Directly opposite the bungalow where I live is West Hall Road. When I first moved here it was possible to walk to the end of that road and take a footpath past the Albert Victor Public House onto Manor Road. Modern bungalows now occupy the land where the footpath ran and the Albert Victor is a private dwelling well screened from the road. However the old house of the Manor of Westhall is still standing at right angles to the road more than 330 years after it was built. Its surroundings have changed enormously of course in that time and the old house is not the way it was but at least it still stands witness to the village's past.
The Lordship of Westhall, as with others in the village, goes back to the time of the Conqueror. At one time a family called Deorsige held these lands. The name of our village can be broken up into Deorsige + ingas + ham translating as “Homestead of Deorsige's people”. Another explanation of the name, which is given in some accounts, is Der (water) + ing (meadow) + ham (dwelling) translating to “Dwelling by the water meadow”. Personally I like the poetry of the latter version. In the Domesday Book the name is spelt Dersincham.
In about 1303 one Sir Robert Tateshall held the lands “in capite”, that is directly from King Edward 1 (1272-1307).
Documents describe Sir Robert as holding “one fee” which the Prior of Binham held from him. A knight's fee was a feudal estate normally worth £40 or more. Just two years later a member of the Pakenham family is recorded as holding some of the lands. During the reign of Henry V111 (1509-47) the Manor was held by Sir Thomas Paston who had also acquired other lands in the village as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries. I have no information of how the lands were disposed after this time until the Cobbe's of Sandringham acquired them in about 1646. The Cobbe's have appeared before in these accounts as they had also acquired the lands of Pakenham Manor, Binham Priory Manor and Gelham Manor. They were a Catholic family who sided with the King in the English Civil War and as a consequence their lands were sequestered by Parliament. Although they regained their property later their fortune never really recovered and their estates were sold to the Hoste family in 1686. However, all references I have found to the Manor House give 1671 as the date of its construction when it was still part of the Cobbe's estate.
The year 1671 was a very significant for the village; it was the year of the great flood and battles against the waves were a common feature of life on the East Coast. In late August and early September of 1671 there was a period of extremely stormy weather. It reached a peak on or around September 12th and the whole countryside around Lynn was inundated. The tide rose so high it swept over all sea banks and every able-bodied person would have been summoned to the fight against the sea, and to save what livestock and property they could. Winter fodder was ruined, livestock perished, coastal roads destroyed, and many ships were wrecked in the Wash. The event is recorded in Dersingham's parish register. “September the 12th 1671. The fflood was on the twelfe day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and seaventye and one. All the generall marshes in Dersingham and also the common marshe there were overflowed by reason that the tyde did come over all the banks first and after made severall breaches of the said bankes. The like was also knowne by the space of fifty or as some say sixty years before..severalle cattell were lost in the Common Marsh there.” Water entered many cottages but fortunately there was no loss of human life. The mention of a previous flood that occurred sixty years earlier tallies with an account of a historian called Dugdale. In 1613 he wrote of a storm that battered Norfolk Marshland. “A dreadful inundation of the sea on the 13th November…….A bridge was shattered, over 2000 head of livestock drowned, 480 acres of land sown with corn were swamped and 13 houses ruined.” I mention these floods because the Cobbes owned not only Westhall Manor but also Gelham Manor. Gelham Manor Hall used to stand on the Marsh side of the village down The Drift almost opposite the present West Hall Manor House. If Gelham Manor House were still standing in the 17th century it would surely have been badly affected by these great floods and any in previous years especially as the waters of the Wash then approached much nearer to the village. So was this the time when the decision to abandon that house was finally taken and a new Manor House of Westhall built at a safer distance from the fury of the Wash? This is only conjecture; I have no historical evidence to prove or disprove the theory. 1671 also marked the building of the Tithe barn and the Hall opposite.
Fifteen years later, in 1686, the Manor of Westhall passed to the Hoste family as part of the Sandringham Estate. Armstrong's History states that in about 1780 Dixon Hoste was the Lord of the Manor. Dixon, the grandson of James Hoste of Sandringham, lived at Ingoldisthorpe Hall. He lost much of his fortune in supporting the political ambitions of Coke of Holkham and was finally forced to sell the house at Ingoldisthorpe and the estate. At some point the house in Manor Road was administered by the village council. There are several references in the early 18th century to the village Town House. In 1754 an overseer John Doyle did work on the Town House and there is a bill dated 1754 for “2 days work of thatching on the Town House by order of Mr. Doyle…..3s. 6d.” The suggestion is made that this Town House was Westhall Manor. Certainly on Bryant's map of 1826 it is clearly marked as a Workhouse.
Various Acts of Parliament had made the Parish the administrative unit for the relief of the poor. Parishes were encouraged to establish workhouses where the poor could be set to work. Then in 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed and a central authority was set up. This led to the establishment of the new Poor Law Unions when larger workhouses were established. In this area one was built just outside Docking and another in King's Lynn. The smaller Parish workhouses became redundant and were often sold. The inmates in Dersingham were transferred to the Docking Union Workhouse.
The Tithe Map of 1839 reveals that one Elizabeth Rouse was now the owner of the land and cottages in the area. At some time the old house had been divided into three separate cottages with further houses added on. Although the identifying numbers on the map are difficult to read it would appear that Moses Grimes and others unnamed occupied these cottages that once formed the Manor House. Moses Grimes is listed in the 1851 census, age 74 an agricultural labourer with Fanny Wales as his housekeeper. His neighbours were John Green, John Flegg, wheelwright, William Flegg and William Daw, a fisherman.
In the twentieth century villagers recall the area about the Manor and The Albert Victor being called Laundry Yard. Several villagers recall seeing the steam rising from the roof of the washhouse as they passed on their way to school. A dyke with flowing water once ran down from Doddshill, along Manor Road, down The Drift and thus to the sea. On Mondays water was taken from the stream to fill the coppers and heat for the washing. A chore that took up most of the day. Before Mains water was laid on the villagers fetched their water from wells one of which was behind the Albert Victor. Opposite was a Blacksmith who frequently had an audience of children dawdling to and from school. So the area about the old house has always been one of constant bustle.
It was in 1966 that Mr. S. C. Turner bought two of the cottages that were once part of the old Manor and re-converted them into a single dwelling. The sympathetic alterations have restored the character and charm of this old house, but it still has many secrets to give up.
On the 11th August 1880 the following announcement, which is relevant to the Dersingham Manors, appeared in the Lynn Advertiser:
"The General Courts Baron of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for the undermentioned Manors will be held as follows, (namely) For the several Manors of West Newton, Buckenhams with Appleton, and West Newton Rivetts on Thursday the 26th day of August instant at 12 o'clock at noon at the house of Mr. Sherrington in West Newton. For the several Manors of Shouldham in Darsingham and Brookhall in Darsingham on the same day at 1o'clock in the afternoon at The Cock Inn Dersingham. Of which all persons concerned are requested to take notice and attend accordingly, and pay their Quit Rents and perform their suits and services.
The Cock Inn is now The Feathers.
A quit rent was a single annual payment to be offered in lieu of ancient goods and services.