Norfolk Hundreds


White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845


The largest division of Norfolk, lies at the south-west extremity of the county, and was formerly called a Hundred and a Half. It is about 17 miles in length, from north to south, and varies from 10 to 15 miles in breadth, being bounded on the north by Freebridge-Lynn, on the east by South Greenhoe and Grimshoe, on the south by Cambridgeshire, and on the west by the latter and Freebridge-Marshland.

It is watered by several navigable streams; the great Ouse bounding and intersecting it from south to north; the Wissey crossing it from east to west; the Nar bounding it on the north; and the Welney or Croft river separating it from the Isle of Ely.

It abounds in woods, seats, and large villages, and the upland parts are bold, fertile, and picturesque; but a large portion of it is in low and monotonous fens and marshes, now well drained and cultivated, and forming part of the great BEDFORD LEVEL, which extends into the counties of Northampton, Cambridge, Huntingdon, and Bedford, nearly to the source of the Great Ouse, and was so called in honour of the fourth Earl of Bedford, who was the principal undertaker in the stupendous work of draining this immense tract of inundated fens; for the performance of which, 95,000 acres were allotted to him and the few others who were induced, by his spirited example, to join in the costly and hazardous enterprise. The work was commenced in 1630; and in 1637, the Earl had expended on it no less than £100,000. He died in 1641, before the work was completed; but it was resumed by his son, in 1649, and finished in 1653.

The great outfall of the drain-water is by two deep and navigable drains, called the Old and New Bedford rivers, both terminating in the Ouse, near Denver sluice. -- The new river is 100 feet broad, and the tide flows up as far as St. Ives. This great drainage, and that of the adjacent Marshland, have since undergone many considerable improvements, one of which is that new channel of the Ouse, called the Eau-Brink Cut. (See pages 516 [History of King's Lynn section] and 563. [description of Freebridge Marshland Hundred]) Another cut, (12 miles long,) is now forming, for the better drainage of the Middle Level of the Fens, as noticed at page 518 [History of King's Lynn section].

In the reign of Edward I., the abbot of Ely had a baronial jurisdiction in Clackclose, with the taking out and return of all writs, &c.; view of frankpledge; forfeitures of felons' goods; and a prison and gallows at Wimbotsham. The Hundred court was held on Clackclose hill, near Stradsett, in the time of Henry III. Two coroners are appointed, one for the Hundred of Clackclose and the Liberties of Sir. Thos. Hare, Bart., and the other for the "Half Hundred," which comprises only the Norfolk parts of the parishes of Upwell, Outwell, and Welney which are partly in Cambridgeshire, and being separated from the Hundred were granted by Edward VI. to John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who conveyed them to Edmund Beaupre, Esq., of Outwell, from whom they passed, by female issue, to the families of Bell and Townley. -- (vide Beaupre Hall, in Outwell.) They are held of the Crown in soccage, as part of the manor of East Greenwich. The other manors belong to various lords; and the whole of Clackclose is now one Hundred, as determined by Judge Atkins, in the 9th of William and Mary, and forms the Deanery of Fincham, in the Archdeaconry of Norwich.

Petty Sessions are held every Monday at Downham; and Mr. F. B. Bell is clerk to the magistrates.

The following is an enumeration of the 33 parishes in this Hundred, shewing their population in 1841, the annual value of their lands and buildings, as assessed to the County Rate in 1843, and their territorial extent, in assessable acres:-

PARISHES. Pop. Annl.
Barton-Bendish @ 455 3,632 3,989
Beechamwell 246 1,492 4,098
Bexwell 70 1,546 1,104
Boughton 209 1,788 1,229
Crimplesham 358 3,064 1,573
Denver 910 6,230 2,976
Dereham (West) 544 4,230 3,240
Downham Market + 2,953 9,440 2,286
Fincham 807 5,052 2,911
Fordham 219 1,976 2,162
Hilgay 1,515 9,626 7,583
Holme-next-Runcton 288 1,400 1,011
Marham 817 4,526 3,670
Outwell (part of) * 820 4,952 2,124
Roxham 45 570 566
Runcton (South) 144 1,084 753
Ryston 40 866 566
Shingham ! 59 268 824
Shouldham 683 3,762 3,581
Shouldham-Thorpe 314 1,808 1,289
Southery 1,023 5,280 4,281
Stoke Ferry 663 3,576 1,881
Stow Bardolph 1,076 6,696 5,695
Stradsett 194 2,042 1,236
Tottenhill 426 2,334 1,463
Upwell (part of) * 2,404 16,000 8,398
Wallington-cum- }
Thorpland }
77 1,880 1,256
Watlington 502 3,422 1,633
Welney (part of) * 591 5,948 3,188
Wereham 625 4,382 2,145
Wimbotsham 582 3,118 1,771
Wormegay 330 3,088 2,749
Wretton 533 2,106 1,102

TOTAL 20,522 127,184 84,333

[There is more information about individual parishes]

@ Eastmore hamlet, which has 106 souls, is included with Barton-Bendish.

* Upwell, Outwell, and Welney parishes, are partly in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire; but the Norfolk parts of each, support their poor as separate townships. The churches of the two former are in Norfolk, and the latter in Cambridge. The return of the Norfolk portions included 80 strangers, employed during harvest.

+ The return of Downham Market included 114 persons in the Union Workhouse; that of Stow Bardolph, 30 persons attending the fair at Stow Bridge; and that of Wimbotsham, 40 persons attending the Annual Feast.

! Shingham is partly in South Greenhoe Hundred.

Clackclose is in Stoke Ferry, Wiggenhall, and Castle-Acre Police Divisions. The total population of the Hundred in 1831, was 17,663. Its Annual Value, as assessed to the Property Tax, was £92,049, in 1815: and £142,703, in 1842. The number of males in 1841, was 10,430; and females, 10,092.

DOWNHAM UNION:- Beechamwell and Shingham are in Swaffham Union; Outwell and Upwell are in Wisbech Union; and all the other 29 parishes of Clackclose Hundred are in DOWNHAM UNION, which comprises also the four parishes of Wiggenhall, in Freebridge-Marshland, and that part of Welney lying in Cambridgeshire. The 34 parishes of this Union, comprise an area of 133 square miles, and had 19,200 inhabitants in 1841; but only 16,016, in 1831.

Their average annual expenditure, during the three years preceding the formation of the Union, was £10,083. Their expenditure in 1838, was £6,994; in 1839, £9,312 17s.; and in 1843, £5,306. The latter sum is exclusive of salaries, &c., being the amount expended solely on in and out-door paupers.

The UNION WORKHOUSE is at Downham, and was built in 1836, at the cost of about £5,000. It is a neat and commodious building, and has room for 250 inmates. C. B. Plestowe, Esq., is chairman of the Board of Guardians; Mr. Edward Hett, is union clerk, and superintendent registrar; and Mr. Thos. N. Rose, is master of the Workhouse.


Some placenames in the transcription (of pages 607 to 609) above are given below together with their standard spelling :-
Dereham (West)/West Dereham,
Holme-next-Runcton/Runcton Holme,
Runcton (South)/South Runcton

For more information see :-

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Copyright © Mike Bristow.
April 2006