A Tale of Two Manors

The Founding of the Litcham ManorsScreen Shot 2018-10-29 at 15.44.47

5a Part 1  Hermerus de Ferraris  and Easthall
After the Norman invasion the new King (William I) gave Turchetal’s lands to Hermerus de Ferraris, who historian George Munford described  as “violent and tyrannical” and noted that of all the invading Norman Barons he was probably “the largest unlawful invader of the lands of freemen in the country”.  There are 33 cases on record where Ferraris usurped freemen of their holdings including one in Lawingham (Longham).
His Litcham Estate now became known as the Manor of Easthall and and at the time of the Doomeday book, twenty years after the conquest the population was given as 265 souls, of which five were classed as Freemen working their own land.  The ‘Manor’, however, showed some deterioration since the invasion, as it seems to have lost one geneat or villein, one boor or bordar and one slave or servus.  (These three terms are references, first in Anglo-Saxon and then Norman, to lowly farm peasants).  Cattle had also dwindled from nine to three and there were now eight oxen less to plough and, according to the Domesday Book, the tenants had lost four of their nine plough. The only successful man appears to have been the shepherd who had increased his flock from 200 to 220.
The other thing that increased with the arrival of the Normans was taxation; up by 10 shillings to 50 shillings and the new King took a share of the market.
Although both the Easthall and Netherhall manor houses no longer exist the former is commemorated in the name Easthall or Hasel Green, an area that lies to the east of the village to the south of the Mileham Road.  All but forgotten today and not marked on modern maps the name was still in use in 1830 when it is named as one of five commons owned by John Collison.
Three side of the moat at Netherhall still exist and it is marked on modern OS maps, just to the west of Church Street and as the name suggests, at the lower or ‘nether’ end of the village.  A third manor, Stanhowehall, was a sub-division of Netherhall.


5b Part 2 : Alain fitz Flaad, Mileham Castle and Netherhall
Initially William I kept a large swathe of land in Norfolk for himself, this included Hunstanton and Mileham which included as it’s sub-manor Netherhall.  The King’s Bailiff therefore took over Stigand’s at Mileham which this was now called the Manor of Netherhall and was included under Mileham for tax purposes.
In 1101 Henry I gave this land to Alan fitz Flaad, a Breton knight who was invited to England by the new King soon after he came to the throne to look after the troublesome Welsh border at Oswestry. Flaad spent some time improving the castle here spending over £2000 on among other things palisades and a well.
Flaad, also know as Fitz-Alan, decided to build a castle at Mileham, did he think Norfolk folk would prove as troublesome as the Welsh?
One of Norfolk’s the largest Motte-and-bailey castles, it was built astride the main Lynn to Norwich road, probably to raise revenue through tolls from travellers.  Unusually for the time the Motte is built up around a stone keep, prompting some to suppose that the mound was already in existence during Anglo-Saxon times and therefore the earthworks were settled enough to form the foundation for a heavy structure. The keep is complemented by two baileys and a banked area to the north of the road that may possible have been used for a market and which now contains Burwood Hall.  Little remains today except the ten foot thick foundations enclosing the subterranean dungeon. Holding Mileham as mesne-tenants were Flaads fellow countrymen and comrades-in-arms, our old friends the Le Stranges mentioned in the last article.
Alan, decribed in 1135 and as “valiant and illustrious man” was also responsible for founding the Benedictine Piory at Sporl.  He granted a small group of monks the Church of St. Mary’s ‘free of all claims’ and the land of ‘two ploughs’, (about 97 hectares) in both Mileham and Sporle.  The Priory is mentioned in records of 1123 as a possession of the Abbey of St. Florent, Anjou, France.
Alan’s younger son Walter did rather well for himself, he went to Scotland with exiled Scottish Lord, David of Hunstanton, and helped him lay claim to the Scottish throne.  Walter’s reward was to appointed ‘High Steward of Scotland’ by the new King, David I of Scotland.  The moniker ‘Steward’ transmogrified first into Stewart and then into the french form Stuart and eventually in 1190 we find Walter’s direct heir ascending to the Scottish throne as Robert II. (Please don’t tell the Scots this they like to think their Kings were direct descendants of very Scottish, but possibly mythical, Banquo).  Eventually, of course, the Stuarts became Kings of both England and Scotland under James I and II, but that’s another tale…
Despite being the Sherriff of Shropshire, Alain fitz Flaad is recorded as dying in Norfolk around 1114 , perhaps he preferred the quieter life among the less aggressive Norfolk folk, who were probably less like to set fire to his home?


6. A LeStrange Tale 1260 – 1305
lestrangLike the Danish Thane Turchetel, whose lands he had taken, Ferraris based himself at Wirmegay.  His extensive estates included the Litcham Manor of Easthall, which he gave to his grandchild Ela and her husband Ralf L’Estrange. Eventually due to a lack of male heir’s Hermer’s estates passed to the de Warrens and then the Bardolfs.  However, all this while the L’Estranges remained tenants, and thus Lords of the Manor, at Easthall.
Alain fitz Flaad, the overlord of Mileham, while busy looking after the Welsh at Oswastry, placed his Norfolk estates into the care of fellow crusader Roland Le Strange.  In turn these passed to ‘John Le Strange I’ of Hunstanton and Mileham’ who gave his interest in Netherhall to his third brother Ralf, he who married Ela de Ferraris.  Thus through a rather circuitous route the Litcham became united under one Lord.
Members of the Le Strange family continued as tenants of the Litcham Manors until the early 14th Century.  In 1260 John Le Strange III divided the Manors between his daughter Alice and son Robert, and a new sub-manor of Stanowehall was formed for Alice’s daughter Ela when she married Sir John Harvey of Stanhowe. It is mentioned in records of 1479 and is thought to have been in the vicinity of the current Litcham Hall.  John’s son, Robert, held Netherhall and like many of his generation he was making preparation to go on the Crusades in 1271, whether he went or not seems open to debate but there is general agreement that he died in 1276.

Although both the Easthall and Netherhall manor houses no longer exist the former is commemorated in the name Easthall or Hasel Green, an area that lies to the east of the village to the south of the Mileham Road.  All but forgotten today and not marked on modern maps the name was still in use in 1830 when it is named as one of five commons owned by John Collison.
Three side of the moat at Netherhall still exist and it is marked on modern OS maps, just to the west of Church Street in, as the name suggests, the lower or ‘nether’ end of the village.
John Le Strange III died 1305 and was the last Le Strange of Litcham for when Robert’s son, also a Robert, arrived in 1297 to take up residence in Litcham he came bearing the name of Felton.


7. The Feltons 1297 -1381
feltonRobert took the name of Felton when Edward I knighted him and his brother William for their part in defending England’s northern border.  Traditionally a knight would take his name from a nearby place and in our case they chose Felton, a smallish village near Alnwick in Northumberland.
The Feltons therefore bore the same coat of arms as the Le Strange family, of two Lions ‘passant’ on a red background.  Which, as was traditional, was derived from that of their over-Lord, Alan Fitz Flaad who’s coat of arms was a golden lion rampant also on a red background (the red background signifies a warrior).  His ‘vassal’, John Le Strange I, therefore chose two lions passant for his coat of arms and the somewhat aggressive motto ‘mihi parta tueri’ (I will fight for what is mine).  When Robert arrived in Litcham a helm had been added possibly to indicate his now elevated status.
Taking an interest in improving Litcham’s lot Robert was granted a weekly market in 1297 and a yearly Fayre on the ‘day and the morrow on the feast of All Saints’, he also had ‘the free warren’, that is the right to hawking and hunting in his domain.
Robert’s son, also as was usual a Robert, had, like his father, knightly duties to the King defending the realm which unfortunately led to his death at Bannockburn in 1314.
His heir John had a son, Thomas, who became very famous fighting the French.  Records show he was paid four shillings a day at the battle of Crecy and he was famously part of the 8,000 Englishmen who defeated 60,000 French at Poitiers 1356.  Now the English had reversed 1066!
Thomas Felton spent a lot of time in France and Spain and gained fame along with his kinsman, William, who was known as “Felleton Guilliam qui ot coeur de lyon” or ‘William the Lionheart’.  To this day their heroic deeds are remembered at Alvarez in Alava on a mound known as “Inglesmund” (the Englishmen’s Mound).  Sir Thomas bore for arms the familiar two lions but the helmet had now sprouted a pair of wings and a gold crown, the Feltons, it seems were still going up in the world!
Further French battles found him a captive, and it was his second wife, Lady Joan de Somery who ensured his release by using her influence with King Richard II.  Felton was made a knight of the blue garter in 1381 and his coat of arms, the same that grace the Litcham sign today, are still on view at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
He died in May 1381 and the Feltons ceased in Litcham when Joan died in early 1400.


Acknowledgements:
Eric Puddy’s : “History of a Mid-Norfolk Village” (1957)
Compiled and edited by David Sheppard, Chair Litcham Historical Society and Julia Bloomfield


NOTES
From whence comes the term ‘furlong
1 Rod = 5.5 yards, also known as a ‘pole’ or ‘perch
Something left untouched, this led to the word’s current meaning a hindrance or check.

Click here to view a fascinating glimpse of Litcham past…

Might also be of interest…
Listed Buildings ~ Halcott & the Tanning Industry ~ Name Variations ~ 1841 Tithe Map~  1906 Map ~History of All Saints Church

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