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Hempstead Hall Farm
Hempstead Hall Farm
Hempstead Hall Farm - 25th June 2018

Hempstead Hall Farm is run as a family partnership and currently headed by William Mack. The farm is steeped in history with many historical finds mapped. on the farm, impressive farm buildings dating from the 1700's and a crater caused by a German bomb being dropped in WWII. The Mack family have farmed at Hempstead Hall since Michaelmas 1933 before William's Grandfather and Father purchased the farm on 6th April 1946.
Hempstead Hall website - 2020

Large farmhouse, 17th century origin, largely rebuilt late 19th century - 1880 on wing  gable, 1877 on clampirons to right gable. Knapped flint, brick dressings, plain and fishscale roof tiles. Double pile. Two storeys and attic.
Facade symmetrical three bays, connecting bay left to forward projecting wing. Main facade has each bay projects forward 12cm, continuing up to gable dormers with moulded brick coping. Wide brick surrounds to windows and doors. Central pedimented doorway. Tripartite sashes. Two axial stacks each of four shafts. Connecting bay to wing is through passage. Front doorway same as central doorway, rear door under 4 centred arch. The forward wing contains remains of 17th century building. Two storeys attic and cellar; south gable in coursed flint on flint plinth with quoins and cap of 17th century brick; gable raised in 1880. Walls and window of each front as on main front. West side has coursed flint, off centre axial stack.

E. Rose (NAU) - 9th July 1986

The first person to have lived at Hempstead Hall in its earlier incarnation as a traditional Elizabethan Manor House was William King (or Kynge) who died intestate in 1594 and for whose estate a highly detailed Inventory was made. (NRO INV/11.43). ln fact here is no proof that William King did live at Hempstead Hall but there is overwhelming geographical evidence to the fact. His farm was clearly a very large one and included land in the parishes of Holt, Edgefield and Stody. This could only have been applicable to Hempstead Hall Farm.

William Kynge (so spelt) was a witness to Elizabeth Sewells Will of August 7th 1563 and as William Kinge (so spelt) was supervisor of the Rev Thomas Wickham's Will of 1565. He was clearly a man of local importance and indeed of substance which makes it all be more surprising that he apparently died intestate.

Four centuries ago there was no tax to pay on a death and hence so long as there was a will, with Executors duly appointed, there was no need for a detailed inventory. Instead most Wills directed meticulously what chattels went to whom.

The position was different when there we no will - though surprisingly the procedures adopted are remarkably similar to the intestate laws of the present day.

The main difference was that that State - the King - had a direct interest in that, if there were no close family left, the estate escheated to the Crown. Furthermore as early as 1285 there had been legislation directing that the first duty of the (ecclesiastical) Court was to ensure that creditors were paid off. In 1357 the court was directed to appoint “the next and most lawful friends of the dead person intestate” as Administrators. This in time meant the appointment of the “next in blood that was under no disability”.

But clearly there were problems. Only six years our William Klng's death there was in 1600 “An Act against Fraudulent Administration of Intestates Goods”. One hopes that William King’s estate was properly administered with one third going to the widow and the rest going to his children, grandchildren, or next of kin per stirpes. With five persons signing his inventory there would seem to have been no shortage of interested parties (including perhaps professional valuers?)

The actual list of assets is substantial

[N.R.O. INV/11.43) An Inventorie made the xxviiith daie of November a 77 RR nunc Elizabeth 1594 of all the goods and Cattells, money, debts and plate and all other Implements of howshold whatsoever of Willm Kynge of Hempstead deceased prised and valued the daie and yeres above said by us whose names are hereunto Subscribed.

NB The detailed values of each item have not been shown except for the major cash items plus the value of £300 placed on the flock of 1000 sheep.

The inventory was made on November 28th 1594 and demonstrates the size of a partly arable farm in that “since Michaelmas last”, ie 2 months, nearly twenty three acres had been ploughed and put down to winter “Corne”. The farm implements and farm stock are all recorded: the farm must surely have enjoyed grazing rights elsewhere to have carried on not only a milking herd and bullocks for fattening but also a thousand sheep. The Glaven Valley and the Holt Lows may well have provided this grazing.

ln the house William King was comfortably set up with 2/3 reception and seven bedrooms. He must have lived in considerable luxury for the date with his sheets, and pillow cases, table napkins and handtowels.

In the “hall chamber'' (presumably the Elizabethan Manor house boasted its medieval hall) was his “corslet fullie furnished with a pike”. But what was ''the rest of his munitions piece together? Could this have been a primitive musket?

Interesting enough William King, among his many crops also grew “hempe”.

The whole scale of the enterprise is more akin to that of a major 18th century Norfolk Farmer. Perhaps much less changed in farming in Norfolk in the great “improving” 18th century than is often suggested. ln any event, William King is the first resident magnate known to have lived and died in Hempstead. One need only compare his inventory with the modest lists of chattels referred to in other broadly contemporaneous Wills.

It is comforting to think that in all probability William King's house is the same as that sketched in William Newman’s book of 1726.

The next information we have concerning Hempstead Hall lies in the ''Hempstead Court Books 17th and 18th Century'' (NRO 23877-883 39E1) where there are the Court Rolls from l6l3 to 1743. The earlier books are difficult to read but in the later books there are interesting cross-references to the history of Brownwood. In the Court Book of 1694 appears the first specific reference to the Hall.
Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

The first detailed knowledge of the buildings and land at Hempstead Hall comes to us from the Book created William Newman in 1726 (NRO Het87). He succeeded his uncle, Thomas, as Lord of the Manor in 1698. Why he waited 28 years before embarking on his booklet is unclear. On the outside cover of William Newman's book in ink appears the following:

On the inside there is a page heading -
this Book contains a survey of my estate
lying in Hempstead near Holt in the
County of Norfolk
Surveyed AD 1726 by James Corbridge

The Newman family, who lived at what is now the Manor House, Baconsthorpe, owned Hempstead Hall and Red_House_Farm (but not Green_Farm which was owned by the Woods) since 1683 and were the Lords of both the Hempstead Manors.

William took over in 1698 from Thomas, his uncle, but he created his Book only three years before his death in 1729.

William may have been an empire-builder and proud of it - but pride comes before a fall and (see later) he had to sell up the subject of his handsome Book in 1728 - only two years after he had caused it to be surveyed and written up.

Hempstead Hall Farm (so described) was then in the occupation of Richard Mickleburgh and extended ta 370 acres including ''Mill_Farm'' which comprised the fields around the medieval Mill, but by now defunct, which was later called “Smokers Hole”. (This is not to be confused with the “Mill_Farm'' sold by George Knight’s executors in 1964). There is shown a house, on the position of the present day ruins, which must have been the miller's house plus a barn and another large building which could have been another barn, or the original mill or three cottages.

The only woodland shown on the whole farm consisted of two small copses alongside the east/west road on the spine of the hill, now a public footpath, and on the east side of the steep slopes to the north of the mill. The wood was actually on the west side of a large field called “Mill Hill”.

The hall itself is shown sketched as an Elizabethan house of three stories with a projecting front porch with three chimney stacks. The present pond and the long barn to the east of it are clearly shown. There was another equally long barn to the south.

There was no sign of any building on the site of the present “Hempstead_Mill” on the Holt Road nor was there any sign of the Post Mill on Court Green.

There are separate maps, page by page, of each of the fields.

William Newman’s Book then goes on to give a full account of the manorial system with particular regard to the benefits accruing to himself as Lord of the Manor. There seem to have been endless potential burdens on his tenants. This part is actually headed “Perquisites, Casualties and Rights of Court and their several natures”. It deals with ''Fines of Land, Amerciaments, Heriots, Escheates, Forfeitures, Waives, Straies”.

The Book ends disappointingly with the further heading “Name of Tenants, the Quality of the lands they hold of this manor and their yearly rents'' - and nothing but blank pages thereafter.

In February 1728 William Newman (apparently under financial pressure) sold to Michael Russell (“Merchant”) all his lands in Baconsthorpe, Hempstead and Hunworth including “the Manors or Lordships of Hempstead_Lose_Hall and Hempstead_Netherhall'' plus Baconsthorpe Old Hall, land and a brick kiln in Plumstead, a farm in Baconsthorpe occupied by Richard Murrett and Hempstead Hall occupied by Richard Mickleburrow, Butcher, plus another farm in Hempstead and Bodham occupied by Edmund West.

Michael Russell married Elizabeth Metcalfe and had a son, also called Michael, on whom he settled the estate in 1731. The first Michael Russell died on February 20th 1745 leaving some generous legacies but otherwise all to his son.

In 1757 the second Michael Russell died leaving his estate to his only son, Metcalfe Russell, for life.

In 1773 Metcalfe Russell and the Trustees broke the entail. Part of the original Newman estate seems to have included land and a house called the Chantry in the village of Sproughton which is a few miles to the west of Ipswich.

In 1794 Metcalfe Russell died childless leaving his estate to his cousin Michael Tomlinson of Mill Hill, London who put up a memorial to his benefactor in Sproughton Church “Erected by Michael Collinson Esq his natural and elected heir who loved him living and desires to sleep with him in death”.

This wish was granted all too soon since Michael Collinson himself died the same year - on August 21st 1795.

Michael Tomlinson left his estate to his trustees Emerson Cornwell and his cousin Thomas Collinson upon trust for his son Charles Streynsham Collinson (described as ''then being in the West Indies”) such son to take absolutely if “he shall live to return| to England''.

Charles duly survived and returned in 1800 to take the property outright and to live at Sproughton where he survived until 1831. Charles had several sons all of whom seem to have died - in India, in China and in Jamaica. The Baconsthorpe/Hempstead Estate must have seemed remote and irrelevant to him and on March 28th 1807 he sold it to “Richard Gurney of Keswick and Joseph Gurney of Lakenham'' for £20,000. The estate included the mansion house in Baconsthorpe (lived in by Charles Springall), that is Baconsthorpe Manor, a farmhouse and 216 acres in Plumstead and Baconsthorpe (lived in by Joseph Springall), a farm of 179 acres in Hunworth (lived in by Richard Weeds) and Hempstead Hall Farm and the Red House Farm.

Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

In 1810 Richard Joseph Gurney sold off the Baconsthorpe and Plumstead lands to his son Hudson Gurney for £8000. It was in the same year that Hudson Gurney bought the three Holt Manors to add to his two newly acquired Hempstead ones.

In 1836 Martha Ling was living at Hempstead Hall. By 1841 Benjamin Ling was living there. In the 1851 Census Benjamin Ling to shown with eight boys and ten women. He must have been farming other land for the Gurneys - probably Green Farm where Court Green Farmhouse was in the same census shown as being occupied by the Rev Arthur Langton. ln 1862 Edmund Ling, Benjamin's eldest son, was living at the Hall. In 1881, Whites Directory describes him as “farmer, landagent, valuer and surveyor”. Since Edmund is reputed to have had 18 children and seems also to have managed the Gurney estate at Hempstead it was not perhaps surprising that the Gurneys rebuilt the Hall in the l880's as the largest house in the parish for his benefit. From the picture of the Elizabethan Hall shown in James Corbridge's 1728 map and the maps in which it appeared it would seem certain that the new 1883 Hall was built on the same site as its predecessor.

Edmund Ling and family - c.1880
Edmund Ling and family - c.1880
From 1911 onwards Cecil Tatam lived at the Hall as tenant leaving in 1933 when Mr Richard Henry Mack took up the tenancy in the depths of the Depression. The farm was in such a bad state that R. H. Mack was offered two years' free rental followed by a rent of 7/6 per acre. (It will be recalled that Mr R. H. Mack was born at Hole Farm in 1881, his father moving to Plumstead Hall Farm shortly afterwards).

In 1946 soon after Mr. George Knight had bought the Gurney Hempstead estate, he sold on Hempstead Hall Farm, then consisting of 318 acres, to Mr R. H. Mack and his family who continue to own it to this day.

Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

There were many incidents of planes crashing in the area, and German planes strafing the airfields, one German bomber jettisoned a sea mine close to Hempstead Hall, leaving a crater big enough to put the hall in, luckily it did not land in the village.
Richard C. Gray, WW2 People’s War - 1st September 2005

Joy Morter, who was living in the Hall, was in bed asleep and knew nothing of the drama until the morning. She said that the plane went over at about 9 o'clock one Saturday evening in 1944. There were in fact two bombs, one far larger than the other. A window was broken in the Hall as well as some in Holt. Shrapnel landed in the yard next to the Hall. The craters were later filled in by workmen, some foreign, organised by the army.

Mine site Mine site
One mine exploded where the tractor row marks run through the nearest light patch
26th May 2020

One explosion was in the centre of the light coloured depression
26th May 2020

Mine site A piece of the shrapnel
After harvest the depression is more visible
3rd August 2020

A piece of the shrapnel from the mine found in one of the hall yards
28th September 2020

Janet Jones and her sister, Joy Morter, both recall the time a German plane machinegun strafed the area where the farm workers were being paid by Henry Mack one Saturday lunchtime. As the bullets approached, one man who had always found walking very difficult, suddenly broke into a run, before diving head first over a wall. Another, Alfred Bacon, stood still as bullets went either side of him. When asked why he didn't hit the ground, replied that he wasn't going to lie in that mud for any German.
The plane apparently carried on to machinegun part of Hempstead village before dropping a bomb on Baconsthorpe Rectory.

Census 1891:
Alfred Ling (50) b. Hempstead, farmer
Aim E. Ling (50) b. E. Beckham, wife
Alfred G. Ling (24) b.Barton Turf, Farmer's Assistant
Frederick P. Ling (20) b.Barton Turf, Farmer's Assistant
Gertrude A. Ling (18) b.Barton Turf
Ernest W. Ling (9) b.Irstead, scholar
Edith Broughton (20) b.W. Beckham, Domestic Servant (Dairy Maid)
Eliza Lowe (18) b.Walcott, Domestic Servant (General)

1911-1933: Cecil Tatum, tenant farmer

29th September (Michaelmas) 1933: Richard Henry Mack, tenant farmer

1946: George Knight bought the Hempstead Estate from the Gurney Estate

6th April 1946: Richard Henry and his son Henry Mack bought the Hall and farm from George Knight

2020: William Mack, (son of Henry Mack) farmer

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. Please or telephone 07836 675369

Website copyright © Jonathan Neville 2020
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