MELTON-CONSTABLE-WITH-BURGH-PARVA form a fertile parish of 1700 acres, extending from 4½ to 6 miles S.W. by S. of Holt, and 6½ miles E.N.E. of Fakenham. They had 114 inhabitants, in 1831, but only 75 in 1841, several families having emigrated to America. Burgh Parva contains only 400 acres, as already described at page 737 [which is the entry for Burgh Parva].
Of the 1300A. in MELTON CONSTABLE, about 800 acres are in the park and woods which encompass the handsome mansion of Lord Hastings, the owner of the parish and lord of the manor, which has been held by his family for many centuries, and was granted by the Norman Conqueror to the Bishop of Thetford, of whom it was held by Roger de Lyons, whose descendants assumed the name of Mealton, and sometimes signed themselves De Constable, from the office which they held under the bishop.
The mansion, which has long been the seat of the Astleys, was erected or rebuilt by Sir Jacob Astley, in 1680; but has since undergone many additions and alterations. It is a noble square building of brick and stone, with four fronts; and the chapel, grand staircase, many of the apartments, ceilings, &c., are highly finished. The paintings are numerous and valuable.
The park, four miles in circuit, is well stocked with deer, and has been greatly improved, during the present century, by plantations and other embellishments. An aviary, (in which is a fine collection of birds,) the porters' lodges, and a tower called Belle-Vue, are seen to great advantage in various directions; and the latter contains several elegantly-furnished apartments, commanding an extensive prospect of the adjacent country, and the ocean, though distant more than ten miles from the coast.
The Church (St. Peter,) stands half a mile from the house, and was a single pile, till Sir Jacob Astley, in 1681, built a neat chapel, with a vault under it, on the south side. The tower, which is square, stands between the nave and chancel, and has three bells.
The rectory, valued in the King's Book at £6, and in 1831, at £220, has annexed to it that of Burgh-Parva, in the patronage of Lord Hastings, and incumbency of the Rev. Caleb Elwin, A.M. It has about 35A. of glebe, and was augmented, in 1722-3, with £200, given by Sir Jacob Astley, and £200 of Queen Anne's bounty, vested in land at Briston.
A small House of Industry was erected here many years ago, under Gilbert's act, for the paupers of the parishes of Melton Constable and Brinton, which are still incorporated, and unconnected with any Union.
The Astleys derived their name from a manor in Warwickshire. Thomas Lord Astley, who married the sister and co-heiress of Sir Robert Constable, was the great ancestor of this family, and was killed at the battle of Evesham, in the 49th of Henry III. Sir Jacob Astley, who died in 1651, was created Baron Astley of Reading, by Charles I., and was one of the first and last in the service of that monarch; but was totally defeated, with the remnant of the royal army, at Stowe, in 1645. This peerage became extinct on the death of the third Lord Astley, in 1688; but the baronetcy, created in 1660, still remains.
Sir Jacob Henry Astley, the late baronet, who died in 1817, was many years M.P. for Norfolk; and his son, the present Right Hon. Sir Jacob Astley, LORD HASTINGS, was for some years one of the representatives of the Western Division of the county; but in 1841, he succeeded to the ancient Barony of Hastings, which was created by writ in 1290, and was claimed and held by the late Marquis of Hastings, from 1809 till his death in 1826.
His Lordship's grandmother was eldest sister of the late Lord Delaval, whose valuable estate of Seaton-Delaval, Northumberland, passed to his Lordship in 1818. He was born in 1797, and married, in 1820, Georgiana Caroline, youngest daughter of Sir H.W. Dashwood, Bart., who died in 1836. His eldest son, the Hon. Jacob Henry Delaval Astley, was born in 1822, and his youngest, the Hon. Delaval Astley, in 1825.
Hastings Lord Hall Elwin Rev. Caleb, M.A. Rectory Shepherd John farmer Hawkes M. auctioneer and valuer
Copyright © Pat Newby.