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Norfolk: Great Massingham

William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845

[Transcription copyright © Pat Newby]

MASSINGHAM (GREAT) is a considerable village, 10 miles N. of Swaffham; 12 miles E. by N. of Lynn; and 3 miles N.W. of Rougham. It was formerly called Marsincham, from its situation, partly on a low marshy common, with several pools of water, which, after heavy rains, overflow into a bog, called the Swallow Pit, where the surplus water soon disappears through the porous surface.

But the chief part of the village, with the Church, is on a pleasant acclivity, rising gradually from the common towards Little Massingham. Here are two draw-wells, one 30 and the other 129 feet deep. The parish has increased its population, since the year 1801, from 569 to 905 souls. It contains 4,108 acres of land, including more than 1,000 acres of heath and common, forming an excellent sheep-walk.

About two-thirds of the parish are in the Marquis Cholmondeley's manor of Massingham Priory, and the remainder in the manors of Monks and Felthams, of which the Earl of Leicester is lord and owner. It was held by Harold, in the time of Edward the Confessor, and afterwards reverted to the Crown, till granted out by Henry I. John Lord Fitzjohn, in the reign of Edward I., granted it to the Bishop of Norwich. It subsequently passed to Sir John de Norwich, who had a grant of a weekly market on Friday, and a fair for three days, yearly, on the vigil, day, and morrow of St. Simon and Jude; but these have long been obsolete, though two pleasure fairs are now held here on Maundy Thursday and Nov. 8th.

Before the year 1260, Nicholas le Syre founded here a small Priory, as a cell to that at Castle-Acre, and dedicated to the Virgin and St. Nicholas, but it was sometimes called the Hospital of Saint Mary. At the dissolution, this religious house was granted to Sir Thomas Gresham, and some remains of it may still be seen in the house and outbuildings of the Abbey-farm.

The CHURCH, (St. Mary,) is a large Gothic structure, with a handsome porch. The rectory, valued in the King's Book at £33. 6s. 8d., and in 1831 at £891, has about 50 acres of glebe, and was formerly in two medieties:- viz., St. Mary and All Saints. The Marquis Cholmondeley is the patron, and the Rev. C. Grenside is the incumbent.

The Wesleyans have a small chapel here, built in 1827, at the cost of £170.

Mr. Wm. Bewley, "the philosopher of Massingham," was a native of the north of England, but settled here in 1749, as a surgeon and apothecary. He was for many years one of the writers of the Monthly Review. After a short visit to his friends, Dr. Priestly, of Birmingham, and Dr. Burney, of London, he died at the house of the latter, on his wedding and birth day, Sept. 5, 1783.

In 1676, Charles Calthorpe, left out of his estate here, (now belonging to the Earl of Leicester,) three yearly rent-charges:- viz., 3s. 4d. for repairing the town-well; 26s. for a distribution of bread among the poor; and £20 for the endowment of a FREE SCHOOL for 25 poor boys, to be taught English, Latin, and writing. He requested the churchwardens and overseers to glaze and fit-up the room over the church porch, to be used as the school. He directed that if Great Massingham could not make up the number of 25 free scholars, the remainder might be sent from Little Massingham, Harpley, and Rougham. It was held in the small room over the church-porch till 1837, when it was consolidated with the National School, built in that year, at the cost of £150. A house for the master has been provided by the Marquis Cholmondeley.

In 1505, Sir Robert Lygon, priest, left about 30A. of land for various public uses in this parish, but it has all been lost, except 7A., in Great Massingham field, for which only £3 a year is paid by one of the tenants of the Marquis Cholmondeley, and applied to the use of the church-clock.

The poor have yearly 10s. from half an acre of land, left by Dr. Berridge, in 1770; and 30s. from Gonville and Caius College, left by Stephen Peirse.

	Blyth       Mrs.
	Bouler      John            beer house keeper
	Chamberlain Charles         drover & vict., Swan
	Cox         Robert          surgeon
	Fisher      James           carpenter, registrar, & horse letter
	Fisher      Geo.            baker
	Forster     Hy.             plumber, painter, &c.
	Fish        John            cooper
	Grenside    Rev. Chrisphr.,
	              M.A.          Rectory
	Hall        John            tailor
	Hendry      Manser          cattle dealer, &c.
	Johnson     Richard         saddler, &c.
	Kenney      William         wool buyer
	Mason       Martha          vict., Fox & Pheasant
	Pryor       Jonathan        parish clerk
	Priest      Thomas          miller and baker
	Rowe        William         sawyer
	West        Robert          vict., Royal Oak


	Allen       James
	Jex         Jonathan


	Hotson      Thomas
	Jarrett     Thomas


	Hendry      John
	Smith       John


	Blyth       D'Urban
	Burgis      John
	Cook        Decker
	Manning     Joseph
	Sherringham Ths.            (& lime burner)

	   Grocers & Drapers.

	Ewen        William
	Mornement   Robt.
	Smith       John
	Watts       Geo. D.

	   Joiners &c.

	Fisher      James
	Wright      Charles


	Fisher      Joseph
	Franklyn    James
	Jarvis      Charles
	Kenney      John


	Lawrence    Charles
	West        Robert
CARRIERS to Lynn John Bone and Jas. Muer, tues. & saturday.

POST OFFICE, at J.Kenney's; letters to & from Rougham daily.

See also the Great Massingham parish page.

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Copyright © Pat Newby.
March 2000