Smallburgh: A Story of the Trorys

Nestled between Wroxham and Hickling, just under 15 km north east of Norwich, Smallburgh misses much of the tourist traffic heading to honey pot locations. Perhaps for that reason, this is a lovely part of the world. Today the village is, as it’s name might lead you to believe, a small place in terms of population - just 518 in 2001. Don’t be misled though. The name is nothing to do with the size of the place but actually derives from the River Smale, now known as the River Ant, which borders the parish.

Despite being a somewhat diminutive parish in terms of numbers - if not acreage - Smallburgh once punched much above its weight in terms of local influence. In 1785, a House of Industry was constructed, one of the ‘Norfolk Hundred Incorporations’ formed by local acts of parliament. The House provided a place for the poor and infirm of all the parishes of the Tunstead and Happing hundreds except North Walsham. This meant that it catered for over 40 parishes in North Norfolk. Indeed, Smallburgh’s influence was great enough with this facility that even until the 1974 local government reorganisation, the local Rural District Council was that of Smallburgh.

Extended in 1836, the House of Industry did not become the Smallburgh Poor Law Union until 1869. Long before this time, in 1808, the burial ground lying to the south of the site was consecrated (see the NRO’s catalogue at Today, only a commemoration stone remains to show the location of the cemetery, shaded in this peaceful part of the Country by several large trees. The church’s parish register contains many burials which contain the words “from the work house”. So many, that the official regularly just notes ‘do’ under each successive entry.

The old House of Industry burial ground in Smallburgh. Look closely and you can see the commemoration stone by the fence to the left of the picture.

The House of Industry appears to have never been used to capacity. Having been built to house 800 souls, it seems to have regularly housed less than 100, and rarely any able-bodied inmates to use its own ‘one penny tokens’ on local produce. In later years, much of the building was boarded up and finally demolished in the 1950s. Only some minor buildings (now residential) survive today, along with the telltale street names of “Workhouse Road” and “Union Street”. For more about the workhouse, please visit Peter Higgenbotham’s website:

Excuse the effects, I couldn't resist a little fun with the photographs! To the left are buildings remaining, to the right the road sign.

So to St Peter's church, a newer structure on top of what was once possibly a much older building. The church lost its tower in 1677, probably before my ancestors arrived. Unlike Alderton in Suffolk there is no suggestion that the tower's collapse brought about the demise of a local cow during a Sunday service! The west end as we see it today was constructed only in 1902, replacing a small square tower as sketched in a drawing hosted by Picture Norfolk (search ‘Smallburgh’ at It is not a ‘typical’ looking church, as in one a child might draw with a high square tower and oblong nave. In my opinion this works in the building's favour – this is not a church that will blend in with others I have visited recently.

To my untrained eye, the bells hang in too narrow a surround, and the walls are too high for the ‘tower’ and the length of the building. However, I love the crossed-keys on the outside and the somewhat minimalist nature of the interior, complete with steps covered by a grate in the aisle and a spiral stair case to nowhere in the wall. It’s quite easy to imagine my forebears standing at the font or the alter.


Nearby Dilham also has a unique place in my memory because its ‘ruined’ tower is rather too perfect and could perhaps be a folly. Not being an expert on medieval churches, I direct you to Simon Knott’s fabulous for more enlightened observations than I could possibly give.

The well ordered gravestones, almost all in family groups, are something of a boon to genealogists on the trail of their ancestors. Nestled in the back corner lie several members of the Trory/Trorey family. My last direct line Trory was my 4x Great Grandmother Hannah Trory, baptised in the village in 1821. Before her, I have tracked her father James (baptised 1800 in Smallburgh) and grandfather John (possibly baptised a few miles away in Sutton in 1763?). Beyond John, my trail currently falters. 

Mr Pewegwin and I take a look at my ancestor's grave. Just occasionally I trust my significant other with my camera!

‘Trory’ is not a common name. Interestingly, it is one that appears to have origins very much localised to the Hickling/Smallburgh area of the Norfolk Broads. Personally, I have a theory that potentially an original John, who may have married a ‘Brigitt’ in 1750 (French sounding? Or a red herring?), was of Huguenot descent. Perhaps this is too tempting an explanation to explain the sudden arrival of the Trory family, but I am hoping that the parish records, as opposed to the parish registers, may hold some clues when I get a chance to sit down and go through them. It is said that many of the Huguenots who settled in Norfolk were employed draining the Broads to the north east of Norwich – could this apply to my own family?

Curiously, neighbouring stones from the 1800s for husband and wife - in not one but two cases - feature different spellings of the name; sometimes ‘Trory’ and sometimes ‘Trorey’. Just goes to show how surnames have only become standardised in relatively recent times. Those entries in the register that include occupation describe this family line as husbandmen by the 1800s (free tenant farmers below the social status of a yeoman). To my knowledge to date they avoided spending any time within the local House of Industry.

Local people reading this may make a connection between the Trory name and Trory Street in Norwich, not far from Chapelfield Gardens – if you know the connection I’d be interested to hear it! I think it is very likely that there is one, as even in 1841 the surname was likely restricted to Norfolk. It seems that everybody with Trory ancestry in Norfolk is ultimately related to one another. (No jokes about our wonderful County please!). It is true to say that the men bearing this name were quite prolific, often having more than ten children, which explains how perhaps one original gentleman bearing the name came to leave such a legacy in the County.

Smallburgh is a fabulous example of a North Norfolk settlement with a rich history. There is nothing better than visiting the places connected to your tree - you never know what you might find! If you have any Trory ancestry feel free to get in touch, I would be very interested to hear from you.

Working lives: choices, opportunities and that beyond our control

As I reflect on a tumultuous year in which Your Local History has gradually grown from a idea into a successful business; in which my old career was shattered by the spending review; in which I have spent many months in an 'un-chosen' job and finally achieved my longstanding dream of working full time in an archive; I have come to reflect on how lucky I have been to have had so many career opportunities - and how the working lives of my ancestors differed. 

Leaving aside the fact that, until relatively recently, as a female I would have had a very different education – if much at all – I have already had a far more changeable career than many of my ancestors, and much more choice over its direction. The old adage ‘a job for life’ has had little relevance to my personal experiences.

A country girl to the core, my first job was working for a local lady who wanted help to muck out her horses. It is perhaps the only job I have held which would be immediately recognisable to generations past. There are many in my tree who worked as stable hands, ostlers, horsemen or teamsters (driving a team of horses on a farm) who would have been as familiar with horse muck as I became! 

Later I worked in a veterinary surgery as a ‘Saturday girl’. My ancestors would have been acquainted with some form of veterinary medicine, even back as far as the years BC. However, the rapid advancement of the profession since the end of WWII means that injuries and diseases which would once have been fatal, even endemic, were treatable and preventable by the time of my employment. The face of veterinary medicine had changed a great deal within a century. For the history of veterinary science, try, a blog I discovered while researching for this piece. 

My last foray into what might be called a ‘rural’ career was my time at a Farm Park where I manned reception and the gift shop and on occasion was able to spend time with the beautiful Suffolk Punches (the horse, not Ipswich Town Football Club). ‘Tourism’ and ‘leisure’ would have been foreign concepts to a good proportion of earlier inhabitants of the Country. Back then, the horses were a common sight pulling ploughs across the East Anglian countryside for their keep; involved in food production, not entertainment and education.

By the time I moved into more new-fangled jobs things become far removed from my forebears. What on Earth would they have made of selling CDs and DVDs for a Top Dog? The idea of chain stores and branding didn’t really boom, regardless of product, until the expansion of the railways. And what about promoting sustainable travel through major developments and behaviour change in schools and businesses? What other choice did people originally have than their two feet, a boat or perhaps later, a train? This one is a prime example of how ‘progress’ can backfire! As for business continuity, wouldn’t that have been called ‘using your common sense, and trying not to injure yourself – or worse’!? 

The generations before me show a gradual shift, as with most families, from the traditional ‘job for life’ to the likes of me - moving from one job and organisation to another as opportunities arise, choices make themselves available (perhaps as qualifications and experience grow) and decisions beyond an individual’s control force their hand. 

Not that these influences are purely a new phenomenon. While ancestors did regularly pass a trade from father to son for generations – be it shoe making, weaving, farming (you’d never guess much of ancestry was East Anglian!) – there are plenty of examples of ancestors who changed their occupations. 

The following characters from my family tree illustrate a few of these changes: 

  • Sisters Alice, Florence, Jane and Kate all moved with their families to Saltley in Birmingham from Suffolk. Many of their family members worked in local munitions factories from around 1900 where a generation earlier their families had been farmers and agricultural labourers. Did they choose to migrate, or was there really little choice as demand for agricultural workers reduced? 
  • A father believing in education was able to pave the way for three of his sons to become doctors where previously the family had lived from their lands. These sons went on to ‘sponsor’ the children of their cousins who were similarly able to take up the opportunities of further education and even an associated Grand Tour while their own father’s fortune declined. 
  • A clergyman found a way to get his son a position as an Officer in the Bengal Army, perhaps as a way of elevating the family’s influence and the son’s standing in society. Sadly the individual in question died at just 19. 
  • A distant uncle became a ginger-beer maker as the weaving industry in Wymondham on which he had previously relied collapsed. Ten years later he had made the move to London to work in a factory as part of the tide of movement during the industrial revolution. 
  • The son of a labourer entered the police force and worked his way up to Sergeant, retiring to a farm of his own while his father had been at the beck and call of another man. 

The difference between myself and these people has much to do with the balance of choice and necessity. I have been lucky enough to make several informed choices about the direction of my career. My journey to this point perhaps began in Primary School when my teacher put ‘excellent work – a future village recorder?’ on a research project about the history of Peasenhall. However, the path my ancestors followed was often ‘decided’ before birth, or at least decisions might be taken by their parents before they were adults.

The level of choice we have, in education and in career, might be very different to that of our predecessors, but what we do have in common is that we are not immune to external influences. A decision made in the corridors of power, a change in the economy or a social upheaval can still have an impact on individuals, just as it did a century or a millennium ago. I have not been immune to this – the spending review forced my hand on one occasion, but unlike Ezekiel Coman, the weaver mentioned above, I was able to find another post relatively easily as skills for one customer-focussed job were transferable to another. In Ezekiel’s day, the tertiary sector was hardly a big employer.

A family history means more if it is placed in the context of the time in which it was played out. I am where I am - in my work and more generally - because the decisions I have made, the forces exerted on me and the choices available to me have brought me here. It was no different for my ancestors, and understanding these influences on their lives also helps me to understand them.

My mantra: 200 year old advice from a Norfolk yeoman

I have a ‘motto’ stuck to the divider around my desk.

When I was about ten I diligently learnt it off by heart and have tried to live by the sentiments ever since. The motto came from a family letter written by my Great Great Great Grandfather's brother and I first became aware of it when the letter was transcribed by my Dad in the mid 90s. On the more difficult days since (bad hair, bad boss, bad bank - to mention the more minor trials!) I have tried to focus on his advice to his son. I must say that it has been particularly useful, repeated as a mantra, to psych myself up before job interviews and difficult meetings! 

Reading it, I never fail to marvel at how relevant the advice still is today. Rather than write out a whole lot of thoughts, this week I am simply going to copy out the letter my ‘motto’ is extracted from, containing wonderful advice as well as an insight into the life of a country yeoman in Norfolk in the early 1800s. It is but one of several letters I am lucky enough to have access to and part of a series of letters between Augustine, his father and brothers, during a tour for the former's health. 

I hope you find it as enjoyable (and useful!) as I have over the years…

Brockdish 28th October 1820 

My dear Augustine 

I thank you for your letter, which relieved my mind very much, as I was fearful you might have sailed to encounter the late horrendous Gales. I now hope you will have much more favourable weather, and that you will encounter no material difficulties in your destined voyage to Madeira – where I trust you will arrive safe and meet with a very satisfactory reception – your introductions appear to be very flattering and respectable, and likely I should hope to be very useful – but be prepared for some disappointments, for we must not expect to pass this life without some difficulties – suffer them not to depress your spirits, but bear up against anything of the kind manfully and with a becoming spirit. Tell G I will accommodate him as soon as in my power and that I regard his request as reasonable, Henry is also in my thoughts, but it cannot be convenient to assist him until my Bullocks are sold. Corn fetches but little money and the calls upon me here are frequent and not small – so that I find considerable difficulty. I have no reason to doubt with the blessing of God, being in town at the time mentioned in my former letter, when I will assist your brother as far as I may be able. Pray take care you run no hazard of your health etc. during your voyage, for which I hope you are provided with some fruit and refreshments – tell Henry I am much gratified by Mr Rogerson’s remembrance of such insignificant being as myself, and that when he writes to Mr R. he will not forget to make my respectful compliments to him, and inform him I cannot forget his kind attentions to you and your Brother, of which I had such strong proof during your illness. Accept my best regards for you and your Brothers, with kind remembrances to the Hunter Street Family – and believe me to be most sincerely your affectionate Father –           


PS The apples will be forwarded as soon as I can possibly send – perhaps it may be a fortnight. I wish you a prosperous voyage and God bless you and your undertakings.

Your uncle has hired a farm for your cousin Daniel of upward three hundred acres, in the parish of Bracon Ash and has taken possession I believe of about 130 acres, the remainder will be taken at Michelmas next, the whole under Mr Benney


I don't believe for a second that Thomas would have written the letter thinking that 200 years later it would be read and digested by his brother's descendants. Letters and diaries are a truly magnificent resource because they can add so much colour to your family trees. Through letters you can try to get to know people who are long gone; share a joke, feel an emotion and get a greater understanding of the social graces and economies of times past.

Today, another line of my family still raises bullocks and grows corn – this year they are facing issues with the lack of rain, an age old problem for farmers. Thomas’ home is still lived in (though not by any relation), and the village is still a small one on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. We live in a fast changing world, but not everything is so very different – sons are still funded by their fathers, and many of those dads are still giving sensible advice (although perhaps not always so eloquently!)

With any luck, if I eventually have children of my own, Thomas' thoughts can be passed down for many generations to come.....I can't see his advice becoming irrelevant any time soon.

A drink on them: Pubs and Breweries of Norwich past

It was with sadness that I noted another pub - The Marquee in Norwich - closing its doors a week or so ago. Once the Shirehall and then the One & Only, the Marquee provided a haunt for me throughout university and since.

Unfortunately it’s not such an unusual occurrence these days to hear about a pub closure. However, although greater numbers seem to have been suffering in recent years, hundreds of others have disappeared since the Victorian era, not least due to the Licensing Act of 1904 and damage during WWII.

Norwich was once known as a city with a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday of the year - indeed, at one time there were almost enough for two pubs for every day of the year (and even then not including beer houses!). This is no longer the case today, but it has been great to uncover my own family connections to pubs not just here in the city but across the land.

It wasn’t at all a shock to find ‘pub people’ in the family. My grandmother lived in a pub in Aldeburgh while growing up, starring as the town’s carnival queen one year - driven to the Moot Hall on that occasion by none other than Benjamin Britten himself.

My ancestors’ occupations span brewing, ‘landlording’ and barrel making (coopering) and I know several others enjoyed a drink or two even if they weren’t employed in the industry – I recently heard a distant cousin described as “a drunk who left to make his fortune in Australia”  - so I imagine some may have liked three or four! Let’s hope he wasn’t slurring his words on census night.

Starting with brewing I introduce you to Thomas Massey, my 5x Great Grandfather, who was born in Norwich in 1772. Thomas went on to own the ‘St Stephen’s Gate’ brewery which operated from the Champion on Chapelfield Road (still open today) and which was tied in 1845 to both the Champion itself and the London Steam Packet on St Catherine’s Plain. According to, The Champion was named after boxer Daniel Mendosa who visited Norwich in 1790. I would recommend this website for anybody with Norfolk pub connections – they have been incredibly helpful to me and ever so friendly with queries when I’ve been in touch.

Incidentally, in Thomas’ time, St Stephen’s Gate was still in place, being taken down in 1793 (for more see The gates once stood close to the engraving that will be familiar to commuters heading into the city from the A11. In my own humble opinion, the roundabout and multi storey is hardly such an impressive entrance to the city proper as the gates which once stood there must have been.

Over the decades, smaller breweries were consolidated and larger breweries, like the famous Steward and Patteson, went on to dominate by the end of the 1800s. The Pockthorpe area employed scores of coopers, many of whom lived in the local yards and housing such as that at Weeds Square which once stood at the bottom of Gas Hill near the old gas works.

Licensees litter my tree. Perhaps one of the most intriguing was John Miller - one of three successive John Millers through my maternal Great Grandmother. Most likely born in Carleton, near Poulton le Fylde, Lancashire, John settled in Norwich on retirement from the 9th Regiment of Foot. In 1851, he can be found at the Yarn Factory Tavern at 152 Cowgate. Again thanks to Norfolk Pubs it seems the pub was compulsorily purchased for road widening and served it’s last pint in 1950, almost 100 years after John left, probably around 1856.

Just like the Marquee (at the time The Shirehall) the pub was damaged in air raids in 1942. As many as 100 city pubs were lost in the raids over the city. The Yarn Factory name is unsurprisingly connected to the textile industry which was once one of the dominant trades of the city – large yarn manufacturies are visible on maps of Cowgate as late as the 1880s.

While John had retired as a Chelsea Pensioner by 1861, his wife Hannah was still living in a public house. Whether she lived away from her husband for a long time or just on the night of the census is as yet unknown to me. The Old Globe on Botolph Street close by was nonetheless her boarding house on the night of the census. Supposedly, the Inn was haunted by the murdered wife of a weaver who was hung nearby in 1701. I wonder whether Hannah had the pleasure of meeting the mysterious Mrs Watts?

The pub, now somewhere under the architectural wonder that is Anglia Square, was a victim of the Licensing Act passed in 1904. The 1908 sessions determined that there were 17 other licensed houses within just 200 yards. Although it was ‘fairly well conducted’ it was ‘small and inconvenient and not wanted in the neighbourhood’ and referred to compensation, closing for good on 1st September 1908. (Again I must thank

It was not unusal for so many pubs to exist in a small area. Some quote that King Street had over 50 (see heritagecity link below) – hardly the same as today where even the Ferry Boat has now changed use (although a very good use it is too!). The market was also a hub of activity for the consumption of alcohol having been a bustling meeting place for centuries. The claim of oldest Norwich pub seems to go the quirky Adam and Eve, first recorded as an alehouse in 1249 ( when it was favoured by labourers building the cathedral. 

However, I digress…

The Old Globe was one of 9801 pubs closed by the Act between 1905 and 1914. I would recommend visiting for more information on the rise and fall of city pubs. You may also be interested to know that Norwich Heritage Projects, previously responsible for a fantastic site on the Norwich Yards, are currently working on a Norwich Pubs and Breweries project for 2011 which promises to be a fantastic resource. The website, under construction and looking for input, is situated here:

While my publican ancestors tend to be focussed in Norwich, I also have connections across East Anglia and further afield – from the old Crown in Kenton, Suffolk to another Crown in Old Dalby, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. The one thing most of the pubs in my tree have in common however is that they are no longer serving local ale, something that this area is very good at producing!

Landlords often leave a very good paper trail and hence the inclusion of a licensee in your family tree can be quite a bonus. I would love to hear from anyone that can tell more about any of the pubs and taverns mentioned in this blog, and especially anyone that can tell me about my Great Grandfather, Louis (known as John) Outerbridge during his time at The Mill in Aldeburgh – there are, I’m sure, many people that remember him.    

With that, I will raise a glass to ancestors past.