Here are some lecture notes taken by Joe Underhill, a local resident. Unfortunately we do not know the name of the lecturer, and apologise that he is not gaining the credit he deserves.
Attached to these notes is also a brief account of the histories of the various manors which once made up the village of Fincham.
See also the notes on Blyth’s book.
400000 to 300000 BC – Palaolithic – Clactonian culture. They preferred the poorer soils of the Breckland, since undergrowth was less dense, but they did mount hunting expeditions into this area of Norfolk.
300000 to 100000 BC – Ice Age.
100000 to 3400 BC – Mesolithic – Megaloneslian – A pierced macehead, of 10000 BC, has been found NE of the Fodderston Gap.
3400 to 2000 BC – Neolithic – This period saw the introduction of agriculture and pottery, 3000 BC flints have been found in Wormegay.
2000 to 1650 BC – The Beaker people. A Beaker flint arrow-head has been found at Toombers Wood, Thorpe.
This period also saw the development of the great trading links which connected this area to materials and markets as far afield as Ireland, Scandinavia and even Egypt. There were, most importantly, the Icknield Way (A11), Peddars Way and Fincham Drove.
1650 to 550 BC – Bronze Age, via adoption rather than invasion. Agriculture remained basically livestock, but had begun production of leather and wool. Bronze Age cremation urns, relatively rare in East Anglia, have been found in Shouldham. They are now in KL Museum.
550 to 200s BC – Iron – Arrived via the peaceful immigration of farmers, able to clear areas with better soils
200s BC – The Marnians invaded, conquering via the Rivers. Their initial settlements around here were around the Fens. The hill-fort at Narborough was built against them. A Marnian has been found buried in Shouldham with his anthromorphically-handled (i.e. typically La Tene) sword. The wheel-pins of a chariot, the ultimate Marnian status symbol, have been found at Marham. Their state became known as the Iceni tribal kingdom.
It was a backward area by 100 BC. With no towns, it was essentially a number of farming settlements linked by barter.
Iceni – A gold coin, Gaullish and of Caesar’s time according to Blyth, was found in the Rectory garden after a severe gale in 1860. It featured a horse on the reverse and was probably in fact Iceni. Iceni coinage first appeared around 10 BC, originally as copies of other tribes’ coinage, later featuring the tribal symbol, a stylized horse.
Fincham Drove – This was an ancient road, certainly Roman but possibly the route was older. It came to form the Eastern end of the ‘Fen Causeway’ from Peterborough, linking it to roads which then carried on to Caister-on-Sea. It linked both to the important Imperial estate at Denver, which was based on salt-works. There may well have been a settlement at Fincham in Roman times. In the Roman period, the road was made with soil topped with cobbles.
Rome – A silver ampulla was found in 1801, containing 7 coins from 360-395AD. A hoard? The Roman hold here had certainly weakened by then. Though the last Roman Legions only left in 410, the area had long been very vulnerable to German raids. The Roman Fen drainage system, for instance, collapsed in the 300s. This area, easily accessible and not far from the Wash would have been occupied early, in the 420s(?) by Anglians who rapidly turned from allies into conquerors. The invasion comprised a mass occupation via boat-loads of 60. The Anglians had, in Attila the Hun, good reason to leave Old Angeln and soon after this Roman visitors reported it to be deserted. (NB Even at the time of Domesday, West Norfolk’s population density was only 2.5 to 5. The current Norfolk population density is 355 to the square mile.) The locals (A-S : wahl=foreigners/ crooks=wahl-isch, i.e.Welsh) fled, were killed or enslaved. Wal- place-names may indicate where some took refuge, in an independent Fen kingdom which lasted into the 800s.
It should be noted that Fincham is in the area cut off, in the Anglo-Saxon period, by: the Fens (in the West); the Nar (in the North); the Wissey (in the South); and, the Bircham Ditch, which ran North to South between Narborough and Beechamwell. Useless for defence, it has been suggested this was an early ‘royal chase’.
Place-Name – Parkin claimed that the name meant, ‘a place where low meadows abound’, however Fin was a common Anglo-Saxon name, so Blyth felt it ‘Fin-Ham’.
Fincham and Beowulf – Blyth noted that Fin was the name of the legendary Chief of those Friesians who settled in Anglo-Saxon England. A ‘Fin the Friesian’ features in ‘Beowulf’, where his tale is sung in the Danish King’s hall. Fin first defeated Hnoef and Hengist, but was then killed in battle by Guthlaf and Oslaf’s Danes at his hall, ‘Finnes-Ham’. The incident also featured in a yet older Saga, ‘The Fight at Finnes-ham’. In 1861, Daniel Haigh published ‘The Anglo-Saxon Sagas’ which, whilst setting much of Beowulf in Northumbria, places Finnes-ham at Fincham. In fact, Beowulf now is felt by experts to have taken place in EA! However, Blyth undoubtedly goes too far in locating various other local sites : Queen Hildeburh (Hilgay); father Hoce (Hockwold); and, Guthhere (Gooderstone). The modern view of the place name is rather more prosaic. Phincham is seen as Anglo-Saxon : Finc and Ham, i.e. a finch-frequented household.
Anglo-Saxon Villages – These tended to be small, sunken, houses of a continental design built to combat the bitter cold of Schleswig-Holstein. They were built almost entirely of wood and, especially in watery areas, very transitory. The current sites of the vast majority of villages surviving today were only established in the 900s.
The Danes – Vikings were raiding the East coast from 793, in force from 835. The Danish Great Army was in West Norfolk in 865 and destroyed the English Kingdom of East Anglia in 870. From 871 and especially after the Peace of Wedmore in 878, Danish settlement occurred in East Anglia, with Guthrum establishing a new Danish Kingdom there which lasted until the West Saxon conquest in 917. East Anglia was the heart of the Danelaw, its high level of assimilation being reflected by the fact that Aethelred the Unready’s massacre did not bite there. The landowning nobility became largely, though far from exclusively, Anglo-Danish. They certainly left their mark in our area.
Holme, Thorpe and West Briggs are all Old Danish place-names. Closer to home, the Freemen who held Fincham prior to 1066 may represent past Viking influence. Langholmefield, the only one of the mediaeval fields not named geographically, is a Danish name, Holmr meant island/flat land by water. We also know that prominent Anglo-Danish local nobles held land in nearby places such as Marham and Shouldham.
Pre-Conquest – Freemen under the manor of Ramsey. At various times, parcels of land were also held by Shouldham Priory, Ely Cathedral, Bury Abbey and Castleacre Priory (of which Warenne was Patron). The earliest Charter mentioning Fincham (Fingeham) dates from the reign of King Edward the Confessor and confirmed the Abbot of Ely’s estate in the village. It did the Abbey little good in the post-conquest situation!
Domesday provides a snap-shot in 1086. Phincham had 734 arable acres and 109 meadow-acres. There were 71 freemen, 2 free women, 49 bordarers, 23 serfs and 3 villeins. There were 18 cattle, 10 horses, 500 sheep and 65 swine.
William De Warenne – A Sussex-based magnate, with his Norfolk base at Castle Acre. A major figure in Norman England.
Hermer de Ferrer alias Hermer de Wormegai – Unscrupulous Norman magnate, based at Wormegay Castle, holding land in 42 Norfolk villages. His lands rapidly passed to the Lords Bardolf, also based at Wormegay.
By Domesday, its split between William de Warenne (375 acres), Hermerus de Ferrariis (180 acres), and Ralph Bainard (100 acres). It later divided into 13 manors, which of course meant 13 Court-Barons determining rates, tenure, etc, and 13 courts-leet dispensing local justice :
Talbot – After 1251, John Talbot joined the rebel Barons so Henry III gave all his lands to the (even less loyal) Bigods! 1286 – Given, by Edward I, in trust, back to the Talbots. At the time, it included a windmill, 7 cottages and 16 customary tenants holding 50 acres.
Little-Well – This manor came to also hold fishery rights in Littleport. Thomas Thoresby of the philanthropic KL merchant family. His successor was to give Thoresby College (a chantry for 13 Priests) and later have their own house demolished to provide room for a vegetable garden. He also granted the Free Grammar School, basis of the current KES, to educate ‘6 poor people’ in grammar, song and praying for the Thoresby family.
Nicholas Geyton also had land and fishing rights in Littleport, Southery, Hilgay, Fordham and Well.
Fincham Hall – The family grew to also hold land in Burnham Deepdale /Burnham Norton/Burnham Westgate/Burnham Sutton/Burnham Thorpe/ /Brancaster/Hunworth/Barton Bendish/Wereham/Stoke Ferry/Wretton/ Buckton/Shouldham/Roxham/Holt/Setch, and yet more in Suffolk. It tithed to Castle Acre Priory, perhaps a relic of their past as Warenne followers!
Burnham – Philip de Burnham gave Castleacre Priory his mill. Ralph de Keleteston, a Lynn burgess.
Fairswell – De Ferrariis had it as part of his Wormegay demesne. The Trusbutts were an old Shouldham family, who also held Runcton Ho lme
Curple – Manor had a windmill. Bainard – The area held by Ralph Bainard, despite Ely Cathedral’s claim to it. Bainard also expelled 13 Freemen from their land, 6 of them quite illegally. He was a Normandy-based rapscallion, who finally lost all in the 1118 rising of William Clito, the son of Robert Curthose, against Henry I. However, the name as Baynard (originally the Norman French Baignard) remained common locally in Blyth’s time. 1305 – Let to Adam de Waldingfeld, on lifehold. The manor then had a right to felon’s goods.
Bainard’s holder also had the dwelling house of Bainard Hall, like Fincham Hall an abode with handy defensive qualities! It was a medieval moated manor house, standing opposite St Michael’s Rectory (now the site of the New Rectory).. In 1921, the Rev Williams declared it long gone. Thus, Finchams ended up holding 10 manors and leasing another. Only two remained free of them. Benefeld/Newlands/Burnham were all de facto annexed to other manors.
Medieval Fincham – By 1460, Fincham’s agricultural land had doubled to 1850 acres, including pasture (from 843 at Domesday). By 1575, there were 2000 acres.
The cause isn’t obvious. Population doesn’t appear to have been booming. Domesday records 145 heads of household, dependents must have numbered a multiple of that. In 1672, when we have statistics from the Hearth Tax, there were only 89 households (suggesting a population of around 450). Population was only to rise steeply in the 1800s.
Fincham like most villages of the style was a nucleus surrounded by 4 great fields, each intricately divided into strips. The Hare survey of 1636 relates that the village had 4 great fields Northfield; Southfield; Eastfield (at enclosure this is called East Row. The A-S word Wroe means grove/corner); and Langholme (Blyth declared the latter was a sand-pit by his time). Hence, in 1772, Fincham had 2450 cultivated acres divided into 1560 pieces, each with its own waste-boundaries! (averaging only 11/2 acres in size).
Fincham also had its 5 Commons, the largest one being the West Heath, lying South West of the ‘toune’. The others were : Hungate Common (by the Thorpe Road); Cow Pasture; Mere Common; and, Broadwater. As late as 1636, the Commons retained 712 acres against 1747 of arable.
Medieval Fincham would have had Feast-Days, one on each of the Churches’ Patron Saint’s days. There is no record of a Market, but the ‘Hill’, later the site of the Free Chapel, may indicate the site of an early (i.e. Saxon?) one. ‘Hill’ is a West Norfolk dialect expression for a market/shops. Fairswell Manor, long gone, stood by the Stoke Ferry Road near the site later occupied by the Moat House.
Religion – St Michaels was a Norman building, spacious with a square tower. It passed under the control of Shouldham Priory in 1350. St Martins had an effective Perpendicular rebuild in around 1450. It has a fine hammer-build roof and the remains of an excellent rood-screen, which retain traces of paint. Dissolution was in 1536 to 1540. The existing church mainly consists of flint rubble, but with some carrstone. St Martins had 2 chantries, both for the de Finchams, one at the end of each aisle. They, like all the other 2374 chantries in Britain, were suppressed under Edward VI. The two-story vestry was built by Nicholas Fyncham (d.1503), replacing a previous one. It had room for an anchorite, hence its small blocked-up door! The Church is also notable for being rather more ornate on its street-side than on its rear!
Fincham had its guilds, which in this case were charitable and religious, rather than trading. They were St Anthony, the Assumption and St John the Baptist. They had unusual rights : to purchase land; build chapels; and, hold public processions. They also had a Guildhall as a meeting place. In 1636 it still stood, across the road from St Martin’s and just a little further along as you went Westwards.
Chapel Hille, known as ‘the Hill’ in 1636, behind St Martin’s, was the site of a Free Chapel, All Saints, one exempt of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. All 3000 in England/Wales were dissolved by Edward VI’s Protestant Revolution.
A tithe-barn once stood in front of St Michael’s.
St Martin’s can also boast one more positive display of Protestant faith since one of its gargoyles is a woman with a devil perched on her shoulder swinging a rosary! By contrast, the remains of a holy water stoup can be seen by the porch.
St Martins did have a few brasses. One, a curious shrouded figure, dates to 1520. The Nave once had a 1499 brass commemorating John Fincham and his family. 3 other nave slabs have been stripped of their brasses, accordinq to the WI by thieves. They were of a style typical to the Eastern Counties and showed not an effigy but a pair of hands holding up a heart. Such brasses were also indicative of the Templars, whose English base was at Baldock. The 1845 Directory recorded a large stone in Shouldham church-yard carrying the arms of a Knight Templar. The Order was suppressed, in 1312, for political and fiscal reasons! Their power had enraged King of France and Pope alike, their secret initiation rituals left them open to charges of satanism, witchcraft and heresy.
The 1603 Register of communicants revealed a statistic to gladden the heart of James I, 253 communicants with no ‘Papists’ and no Dissenters.
Fincham has Parish records dating back to 1541, the oldest series in the Rural Deanery. The Government, in the person of Thomas Cromwell, had first urged such in 1538, though it only made them mandatory in 1558. They would have been kept, with the plate, in the small, Tudor, iron-bound Parish chest. As usual, it had 3 locks. One key would have been kept by the Priest, one each of the others by each of the church-wardens.
Change – By the 1500s, locally-based landlords and hence the direct old feudal relations were becoming less and less common. The Fincham family were a notable exception to the rule, but even they were acquiring ever more rights and responsibilities outside of Fincham itself.
The Medieval village started to come under pressure from that self-same revolution. The Poor lost rights and the protection (however patchy) of feudalism, without compensation. The Dissolution swept away the only ‘welfare system’ they had, i.e. the guilds and the religious houses, and also removed a handy source of revenue, the pilgrims going up to Walsingham. As a result, reactionary peasant risings became common, the best known being the Pilgrimage of Grace in Yorkshire in 1536. The events of Fincham in 1549 were similar (rather than inspired, as Blyth says, by the contemporary and non-religious, anti-enclosure rising of the Ketts).
Led by a labourer, Thomas Stylton, led the men of Fincham to the house of Mr Fincham, who was instructed to lead them if he did not want to have a cart-way made between his head and his shoulders! Such desire for gentlemanly leadership was a feature of peasant risings of the time. The recorded demand was for the return of their ‘halydays’, of which they had been deprived by the advent of Protestantism on Edward VI’s accession in 1547,-Blyth described their demand as one of the idle and vice-led!
Another, more genuinely Kettite local peasant leader was John Walker, who urged a march on Swaffham. He felt 10000 there could ‘convert’ or kill all of the gentlemen there, even the babies in their cradles. He is recorded thus, ‘yt wer a goode things yf there were only so many gentylmen in Norffolke as ther be white bulles.’ Repulsed by the local gentry they joined those similarly scattered by the local gentry from the Rising camp and marched South to Watton, before moving on to meet their fate at Mousehold.
It should be noted that Clackclose Hundred was not represented in Kett’s Camp Council on Mousehold, though 22 of Norfolk’s were. Possibly they arrived too late. Fincham did not suffer the sort of harsh Parish enclosure which inspired Wymondham to rise behind Kett. Fincham men did, however, have cause for discontent. In 1672, of 89 households reported for the Hearth Tax, 48 (54%) were excused payment. After the Dissolution and then the abolition of the Parish guilds, the needy had to depend on sporadic individual and parish charities.
Fincham Hall – The finest of the surviving old secular buildings. Moated and fortified, with towers, a building has been on the site since at least 1337, However, it was rebuilt in its current manifestation in the late 1400s. By 1636, the Finchams being long gone, it was the residence of a church-warden, Thomas Scott, but still retained a barn out front, a malthouse behind and a dovecote next door. An orchard lay just to its West. A 1760 engraving shows it much dilapidated and by 1863 it had lost its right wing and one of its 2 hexagonal towers, but had recovered as a tenant-farmer’s abode.
The Finchams – Arrived as Norman tenants/men-at-arms of Warenne. As was normal practice, they took the name of the village. So many did so that at least the first three generations were not necessarily any relations of each other. ‘De Fincham’ merely indicated a resident of the village and was often used as a description by figures whom we know did not have it as a surname. Descent was direct from Osbert of the late 1100s to William de Fyncham of 1345.
However, perhaps the greatest of the family was Adam de Fyncham, though he may not be of the mainstream family at all – he is said to have been the son of one Thomas Pistor (i.e.Thomas the Baker), who was certainly still living in l296. Adam rose to serve as Attorney-General under both Edward I and Edward II. We know that he held Fincham Hall and was buried at St Martins in 1338. The De Finchams prominent in the village after this date were the descendants of Adam. They were not only prominent in Fincham, another Branch went on to hold land in West Winch and KL, with one of their number becoming Mayor in 1366. However, they did not, as Blyth claims, give their name to Fincham Street in KL (now New Conduit Street). It was rather itself named after the West Winch manor named after the Finchams.
By 1446, as Norman-French went out of fashion, John Fincham had dropped the ‘de’. He rebuilt Fincham Hall, founded Fincham Chantry and built the manor of Burnham Deepdale in West Winch. Perhaps even more remarkable, John was survived by 2 sons, both also called John! Later Finchams also built the tower and vestry of St Martins. The nave once had a 1499 brass commemorating John Fincham and his family.
William Fyncham was just 2 when he inherited. On coming of age, in 1572 (Parkin’s study of the Pipe-rolls instead suggested 1570), he sold up to his brother-in-law, Charles Cornwallis. Fyncham died, away from the village, in 1586. His sister died in 1584 and after that Charles Cornwallis was basically an absentee. Later Ambassador to Madrid, he died intestate in 1629.
1572 (or 1570) – A crucial year for the manors. Charles Cornwallis bought Talbot/Fincham Hall/Curple/Bainard from the Finchams, to which he added Comb 8 years later. Little-Well/New-Hall/Grandcourt were all sold by the Finchams to John Heigham, who soon after sold up to a Consortium of land speculators.
In 1570, the Hares first appeared in Fincham – buying BrothersHall from John Carsey of Lincolnshire. (The Brothers-Hall Manor was merged into Talbots by the 1772 Inclosure Act).
More Lords of the Manor : Cornwallis Manors – Cornwallis sold up, in 1586, to Thomas Gaswell. At this time the Gawswells were Lords of Watlington and the defaced memorial tablet to this particular Gawsell and his wife, dated 1600, can be seen in Watlington Church. They also held land in Shouldham Thorpe.
In 1590, he sold up to Francis Gawdy, a one-time Chief Justice of Common Pleas, who was Sheriff of Norfolk in 1592 and 1608, having in 1586 served as a Judqe of the King’s Bench in the trial of Mary Queen of Scots. His family was based in Claxton and he was a descendant of Sir Thomas Gawdy, one-time Recorder and then MP for KL who also endured a sticky moment as a prisoner of Kett’s lads in 1549 while Recorder of Norwich. Francis Gawdy also bought Little-Well in 1590, but two generations later the manors passed by marriage to Lord Warwick. Sir Ralph Hare of Stow Bardolph, a Knight of the Bath whose fortune was based on his previous career as a London merchant, bought the Lordships in 1621.
Heigham Manors – Rapidly-passed from Heigham through 2 consortia of land speculators, a common phenomena at this time.
A Snapshot in 1636 – Rev. J.F.Williams, in 1921, published details in a 1921 edition of the Lynn Advertiser of a survey of 1636 Fincham by its Lord, Sir John Hare of Stow, in the Parish chest. Hare calls Fincham a, ‘toune’, and states its area at 3487 acres, 514 more than in 1921! 1747 of the acres were arable, another 1028 acres were enclosed, while 712 acres were the commons and waste land. The Great Common was the West Heath, lying SW of the ‘toune’. The Hares, by 1636, owned 1094 of the acres with 1200 more held by their tenants : the Drurys and the Gibbons. The Loyes, an area of rough land in the SE, was rented to Richard Pretyman, a ‘foreigner’, presumably for ‘sport’ (this could be the area later known as Barton Leys).
The lay-out of Fincham’s key roads was identical to that in 1921. In the East, near the Hall, it split in three (Swaffham/Norwich /Barton). By that fork waF the Pinfold, or Pound, the site where all stray animals were held. Stray animals were only released after the payment of a ‘fine’ (i.e. fee) to the ‘Pinder’. At the West end, by the Thorpe junction, stood the Cross.
The Shouldham + Boughton road was known, on its way North, as ‘Walsingham Way’, once having carried 1000s of pilgrims p.a. The smaller route, Boughton + Stradsett, was the ‘Packway’, in an era when goods were carried over-land by pack-horse. The road to Thorpe was known as the ‘Hungate’, since it was the way to the ancient ‘Hundred-moot’. The moot was in ancient times held in North Stredget (i.e.Stradsett).
Coming from the East you first passed Fincham Hall. The Hall’s occupant in 1636 was Thomas Scott, one of the Church-wardens. Immediately after the Hall the road through Fincham narrowed, before passing through a Gate. On the South side was a disused lane, ‘Walleswent Lane’, which had vanished by 1921. Next, on the South, was a pond. Then, on the North, was a brewhouse, owned by ‘the manor’, according to the Rev.Williams(!). At the Boughton cross-roads was St Martin’s Vicarage. (That of St Michael’s was up the road).
In front of St Martin’s was a pond, while behind it was ‘the Hill’, waste ground which had once been the free chapel of All Saints. In the SW corner of St Martin’s church-yard was a tiny house, used as a school in 1636. Across from St Martin’s and a little further along the road was the Guildhall, which dated from the 1300s. Next along the road was St Michael’s. It stood only 300 yards away from St Martin’s, not an unusual medieval state of affairs. It had a tithe-barn in front.
Opposite St Michael’s Rectory was Banyard’s Hall, long gone by 1921 Hare reported a Swan Inn in 1636, but it had moved across the road by 1921. There is record of an old coaching inn, the Swan with Two Necks, which stood on Lad Lane.
Religion – After the ‘excitement’ of the 1600s, religion waned in the libertine 1700s. The social and political pressure to observe the rites of the established Church dwindled, as did the numbers of communicants. The 253 communicants of 1603 dwindled to 209 by 1709, then to only 130 by 1740. With the Finchams gone donations to the Church ceased to match the old styles of chapels and vestries. In 1604, Gregory Watson made and donated a ‘tester’, i.e. sounding board, for the pulpit. By Blyth’s day it was used as the communion-table! Fincham also got a new altar-cloth in 1667, also still in use in Blyth’s day. The aisles did acquire an unusual profusion of boards: carrying the Lords Prayer, Creed and other religious texts popular in the 1600s. Either the given date of 1717 is wrong, the boards were repainted then or Fincham Parish had old fashioned tastes!
St Michaels was, by 1744, ‘so ruinous’ that it endangered the worshippers within. A 1744 Act of Parliament consolidated the 2 Parishes and the last service was held in St Michaels in May 1745, the marriage of the Rev. Harvey to his predecessor’s widow. The Church was demolished in 1746, followed by its Tower, demolished for 4 guineas in 1751. The materials were then, as usual, looted for local buildings. The ‘Town Houses’ were certainly built from the remains of St Michaels. (The Old Rectory, in the middle of the Village, had been rebuilt in 1624 for the use of St Michaels. It then continued to be renovated, most notably in 1827. The New Rectory, to its West, stands on the site of the old St Michaels). The sale of the ‘old church’s materials partly funded the erection of Almshouses in 1747. They were rebuilt in 1806.:
One fragment was saved. St Michaels Font, almost certainly Late Saxon and hence pre-dating the Norman church, was handed over to St Martins in 1744. The puritan white-washing of its Biblical scenes was typical, the last layer being slapped on in 1766. Fincham had something very odd with fonts. The remarkable Saxon decorated font from Deepdale was used as a cistern in the garden of Fincham Rectory in 1807-1842.
Hard Times – From 1765, the already harsh lot of the agricultural labourer steadily deteriorated. Low wages, high prices and continuing enclosure all squeezed a rural population only recently reduced to mere wage-labourers.
Enclosure – Agricultural rationalism was badly needed. The, by 1772, 2450 cultivated acres were divided into 1560 separate pieces, each of which had its waste-boundaries, but Fincham was fortunate to be enclosed as late as 1772, when the brutal old Parish system had been replaced by a Parliamentary one. The poor at least received some compensation in the latter period, encouraging trickle-down to paupers via parish-relief. However, he remained subject to wage-slavery, tied-cottages and ‘hiring days’. The compensation to the poor was markedly smaller than their old Commons, of course. A total of 54 acres left for the poor (i.e. 2%). Only in 1843 was the Act passed which forced, of every 6000 acres enclosed, that 1321/2 should go for allotments and 491/4 for recreation (i.e. 3%).
The 1772 enclosure also forced the ‘swap’ of the old 60 acres of glebe for 39! It was later trimmed to 31, after the school site was donated and another part sold to settle land-tax. The glebe lay just North of the Rectory, a 3-story building either built or rebuilt in 1624. The 1772 enclosure left 54 acres for the poor, which raised £40 p.a. in the 1880s, annually distributed in coals. Conversion into half-acre allotment plots was a common fate for Parish and Glebe lands, especially under an 1882 Act, a Liberal effort at Agrarian credentials.
Drainage – Fincham was split by the ‘Lode (A-S: straight, hence mother-lode) Dyke’, the straightened old stream between Stradsett and Oxborough/Barton Bendish. Blyth described it as 3/4 feet deep and working excellently as a drain, even keeping the village sanitary! It operated via 5 sewers, all open ditches; emptying virtually raw sewage (despite the ‘rudimentary settlement process’ into the Lode Dyke and thence into the Wissey. It was a system of handspun clay pipes and brick/carrstone culverts, with one High Street section supposedly made up of old beer barrels. Blyth’s approval is most dodgy!
Disease – This was, of course, rife. Smallpox first hit the village in 1696 killing 6, all of the Sutton family. In 1746 it infected 90, killing 12, then returned only 8 years. Blyth blames innoculation to a great degree, the Vestry did indeed order it in both 1788 and 1802, even of paupers, in an attempt to combat the disease. A measure of poverty in the village may be that the paupers’ innoculation cost £14 in 1788, but £22 in 1802. By the time of Blyth, the process was illegal. Dread of it was such that vaccination, begun in 1796, had to be made compulsory and against massive opposition! Vaccination comprised innoculation with cowpox, ‘Innoculation’ comprised innoculation with smallpox itself, a process which did wonders for the spread of the disease. Malnutrition, cholera, tuberculosus and numerous other diseases were rife.
The Forbys – The Forbys were the Vicars of Fincham, holding the ‘Living’ through 3 generations, in 1723-1744 and 1787-1825. The epitaph of Joseph Forby, the last Rector of St Michael’s and the last Vicar of the pre-consolidation St Martin’s stands on the wall of the church, in ‘incredibly convoluted Latin’. The best known one was Robert Forby, the Vicar of Fincham from 1799 until his death in 1825. He compiled the seminal ‘Vocabulary of East Anglia’, published in 1830 and reissued as late as 1970! He was somewhat typical of a Regency clergyman As a JP, he lamented that his career was full of, ‘vagrants, run-away husbands, assaults [and] petty larcenies.’ As an old Tory he hated both the presence of women at Bible Society.