When Norwich was the 2nd City of England, the Appleyard family were among the 'great and the good'. When money was invested in manors and land, they invested in Bracon Ash, Hethel and parishes around and married ladies of well-connected local families thus increasing their holdings and their influence. Although the family's fame was largely played out in Norwich, London and further afield, some Appleyards were residents and our villages have cause to celebrate their achievements.
Bartholomew Appleyard (c.1335-c.1412), citizen on Norwich, was one of the city bailiffs in 1372 and a 'burgess in pariament' (= MP) in 1374 and 1412. According to the Norfolk historian Rev Francis Blomefield he was descended from 'Richard, son of William de Applegart of Dunham in Norfolk who lived in King Stephen's time' (i.e. mid-12th Century). The first written record concerning Bartholomew is dated 1367 when an inquest was held as to whether Bartholomew Appleyard and his sons William and Edmund might 'effect an entail of' certain lands in East Carleton which were held in chief by the provision of 224 herring pasties to the King whenever he visited the region (as commemorated on the current East Carleton village sign)! There is also a record that he bought the manor of Mergate (i.e. part of Bracon Ash) from Sir Robert de Bayhouse, Knt.
Bartholomew was a benefactor of St Andrew's church in Norwich (opposite St Andrew's Hall) which is where he is buried. He and his wife Emma lived nearby is a splendid town house (now part of the Bridewell Museum) 'being esteemed the most curious wall of black flints in all England, for its neat work and look, the stones being broken so smooth, and joined so well' [quoting Blomefield]
Bartholomew's heir was his son William Appleyard, who has a special place in the history of Norwich. He was elected the first Mayor of the City under the charter granted in 1404, was re-elected in 1405 and served again in later years. He was elected MP for Norwich no less than 10 times. In 1411 he presented the city with 'a great tree' for builiding the new Guildhall. William inherited manors at Intwood, Bracon Ash, Hethel, Stanfield and Rainthorpe (Flordon/Newton Flotman) and bought yet more land in [East] Carleton, Swainsthorpe, Dunston and Wreningham. Not all these lands would have included manor houses, of course, but the rents from tenants would bring considerable income. In 1391 William obtained 'for himself and his heirs' a royal grant of Frankpledge regarding all his tenants at Hethel - an ancient system of maintaining local law and order that would give him the tithe penny and any fines imposed by the Court Leet that would previously have gone to the Sheriff.
William's first marriage was to Margaret Clere and after her death he married another Margaret, the sister of William Rees of Tharston. His daughter Joan married Thomas Jernegan of Dunston - a family that came to own Jernegan's Manor in Hethel parish, possibly through this marriage. William's son and heir was Nicholas Appleyard (c.1394-1454) who married Margaret Braken and may have actually come to live in the area. Elizabeth Appleyard, who married Robert Kemp some time before 1470, may well have been the daughter (or sister) of this Nicholas: it is through her that Mergate Hall passed to the Kemp family for over 450 years. It is Nicholas' son and heir, John Appleyard 'of Brakene' (d. 1473 or 1498 depending on who you read!) whom historian Francis Blomefield credits with building 'Brakene Hall' (possibly as Mergate Hall had already passed to the Kemps), which he claimed "is now demolished and was a very large building" (but it seems impossible to date his 'now'.)
John's son and heir was another Nicholas - later Sir Nicholas Appleyard, about whom we know a lot more. He was born in Bracon Ash around 1470 and married Agnes Rokewood / Rookwood, daughter and heiress of William & Alice Rokewood who brought manors in North Norfolk and Suffolk into their marriage. According to Blomefield, Nicholas turned down the first offer of a knighthood (and had to explain his reason to the Privy Council) on the grounds that his income was not yet high enough, but he was knighted a few years later.
Being 'Lord of the Manor' not only brought status, privilege and income but also obligations. Among his many manors, Sir Nicholas held Hethel, East Carleton and Stanfield by knight service of Lord Thomas Howard, High Admiral and later 3rd Duke of Norfolk - that is, if called upon he was required to fight alongside his over-lord and was expected to supply an agreed number of men. In 1513 the Scots invaded England, in response to Henry VIII's invasion of their ally, France, and the call came for him to join the forces that were being raised by Lord Thomas's father, the Earl of Surrey.
Before setting off, Sir Nichloas made his last Will and Testament on the 25th June naming as his executors, amongst others, Thomas, Lord Howard, and Thomas' brother, Edmonde Howard, and asked that the Earl of Surrey act as the executors' supervisor - quite a powerful line up! Whether he and his retainers joined the Earl of Surrey and his army as they marched north or whether he joined Lord Howard, who as High Admiral was transporting men and equipment north by sea, perhaps via Yarmouth or Lynn, isn't known but Sir Nicholas is recorded as being in the section of the English forces under Lord Howard's command in the ensuing battle. The two armies met on the 9th September 1513 at Flodden Field in Northumberland when the Scots were routed, but Sir Nicholas was amongst those on the English side who lost their lives that day.
It is from the Will of Sir Nicholas Appleyard that we learn a lot about his family and his local connections. There is no provision for his wife, so presumably she died before him - in fact he states, 'my household stuff at Braken to be divided betwixt my sons and daughters'. He names 4 sons - to Roger he leaves 'all my shepe grazing in Erleham by Norwich', and to Robert, William and Thomas he leaves 100 sheep each plus annuities. 'To Alice, Anne and Mary my daughters towards their marriage 200 marks' (with various provisos). The full transcript of the Will can be read here.
He was obviously anxious his children should marry wisely and on the advice of his powerful and well-connected executors, but whether he would have approved of all their marriages is another matter.... Alice Appleyard (b. 1493) married Robert Kett (1492 - 1549), who held the manor of Wymondham and also (with brother William) led a rebellion against land enclosure and eventually threatened Norwich with an army of 16,000 men. He was condemned for treason and executed in Norwich on 7 Dec 1549 and his body strung up on Norwich castle. Robert Appleyard, the youngest (who also received a large bequest of land) married Annie and headed up the Appleyards of Framlingham. More about Roger, the heir, below.
Sir Nicholas also benefited the local area. He left money to Norwich Cathedral, to the four orders of Friars in the city, and 'to the parish Churches within the Hundred of Humleyard (sic) three shillings and fourpence.' And to ensure eternal well-being, 'I will have an honest preest to synge and pray for my soul and all my friends soules in the Church of Braken aforesaid for five years taking for his wages nine merks.' And amongst many other bequests he gives 'To evry household in Braken, Est-Carleton, Hethyll, Newton, Erleham, Warham and Testerton fourpence.' [According to The National Archives 4d in 1510 would be worth about £11 in today's money, and about a day's wage for a labourer: imagine the rejoicing when this was paid out per household!]
Roger Appleyard (c.1495 - 1528) was the heir of the estates of Sir Nicholas, who wrote in his Will, 'I will that Roger my son shall take to wife such one as shalbe thought convenient by myne executors, and that he marry not but by the advice of myne executors'. We do not know whose advice he took, but he married Elizabeth Scott (1504 - 1549) daughter of John Scott of Camberwell, Surrey.
Roger and Elizabeth had a son and 3 or 4 daughters before Roger died in 1528. Frances Appleyard's (b. 1524) second husband was William Flowerdieu/Flowerdew, of the family notorious for sparking a rebellion led by Frances' uncle, Robert Kett, and a family that would later purchase Stanfield Hall. Anne Appleyard (b. 1524) married (1) James Bigot and (2) Alexander Chapman, heir to Rainthorpe Hall. There was also Bridget Appleyard (b. 1526); John Appleyard (b. 1526/7), the eldest son and heir; and Philip Appleyard (b. 1528, the year his father died) who married Mary Shelton in Shelton. Roger's daughters received £200 each from income from his more distant manors; he bequeathed funds from other manors for the marriage of his sister, Mary.
From the 'inquisition' into the value of Sir Nicholas'
properties following his death, we know that Roger Appleyard would have inherited both
the Manors of Braken and Hethel but for whatever reason he chose to live
at Stanfield Hall. Roger's own Will makes specific reference to the Manors
of Stanfield, Hethel and Newton Flotman being held for the benefit of his widow
for her lifetime, but there is no mention of the Manor of Braken. Whether that was
deliberate as he wanted it to pass direct to his infant son and heir,
John, together with his various other properties, or whether it had been
sold in Roger's lifetime, isn't clear, but possibly the former because it is
clear from the terms of his Will that Roger still regarded Bracon as his home
church and to which he still paid tithes for land in the parish and made generous bequests:
Item, I give to the high altar of Bracon
for my tithes negligently forgotten 20 shillings [obviously he didn't want to go
to heaven with a guilty soul!]
Item, I give to the churches of Bracon, East Carleton, Newton Flotman and Hethel, to the reparation of the churches, 3 shillings and 4 pence to pray for my soul (the same amount as under his father's Will)
Item, I will that an honest secular priest to sing for my soul and the souls of my friends in the church of Bracon by the space of four years, taking for his wages 9 marks a year (almost the same as in his father's Will)
Item, I will that the church of Bracon shall have my vestment of blue sarsenet and my gilt images that belongeth to my chapel
Item, I give to the church of Bracon, for to make a vestment with, my gown of black damask and my jacket of black velvet
Item, I will that my bay trotting gelding (ie. horse) be sold and given to Bracon church for the reparation of a new porch
Roger ensured his widow, Elizabeth was well provided for and she brought up her young family at Stanfield Hall. However, she remarried, to Sir John Robsart of Syderstone in NW Norfolk. In 1532 they had a daughter, Amy Robsart, who would marry Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Amy would die in tragic and mysterious circumstances, leading to rumours in court and a ghost story for Rainthorpe Hall (link above).
John Appleyard was only a toddler when his father died and was unlikely to have succeeded to his titles and lands until he was 21 - or, in many cases, until after his mother died in 1549. He became high sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1558 and married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Hogan of East Bradenham. It was John, with his wife and brother-in-law, who sold of part of the estate in Bracon Ash (and probably adjacent parishes) in 1569 and soon afterwards sold the manor to Thomas Townesend Esq, son of Henry Townsend and grandson of Sir Robert Townsend of Reynham, thus ending the Appleyard link with our parishes.
[With grateful thanks to Ben Goodfellow for much of the research into Sir Nicholas Appleyard and later members of the family and their links to local manors.]