In the nineteenth century, some of the land in Great Ellingham was freehold (or held on a long lease). However, other land was copyhold. This was another form of property ownership before its abolition in the 1920s.
There were three Manors in Great Ellingham: Ellingham Rectory, Ellingham Hall and, the largest, Bury Hall. Most of the copyhold land fell within one of these Manors. However, some land in the village was copyhold of one of the other Manors holding land in the village, such as Buckenham Close Outsoken, Buckenham Castle Outsoken and Attleburgh Mortimers.
Although they were owners of the land, copyhold tenants were bound by the customs of the particular Manor. These customs included rights of inheritance as well as the procedures for any change in the ownership of copyhold land (or property).
A villager could be a copyhold tenant of more than one Manor – which was the case of Robert Frost and his successor, Ellis Houchen.
Manor of Ellingham Rectory General Court Baron
A Manor Court (or General Court Baron) of Alfred Taylor Esq., the Lord of the Manor of Ellingham Rectory, was held on the 22nd April 1901 before the Lord’s Deputy Steward, William Smith, deputising for the Chief Steward, Walter Dowson.
The Court was told that on the 11th October, 1900, Robert Frost of Great Ellingham, a farmer, had attended Richard Robinson, the Deputy Steward of the Manor. Robert Frost had confirmed that Ellis Houchen had made a payment to him of the sum of seventy pounds for the purchase of certain copyhold land and property. Robert Frost had been admitted as a copyhold tenant of this land and property by the Manor Court some 34 years earlier on the 29th October, 1866.
As was the custom, Robert Frost also surrendered his ownership of the copyhold land and propery to the Lord who, then ‘admitted’ Ellis Houchen, as the successive copyhold tenant of the land. Ellis Houchen was given a copy of the Admission (the document confirming his ownership) by the Steward (or Deputy Steward).
This land and property was described in the Admission as being:
‘One acre of land lying in Great Ellingham between the lands formerly of Robert Elden and afterwards of John Dover Gentleman east and the lands late of Sarah the mother of Robert Salter west abutting upon the lands then or late of Robert Elden north and the Highway there south.’
‘All those two acres and a half of land copyhold with a Messuage thereupon built on the Tenement Warberds formerly in the tenure of Richard Ransome with appurtenances’
The Copy of the Admission describes Ellis Houchen as a general draper of Regent House, Tring in the County of Hertford. Ellis Houchen was represented at the Court Baron by his Attorney, Robert Barnard Lebbell.
Manor of Ellingham Hall General Court Baron
On the same date and at the same place, Ellis Houchen’s Attorney, Robert Barnard Lebbell, came again before William Smith, the Deputy Steward of Alfred Taylor Esq., who was also at that time the Lord of the Manor of Ellingham Hall.
At this Manor Court, it was acknowledged that on the 5th November, 1900, the same copyhold tenant Robert Frost had surrendered to the Lord of the Manor one acre and one rood of copyhold land of the Manor, lying in two pieces in Great Ellingham, having received the sum of seventy pounds from the same purchaser, Ellis Houchen of Tring. Robert Frost had also been admitted as the copyhold tenant of this land on the 29th October, 1866.
Again, the Steward (or his Deputy) of the Manor Court would have entered details of the transaction onto the Court Roll (or Court Books), and a copy of the Admission document given to Ellis Houchen confirming his copyhold ownership.
Who was Ellis Houchen?
Born in Caston around 1862, Ellis Houchen was the son of shoemaker James Houchen and his wife Sarah. The 1871 census captures Ellis with his parents and siblings in the Street, Caston. Ellis’s 77 year old widowed grandmother Ann Houchen and a six year old boarder, Selina Eagling, are also with the family.
Ellis’s parents were both born around 1833: James Houchen in Rockland All Saints and Sarah in nearby Caston.
The 1891 census finds 31 year old single man Ellis Houchen amongst the many assistants and apprentices listed for the household of Curl Bros. Drapers in Rampant Horse Street, Norwich.
By 1901, Ellis had married and he is found with his wife Emma living in Western Road, Tring, Hertfordshire. The census describes Ellis as a draper.
The census of 1911 finds 49 year old Ellis Houchen with his 51 year old wife Emma living in seven-roomed property called ‘Hackford’ in Miswell Lane, Tring. The couple had completed 18 years of marriage but had not had any children. Ellis was described as a retired draper.
It seems likely that Ellis Houchen bought the land and property in Great Ellingham as an investment, as he and his wife were living in Tring at the time of the purchase, and were still living in Tring ten years later.
It is possible that Ellis had family and friends in the Great Ellingham area. Houchen (and variations of the name) was a common name to Great Ellingham and the surrounding area.
1871 census RG10/1842/64
1891 census RG12/1527/68
1901 census RG13/1331/38
1911 census RG14/7782/191
Manor of Ellingham Hall. Copy of Admission of Ellis Houchen. 22nd April, 1901.
Manor of Ellingham Rectory. Copy of Admission of Ellis Houchen. 22nd April, 1901.