The original name of this place, is Preleston, or the Town of the
Battle, in all probability so called from some remarkable battle fought
here, when the Romans possessed the land: and by this name only it
is mentioned in Domesday: its present name first occurring in Henry
the Third's time, when the inhabitants began to fix themselves by the
ford, or pass over the river into Suffolk, for Billingford, signifies
the dwelling at the ford by the low meadows; (fn. 1) and such is the situation
of the village at present.
Stigand the Bishop was superiour lord here at the Confessor's
time, and Roger de Ramis at the Conquest. (fn. 2) One part of the
of the town formerly belonged to the Abbot of Bury, and another to
the Abbot of Ely; (fn. 3) all which Warenger held under the said
Roger, and retained the superiour jurisdiction to himself, in those
lands which formerly belonged to Bury; the one part was given to
Bury along with Thorp, and the other to Ely with Pulham, to which
manors they then belonged.
Soon after, they were divided, and one moiety continued in Roger's
family, till 1249, and then Richer de Remes sold it to Roger de Herdebarow, or Herleburgh, who by this purchase became lord of the
whole; for the other moiety went to the Bigots, and in 1211, was
sold by William Bigot to Hugh de Hurleburgh; the whole was held
always of Forncet manor at one fee, and 2d. ob. per annum castleward;
Isabell de Bosco, widow of Hugh, held it, at whose death it went to
their son Roger, and in 1238, it was settled on Ida, widow of Roger,
for life, with remainder to Ela and Isabel their daughters, in tail;
but, in 1285, Isabel was alive; for then she impleaded Ida, widow of
Roger, and her daughter's guardians, for her dower here and in Great
Harborow manor in Warwickshire; (fn. 4) and this year, Roger Bigot
claimed liberty of free-warren, as superiour lord of the fee; after this,
it divided again into moieties: Ela, one of Herleburgh's heiresses,
married Walter de Hopton, and presented here in 1300, and John de
Peyto married the other; whose son, by the name of John de Petto,
junior, presented in 1337, it having been settled on him and Alice his
wife in 1326, by John de Watevile, who was to have an annuity of 20
marks for life, but in 1338, they all joined and sold the whole to Sir
Walter de Hopton, Knt. who in 1345, settled it on Joan his wife. In
1360, John de Clinton was lord for life, jointly with Sir Walter de
Hopton; and in 1375, Agnes, relict of John Brown, and Ric. Brown,
clerk, their son, sold it to
Sir Simon Burley, Knight Banneret, (fn. 5) the great favourite of Edward the Black Prince, and tutor to Ric. his son, afterwards King
Ric. II. who advanced him to many honours, and places of trust and
profit; (fn. 6) he being Knight of the Garter, one of his privy council,
chamberlain of the household, governour of Windsor castle, constable
of Dover castle, and lord warden of the Cinqueports: in 1378, he obtained a grant from the King, of the castle and lordship of Llan
Stephan in Pembrokeshire, late Rob. de Penres; and in 1382, another, to be master of the King's falcons and game kept at Charing,
with the manor of Barrock by Gravesend; and many other lands, &c.
in consideration of his great services done to him from his infancy, before he was made a knight, and at that time, and after,
when prince of Wales, and since, when King of England; (fn. 7) but being
so great in his master's favour, it raised him to such an intolerable
degree of pride, and its consequence, oppression, that he incurred the
displeasure of the whole nation, and being attainted in parliament,
was beheaded on Tower-hill in 1388; but this manor was not forfeited
thereby; for in 1375, Sir Simon conveyed it, after his decease, to Sir
John Burley, his brother, and he settled it (or rather a moiety of it)
on Sir John Hopton of Shropshire, Knt. who married Isabel Burley,
his daughter, and their heirs; and the other moiety, afterwards called
Belonged to Sir Nic. Dagworth, Knt. and in 1401, to Tho. Young,
Esq. of Sibton, and after to John Corbet, Esq. in whom the whole
Sir John de Hopton left Sir John his son and heir, whose son
Walter, was dead before 1423, for then Joan his widow presented.
Their son Tho. de Hopton, in 1444, was found heir to Will. Burley,
who then died without issue, being son of John Burley, lord of Elmyn
castle in Caermarthenshire, son to Sir Roger Burley, Knt. brother to
Isabel Burley, great grandmother to Thomas de Hopton, by his first
wife, Lucy, daughter of William Guildford, relict of Sir Aymer Browne,
Knt.; and at the death of Walter Hopton in 1460, John Corbet, Esq.
was found his heir, in right of his wife Katherine, only daughter
and heiress of the said Walter; Sir Roger Corbet, Knt. his father,
being now infeoffed in trust; and it continued in the Corbets a long
time; Roger Corbet, Esq. was lord in 1531, and died in 1539, leaving
Andrew his son and heir, who sold it, jointly with Joan his wife,
in 1544, to
Sir Robert Southwell, of whom it was purchased by
Christopher Grice, Gent. who died in 1558, and was buried in
this church, leaving the manor and advowson to Anne his wife for life,
and then to Robert their son and heir, who married Susanna, daughter and coheir to Thomas Ayre of Bury, Esq.; he died in 1583, and
Christopher le Grice, their only child, inherited; he married
Margaret, daughter and heir to Thomas Whipple of Dickleburgh, Gent.
and dying in 1601, lies buried here, leaving only one daughter,
Frances le Grice, (fn. 8) who married to Sir William Platers of Satterley, Knight and Baronet, deputy-lieutenant and vice-admiral of the
county of Suffolk, and member in parliament; they left
Sir Tho. Platers, Bart. their only son and heir, who was highsheriff of Suffolk, and a colonel of a regiment of horse to King Charles
I. and afterwards had a command at sea under the King of Spain.
He married Rebecca, daughter and coheir of Thomas Chapman of
Wormley in Hertfordshire, and died at Messina in Sicily, Ao 1651,
without legitimate issue, but settled this manor and estate on
Elizabeth, his natural daughter, who married to Sir Edward Chisenhall, Knt. of an ancient family in Lancashire, and had issue William Chisenhall, of whom it was purchased by the Carters, and in
1704, Edward Carter, senior, was lord and patron; and afterwards
by the Holts, and
Rowland Holt, Esq. of Redgrave in Suffolk, is now lord and
9l. Billingford rectory. 45l. clear yearly value.
This rectory being discharged, pays neither first-fruits nor tenths,
and is capable of augmentation. When Norwich Domesday was
made, the rector had a house and 10 acres of land; the house stood
near the summer-house at the hall, and was long since burnt down,
and never rebuilt; the terrier hath 37 pieces of glebe; it was valued at
16 marks, and paid 22d. synodals, and 10d. Peter-pence; and the
village paid 46s. clear to every tenth. It is in the liberty of the
Duke of Norfolk, who in right of his hundred of Earsham, is lord
paramount here. There was a family sirnamed of the town; in 1260,
Mat. of Preleston, and in 1316, John of Prilleston and Margaret his
wife lived here.
The church is dedicated to St. Leonard; the nave and south porch
are tiled, the chancel is thatched; there was a large square tower,
which is fallen down, so that it is no higher than the church, is covered
in, and hath one bell in it.
On a brass plate,
Here lyeth buryed the Corps of Christopher le Grys Esq;
sometimes Lord and Patron of this Church, only Child to Robart
le Grys Esq; and Susan his Wife, Dr. and Co-heire to Thomas
Ayre of Bury in Suffolk Esq; lineally descended from Sir Robert
le Grys of Langley in Norfolk Knt. one of th' Equerris. to King
Richard the 1st. he married Margaret Daughter and Heir to
Thomas Whipple of Dickleborough in Norfolk Gent. and Elizabeth his Wife, Daughter and Co-heire to John Garningham of
Belton in Suffolk Esq; and had Issue by her, only Frances, who
married with Sir William Playters of Satterley in Suffolk Knt. and
Bart. He ended this Life the 19 of Oct. Ao. 1601, and in the
23d. Year of his Age. Resurgam.
1, Le Grice, as at vol. i. p. 199. 2, Whipple, gul. a fess erm.
between two chevrons, arg. 3, Jarnegan. 4, as 1.
On another brass,
Here lyeth buryed the Corps of Christopher le Grice, Esq;
sometimes Lord and Patron of this Church, Sonn to William le
Grys of Brockdish, and Sybell his Wife, Dr. and Heire to Edmund
Syngleton Esq; he married Ann eldest Daughter to Robart Howard of Brockdish Gent. by whom he had 3 Sonns and two Daughters; he died 19 Jan. 1558.
Grice impales quarterly, Singleton and Howard of
Here lyeth buried the Corps of Charles le Grys Gent. the only
Sonne of Henry le Grys and Ann his Wife, Daughter to Anthony
Yaxley of Yaxley in Suffolk Esq. He dyed 4 Sept. 1634.
In the chancel windows are the arms of De la Pole, Hastyngs,
and Valence, of Anthony Grys with three martlets on the top, and
of Hen. Grys with a crescent. And on a tree, hangs a shield with the
arms of Brewse on it.
The font hath the arms of St. Edmund, St. George, and a chevron and chief in one shield, all carved in stone.
Rectors of Preleston, or Billingford.
In 1267, there was a vicar here, one Walter, at whose death the
vicarage was reunited to the rectory, and so it continued a rectory ever
1300, Geffery de Halton, rector, Walt. de Hupton, Knt. and
Ela his wife.
1316, Alice de Hannonia Countess of Norfolk, as guardian,
Will. Freeman of Dickleburgh, who in 1337 exchanged for
Kedeley in Rochester diocese, with
Tho. de Bilney, who had it of the gift of John de Petto,
junior; he changed in 1339, for Dunchurch in Litchfield diocese, with
Will. de Chulton, who (as also the three following rectors) was
presented by Sir Walt. de Hopton, Knt.; which William, the same
year, changed this, for Colton in Litchfield diocese, with
James de Runham.
1349, John Fittes.
1361, Will. de Easthawe of Wingfield; he was buried in the ehancel in 1385, and made the lattices between the church and chancel.
1385, Rob. Daventre. Sir Nic. Dagworth, Knt.
1394, John Fornham, Thomas le Younge of Sibton.
1403, Thomas Smith; he was buried here. Thomas Younge, Esq.
1423, Robert Drake. Joan, late wife of Walter de Hopton.
1465, Thomas Dekyn. Sir Roger Corbet, Knt.
1471, Robert Clifton. Sir Will. Stanley, Knt.
1486, John Hunger, lapse.
1502, Ric. Greneleft, ob.
1506, John Batson, lapse, resigned.
1517, Roger Morley, ob.
1530, Henry Lockwood, resigned. Roger Corbet, Esq.
1532, Elisha Lache, resigned. Ditto.
1536, Will. Triste. Ditto.
Will. Stowe, ob.
1552. Henry Watson, deprived in 1555. Chris. Grice, Gent.
1556, Nic. Calverd. Ditto.
1560, Anne Grice, widow, gave it to
William Hudson; united to Thorp-Abbots. He was buried
here Dec. 7, 1560, and was succeeded by
William Walleyns, who was buried March 7, 1566, being
John Inman, on the presentation of Robert le Grice. He
1582, to John Richards, and he in
1585, to Thomas Buskard, and both of them were presented by the
1587, Nic. Grice, clerk, as patron of this turn, gave it to
Edw. Calley, who returned 80 communicants here in 1603;
he was buried Nov. 23, 1617, and John le Grice, Gent. gave it
William Owles, who held it united to Brockdish, and resigned
in 1642, and Sir William Platers, Bart. presented
Edward Cartwright, A. M. who held it united to Thelton; he
was buried here Sept. 13, 1679, when
Thomas Searank had it, and held it united to Ashley in Cambridgeshire; being presented by Sir Edward Chisenhull, Knt.
and upon his taking Cheveley in Cambridgeshire he resigned this, and
Edward Carter, senior, Esq. gave it to
John Bryars, A. M. in 1704, (fn. 9) who held it united to Diss, (for
whom see vol. i. p. 18, 32,) at his death in
1728, Samuel Birch was presented by Rowland Holt, Esq.; see
vol. ii. p. 138. He held it united to Little-Thorp, which at his death
in 1739, was consolidated to Billingford, when Mr. Holt presented
The Rev. Mr. John Gibbs, at whose resignation in
1742, the Rev. Mr. John Barker, the present rector, was presented
by Elizabeth Holt, widow, mother, and then sole guardian, to Rowland Holt of Redgrave, Esq. the present patron.
There were formerly many arms of the Grices, with their impalements and quarterings, both in the hall and church windows, but are
now some of them removed, and the rest so broken and defaced, that
there is no depending on them for the exactness of the several coats.
East of this town, on the great road from Yarmouth to London,
which passes here, is the village of