Freebridge Hundred: Wigenhale St. Mary Magdalen

Pages 168-176

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 9. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1808.

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St. Mary Magdalen.

The principal lordship in this town was in the family of Caprevill, Cherevile or Kervile. Sir Frederick (or Fraer) de Caprevilla gave by deed, sans date, in the beginning of Henry the Third's reign to the prior of Castleacre, his tenement and manor, as well in this town, as what extended out of it, with the demean lands, foldages, free bull and boar, the meadows, pastures, rents, services, freemen, villains, mills, fisheries, wards, reliefs, with the advowson and patronage of the church of St. Mary Magdalen;—witnesses, Sir William de Terrington, Sir Martin de Littlebury, Sir Reginald de St. Martin, Sir Hamond de Patesle, &c.

Soon after this grant, the rectory was appropriated to the said priory, a vicarage was settled in their presentation, and in 1227, John de Pagrave appears to be instituted vicar.

Robert de Cherevile, by deed sans date, confirmed to the prior all that he held of his fee (which I take to be of the Earl Warren) in the time of his ancestors here; also 5 perches, in the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalen, for which he hath an exchange, and what Hugh the priest holds of his fee, in Bichto; the land which Lefstan, and Hugh, the priest, held; and the land that Aschill, son of Brunild, held, for which 3 marks were paid to him, and one bezant to his wife.

Robert Quirel, alias Sorel, and Agnes his wife, granted by fine, in the 42d of Henry III. to John, prior, 4 acres and a half of land, and 2 acres and a half of meadow here, with the appertenances.

Jeffrey de Snetesham granted them 2 villains, Peter de Bekeswell one, and Nicholas Lolle 10 acres; Roger, son of Richard le Pindar, and Wimer his brother gave them lands, and Richard, son of William de Bynetre, certain homages and services here; Nicholas de Wigenhale, son of Alan de Wigenhale, gave them also; by deed sans date, lands in this parish.

In the 13th of Edward II. the number of acres in this parish, between the Pokedych, and Westfenlode, and from Mikledole north, to between the bank and mere, as measured, surveyed, and found by a provost and 12 jurymen, at the King's command, was one thousand, one hundred, eleven acres and a half, with half a rood.

In 1428, the temporalities of Castleacre priory, in land, a mill, &c. were valued at 4l. 9s. 6d. per ann. and being a cell to the priory of Lewes, in Sussex, a pension of 13s. 4d. per ann. was paid out of this manor to Lewes.

In the 16th of Henry VI. the office of water bailiff from Staplewere, to Larkshern, was granted by patent to Giles St. Loo, for life, and in the 1st of Henry VII. the office of water bailiff of Magdalen Bridge, was granted to Geffrey Wade, during the King's pleasure.

I have seen a memorandum wrote by Gybbon Goddard, Esq. serjeant at law, and recorder of Lynn, who was a curious collector of antiquities, and died in 1671, wherein he observes that in his time, in digging to set down a new sluice, a little beneath Magdalen fall, which is about half a mile from Magdalen-bridge, on Marshland side, there was found, about 16 foot within soyle, a grave-stone, of about 8 foot long, and a cart-wheel near to it; the grave stone is now in Magdalen churchyard; Mr. Emerson, from whom (says he) I had this relation, was the man that employed the workmen: many oaks and firs are daily taken up, and they lie about 2 or 3 foot deep under the soil.

All the land in this parish is said to be freehold, and certain freehold rents are paid to the Lord Fitz-Williams, lord of Kenwick in Tilney, and to Sir Richard Brown, who is lord of Wigenhale, St. Mary's. William de Lisewise, who was founder of the priory of Crabhouse, in this town, had a lordship here in the reign of Henry II. and in Islington and Clenchwarton; by a daughter and coheir of his grandson, it came by marriage to the Ingaldesthorps, and Sir Edmund de Ingaldesthorp died seized of lordships in the aforesaid towns, 1456, leaving Isabell, his only daughter and heir, married to John Nevill, Marquis Montacute, whose estate being afterwards divided amongst his 5 daughters and coheirs, this came by Lucy, one of the said daughters and coheirs, to the family of Fitz Williams, by her marriage with Sir Thomas Fitz Williams, (of Aldwark, in Yorkshire,) in the reign of King Henry VII.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalen of Wigenhale, is a regular good building, consisting of a nave, a north and south isle, with its porch, and a chancel, all covered with lead; at the west end stands a four square tower of stone.

On a black marble, in the chancel,

Hoc sub marmore jacent Thomas et Susanna Knight, conjuges: hœc obijt, Nov. 13, 1678, ille, quondam hujus ecclesiœ vicarius, Martij 15, 1696. And this shield, argent, three pallers, gules, and on a canton, of the second, a spur or, Knight, impaling - - - - -, a castle tripletowered, Towers, as I take it.

In the middle isle, is also a grave-stone

In memory of Mr. John Parlet, of Watlington, who dyed July 12, 1700, aged 66 years: and for, Elizabeth, wife of Mr. Greg. Pariet, of Tilney, who died August 13, 1710, aged 39.

On the pannels of the screen are the emblems of the four Evangelists; also sable, a fess nebuly, argent, between six billets, or, in a window.

The upper part of the north isle has been a chapel, being taken in with a screen.

A black marble gravestone, in this isle,

In memory of Mr. Francis Spensley, who dyed June 23, 1687, unmarried, and left an estate in this parish to his nephew's only child; he is said to be above fourscore years of age; and these arms, quarterly, p. cross wavy, or and - - -, four martlets counterchanged.

Also here lies a stone whereon was the effigies of a man and his wife, &c.; there now remain only the portraitures of 9 boys, and 4 girls.

In the east window is the broken effigies of St. Nicholas the Pope on his throne, and in the other windows north, those of St. Bruno, St. Adelm, St. Sampson, St. German, St. Cuthbert, St. Hugh, Bishops, and St. Leo, and St. Silvester, Popes.

The east end of the south isle is taken in with a screen, and has been a chapel: on a piece of an old oaken seat, here, is or, on two barrulets, gules, three waterbudgets, argent, the arms of Willoughby.

In a window over the middle arch, on the south side, are these arms, sable, a lion rampant, argent, Stapleton;—barry of six, gules and argent, a bordure, sable, Moulton, as I take it; gules, a chevron, or, between three plates—Bevil; and per pale, azure and or, a lis counterchanged.

There were formerly in this church, in the east window of the chancel, the arms of England and France, quarterly;—of the Earl Warren, —of Albany Earl of Arundel, end Earl Warren, quarterly; and the effigies of St. Mary Magdalen.

In a south window of the chancel, Howard and Denver.

In a north window of the chancel, Ingaldesthorpazure, two swords in saltire, argent, hilted or: above this an archbishop's pall fringed, charged with cross crosslets fitchee, sable, and in chief, a mitre of 3d; underneath, part of a broken inscription, ===, p. aiab; Tho. prior de === .

And about the church, the arms of Kervile, Scales, Berney, Gissing, Heveningham, Lord Lovell, Bovile, and a griffin segreant.

In the church was a chantry valued at the Dissolution at 5l. 15s. 5d. ob.

The rectory of this church was given to the priory of Castleacre, by Sir Frederick de Capravill, (as I have before observed) and was appropriated to that monastery by Thomas de Blundevile Bishop of Norwich, in 1227, or 1228.

The settlement of the vicar was made by him, who was to have the altarage with all small tithes, tithe of all pulse, (leguminum,) that is, pease, beans, vetches, &c. and a moiety of the tithe hay; (fn. 1) all other tithe to be ceded to the prior and convent; it is dated at North Elmham, on the 15th of the kal. of January, in the 2d year of his pontificate.

This was confirmed by William Bishop of Norwich (Bishop Raleigh) in 1243, when the tithe of turf in the said parish was granted to the vicar, or 4s. instead of the tithe, or 12000 turf instead of the 4s. (fn. 2) dated at North Elmham, on the ides of April, in the fourth year of his pontificate.

In this monastery the rectory remained, with the patronage of the vicarage, till the dissolution of it, when, in the 29th of Henry Viii. Thomas the prior, conveyed them by fine to that King, and on the 22d of December, in the said year, the King granted them to Thomas Duke of Norfolk; and the said Duke, on the first of November, in the first year of Queen Elizabeth, granted by deed to Thomas Welles of this town, the rectory, and the advowson of the vicarage, and Welles presented in 1565, &c.

By an inquisition taken at Norwich, January 14, in the 22d of James I. it was found that Thomas Oxborough, Esq. died December 8, in the 21st of that King, possessed of this rectory, 66 acres of land, the advowson of the vicarage, 3 messuages, one cottage, 15 acres of pasture, and 30 of marsh, in this parish and St. German's, late parcel of the priory of Castleacre, held in capite by knight's service.

Thomas was his son and heir, by Thomasine his wife, who held the same, and had by Audrey his wife, Hewer Oxborough, his son and heir, and Laurence, his second son; Hewar dying in 1628, it came so his brother Lawrence, then aged 18.

Mr Bateson died possessed of the rectory and advowson of the vicarage, and his daughter and heir, Susannah, being married to Mr. Garforth, vicar, possessed them in her right.

In 1428, I find the rectory taxed at 24 marks, and the vicarage at 7 marks; Peter-pence 11d. ob.

The vicarage is taxed in the King's books now at 8l. 6s. 8d. and is capable of being augmented.

William de Lisewise gave to the prior of St. Margaret, and convent at Lynn, 12 acres of land in Wygenhale, sans date.—Regist. 5. Eccles. Cath. Norwic. fol. 50.

Robert, prior of Westacre, by deed sans date, released to the priory of Castleacre, all the tithes which they had in this parish, in tofts and crofts, between Staplewere, and the north part of the dole of John Fitz Richard.—Reg. Castleacr. fol. 86.

The temporalities of the canons of Thetford here, were valued in 1428, at 9s.

The prior of Ixworth's at 9s. and the prior of Pentney's, at 2l. 1s.

On November 16, in the 6th of Edward VI. 40 acres belonging hereto, in the tenure of Ed. Baker, were granted to Edward Lord Clynton.

William de Constantiis was rector of this church about the year 1200, in the time of John of Oxford Bishop of Norwich.


1227, John de Pagrave, vicar, presented by the prior and convent. (fn. 3)

1313, Thomas Gange, by Walter, prior, &c.

1331, Sim Francis, an exchange for Linton in Cambridgeshire.

1338, Thomas Houlyn, by Guy, prior, &c.

1349, Robert de Griston.

1351, Richard Mounch.

1352, Andrew de Wimbotsham, exchanged for Fersfield, in Norfolk.

1361, Henry Redgrave.

1374, John Atte Dele.
Robert Blome, occurs vicar 1394, alias Robert Blower.

1397, Nicholas Young, on an exchange for Watlesfield, in Suffolk.

1399, Thomas Dumpysday, exchanged for Wode Rysing.

1399, Simon Weston.

1409, Edmund Pery, on an exchange with Jeff. Schavere, vicar here, for Fincham St. Michael.

1425, Richard Hereford.

1429, Robert Hamond.

1437, Thomas Cowper.

1451, Roger Oky.

1460, William Wright,

1466, Robert Barker.

1481, John Bendys.

1485, John Perkyn.

1486, Thomas Betisson.

1491, John Palmer.

1508, Richard Younge.

1536, James Cole.

1536, Edward Flynte.

1537, William Salter by Edmund Bedingfeld, assignee to the prior.

1538, John Tankersley, by Thomas Duke of Norfolk.

1543, John Selby.

1554, Henry Rumpeshaw.

1556, Robert Binks, by Thomas Duke of Norfolk.

1565, Robert Elden, by John Welles.

1571, Edmund Welles.

1576, Thomas Granger, by John Welles, of Walsoken, Gent.

1579, William Funnell, by John Welles.

1585, Robert Newton, by Thomas Oxburgh, Gent.

1592, William Rook.

1597, Ralph Dodd, by Thomas Oxburgh.

Mahaleel Rymes died vicar in 1661.

Thomas Knight, A. M. presented by John Knight, died vicar in 1696.

1697, Peter Bateson.

1720, Richard Foster, by Peter Bateson.

1733, William Garforth, by Susan Bateson, on Bateson's death.

1756, Roger Wilson, by Susan Garforth, widow.

Crabhouse Nunnery.

In this parish of Wigenhale St. Mary Magdalen, on the bank of the river Ouse, south of the town, was this house (dedicated to St. John the Evangelist) of nuns of the order of St. Augustine.

It was founded by Roger, the prior, and convent of Reynham, about 1181, with the consent of William de Lisewise, who was lord of the site, and the founder of the little priory (called Normansbergh) in South Reinham; this William lived in the reign of King Henry II. and held lordships in Gately, Reinham, &c. under the Moniforts, which family descended from Hugh de Monteforti, who was lord also of Islington, Clenchwarton, &c. (towns adjoining to this) of the gift of the Conqueror, and Lisewise held under him.

This prior granted to Lœna or Leva, daughter of Godr. de Lynne, a nun, all the small tract of ground here, (called a desert and solitary place) that was inhabited by a hermit, and not overflowed, with the hermitage: Læna and her nuns were to hold it freely by the payment of 12d. per ann. to the priory of Normansburgh, as appears from the following deed of Roger, the prior, and his canons:

Universis St. matris eccles. filijs, Rogeri servus servor. Dei prior humiltimus de Reinham, et fratres sui canonici salut. omnipot. Dei benedictionem, &c. Nos communi consensu dedisse et concessisse Dne. Lene, see monial; filie Godricj de Lenne, et monialib; ibid Deo servientib; et servituris, Heremium (fn. 4) Scj Johannes Evangel. in australj parte situm juxta Wigehale, cum omnib; pertinent; infra circuitum fovear. et extra, et in turbariâ, que fuit Aluricj filij Chidemannj tenend. de eccles. nostra, et de nobis, et de successorib; nostris, omni subjectione remotâ, annuatim reddendo 12d. de recognitione eccles nostre in die Scj Joh. Evangeliste, infra natal. et ut hoc liberius et firmiter teneant, auxiliante Dno. nostro Jesu Xto. et proclamante Willo. de Lisewise, dno. fundi cum chartulœ nostrœ testimonio confirmavimus, sicut ipse cum chartâ suâ illud nobis in perpet. elemosun. confirmavit.

Qui vero illj aliquod p. amore Dej beneficium impendet sciet se missarum, orationum, et omnium beneficior. que fient in eccles. nostrâ participem fierj. Testib; Sim. Presbyt. de Wigehale, Walto. filio ejus, Willo. fil. Alanj, Alano de Tilneia, &c.

Godfrey, (son of the aforesaid William,) with the consent of Maud his wife, William, his son and heir, and all his children confirmed the grant of his father, (at the hermitage, and land here which John, the hermit held) to the said nunnery, and to be held of the priory of Normansburgh.

Reginald, son of Hamon de Thorpeland, by the command of King Henry II. son of Maud the Empress, sold to this priory 5 acres of land in the marsh, by Wigenhale, for 5 marks;—witnesses, Gilbert, the priest of Denver, Alured, capellane of the church of St. Edmund's, Peter capellane of Caldecotes, Constant, son of Godfrey of Linn, Ralph, clerk of Thorpeland, Sim. de Caili, William, son of Peter Bekeswell, Peter de Pelevill, Robert de Wallington, Robert de Cherevile, &c.

The said Reginald and his wife Rheda, or Theda, gave to God, St. Mary, St. John, and St. Thomas, and the nuns of this priory, serving God in the desert (Heremo) by Wiggehale, with their daughter, whom they had given to be educated, and to serve God there, a toft of one acre of pasture, 8 acres in Thorpland field, also 12d. rent per ann. and 6 other acres; witnesses, Jeff. dean of Fincham, Helmade, priest of Thorp, &c.

In the 2d of Edward III. several lands were alienated to this house; and in 38th of that King, John, the rector of Castre St. Edmund, in Norfolk, gave a messuage, with 38 acres of land in Clenchwarton, and in Wigenhale, held of the heirs of William de Ingaldesthorp, paying 2s. per ann.

In the 2d of Richard II. the church of St. Peter's of Wigenhale was appropriated to it. In the 11th of that King, Nicholas Beaupre, &c. aliened to it a messuage, and 33 acres of land in Thorpland, Wygenhale, and Tilney; and in the 15th of the said King, the prioress had the fishery in Wygenhale, belonging to the manor of Rungeton.

Henry IV. in his 12th year, granted a patent for 35 acres and a rood in Wigenhale.

In the 25th of Henry VI. license was given to purchase tenements and lands, to the value of 10l. per ann. Sir Edmund de Ingaldesthorp was found, in the 35th of that King, to die seized of the patronage of it; and in the 38th of the said reign, a patent was granted for certain tenements in Wygenhal, and North Clenchwarton.

At its dissolution it was valued at 24l. 19s. 6d. as Dugdale; but at 31l. 16s. 7d. as Speed.


Lœna, or Lœva was the first prioress.

Cœcilia, occurs prioress in 1249.

Agnes de Methelwold, admitted prioress, 1315. (fn. 5)

Margaret Costeyn, on the death of Agnes, 1344.

Oliva de Swaffham, 1349.

Cecilia de Well, 1341.

Cecilia de Beaupre, occurs 1376.

Matilda Talbot, on Beaupre's death, 1396.

Joan Wigenhale occurs prioress in 1427. (fn. 6)

Margery Daubeney, 1415.

Etheldreda Walmere, 1468.

Elizabeth Breden occurs about 1500.

Margaret Stutfield was prioress at the dissolution, and about 10 years before.

In the Compendium Compertorium, we have this account of the prioress and some of the nuns at its dissolution:

Margeria Studefield, priorissa, habuit unam prolem.

Agnes Smith, unam, e soluto.

Cecilia Barnesley, duas proles, unam ex soluto, alter ex laico, et Elizabetha Brown, duas proles ex solutis habuere.

And they were accused of alienating certain lands to Coningby, and to Gybon.

Here were a prioress, and 6 or 7 nuns.

Edward Perys, rector of Watlington, wills to be buried in this priory church, in 1427; as did William Trusbut, S. T. P. in 1450, rector of Watlington, and John Wyche, alias Babber, of Stow Bardolf, in 1456, who gave a messuage, called Brungers, with a right of a fishery thereto belonging; also John Gelham of Stowe Bardolf, in 1468, and gave legacies to the prioress and every nun.

Spelman, in his Glossary, observes, that there were in this priory, in 1425, two antiphonarys, which cost them 26 marks, a great sum in that age.

On the 28th of June, Queen Mary in her fist year (fn. 7) granted to Sir John Gage, Knt. of Sussex, the site of this priory, gardens, orchard, and demean lands appertaining to it, with the moiety of the tithe of a field, called Peter's field, and a moiety of the rectory of St. Peter's Wigenhale, with all the messuages, lands, &c. belonging to it in Wigenhale, Tilney, Islington, Sechy, East Winch, Clenchwarton, Lynne, Wimbotsham, Thorpe, Elme, Elmneth, &c. to be held by knight's service. Sir John, by his will, dated February 20, 1555, and proved June 10, following, gives to the vicar of St. Mary Magdalen, Wigenhale, the tithe of a field here, called part of the demeans of Crabhouse; the vicar and his successors, praying for him by name, in the parish church every Sunday at high mass, for evermore. Sir Edward Gage, his son, died seized of it in 1568; and after him, John Gage, Esq. possessed it; but in the 12th of Elizabeth, Thomas Guilford, had license to alienate the manor of Crabhouse, with the appertenances to Thomas Low, and in the 21st of that Queen, William Chapman, and Robert Wythen, had a pardon for purchasing it of Low, without license, and in that year Thomas Hanmer had license to alienate it with the moiety of St. Peter's Wigenhale rectory, to Roger Powel.

After this it was possessed by Mr. John Wright. Spelman says his son consumed his estate, and sold it to Mr. William Guybon, of Watlington, who held it about 1640: of this family was Mrs. Guybon, who married Captain Pamplin, of Wallington, by Mildenhale, who surviving him, and dying without issue, gave it by will to Mrs. Howlet, her companion, that lived with her, and she left it to her nephew, whose daughter, or niece, brought it by marriage to Mr. Thorold, the late owner.

In the 4th of Elizabeth, August 25, the Queen granted to Cecilia Pykerell concealed lands in Wigenhale, in the tenure of German Sherete; and April 10, in her 16th year, she granted to Edward Dyer, and Henry Cressener, concealed lands lately belonging to West Derham abbey.

A messuage in this parish, with a pightell adjoining, and 7 acres of land, Abbot's dole, Mormion's, or Marrion's dole, &c. with 8 acres of land, and a dole, called She's dole, with the appertenances in the tenure of Edward Rumney, and William Hall, lately belonging to West Derham abbey, were granted 22d of November, in the 5th of James I. to Robert Morgan, and George Warde, to be held in soccage of the manor of Greenwich.

The temporalities of this abbey in the Wigenhales, were valued in 1428, at 5l. 8s. 10d. ob. with the priory of Wynwaloy.

On the 22d of July, in the 7th of James I. 45 acres of land and pasture, in the fields of Wigenhale, called Heydole, &c. were granted to Robert Angell, and John Walker, being part of the possessions of the aforesaid abbey, lately let at 4l. 13s. per ann.


  • 1. Reg. Castleacre, fol. 26.—Ped. Fin. Term. Mich. 29 Hen. VIII. Nr. 207.
  • 2. Walter Bishop of Norwich confirmed to the prior and convent of Castleacre, all the tithe of the turf here, allowing to the vicar as above, in his 4th year.
  • 3. Regist. Castleac. p. 126.
  • 4. Called also in some writings Heremitorium.
  • 5. Regist. Norw. Lib. Instit.
  • 6. Reg. Norw. Surflete, p. 15.
  • 7. Some accounts say Feb. ar, Ao. 1. et 2do Phil. and Mary.