Factfile: Belaugh, Norfolk


I returned from my parents’ place yesterday afternoon. I’d spent much of the day poking around the village – my young cousin had found a bizzare rusty Victorian-style hook in the garden which had set me to thinking. Belaugh – the village in which I grew up – was mentioned in the Doomsday book many many hundreds of years ago. And yet there are still only eighty residents and fifty houses. This number has barely changed over the years. And while only the church remains of the really old buildings, there must be traces of one thousand years of residency all around the place.

I haven’t been in the church in years, even though it’s less than five minutes walk from my parents’ house. But my mother suggested I went and had a look because there was a small presentation about the history of Belaugh in it. I went and I looked and I was suitably intrigued and decided to dig around on the net when I got home to see what I could find. And this is what I’ve managed to dig up…

According to one source I’ve foung the church was assembled in the fourteenth century but still has some incorporated Norman walls and the old font.

Two of the best things I managed to find were from William White’s History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk – one from 1845 and another from 1883.

According to these records, in 1845 Belaugh had twice the inhabitants it does today – a massive 164 residents mainly situated in the village, itself located in the middle of “855 acres of rich loamy land, of which 199 are marsh, 647 arable, and seven plantations”. The Old Rectory – which I believe was recently put on the market for something ridiculous like half a million pounds was valued more conservatively in those days. “The rectory, valued in the King’s Book at £6, and in 1831, at £420 is in the patronage of the Bishop of Norwich”.

By 1881, the population has dropped to 139 – and the church cottages were being rented out for £18 a year. The big news is that someone has noticed the rood screen – which is of particularly good quality (Cromwellians apparently scratched the faces off the figures painted onto it – one classic quote from the time, “The screen hath the Twelve Apostles, their faces rubbed out by a godly trooper.”) – and someone’s slapped a proper high-pitched roof on it, to replace the thatch that had been there before [See a picture of the church today]. Belaugh has always been a fast moving place…

Interestingly the Traffords have a very strong presence in the area then as now…

Belaugh is located on the river Bure and there’s a whole page about the navigable parts of the river which includes several rather glorious pictures.

And to end with a few more images – here’s a watercolour of the approach to Belaugh from Wroxham by boat and a victorian watercolour from over the river looking towards the church.

Additional information: Here’s a bit more research that I found online in mid 2003.

Here’s a map from the late 19th Century (1890 I think). Of particular interest to me is calling the bit down by the ‘unsuitable for motors’ road, “Belaugh Hole”. I’ve also noticed that my parents home isn’t on the map yet, which I could probably have found out by asking them, but hey. It’s not the only empty area though – the area around Hill Piece is empty, and Sunny Haigh isn’t there either, and there are no buildings up on the main Hoveton / Coltishall road. What are there are some building down by the Staithe – obviously pre-existing the current range of buildings down that road. Very interesting stuff…

More pictures: