parish of Ashby St Mary is situated in the county of
Norfolk in the region of England known as East Anglia.
It is one of 118 towns and parishes within the local
authority area of South Norfolk District Council.
The parish lies approximately 7 miles south east of
the city of Norwich. The village is bordered by Thurton,
Claxton, Bergh Apton and Carleton St Peter. It
is located to the north east of the A146 road that extends
from Norwich to the most easterly point in England at
Ashby was named after all the ash trees that grew in
the village. St Mary was the name of its church so the
village eventually became known as Ashby St Mary. The
parish covers an area of almost a square mile at just
under 204 hectares. As at 2006 it comprised
about 125 dwellings with a population of approximately
See some of Ashby's history including pictures and
other exhibits supplied mainly by parish residents
over the period of 9-11th July 2010. Contributions
any village memorabilia were invited to be
submitted and placed on show at a specific village
occasion for the purpose.
It provides information from the 1800s and a snapshot
of village life from the early 1900s onwards.
- CIRCA 4000-2500 BC
In late February 2011, Mike Harris was ploughing his
field in Ashby when he caught sight of an object that
turned out to be a Neolithic Axe Head.
The Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service in Norwich
issued the following information about Mike's find.
object is a part polished axe. The dimensions are 159
x 72 x 34mm (approx 61/4"
long x 27/8" high
x 13/8" thick).
It has a rounded polished cutting edge at the widest
point with the polish extending up to the mid length.
It has a flaked broad and rounded butt. The flint is
pale grey, speckled and with little patination, but
has scattered spots of iron staining. Apart from a small
chip on the cutting edge the axe appears to be complete.
Polished part- polished and flaked axes of this form
are characteristic and diagnostic of the Noelithic period
when, with the introduction of agriculture there was
the need to clear scrub and trees from the land.
axe head size Note
the chip on left end
Top edge Top
edge - side view
Mike was told the axe head was probably discarded due
to the chip on the cutting edge. With thanks to Mike
for contributing to part of Ashby's history - it is
surely ironic that he was doing with a plough what others
did over 4-6000 years ago with axe heads like this one.
- CIRCA 1000 AD
Ashby St Mary was referred to in the Domesday
Book when it was drawn up between 1084-86. At that time
the parish was known as Ascebei. Two
principal landowners in the area held parcels of land
as a direct tenancy from King William the Conqueror
in right of “Knight’s services",
this being the provision of a contingent of armed soldiers
when required by the King. These
two chief tenants were Roger Bigot and Godric the Steward.
The next tenant in the hierarchy under Roger Bigot was
Robert of Vaux. In turn Robert of Vaux was Sweetman.
It seems probable that Sweetman was an Anglo-Saxon and
not a Norman since he is recorded in the Domesday Book
as having held land in Ascebei before the Norman Conquest.
Under Sweetman there were “10 freemen …
at 30 acres. Always 1 plough; meadow, 2 acres”.
Sweetman’s holding also included “7
halves-a-freeman, at 27 acres. Always 1 plough.”
the other part of Ascebei, the immediate tenant under
Godric the Steward was Ralph. Under Ralph there were
“6 whole freemen and 6 halves under the patronage
of Aslac and Leofric, at 20 acres of land. Always 11/2
ploughs.” Godric’s land also included
parcels mainly in Claxton “under the patronage
of Edwin” which also brought in a further
“freeman and a half, 5 acres” in Ascebei.
- 1757 ASHBY MILL
a fine scanned photo (in sepia)
a larger map of the former
the above picture, click HERE
Mill site, click HERE
Ashby St Mary Postmill is recorded as having been constructed
in 1757. Evidence shows that until the 1st World War,
the windmill (see Gallery below for picture) used to
stand opposite the present site of the Ashby St Mary
village sign. Information taken from Whites and Kelly’s
Directory of Norfolk indicates the Mill was owned by
William Young in 1845, by John Rushmore in 1864, by
Daniel Burroughs in 1883, by Frederick George Chapman
in 1901 and by Albert Arthur Culling in 1916. It is
understood that a parishioner’s father, born in
1902, recalled that on a journey from Thurton School
to his home in Sandy Lane, witnessed the Mill being
pulled down by a traction engine, which also places
the existence of the Mill up to 1916 or beyond.
an extensive history of the Mill including advertisements
of sale and recorded owners, this website is recommended
The following entry appears in the History, Gazetteer
and Directory of Norfolk, 1854
"Ashby parish contains 249 souls, 58 houses,
and 485 acres of land and is situated 3 miles N.N.W.
of Loddon, and 71/2
miles S.E. by E. of Norwich. Robert Gilbert. jun., Esq
is the chief landowner; there are also several smaller
land proprietors, but Sir Chas.H.Ric, Bart is lord of
the manor, and he and Sir W.H.Proctor are alternate
patrons of the rectory, valued in the King's book at
£6 and consolidated with Carleton St. Peter. The
Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a spacious edifice,
with a square tower and three bells. In 1843, it was
thoroughly repaired, new windows added, and seatly fitted
up with open seats. There are 28 acres of glebe, and
the tithes are communted for £176 per annum.
Directory:- Rt. Gilbert, jun.,Esq., the Hall ; Rd. Eldon,
wheelwright ; Mrs Amelia Maillet, Ashby House ; Rev.
David Pegg, (Baptist) ; Isaac Shreeve, shoemaker ; Wm.
Todd, butcher ; Wm Young, corn miller ; and Goe, Basey,
Wm. Goodram, Daniel Mansfield, Jas. Mays, and Jac. Smith,
(and parish clerk), farmers."
Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk 1854, Loddon Hundred,
The following entry appears in Kelly's
Directory of Norfolk, 1937 (21st) edition:-
"ASHBY ST. MARY (near Norwich) is a village
and parish, 71/2
miles from Norwich (Norwich Thorpe being the most convenient
station), 3 miles south-west from Buckenham station
(by ferry) on the Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft sections
of the London and North Eastern railway, and near the
navigable Yare, and 31/2
north-west from Loddon, in the Eastern division of the
county, Loddon hundred, Loddon and Clavering petty sessional
division, Loddon rural district, county court district
of Norwich, rural deanery of Brooke, archdeaconry of
Norfolk and diocese of Norwich.
The church of St. Mary the Virgin is an ancient structure
of flint in the Norman and Early English styles, consisting
of chancel, nave, south porch and an embattled western
tower containing 3 bells; the tower was restored in
1928 : the south porch is a fine specimen of Norman
work : the church was restored in 1849, and in 1903
the chancel was new-roofed and repaired : during the
progress of the work an ancient aumbry was discovered
in the north wall: in 1914 an organ was given by Mrs.
Wyndham Gray : the church has 120 sittings.
The register dates from the year 1620.
The living is a rectory, with the vicarage of Thurton
annexed, joint net yearly value £327, including
10 acres of glebe, with residence, in the gift of the
Governors of Wrekin College, and held since 1934 by
the Bev. Thomas Sewell Wontner M.A. of Selwyn College
and Ridley Hall, Cambridge.
The poor's allotment consists of about 6 acres, let
at £9 yearly.
The principal landowners are R. T. E. Gilbert esq. J.P.;
William H. M. Andrews esq. and the Rev. J. J. Woolsey
The soil is light sandy ; subsoil, sand and brick earth.
The chief crops are wheat, oats and barley, sugar beet
and market garden produce. The area is 503 acres ; the
population in 1931 was 165.
Letters through Norwich, via Thurton. The nearest M.
O. office is at Bergh Apton & T. office, Loddon.
Andrews, William H. M., The Lodge / Child,
Miss, Ross Arden / Gilbert, Robert
Thomas Edwin J.P., Ashby hall
Ward, Miss, Ross Arden / Wontner,
Rev. Thomas Sewell M.A. (rector), Rectory
Basey-Fisher, George, farmer. Hill farm /
Catchpole, Leslie Wm., market gardener, Ashby villa
Catchpole, Nelson A., market gardener, Vally farm /
Cotton, Robert Major, farmer / Forder,
William, market gardener
Frost, Frank, market gardener / Gifford,
George, market gardener / Harwood, Bertie
John, market gardenr. Chapel rd
Hoddy, John, farmer & licensed horse slaughterer;
best prices given for live & dead horses & cattle,
Hill house. Thurton 23
Hurrell, Arthur. market gardener /
Parfltt W. & Sons, market gardeners, Grange Garden
Rich, Reginald Wm. saddler / Smith,
James, market gardener / Watkinson,
John Henry, market gardener
Whiles, Charles, market gardener /
White, Jas. Alfred, wheelwright"
(With acknowledgement to Kelly's Directories
- Undergoing preparation
from old Ashby parish registers dating from the 1500's
THE CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN, ASHBY
Click to see exterior
and interior pictures of our church
The church is a grade II* listed building and is one
of five churches in the united benefice of Thurton part
of the Bramerton group of churches. Ashby St Mary was
probably the location of a Roman siting post and is
listed in the Little Domesday Book. The church is a
mixture of mediaeval styles of architecture having been
enlarged, restored or 'improved' over the centuries
and may be the location of the Roman siting post and
is probably built on Saxon foundations.
core of the nave is Norman (1066 - 1190) and probably
the original small Norman church extended east to the
old brown carrstone Quoins. The external flint masonry
is stratified and one of the Norman 'slit' windows survives.
The greatest legacy from the Norman craftsmen is seen
in the beautiful south Norman doorway with its very
old door with massive lock which still remains: note
two orders of colonnettes and Mass dials etc.
The original Norman Church was extended by the addition
of a new c hancel during the Early English period (1190
- 1280). In the north wall are two early English/Norman
lancet windows and a priests doorway in the south wall.
The elegant Bell tower was built in the 15th century
with a small staircase turret. Note the gargoyles forming
the drainage from the roof. The masonry of the porch
contains Tudor brickwork which protects the south Norman
doorway and is late 15th or early 16th century. Inside
the church the original wall plates which supported
the mediaeval roof are still evident. Although the tower
arch has been lowered, the two fine lion corbels upon
which the original arch rests can still be seen. A considerable
amount of 17th century woodwork still remains, the outstanding
feature is the handsome communion rail. The ancient
and unusual alms box which has three locks may also
date from this period.
The font is probably 17th century with a Jacobean cover
and the bench ends are 16th or 17th century. In the
sanctuary is a mediaeval aumbry with a more modern door
and a mediaeval roundel dated 1604 in the more modern
east window. On the outside of the east wall are indications
of an original 3 lite window. The ledger slabs on the
east wall which list the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments
and Creed are late 17th century.
There are three bells in the tower which are hung for
swing chiming. The oldest tenor bell is mediaeval and
dates from 1424/1513 by Richard Brasyer. The others
are dated 1631 by W & A Brend and 1708 by Thomas
Newman. They were all refurbished to ring on Easter
day 2009; the first time all three bells had been heard
in over a hundred years. The chamber organ was probably
built around 1790/1830 and was rebuilt in 1866 by JW
Walker. In 1873 the organ was moved from Godstone in
Surrey to Horstead Hall in Norfolk. The organ was acquired
by Ashby St Mary in about 1912. The organ was completely
refurbished in 2009 revealing a beautiful mahogany case
(visible for the first time since 1866) to complement
the newly gilded pipes.
coloured glass window in the south wall is a copy of
'The Light Of The World' by Holman Hunt. See the CHURCH
section for further details about this. In the east
window is a Swiss/Flemish roundel with angel and shields
16/17th century. The church plate at Ashby St Mary is
an Elizabethan chalice and paten dated 1568/9 plus a
large pewter flagon probably Jacobean (not in church).
The baptism and burial registers date from 1620 and
the marriages register dates from 1766. We can readily
trace rectors back to the 13th century.
sketch of Ashby St Mary church is displayed next to
the vestry door and was completed originally as part
of 'Views of the Churches in Norfolk, illustrative of
Blomefield's history of that county, from original drawings
by R Ladbrooke Vol. 1 — Norwich printed &
published by IB Ladbkooke Feb 1823'. This particular
copy was printed by Rowney & Foster in 1871.
acknowledgement to parishioner Arnold Miller)
ST MARY CHURCH ORGAN
Edward Birkbeck must have been a thoughtful man. Not
only did he remember his wife's birthday, he actually
did something about it two months beforehand.
Sadly two months was not enough for his idea, which
was to give his wife a pipe organ in their house in
Godstone, Surrey. One of the best organ builders of
the day, J W Walker, did offer to have something ready
by April 15th 1866, which they achieved by rebuilding
an older instrument.
Seven years later the family moved to Norfolk, and,
at a cost of £9, the organ was put on the train
to Norwich and re-erected at the new family home, Horstead
Here it remained for nearly forty years, until presumably
the organist had died and the remaining family no longer
wanted an organ. In 1912 it arrived at Ashby church
where it has been for the last 97 years.
After 143 years of regular use, and nothing beyond tuning,
a few repairs and occasional cleaning, it is hardly
a surprise that the essential workings were worn out.
Rust, rot, and mice had all taken their toll.
Several firms of organ builders were invited to assess
the task of restoration. Their inspections told us that
originally the organ dated from between 1790 and 1830.
It was said to be 'a very special unspoilt instrument'
and 'an organ from the end of the classical tradition...a
more or less complete historic organ'. It originally
had two manuals, but no pedals. A fine Cuban mahogany
case had been painted over, firstly with an 'oak' effect
and later in 'pine', almost certainly to fit in with
the houses where it was installed.
There was some feeling a hundred years or so ago that
it would not be seemly for church organs to sound too
bright, and a sombre tone characterises church instruments
from that period. As an instrument from a secular background,
used for home entertainment, the Ashby organ has always
had a warm and bright cheerfulness about it. Now that
the mahogany has been stripped of the Victorian paint
and the pipes regilded to their original splendour,
the organ adds a real 'wow factor' to entering the building.
And it now sounds even better. Richard Bower's
Norfolk firm beat four others to the contract and the
result is a triumph. Let's hope it does another 143
(With acknowledgement to parishioner
Ashby St Mary Church and Churchyard : Co-ordinates -
Lat. N 52:34:04 Long. E 01:26:34
to see a plan and in-depth details of gravestones including
names, dates and inscriptions
churchyard is dominated by the utilitarian concrete
war memorial on the west side as you approach the porch
which lists the parish dead of two world wars.
tombstones of George and Ann Basey are situated immediately
on the east side of the footpath as you approach the
porch and have attracted considerable publicity over
the last 25 or 30 years. George (who died in
1876) and his wife Ann (who died in 1868) are shown
surrounded by their flocks of geese and turkeys, reminding
us of the fact that in that century and earlier, these
birds were bred in Norfolk in great quantities. East
Anglia holds the credit for the domestication of the
goose. In the late autumn before Christmas, whole droves
of geese and turkeys could be seen waddling slowly and
noisily along the roads to London and the Smithfield
market. The flocks could make about 10 miles a day,
guided by drovers who were skilled men who had to ensure
their arrival in good condition. Apparently nothing
could equal these Norfolk reared birds on the London
Market where they commanded higher prices for the table
than those bred in other parts of England.
The sequel to this story is that an image of Ann Basey
and her geese has now been incorporated into the village
acknowledgement to parishioner Arnold Miller)
by Ashby St Mary Parish Council to celebrate the millennium,
the village sign was unveiled during 2000 (see Gallery
below for picture). Its entire nurture to life
and manufacture was fittingly provided by residents
of the parish. The particular design of the sign was
arrived at in the knowledge that history records a link
between the windmill, the Lady and the geese depicted
on it, to Ashby St Mary. It has been established that
it was the practice in the 18th and 19th centuries to
walk geese which had been bred in Norfolk to London
in readiness for the Michaelmas trade. For protection
their feet were bound with webbing and covered in tar.
This journey took some 10 to 14 days and they were fed
en route by grazing the corn stubbles.
A carving of a lady with geese is to be found on a tombstone
situated in Ashby churchyard (see Gallery below for
picture). Pictures of it have been published in
many books and magazines.
(With acknowledgement to parishioner
At the 1841 Census it is recorded that “263
Souls” resided in the parish.
By 1861 there were 257 Inhabitants. For the next 100
years the population declined gradually.
In 1881 the figure was just over 200.
In 1901 it stood at 176, remaining reasonably static
for the next two decades.
The figure dropped to 165 in 1931 falling to a low point
of 155 in 1971.
By 1991, due largely to a development of newly constructed
dwellings, it had risen to 240 and rose again to 290
There are currently in the region of 300 inhabitants.
Family Research Genealogy -
British Towns and Villages Network -
This site claims to receive around 1.4 milion
hits per week. Following an invitation from the network,
it now contains a link to the Ashby St Mary website.
UK Villages -
A community website for finding a wide variety of information.
Open this to see a gallery of some pictorial
features of Ashby St Mary parish
accounts and pictures of events since 2007)