|A small village in North Norfolk
The earliest record of Thorpe Market
is found in the Domesday Book of 1086. At that time it was a well-equipped farming
village with a population of about a hundred and fifty, including a good proportion
of free and semi-free peasants. In 1275 the Lord of the Manor, Pauline Peyvere,
was granted the right to hold a Market in the village, which is how the name
"Market" arose. This market had totally disappeared by the eighteenth
century, probably much earlier.
In 1381 a Norwich dyer called Geoffrey
(sometimes John) Litster, who was the leader of the peasant's revolt in Norfolk,
mustered his troops on the village green at Thorpe Market before marching on
North Walsham. Shortly afterwards he was defeated in battle in North Walsham
by the Bishop of Norwich, Walter Dispencer.
Since before the Norman Conquest (1066)
the village of Thorpe Market had been split into a number of different manors,
and this situation continued until after the Dissolution of the Monasteries
in the sixteenth century. Coxford Priory, an Augustinian house in East Rudham,
had been given part of Thorpe in the late twelfth century, including the church.
The extent of their lands here is difficult to judge, but we do know that they
had a fish pond, because there was a dispute between the Priory and local residents
regarding fishing rights.
There are only two likely sites for a
fishery, due north of the present church, near the boundary with Southrepps,
or near Hagon's Beck on the boundary with Roughton. Both of these sites are
some way distant to the church, so if the Priory lands were continuous they
must have been quite extensive.
After the reorganisation sparked by the
Dissolution, the bulk of the village seems to have been reunited around 1560
under the ownership of Sir John Gresham, Lord Mayor of London. He lived in Kent,
but left the manor to one of his younger sons, Edmund, who was buried in St
Margaret's church in 1586. The unity of the manor did not last long. In 1577
the former Coxford manor was for some reason taken from Edmund and eventually
came into the hands of the Rant family. The Rants and their descendents held
the title of the manor for the following four centuries.
Sir Thomas Rant (1606-1671) built four
almshouses for poor widows on the village green. Now converted into two, they
are still run as a charitable trust. He was probably also responsible for the
large building known as Rant's or Thorpe Hall, which formerly stood near the
church, and was demolished around 1780. This was his manor house. Very little
is known of it except that it was probably built of red brick. Its walled garden
survives behind the church, also largely of brick, and has features, such a
polygonal corner turrets, which suggest that the house would probably have been
more renaissance in appearance (such as Blickling Hall) than classical (like
Hanworth Hall). In 1664 "Dame" Rant paid twenty shillings tax for
twenty working hearths, whilst Gunton paid eleven, Hanworth paid ten and Felbrigg
paid fifteen. It was a very substantial building, possibly similar in overall
size and style to the hall at Barningham Winter.
Thorpe Hall's final occupant was Harbord
Morden Harbord, later Lord Suffield, who was Sir Thomas's great-great-grandson.
He inherited the estate at Gunton from his uncle, Sir William Morden Harbord,
in 1770. Shortly afterwards he moved to Gunton and demolished Rant's Hall. Thorpe
Market then effectively became part of Gunton Estate, much of it remaining in
the ownership of the Harbord/Suffield family until the 1980s.
In 1796 Lord Suffield demolished the crumbling
church at Thorpe Market and replaced it with the present building, rather as
his uncle had done at Gunton thirty years previously. The resulting building
has inspired mixed emotions from architectural writers ever since. (See the section
"St Margaret's Church").
Throughout the nineteenth century Thorpe
Market was run as a typical estate village, with large tenant farms which were
the centre of the local economy. In the nineteenth century Thorpe Market gained
a school (built in a rather similar style to the church), and what must surely
be one of the remotest railway stations in Norfolk. Gunton Station, as it was
known, was built primarily for the convenience of Lord Suffield (a major investor
on the railway), and despite its rather splendid station buildings, was probably
never heaving with local commuters.
A rather splendid gateway to Lord Suffield's
estate was built in Thorpe Market in 1838. It's tall tower, from which Norwich
cathedral is visible on a clear day, later served as a lookout for Royal trains
arriving at Gunton Station. By the 1980s the tower was completely derelict,
but has since been carefully restored.
Early in the twentieth century Thorpe
Market gained a Post Office, a Methodist chapel and a Reading Room/Social Club.
All three have since demised, although the former Reading Room is still in use
as a Village Hall.