There is no better source of information on Outwell than William P Smith's book 'Outwell in a Nutshell' ISBN 9780954399702

Understanding the extent of the village and parish of Outwell as it has changed over time is not the easiest task. Up until 1990 Outwell was partly in Norfolk and partly in Cambridgeshire, the boundary running along the old course of the Nene (labelled ‘A branch of the River Nene’ on Faden’s map below) and cutting the village in half. North of the village the county boundary followed the line of the old Wisbech Canal towards Emneth. In 1935, part of Outwell that lay in Cambridgeshire was transferred to increase the size of Emneth. Just to confuse matters, Beaupre primary school is a Cambridgeshire school, located in Norfolk! Upwell had similar problems but the boundary now lies sensibly a kilometre or so to the west of both villages.

Faden’s map (1797) reveals an area heavily dependent on man-made drains half a century before the Middle Level Main Drain was constructed. Perhaps the misspelling of the village name had something to do with the local accent?

Outwell a century later can be appreciated on the large scale OS map at https://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/norfolk/068/nw

Evidence of habitation in earlier times exists in the form of a few flint tools unearthed to the west of the village when a new sewer was being constructed and there is the possibility that there was a small Bronze Age settlement just to the east. There is evidence of Roman settlement, too, in the form of pottery fragments and a few coins unearthed near Cotton’s Drove in 1987 and further coins found in the north of the parish in the last five years or so. In Saxon times Outwell appears to have become established; Early Saxon remains have been found in the vicinity of the Post Office on Church Terrace and the priory at Mullicourt may have existed pre-Conquest.

Outwell is mentioned in Domesday Book but much more is said about Upwell which suggests the latter was the more senior community of the village of Welle. Nevertheless, the church of St Clement’s was built in the 1200s and the tower and west wall of the nave remain as the principal features of this construction.

Evidence of medieval buildings remain, apart from the church, including Wood Hall, a rare timber hall dating from the early 1600s but enclosing a wall of an older building from the 1300s. Beaupre Hall Farm farmhouse is also 17th century as was Emneth Lodge, demolished in the early 1800s, but partly incorporated into Welhurn Cottages, 401-407 Well Road. JS Cotman portrayed Emneth Lodge in a work of 1819.

Emneth Lodge by John Sell Cotman

The grandest building in the parish has undoubtedly been Beaupre Hall, sadly demolished in 1966. The history of the Hall was very much tied up with the history of the Bell, Greaves and Townley families until it was sold around the time of WWI to brothers William Alfred Newling of Dial House, Emneth, and Edward Fordham Newling of London. William was born in Spalding in 1840 and Edward was his junior by five years, dying in 1932, aged 88, and leaving the hall and other property nearby to his second wife and former nurse, nee Miss Lilian Betts, who he had married in 1914. Edward left to live in Deptford before the 1871 census where he made a good living as a wine and spirit merchant, later buying land and growing fruit. William was farming 95 acres in Tilney All Saints in 1871 with his wife, Ellen Bertha nee Seaman, who he had married two years earlier. Ten years later he had moved into Dial House and was farming an acreage three times as large. He died in 1928, also aged 88. Some of the Newling’s property was sold on again at auction in 1941 and purchased by the Robb family residing at Dial House Farm. Percy Parkinson Newling, son of William, was running Beaupre Hall Farm in the 1901 census. He was married to Elida Adileida Magdalene Hansen from Norway in London in 1897 and they lost a son, Edward Anton, in WWI (see below).

Beaupre Hall in 1827 showing the west front (facing the Wisbech road)

As with most buildings of its type, there is no single date for construction. Rather, it was added to and modified at various stages in its history, very much dependent on the prosperity of its owner. The gatehouse, for example, was added around 1525 in the time of Nicholas Beaupre and is very similar in date and design to that at Wallington Hall. The Beaupre family had held the manor of Beaupre since the later 1300s but Nicholas married Margaret Fodryngaye (Fotheringay) in 1493 and embarked on the construction of a new hall commensurate with his new-found and elevated status. Nicholas died in 1512 before the project was completed but his son Edmund continued the work. Edmund died in 1567 without male issue and left the estate to his daughter Dorothy, the only child of his marriage to Catherine Bedingfield. Dorothy took it by marriage (his third) in Outwell on 15 October 1559 to Sir Robert Bell. Together they had four sons – Edmund, Robert, Synolphus and Philip – and three daughters, Dorothy, Mary and Frances. Sir Robert’s background is unknown and his year of birth is assumed to be around 1516 but he became a lawyer and was, in 1561, recorder of King’s Lynn. He held a wide range of other legal posts in Norfolk and elsewhere and became MP for King’s Lynn. His Commons parliamentary career was distinguished and he became speaker in 1572, despite, of perhaps because of, upsetting the Queen in 1566 (....‘those unbridled persons’ in the Commons, in particular ‘Mr Bell and his complices....’) and the Privy Council in 1571. He was knighted in January 1577 but was taken ill in Oxford that summer at the famous Black Assize held in Oxford Castle where he was judge in the case against Rowland Jenkes, on trial for speaking ill of the Queen. Jenkes had his ears cut off as punishment and, in consequence, put a curse on the court, the jury and the city which some hold was the origin of hundreds of mysterious deaths that were soon to follow. Bell died in Leominster shortly afterwards where he is buried, a victim, along with some 300 others, of ‘the stink’. Whether this was the plague or another product of the insanitary conditions of the time, or, indeed, Jenkes’ curse, is uncertain. This is not to be confused with the War of Jenkins’ Ear between Britain and Spain which broke out in 1739.

attributed to Thomas Athow, after  Unknown artist, watercolour, early 19th century

National Portrait Gallery - Sir Robert Bell, Speaker and Lord Baron of the Exchequer (died 1577) – the second Lord Baron to own property in the village. The first, Gilbert Haultoft, was buried in Outwell church in 1458

The Arms of Robert Bell: For the heralds amongst you - Sable a fess ermine between three church bells argent. Crest on a mount vert a phoenix rising wings elevated and inverted or armed sable

After Sir Robert died, Dorothy remarried Sir John Peyton on 08 June 1578 in Outwell. Sir John (1544-1630) took on responsibility for Sir Robert’s seven children and his only son by Dorothy, Sir John Peyton (1579-1635). Sir John senior was knighted in 1586 and served as a colonel in the army awaiting the Armada in 1588. He was deputy lieutenant of Cambridgeshire in 1596 before being appointed Lieutenant of the Tower from 1597 to 1603 where Sir Walter Raleigh was one of his charges. He then served as Governor of Jersey until his death in November 1630 and was buried at Doddington. Sir John junior married a cousin, Alice, in 1602, daughter of Sir John Peyton of Isleham, and they had three sons and six daughters. One daughter, Dorothy, married Lawrence Oxburgh and it was their daughter, also Dorothy, who married Francis Bell, the parents of Beaupre Bell senior (see below). A descendant, Ann, daughter of Sir Algernon Peyton, married Philip Bell (1676-1746), grandfather of Philip Bell (1751-1834), rector of Wimbotsham and vicar of Stow Bardolph – as already described in the Stow Bardolph chapter.

Doddington stands out in church history as the richest living in the country, its 30,000 acres with a population close to 6000 generating an annual income of £7306 by the middle of the 19th century. Under the Doddington Rectory Division Act of 1856, and by a previous Act in 1847, the living was divided into no fewer than seven separate rectories (Benwick, Doddington, Wimblington and four in March) with effect from the death of the incumbent, the Revd Algernon Peyton, in 1868. It is worth noting that the principle religious duties were carried out by a curate paid in the region of £150 a year.

Of Sir Robert and Lady Dorothy’s other children, Dorothy married Sir Henry Hobart at Blickling on 22 April 1590. She died at Covent Garden and was buried at Blickling on 30 April 1641. Sir Henry had a distinguished career, being respectively MP for St Ives, Great Yarmouth and Norwich. He was Attorney General 1603-13 and then Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1613 until his death in 1625. He acquired the Blickling estate in 1616, previously living at Intwood Hall, near Swardston. The youngest daughter, Mary, married Sir Nicholas Le Strange (1563-1592) from Hunstanton in Outwell on 06 August 1582. She died in 1585 and Sir Nicholas was remarried to Anne Paston, daughter of Sir William Paston, of Paston in Norfolk. Mary’s son, Sir Harmon, carried on the family line while Anne’s son, Roger, was drowned at Emmanuel College, Oxford, according to Blomefield although the College itself has no record. Roger was admitted there as a pensioner (paying his own way) in 1601. The College comment that there has always been a pond in the gardens at Emmanuel but should a drowning have occurred therein it is unlikely to have gone unrecorded. Perhaps it was elsewhere in the vicinity?

Beaupre Hall passed to Sir Edmund and Lady Dorothy’s eldest son, Sir Edmund (1562 - 1607), then aged fifteen, who was later MP for Aldeburgh and is interred in Outwell Church. Dorothy died in February 1603; Sir Edmund junior married three times. By his first marriage to Anne Oldfield, daughter of Peter Oldfield of Chicksands, a daughter Frances married Sir Heneage Finch and their son of the same name (see below) became the 1st Earl of Nottingham (1621-1682). His son Daniel Finch (1647-1730), the 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea, inherited Wallington Hall through his marriage in 1674 and sold it to Philip Bell (died 03 March 1678), the nephew of his grandmother, Frances – daughter of Edmund Bell and his first wife, Anne (Oldfield) - see article on Wallington Hall in ‘Country Life’ dated 16 Nov 1929 by H Avray Tipping. Sir Edmund’s third marriage was to Muriel Knyvett, daughter of Thomas Knyvett, the 4th Lord Berners who was Sheriff of Norfolk in 1579. A descendant of this Philip Bell, Catherine (daughter of Henry Bell 1702-1753), married the Revd John Astley, son of Sir Jacob Astley and Lucy Le Strange, in 1762 and was thus sister in law to Blanche Astley and her husband, Edward Pratt of Ryston. Catherine’s sister, Elizabeth, married William Say of Downham Market and their brother Philip (1751-1834) was the incumbent of Wimbotsham and Stow Bardolph.

Frances, the wife of Sir Heneage Finch was commemorated in the parish church of Eastwell with Boughton Aluph, near Ashford in Kent, where the Latin inscription on the wall monument, attributed to Nicholas Stone, reads ‘To his most beloved wife Frances Daughter of Sir Edmund Bell of Beaupré Hall The best of wives, mothers and the best of womanhood, not unsuited to this century whose principles she sustained and brought with her in her own true life, those of ancient times. Moreover she left the fruits of her exceptional example for posterity. Brief in mourning, Sir Heneage Finch serving as a lawyer and recorder to the City of London after having 11 children, seven sons and four daughters, and more than 14 years marriage whence three sons and one daughter survive with God’s protection. He erected this sepulchre of his family and to himself as she herself devised and ordained. She died on the 11 April 1627’.

Nicholas Stone was the foremost British sculptor of his day, trained in the Netherlands which is probably where he learned the art of carving marble. With the onset of the Civil War in 1642 he evidently ceased working, and the sculptural tradition in Britain generally was not revived again until the late 17th century. The monument is of national importance and has been donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum where it is on display. Also on display in the V&A are thirteen panels of heraldic stained glass from Beaupre Hall dating from around 1570-1577 (when the Hall was built) and donated by Mrs L S Kinsman according to the wishes of E Fordham Newling. Nine of these beautiful panels are reproduced on the V&A website, along with explanatory notes. One carries the arms of John Beaupre who married Katherine Mountford in the early 14th century. Two quarters of this panel evoke John’s descent from the St-Omers, the Norman family who settled in Cambridgeshire during the 1200s. John’s mother, Christian, was the last female heir of this line when she married into the Beaupres. Another panel is dedicated to Thomas Beaupre (c1410-71), great grandson of John, following his marriage to Margaret, daughter of John Meeres of Houghton in Lincolnshire. A third is to Nicholas Beaupre (c1465-1514), grandson of Thomas, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Thomas Fordringaye, Lord of Southacre and Alderford and of Dorwards Hall in Bocking in Essex. Their son, Edward (Edmund), father of Dorothy, who died in 1567 is the subject of a further panel and there are several more to Sir Robert, Dorothy’s husband.

Captain Philip Bell was, according to the family history drawn up by Josselyn (mentioned below), the eighth child of Robert Bell (baptised 1590) and Mary Chester who married in 1610. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Barbados in June 1641, becoming Governor in Chief in 1645 until being succeeded by Lord Francis Willoughby of Parham, the 5th baron, in 1650. Willoughby was appointed by Charles II in exile, confirming an earlier appointment by his father before his execution in 1649, when the Royalists in Barbados gained an ascendancy over the Parliamentarians. Philip had been appointed governor of Bermuda in 1627 and then founder governor of Providence Island (off the coast of Nicaragua) from 1630. Josselyn’s view is clearly erroneous although in other respects it is most informative. The eighth child of a marriage taking place in 1610 is unlikely to have been born much before the mid 1620s yet he was governor of Bermuda in 1627? Hardly! Another source (‘Sir Robert Bell and his Early Virginia Descendants’, see Google Books) correctly has the Captain as the fifth son of Sir Robert Bell, the Speaker, and Dorothy (Beaupre) and baptised on 14 June 1574 in Outwell. He married twice. His first wife appears to have been Anne Peyton, his stepsister, daughter of his stepfather’s first marriage and one son, Thomas, is known. His second, Mary, was the daughter of Captain, later Admiral, Daniel Elfrith, renowned West Indies’ privateer, colonist and slave trader in the service of Robert Rich, the 2nd Earl of Warwick (1587-1658) but there were no known children from this second union. Philip appears to have died in Barbados in 1659 and there is no known portrait.

The Philip Bell who purchased Wallington Hall from Daniel Finch in the mid 1670s died shortly afterwards in 1678. He was indeed the son of Robert Bell and Mary Chester but was not the Captain of the same name – otherwise he would have been 104 when he died. Both Philips were married to Marys and perhaps this is one reason for the confusion. The second Mary was remarried in Emneth on 09 January 1679 to Thomas Say. Readers may like to access Philip Bell’s will dated 03 January 1678 (proved 10 May) from the National Archives although reading it is difficult. It is a very lengthy document, referring to his wife Mary and brothers Edmund and Francis; there appear to be no children from the marriage.

Diana Willoughby, Lord Francis Willoughby’s eldest daughter married Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea, in 1645 (the first of his four wives) and was, thus, mother to Daniel. Daniel Finch was married in 1674 to Lady Essex Rich, daughter and co-heir of Robert Rich (born 1611), 3rd Earl of Warwick, she bringing Wallington Hall to the marriage for Daniel’s subsequent disposal to Philip Bell.

Lady Essex, Countess of Nottingham by Sir Peter Lely

Sir Edmund Bell’s son, Sir Robert, brother of the above Frances, who was also an MP, lived at Beaupre Hall in the 1630s. Sir Robert died on 31 October 1639, leaving the manor to his eldest son Edmund who then sold it to his brother, Philip (above), who died on 03 March 1678, leaving the Hall to his nephew Beaupre Bell (born c1674), upon his reaching the age of sixteen. Beaupre was son of his brother Francis Bell (1622-1680) and his wife, the former Dorothy Oxburgh. Francis died while Beaupre was still a boy of about six years old.

Beaupre Hall arrived in the somewhat strange hands of Beaupre Bell senior around 1690. Wealthy though he was, he allowed the hall to get into a ruinous state. Tales were rife of 500 unbroken horses and herds of cattle roaming the estate and, according to some, the buildings as well. Perhaps this was in some way related to his temporary disappearance in 1688. Was he kidnapped? Did he simply run away? Anyway, Dorothy placed the following notice in a London newspaper: “Beaupre Bell Esq. A gentleman about fourteen years of age, of fair complexion, marked with smallpox, his foreteeth protruding a little, and light coloured hair is hereby passionately desired by his mother and guardian Mrs Dorothy Bell (if he is at his liberty) to surrender himself to John Fincham of Outwell in the county of Norfolk or to John Trinder Esq at his house in Suffolk Street...” She also offered a reward of £100 for information leading to the prosecution of any detainers. Based on retail prices this amounted to an inducement of around £16,000 for information leading to the conviction of any kidnappers. John Fincham lived at Fincham Hall on the opposite side of the river from Beaupre Farm; the manor house, although much decayed, was not finally demolished until the mid 1950s.

Beaupre returned but, intriguingly, we are provided with no further information. He married Margaret (died 1720), daughter of Sir Anthony Oldfield of Spalding, and there were four children, including Beaupre junior. He was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1707 but appears then to have lapsed into a state of great apathy. Parts of the estate were sold off but whether this was from financial necessity or the result of an enlightened view of the world is not known.

Thus, Beaupre Bell junior (1704-1741) grew up in a strange world but was to become a celebrated antiquary. He attended Westminster School before moving on to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1723. The estate was still worth in the region of £1500 a year, even in its rundown state, and this was sufficient to allow Beaupre to fully indulge his antiquarian interests, particularly that in ancient coins.

An advertisement placed in the London Gazette by Lord Harrington, the secretary of state, suggests that Beaupre’s passage through life was not always smooth. The notice reported that his life had been threatened, his servant shot, and his house beset several times. A free pardon was offered to any of the criminals who would disclose the identity of his accomplices and a reward of £50 was made available.

Beaupre died, unmarried, of consumption on a journey from Stamford to Bath in August 1741 leaving his collections to Trinity College. He was brought back to Outwell for burial on 06 September although there is no mention in the register nor is there an inscription in the family chapel. There appears to have been some dispute as to who should pay for the burial and a delay of some four years before the final interment of his stone coffin. Perhaps this has something to do with the lines in his will that ‘the expence of my funeral I leave to the discretion of my executrixes..... Monuments are expensive to the living and of no service to the dead’. Eventually, Beaupre was laid to rest in St Mary’s – later renamed the Beaupre – Chapel. He left £150 in his will to re-floor the chapel, which he refers to as St Margaret’s, in black and white marble and the outcome of this remains in place today. In addition to his sister Dorothy there was a third child, Margaret, named after her mother, who married Joseph Jackson of Edmonton.

Beaupre Bell (junior) died August 1741 (drawing courtesy of Trinity College, Cambridge)

The Beaupre memorial in the St Mary (or Beaupre) Chapel is to be found at the eastern end of the south aisle. The inscription, in Latin, commemorates Nicholas Beaupre and his wife Margaret who both died early in 1512 and their son Edmund, who followed in February 1568. The memorial is in two parts, the shield below the middle canopy shows Beaupre quartering Fodryngaye (Margaret’s maiden name before her marriage in 1493) while the upper part above the canopy was added for Edmund and includes his shield of arms. The family are thought to have added the south aisle to St Clement’s in the 15th century.

Beaupre senior’s younger brother Philip Bell married Ann Peyton, daughter of Sir Algernon Peyton of Doddington, in Elm on 15 June 1698. Their son, Henry (1702-1753) who was buried in South Runcton, married Catherine Warmoll of Boyland Hall, Norfolk, and their second son was Philip (1751-1834), vicar of Stow Bardolph. Their older son, Henry (1748-1820), also buried at South Runcton, was mayor of King’s Lynn in 1789. He married Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Scarlet Browne of King’s Lynn, and it was she who sold off Wallington Hall in 1830, thereby severing the Bell family from Wallington Hall. She died, aged 75, on 07 May 1830 and was also buried at South Runcton, there having been no church in Wallington for many years.

The memorial in South Runcton St Andrew to Philip Bell (1776-1746) of Wallington Hall, younger son of Francis Bell of Beaupre Hall, and his wife Ann (who died 1737, aged 63), daughter of Sir Algernon Peyton. Included are Philip’s two children, Frances and Henry together with Catherine (Warmoll), his daughter in law, who died in 1801, aged 89. Sir Algenon appears to have died in 1671 so Ann’s age appears to be incorrect. South Runcton church is close to Wallington Hall

Beaupre junior’s younger sister Dorothy Beaupre Bell (born c1705-1765) inherited the estate and took it by marriage to William Greaves who assumed the additional surnames of Beaupre Bell. His niece Jane Greaves married Colonel Richard Townley (1726-1802) of Belfield Hall, near Rochdale.

The marriage of Dorothy Beaupre Bell, of the parish of St Marylebone, to William Greaves on 20 January 1742 at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair. The minister, Alexander Keith, is of interest. The Chapel was something akin to a marriage production line under Keith’s ministry but this came to an end on 25 March 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act became law ‘for the better prevention of clandestine marriage’ – those taking place without a licence or calling of banns which were still legal but much frowned upon. On the day previous no fewer than 61 couples were wed at the Chapel in anticipation of the Act coming into force. Why Dorothy and William should seek to be married by the Revd Keith, although he was a friend, is a mystery but had perhaps to do with the terms of her brother’s will which was proved the preceding 09 October. The Rector of nearby St George’s, Hanover Square (a proper church) took exception to Keith who was consequentially excommunicated in October 1742 and thrown into the Fleet Prison the following year – where he died in 1758. This in itself did not prevent the clandestine marriages. Most respectable people, even allowing for the fact that most of the couples married in the chapel were well-heeled because of the fees payable, would not go down this route but there were notable exceptions, such as the marriage of the Duke of Hamilton to Elizabeth Gunning on St Valentine’s Day 1752. Of this marriage, Horace Walpole wrote: ‘The event which has made most noise since my last is the extensive wedding of the youngest of the two Gunning sisters, ..... they were married with the ring of a bed-curtain, at half an hour after twelve at night, at Mayfair Chapel.’

The estate passed, in 1787, to William’s great nephew, Richard Greaves Townley senior (1751-1823) who married Margaret Gale (referred to as ‘Miss Gale’ in William’s will) in Westminster in 1785. Their younger son William Gale Townley (1788-1862) was rector of Upwell cum Welney and was a resident of Beaupre Hall in the 1851 census. The two parishes actually became separate by the Upwell-cum-Welney Division Act of 1846. William Greaves (died 10 March 1787) was Commissary of Cambridge University, one of the four high offices, for many years and is commemorated in St Vigor’s Church, Fulbourn, as are other members of the family. Beaupre’s will was first dated 10 December 1740 but subsequently twice amended and re-dated the following year. Dorothy, who was joint executrix of Beaupre’s will along with Mrs Emma Marshall, died in March 1765.

Readers may wish to refer to ‘Visitations of England & Wales. Notes. Vol 5. 1903’. Editors: Joseph Jackson Howard (Maltravers Herald Extraordinary) & Frederick Arthur Crisp (available on Google Books) and’ A genealogical account of the descendants of Sir Robert Bell: with a history of the illustrious ancestory of his wife Dorothy, co-heir of the ancient family of Beaupre’ by John Henry Josselyn (published 1896; a copy is in King’s Lynn Library). These two sources are not in full agreement. Josselyn has Frances, rather than Margaret, marrying Joseph Jackson, for example, and Elizabeth marrying William Greaves and being executrix of Beaupre’s will in 1741.

Beaupre junior’s will was a lengthy document first written when his sister Dorothy was still single. It provided that, should she marry, her husband, in order to inherit the estate, would be required to take the additional surnames of Beaupre Bell (which William Greaves, not surprisingly, duly did). It also provided that, in the absence of male issue from her marriage, which was likely, the Outwell estate should pass to Beaupre’s cousin Henry Bell (1702-1753), son of his father’s brother Philip, and his male heirs and this is what duly happened. In the interim the estate was vested in Mrs Emma Harrison ‘during the term of her natural life’ who, along with Dorothy his sister, was joint executrix. Who was Emma Harrison? She, ‘formerly of Wisbech St Peter and now of Outwell’, and her daughter Elizabeth, were well provided for, Elizabeth being left £500 (around £43,000 today) when she reached the age of twenty, and Emma £200 and ‘as a farther mark of my sincere affection.....my miniature picture by Morland and the prints and paintings which hang in my study, the gallery and parlour at Beaupre Hall’ and much more as well as ‘desiring her to wear the yellow diamond ring I most frequently use as a memorial of me’. After more than two and a half centuries one can only speculate.

William Greaves Beaupre Bell of Fulbourn’s will is dated 03 October 1785 – he signed himself ‘William Greaves B.B’. Apart from his estates in Yorkshire and Lancashire, there were three main beneficiaries: John Hinchcliffe, Bishop of Peterborough, the Revd James Hicks of Milton, and his nephew Richard Greaves Townley (senior), eldest son of Richard Townley of Belfield in the parish of Rochdale. The last mentioned alone inherited the estates in the north; the first two were William’s executors – James Hick’s being the husband of his niece, Ann. There were many monetary bequests such as £5000 to his niece Jane Townley, £1000 to his butler, Love Carter, £300 to his gardener, Runald Lyon, and two years wages to each of his servants. £300 was granted to James Taylor of Outwell – ‘my agent there’.

Richard Greaves Townley junior (1786-1855), William Gale Townley’s elder brother, was MP for Cambridgeshire for fifteen of the years between 1831 and 1852. He had a daughter and two sons, Charles Watson (1824-1893) and William Gale (1827-1869). Charles inherited the family seat of Fulbourn Manor and had three children; the elder son, the Revd Charles Francis Townley CBE (1856-1930) lived at Fulbourn Manor and was Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire. The younger son, Walter Beaupre Townley (1863-1845) married Susan Mary Keppel, daughter of the 7th Earl of Albemarle, and was Minister Plenipotentiary (loosely translated as ambassador) at The Hague, being knighted for his trouble. The second son, William Gale, went into the church and was curate of Boxley, near Maidstone, in Kent in 1861.

The west front of Beaupre Hall in 1923

During World War II, Beaupre Hall was taken over by the army and by 1945 was in such a sorry state that it was well beyond economic repair. Mrs Kinsman, the former Lilian Newling nee Betts, William’s wife, having remarried offered the hall to the National Trust in 1952 but the offer was declined. The following year, the Hall, its walled gardens and thirteen acres of land were put on the market as a ‘unique and valuable property’ through Charles Hawkins. Unique it may have been but valuable, by now, it was not. It was purchased by Matthew and Frederick Booty of Barroway Drove for £3050. Some land was sold off by them for housing (forming Beaupre Avenue) and the Hall and four acres were sold on to Reginald Buckenham in 1964. Demolition came two years later. Beaupre Lodge was constructed in 1970 where the towers once stood.

Beaupre Hall in 1963 from the south west (courtesy William P Smith)

A similar view of Beaupre Hall shortly before demolition in 1966.

The history of the Beaupre family before the marriage of Dorothy Beaupre to Robert Bell in 1559 is of great interest. We have no birthdate for Dorothy though she was the daughter of Edmund Beaupre and Catherine Bedingfield, his second wife, daughter of Philip Bedingfield. Edmund was buried in Outwell on 14 February 1568. In turn, he was the son of Nicholas Beaupre who died 20 February 1512 who had married his mother Margaret Fodryngaye in 1493; she being the daughter of Thomas Fodryngaye, of Brockley in Suffolk, and his wife Elizabeth Doreward, great granddaughter of John Doreward (died 1420), Speaker of the House of Commons in 1399 after Richard II was deposed by Henry IV, and again in 1413 under Henry V. Fotheringay and Fodringhay are two alternative spellings of Margaret’s family name. It is somewhat interesting to note that John Doreward’s wife was Blanche Coggeshall (c1380-1460), daughter of Sir William Coggeshall, whose second daughter Alice (born c1382-1422) was the first wife of Sir John Tyrell, also Speaker of the Commons in 1428. The girls’ mother was Antiocha, daughter of Sir John Hawkwood (c1320-1394), one of the most renowned soldiers in the reign of Edward III, fighting alongside the Black Prince at Poitiers in 1356. Sir John, nicknamed ‘Il Condottiere’ (mercenary soldier, paid protector of the city) was much admired in Florence and is buried in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Florida. He is also commemorated in the church at Sible Hedingham, near Colchester, from whence he came.

Sir John Hawkwood’s memorial in the Duomo, Florence – they do not come much grander

From Nicholas Beaupre and Margeret we go back as follows:

    • Nicholas’ parents were Thomas Beaupre and Margaret Ashfield, daughter of Robert Ashfield of Stowlangtoft, Suffolk, who married in 1459

    • Thomas was the son of Thomas Beaupre, Lord of Wellingham and Weasenham in Norfolk who was alive in 1459, and his first wife Margaret Meers who died in 1439

    • In, turn Thomas was the son of Nicholas Beaupre and Margaret Holdich of Didlington, daughter of Richard – note here the connection with the Hawe family who built Woodhall in Hilgay. Nicholas died in 1404.

    • Sir Thomas Beaupre was Lord of Frevill’s Manor in Wellingham, living in 1362, and Nicholas’ father, dying c1392

    • And then it gets complicated! Sir Thomas’ father was Richard fitz John fitz Gilbert, also called Beaupre. The family seem to have been of high standing in Cornwall in the 1370s. Richard’s father, John fitz Gilbert married Christian St Omer, daughter of Sir Thomas St Omer who was living in the time of Edward I (1272-1307) and said to be descended from Hugh St Omer, baron under William I (1066-1087), the Conqueror. The male line goes back from Gilbert fitz Warren de Lyn (living in 1288) to Senulph who was living in the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) and from whom the family forename of Sinolphus, frequently used by the Bells, derives. (fitz, meaning ‘son of’ derives from the Norman fils and Latin filius)

The lineage and dates here are from Josselyn’s Account of the honourable and knightly ancestry of Dorothy Beaupre referred to elsewhere in this chapter and may not match exactly those found elsewhere. Not an uncommon problem in such matters.

The earliest parts of St Clement’s church are found in the lower tower and date from the 1200s. The porch was added in the 1400s and the church was enlarged considerably in the years up to 1520 to include the two chancel chapels. The Beaupre Chapel, formerly dedicated to St Mary, was completed around 1512. The Fincham Chapel, now the vestry on the north east side of the church, was financed by John Fincham, of Fincham Manor, who died in 1527 – ancestor of the John Fincham who helped secure the return of the young Beaupre Bell in 1688. There is a substantial stone memorial set in the floor dedicated to the memory of the latter John (1630-1709). The former arrived in Outwell around 1485 as a consequence of his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Dereham of Crimplesham. She was the granddaughter of Gilbert Haultoft, Lord Baron of the Exchequer under Henry VI who was buried in Outwell. Gilbert’s wife, Margaret, is commemorated in the north aisle near to the brass memorial to Richard Quadryng, in the armour of the period, dated 1511. Other fittings are of considerable interest: the font and lectern date from the 1400s while the magnificent iron-bound chest with seven locks must be nearly as old. The bells, of which there are six, were cast by Osborn & Arnold of St Neots in 1778, with the 4th being recast by Dobson of Downham in 1827 (see Downham Market chapter)

The memorial in the floor of the Fincham Chapel, now the vestry, to John Fincham (1630-1709), his two wives, Mary and Susan, and seven children ‘most of them buried in or near this place’. This is presumably the same John Fincham baptised in Outwell on 27 December 1630, son of John, ‘gent’, who was baptised in 1592 and grandson of the John baptised in 1560 (buried 1621) son of Simeon Fyncham (buried 1615). At the commencement of the registers in 1559 there are records for the families of Robert, Simeon and Nicholas Fyncham so links further back to the founders of the Fincham chapel are not possible to trace through this source. Wives were not mentioned in these early baptismal entries and the marriages of male members of the gentry were most likely to take place in the home parish of the bride. Marriage records appear for seven Fincham daughters in the Outwell registers but none for any sons.

One Fincham marriage worthy of note was that of Mary to Samuel Calverley, the rector at that time, on 30 March 1627. Since Samuel & Mary’s last child was baptised in 1648 her date of birth is likely to have been around 1608 but there is no record in the registers. Digging further, however, it is more than likely that she was the daughter of Edward Fincham. Nine of Edward’s children were baptised between 1603 and 1618 but no baptisms at all were recorded in the parish for 1607 and Mary is likely to be one of the missing ones. Edward was buried in 1631 but his baptism is not recorded in the parish. Mary was buried in 1650; Samuel ‘Doctor of Divinity’ outliving her by three years. Samuel was succeeded by the Revd John Leigh whose burial on 04 September 1709 is recorded thus ‘....gent. & parson of this parish above 56 years to the grief of many ended his days here, aged 81’.

Detail: Fincham coat of arms. In the stained glass of the north chapel there is an angel holding a shield with Fincham quartering Haultoft.

The Lynne Chapel on the north side of the church was constructed in the reign of Henry V (c1420) and dedicated to William Lynne, a local benefactor who bequeathed land to the parish so that the rents therefrom might assist the poor once levies had been made to assist the churchwardens, parish clerk and the sexton. There was an extensive restoration of the church in 1862, particularly of the chancel, and a new roof was added. No attempt has been made to replace the spire that was removed in 1753. The roof was extensively repaired in 1999 at a cost exceeding £100,000 – nearly fifty times the sum involved for the more extensive work carried out nearly a century and a half before.

Plan of Outwell St Clement from British History Online. The south porch dates from the 1400s and has a small room above, accessed by a narrow staircase from the aisle, once a priest’s room and, later, Outwell’s first school.

St Clement’s interior. The piers and arches are of the Decorated period (1250-1350). The oldest parts of the church are to be found in the tower while the splendid east window is Perpendicular (1350-1500)

One rector of St Clement’s, the Revd William Hardwicke, appointed in 1803, met an untimely end when he was walking home after a dinner party at Beaupre Hall. He, it appears, slipped on a footbridge crossing the Wisbech Canal and was drowned. This sad event was reported in The Times, dated 28 April 1838, and one hopes he was not in the same state as John Uffendale who suffered a similar fate seven years earlier (see The Bridge Inn).

The memorial stone to the Revd Hardwicke set in the floor of the nave in St Clement’s. He married Elizabeth Rawnsley in Bourne, Lincolnshire, on 25 September 1810, she being buried in Outwell on 10 June 1826, aged 37, with a note added in the register: ‘The affectionate and beloved wife of The Revd Wm Hardwicke, Rector of Outwell’. Her baptism can be found in the Bourne registers (dated 01 October 1788) as can that of her younger brother Thomas Hardwicke Rawnsley (born 1789) who was appointed curate in Outwell in 1810 and went on to hold a number of other ecclesiastical offices before his death near Spilsby in 1861..... their mother, Deborah, was a Hardwicke too, baptised in Bourne in 1754, and married to Thomas Rawnsley in Peterborough Cathedral in 1784. An older brother, Richard, went on to become a Major General in the Royal Artillery and lived well into his eighties, retiring (on full pay) to Portsea Island in Hampshire. Before coming to Outwell, the Revd William became curate in Tydd St Giles in 1800 and later, in 1825, was appointed vicar of Lacington alias Lenton in Lincolnshire, between Bourne and Stamford, by the patron, Sir Gilbert Heathcote – an example of pluralism that was to last for ten years with no realistic prospect of the incumbent preaching in both his parishes on the same Sunday.

On Thursday 24 February 1831 there was a meeting in St Clement’s vestry which led to a petition to Parliament stating ‘the grievances under which your Petitioners, and the county at large are labouring, which have brought it to its present alarming and agitated state....’. The grievances, forming a valuable commentary on conditions in the land at the time, went on to condemn firstly the system of tithes. ‘That the Land in this Neighbourhood, and for many Miles around, has, within the memory of man, been very much improved, (from a very small value) by expending large Sums of Money in obtaining Acts of Parliament, by cutting Rivers and Canals, Embankments, building Mills, and other necessary Works, with great labour of body and anxiety of mind. And also very heavy Taxes remain to be paid annually to keep those works in repair; and which heavy Charges the Clergy do not contribute any part, but demand the tenth of the produce as their just due; such imposition your Petitioners think very unreasonable and unjust, and ought to be abolished, and some other means substituted in its stead’. The second grievance, where ‘your Petitioners join in the general cry of the whole British People’ concerned the ‘defective state of the Representation of the People in the House of Commons.... Members to be chosen by the free voice of those who possess Property, or pay Rates and Taxes...’. This is not to say that the people of Outwell were directly responsible for the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. In the former case, though the expansion of the electorate was relatively small, to include only about 15% of the male population, the changes were highly significant in the gradual move towards universal suffrage. Secret ballots were not made law until 1872 while women over 30 did not get the vote until 1918 – and not on equal terms with men until 1928. In the latter case, tithes were replaced by a variable monetary payment, commonly referred to as the ‘Corn Rent’, under the supervision of tithes commissioners who drew up maps to show the ownership and distribution of property. The best tithe maps, though only covering about a sixth of the land nationally for a variety of reasons, are a valuable source of information about the ownership of property in the period 1837-1841, by which time the work of the commissioners was largely completed.

If, at this point, you feel the local clergy (the Revd Hardwicke) were great campaigners for social justice, then read on, since... ‘The above is placed in the Parish Register, there to remain, as evidence of the folly of a Country Village – which should be the scene of peace and quietness – willingly making itself a party to matters on which they were neither called upon - & probably with their prejudice feelings – not particularly well qualified to give an opinion. The year 1830 had concluded and the year 1831 had commenced with riots and tumults – attended with the destruction of machinery and the burning of corn stacks & agricultural produce in almost every County of the Kingdom:- the Village of Outwell and the immediate neighbourhood had continued free from such a dreadful visitation....’ due, in the writer’s opinion, to labourers being in full employ and receiving fair and good wages, many spreading clay on the fields of Bardolph Fen, and to ‘farmers receiving a full remunerating price for their agricultural produce’.

Why, at such times, and with the Commons and ecclesiastical authorities both pledged to reform, asks our rector, should the people of Outwell take it upon themselves ‘for the first time in memory of man’ to be of sufficient conscience to petition the Legislature! The blame for such effrontery was on the heads of three, all of whom had ‘certainly no great cause to complain’: One, who only a few years ago had been a small tradesman, a carpenter of the parish who had brought up a large family, had retired from trade and become one of the largest occupiers of the parish. The second ‘had entered the parish but a few years since – not bringing with him the most respectable character – but he too had become a large occupier – he had brought up a large family - & one of more of whom he had be enabled to extend the benefits of a boarding school education. The third most zealous Reformer, was the Recor’s Churchwarden, & was the hirer of a part of the Rectorial Tithes of Stow Bardolph – for which he was not rated in the assessment of the Poor’. The last mentioned was the chairman of the meeting called to draw up the petition and the actual writing of it was deputed to ‘a certain Unitarian Preacher at Wisbech who had lately set up the trade of Petition Manufacturers’. Some scorn was then poured on the process of obtaining signatures whereby ‘Some of the largest & most respectable Occupiers of the Parish did not appear desirous of having their names blazoned forth among the Lords and Commons of the Realm – and refused their signature, but others there were – and most probably many – labourers & school boys – whose opinion of themselves was not quite so modest – or rather whose dependence as labourers in the employ of the promoters of the petition, was a tolerably sharp spur to their crosses or marks..... all the Public House & Beer Shops had been visited by eleven of clock in the evening of Saturday....’. The petition never appeared in the parliamentary papers.

The Revd Hardwicke, plainly somewhat contemptuous of his parishioners daring to rattle the social cage, continues thus: ‘Connected with this ardent spirit of reform was the conduct of the overseer of the Poor of the Isle side of the Parish – in refusing the accustomed fee for the funeral of a Pauper – alleging that as the Affidavit formerly made as to the burial of the body in woollen, had ceased – the accustomed fee should cease also – had this circumstance occurred a day or two previous to, instead of a day after the departure of the Parish Reform Petition, it would doubtless have appeared among the heavy grievances of which “the inhabitants, owners and Occupiers of Land in the Parish of Outwell in the Counties of Norfolk and Cambridge” had to complain, and the reform of which they would have claimed “as the undoubted birthright of the People of this Country”. The Rector not

feeling disposed to forgo a claim of a fee established beyond the memory of Man the Parish is

likely to continue subject to the payment of it, unless the Advocates of reform in Church & State

should deem it advisable to call a public meeting on the subject – and petition Parliament a

second time on this particular subject.’

Burial in woollen was for those who could not afford a coffin. Only plague victims were exempt from the Burial in Woollen Acts 1666-1680 by which woollen shrouds had to be made of English wool, rather than imported wool or any other material, and an affidavit had to be sworn to that effect in front of a Justice of the Peace. The burial register might then be marked accordingly, usually with an ‘A’ or ‘Aff’, or ‘Naked’ if the deceased was too poor even to afford a woollen shroud. The legislation was in force until 1814 but generally ignored after the late 1760s, hence the Overseer’s stance and the Rector Harwicke’s indignation.

The known rectors of St Clement’s go back to 1216 with the appointment of Robert de Gloucester, archdeacon of Stafford and are displayed in the south aisle. Since the Revd Hardwicke’s time, up until 1980, they have been as follows:

1838 John Johnson; 1848 John Nicholas Dealtry; 1859 Henry Wright; 1871 John George Briscoe; 1890 Arthur Simon Latter; 1894 Henry Venn Ellis; 1911 Percival Oakley Hill; 1913 Joseph Brooke Harte; 1923 John Lionel Shirley Dampler Bennett; 1927 Reginald Arthur Kent; 1937 Frank Ingle; 1959 T Stephen Jones; 1964 Rees William Hippersley Phillips; 1974 Henry Richard Stringer; 1978 David John Rake (Priest-in-Charge); 1980 Reginald Christopher Wallis

The burial registers are, again, a source of interesting historical information. Outwell did not escape the cholera epidemic in 1832 and 17 victims are identified, stating with William Barrett (aged 29) on 24 June and concluding with John Hudson (62) on 27 September. In common with elsewhere, this was followed by an outbreak of smallpox which claimed a further 12 lives in the period up to January 1833.

Edward Jenner, who pioneered vaccination against smallpox, died in 1823 with the great value of his work largely unimplemented. Such were the prejudices of the time that this 1802 cartoon depicts those who had been vaccinated sprouting cow-like appendages as a consequence. Only with a succession of Vaccination Acts from 1840 onwards (compulsion came in 1853) did smallpox decline as a cause of death (around one in three of victims) and disfigurement. Not that smallpox was the only epidemic disease causing death. Diphtheria made regular visitations and carried off children, in particular, until a vaccine was not developed in the 1920s. Queen Victoria’s third child, Princess Alice, was an adult victim in Darmstadt in 1878. Locally, spare a thought for the Johnson family in Outwell in 1863 when four children – Arthur (1), George (4), Alfred (6) and Sarah Ann (10) - were buried within a single week between 18 and 25 July.

An unusual entry in the register dated 25 Jun 1837 records for the burial of Thomas Relton (87) that ‘his pall was borne by six of the oldest remaining inhabitants of the parish whose ages added to the age of the deceased amounted to 502’. In 1878, two entries for Mary Cousins (84) on 12 June and William Cousins (88), for many years parish clerk and postmaster, five days later, was further embellished by ‘this worthy old couple had been married for nearly 60 years’.

Earlier entries of interest include the burial of Joseph Feast on 28 March 1832, aged 59, ‘Churchwarden of the Parish... in digging to form a brick grave (for which the fee was 3 guineas) 40 perfect skulls some with hair remaining on them were taken out and about 30 imperfect ones – a singular circumstance perhaps to be accounted for on the supposition that the bodies had been buried in the time of the Plague or some pestilence’. Other bones are not mentioned but we assume they were present. Burials continued as normal in the parish during the summer of 1665 (when, in August, over 30,000 deaths were recorded in London) which suggests that the Black Death, arriving in this country in 1348, was responsible. This first outbreak of bubonic plague killed an estimated 1.5 million people in Britain out of a total population then of around 4 million and led, indirectly, to the breakdown of the feudal system through the great shortage of labour that was created..... and the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.

Plague broke out in the summer months in England (when the fleas on the rats could thrive) from time to time, often in the large cities, where sanitary conditions were poorest, or ports trading with countries overseas. Such outbreaks may reach rural areas but not always. There is no sign that the outbreak in 1563 which killed, it is estimated, over 20,000 Londoners, reached Outwell since burials continued as normal in that year with 14, nor in 1608 when there were only 9. However, in 1593 baptisms were recorded in the parish but no burials which may be significant and in 1603 Outwell suffered a major visitation at a time when an estimated 33,000 Londoners perished. Burials in the parish in the first decade of the seventeenth century numbered typically in the mid teens – 16 in 1602-03 and in 1604-05, for example. However in 1603-04 there were 76 burials and the distribution through the year is typical of a plague outbreak. In the margin of the register, next to the burial of the five children of Walter Nunn between 10th and 24th July there is the note: ‘Plague’. There were 12 burials in July, 22 in August, 16 in September, 9 in October and 3 in November. It is disappointing that the Upwell registers have not survived before the 1650s so we have no comparable data for an adjoining community of similar size.

Early burial registers contain additional information only rarely but in the last years of the 1700s and in the first years of the 1800s extra notes regarding age, occupation and status begin to creep in. On 31 December 1801, the burial of Sarah Ram, wife of William, is recorded, having been killed by a windmill sail in Upwell. Outbreaks of smallpox are recorded in 1809, 1818 and 1823. Mary Kelly, an infant, was buried on 03 October 1820 ‘her death occasioned by accidentally giving her laudanum’. Thomas Edwards, buried on 13 January 1822, aged 30, was ‘the first member of the benefit club established eleven years ago to have died’. On 13 August 1823, Mary Barrett ‘after a coroner’s inquest having come from Downham parish and died here from taking opium’. The 15 October 1829 saw the burial of Henry Scull, no age given, ‘after coroner’s inquest died by visitation of God’. John Badger (or Padget, added in the register), sexton of the parish for 27 years was buried on 21 November 1830, aged 60. Mary Patchet (58) ‘widow of the late sexton’ was buried in 1834, once again underlining the problems of recording surnames through the spoken word. Thomas Bellamy (37) was buried on 24 March 1833 ‘accidentally killed by the falling of a body of clay while at work digging clay in a field in Stow parish’. On 11 March in the year following, the Revd Hardwicke records for the burial of Jane Wrate (34) and Mary Wrate (58), mother and daughter in law, ‘both died from inflammation of the lungs within 4 days of each other and were buried in the same grave – an occurrence that never before took place during the 28 years I have been Rector of Outwell, and deeply affecting the Minister and apparently the spectators’. On 26 July 1837, John Tomlinson (72) was buried having ‘died from a fall out of his gig’. The charge for his brick vault was £7 7s 6d, being calculated by the rector at 2/6d per foot, plus 10/- mortuary fee.

After the Wisbech Poor Law Union of twenty parishes, including Outwell, was created in 1836, following the Poor Law Amendment Act two years earlier, and the building of the new Wisbech Workhouse, Outwell burial entries may record that a person died in the workhouse and was brought back to their parish of residence for interment. The first so recorded was the burial of Christopher Row on 19 November 1837 – although the official opening of the new building, where ‘he had been for a few weeks’, was not until the following year. The Wisbech workhouse was designed by William Donthorne and the similarities to that in Downham, which he also designed, are readily apparent. He was also responsible for the workhouses in Aylsham, Swaffham, Erpingham and Freebridge Lynn.

Besides the parish church, other religious establishments in the parish are, or have been, Mullicourt Priory (spelt Molycourt in earlier records) and the nonconformist chapels. Of the former, also known as the St Mary de Bello Loco Priory, nothing remains other than some of the foundations on the other side of the A1122 from the aqueduct where Mullicourt Priory Farm now stands. It is believed to have been founded in Saxon times by the Benedictines but was ever only a small establishment, becoming a priory cell attached to Ely in 1446 and subject to dissolution in 1539. The site was repeatedly flooded in medieval times and one imagines the threat of inundation was never far away right up to the time the Middle Level main drain was constructed in the 1840s – and beyond, as we have seen. It was replaced by Mullicourt House and a second house, built in 1638, survived until demolition in the early 1920s. Oliver Cromwell is believed to have been the first tenant of the new house but did not ever live at Mullicourt. Tenancies were generally held by those living elsewhere but not always. William Lee (1839) and Hanslip Palmer (1847), both of Upwell, rented parts of the estate. The latter was an attorney born in Downham Market, according to the census, although there is no record in the baptismal registers there. His wife Rebecca Ann came from Kimbolton and they lived in Upwell for over 30 years. Hanslip died in 1865. There are also records of a hermitage in Outwell High Street dedicated to St Christopher and established in 1348 but its exact whereabouts have never been established.

Methodism has long been established in the village with the Primitive chapel opening on Pincushion Drove in 1844, later moving to the centre of the village on Church Drove. The Wesleyan chapel on Isle Road dating from 1840 was demolished in 1963 to make way for the new St Andrew’s church adjacent to it. The United Methodists had their own ‘Bethel’ chapel built in 1851 on Wisbech Road with a school room added forty years later; it is now a workshop.

Outwell Primitive Methodist chapel on Church Drove

Sunday schooling was the only form of education available to the working classes in the village until the first National School was built in 1854 at a cost of £779, much of which was pur up by the rector, William Gale Townley. This school served the village well until 1939 when it was replaced by a new Beaupre junior school and, in the same year, Upwell secondary was opened.

Beaupre junior – it must have looked very futuristic when it opened in 1939

Pupils transferred to the secondary school at Upwell.... Upwell secondary was closed in the mid-1980s with two thirds of the children going to Marshland and the remaining third to Downham Market depending on where they lived. The housing estate that now stands on the site ironically contributing to the shortage of school places in the area.

The Times on Friday 16 April 1852 bore a headline: ‘The Murder By A Boy In Norfolk’. It reported that an inquest, lasting two days, had been held into the death of William Day, aged 11, at the Rose & Crown Inn in Outwell by the Coroner Mr W Townley. William had been ‘crow-keeping’ in Outwell Fen but failed to return to his home in the village by nightfall. A search was begun but it was not until next day that his body was found buried in a field near where he was working. The cause of death was revealed as a gunshot wound to the head. It emerged that William had argued with his friend James Pearce and had punched him hard in the face - James had a black eye when taken into custody. James’ response was to shoot William in the head and he died a few minutes later. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter by James Day; Mr Townley expressed surprise that it was not one of ‘wilful murder’. William was buried in Outwell on 14 April but there is no comment on the manner of his demise in the burial register. The Times does not follow up this story by letting us know what happened to young James. However, in the 1871 census, it appears he was a shoemaker in Upwell with a young family having married Alice Edwards in 1867. James’ father, George Pearce, was a farmer of 22 acres in Outwell at the time of the incident.

Tim Newman of Madison, Alabama, a descendant of a brother of Alice Edwards adds more to this story. In March 1873 the White Star Line's RMS Atlantic left Liverpool bound for New York with nearly a thousand passengers including James and Alice, their three children and Alice's father. On the night of 1st April the Atlantic was wrecked off the coast of Nova Scotia with the loss of over 535 lives, including all women and children, James and his father in law. There is plenty of information online about the demise of the Atlantic. The Titanic (April 1912) was also a White Star liner.

RMS Atlantic A four-master with single propeller driven by a 600hp steam engine. She was calling into Halifax to replenish coal stocks but was off course at the time she foundered.

A photograph of the mass burial for victims of the Atlantic disaster, Lower Prospect, Halifax County, Nova Scotia

The Terence Bay, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Memorial

A rather unusual burial of another boy, also aged 12, was recorded on 05 May, five weeks after that of William Day, when Alfred Goddard had ‘drowned whilst skating’ according to the register. This must have followed a bout of unseasonably cold weather to say the least.

Another fatal shooting, this time an accident, occurred in July 1940 when Ernest Young, a young man of 17 years living at Basin Farm, was out shooting rabbits along Gill’s Lane with a friend. On clambering over a fence, the hammer of his shotgun caught in his clothing and the gun discharged into his thigh causing a fatal injury. Ernest’s father grew a great deal of fruit at Basin Farm but also had an arable farm down Sedge Fen at Southery.

There is mystery attached to the entry in The Times dated 06 June 1898 concerning the Revd A W Bailey and we are left dangling as there is no report of the outcome.... However, the Revd A W Bailey was a locum tenens for the rector H V Ellis and had obtained lodgings with Mr & Mrs Robb, a farmer and his wife, in the village. Shortly after midnight on the 1st May, it was alleged, the reverend lodger tip-toed into Mrs Robb’s bedroom and indecently assaulted her. Mrs Robb did not complain until 14th May whereupon the Revd Bailey was ejected from the house by Mr Robb and a stiffly worded letter sent off to the rector. It was proved that Mr Robb had been offered £20 to withdraw his complaint and that this, when refused, had been increased to £50. Bailey then sued Mr Robb for slander. The case was passed on to the Wisbech Quarter Sessions for trial and the Reverend Bailey was granted bail. What happened is a matter for further research.

Looking at the census, Mr & Mrs Robb were presumably Josiah and Mary Ann Robb (nee Kenney, from Walsoken) who married in 1884. Josiah was born in 1858, the son of Samuel & Sophia Robb (nee Veal) who were farming 30 acres in Outwell in 1871. Previous to this, Samuel was earning his living as a master carpenter and wheelwright. Samuel was the son of John & Mary Robb; John being born in Houghton, Huntingdonshire, in 1791, and Mary, in Hemmingford, was his senior by three years – they were farming 120 acres in Outwell in 1851 and employing four labourers.

World War I hit Outwell hard and 35 young men from the village were victims of the conflict. The war memorial is outside the south porch of the church and the names of those lost are repeated in a framed tribute in the south aisle.

Go to the relevant page of the Roll of Honour website for further information


The names of the 35 men from the village who died in WWI (above); there were 12 victims of WWII. Bert Murfitt, the first fatality was the 19 year old son of Robert & Louisa Murfitt who ran the Crooked Chimney (see below). One has particular sympathy for parents who lost two sons (Daniels, Doubleday Feetham, Venni, and Wright). Edward Anton Newling, son of Percy and grandson of Edward Fordham Newling, was from Beaupre Hall Farm, aged 19 – born 31 March 1899; Sydney Ward Beecher Newling’s father, Samuel, was a Baptist minister. Samuel and Edward Fordham were brothers, both born in Spalding in the 1840s to David Newling who was born in Melbourne, Cambridgeshire, around 1795. David Newling was farming 18 acres on Holbeach Road, Spalding, in 1851. A daughter, Sarah Ann, married the Revd John Chatwin Jones, a Baptist minister in Spalding for over fifty years who was born in Castle Donington in 1824. Tom Lake was the son of Job Lake, farmer of Church Field in 1901. Job was a brother of Ambrose Lake, the sluice keeper living on Wisbech Road in the same census. Both had sons named John Henry so whether Jack was a brother of Tom or a first cousin is unclear at the time of writing. Percy Walter (son of Walter) and Walter (son of William) Hempson were first cousins; their grandfather Joseph was born in Oxborough in 1831; his wife, Jane Niker, was born in Upwell in 1833.

Fighting in WWI certainly widened the geographical horizons of many of those who volunteered or who were, from 1917, conscripted. Apart from the expected service in Flanders, three fatalities remind us that the theatre of war was much wider: Thomas Robb was buried in Alexandria, Walter Bridges, captured by the Turks at the fall of Kut, in Baghdad, and Charles Smithee was a victim of Churchill’s abortive Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Albert Hall was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (01 July 1916) when the British Army suffered its blackest day with 58,000 casualties, a third of them killed. Several local boys are commemorated at the Menin Gate. The personal details of all 47 men can be found at www.roll-of-honour.com

The tradesmen living and working in Outwell in the years covered by the trade directories are well covered in ‘Outwell in a Nutshell’. Looking at the 1851 census we can see that no fewer than 23 of the inhabitants of Downham, including children, are recorded as being born in Outwell including William (aged 48), part of the Townley clan, who was a solicitor living in Bridge Street. By contrast 43 people born in Outwell were living in Wisbech which reflects the natural focus of the people of Outwell towards the west rather than the east. No-one born in Downham or Wisbech was recorded as living in Outwell and this was reflective of the general movement of people to the towns at this time in the search for more gainful employment than was available in the countryside. The comparable figures for the 1881 census were 14 in Downham and no fewer than 77 in Wisbech as the process of urbanisation continued and the pull of Wisbech increased. It was 11:63 in 1901 although some people would have appeared in more than one of these censuses. As one would expect, Outwellians can be found in some number in adjacent parishes, such as Stow Bardolph. Given the pull of Wisbech, a great source for history information about Outwell and Upwell is the Wisbech & Fenland Museum situated adjacent to the Castle in Wisbech.

William Townley (baptised in Outwell on 30 April 1802) was the son of the Revd Jonathan Townley and his first wife, Elizabeth who was buried in Upwell in 1808, born when his father was rector of Upwell cum Welney (1798-1812) and resident at Beaupre Hall. Jonathan had married Elizabeth Johnson on 24 August 1799 at St Mary’s in Lancaster and went on to hold several other ecclesiastical positions concluding with the rectory of Steeple Bumpstead in Essex at the time of his death at North Pickenham in 1848. He was brought back for burial at St Peter’s in Upwell on 20 December, aged 74. He married his second wife Mary Portwood in May 1809 at St Luke’s, Old Street, Islington. Of William’s brothers, also from the first marriage, Jonathan (baptised in January 1803) went on to be treasurer of the county courts of Norfolk and lived at Lakenham, and Edmund (baptised in January 1805) was a clergyman and landowner in Staveley in Cartmel, Cumbria, for more than 40 years.

Outwell Sluice 1910 looking south towards St Clement's (Wisbech & Fenlands Museum)

Please see http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/outwell-smockmill.html and http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/outwell-towermill.html for information on the two mills known to have been in Outwell

Outwell smockmill - the location is shown on the Norfolkmills webpage

Pubs & Beerhouses Please visit http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/norfolko/outwell/outwind.htm for more information

Typical of all the parishes in this history, Outwell had several premises with full licences, few of which remain, and many beerhouses.

The Banks of Clay beerhouse on the Stow Road, no doubt opened for the navvies working on the Middle Level Main Drain in the 1840s, is identified by William Smith in ‘Outwell in a Nutshell’. It was apparently still open in 1908.

Dyke digging was arduous work in the days before mechanisation. The Banks of Clay and the like would be well patronised after a long day in the field

The Bridge Inn, now demolished following closure in 1966, was situated on the corner of Hall Road by the more recently constructed mini roundabout, west of Beaupre Hall Farm. It was known as Gill’s locally, named after long-serving James Gill and his wife Catherine who were shown in residence in each of the censuses from 1841 to 1871 inclusive. In 1881, James was a retired farmer, having combined both occupations since before 1861, living next to the Methodist chapel in Church Drove. James was born in Fritton around 1806; Catherine was born in Tansor, near Oundle. James’ first wife, Isabella, died in 1846, aged 46, and he was remarried to Catherine Bonfield on 23 March the following year. Catherine died in 1890, aged 81, nine years after James who reached the same age. Was it Gill’s that John Uffendale, aged 52, had been visiting on an evening in late November 1831 when, according to the burial register, he ‘drowned in the Wisbech Canal returning from a public house in a state of intoxication’?

The Bridge Inn (Gill’s) with the Wisbech Canal in the foreground (from William P Smith’s must-read book ‘Outwell in a Nutshell’ – see References)

The renewal of Scott’s Bridge (spanning the then Norfolk-Cambridgeshire boundary) in 1927. The Bridge Inn (Gill’s) is on the right (Lilian Ream Collection). The map of the location is dated 1886.

The Crooked Chimney c1950 (courtesy William P Smith’s ‘Outwell in a Nutshell’)

The Crooked Chimney beerhouse was located at the former Angle Bridge over the Middle Level Main Drain half way between Morton’s Bridge and the Mullicourt viaduct. Landlord and local farmer for thirty years from the mid 1860s was Thomas Horn. The 1891 census includes the Crooked Chimney in the parish of Outwell, as do all the preceding censuses, and shows that Thomas Horn was born in Upwell in 1814. In 1851, he and his wife Mary are in the same locality but Thomas is listed as an ‘ag lab’ and there is no indication that he is also a publican. By 1861, he is an ‘ag lab’ and beer seller. Angle Bridge was built in 1865 and consisted of three wooden spans each 37.5 feet in length supported on two piers of four piles each 14 inches square. It was demolished around 1978 with the Crooked Chimney going the same way shortly before. There were three other local bridges over the Middle Level: the one at Mullicourt carrying the main road, and two more north of Angle Bridge, of which Morton’s Bridge carrying Stow Road remains but the Old Podike Bridge has now gone. Pingle Bridge, to the south of Mullicourt is still in situ but carries little more than farm traffic.

The Pingle Bridge in 2010

The Crown, not to be confused with the former Rose & Crown, nor the more recent Crown Lodge which is on the Downham Road just west of the junction with Langhorn’s Lane, is opposite the Isle Bridge and is still open:

The Crown in February 2010

The centre of Outwell in 1886. The Red Lion, Crown and Swan are named but not the Rising Sun which is the first building due south of the Norfolk Bridge. The railway sidings west of the church have been replaced by a housing development called appropriately ‘The Tramway’, though the tram office remains – the most westerly of the older buildings on the north side of Church Terrace. The Wisbech Canal runs to the north of the lock at the top of the map.

The Norfolk Hero was located on the Wisbech – Downham road and about fifty yards east of the Norfolk Bridge. It is believed to have closed around 1900. It was later West the blacksmith’s premises and, later still, Curtis the coachbuilder’s workshop. Private houses now stand on the site.

The Plough in 1947 (courtesy William P Smith from ‘Outwell in a Nutshell)

The Plough was a beerhouse of long standing. It stood at the southern end of Suckling Drove about one kilometre west of the aqueduct on the Downham road and past the Toll House at the top of Pincushion Drove. Closure came in 1962 by which time Percy Edward Jermey, aged 57, had been landlord for the past 18 years (since 1944).

The Red Lion, empty and in a state of neglect in February 2010, is to be found opposite the church on the other side of the Creek and just west of The Swan Hotel.

The Red Lion in 1997 (www.norfolkpubs.co.uk)

The Rising Sun was on the opposite side of the road from the south side of the church. It closed in 1971 and has been demolished to be replaced by the aptly named Rising Sun Flats.

The Rising Sun by the Norfolk Bridge from a painting displayed in the Fincham Chapel within the church

The Rose & Crown was closed in 1955 and demolished in 1960. Now replaced by a bungalow, it was the third property east of the junction of Langhorn’s Lane and the main A1122 Wisbech to Downham road. Was Langhorn’s Lane named after William Langhorn, farmer, buried on 18 April 1812, aged 72, and thus born around 1740?

The Swan Hotel, closed in 1984, still stands as a private residence opposite the Norfolk Bridge.

The Swan Hotel in the early 1920s

February 2010 – the Bullards’ advertisement still stands on the west gable.