In the 2001 season, documentary research was undertaken to see what we could find out about the West Hall Manor. The original aim of this research was to complement the standing building survey done on West Hall House in 2000. In researching one of the manors of Sedgeford we inevitably, however, found out much about the other manors of Sedgeford. There were three manors in medieval Sedgeford. Norwich Cathedral Priory owned two of these, which were known as East Hall and West Hall. There was also a third, secular manor owned by the de Sechfords and later the Le Stranges.
The location of these manors, from what we believe, is shown in Figures 1 and 2. It is likely that West Hall was located where the present West Hall House is. The fabric of the present West Hall House cannot, however, be dated back to the medieval period. Its earliest feature is a chimney, stylistically dated to c.1600. It is probable, however, that the previous manor house either underlies or is located near to the present house. East Hall, however, was never in the heart of Sedgeford and has always been on the outskirts of the village, in an area known as Gnatingdon. The private manor of Sedgeford is the most difficult manor to actually place on the ground, but it is possibly in Dovecote piece. This land is described in various documents as either ‘Sechfords’ or ‘Sechfords Yard.’ Although, there is no remaining fabric there now, there is a grass platform that may represent a feature such as a Manor House!
The manor of West Hall was first given to the priory by Bishop Turbe of Norwich, between 1146/7 and 1174. The manor was granted along with three other churches. By 1205, a fee farm rent on the manor was released and the priory had total control over the manor. Although the legality of this transaction must be called into question as in 1395, the manor of West Hall was given back to the priory after 26 years in the king’s hands, due to an earlier bishop failing to get a licence for exchange of lands. Presumably this event refers back to Bishop Turbe’s exchange of the manor. East Hall was acquired for the priory in the early twelfth century, in exchange for Thorpe next Norwich. From the thirteenth century the two manors were then treated as a double manor and were valued together in the 1535 Valor Ecclesiasticus as being worth £61.
Some research has been undertaken to try and establish a picture of life within Sedgeford, such as the industries and running of the manor. We know that the sheep husbandry industry was particularly prominent in Sedgeford throughout the medieval period. In the late thirteenth century there is evidence that Sedgeford was not only producing wool, but was also being used as an intermediary for its transportation. The prominence of the wool industry can still be seen in the sixteenth century, when the Le Stranges had taken over running the manors. The Le Stranges kept two flocks of sheep in Sedgeford and in their household accounts there are references to purchasing, clipping and washing of sheep shows the survival of this industry.
The Le Stranges were prominent landowners in Sedgeford from at least the sixteenth century, as they leased West Hall from 1538. They leased both the manors from the priory, in the case of West Hall on such a long lease that in the eighteenth century there was a dispute regarding a confusion of boundaries. We know the priory farmed out the manors from the 1420s, and we know the Le Stranges held land in Sedgeford prior to their 1538 lease, so it is probable that they held these manors for some time before the lease of 1538. The Le Stranges also held the private manor of Sedgeford, which is described in Le Strange records as once being owned by the Duke of Suffolk. It is probable that this manor was also leased to the Le Stranges in 1538, although we know the manor had been bought by 1582, when it was bequeathed in John Le Strange’s will.
The full report on the excavation can be accessed here
Le Strange, Household Accounts; NRO, Le Strange Mss, P1, P3 and P4.
G. Griffiths, “Three Norfolk Estates: A Study of their Development and Economic Performance” M.Phil thesis, (University of Nottingham, 1985).
R. Virgoe, ‘The Estates of Norwich Cathedral Priory 1101-1538’ in ed. Ian Atherton, Eric Fernie, Christopher Harper-Bill and Hassell Smith, Norwich Cathedral; Church, City and Diocese, 1096-1996 (London, 1996). pp.339-359.
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