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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Heacham and Thomas Duffield

We are staying just outside Kings Lynn. Yesterday we gave up on a long traffic queue into the Kings Lynn Market and went on to Heacham, which was the home of our 3x Great Grandfather, Thomas Duffield.

Thomas was the eldest son of Jasper James Duffield of Swaffham - whose environs we explored previously. Thomas was born born in 1781, like his younger brother and sister, near Swaffham. In 1819 he married Elizabeth Minns in Heacham. They had six children, all baptised in St. Mary's Heacham.

The youngest was less than a year old when Elizabeth died in 1829. Somehow Thomas kept them together. Perhaps his parents helped out. No doubt a lot fell on the shoulders on nine-year old Anne. Thomas's sister, Marianna, had died in 1811. His brother, Jasper, married in 1837 and was for awhile, a publican in Richmond, Surrey.

Thomas married again in 1837 - Mary Ann Shirly. The censuses of 1841 and 1851 reveal that Thomas was a farmer in Heacham, with a holding of 93 acres and employing two men, a boy and a house servant. Did the land come as part of Elizabeth Minns' dowry? Had his parents held land in Heacham while living in Swaffham? Was he granted land in return for services?

Whatever the story, Thomas's eldest son, Jasper James, left the farm to train as an apprentice carpenter in Heacham. When qualified, he moved to London, where he married and set up as a journeyman carpenter. He is my  2x Great Grandfather.

The younger children stayed in Norfolk. It is not entirely clear what happened to the farm when Thomas died in 1856. Thomas's widow worked as a housekeeper, then lived as a visitor with friends in Edmonton Middlesex. Two of the girls went into service - Ann (who never married and finished her life as a seamstress in Heacham) with an elderly woman in Kings Lynn and Elizabeth with Strickland Charles Edward Neville-Rolfe, vicar of Heacham. Mary, the youngest daughter married Horatio Shilling, a local blacksmith. 

The two younger boys appear to have inherited some of the land. Thomas Jnr married in April 1850 and farmed 10 acres in Heacham before operating as a carrier, also in Heacham. William White's 1883 Directory of Norfolk lists Thomas as 'farmer and coal merchant'. He retired to 1 Chapel Row Heacham in 1901 and died there in 1905. He is buried in St Mary's churchyard. James, the youngest son became a ship owner, then a grocer and provision merchant in Hunstanton. It is likely that the remainder of the Duffield land was purchased by the Rolfe family as part of enclosures - but that has yet to be confirmed.

St Mary's Heacham was therefore, central to the life and death of the generations of my Duffield ancestors living in the 19th century. It is a 13th century church and very much in use today. It has a grand piano and a variety of instruments, indicating an active musical tradition. There is evidence everywhere of children's activity.

Hatchments of the Rolfe family hang high in the nave. 
 and there are marble shields
also a lovely inlaid Nunc Dimitis.
The church also has a likeness and memorial to Pocahontas, who married Charles Rolfe from this parish (the same Rolfe family for whom Elizabeth Duffield worked as servant at the vicarage after her mother died). Pocahontas died in England in 1617 on her way home to the USA.
The church exterior is beautifully kept, with a long hedged entrance and extensive graveyard.
We followed our visit to Heacham with lunch at a Heacham pub and a visit to the wash at Hunstanton. 
Inevitably, we got home, tired, but happy! 


  1. Mum always did say her family came from Norfolk, it is a shame she is not alive to have all this information. Glad you have found so much.

  2. What an interesting day. Greetings to S and A.

  3. Hi Kath. Having great time with your Mum. X

  4. What a lovely place...a truly fascinating day. How unexpected to come across a memorial to Pocahontas! Social studies lessons come to life. A bit like finding unexpectedly in Whitby cemetery, the grave of a Corporal Rollo, whose gravestone recorded that he carried the lantern at the burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna, and remembering learning the poem 'We buried him dartkly at dead of night" in Selected poems for Australian Schools, and John being overwhelmed by a grave in Durham Cathedral with an inscription that Rob West had used as an example of some Latin construction. Could it have been Bede's grave, or St Cuthbert's? I can't remember.

  5. What a gorgeous day you had here! You really have been pretty lucky with the weather. I'm sure it was much nicer to see Kings Lynn on a quieter day any way.

    I think I am caught up again. What's next, I wonder?