Ashwellthorpe History

We need local history items please. If you have any stories about people or places in the village or if you know an elderly resident who has stories please send them in. We and the rest of the Parish would love to read them. If you have any pictures of the village or villagers as they were please send them to us for the Photo Album page.

The villages of Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall are interlinked not only by their adjacency but also by the manorial extent, land ownership, field boundaries and not least, from the 20th Century, by the Village Hall and Parish Council.  They have now, and have probably always had, a distinct character with people and events, societal structure and mobility shaping their individual histories.

The general Local History page will cover memories, events and past history which intertwine. This Ashwellthorpe page will carry items of specific relevance to it – but if you’re not sure where your interest lies, browse through all the pages!  And add to them, amend them, comment on and discuss them – all contributions welcome. Remember – yesterday is already history!

Request for help – HOWES family name

Owen Howes e-mailed us on 19 October 2007 “I am researching my family history and have found Ashwellthorpe the main seat of my family from a RICHARD HOWES born there in 1749”. His Howes families continue well into the 1800s in Ashwellthorpe. Owen would be very interested to hear if anyone has any information on the Howes family of Ashwellthorpe – if you can help him please contact  [email protected]

History from millions of years ago

The ammonite pictured below was dug up in the flowerbed of a garden in Greenwood Close on Thursday 19 April 2007.  The soil had been well cultivated for nearly forty years and before that the land had been pasture/plum orchard – but it was suddenly unearthed after another bout of light digging.  Although not complete, the pattern is beautiful.  Has it been here, in Ashwellthorpe, for millions of years?  Am I the first person to have seen it? Or has it been a fortuitous import from forty years of cultivation? Can anyone give a likely answer to any of these queries and also add more information on ammonites? What history have you dug up in your gardens or fields in Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall?

Please let us know by contacting [email protected]

The Village Sign and the Ballad of Ashwell Thorp

You will see on the top east-facing panel of the sign the goose, oak leaves and the wording Ashwell Thorpe Oak Legend, a legend passed down in the words of the Ballad of Ashwell-Thorp.  Thomas Knyvett was knighted by Queen Eilzabeth I on her progress through Norfolk and was High Sheriff of the County in 1579 – he died in 1617 and was buried in Ashwellthorpe on 9 February 1617/18.  Historical reports say he was a man of great repute and much loved for his hospitality and good nature and the Ballad echoes this sentiment.

Jennifer Robbie

The Ballad of Ashwell-Thorp

Once there liv’d a Man

Deny it they that can,

Who liberal was to the Poore;

I dare boldly say,

They ne’re were sent away,

Empty Handed from his Doore.

When Misers in Holes crept,

Then open House he kept,

Where many then, did resort,

Some for Love of good Beere

And others for good Cheere,

And others for to make Sport.

There was a Gentleman,

From LONDON citty came,

The Countrey for to see,

And all in the Pryme,

Of jovial CHRISTMASS Time,

There merry for to be.

This LONDONER did say,

If the Gentry would give way,

A Trick to them he w’d show,

That an Acorn he would sett,

If they would please to ha’te,

Which to a great Tree should grow.

The Acorn he pull’d out,

And shewed it all about,

In his Hand then he took it agayne,

In the Presence of them all,

In the middle of the Hall,

He sat down the Acorne playne.

While one could drink a Cup,

There did an Oak spring up,

Which was so huge and tall,

With Arms it so put out,

And Branches all about,

That it almost fill’d the Hall.

This Oak then did beare,

Which was a Thing most rare,

Acorns both black and brown,

For which the Swine did busk,

And they did loose their Husk,

As they came tumbling down.

This great Oake there did stand,

To the View of Every Man,

Who saw, it was so playne,

But Roome then to afford,

To Bring Supper unto Bord,

They wish’t it gone agayne.

Then lowdley he did call,

And two came into the Hall,

Who were both stout and strong,

And with the Tools they had,

To work they went like mad.

And laid this Oake along.

I’le tell you here no Lye,

The Chips there then did flye,

Buzzing about like Flyes,

That Men were forc’d to ward,

Their Faces well to guard,

For Fear they sh’d loose their Eyes.

He bid them then be bold,

And e’ry one take hold,

This Oake for to carry away,

And they all hold did get,

But c’d not stirr’t a whit,

But still along it lay.

He said they had no Strength,

Which he would prove at length,

For it sh’d not lye long on the floor,

Two Goslings young and green,

They then came whewting in,

And carried it out of the Door.

Then gone was the Oake,

That had so many a stroke,

Before that it fell downe,

Thus as it grew in haste,

So quickly did it waste,

Not a Chip then could be found.

This Story is very true,

Which I have told to you,

‘Tis a Wonder you di’nt heare it,

I’le lay a Pint of Wine,

If Parker and old Hinde,

Were alyve, that they w’d swear it.


The de Thorp Tomb

Hullo, my name is Humphrey, and I write a letter in the Parish Magazine each month.  For those of you who do not know me, I’m a Cat, and I am now of advanced years.  I like sitting in the sun or by the radiator, killing rats, and other small things that move, and I hate DOGS.  Which brings me to the point of this letter.

There is in our church a most beautiful monument, some have even said that it is the best alabaster tomb in England, be that as it may..It has three DOGS on it..It is 600 years old, and is in need of care and attention.  It also has two people, Sir Edmund de Thorp and his wife Joan, and several angels. For the last 12 months or more it has been held together in a cage of scaffolding, but next week work starts to make it safe and conserve it for the next 600 years, or at any rate, a few more generations.  It is hoped to be completed by Easter.

So I’ve now told you about it, and it is very cold, so I want to get back to the radiator, but perhaps if you have never been in our church you ought to go and see it.  For myself I’m not bothered, I mean DOGS!  People are alright so long as they run a Cat centred household, and as for Angels, well I haven’t met any yet. Bye!

Humphrey is surely the most curious and literate cat in the parish and, as he says above and as some of the residents of Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall already know, he is in the habit of sharing his observations each month in the Church Parish Magazine.


The de Thorp TombAshwellthorpe

The alabaster tomb bearing the effigies of Sir Edmund de Thorp and his second wife Joan – daughter of Sir Robert de Northwood and widow of Lord Scales – lies within All Saints Church, Ashwellthorpe.  Lords of the Manor, the de Thorp family – by children, marriages, kinsmen – passed on this manorial lordship right through to the mid-20th Century.

Sir Edmund was the son of another Sir Edmund de Thorp and his wife Joan nee Baynard.   Sir Edmund was killed in 1418 during the siege of the castle in Louvier, Normandy, where he had been one of King Henry V’s men and his body was brought back to Ashwellthorpe for burial in his Chapel. He had the Chapel – Thorp Chapel – added to the north of the Chancel in 1393 to become his eventual burial place.   This pre-Reformation tomb is one of only two remaining in Norfolk and lies between the Chancel and Thorp Chapel.  Originally under a wooden canopy, the white alabaster effigies lie on the alabaster tomb chest; Sir Edmund in full armour with his helm[et] under his head, his wife lying beside him, a pillow under her head supported by Angels. The west end of the tomb chest is now of stone rather than alabaster and over three centuries, graffiti of names and initials have been carved into the alabaster.

The recent problems with the tomb’s foundations have seen it slipping into a void and, without repair work, it could have crumbled and broken up. Restoration in 1967, funded by the Pilgrim Trust, resulted in a thorough cleaning of the tomb and the repainting of the eight heraldic shields around its base.  As Humphrey tells us above, funds have been raised and repair work is about to start with stability and restoration completed by Easter 2007.

Much more detailed information about the de Thorp family and the tomb itself can be found in the following sources which can be seen in the Norfolk Studies section of Norfolk Heritage Centre at the Forum in Norwich.

‘An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk’, Volume 3, Francis Blomefield, 1769

“The de Thorp Tomb at Ashwellthorpe”, Donovan Purcell, TD, MA, FRIBA, in ‘Norfolk Archaeology’ Vol. 34, Part 3, 1969

“A 14th Century Contract for Carpenter’s Work at Ashwellthorpe Church”, Paul Cattermole, in ‘Norfolk Archaeology’ Vol. 40, 1989

‘Ashwellthorpe Hall and its History’, Michael Lawrence, Fifth Impression, 2000

The Restoration Work being carried out on the de Thorp Tomb

February 2007

The void beneath the de Thorp Tomb

The flint, brick and lime mortar supporting piers for the de Thorp Tomb, believed to be the original work of c. 1418

de Thorp Tomb Restoration at end of February 2007

New brick with lime mortar supports between original supporting piers.  You can see the air holes which have been left between the brick layers – this will allow air to circulate around and within the alabaster tomb when it is reconstructed to prevent damp permeating the alabaster.

de Thorp Tomb repaired – end April 2007


You will see from the photographs below that repairs to the foundations and supporting pillars of the de Thorp tomb are now complete and its various pieces have all been put together again to return it to its original form!

The tomb has been made safe from the risk of sinking into the void beneath and the possibility of it breaking-up through such subsidence and through damp has now been avoided.  The repair work was finished by Easter and the church was ready for the Easter services.

Unfortunately, some unforeseen factors led to a budget shortfall with more fund-raising being organised at this moment to successfully complete the financial side of this project.


The above link is an interesting wartime photograph of Ashwellthorpe taken by the Luftwaffe. It is worth looking to see how little development there was then.

  • Information from Genuki Norfolk on Ashwellthorpe. This gives links to many historical sites including census, churches, maps (old and new) and much more. Warning : you will find this so interesting that you will spend a lot of time just searching.
  • Directory of Ashwellthorpe 1854 giving details of people, church, tithes etc Click here
  • Ashwellthorpe (previously Thorpe) Manor record

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