East Barsham Manor

A splendid Elizabethan manor in red brick, with carved red brick coats of arms, sadly deteriorating with the acid rain and time.  It lies in  a hollow, screened by trees, on the road to little Walsingham and appears magically as one drives past the local inn.

The Fermor family apparently came to this parish around 1390, when William Fermor was vicar. Sir Henry Fermor, “a man of great worth and dignity”, first married Margaret, the widow of John Wode who held the manors of Wolterton and Waldegrave and these manors in Norfolk were settled upon him on payment of £35 each to Elizabeth Wode and her husband Sir James Boleyn, to Alice, a second daughter, and her husband Michael Mackerel, of London, and to Dorothy, a third daughter, and her husband William Whayte of Tittleshall. The manor of Wolterton included what we now know as East Barsham; St Martin’s, or East Hall, manor had been merged with Wolterton’s manor when it passed from Sir John Tuddenham and John Heydon’s hands to the Wode family in about 1352; Rochford’s manor was joined to Wolterton manor later, in 1571.

Henry married secondly Winifred Dynne of Heydon.

Henry was knighted, and became High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1533; and later that year made his will, leaving his wife her furnished lodging in the east wing of the manor during her widowhood, with two maids and a man to look after her, and “meat and drink” with “a bason and ewer of silver, a nest of gilt goblets, a dozen of silver spoons, two goblets, two salts, and a pleane piece” (? a plate) for life, along with sundry pewter pots pans and candlesticks, etc.  He probably died in 1534.

The house has Henry VII’s ROYAL ARMS with the greyhound and griffin supporters; on the gatehouse, the supporters are a lion and a griffin; the change in use can be dated to about 1527. Here as with most of the coats of arms, there has been severe deterioration over the last 25 years. 

It was Sir Henry who, about 1520-1530, built the magnificent manor house with its embattled south-facing façade, twisted chimneys and eight polygonal turrets. Above the front door was carved in the soft red Norfolk brick the ROYAL ARMS OF HENRY VIII: Quarterly, 1 and 4, (Azure) three Fleurs-de-lis. – FRANCE MODERN, 2 and 3, (Gules) three Lions passant guardant (Or). – ENGLAND, – though the supporters used were those of his predecessor Henry VII (who had died in 1509), the Griffin bezanty and the Greyhound. Above the arms is a Royal Crown, below it a Tudor Rose, and in each upper corner is a Portcullis apparently surrounded by a chain.

The gatehouse was evidently constructed afterwards, for here the ROYAL ARMS have supporters which Henry VIII adopted in 1527, the Lion bezanty and Griffin.

To the side of the royal arms here are more carved brick coats: to the right (west), FERMOR: (Argent) on a Saltire (Sable) between four Lions’ heads erased (Gules) a Martlet (Argent) between four Bezants on a chief (Azure) an Anchor between two Pallets (Or) impaling (Argent) three Pales (Gules) – ?;

and on the left,  FERMOR impaling (Argent) a Lion rampant (Gules). – STAPLETON. Why this impalement isn’t Knyvet is unclear.

On the inside of the gatehouse is a Tudor rose within a crocketed canopy. This canopy is flanked by two coats of arms on shields suspended from hands emerging from ornate cuffs. The coat on the left is very badly damaged; on the right it has (Argent) on a Saltire (Sable) between four Lions’ heads erased (Gules) a Martlet between four Bezants on a chief (Azure) an Anchor enclosed by two Pallets (Or).Fermor, impaling quarterly of six, i. (Argent) a Bend within a Bordure engrailed (Sable). – KNYVET; ii, a Bend a Chief  ; iii, Chequy  on a Chief three Fleurs-de-lis ; iv, ? ; v, (Argent) three Pales (Gules); vi,  three Bends within a Bordure .


Henry and Margaret’s son William married Catherine Knyvet, daughter of one of the most illustrious families of Norfolk; but they had no children and the estate devolved to his brother’s heirs, one of whom wasted much of the family wealth.

William Fermor, Henry’s son, was knighted and was made High Sheriff in 1541; he died without issue in 1558 and his nephew Thomas inherited. His father, William’s brother Thomas, had been killed by the Norfolk Rebels at Castle Rising. The son married Mary Fromond of Cheam, Surrey; it seems to have been this Thomas who spent the estate; his brother Nicholas tried minting counterfeit coins but was attainted; he is said to have died of drowning in the Thames. It was Thomas’s son William who had only a daughter Mary, and it was she that brought the estate and the manor house to the Calthorpe family.

The picture of James Calthorpe (the final ‘e’ seems variable) shows naked men with clubs in the left hands on either side of a Boar’s head couped on a wreath; and Blomefield describes how two wild men or giants, armed with clubs, stood in niches on either side of the gate as janitors. The niches are still evident below the brick coats of arms, but the figures are gone. These were Calthorpe supporters, rather than acquired through marriage to Mary Fermor.

The manor passed again in the female line to the Le Strange family.

Around the main house there are two rows of terracotta tiles, both about the level of the ceilings of the rooms behind. There are also tiles facing the risers of the battlements and in another row below these. Tiles are also inserted into brickwork decoratively but occasionally; these are usually of a formalized tree pattern, or four leaf-shaped indentations radiating from the centre into the corners. These are best seen rather than described, and they (most probably later copies) are shown in the photograph of the tower to the right of the main doorway.

The upper row are mostly of similar pattern, both both the rampant lion and the saltire between four ?caltraps can be seen, together with some heads, in plain tiles.

The lower row have more decorative tiles. Mostly the shields are set within an excavated pattern resembling an engrailed bordure; but the shields are outlined on rectangular centre-pieces. There are two coats of arms: – A Lion rampant crowned -, and – a Saltire couped between four ?Caltraps. (see picture). In between these are two sorts of be-hatted head and shoulder images. {Are these of one of the owners?]. There are also Tudor roses occupying some of the tiles.

The first coat of arms is almost certainly (Argent) a Lion rampant crowned (Sable). – for STAPLETON. The second seems to be Argent a Saltire between four Staples Sable – WOOD (WODE) .


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