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Binham Priory Manor 1066-1862
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
Soon after his coronation in 1066 William 1, the Conqueror, ordered a survey of all the lands in his new kingdom. By 1085 the Domesday Book gave the complete account of all his property. By 1086 the richest and most populous counties were Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincoln. With a few exceptions William gave to his Norman followers the estates belonging to Saxon Lords. This was particularly true of Norfolk where about 389 manors were disposed of in this way. Peter de Valognes, his nephew, was granted considerable property in and around Dersingham and the Domesday Book describes the estates.
We are told that one free man held Dersingham as a Manor before 1066. At the time of the survey this Manor consisted of 7 villagers, 4 smallholders, and 2 slaves. There were seven and a half acres of meadow, plus one plough and one salthouse. There was I cob and although there had been 3 head of cattle, 18 pigs and 300 sheep apparently there were none of these by 1085. Another freeman called Anand also held lands in Dersingham as a manor. Here there were 30 villagers, 6 smallholders and 7 slaves. He had 18acres of meadow, 1 mill, and 1 fishery and 1 salt house. Unlike the previous small manor Anand had 5 cobs, 4 head of cattle, 21 pigs and 646 sheep. Peter De Valognes was now Lord of these Manors, plus ones in Appleton and Babingley, and entitled to an income from them. De Valognes augmented his land by seizing 12 acres belonging to a freeman. As he appears to have accomplished this with impunity he proceeded to seize further lands belonging to 21 other freemen.
In 1091 de Valognes founded the Priory at Binham for Benedictine monks and granted to it some of his lands in Dersingham and two parts of his tithe. This gift was witnessed by Hugh de Dersingham and his brother Picotus and thus the Manor of Binham Priory was established. The Priory itself was situated SE of Wells-by-the-Sea. In the 13th century Christiana de Mandeville, Countess of Essex, gave a yearly rent of 40s in land and heath to the priory along with a farm plus sixty acres of land in Dersingham. This was done for prayers to be said for the health of the souls of William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Reymund de Burgo Christiana's late husband.
Further gifts to the Priory were recorded from William Derham who gave a marsh called Chesholm, and Thomas Lording of Dersingham who gave lands. Richard de Secford, the prior of Binham, also exchanged lands lying near the chapel of St. Andrew in Dersingham with Sir Thomas de Gelham. In the deed effecting this transfer there is an account of 86 acres of land, 108 acres of pasture, and 8 acres of meadow. Later in about 1366 a considerable part of the Manor of Pakenham was also conveyed to it. From all this it is clear that the Manor of Binham Priory was of some considerable size and value and that many villagers were accountable to the Priory for tithes and rents. So in this way the village was involved with Henry V111's battle with the church. During the years 1534 -5 Thomas Cromwell had organised a complete inventory of monastic and other ecclesiastical properties and revenues. So began a revolution in English ecclesiastical life and in the structure of society with the dissolution and suppression of monastic houses. Their lands and revenues were granted or sold to friends of the King. Many families were to become rich and important with the spoils they acquired. Binham Priory itself was, like other monasteries, gradually pulled down.
Binham Priory Manor in our village was granted to Sir Thomas Paston. The Paston Family were from North East Norfolk and were particularly influential during the 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries. Subsequently Sir Thomas conveyed the Manor to Robert Read and it was recorded as consisting of 400 acres of land, 60 of meadow, 200 of pasture, 6 of wood 200 of marsh with the liberty of a fold in Dersingham and Ingoldisthorpe. There was a yearly rent of 100s and the right to appoint a member of the clergy to the vicarage. (advowson) Robert Read died on February 27th in 1553 and his son Thomas succeeded to the property.
In 1575 Elizabeth 1 granted permission for him to transfer a farm with180 acres of land and a foldage called Estling Course to Christopher Walpole and the Manor to Geoffrey Cobbe of Sandringham. The Cobbes of Sandringham eventually sold all their property to the Hostes as was described in the account of Pakenham Manor. Finally it became part of the Royal Estate in 1862. The ruins of the Priory itself can still be visited.