Norfolk Hundreds


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


Is a fine agricultural district, forming the most north-western division of Norfolk, averaging about ten miles in length and breadth, and bounded on the north and west by the Ocean and the Wash, on the south by Freebridge-Lynn, and on the east by Gallow and Brothercross Hundreds.

The surface is in many places picturesquely undulated, and the soil being mostly a deep rich clay, is naturally fertile, except in some of the higher grounds, where a light sand prevails, and was formerly in large open fields, most of which have been enclosed since 1761, when 5,000 acres of waste, near Snettisham, was fenced and allotted by act of Parliament.

The lands near the shore are chiefly salt marshes, which are often inundated at spring tides; and at other periods, a strong gale from the north-west has sometimes brought in the water with such force and rapidity, that whole flocks of sheep and herds of cattle have been lost. It is, however, now proposed to recover a large portion of the Great Estuary, called the Wash, from the incursions of the tides, as noticed at page 517 [see History of King's Lynn section]. If this grand scheme is carried into effect, a tract of fine alluvial marshes, about five miles in breadth, will be added to the western side of this Hundred; and the lofty sea-cliff, at Hunstanton, will then be that distance from the ocean.

At the Domesday survey, this division was in two Hundreds, called Smithdon and Docking.

Petty Sessions are held at Snettisham on the second, and at Docking on the last Monday of every month. Mr. Anthony Blyth is clerk to the magistrates.

This Hundred belongs to a great number of freeholders and copyholders; but Henry L'Estrange Styleman Le Strange, Esq., is lord of nearly half of the manors.

It is divided into 18 parishes, of which the following is an enumeration, 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.
Barwick-in-the-Brakes 32 1,216 1,270
Bircham (Great) 511 2,152 3,542
Bircham-Newton 107 854 1,124
Bircham-Tofts 142 798 1,301
Brancaster 913 3,314 2,969
* Docking 1,537 5,764 5,896
Fring 162 1,598 1,570
Heacham 811 4,774 3,514
Holme-next-the-Sea 280 1,896 1,197
@ Hunstanton 527 2,620 2,005
Ingoldisthorpe 344 1,830 1,128
+ Ringstead (Great) 534 3,016 3,280
Sedgeford 669 3,528 4,001
Shernbourne 133 878 1,221
@ Snettisham 1,151 6,790 4,940
Stanhoe 445 2,158 1,413
Thornham 790 3,236 1,985
Titchwell 166 1,606 1,430

TOTAL ! 9,254 48,028 43,786

[There is more information about individual parishes]

* Docking includes Southmere, a decayed parish, and 80 persons in the Union Workhouse.

+ Choseley , an extra Parochial Liberty of 650 acres, and 8 souls, is included with Great Ringstead.

@ Hunstanton return included 33 visitors; and Snettisham, 36 men in boats. The former parish also includes Ringstead Parva.

! The whole Hundred is in Docking Police Division. Its population in 1831, was only 8,262. Its annual value, as assessed to the Property Tax, was £50,272, in 1815, and £52,278, in 1842.

DOCKING UNION, formed in 1835, comprises all the 18 parishes of Smithdon Hundred; the 9 parishes of Brothercross Hundred; the parishes of Anmer and Dersingham, in Freebridge-Lynn; and those of Bagthorpe, Barmer, Broomsthorpe, Houghton, Syderstone, East Rudham, and West Rudham, in Gallow Hundred.

The 36 parishes of this Union, comprise an area of 128 square miles, and had 16,930 inhabitants, in 1841, of whom 8,364 were males, and 8,566 females. Their average annual expenditure on their poor, &c., from 1832 to 1835, was £16,840; but in 1838 it was only £9,033; and since then it has been reduced to little more than £8,000. The Union Workhouse is at Docking, nearly in the centre of the Union, and is an extensive range of brick building, erected in 1836, at the cost of about £9,000, including the furniture, &c. It was opened in December, 1836, and has room for 513 paupers, but in summer it has seldom more than 100.

H. E. Blyth, Esq. is chairman of the Board of Guardians; Mr. Fras. Oakes, of Burnham Market, is Union Clerk and Superintendent Registrar; Mr. Thos. and Mrs. Wilson, master and matron of the Workhouse; Mr. Wm. Groome, of Ringstead, and Mr. J. B. Copeman, of North Creak, relieving officers; Mr. W. C. Hotson, auditor; and the Rev. C. D. Hamilton, chaplain.


  • Some placenames in the transcription (of pages 632 to 634) above are given below together with their standard spelling :-
    Bircham (Great)/Great Bircham, Holme-next-the-Sea/Holme-next-Sea, Ringstead (Great)/Great Ringstead, Shernbourne/Shernborne
  • The hundred name is also seen spelt as "Smethdon" in some documents.

For more information see :-

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Copyright © Mike Bristow.
September 2014