Stagg's History of Salthouse

  The Seventeenth Century  

We left off our description of the manors of Salthouse at the moment when Sir William Heydon, owing to financial embarrassments, had mortgaged his holdings to Thomas Croft of Sheringham, who in the same year had transferred the mortgage to Thomas Thetford Esq.
It does not seem that Thetford was an absentee landlord, for a son of ‘Thomas Thetford Esq and Margaret his wife’ was baptised at Kelling in 1634, and a daughter in 1637. ‘Esquire’ meant something in those days, and surely the Thetfords lived at Kelling Old Hall. Michael Foster was presented to the living of Kelling in 1608 by the assignees of Thomas Thetford.
It would seem that Thetford alienated* his Salthouse holding to Sir Henry Sidney* soon after acquiring it but continued to hold Kelling until somewhere about 1640, soon after which date there is reason to believe a Thomas Fermor Esq became the squire of Kelling, holding it until about 1680. If these assumptions are correct, it would appear that the first eighty years of the seventeenth century were the only period in which the two parishes of Kelling and Salthouse were not united (by ownership being in one pair of hands).

But to return to the family of Sidney: the Sir Henry of this family busied himself collecting all he could of the wreck of the Heydon properties. He amassed a considerable fortune and acquired vast properties in North Norfolk, including the manors of Salthouse, though in which year he obtained them from Thetford is not quite certain. We do know, however, that he acquired those of Saxlingham direct from Thomas Croft in 1593.
Sir Henry married Jane Jermy, the daughter of Francis Jermy of Brightwell, Suffolk, presumably a relation of the Jermys who lived at Bayfield Hall in those times. He died 2 November 1612 leaving all his lands to his widow, who lived till 1638. They are both buried under perfectly preserved ornate tombs in the Sidney Chapel of Little Walsingham Church. On Dame Jane’s death in 1638, her properties passed to Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, but no record has been found as to who owned Salthouse in the troubled years of Civil War that followed, nor any record as to whether the manors reverted to the Heydon or Sidney families after the Restoration of Charles I in 1660. [Here there is a handwritten ‘No’ in the margin, and again ‘Palgrave’.]

The Leicester branch of the Sidney family was divided between allegiance to the Crown and adherence to the Commonwealth, whilst North Norfolk was peopled by many wealthy landowners of Puritanical persuasion, such as the Jermys of Bayfield Hall and the Reymes of Edgefield, who would have seen to the dispossession of any Royalist neighbours. A letter dated 4 December 1650, written by Robert Jermy of Bayfield Hall to the authorities in London, provides a good example of this:

In the first outbreaking of this insurrection the whole country seemed in a flame, and had been, had not the Lord even in the moment appointed for your and our sure overthrow showed that He was God, our God, who hath saved and would not now forsake us . . . They had so many parties appointed, and in so many places, that we could apprehend no place safe . . . There were many of power and eminency named as engagers with them . . . But this is too plain that many, yea we justly fear so many of the middle ranks of men are engaged in it that it will be no end to try them by jury, but either to make some exemplary by a martial trial or by the High Court of Justice.
The Government raised 4,000 foot in November, and sent down to North Norfolk a special court of three judges which sentenced twenty-four of the Royalists to death.

Some of the executions, including that of the Rector of Little Barningham, took place at Norwich on Christmas Day 1650, as an insult to the feelings of churchmen. This Robert Jermy of Bayfield was serving as Colonel of Horse and Dragoons of the Norfolk Militia in the Parliamentary Army, and was one of the four Norfolk members in that much ridiculed ‘Little Parliament’ which Cromwell summoned in 1653 (and was despised by no one more than himself). Jermy may possibly have consented to the destruction of the Royalist Heydon’s home, Baconsthorpe Hall, about the year 1650; and at the same time, perhaps, defaced the Rood Screen of Salthouse Church and damaged its stained glass windows.

There must have been some epidemic in 1604-1605, since forty-one burials occur in less than two years, but whether it was smallpox or typhoid we shall never know; and the same applies to 1657-8 when there were 56 deaths in less than two years. There were 140 communicants in 1603, and it would be a fair allowance to add 60 to this figure for unconfirmed children, which gives a population of about 200 souls. So that even allowing for the high rate of infant mortality then prevalent, there must have been a thorough decimation of Salthouse dwellers during those two epidemics.

*alienate: a law to convey or transfer (eg. property or a right) to another, usually by a specific act (eg. a deed or will).

*Commander Stagg was not entirely sure if it was the Sidney family or the Palgraves who bought the Salthouse holding from Thomas Thetford. A handwritten note has been inserted here in his typewritten MS saying, ‘No? Palgrave?’