Lords of the Manor

Lords of the Manor of Mulbarton

Manors were originally granted by the Crown and let out to tenants, the Lord of the Manor having the right to hold a manorial court. They could then be inherited and acquired through marriage to an heiress; awarded or confiscated by the Crown; given (for instance to endow a charity); bought and sold to consolidate lands, pay debts and in some cases maintain a lifestyle suitable for being at Court; or it might remain with one family for centuries.... 

According to Francis Blomefield's 'History of Norfolk', (Vol. 5, 1802 pp.74-83)  'MOLKE-, MYKIL-, or MUCHE-BARTON was owned by:

Ordinc, a thane of Edward the Confessor (c.1004 - 1066), then awarded to

Roger Bigot and Ralf de Beaufoe in the Conqueror's time (after 1066) and

Hubert de Rhye... at the latter end of the Conqueror's time (William died in 1087) c.1184 (a misprint for 1084?) he gave it (bequeathed it?) to the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury.

Henry de Rhye in King Stephen's time (1135 - 54)
'accordingly it was held of the baronry of Rhye, as of the manor of Hingham'

Robert Fitz-Roger
'Around this time, Sir Bartholomew de St. Omer had lands here but was not Lord', so he may have been a tenant, but then Mulbarton did pass to the St Omer family though we do not know how....

William de Sancto Audomaro, Omero - or St. Omer - in the time of Henry III (1216 - 72)
'The king granted him entitlement to a 'free-warren' and fair here and at 'Brundale' [Brundall] in 1253'.
The manor then passed to his son. Thomas de St. Omer.

Thomas de St. Omer [1318 - 1365], for all his faults (see below) is probably the man who commissioned the beautiful 'treasure', the St Omer Psalter that is now in the British Library. He  married Petronella Melmains: 'She was daughter and co-heir of Thomas Malmains [= left-handed!] and widow of Ralf de Tony, and thus acquired land in Grimshow and Saham.'
Thomas married twice and had a daughter by each wife. These two half-sisters, Elizabeth and Alice, were his heiresses. At his death, Thomas left money for the 'pittancer' of Norwich Cathedral 'to keep his anniversary for ever and to treat the convent on that day'. It was Thomas de St Omer who is credited with (re)building the church as a penance, as told on the Church & Chapel page.

Alice, daughter of Thomas, bought full control of 'the manors of Mulbarton, Keteringham and Brundale'. She was the second wife Sir William de Hoo, Knight [1342 - 1410], who became Lord of the Manor from their marriage in 1367. Sir William was born in Litcham, Norfolk, son of Thomas Hoo [c.1315 - 1380) of Luton Hoo and Isabel St Leger. William's first wife was Eleanor Wingfield. He was a well-known warrior in his day: he fought against the French, was captain of the castle of Oye in 1386, during which time he probably visited the Holy Land. He was probably one of the few Lords of the Manor to actually live in Mulbarton, where he may have built (or restored) a moated manor house and also built (or restored) the present church and tower. However, he seems to have run up considerable debts, and claimed to have only poor land and a broken windmill! According to Francis Blomefield, he and his wife, Alice, were buried in the chancel. Sir William died in 1410, aged 76; Alice died in 1456.
Blomefield's volume (dated 1802) also claims that their portraits were in a stained glass window in the north wall of the church up to c.1800, along with pictures of Sir Thomas de St. Omer and his wife, and the coat of arms of both families. Did this disappear when the church was 'repaired and beautified in 1815'?

Thomas Hoo Esq. (son of Sir William and Alice, c.1363 - 1420)
Thomas was born and died in Luton. He had three wives, though different sources give different names. They were probably (1) Elizabeth Felton, who bore him a son, Thomas, who died before his father; (2) Elizabeth Wichingham  who bore him a daughter, Anne; and in 1394/5 he married (3) Eleanor Wells who bore him three daughters and a son, again named Thomas, who was his heir. 

Coat of Arms of Sir Thomas Hoo, KG, 1st Baron Hoo & Hastings, Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton.
Coat of Arms of Sir Thomas Hoo, KG, 1st Baron Hoo & Hastings, Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton.

Thomas de Hoo Esq. (son of Sir William and Eleanor. c.1396 - 1455)
When his father died in 1420, Thomas jnr. inherited Luton Hoo, the ancestral home in Bedfordshire, the Manor of Mulbarton and other estates. He became Sir Thomas around 1434, and was sent to Normandy by King Henry VI to suppress a rebellion around Caux and was rewarded by being made Keeper of the Seals and Chancellor of France and in 1449 granted the castle and lordship of Hastings. He was Elected a Knight of the Garter in 1445, returned to France and was honoured for his efforts by being made a baron, Lord Hoo and Hastings, and thus a member of parliament.
Thomas married (1) Elizabeth Wychingham (daughter of Nicholas Wychingham of Wichingham, Norfolk) who gave him a daughter, Anne, and (2) Eleanor Welles, daughter of the 6th Baron Welles, who gave him three more daughters.
In his will, dated 1454, 'he settled 20 marks per annum on Battle Abbey for two monks to sing perpetually for him and his ancestors at St. Bennet's altar in their church' and asked that Hastings be sold to provide dowries for his daughters. He lists various manors and bequeathed Mulbarton manor to his daughter Anne, eldest daughter of Lord Hoo. He had no sons, so the Barony died with him.

Anne de Hoo [c.1425 - 1484] became the second wife of Sir Jeffrey Boleyn [1405 - 1463] around 1447/8. Thus the Manor of Mulbarton came into the hands of the Boleyn family. Jeffrey was the son of another Jeffery and Alice his wife who were minor gentry in Salle, Norfolk. He was born in 1405 and apprenticed to a hatter in London, but managed to transfer to the more prestigious Mercers' Company (a Livery Company) in 1436. He was ambitious and becoming prosperous. He served as Sheriff of London 1446-7, when his first wife, Denise, must have died. By marrying Anne de Hoo he made a link with the aristocracy. By 1462 he was a trustee of the Hoo estates and was already a wealthy citizen of London, making loans to the King. In 1457-8 he was Lord Mayor and was duly knighted by Henry VI. At that time he bought the manor of Blickling from Sir John Fastolf and rebuilt thehouse in brick. He bought Hever Castle in Kent in 1462, but died the following year - a rich man, with land in several counties. His eldest son (probably from his first marriage) died around 1466 and Anne administered his estates in the name of his half-brother, her son William (b.1451). Anne died in 1484.

 Mulbarton and other estates thus passed to, Sir William Boleyn, son of Jeffrey and Anne. He was a Freeman of London through birth, but was never apprenticed and probably lived the life of a country gentleman on his estates at Blickling and Hever Castle and held various offices in both Norfolk and Kent. He married an heiress, Margaret Butler, and was knighted around 1482/3. His will is dated 1505.

Arms of the Boleyn family
Arms of the Boleyn family

It then passed to Thomas Boleyn [c.1477 - 1539] who had married Lady Elizabeth Howard (eldest daughter of the Duke of Norfolk) in 1495, which brought the Boleyns into the family circle of one of the great noble houses of England. The rise and rise of Thomas Boleyn - and his subsequent fall - is an important chapter in the history of England. Their first daughter, Mary, was the acknowledged lover of Henry VIII and their second daughter, Anne Boleyn, became his second wife. Thomas himself was made Earl of Wiltshire, Ormond and Rochford in 1529 and traveled widely to the courts of Europe. He managed to keep his head when his son and daughter lost theirs, and died in 1539.
Thomas Boleyn moved in loftier circles than Mulbarton, and needed money to maintain his lavish lifestyle. In 1535, he sold the Manor of Mulbarton to....

John Gresham who married Alice Blythe (of Long Stratton) and had four surviving sons, born in Holt, of whom Richard who was probably the third.

Sir Richard Gresham (c.1485 - 1549) was also a member of the Mercers' Company and traded in textiles with his brother John and supplied cloth to Henry VIII and to Cardinal Wolsey. He was knighted by the king in 1531 when he was Sheriff of London. He witnessed the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 and the following year became Lord Mayor of London. He died at Bethnal Green in 1549. His first wife, Audrey Lynne, gave him two sons and two daughters. The eldest son, John died in 1560 with only a daughter, so the inheritance past to his brother Thomas.

Sir Thomas Gresham (c.1519 - 1579) inherited the Manor of Mulbarton through his elder bother along with the adjoining manor of Kenningham. Whether he visited these estates, or took much interest in them, is not known. Thomas was a cloth merchant, like his father, and financier and is credited with rescuing the pound in the reign of Edward VI and raising its value on Antwerp Stock Exchange. As a Protestant, he was not in favour under Catholic Mary though he was soon back at court, negotiating loans and smuggling arms. He founded  the Royal Exchange, modelled on the Antwerp Exchange in 1565. In 1570 he sold Kenningham to Mr. Turner. Sir Thomas died suddenly in 1579 and was buried in St Helen's, Bishopsgate. His will stipulated that after his wife, Ann, died some of his wealth should be used to found Gresham College - the first institution of higher education in London. Their only son died before his father but according to Blomefield the Manor of Mulbarton passed to another Gresham....

William Gresham Esq. of London, lord of the manor 1579 - 1599. He almost certainly never lived here, but mortgaged (rented) the Hall to Francis Cuddon, Gent. Blomefield includes heraldic details of a coat of arms in tapestry hanging in the parlour.

The manor was purchased by Sir Edwin Rich, 'in the 42nd year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth' (1599), a fact stated on his monument in Mulbarton church (in the corner above the door, where it was moved from the north wall in 1875 - above). He was a descendant of Richard Rich of the Middle Temple (London) who was Lord High Chancellor of England under Henry VIII and Edward VI. His older brother, Robert, became the first Earl of Warwick. He married Honora Worlick, and had four sons and three daughters. According to his monument, he was knighted at the 'Cadiz voyage'. This was an expedition to seize Cadiz and its treasure from Philip II of Spain in 1596 and included Sir Walter Raleigh among its members. This Edwin Rich died 25th February 1639/40 and is buried in Hartlepool. 

The manor then passed to each of his four sons in turn:

Robert Rich inherited first as the eldest son of Sir Edwin, but was Lord of the Manor for little over a decade. Robert died in 1651 and was buried in Swardeston, but his brother Edwin arranged for him to be re-interred in a family vault at Mulbarton and commemorated on the monument shown above.

Sir Edwin Rich (1594 - 1675) was the next son of Sir Edwin, and younger brother of Robert, and the next to inherit.
This Sir Edwin 'lov'd the poor' as his monument on the west wall of the church says. He died in 1675, aged 81, and the inscription begins, 'Our Lyef is like an Hower Glasse, and our Riches are like Sand in it....' and there is a large hour-glass above the monument. He left money and land for a charity to benefit the poor of Mulbarton - and the Rich Charity still makes grants today and rents out allotments on what remains of Rich's land. He also left money for the poor of Thetford, where he was born, and to repair the road between Wymondham and Attleborough, where a monument to him exists today. He married Jane Reeve, widow of John Suckling, by which he added the manors of Roos Hall and Ashman's Hall in Suffolk to his Norfolk estates. But they had no (surviving) children, so Rich's riches passed to his remaining brothers.

Richard Rich (3rd son of the first Sir Edwin, brother of Robert and the second Sir Edwin) was the first to inherit from his older brother, but died the following year, in 1676.

Charles Rich Esq., c.1619 - 1677, (4th son of the first Sir Edwin, brother of Robert Rich, the second Sir Edwin Rich and Richard Rich) was the next heir. He was a merchant and a hosier in London who had already made a fortune - in worsted stockings amongst other things! He was made a baronet under Charles II. In 1641 he married Lady Elizabeth Cholmondley and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, who each inherited one of his manors. Sir Charles was also only Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton for about a year as he died in 1677 and is buried in Enfield, Middlesex. Shortly before his death, his daughter Mary married a cousin, Robert Rich (1648-1699) who was MP for Dunwich, Suffolk, and a Lord of the Admiralty. She brought him her Suffolk inheritance. The Norfolk lands, including Mulbarton, were inherited by her sister Elizabeth....

[The Rich family papers were sold to America and are in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where they can be viewed online. The catalogue has a helpful Guide to the papers and the family members concerned here.]

Elizabeth Rich (eldest daughter of Charles Rich) married Peter Cevill (or Civel), a French Gentleman. She is one member of the family who almost certainly lived in Mulbarton - the Folger Shakespeare Library has letters she wrote from Mulbarton between 1694 and 1697 to her sister's husband, Sir Robert Rich, one of which concerns her son Cholmley. Her son, Charles Rich Cevill, was the last of the Rich family to be Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton. He sold the manor to....

Mr. James Balls of Norwich - His monument in the chancel of Mulbarton Church tells us (in Latin) that James Balls, Lord of the Manor and Patron of this Church died in 1748 aged 70.

John Balls (son of James) - Described on his monument in church as citizen of Norwich - indeed, he was an Alderman. He commissioned a map of the manor in 1724, copies of which still exist. He died in 1755, and the monument put up by his wife Susannah (nee Spendlove) describes him as 'best of husbands'. Above the monument are the Arms of Balls impaling Spendlove.

James Balls of Norwich (presumably son of John) - Given as 'the present lord and patron' when Blomefield's book was published in 1802.

Quite when and how the Lordship passed to the Steward family is uncertain.
1845 Whites Directory lists Rev. J H Steward as Lord of the Manor

1883 Whites Directory lists John Steward, Esq. as Lord of the Manor

John Henry Steward of East Carleton Manor, who died in 1913. He had moved his family to Gowthorpe Hall by 1911 - there is more about him here.

Mrs. Eleanor M Steward his widow, continued to live at Gowthorpe Hall, 1913 - 1952

Major J. G. Steward, 1952 - 1980 who was very supportive of the efforts to clear the Common after grazing had stopped.

Mrs. Steward, his widow, 1980 - 1984

Their daughter, Mrs. Rosemary Watkinson (nee Steward) is the current Lord of the Manor. She continues to be consulted about events on the Common and, like previous Lords of the Manor, is also Patron of the Living of the Benefice of Mulbarton.