The village is mentioned in the Norwich Domesday Book around 1286.

It was immortalised by the 14C poet Geoffrey Chaucer as the home of The Reeve in his Canterbury Tales –  “Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle, biside a toun menclepen Baldeswelle.”   

Bawdeswell has grown up at a point where six long established routes met, including a section of Roman Road running westward to Durobrivae near Peterborough across the Fen Causeway.

It has been an important stopping off point for the changing of horses and coaches and for refreshment. There were once four inns.

Today Bawdeswell is a thriving village with a population of over 700 people. It is perhaps best known for its neo-Georgian Church, its popular Garden Centre and its busy General Store.  It is surrounded by arable farmland and there are many small businesses run from home. It is also a dormitory village for Norwich, Dereham and Fakenham.




Roman road

Through Bawdeswell runs an important Roman road.

It ran from Durobrivae near Peterborough, across the Fen Causeway to Denver, followed Fincham Drove and crossed Peddar’s Way between Castle Acre and Swaffham, thence towards North Elmham and Billingford, to Bawdeswell and Jordans Green, and on to Smallburgh.


Bawdeswell Roman road



t was a major East-West route and possibly continued to Caister or an important port since eroded by the sea.

Where the road leaves Bawdeswell it is known as Common Lane – it ran across the former Bawdeswell Common. This section is particularly fine and the road is built on an agger as it approaches the valley.


At Billingford it turned South for a short while where it crossed the River Wensum on a Roman timber bridge, and nearby two Roman helmets have been dredged from the river. (They are decorated with sea dragons, eagle’s head and snakes on one, and Mars, Victory and Medusa on the visor mask of the other.)

The Romans built their roads in straight lines, keeping to high ground wherever possible.

References: Norfolk Origins – 2 Roads & Tracks by Bruce Robinson and Edwin Rose also from East Anglia by RR Clarke  
Illustrations: Susan White and Denise Derbyshire
Map: Adapted from one by RR Clarke.



Old Bawdeswell maps

The study of old maps can often be very interesting. The map below is part of Faden’s map dating back to 1797, over two hundred years ago:


Faden map of Bawdeswell



Another map copied from an old Holkham Estate map:

Old Bawdeswell map


The ‘Fine Heath’, near which Bawdeswell is said to lie, in Chaucer’s medieval Canterbury Tales, must have referred to the former Bawdeswell Common which the map shows along the Reepham Road.  An earlier Estate map shows it extending on the other side of the village towards Billingford as well.

The only remaining evidence is the track known as Common Lane, but if you walk down it and look across towards the Reepham Road and to Foxley Wood beyond, you can take yourself back in time and picture the large common as it was before the Enclosures of 1808.

The present Bawdeswell Heath is but part of what was Belaugh Heath on the old map. It was left in Trust to the villagers of Bawdeswell for the gathering of firewood and gravel.

Running past it is what looks like an early Bawdeswell by-pass – from opposite Beck Hall on the Billingford Road straight to Sparham. Looking at a modern O.S. map, there is only a remnant of this left today – from near Sparham to Field Barn and towards the rear of the Elsing Lane poultry farm. It used to cross the Dereham road near The Drift then head across the fields towards the Billingford road. It was known as Norwich Waye.

Faden’s map also shows an extensive Foxley Heath stretching nearly all the way to Foulsham. One of the tracks across it exists today in the form of a Public Footpath and at the Foxley end is known to this day as Common Lane, but soon runs out. The Foulsham end of it is not under the plough and is a well signposted footpath.

Can you see Foxley had an inn called the Dog? The Bell is shown in Bawdeswell, also a windmill where the house called ‘Eros is today.


From The Reeve’S Tale, March 1997

Village sign

Original Bawdeswell Village Sign

In 1982 a competition was held to design a Village Sign for Bawdeswell. The design chosen was by 15 year old Mark Fairhurst a pupil of Reepham High School. It depicts the legendary Reeve of Bawdeswell stopping at Balder’s Well.The sign was carved by Harry Carter of Swaffham and ended an era of making similar signs for many villages around Norfolk. “This is definately the last one!” he is quoted as saying.

By 2011 the sign had deteriorated as a result of wood rot and a new one was commissioned by the Parish Council.

New Bawdeswell village sign

The opportunity was taken to add more elements of the village’s past to the scene depicted.

The rural scene was crafted and painted in Norfolk-sourced English oak by husband-and-wife team Kelvin and Mary Thatcher, of Croxton Hamlet, near Fulmodeston.

It was unveiled by Charlotte Lilwall and a group of other children who had come along, accompanied by 93yr old Mrs Irene Ames, and Andy Battley.

The project was organised for the Parish Council by Ailsa McColville.


Bawdeswell’s Churches through the ages

Mediaeval Church


The Rectors of Bawdeswell are recorded back to the year 1313, but foundations of an earlier perhaps 1100 oratory are underneath.

In 1739 the tower fell down and ruined the church. The four bells were sold to raise money to re-build the church and a brick tower was built.

In 1828 the tower fell down again.



In 1843 the Medieval church was in such a bad state that it was decided to attempt to raise a fund to build a new one. At a public meeting it was agreed to levy a 6d rate on the parish raising £150 towards the estimated cost of £1400 the remainder of which was met by donations.


1955 Neo -Georgian

In 1944 a Mosquito aircraft returning from a mission over Germany, iced-up on its way back to Bexwell aerodrome at Downham Market and losing height, crashed into the Victorian church and destroyed it.

The crew, P O James Mclean and Sgt Melvin Tansley, died.

The War Damages Commission rebuilt the church in 1953 to a Neo-Georgian design by J Fletcher Watson, a Norwich architect.

In 1999 the parish completed the church with the installation of a tower clock. This was paid for by the parishioners, well-wishers and with the help of a grant from the District Council.


World War 2 plane crash

Mosquito KB364 crashes on Bawdeswell’s church

Mosquito Aircraft

It was one of twelve aircraft from 608 Squadron which set out from Bexwell, Norfolk, known then as RAF Downham Market, to attack Gelsenkirchen in Germany on 6th November 1944. The attack was a diversionary raid to draw German fighters away from two bigger raids elsewhere. (235 Lancaster bombers attacking the canal at Gravenhorst and 129 attacking Koblenz.)

The attack commenced as planned, five minutes ahead of the two other raids at 19.25 hours.  The Mosquitos dropped a mixture of red and green target indicators and high explosive bombs from 25,000ft. A few searchlights and very light flak were reported by crews over Gelsenkirchen.

Eleven of the Mosquitoes from 608 Squadron carried out successful missions and returned safely to Norfolk.

Cloud and icing conditions were encountered. KB364 is thought to have become severely iced-up during the return descent through cloud over Norfolk, and it was considered likely at the time that the pilot lost control and was unable to maintain height. The aircraft hit some electricity cables in the Reepham Road and struck All Saints Church, setting it on fire. Parts of the aircraft carried on and hit Barwick House and Chaucer House opposite, causing considerable damage to both.  Debris was spread over a wide area. The crash took place at 20.45hrs.


Church ruins


The Dereham Fire Brigade and firefighters from the American airbase at Attlebridge (Weston Longville) attended and it took four hours to control the blaze.

Stephanie Leitch (nee Bugdale) was 8yrs old at the time, living at Kenway cottage in the Street –

“I remember seeing one of the plane’s wheels, on fire, rolling down the street towards us. Since this was a few moments after the impact – we had time to come out to see the source of the noise – the wheel must have landed on the roof of Barwick House and from there rolled down onto the road.

There was, incidentally, a fire appliance behind Chaucer House, where Mr Lloyd Lewis had a steel workshop. Unluckily the flaming debris blocked access to it, and they had to wait for help from the USAF at Weston Longville. The Bawdeswell fire team consisted of Ambrose Frankland, Sam Muttock, Billy Hagen and Arthur Currie.”

Barwick House


Freda Aldous (nee Framingham) –

“Having just read the above about the 1944 Bawdeswell plane crash, it reminded me how lucky our family was to escape. Living in Reepham Road just past the old post office we were in a direct line of the church. I was almost one at the time but my late sister would have been about 6 and Mum always told us that when she told Anne the church had been hit her first reaction was ‘is the Noddy man collection box safe’. He was, because I remember him from Sunday school at the temporary church near our house. (One of Bawdeswell’s three chapels.)

We had a large sycamore tree in the corner of the garden and the plane took a big piece out of it’s top. When clearing my late mother’s house we found a piece of it hanging on Mr Whybrow’s shed wall that backed onto our garden. Dad had hung it there to remind us of how lucky we were. 

Incidentally my father Herbert George Framingham ( Dick) was a member of Bawdeswell home guard and often laughed about how they knitted while guarding Mr Elsden’s one petrol pump.”

Bawdeswell damaged Houses

Remarkably, no civilians were injured. Both crew members died in the crash. Pilot Officer James McLean (195130) aged 26, who was the son of William and Alison Pringle McLean of Bents, West Lothian, Scotland, and Sergeant Mervyn Lambert Tansley (1604944) aged 21, the son of Frederick Freeman and Alice Maud Tansley of Fulham, London. Both crewmen were members of the RAF(VR), the volunteer reserve.

McLean is buried in Tranent new Cemetery, East Lothian, section A, grave 409. Tansley is buried in Fulham old Cemetery, City of London, section 1, grave 14.

This is believed to have been the only Norfolk church to be destroyed in this way.

More details of the aircraft

KB364 was a Mosquito B Mk.XX (Canadian version of the British B Mk.V) and was built by DeHaviland (Canada) at their Downsview, Toronto plant, under contract No. BsB 2115. The aircraft was fitted with two Packard Merlin 33 engines. It was flown to Britain via Gander in Newfoundland, and arrived at Prestwick on 20th July 1944. It was delivered to No.13 Maintenance Unit at Henlow for modifications on 23rd July 1944.
On 13th August 1944 she was delivered to 608 Squadron (North Riding Squadron), which reformed on 1st August 1944 at RAF Downham Market, as part of 8 Group’s Light Night Striking Force. It is recorded as suffering damage and being repaired on site between 29th August and 23rd October.

The above information taken from the notes of Bob Collis, Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk, and the eye-witness report sent in by Stephanie Leitch of St Albans.

The Mosquito aircraft was made largely from plywood and had two powerful Merlin engines on the wings and a thick sheet of steel armour behind the crew to protect their backs. It was used as a light bomber and in a reconaisance role. It also made some flights over Norway to collect ball bearings from Sweden.


War memorial – roll of honour

Villagers from Bawdeswell who died in World War One 1914-1918


Villagers from Bawdeswell who died in World War Two 1939-1945


More details about the individuals



The Bawdeswell Home Guard – ‘Dad’s Army’

Today we laugh at ‘Dad’s Army’, but in 1940 the threat of a German invasion of Britain appeared very real.

Winston Churchill, newly appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, was convinced that the possibility of German troops being landed on the East coast of England should not be overlooked. He argued that forming a home defence force from those who could not be accommodated within the regular armed forces but who were keen to play their part would be popular and would free up soldiers from garrison duty in the home country.

Letters poured in to editorial offices, military headquarters, and the offices of MP’s and the Prime Minister supporting the idea.

Meanwhile the Home Office issued a statement as to what the public should do and should not do in the event of an enemy landing. ‘It would not be right for country gentlemen to carry their guns with them on their walks and take flying shots as opportunity offered.’

Senior military authorities also had reservations, foreseeing residents forming ‘private defence bands’ which the Army would not be able to control.

People were already taking matters into their own control. In East Anglia there were reports that ‘farmers are oiling up their fowling pieces, preparing to receive what they call “those umbrella men”’.

On the 14th May 1940, Anthony Eden making his first speech as Secretary of State for War announced the official formation of Local Defence Volunteers. Any men between 17 and 65 wanting to join should report to their local police station.

The next morning queues formed outside police stations everywhere and the poor police had had no warning or instructions. The lack of organisation was to continue to be part of the Home Guard for a long time to come.

Despite its popular image of old men and teenagers playing soldiers, the Home Guard, often as large as the wartime army, became a strong political force.

The Invasion of Britain never took place and the Home Guard was never called upon to fulfil its military role.

Tom Bugdale has written this personal account of the Bawdeswell HomeGuard:-

At the beginning of the war we met at The Ram, where there were some evacuees, and in the Parish Room on some weekday evenings.  We also used to have exercises on Sunday mornings. We were issued with 303 standard rifles – but very litle ammunition. Later we had two Sten guns: Raffin Hudson had one and I had the other. Lance Corporal Bob Mann had our only machine gun, which he used once or twice as we only had a few rounds of ammunition.

An old shepherd’s hut from Hall Farm was used as a guard hut in the early part of the war. It was placed near the church. Two people would be on duty all night and Quintin Gurney would visit them around 9pm, and usually said, “Boys I’ve got a feeling they’re coming tonight”. In the event of an enemy invasion we were supposed to wake Quintin first by rapping on his bedroom window with a pole. We had a hurricane lamp in the hut and were there until about 6am in the morning. On one occasion Billy Bugdale, ex-army and so had ‘the’ rifle, whilst unloading it one night shot out the hurricane lamp.

We were ordered to stop traffic in the village one night for a security check. For that we were issued with live ammunition. There was a searchlight post a mile or so away just off the Reepham Road at Jordans Lane and for a time one of us had to go there each night. I think I went twice but can’t think why we were there! I was made hand grenade instructor as I had a reputation as a good bowler in the village cricket team. We dug a trench for practice on the Rabbit Hills and used live grenades. The shrapnel must still be there.

After a lorry accident Peter Sayer refused any more army lorries and used one of his mill lorries when needed.  At the end of the war we celebrated with a real feed  – Major Stimpson killed a pig and I think Peter Sayerprovided the drink. When the time came for the Victory Parade in London, I went to represent the Bawdeswell Home Guard.

Thomas Bugdale


A letter received from Bryan Donoghue, now living in Finland:

I was also interested and somewhat amused by the reminiscences of Mr. Bugdale regarding the Home Guard. I was one of the “evacuees” to whom he refers, as our family had to move out of London having spent practically all of our nights there in air raid shelters. When we came out of the shelters in the morning, apart from seeing some of the devastation, we boys would drag magnets along to collect the shrapnel from the bombing.

As we lived in the Willows, I had first-hand views of the Home Guard. For most of the war they had no complete uniforms and generally turned up wearing an assortment of civilian clothes with perhaps a battledress blouse. I can still remember one man dressed in work boots and trousers, with a battledress blouse, a flat cap and a white scarf around his neck. Their usual arms were broom handles. Most people thought it was better that they did not carry real weapons as they would have caused more trouble than any Germans who might appear. I remember a group of us boys watching Mr. Lambert who ran the Bell Inn, chopping wood in his barn across the road from the pub. One of us asked him why he did not join the Home Guard. Mr. Lambert looked at us with an expression of amusement and said “me join that lot, if my home needs guarding I will do it myself”.

I also recollect that even as a small boy I was surprised that nobody in the village seemed to understand what was going on in London with the bombing and devastation. In fact they seemed to know almost nothing about what went on beyond Dereham and Norwich at the most.

Bryan Donoghue

In 1945 Bawdeswell Home Guard consisted of 44 volunteers. You can see a group photograph of them below and read many of their names.




A London Evacuee Remembers Bawdeswell

I read your Reeve’s Magazine on the Internet with interest as I lived in Bawdeswell as a small boy from 1940-45.

I was interested and somewhat amused by the reminiscences of Mr. Bugdale regarding the Home Guard.  I was one of the “evacuees” to whom he refers, as our family had to move out of London having spent practically all of our nights there in air raid shelters.

As we lived in the Willows, I had first-hand views of the Home Guard. For most of the war they had no complete uniforms and generally turned up wearing an assortment of civilian clothes with perhaps a battledress blouse. I can still remember one man dressed in work boots and trousers, with a battledress blouse, a flat cap and a white scarf around his neck. Their usual arms were broom handles. Most people thought it was better that they did not carry real weapons as they would have caused more trouble than any Germans who might appear. I remember a group of us boys watching Mr. Lambert who ran the Bell Inn, chopping wood in his barn across the road from the pub. One of us asked him why he did not join the Home Guard. Mr. Lambert looked at us with an expression of amusement and said “me join that lot, if my home needs guarding I will do it myself”.

I also recollect that even as a small boy I was surprised that nobody in the village seemed to understand what was going on in London with the bombing and devastation. In fact they seemed to know almost nothing about what went on beyond Dereham and Norwich at the most.

Some people also stay in my mind. Police Constable Hales  who seemed to spend most of his time waiting in ambush for any dangerous criminals who were riding their bicycles at night without lights.

Another person was the school mistress, Miss Lewis. The strange thing about her was that, although she spoke with a assumed accent, Lloyd spoke with a broad London one. I am always reminded of her by Hyacinth in “Keeping up Appearances”. She was also the worst and most vindictive teacher I ever encountered- Once, in front of the whole school she held a boy up to ridicule just because his parents were sending him to grammar school. There was also the case when two of the village boys, not very bright ones, broke into the school one week-end and supposedly did some damage and also tried to burn down the school. I must say that when I went to school on the Monday, there was no sign of any damage. The silly boys had scrawled their names on a wall making it obvious who they were. Their actions today would be regarded as a stupid prank and they would be told off. However, in Bawdeswell there was Miss Lewis. She made sure that the boys were punished according to her way of thinking and the two silly children were sent away to an approved school.

Life was very strange in Bawdeswell in the ‘forties but it was an experience I will never forget.

Bryan Donoghue, now living in Finland

One of his cousins, Joe O’Brien wrote this:  “Although I was just a little lad I can remember seeing the smoking debris of All Saints Church after the Mosquito crashed on it.

I was staying in “The Willows” which is opposite the church with my mum, my sisters, my cousins and my aunts, who were all evacuees from London. It was a miracle that the plane never hit the house.

Next to the Willows was a corrugated iron building and I remember that there were a lot of cars and lorries that seemed to be stored there. I remember how dark it was in The Willows but my mum told me later that it was because there was no electricity, just oil lamps. My mum bless her is still going strong at 96 years of age. Her name is Hannah, her sisters were Nellie and Kate, perhaps somebody in Bawdeswell will remember them. My cousins who stayed in Bawdeswell were Maureen Goddard, Bryan Donaghue, Kathleen Donaghue, Patricia Donaghue and my sisters Sheila and Veronica.

We also spent some time living in “The Rectory”. My sister Veronica was born in The Rectory and sadly my nan died there.

When my dad was on leave from the army he used to take my mum for a drink in The Bell public house.

Mainly my childhood memories of Bawdeswell are very happy ones. I have made a couple of visits back there over the years and they have been very nostalgic.”


Sheila Berry wrote this:  “ I used to live in The Rectory at Bawdeswell during the war.  My granny (Nell Callaghan) lived with my mother (Hannah O’Brien) and us children in The Rectory.  My granny actually died there.  We were evacuated from London during the war around 1943.  My father was in the army.  My aunty Nell Donaghue and her family (2 boys and 2 girls) lived in The Willows, which I remember quite clearly and I also remember seeing the wreck of the church opposite which was hit by the plane.  It didn’t really affect me because I was only about 5 at the time.  The thing that affected me most was when my lovely dog ‘Binky’ was hit by a lorry outside The Willows.  We buried him in the back garden.

I have found pictures of The Willows on your website where my relatives lived, but I can not seem to find any info on The Rectory (where my sister was born in 1943).
Please could you assist me with my enquiry. “

Sheila Berry, Perth, Western Australia.


Contributed by 


People in story: 

Diana Bolton nee Tremain and Betty Laker nee Tremain

Location of story: 

Poplar London and Bawdeswell, Norfolk

Background to story: 


Article ID: 


Contributed on: 

06 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Melanie Bird a volunteer story gatherer at the Living Museum on behalf of Diana Bolton and has been added to the site with her permission. Diana Bolton fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I (Diana Bolton nee Tremain) was 3 when the war started. I lived in Poplar with my family, my father became a fireman in the docks at Orchard Place . We lived very near to the East India Docks and there were frequent air raids. During one of these a bomb fell at the bottom of our street. We were still in the house at the time on our way to our brick built street shelter. The only damage to our house were broken windows and a fallen ceiling.

For most of the war I was in London attending Primary School but when the Doodle Bugs started my father who saw the first one fall on the Emu Wine Company insisted we went away. I was seven. My sister, Betty Tremain (11 years old) and I went to a village in Norfolk. We arrived at East Dereham railway station where we boarded buses to be taken to our destination. We arrived at Bawdeswell and were taken into the village hall. The children with their mothers soon found people to have them this left just two pairs of sisters. A lady came in and pointed at my sister and one of the other sisters and said “I’ll take these.” I felt very lonely but my sister soon sorted it out and we went with Mrs Fenn.

They had no children but made us very welcome. We soon got used to pumping the water and using a candle to go to bed. She cooked using a primus stove or an oven heated by a coal fire. In the evenings we read by the light of an oil lamp. We went to the village school where there were just three other children of my age. Things were very quiet compared to London but excitement one morning. A German plane had crashed on the village church during the night. We stayed just over a year until after VE Day returning to London in September in time for the celebration parties.


Evacuation was introduced at the start of World War II. Evacuation tried to ensure the safety of young children from the cities that were considered to be in danger of German bombing

Evacuees on train

Young children were sent with their ‘minders’ – either mothers or teachers – to what were considered safe areas that would be free from Nazi bombing.

In the first few weeks of the start of the war (September 3rd 1939), nearly two million children were evacuated. The government, which controlled all aspects of the media, wanted to give the public the impression that evacuation was popular among those affected and put out propaganda pictures and film to this effect.

However, many mothers were very unsure as to the usefulness of evacuation. Many children were evacuated but not with huge enthusiasm and when it appeared early in the war that it was not going to lead to cities being bombed (this was pre-the Blitz of London which took place later on) many children returned to the cities from which they had only recently left.

The official government story was that all young children had been evacuated and that the whole process had been efficiently organised and executed with precision. However, this was not the whole story.

Evacuated children found that their hosts were not always welcoming and that their two lifestyles clashed. Host mothers complained of inner city children urinating wherever they felt like it in a house; locals in rural areas complained of an increase of petty crime – theft from shops and the like. Much of this was never proved though the difference in lifestyles for inner city children must have come as a shock.

One of the most important issues to come out of evacuation was the chronic health observed by host families in the countryside. Many evacuated children were much lighter and shorter than children of the same age in rural areas. Body infections were common. All these signs were symptomatic of lack of nutrition, decent housing etc and gave an incentive for the government to do something that was to lead to the Welfare State after the war ended.



The Bell Inn

The Bell - Bawdeswell

Former Georgian Coaching Inn which in 1823 became a staging post on the Norwich to Fakenham Turnpike. The wings are later additions. Closed in 1970 and converted into flats. Even the stables have been turned into living accomodation.

Coaching Routes listed in 1811 - Lynn to North Walsham, by Litcham, Reepham, Cawston and Aylsham.  Stopping at Bawdeswell Bell.

Cromer to London by East Dereham, Watton, Brandon, and Newmarket, 

Stopping at Bawdeswell Bell.

(So setting out from Lynn or North Norfolk,  you could change at Bawdeswell for London.)



The Willows (former Ram Inn)

The Willows

This building has little external appearance of antiquity but is late medieval and 17th Century with modern facing and additions. Former timber frame surviving to first floor of east side only. 15th or 16th Century bay to street side.

Fine interior studwork wall with oriel window projecting into landing.
The fireplace in the stack against  the gable is very large, with bessemer and saltbox holes. Original roof of closely spaced trusses. Many other interesting features confirming its antiquity.


Church View

Church View

Formerly a workhouse, then school, then bakery and shop, a blacksmith and finally a home.  Main wing of 1781.

It became very run down in recent years.  The windows and the interior timbers rotted.  But  recently it has been taken over by Matthew Beckett,  Peter Jervis and James Lilwall who have restored it very sympathetically, uncovering many of its original features and turning it into comfortable dwellings and a public bar.

Parishes used to be responsible for looking after their poor and this building was where they were given a roof to live under, and were put to work.  Conditions were often very harsh.

In 1836 several Parishes formed a Union and built a larger workhouse at Gressenhall to accomodate all the poor of the area.

After it was closed as a workhouse, the house became the village school.

The baker’s oven is intact and also many other original features.

The old blacksmith’s workshop has been made into an annexe for the pub, and the hand-operated petrol pump which stood there for years rusting away, has gone to a keen collector in the South who is going to restore it.


Bawdeswell Community Primary School

The school was built in 1875 for Bawdeswell, Bylaugh and Foxley at the sole expense of the Rev Henry Lombe of Bylaugh Hall, who was the Lord of the Manor.

His name is on the front, and the motto “PROPOSITI TENAX” .

Boys and girls were kept in separate classrooms and did not mix. There are two entrance doors left and right which kept them apart.

Previously the school was in the old Workhouse next to the church and was for boys only. This was from about 1828. Prior to that there was no school at all.

Old school photos can be viewed here.

Today the school has between 80 and 100 pupils and is part of the Reepham based Synergy Academy.


Chaucer and Bawdeswell

From the Reeve’sTale Robin Taylor, Feb. 1998

An article, said to be from The Byntre & Bawdeswell Magazine dated January 1908 says:

“Mr Walter Rye, the learned antiquarian has been able to identify John Chaucer of Lynn as the poet’s father, while his grandfather Robert Chaucer was known as de Gunthorpe, and a John de Bawdeswell was Rector of Gunthorpe in 1349 when Chaucer was a young man.”  (The latter is not mentioned again in his book.)

On reading Walter Rye’s book “Chaucer, A Norfolk Man” which he published In 1915 after a lifetime of researching the poet, one is left with little doubt Chaucer was well acquainted with Norfolk.

His grandfather was a Customs Officer at Lynn, which was one of the main ports of import for wine and spirits to England. There is some evidence that the poet himself was born and schooled in Lynn. His father was an Excise Officer as well and so was Geoffrey Chaucer in due course. The family was associated with Ipswich, London and King’s Lynn.

Various individuals from Bawdeswell crop up from time to time. Thomas de Baldeswell who was admitted Freeman of London In 1312 on the same day as William de Knapton (his sister-in-law was once betrothed to Chaucer’s father)… a remote family acquaintance and a bit before he was born.

Another of the name Thomas de Baldeswell who became a Freeman of Lynn in 1382 and afterwards an assessor of Taxes at Lynn in 1386. Now that’s much more likely – someone in the same line of business.

A third possibility. It is thought Chaucer might have been at 0xford  University. There was a divinity lecturer there, a Franciscan monk, one Peter de Haldeswell. Since there is no place In England of that name, this is thought to be a transcriber’s error for Baldeswell.

The poet is also believed to have been a friend of the Countess of Pembroke who was Patron of Bawdeswell Church Living – sponsoring the local clergyman.

How he came to use the village’s name in his story can only be guessed at.

A possible theory is that in his work as a Collector of Revenue in the Eastern Counties for the King, and through various people connected with the village, he would know of Bawdeswell and the sound of the name suited the rather bawdy character of his Reeve.

Walter Rye never turned up any connection between Bawdeswell and Chaucer other than that he was a Norfolk man and had met and heard of people from Bawdeswell.

I throw in the additional suggestion that Chaucer must have travelled between King’s Lynn and Norwich, Ipswich and London in the course of his work and the route was by Elmham and Bawdeswell. Bawdeswell was a horse change-over stop.

He Just liked the name of the place or he based his Reeve on one of the people that came from there – either Thomas de Baldeswell the Tax Assessor whom he would have met at Lynn in the course of his own work, or the Franciscan monk at Oxford whom he might have known, or somebody he met whilst passing through.

I am indebted to Dr Andrew Macnair for the loan of ‘Chaucer A Norfolk Man’ by Walter Rye 1915, and to Robert Rickett formerly of the Norfolk Archaeological Unit for the loan of his notes on Bawdeswell.

Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” translated into modern english by Nevill Coghill is available in the Penguin Classics Series .


Chaucer House


Chaucer House in Bawdeswell is reputed to have been connected with the poet, but there is no documentary evidence to substantiate this. Edwin Rose, in a report he wrote for the Norfolk Archaeological Unit In 1983, says that “although part of the house is very old, the earliest part dates back to the late 15C which was too late to have any connection with Chaucer”.

Parts of the house are believed now to be 14C

The house is recorded as being Crown Farm and The Crown Inn up to 1920. In 1933 it is first called Chaucer House – probably on the whim of new owners, because of the village’s mention in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the antiquity of the house.


Bawdeswell Hall


Bawdeswell Hall carries the date 1683 and is a gracious building with Dutch Gables.

It was built by Henry Eglinton and it remained in his family until 1748 when it was bought by Thomas Jecks.

Thomas Jecks died in 1761 leaving an only child Elizabeth, then under 21, who by 1766 had become the wife of Richard Lloyd of Bylaugh Hall. Their daughter Diana married James Stoughton, Rector of Sparham, who bought the property from the other children of Richard Lloyd and Elizabeth.

James Stoughton’s grandson Clarke Hallett Lloyd Stoughton sold the property in 1912 to Colonel Q E Gurney.

After his death the property passed to his son R Q Gurney, and after a tragic accident in 1980 when his horse threw him, it passed to his son David Q Gurney.

In 2007 the house was passed on to his son Robert Gurney.


The Gurney Family and Barclays Bank

The history of Barclays Bank in Norwich goes back over 200 years. In fact, it was May 12th, 1775 that the brothers John and Henry Gurney, famous Quakers whose “reserved, cautious and trustworthy natures” made them successful businessmen and bankers, formed a partnership and opened their first bank.

In about 1777, Bartlett Gurney joined the partnership and in 1779 he purchased Alderman Poole’s Georgian house at 3 Redwell Plain, Norwich and converted it into a bank.

Poole was a wine merchant and the former wine cellars were used as bank vaults, the junior clerk having to sleep on a camp bed over the trap door until the premises were rebuilt in 1926, or so the story goes!

By 1800 the bank was well established and Redwell Plain was known as Bank Place, later Bank Plain.

In 1896, twenty banks including Gurney & Co of Norwich and Peckover & Co of Wisbech amalgamated under the name of Barclay & Co Limited. The directors were drawn from the existing bankers and they became “local directors”, men who knew their districts well and built up personal relationships between banker and customer.

This system of local directors based at local head offices existed until the late 1990’s.

At the time of amalgamation there were six Gurney partners – Samuel Gurney Buxton, Henry Birbeck, Geoffrey Fowell Buxton, Hugh Gurney Barclay, Edward Lewis Birbeck, John Nigel Gurney.

The Bank outgrew its premises and a new building was designed in 1926 with a huge banking hall, offices and strong rooms, and the then revolutionary electric lighting which was concealed in the lofty ceiling.

Adapted from The East Anglian Monthly dated May 1979


Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry

Fry, Elizabeth Gurney (1780-1845), English prison reformer, born Elizabeth Gurney at Norwich, Norfolk, on May 21 1780, and brought up at Earlham Hall. She was the daughter of a Quaker banker. In 1800 she married another Quaker, Joseph Fry, and became a minister and preacher for the Society of Friends in 1810. Always attentive to the poor and neglected, her interest in prison conditions began after visiting Newgate prison in 1813 and seeing the plight of women and children there. She fought for what are now regarded as first principles: classification of criminals, segregation of the sexes, female supervision of women, productive labour, general hygene, and provision for education.

In 1818 she gave evidence before a Parliamentary group – called the House of Commons Committee on London Prisons ( or Borough Prisons or Metropolis Prisons – exact title not known), and later saw many of her proposed reforms carried out. Several sources say that she ‘was the first woman not a queen’ to receive the invitation to give evidence before a Parliamentary Committee. But her zeal did not stop there. For 20 years she checked every female convict ship before it sailed; inspected prisons and mental hospitals in Scotland and Ireland; instituted a Nursing Order; provided libraries for coastguard stations; and struggled for housing and employment for the poor.

Between 1838 and 1842 she visited all the prisons in France, reporting to the Interior Minister, and travelled through Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark on similar missions. Ill-health prevented further travels, but everywhere she had been the authorities put her suggestions to practical effect. She died at Ramsgate, Kent, on October 12, 1845.


The Lloyd Family

Guy Lloyd was the eldest surviving son of Richard Lloyd, chief Justice of Ireland, and had an ancestral estate at Croghan in Ireland. On his death he was followed by his eldest son, another Richard, who held his first court in 1768. He gambled the Bylaugh estate away to Sir John Lombe.

Legend has it that Sir John Lombe bribed Lloyd’s butler to get his master drunk.

Richard Lloyd moved to Bawdeswell Hall, the property of his wife Elizabeth, and he died in 1811.


The Stoughton Family and Bawdeswell Hall

The ancient family of Stoughton (dating back to 1096) hailed from Stoughton Park near Guildford in Surrey where they were lords of the manor for 20 generations.

Stoughton is described in the Domesday Book and a 500 page account of the Stoughtons written by Sir Nicholas Stoughton in the 17th century is also in the British Museum.

Over a period of twelve centuries Stoughton has been a name of a district, a village, a manor, a parish and a ward and was until 1904 quite separate from Guildford.

Bawdeswell Hall was owned by the Stoughtons for nearly 100 years. The Rev James Stoughton (3rd son of Peter Stoughton of Runhal Hall) was Rector of Sparham in Norfolk for 50 years and married the daughter and heir of Col Lloyd of Bawdeswell Hall in 1806. They had five children born at Bawdeswell. Lloyd Stoughton was the last of that family to own it before it was sold to the Gurney family in 1912.


Bawdeswell Heath

“The Reeve he came, as I heard tell, from Norfolk, a place called Balderswell. He had a 
lovely dwelling on a Heath, shaddowed by green trees above the sward…”

So wrote Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales in 1387.

Today Bawdeswell Heath is but a remnant of its former size. To the right of the map you can see in the area labelled “Gravel”, all that remains.

Old Bawdeswell map

Up to two hundred years ago the village lay in the middle of a large Common stretching from Billingford in the West and half-way to Reepham in the East.

The old Roman Road, known as Common Lane, ran right down the middle of it.

In the year 1808 a private Act of Parliament caused the enclosure of the Common Land around Bawdeswell, resulting in the gathering up of arable land into very few hands.
This had been happening everywhere for some years as farming methods were changing from srtip-farming to field farming – due to the modern methods being introduced by people like Thomas Coke of Holkham and Townsend of Rainham, and the urgent need to grow more food  for the rising population.

Inevitably the poor suffered from the loss of their grazing rights and land, which they were compensated for – enough for a month-long binge at the Bell Inn, cynics say!

In 1808 provision was made to set aside two acres for gravel and 35 acres of woodland ‘for the poor’ – this is the Bawdeswell Heath we know.

A Committee of Trustees looks after it to this day.