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The Rev. William Newcome of Hockwold Hall

The building now known as Hockwold Hall seems to have started life in the late 15th century, being then known as Poynings. Like all such 'manor houses', it was the centre of a large estate based, of course, on agriculture. The possession of land was all-important for wealth and social acceptance. After the restoration of Charles II, the estate came into the king's hands and he gave it to certain royalist supporters. They quickly sold it on, and it came into the hands of the Clough family who also acquired large amounts of land in Feltwell and Methwold.

 The last male of the line was Cyrill (sic) Clough who died at Feltwell Hall. He left his property to be split amongst his three unmarried daughters. One of these, Catherine, married the Rev. William Newcome later in 1808. He did very well out of the marriage, but he was no nobody, being the son of the Archbishop of Armagh. William and Catherine lived at Hockwold, and their son, Edward Clough Newcome inherited another third of Cyrill Clough's fortune from his unmarried aunt, Pleasance Clough. William survived to 1845 and held several livings. He was never Rector here, but was the incumbent of a string of parishes including Belaugh, Mundford, Langford with Ickburgh, and ending with Sutton, near Ely. One suspects that he may have employed a curate to do the actual work.

 There was an Act of Parliament in 1815 called the 'Hockwold Enclose Act' which is invaluable for detailing the ownership of all the land in the parish, and one version at the Norfolk Record Office contains a superb hand drawn and tinted map of the village and surrounding lands. In the schedule is a long list of the property owned by William, and in White's Gazetteer of 1836 William is recorded as the principal landowner, followed by Gonville and Caius College. In the 1883 edition, the role had passed to Lieutenant Francis D'Arcy Newcome, and the Newcome family continued to own the estate at least to 1917.

 Last year, the then owners of the Hall arranged for a sale of various items by Sotherby's which took place in April 2001. No doubt as part of the preparations for this, the owners came upon a large safe that did not seem to have been opened for at least a century. Inside was a mass of documents - deeds, accounts, indentures - all relating to William Newcome's estate, both property he possessed through his wife, and other land which he had bought in 1810 and 1838. The earliest documents date back to 1674, and include the Letters Patent granted to his father as Archbishop by George III.

 The material is now in the Norwich Record Office and fills ten boxes (current reference NRO/ACC/2000/281). On the whole, and on the face of it, the papers are very boring, being lists of lands, tenants, values and rents. However, patient reading starts to reveal some fascinating facts. One document is a beautifully written book prepared in 1808 and it meticulously records all the property of the late Cyrill Clough who died in 1805, and its division between his three daughters. It is not clear what provision was made for his widow, but the net total amount is staggering, coming to well over 85,000. Historical monetary values are always hard to define, but in 1808 this was a sum that makes the lottery look trivial. Catherine's share was nearly 26,000 and was made up of a great chunk of Hockwold. Sister Pleasance received much of Feltwell (later inherited by Catherine's son), and Rebecca had her third share in Methwold.

 Although the records start in the 17th century (there is the will of a Wilton man called John Sutton from 1645), to start with, I have only looked at the documents relating to the end of the 18th century and the first years of the 19th. These records are packed with Hockwold names and places. There are references to Whistler, Thickpenny, Cock, Brundish, Sharpe, Barnard, Grimmer, Waddington, Gower, Hevengham and several others. Topographic items include the Mill and a Lime Kiln. There are pieces of land with names such as Lammas Meadow, Windmill Plantation, East Fen, Upper Moor, New Close, Calves Acre, Marriot's Close, The Wash, Bank Went and there is the site of the Hockwold parish workhouse sold to William by the new Poor Law Commissioners in 1838.

 Up until modern times, there was no idea of an 'address' for a property. In these records, fields and buildings are identified by 'abutments', that is, by a description of the other properties joining onto them. There was a Manor of Hockwold cum Wilton at this time, (my own house deeds have many references to the Manorial Court,) but the position was not straightforward there being at least four manors in the combined parishes. To illustrate this, and the question of abutments, the following is the description of a piece of Hockwold land. It come from a documents which, like all the legal documents it is written in paragraphs of a single sentence with no punctuation -

 In the Manor of Carles in Hockwold . Seassum otherwise Seafen next Lammas Lode containing by estimation 9 acres abutting upon Carles Drove towards the south upon a drove called Sluice Drove towards the north upon land belonging to Thomas Tompson towards the west and upon land belonging to the said William Newcome towards the east.

 Anyone know where that is? There is a great deal of local information in these papers, anyone fancy giving me a hand sorting it out?

  Last Update: Tuesday 17 April, 2007 13:32
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