West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton


August 2011

On a cold evening in July I took a party of members up to the North of the village to Grange Farm. We travelled by car as it is a fair walk and it would mean trying to cross the A134 which I thought might be difficult due to the traffic.Although I have lived in the village for about 35 years its an site I have never visited. Now part of a Norfolk County Council smallholding and as such a working farm. The site is also home to the Scout & Guide hut and I was most grateful for their co-operation to visit this ancient monument. The area was home to early man for many years after the Roman occupation but still sparsely populated. After the Norman conquest it may have been occupied by a Saxon longhouse although there is no proof of this as the site has never seen any investigation by archeologists but noted as a scheduled monument on English Heritage records. By the end of the 12th. Century it and surrounding land was part of the West Dereham Abbey. A monastic Grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the manorial system of agriculture and servile labour. The function of a Grange was to provide food and raw materials for the parent house and to provide a surplus for sale and profit. The first monastic Granges appeared during the 12th. century but they continued to be constructed right up to the dissolution in the 1530s. The system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order and was soon adopted by others. As West Dereham was a Premontratstensian order the Canons did not work the land but would have used local labour under a secular leader who would have resided on the site. Many were established on land adjacent to the parent house but some were located considerable distances away, this one being 2.5km to the North West. After the dissolution in 1539 and the plunder of the main site by John Ap Rice which he shared with Thomas Cromwell, Vicar General to Henry VIII the Abbey and all its land was granted to Thomas Dereham of Crimplesham (1) in 1541,(died 1554) and his son Robert,(died 1612) Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower for a short time owing to his elder brother, Francis, being arrested for treason after his affair with Queen Catherine Howard for whom he acted as Secretary. Both were executed. The estate then passed through a number of family members to Baldwin Dereham who was described as ‘a decayed merchant of London’ and who was known to have had a large family and his eldest son, also Thomas(3) came into the property. Thomas was Knighted by James I at Newmarket in 1617 and it is thought he built the mansion on the site starting in 1621. He may well have been assisted by his son Richard, (Knighted 1661) and a date on the remains of the coach house says 1625. A description published in 1914 states it was a picturesque mansion with a high pitched roof and porch which led into a large oak panelled room with a great oak beam. Rooms on the upper floors had fine oak panelling with moulded plaster ceilings of geometric devices. The hearth tax of 1664 recorded 45 hearths which made it one of the largest houses in Norfolk at that time. They also built a large garden which contained a moated area, its associated earthworks and a dovecote built of brick or stone. There were many fine tree lined walks and examples of fruit growing which was popular with the wealthy during the 17th century which is clearly indicated by a rent book of 1810 which refers to it as The Orchard. Sir Richard abandoned the house and estate in 1687 and went to the West Indies along with the Duke of Albemarle (died 1688) and lived in Kingston where he concealed his title and although the exact date of his death is unknown as a tornado in 1722 swept away all records it is likely to have been before1692 .Owing to his insolvency the estate then passed to a cousin in 1688. Sir Thomas Dereham who was an Envoy for Charles II to the Courts of the Doge of Genoa and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III and of whom we know more about. He decided to abandon the Grange in favour of building an Italian style mansion using the old Abbey gatehouse as a basis in 1689. He was aided in this by petitioning William III for arrears of salary and expenses which were granted in 1690. Being Catholic he spent most of his life in Rome and disposed of most of his property in England during 1732. He died in Rome on 7th February 1739 and thus ended the Derehams link with West Dereham. The estate passed to his sister Elizabeth Stuart. In the 1690s the Hon.Colonel Edmond Soame was the resident along with his sister Mary and her husband Giles Green. Col. Soame died at the young age of 38 on his way with a commission from Queen Anne for an expedition to Spain at Torbay in 1706 I can find no date for the death of Giles Green but Mary passed away in1710. By the late 18th century the estate was in the ownership of Thomas Kett and later his son George S. Kett but by 1820 the land is shown as being owned by T.J. Bagge. The Stebbings family lived and farmed the Grange during the first half of the 19th. century up to 1858. Joseph Kerkham was a breeder of Lincoln red cattle and he retired and sold up in September 1924 with up to 30 horses included in the sale which was conducted by auction with Charles Hawkins taking the bids. When the old mansion was finally demolished is at this time of writing unknown but the two houses on site now are dated 1936 but barns and buildings clearly dating from the 1630s with various additions from 18th 19th century and 20th century improvements can be seen. It was purchased by Norfolk County Council either by agreement or compulsory in the early 1930s. We also looked at the Lime Kiln in Lime Kiln Lane but will save the history of that until next month. My thanks to Pam W for arranging with the Scouting Organisation and Mr Mortons permission for the visit. Refreshments were provided by Ruth & Phyllis at Ruths home on Hilgay Road.. Refs. The Last of the Norfolk Dereham. Rev.Father Goldie. SJ (1914) Noted Church Monuments WDHG (2007) West Dereham Grange, an early 17th century Garden in West Norfolk. Patsy Dallas (2004) Richard C. French.

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