Scarning Village History


The first book charting Scarning's rich and varied history from its early days to more modern times was published in April 2009. This book marked the fruition of a project to collect information about the history of the village which was started by Nick Hartley and Sheila Eagle three or four earlier. Hundreds of photographs and pieces of information were collected but for want of space a lot were not included. Some of these are reproduced elsewhere on this site.

Scarning A portrait of a village

Did you know, for instance, that Horatio Nelson's father attended the school in Scarning? Have you heard about the late eighteenth century rector who was drummed out of the village for marrying his cook two months after his wife died? Did you know there was a house in the village that could be rotated on its axis? Or that there were stocks and a pillory outside the church ? Or that bare knuckle boxing matches took place at the Black Horse Inn near the church?

All this and much more is included in this eighty page fully illustrated book written by Nick Hartley. It was available for sale in the Village Hall on Saturday April 25 2009 when there were photographs, old parish magazines and documents on display. The event was very well attended and as nearly all the 150 copies printed were sold and a subsequent additional print run of 100 copies approved and financed by the Parish council also sold out. A copy of the book can be obtained from Dereham Library.

Following the success of the book, it has been suggested that there should be some means for villagers to record and preserve their memories of life in Scarning. This would take the form of villagers writing, typing or recording their memories, the contents of which would then be stored in the Village Hall.

At the same time, it is important to preserve photographs and documents, some of which could possibly be included in any subsequent reprint of the book.

Would you purchase a copy of the book if it was reprinted? The website is seen by people all over the world and if you have pictures, documents or memories you you would like to see on these pages please let us know.

Do you want to know who lived in Scarning in 1901?

The Spirit of Arcadia

Over the years Scarning has been home to a number of prominent figures. One of the most important was Augustus Jessopp. February marks the centenary of Jessopp's death. It therefore seems fitting to commemorate the life of a man who achieved much both on a local and national level.

Jessopp arrived in Scarning in 1879, aged fifty five. He had spent the previous twenty years as Headmaster of the Norwich School, which he transformed from a struggling school of 30 pupils to a modern, highly regarded public school.

His friends believed he would soon tire of rural life. Instead he became a champion of the poor. In 1902, with the financial backing of a London philanthropist, he presided over the construction of Scarning Village Hall. The hall became a venue for dances, theatrical productions, lectures, concerts and magic lantern shows a popular favourite of the Victorian era.

Jessopp was also a well known historian, whose work drew the attention of, amongst other, novelists, Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book. In 1905, after a visit to Scarning with his wife, Kipling presented the Village Hall with forty books for its library.

Gussie, as he was affectionately known, called Scarning his Arcadia. He cherished the view from the ivy clad windows of the rectory and was frequently to be found walking the lanes and meadows. He founded a village Cricket Club and was a governor of the village school, which on his retirement he presented with a case of South American birds.

In 1902, Jessopp was made Chaplain in Ordinary to King Edward VII. Nine years later, plagued by growing ill health, he resigned the living at Scarning and went to live in Norwich with his niece. He died in February 1914 at a nursing home in Surrey, but his body was brought back to Scarning. He is buried in Scarning churchyard.

The Rev. St. John Priest, Master Scarning School

The Rev. St. John Priest, was master at the school from 1789 until his death in 1818
The following is taken from "The Gentleman's magazine", Volume 124 October 1818.

Rev. St. John Priest, A. M. died on September 28th 1818 at Scarning, Norfolk, in the 60th year of his age. He received his academical education at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he proceeded to the degree of A. B. in 1780, and had the high and distinguished honour of being classed as Senior Wrangler, and adjudged the first of Smith's Mathematical Prizes. In 1781 he was elected Submaster of Bury school and in April the following year married Miss CROFTS, daughter of the Rev. Benjamin CROFTS, rector of Gressenhall. In 1784, he proceeded to the degree of A.M. ; and in 1786, was presented to the Vicarage of Parham, with that of Macheston annexed, in the county of Suffolk. In 1799, he was instituted to the Rectory of Kerdeston cum Reepham; and later to that of Billingford, both in the county of Norfolk. In 1789 he was appointed Master of the Free School at Scarning, succeeding Robert Potter, who resigned the post in the same year. At the school Mr. Priest, after the example of his predecessors, allowed the children of all persons in Scarning to be taught free of expense. He resided upon the School Farm, and for many years took private pupils, but discontinued them at the time when the Income Tax was first imposed, (December 1798) being of opinion that no profit could then be derived from them. He was chosen Secretary to the Norfolk Agricultural Society at its first institution in 1800, and held that situation till his death. His attainments were various and considerable. As a mathematician, his knowledge was deep and extensive ; as a classical scholar, his taste was accurate and refined ; and as a scientific Agriculturist, his skill was great, and generally acknowledged. His political opinions were those of an old and genuine Whig; of course he was a firm friend to Church and State.............

Mr. Priest's publications are " Delectus Groecorum Sententiarum cum Notis, tum Grammaticis tum Philologicis in usum Tyronum accommodatus," 1793 ; second edition, 180-1, 8vo.; the whole volume will be found to be an useful Chrestomathia. It was once Mr. Priest's intention to have subjoined a lexicon. He also wrote a " General View of the Agriculture of Bucks.,"1810.; second edition, 1813.

School Farm

The school was founded in pursuance of the will of Williiam Secker, " to be kept so long as the world continues," and endowed with a farm and house in the parish, of between 90 and 95 acres. The schoolhouse which had a thatched roof was originally constructed of stud clay and plaster and extensive repairs and alterations were made in 1748. The Rev. Augustus Jessop later wrote that the boarders lived in 'a range of squalid rickety buildings'.

St. John Priest lived on the farm and cultivated 75 acres as arable and on the remainder kept a flock of south down sheep. He also kept six cows and five horses. After his death his deputy, Rev Levi Walton who took over the role of schoolmaster had use of the school house, garden and twelve acres to the front of the house (perhaps these are the same twelve acres referred to in the letter?) At this time the buildings were in a poor state of repair and the 'old school' was pulled down and the barn and stables were rebuilt in 1819 for a cost of £300. In 1850 the old schoolhouse was demolished and a new master's house and school room which still stand today were built. This information and much more is included in 'Scarning A portrait of a village'.

George L. Miller Headmaster Scarning School

George Lane Miller b1874 son of a sea captain, who hailed from Kings Lynn was appointed master at the school at the turn of the twentieth century. Apart from teaching at the school he and his wife Mabel M Miller held evening classes three times a week at the newly constructed Village Hall (1902). The subjects including drawing, commercial correspondence and arithmetic, domestic economy and practical cookery.

They rented and lived in the Teacher's House ith their two children Kenneth b1904 and Alan b1907. The house included offices and gardens, now part of the current old school buildings. The master also had the use of a two acre meadow. The rent for these being £10.0.0 and ¬£5.0.0 per annum respectively.

In 1916 George was appointed Collector and Assistant Overseer of the Poor at a salary of £10.0.0 per annum. The hand written records of the receipts and demands for payment, balance sheets. show that this was no sinecure. At this time he also took on the unpaid role of Clerk to the Scarning Parish Council.

At the inaugral meeting of the Scarning United Charities in April 1919 he was elected as the Clerk for a salary of £2.0.0 per annum. Subsequently he became the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer forgoing his salary. A book recording the minutes of the meetings records that he was in 'the hospital' (perhaps Dereham?) in 1926 and the minutes were accordingly taken by his wife.

One aspect of his duties for the charities was the seeking of tenders, ordering, allocation and distribution of bread twice yearly to residents of the village. The archives include school exercise books listing, in his own hand, each household with address and the number of loaves allocated.

He also held the same posts for the Trustees of the Village Hall and one of his first tasks was to offer the village hall for use by soldiers serving in the first World War and subsequently pursuing their commanding officer for damages and the return of and inkstand given to the village by the Rev. Jessopp.

In 1927 he was elected as a governor of the school after confirmation that there was nothing in the foundation of the school which prevented this even though it could be said that he might have conflict of interest being both a tenant and a landlord. In the same year he was appointed as the local Registration Officer.

One of the duplicate pen carbon books held in the archives which covers the period from June 1929 until his death at the end of 1931 gives an interesting insight into other aspects of his life. He was a keen gardener and seems to have specialised in the growing of sweet peas. He sent several consignments to Messrs D Ingamells of Covent Garden (the firm still exists) and he exhibited at the Norfolk Show. Both he and his wife won prizes at the Special Provincial Show in Norwich. He also had a greenhouse and keen to harvest rainwater ordered guttering, brackets and a cistern. He was the Honorary Secretary of the Scarning District Horticultural Society which also included the villages of Wendling, Dillington and Gressenhall. We also learn that he owned a fabric topped Austin 7 with registration number NG1660 and was ordering oil, grease, 'Karpol' polish, radiator muff and spare wheel cover for it.

One of the letters concerns the supply of 13 pairs of rubber shoes noting that one pair was absent from the delivery. One can only guess that these were for the children and that he was instilling his interest in gardening in his pupils. several others seek tenders for the transport of 60 children and 24 mothers for a day out to Sandringham, Hunstanton and Castle Rising. The trip in August 1930 was to start at 9am and return at 9pm.

In the Autumn of 1931 he ordered raspberry, gooseberry, redcurrant, blackcurrant plants and climbing roses. Less than a month later on 12th November he wrote his last letter concerning the extinguishment of the copyhold for a 2acre 3roods piece of land for the Scarning United Charities. He died soon after.

Pupils from a famous School

Scarning School has produced many illustrious pupils, among them Edward Thurlow, who went on to become King George III's lord Chancellor, Edward Hase, who built Salle Park and Horatio Nelson's father, Edmund. To this list can be added Jacob Mountain, who in 1793 became the first Anglican Bishop of Quebec.

The grandson of French refugees, Mountain was born at Thwaite in Norfolk on 1 December 1749 and initially attended grammar school in Wymondham and Norwich. After working for two years in al counting house he entered Scarning School, which at that time was under the mastership of Robert Potter. (Potter's arrival in the village had been met by rioting outside the schoolhouse.)

In 1769, Jacob Mountain was admitted to Caius College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1777, having been ordained a deacon three years earlier. He married 1783 and went on to father seven children, four of whom became clergymen. His first clerical posting was as perpetual curate of St Andrew's in Norwich, where he remained six years.

In the summer 1793, he was appointed Bishop of Quebec. He set foot in the city in November that year, accompanied by the 'Thirteen Mountains or extended members of his family. At that time there were only nine Church of England clergymen in the whole of Canada and Quebec had no church or rectory. Mountain promoted the construction of churches in all the country's more populous towns, including a fine stone cathedral in Quebec and increased the number of clergymen to sixty, among them his son, George Jenoshaphat Mountain, who similarly went on to become Bishop of Quebec.

Jacob Mountain died on 16 June 1825 and buried four days later beneath the chancel of his cathedral.

The Foundations of Faith

The church in Scarning dates from the thirteenth century, but there was also an ancient chapel in the village. known as St Botolph's. Records show that in 1210, William de Draiton. who lived at Drayton Hall, one of the village's three manor houses, presented the mediety (or share) of Scarning Church to the Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross in Essex. Shortly afterwards, the Abbey was assigned a piece of land in Scarning known as Sponesbrugge (later Spoon Bridge) and a meadow between the chapel of St Botolph and Sponesbergh.

An extract from the will of Walter Jenyor of Skerninge, (the village has for centuries been known by many different spellings) dated 22 June 1504, in which he left a small legacy toward the repair of 'Sainte Botulphe's Chapell', and a donation from William Pynchebeke 'to the gilde of our lady in Skernynge,' confirms the existence of this little known part of the village's history. There is also reference to an acre of land at 'Saint Buttolphes lane' in the Court Books of Scarning Hall (located near Hill Rise), while in his will Thomas Hoo left six shiliings to 'the fratenite or gilde of Saynt Bothulph'.

Another famous Scarning person

Richard Young, who was born in Scarning on 22 March 1809 went on to be a wealthy nineteenth century ship owner to whom there was a public memorial in Wisbech. The son of a farmer, Young was baptised two days later and whilst he moved from Scarning in his youth he went on to represent Wisbech as its Mayor and Member of Parliament. After his death in 1871 a column was erected to him in Wisbech Park.

Farming in Scarning two hundred years ago

Scarning School Farm Aug.l0.l802

In compliance with your desire and my promise, I will endeavour to describe, as accurately as I can, the method I used in drilling the field of wheat which you saw, when you did me the honour of calling upon me at Scarning.
The field consists of about twelve acres, and is a mixed soil; last year it grew clover and ray-grass after barley, and as soon as the first crop of clover was reaped and the second crop fed with sheep and cows, I broke it up in order to temper it for wheat. It was ploughed twice and scuffled twice which with many harrowings brought it, by the beginning of October into a high state of pulverization; in this state I began my operation by using such a quantity as might be sufficient for two days work. The surface then being as flat as possible, I set out the work thus; in the middle of the field (which was fixed upon because no side of it was straight) I set two sticks, in order to draw a line as straight as possible to direct the drill. My drill is a small barrow with two hoppers or boxes, one on each side the wheel, and is pushed forwards by a man. In the line thus formed by the sticks the barrow was directed, depositing the seed from the hopper on the right side of the wheel upon the flat work. Immediately after the barrow, at the distance of about ten yards, followed a plough to cover up this line of seed, by turning the mould of a fleet furrow upon it; when the barrow, followed by the plough, had reached the end the man with the barrow turned towards the left hand, and at the distance of one yard from the line of seed already deposited, dropped from the barrow another line of seed parallel to the former; now a second plough followed him as before, whilst the first plough, which had covered the first line of seed, was Sacking its own furrow. The harrow-man, arrived at the end of the second line of seeds turned to the left as he had done before, and dropped a third line of seed one yard from the first and parallel to it and was followed by the first plough, whilst the second was tacking its own furrow. In this manner I worked, my barrow depositing lines of seed, at one yard distance from each other, and my two ploughs alternately covering the lines of seed, and backing each its own furrow, till I had completed my morning's work, at the end of which you will observe that except the work of the barrow, I had merely set out the tops of the four-furrow work of about two acres of land, and these remained the balks to be split. This was the operation of the afternoon; for whilst my double barrow was directed upon a balk, depositing seed in the furrows from the two boxes on each side of the wheel, a double breasted plough, drawn by two horses, split the balk, covered the wheat so deposited, and completely made up the four-furrow work which had been set out in the morning. The next day I repeated the work precisely the same as the day before, by setting out fresh work from a line formed by two sticks, as at first set up across the field, in a direction parallel to the first line drawn, and at such a number of yards from the last line of seed dropped, as I thought would afford work for the day. Thus was the whole of the twelve acres laid into four-furrow work, with three rows of wheat upon every stitch, at the distance of nine inches between the rows, and eighteen inches for the furrows, with no more than five pecks of seed-corn per acre, and performed by three men, two ploughs, and four horses, in a morning, and two men, one plough, and two horses in an afternoon; and the whole two acres were finished in a day. I rolled it afterwards to please the eye, level the work, reduce the depth to which the seed was deposited, and afford mould in the furrows to support the wheat on the sides of them. As soon as the wheat came up I cleaned the furrows by a plough with expanding wings, drawn by one horse. In the spring I contrived to fix upon this plough two scarifiers, and taking off the expanding wings, I used it to hoe the furrows, and at the same time scarify two rows of wheat, one on each side of the furrow : afterwards I put on the expanding wings, and substituting hoes for scarifiers, I by one operation of this plough hoed the furrows and two rows of wheat, and at the same time moulded them up; this operation was performed twice. "Thus, Sir, have I given you as clear an account as I am able, of the manner in which I drilled (if I may be allowed, the expression) the wheat you saw.
" I am, Sir,
" Your obedient. Servant,


Village life in Nineteenth Century

Dr Augustus Jessopp D.D. (1824-1914)  Chaplain to King Edward VII, was the Rector at St. Peter and St. Pauls' Church in Scarning for 32 years from 1879 ‚€“ 1911. He wrote several books about his life and times in Scarning. The following extract from one of these, "A SHEPHERD OF ARCADY, ARCADY FOR BETTER FOR WORSE" published in 1887, gives an idea of what life in rural Norfolk was like at the end of the nineteenth century.

In Arcady one never hears people laugh. They snigger and grin sometimes, and then turn away as if ashamed of themselves; but they never laugh. Now and then the sound of bawling and horse-play greets one as one passes the public-house, but even that is rare. Now and then there is a rough wit combat in the harvest-field, which for the most part ends in high words; but there is no laughter. The swains of modern Arcady are very, very, very grim, they are no longer laughing animals. Games among adults are as rare as stage-coaches. I do not know of a skittle-alley in Norfolk. Here and there an energetic young parson starts a cricket club, and as long as he continues to play and do all the work the thing goes on in a languid and intermittent way. If he gives it up it falls to pieces, and the young fellows do not seem to care. You may see half-a-dozen hulking young men literally sprawling in the ditch smoking their pipes, and sunning themselves on their stomachs in the summer evenings, doing the only thing they have any power of doing ‚€š"nothing." Do you wonder if these young fellows get tired of it, and vaguely find it dull ?

But look at the "what must I call them ?" the places where these young fellows are born and take their meals and sleep in‚€š "Houses? Faugh! Houses?" Why you may see whole rows of hovels in no one of which would any farmer in the parish put his nag for a single night without indignant protest‚€š rows of hovels where there are only two rooms, one above and one below. I could point to three of these disgraceful tenements immediately contiguous to one another, in each of which, by a strange coincidence, there were lately a father, mother and seven children all sleeping in a single room. In one case the mother produced an eighth child in the night, her only helper being her daughter, a girl of fourteen, who did her best while the father ran to fetch the mid-wife!

You may tell me that things are worse in the towns. What if they are? Two wrongs do not make one right. I do not stop to dwell upon the fact that the wretched beings who crowd the horrible garrets in London or Liverpool are the lowest and worst of their class, and these poor villagers are often among the best. But this I do say emphatically, that there may be some excuse for this hideous crowding of human beings in the towns, there is no excuse for it in the country, where land is sold by the acre, not by the square inch. It is a great injustice to the landed gentry as a class to lay all the blame of this disgraceful state of things at their door. There may be, and there is, a great want of cottages for the labourers upon the large estates and in some of the close parishes, but the worst hovels are invariably owned by small proprietors; jobbers who have saved a few hundreds of pounds; village shopkeepers, whose only notion of investment is buying a few acres and running up a row of cottages by the roadside; little people in the neighbouring towns who have scraped together enough to retire upon, and who like to talk of their tenants. These are the owners of the worst houses, and they are precisely the people who cannot afford to improve them, and who are compelled to exact the utmost farthing of rent from the occupier. The squirearchy may have something to answer for in leaving the labourer on their estates without a house at all, but they excuse themselves for not building because they would be ashamed to run up the infamous cabins which they see elsewhere, and while times are hard they must wait for the turn‚€š which never comes‚€š when they will do what they can. Meanwhile the rising generation grovel in the old clachans, for they are no better, and at the edge of the breezy heath, where the bees hum and the meadow-sweet's fragrance fills the air, and up above in the blue the lark hides himself in his rapture of song.

The poor are hovell'd and hustled together, each sex like swine. As the young people grow up to manhood and womanhood, do you wonder that they find themselves driven out rather than drawn away? You who preach progress and education, and who believe in the efficacy of the one and in the promise of the other, would you seriously wish them to be content ?

Closely connected with the squalor of the labourers' dwellings, is another matter which must not be passed by. I refer to the distances which men have to walk to and from their work. In our Norfolk parishes, as elsewhere, the church originally was the centre of the town; it stood within easy access of all the inhabitants, the houses nestled round it, the farms were rarely a mile off. As a rule the tillers of the land were all within hail. But times have changed, and now it is a common sight to see a church in Norfolk standing gaunt and lonely, with not a house within a mile of it.

The labourers in such places live at the very edge of the parish on little strips of land that have been stolen from the common fields generations back, and so been lost to the manor. In a hundred instances the tide to these insignificant estates would be found very defective, but the holding title serves the present possessor's purpose, and as long as he can cling to his ownership he need not fear disturbance. I know one parish where seven-tenths of the inhabitants live in houses built on strips of waste which have been appropriated in former times. In one instance a row of five cottages, belonging now to a small publican, has been erected, and the land stolen almost in the memory of living men. The consequence of this displacement of domicile and of the absence of home accommodation attached to the several farms, is that the number of miles walked by a labourer in the course of a year is sometimes startling.

"You don't seem to have any place for your cowman to live in," I said inquiringly the other day to a good old farmer of the old sort, who has long passed his threescore years and ten, and whose household consists of himself, an aged sister, and a maid-servant "No!" he replied gaily, "Some folks would think it a lonesome sort of a place; but we're used to it, you see. No; my cowkeeper he comes from a little better than three miles off, but my horsekeeper," he added, with sprightly cheerfulness, "he don't live so far not by a great deal, he don't live, I should think, not so very much more than two miles and a half!"

And this, observe, every day of their lives. The one walked six miles and the other five, or respectively 2,290 and 1,825 miles in the course of a twelvemonth. ln another case, much worse than this, where a father and son worked at the same farm together, I calculated that in less than five years the aggregate number of miles covered by the two in merely walking to and from their work would reach round the world. Think of the waste of energy, of muscular tissue, of nerve force, of actual time taken out of what the employer bargains for or the employed has to give. Think of the weary shambling through the mud and rain and blinding sleet and snow, of the wet clothes and the soaked dinner in the basket, and the dreary pounding back at night in the dark, to find the baby sick and the doctor having to be fetched, and the roof overhead letting in the steady drip, drip, drip, when the poor sleeper lays himself down at last. Aye, one naturally thinks of these things, but who thinks of the cost of shoe-leather? Say two thousand miles only in the year who pays for that ?