Freebridge Hundred: Pentney

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Freebridge Hundred: Pentney', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 9, (London, 1808) pp. 37-42. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

In this section


Manor and Priory.

Is a village, pent in, or surrounded with water, held by Hagan in the Confessor's time, but on the conquest was bestowed on Roger Bigod, who was the first of that great family (afterwards Earls of Norfolk) who settled in England, and was a Norman Earl, (most probably,) taking place next to William Earl Warren, and before those bishops, &c. who held lordships in this county, as appears from the survey; for the services he performed at the conquest, he was highly rewarded with several lordships in Essex, &c. with 117 in Suffolk, and with these following in Norfolk.

Thetford, (fn. 1) where he founded a famous abbey, and dying in 1107, was buried there.—Pentney, East Walton, Thorp, Flitcham, East Winch, Appleton, Grimston, and Massingham, in Freebridge hundred. —Ringstead, Hunstanton, in Smethden hundred: and Tichwell, in Docking hundred.—Mundford, Sturston, Linford, and Stanford, in Grimshoe hundred—Wotton, Totington, Girston, Breccles, Saham, and Tomeston, in Weyland hundred.—Hockham, Norton, Shropham, Wilby, Besthorp, Rockland, Banham, and Bretenham, in Shropham hundred.—Lopham Magna and Parva, Snareshill, and Quidenham, in Gilcross hundred — Repps, Rollesby, Sutton, Oby, Clipsby, Thurn, Burgh, Billockby, Bastwick, Somerton, and Winterton, in Flegg West hundred.— Shotesham, South Birlingham, Stoke, Surlingham, Bramerton, Saxlingham, Kirby, Framingham, Trowse, Rockland, Sithing, Bixley, Poringland, Wicklingham, Holveston, and Ailverton, in Heinstede hundred.—Shimpling, Gissing, and Osmundston, in Diss hundred. —Mundham, Claxton, Watton, Norton, Ashby, Sething, Thurston, Carlton, Pirenhou, Beddingham, and Appleton, in Lothing hundred, or Clavering.—Wissingset, in Launditch hundred.— Yaxham, and Thuxton, in Mitford hundred.—Creak, in Gallow hundred.—Burnham, Deepdale, and Reinham, in Brodercross hundred.—Elingham, in Fourhou hundred.—Narburgh, in South Greenhow hundred.—Wood-Dalling, and Gaerveley, in North Greenhow hundred.—Hunworth, Runcton, Aleby, Alburgh, Thurgarton, Calthorp, Catfield, Statham, Horsey, Brunstead, Hameton, Sustede, Aylmerton, Felbrigg, Gresham, Barningham, Metton, Ruston, Suffield, Antingham, Shipden, and Beckam, in North Erpingham hundred.—Thrigby, Filby, Runham, Nesse, in East Flegg hundred.—Hethel, Ketwick, Keteringham, Carlton, Flordon, Newton, Swerdeston, Braconash, Dunston, Mulbarton, Cringleford, Nelond, Manegreen, Wreningham Magna and Parva, Colney, and Rainsthorp, in Humble-Yard hundred.—Fornset, Tanaton, Aslacton, Hadeston, Hemenhale, Tibenham, Moulton, Shelton, Hardwick, Stratton, Fritton, Hekelington, Hales, Wacton, Tasburgh, Hapton, Tacolnston Fundenhale, and Tharston, in Depwade hundred.—Had sco, Heckingham, Norton, Ravingham, Hedingham, and Thurston, in Clavering hundred.—Marsham, in Holt hundred.—Starston, in Ears ham hundred.—Aldby, Burgh, Erpingham, Thorp, and Wickmere, in South Erpingham hundred.—Felmingham, Suffield, and Smalburgh, in Tunsted hundred.—Palling, Waxham, Stalham, Brunsted, and Horsey, in Happing hundred.—Walington, Bexwell, Downham, Stradset, and Bycham, in Clackclose hundred.

In the time of the Confessor, as I have observed, Hagane (fn. 2) was lord of this town or manor, and ejected; and Robert de Vallibus, or Vaux, was enfeoffed herein, by Roger Bigot, and held it of him; 11 villains, 14 borderers, 6 servi, then belonged to it; there were 3 carucates in demean, and 3 amongst the tenants, 20 acres of meadow, 3 mills, the third part of a salt-work, and East Waltune was a beruite belonging to it; it was worth, in King Edward's time, 5l. per ann at the survey 7l. the whole was five furlongs long, and 4 broad, and paid 8d. gelt, two churches endowed with 30 acres, one here, the other (as I take it) at Walton, valued at 2s. 8d. per ann. that is the 30 acres of glebe. (fn. 3)

Robert de Vallibus, who held this of Bigot, had two elder brothers, who also settled in England after the Norman conquest; Hubert, the eldest, had the whole barony of Gillesland in Cumberland, granted to him by Ranulph de Meschines, on whom William the 1st had bestowed the whole county; Ranulph de Vaux had also certain lordships in the said county, and Robert the barony of Dalston.

This Robert founded the priory here for the souls of Agnes his wife, and their children, dedicated to the honour of the Holy Trinity, the blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Mary Magdalen, in the Isle, Eya, for canons regular of the order of St. Augustin; endowing it with the manor of Pentney in the isle called Eya; the mill and miller of Briginlade, 2 salt-works, or pits, one at Lynn, the other at South Wotton, and the whole rent of Fulk de Congham.

The hermitage of Walney, Offsey, and Shertwood, with the appertenances at Wadington, the land called Crundale, containing 15 acres, the land of Richard the weaver, 13 acres in Wadington, the mill at Shotsham, with the land of Ralph, son of the priest, being 15 acres, with the appertenances; the advowsons of the churches of his lordships; Tharston, Chedston, Keteringham, Shotsham St. Botolph, and Allhallows, and Houghton, with all the liberties, privileges, &c. warranting them against all the world.

At his death he left three sons, William, Oliver, and Henry; William, the eldest, confirmed his father's grants, and gave by deed a rent charge of 4s. per ann. out of land in Wootton, to be paid by William, the priest there, and his heirs. William de Vaux, at his death, left also 3 sons, Robert, Adam, and William, who was of Pentney.

Robert, the eldest, had 7 sons, Robert, William, Oliver, John, Philip, Roger, and Hugh; but Robert, the eldest of these 7, dying without issue, was succeeded by Oliver in his estate, who in the 13th of King John, gave 500 marks, and 5 palfreys for license to marry Petronill, widow of Henry de Mara, and to enjoy her estate, she being the widow of William de Longcamp, and lived till the 46th of Henry III. Henry de Longcamp being found her son and heir; this Oliver was one of the barons in arms against King John, and in the 29th of Henry III answered for 32 knights fees. Robert his son died (as I take it) before his father Oliver, and left William his son, who about the 30th of the said King, married Alianore, daughter of William Ferrers Earl of Derby, and dying without issue before the 37th of the said reign, John de Vaux his brother appears to be his heir. In the 49th of Henry III. for his faithful services, he was made sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and soon after governour of the castle of Norwich, and dying in the 16th of Edward I. left by Sybill his wife, two daughters and coheirs; Petronel, married to Sir William de Nerford, and Maud to William de Ros, lord of Hamlake, between whom his great estate was divided, and Sir William is said to have 25 knights fees with his lady, and the Lord Ros, 19 with his; the patronage of the priory here was also settled on Sir William, which had been till this time in the family of Vaux, the lordship of this town being granted (as I have observed) to the priory, on its foundation, to which I now return.

William, the prior and convent, gave by deed sans date, to Richard North, a tenement in South Wotton, which afterwards came to the monks of Wymondham.

In the 16th year of Henry III. Rowland le Sire and Helewise his wife, granted by fine to Simon, the prior, lands in Thorp; in the 34th of the said King, Nicholas de Hasting gave by fine to Simon the prior, a messuage and 2 carves of land in Thorp, (by Geyton,) and East Winch, and certain customs and services, which Thomas de Mutton demanded of the prior for lands held there.

In the 3d of Edward I the prior was found to hold the advowson of the church of West Bilney, of the gift of Peter de Pelevile.

Sir John de Thorp gave in the 16th of Edward II. a lordship in Geyton Thorp, with a messuage, 100 acres of land, 4 of pasture there, and and in Walton, Wykes and Bekeswll, and the advowson of a moiety of the church of Geyton Thorp, with 28 acres of land in Tilney; and before this, in the 11th of the said King, the prior had license to purchase a messuage, 22 acres of land, 2 roods of pasture, and 7s. rent of Amicia, wife of John Butterwick, in Fincham and Stradeset, and in the 43d of Edward III. had a patent for the manor of Belhouse, in North Tudenham.

In the 44th of Edward III. the prior had a grant of free warren in this manor, West Bilney, and Thorp, and in the 12th of Richard II. the men of Pentney were allowed to be toll free, it being esteemed ancient demeans.

The prior, in the 21st of that King, had a suit about a house in Norwich, wherein he sets forth that Robert, son of Ralph, son of Wibert of Newton, by Castleacre, was seized of 5s. rent per ann. out of a messuage in St. Mary's Parva, there in the time of Henry III. and the aforesaid Robert gave it to God, and the church of St. Mary Magdalen of Pentney, being before the statute of Mortmain, when Jeffrey was prior, who was seized of it by this gift, and all his successours to the time of Walter the present prior, so that he recovered.

In 1428, their temporalities in this town were valued at 23l. 2s. 3d. 0b. and their whole temporalities at 67l. 17s. 7d. ob. q.

Walter, Bishop of Norwich, with the consent of his convent, and of John Earl of Northumberland, patron of the priory of Wirmegay, united and consolidated that priory, to this of Pentney, in 1468; on this the prior and convent here engaged to pay 40d. per ann. to the priory of Norwich, for a mediety of the church of Fordham in Norfolk, appropriated to Wirmegay, and 20d per ann. for the church of Westbriggs appropriated thereto; and 12d. per anm. for this union, and consolidation of the said two priories.

The manor of Grantcourts in East Winch, and that of Curples in West Derham, and lands in Rexham, by West Derham, belonged to them.

This house had also a manor in Keteringham, with the rectory appropriated, and the patronage of the vicarage, to which Richard de la Rokele added land, and Alice de Kangham, who in 1249, gave 28 acres of land, 8 of wood, and 5s. rent per ann.

Shotesham All-Saints, and St. Botolph's rectories were appropriated, and they presented to the vicarages of those churches; Shotesham St. Mary's church was also appropriated, to which they presented a vicar, and was granted by William de Roos, with a carucate of land in 1311, who married Maud de Vaux. The churches of Pentney, Thorston, West Bilney, Shanburn, and Refham, alias Whitwell, appropriated also, and the presentation of the vicar of Sharnbourn, Whitwell and Thorston, in Norfolk, was in this priory, with the patronage of St. Mary's church of Warham.

The rectories of Abington Parva, in Cambridgeshire, and of Chedeston in Suffolk, were appropriated, and they presented the vicars.

At its dissolution it was valued at 170l. 4s. 9d. q. as Dugdale; but 215l. 18s. 6d. as Speed, with the cell of Wirmegay. About the time of the suppression here was a prior, with 13 canons.

King Henry VIII. on the 11th of March, in his 30th year, granted to Thomas Mildmay, Esq. auditor of the Exchequer, the site of this dissolved priory, with a water mill, the manor of Pentney, called Ashwood, a foldcourse for 200 sheep, and all the messuages, lands, &c. belonging to the said prory in this town, and King Edward VI. in his 4th year, February 26, granted him the impropriated rectory. Sir Thomas Mildmay, his son, conveyed all the aforesaid premises to Francis Wynham, Esq. a judge of the King's Bench; and on April 1, in the 20th of James I. Sir Henry Windham had license to sell it to Sir Edward Bullock, Knt. of Falkbourn hall, in Essex, from whom it was conveyed to Sir Thomas Richardson, Knt. lord chief justice of the King's Bench; who died seized of it October 24, 1631; and Sir Thomas, his son, inherited it.

The family of Violet in Norfolk, had after this an interest herein.

Charles Nowys, Esq. of Wood Ditton in Cambridgeshire, was lord about 1710; and — Lloyd, Esq. of Epping in Essex, was lord, and his widow now possesses it.

The tenths of this village were valued at 48s. and 10s. was deducted.


William de Vaux, grandson to the founder, was prior, in Henry the Second's time.

Ralph occurs prior in a fine, in the 9th of Henry III.

Simon in the 12, 17, and 34th of Henry III.

Jeffrey in King Henry the Third's time.

William, sans date.

September 20, 1302, Richard de Marham admitted prior.

Giles de Whitewell, occurs 1338.

October 19, 1342, Thomas de Helgey. (fn. 4)

August 16, 1349, Ralph de Framelyngham.

September 27, 1351, Vincent de Caldecot.

July 16, 1353, Peter Bysshop, on Caldecot's resignation.

October 26, 1381, Walter de Tyrington; and occurs in 1397.

John de Wilton, prior.

February 15, 1414, William Swaffham.

June 20, 1416, John de Tyrington, and occurs 1448.

August 12, 1449, Richard Pentney.

September 10, 1464, Ralph Midylton.

John Woodbriggs, alias Hawes, occurs in Henry the Eighth's time.

Robert Codde, or Jodde occurs in 1526: he was the last prior, and with Richard Lynne, and 12 other canons, subscribed to the King's supremacy September 9, 1534, surrendered this priory to the King, and had pensions for life. This prior had criminal conversation with the prioress of Marham, as appeared by her confession, (fn. 5) and John Dedham, Stephen Long, John Shipdam, Thomas Litle, and Richard Clerk, canons, confessed themselves guilty of great incontinency.

Robert de Watervile was also prior, but the time is not mentioned.

In 1555, Sir Robert Townsend, Knt. had a pension of 26s. 8d. per ann. paid him, as late steward, and Sir John Godsalve, Knt. one of 20s. per ann. as late receiver-general of this priory.

Their seal was the figure of St. Mary Magdalen; the legend,


It is said by Camden, that this was in ancient times the ordinary burial-place of the noblemen and gentlemen in this tract; but I find only these following persons here interred; Petronilla, wife of Sir William de Nerford, in 1326, (fn. 6) and Maud, wife of William Lord Ross, daughters of Sir John de Vaux, who most probably with several of his ancestors lie here, as does Sir John de Nerford, son of Petronilla, who died in the 3d of Edward III.

Margaret Marchal, Gent. buried in the priory church 1461, by her husband. (fn. 7)

John Vernon, vicar of Shernbourn, gave at his death a vestment to the chapel of St. Mary of Pentney.

The site of this priory is about a mile westward of the church, the gate-house, which is a curious building of free-stone, is still standing, and covered with lead: a print of it was published a few years past by Mr. Millicent.

The church of Pentney was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, and appropriated to the priory, valued at 5l. per ann.; besides the pensions therein, the prior and convent of Norwich had here, and in the church of Middleton, one of 20s. per ann. and the abbey of Nutley, one valued at 34s. 4d. and paid Peter-pence 6d.


  • 1. Lib. Domesd.
  • 2. This Hagane was the same (as I take it) with Hacon, son of Swain, eldest son of Earl Goodwine, and brother of King Harold.
  • 3. Terra Rogeri Bigoti, Penteleia tenuit Hagane T. R. E. p. man. iii car. tre. mo. tenet Rob. de Vals. semp. xi vill. xiiii bord. vi. serv. iii car. in dnio. iii car. hom. xx ac. pti. iii mol. t'tia pars saline, huic terre jacet i beruuita, Waltuna, &c. tot. val. T. R. E. c. sol. et mo. vii lib. hoc tot. in long. v. qr. et iiii in lato, et viiid. de gelto. Ecclie. xxx ac. val. ii sol. et viiid. Domesd.
  • 4. Lib. Instit. Norwic.
  • 5. Compend. Compertor.
  • 6. Lib. Abbat. de Langley.
  • 7. Regist. Brosyerd, Norw. p. 285.