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Norfolk: Little Walsingham

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

[Transcription copyright © Pamela Littlefair]

WALSINGHAM, (LITTLE) or NEW WALSINGHAM, is, notwithstanding its appellation, more populous, and equally as ancient, as its neighbour, Old Walsingham, being a neat market-town, with 1,155 inhabitants, and pleasantly seated in the picturesque valley of the Stiffkey river, 5 miles S. by E. of Wells, 5½ miles N. by E. of Fakenham, 27 miles N.W. of Norwich, and 113 miles N.E. by N. of London. It has a small market on Friday; a large fair on the 2nd Monday after Whit-Mondy (sic); and hiring sessions on the Fridays before and after Michaelmas-day. It formerly had a market also on Tuesday. Its parish contains only 868A. 1R. of land; of which, 46A are woodland. The Rev. D.H. Lee-Warner owns the greater part of the soil, and is lord of the manor, which, with Old Walsingham, was held by the Earls of Clare.

About 1061, the widow of Ricoldie de Faverche founded here a chapel, in honour of the Virgin Mary, similar to the Sancta Casa, at Nazareth. Her son, Sir Geoffrey de Faverche, confirmed the endowment, and added to the foundation a PRIORY for Augustine canons, for whom he built a noble conventual church. This priory was afterwards enriched with many valuable benefactions; so that, at the dissolution, its revenues were valued at £446 14s. 4d., and granted to Thomas Sidney. A great part of its wealth was derived from the fame of its image of the "Lady of Walsingham," to which foreigners of all nations, and many Kings and Queens of England, came on pilgrimage, guided, it was said, by the "milky-way;" so that the number and quality of her devotees were equal to those of Lady Loretto, in Italy.

Spelman observes, that it was said Henry VIII., in the second year of his reign, walked barefoot from the village of Barsham, to pay his devotions to this celebrated image, which he decorated with a gold necklace; but he treated it with less respect at the dissolution, when his officers seized it, by his orders, and burnt it at Chelsea, taking care, no doubt, to preserve all its jewels and valuable trappings.

The present ruins of this once splendid and extensive priory, consist chiefly of a portal, or west entrance gateway; a richly ornamented lofty arch, 60 feet high, which formed the east end of the church, supposed to have been erected in the time of Henry VII.; the refectory, 78 feet by 27, and 26½ in height; a Saxon arch, part of the original church, which has a zig-zag moulding; part of the cloisters; a stone bath; and two uncovered wells, called the Wishing Wells, from the devotees of the "Lady of Walsingham" being taught to believe, that whoever had permission to drink of the waters, could obtain, under certain restrictions, whatever they might wish for. These interesting ruins are now mostly included in the plantations and pleasure grounds of Walsingham Abbey, the handsome mansion of the Rev. D.H., Lee-Warner, built in the Gothic style, and fronting the rivulet which is here swelled into a fine lake, crossed by a modern bridge.

In addition to this once celebrated place of monastic splendour, and human superstition, there was here a house of Grey Friars, founded by Lady Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Clare; but its fame was eclipsed by the superior grandeur of the priory, and poverty kept it still further in the shade of obscurity. Some fragments if its ruined wall still remain. Here was likewise a Lepers' Hospital, founded before the year 1400, but its site is now occupied by the prison.

The inhabitants of Walsingham considered that the dissolution of their priory, and the loss of the pilgrimages to the Virgin, would, in a great measure, ruin the town; they therefore assembled in a riotous mob to oppose the King's officers, in 1537, but were soon dispersed.

The Groom, Rix, and other families, have estates in the parish. IVY GROVE, in Exchange-street is the delightful seat of Wm. Loades Rix, Esq., whose family have resided here several centuries, and were formerly extensive merchants at Wells. The gardens and pleasure grounds are much admired for their sylvan beauties, and extend to the river Stiffkey.

The parish CHURCH (St. Mary,) is a large and interesting cruciform structure, with a tower surmounted by a slender spire, and containing five bells. The font is one of the finest specimens of the kind in England; it is of an octangular shape, and the whole of its base, shaft, and projecting upper portions, are covered with sculpture, representing buttresses, pinnacles, niches, crocketted pediments, &c; also many figures in basso-relievo. It is elevated on a plinth of four steps, the exterior faces of which are also decorated with tracery mouldings.

The benefice is a donative, with Great Walsingham annexed to it, as already noticed. The Rev. D.H. Lee-Warner is patron, and the Rev. H.J. Lee-Warner, M.A., incumbent. The glebe here is 9A., and a new Parsonage House was erected by the patron, in 1839.

In the town is a Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1794 at the cost of £800; and also an Independent Chapel.

General Quarter Sessions are held here in January, April, July, and October, in a small building called the Shire Hall; and Petty Sessions are held on the first Monday of every month, at the Black Lion Inn.

The Bridewell, erected about the year 1787, on the plan recommended by Mr. Howard, has been enlarged and fitted up as a county House of Correction, since the removal of the Quarter Sessions from [Aylsham]. It was enlarged in 1822 and 1843, so that it has now 53 cells and several day-rooms, and airing yards, and a well ventilated infirmary. There are here four tread wheels for grinding corn, &c., and the prison is now conducted on the 'silent system,' which is found to be very beneficial, by preventing the prisoners from instructing each other in their nefarious arts. The number of prisoners is generally about 50. Mr. Money Curtis is governor, and the Rev. J.D. Crofts, chaplain.

The Workhouse for Walsingham Union is at Great Snoring.

Henry Lee-Warner, Esq., a late proprietor of Walsingham Abbey, was a polite scholar and a complete gentleman, but was remarkable for several eccentricities. His custom was to sleep during a great part of the day, rise in the evening, breakfast at midnight and dine at four or five in the morning. His dress was a gold-laced coat and waistcoat, with deep slash-worked sleeves, and richly embroidered buttons, a deep chitterlin of rich yellow-lace, curved-toed shoes, and oblong buckles. He so far suffered inroads on his property, as to call out to a depredator on his walls, "to take care how he got down, for fear of hurting himself;" and by such depredations, he is said to have lost no less than £20,000. He died in 1804, aged 82, and was buried with much pomp in the abbey church.

The FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, at Little Walsingham, was founded in 1639, by Richd. Bond, who endowed it with £1,040, which was laid out in the purchase of a farm of 85A. 2R. 20P., at Great Snoring, now let for £110 a year. This farm was vested in 1650, in trust, for the support of a master and usher, to teach freely 30 children of the "meaner parishioners." For many years, it was of little benefit to the poor; but since 1836, it has been open as a free school, for all the branches of an English education, as well as for the classics. A National School has lately been erected here, by Mr. Lee-Warner.

The above named Richd. Bond, left for the poor parishioners, £400, which was laid out in the purchase of 43A. 1R. 38P., now let for £63 a year, which is distributed in clothing and fuel, together with the rent of the Fuel Allotment, 13A. 2R. 9P., awarded at the enclosure, and now let for £20 6s. 8d. a year; and most of the rent of 18A. 1R., called the Houghton and Sick-house Lands, now let for £46 15s. a year. The Houghton land was purchased with £100 left by Philip Brown, in 1639, and is charged with the yearly payment of £2 for a sermon, and £2 10s. for repairing the ALMSHOUSES, which consist of eight tenements, with gardens, given by the late Daniel Lee-Warner, Esq., in exchange for some dilapidated houses, which stood near his mansion. The donor of the Sick-house land is unknown.

Several buildings and 10A. 31P. of land, derived from the bequest of Wm. Cleave, in 1665, are let for about £40 a year, which is distributed in cloth and coals among the poor parishioners, who have also 50s. a year, in bread, left by Blanch Shuldham, in 1738, and paid by Sir C. Chad. Four poor widows have the dividends of £100 New 3½ per cent. Stock left by James Straycock, in 1827. Lady Mary Townshend, in 1662 left £100 for apprenticing poor fatherless or motherless children of this parish, and it was laid out in the purchase of 7A. 15P. of land, now let for £14 a year.

In the following DIRECTORY OF LITTLE WALSINGHAM, those marked 1 are in Church Street, 2 Common Place, 3 Guild Street, 4 High Street, 5 Exchange St. or Knight Street, 6 Market Place, and 7 in Stonegate Street.

The POST OFFICE is at Mr. W.C. Hill's. Letters arrive by Mail cart from Fakenham, at 11 morning, and are despatched at 3 afternoon.

	2 Adcok (sic) Christopher       surgeon
	5 Adcock      John Fleming      surgeon
	4 Anderson    Mr. Edward, sen.
	4 Anderson    Edw., jun.        vetery. surgeon
	4 Anderson    John              druggist
	1 Berresford  Mr. Joseph
	4 Brett       Hy.               tea dealer & [schoolmaster]
	6 Chambers    Miss C.           schoolmistress
	2 Christopher John              gamekeeper
	4 Coker       James             gentleman
	4 Cotten      Rev. J.W.         (Weslyan Min.)
	6 Crofts      Rev. John Drake,  curate
	                M.A.
	7 Curtis      Money             governor of the House of
	                                  Correction
	5 Dewing      Thos.             miller    [see note below]
	6 Dewing      Mrs. Ann                    [see note below]
	3 Elliott     Mr. Wm.                     [see note below]
	4 Evetts      Jemima            confectioner
	  Gamble      John              sheriff's officer
	  Groom       William           schoolmaster
	2 Hall        Mrs. My.                    [see note below]
	6 Hawkins     John              currier (and Wells)
	4 Hill        Warner Chevalier  school and post master,
	                                  and tax clerk
	5 Hill        Mrs. Harriet                [see note below]
	2 Hudson      Peter             surgeon
	7 Jarrett     Thomas            silk dyer
	3 Johnson     Mr. Geo.                    [see note below]
	  Leeder      Rev. Robert       Free Schoolmaster
	  Lee Warner  Rev. Daniel Hy.   Abbey
	  Lee Warner  Rev. Hy. Jas.     Parsonage
	  Lee Warner  Henry Jas.,
	                & S.H., Esqrs.
	  Manby       Mrs. Sus.                   [see note below]
	  Martin      Rev. Thomas, A.M. curate of Toftrees and Rudham
	3 Parker      John Robert       watchmaker
	5 Ponder      Mr. Natl.                   [see note below]
	6 Pooley      Robert            glover
	6 Priest      William           bricklayer
	7 Rawston     William           bricklayer
	  Reeve       Mrs. A.                     [see note below]
	5 Rix         William Loades,   Ivy Grove
	                Esq.
	4 Rose        Geo. & Mrs. My.   schoolmr. [see note below]
	4 Rush        Mrs. M.                     [see note below]
	6 Sands       Robert            cooper    [see note below]
	2 Simpson     Mrs.                        [see note below]
	4 Stedman     Mrs. My.                    [see note below]
	4 Tyzack      Zach.             hair dresser, ironmonger,
	                                  and toy dealer
	6 Waters      Samuel            solicitor
	7 Woodcock    John              maltster
	2 Woodcock    Robert            basket maker
	4 Wright      James             tinner and brazier.
	  Wyarr       Mrs. Eliz.                  [see note below]

	     INNS AND TAVERNS.

	6 Black Lion    John    Bayfield
	2 Bull          Richard Rawston
	3 Crown         George  Minns
	5 Exchange Inn  William Hewitt
	4 King's Head   Henry   Gamble
	3 Robin Hood    John    Holdsworth
	4 White Lion    Thomas  Curson, sen.

	     Bakers.

	4 Bull        James
	4 Bull        Josiah            (& miller)
	1 Lewis       Henry

	     Blacksmiths.

	3 Dagless     George
	1 Todd        Crispin
	7 Todd        Chas. John

	     Boot & Shoemakers

	5 Castleton   Chas
	4 Clark       Robert
	5 Hall        William
	2 Johnson     W. S.
	4 Powell      James R.
	4 Ringstead   Edw.
	4 Smith       Henry
	  Woodcock    John

	     Butchers.

	1 Beazor      William
	4 Beazor      Henry
	3 Holdsworth  John
	6 Holdsworth  Jas.
	2 Tweedy      Thomas

	     FARMERS.

	3 Bridewell   Henry
	2 Buscall     Edward
	1 Caston      Wm.               hind (sic)
	  Groom       John
	7 Woodcock    John

	     Gardeners.

	  Buscall     William           Friary
	6 Curtis      James
	  Hunt        Robert

	     Grocers & Drapers.

	4 Coker       William
	2 Curson      Joseph
	3 Curson      Samuel            (draper only)
	4 Curson      Thomas
	2 Dent        Sarah W
	6 Freeman     My. T.
	5 Hunt        Robert
	4 Jackson     William Taylor    (and bookseller)
	4 Seaman      George            (and druggist)
	4 Smith       William

	     Joiners, &c.

	7 Bobbett     Samuel
	3 Minns       George
	6 Playford    Henry
	6 Purdy       Robert            (& cabinet maker)

	     Milliners, &c.

	4 Clarke      Mary
	4 Morton      Debh.
	4 Purdy       Martha

	     Plumbers, Glazrs., and Painters.

	4 Codman      Rt.               (& auctioneer, &c.)
	4 Codman      Wm.
	4 Fenn        Zachariah

	     Saddlers, &c.

	4 Curson      Robert
	6 Forster     William
	7 Jarrett     Thomas

	     Tailors, &c.

	5 Back        Henry
	6 Buddell     Thomas
	4 Coker       William
	4 Smith       Robert
	1 Stanford    Samuel

COACHES from the Black Lion to London, Tues., Thurs., and Saturday, ½ past 6 morning; and to Wells, Mond., Wed., and Friday, 9 evg.,

CARRIERS:- Green and Archer's Van from High Street, to Wells, Mond., and Thurs., 5 afternoon; and to London, Tues., and Frid. 9 morng. Norwich and Wells carriers call at the White Lion and King's Head.


To save space in the directory, the names of two people were sometimes printed on one line. In the list above, they have been moved to their correct places alphabetically. Below is how they appear in the original:

  5 Dewing Thos., miller & 6 Mrs. Ann
  3 Elliott Mr. Wm. || Wyarr Mrs. Eliz.
  2 Hall Mrs. My., || 5 Hill Mrs. Harriet
  3 Johnson Mr. Geo. || Manby Mrs. Sus.
  5 Ponder Mr. Natl. || Reeve, Mrs. A.
  4 Rose Geo., schoolmr., & Mrs. My.
  6 Sands Robert, cooper || 4 Rush Mrs. M.
  2 Simpson Mrs. || 4 Stedman Mrs. My.


See also the Little Walsingham parish page.

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Copyright © Pat Newby.
May 2000