The Migrating Village of Saxlingham Thorpe

Returning to the Norfolk village of Saxlingham, Nethergate and Thorpe, we’ve arrived at the High Middle Ages: post-Hastings, post Norman Conquest and all that.

Saxlingham Nethergate

Saxlingham’s war memorial, sat the centre of the village: Photo 1st Aug 2017

While William and his mail-clad henchmen hadn’t treated kindly with the English lords of this land, neither had they eradicated the defeated with their commended free men. Kicked them, true. Ground their faces into the dirt. Figuratively? Definitely. Literally? Probably. But those who hadn’t been killed at Stamford Bridge and at Hastings, and who hadn’t died in the several rebellions which, in the first years after Hastings, spontaneously flared to scorch William’s face, either fled the land to seek succour in Ireland, or Denmark, or Flanders, or farther afield, else learned to keep their heads low and to say, ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir’.  In this, as with the rest of England, the folk of Saxlingham were no different.

Domesday Survey

We’ve already looked at the Domesdays Entries for Saxlingham (see Enter the Scribes ) so this is by way of recap.


Mostly foreign (at least to English eyes—though some 13 Englishmen were counted amongst them). Foreign, but not necessarily Norman—except for Saxlingham almost all were. Many Bretons settled in England, as too French from various quarters, and Flemings from Flanders. One thing all had in common was their reason for crossing the Channel, for treading upon this conquered land and it wasn’t thoughts of settlement, of making this land their home. They came with an eye to a quick profit. As with the later British upper echelons on their first arrival in India, they retained their castles and estates across the water, in their native lands.

There were eight tenants-in-chief in Saxlingham.

Robert Malet

Norman-born son of William Malet, and possibly an English mother.
His father William Malet, lord of Graville in Pays de Caux, arrived in England in the Conqueror’s party and was granted lands mostly in Yorkshire where in 1068 he was sheriff, later appointed castellan of York castle. William died 1071 during the Hereward rebellion. Robert founded the priory at Eye in Suffolk in his memory. He was granted most of his father’s lands.

Roger Bigod

From Calvados, Normandy
Like William Malet, Roger Bigod arrived with the Conqueror. Unlike Malet, Bigod’s family had been of the middling sort. Once in England Roger Bigod made himself indispensable to the new king, serving as steward, and later as sheriff. In return, Roger was awarded what might appear a generous honour. But if an Honour consisted of lands, demesnes, and home farms, a means of income, a source of food, he didn’t quite cut it. The bulk of his holdings, as in Saxlingham, were free men, and it was the free men’s land. Yet it did yield him an income. Roger founded an abbey at Thetford, close to his Norfolk manor of Forncett—though his descendants are better known for Bigod’s castle at Framlingham, Suffolk.

Walter Giffard

Son of Walter count of Longueville in Normandy
As with William Malet, Walter Giffard’s father (confusingly also called Walter Giffard) arrived with the Conqueror. It’s said he was created Earl of Buckingham for his gallant services at the Battle of Hastings. The father, not the son? Certainly, the father was honoured with a vast estate in Buckinghamshire. Yet it was William the Conqueror’s own son, William Rufus, who created Giffard earl and that to secure his loyalty in the brotherly skirmishes that erupted between Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (1087-1106) and William Rufus then King of England (1087-1100). Walter Giffard (junior) served as one the Domesday Commissioners. Compared to the rest of Saxlingham’s new lords, he was high status, related by marriage to Normandy’s ducal family.

John fitzRichard

Nephew of Waleran, grandson of a moneyer from Avranches
As with Roger Bigod, John wasn’t aristocratic-born. Though it can’t be said he was from a ‘no-bit’ family since his grandfather had been a moneyer! Once arrived in England, his uncle Waleran was appointed sheriff, but when, and of where, no one seems to know. But since his predecessor at Saxlingham, Eadric, came a cropper against him, one imagines his remit must have included Norfolk. Like many of the newcomers, John gave land (in Saxlingham) to a religious house (to Gloucester abbey). This bout of benevolence, almost fanatic, seen amongst the first takers of this land, was at the insistence of the Pope who had been disgusted by the brutality of this conquest.

Drogo de La Beuvrière

From Flanders, Drogo (Dreux de la Bouerer) was another early arrival being part of William the Conqueror’s entourage. He didn’t stick around long, fleeing overseas after the death of his wife, said it be by accidental poisoning. Oops! His ‘Honour’ had centred on Holderness, with lands spread throughout Lincolnshire and Norfolk. After his departure, never to be seen again (a complete disappearance from history) his lands were given instead to Odo, count of Champagne.

Robert fitzCorbucion

Possibly from Verdun in Manche, Normandy
Robert is one of those characters difficult to trace. But if he’s the son, brother or otherwise relative of William fitzCorbucion (later sheriff of Warwickshire), then he’s from Verdun. Which would seem likely in view of later developments in the village of Saxlingham.

And an English tenant-in-chief…

Godric the steward

Former steward to the Anglo-Breton earls of East Anglia, Godric, whose own ancestry is blurred, married into a well-attested Norfolk family when he took as bride Ingreda daughter of Edwin (see Edwin of Meltuna). Through her he inherited a portion of Edwin’s lands, and all his lordships.

In the south of England, the religious houses had been major landowners; not so much in East Anglia due to the destruction wrought by the Great Army. The religious establishments might retain their lands—at a price. Everyone, no matter status, was required to swear loyalty to William, plus pay a fee to regain what he’d taken from them. Those that refused? Removed from the pages of history.

St Benet of Hulme

This Broadland abbey is said to have been founded on the site of a C9th monastery where a hermit, Suneman, was martyred by marauding Danes. And maybe that’s the truth though the story is late. Later, in tenth century, it was rebuilt by a man named Wulfric. Again, this might be true. But what we know is true is ca.1022 King Cnut endowed it with the manors of Horning, Ludham and Neatishead, all of which lay nearby. Thereafter it became like a magnet for those wishing to swap an odd acre or two in return for their soul’s salvation; or for those who in reaching their uppers needed to mortgage their land. Basically, this is what Eadric, predecessor of John fitzRichard had done when in trouble with John’s uncle, the sheriff Waleran.


For tenants-in-chief with estates vast and far-flung sub-tenants were a necessity—usually termed as ‘subinfeudation’. Often these sub-tenants were lesser members of the family, else favoured servants brought over the water. Others had already served as loyal lieutenants and sergeants in their lord’s household. At this stage, they didn’t so much pay monetary rent, as rent in services. Foremost of those services was the oath of fealty. Much like the Saxon commendation, this was a promise to stand by his lord, as the lord would stand by his man. Next in priority came the provision of x-number of armed and ready men, both to act as garrison to the lord’s castle and to form a warband. Thereafter might be various payments in kind from the yield of the land.

In Saxlingham:

St Benet’s of Hulme sub-let 1½ carucates (180 acres) plus another 30 acres with a sitting sokeman and 4 acres of meadow to John fitzRichard, nephew of the elusive sheriff Waleran. Plus the abbot leased him a further 10 acres of arable, making the total held of the abbey 220 acres arable.

Robert Malet sub-let a total of 72 acres arable and 2 acres of meadow along with 3 and a half sitting sokemen to one Walter de Caen. Walter de Caen held several Malet properties. One wonders a connection.

Roger Bigod generously granted to his man, Ranulf fitzWalter, 24 acres arable and one of meadow, plus the lordship of a free men, whose land it had formerly been—with full strings of infeudation attached.

Robert fitzCorbucion, like those above, preferred to place a sub-tenant in his Saxlingham estate. He chose Gunfrid to hold his 2 acres of meadow and a total 33 acres arable, 3 acres of which was courtesy of 2 sitting free men.

Of the remainder of Saxlingham’s tenants-in-chief:

Godric the steward used his total 61 acres arable, plus two sitting sokemen, as a home farm, to supply his food and other needs.

Drogo de La Beuvrière, ditto for his total 304 acres arable and 4½ meadow, complete with ten sitting sokemen and the lordship of a sulking free man who probably clutched tightly to his paltry 6 acres. These had formerly been the lands of Æthelweard, a free man of King Edward, and of Wulfnoth, a free man in commendation of Archbishop Stigand, almost certainly a member of Wulfgyth’s family (see Wulfgyth of Karletuna)

In addition to the land held of St Benet’s abbey, John fitzRichard, nephew of Waleran, held another 40 acres arable and 1½ meadow in Saxlingham, held in his own right.

And Walter Giffard?


Lordship was that thorny problem that caused so many of the contretemps that litter the folios of Domesday Book. In Normandy–and France and other Francey-bits in general—land wasn’t held by the king and let out on feudal terms. Land belonged to the lords, and they let it out—on feudal terms. Across the water, a free man sat on land courtesy of his sworn-lord. Not exactly the Saxon situation, where its equivalent, commendation, involved services only, a personal bond, unrelated to land. Hence there were many an incoming lord who banged his head—probably damagingly hard—against a stick-with-the-soil Saxon free man.

One such was Walter Giffard. He had lordship, only, of his fifty acres arable, two of meadow, there being two sitting free men formerly in commendation to St Benets abbey

Normans to Plague

Medieval Saxlingham Map

Domesday Survey and its resultant Book is a wonderful resource for historians, but it tells us nothing of the years thereafter. Although a regular form of record-keeping was instigated by Henry 1 (1100-1135) anything written on parchment, or its upmarket version, velum, was by its nature vulnerable to flames. And the years that followed King Henry’s introduction of clerical innovations were too often bloodied by warfare and scorched by flames. Consequently, few scraps remain and those almost exclusively found in the monasteries: the accounts of chroniclers—monks to a man; the abbeys’ records, sometimes fraudulent, to which the guilt-ridden, sin-laden Normanesque magnates (tenants-in-chief and their sub-tenant under-lords) made their frantic donations to save their souls. Lucky, then, that some parts of St Benet’s records remain—and here, again, I am grateful to Mary Muir’s history of Saxlingham, A Good Place to Call Home.

de Verdun Family

Regardless of what Domesday Book tells us, when we arrive in C12th we find only two main tenants of lands in Saxlingham. The Verdun family was one.

John de Verdun

John de Verdun hits the historical notice in the complaints of the abbot of St Benet at Hulme.

Between 1101 and 1107 the abbot told the king—Henry I—how several times Roger Bigod and John de Verdun had made encroachments on various parts of his land. That land had been held by John fitzRichard 1086. If the intent of Bigod and de Verdun was to jemmy John fitzRichard off his land, it failed. As with de Verdun’s family, fitzRichard’s kin dug in their heels and stuck around—but more of that anon.

An unnamed man, sworn to Roger Bigod, caused an outrage when, with the abbot recently deceased and the land in the ‘king’s hand’ (as it’s said) he ‘carried off’ five of the abbot’s sokemen: Colsweyn, Langelsyn, Truinwine, Stannard and Anund by name. Naughty Bigod, for he was sheriff and sheriffs were supposed uphold the law and keep the peace. The unidentified perpetrator of this crime was almost certainly John de Verdun. For shortly after this, Bigod granted to him his Saxlingham holdings. (One wonders what happened to Ranulf fitzWalter who in 1086 had held this land of Bigod.)

Who was this John de Verdun? Since Robert fitzCorbucion hailed from Verdun (Manche, Normandy) it’s a fair guess that John was related, either to him of to his sub-tenant Gunfrid.

Mary Muir traced Verdun’s manor—known as The Vardings—on the OS map. I’ve tried to locate it according to her directions (see map). Bounded to the west by the River Tas and Newton Flotman, it didn’t quite reach the old Caister-to-Morningthorpe Road (parts of which today exist only as footpaths). Verdun’s Hall, says Muir, was almost certainly located at Hall Meadow where a moat was marked on the old maps. She and a band of volunteers excavated it before it was infilled in 1976. They found medieval sherds and fragments of a metal cooking pot, and a rammed clay floor or hearth. Today this area is counted as the main part of Saxlingham Thorpe.

Along the road to Saxlingham Thorpe

Along the road to (today’s) Saxlingham Thorpe, the depth of the bank shows its age. Stand on tiptoes to see the fields that once were part of Vardings: Photo 1st August 2017

The Vardings was held by the de Verdun family until, in 1319, Eleanor de Verdun, widow of a later John de Verdun, sought permission to marry Richard Le Breoies. Or at least this is what Mary Muir says in her history. So, I followed that through . . .

Richard Le Breoies, otherwise known as Sir Richard Brews, son of Sir Gyles Brews lord of Akenham, Whittington, Clopton, and Hasketon (Suffolk manors held of the Honour of Lancaster) married Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Shelton. The couple had 2 daughters but no sons. Thus, when Richard died in 1323 his brother Robert inherited. Trouble was, his brother was still a minor. Robert Fitz-Pain was granted his custody—one assumes he was the king’s escheator. Fitz-Pain assigned the youngster to Edmund Bacon, who was currently in the king’s service in Gascony. (Which goes to show that custodianship was a financial affair and had nothing to do with care of the child.) Whoever was doing the actual caring, their charge died two years later. Next in line was an even younger brother, John de Brews. However, John survived his minority—assumingly still in the custody of Edmund Bacon—and went on to marry Agnes, daughter of Sir Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk. What one might call a good match, and a step up the social ladder.

However, this isn’t the story told by Francis Blomefield in his History of Norfolk, nor that revealed by the medieval genealogy site,


As can be seen, starts with a Bertram de Verdun, holder in Domesday Book of Farnham Royal in Buckinghamshire. Blomefield begins his with William de Verdun who in 1100 was Lord of Bressingham, holding the manor of sheriff Roger Bigod. The two come together at William de Verdun, fl.1166 when he held 6 fees of Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk—except isn’t sure this William de Verdun is the same as William son of Norman de Verdun, and Blomefield seems to get stuck in a loop with him, making him both father and son. Admittedly it isn’t easy: the Verdun family did have a penchant for name-repetition (see the next Verdun Gene Chart in which, after a little bit of jiggling with Blomefield’s account to make chronological sense, I have added [II] to [V]). quotes the Pipe Roll of 1194: ‘Manaserus Judeus de Gipesw’ owed gold ‘pro recto de xx m versus Willelmum de Verdun et Bertrannum fratrem suum’. Thus there’s no doubt that William de Verdun did have a brother Bertram. More on, quotes the Red Book of the Exchequer in which, in 1166, ‘Willelmus de Verdone’ held six knights’ fees from ‘comitis Hugonis’ in Norfolk–source of Blomesfield’s account. As to Hugh de Verdun, Blomefield aliases him as Wydo, i.e. ‘Guy’.

However, the route then veers well north and west of Saxlingham, while it’s clear from Blomefield’s genealogy, with lordships given, that the Bressingham lord was also lord of Vardings in Saxlingham—and of Moulton Magna, Aslacton, Tibenham, Hapton, Shadingfield and eventually Forncett which lie on a route between Saxlingham and Bressingham. But whether the Bressingham family of de Verdun was is any way related to those of Buckinghamshire and several points north and west hasn’t been proven, and unless it helps with the problem of widow Eleanor and the future lords of Saxlingham, it isn’t relevant.

Problem: How could John de Verdun V be Lord of Saxlingham in 1344—and he was else how could his second wife, Isabell, inherit the manor in 1365 along with Moulton Magna (see Verdun’s Gene Chart below)—when a previous John de Verdon had given it to his wife Eleanor as dowry and she subsequently took it with her to grace the property portfolio of her new husband, Richard Brews? And which John de Verdun had this wife Eleanor? Though there are some with wife’s name unknown, what of their end dates, might that help? For Eleanor to be appealing for permission to remarry in 1319, her John de Verdun must have died prior to 1318 (a widow was supposed to grieve at least for one year, preferably more—which allowed her guardian to cream more money off her estate.) She must therefore have been the wife of John IV who died in 1302 and whose son Thomas succeeded him. But then why wait for her son to die before seeking permission to remarry? Maybe she didn’t get on with her grandson’s wife, Maud.

A closer read of Blomefield’s account of Bressingham in his History of Norfolk provides the answer. Despite he makes Wigona/Dionisia the widow in question, he then has her marry Sir Richard Le Brewse who is recorded, in 1315, as Lord of Bressingham (thus also of the Saxlingham manor). He quotes from the manor’s 1326 Account Rolls:

Sir John Verdon was at 47s. 4d. expense for cloth, against the burial of the Lady Brewse

In 1335, this same Sir Richard Le Brewse had a share of the swans from Bressingham fens (Bressingham sits on the north bank of the River Waveney).

When Richard Le Brewse died, his share of Bressingham (and Saxlingham) was returned to Sir John de Verdun [V]. But, again, confusion. For according to Blomefield, Richard le Brewse was alive in 1354. Yet John de Verdun became Lord of Bressingham in 1344. Ah, but while Richard Brewse held the Vardings in Saxlingham in its entirety, of the Bressingham manor it seems he held only a portion. Problem solved.

Returning to the wife of John de Verdun [V]—Isabell, daughter of Sir Thomas Vise de Lou of Shelfhanger—her husband settled on her the Suffolk manors of Martlesham, Stansted, Swiftling and Newbourne, and the Norfolk manors of Saxlingham and Moulton Magna, all which he entailed on themselves and their heirs. In plain-talk, this means that, contrary to Ms Muir’s account, the Saxlingham manor of Vardings continued in de Verdun hands, except now it was occupied by a long string of sub-tenants.


Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk

It should be remembered that the Verdun family held their manors of Saxlingham, Bressingham, etc, of the Bigods, earls of Norfolk. But in 1306 the fifth and last earl of that line died without ’heirs of his body’. Verdun’s estates then reverted to the Crown along with all else that constituted the former earldom. Of course, the Verdun’s continued to hold those manors, Saxlingham included, but now they held of the Crown—at least until 1312 when they were assigned as part of the former earldom of Norfolk to Thomas Brotherton, half-brother to King Edward II. When he died in 1338 the lands and title went to his daughter by Alice de Hales, Margaret surnamed Marshall.

de Vescy Family

The de Vescy family, the other main landholder in Saxlingham post Domesday Survey, was descended from John fitzRichard, nephew of Waleran

Road to Saxlingham Thorpe

Once the de Vescy manor, now the road to today’s Saxlingham Thorpe: Photo 5th April 2017

John fitzRichard

John fitzRichard amalgamated his various portions of land in Saxlingham, some of which he held of St Benet of Hulme, some in his own right, to produce what would later be known as Berewell and Thorpe Hall manors. In Domesday Book these two manors totalled 260 acres arable. At that time, he also held land (2 holdings) in Suffolk, (2 holdings) in Cambridgeshire and Essex—which constituted the bulk of his holdings (10 listings plus a house in Colchester). His Norfolk holdings fell one short of this.

Whoever his wife (her name’s not recorded) she delivered him two sons, Payn and Eustace. Maybe it was due to the wife’s influence that the family’s focus now swung westwards; or maybe it was due to their eldest son, Payn.

Payn fitzJohn

Described by Walter Map as a chamberlain, and attested as hearing pleas in Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, and Pembroke, Payn fitzJohn married a de Lacy lass, daughter of Hugh de Lacy. Originally from Lassy, Calvados, by now the de Lacys were building wealth and reputation from South Yorkshire to Herefordshire. In time, Payn would inherit some of this. But which came first, Payn’s marriage to Sibylla de Lacy, or his appointment as chamberlain, and as Sheriff of Hereford and Shropshire?

This West Country focus continued when Payn’s eldest daughter Cecily married Roger fitzMiles, son of the earl of Hereford. His second daughter, however, married Warin son of Hubert de Munchensy, a family with landed interests in Norfolk and Suffolk; widowed she married again, now to Halenald de Bidun whose family was destined to give their name to Kirby Bedon in the same Henstead Hundred as Saxlingham.

John’s lordship of Thorpe Hall at Saxlingham passed to his son Payn, and when Payn died in 1137 it passed to the next brother, Eustace fitzJohn, who held it for another 20 years. From Eustace fitzJohn it passed in logical fashion to his son, William—which is when the family changed its name.

Eustace fitzJohn

Eustace fitzJohn was active in King Henry I’s court. With the king’s keen administrative bent, he appointed Eustace to hear pleas in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Carlisle, Westmorland and Durham (a kind of outreach judge). While in the north, Eustace married Beatrice, daughter of Yves de Vescy, lord of Alnwick in Northumberland and Malton in Yorks (he was later to marry Agnes, daughter of the constable of Chester). Both marriages gained him landed wealth. Along with his wife he co-founded Alnwick Abbey. Clearly the family’s focus had now swung northwards.

Their son William’s focus, however, swung upwards, status-wise. Born fitzEustace, he preferred his mother’s more upmarket name, and so adopted it.


William de Vescy and his wife Burga (a Yorkshire lass from a Norman family) begot five children, 3 boys and 2 girls. But our interest lies only with the second son, Eustace de Vescy (the first son died young).

Eustace de Vescy

In 1212 Eustace de Vescy turned his interests yet farther northwards. He fled to Scotland under suspicion of treason against King John (r.1199-1216). Declared an outlaw, his English properties were seized. However, the devious tongue-twisting, cash-grabbing King John had second thoughts on it and, forgiving Eustace, restored his properties. Forgiven and restored though he was, Eustace de Vescy continued his discontentment with the king. He was amongst the leaders who thrust their demands at King John in the form of Magna Carta (signed on the plain at Runnymede, June 15, 1215). Still not content with England’s monarch, those same barons invited Louis of France to rule over them. Eustace was on his way to do homage to said Frenchman, with Alexander II, King of Scotland, when he was killed during the siege of Barnard Castle (1216).

And the relevance of this to Saxlingham?

Carliol Family

When Eustace fitzJohn married Beatrice de Vescy the family’s interests turned decidedly northwards—to solidify when their son William took the (northern) de Vescy name. The Saxlingham estate must have been like a millstone, periodically calling their attention back south. So, William de Vescy off-loaded it. He piled all their Saxlingham lands, including his watermill at Newton Flotman, upon his daughter and married her off to one Adam de Carliol.

We know this because the story was told at an inquisition, at the chancery at Lincoln, on 12th February 9 Edward II (1316). The inquest was called to clarify just who was the legal heir to the Saxlingham estate.

[…] William de Vescy the stock (stipes), ancestor of the said William lately deceased, had a son Eustace and a daughter Maud, and through Eustace the right of his inheritance descended to William his son, to John his son, and to William de Vescy, brother of the said John, who lately died without heir of his body; where-upon the right of inheritance reverted to the said Maud, sister of the said Eustace, who was married to Adam de Karliolo, from whom it descended to Eudo de Karliolo her son, to William his son, to William, the second, his son, and to William de Karliolo, the third, his son and heir who now claims it.

The jury being demanded how they know this so openly, seeing that the late William de Vescy had no lands in Norfolk, say they know it because William de Vescy, the stock, gave the manor of Saxlingham, co. Norfolk, in free marriage to the abovesaid Adam de Karliolo with Maud his daughter, to be held of himself and his heirs by service of 1/2 knight’s fee, and also certain lands and tenements in Saxlyngham to be similarly held by service of 3/4 knight’s fee, which Simon de Goseford and Peter de Narford now hold of the said William de Karliolo.

Verdict returned in favour of William Carliol. Case dismissed.

Newton Flotmill Mill

The mill n the River Tas at Newton Flotman,, and the bridge that carries the old Roman Road: Photo 1st Aug 2017

Thus did John fitzRichard’s Thorpe estate go, circa 1170, to the Carliol family via the granddaughter of John’s son Eustace. And his oddments of land in Saxlingham Nethergate?

Apparently the Verduns had acquired at least the (Nethergate) church some time before 1231 when they went into dispute with the Carliolos over the right to appoint the rector to Beate Marie de Saxlingham Nethergate church.

St Mary's Church, Saxlingham

St Mary’s Church, the north aisle: Photo taken 1st Aug 2017

Carliol Family of Saxlingham and Annandale

(Sourced from A History of the Ancient Family of Carlisle, London 1822, by Nicholas Carlisle)

The name ‘de Carliol’ stems from the Barony of Carlisle; it means ‘from Carlisle’. There, in Wetheral parish, a knight, Hildred, was lord of Cumwhinton manor. At the Norman Conquest the newly appointed earl of Carlisle and Cumberland, Ranulph de Meschines, confirmed his possession. Later, as appears in an Assize Roll of 1210, William Rufus, and Henry I both added to his holding.

Henry, King of England, to Walter Espec, Eustace fitzJohn, and Orlando the sheriff, and all his faithful subjects of Cumberland, French and English, greetings . . . 

Know ye, that I have given and granted to Hildred de Karleolio, and Odard his son, the land which belonged to Gamel fitzBern, and the land which was the property of Glassa, son of Brictric, my Drengs…

i.e. ‘a large possession east side of River Eden’

When Hildred de Karleolio’s son Odard predeceased him, Hildred divided this considerable estate between his two grandsons, Robert and Richard. Robert de Carliol was assigned the more ancient, ancestral portions.


Adam de Carliol

The first that’s seen in the historical records of Adam, son of Robert de Carliol, is amongst those standing surety for Alan, son of Roald, constable of Richmond castle (Yorkshire). Alan petitioned King John in 1201 for the return of said castle. According to author Nicholas Carlisle (see note regards sources, above), this Adam de Carliol was the first of the family to settle in Annandale (in Scotland).

As we’ve seen, this same Adam de Carliol married Maud de Vescy. But he wasn’t the only husband of Maud de Vescy. Maud also married Thomas de Muschamp. And if Thomas died in 1172, and Adam was alive and standing surety in 1201, it’s a fair guess that he married Muschamp’s widow. mentions only this first marriage, citing an undated charter relating to Alnwick Abbey, Northumberland:

‘Eustachium de Vescy, Matildam et Ceceliam’ are given as the children of ‘Willielmus de Vescy senior’ and his wife ‘sororem domini Roberti de Stutevill […]

[The charter adds] Maud married ‘Thomæ de Muscampo’ by whom she had ‘Robertus de Muscampo, de quo…alius Robertus de Muscampo, de quo Isabella, quæ data fuit Willielmo de Huntercumbe, de quo Eustachius de Huntercumbe’

Relations appear to have been good between the de Carliol and de Vescy families with lands being exchanged between them. But there were altogether too many Williams amongst the de Carliols and it becomes impossible to distinguish one from another. For instance . . .

William de Carliol

In 1286, William de Carliol (the second, I’m assuming) was summoned to Norwich to answer by what right he claimed to have view of frank-pledge (a system first found in the Laws of King Cnut whereby every man must be bound to all others in the Hundred, his neighbours then standing surety for him; one trips foul of the law, they all pay) and the assize of bread and ale in Saxlingham (the right to regulate the weight and quality of these).

William de Carliol liked to apply his rights.

In 1291 William de Carliol (I assumed the same one) appears in the Charter Rolls as claiming to have free-warren in Saxlingham and Newton Flotman. But this was disputed by the jurors of Henstead Hundred who asserted that one Richard de Boyland had the custody of the manor of Saxlingham—ex dimisione Willielmi (le Karliol)—though they believed it was without warrant.

Then again, in 1297 a ‘William de Karliolo of Annandale’ was residing in Scotland, in the service of the king. Was he one and the same as the William de Carliol who demanded his rights in his manor at in Saxlingham? If so, did the Annandale estate pass to William de Carliol, heir to Saxlingham? And what of the Wortwell manor in the parish of Redenhall, Norfolk?

In 1298, the Wortwell manor belonged to ‘William Carlio’ (are we still talking William de Carliol II, or have we moved on?) and his wife Agnes. In 1299 it had passed to Richard Carliol (their son? – in which case the father must be William Carliol III).

Then there’s the little contretemps involving William de Carliol’s tenant, Simon de Gosford and his young son John.

Simon de Gosford and the Rebels of Sherwood

As seen in the report of the 1316 Lincoln Inquisition, Simon de Gosford held land in Saxlingham off William de Carliol—the Berewell manor. Not long after that inquest Simon’s wife gave birth to their son and heir, John de Gosford. When, two years later, in 1318, Simon died, that infant was given by the king into the custody of William de Montagu, King’s Steward. But why, when his overlord, who ought to have custody, was William de Carliol? Because William de Carliol was currently in disgrace.

Like other barons with lands in the ever-contested borderlands of Cumberland and Northumberland, the de Carliols adhered to whichever king was currently overlord of their land. More problematic was when the baron’s land was divided between the two kingdoms. Then which king was a man to serve: the king of Scotland, or he of England? And whichever he chose to serve, he automatically fell foul of the other. In 1318 he adhered to the Scottish kin, Robert the Bruce. Thus was a writ issued to the King’s Escheator saying that as William de Carliol—of Annandale and of Saxlingham—adhered to the rebels and enemies in Scotland, contrary to his fidelity to the king, all lands and tenements which belonged to said William (together with the lands and tenements which belonged by inheritance to the infant John) were now in the king’s hands.

In summer 1318 that king, Edward II, was informed that one ‘William of Shirewood’, together with other ‘evil doers and disturbers of his peace’ had abducted the young John de Gosford. King Edward issued a writ to his Escheator: the situation was to be investigated.

The King’s Escheator duly sent an Inquisition into the county of Norfolk, to Saxlingham where, on 8th October 1318, the jurors reported, on oath, that William de Shirewode, Nicholas Arnald de Shirewode and his son Lyne, did come to Saxlingham and carried away the said John de Gosford though the boy was only 18 months old.

It seemed there may have been more involved than abducting a child. For the same Escheator then reported that he’d been to Berewell (the name Gosford had given the manor he held of Carliol) where he found Lyne, son of Nicholas Arnald de Shirewode. So was Lyne son of Nicholas Arnald a tenant of the tenant, renting land on that same estate? Or in the absence of Simon de Gosford, had he planted himself there in the hope of gaining it through occupation? An early case of squatters’ rights.

As the Escheator explained to King Edward, he was unable to bring the child to the King’s court ‘on account of his tender age’; instead he delivered said child into the custody of William de Montagu, the King’s Steward, who, with his wife Elizabeth, had been granted the inheritance of all lands belonging to William de Carliol, now deemed a rebel.

Henceforth the Montagu’s become lords of Berewell and Thorpe Hall manors in Saxlingham, the one-time holdings of John fitzRichard, nephew of the sheriff Waleran.

Old Road from Hempnall to Saxlingham Thorpe

Along the old road from Hempnall to Saxlingham Thorpe: Photo 1st Aug 2017

Montagu Family

William de Montagu alias William de Montacute

William de Montagu, born to a prominent West Country family, distinguished himself as soldier and courtier in the service of King Edward I (r. 1272-1307), and his son Edward II (r.1307-1327)—mostly by serving in the wars with Scotland. As reward, in 1316 he was “granted the marriage of” Joan de Verdun, heiress/daughter of Theobald de Verdun who was currently the king’s ward. Taking advantage of this unexpected bonus, he wed the lady to his youngest son, John—who promptly died leaving the young Joan a widow. The same year (1316) he was appointed as Steward of the Household of Edward II, along with which he received a fat annuity of 200 marks. This was replaced in 1317 by the king’s grant—for life—of several manors, mostly in the southern counties. The following year he was appointed Keeper of Abingdon Abbey, a position he wasn’t allowed to hold for long since in November the same year he was sent to Gascony as the king’s Seneschal, it’s thought to avoid accusations of ‘plotting’. He died there in 1319 leaving as widow his wife Elizabeth de Montfort—who then married Thomas Furnivall, father of Joan de Verdun’s second husband, Thomas Furnivall, jnr., but that’s a different story.

The English lands of William de Carliol, including Saxlingham, passed to William de Montagu’s son, coincidentally named William de Montagu (1303-1344). In 1337 William son of William de Montagu was created Earl of Salisbury. When he died in 1344 the inherited lands of William de Carliol, including Saxlingham, passed to his widow, Katherine de Grandison, and when she died in 1349, they passed to the deceased Earl of Salisbury’s brother, Edward. Why to his brother and not to his son (yes, confusingly another William) I don’t know—except these lands wouldn’t have counted as patrimony and therefore weren’t tied to the by-now-operative inheritance rules of primogeniture.

Thorpe Hall described in a rental of 1317/1318

“The site of the manor there with alder grove and courtyard contains 18 acres of arable land. In which site is a certain moat built up [i.e. contains a house] and the courtyard outside the moat built with houses. It has no value on account of the need to repair the houses. Likewise a garden behind the barn if kept up as at present is valued at 5s, per annum. One part of the courtyard next to the gates which contains a house for the servants is valued at 6d per annum. One alder grove called the ‘park’ is valued in pasture and nuts at 5s. per annum.”

Not a prime property, then. Today, this ‘platform’, overgrown with bramble, dogs mercury, lively in spring with crab apples trees and hawthorn, serves as a covert for pheasants.

Edward de Montagu

Edward had married Alice, the granddaughter of Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk (see above under Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk), and a rather obscure-sounding Alice of Hales—as her name implies, a local lass from Hales near Loddon in Norfolk, and daughter of a coroner.

The granddaughter Alice presented Edward with six children. But when he died in 1361 only one remained from his first marriage—Joan de Montagu—and one from his second marriage—Audrey de Montagu. As was the law with daughters, his estate, which included the de Carliol lands, was divided equally between them.


When Joan de Montagu died in 1376, her share of her grandfather’s estate passed to her husband (William de Ufford, son of Robert de Ufford, Earl of Suffolk) and his heirs—all of whom had predeceased him. And so this estate too—all but the Saxlingham portion—reverted to the Crown to be reassigned in 1385 to the newly created Earl of Suffolk, Michael de la Pole.

As to the Berewell and Thorpe Hall manors at Saxlingham, the Montagu family had not long offloaded it, sold to Sir John Wingfield of Saxmundham, Suffolk, (fl.1348, and his wife Alianore. When, circa 1360, their daughter Katherine married Michael de la Pole she took the Saxlingham manors with her, thus it was reunited with the Ufford-Montagu estate.

St Mary's ruins, Saxlingham Thorpe

Church ruins at Saxlingham Thorpe: Photo 5th April 2017

Deserted Villages, Black Death and Climate Change

Throughout Britain are remains of so-called ‘deserted villages’ which more often are the result of migration. Usually the Black Death is held to blame. And it’s true that folk who’d survived the worst outbreaks of plague refused to live in a place of death, fearing the (unknown) cause would erupt and infect them again (epidemics repeated through to the C17th). In Saxlingham Nethergate, too, the villagers moved away from the former centre around the church, focus of occupation since the Iron Age. Even today this space remains empty. But it wasn’t the plague alone that forced the migration. It was climate change, too.

It might be a hot subject today, but it’s not new. The climate has swung through hot and cold periods, some short-lived, some longer. Man’s activities have little to do with it. Rather it is solar winds, sun spots and cosmic rays.

The earliest megalith-builders gloried in sun-filled days and blue skies. Then came the Bronze Age and a swing to a colder, wetter climate. We see this in the change of religious focus, from sky to lake, river, and bog.

The climate was swinging back to warm by the time the Romans arrived. But by the time they departed the weather had changed yet again. Where the Romans had made a productive bread-basket of what’s now the Fens, by the early Anglo-Saxon period was awash with water, and this wasn’t the first time.

But again came a change. On the eve of the Norman Conquest Britain basked in a dryer, warmth climate—the invading Normans brought viniculture with them. They established vineyards even in the north. The French were most put out that England no longer imported their wines! But again, that was to change.

By C13th the climate was beginning to swing into another cold period, one from which we’re only now climbing. Courtesy of a bout of volcanic eruptions, this one resulted in what’s become known as the Little Ice Age, when winter fairs were held on the frozen Thames. The first sign of that change was a series of weather extremes. Dry summers in which grain failed to swell, followed by summers of rain that laid the grain low, unable to harvest it, inviting mildew and rot. Cattle and sheep, too, suffered disease. Result: famine.

The first half of the fourteenth century saw a series of widespread famines. Weakened by starvation, when the Plague arrived, the Brits had no resistance. In the first wave two-thirds of the population died.

How did this affect the folk of Saxlingham Thorpe whose village was built upon clay-lands? Those who could were already moving away—the hamlet of Foxhole was in evidence by early 1300s. The watermill at Newton Flotman, owned by the de Vescy-Carliol family, enticed folk to live nearer, less distance to carry their grain. Besides, that mill was always in need of repair, to its fabric and water-runs. Though there are hills in Norfolk, the rivers being in valleys have little gradient. To get a good flow a side-stream of the river must be diverted and held by a sluice till required. Another attraction in that direction was the convenience of the old Roman London-Norwich road that crosses the Tas on the Saxlingham border. Wealth in wool required easy access to ports, and Norwich had always been one of East Anglia’s main ports. Other people moved eastward, to settle around Eastgate Green (now Saxlingham Green).

Saxlingham Green

Welcome shade along Saxlingham Green: Photo 16th May 2017

Wash Lane, Saxlingham Thorpe

Saxlingham Thorpe’s problem was its soil. Though away from the marshy area that was Broad Slough, it was set on a great depth of glacial deposits. Not fast-draining gravels as found alongside the Tas valley, but impervious silts, i.e. clay. As Ms Muir notes in her book, one field here was called ‘The Sops’. An abandoned building (it’s marked on the 1881 OS map) was known as Mud Hall. Sitting at the top of Wash Lane, it now is known as Mud Hole. This is possibly the site of Thorpe Rectory as described by Muir, overlooking to south ‘Pirnow Green’ (it now is a field) around which she found evidence of medieval houses.

Mud Hole, Saxlingham

Mud Hole, last of the drainage remaining: Photo 5th April 2017

Mud Hall and Pirnow Green

Where once was Mud Hall and Pirnow Green: Photo 5th April 2017

My first reunion with Saxlingham Thorpe, a couple or three years back, prompted two questions. The first was easily answered: Why is Wash Lane so called?

Running parallel to the unpaved lane is a deep and wide gully, the original course of the Broad Slough’s Mesolithic tributary (see Written in Soil ). Into this empties the sub-surface field drainage system, gushing for weeks in a wet autumn. All would be well, but that the gully peters out mid-way along the lane—I’m told thereafter it runs underground, crossing the road at the village cross to join Broad Slough. So it might, but those pipes don’t cope with it, leaving the remainder of the lane to be ‘awash’ with water. Wellies essential.

Wash Lane, Saxlingham

Wash Lane, not awash: Photo 5th April 2017

Once the migration had started it didn’t stop, though the old village didn’t empty overnight. Pottery sherds have been found dating to C17th. But I’m jumping ahead.

Walter Giffard, Robert Malet, Godric the Steward and Drogo le Beuvrière

Saxlingham’s other Domesday holders.

It seems Walter Giffard gave lordship of his two free men with their fifty acres arable to St Benets abbey, their pre-Hastings lord. He had a large holding in Buckinghamshire, he didn’t need this small fry. Later, he served King William II (Rufus) as Justicar of England. But Giffard remained a major landowner in Normandy and when William’s brother Robert Curthose, now Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1101, Giffard joined him—he died the following year, still in England, though his body was shipped back home for burial.

According to Ms Muir, the land held by Robert Malet—72 acres, in 1086 held of him by Walter de Caen—eventually joined Verdun’s manor of Vardings when William Malet married a Verdun wife. Unfortunately, Ms Muir gives no date for this and as the Malet family favoured the name ‘William’ details of that marriage, for me, remains unfound.

We know that the 60-odd acres granted to Godric the steward weren’t claimed by his son, and so reverted to the Crown to be reassigned to whomever. No record remains.

Which leaves Drogo le Beuvrière’s 310 acres arable, of whom Ms Muir says she knows nothing.

Odo, Count of Champagne, Lord of Holderness

I have already said of Drogo’s Honour of Holderness, in East Yorkshire, and how, when his wife (reputed a niece of William, King of England, Duke of Normandy) died of poison in suspect circumstances he took a ship never to be heard of again.

In 1087 the Honour of Holderness with its castle at Skipsea was granted to Odo, Count of Aumale. That’s one version. The other version has it granted to Odo’s wife Adelaide. Whichever the version, that Honour included Drogo’s East Anglian lands.

The story on Odo runs briefly like this: In 1047 when Stephen II, Count of Troyes and of Meaux, died, his son Odo was still a minor, and so his uncle Theobald III of Blois served as regent. But by 1060 Odo had come into his own and had married Adelaide, sister of William, Duke of Normandy, soon to be King of England. This wasn’t Adelaide’s first marriage–in fact, it was her third. Odo scooped jackpot when, in 1069, Adelaide’s first husband’s sole heir died and she inherited becoming Countess of Aumale. Through his marriage to Adelaide, Odo now took the title of count. In 1066 Odo accompanied William in the conquest of England. While he was away his avaricious uncle, Theobald III of Blois, seized Troyes and Meaux.

The keen-eyed reader might recognise the name of Adelaide, Countess of Aumale as successor of Wulfric, brother of Wulfgyth de Karletuna (see Wulfgyth de Karletuna), there I suggested the land bequeathed by Wulfgyth to her daughter Gode was that later held by Drogo le Beuvrière.

Although Odo and his wife were granted Drogo’s former Honour of Holderness with its East Anglian manors, his tenure was cut short in 1095 when he was imprisoned on suspicion of plotting to overthrow King William II and place his own son, Stephen, upon the English throne. And in view of William the Conqueror’s claim to the English throne through his great-aunt, Odo’s wasn’t so far out; through his mother Stephen was cousin to King William II.

Ironically, while Odo lost his English lands, in 1102 they were restored to his usurpering son Stephen by King Henry I.

While tracing the descent of the Honour of Holderness presents no problem, tracking Drogo’s former East Anglian manors—which includes Saxlingham—draws nothing but blanks. Yet I do know that King Stephen (r.1135-1154), grandson of William the Conqueror through his mother, grandson of Theobald III, Count of Blois through his father, was invested by his uncle, King Henry I, with a rich portfolio of East Anglian manors amongst which was Robert Malet’s former Honour of Eye and the Honour of Lancaster, which also included lands in East Anglia. It is possible along with these he received his cousin’s East Anglian manors, those of Odo Count of Champagne, and possible those of Adelaide, his wife. Although I admit, I’ve found no evidence to support this suggestion.

Black Death to Early Tudor

The massive death-count during the first few outbreaks of the plague resulted in a major change in the English countryside. Where were the peasants to work their lords’ lands, to produce the grain for him to amass and sell at a profit to fund his high-living? Alas, gone to graveyards, almost every one. How then was he to maintain his lifestyle? Answer: By grazing sheep.

England’s flourishing economy was already based upon wool. Wool was its major export. Raw wool, for the English hadn’t the skills in weaving found in Flanders and the Germanic counties south and east. Deprived of the backs to work the land, the upper crust turned their vast estates to sheep runs—and reaped an even greater harvest.

Small-holder tenants (the yeomen) weren’t long in following suit. They had money. Now they had opportunity. A goodly number invested their savings in buying up small parcels of land off their lords or neighbours. Soon those wily tenants were raking in profits off sheep as fast as the upper echelons.

Thus, we see in the village records at Saxlingham a series of otherwise unknown names, unrelated to any of the big news-worthy families.

In 1388 Netherhall (Saxlingham Nethergate Old Hall) was let to rent, no longer part of the manor.

In 1477 Thomas and Matilda Slyford held the ‘site of the manor called Manor Yard’.

In 1499 John Bremer held the manor ‘called Le Hallplace with 9 acres land…’

It was around this time that enclosure began.

Early Enclosure

Enclosure wasn’t a new phenomenon. The Statute of Merton (1235)—followed in 1285 by the Statue of Westminster—allowed for the enclosure of manorial common land. Aside from this there began the process of fencing off adjacent strips from the common field. Not that the common-field system had reached our part of Norfolk early enough to become ingrained in people’s habits. Neither was it practiced in the Midland way with a family’s strips being scattered across the whole. Rather, each family had their own discrete and fenced section of the ‘common field’. It made enclosure so much easier. Also, at this early stage, enclosure was by mutual agreement.

Tudor Period to Restoration

John Bremer held the manor of Le Hall-as a tenant of the Crown. In 1540, that Crown, worn by Henry VIII, granted the manor to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement. (He also granted her Costessey manor, scene of my child-days, which in 1553 was granted to the Catholic Lord Henry Jerningham). But all that meant to John Bremer was he paid rent and homage to a different lord.

One Olivia Potter is on record as attending the first court held by Anne of Cleves. Olivia’s husband had recently died, and Olivia and her son went to claim recognition as tenants of ‘Netherhall Yard with 10 acres’.

By 1567 Bremer was again holding his manor as a tenant of the Crown, now Elizabeth I. We know this, for he had to petition the Queen for licence to sell his tenancy to one John Dimock—who in turn sold it to William Tutthill—who then sold it on to Sir Thomas Gawdy II who joined it to his newly-acquired Verdon’s manor. The mid 1550s saw Sir Thomas Gawdy greedily acquiring land in the Henstead and Loddon Hundreds. His son Robert inherited.

Meanwhile, as well as having half-shares in Netherhall, the Tutthill family had also acquired Thorpe Hall.

Gawdy Family

Sir Thomas Gawdy I

(political career sourced from History of Parliament)
In 1545 Sir Thomas Gawdy I (c.1509-1556), served as Member of Parliament for Salisbury in Wiltshire—where it seems he had no known connections. In 1547 he was MP for (King’s) Lynn in Norfolk—where he was certainly known, and again when he became MP for Norwich in1553. Thomas came from a family strong in the Law, first seen with his grandfather in 1480s, a profession followed, too, by his three half-brothers and by his son and grandson. Demand for his services were high, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, 16th Earl of Oxford and the 1st and 2nd Earls of Sussex being amongst his clients and patrons, retained or consulted by e.g. Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Bishop Barlow and the city of London.

The first Sir Thomas grew rich from his profession. Yet it didn’t hurt that he married three wealthy heiresses in succession. He used his wealth to snap up the former religious properties now flooding the market—and anything else that was in the offering. But while he divided his purchased land between his two younger sons, he bequeathed those held in fee simple—land held of the Crown and by now tantamount to absolute ownership—to his eldest son, Thomas. And that included land at Saxlingham and neighbouring Shotesham.

Thomas Gawdy II

(political career sourced from History of Parliament)
Born c.1526, Sir Thomas II inherited his father’s Norfolk estate which included the lordship of Claxton, Hellington, Ashby St Mary and Carleton St Peter in Loddon Hundred; Holverston, Rockland St. Peter’s, Surlingham, Bramerton, and Saxlingham in Henstead Hundred; Tasburgh in neighbouring Depwade Hundred, as well as a scatter of manors in other hundreds. But his main pied-à-terre was Gawdy Hall, in Harleston. A knight, he served as a judge of the Common Pleas—and married (first wife) Audrey or Etheldreda, heir to the Knightley family of Norwich. In 1553 Audrey—or Ethedreda—presented Sir Thomas with a bouncy baby boy. Henry.

Henry Gawdy

(political career sourced from History of Parliament)
Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Inner Temple, in 1593 Henry served as Justice of the Peace for Suffolk. In 1592 and 1607 he was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk. MP for Norfolk in 1597 and 1601, he was knighted (KB) in 1603. He succeeded his father in 1588. His biography on the History of Parliament  makes interesting reading.

Gawdy was active in Norfolk affairs…

He was named to a committee on 8th November 1597 to discuss ‘the great and burdensome charge’ on subjects obliged to maintain themselves in armour and weapons…

As knight for Norfolk he eligible to attend the following committees (it’s not known which he did attend):
In 1597, enclosures (5th November), the poor law (5th & 22nd November), the penal laws (8th November), the subsidy (15th November), export of wool (18th November), a charter for Great Yarmouth (23rd November) and land reclamation (3rd December)
In 1601, the penal laws (2nd November), the order of business (3rd November), monopolies (23rd November), the payment of tithes in Norwich (27th November) and the reform of the abuses of the clerk of the market (2nd December).

Henry Gawdy died between 23rd January 1621 when he made his will, and 12th March when his will was proved. He bequeathed all his worldly goods to his eldest son Robert. The following year Gawdy’s Saxlingham estate was sold to Sir Charles Suckling.

For those interested the political careers of the Gawdy family, see History of Parliament 

Suckling Family

Robert Suckling was another of those political breeds, serving as both mayor and MP forNorwich.

His son, Sir John Suckling (1569-1627), followed in his father’s footsteps in serving as MP for Norwich, moreover he was also elected MP for the ill-fated Dunwich (1601). Aside from his involvement in local affairs, he spent much time at the courts of James I and Charles I, being Secretary of State under the former, and Comptroller of the Household for the latter. He married (firstly) Martha Cranfield, sister to Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex. His son by this marriage became a notable ‘Cavalier’ poet, Sir John Suckling.

Sir John Suckling, poet

To quote Wikipedia, Sir John, junior (1609-1641) was ‘renowned for careless gaiety and wit.’ He also invented the card game of cribbage, beloved of old regulars in old country pubs, at which he amassed winning equivalent to £4 million in today’s money. It seems he was a bit of a boy wonder, most prodigious. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge age 14, had enrolled at Gray’s Inn aged 18—the same year as he inherited his father’s estates. His intimate circle included the playwright-poet Ben Jonson, fellow ‘Cavalier’ poets Thomas Carew and Richard Lovelace; also, perhaps surprisingly, the cleric-theologian John Gales. In 1628 he quitted England to do the Grand Tour bit; he returned to be knight in 1630.

Suckling poet

Sir John Suckling, poet; ;Photo of painting by Anthony van Dyck, Library of Toronto

But while his biog makes interesting reading, let’s not forget this post is about the Norfolk village of Saxlingham. And we are nearly done.

Saxlingham Thorpe Church

When I first set my feet wandering around Saxlingham village it was to visit the ruins of the Saxlingham Thorpe church, St Mary Magdalene (the name was changed at the Reformation, ‘Assumption of St Mary’ no longer found favour). I was curious what had happened to the church. When was it abandoned? I had already found the parish register—several threads of my ancestral tapestry arrived and joined here. Reading through that register I assumed the church was still active in 1740. But not so when I Googled it.

Saxlingham Nethergate and Thorpe Register

Saxlingham Thorpe Register cropped

From the site, Norfolk Heritage Explorer:

The church that once stood here probably originated in the Late Saxon period as shown by the design of the nave and the two Saxon-Norman phases visible in the chancel. Other features like the tower and buttresses date to around 1500. Repairs to the building stopped in 1648 and by 1687 the building was ruinous with materials being used to repair St Mary’s church in Saxlingham Nethergate. The church probably fell out of use as villagers migrated away from Saxlingham Thorpe to other more hospitable locations in the [Tas] valley.

By 1687 it was ruinous, its materials used to repair the other church of St Mary’s, in Saxlingham Nethergate. Yet its register of baptisms, marriages and burials wasn’t combined with that of Saxlingham Nethergate until 1740. I found that a bit odd. It was then I found Ms Muir’s, A Good Place to Call Home.

St Mary's church tower, Saxlingham

The old tower at St Mary’s church, Saxlingham Thorpe: Photo 5th April 2017

According to Ms Muir, in 1551 the rector of Saxlingham Nethergate also held Thorpe church. According to Blomefield’s History of Norfolk the last rector to hold Thorpe independently of Nethergate was William Hervy, priest, who’d been appointed by Lady Eleanor de Wingfield in 1362, a while 200 years earlier. Thereafter the two churches were held in union, says Blomefield.

Attendances at Thorpe declined. The parishioners complained to the bishop claiming said rector, Robert Robertson, held services at inconvenient times because he held the two cures. The Bishop rebuked the rector. It made no difference.

Blomefield’s History:

1603, Robert Robertson, he returned 140 communicants in this parish.’

Over the ensuing years, Thorpe church fell out of use, and not being used, it wasn’t repaired. Nor was it only the church. The rectory, which by my reckoning might underlay Mud Hall, also fell into disrepair.

In 1684 an order was issued that no more repairs were to be done to Thorpe church, and permission was given to sell any ornamental work from Thorpe church, the proceeds to go to Nethergate. The ruinous church became a builder’s supply yard.

Yet, incredibly, the parish registers were kept separate until 1740.

In preparing this post I again accessed those Registers. As per Blomefield’s account, I found from their inception (1560) they shared a rector. Though, oddly, not those given by Blomefield—though the Registers and Blomefield agree on William Pudding, rector from 1621. Yet Blomefield makes no mention of John Tuthill, clerk and rector, whose name graces the pages from 1650 to his death in 1678, despite it was this rector’s kinsman, also named John, who was Lord of the Manor, as stated in the burial notice in the Parish Register, 1684.

Tuthill Family

By C16th most of England’s manors were in the hands of the lesser gentry. There’s no one source of the Tuthill family history. To Google it yields page upon page of personal genealogy sites, mostly American for two of the Tuthill sons emigrated (grandsons of the John Tuthill, b.1555, who married Elizabeth Woomer of Tharston).

Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students …, Volume 1, is more informative. Geoffrey Tuthill, given as son of Henry Tuthill of Saxlingham, was at Caius College, Cambridge in 1600.  In 1652, William Tuthill, son and heir of John Tuthill, gent, of Saxlingham was also at Caius—aged 16 it notes; in 1656 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn. Then in 1668 John Tuthill, born at Saxlingham, was at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Blomefield is less than forthcoming about the family, though he does provide the earliest record: one Richard Tuthill was buried, 1464, in Redenhall church (Redenhall was an early Gawdy stronghold). He says:

John Tattle’s [Tuthill], Esq. who died in 1684 and Elizabeth his daughter and heiress inherited [Saxlingham Overhall]; she married John Mingay, Esq.  and died in 1716, leaving her three daughters as her heiresses.

He lists them, but they’re beyond the period of interest.

The Parish Register records every birth, some of the marriages and most of the burials of the Tuthill family. But who belongs to whom? I’m not going to attempt the connections. If any long-lost descendant of the Tuthill family should happen upon this post, may I direct their attention to the transcription below.

Tuthills in Saxlingham Nethergate Register

And so, my questions answered. here endeth this village history.


About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
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3 Responses to The Migrating Village of Saxlingham Thorpe

  1. Brian Bixby says:

    You’ve been painting quite a picture of what might be called generational instability. We (Americans) tend to think of noble/gentry families as settled on their estates for centuries. And from the perspective of some generations, it looks that way. But the broader view not only encompasses families dying out or “ending” in a female heir, but the frequent conferring, sale, and confiscation of estates that explains why there are truly very few old families, but rather braids of families and relationships. And even those fail often enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • crimsonprose says:

      Might I congratulate myself on achieving my aim. This is exactly what I was trying to get across in the course of this history. It’s the reason I was fascinated by the Jerningham story; the continuity (all the way back to Brittany pre-Norman days. Few such families survive. There was also the thing of how fast the change come the Plague, the War of Roses, the Reformation, etc. The Plague in particular saw a great uprise in peasant status, beginning of the yeoman farmers. Wool merchants became wealthy, become bailiffs and mayors, became lords, and earls. The de la Pole family began as wool merchants, became Earls of Suffolk.
      On a different note, Though it was a labour of love, Friday when I finished it, I felt a great whoosh of freedom! Fantastic sensation. I’m not sure I shall ever be crazy enough to undertake another such journey. But it is a beautiful village, and I hope, despite I’m not prowling the bounds and taking supporting photos, I shall return there again, many a time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Sunday Picture Post: Treading in my Several-Times-Great-Grandma’s Steps | crispina kemp

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