Hilgay & Ten Mile Bank

As well as the Downham Market Heritage website there is another very helpful link for Ten Mile Bank and that is mail@tenmilebank.co.uk The associated website can be found at http://www.tenmilebank.co.uk

Hilgay's history goes back a long way as we have seen. Blomefield says that William Massingham was lord in the 22nd year of Henry VI’s reign – 1444. He refers to Massingham, or Curtey’s, Manor.

Going further back into Medieval times Hilgay can be seen as a settlement confined to higher land. Map, with permission, from The Fenland Project (see References & Further Reading) Key: (1) Moat and fish ponds (A2) Saxon inhumation, Hilgay churchyard (A3) Saxon brooches found 1981 and 1983 (6&7 )Extensive early pottery fragments (U1) Site of Modney Priory (U5) Mill Hill: site of medieval flour mill (Copyright Norfolk Museums & Archaeological Service)

Some of the labelling will help when reading the text. The non-shaded area of the inset map is the rest of the parish across the Ouse, which being away from the higher ground like Little and Great West Fens, has far less evidence of early habitation. The Great West Fen was drained after an Act of Parliament passed in 1831 and was further improved after another Act in 1854

The parish retains two pieces of common land amounting to 1.017 hectares. One is north of East End adjacent to Pingle Villa (a pingle or pightle being an inclosed plot of land) while the other runs parallel to the drainage channel leading to the former drainage pump on the Wissey.

Common Land CL372 and CL45. There is no precise date for the OS map extract but note the buildings of Thistle Hill Farm, the footpath to their west including the farm labourer's cottages at either end, and the old farm buildings on Hubbard's Drove - all now demolished.

The CL372 pingle in detail. Note that the original terraced cottages in East End and the west side of Green Hill have been replaced with modern detached buildings (Courtesy Ordnance Survey)

Of Modney, Blomefield (1807) has the following to say: "In this parish, about a mile from the church, south-west, near the river Ouse, was the priory of Modeny, called now Modeney-Hall, and was a cell to Ramsey abbey. On the Dissolution, it was granted, with its appertenances, April 18, in the 35th of Henry VIII. to Robert Hogan, Esq. on his paying 39s. per ann. to the Crown; soon after, in the said year, Feb. 4, he had license to alienate it to James Hawe, Esq.; from the Hawes, it came to the Willoughbys; and by Catherine, a daughter of Sir Henry Willoughby (1579-1649), to the Purefoys, and to the Greys, and the Astons, as in Southrey, and is now in Sir Robert Burdet, Bart." There is no mention of the extent or even the existence of any of the early buildings. Catherine Willoughby married (1) Sir James Bellingham, of Levins (no relation to the John Bellingham who assassinated PM Spencer Percival in 1812) and, after his death, (2) George Purefoy (d1671), of Wadley (Bucks). Their son, Henry (1656-1686), was created baronet, aged six, in 1663 but died without issue so the title died with him. Anne, their daughter, inherited the estates after Henry's demise. (The National Archives holds details of a lawsuit Ashton v Purefoy dated 1687 regarding the deceased Sir Henry). It was Catherine's stepsister, Anne Willoughby, who married Sir Thomas Ashton. Sir Henry Willoughby, 1st Bart (created 1611), married twice (1) Elizabeth Knollys - daughter Anne (c1614-1688) (2) Lettice Darcy - daughter Catherine. Anne married twice, her first husband being Sir Thomas Ashton (1600-1646) who was killed from a blow to the head while escaping Parliamentary forces during the Civil War. Their daughter Magdalen Ashton married Sir Robert Burdett. Their son Robert pre-deceased his father by 16 days in January 1716 so it was his son, their grandson, also Robert, who became 4th Bart. The grandson was born posthumously on 28 May 1716 (died 1797) on which day he inherited the title. He was MP for Tamworth 1748-1768. Anne also married twice, her second husband being Anchitell Grey (d1702), at various times High Sheriff of Nottingham and MP for Derby. Both children of this second marriage died unmarried.

When the manors of Modney and Woodhall became separated is not known but Thomas Moore Manby, GW Manby's younger brother, was born at Woodhall in 1769 when his father, Matthew Pepper Manby, was described as lord of the manor. There was a third daughter, Elizabeth, of Sir Henry Willoughby (but by which of Sir Henry's two marriages is not known, but presumably the first) and it is she who married Sir John Wray, 2nd Bart - see Woodhall below - who died in 1655. Presumably, Elizabeth brought the manor or Woodhall (and advowson of Hilgay) with her at the time of her marriage, date unknown but presumably about 1603 (their daughter Elizabeth married Nicholas Saunderson), but Sir John was married again in 1607 to Grisella Bethell, by whom he had eight daughters and 4 sons. Sir John, 3rd Bart, died in 1664 and was succeeded in title by his sons Christopher (d1710) and Cecil.

Magdalen, Lady Burdett (nee Ashton) painted in 1669 by John Michael Wright

An excellent description of the two Anglican churches within the parish of Hilgay can be found in White’s directory of 1890:

“The Church (All Saints) is a large and handsome edifice approached by a long avenue of lime trees. It was restored and partly rebuilt in 1862-3 at the cost of about £2200, of which about half was given by the late rector, £100 by Mrs W L Jones, the lady of the manor, £60 by the Church Building Society, and the remainder by subscription and mortgage on the church estates, which has now been entirely paid off. In 1872 the church was much improved by handsome standard duplex lamps, a dossal and hangings at the altar, and pendants to the lectern and pulpit have since been beautifully worked by Mrs Stocks. In 1881 the Rev Canon Beechey presented to the church a sweet-toned and handsomely decorated organ with three manuals and two and a half octaves of pedals, valued at £300. And the fine avenue of limes has been much beautified by the addition of a chaste strong oak lych gate at each end, at a cost of £160, the gift of Miss Beechey. A gilt cross and vase have also been presented by Major Champion Jones. It now comprises a nave and chancel in the Decorated style, a south aisle of the Perpendicular period, and a square tower (rebuilt of brick in 1794) containing eight bells and a clock with two faces. The floor is paved with red and black tiles, and the church is finished throughout with low open seats of oak, every alternate one having a finely carved finial, copied from ancient examples still preserved in the building. The chancel is enclosed by a dwarf stone wall with a central opening. Its floor rises by five steps to the communion table, which is of good design; and it contains sidilia for three priests, open stalls for the choir, and recess filled by the organ. At the east end of the aisle is a chantry, or chapel, belonging to the lord of the manor, and enclosed by some old open screenwork. It contains a piscina and several monuments, one of which is to Henry Hawe, to whom the manor of Woodhall was given by Henry VIII at the dissolution of the monasteries. Within the entrance to the tower is another portion of screenwork, furnished with handsome drapery presented by Miss Fowlis, who also presented the elegant altar-cloth. The font is circular and of bold but chaste design. It is of stone supported by shafts of Kilkenny marble. The beautiful pulpit is also circular, the upper part being of red veined alabaster, supported on an exquisitely sculptured arcade of Caen stone, beneath which the material is again alabaster, inlaid with green cement, and discs of Jasper in a fine diaper pattern; the lower portion consists of a thick central column, surrounded by smaller ones of red Mansfield stone. The roofs are of Memel fir, well carved, and of high pitch. A curious incised slab and many relics of the ancient sedilia, gable crosses etc, were found in the walls during the restorations, and have been carefully preserved or copied. The church is partly lighted by electric light supplied from the rectory. The register dates from 1583. The Rectory, valued in KB at £10, and now £1600, is in the patronage of Hertford College, Oxford. The present rector, instituted in 1872, is Canon St Vincent Beechey MA, who has a good residence and about 86 acres of glebe.”

Hilgay All Saints (tower 1794) Excellent coverage at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/hilgay/hilgay.htm

Hilgay Church prior to its restoration by George Street in the 1860s

The pulpit and font are both Victorian

Funeral bier, date uncertain

The two lych gates were donated by Miss Emily Beechey, the rector’s daughter. Emily was born at Woodhall (her mother's parents' home) on 30 June 1837. She never married. After her father died in 1899 she moved to Ryston Road, Denver. She died in 1919 leaving £3255 15s 10d to her nephew Ernest Alfred Beechey (1875-1945), son of her brother, Edward. Probate refers to her as 'of Belmont, Denver'. Of incidental interest is Emily's sister Charlotte, middle of the seven children, who married Champion (his mother's maiden name) Jones, her cousin, son of her mother's older brother William Lowten Jones (1805-1852). There were eight children in all. There is a memorial in Hilgay Church to the third, Meyrick, who was lost at sea on 2nd June 1845, aged 36 (see below).

Ernest Alfred Beechey lived in the Vicarage on Ely Road at the time of his death in 1945. He was described an artist in the 1911 census. He married Grace Margeret Hart from Ickburgh in 1909 and they had three daughters, the middle one, Margaret Charlotte (1911-1999), being the second wife of the Hon Victor Austin Bruce, son of Henry Cambell Bruce, 2nd Baron Aberdare of Duffryn who was buried at Mountain Ash in 1929). His first wife (they divorced in 1941 shortly before his remarriage) was Mildred Mary Petre, the first woman to fly solo around the world in 1931 (crossing the oceans by ship). There's much more on her at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs_Victor_Bruce

Parish registers are often of interest for information they contain in addition to the birth, marriage and burial records that so often form the focus of research. For example, a poetic note in the Hilgay registers records the fall of the tower in 1792:

‘Ninety two was a sad year for the People

Jan’y their Banks broke, July fell their Steeple’.

Terriers often describe in great detail the furnishings of the church and location and extent of church lands. In Hilgay, too, there is definition of the role of The Church Warden:

‘The Churches Guardian takes care to keep

Her buildings always in repair,

Unwilling that any Decay should creep

On them, before he is aware’.

There is often spiritual guidance enclosed. In Hilgay:

‘If God be not our Guide, our Friend,

Eternal Life (sic) Death will be our Journeys end’.

White’s Directory of 1890 continues:

“St Mark’s Chapel of ease, on the Ten Mile Bank about two miles from the village, was built in 1846 at the cost of £1000, and is a neat brick building with a small bell turret at the west end, and is fitted with open poppy-headed benches and a handsome pulpit and reading desk of carved oak. The Rev George Wollaston Trendall MA is the curate”.

St Mark’s, Ten Mile Bank (English Heritage)

White's Directory in 1854 lists the curate as the Rev Wesley Farrer. More can be found on him at


Ten Mile Bank has its own website. Some of the more significant dates can be found at

http://www.tenmilebank.co.uk/history_3.html There are other pages of interest, too including a recent aerial photograph.

A list of the rectors also records the holder of the avowdson, the right to appoint the rector, in brackets:

1307 John de Hengham (Abbott of Ramsey)

1335 Simon de Glynton (Simon Costyn)

1349 Andrew de Grundesburgh (The King - Edward III reigned 1327-1377)

1371 Robert Westowe (Abbott of Ramsey until 1538)

1397 Simon de Helgeye

1400 John Wells

1402 Richard Merkwyke

1403 Henry Drayton

14?? John Long

1412 Jeffrey Medway

1418 John Toly

1425 Richard Alone: it appears that the sacrist of Ramsey has a yearly pension of 20s out of this rectory.

1442 Thomas Maunchell

1443 William Spencer

1457 Roger Keyes

1477 John Raughton

14?? Gilbert Robinson

1496 William FitzJohn STB Sacrae Theologiciae Baccalaureus - the Bachelor of Sacred Theology is still a Catholic qualification today

1503 Edmund Jackson

1521 John Rayne LLD The church was valued at 12 Marks; he was also rector of Barton St Andrew and prior of St Neots

1533 William Holyer AM

1554 Griff Richard LLD (Samuel Hawe Esq)

15?? Simon Brands (or Brande - died 1572) Blomefield adds 'He was a married priest and in Parker's Certificate'. Archbishop Matthew Parker has been credited with playing a large part in the Elizabethan religious settlement following the return to Catholicism during the reign of Mary (1553-58) when married priests, like Brands and Parker himself, were deprived of their benefices.

1573 Thomas Smith (Henry Hawe Esq)

1580 Thomas Pigott (Henry Hawe Esq)

1595 Thomas Barsham (John Willoughby Esq) - in 1603 he certified that there were 200 communicants

1610 James Williams AM (Richard William, assignee of Henry Willoughby) {AM Artium Magister: Master of Arts}

1621 Phineas Fletcher AM (Sir Henry Willoughby) - see below. Blomefield adds ' He was brother to the Bishop of London'

1650 Arthur Tower(s) AM (Committee for the Relief of Plundered Ministers). It is not known from where he was displaced by the Civil War but prior to his arrival in Hilgay he was in the Peterborough diocese

1675 Thomas Malyverer (AM Nicholas Saunderson, Esq) 'Mauliverer' and other spellings in the CCED - a very useful resource at:


1679 Nicholas Spencer AM (Nicholas Saunderson, Esq) 'Preacher' in 1674. Curate in 1678.

1705 John Musson (Walter & Richard Spencer) - not listed in the CCED with any connection to Hilgay. Ordained Oxford 1703.

1740 John Dering (1715-7th July 1774) - Prebendary of Ripon (Sir John Wray, Bart). 'Prebendary' is fully explained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prebendary His father was Heneage Dering (1665-1750), Dean of Ripon who married Anne Sharpe (1691-1771), the eldest daughter of Archbishop of York, both of whom are buried in Ripon Minster. A full account of Heneage Dering is provided at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7532. John Dering married Elizabeth Stafford in Bexwell church in May 1749. Their children were Ann, John Thurlow, and Elizabeth. John Thurlow was christened in Hilgay church on 09 July 1751, he married Rebecca Kirby on 24 November 1786 in Downham Market church and then Kitty Reeve in 1795. Rebecca was buried in Denver churchyard on 12 November 1789, followed by unmarried daughter Ann on 07 December. Catherine (Kitty) was buried there on 10 Hay 1815. John Thurlow died at Crow Hall, being was buried in Denver churchyard on 07 December 1836. He was embroiled in the Downham Market riots of 1816 - see the Agriculture section. Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of Thurlow Stafford and Elizabeth Pratt (1685-1735) - see the Pratt genealogy in the Ryston section. Elizabeth's brother Thurlow (c1719-1760) married Henrietta Pratt (1724-1779), daughter of Roger Pratt (1689-1771) and Henrietta Mary Davers 'of Rushbrooke', Suffolk(1694-1731). Henrietta's brother Edward was the Rev Jermyn Pratt's grandfather.

John Thurlow & Rebecca's daughter Mary Anne (b1787) married William Wilson Lee-Warner in Denver in 1819. In turn, their daughter Marianne Derian married William Earle Gascoyne Lytton Bulwer of Heydon Hall, Norfolk, in 1855. He was a colonel in the Scots Guards but, after being badly injured in the Crimean War of 1853-56, became Brig-General in charge of the Norfolk volunteer infantry.

1774 William Nelson (William Nelson, Gent) This is Horatio Nelson’s great uncle's son, rather than his great uncle as is sometimes written. Horatio's paternal grandparents were Edmund Nelson (1693-1747) and his wife Mary (nee Bland 1698 -1789). Edmund's elder brother William (b1688) died in 1773 and, for purposes of clarity, is sometimes referred to as William Nelson of Curds Hall (in Great Francham). Curds Hall appears to have passed, firstly, to William the son in 1773 and, on his death on 17th July 1782, to John Drostier (John's wife, Mary, was William's eldest daughter). The hall was demolished in the 1930s. William, the son (estimated birth c1718), was ordained and became curate in Sporle in 1743; he was also rector of Hillington (from 1758) as well as Hilgay. He seems to have married Mary Lathbury in Great Francham in 1757 (and/or Mary Newton in Little Massingham in 1761 depending on your source) and the eldest of their three daughters, Mary (bap Hillington 06 March 1764), inherited his estates. The younger two, Susan and Ellen, married captains from the military. William's widow Mary remarried the Rev Benjamin Young in 1789. Pluralism, the holding of more than one living, was commonplace in the eighteenth century.

Curds Hall obelisk to commemorate Trafalgar and, after the first Treaty of Paris in 1814, the end of the Napoleonic wars, installed by John Drostier

1782 John Royle (Himself). William Royle was appointed curate in Hilgay in 1774. He became curate of Stradsett in 1777, Perpetual Curate of Crimplesham (1777 until his death in 1821), Vicar of Tilney cum Islington (1800-21) and Gaywood 1804. John Royle is not mentioned in the Clergy of the Church of England database (CCED)

1786 John Royle (Himself)

1816 Samuel Locke (John Royle, Clerk)

1816 James Cradocke (Samuel Locke, Clerk). The reasons for his early departure need further investigation. “On Mar. 23, 1819, one John Gordon wrote from London to the Lords of Exchequer stating that he, together with the Revd James Cradock and John Sinclair was ‘in possession of a discovery of importance to the State, which in all probability cannot fail to bring into the revenues...from £150,000 to £250,000.’ He further wrote that Cradock wanted a living and he and Sinclair, ‘the liberty of choosing any of the situations the discovery may create.’ Lord Fife snubbed him, whereupon he replied that the discovery was ‘a gold mine in this kingdom and from its structure liable to dilapidation.’ The discovery had involved considerable expense especially to Cradock, ‘he being deprived of his personal liberty.’ What afterwards befell him has not been discovered.” (Clergy of the Church of England database)

1817 Samuel Locke (Himself). Deprived of the living for reasons of simony – the buying and selling of ecclesiastical preferment.

The full details of Locke v Bishop of Norwich & John Hewlett (1821) are in the National Archives.

1819 John Hewlett (The King)

1844 William John Parkes (Himself) Born Bristol. Died Engleberg, Switzerland 02 July 1872, aged 58. Avowdson sold and presented to Hertford College.

1872 St Vincent Beechey (Hertford College, Oxford – until 1899)

The Revd St Vincent Beechey (1806-1899) was Curate in Hilgay from 1831-1841 and Rector from 1876 to 1899. At the time of his death, aged 93, he was believed to be the oldest serving clergyman in the country. He was a wealthy man, leaving £8414 0s 3d in his will. His name derives from his godfather John Jervis, Ist Earl St Vincent, ennobled after his victory in the naval Battle of St Vincent in 1797. In 1836, in Hilgay, he married the widowed daughter of William Jones of Woodhall. Mary Ann had first married Frederick Woods Ommanney who died, according to his death notice in the Asiatic Journal & Monthly Register of British India from 'a lingering illness, which he bore with great fortitude'. There were two children. St Vincent was the son of Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), the proclaimed portrait painter. St Vincent and Mary Ann had seven children, the third of whom, St Vincent Beechey jnr, christened by his father on 7th March 1841 in Hilgay, was later Rector of Denver (see notes in that section). His last christening as curate in Hilgay was two weeks later.

The Revd Beechey died at Hilgay rectory in the presence of his unmarried daughter, Emily, and was buried in St Mark's churchyard, Worsley in Lancashire, along with his wife Mary Ann and son William Innes Beechey (1839-1869) where he was previously curate and vicar prior to coming to Hilgay. Amongst other things he founded Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire, and was president of the Manchester Photographic Society, being an early pioneer. He also laid on electricity to Hilgay church. A funeral notice in a local newspaper says much about the occasion:

'THE FUNERAL OF THE LATE CANON BEECHEY' from a local newspaper at the time, his body having been brought from Hilgay by train. As well as two sons and other relatives in attendance , there was also the Rev J E Soden, curate of Hilgay, who became rector of Horam, near Eye, in Suffolk, the following year. St Vincent Champion Jones was a great nephew rather than a grandson (Courtesy Paul Speakman, Archivist, St Mark's, Worsley)

St Mark's, Worsley, burial register for 23 August 1899 aged '93 years'. There are also entries for his wife Mary Ann (1888), who also died in Hilgay Rectory, and son William Innes (1869) who died in Tordmorden, aged 29. Of his wedding, St Vincent had written “We had a true village wedding, all the village scattering flowers in our path, and the rector gave the wedding breakfast — all the widows had a dinner — and so began one of the happiest wedded lives that I believe man ever had.”

(c) National Army Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The only painting lost in the great fire of Windsor Castle in 1992 was 'George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops', a giant canvas measuring 13'8" high by 16'6" high, completed by Sir William Beechey in 1798. More can be found on Sir William at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Beechey

1900 Joseph Hooper Maude Born 1852 in Chirk, Denbeighshire. Moved on to Pusey, Berkshire, after Hilgay. Died 1927 at Oxford.

1915 George Herbert Ward (Archdeacon of Wisbech) Born Oxford c1863; died 1946.

George Herbert Ward, Archdeacon of Wisbech, and wife Mary Sophia (nee Scroggs, Kidlington,1866). Rector of Hilgay 1915-1946 (Mike Bullen). In the 1911 census GHW is recorded as Schoolmaster and Clergyman, All Saints School, Bloxham, Oxfordshire. The 1901 census has him there as Head Master and Priest. He and Mary were married in 1889.

1946 George Ian Falconer Thomson. He married the Hon Bridget Doreen de Courcy in 1938 - she being the daughter of Lt Col Michael William Robert de Courcy, 27th Lord Kingsale. They divorced in 1952. He became Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, dying in 1987. He was born in China in 1912 where his father, Rev Dr George Dornin Thomson, was a missionary born in Canton in 1882 - he was home on leave in 1909 where he married Margaret Elizabeth Everall at Harlescott, near Shrewsbury (she was born in Leighton, Shropshire in 1884 and died in Bracknell in 1976). George, also born in Canton, was much travelled in his youth because of his father's work being recorded living in San Francisco, Montreal and China. His father died in Albuqueque, New Mexico in 1924.

1952 John Robert Garrett

1961 (Archibald) John Martin Beloe (1915-1995) A Norwich boy, he married Margaret Butterworth in Rochdale in 1942.

1979 Thomas Hugh Swan (with Southery)

1987 Alan George Cochrane (with Southery)

1999 David Evans (with Southery) (St Katharine Cree made the presentation - The holder of the avowdson as of 2016 is Hertford College, Oxford). St Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street was one of only eight churches in the city to survive the Great Fire of 1666.


Two rectors are particularly worthy of further note, Phineas Fletcher and John Hewlett.

Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650) was rector of Hilgay from 1621 until his death and lived in the village throughout that time apart from a spell in Norwich in 1646 when it appears he might have undergone a period of suspension for failures to uphold the ceremonies of the church. He was the son of traveler and diplomat, and one time Ambassador to Russia, Giles Fletcher (1546-1611) and cousin of John Fletcher the dramatist. His younger brother Giles was also a poet. Phineas became chaplain to Sir Henry Willoughby at Risley in Derbyshire after graduating from Cambridge in 1615. Willoughby held the avowdson of Hilgay as part of his role as Lord of the Manor of Hilgay and owner of Woodhall and appointed Fletcher to the living after his service at Risley. Fletcher’s most famous work was The Purple Island published in 1633 and written in the style of Edmund Spencer. He also composed the hymn, based on Luke 7 v36-50, which begins:

Drop, drop, slow tears, and bathe those beauteous feet,

which brought from heaven the news and Prince of Peace.

Cease not, wet eyes, his mercies to entreat;

to cry for vengeance sin doth never cease.

In your deep floods drown all my faults and fears;

nor let his eye see sin, but through my tears.

He drew up his will on 21 June 1649 and died in early December of that year. Strangely, perhaps, there is no entry regarding his death or burial in the parish registers. He left 20 shillings to each of his surviving children and the rest of his estate to his wife Elizabeth (nee Vincent) who he had married in Risley in 1615. His increasing ill health can be traced through the deterioration of his entries in the parish register during the last two years or so of his life. Phineas’ will is held by the National Archives but is in too poor a condition to be opened. It would be nice to have seen what happened to his children but any clues contained in his will are sadly lost.

Also of interest is Emblemes, the poetic work which secured the reputation of Francis Quarles (1592-1644) a close friend of Phineas Fletcher and their benefactor Edward Benlowes. The frontispiece of Emblemes depicts a globe upon which are revealed three places – Finchingfield, Roxwell and Hilgay – villages where the three friends resided.

John Hewlett (1762-1844), the son of Timothy Hewlett of Chetnole in Dorset, was a biblical scholar of great stature. He was rector from 1819 when he was appointed because Samuel Locke was replaced by reason of simony, until his death and was buried in the catacombs of the Foundling Hospital in London. He was at one time professor of belle letters at the Royal Institution and his chief monuments are his edition of the Bible in three volumes (1812) and his commentaries upon it in five volumes (1816).

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury, founded by Thomas Coram in 1742. The buildings were demolished around 1930 and the hospital, later the Thomas Coram Foundation, relocated to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. These new buildings became Ashlyns School in the 1950s as Britain moved away from institutionalising its foundlings.

Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted. Rather grand for a comprehensive school, it was originally set up as a bilateral school with separate grammar and secondary modern streams. A former head was John Herbert Babington GC OBE (1911-1992) who was awarded these distinctions for his work as a bomb disposal officer in the blitz and, particularly, in Chatham dockyard in late 1940. He was the 16th recipient of the George Cross, instituted by George VI earlier that year. There is more at http://www.victoriacrossonline.co.uk/john-h-babington-gc/4588995924

A later rector, referred to above, was St Vincent Beechey, rector for 17 years from 1872-1899 but also curate in the 1830s. He left in 1841 for Lancashire where he founded Rossall School in 1844. He married a widowed daughter of William Jones of Woodhall in 1836. His father was Sir William Beechey, the celebrated portrait painter. He owes his Christian name to his godfather John Jervis, created Earl St Vincent after his famous naval victory in 1797. He was a keen photographer and wired up Hilgay church for electricity.

The rectory c1900 (Mike Bullen)

The rectory was built prior to 1855 – a painting by the rector WJ Parkes exists with this date – and the associated buildings appear older.

One interesting entry in the burial register concerns John Naylor buried 03 Nov 1865, aged 110. The rector wrote to his counterpart in Welney to check the date of his baptism. The reply, summarised in the margin of the register, says that John Naylor was born in Lakenheath, the son of John Naylor, and baptised in Welney on 29 May 1748 – which would make him a mere 117! The census gives his year of birth as 1759 (1841), 1760 (1851) and 1758 (1861). Some confusion somewhere we surmise.

Woodhall (Mike Bullen)

Hilgay was part of the lands of the Bishop of Ramsey prior to the Dissolution. In 1538, along with the avowdson of the living, it was granted by Henry VIII to James Hawe Esq. At the same time Modney Priory was acquired by Robert Hogan on payment of 39/- per annum to the crown but quickly passed to James Hawe. James, or his son Henry, built Woodhall in the middle years of the 16th century. Henry’s daughter Frances married Sir John Willoughby of Risley, Derbyshire, around 1573. Their son Henry married Elizabeth Knollys of Rotherfield in Oxfordshire about 1600. In turn, their daughter Elizabeth married Sir John Wray whose daughter, or the daughter of Sir John’s second marriage, Elizabeth married Nicholas Saunderson, second son of George Saunderson, 5th Viscount Castleton. Their son Wray Saunderson died in 1714, predeceasing his mother. Upon her death Woodhall passed to Sir Cecil Wray, a distant cousin of her husband, who died without issue in 1736. When the last member of the Wray family lived in Woodhall is unclear, particularly as they had other estates in Lincolnshire and elsewhere, and when it was sold is not known. Elizabeth's memorial is in the church in Glentworth, Lincolnshire:

"Elizabeth Saunderson, widow of Hon Nicholas Saunderson, eldest son of the Rt Hon George Lord Viscount Castleton of the kingdom of Ireland, by whom she had only one son, Wray Saunderson, who dyed without issue in her life time, She was the only daughter and heir of Sir John Wray of Glentwo th, Baronet, who was great grandson of Sir Christopher Wray, Lord Chief Justice of England in the reign of the renowned Queen Elizabeth. She had great virtues and a greater desire of concealing them was of a severe life. Yet of an even conversation, courteous to all, but strictly sincere, humble without meanness, liberal but not profuse, devout without ostentation, to her friends and relations beneficent, to the poor charitable even beyond her death. She exchanged her earthly for an heavenly habitation, at the city of Yorke the 7 day of April Anno Dom. 1714, in the 50 year of her age, having settled a good part of the estate of the Wrays of Glentworth in the counties of Lincoln, Norfolke and Yorke, upon her next Heir male Sir Cecill Wray, Baronet, who out of respect and gratitude has caused this monument to be erected to her memory." Sir Cecil Wray was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1720 and died without issue in 1736. He was succeeded by his son Sir John Wray who died in 1752 who, in turn, was succeeded by his son, another Sir Cecil, who died without issue in 1805. The baronetcy became extinct in 1809.

Blomefield in his 'Topographical History of Norfolk' (1807), writes the following about the Manor of Wood-Hall.....

The abbot of Ramsey had a charter for free warren here, in the 35th of Henry III. and in the 16th of Henry VI. the issues and profits of this manor amounted to 124l. 16s. as stated by John Bexwell, Esq. steward to the manor.

On the Dissolution, this lordship, with the advowson of the rectory, was granted, Nov. 27, in the 38th of Henry VIII. to James Hawe, Esq. to be held of the King by knight's service. Henry Hawe, his son, built here a large manor-house of brick; and dying in 1592, left by Ursula his wife, daughter of Robert Holditch, Esq. of Diddington, a daughter and heir, Frances, who brought it by marriage to Sir John Willoughby, Knt. of Risle in Derbyshire, son of George Willoughby, and Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Richard Neale of Wigenhale, St. Mary Magdalen.

Sir John left, by the said Frances, Sir Henry Willoughby, created baronet in 1611. His daughter Elizabeth married Sir John Wray, Bart. whose daughter and heir Elizabeth, married the honourable Nicholas Saunderson, Esq. eldest son of Sir George Saunderson, Bart. Lord Viscount Castleton of Ireland, and had Wray Saunderson, who dying s. p. at York, April 7, 1714, gave this lordship to Sir Cecil Wray, Bart. 2d son of Sir Drury Wray, Bart. and Anne his wife, daughter and heir of Thomas Casey of Rathcannon, in the county of Limerick in Ireland, Esq. who succeeded his brother Sir Christopher in 1710. Sir Cecil was bred to arms, was a captain in General Farrington's regiment, and served in Flanders, Spain, and Portugal, and married Mary, daughter of Edward Harrison of Morely, in the county of Antrim in Ireland, Esq. by Johanna his wife, daughter of the Right Reverend Dr. Jer. Tayler Bishop of Down and Connor; and was succeeded in honour, and this lordship, &c. in May 1736, by his cousin, Sir John Wray, Bart. eldest son of William, only son of Cecil, 4th son of Sir Christopher Wray, whose son, by Frances, daughter of Nicholas Norcliffe of Langton, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Esq. Sir Cecil Wray was late lord, whose arms are,—azure on a chief, or, three martlets, gules; crest an ostrich, or; motto, Et juste et vray.— A fee-farm rent of 1l. 14s. 8d. per ann. paid for it, and Captain Manby of Denver is the present lord.

Henry Willoughby had two other daughters who inherited part of his estate, which extended well beyond Woodhall to include Southery also. Catherine married George Purefoy and another daughter married Sir Henry Grey, who was lord of the manor of Southery in 1689. Since George Manby was born in Denver in 1765 and his younger brother Thomas in Woodhall in 1769 it is possible to assume that the Wrays disposed of the estate at that time.

Further information about the connection of these families with Hilgay and Southery can be gleaned from the appointment of various rectors of the two parishes. For example, Sir John Wray appointed John Dering in 1740. Thomas Malyverer in 1675 and Nicholas Spencer in 1679 were appointed by Nicholas Saunderson. John Willoughby (Sir, presumably) appointed Thomas Barsham in 1595 and his son Henry (ditto) appointed James Williams in 1610, through an assignee, and Phineas Fletcher in 1621.

John Dering was the son of Heneage Dering (1665-1750), Latin poet and Dean of Ripon, and his mother was Anne Sharp, daughter of John Sharp, Archbishop of York. John married Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of Thurloe Stafford of Denver and his wife Elizabeth nee Pratt, on 15 May 1749 in Bexwell church. There is a large memorial slab set into the north aisle of Hilgay church commemorating John Dering’s 34 years as rector. Another slab commemorates the above Nicholas Spencer who died in 1705, aged 63.

In the list of Rectors displayed in the church, under Sir Henry Willoughby and next to Phineas Fletcher it states, ‘brother to the Bishop of London’. Phineas’ grandfather Richard Fletcher was Bishop of London 1594-96 but no Willoughby seems to have held this office. The avowdson was restored to Nicholas Saunderson after the Restoration in 1660 but Fletcher’s successor in 1650, Arthur Tower, was appointed by the Committee for the Relief of Plundered Ministers, which existed 1646-1653, set up under Cromwell to assist those ministers driven from their livings by the Royalist forces.

Before the Willoughbys, the avowdson after the Dissolution was held by the Hawe family. Henry Hawe appointed Thomas Smith in 1573 and Thomas Pigott in 1580. Prior to that Samuel Hawe appointed Griff Richard in 1554 and, without a clear date, Simon Brands who died in 1572 ‘a married priest’. There is a tablet on the south wall of Hilgay church to Henry Hawe (died 1592) and his wife Ursula (died 1594), daughter of Robert Holditch of Diddington, Cambridgeshire.

In due course, ownership of Woodhall passed by sale to George William Manby and then to William Jones and, on William's death, to his son, William Lowten Jones. Manby moved to Clifton, Bristol, in 1801 but sold Woodhall in 1797. The manor of Hilgay including Woodhall was advertised for sale in the Times in August 1797 and the transaction, handled by Griffith & Co, was completed at the Duke’s Head in King’s Lynn on 14 November of that year. Thomas Rolfe was recorded as a registered gamekeeper for William Jones Esq of Woodhall and Hilgay in 1801. In the south aisle of Hilgay church is a memorial to Manby’s father Matthew Pepper Manby, who died on 01 November 1774 aged 39, referring to him as Lord of the Manor of Hilgay. William Jones was Marshal of the Queen’s Bench Prison during the period 1819-1831, at least, from incidental documents held in the National Archives and William Lowten Jones was his son.

The first King's Bench Prison in Borough High Street, Southwark, was demolished in 1754. The rebuilt prison was mainly used for debtors or for people convicted of libel. On 10th May, 1768, the prison was the scene of a riot after John Wilkes had been imprisoned for writing an article for the North Briton that severely criticised George III. Five people were killed during the riot that afterwards became known as the Massacre of St. George's Fields. King's Bench Prison was much hated and had a reputation for being so filthy and overcrowded that outbreaks of typhus fever often occurred. The prison was a profit making institution until it came under the control of the Home Office in 1877. Prisoners had to pay the marshal and his gaolers for their keep. By paying a large sum prisoners could serve their sentence within a three mile radius outside the prison walls. Prisoners also had to pay a release fee at the end of their sentence and if they could not afford it they had to remain in prison.

Rudolf Ackermann, King's Bench Prison, from Microcosm of London (1808)

"The discipline of the prison," writes Mr. Richardson, in his ‘Recollections of the Last Half Century,’ "was tyrannical, yet lax, capricious and undefined. The regulations were either enforced with violence and suddenness, or suffered to become a dead letter. Nobody cared much about them; and at one time or other they were broken by every prisoner within the walls. Occasionally an example was made of a more than usually refractory inmate; but the example was despised as a warning, and operated as an incentive to infraction. The law by which the prisoners were kept in some sort of moral subordination emanated from themselves, and from the necessity which is recognised in all communities of combinations of the weak to resist the oppressions of the strong, a very mild administration of justice was acknowledged and enforced. The exigencies of the system demanded dispatch and vigour. A sort of 'lynch-law' superseded the orders of the marshal. It was the duty of that functionary to reside in a house in the court-yard, within the outward boundary of the prison. It was meant by the legislature that he should be at hand to administer justice, to attend to applications for redress, to enforce obedience by his presence, prevent disturbance among the unruly host of his subjects, and to carry into effect the orders which, as a servant of the Court of King's Bench, he was bound to see respected. It is notorious that Mr. Jones, for many years the marshal of the prison, did not reside. He was only in attendance on certain days at his office, and held a sort of court of inquiry into the state of his trust, the turnkeys and the deputy-marshal acting as amici curiæ, and instructing him in his duties. He made, at stated times, inspections of the prison; and in his periodical progress was attended by his subordinates in great state. He was a fat, jolly man, rather slow in his movements, not very capable of detecting abuses by his own observation, and not much assisted in his explorations by others. It was a mere farce to see him waddle round the prison. His visits produced no beneficial effect: the place, somewhat more orderly during the time of his stay, on the moment of his departure relapsed into its normal state of irregularity and disorder. In the halcyon days of his authority there was no such institution as the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors. The legislature from time to time cleared out the over-gorged prisons by passing Acts to discharge unfortunate insolvents, and what was called the 'Lords' Act' helped to prevent the enormous conflux of such people. But this inefficient kind of legislation was not what was wanted; it acted as a temporary alleviation of the miseries and abominations of the system, but it failed to abate the nuisance, which may be said to have flourished with renewed vigour from the prunings which removed its effects. The consequence was that the prison was crowded with persons of all classes, ranks, callings, professions and mysteries—nobles and ignobles, parsons, lawyers, farmers, tradesmen, shopmen, colonels, captains, gamblers, horsedealers, publicans, butchers, &c. The wives of many of these shared the fortunes and misfortunes of their husbands; and scores of widows and spinsters were amongst the majority who could not pass the gates. It may be calculated that the numerical strength of this strange colony amounted to an average of eight hundred or a thousand individuals." From: 'Southwark: High Street', Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), courtesy British History Online

Jones’ grandson, see discussion below, Champion (born Rome in 1842) married Charlotte, the daughter of Revd St Vincent Beechey, in St Mark’s, Worsley, Lancashire, prior to Beechey’s return to Hilgay as Rector in 1872. Beechey himself had married the widowed sister of William Lowten Jones, Mary Ann Ommanney, in Hilgay on 19 September 1836 while serving as curate there. Their eldest, Emily, was born at Woodhall in 1837. Beechey records that he met his future wife at Woodhall.

According to a plaque in the church, William Lowten Jones died at home (not mentioning Rome) on 27 Apr 1852, aged 46, suggesting 1805 as a year of birth. His grave is to be found in the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Testaccio, Rome which reads 'To the memory of W.L.Jones Esqre of Wood-Hall in the county of Norfolk. Born London 1805. Died Rome 1852.' The record shows his birth was 09 October 1805, son of William Jones & Mary Ann. The cemetery is perhaps more famous as the burial place of John Keats (1795-1821) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Please see www.cemeteryrome.it Information kindly provided by Nicholas Stanley-Price for the Cemetery. His widow, Louisa, continued as Lady of the Manor for some time until her death in the 1870s. His death was not registered in the Downham registration district and there is no record of his burial in Hilgay. The Jones’ plaque also includes a memorial tribute to his brother Meyrick, Captain in the 3rd Light Dragoons, lost at sea'

William Lowten Jones could not have assumed his duties as Marshal of the prison at the age of 14 or less in, or before, 1819. One can surmise, therefore, that William Jones’, the father, was the prison Marshal. He would have been born around 1780 and of a better age to assume his duties at the prison. He is shown as ‘Gent, of Woodhall Hilgay’ when his daughter Letitia Jane was married in Hilgay Church to Francis Charles Forde in 1841. The description in the above quotation would fit better an older man.

Quite when William Junior inherited Woodhall and when his family was resident is unclear since they do not appear in any of the censuses and were clearly in Rome in 1842 when Champion was born, and Malta in 1844 when his younger brother Walter followed. In the 1851 census, Thomas Ingle, physician in practice, is shown as resident. Woodhall continued in the ownership of the Jones family until 1878 (all three of Champion's sons were born there) when it was purchased by Major Michael Stocks. White’s Directory of 1890 lists Major Stocks at the Lord of the two principal manors called Woodhall and Modney Priory. The Major died in 1895, aged 70, and his son Michael (1865-1957, born Edinburgh) took over as Lord of the Manor. He married Charlotte Amelia Ellison (1864-1930) from Boultham in Lincolnshire in 1888. Their son Michael George, a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, was killed in action in November 1914, aged 21, and is buried in Zillebeke cemetery in Flanders some three kilometres east of Ieper (Ypres). The Stocks’ memorial in Hilgay churchyard also commemorates Michael George’s younger brother Eric Phillip (1898-1974) who was Lord of the Manor following his father’s death. He was unmarried and Mr Brian Charlesworth, a distant cousin, succeeded.

No account of Hilgay can pass without further mention of the Manby family. George William Manby (1765-1854) was lord of the manor until he sold Woodhall in 1797. He was born in Denver, the son of Matthew Pepper Manby, a captain in the Welch Fusiliers apparently, though there appear to be no regimental records to support this. He claimed a close friendship with Nelson while attending the school in Downham Market run by Thomas Noakes (and William Chatham?) but this is hardly likely given that Horatio was seven years his senior and went to sea at the age of 12 in November 1770 – especially as he is known to have attended school in North Walsham immediately prior to entering the Navy. A full analysis of Manby’s claims are to be found in the excellent History of Downham Market published by the Amenity Society in 1999 (pp60-61) and leave little doubt as to the extent of his imagination. After additional education in Kent and the Tower of London, Manby joined the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. There was ‘some delay’ in obtaining a commission in the artillery – what fuller story lies behind these words - so he joined the Cambridgeshire militia and rose to the rank of Captain.

Manby married in 1793 but there were no children. Why he sold Woodhall and moved to Clifton is unclear. The Oxford Dictionary suggests there were domestic problems of some kind. However, some of his writings, particularly those on the subject of a possible invasion by Napoleon, attracted the attention of the government and he became barrack-master at Great Yarmouth in 1803.

George William Manby

Manby witnessed the wreck of the brig ‘Snipe’ during a storm in February 1807. The wreck was only sixty yards from the shore but 147 bodies were recovered. During the rest of the year he experimented with a mortar which would allow a rope to be fired from the shore across a stranded vessel. The apparatus was first successfully used on 18 February 1808 in the rescue of crew and passengers from the brig Elizabeth. By 1823 some 229 lives had been saved by Manby’s invention. He petitioned Parliament for reward and was granted £2000 for his efforts. After 1878 mortars were replaced by rockets carrying a rope from ship to shore rather than the reverse.

Manby memorial plaque, Southtown, Great Yarmouth (Maritime Heritage East)

This stone plaque was erected by Manby himself in his front garden at Great Yarmouth as part of a monument to publicise his achievements. It shows a line attached to a mortar round being fired across a sailing vessel in distress. We can only surmise whether Manby was vain or felt deprived of the full recognition due to him but he certainly became embittered and needed to commission his own monument. Even his memorial in Hilgay church is concluded by the sour note that the public ought to have funded it.

The actual grave is just outside the south aisle

An 1842 drawing of the Manby mortar. There is also a model in King’s Lynn museum.

Not that Manby went without recognition. Turner’s ‘Lifeboat rescuing vessel in distress with Manby Apparatus’ (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831) is in the Victoria & Albert Museum

Other inventions and treatises followed on such subjects as an apparatus to save people that had fallen through ice and an early fire extinguisher. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1831.

Manby’s first wife died in 1814. In 1818 he was married again to Sophia, daughter of Sir Thomas Gooch of Benacre Hall, Suffolk, who predeceased him in 1843. He died at his home in Southtown, found in a chair by a window looking out over the ships in Yarmouth harbour apparently, and was buried in Hilgay churchyard just on the south side of the nave. His headstone, now very weathered, depicts the mortar apparatus in action.

Manby’s younger brother Thomas Moore Manby (1769-1834), born in Woodhall, is less well known.

In 1806, when he too was a captain, though in the Royal Navy, he became embroiled in the so-called Delicate Investigation into the conduct of Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of the future George IV. In a lengthy deposition Manby swore that all the accusations against him were ‘a vile and wicked invention’. The incident does not seem to have damaged his prospects and he was made up to rear-admiral in 1825.

Earlier in his career, in 1790, Manby had been part of Vancouver’s expedition in the Discovery. He achieved post rank in 1799 and served with considerable distinction in this and other vessels for many years.

In 1810, Manby married Julia Hammond of Northwold and they had two daughters. He died in the George Hotel in Southampton, of an opium overdose, on 13 June 1834.

A full account of both brothers is available online in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – accessible through membership of the county library service (see References)

Hilgay & Ten Mile Bank in the 1800s

White’s Directory 1836:-

“Hilgay is a considerable village on the southern acclivity (north facing valley side) of the vale of the river Wissey, opposite Fordham, and 4 miles south of Downham Market. Its parish contains 1176 inhabitants, and 7378 acres, 3 roods and 2 poles of land, half of which is fen, but now well drained and cultivated, forming part of the great Bedford level.

W L Jones Esq, the Rev Evelin and Jonathan Page Esq are the principal owners of the soil, but there are several smaller proprietors. The first is lord of the two principal manors viz. Woodhall and Modney.

The church (All Saints) is a large and handsome edifice, approached by a long walk, margined with trees. It has a nave and chancel of equal breadth and height, and a square tower (rebuilt of brick in 1794) containing eight bells. The rectory valued in Kings Bench at £10, has 84 acres of glebe, and is in the alternate patronage of the King, and Mr Parkes of South Lambeth.

The Rev John Hewlett BD is incumbent. The church land of 52 acres 2 roods is let with two houses for £101-10s per annum.

The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel in the village, where a pleasure fair is held on May Day.

Hilgay Primitive Methodist chapel (on the left) was demolished in the 1990s and replaced by the aptly named 'Primitive Cottage'. The Primitive chapel in Ten Mile Bank was on the east bank, north of the bridge, and was demolished many years ago.

The poor’s land, 166 acres, let for £135-14s-0d a year, applied with poor rates, except a small sum for the education of poor children. The greater part of it was bequeathed to the poor by Sir John Wray, and his successor in 1656 and 1692. The rest was left by the Rev Spencer in 1705 for teaching poor children.”

Daniel Young was carrier to King’s Lynn on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Principal citizens:

John Baker - grocer & draper; William Day - miller & baker; John Engledow - butcher; John Franklin - blacksmith; John Goddard – butcher; Rev John Hewlett BD - rector; James Mountser - grocer & draper; John Nixon - shoemaker; Robert Parslett, Gent; Thomas Scott - schoolmaster; Mr W Scott; Robert Whittome – corn miller

Inns & taverns:

John Barton - George & Dragon; Prior Elsegood - White Swan; William Howlett - Jolly Anglers; Thomas Sayle - Rose & Crown; Daniel Young - Bell


W. Bossingham; John Boyce; William Brundle; John Cooper; Robert* & J Case; William Cossey; William Lynn; W & J Peacock; Robert Prior*; William Proctor*; Thomas Rose; Joseph Sanders; Thomas Scott*; Richard Skelton; Samuel Smith; John Tamsey*; William Turner; John Wootton


Kelly’s Directory 1858

“Hilgay is a railway stationed large village, and extensive parish, some 15 miles south of King’s Lynn, and 4 miles south of Downham Market. It is in the Clackclose hundred and Downham Market union, West Norfolk, and Norwich bishopric. It is situate on the navigable river Great Ouse, and the Lynn & Ely railway. To the south of Hilgay lies the cathedral city of Ely (14 miles), University city of Cambridge (30 miles) and London (84 miles).

The living is a rectory, with the curacy of St Mark’s annexed, in the patronage of and held by the Rev William Joseph Parkes MA. The tithes are commuted at £1600 per annum, with nearly 80 acres of glebe land. The glebe in 2016 amounts to 23.5acres essentially around the church. Unlike the old days when the rector would benefit, any income generated now accrues to the diocese.

The church, approached by an avenue of trees, is a large and handsome building in the perpendicular style of architecture, but bearing traces of once being a larger edifice; the tower is modern, with a good peal of 8 bells. There is also a chapel of ease at Ten Mile Bank, with a curate.

Here are four dissenting chapels; two for Wesleyans and others for Primitive Methodists, there is a National School, also an ancient hall restored in the Elizabethan style of architecture. The owner (William) Jones has the right of burying in one of the chancels of the church, and keeps the same in repair.

The population in 1851 was 1717. With 7583 acres, the greater part of which is fen, included in the Bedford level, the soil is of varied description, a small portion being strong clay land, and the remainder light and peaty.

(William) Jones is lord of the manor.

For the poor, 169 acres of land has been left, yielding an average rental of £260 per annum. For repairs of the church, 52 acres, with a rental of £150 a year, in lieu of church rates, also a dole at Christmas of 40 sixpenny loaves.

Modney is 1 mile south west, with Brandon Creek 4 miles south.


Thomas Ambrose – blacksmith; Henry Banham - beer retailer; James Barratt – Shopkeeper; John Barratt – farmer; John Barton - Bell Inn; William Bossingham – farmer; Henry Boyce - landowner & farmer; Robert Case - farmer; Mrs Anne Cooke - saddle and harness maker; James Copeman - George & Dragon; Mrs Ann Dams - beer retailer; James Dearsley – bricklayer; Samuel Diggins - Rose & Crown; Mrs Ann Engledow – butcher; John Engledow – farmer; Franklin & Mott - grocers & drapers; Robert Frith – tailor; Emmanuel Gaminara – farmer; George Hobson – miller; William Howlett – blacksmith; Edward Jackson – farmer; James Jackson - grocer, draper & postmaster; William Kemp - tailor; Thomas Kemp - farmer; James Lallam - farmer; Charles Edward Lock – shopkeeper; Henry Luddington - farmer; John Page – farmer; Rev William Parkes* MA – Rector; John Perrin* Esq – Woodhall; Albert Plumber – butcher; Mrs Mary Poll - baker; Mrs Mary Porter - dressmaker; Emmanuel Porter - shoemaker; Spencer Percival Powys* MA Curate; Robert Pryer* Esq; Thomas Scott - schoolmaster; William Scott - land surveyor, farmer & landowner, agent for Salt & Co, Burton Ales; John Scott - beer retailer; George Sharman - horse breaker; John English Smith - beer retailer; John Staples - farmer; James Taylor - baker; Thomas Ward - farmer; Thomas White - schoolmaster; John Whittome - millwright; Henry Wills* Esq – farmer, Hilgay Lodge; Robert Whittome - miller; Thomas Young – Swan Inn

* Principal citizens


Porter Barrow - beer retailer; Joseph Boyce - farmer; Edmund Dixon - farmer; William Farrow - shopkeeper; William Gates - farmer; Simon Goodchild - farmer; John Goodchild Jnr - farmer; William Goodchild - farmer; John Howe - farmer; Edward Howlett - farmer & assistant overseer; William Little - farmer; Thomas Mann - farmer; Henry R Manton - farmer; Peckett Porter - wheelwright & postmaster; Bensley Redhead - farmer; Thomas Rose Jnr - farmer; Thomas Rose - farmer; William Savage - farmer; Samuel Shingles - beer seller; Henry Shingles - shopkeeper; William Smith - farmer; John Smith - blacksmith; Robert Strandward - farmer; William Tingay - farmer & Jolly Anglers; John Wootton - farmer; Mrs Sarah Wootton - farmer

Ten Mile Bank Wesleyan chapel all boarded up in 2007. The Primitive Methodist chapel on the other side of the river has long been demolished.

The site of the former Ten Mile Bank Primitive Methodist chapel on the east bank of the Ouse. The bridge is just to the south of the map extract; Sam's Cut is also shown (Courtesy Ordnance Survey)

The steam drainage engine on Engine Road to the south of Ten Mile Bank village centre has long been replaced by an electric pump further along the Bank towards Black Horse Drove. The building remains as a private residence, seen here in 2007.


Richard Carman - Dog & Duck, Hundred Foot Bank; Sam Cossey - farmer, Hundred Foot Bank; William Crick - blacksmith, Brandon Creek; Rayner Gillett - farmer, Brandon Creek; William Green - farmer, Modney Court; Robert Peacock - farmer, Brandon Creek; John Porter - millwright, Brandon Creek; William Thornhill - The Ship, Brandon Creek; James Tingay - beer retailer, Modney Bridge; William Cooper - farmer, Hundred Foot Bank; Henry Winearls - farmer, Lodge Farm

James Jackson is the postmaster in Hilgay with Peckett Porter in Ten Mile Bank. William Goat is the carrier, going to and from Lynn on Tuesday’s and Saturdays.

White’s Directory 1890

“Hilgay is a considerable village on the southern acclivity of the vale of the river Wissey, opposite Fordham, 4 miles south of Downham and 3 miles WSW (it meant ENE) of Hilgay Fen station on the Lynn & Ely railway. It is in the Downham union, Clackclose hundred and petty sessional division, Downham county court district, Lynn bankruptcy district, Fincham rural deanery, and Norfolk archdeanery. It had 1684 inhabitants in 1881, and has a rateable value of £10 529. The area of the parish is 7860 acres. Half of the parish is fen, but now well drained and cultivated, forming part of the great Bedford level. For improving the drainage a steam-engine was erected on the Ten Mile Bank in 1842, and enlarged and improved in 1878-80 at a cost of £2500, and a strong iron bridge has been erected over the Ouse by the Hilgay Bridge Company (Limited), which was opened in 1880. Major Stocks, Edmund B Peel Esq, and Sir George Erskine Rowley, Bart, are the chief owners but here are smaller proprietors. Major Stocks is lord of the two principal manors, called Woodhall and Modney Priory.”

An excellent description of All Saints church and St Mark’s at Ten Mile Bank then follows which is reproduced earlier.

“The church of St John, Little Ouse, for South Hilgay is noticed with Redmere….. formerly extra-parochial, is now a parish in Ely union, Clackclose hundred and petty sessional division, Ely county court district, Cambridge bankruptcy court district. It had 39 inhabitants in 1881, living on 625 acres, and has a rateable value of about £500. Together with parts of the parishes of Feltwell St Mary, and St Nicholas, a part of Littleport in the county of Cambridge, and the extra-parochial place called Feltwell Anchor, the ecclesiastical parish of St John, Little Ouse, which is in the diocese of Ely, was formed in 1866. It extends over 12012 acres, and had 921 inhabitants in 1881.” More details on the church can be found in chapter 16.

A section then follows which provides coverage of schooling within the parish and an outline of the four Methodist chapels.

“The Church estate, comprising two houses and 53a 9r of land, is let at rents amounting to £111 per annum. One of the houses and 11a 2r of the land was left by the Rev Nicholas Spencer in 1701, subject to the yearly distribution of 30s among 15 of the poorest parishioners, and 20s to the ringers. In addition to the church lands there are 170 acres of land set apart for the poor and to ease the rates, at a general enclosure of the fen lands in the year 1656 – during the Commonwealth. Owing to there being no churchwardens at that time, the church’s portion of 32 acres was assigned to the other parish officers, but was restored to the church at the Restoration, and has ever since been in the church terriers. A deed, supposed to have been forged, assigned this to the poor in lieu of their just portion. The present rector has now entirely set this at rest by the publication of all the facts and deeds (see below). These lands are now comprised under a scheme by the Charity Commissioners, and are administered by foeffees, of whom the lord of the manor, the rector, and the churchwardens are ex officio members. The scheme provides for the continuance of certain poor annuities for their lives only. Of the remainder (and ultimately the whole), one-third for education, one-third is for coal and clothing clubs and savings bank and charity, and one third for apprenticing poor children with a preference for school teaching. A yearly rent charge of 20s left by Thomas Power in 1795, for a distribution of bread, is paid out of the Bell Inn lands.

In 1888, the Revd St Vincent Beechey penned a substantial pamphlet with the long title "The History of a Lost Deed executed by Sir John Wray, 1656: whereby certain lands which have been in possession of Hilgay Parish Church were conveyed to the Poor of Hilgay..." The title goes on to explain the value of his findings to clergy and parishioners alike.

The pamphlet begins with a description of the discovery and later loss of a document in the parish chest. Extract Below:

In the course of this examination (of parish chest) I discovered a small parchment deed, about which nobody appeared to know anything. It was neatly engrossed, and duly signed and witnessed, and had all the appearance of a legal document. This I read to the meeting.

It was dated April 2nd 1656, and declared that –

“I, Sir John Wray, Bart., Lord of the Manor of Woodhall, in the parish of Hilgay, do remise, release, and quit claim on behalf of myself, my heirs and assignees, unto Francis Day, William Tufte, William Portler, William Marsham, John Chanter, and Stephen Shorten, Feoffees in trust hereby nominated, for the good and benefit of the Poor Inhabitants of the said town of Hilgay, I the right of the said Poor, ally my right, title, claim, to them and their successors, on certain lands therein” (accurately described), “Viz., 13 Acres 2 Roods in the West Fen, 16 Acres in Sedge Fen, and 2 Acres in the East Fen,” “All of which said parcels were part of several wastes and commons, divided by the said Lord and Tenants of the said Manor, or by their general approbration and consent, into such several quantities and proportions as the same now divided for the Lord and Tenants; the which said 13 ½ Acres, 16 Acres and 2 Acres, was and is set out and allotted to and for the benefit of the Poor of the town of Hilgay, in lieu and consideration of their right of Common, belonging to one Tenement of Copyhold land in Hilgay called the Town House,” &c., &c. “In witness thereof I have set my hand in this second day of April 1656.

John Wray.

Sealed and delivered in the presence of – William Purbatt, Peter Marcey”

Post and money order office and savings bank at C E Lock’s. Letters arrive at 7.00am, and are despatched at 6.30pm, via Downham Market.”

There then follows a substantial list of residents:

John Armfield - St Mark’s schoolmaster, Ten Mile Bank; William Armsby - St Marks’ parish clerk; Jabez Baker - grocer, baker & boot dealer; Charles Barker - bootmaker; Jonathan Bateman - victualler, George & Dragon & potato dealer; George Bedford - blacksmith & machinist; Rev Canon St Vincent Beechey MA - The Rectory; Andrew Bell - farmer, Thistle Hill; Joseph Bossingham – farmer; Frederick Brundle - farmer, Sedge Drove; Charles Carlton – beerhouse; Henry Carnell - fowl dealer; Mrs Mary Case; Robert Case - farmer; George Allen Cooke - blacksmith & ironmonger; Mr Samuel Cossey; James Coston – lighterman; John Cross - vermin catcher; William Curtis - shopkeeper; James Dearsley - bricklayer & builder; Isaac Dent - plumber, glazier, painter & paperhanger; Robert Elsegood - farmer, Angler’s Drove; Anthony Ferguson* - parish clerk; Alfred Firth - grocers & provision merchants, drapers & corn dealers (including Alfred Firth Jnr); John Franklin – grocer; Daniel Gagen - farmer, Sedge Drove; George Gates - farmer, Engine Drove; Andrew Jesse Gladwin - Stationmaster, Hilgay Fen; George Gleadell - engineer, Ten Mile Bank; John Glover - farmer, Ten Mile Bank; William Goodchild - farmer & landowner, Ten Mile Bank; Thomas Herbert Goodman - surgeon, Ely Road; Arthur Hall - coal dealer; John Hall - carpenter; Charles Harnwell - farmer, Town Hundred farm; Mrs Maith Harris - baker; John Foreman Howlett - beerhouse, Ten Mile Bank; Thomas Howlett - farmer, Ten Mile Bank; James Jarvis - victualler, Bell Inn; Mrs Harriet Judd; William King - saddler; George Lefley - corn miller, Railway Road; John Lefley - farmer; James Henry Leyland - National School master; George Ling - gamekeeper; Charles Edward Lock - grocer, draper, clothier, postmaster & tax collector; John Mann – bricklayer; Cook Moorfoot - cattle dealer; Joseph Negus - farmer, Anchor Drove; Aaron Osler - farmer; William Osler – baker; Francesco Palmer - engineer & threshing machine owner; Robert Pell - bootmaker, Ten Mile Bank; Emmanuel Porter - baker & bootmaker; Peckett Porter - grocer, draper, farmer & postmaster, Ten Mile Bank; Robert Porter - victualler, Jolly Anglers & farmer, Ten Mile Bank; Thomas Porter - farmer, Ten Mile Bank; Anthony Proctor - farmer, Anchor Drove; Bensley Redhead - farmer & landowner, Ten Mile Bank; Bensley William Redhead - farmer, Ten Mile Bank, Thomas Henry Redhead - assistant overseer, Ten Mile Bank; Thomas Reeve - shopkeeper; John Register – farmer; William Porter Register - baker; Isaac Riches - victualler, Swan Inn; William Henry Rox - farmer & landowner, Ten Mile Bank; Edward Rush - farmer, Anchor Drove; Seth Scott - farmer, Hubbard’s Drove; Mr William Scott - Vine House; George Secker - coal dealer & brickmaker; Samuel Shingles - beerhouse, Ten Mile Bank; William Shrewsbury - farm bailiff; Alphonso Smith - farmer, Ten Mile Bank; Mrs Eleanor Smith - farmer, Anchor Drove; Ephraim Smith – farmer; James Smith - farmer & landowner, Ten Mile Bank; Mrs Jane Smith - Ten Mile Bank; John Spraggins - beerhouse; William Stevens - engineer, Ten Mile Bank; Major Michael Stocks JP Woodhall & 26 Rutland Gate, London, & Leather Wheel, Caithness; Jabez Stokes - farmer, Hilgay House; Robert Sucker - victualler, Railway Tavern & farmer; James Tann - victualler, Rose & Crown & horse dealer; H Theobald - grocer, draper & baker; Frankland Thompson - farmer; James Tingey - farmer, Bridge farm; Rev George Woolaston Trendell BA - curate; James Tuck - beerhouse, Hundred Foot Bank; Henry Walters - farmer, Lodge farm; John Whittome - corn miller, wheelwright, engineer, millwright, & iron & brass founder; Benjamin Woodgett - pork butcher.

*Anthony Ferguson (1830-1894). His grandson (1927-1997) of the same name was chairman of the parish council in due course. His son, Stuart, establishes that the Fergusons derive from prisoners of war brought south by Oliver Cromwell's forces after victory in Scotland (Cromwell died 1659). See his 2017 book 'Captured by Cromwell in Caledonia' (Rosie Books) and www.stuartferguson.website In the Hilgay parish registers there are baptismal records for the five younger children of Robert & Mary Ferguson, the earliest being that of son Robert on 19 November 1738 (buried in Hilgay churchyard in 1822, aged 84). Robert and Mary (surname unknown) were not married in Hilgay.

The mention of John Whittome begs elaboration. Apart from the medieval cornmill on Woodhall Road, mentioned earlier, Hilgay had two windmills grinding corn in the 19th century. Hilgay smockmill stood adjacent to the south of Lime Tree House on Ely Road and was probably built in the later 1700s. It was replaced by a newer version in the 1873. It is first recorded in some detail in 1783 when it was bequeathed by miller Philip Bovell to his son of the same name. There is more detail when the mill and associated property was offered for sale at the Bell Inn, Hilgay on 28 April 1826:

“A capital freehold smock windmill situate at Hilgay in the county of Norfolk.....together with a convenient dwelling house, stable and other outhouses in good condition with garden, orchard and mill-yard, containing together about one acre, late in the occupation of John Bovell.

“Also a copyhold messuage, shop, outhouse, garden and premises to the same belonging, situate in the street of Hilgay aforesaid, in the centre of the town, late in the occupation of Mrs Rose Bovell.

“And also about 22 acres of freehold meadow and pasture land, situate in Hilgay aforesaid.”

Arthur Tuddenham was the miller in residence in the 1901 census, having recently moved from Whitwell with his family and employed by George Whittome, presumably. Apparently it was demolished in 1913, having been jacked up on one side and allowed to topple over. Its sails are just visible in one of Mike Bullen’s photographs of the Pitts in Hilgay dated c1910.

The postmill stood to the west of the village on West End and a mill may have existed on the site since the mid 18th century. It was latterly in the ownership of John Whittome. It appears to have been demolished well before 1900 although John was resident there in the 1871 census. Newer premises were developed in Holt’s Lane where both George and his father were resident by 1881. John was a retired miller living in High Street shortly before his death. The mill was replaced by a pair of semi-detached cottages now joined into one dwelling called Mill House.

George Whittome’s premises in Holt’s Lane started in the 1880s (Mike Bullen)

Please also see http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Steam-Mills/hilgay-steam.html and http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/hilgay-postmill.html The buildings were demolished, being replaced by a small estate of bungalows in the mid 1980s

John Whittome’s headstone in Hilgay churchyard says that he died on 10 May 1891, aged 74. His wife Elizabeth (nee Gardiner in King’s Lynn) died 31 March 1894, aged 76. The headstone carries the carving of a windmill and can be seen to the south west of the nave

A large scale map OS covering Hilgay, Fordham and Ryston in the last two decades of the 19th Century can be found at can be found at


Another Hilgay immigrant to the USA was James Henry Isgate (as spelt in the Hilgay registers, which later became 'Esgate') seen here in his Civil War (1861-1865) uniform. He was born in Hilgay in 1830 and emigrated in 1852/3. In 1854 he married Southery girl Ann Elizabeth Register. He died in Coeur Dalene, Kootenai County, Idaho in 1913. Ann Elizabeth arrived with her parents John & Harriet (nee Lawes) Register in New York on13 June 1853. John was baptised in Southery on 15 July 1810 and died in Medina, Ohio, in 1860. James Henry's parents also emigrated: George 'Eastgate' was a master thatcher in 'Old Gravel Pits', Hilgay, in 1841 and again in Ely Road in the census of ten years later. He died in Medina in 1862. His wife was Sarah Osborn (1809-1881) from nearby Fordham. George's parents were Coker Isgate, baptised in Foulden in 27 December 1761, and Sarah Dearsley whose baptism was in Hilgay on 03 June 1770. She was buried in Hilgay on 15 June 1832. The long line of Hilgay Dearsleys can be traced back to the marriage of George Dearsley and Elizabeth Lampson in Bexwell on 29 September 1654. Elizabeth was a widow before the christening of their daughter Anne on 01 February 1662 in Hilgay. A son George was christened c1661 - father of Fletcher Dearsley (1690-1770), who was Sarah's grandfather.

Hilgay & Ten Mile Bank in the 1900s

A snapshot of Hilgay between the two World Wars can be gleaned from Kelly’s Directories for the years 1925 and 1933. Some of the names will be familiar to residents of longer standing. The population in 1921 was 1491.

The village school, having been built in 1904, was enlarged in 1915 to accommodate 170 pupils. In 1925, the master was Herbert Arthur Higgins and Mrs H Ambrose was in charge of the infants. Mr Higgins lived at the old Avenue House, now Fox House, rather than the house of the same name built immediately to the west around 2005. Robert Alfred Ferguson of Church View, whose family have lived in the village since the 1730s, was parish clerk. Mrs Annie Coulson was sub-postmistress in 1925 as well as running her drapery business.

A number of ‘private’, as opposed to ‘commercial’, residents were listed. These included Ernest Alfred Beechey, grandson of the former rector; Joseph William Proctor, farmer and horse dealer of Lodge Farm; Mrs Kisby of Holly House, and Mrs Scott of Vine House. James Nesbitt JP, physician and surgeon, lived at Rectory Cottage in 1925 next door to the Rector, the Venerable George Herbert Ward MA. By 1933, the curate, the Rev John Greene, was living in the Cottage.

The main commercial interests in 1925, in addition to those already mentioned, can be seen in the table together with some further notes:

Ten Mile Bank was covered in similar fashion although farmers were most in evidence. Those listed in 1925 were:

Charles Armsby – his grandfather was born in Rickenhall, Suffolk, in 1830 and married Lettice Ferguson in Hilgay in 1851.

Albert Brundle – the Brundles can trace their roots back to Banham; Charles was baptised there in 1811 and married Mary Crick (or Creek) in Hilgay in 1835

Albert Cragg

William George Driver

Ralph Flowers (Hundred Foot Bank)

Ernest Glover

Woods Green

Sir Frederick Hiam – see notes regarding Hiam’s tramway

Arthur Howlett

George Howlett

Walter Kisby – the family originating from Mepal

Herbert H Palmer

Percival Rose

James Ruane & Sons

Ephraim Smith

Wilfred Starling

John Turner

At Ten Mile Bank, private residents, three in number, were the Rev Edward Morton, Curate, Clifford Rose, Hawthorne House, and Edwin Rose, Wellington House. Other than farmers, the remaining commercial entries were:

Jarvis Barker Carpenter

John Hall Dog & Duck public house (Hundred Foot Bank)

William Howlett Beer retailer – the Windmill

William Jordon Engineer in charge of engine house

John Miller Beer retailer – the True Blue

Harry Miller Blacksmith

John Missen Molecatcher

Alfred Porter Grocer

Charles Stone Bootmaker

James William Stevens Post office, baker, grocer, cycle agent & draper

Eaves Walker Railway Tavern

The 1933 edition now included telephone numbers. For example, Leonard Lane, shopkeeper and postmaster, was Hilgay 1 while Alfred Laws & Co, motor cycle & wireless agents and engineers, was Southery 2. Arthur W Abbott is listed as hairdresser, attending on Wednesdays. A sub-branch of Barclays Bank was open Thursdays 10.00-12.30. John Bland was Michael Stocks’ farm bailiff and George Dickman his head gardener. Albert George Dent is a haulage contractor while his brother Harold is shown as a general dealer. Dr James Gibbs held his surgery in the village on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10.30am. Harry Reeve and Herbert Holman were coal dealers, Thomas Johnson a fishmonger, and Miss Harriet Eliza Russell was the district nurse. In Ten Mile Bank, Horace Haynes (Tel Southery 31) was entered as beer retailer (The Windmill), haulage contractor and coal dealer ‘distance no object’.

There two National schools in the parish, one in Hilgay and the other in Ten Mile Bank. They had a combined attendance of around 250 children in 1883, of which 150 were in Hilgay

The National school in Hilgay was accommodated in the old workhouse on the corner of High Street and Waterman’s Lane in 1838 in what is now the village hall. Ten Mile Bank school was purchased and enlarged by the feoffees, with the consent of the Charity Commissioners, in 1876. It was enlarged again in 1895.

In Hilgay “The old workhouse was converted into a National School in 1838 by the present rector (Revd Beechey) when curate of the parish, and has about 150 pupils. There is another school in St Mark’s district, built by the rector in 1861, but purchased and enlarged by the foeffees of Hilgay, with the consent of the Charity Commissioners, in 1876, and has now 130 children in attendance. Both schools are church schools, and chiefly supported by the rector and feoffees.” Taken from White’s Directory 1890. There were 60 pupils on roll in Hilgay in 2008 and 24 in Ten Mile Bank.

The present school in Hilgay dates from 1904 when it was built as a memorial to Canon Beechey, with enlargements in 1915. There were then about 170 children on roll.

An interesting document was discovered in a chest of papers in Hilgay school in 2008. It is reproduced in full below with a few adjustments to make for easier reading:

Brief History of Hilgay Schools by Rev G MacDermott, Curate-in-charge, Hilgay

November 1899

“In 1838 the Revd St Vincent Beechey was curate-in-charge and with the consent of the Rector, Revd John Hewlett, founded the Village School, Hilgay.

This school was originally a workhouse. There is a lease dated 17 Nov 1838 for 999 years from the Churchwardens of Hilgay to the Trustees of the National School in Hilgay viz the Rector, Lord of the Manor, Guardian of the Poor and the Churchwardens. This lease conveyed the old workhouse to these Trustees on condition that £90 or thereabouts be expended in converting it into a school; and that the school be conducted in the principles of the National Society, upon the principles of the Church of England as by law established (see lease)

In 1838 a grant of £75 was made by the Lord Commy of the Treasury towards the conversion of the Old Workhouse into a school (see Treasurer’s account book)

On 15 December 1838, the Diocesan Nat School Society made a grant of £20 towards the school, also a supply of books (see letter)

This grant was received and is entered in the Treasurer’s accounts (see Treasurer’s book)

On 08 July 1845, The Committee of Council on Education concurred in the suggestion that it might be desirable to appoint the Rector, Lord of the Manor, Curate and churchwardens as the Committee for managing the School.

The first grant from Betton’s Charity was received in 1847. These grants have been made each year since. The condition is that the education in the schools is “according to the Church of England” (see letters)

The first notice of the Ten Mile Bank school in the Treasurer’s account book is dated 1844.

The accounts of the two schools were kept together until the year 1870 (see Treasurer’s book)

In a statement made by the Rector in Jan 1870 and attested by the Churchwardens and Trustees of the Church estates, an account is given to the Hilgay Village School. From this it appears the management of the school is left to the Rector. The surplus of income of his school is applied to St Marks’ School, Ten Mile Bank (see paper)

An account of Hilgay Village School, certified as correct by the Rector and two others, dated 26 Nov 1870, says the appointment and control of the Teacher has been left to the Rector.

An account of St Marks School, certified by the Rector and the master, dated 26 Nov 1870, says it is a private school, belonging to the present Rector, W J Parkes, as a school on the principles of the National Society, denomination that of the Church of England (see paper)

An agreement, dated 18 January 1876, refers to the Rector Canon Beechey and Churchwardens, as managers of the Hilgay National School (see agreement)

The St Marks’ School was inspected on 06 March 1871, the Education Department refer to it as St Marks Church of England School (see report)

An agreement dated 16 Feb 1893, refers to the Rector, Curate and one Churchwarden as Managers (see agreement)

A letter from the Education Department, dated 30 Sept 1899, refers to the Trust deeds as possibly containing information respecting the managers (see letter)

A letter from the National Society, dated 04 Oct 1899, says “I have no doubt that the schools are in union with us”. The terms include that the children are to be instructed in the Holy Scriptures, Liturgy and Catechism of the Established Church etc. “With reference to such instruction the schools are to be subject to the superintendence of the Parochial clergymen”.

In 1892, Canon Beechey asked several people to assist him with the schools and formed a “Voluntary Schools Board”. This committee met first on June 10th 1892. At this meeting the conditions required by the National Society for a grant of £10 toward the erection of a classroom were read and agreed to.

The Committee has sat ever since when called together by Canon Beechey. He called them together when he sought fit. Additions were made to the Committee by the Canon asking whom he wished to join them. The Canon consulted this when he wished but at times acted quite irrespective of their wishes and in opposition to their wishes. It evidently was founded by the Canon as a Finance Committee.

None of this committee ever signed as a Manager, and their names were never submitted to the Education Department. The Canon told both the Masters who are now in office (1899) that the Rector was the Manager.

The Minute book will show the proceedings of the Committee.

St Marks’ School house and land (copyhold) was conveyed from the Trustees of the Revd W J Parkes to the Trustees of the Feoffee Charity at Hilgay on 25 Sept 1876. There is no condition in this deed that it must be kept as a School (see copy in Feoffee chest – the original is kept by Miss Beechey’s solicitors)

St Marks’ School and land were enfranchised 01 June 1878. The deed is from Mrs Louisa Jones, Lady of the Manor, to the Revd St V Beechey (see copy in Feoffee chest)

Toward the support of the schools the Revd J Hewlett altogether gave £120, Revd W J Parkes £1368, Revd Canon Beechey £1592, Curates £25 – making a total of at least £3105 given by the clergy to these schools. (see account books)

There seems to be no trust deed naming the managers of the schools and no lease from the Feoffees to the school managers of St Marks’ School.”

The village school opened in 1904. The former school is now the village hall.

In Hilgay “The old workhouse was converted into a National School in 1838 by the present rector (Revd Beechey) when curate of the parish, and has about 150 pupils. There is another school in St Mark’s district, built by the rector in 1861, but purchased and enlarged by the foeffees of Hilgay, with the consent of the Charity Commissioners, in 1876, and has now 130 children in attendance. Both schools are church schools, and chiefly supported by the rector and feoffees.” Taken from White’s Directory 1890. There were 60 pupils on roll in Hilgay in 2008 and 24 in Ten Mile Bank.

There is no mention of Hilgay school accommodation in White’s Directory of 1836 but Thomas Scott is listed as schoolmaster. Thomas is still schoolmaster of the National School in 1858. By 1875, there were two National schools in the parish, one in Hilgay and the other in Ten Mile Bank. They had a combined attendance of around 250 children in 1883, of which 150 were in Hilgay.

At this point an outline of the Hilgay Feoffee charity might be appropriate. The modern day accounts can be viewed at


so not inconsiderable sums are involved - £32k or so was spent in the financial year ending 31 Dec 2014, for example, with income in each of the last five years to that date in excess of £20k. The term feoffee denotes a trustee and has a history going back to the Middle Ages. The charity owns the Village Hall.

Repeated from above, William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845 includes the following : "The CHURCH ESTATE, comprising two houses and 53A. 2R. of land, is let at rents amounting to £111 per annum. One of the houses and 11A. 2R. of the land, were left by the Rev. Nicholas Spencer, in 1701, subject to the yearly distribution of 30s. among 15 of the poorest parishioners; and 20s. for the ringers.

For the general benefit of the poor parishioners, there are two allotments, viz:- the TOWN HUNDRED, comprising 102A., supposed to have been awarded at the enclosure of the Sedge Fen, on the west side of the river Ouse, in the reign of Charles II; and the POOR'S PARTS, 67A., supposed to have been partly given to the poor in exchange for other land, in Flag Fen. These lands are let by the overseers, at rents amounting to about £130 per annum; out of which they pay yearly about £33 for drainage rates, and £13 2s. to the schoolmaster, for teaching ten poor children reading, writing, and arithmetic. The residue they apply in the payment of the rents of cottages occupied by poor families, and in aid of the poor rates. A yearly rent-charge of 20s., left by Thos. Power, in 1795, for a distribution of bread, is paid out of the Bell Inn lands". We can add to this from other Directories that reveal that the greater part of the poor's land of 166 acres was bequeathed by Sir John Wray in 1656 and his successor Sir Cecil Wray in 1692. An alternative date for the Rev Spencer's donation is 1705. (White's 1836). Kelly's (1900) adds "A dole of 40 sixpenny loaves is distributed on St Thomas's Day : 168 acres of land yielding on an average £260 yearly, has been left for the poor; and, for repairs to the church, 52 acres producing a rental of about £120 yearly". St Thomas's Day is 21st December.

Sedge Fen would have been enclosed after the New Bedford Level was completed in 1652; the main present day access is across the railway line close to the former railway station (a lorry using the crossing was the cause of the accident described elsewhere) or from Station Road (on the way to Welney from Ten Mile Bank).

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Hilgay Ten Mile Bank photo from https://ousewasheslps.wordpress.com/tag/war-memorial/

For further information on the Ten Mile Bank memorial please see http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Norfolk/TenMileBank.html The memorial in Hilgay itself has yet to be covered.

A second memorial can be found on the east side of the Hilgay memorial which remembers aircrew who died in the parish when their aircraft crashed

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Further details can be found at http://www.americanairmuseum.com/place/136041

A few early photographs of Hilgay are available.....

Two contrasting views of Bridge Street looking north c 1915 and 1955. The Rose & Crown is prominent in both and Dent's garage has arrived in the second.

The post office was formerly at Reed House, the second house up from the chapel. The Hilgay post office, when last it had one, was between here and Dent's butchers. Albert Coulson (born in Stamford in 1862-1919), the postmaster, stands in the doorway (Gordon Kisby). There has been no post office since the mid1990s.

The victory parade in the village after World War I coming down Bridge Street. Britannia, in the carriage, is 20-year-old Emma Coulson, Albert's daughter (courtesy Gordon Kisby)

Ely Road c1915. Holly House is to the rear

Bridge House c1911looking south east

Hilgay Bridge from the west (undated photograph but the iron bridge of one arch was installed in 1841)

Holt's Lane c1906 looking east. Hills Court has replaced the cottages in the background

East End c1906 looking west. The far house on the right was the residence at one time of Henry 'Funny' Carnell. The chimney in the distance on the left is the old Queen's Head pub. All villages have their characters, such as Mucky Porter and Chafer Legge mentioned elsewhere, whose activities enter into local folklore. Funny was one such, at one time also known as the Whistling Hawker because of his musical habits. During WWI he was one of two telegram boys employed by the Coulsons at the village Post Office. Late one afternoon he had a telegram to deliver to an address down Engine Road towards Littleport in Ten Mile Bank; he also had a cricket match to umpire. Refused permission to deliver the telegram the following morning he rushed off down Modney Court, rather than use the bridge by the Windmill pub, stripped off, swam the river with the telegram between clenched teeth, summoned the farmer to the bank, handed over the telegram, swam back, dressed and went on to his cricket match. Henry was born in 1886, one of the twelve children of Edward Carnell, a poultry dealer living in East End who was born in West Dereham in 1849. Henry married Eva Galloway of Southery in 1909 and they had a daughter Christabel in 1913. She married Cyril Constable and they ran an electrical shop in Eye near Peterborough. Eva died in 1950, Henry in 1961. In the 1911 census Henry was living in East End and earning his living as a 'vermin killer on farms'.

Hubbard's Drove c1920 from the east with the rectory in the background. And, below, a very unusual photograph of the terraced cottages further down the Drove on the same side looking towards the village centre:

The terrace was knocked down and replaced by a house and two bungalows in the late 1970s (courtesy Gordon Kisby)

Pubs & Beerhouses

There is much further information at http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/norfolkh/hilgay/hilgind.htm

The Bell. Closed 04 June 1970. Just north of Dent’s the butcher in High Street and formerly the village post office until its closure about 2000. Landlords from 1836-1950 are well-established and include John Barton 1851-1858, who was also a carpenter, and William Ward 1883, who was also a butcher. It is noticeable that some families produced several licensees, sons taking over from fathers or wives from husbands. Also, these landlords often changed pubs. For example, William Foreman Howlett ran the Bell in the 1860s and the Windmill at Ten Mile Bank in the 1890s. It was probably his father at the Jolly Anglers in the 1840s.

The Carpenter’s Arms at Modney Bridge. John Staples (born 1791) was the landlord 1843-1856 when he was also farming 113 acres. George Forby (born 1824) was landlord in the 1871 census. The exact location is uncertain but was probably north east of the bridge over Sam’s Cut.

The Carpenter’s Arms(?) c1900(?) This photo is looking east along Sam's Cut with the bridge carrying the Downham Ely road - now the A10 - to the right of the pub. The, then unmade, road on the right leads to Ten Mile Bank

The Eight Bells. Closed 30 Jun 1952. Apparently, 33 barrels of beer were sold in the final year of trading. It stands now as a private residence in Ambrose’s Yard behind the former village shop (dated 1790) on Stock’s Hill. It had a long association with the Firth family. Alfred Firth, also grocer and tailor, held the licence 1869-1888 and his son William Henry held it later. Dora Firth took over in 1947. Alfred’s father Peake Firth was a publican in Hilgay in 1823.

Ambrose's Yard

The George & Dragon was closed about 1965 to facilitate an improvement in the road, which was then the main A10 and increasingly busy with larger and longer vehicles. It was situated on the north corner of Holt’s Lane at its junction with Bridge Street and its easterly projection caused problems. There is a long list of known landlords, commencing with John Barton in 1836. Robert Vince, landlord in the 1850s, was also a master blacksmith.

Hilgay centre, here looking north. The George & Dragon is visible on the far left beyond the Swan. The cottages on the other side of the road have also been removed (Mike Bullen)

The Hare & Hounds. In High Street but only found named in the 1851 census with Alfred Plummer as landlord and master butcher. Its exact location is not known.

The Queen’s Head. Also known in the village as ‘Murphy’s’ after Arthur William Murphy, one of the more recent landlords. It was located on the corner of Green Hill and East End and is now a private residence following its closure in 1963. Anne Dams, born 1806 and widow of John Dams, was landlady 1851-1858 and also a grocer.

c1915 Bridge Street looking north with the Rose & Crown (centre)

The Rose & Crown. There was some debate in 1962 as to whether the Rose & Crown or the Queen’s Head should be closed. Respective sales for the previous year were 81 and 30 barrels so the Rose & Crown remained open. A long list of landlords goes back to Thomas Sayle in the 1830s. John Towler in 1851 was also a bricklayer. Victoria Cross, who took over the licence in 1939, was probably her married name.

The Swan Inn. It can be seen on the left of the above photograph and closed in April 1967. Many of the landlords have been recorded, commencing with Prior Elsegood in 1836. Benjamin Woodgett (1875-1883) was also a butcher.

The Sun. It only appears in Ely Road in the 1871 census with Galloway Butcher, also a hawker, as landlord.


A great deal more information at http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/norfolkt/tenmilebank/tmbtind.htm

The Black Horse at Black Horse Drove, Littleport, seems to have existed in the censuses of 1851 (William Peacock, aged 45) and 1901 (Henry Hills, aged 53, born Mildenhall)

The Ferry Boat. Location unknown but presumably on the east bank of the Ouse north of, and predating, the bridge. John Scott was landlord 1851-1861.

The Jolly Anglers. Closed 1919 when it was sold to Arthur Hailstone, it now stands as a private house about 70 metres north of the traffic lights. It is shown on Bryant’s map of 1826 and William Howlett is known to be landlord 1836-1845. The last landlord was George Hugh Sturgess.

The Plough. (Beerhouse only) was situated to the west of the Ouse but its exact location is unknown, possibly over the river from Southery. Landlords are known from 1836-1875. Abraham Casbourn was there in 1851. This short entry is of family history interest since Abraham emigrated shortly after the 1851 census and settled in St Louis, Missouri. He was baptised in Denver on 11 April 1802 and married to Susanna Ward in Southery on 04 July 1823. Over the next fourteen years they had twelve children, not all of whom - as was common for the time - survived infancy. In fact, seven died very young, including a son Abraham who was buried in Southery on 17 July 1832, aged 1yr 9mths having been 'found drowned'. Abraham Snr's father and grandparents were born in Littleport. Don Mudgett in Salt Lake City is a direct descendant...... Susanna's memorial can be found in the Montrose Cemetery, Lee County, Iowa

Ann Casbourn (1832-1925) was Abraham & Susanna's fifth child. The photo, taken in 1911, shows five generations of the family and includes Ronald Woods, the baby, Mary Ann Dalton (1859-1959), Louisa Huber (1876-1924) and Florence Sellers (1893-1931). Ann is buried in Mesa, Arizona. She was briefly married to David Williams in Salt Lake City in 1855 and then, after his early death, the following year to John Dalton (1801-1885) who was born in Wyoming.

The Railway Hotel/Tavern. Located just north and east of the level crossing on Long Drove. George Dordery (aged 32) had the licence in 1851 (moving to the Plough by 1854). Then Robert Sucker was landlord from 1854-1900. In the 1901 census son Robert is landlord while father is still in residence, aged 83. More recent landlords include Eaves Walker in 1923 and Arthur Willis Walker in 1937. Closed about 1965

Also near Hilgay Fen station (as it then was) was the Ten Mile bank smockmill. Further information can be found at http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/hilgay-ten-mile-bank-smockmill.html

The True Blue seems to have closed about 1949. More recent landlords include Harry Miller (1930), George Thomas Armsby (1938) and Harry Howlett (1941). Before that William Whittome held the licence in the 1840s and Samuel Shingles, also a shopkeeper, from 1858-1888. Still stands as a pebble-dashed house by the traffic lights.

The old Ouse Bridge at Ten Mile Bank - the Windmill stood just to the right of the far (east) bank

The Windmill was demolished early this century to make way for the new bridge. Porter Barrow was landlord in the 1850s. By 1891, John Foreman Howlett (aged 73) was landlord and also toll collector for the, then, new bridge. His son William, born Hilgay 1872, had taken over by 1904.

The Windmill, a few years before demolition. (www.norfolkpubs.co.uk)


The Dog & Duck. Closed by 1931 and demolished some years ago. It is shown on Bryant’s map of 1826. In 1841 and 1851 the landlords were William Jourdan (spelt Jeaurdan in the census) and Mary Jourdan (aged 61) respectively. William was buried in Denver on 21 January 1850, aged 49, after a coroner’s inquest having been found drowned near Denver Sluice and Mary was his widow. The landlord in 1929 was Harold Sedgewick. To site can be found about two kilometres north of where the Hilgay – Welney road comes to the wash bank, a short distance before Venney Farm. It was fairly remote.

**The Wry-necked Mill, or Wryneck, was actually in Welney parish and passed en route to the Dog & Duck at the outfall of the drain of the same name. It closed about 1950 and is now a much-restored private house. Known landlords were the Levells about the time of the end of WWI and John Stanley Grimes in 1945. Barber’s Almanack for 28 February 1947 records that the Wryneck Mill’s darts team were successful in the finals of the Ouse Valley League, winning the shield donated by the brewers Hall, Cutlack & Harlock (see Welney chapter for photo)