Freebridge Hundred and Half: West-Bilney

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 8. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1808.

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'Freebridge Hundred and Half: West-Bilney', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 8, (London, 1808) pp. 352-356. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

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Called Benelai in Domesday book, was the lordship of Bundo, (in the time of King Edward the Confessor,) a Saxon thane, who had lordships in Islington, Midleton, Geyton, Bodney, Langford, South Creak, Burnham, Reinham, Helloughton, Roughton, and Beeston, out of all which he was ejected by the Conqueror, who granted them to Hugh de Montfort: this lordship then consisted of 5 carucates of land, 20 villains, 14 borderers, and 5 servi, with 20 acres of meadow; there were 2 carucates in demean, and 3 among the tenants, 3 mills, &c. and the moiety of a saltwork, &c. 81 sheep, valued at 8l. per ann. but at the survey at 6l. per ann.; the whole was 8 furlongs long, and 4 broad, and paid 6d. to a 20s. gelt. (fn. 1)

West Bilney Manor Belhouse's.

Hugh de Montfort was a Norman lord, (fn. 2) and justiciary of England, and held it of the family of De Pelevile, who appear to be the old lords of it, held of the Montforts. Thomas de Belhouse held it in the 8th of Henry III. of Peter de Pelevile, which Peter paid for half a knight's fee here, in the 19th of that King, on the aid granted on the marriage of his sister to the emperor; another of the said name died in the 56th of the said reign, lord of this village, and was one of the jurors in the great contest about the confines of Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire, as may be seen in the register of Spalding, who dying without issue, William de Gysney, son and heir of Joan, and William de Whiston, son and heir of Emme, (his sister,) inherited his estate; and of these Sir Richard de Belhouse was found to hold it in the 3d of Edward I. and they held it of the honour of Hagenet or Haughley, in Suffolk, and paying castle guard to Dover.

On the death of Sir Richard Belhouse, in the 29th of Edward I. Thomas was found to be his son and heir; and in the 9th of Edward II. the King brought a writ of quare impedit against Petronilla de Narford, in right of presentation to a moiety of the church of North Tudenham, in Norfolk, as guardian to the heir of Thomas de Belhouse, when the King's attorney proved that Belhouse held 2 messuages, a mill, 430 acres of land, and 30 of meadow, in this town and Bodney, of the King in capite, and Petronilla pleaded that they were held of the honour of Bologne, and pertained to the fee of Richard de Amoundevil, the right of which was in her.

Sir Richard Belhouse died about the 33d of Edward III. seized of this lordship in capite, held of the castle of Dover, and paying 5s. per ann. thereto, leaving two daughters and coheirs; Emme married to Sir William Oldhall, father of Sir Edmund Oldhall, and Maud married to William Bozun, of Wissenset.

In the 40th of the said King, a fine was levied between Adam, prior of Pentney, querent, Thomas de Lexham, parson of Feltwell, &c. deforcient, of the manor of West Bilney, which Adam, son of Adam de Clifton, and Margery his wife (held for life of Margery) settled on the prior and his successours, to be held of the honour of Hakenet, which he purchased for 200l. sterling; and in the 43d of the said reign, the prior purchased by another fine, the term which Adam de Clifton, and Margery his wife, had herein; Margery was relict of Sir Richard de Belhouse; and it appears by a deed, dated in the 49th of King Edward III. that John Bouson, son of William abovementioned, had sold to the prior aforesaid, his right in this manor, with that of North Tudenham, called Belhouse's manor; and the prior in the 44th of that King, had a grant of free warren here.

By the inquisition taken in the 4th of Henry IV. the prior of Pentney and his tenants, were found to hold half a fee in this town, but the prior's right herein was afterwards contested in the 11th year of Henry VI. by Sir William Oldhall, son of Sir Edmund aforesaid, and by Richard Bozoun, Esq. son of John Bozoun, who was son of William Bozoun, and Maud abovementioned, as heirs to Sir Richard Belhous; however, it appears that the prior kept possession, his temporalities here being valued in 1428. On the dissolution of this priory, it came to the Crown, and Richard de Fulmodeston, February 20, ao. 3d of King Edward VI. had a grant of this manor, to be held in capite, and license in the said year to convey it to Thomas Mildmay, Esq.; and in the 4th of the said King, the said Thomas had a grant, February 26, of the impropriate rectory of the said town, with all the glebe land, &c. which descended to his son, Sir Thomas Mildmay, who conveyed it to Francis Wyndham, (a judge of the King's Bench) about the 18th of Queen Elizabeth.— Thomas Wyndham, Esq. son of Sir Henry Windham, of Felbrigg, sold it to Sir Edward Bullock, Knt. of Essex, and he conveyed it to Sir Thomas Richardson, Knt. who died seized of it, May 12, in the 18th of King Charles I. Thomas his son and heir, mortgaged it to R. Freak, Esq. who had a decree for closing the equity of redemption.

This family is descended from Francis Freake, Esq. who was a person of good repute in Somersetshire; (fn. 3) Ralph Freake, Esq. his son, was for many years auditor of the treasury, in the reigns of King Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth, and died worth upwards of one hundred thousand pounds, leaving 2 sons; first, Sir Tho. Freake, a person of great trust and authority in Dorsetshire, in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. ancestor to the Freakes of Hannington, Upway, and Farringdon in that county; his second son was William Freake of Sareen, in Hampshire, Esq. who married a daughter of Arthur Swaine, Esq. and removed with his family to Ireland. Arthur, his son and heir, lived near the city of Cork, and married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Piercy Smith, of Yohale, in the county of Cork, and had by her Piercy Freake, Esq. who possessed a fair estate there, and coming into England, had with Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Ralph Freake, his kinswoman, a considerable estate and fortune, with this town of West Bilney, which he left to his son and heir, Ralph, who was created a baronet June 4, 1713; and by his wife, — daughter of Sir John Mead, attorney-general in Ireland, left 3 sons; Sir Piercy, his successour, Ralph, who died at Richmond in Surry, 1727, unmarried, and John: Sir Piercy was member of parliament for Baltimore in Ireland, and dying unmarried at Dublin, in April, 1728, was succeeded in honour and estate, by his brother, Sir John Freake, Bart. who married a daughter of — Broderick, Esq. (of the Lord Viscount Middleton's family) and bears for his arms, sable, two bars, and in chief three mullets, or, and the said Sir John, in 1750, sold it to Mr. Francis Dalton, of Swaffham in Norfolk.

Monpinzoun's Manor

Was, as I take it, that part or moiety of the town, which came to William de Whiston, son of Emme, sister and coheir of Peter de Pelevile, the other part or moiety being in William de Gysney, who married Joan, the other sister and coheir, whose part was afterwards in the Belhouses, as abovementioned.

In the 2d of Edward II. a fine was levied between Edmund, son of John de Munpinzoun, querent, and Robert Walkefare deforcient, of lands here; and in the 2d of Edward III. John de Mounpinzoun, parson of Newton, conveyed lands by fine, to Edmund Mounpinzoun, and Alianore his wife; and Thomas Drew of Sadlebow, and William de Apeton, chaplain, as trustees, granted to the Lady Alianor Muntpinzoun, their manor here, with the lands, rents, homages, reliefs, escheats, heath, and fisheries for life; remainder to Maud, daughter of the said Alianor, in fee; witnesses, Sir John Howard, Knt. Sir John de Wylton, Sir Richard de Belhus, and Sir Richard his son, and Sir John de Tilney, Knights, William de Bilneye, Thomas Strikelok of Bilney, William le Neve of the same, and Richard de Neve, dated at Bilney, Monday after the feast of St. Dionys the martyr, ao. 27 Edward III. Drew's seal is, a chevron, in chief dexter a T, in sinister a D, in base, a cross crosslet, fitche.

In the 3d of Henry IV. Thomas Gissing, and Maud his wife, conveyed by fine, to Thomas Derham and Richard Belhouse, the manor of Pynsones in West Bilney; and Nicholas Trimnell, and Emme his wife, in the 11th of Henry VI. conveyed it by fine, with 4 messuages, 264 acres of land, 34 of meadow, 30 of pasture, 10 of wood, and 16s. rent here, and in towns adjoining, to Sir Thomas Tudenham in trust, for their own lives; remainder to Henry Barton, and Thomas Knowles, Esq. and the heirs of Thomas. After this, Geffrey Norys of this town was lord, who by his will, dated August 12, 1464, bequeaths his body to be buried in the parish church of St. Cecily, the Virgin and Martyr, of West Bilney; appoints Margery his wife, Sir John Norys, vicar of South Lenne, and John Norys his son, his executors, and gives this manor to his son John in tail; also 20l. to the repair of the altar of our Lady, and for making a window at the south end of the said altar; (fn. 4) after this, it came into the hands of the prior and convent of Pentney, and was granted, as is above observed, to Sir Richard Fulmerston, from whom it came to Mildmay, Windham, Bullock, Richardson, Freake, and Dalton.

The tenths of this town were 2l. 13s. 4d. Deducted 5s.

The Church is dedicated to St. Cecilia. The rectory was valued at 8 marks, and was given by Peter de Pelevile to the priory of Pentney, and appropriated thereto several years after that grant, together with three acres of land, 10 of meadow, and 4 furlongs of a turbary; Peter-pence 6d.


Hugh occurs rector in the reign of Henry III.

1313, Mr. Hugh Swaffham instituted rector, presented by the prior of Pentney.

1333, Richard Frere, by the prior.

1341, Adam Vincent, to the portion in the said church, set apart for the support of the priest serving there, and newly appointed; this was (as I take it) on the appropriation, and the settling of a vicarage, presented by the prior.

1349, William Ywar.

1356, Robert Somer, vicar, by the prior.

1365, William Gowty, vicar.

1403, Laurence Emme, vicar.

1417, Robert Allen.

1432, John Wygenhale.

1440, Alan Lewes.

1593, Bartholomew Howlings, curate licensed.

1611, Clement Bacon vicar, presented by the King.

1620, Oliver Dey, licensed curate, and it is served at this time by a licensed stipendiary curate.

Jeffrey Dethike of West Bilney, Gent. wills, October 14, 1557, to be buried in this church; John Dethike, Esq. and Edmund Dethike, Gent. his executors.

Freake, mother of Sir Ralph Freake, buried here in April, 1714.


  • 1. Terr'. Hug. de Monteforti—Benelai tenuit Bundo p. mancr. T. R. E. v car. t're. sep. xx villi. et xiiii bor. et v ser. xx ac. p'ti sep. ii car. in d. et iii car. hou'. et iii mol. silva cc por. et dim sal. sep. i r. et iii an. et x por. et lxxxi ov. tc. val. viii lib. p. lx sol mo. vi lib. tota ht. viii qr. in longo et iiii in lat. et reddit vid. de xx sol. de gelto.
  • 2. See of him in Marham.
  • 3. Baronettage.
  • 4. Regr. Brosyerd Norw. fol. 337.