In Domesday Book, occurs by the name of Godestuna, that is, a
town seated by a good Ea, or water, a pretty rivulet running all along
the north side of it, and not, as some have thought, Goderic's town,
from Goderic the Sewer, lord of it by the Conqueror's gift. In the
Confessor's time, Osgot held it freely; at the survey, Godric the
King's Sewer or Steward; when it had 12 villeins, 16 borderers, &c.
two carucates of land in demean, and five amongst the freemen belonged to this manor. There were also 10 freemen, whom the Conqueror gave to Ralph Earl of Norfolk, and afterwards to Godric; over
two of these, Stigand Archbishop of Canterbury had the protection;
there were amongst these 3 carucates: here was pannage for 20 swine,
&c. belonging to the lordship, it was one mile in length, half a one in
breadth, and paid 13d. gelt, valued in he Confessor's time at 50s.
after at 100s. now at 7l. (fn. 1)
It is probable that Godric held it only for life, as we find that
King Henry II. gave it to Sir William Mountcheanor, the ancestor of
the Lords de Monte Canisio, or Montchensy, as part of the King's
ancient inheritance, and royal demeans. In the 34th of Henry III.
Warine de Mountchensy being lord, would not permit the Sheriff's bailiff to enter his lands for view of frank-pledge, or to strain therein; (fn. 2)
this Warine was a baron of the realm, and bore for his arms, or, three
escutcheons vary azure and arg. charged each with two bars gul. In
the 14th of Edward I. William Lord Mountchensy, son and heir of
Warine, had a patent for a weekly mercate here on Thursday; (fn. 3) and in
the following year the jury present this lordship to be held in capite
by one knight's fee, and that it extended into Oxburgh, that the bailiff
here appropriated the free warren beyond its bounds into Cley fields,
that William Lord Montchensy claimed view of frankpledge, gallows,
assise of bread and beer, free warren, a weekly Mercate on Thursday,
and that it was given to the ancestor of William, by King Henry II.
Dionisia, his only daughter and heir, succeeded him in this lordship; (fn. 4)
she married Hugh de Vere, a younger son of Robert Earl of Oxford,
and dying in the 7th of Edward II. Audomare de Valentia, commonly
called Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, son of William de Valentia
and Joan his wife, sister of William Lord Mountchensy, inherited it;
after his death, and that of Lady Mary his widow, who died sans issue,
it descended to Isabel, 1st sister and coheir of the said Aymer, married to
John Hastings Lord Abergavenny, and in this family it remained till
after the death of John Hastings, the last Earl of Pembroke and Lord
Abergavenny, when it came to Reginald Grey, Lord Grey of Ruthyn,
his cousin and heir, who was lord in the beginning of King Henry
the Fourth's reign. In this family, Lords of Ruthyn, and afterwards
Earls of Kent, it was in the 20th of Henry VII. when George Grey
Earl of Kent left it to his son and heir, Richard. (fn. 5)
This Richard Earl of Kent is said to have wasted great part of
his estate by gaming, &c so that in the 4th of King Henry VIII.
this lordship was settled on Charles Somerset Lord Herbert, and Sir John
Hussey, Knt. as feoffees of this Earl; and in the said year, it was conveyed by them, with 3005 acres of land, &c. to Sir William Capell,
Knt.; (fn. 6) and by an inquisition taken 8th of November, in the 7th of
the said King, it was found that Sir William Capel, Knt. (late Lord
Mayor of London) died seized of it, and Sir Gyles was his son and
heir; and in this family it now remains, the Earl of Essex being
The Lete is in the lord of the manor, and I find by the extent of
the honour of Forncet, that it was held of that honour.
The Church is built of flint and boulder, dedicated to St. George;
it consists of a nave or body, a south isle and a chancel, all covered
with lead; the nave is in length about 52 feet, and in breadth, including the south isle, about 33 feet. In a window of the nave, at the
upper end, are the remains of the arms of Grey, quartering Hastigns and Valence, and arg. a cross gules, St. George's arms, it being
glazed most likely by the gild of that name, as appeared lately from
a fragment of an inscription therein. At the west end of this nave
stands a large but low four-square tower of flint, &c. with quoins and
embattlements of freestone, in which are three modern bells. The
south isle has been a chantry or chapel, belonging to St. George's
Gild; there is an ascent of two steps, at the east end, and against
a pillar, on the left hand, stands a large stone pedestal for its
patron Saint: in the upper pannel of the east window is the bust of
our Saviour, under that, Angels sounding the last trump, and the
dead arising out of their graves, and adjoining to this isle is a porch
covered with lead. The chancel is divided from the nave by a
lofty screen, which has been well painted and gilt with gold, being
carved and full of imagery work; on the pannels the 12 Apostles are
painted with labels, also a cardinal, a bishop, &c. The length of
the chancel is about 29 feet, the breadth about 20, and has 6 stalls at
the west end, 3 on a side, (fn. 7) where the rector, vicar, their capellani, or
chaplains, and the chantry priests had their seats, they being obliged
to join in the choir at the canonical hours, and to be obedient to the
Rector or vicar, swearing obedience at their admission: and against the
south wall, near the end, have been three seats of stone, one higher
than the other. (fn. 8)
It appears here were several gilds, and there were the images of St.
Catherine, St. Mary, St. Nicholas, and their lights. (fn. 9)
It was anciently a Rectory, the patronage going with the manor;
in the reign of Edward I. William Lord Mountchensy was patron; it
was valued at 30 marks, and the town paid Peter-pence 12d.
April 18, 1342, James de Creyke was instituted rector, being
presented by Mary de St. Paul Countess of Pembroke. But
Soon after, on the 18th of October, 1343, it was appropriated to
Denny abbey, (fn. 10) in Cambridgeshire, being given thereto by the said
Countess, who was third wife of Aymer Valence Earl of Pembroke,
daughter of Guy Chastillon Earl of St. Paul in France, and Mary his
wife, daughter of John the second Duke of Britany and Earl of Richmond, by his wife Beatrix, daughter of Henry III. King of England:
she is said to be maid, wife, and widow in one day; Aymer being
slain in a tournament on the wedding-day. On this appropriation a
Vicarage was founded; the vicar had assigned him by Anthony, then
Bishop of Norwich, 25 acres of glebe land, the 3d part of the mansionhouse of the rectory; the tithe of the corn-mills, the tithes of wool,
lamb, the fishery, of flax, hemp, geese, chickens, pigeons, pigs, calves,
&c. eggs, milk, and cheese; all small tithes and oblations, herbage,
pasture, &c. and a pension of 5l per annum in money: seventy-three
acres demean land of the rectory, all tithe-corn, annual rents, days
works, and two parts of the mansion-house being excepted to the
abbey; after this, in 1354, on the 10th of June, 10l. per annum was
assigned to the Vicar, by William Bishop of Norwich, and no charges
were to be laid on him but first-fruits. (fn. 11)
April 17, 1343, William de Swaveseye had this Vicarage, and was
presented by the convent of Denney, as were all the vicars to its
dissolution: his paternal name was Aungier, called Swasey from the
place of his birth; he resigned in
1352, to Henry Basser, in exchange for South Lynn.
1358, John Wyliot.
1361, Stephen de Bokesworth.
1379, Nicholas Oldman.
1410, Peter Floke, alias Langwade; by his will dated 4th November,
1446, he gives 40s. to make a new font, and 10s. to the rood-loft here,
also 4 marks to All-Saints Beecham-Well, to buy a silver cup, of
which church he styles himself Capellane. (fn. 12)
1446, Richard Boston.
1447, Richard Sechithe; he had been rector of Lynford, and was
afterwards rector of Hilburgh.
1460, John Flytcham; he had been rector of Beacham-Well St.
1492, Robert Barton, Margaret Asseby, abbess, and the convent of
1505, Robert Berton, ob. lapse.
1506, John Constable, ob.; he was the last presented by the Convent.
1542, William Middlebroke, was presented by Edward Elrington, Esq. King Henry VIII. in his 31st year, granted to this Edward,
the manor and abbey of Denny, with this impropriate rectory, &c.;
soon after it came to William Read, citizen and mercer of London,
and on an inquisition taken 20th of November, in the 34th of the said
King, he was found to die seized of it, held of the King by knight's
service, by the 10th part of a fee; William Read, his son, held it in 5th
and 6th of Philip and Mary, and his son William had livery of this
rectory, and a manor thereto belonging in 1561.
In 1562, James Tytterington, occurs vicar. (fn. 13)
1562, John Master, alias Macer. William Read, Esq.
1571, John Adamson. William Read, Esq.; in his answer to
King James Quaries in 1603, he says there were 123 communicants
in this parish.
1613, Francis Bolton, lapse.
1615, Sidrach Motte, A. M. (fn. 14) Sir William Read.
1640, Luke Sheen, A. M. George Earl of Desmond, rector also
of Shingham in 1662.
1682, Edmund Booth, A. M. Hugh Hovell, Esq.
1702, Thomas Ringstead. Humphry Styles, Esq.
1719, Peter Stafford, A. B. Sir John Elwell, Bart. who married
a daughter of Humphry Styles.
1730, Framingham Rice, lapse.
1740, John D' Artigues. Gilbert West, Esq. Since his death
it hath been served by sequestration only, and the
Rev. Mr. Corney, vicar of Stanford, now serves it.
This vicarage being valued at 6l. 12s. 1d. and in clear value about
22l. per annum, is discharged of first-fruits and tenths, and is capable.
The synodals are 22d. procurations to the archdeacon 6s. 7d. ob.
visitatorial procurations 20d.