Woodrising is now a hamlet of around 40 inhabitants, consisting of 16 houses (seven of them thatched with Norfolk reed), a church with a ruined tower, and nearly 1400 acres of arable, meadow and woodland, drained by the Blackwater River - which, a few miles downstream (just below the site of the old Hardingham watermill) becomes the River Yare. Woodrising seems to have had a steady population of around 100 to 150 from the 11th century to the end of the 19th century, and has certainly been a single estate since the time of Edward the Confessor. Before 1066 it was the property of a Saxon gentlewoman named Alfeva or Aelgifu, who also had considerable holdings at Grimston, Feltwell, Hockwold and Witton. At the Conquest Alfeva was expelled and the estate passed to William, Earl of Warenne. The family early enfoeffed of the estate took the name of de Rising and held the estate until 1370.
Many of the later lords of the manor were rich, powerful and eminent. Sir William de Witchingham (d. 1381) was a Judge of Common Pleas; Sir Robert Southwell (d.1514) was Auditor of the Exchequer and his son Sir Richard (d. March 1563/4) was a favourite of Henry VIII, visitor to the suppression of the monasteries in Norfolk and an executor of the king's estate; a later Sir Robert (d. 1598) was a Rear-Admiral and in command of one of the ships which defeated the Armada. Sir Francis Crane, who died in Paris in 1636 but was interred in Woodrising church, introduced the manufacture of fine tapestry to England, with a factory at Mortlake in Surrey.
John Weyland (d. 1767) built the great vaulted barn at Church Farm, which bears the inscription S (for Sheldon, his wife's family name), IW, 17, 58; his younger brother, Mark (d. 1797) was a Governor of the Bank of England, and his grandson John was a Fellow of the Royal Society. The Weyland family were probably the builders of most of the existing buildings in the parish, and the lordship remained with the family until in 1937 it passed to the 4th Earl of Verulam.
One of the rectors of St. Nicholas, Woodrising, Christopher Sutton, flourished as an author in the early 17th century, was knighted, became Canon of Westminster and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The church appears to be 14th century with 16th century additions. The tower collapsed before 1742, though a letter to the Bishop of Norwich dated 1st July 1602 already reports that "the steeple ys in very great decay". The bell-frame was later re-erected in the churchyard under a thatched roof and is hung with a bell cast in Whitechapel in 1861.
Besides numerous memorials, the church is noteworthy as containing one of the few remaining church barrel organs in working order, built in 1826 and restored in 1958. (Notes of this pipe organ are activated by pins on a rotating barrel - like a giant musical box). The three barrels (one original, another from 1865) provide for 30 different hymn tunes.
The village sign, on the green outside the churchyard, erected in 1967, depicts Sir Robert and Lady Southwell outside the church (with tower still standing).
The present Woodrising Hall is at least the third building on the present site. The last hall, of which only the coach houses and walled garden now remain, was replaced after army dilapidations of World War II. The moat surrounding a yet earlier hall survives, and there are also two other moated sites and evidence of a Roman or Romano-British Villa within the parish.
The ecclesiastical parish is now `the combined benefice of Hingham, Scoulton and Woodrising', and, indeed, the land of Woodrising Estate extends into all three parishes. For local government purposes Woodrising is now in the civil parish of Cranworth, but unlike the rest of Cranworth receives its electricity and post via Hingham.
The estate is a well-known pheasant shoot, and anglers are well served by nearby Scoulton Mere (part of Woodrising Estate) and an artificial lake in Woodrising water meadows, which also contains a small camping site.
© E.C.Apling 3rd May 1990; links updated July 2011.
Prepared for publication in "The Norfolk Village Book", Countryside Books, Newbury and the Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes, Norwich, 1990, pp.245-246, and reprinted with permission..
History of the Southwells of Woodrising
Will of David HUGHES
Story of David HUGHES
List of Rectors
Photos of Woodrising Church
Woodrising Church (and audio tour) [Wayland and Watton info]
Kelly's Directory entries for 1883; 1892; 1896; 1904; 1933 and 1937
White's Directory entries for 1845; 1854 and 1883
Woodrising Census Transcripts for 1841; 1851; 1861; 1871; 1881, 1891 and 1901
Cranworth (& Woodrising) Archeology [Norfolk History Explorer]
More on Woodrising [GENUKI-NFK]
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