Until the abolishment of copyhold tenure in 1922, Great Ellingham (like many other towns and villages throughout the country), was a mixture of freehold and copyhold land.
Copyhold land was subject to the customs of the manorial court. Any change of ownership had to go through the Lord (or Lady) of the Manor, and the details entered on the ‘Court Rolls’ (later Court Books).
Accordingly, the records of a Manor will provide an unbroken chain of ownership of land – some going back several centuries.
Great Ellingham Manors
Great Ellingham had three Manors: the Manor of Bury Hall, the Manor of Ellingham Hall and the Manor of Ellingham Rectory. However, some land in the village was copyhold of other Manors. For example, Buckenham Castle, Buckenham Close, Attleburgh Mortimers.
In this blog, we look at the history of a messuage in Great Ellingham, through the Court Books of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken.
A messuage is a dwellinghouse, usually with outbuildings and land attached.
In the centre of the above postcard is the fine thatched house, which was originally built on a tenement ‘Greenhouse’ in Great Ellingham. Courtesy of Carol Ewin
We also look at the people who once owned or lived in the thatched messuage, which was built around 300 years ago in the heart of the village.
Now two cottages, the house still stands today in Church Street, at the junction with Chequers Lane.
We begin with identifying this house on an 1802 map of the village.
Extract from 1802 Map of Great Ellingham. Original held at Norfolk Record Office. Russell James Colman Plans. Cat. Ref. C/Ca 1/84. With kind permission of NRO
No.271 on the above extract of the 1802 map clearly identifies the position of the house. The house is also shown in the centre of the above postcard. Nearby (and to the top of the map), is the Chequers Public House and to the right (273), another ‘chocolate box’ thatched messuage.
1800 Particulars & Valuation
The numbering used on the map corresponds with the numbering used in a Particulars & Valuation of 1800. This document (prepared at the time of the Inclosures of Great Ellingham) lists No.271 as:
- House, Yard & Garden comprising one rood (0a 1r 0p) with a piece before of 12 perches (0a 0r 12p)
Sarah Smith owned the House, Yard & Garden as well as an ‘Allotment upon Pennell’. However, it was Mary Mitchell and Daniel Browne who occupied the house and land at this time.
1799 Statement of Claims
A Statement of Claims c.1799 (also prepared for the Inclosures), confirms that the property was indeed copyhold. Sarah Smith claimed:
One Messuage, Yard and Garden occupied by Mary Mitchell and Daniel Browne. All copyhold of Buckenham Close Outsoken.
Along with other landowners in the village, Sarah Smith also claimed various rights over the commons and waste lands.
Now that we have established that the house was indeed copyhold, we can piece together a ‘potted history’ of the property, by the entries in the Court Books for the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken.
1704 Sarah Burman
The Manor Court Books tell us that in 1704, widow Sarah Littleproud took over the ownership of the property – or, at least, the land on which the house was built.
When was the Messuage built?
The 1704 entry in the Court Books refers to an earlier transaction of 1675. We are back to a time when King Charles II was on the throne! However, it is unlikely that the house was in its present form, or even built, at that time.
The entries in the Court Book for 1704 and 1727 (both in latin) mentions a building on the land, but not a messuage. It is not until the the later Manor Court entry for 1762, that a ‘messuage’ is mentioned. Accordingly, we can only be certain that there was a dwellinghouse on the land by 1762.
British Listed Buildings website mentions that the Grade II listed building was built in the early 18th century. Accordingly, it may be that the house was erected earlier than 1762, or, perhaps, it evolved from the earlier building.
Death of Sarah Burman
Before her death, Sarah Littlewood became Sarah Burman (presumably by marriage).
She died before 1727.
1727 Robert Littleproud
On the 19th October, 1727, Robert Littleproud attended a General Court of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken. He was duly admitted as a copyhold tenant of the Manor in succession to his mother. Both Robert and his late mother, Sarah Burman, were of Attleburgh (Attleborough).
At the same time, Robert ‘surrendered’ the property to his will. It was common practice for copyhold tenants to ‘surrender’ copyhold property to a will. This ensured that on death, the ownership of the property passed in accordance with their will.
Robert owned the property (i.e. the land on which at least a building stood) for nearly 40 years.
Robert Littleproud died c.1762, by which time the house was certainly in existence.
1762 Ann Littleproud
Robert left all his land and property in Great Ellingham to his wife, Ann. This included the house.
At a Manor Court held in October 1762, Ann Littleproud was admitted a copyhold tenant of the “one rood of land copyhold with a Messuage thereupon built of the Tenement Greenhouse ..” This same wording is repeated in the Court Books upon every following change of ownership of this property.
Ann Littleproud died c.1779. As it seems that Robert and Ann Littleproud lived in Attleborough, I think it unlikely that they ever occupied the house in Great Ellingham.
1779 Robert Payne
On the 15th November, 1779, the death of Ann Littleproud was ‘presented’ at a Court of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken.
Some 18 months later, on the 24th May, 1781, Robert Payne came before a General Court of the same Manor. He produced the last will and testament of Ann Littleproud.
Ann left all her messuages, lands, tenements and hereditaments in Great Ellingham, to Robert Payne, the son of farmer William Payne of Attleburgh. This included the messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse.
However, the legacy was subject to certain conditions, but these were not recited in the entry in the Court Book. Nevertheless, given that the property passed absolutely to Robert Payne once the conditions were met, they probably were not too onerous.
Three years later, Robert Payne sold the property.
1784 Smith Family
On the 2nd February, 1784, Robert Payne came before a Court of the Manor.
He ‘surrendered’ the property back to the Lord and Lady of the Manor, and to the unconditional use of Sarah Smith, his purchaser.
A spinster, Sarah Smith was a shopkeeper of Great Ellingham. I wonder whether Sarah previously rented part of the property (including her shop) from Robert Payne before she purchased it.
However, Sarah died before being admitted as a copyhold tenant of the Manor.
St James’s Church, Great Ellingham
Sarah Smith was buried in the churchyard of St James on the 10th May, 1784.
We know from Sarah’s will, that she left various legacies to members of her family.
Further, the will mentions that her ‘messuage’ was divided into two tenements. Sarah Smith lived in one part, and John Turner in the other.
Sarah left that part of the property which she occupied to her ‘kinswoman‘ (and namesake) Sarah Smith. She bequeathed the other part (occupied by John Turner), to her sister Ann Smith of Attleburgh. Ann was also a shopkeeper.
Howvere, in the event, it was Sarah Smith’s brother, Thomas who, on the 10th November, 1784, stood before a Court of the Manor.
Thomas Smith came to Court as the eldest brother and next heir of his sister, Sarah Smith. He was admitted a copyhold tenant of the Manor in relation to the one rood of land with the messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse.
Sarah Smith, daughter of John Smith
Nevertheless upon being admitted in 1784, Thomas Smith immediately surrendered the property to the use of Sarah Smith, the daughter of his brother John Smith, a schoolmaster, of Old Buckenham.
I believe that this is the same Sarah Smith referred to as a kinswoman in shopkeeper Sarah Smith’s will of 1784. The two Sarah Smiths were aunt and niece.
1799 Statement of Claims & 1800 Particulars & Valuation
It follows that this is the ‘Sarah Smith’ referred to in the 1799 Statement of Claims and the 1800 Particulars & Valuation (which I mention above), as being the owner of the house at that time.
Occupiers Mary Mitchell & Daniel Browne
However, I do not believe that Sarah Smith lived at the property, as her will of 16th July, 1801, gives her abode as Old Buckenham.
In any event, the documention from the time of the Inclosures, states that the property was occupied by Mary Mitchell and Daniel Brown(e).
All Saints Church, Old Buckenham
Sarah Smith dies
Sarah Smith died in January 1802, and was buried in her home village of Old Buckenham on the 28th January.
Following her sister’s death, on the 25th April, 1803, Jane Smith came before a Court of the Manor of Buckenham Close Outsoken.
Jane produced the last will and testament of her sister, Sarah Smith. The will named Jane Smith as the beneficiary of the copyhold messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse in Great Ellingham.
1804 End of the Smith Family’s Ownership
Just a year later, the copyhold house had a new owner.
Part II continues the story of the messuage built upon the tenement Greenhouse.
1802 Russell James Colman Plans. Great Ellingham. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref. C/Ca 1/84.
1799-1842 F W Horner, Records of the Surveyors to Commissioners for Inclosure in Parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk. Great Ellingham (Act 1799). Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: NRO, BR 90/2
1800 Inclosure Commissioner’s Particulars and Valuation, Great Ellingham. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: NRO, MC 2213/119
1753-1847 Manor of Buckenham Castle, Lathes, Close and Priory. Court Book. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: MC 1833/8 -MC 1833/16. 1595-1847 also available at https://www.familysearch.org/
1799 Statement of Claims. Great Ellingham Inclosure. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: MC 2213/118
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD609. Also available at www.familysearch.org
UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Collection: Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books: Series IR 1; Class: IR 1; Piece: 55. Also available at Ancestry.co.uk
Norfolk: Norwich – Index of Wills Consistory Court 1751-1818. 1784. Smith, Sarah, Great Ellingham, N, shopkeeper 312 Whitesides. Viewed on microfilm at the Norfolk Heritage Centre
Will. Littleproud, Robert of Attleborough. Norfolk Record Office. 1762-1763. ANF will register 1760-1763. fo. 267 (1762-1763 no.102). Not viewed but cited for reference purposes.
Will. Littleproud, Ann of Attleborough. Norfolk Record Office. 1780. ANF will register 1779-1782 fo. 255 (1780 no. 107). Not viewed but cited for reference purposes.
Will. Smith, Sarah, spinster of Old Buckenham. Norfolk Record Office. 1802. NCC will register Cowell 92. Not viewed but cited for reference purposes.