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Norfolk - Holkham

Francis White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk 1854, pp. 711-713

[Complete entry. Transcription Copyright © the late A.J. Carter, December 2000]

HOLKHAM, a parish and pleasant village, 2 miles W. of Wells, and 32 miles N.W. of Norwich, has 133 houses, 683 inhabitants, and about 5,208 acres of land, of which 692a. are salt marsh, 1,100a. woods and plantations, and 1,700a. of lawn and park grounds surrounding HOLKHAM HOUSE, the splendid seat of the Right Hon. Thos. Wm Coke, Earl of Leicester, whose late father, Thos. Wm. Coke, Esq., was long known as one of the wealthiest commoners and greatest agriculturists in England ; but was raised to the peerage in 1837, and died in 1842, in his 89th year. For a period of 57 years he was one of the representatives of Norfolk in Parliament,and until his elevation to the peerage he was known under the popular appellation of "Coke of Norfolk." Holkham is said to have been one of the country seats of Anna, King of the East Angles. It was evidently a place of some consequence in the 4th of Edward III, who charged it and Burnham Deepdale with the expense of finding one ship to assist in transporting his army from Dublin to Scotland. Henry III. granted it a market on Mondays, and a fair on the decollation of St. John the Baptist, but both have long been obsolete. In 1659 Edm. Newgate, for £3,400, sold all his property here to John Coke, Esq., fourth son of the famous Lord Chief Justice, Sir Edw. Coke, who had previously purchased the manor and all other land in the parish, of Lord Berkeley and others. He enclosed from the sea 350a. of salt marshes ; and 400a., now called the New Marshes, were embanked from the ocean in 1772 by his successor, Thomas Coke, who, in 1728, was created Baron Lovel, of Minster Lovel, Oxfordshire, and in 1744, Viscount Coke of Holkham, and Earl of Leicester ; but dying without issue in 1759, his titles became extinct. The Earl converted the barren heath of Holkham into an earthly paradise, as is recorded by an inscription over the door of the entrance hall of HOLKHAM HOUSE, which informs us that—"This seat, on an open, barren estate, was planned, planted, built, decorated, and inhabited in the middle of the eighteenth century, by Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester." He commenced the erection of the mansion in 1734, and it was finished by his Dowager Countess in 1760. The central part of this spacious and elegant mansion is of white brick ; the south front measuring 344 feet in length, and in its centre is a bold portico, with its entablature, supported by six Corinthian columns. The north front is the same length, and forms the grand entrance, exhibiting handsome, though different features. This noble residence is rendered superior to most other great houses in the kingdom by its convenience and appropriate arrangements, said to have been borrowed from Palladio's plan of a villa, designed for the Cavalier Leonardi Mecenigo, upon the Brenta. The fitting up of the interior is in the most magnificent style, and the ceilings of many of the rooms are of curious gilt, fret, and mosaic work. The marble chimney-pieces are of the most elaborate workmanship, and the sideboards, agate tables, &c., are all in the same sumptuous style of elegance. The Statue gallery contains some exquisite figures ; those of Diana, and a Venus, clothed with wet drapery, are very fine. The Saloon is ornamented with some of the finest productions of the most eminent masters, among which are several of that inimitable artist, Claude Lorraine. The Library is rich in printed books, and has a curious collection of manuscripts. The beautiful and extensive pleasure grounds, park, and plantations, which surround this magnificent mansion, comprise more than 3,200 acres, and in the parish is an enchanting ride of more than seven miles, in the midst of fir and other trees, evergreens, and shrubs, whose foliage exhibit a pleasing variety of tints. The principal approach is by a triumphal arch, on the Fakenham road, from which a fine broad vista leads to an obelisk, on a woody eminence, at the distance of a mile and a half. The gardens and hot-houses are extensive, and the pleasure grounds are beautified with choice shrubs and flowers, scattered with exquisite taste, and cannot fail to attract the admiration of strangers, to whom the house is open for inspection every Tuesday ; but foreigners and artists are allowed access on other days. The family of Coke is very ancient, as we find one of them William Coke, of Doddington, held several manors in this county, in 1206. The late Rt. Hon. Thomas William Coke, who was created Earl of Leicester, in 1837, was born in 1754 ; but his parents' name was Roberts, his mother being sister of Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who founded Holkham House. He married the daughter of Lord Sherborn, and died at Longford Hall, in Derbyshire, on June 30th, 1842, where an elegant monument has been erected to his memory. Another memorial was erected of him in 1845, in Holkham park, in the Corinthian style, 137 feet in height, and is a conspicuous land mark to mariners. This testimonial cost about 4,000 guineas, subscribed by his numerous tenantry and friends. To his spirited exertions and liberality Norfolk is chiefly indebted for many of its agricultural improvements during the last fifty years. The present earl was born December 26th, 1822, and married Juliana, daughter of Samuel Whitbread, Esq. His brothers are the Hon. Edward Keppel Wentworth Coke, of Longford Hall, Derbyshire, the Hon. Henry Coke, and the Hon. Wenman Clarence Walpole Coke. The Church, dedicated to St. Withberga, stands east of the village, upon an artificial hill thrown up by the Saxons, and has a lofty tower, which is a noted sea mark. It was repaired in 1767, by the Countess Dowager of Leicester, at the cost of £1,000, and contains several handsome memorials. The vicarage, valued in the King's book at £8 13s. 4d., has been augmented with £400 Queen Anne's bounty, and is in the gift of the Earl of Leicester, and enjoyed by the Rev. Alexander Napier, M.A., who has a neat vicarage house, built in 1849. In 1755, six almshouses were built, and endowed by the Countess Dowager of Leicester for three men and three women, to have 6s. a week each, a chaldron of coals each yearly, and to be clothed once in two years. Two additional almshouses have recently been erected. The building and furnishing the six dwellings cost about £2,300 ; and the endowment consists of a yearly rent of £50, and a farm of 79a. 2r. 20p , now let for £100 per annum. In 1821, the late Earl erected two schools for 33 boys and 30 girls, which are supported by the present Earl, who also supports an Infant school. New Holkham is a small village, 2 miles S. of the hall ; and near it is Langlands, the residence of the farm bailiff, and Brant Hill, an extensive farm.

Transcription Copyright © the late A.J. Carter, December 2000; links updated October 2010.

1891 Census Names Index
North Greenhoe hundred
Walsingham union
Kelly's 1883
White's 1845 [GENUKI-NFK]
Holkham Archeology [Norfolk Heritage Explorer]
Holkham postmill [Jonathan Neville]
Holkham Hall [Local web-site]
More on Holkham [GENUKI-NFK]
More Parish Information [Geoff Lowe & Andrew Rivett]
Return to villages index
Paddy's home page