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The Priory - Old Norwich Road

The Priory started life as a copyhold property, in which Cromwells and Woodhall both had an interest. Building began in the sixteenth century on the west side of what was later to become the turnpike from Norwich. During the eighteenth century it was called The Oak after a large tree, standing close to the gates, which blew down in the October 1987 gales. For a few years, before taking its present name in 1916, it was called Humara Ghur, Hindi for our home.

The early house, believed to date from the sixteenth century, shows several stages of development. Its original build is mostly obscured by additions and alterations occurring c.l608. A major extension occurred in the eighteenth century and other work has taken place later. The principle facade facing east is two storeys and attic under plain tiles with stepped gables. A sixteenth-century crosswing to the left is built or encased in uncoursed broken flints with brick dressings. Its gable carries a 1608 datestone. The main range starts to the right with a two-storey seventeenth-century brick porch in Flemish bond and has double sawtooth cornices of a later period on its returns. A reset door frame is dated 1607. Three further bays show both English and Flemish bonds suggesting renovation and rebuilding.

An eighteenth-century two-storey range at the rear has a hipped pantile roof with wood modillion cornices at the eaves. Reset in the rear wall is a sixteenth century doorcase showing the initials IP. The single-storey extension to the right, with matching modillions, is recent. Windows are mainly sash in eighteenth century style and later transoms with casements are on the first and attic floors at the front.

Inside are a number of eighteenth and nineteenth-century features including Georgian shutters and wood panelling of a similar period removed from a house in Pitt Street, Norwich, before its demolition. A stable block and coach house, rebuilt in the nineteenth century, has its own well. A large carved stone pediment standing in the grounds, was rescued from the front of the Corn Hall in Exchange Street, Norwich, at the time of its demolition.

One of the most interesting occupiers of The Oak, was William Donne, surgeon, who was admitted to the copyhold in 1762 on the surrender of Edward Sayer, the Norwich apothecary, and Donne's uncle.

Anthony Batty-Shaw's history of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital confirms that a William Donne was a surgeon at the hospital at that time specialising in lithotomy. Donne had joined his father in practice at Dereham, and then in 1771, was appointed surgeon to the Hospital. He was born 1736 and died 1804. William Donne was a skilled lithotomist and practised the removal of kidney and bladder stones without anaesthetic. Lithotomy was a speciality of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and Donne helped devise a modification of the standard procedure which became known as the Norwich Operation for the Stone. He is reported to have performed 173 lithotomy operations during his 32 years on the hospital staff with a mortality of only one in seven.

He is mentioned in Parson Woodforde's Diary where, in 1784, four of Squire Custance's children were admitted by William Donne, one of the first surgeons to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, to a house in Norwich near St Stephen's churchyard for inoculation.

A Press Custance is mentioned in the Little Melton Enclosure claims of 1814 and it is possible that this man might have been one of these Custance children. The Hethersett parish registers, 1782-1812, state that in "the winter of 1795, 195 persons were inoculated and not one died ." In 1805, Mr. Cubitt of Wymondham inoculated 58 persons (in Hethersett) for 7.5s (7.25).

Donne also treated William Cowper, his cousin, the Dereham poet. Donne's portrait hangs in the boardroom of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Anna Maria, his wife, survived him dying in 1819 at the age of 83.

The Bedingfield parish registers give the following information: "John Francis the Vicar of this parish underwent October the 25th 1780, an operation for the stone, when two weighing an ounce and a half were extracted by that very eminent surgeon Mr. William Donne of Norwich for which Mr francis paid him twenty pounds. Mr Francis is now perfectly recovered for which great mercy he daily returns his most sincere and unfeigned thanks to the Divine Author of his being the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. August 7th 1785."

A plaque to William Donne, surgeon, is to the east of the chancel in St. Nicholas Church, Dereham, and gives b. 1702, d.1782. This was Donne's father. In 1769 Doctor Donne was assessed for Hethersett Land Tax at 2.14s (2.70).

By 1777, he and his fellow landowners were evidently concerned with villagers passing through their grounds and made application to the magistrates to have this use forbidden. The local JPs Thomas Beevor and John Lombe agreed the "stopping up of footpaths".

a footpath leading through a certain meadow called Cann's Meadow from the Poorhouse to the Turnpike Road through the lands of William Donne Surgeon, and also a lane called Cann's Lane leading from Hethersett Green to the Turnpike Road. Also one footpath leading from the Poorhouse through the lands of the said William Donne and William Hughes leading to Wymondham Common...And also the footpath leading from the back of the King's Head through the lands of William Donne aforesaid to Wymondham Common. And also a footpath leading through the lands of Edward Atkins Esq. in the occupation of John Sewell and Sayer Ninn and others to Wymondham Common through the lands of Thomas Starling Esquire are become useless to the Public.

Donne left The Oak in 1787 and tenure eventually passed to John Buckle who paid 2400 for the estate in 1793. He had been sheriff of Norwich in 1787, and mayor in 1793, was an ironmonger, tobacconist and colourman at 6 Haymarket, and his trade sign was theh Golden Pipe. He died intestate in 1818 in his house in Hethersett in 1818, and the estate then passed to his only son the Rev. Thomas Starling Buckle who had posession in 1828 and who died in 1845. A plan and letter of 22 October 1845 shows the estate, which extended as far as Cann's Lane to the east and Wood Hall to the west, and shows Alms Houses off Cann's Lane. In 1843, the Rev. Buckle was able to enfranchise his properties, effectively converting them from copyhold to freehold, by the payment of 175 to James Cuddon, who at that time, was lord of the manors of both Woodhall and Cromwells.

Lady Mary Hoste was an owner from 1846-54. She was the widow of Colonel Sir George Charles Hoste, who had fought at Waterloo and died in 1845, and sister-in-law of Captain Sir William Hoste, a Nelson protogee. Her elder daughter, Mary, married Rev Collet, the rector. She is also mentioned in Owen Chadwick's Victorian Miniature. Mrs. Sophia Norgate lived there from 1875-96, and Mrs and Miss Raikes from 1908-42.

The 1910 Valuation Survey which was carried out in Hethersett from 1913 to 1914, shows that the house and buildings occupied just over three acres and was occupied by Miss Mabel Raikes who owned the freehold. It was valued at 2112, and was described as being: "Brick and tiled; small entrance hall; 3 reception rooms; 5 beds and dressing room on 1st floor; 3 rooms on 2nd floor; lift to 1st floor; kitchen, pantries, scullery, cellar; stables, 3 stalls, 2 boxes; harness room; 2 greenhouses, loft overall; k. garden, 2 lawns and small plantation. Very good condition." (Note the lift).

In 1916, there was the first mention of the name, The Priory. In the years when Mrs Norgate lived there, many village events were held in the grounds of Wood Hall and The Oak. An excerpt from the parish magazine of August 1891 states that a horticultural exhibition was held in the grounds of Wood Hall: "The gardens of Mrs Bullard and Mrs Norgate being connected by a bridge, offered pleasant promenades for old and young... The Anchor Band played. Gate receipts were over 8 guineas." (8.40)

In 1945, Geoffrey Barrett bought The Priory from Colonel John Sandeman-Allen, MP for Birkenhead West, and was in occupation in 1972. It was he who rescued the pediment of Norwich Corn Hall when this building was demolished and installed it in the grounds. His great-grandfather, Barnabas who died in 1882, was a noted sculptor. In addition to this pediment, he had made the crown and garland at the top of the building now used by Anglia Television, formerly the General Post Office, at the head of Prince of Wales Road, Norwich.

Among the interesting trees which grew in the grounds of the Priory, was a large oak near the front gate, and which is thought to have given the house its former name. See page 73 for further details.

The first brick of the new Corn Hall at Norwich was laid 1 May 1861, and it was opened for business on 9 November 1861. The contractors were Messrs. Ling and Balls, and for the roof, Messrs. Barnard, Bishop and Barnards. The total cost was about 8000.