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Dersingham Folk
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Site by Mike Strange
The Oldest House in the Village - Review May 2017
Elizabeth Fiddick
The Oldest House was the first article that I wrote for the Village Voice unbelievably eight years ago. Anyone who is interested in History knows that your research is never finished as you follow countless trails back into the past. Most of these trails will be exciting, rewarding and lead on to yet further tracks to follow. Some will frustrate you as they seem to come to a dead end and you can go no further. A few will prove to be false and lead you astray; they are best abandoned. This early article of mine demonstrates all these facts.

It is true that Pell's “enchanted Mansion” ( haunted as we would say today) would have been the largest house  here in the seventeenth century but it was not built in the pastures by the Institute. The house that stood there, surrounded by the moat that can still be seen, was built centuries before and was the home of the Brookdish, and later Oldhall families. When John Pell the wealthy wool merchant bought lands and property here including Brookhall Manor he decided that he needed a more fashionable, modern house that would better reflect his wealth and status than the ancient moated manor in the pastures. So in 1553 he built his elegant home about where our surgery is now situated. It was a large Manor surrounded by gardens.  When the last of the Pell Family here in the village died in 1690 without issue he left his property to Robert Walpole of Houghton who was his cousin. The house then became the home for the vicar of the parish until 1753 when the house was obviously in need of repair and was often flooded by the many streams that ran down from the hills above. Samuel Kerrich, the vicar, moved his family across to Dersingham Hall and at some time later the old “enchanted” house was demolished.

The next false trail I have since corrected relates to The Feathers which was never a Manor House built around 1643 as I was lead to believe at one time. The Feathers was built around 1880 and replaced The Cock Inn, which if it was still standing today, would certainly be a contender for oldest premises.

The large shop at the bottom of Sandringham Hill has changed hands many times. I have been told since writing the article that the part of the building on the right that is now a private residence contains structural evidence of very early origins indeed.  This is also true of the house that stands opposite the library on Chapel Road. I understand recent refurbishments there uncovered evidence from a very early date.

It was while searching through old copies of The Lynn News about another matter that I struck gold in finding a report about the house at the bottom of Sugar Lane now called Lane End.  It seems in 1884 Theodor Jannoch, the nurseryman, had the original old house demolished to build for himself and family a more modern comfortable home rather like John Pell all those centuries before; he called it Brandenburg House.

Recently I spoke to a resident who lives in Chapel Road and had the deeds of his house which showed that the first row of cottages on the left are not as old as I thought and do not date back very far at all.

So there are still many contenders for oldest house in the village. Perhaps now with this website someone will come forward with the clinching piece of evidence. If anyone has even the smallest piece of information about anything contact us because that little piece of information may be the key that will open the gate to enable us to follow yet another trail.