Before the Norman Conquest, Eadric de Laxfield held Happisburgh (probably not of Danish extraction - see article). He had 13 carucates of arable land, 10 acres of meadow & 16 acres of wood, 21 villagers, 20 smallholders and 3 slaves, 4 cattle, 18 pigs and 200 sheep. There were 3 ploughs of the lord and 9 men's ploughs. There were 21 freemen with 86 acres and 5 ploughs. Eadric had the patronage of another freeman with 4 carucates of arable land plus another 8 villagers, 9 smallholders and 1 slave. There were a further 10 ploughs. There were also another 2 freemen with 100 acres plus 5 smallholders with 1 plough and 60 acres (1).

After the Conquest, Ralph Guader (the Earl of Norfolk) held Happisburgh until he rebelled against the king when it was held by Godric, a steward of King William. A church is noted. Other than the total number of ploughs reducing, the details remained nearly the same. Robert Malet originally claimed this lordship saying that his father was the successor to Eadric de Laxfield (and the Hundred testified to this) but for some reason he did not hold it at the time of the Survey (2).

{short description of image} MALET FAMILY ARMS. {short description of image} THE BIGOT/BIGOD FAMILY ARMS (10).

Shortly after the Survey, King William granted Happisburgh to Roger Bigot, ancestor to the Earls of Norfolk (2). Roger Bigot gave Happisburgh in frank marriage with his daughter Maud to William de Albiny, the King's Butler and ancestor to the Earls of Arundal. When William de Albiny founded Wymondham Priory in 1101 (3) he gave nearly all of Happisburgh to the Priory along with a silver cross on the death of his wife, Maud (2). Initially, the tenants of Happisburgh refused to pay their dues to the Prior of Wymondham (Rolk de Nuers) so he went personally to Happisburgh but was resisted by the tenants. The Prior called for help from William de Albiny who sent his servants (soldiers) to assistance the Prior who broke down the tenant's doors, bound some of them and seized their possessions. The tenants appealed to the Abbot of St Alban (superior to the Prior) but when the Abbot went to visit Happisburgh, William de Albiny's men stopped him and so the Abbot went to the Earl of Northampton and London. Finally, it was agreed that William de Albiny should relinquish his right to appoint the Prior of Wymondham. This Abbot also quarrelled with the Bishop of Norwich who insisted that he should choose the vicars of Happisburgh church (3). Maud is possibly to be buried in the Norman church, in the chapel beyond the present north aisle. The Bishop of Norwich, Priors of Castleacre, Norwich, Thetford & Wymondham attended her funeral (3). The Prior of Wymondham was lord of Happisburgh and enjoyed various privileges granted by Henry I (1100-1135) and Richard I (1189-1199) (2). In 1246, Robert Strange, Sheriff of Norfolk, convened a jury of 12 freemen and knights to enquire if the Prior of Wymondham had the privileges that he claimed. The Prior proved his rights by charter, including right of wreck from the bounds of Eccles to the Hundred boundary with Tunstead (i.e., south of Waxham) and all ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Happisburgh (2). During the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), William de Milliers and William Hawteyn held a quarter fee from Robert, lord Montalt, lord of Rysing who married one of the sisters and coheirs of Hugh de Albiny (4). In 1248, Sir Godfrey de Melliers of Happisburgh was caught in the bedchamber of the daughter of Sir John Briton and was treated by him with the utmost cruelty and at length he was castrated. As a result, all of Sir Godfrey's estates were seized by the King (8). In 1251, the Archdeacon of Norfolk agreed to take 1 mark per annum for Happisburgh and the Peter-pence was 30d, suggesting 30 houses (5). About 1266, Nicholas was Vicar (5). Also during the reign of Henry III there was an agreement between Godfrey de Melliers and Thomas de Whimpwell regarding 30 acres of land and in 1257 the same Godfrey impleaded William de Milliers regarding this land (4). In 1275, the heirs of William de Milliers held a fee in Happisburgh and a quarter fee in Castle Rising (4). During the reign of Edward I (1272-1307), the vicar had no house or land and Wymondham Priory had the patronage of the church, which was settled in 1229 and consisted of tithes (tenths) of flax, hemp, calves, colts, geese, and merchandise (5). In 1291, watches were kept at Happisburgh and Waxham by 4 men (7).

{short description of image} HAPPISBURGH CHURCH.

The church is dedicated to St Mary and the Norman church was possibly pulled down in the 1300s and a new church built, leaving a few Norman stones in the existing west tower (3). There was extensive reconstruction of the church in the 1400s when the chancel was altered, the nave widened and raised in height (3). Opposite the church and facing the Walcott road are thatched cottages, which contain some medieval fragments (9). At the bottom of church lane is a medieval building called The Monastery Cottage and may have been used by the monks of Wymondham (12).

In 1304, Robert de Henney was vicar presented by the Prior followed by Robert de Seyntefoy in 1307 and Henry de Masseworth in 1318 (5). In 1331, Walter de Tyveteshale was vicar followed by Walter Speller in 1333, Simon de Banyngham in 1337 and Robert de Burhwode in 1355 (5). In 1357, William de Milliers held a quarter fee in Happisburgh (4). In 1359, Hugh Smith was vicar, John Waleys in 1361, William Wimpwell in 1400, Richard Sterre in 1416 and John Salle in 1429 (5). During the reign of Edward VI (1422-1461), the royal Commissioners made an inventory of the church goods and removed most of the valuables from Happisburgh including two chalices, a pair of censors, a copper cross and vestments (3).

CRISPIN'S MANOR - In 1316, Robert Crispin held a lordship in Happisburgh and in 1340, Simon de Crispin granted lands to Robert de Cockfield. In 1402, John Crispin held a quarter fee in Happisburgh from the honour of Rising (4). In 1417, John Crispin gave this manor to his nephew, John, son of Roger Crispin and 3s 4d to Happisburgh church and 40s to the building of a new rood loft (4). In 1429, John Crispin died and in his will asked to be buried in Norwich Cathedral (4). Whilst the position of Happisburgh Hall is known, I'm unsure of the location of Crispin's manor although here is a medieval moat in Happisburgh next to the parish boundary with Lessingham that could be its location.

{short description of image} 1881 O.S. map showing a moated site - possible location of Crispin's manor.

WIMPWELL - At the time of the Domesday Survey there is the town of Wimpwell, which the Abbot of St Benet held with 1.5 carucate of arable land, 5 villains and 2 boarders, 4 acres of meadow (6). By 1454 this town was lost and its land included as part of Happisburgh (6) although Wimpwell Green an Wimpwell street are clearly shown on the 1881 O.S. map.

In 1947, coastal erosion revealed a timber framed medieval well near to Ostend House in Happisburgh with 13th century pottery in the bottom, reminiscent of late Anglo-Saxon pottery (11).

{short description of image} TIMBER FRAMED WELL {short description of image} 13th CENTURY JUG FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL.


1. Little Domesday Book, fols 133v & 150.

2. Bloomfield F, "An essay towards a topographical history of Norfolk, volume 9", 1808: 298.

3. Happisburgh church guide.

4. Bloomfield F, "An essay towards a topographical history of Norfolk, volume 9", 1808: 299.

5. Bloomfield F, "An essay towards a topographical history of Norfolk, volume 9", 1808: 300.

6. Bloomfield F, "An essay towards a topographical history of Norfolk, volume 9", 1808: 301.

7. Rye W, 'A History of the Hundred of Happing' Norfolk Records Office, ref Rye 3, vol II, 1792, Norris collection: 1.

8. Rye W, 'A History of the Hundred of Happing' Norfolk Records Office, ref Rye 3, vol II, 1792, Norris collection: 87.

9. Pevsner N, "The Buildings of England - Northeast Norfolk and Norwich', 1970, Penguin: 161&2.

10. Web site - http://www.infokey.com/hon/norman.htm.

11. Larwood G, 'A Timber framed well at Happisburgh - Norfolk Archaeology volume 30', date unknown: 226.

12. Norfolk Archaeology, volume 24: 71.