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Norfolk: Little Walsingham

William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1883

[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 small town with 1069 inhabitants, pleasantly seated in the picturesque valley of the Stiffkey river, 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 station on the Wells branch of the Great Eastern Railway, and formerly had a market every Tuesday and Friday.

It is in Walsingham union, Fakenham county court district, Norwich bankruptcy court district, North Greenhoe hundred and petty sessional division, Wells polling district of North Norfolk, Walsingham rural deanery, and Norwich archdeaconry. It had 1016 inhabitants in 1881, living on 860 acres, and has a rateable value of £3384. About 76 acres of the parish are woodland. It still has a cattle fair on the second Monday after Whit Monday. Henry Jas. Lee-Warner, Esq., J.P., 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 Richoldie de Favraches founded here a chapel in honour of the Virgin Mary, similar to the Sancta Casa at Nazareth. Her son, Geoffrey de Favraches, 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 it ultimately became one of the richest in the world; and at the Dissolution its revenues were valued at £446 14s. 4d., and granted to Thomas Sydney, from whose family they passed by sale to the Lee-Warners, about 1650. A great part of its wealth was derived from the fame of its image of 'Our 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 Our Lady of 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 ruins of this once splendid and extensive priory are now very few, but exhibit every style of English architecture, and consist chiefly of a portal or west entrance gateway of Perpendicular architecture, on the exterior of which is a grotesque head of a porter looking out of a small quatrefoil window; part of the fine Perpendicular east front, comprising two lofty stair turrets covered with niches and canopies of beautiful tracery, and fine buttresses, connected by the arch and gable over the east window; part of the refectory, containing a noble west window and a range of four early Decorated windows, with the staircase to the reading-pulpit in the wall; a small Transitional Norman doorway enriched with the tooth moulding, and once forming a portion of the original church, some few remains 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 Henry James Lee-Warner, Esq., fronting the rivulet, which is here expanded into a lake, crossed by a modern bridge.

In addition to this 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. Many extensive fragments of its ruined walls still remain, consisting chiefly of portions of the domestic buildings, with buttresses and square-headed windows of late and poor Perpendicular work, and the gable of the refectory. Here was likewise a Lepers' Hospital, founded before the year 1400, but its site is now occupied by the police station.

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 CHURCH (St, Mary), which is a noble structure of the Perpendicular period, comprising nave with aisles and clerestory, south and west porches, transepts, chancel, and low west tower. The latter is surmounted by a slender shingle spire, and contains five bells. The south porch, which is now disused, has a fan tracery vault, with a parvise above. The west doorway and small porch over it are very rich, and the outer arch is foliated. There has been a vestry on the north side of the chancel, but it has long been destroyed. The south transept contains a piscina, a carved screen, and the entrance to the rood-staircase; and in the north transept is a fine marble monument, with full-length effigies in alabaster of Sir Henry Sydney and Lady Jane, his wife, dated 1612. Here are also several tablets of the Lee-Warners, and some curious tombstones, brought from the abbey. The east window of the chancel is a fine example of the cruciform arrangement of tracery. The reredos is a fine specimen of panel painting, erected by H.J. Lee-Warner, Esq., as a memorial to his two of his children.

The font is said to be the finest in England, and a restored model of it may be seen in the medieval court of the Crystal Palace. It is of the Perpendicular period, octagonal, and bearing on its upper panels richly sculptured representations of the Seven Sacraments and the Crucifixion; and round the shaft the four Evangelists with their symbols, and other saints. It stands upon three steps, the upper one of which is in the form of a Maltese cross.

The sedilia are formed in the sill of a window, and the space between the jambs is panelled in three compartments with a battlemented cornice. The eagle lectern by Skidmore is the gift of Mrs. Lee-Warner, widow of the late vicar. Some of the ancient open seats and stalls with misereres still remain. The whole building has been recently restored, at a cost of more than £1700, and now has a very handsome appearance.

The perpetual curacy, valued at £168 a year, is in the patronage of H.J. Lee-Warner, Esq., and incumbency of the Rev. George Ratcliffe Woodward, M.A., who has also the living of Houghton-in-the-Dale, 9 acres of glebe, and a handsome residence, built in 1839.

In the parish are chapels belonging to the Wesleyans, Independents, and Primitive Methodists, built respectively in 1798, 1840 and 1849.

THE SHIRE HALL is a plain old building, in which petty sessional courts are held on the first Monday in each month. The magistrates are the Right Hon. the Earl of Leicester, K.G., H.J. Lee-Warner, Esq., H. Lee-Warner, Esq., J.S. Scott Chad Esq., Richard England, Esq., Rev. J.W. Methold, and E.P. Middleton, Esq. G.A. Watson, Esq., is clerk. (For the parishes in the district, see page 34 [This is the section about Petty Sessional Divisions].)

THE COUNTY COURT is also held here alternately with Fakenham for a District comprising the parishes named on page 40 [This is the section about County Courts]. Edwin Plumer Price, Esq., Q.C., of 6 King's Bench Walk, Temple, London, is judge; George Anthony Watson, Esq., registrar; Mr. Richard Cowburn, registrar's clerk; Mr. Thomas Kerslake, of East Dereham, high bailiff; and John Banson, assistant bailiff.

The COUNTY POLICE STATION occupies part of the old Bridewell, or County Prison, and contains a residence for the superintendent and for two constables, and several cells for the temporary confinement of prisoners.

The FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, at Little Walsingham, was founded in 1639 by Richard Bond, who endowed it with £1040, which was laid out in the purchase of a farm of 85A. 2R. 20P., at Great Snoring, now let for £189 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.' Under the scheme mentioned below, a new Grammar School was erected in 1872. The school is open to all boys of the parish who are able to read, and are more than seven years of age, on payment of small sums not exceeding 4s. a quarter. They may remain until the age of 16, and are instructed in Greek and Latin, Algebra, and all the branches of education taught in the public schools. William Shaw Hayler Esq., is the head master.

A NATIONAL SCHOOL was erected in 1842 by the Rev. J. Lee-Warner, and is attended by 70 boys and 50 girls.

The above-named Richard Bond left for the poor parishioners, £400, which were laid out in the purchase of 43 acres, now let for £90 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 £26 a year; and most of the rent of 18A. 1R., called the Houghton and Sick-house Lands, now let for £77 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 William Cleave in 1665, are let for about £43 10s. a year, which is distributed in cloth and coal among the poor parishioners, who have also 50s. a year in bread, left by Blanche Schuldham, in 1738 and paid by J.S. Scott Chad, Esq. 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 6 acres of land, now let for £25 a year.

In 1861 a new scheme was obtained from the Court of Chancery, vesting the management of the above charities in twelve trustees, who are empowered to distribute the funds in accordance with the donors' intentions.

The Walsingham Reading-Room, Club & Coffee House Co. (limited) was established in 1880, with a capital of £150 in 300 shares, and occupies neat premises in the High Street. Mr. Thomas Wild is hon. secretary.

POST, MONEY ORDER, and TELEGRAPH OFFICE and SAVINGS BANK at Mr. Thomas Johnson's, where letters arrive at 5.20 a.m. from all parts; 2.30 p.m. from London and Norwich, and 6.25 p.m. from Wells; and are despatched at 10.10 a.m. for London and Norwich; 6.10 p.m. all parts; and 9.30 p.m. to Wells. Sundays, arrivals at 5.20 a.m., and despatched at 6.10 p.m. for all parts.

	Abram        Frederick William  chemist and druggist, High st
	Adcock       Mrs. Winifred      Common place
	               Jessie
	Adcock       Mrs. Maria         Holt street
	Adcock       Mr. Reeve          Holt street
	Banson       John               auctioneer, valuer, & sheriffs'
	                                  officer, High st
	Banson       Mrs. S.            bookseller, stationer, newsagent,
	                                  and fancy repository, High street
	Barnes       John               butcher, High street
	Bayes        Frederick Wm.      surgeon and medical officer for the
	               M.R.C.S. L.S.A.    Walsingham and Thursford district
	                                  and workhouse of the Walsingham
	                                  union, Knight street
	Beck         William            baker and confectioner, Market place
	Bray         Mrs Elizabeth      grocer and draper, High street
	Brooke       Miss Eliza         High street
	Blunderfield Jabez Richard      milliner, draper and grocer,
	                                  Common place
	Cawthorne    Edward             vict. Exchange, Knight street
	Chamberlain  Mrs.               Common place
	Claxton      Augustus Jas.      plumber and glazier, High street
	Codman       James              plumber and glazier, Knight street
	Codman       Miss Susannah      clothes and furniture dlr, High st
	Copping      Mrs Susannah       shopkeeper, High street
	Cowburn      Miss Edith         ladies' day and boarding school,
	               Elizabeth          High street
	Cowburn      George             agent for J. T. Cook & Co. colliery
	                                  agents and coal and coke merchants,
	                                  High street
	Cowburn      Richard            registrar's clerk, clerk to Grammar
	                                  school and charity trustees, clerk to
	                                  Great Walsingham and East Barsham
	                                  School Boards and insurance agent,
	                                  High street
	Curson      Thomas              milliner, draper, grocer, and wine
	                                  merchant, High street
	Daglass     James               joiner and builder, Guild street
	Daplyn      Robert William      vict. Black Lion, Market place
	Dawson      William Codman      gamekeeper
	Drake       Frederick           beerhouse, High street
	England     Miss Sarah          Knight street
	Fenn        Mrs. Louisa         grocer, draper, and druggist, Market pl
	Hall        William             vict. Robin Hood, Egmere road
	Hardie      James               florist, Knight street
	Harold      Edward              beerhouse, High street
	Harris      Alfred              ironmonger, High street
	Harris      Frederick           gardener to H. J. Lee-Warner Esq.
	Hayler      Wm. Shaw            head master, Grammar school
	Hibbard     Mrs Elizabeth       Egmere road
	Hill        Miss                Market place
	Hill        George              beerhouse and coal merchant,
	                                  Station road
	Howell      Frederick Edward    farmer, Egmere road
	Howell      James               farmer, Egmere road
	Hudson      Mrs.                High street
	Hunt        Mrs Margaret        Station road
	Hurn        Miss Caroline Julia National schlmistrs. Market pl
	Ives        Frederick           tailor & vict. Bull Inn, Common place
	Jenkins     Miss Mary           National infant schoolmistress
	Johnson     Thomas              bootmaker, postmaster, assist.
	                                  overseer, assessor, rate collector,
	                                  and insurance agent, High st
	Kitwood     Mr. John            Church street
	Knights     Thomas Wm.          National schoolmaster, Market pl
	Land        Joseph              butcher, Bridewell street
	Lee-Warner  Henry James, Esq.,  Walsingham Abbey
	              J.P.
	Lee-Warner  Henry, Esq., J.P.   Walsingham Abbey
	Lee-Warner  Rev. John           vicar of Gt. Walsingham, Knight st
	Magners     John                bricklayer, Cokers hill
	Matsell     Wm. Thos.           saddler and harness maker
	May         Robert Wm.          earthenware and fancy dealer, High st
	Mole        Rev. Charles        (Wesleyan)
	Murrell     Thomas              police superintendent, inspector of
	                                  weights and measures for the Hundreds
	                                  of North Greenhoe, Gallow and
	                                  Brothercross, and inspector of
	                                  explosives and petroleum,
	                                  Bridewell street
	Pawley      James Ringstead     bootmaker & farmer, High st
	Parker      John Robert         watchmaker, High street
	Playford    Henry               cabinet maker, High street
	Rawston     Henry               builder, wheelwright, blacksmith and
	                                  victualler, Crown, Guild street
	Ringstead   James               parish clerk, Church street
	Ringwood    Frederick           baker, High street
	Readwin     Allison Augustine   saddler & harness mkr. High st
	Scott       Robert              wheelwright & blacksmith, Bridewell st
	Stanford    John Wells          tailor, High street
	Todd        William Charles     white and lock smith, Bridewell st
	Tyzack      Zachariah D.        hairdresser & newsagent, Bridewell st
	Walker      Thomas              ironmonger and blacksmith, Knight st
	Watson      Arthur John         saddler, High street
	Watts       Mrs Eliza           glass, china & earthenware dlr. High st
	Watts       John Wesley         registrar of births, deaths and
	                                  marriages, and insurance agent,
	                                  High street
	Wild        Jas.                agt. G.E.Rly Co. & coal & genrl. mert.
	                                  Station rd
	Wild        Thos.               stationmastr. G.E.Rly. Station rd.;
	                                  h Knight st
	Wilken      Robert              farm bailiff to H. J. Lee-Warner, Esq.,
	Wilken      William             tailor and draper, Common place
	Woodcock    Henry               bootmaker, Knight street
	Woodcock    John                basket maker, Knight street
	Woodcock    William             butcher and farmer, Common place
	Woodward    Rev. Geo. R., M.A.  vicar with Houghton St. Giles
	Wright      James               ironmonger, oil & colourman, Common pl
	Wright      John                baker and confectioner, High street
Note: The entries below have been moved out of the alphabetic directory.

County Court Office
High street, E. P. Price, Esq., judge, G. A. Watson, Esq. registrar and high bailiff, Mr. R. Cowburn, clerk
Grammar School
Market place, W. Shaw Hayler, head msr
Police Station
Bridewell st.; T. Murrell, superintendent
Shire Hall
Common place; G. Johnson, hallkeeper
Walsingham Reading-Room Club and Coffee House Co. (lim.)
High street; Mrs. C. Miller, manager

RAILWAY - G.E. Station; Mr. Thos. Wild, stationmaster; and Mr. James Wild, carting agent.


See also the Little Walsingham parish page.

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Copyright © Pat Newby.
June 2002