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HINGHAM, Norfolk

The town of HINGHAM is an ancient settlement, as indicated by its Saxon name. As early as 925 A.D. it is recorded as the property of King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, and it has retained many of the privileges resulting from its royal ownership until the beginning of the 18th century, with several charters (1414, 1610 and 1703) affirming them, Clear indication of its former riches is provided by the grandeur of its 14th century parish church of St.Andrews, which towers over the Market Place and is a clear landmark for miles around.

Hingham has no twin town on the Continent of Europe, but instead rejoices in having a daughter town in Hingham, Mssachusetts. This name was given in 1635 to a settlement founded by Puritan emigrants from Norfolk at Bare Cove on Massachusetts Bay, a few miles south from the present city of Boston. This emigration to the New World of nearly 200 men, women and children deom Hingham between 1633 and 1643 is commemorated by the resplendent village sign which adorns the green in the Market Place. The sign was designed by Harry Carter of Swaffham in the coronation year of the present Queen and, having suffered the ravages of time, was replaced by a locally-made replica in May 1989. The new sign was unveiled in a simple ceremony by the oldest daughter of Hingham, Norfolk and a lady representative of the Selectmen (town council) of Hingham, Mass. The American Hingham now has a population of 20,000 or just over ten times the population of its norfolk ancestor.

Among the first emigrants from Hingham were members of the Lincoln family, who owned land in Hingham and Swanton Morley and have entries in the Hingham parish register. Samuel Lincoln (the direct ancestor of Abraham Lincoln, the famous 16th President of the United States) was baptised in Hingham church and later apprenticed to a Puritan weaver in Norwich. In 1637 the 15-year old Samuel emigrated with his employer amd family, and soon joined other members of his family in Hingham, Massachusetts.

This proud connection for Hingham, which brings many a visitor from across the Atlantic, explains why the village hall is named the Lincoln Hall, and why the bust of Abraham Lincoln takes pride of place in the north aisle of the church. This memorial was bought by public subscription in the United States and unveiled by the American Ambassador on October 15th, 1919.

The landlady of 'The Cock' public house catered for 181 at lunch in a marquee which had been erected on the Fairland for the occasion. The previous day, her husband, with his horse and waggon, had collected the bust from the railway station at Kimberley (some two miles distant, and now closed) and it rested in his yard overnight. The inn closed in 1963 and now all that remains is the sign of 'The Cock' on the modern house erected on its site.

There are a number of other indicators of the sentimental attachment of the two Hinghams. Adjoining the Post Office in the Market Place (a building which was until 1906 'The Horsehoes' public house) stands, rather inconspicuously, a granite block presented to the town by the residents of Hingham, Massachusetts in 1913 to replace the ancient mounting block from the same site which was presented to their town by Hingham, Norfolk in 1911.

In the church stands an ancient piece of timber which is part of one of the beams removed during the restoration of the 'Old Ship' church, the oldest church in Hingham, Mass., while the shaft of the old font of St.Andrews church, replaced in 1858, is now in Cohassett church in Massachusetts.

Between the wars there was an exchange of wall-plaques between the Guide companies of the two Hinghams, and shortly after the end of World War II a radio link between the two towns was broadcast. In June 1983 the Rector of St.Andrews was guest preacher at the celebration of the Jubilee of the Parish of St.John the Evangelist in Hingham, Mass., and he was presented with a Centenary Cross for his own church.

In September 1985 a party of residents crossed to the United States to attend the 350th birthday celebrations of Hingham, Mass., an event commemorated here by the presentation of a silver Revere Bowl by a visiting party from Massachusetts in 1987. This bowl is of a design created by Paul Revere, a noted boston metalworker who figured prominently in the American Revolution (Boston Tea Party and the ride from Charleston to Lexington), and three of whose daughters married mmbers of the Lincoln family.

The Hingham conservation area, centred around the two greens - the Market Place, east of the church, and the Fairland, north-west of the church - contains many Georgian buildings, though only a very few earlier buildings (near the church) survived a disastrous fire in 1688.

On the eastern side of the market place is one of the finest groups of Georgian buildings in Norfolk, which gave to Hingham the 19th-century nickname of 'Little London'.

Here is the 'Admiral's House', probably named after Admiral Sir Philip Wodehouse, who lived in Hingham in the early 19th century, and the great Beaconsfield House, which was for many years the doctor' surgery and is now occupied by the design firm of Williams, Harmer and Marks.

At right angles to these houses, hust behind the north side of the green, is 'Southernwood', a 17th century house which was for twenty years the home of Field Marshal Edmund, Lord Ironside, util his death in 1959. Hewas commander of the expedition to Archangel in 1918, Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the outbreak of World War II and Commander of the Home Forces in 1940.

Lord Ironside is commemorated on a tablet in the south aisle of the church, opposite the Lincoln bust, and in the name of the Hingham Industrial Estate at Ironside Way. Among occupiers of this estate are the shoe manufacturersm Rombah Wallace & Co. and the international car racing team of Tom's GB-Intersport, and nearby is A.C.Bacon Engineering.

The windmill, built in 1829 and a listed building, though now only a 4-storey stump, lost its sails and fantail in 1928 or shortly after, but was worked by oil until 1937. It was recorded in 1908 as worked by wind and gas - which was, no doubt, town gas, since Hingham had its own gas works from 1871 until shortly after World War I. (The Gas Company failed several years before electricity came to Hingham). The watermill, on the Deopham Road, has been converted to a handsome residence. As mill it was unusual in not being sited on a river. The millpond is fed by several nearby springs.

Hingham has two long-established butchers, an ironmonger;s shop (C.Turner & Sons), which celebrated its centenary in 1989, a fish-and-chip shop which has a similarly long history, a bank open four mornings a week, and the recently-established office of the Rural Commuity Council. A major employe in the parish is E.F.Shingfield & Sons, producers of Norfolk ducklings, and several other firms provide a variety of services to agriculture.

From the middle of the 18th century until 1908, Hingham had an Endowed School, known as the Grammar School, and National Schools for Boys and for Girls were built in 1841 amd 1857. The Board School was established in 1875 and remains in use today as the Hingham Primary School.

The Hingham Society is a large and active amenity society, which has recently inaugurated a Museum, and has for some years provided regular historical displays on various aspects of life in the village in a window kindly loaned by the Vintage Pharmacy in Bond Street. The Hingham Playing Fields Association, formed in 1981, acquired an 8.8 acre site on the Watton Road in 1985 - which provides for football, cricket and hockey and includes a floodlit football pitch. During 1990 a grand new pavilion and sports hall is nearing completion. The hall is large enough to provide three badminton courts, a bar, and a viewing gallery for spectators of both indoor and outdoor sporting events. This achievement would probably have been beyond the wildest dreams of those who helped in 1947 to bring the old bowling green, alongside the Lincoln Hall, back into use after its war-time dilapidation.

Mention of the Lincoln Hall winds off the stories of the American connection. The original hall was erected in 1922 (with £80 towards its construction costs contribution by the WI branch, which had been formed in July 1918) and its oak flooring came from America. The hall was re-built and extended in 1977, when, for reasons of both sentiment and economy, the oak floor was used again.

Copyright © E.C.Apling, 2nd May 1990

Note added December 1998:

This article was prepared for, and published (in shorter form) in "The Norfolk Village Book", Countryside Books, Newbury and the Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes, Norwich, 1990.

Since 1990 Hingham has lost its bank, its ironmonger's. and its fish-and-chip shop (now transmuted to a mobile); Beaconsfield House is awaiting new ownership, but there is still a primary school, a branch of the Norfolk library (open 3 times a week adjacent to the Lincoln Hall) and the Sports Hall and ground finds increasing use, and the Stars and Stripes still flies from the church tower each 4th July..

Copyright © E.C.Apling, 20th December 1998; links updated May 2010.

Return to Hingham [Kelly's 1883]
Blomfield, 1739 on Hingham
Directory Entry in White's 1845
1854 White's Directory entry
Directory Entry in White's 1883
Hingham Archeology [Norfolk Heritage Explorer]
1891 Census Names Index
The American Connection
Return to villages index
Paddy's home page