The weather being fair on Saturday, I hauled on the walking shoes and hopped on a bus, then on another bus. The intention was a circular walk, from Aylsham—the one-time centre of the Norfolk wool industry, now a quiet market town—and back, via Silvergate. Blickling and Ingworth. Six miles. Ish.
The Boleyn’s of Blickling
Blickling Hall, home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, provided the highlight of the walk.
Sir Geffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of the City of London, bought the Blickling estate ca.1450 from Sir John Fastolf (or his heirs) and made it his country seat. This didn’t represent much of a move, for Sir Geffrey Boleyn was a scion of the Bullens of Salle, just 5 miles from Blickling, as the crow flies, where the family had held land at least since 1283.
Anne Boleyn, gt.granddaughter of Sir Geffrey, was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, first & last Earl of Wiltshire, and Elizabeth Howard (daughter of Duke of Norfolk). Born at Blickling, she married King Henry VIII January 1533 and gave birth to Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth I) in September 1533. In May 1536, Anne was beheaded on a charge of treason.
Blickling Hall Facts and Factoids
Anne Boleyn was born at Blickling Hall. Technically true. The hall as it stands today was built—though renovated seems more likely—more than a century after Anne’s birth, in the 1620s.
Anne Boleyn’s grandfather, Sir William Boleyn, was the father of one Alice Boleyn, who married Sir John Clere, a wealthy landowner at Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth.
And it came to pass (for lack of male heirs) that in 1556 Sir Edward Clere, High Sheriff of Norfolk, a descendant of said Alice Boleyn and Sir John, inherited Blickling and made it his residence.
Meanwhile, the Hobart family from Essex was busy extending its property portfolio, first into Suffolk, then to Norfolk where they settled at Plumstead, near Norwich. There, Sir James begot Myles who begot Thomas (d.1560) who begot Henry Hobart (d.1625). In 1603 James I knighted both Henry Hobart and his son John. Henry became MP for Norwich.
In his History of Norfolk, Francis Blomefield (who doesn’t always get it right), says James Hobart bought Blickling off Sir Edward Clere. This seems highly improbable due to the wide-apart date; he goes on to say that John Hobart, son of James built the present hall upon his father’s death in 1625. You don’t need a calculator to know that can’t be right.
The corrected version reads: Henry Hobart bought Blickling Hall off Sir Edward Clere, which his son, Sir John Hobart, then renovated in 1620s.
What we see today is a Jacobean hall, heavily influenced by the Netherlanders who at the time were flooding into Norfolk as religious refugees. They brought with a tradition of building in brick; superior techniques in weaving (a much-needed shot in the arm for the Norfolk wool industry) as well as hatters and glovers; improved methods of agriculture; and market gardening;