1891 Census Names Index
South Greenhoe hundred
Swaffham union
Kelly's 1883
White's 1854
White's 1845 [GENUKI-NFK]
Swaffham Archeology [Norfolk Heritage Explorer]
Catholic Church of Our Lady of Pity [Simon Knott]
Swaffham smockmill and Kidall's Mill Farm postmill [Jonathan Neville]
More on Swaffham [GENUKI-NFK]
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Norfolk: Swaffham

Entry in White's Directory of Norfolk, 1883, pp. 709-715.

[Complete entry. Transcription Copyright © E.C."Paddy" Apling]

SWAFFHAM is a handsome market-town, and the principal place of election of knights of the shire for the western division of Norfolk, on the Lynn and Dereham branch of the Great Eastern Railway, which has a station here. Swaffham Station is 14 miles from Lynn and 12 from East Dereham. The Watton and Thetford line forms a junction here. Watton is 9½ miles, and Thetford 22½ miles, where it joins the main line from Norwich to London (viâ Cambridge). The Thetford branch was opened for passengers October 1869. Swaffham gives name to a large union, county court district, and polling district, and is in South Greenhoe hundred and petty sessional division, Lynn bankruptcy district, West division of the county, North Cranwich rural deanery, and Norfolk archdeaconry. It is situated 15 miles E.S.E. of Lynn. It holds a pleasant situation on the crown of an eminence, whose gradually swelling acclivities, for a circuit of nearly two miles are occupied by fertile and well-wooded enclosures. It had 3643 inhabitants in 1881, and comprises 7550 acres. The rateable value is £15,664. The town is considered by the faculty as peculiarly salubrious; and in proof of this opinion some instances of great longevity have been adduced, among which, it is said, the united ages of four persons, who died here in 1798, amounted to 355 years; and those of eleven, who died in 1799, amounted to 890 years; to which we may add Mrs. Cross, who died here in 1816, aged 100 years; the Rev. William Yonge, M.A., chancellor of the diocese, who was vicar here for 65 years, and died in 1844, aged nearly 92; and Betty Ward, who died in 1864, aged 94. It has been styled the Montpelier of England; but for asthmatic and consumptive patients, the air has often been found too keen and penetrating. On November 19, 1775, 24 houses were destroyed by a fire. The town has considerably improved since the establishment of the local Board of Health; and it now has many large and handsome houses, and a noble church, shaded by a fine avenue of lime trees. It is well lighted with gas from works established, in 1840, by a company of shareholders at a cost of about £1800; but owing to the town being situate on a chalky hill, with about 20 feet of alluvial drift gravel and clay near the surface, the only supply of water, except from rain, was, until 1865, obtained from a number of draw-wells, some of which have been sunk to a depth of nearly 200 feet, at great expense. In 1865 the Swaffham Waterworks Company, Limited, with a capital of £2500, was started, who sank a well about 200 feet, with large chambers at the bottom, and pumped the water from it into a tank, at the top of a tower of the height of 45 feet, standing on the highest part of the town, and have since given the town a constant supply of water at high pressure. The springs would readily supply water for a town double or treble the size. The streets are open and well built, and branch in various directions from a spacious Market-place, which is lined with good shops, inns, &c. and has in its centre an elegant market cross, erected by the Earl of Orford in 1783, and consisting of a peristyle of circular columns, supporting a dome covered with lead, and terminated by a statue of Ceres. The Market, held every Saturday, is toll-free, but is now of little importance. Three large fairs for cattle, sheep, &c. are held yearly on the second Wednesday in May, the third Wednesday in July, and the first Wednesday in November. Swaffham had a market before the reign of King John, and Henry III. granted it two weekly fairs. The Corn Hall, in the Market-place, is a handsome building of red and white brick, with stone dressings, in the Italian style, and was erected in 1858 at a cost of £1800, raised in £5 shares. The ground-floor is occupied by a subscription billiard-room, and a young men's institute, reading-room, and library. The large upper room is occasionally let for lectures, concerts, &c. On the west side of the Market Hill is the Assembly Room, erected in 1817, 60 feet by 30 feet, and 20 feet in height, and the flooring is flexible for the benefit of dancers.

SWAFFHAM PARISH has increased its population from 2220 in 1801 to 3643 in 1881, and comprises, as noticed above, 7750 acres of land. All the population and buildings are in the town and its immediate suburbs, except for a few scattered farmhouses, the most distant of which are Great and Little Friars' Thorns, nearly 2 miles W., adjoining the heath, which is now mostly enclosed. The soil and buildings belong a number of copyholders and freeholders, the largest of whom, Richard Horace Hamond, Esq. and Thomas Astley Horace Hammond, Esq. are lords of the manor of Swaffham Market, which comprises more than nine-tenths of the parish, and for which T. G. Archer, Esq., of Lynn, is steward. The manor was anciently held by the Earls of Richmond, who had a prison here. Being a 'franchise' (like North Pickenham, Narford, Palgrave, Foulden, Great Cressingham, &c.), its inhabitants were exempt from serving on juries, except in their own parishes; also 'free from the payment of toll, and from contribution to the expenses of knights of Parliament,' unless they held lands and tenements in other manors, for which they may be put on juries at the assizes. From a verdict of the manor court, in 1620, it appears ' that the freeholders hold the manor by socage, fealty, and free-rent, and pay for the free-rent 4d. an acre; for every acre of copyhold, 3d., and every messuage, 9d.; that the copyholders may make leases of their estates for 21 years, without license of the lord, paying on admittance 2d. per acre.' Sir Edward Coke farmed this manor of Charles I.; and from him it passed to the Barkhams and the Yallops. One of the latter took the name of Spelman. The fines are all certain, as stated above, except on the Market Hill, where arbitrary fines are levied. The custom of the manor is to the eldest son. By the award of the Enclosure Commissioners, dated June 18, 1869, all the extensive heaths and common lands, about 2500 acres, as well as about 2000 acres of the enclosed lands, which were liable to be fed all winter, being what is called Lammas or half-year lands, were enclosed, and allotments made to each owner of property, the lord of the manor having 1465 acres granted him. The other manor, called Hasfalls and Whitsands, is of small extent, comprising only about 100 acres of enclosed land, called the Town Estate, with common right over all the heath, as afterwards noticed. About half a mile west of the town, near the Lynn road, is a place anciently called Guthlac's Stow, from a chapel which stood there, dedicated to St. Guthlac, but now commonly called Goodluck's Closes. At Friars' Thorns, about a mile further to the west, upon a high hill, stood a small priory cell, belonging to the monks of Sawtry, being a resting-place for pilgrims in their progress from Canterbury to Walsingham Priory.

The CHURCH (St. Peter and St. Paul) is a large and handsome pile of freestone, brick, and flint, partly in the Decorated style, and is in the form of a cross, having a chancel, nave, aisles, transepts, and a lofty and well-proportioned octagonal tower, dying off in polygonal, and terminated by enriched embrasures and purfled pinnacles, and containing eight musical bells and a good clock. The nave is very lofty, having twenty-six clerestory windows; and its inner roof is ornamented with a profusion of carved wooden figures of angels, &c., and supported by slender clustered pillars, from which spring fourteen pointed arches, seven on each side. In the windows are some remains of ancient stained glass, supposed to represent the benefactors who contributed towards rebuilding the church in the time of Edward IV. The north side and the tower are said by tradition to have been built by John Chapman, a tinker, of this town, who dreamt that if he went to London Bridge he would hear news greatly to his advantage; and having gone thither, he was, after walking about for some hours, accosted by a man, who asked him what he wanted: to which he replied that he had come there on the vain errand of a dream: and the man answered, 'Alas, good friend! if I had heeded dreams, I might have proved myself as very a fool as thou hast; for 'tis not long since I dreamt that at a place called Swaffham, in Norfolk, dwells John Chapman, a pedlar, who hath a tree at the back of his house, under which is buried a pot of money.' On hearing this, the tinker hastened home, dug under the tree, found a large brass pot full of money and inscribed, 'Under me doth lie another much richer than I;' but being in Latin, it was some time before the tinker discovered the meaning, after which he dug deeper, and found a much larger pot filled with old coin. The inhabitants, soon afterwards, determined to rebuild the church, and the tinker offered to defray the expense of rebuilding the north aisle and the tower. That a wealthy parishioner, called John Chapman, was churchwarden in 1462, and founded the north aisle, is evident from an ancient register, called the 'Black Book.' The story of his dream, and of his having been a pedlar or tinker, may have arisen from the rebuses on his name, carved on his seat in the north aisle, representing a pedlar or chapman,* with his pack, and his wife looking over the door of a shop. This seat and many other carved seats were removed many years ago, when the nave and aisles were repewed. The carved fragments of these ancient stalls and seats now form a patched piece of work in the chapel of the north transept, commonly called the tinker's seat, and still exhibiting small figures of a pedlar, with his pack, his wife, and his dog; but the latter being muzzled, and having a chain running across his head, is more probably intended for a bear. Among the monuments is an altar-tomb, with the effigy of John Botewright, D.D., who was master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, chaplain to Henry VI., and vicar of this church when it was rebuilt. His office, faith, and name are shown by rebuses on four shields. The vestry contains some ancient armour and a library of books, chiefly presented by the Spelmans, of Narborough. Seven Guilds, or fraternities for religious, commercial, convivial, and benevolent purposes, had formerly altars in this church, dedicated to the Ascension, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, St. Helen, St. John the Baptist, St. Thomas-a-Becket, and the Holy Trinity; but very little is known of them except their names, though each had probably a hall or meeting-house in the town. During the last thirty years the church has been restored, and considerably improved. The first restoration, in which about £1600 was expended, was begun in 1852, when the unsightly pews were replaced by open sittings with handsomely carved poppy-heads. In 1853 the east window was filled with stained glass, executed by Wailes, representing the Resurrection, at a cost of £400, bequeathed by the late Miss Ella Moore. A further restoration was made in 1876; the galleries were removed, new seats were introduced into the south transept, and the chancel was rearranged. A new eagle lectern in carved oak was also added. A new reredos was given by H. Day, Esq. and three memorial windows of painted glass have been added to the church: one in the south transept to the memory of the Day family; one on the south side of the chancel to the memory of Miss Yarington; and one on the north side, the gift of the parishioners, in memory of three of the vicar's family. A very fine new organ, built by Bishop & Son, occupies a prominent place in the north transept. The vicarage, valued in K.B. at £14 8s.10d.;, and now at £543, is in the patronage of the Bishop of Norwich, and incumbency of the Rev. George Robert Winter, M.A., and rural dean, who has 36 acres of glebe, and a spacious brick residence, erected in 1846. The tithes of Swaffham parish were commuted in 1840 for yearly rent-charges of £543 17s. 6d. to the vicar; and £1143 12s. to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, the appropriators of the rectory, which is held on lease by the lords of the manor. Here are about 113 acres of rectorial glebe. The fine avenue of lime trees in the churchyard (eighteen on each side) were planted in the early part of the last century, by William Fortin. The Revs. A. R. Gwynedd, M.A., and B. G. Smith, B.A., are the curates. A Church Mission Room was built at the Lower Pool by the late Miss Day in 1874, in which occasional services are held.

CHAPELS.— The Baptist Chapel, in Castleacre Street, is a brick building in the Italian style, erected in 1859 at a cost of £1300; new galleries were erected in 1880 to accommodate 300 persons, at a cost of about £400. It is under the ministry of the Rev. J. S. Wyard. The Wesleyan Chapel, in London Street, was built in 1813, at a cost of £950; and the Primitive Methodist Chapel, in Lynn Street, was erected in 1853.

Through the instrumentality of the vicar, a few friends opened a Coffee Tavern in the Market-place, with good sleeping accommodation and stabling.

HAMOND'S SCHOOL, in the green croft called the Camping Ground, consists of a good house, built in 1736, at a cost of £500, left by Nicholas Hamond, in 1724, together with £500 for its endowment. The latter sum was laid out in the purchase of £800 New South Sea Annuities, the yearly dividends of which (£22) are paid to the master; but there are now no free boys, and the school is now a Middle Class School. NATIONAL SCHOOLS were built on the Camping Grounds in 1838, and these have recently been enlarged, with class-rooms added to meet the requirements of the Education Department, and a handsome infant school has been built. The schools, which are supported by voluntary subscriptions, will accommodate 630 children, the average attendance being about 350.

The SAVINGS BANK, in Mangate Street, has deposits amounting to about £27,000, belonging to over 500 depositors, and 20 charitable and 13 friendly societies, and 2 penny banks.

The COUNTY PRISON at Swaffham has been discontinued under the Prisons Act, and was pulled down in 1881; and new quarters for the constables, with a house for the superintendent, have been erected on part of the site. The COUNTY POLICE STATION is in London Street, and was built in 1848 and enlarged in 1859. It contains residences for the superintendent and two constables, and two cells for the temporary confinement of prisoners. The SHIRE HALL is a handsome building, which was erected in 1839, at a cost of £2200, in the Grecian and Italian styles. Adjourned Quarter Sessions are held here at the usual periods, and Petty Sessions every Monday, for the South Greenhoe divisions (see page 34). Saye House, the residence of the Rev. B. Houchen, J.P; the office of the Clerk to the Magistrates; and the Superintendent's house, are occasional court-houses under the Criminal Justices Act. The magistrates usually attending are W. M. R. Haggard, Esq., E. A. Applewhaite, Esq., J. T. Mills, Esq., H. S. Adlington, Esq., W. A. Tyssen Amherst, Esq., M.P., Rev. H. Milne, Rev. B. Houchen, A. C. Fountaine, Esq., and R. H. Mason, Esq. Mr. Robert Sewell is clerk.

SWAFFHAM COUNTY COURT DISTRICT comprises the parishes, &c. enumerated on page 41, and is in King's Lynn bankruptcy court district. Courts are held at the Shire Hall, bi-monthly; and the county court office is in the Market-place. Edwin Plumer Price, Esq., Q.C. is judge; Thos. Bennett, Esq., deputy judge; A. J. Winter, Esq., registrar; John H. Scott Durbin, Esq., high bailiff; Mr. Fredk. W. Johnson, clerk; and Mr. John Green, bailiff.

SWAFFHAM UNION comprises 24 parishes, and in 1881 had a population of 12,859. Their average annual expenditure on the poor, during the three years ending March 1835, was £12,089; for the succeeding three years, £8724; and it is now about £8000. The Union Workhouse, at Swaffham, was built in 1836, at a cost of £5425, and has room for 400 paupers; but it had only 48 paupers when the census was taken in 1881. Robert Sewell, Esq. is union clerk and superintendent registrar; Mr. Charles S. Johnston, registrar of marriages; George Walker, relieving officer and registrar of births and deaths; the Rev, B. Houchen, M.A., is chaplain; Mr. F. J. Thomas, surgeon; Mr. Walter Mead, master; Mrs. Martha Mead, matron of the Workhouse, and James Rivett, porter.

The following table shows the population (in 1881) and area of each parish in the union, with its rateable value:—

Parishes Acres Popula-tion Rateable Value





















Cockley Cley












East Bradenham












Great Cressingham








Holme Hale
















Little Cressingham




















North Pickenham








Saham Toney








South Pickenham
























West Bradenham








The TOWN ESTATE, comprising the manor of Hasfalls and Whitsands, belonged to the dissolved chantry of Simon Blake, and was granted by Edward VI., in 1549, in consideration of £126 2s. 1d. (town's money), to twelve trustees, to be elected yearly by the churchwardens and other parishioners, upon trust that the rents and profits thereof should be applied yearly for the relief of the poor, the reparation of the highways and town wells, and the payment of all other common charges in the parish. The estate formerly consisted of a farm of 99A. 1R. 14P. of land, with a sheep-walk over 316 acres of heath, and 220 acres of half-year lands. The tenant had the privilege of turning such neat cattle as he can summer upon all the heath and half-year lands in the parish. Quarterly sums of 1s. 6d. were distributed among nine poor widows, under the name of the King's Alms, pursuant tot he deed of 1549. The churchwardens and the twelve trustees, or Town Guardians, carry to the same account £19 2s. per annum, arising as follows: £3 from the Camping Ground, left by the Rev. John Botewright, D.D., in 1475, for the use of the church, and as a place for all the parishioners to exercise in archery, military discipline, and other proper games; £3 from 2A. 3R. 30P. of land at Pickenham, given by an unknown donor; and £4 2s. arising from the gifts or bequests of Edward Bayfield, in 1729; C. and W. Rodwell, in 1775; Mary Machin, in 1675; one Wentland, at an unknown date; Rose Case, in 1711, and an unknown donor. Four houses and other buildings, and small plots of land, were given by William and Susan Bedingfeld in 1671, and Helen Johnson in 1675. A shop and stall in the Market Place, left to the poor by Nicholas Hamond in 1724, were burnt down in 1800. Two tenements in Lynn Street, given by Thomas Theodricke in 1723, and four tenements in the Greenway, given by Ann Brett in 1807, in exchange for an old almshouse, are occupied rent-free by poor families. By the inclosure award in 1869, 325 acres of land were allotted to the trustees in lieu of the previous lands and the rights over the heath. By a new scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated July 24, 1866, the income of the estate was to be, subject to paying the King's Alms, divided as follows: £100 a year to supply the poor with water; £35 a year for the maintenance of the fabric of the church; and £25 a year tot he cost of the church services; and the residue, until it amounted to £60, for the repairs of the footways in and about the town; any surplus income, after providing these sums, being added rateably to these amounts. The estate was mortgaged in 1860 to raise about £900, to pay the costs of the inclosure and to build substantial farm premises. It was let, October 10, 1881, for a rent of £305 a year, and £12 for sporting. The income provided a total of £220 a year for the charities until 1881, and also paid off the whole of the principal and interest on the mortgage. The cottagers holding under a rent of £5 a year have been supplied with water free, being paid for by the charity trustees, and also distributions of coal have been made in severe winters out of the £100 and its accumulations prior to the scheme coming into operation. The side-walks have been paved out of the £60 a year. The farm this year has been let, by auction, for a rent of £190 a year, so that the share applicable to paving the town will for the future be very much reduced. These properties, with the exception of the almshouses, were a few years ago sold under an order of the Charity Commissioners. The produce of the sale was invested in two sums, Consols, producing annually £35 1s. 2d. and £3 8s., which are applied in the same manner as the rents of the houses were.

The POST, MONEY ORDER, SAVINGS BANK, GOVERNMENT INSURANCE, and TELEGRAPH OFFICE is at Market Place; Mr. Thomas Johnson, postmaster. Letters from London, per mail cart, viâ Brandon Station, arrive a 2.48 a.m. and at 1.10 p.m., except Sundays. There are two deliveries, at 7 a.m. and 1.50 p.m. The first despatch is at 10.15 a.m., the second is at 8 p.m. Wall Letter-Box, Station Street, cleared at 7.50 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Sundays 2.30 p.m. Wall Letter-Box, London Street, is cleared at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., weekdays only. Mail carts leave for Brandon at 9.15 p.m., Castle Acre, Rougham, Weasenham, St. Peter, South Rainham, West Rainham, and Helhoughton, at 4.30 a.m., and return at 8.20 p.m.; for Sporle, Little Dunham, Great Dunham, and Litcham, at 4.45 a.m., and return at 7.45 p.m.

The following country letter-carriers go from Swaffham at 6 a.m., and return at 7 p.m.:— E. Johnson, Narborough and Pentney; C. C. Fenn, North and South Pickenham and Houghton; C. Baker, Beechamwell, Shingham, and Cockley Cley; E. Matthews, Necton.

CARRIERS — Israel Turner and David Nicholls to Castle Acre, daily; Mrs. Jarvis to Necton, Sat.; Robt. Spinks to Northwold; John Thompson to Sporle and Dunham, Mon. Wed. and Sat.; William Bilham to Sporle, daily

Transcription Copyright © E.C. ("Paddy") Apling October 1999; links updated November 2010.

1891 Census Names Index
South Greenhoe hundred
Swaffham union
Kelly's 1883
White's 1854
White's 1845 [GENUKI-NFK]
Swaffham Archeology [Norfolk Heritage Explorer]
Catholic Church of Our Lady of Pity [Simon Knott]
Swaffham smockmill and Kidall's Mill Farm postmill [Jonathan Neville]
More on Swaffham [GENUKI-NFK]
More Parish information [Geoff Lowe & Andrew Rivett]
Return to villages index
Paddy's home page