‘dynastic numbers’ used for the Gurnays are those used
by Daniel Gurney in his history of the family (see references
below). I’ve also generally used the ‘Gurnay’
spelling although of course there were variations within the
family and at different times.
locations are in Norfolk unless otherwise noted. Details of
sources are given at the bottom.
the dates, a ‘By’ date means that we know from
documentation that the man was Rector by that date, but we
cannot establish the precise year of presentation.
is a brief list at the bottom of some of the Cambridge University
During the reign of
Henry II (1154 - 1189).
Philip de Burnham, who
was either a younger son or grandson of the first Earl de Warren
(first lord of the manor after the Conquest. More on the manors of
Harpley to come later).
The marriage of Rose de
Burnham, daughter and heiress of Philip’s son, Reginald de
Burnham (sometimes styled ‘de Warren’), to Matthew de
Gournay in 1183 brought the manor and living of Harpley to the de
Alexander de Walpole
presence is known from an agreement with Godfrey, Dean of Brisley,
granting Alexander and his successors 20 acres in Harpley.
Probably Matthew de
By 1243, Sir William de
Gournay II, son of the previous.
By 1307; died 1332
John de Gurnay
Younger son of the son,
and eventual heir of the previous patron. His older brother, Sir
William de Gournay III granted him all his lands in Harpley and
elsewhere in 1294, so that John de Gurnay II became lord of the
manor of Harpley (also owning the Harpley manor of Uphall from
1325), and acquired a number of other Norfolk estates by the end
of his life. He was both patron and rector of Harpley church by
He obtained a grant for
an annual fair to be held at the manor in Harpley on the 25th
July from Edward I in 1307. Although by the nineteenth century
this fair was ‘just for pleasure’, the proceeds were
originally extra income for the rector.
During de Gurnay’s
time as rector, and presumably at his expense, the first great
re-building of the church took place. This period is responsible
for the tower, the south aisle and the chancel. The modern east
window is the result of another rebuilding in the early eighteenth
century. However, the size of the original window can be seen from
part of its jamb which has been left in the masonry of the later
work and which shows that it would have rivalled the great west
window in scale.
De Gurnay is buried in
front of the altar in the chancel of St Lawrence’s under a
marble slab. There are still the indentations which would have
contained brasses (although the brasses themselves were gone by at
least the late eighteenth century) of the figure of a priest under
a canopy and the letters of the surrounding inscription:
‘Hic jacet corpus
Joh’is de Gurnay, quondam Rectoris Patronique hujus
ecclesie, cujus anime propicietur Deus. Amen’.
‘Here lies the
body of John de Gurnay, one time Rector and Patron of this church,
on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen’
In 1829, workmen
excavating for the nearby grave of the Rev William Spurgeon, which
lies immediately to the west in the chancel, opened De Gurnay’s
grave and found his skeleton within clothed in the silk dress of a
priest and holding a sacramental chalice. The chalice has not been
seen since …
John de Gurnay III,
nephew of the previous patron.
John de Pattesley
The De Wauncy family of
West Barsham and Depeden were a land-owning Norfolk family with
connections to both Earl de Warren and the Gurnay family.
Wauncy had previously
been curate of Mulbarton in 1331 (perhaps a connection here is
that Earl de Warren was also patron of this living) and rector of
Edgefield in 1352.
had also been a recipient of a three-year Cum
This system had been instituted by Pope Boniface VII in 1298 to
enable unordained rectors to take higher education, provided they
were ordained to the priesthood afterwards. When Wauncy left
Edgefield, he left to that parish an ordinal ‘containing a
notated hymnal, an exposition of the gospels, and some sermons’
Edmund Gurnay, son of
John Gurnay IV and grandson of John III, and a prominent lawyer
during the reigns of Edward III and Richard II. He died in 1387.
land-owning Norfolk families would have had a townhouse in Norwich
by this time, Edmund Gurnay is the first of the family with
documented connections to Norwich. His wife was Katharine de
Wauncy, niece of Hugh the rector. Through this marriage the
Gurnays also acquired the manors of West Barsham and Denver in
Norfolk, and Depeden in Suffolk. West Barsham was to be the family
seat until 1660.
Also prior of Coxford,
and brother of Sir Robert Knowles who built the present church
(although there seems to be some confusion here between different
two different John Knowles, which will need further checking.
Sir Robert Knowles (or
Knollys) KG was a famous general in the reigns of Edward III and
Richard II. His main estate was at Sculthorpe, where he died.
Coming from humble origins, he amassed a great fortune from his
military career, and built several churches, including Harpley.
His arms and those of his wife are on the rood screen and on the
external castellated stone frieze above the south aisle. He also
built a bridge over the Medway at Rochester, and contributed to
enlarging the Carmelite or White Friars priory off Fleet Street,
London, in 1396.
He was knighted in
1351, and, amongst other exploits, he served under Henry of
Lancaster in 1357 against the Normans, captured Bertram de Guechin
in 1359, went with the Black Prince to Spain in 1367, was Governor
of Brest in the first year of Richard’s reign and led a
force in London against the followers of Jack Straw in 1381.
He died Aug 15 1407,
aged 92, and was buried in the Carmelite Friars establishment in
By 1382; died 1387
John de Wolterton (or
Warden of Mettingham
College, Suffolk, in 1384, died 1387 and said to be buried in
Harpley churchyard by the south door.
As one of the
lease-holders of Mettingham Castle before the grant of the
college, Wolterton was caught up in the ‘common’s
revolt’ of 1381, having to pay £20 to the rebels
following threats that he would otherwise be beheaded and all his
There is no trace now
of a grave outside the church, but there is an intriguing grave
slab just inside the south door, partly covered by shelving
these days. Across the width of the expansive west end of the
church, from the south door to the rarely used north door, are the
graves of prominent landowners of the parish with their families,
from the seventeenth through to the mid-nineteenth century. There
is no particular chronological arrangement, but Ravens, Herrings,
Becks and others are here. The grave slab nearest the door appears
earlier than all the others, has no remaining inscriptions on it,
but it does have indentations where the brass figure and
inscription would have been. It’s not mentioned in any
guides: could this be the resting place of John de Wolterton?
Richard de Taseburgh
Sir John Gurnay V, son
of Edmund, died 1407. He was seneschal in Norfolk for the Earl of
Arundel and Surrey, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, 1400, and
‘Knight of the Shire’ (county representative to
parliament) for Norfolk in 1404.
1389 - 1421
Blomefield has him as
rector of Tharfield, Herts, at some point, but he was definitely
rector of Pudding Norton, near Fakenham, 1387 – 1389;
Harpley, 1389 – 1421; and Northwold, 1421 until his death in
He is described as a
man of ‘considerable estate’, and seems to have
combined his ecclesiastical duties to his associates with those of
business. He was part of Lancastrian circles which included Sir
John Gurnay, Sir Simon Felbrigg and Sir Thomas Erpingham; was
trustee to Sir Henry Inglose and was Sir Robert Knollys’
trustee and executor. Both these last two were frequently away on
military adventures and would have needed a competent person to
look after their estates. Drewe organized Knollys’ funeral
and the masses to be sung after his death.
He gave gifts to the
churches of Thetford St Peter, Little Massingham and Salthouse.
In his will he asked to
be buried between two pillars near the pulpit of Harpley (there
are no pillars nor signs of a grave covering in the area of the
present day pulpit, although they may have been removed or covered
over in the mid-nineteenth century restoration - see later for
Colman’s grave inscription). He left no bequest to the
church apart from the torches and candles to be lit about his
body, and asked that there be no bells rung at his funeral.
However he did order his executors – his ‘dear
friends’ – to organize a feast for the clergy and
1421 - 1443
Thomas Astele (Astley)
of Melton Constable. The Astleys had originated in Warwickshire,
and had long owned Astley’s manor in Melton Constable.
1443 - 1465
Thomas Gurnay, nephew
and heir of John V, died before 1465. He is probably buried in
Baconsthorpe church, where the family also had estates, and where
there was once apparently an inscription to a Thomas Gurnay.
1465 - 1474
MA Cambridge before
Admitted Rector of the
moiety (a half share) of Houghton Conquest, Beds, 20 Nov 1464;
vacated the parish Dec 1465. This parish had the unusual, and
inconvenient, characteristic that it had two rectors
simultaneously until the rectory was amalgamated in the
seventeenth century. The normal custom where the advowson is
shared is for the patrons to exercise their right alternately.
Rector of Harpley from
1 Oct 1464 until his death. In his will he left a number of
volumes to Clare Hall, Cambridge, suggesting that perhaps
he had studied at Clare College (which was known as Clare Hall
Thomas Gurnay II, son
of the previous, died 1469. He gave many gifts to various
religious houses throughout Norfolk, including Walsingham Priory,
and several in Norwich. His house was in St Gregory’s,
Norwich, and later became the ‘Three Pigeons’ public
house, the site of which is now occupied by the ‘Hog in
His will directed that
he be buried in the chancel of Harpley church if he died in the
village, and that every resident get six pence on his death.
Gurney, in his history of his family, suggests that the Easter
sepulchre in the north wall of the sanctuary of the church is also
Thomas’ memorial tomb.
1485 - 1511
Fourth son of William,
the patron. Also presented in the same year to the living of
Hempstead, near Holt, by his grandfather, Sir William Calthorpe
(more will be given on the connections between the Gurnays and the
Calthorpes when the manors of Harpley are discussed).
William Gurnay IV, son
of the previous, died 1508. He was one of the escheats (an
official appointed to look after royal affairs in a county) of
Edward IV, and was on the council of the Duke of Norfolk.
His own eldest son
pre-deceased him, so his grandson was his heir.
1511 - 1537
Possibly the same who
was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge as a scholar from
Eton in 1504.
grandson of the previous, died 1556. Married an heiress of the
Mortimer family, and built a family mansion in Norwich at Gurnay’s
Place, in St Julian’s parish. Gurney wrote in 1848 that this
‘fine old city mansion’ had been pulled down ‘within
the recollection of persons now living’.
Through his mother’s
family, Gurnay was also Queen Ann Boleyn’s second cousin,
although a connection with the queen is not uncommon amongst
Norfolk families. One of his daughters married Sir Richard Stubbs
(see Edmund Gurnay below).
1537 - 1579
Or should this be
William Rugge? The Rugge family were landowners in the Northrepps
area, had connections with the Gurnay family, and one William
Rugge is famous as both the Abbot of St Benet’s, Hulme, the
only monastery which survived the dissolution, and Bishop of
Norwich (a dual title which remains today).
Amongst the papers of
the Flitcham estate are details of a dispute in 1574 between the
parishes of Harpley and Litcham regarding ‘certain lands’.
A William Rugg of Harpley and his wife are named as plaintiffs
(apart from the period of Mary’s reign (1553 – 1559),
it had been possible for clergy to marry from 1549). Rugg’s
wife was probably Thomasine, who had been married firstly to
William Curson, father of Thomas Curson a later patron (see the
incumbency of Robert Kenyon (1579 – 1620)).
A Bernard Fowle, ‘clerk
of Harpley’, had his will proved in Norwich in 1579, so it
possible that he was the curate for at least part of this period..
assignee of Anthony Gurnay, the previous.
Thomas Godsalve (1481 – 1542) of Norwich appears in a double
portrait by Hans Holbein, together with his son John, now to
be found in the Old Masters’ Gallery of the State Art Museum
in Dresden, Germany. Sir Thomas, as a public notary and Registrar
of the Consistory Court in Norwich (this ecclesiastical court had
much greater power at this time, having responsibility for
matrimonial and probate matters, as well as church affairs, and
was thus a very lucrative appointment) acquired various estates
near Norwich, and had a grand house in the city itself. Through
connections with Sir Thomas Boleyn, another Norfolk man, and Sir
Henry Wyatt, both he and his son moved in the royal circles of
Queen Anne Boleyn, and he was a colleague of Thomas Cromwell.
In 1538, Anthony Gurnay
conveyed the Gurnay manor of Harpley to Richard Southwell, and it
passed out of the hands of the family for good, although it is
still known by their name (strictly speaking: ‘Gurnay and
Calthorpe’, but that’s another story).
1579 - 1620
Robert Kenyon (Kenion,
Clare College, Cambridge, Michaelmas 1572, BA 1757/6, MA 1579.
Incorporated Oxford 1580.
Ordained priest at
Norwich, 1579. Rector of Harpley from 1579.
For reasons that are
now unclear, Kenyon was one of at least six East Anglian clergymen
who refused to comply with a Privy Council order in the desperate
Winter of 1596/97. This order asked local clergymen to recommend
household fasting and alms-giving on Wednesday and Friday evenings
to help the distress of the poor. It is possible that Kenyon was
one of those who thought that actually not enough was being asked
of the community .
HM the Queen, on the
minority of Thomas Curson, whose father William had acquired the
manor in 1557. The Curson family may have originally come from
Derby but, by this period, they owned estates at Belaugh, near
1620 - 1648
Edmund Gurnay, BD
Son of Henry, and born
1578 into a large (one of thirteen children), well-read, and
devoutly puritan gentry family at Great Ellingham. He was a
great-grandson of Anthony Gurnay (above), and his older brother,
Thomas III, was heir to the Gurnay estates of West Barsham and
Queens’ College, Cambridge, 1595, BA 1598/9, MA from Corpus
Christi, 1602, BD 1609. Fellow of Corpus Christi, 1601 – 14.
Incorporated at Oxford, 1606.
Ordained deacon by the
Bishop of Ely at the Bishop’s Chapel in Downham Market (due
to the Bishop’s ill-health); made priest in the diocese of
Firstly rector of
Edgefield, 1614-1620, (patron: his uncle and god-father, Sir
Richard Stubbs of Sedgeford); rector of Harpley from 1620.
He had commenced his
literary career by then, and the titles give an idea of his
intensely anti-Roman ideas: Corpus Christi (an attack on
Transubstantiation), The Demonstration of Antichrist (the
Roman church as the Antichrist), The Romish Chain (the
falseness of the popes’ claim to universal rule), and so on.
Some of Gurnay’s most strongly worded published homilies
were against the display of images in churches, and perhaps we see
the effects of that belief today in the empty niches of St
It is possible that one
of his sons was the child named Protestant, who died very young,
and whose epitaph stone, with its promise to ‘defye Roome’s
Heresy’ may still be seen set into the external south wall
of the church next to the priest’s door. The stone is
missing fragments now but with the help of Gurney’s
transcription, from when it was perhaps more intact, it appears to
read in full:
heere vnder I lye;
Such name first was
I christned by,
And as soon as my
dayes dvbled seaven,
My name forever was
written in heavene
Then still be bowld,
both yong and owld, in horror gaynst Antichrist;
And showld all fayle
these stones showld crye
Perpetually we doe
defye Roome’s Heresy, Idolatrye,
Anno Domino 1623
Gurnay also attempted
to suppress the ‘alehouses’ of Harpley with mixed
Despite his strictly
puritan nature, he does seem to have inspired affection in his
friends, who regarded some of his behaviour as more eccentric than
unsociable, and who noted that he could also be humorous, as well
as serious on occasion. On being chastised by the bishop for not
wearing his surplice at services, he proceeded to constantly wear
One report of him
combines a sense of his humour and forthright comment. Objecting
to the tendency of people in church to stand and bow upon the
entry of their ‘betters’, Gurnay is said to have
declared: ‘I like an holy-rowly-Powlinesse; for there sure,
if anywhere, we ought to be haile fellows well met’.
Gurnay appears to have
retained the parish during the tumult of the 1630s, and into the
Civil War, despite his rigorous puritan views. Under the reforms
being imposed by the King and Archbishop Laud, Mathew Wren, Bishop
of Norwich, performed a ‘Visitation’ of all the
parishes of his diocese. A volume of regulations was circulated,
and the incumbents had to guarantee their conformity to a lengthy
list of requirements. These demands mostly involved the practice
of ritual and arrangement of the church itself, and including many
items that were anathema to the puritans and other
non-conformists. For example they were required to have a
railed-off area for the high altar, to face east during the
service of Holy Communion, to use the sign of the cross at
baptism, and of course wear surplices during services. Following
the bishop’s inspection, Edmund Gurnay does appear on a long
list of East Anglian clergymen who were deprived of their livings,
censured in various ways or, as in his case, actually
excommunicated for a time. Many fled to the Netherlands or,
eventually, to the American colonies, but Gurnay seems to have
managed to square his conscience and to be amongst those who saw
the error of their ways, at least for the time being.
The puritans had their
revenge: William Prynne, that puritan author who is always good
for lively epithets, described Wren as a ‘little pope’
and a ‘Viper of the Church’, and the Bishop was
arrested during a service in Ely Cathedral in 1641. He spent
seventeen years in the Tower rule for his ‘Romish’
tendencies, narrowly avoiding Laud’s fate of execution.
Gurnay died in 1648 and
was buried in St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, where his
brother-in-law, Thomas Osborne, was minister, although any stone
or monument seems to have been replaced or covered by those of
Sir William Yelverton
of Rougham Hall. Thomas Curson had sold the manor and living to
Sir Richard Stubbs in 1590. Sir William Yelverton was the son of
Stubbs’ daughter Dionysia, and her husband Sir William
1648 - 1668
George Heyhoo (Hayhoe,
Son of Robert Heyhoo,
gent, of Saham Toney, near Watton and Thetford. Born 1621 at the
nearby hamlet of Ashill, he was educated at Mr Gilbert’s
school in Saham Toney.
Admitted pensioner at
Caius College, Cambridge, 1637/8. Matriculated 1638, Scholar 1639
– 45, BA 1641/2, MA 1645.
Ordained deacon and
priest in Lincoln Cathedral 1641.
No record of death, but
his will was proved in Norwich 1668.
that Anthony Burrell was the curate during some of Heyhoo’s
incumbency. He left a will dated 1666 in Norwich, and is described
a ‘clerk of Harpley’. Although slightly older than
Heyhoo (Burrell was born in 1617), we can surmise a connection.
Burrell was the son of William of Wymondham, and was educated in
that town and in Thetford. He was a student at Caius College,
Cambridge (BA 1637/8; MA 1641), and made deacon at Winchester and
priest at Norwich cathedral on June 12, 1642.
presumably father of the incumbent.
1668 - 1700
Corpus Christi, Cambridge, 1663. Matriculated 1663, BA 1666/7, MA
Rector of Snetterton
1668, then also rector of Harpley.
There was a John
Chamberlayne who was a farmer and churchwarden of Dersingham in
1700. Is this rector perhaps of that family?
Thomas Dyke MD and
Elizabeth his wife, and John Turner.
1700 - 1706
First son of Thomas
Clarke, rector of Sigston-Kirkby, Yorks, where he was born in
His father was the son
of another Thomas, gent, of Beverley in Yorkshire. Born in 1645
the younger Thomas had gone to school in Beverley and studied at
St John’s, Cambridge. Charles’ brother Robert (1684 –
1759), the second son, was at Sidney College, Cambridge, (BA
1709/10, MA 1714), was ordained deacon in the diocese of Ely
(although actually at the Bishop’s Palace, Holborn, London)
in 1710/1, and was for 49 years curate and schoolmaster of
Houghton Conquest, Hunts (is there a connection that the school
was founded by a Sir Francis Clarke in 1632? And is it only
coincidence that an earlier rector of Harpley was also rector of
Charles Clarke was
educated at Coxwold school (North Yorks) and Merchant Taylor’s
(then near St Paul’s, London).
Admitted sizar (age 19)
at Sidney College, Cambridge, 1695. Matriculated 1695, BA 1698/9.
Ordained priest Norwich
May 1700, when made rector of Harpley.
widow. It is not obvious how Mrs Harris came by the advowson, but
the connection with Clarke and Harpley may be related to the fact
that a Theophila Harris left land in both Yorkshire and Norfolk to
her son in a will dated 1690.
1706 - 1715
Henry Colman STP
This branch of the
Colman family is a fine example of three ways in which a gentry
family could raise their position: the law, the church and the
court; although with mixed results as we shall see.
By the 1550s, Henry
Colman’s ancestor Edward had become one of the wealthiest
men in Suffolk from the cloth trade. With the decline of the trade
later in that century, Henry’s great grandfather Samuel
started to put the family money into land, buying, amongst other
property, the manor of Brent Eleigh, near Lavenham, in 1607.
father Richard, heir to the family estates, was admitted to
Lincoln’s Inn in 1650, became regarded as a ‘rising
star’ amongst young barristers, and was tipped to be
Solicitor General. In 1661, he made a fortunate marriage to Anne
Hyde, whose father was first cousin to the Lord Chancellor, Edward
Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (Clarendon’s daughter, and first
wife of the Duke of York, King Charles II’s brother and
subsequently King James II, was also named Anne Hyde). He was
appointed Recorder of Salisbury, and subsequently became MP for
that city. Unfortunately he died young in 1672, without fulfilling
his highest promise. His portrait
is in the National Portrait Gallery where he is described as a
‘councell at law’.
famous relative was his father’s cousin, another Edward
Colman. Richard’s influence at court probably gained a
position for his cousin with the Duke of York’s entourage.
Edward Colman had converted to Catholicism while at Cambridge, and
he mixed in Catholic circles following his move to London. He
became the Duchess of York’s secretary, and a member of the
‘Gentlemen Pensioners’, a royal ceremonial bodyguard,
from 1670. However from this time, he was also actively working on
York’s behalf as a sort of alternative foreign diplomat.
Colman became a go-between, attempting to get backing for Charles
II, and for assistance for their English co-religionists, from
foreign Catholic powers. The papal nuncio at Brussels was
approached, and also the French court itself and others. Although
none of his negotiations on behalf of the Duke seem to have
actually involved calls for overthrow of the king, Colman was
amongst those denounced by Titus Oates in 1678. His entanglement
in Catholic plotting, the discovery of English editions of the
Catholic Mass at his printer, his publication of an illegal
newsletter, and a series of letters from his foreign contacts
which were seized following a raid on his house in Dean’s
Yard Westminster, all led to an order for his arrest. He initially
fled to the Continent, but returned, was tried and found guilty of
the charges, and hanged, drawn and quartered in 1678.
life was considerably less sensational. He was the second son of
Richard, born in 1669 St Andrew’s Holborn, London, and
educated at Eton.
Admitted pensioner at
Queens’ College, Cambridge, 1688, migrated to Trinity,
Cambridge, 1690, BA 1691/2, MA 1695; BD, 1705; DD, 1712. Fellow of
Trinity 1694, when he was ordained priest.
Rector of Harpley, 1706
and also Foulsham, from 1713.
He was author of some
minor religious works including, perhaps significantly, Government
and obedience : A sermon preach’d in the town of
King’s-Lynn, Norfolk (1711).
However he also
gathered an extremely important library of over 1,700 volumes and
manuscripts. These included
mediaeval manuscript copies of Roman writers, a
wide range of divinity (particularly the Greek and Latin Fathers)
and including St Margaret of Scotland’s own copy of the
Gospels, together with classics, English and European history,
some law, a few atlases, and much contemporary religious,
political, and academic polemical writing (including Swift's Tale
of a Tub, 1704).
He succeeded his
brother Richard as Squire of Brent Eleigh, and died Oct 9, 1715.
In his will he left his library to the church and incumbent
minister of that village ‘for ever’, and a special
chamber attached to the church was built to house it. However,
despite the strictures of his will, the then rector and
churchwardens sold the entire library piecemeal between 1887 and
1891. Recent literary historians have managed to trace every
volume from the inventory in the Norfolk Record Office, and have
found that they are now in various collections including the
Cambridge University Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Glasgow
University and, inevitably, libraries in the United States.
It would appear that
Colman must have had some attachment to Harpley. A number of early
nineteenth century references mention an ‘inscription’
in the church to his memory; while Blomefield actually gives the
Latin text, although without saying what form the monument took,
nor where it was placed. However it would appear to have been in
the chancel, and the fact that it starts ‘Hic Jacet’,
‘here lies’, would imply that Colman was buried in the
church. There is no trace of any such monument now, unless it’s
hidden under the platform for the choir stalls, and it would seem
most likely that it disappeared during the mid-nineteenth century
refurbishment already mentioned.
William Hookes and
Elizabeth his wife.
1715 - 1744
Henry Bland DD
Bland is a good example of the benefits of a sound education or,
at least, the benefits of meeting the right people while at
school. As one county guide puts it: ‘Dean Bland was one of
the … instances of men raised to great preferment from
intimacies formed at great schools: he was educated at Eton, and
was a contemporary there with Sir Robert Walpole’ .
Walpole was also a friend at Cambridge, and continued to look
after his friend as his own career flourished. This is not to
suggest that Bland necessarily had an eye on his future in his
choice of acquaintance; until he inherited the Houghton estates at
24, as the third son, Walpole was looking to enter the Church
himself. Furthermore Bland had literary accomplishments in his own
right, and contributed pieces to journals of the time. For
his Latin version of the once famous Soliloquy
Bland was born
Yorkshire 1677/8; school Eton
Admitted scholar into
King’s College, Cambridge, in 1695. Matriculated 1696, BA
1699 – 1700, MA 1706, DD 1717. Fellow King’s College
Rector of Great Bircham
(Patron Thomas Bacon. Although one source has Walpole as patron of
this living) 1705 to 1744, and also Harpley from 1715.
Chaplain to King George
I and Chelsea Hospital, 1716.
Headmaster of Doncaster
School, Yorkshire, 1699 – 1710, and Headmaster of Eton 1720
Canon of Windsor 1723 –
1733; Dean of Durham Cathedral from 29 Feb1728 (Presented by the
Bland is also said to
have written the inscription on the foundation stone for Walpole’s
newly enlarged Houghton Hall in 1722 . The Latin appears to
generally reassure us that the owner will always be known
Provost of Eton
(Chairman of governing body) 1733 -1746.
Died May 24 1746.
Buried in the Antechapel of Eton.
Father of Henry and
Robert (Al. Oxon. 1725). Henry Bland Junior, DD (MA King’s
Cambridge 1728), was rector of a couple of livings in County
Durham, was the Sixth Prebend at Durham Cathedral from 1737, and
was buried in the transept of the cathedral.
Earl of Orford (Robert
Walpole, the Prime Minister).
1744 - 1786
Horace Hamond DD
Born 1718, son of
Anthony Hamond I (1685 – 1743).
Admitted to Corpus
Christi College, Cambridge in 1735, matriculated Michaelmas 1736,
BA 1739/40, MA 1743 and DD 1755. Fellow of Corpus Christi 1740 –
Ordained priest in
Norwich Dec 1744. Rector of Harpley and Great Bircham from 1744
until his death on 17 Nov 1786. Also Prebendary of Bristol
Cathedral from 1754 – 56 and then Prebendary of Norwich
Cathedral 1756 until his death.
Buried in South Wootton
church, near King’s Lynn. The Hamond family were lords of
the manor here, and there are monuments to his son, also Horace
Hamond, and several others of the family in the church. For more
on the Hamond family, see the notes for Horace’s
great-nephew Robert (rector of Harpley 1829 – 1831), by
which time another family member, Anthony Hamond III, was patron
of the living.
For now it is
sufficient to note that Hamond is an excellent example of the web
of family connections, and presumably patronage, involved in all
this. His mother was Susan Walpole, one of the sisters of Robert
Walpole, Earl of Orford, the Prime Minister and, perhaps not
coincidentally, patron of the living of Harpley. Patronage works
both ways of course; Walpole’s biographer, JH Plumb notes
his sister’s marriage into such a wealthy family was very
useful at one of the many times when Sir Robert’s finances
were stretched .
Hamond also managed to be related to Walpole by his own marriage.
His wife’s grandmother, Mary Walpole, was married to Sir
Charles Turner, Bt, of Warham (1665 – 1738), and was another
sister of the owner of Houghton.
Furthermore, we have
Hamond’s Norfolk trump card: a daughter of Sir Charles and
Lady Mary Turner married the Rev Maurice Suckling, whose daughter
Catherine married the Rev Edmund Nelson. This last couple are
perhaps more famous as the parents of Horatio Nelson, the Hero of
Trafalgar (to save you the diagram: this makes Horace’s wife
the first cousin once removed of the great Admiral; and with the
Prime Minister as her great-uncle and the rector’s uncle).
also Horace, was Rector of Great Massingham, and his son,
yet another Horace, was born there in 1805. Presumably helped by
his contacts, apart from any personal ability he may have had,
Horace III had a successful military and diplomatic career: he was
aide de camp to the King of Hanover (brother of William IV of
Britain, and to which title Queen Victoria would have succeeded if
she hadn’t been a woman) and became a Knight of Hanover. He
was précis writer to the Foreign Secretary, the Earl of
Malmesbury, and ended his days as HM Consul at Cherbourg.
Earl of Orford (Robert
Walpole, the Prime Minister).
1786 - 1829
Christopher Spurgeon MA
Born 1758 in Great
Yarmouth, where his father, John, was Town Clerk, and grandfather
had been Mayor. The family was originally of Dutch origins,
probably arriving in Norfolk in the mid sixteenth century, when
many protestants fled the Spanish Netherlands (in 1579 40% of the
population of Norwich was Dutch, Flemish or Walloon).
Educated Harrow, he
entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1775, gained his BA in
1780 and MA in 1787.
Ordained deacon in
Norwich in 1780; he was made priest in 1782.
Rector of Harpley from
1786, and also of Great Bircham from 1788 (replacing Thomas Ball
(1786 – 88). John Spurgeon was patron of that second living
at this time.
He married firstly
Marianne Cooper, daughter of the Rev Samuel Cooper DD, Rector of
Yelverton and Morley (both Norfolk), and with connections to the
Paston family. One of his wife’s brothers was the famous
surgeon Sir Astley Paston Cooper Bt, who was Surgeon-General to
both George IV and William IV, and who gave his name to a number
of medical procedures and conditions. However Marianne died of
consumption within two years of their marriage.
married Eleanor Palgrave, of Coltishall, and their son John, and
his son, John Norris, were both clergymen (the latter of Twyford).
brothers were priests: his older brother John Groves Spurgeon was
Rector successively of Oulton and Clopton in Suffolk, and was
known as a lover of the arts, publishing a volume of his own
etchings and leaving a large library and collection of engravings
at his death; while the youngest brother Richard was Rector of
Mulbarton until his death in 1842.
Spurgeon died in
Harpley on Jan 23, 1829. His grave is in the chancel just to the
west of that of John de Gurnay.
The inscription on the
covering stone reads:
slab lie interred the Mortal Remains of the Revd
Spurgeon Clerk M.A.
who was Rector of this Parish for 43 years and departed this life
Aged 72 Years
Eleanor his wife
(Daughter of Wm Palgrave Esq. of Coltishall) who departed
this life on the 9th Oct 1826
Aged 62 Years’
To double the effect
there is also a wall plaque in the choir. It includes the Spurgeon
arms (a silver shield with black chevron and three cockleshells
(to use non-heraldic language!), combined with those of his wife
(a blue shield with a white rampant lion), and bearing the
‘Sacred to the
memory of The Revd
who was 43 years Rector of this Parish and of Great Bircham in
this County. He died on the 23rd
of January 1829.
Aged 72 years.
His uniform and
His Benevolence of
heart, his suavity
And kindness of
manners will ever be
Cherished with true
affection by his Family
And with grateful
recollections by his Parishioners’.
To continue with the
gravestone theme: there is an interesting story connected with the
Spurgeon family recorded on a stone outside the east end of the
church in the church yard. This is sometimes the area of a
graveyard where the rectors of a church are buried, although this
has not been the custom at Harpley.
The stone reads:
A native of France
who fled his Country in the year 1793 and entered into the service
of the Revd Christopher Spurgeon, late rector of
He served his master
faithfully during a period of 36 years and died on the 7th
of February 1829 aged 72 years.
The family of Mr
Spurgeon with feelings of gratitude for his long and faithful
service have placed this to his memory’.
married Frances Cullam, the Spurgeons’ nursemaid, and there
are other gravestones alongside his for others of the Carpentier
Robert Hamond MA
Born 1785, son of
Anthony Hamond II (1742 – 1822) of West Acre.
Admitted pensioner to
Emanuel College, Cambridge, 1804; BA 1808. MA from Clare Hall and
Fellow of Clare 1811.
Ordained deacon at
Norwich Cathedral 1809; priest 1814.
Rector of Gayton Thorpe
and East Walton 1818; of Pensthorpe 1818 – 1824; of
Rector of Harpley and
of Great Bircham 1829 – 1831.
Hamond lived in
Swaffham Manor with his unmarried sister Sarah. He was also an
enthusiastic huntsman, initially with staghounds, but at the very
end of his life he switched to foxhunting, and was on the
Committee of Masters of the West Norfolk Foxhounds from 1830 until
He was made a Freeman
of Lynn in 1823; as was his father in 1784.
Died unmarried in the
first part of 1831 .
Anthony Hamond III
(1805 – 1869) of West Acre, nephew of the rector.
(There is an Anthony
in every generation of the Hamond family, so things can become
confusing! Following Gurney’s practice with his family, we
will call the father of Horace Hamond, the earlier rector, Anthony
I; the father of Robert Hamond, this rector, Anthony II; and this
patron, Robert’s nephew, Anthony III. Anthony III’s
son will be called Anthony IV (1834 – 1895). Clear?)
Apart from his
activities as a landowner, Anthony III was also active in
politics, albeit with a complete lack of success. He stood on a
number of occasions as the Liberal candidate for the Western
Division of Norfolk, and once for Norwich (prompting the comment
at one public meeting ‘that it would be a sad day for
Norwich [if they] had to go to West Norfolk for a member!’).
He was described by the Norfolk Chronicle at the time as an
‘extreme Radical’. This is not to say that one of the
largest landowners in the district was some sort of socialist,
but, rather, that he would have believed in parliamentary reform,
free trade and moderately progressive policies.
As befits his position
he was also a magistrate, was Deputy Lieutenant for Norfolk, and
was Sheriff for the county in 1836. He carried on the family
tradition of being a keen huntsman, and was a member of the
Committee of Masters of the West Norfolk Foxhounds until the early
1840s. This Committee had been formed in 1830 as an interim body,
between Masters, to revive the fortunes of the hunt club.
The Hamond family are
mentioned in the Litcham and Lynn areas in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, but they became prominent in South Wootton.
The parish church of that village is quite small, and the area in
front of the chancel steps and across the west end is entirely
paved with the grave slabs of the seventeenth and early eighteenth
By the later eighteenth
century, the family had established West Acre as the family seat,
having bought the recently finished ‘High House’ in
1761, with large landholdings elsewhere in the Swaffham area.
Further to the comment above concerning the benefits to Walpole of
marrying into this family at an earlier date, it might be noted
that by 1875 their holdings in Norfolk were, at about 10,500
acres, roughly the same as the main Houghton estate at the time.
One of the family
established Hamond’s Free Grammar school in Swaffham, which
has only recently merged to become a sixth form college. The
chancel and sanctuary of West Acre church, again quite a small
space, is more or less a mausoleum to the later eighteenth and
nineteenth century Hamonds.
is the fine east window of 1907. Its central theme is the
Annunciation and scenes from the life of Christ. However along the
bottom of the window are four panes for each of the later
nineteenth century Hamond brothers. Only Thomas the youngest was
still alive at the time, and he is shown on the extreme right
kneeling in robes behind the figure of the high priest. Kneeling
at extreme left is Anthony IV (1834 – 1895), booted and
spurred, and in his red jacket as Master of the West Norfolk
Foxhounds (1865 – 1883). Next left is Philip, who died
suddenly of illness in India while on active service, represented
in his cavalry officer’s uniform. Completing the quartet is
Richard Hamond in full admiral’s uniform.
Due to a combination of
this generation either not marrying, not producing male heirs, or
sons dying before fathers, the West Acre and Swaffham estates
passed to the Birkbeck family in the early twentieth century
through the marriage of Anthony IV’s eldest daughter.
The Pratts are a gentry
family whose seat is still Ryston Hall, near Downham Market. The
family were said by the English antiquarian, Sir Henry Spelman
(1564 – 1641), to be one of only six Norfolk families who
had owned the same land in the male line for the previous 300
hundred years. Pratt’s most famous ancestor was Sir Roger
Pratt, who was a distinguished architect, and one of the three
commissioners delegated by Charles II to oversee the re-building
of London following the Great Fire. Two earlier ancestors were
amongst the founders of Cambridge Massachusetts in 1630.
Jermyn Pratt was born
at Ryston Hall, third son of Edward Roger Pratt, Sheriff of
Norfolk in 1850, and Pleasance Browne of King’s Lynn. His
school was Eton.
Admitted pensioner (age
19) Trinity, Cambridge, 1818. Matriculated Michaelmas 1816, BA
1821, MA 1825. Admitted ad eundeum Oxford 1843.
Ordained deacon Norwich
1825; priest 1822.
Rector of Bintry
[Bintree] and Themelthorpe [near Reepham], 1823-6; Curate of
Fordham, 1823-1830; Rector Great Bircham and Harpley, 1831-2;
Rector of Campsea-Ashe, Suffolk, 1836-63.
Married May 4 1847 Mary
Louisa daughter of the Rt Rev George Murray, Bishop of Rochester.
The bishops’ father was another George, Bishop of St
David’s, and his father was John Murray, the 3rd
Duke of Atholl. There appears to be no close connection between
this family of Pratts and that of the Pratts who are marquesses of
Camden. However, intriguingly, Mary Louisa’s sister, Harriet
Murray, was married to George Charles Pratt, the second Marquess
of Camden, and the Rev Jermyn Pratt was one of his executors when
the marquess died in 1866
Succeeded his brother
to the Ryston estate on May 28 1863 (The eldest brother, also
Edward Roger, had died unmarried in that year, and the second
brother, Lt Col Henry Pratt had died earlier in 1860).
Pratt was a member for
a number of years of the Camden Society. Early historical
and literary texts are still published under its imprint, although
the actual society merged with the Royal Historical Society in
1896. He was editor of Records of the College of Christ Church
College of Brecon, 1861 [the probable connection here is that
this College was within the Diocese of St David’s].
Died May 15 1867, when
he was succeeded in the estate by his eldest son, Edward Roger
William Pratt BA
Born at Ryston in 1805,
the sixth and youngest son of Edward Roger Pratt and Pleasance
Browne (of King’s Lynn). School Eton.
Admitted Pensioner at
Trinity College, Cambridge, 1823. Matriculated Michaelmas 1823, BA
Ordained deacon at
Norwich 1827; priest 1828.
(succeeding his brother) 1832 – 1874; and also Great Bircham
from 1835. Anthony Hamond III was patron of both livings.
Married 1835 Louisa
daughter of William Coxhead Marsh of Gaynes Park, Essex. Father of
Dashwood (Cambridge, 1866), vicar of Barney, near Fakenham, Henry
and Jermyn. We learn from a plaque in the sanctuary of Harpley
church that this third son was a midshipman, and that he had died
‘falling from the rigging’ en route to Calcutta.
Died Nov 13 1874.
1875 - 1883
John George Bellingham
Pensioner at St John’s,
Cambridge, Apr 9 1829, Matriculated Easter 1829, Migrated to
Trinity Apr 22 1831, BA 1833, MA 1837.
Ordained deacon 1833;
priest 1834: both by the Bishop of London.
to Baron Audley of Heileigh Castle, Co Staffs, 1833 .
Curate of Harmondsworth
with Drayton, Middx, 1833-5, Curate of St-Mary-Le-Crypt,
Gloucester, 1835-7, Curate of Coaley, Glos, 1838-9, Perpetual
Curate of Aldsworth, Glos, 1839-65, Curate of St Mildred, Bread
Street, London 1861 – 69; Rector of Begbroke, Oxfords, 1869
– 71; Rector of Bagthorpe, 1871-75.
Rector of Harpley 1875
- 83. In 1874, presumably on being offered the living, Bellingham
signed a bond obliging him to resign the benefice if it was
required by Beck’s son or nephew. A further bond on Horace
Beck granted Bellingham an annuity of £190 in 1880 .
Author of theological
works: Sermons (1847), The Christian’s Refuge
(1868), The Irish Church, No Anomaly (1868), The
Reclaimed Convict (a tract) (1868) and A Short Account of
the Early Heresies of the Christian Church (1871).
After his retirement
from Harpley, he lived in North London until his death in 1886.
1883 - 1935
Harry (Henry) Edward
Born 1855, only son of
Horace Beck, the patron.
Cambridge, BA (Jun Opt) 1874; MA 1877.
Called to the Bar 1877;
Deacon 1878, priest
Married 1880, Caroline
Durnford, daughter of the Rev George Hales, Barningham, Yorks.
Curate of High Hoyland
and West Bretton, Yorks, 1878 – 1883.
Rector Harpley 1883 –
1935. Also Vicar of Houghton-juxta-Harpley from 1888 (Patron: The
Marquis of Cholmondeley). By this period, Beck required a special
dispensation to hold the two livings in plurality.
The Rev HE Beck seems
to have been the epitome of the huntin’, shootin’ and
fishin’ rector, and he gave these as his interests in Who’s
Who. He bred and trained retrievers, was reputedly an
excellent shot, a salmon and trout fisherman, and was on the
committee of the West Norfolk Foxhounds for 60 years, joining in
1873 during the Mastership of Anthony Hamond IV. There is a fine
photograph of him on his horse in full hunting outfit, complete
with top hat and full beard.
In March 1905, and
again in 1930, the Hunt marked his silver and golden wedding
anniversaries respectively by starting outside Harpley Rectory. It
is said that in his 70 years of hunting, he only rode four seasons
with other hunts, and one of these was with Napoleon III at
Compiègne. He wrote up the hunt reports for local papers,
and continued his involvement long after he could actually ride
after the fox, as a verse from a set written about characters
associated with the West Norfolk Hunt in the early 1930s suggests:
Parson Beck, in his
way, a sporting old sort,
Who comes out in a
car, and then writes the report.
This he does very
well, and it gives untold pleasure,
For those keen on
hunting but haven’t the leisure .
Away from hunting, he
was very involved with public affairs, being on the District
Council and various sub-committees, and served for many years on a
number of committees connected with local affairs and church
Previous [Rev HE Beck
was patron himself from 1911].
1936 - 1962
Anthony Horace Bek
Son of the previous
College, Oxford, 1908
Deacon 1910, priest
Bridge, Lincs, 1910 – 14; Rector Holbeach, Lincs, 1914 –
15 and again 1920 – 23; Caistor with Ailesworth, Northants,
1915 –20; Vicar Holme with Langford, Beds, 1923 – 25;
Rector of Castleacre with Newton, 1925 – 36.
Rector of Harpley from
Rural Dean of Heacham
and Rising, 1953 – 59.
Miss AC Beck
1963 – 1977
Oliver James Rooke MA
Sidney Sussex College,
Cambridge, second class History Tripos pt i 1930, second class
History Tripos pt ii, BA 1931; MA 1942.
He farmed in his native
Suffolk, and was in the London Fire Service during the Second
World War. He remained in farming in later life, and combined his
duties at Massingham and Harpley with the breeding of Red Poll
cattle which he exported overseas.
Chelmsford; priest 1945, Barking for Chelmsford.
Curate of Harlow,
Essex, 1944 – 47; Vicar of Westhall, Suffolk 1957 –
51; Rector Holkham with Egmere and Waterden, 1951 – 55;
Rector of Docking 1955 – 1961; Vicar of Fring 1956 –
61; Rector of Great Massingham 1961 – 1977; also Rector of
Harpley from 1963.
In 1977 he retired to
Eastholme, Walberswick, where he was born, and died in Southwold
Hospital, on May 13 1982. He is buried in the graveyard by
the south porch.
He published two
volumes of poems .
Miss AC Beck
1977 - 1979
British Empire Medal
Cheshunt, Herts, 1964
Deacon 1966; priest
1967; both Norwich.
Curate of Hilborough
Group 1966 – 70; Rector of Colkirk with Oxwich (with
Horningtoft from 1974)
Rector of Great
Massingham from 1977 and Priest-in-charge of Harpley 1977.
Executors of the estate
of the late Miss AC Beck
1980 – 1981
1982 - 1990
Rev Anthony John
St Chad’s College
Durham, BA 1963; Dip Th 1965
Deacon 1965; Priest
Curate Boston 1965 –
70; Non-stipend Minister Worksop Priory, Notts.
Massingham, Little Massingham and Harpley (as separate benefices)
1982 – 84. Rector of Great with Little Massingham and
Harpley (combined) from 1984 .
The Bishop, JH Brereton
Esq and the Diocesan Board of Patronage (Joint). These patrons
reflect the combined nature of the Benefice and the effects of the
Patronage (Benefices) Rules of 1987. The Brereton family had long
been prominent in Little Massingham.
1992 - 1997
Canon (Herbert) Cedric
Born 1930 in Yorkshire.
University PhC 1953; Lincoln Theological College 1964.
Practised as a
pharmacist in Southwold for six years before seeking ordination.
Deacon 1966; priest
Blackpool 1966 – 71; Team Vicar Hempnall 1971 – 75 and
Team Rector 1975 –81; Rector Fritton with Morningthorpe with
Shelton and Hardwick 1974 – 77;
Secretary to the
deanery synod 1974; then Rural Dean Depwade 1977.
Rector Belaugh 1981;
Rector Wroxham with Hoveton and Belaugh 1981 –92; Rural Dean
Tunstead 1983 –91; Honorary Canon Norwich Cathedral from
Rector of Great with
Little Massingham and Harpley from 1992. Priest-in-charge South
Raynham, East with West Raynham, Helhoughton etc; and Weasenham
and Wellingham from 1994.
Canon Bradbury was an associate priest at St Andrew’s, Holt;
specifically taking services at Bale. He was also diocesan officer
for clergy and widows.
He died in January 2011
1998 – 2005
(John) Martin Nockels
College; Queen’s College Birmingham 1973
Deacon 1973; priest
Bradford 1973 – 76; Curate Fawley Hants 1976 – 78;
Vicar Southampton St Jude 1978 - 84; Rector Tadley St Peter Hants
1984 – 98; Priest-in-charge South Raynham, East with West
Raynham, Helhoughton etc 1998 – 99.
with Little Massingham and Harpley 1998-1999; Rector of Great with
Little Massingham and Harpley, Rougham, Weasenham and Wellingham
1999 – 2007.
The Bishop, the Earl of
Leicester, Mrs PM Brereton, TF North Esq and the Diocesan Board of
Patronage (joint). Again, reflecting the complexity of the
Benefice: The North family had succeeded the Yelverton family (see
above) at Rougham, and the Earls of Leicester had long been
patrons of Wellingham.
2007 - 2011
2012 - 2013
The main source for the
names of the mediaeval Rectors and Patrons was initially
Blomefield: An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the
County of Norfolk etc etc, Volume VIII, Frances Blomefield and
Charles Parkin, London, 1808.
Precise details of
dates of ordination, details of education and so on, for
nineteenth century and earlier Rectors, came from: Alumni
Cantabirgienses, various volumes, compiled by JA Venn,
Cambridge, various dates from 1921 - 1953.
Details for the later
Rectors and Patrons mainly from Crockfords’ Clerical
Directory (various dates from 1860) and The Clergy List
Detail for the Gurnay
family came mostly from: The Record of the House of Gournay,
compiled from original documents, Daniel Gurney Esq FSA,
London, 1848; with some of the information on Edmund Gurnay from
the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which also
provided much of the Edward Colman biography.
Some other sources
Norwich: Inventory of Church Goods temp. Edward III, Dom
Aeldred Watkin (ed), Vol XIX, Part II, Norfolk Record Society,
County directories for
various dates: White’s, Kelly’s, Pigot’s etc.
The Foxhunters of
Norfolk, 1534 to the present day, Vic Brown, Fakenham, 2006.
Magazine, various dates.
Memoirs of Eminent
Etonians, Edward Creasey MA, London 1850.
Walter Rye, Norwich, 1913.
Norfolk County Record
The Times, various
Who’s Who in
Norfolk, Ebenezer Baylis and Son, Worcester, 1935
Other sources as
formal act of admission to the university.
Sizar: a student of
limited means, who were charged lower fees, in return for some
duties at the college.
Scholar: a student who
held a scholarship to give assistance with fees and lodging.
Commoner or pensioner:
a student who paid their own fees and ‘commons’ or
food and lodging.