sign Hempstead


For Sale

Village History
Long Sal
Lose & Nether Halls

The Vicarage


The present Hempstead vicarage was built in 1876 to the east of the original building that in around 1675 fell down to the ground and was utterly demolished so that we had no house upon the vicarage ground.

7th September 2017
7th September 2017

Rectory or Vicarage?
A Rectory sits at the top of the parish pile as in days gone by it was the rector who ran the parish and collected tithes. The Rectory reflected the importance of the rctor so tended to be a grand building with land. In those days the rector had a vice-rector, aka the vicar, and their lesser role meant they were given a smaller property. Their vicarage could have been anything from a cosy cottage to a manor house. Most Rectories and Vicarages were built during the Georgian and Victorian eras and the word 'parsonage' is used to describe both.
Michael Graham
In their technical sense, the words refer to church endowments and clerical income. At their foundation, most churches were endowed with land and tithes which were meant to support the priest (or 'rector'), and which collectively made up the 'rectory'. Sometimes, however, this endowment was granted to a religious house, which consequently became an absentee corporate 'rector'. In these circumstances the bishop had to ensure that the parish church was properly served by a 'vicar', a word that literally means a substitute. Part of the church's income (referred to as the 'vicarage') was set aside to support him, made up sometimes of a cash stipend, and sometimes of tithes or land. The rest remained with the religious house, which was said to have 'appropriated' the rectory.
This distinction between rectors and vicars was important up to the 19th century, since vicars only ever received a part of the church's income. Even so, not all of them were necessarily poorer, since some parish churches were much better endowed than others. Consequently, some better-off vicars enjoyed higher standards of living than the worse-off rectors. 

The Church has a brick tower, built in 1744, and is a vicarage . . .
White's 1836
The living is a discharged vicarage, average tithe rent-charge £106, net yearly value £154, with 23 acres of glebe and residence, in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Norwich, who are impropriators of the great tithes, and held since 1889 by the Rev. Thomas Webster Whistler M.A. of St. Peter's College, Cambridge. The vicarage house was erected on the glebe in 1876.
Kelly's 1892

Stained Glass Window
The Latin reads - This house was built AD 1876

Vicars and Vicarage

Where did the earlier vicars and curates live - if indeed they lived in the Parish at all?

In East Anglian Archaeology Report No 8 (Norfolk) Andrew Rogerson and Nick Adams have written a fascinating report on the excavation of the moated site to the south-west of the church which they concluded was the site of the lost medieval Lose_Hall. ln that report they considered also the possibility of the site being that of the original vicarage and recorded the following information:-

''The Prior of Norwich had land in Hempstead in the late l2th Century. In 1249 the rectory was appropriated to the Priory and a vicarage settled. There was an estate which produced £1 a year and a farm rented to produce £2-13-4pa.''

Rogerson goes on to state ''The Glebe Terrier of 1613 places the vicarage to the south of the church and between the road and the manor close and described it as "a dwelling house and a barne with one little outhouse . . .''

In 1629 the rectory, parsonage house and barn were mentioned in a leasing agreement between Edmund Britiffe, senior and junior, and the Dean and Chapter of Norwich.

ln 1677 the Glebe Terrier states that “in the late times of the unhappy rebellion -- the vicarage house fell down to the ground and was utterly demolished so that we had no house upon the vicarage ground.”

By 1704 the Dean was leasing “the scite of the rectory'' to Edmund Britiffe.

In 1761 and 1781 the Dean was leasing “the scite of the rectory'' and the “ruins of the barn'' to the Earl of Buckinghamshire (who had become Impropriator on inheriting the Britiffe estates in Hunworth, Hempstead and Stody). The lease to the Blickling Estate was renewed in 1837, 1844 and 1865.

So somewhere underground to the west of the village playground there must still be the foundations of the original vicarage, its “barne'' and outhouse.

Presumably it was Robert Watson, vicar between 1599 and 1649 but also Vicar of Bodham and Baconsthorpe, in one of which villages he may have lived, who let the former vicarage fall down so that since the mid-l7th century to 1876 there was nowhere in the village for the vicar or (unless he took lodgings) for the curate to live.

Historically many parishes were held in plurality - a practice increasingly under criticism in the middle of the 19th Century as can be seen in Trollope's Barchester novels. In any event, before that, it was commonly said that “In the 18th Century the Church slept”. Hempstead seems to have been typical with the tower being allowed to fall down in the seventeen-thirties. At the time of its rebuilding in 1744 the Vicar was conspicuous by his absence with the responsible churchwarden being permitted to record his own success in rebuilding it with his own named and dated plaque so prominently displayed.

Oxford Movement and the great wave of reform that so changed the Church of England in the latter part of the 19th Century, Nowhere else did this wave operate more spectacularly than in Hempstead with the arrival of Charles Louis Rudd in 1873 after the death of the Rev. J. C. Leak who had been Curate of Hempstead for 14 years but Rector of Birmingham Parva for no fewer than 45 years.

Within three years, in 1878, the new vicarage, built by public subscription, was erected on the Glebe Land adjoining the Church. The architect was J. B. Pease of Norwich and the builder R. Cornish of North Walsham. The whole of the Church was furnished at the expense of Mr. & Mrs. Rudd with pulpit, reading desk, lectern, font, chandelier, reredos and harmonium as memorials to members of their family.

Not content with their achievements the Vicar, one year after building the vicarage, built the infant_school (later to become the Reading Room). In the parish magazine for October 1877 it was recorded that “a room capable of holding 80 people has just been erected by public subscription. It is built of stone and red brick and has a neat appearance. The want has been long felt in the parish of a building which would answer the two fold purpose of an infant_school and Parish Room. Mr. West of Holt is the builder'' A hundred years later Mrs. Diana Spalton when converting the school (bought from the Diocese) into a house for herself discovered a number of letters from former pupils thanking the Rev. Rudd for educating them there.

The last resident vicar to live at the vicarage was the Rev. A. M. Auden who died in 1944. The Audens came from Derbyshire. The poet W. H. Auden (who went to Gresham's School) was a cousin. For three years afterwards the non-resident curate in charge was Rev. John Norman but from 1947 onwards the parish became joined with Baconsthorpe and Plumstead. The Audens had two daughters, one of whom, Ruth, later married the Rev. Wilson, Rector of Barningham, and lived at Barningham Rectory. Ruth Wilson has left some useful jottings about Church life in the thirties and forties in Hempstead and Baconsthorpe.

Mrs. Claudine Fuller (1916-1998) who lived in Hempstead all her life, recalled the Vicarage in her childhood - particularly the much loved Gleave family. They organised for the village children tableaux and picnics in the woods. All the village took part in the money-raising for the Apse in 1925 and 1926. The Sunday School every year had its outing at Sheringham, being taken in Mr. Hagen's Waggon.

The vicarage then went into limbo. It was let for a number of years. Colonel Philip Shirley was a tenant and was Church Secretary and Treasurer from before 1960 until 1977. At one stage it was occupied by schoolmasters at Gresham's. It was really sold in the late nineteen-seventies and became owned by Mr. John Thomson.
Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000


Vicarage interior - c.1900 Vicarage interior - c.1900
Vicarage interior - c.1900

The Rev. Thomas Webster Whistler was the Hempstead Vicar, living at the Vicarage from 1889 to 1911. It appears that he held house parties during that time and that a Wright family visited on at least one occasion.
Photographs from that time still exist because in 2001, two old, fire and water damaged photograph albums were bought at Auction. They contained pictures of the Wright family, some of them taken in Hempstead. Subsequently, in 2011, a goodly portion of the Wright family history was put together by Geoffrey R. Harris of Hempstead. That document can be viewed here - Wright Family.

c.1900 c.1900
Charles J. C. Wright in front of the vicarage - c.1900
Churchgoers returning to the Vicarage across what is now the Playing Field - c.1900

Ralph de Birstin
Edward Tilson
Simon de Eggefield
William Tower Johnson
Curate of Plumstead, Rector of Beeston ministered more or less frequently
John Chatres
John Smith
Rector of Holt ministered at Hempstead from time to time
John Wright
Francis Bransby
Curate of Hempstead and Rector of Edgefield
John Ambrose Tickell
Michael Crow
Stephen Frost Rippingale Curate
Record lost - at this time vicars were often laymen. Such vicars appointed priests as chaplains whose names were not always carefully recorded
John Lang Girdlestone Curate of Hempstead and Rector of Baconsthorpe
John Estmond
William M. Marcon Curate of Hempstead and Rector of Edgefield
Henry Yarham
John Gunton Curate of Hempstead
John Walett (deposed 1553)
John William Methwold also Vicar of Wighton and curate of Wetheringsett
John Cooke
J. C. Leake Curate of Hempstead for 45 years
Robert Watson
also rector of Bodham & Baconsthorpe
Charles Louis Rudd
Nicholas Bacon
Thomas Webster Whistler
John Gray (Instituted)
Claude Tennant Eastman
Richard Chase
Paul Rogers Cleave
John Custance Curate of Hempstead
Francis John Prior Wallis
William Pierce
Alfred Millington Auden (cousin of poet W. H. Auden)
Thomas Meux Curate of Hempstead

After A. M. Auden retired in 1938, the Vicarage was eventually sold by the diocese.
Subsequent owners and dates are yet to be clarified.
The Gleave family were one of the first to live there and may have been tenants.
It was let for a number of years.
Colonel Philip Shirley was a tenant and was also the Church Secretary and Treasurer from before 1960 until 1977. Gresham's School used the old Vicarage to house some of their schoolmasters.
The property was really sold in the late 1970s and was bought Mr. John Thomson.
Clive Brockdorff and his family lived there in the 1980s and towards the end of his tenure there was a fire at the vicarage while he was away on holiday.
Jason Matthews and family have lived there since 2008.

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
Top of Page