.

1554, Arthur Rawlyns. Ditto.

1555, William Blakey. Ditto.

1556, Humph. Busbye, L. L. D. Ditto.

1557, Bernard Hartley.

1565, John Trundell. Ditto.

1574, Anthony Cole. Ditto.

1579, James Carre. Ditto.

1627, Edward Bentley, by the King.

1641, John Duncan, S. T. B. Ditto.

1642, Edmund Day. Ditto.

1664, John Randolph, S. T. P. Ditto.

1666, John Hickman. Ditto.

1671, William Whitby. Ditto.

1705, Richard Cross. Ditto.

1707, Robert Canon, S.T.P. Ditto. Afterwards dean of Lincoln, &c.

1708, Thomas Pyle. Ditto.

1709, Thomas Davies. Ditto.

1711, Richard Foster. Ditto.

1739, Richard Foster, on his father's death. Ditto.

The present valor is 7l. 11s. 8d. and is discharged.


  • 1. Terr. Sce. Adeldrede.—In Besh suuella i. car. tre. in dnio. et i. car. hom. vii. vill. i. serv. x. acr. pt'i. val. xx. sol.
  • 2. Lib. Rub. Sccij. p. 110.—Plac. Coron. 44 Hen. III. R. 18.
  • 3. Rot. Ragman. in Cur. Recept. Sccij.
  • 4. This John held of the Bishop of Ely, a manor by knight's service in this town, Downham, &c. 160 acres of land, 50 of meadow, 220 of pasture.
  • 5. Fin. Joh. L. 2. R. 98.—Reg. Ely, in Cotton Library, Claudius C. ii. Fol. 19.
  • 6. Reg. Gyles, Norw. Fol. 29, 85.
  • 7. Invasion. Hermeri de Ferrers.—In Bekesuuella vii. lib. hom. de i. car. tre. sep. iii. bor. tc. iii. car p' et mo. ii. dim. piscin. v. acr. prat. Ecc. xxiiii. ac. val. xvid. tot. val. xii. sol. de his hab. antecess. commend. tant.—Terr. Rog. Bigot. —In Bekeswella i. lib. ho. sub Herolt xx. acr. terr. mo. ten. R. f. Erluini, et val. iis. viiid.
  • 8. Fin. 14 Edw. I. L. 3. N. 158.— Esch. ad qd. damn. N. 52. 16 Hen. VI.
  • 9. Invas. Rain. fil. Ivonis.—In Bechesuuella ii. lib. hoes. i. de xv. ac. de quo hab. antec. comd. tant. val. iis. et 8d. Alius hab. iii. ac. val. vi. hos mo. ten. Rainoldus.
  • 10. Terr. Rad. Baignardi.—In Bekeauuella xii. lib. hom. ten. i. car. tre. et in. i. vill. iii. car. mo. ii. x. ac. p'ti. silv. xx. por. sep. val. xl. sol. Un. ex his rect. W. de Warr. de xxx. p. excang. Tota Becheswella ht. dim. leug. in long. et lat. et redd. viii. de xx. sol de gelto. Domesd.
  • 11. Fin. 23 Ed. III. L. 5. N. 9.— Esch. 45 Ed. III. N. 32.
  • 12. John Bexwell mentions his son and heir John, in his will; his 2d son, Francis, his 3d, Robert, his daughter Ann, appoints his wife Elizabeth, and William Sharington, Esq. executors, and John Pigot, Gent. supervisor. Regist. Hill, p. 48.