A-Z of Local History
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The Black Death or bubonic plague reached Norfolk in 1348-9 and claimed the lives of an estimated 57,000 people in Norfolk (roughly one third of the population). Its effect on the local area can be noted by the rapidity with which rectors of the churches had to be appointed and the remains of several hastily buried skeletons that have been uneathed in the wood opposite Taverham church.
Drayton Lodge was built around 1432 by Sir John Fastolf after he acquired the manorships of Hellesdon and Drayton. Strategically placed on the brow of a hill overlooking the river Wensum and within easy bowshot of the main Norwich to Drayton road, it is thought to have been built as a lookout. Its towers and yellowish brickwork bear a strong resemblence to Caistor Castle. The Lodge was destroyed in 1465 during the Wars of the Roses following an attack on the area by an army led by the Duke of Suffolk. The ruins of Drayton Lodge are generally believed to be those in the grounds of the Nurses Home on the Drayton High Road.
Drayton Village Sign
Drayton Village Sign is located next to the Drayton Cock Public House. It was made by S.T.Cowell & Sons at the Horsford Iron Works, Heigham Street, Norwich and erected in 1968. The sign wittily features an image of a dray carrying a ton of logs. Logs are depicted as 'Draituna' (as Drayton was commonly known as at the time of the Domesday Book) meant 'dragging or porterage of logs'.
Sir John Fastolf
The manorships of Drayton and Hellesdon were held by Sir John Fastolf between 1432 and 1459. Fastolf was a veteran of the Hundred Years War and fought against Joan of Arc, winning a famous victory at Rouvray in 1429 which became known as the Battle of the Herrings as he used barrels of herrings to shield his troops. He was a Privy Counsellor and Knight of the Garter and owned much land and property in Norfolk including Caistor Castle near Great Yarmouth.
This uprising occured at a time of rising prices and taxation and controversial religious reforms. The chief cause however was the increasing enclosure of common land by the local gentry, which threatened the livelihood of the peasantry. Although there was widespread rioting in many counties in 1549, in Norfolk the rebellion was of a much more serious nature as the rebels were led by a man of outstanding quality. Robert Kett paradoxically was one of the chief landowners in the Wymondham area but became the leader of a movement which threatened the prosperous landowning class. Kett organised the rebels and after dismantling many enclosure fences formed disciplined camps outside Norwich, Downham Market, Bury St.Edmunds and Ipswich. Kett later stormed the City of Norwich (then the second largest city in the country) and defeated a royal army under the Earl of Northampton. He was eventually defeated in a pitched battle to the North of Norwich by a large royal army under the Earl of Warwick and later hanged at Norwich Castle.
John Paston was a friend and kinsman of Sir John Fastolf and in 1459 inherited all his vast wealth and estates, including the manorships of Drayton and Hellesdon. A power struggle for Paston's inheritence began almost immediately and this culminated in the attack on Drayton Manor in October 1465 by the Duke of Suffolk (who held the manorship of Costessey across the river Wensum). The famous Paston letters frequently refer to Drayton and provide a unique historical insight into the life and language of the aristocracy in the Wars of the Roses era.
The immediate cause of the "Peasant's Revolt" of 1381 was the imposition of an unpopular poll tax. Rebels from Essex and Kent marched on London and for a time gained concessions from Richard II until their leader Wat Tyler was murdered. A large number of incidents took place across Norfolk including looting, extortion and the burning of manor court rolls which recorded the status and feudal obligations of tenants. There were comparatively few murders although Sir Robert de Salle who made a stand against a large group of insurgents was killed on Mousehold Heath outside Norwich. Following the death of Wat Tyler the revolt rapidly lost momentum in Norfolk and many of the last remaining rebels were executed after losing a battle near North Walsham to a small army led by Bishop Despenser of Norwich.
Taverham Parish Church is dedicated to Saint Edmund, King and Martyr. He was the King of the whole of East Anglia from 855 to 870 AD when he was defeated by the Danes. He refused to renounce Christianity and was shot by an arrow against a tree at Hoxne in Suffolk. Legend has it that the actual tree stood in the middle of a field near Abbey Farm at Hoxne and when the tree " fell down by its own weight" in 1848 the arrow that slew Edmund was found embedded in the trunk. In 1879 a stone cross was erected to mark the spot. He was buried at Bury St Edmunds which was originally known as Beaduric's Worth and then for a period St. Edmundsbury.
Saint Edmunds Church, Taverham
Saint Edmunds Church has a Norman north doorway and tower and a decorated chancel. The church was struck by lightning in 1459 and badly damaged. The nave was rebuilt in the perpendicular style. The south porch, aisle, and arcade were rebuilt in 1861-3.
Drayton Parish Church in company with many other Norfolk churches is dedicated to Saint Margaret of Antioch. The legend is that when her father discovered that she had been converted to christianity he banished Margaret from his house and she became a shepherdess. A local Roman prefect called Olybius seeing her tending her flock, and attracted to her by her great beauty told her he was determined he would marry her if she was freeborn or buy her if she was a slave. She rejected him saying that although she was freeborn she was a servant of Jesus Christ. In revenge he had her imprisoned where the devil appeared to her in the form of a dragon. She remained steadfast to her faith despite being tortured and was finally beheaded.
Saint Margarets Church, Drayton
Saint Margarets Church was originally built in the 13th century but has been substantially rebuit since. The tower collapsed in 1850 but was was rebuilt in its old style and with much of the original material.
Saint Walstan was one of the earliest English mystics and is commemorated on the Taverham Village Sign at the top of Sandy Lane. The legend is that Walstan was the son of rich, royal parents but left home when he was 12 to live and work on a farm in Taverham. He was hard-working and gave away most of his food and clothes to the needy. The farmer's wife with whom he lived went one day to to chastise him but noticed that although he was loading a cart with thorns and nettles in his bare feet (as he had given away his shoes) he suffered no injury or discomfort. She gradually realized that he was divinely inspired. The farmer and his wife offered to make Walstan their heir, he declined but requested instead the offspring of an in-calf cow. The calf gave birth to twin bull calves which Walstan reared. He had been prompted by a vision in which an angel had appeared and told him that when fully grown the oxen were destined to carry him to his final resting place. As foretold when he was close to death he called for his oxen and a cart and his body was born without the need of any directing towards Bawburgh and at each place where they stopped a spring appeared in the ground. A little before their final resting place at Bawburgh Church the oxen stopped at a farm and this was known as Saint Walstan's Well and later became a famous shrine.
In the early nineteenth century chronic rural unemployment and the artificially high price of corn maintained by the Corn Laws meant that for many rural labourers the fear of famine was very real. As a result many rural areas witnessed food riots or attacks on corn mills. In 1830 however a wave of riots affected most of southern Britain and particularly Norfolk where incidents occurred in over 150 parishes. The rioters concentrated their attacks on the hated threshing machines that were being introduced and which deprived rural labourers of an important source of winter employment, the hand flailing of cereal crops. Arson and machine breaking was often preceded by a threatening letter addressed from a fictitious "Captain Swing" although the identity or origin of the name has never been established.
Taverham Mill operated as a paper mill from around 1700 to 1899 and manufactured some of the finest quality paper. In its heyday it supplied half of all the paper used to print The Times. Women collected rags from many miles around Taverham and brought them to the mill where they removed all buttons and hooks and stripped the rags into into shreds. The river provided clean water and lime came from the pits in Costessey Lane. Towards the end of its life the mill had 3 water-wheels and 11 steam engines. At one time the mill employed 150, the majority of whom were women. Only men staffed the night shift. A blacksmith was established at the bottom of Sandy Lane and the cottage there was known for many years as "The Old Forge". When the mill closed, one of the old scrapped boilers was used as a blacksmiths shop at Drayton. Only the sluice gate now remains to mark the site of the mill.
Taverham Village Sign
Taverham Village Sign is located at the top of Sandy Lane. It was made by Mr Harry Carter and erected in 1970. The sign features an image of St Walstan who lived and worked in the village in the 11th Century. In the background is a view of the nearby river Wensum and several beech trees. The trees are a reminder of the large beeches that until shortly before the sign was made still grew along Beech Avenue. These trees were famous as they had been planted in 1805 to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.
The shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was of huge religous significance in Medieaval times. In 1061 Lady Richeldis de Faverche, widow of the Lord of the Manor of Walsingham was said to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary in which she was commanded to build a replica of the Holy House of Joseph, Mary and the boy Jesus at Nazareth. According to legend Richeldis gave instructions for building to commence but the next night she was awakened by the singing of angels and discovered that the Holy House had been miraculously built. This small Saxon, wooden house became the focus of a devotion which continues to this day. In the middle ages it was believed the duty of every Englishman to visit 'Little Nazareth' and it was one of the four major shrines in Christendom, ranking alongside Jerusalem, Rome and Compostella. As Drayton and Taverham lay on the then famous 'Walsingham Way' villagers would have seen a steady stream of pilgrims making their way to the shrine including every King of England from the time of Henry III to Henry VIII. During the Reformation the shrine was dismantled by the King's Commissioners in 1538 and the Holy House was razed to the ground. The original revered statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to Chelsea for burning and those who spoke out against the Commissioners were executed before their fellow villagers.
The tall stone pillar that stands on Drayton village green is the remains of a 14th Century Wayside Cross erected beside what was then known as the Walsingham Way. The original Norman-French inscription on the cross has been preserved on brass plaques and offers a pardon to all who would pray for the souls of William De Bellemonte and Joan, his wife. The Bellemonte family held the manorship of Drayton throughout the 13th Century.
Immortalised as "Parson Woodforde" after his detailed diaries began to be published in 1924 as The Diary of a Country Parson, James Woodforde was Parson of Weston Longville from 1774 until his death in 1803. His diaries provide a unique insight into the diet, customs and social conditions of rural Britain in the late 18th Century and record several visits to nearby Taverham Hall.
More details are available from The Parson Woodforde Society which exists to promote the study of James Woodforde, and to provide opportunities for people who share this interest to communicate and to meet.
World War II
During the Second World War there were 4 plane crashes locally with a loss of 18 lives. These British and American aircraft were on missions over Germany and flew from a large number of airfields across East Anglia. Late in the war a V2 missile also fell, exploding in a wood near Hall Farm in Taverham.
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