St Mary's, parish church of Attleborough, Norfolk.
Whites Directory of Norfolk, 1854, reported that:
"ATTLEBOROUGH, or Attleburgh, is an ancient market town, pleasantly situated on the Norwich and Thetford turnpike, 15 miles S.W. of the former place, and 14 N.E. by E. of the latter, and on the north side of the Norfolk Railway, which has a neat station here. In the Saxon era it was the seat of Offa and Edmund, successively Kings of the East Angles, who fortified it against the predatory incursions of the Danes. These fortifications may still be traced in the ridge called Burn Bank. It was afterwards the seat of the Mortimers, whose ancient hall, (now a farm house,) is encompassed by a deep moat. The parish contains 501 houses, 2,324 inhabitants, and 5,247 acres of land. The Rev. Sir Wm. B. Smyth, Bart., is lord of the manor of Attleborough Mortimer, and its members, (fines arbitrary ;) and Mr. C. Cochell is the steward. S. T. Dawson, Esq., is lord of Chanticlere manor, (fines arbitrary,) and the rectory has two small manors, subject to a fine of 2s. per acre on land, and to arbitrary fines on the buildings. The town is comprised chiefly of one long street, with several good inns and shops ; and the market on Thursdays is well attended. The old market cross was taken down many years ago. Fairs are held on the Thursday before Easter, Whit-Sunday, and on Aug. 15th, for cattle, pedlery, &c. A pleasure fair is also held on the day before the March assizes. A stone pillar on the Wymondham road commemorates the gift of £200, by Sir E. Rich,Knt., in 1675,for the reparation of the road, which is said to be the first turnpike made in England, being formed under an Act passed in the 7th and 8th of William and Mary..."
It was also home to many of our family ancestors - with a recorded family line going back to at least 1577 in this small Norfolk market town.
Here they are, first our Attleborough Ancestors on my late father's side, starting with that line going back to 1577:
My father descended from Attleborough ancestors via his mother, Doris Brooker nee Smith. When my grandmother Doris was alive, I interviewed her several times. She was born in 1904 in Norwich, but she remembered her father taking her on a horse and cart to Attleborough, where he visited a pub with a grapevine outside. I realised that this was his parent's old Attleborough beerhouse, the Grapes, but my grandmother herself didn't pick up on this family history. Since then, I've revealed a very old family history in Attleborough. It starts as I said, with an uninterrupted line from Robert Freeman, who had three children baptised in Attlebough between 1577 and 1581. The family may well have - most likely did have, much earlier connections to the market town - but on record, they start here, not long after parish registers were first introduced by Thomas Cromwell, following the church split with Rome.
The baptism of Ann Freeman in Attleborough, 1577, daughter of Robert Freeman. Robert fathered at least three children at Attleborough. He was my 11th great grandfather.
William Freeman, my 10th great grandfather, was the son of Robert Freeman, baptised at St Mary's Attleborough, in 1581. He was to go on and father a son:
My 9th great grandfather, Robert Freeman was baptised at St Mary's, Attleborough, in 1610, the son of William Freeman. He married an Elizabeth.
My 8th great grandfather John Freeman, the son of Robert and Elizabeth, was baptised at Attleborough in 1639. He married Agatha, and they had two sons in Attleborough between 1674 and 1675.
My 7th great grandfather, Thomas Freeman was baptised in Attleborough in 1675. He married Elizabeth, and they had five children between 1695 and 1707.
My 6th great grandfather, John Freeman, was baptised at Attleborough in 1699. He married Elizabeth.
My 5th great grandfather, named after his father, John Freeman, was baptised at Attleborough in 1734. He married Anne.
My 4th great grandmother ends the Freeman dynasty for our tree. Elizabeth Freeman was baptised at Attleborough in 1779. In 1803 at St Mary's, she married Robert Hewitt, a farmer - but most likely, not a prosperous one. Agriculture was changing, and many small farmers were losing their land, being squeezed into the ranks of labourers and paupers. They had five children at Attleborough, between 1805 and 1814. Elizabeth died age 52, leaving Robert a widower.
My 3rd great grandmother, Lydia Hewitt, was baptised at Attleborough in 1807. She married Robert Smith at St Mary's, Attleborough, in 1827. Robert Smith was also born in Attleborough. He had also farmed land, but the times were changing, and the family fell on hardships. They had six children born in Attleborough, before Lydia died age 37.
Their son, my 2nd great grandfather, Robert (Hewitt) Smith, was born in the town in 1832. Although he started out life in poor circumstances, he for many years, ran a beerhouse (the Grapes), and builders yard in the town, along with his wife, Ann (nee Peach) whom he married at St Mary's in 1857. In 1879, the couple made the local new headlines, when they were burgled by an armed robber:
They had six children born at Attleborough, including:
My great grandfather, Frederick Smith, born in the market-town in 1860. Fred served an apprenticeship as a wheelwright, and moved to Norwich - ending this part of the Attleborough Ancestors story.
Other Attleborough Ancestors of my Father
Attleborough Ancestors of my Mother