Copeman & Spurrell Families

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Copeman &

The Copeman Family of Itteringham

For some time, while doing a full survey of the parish churchyard, we have been intrigued by the stained glass window and the gravestone in the aisle of Itteringham’s St Mary’s church both in memory of Robert Copeman who was buried in 1832. Who was this man with his now very worn and only partly legible stone; and why was he commemorated in such a prominent place – one of only two stones in the church aisle? Our curiosity was further fuelled by enquiries from Phil Bailey, one of his descendants living in Sydney, Australia who was so interested in his family history that it became the theme of a holiday in the UK during which he stayed at Itteringham Mill. He had researched the family and could tell the story of how Robert Copeman‘s daughter Pleasance Reid Copeman in October 1828 had married James Browne, Itteringham’s tanner and tenant farmer living and working in Bintry Farm. Our friend was descended from James and Pleasance.

He also knew that Robert’s son Frederick had become a miller, first at Itteringham Mill, then at Blickling Mill between at least 1845 and 1858, and then at the new steam mill at Dunkirk in Aylsham. From the 1841 census it was clear that the surviving Copeman family, headed by Frederick, then lived at what is now White House Farm in Itteringham and the 1839 tithe award showed Frederick, in addition to his milling interests, farming the neighbouring fields as a minor tenant of Lady Suffield (the Blickling estate) and a more substantial tenant of The Earl of Orford (Lord Walpole’s Mannington and Wolterton estate). Phil had also discovered that Robert had married Blanche Lee Case of Great Fransham in 1792 (he knew plenty about her family too) and he knew the birth dates and places of most of their children in and near to Norwich. The Norwich Freemen list available at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) showed that Robert had been a hatter and hosier.

But why did Robert end up in Itteringham; and more importantly where did he come from and what were his family origins? The Copeman family tree trail was cold before Robert and Blanche’s wedding.

Our interest also lay in the coincidence of Robert Copeman of Itteringham and the more well known Robert Copeman of Aylsham - founder of Copeman Bank, lawyer and Clerk of the Peace for Norfolk - being contemporaries. They were definitely different people but were they related in some way?

And while we were at it, was our Robert (let us call them RC of Itteringham and RC of Aylsham for short) related to the Copemans of Norwich who, from origins in Hemsby and later as merchant grocers, became one of the founding families of what is now Archant Group and the Eastern Daily Press?

Both the Aylsham and Norwich Copemans have had very thorough family trees prepared (the one for the latter published in Norfolk Genealogy volume 13; the one for the Aylsham group written up by Nicholas Tyrell-Evans as ‘The Copeman Family Tree 1538-1998’ and focused on the descendants of Robert Copeman of Sparham 1711-1779 and privately available to members of the Copeman family). However, neither tree showed any Itteringham connection.

And finally we had come across a very small clutch of Copemans in Itteringham between the 1730s and the 1750s or so. There was no sign in the parish registers that they had stayed and survived as a family in Itteringham and certainly no evidence to connect them to our Robert. But could we show a link nonetheless?

So, with all the makings of a fine genealogical mystery, we could not resist doing further research. This article tells the story of what we found about the Copemans of Itteringham prior to the death of Robert in 1832. It is structured around three questions:

  1. Who was our Robert, where was he from and was he any relation to the Copemans of Aylsham?
  2. Was Robert a relation of Itteringham’s eighteenth century Copemans?
  3. Was Robert a relation of the Norwich/EDP Copemans and their predecessors in Hemsby Hall?

The main article covers the story of Robert of Itteringham and those related to him. For convenience this is in a downloadable_pdf_file. There is also a massive family tree with various notes embedded in it which is also in a separate file. This is written in Family Historian 3 – see their website for getting this excellent but inexpensive family tree software:
. It is a Gedcom_file that is downloadable via Internet Explorer (not Firefox etc) and apparently should be readable by any software using this file format – for example it opens happily in Roots Magic and Brother’s Keeper.

This tree contains a lot more Copeman BDMs and will contents than are covered in the article, so it is well worth getting access to it and looking at the notes boxes as well as the tree itself. This includes an outline of our hypothesis for the mass of data on Foxley, Lyng and Bawdeswell (so much of the story rotates around Themelthorpe and surrounding villages) and even takes us to Great Yarmouth, Stalham, Knapton and Paston and beyond. In addition we have included as another downloadable item a picture file which shows everyone in the family tree – too large to show as a picture on the website itself.

There is also another shorter article focused on the evolution of the Copeman surname, which has further detail on both the name and our family. This also is on the website as a downloadable_pdf file.

The appendix to this main article lists some of the documents and family wills examined – the latter were particularly essential to our detective work given the very patchy survival of registers for the villages we are most interested in. Not that many wills have survived either for some parts of the Copeman clan.

The family tree that we have arrived at is a reasonable hypothesis - or simply a guess in some parts. However, all guesses are flagged and our rationale is explained for the assumptions made from the clues available. Precise dates mean entries in registers or Archdeacon’s Transcripts and are thus generally baptisms and burials not births and deaths. Years without a precise date usually mean that this has come from a will; estimates are flagged as such. Copeman spellings have been standardised on the modern form and the many older variants ignored for the sake of simplicity in this article and attachments (but see the other article on the evolution of the surname). For what it is worth the whole tree manages to find a place for very many of the BDMs and will contents that we have found. This has increased our confidence in the tree, but we are only too happy to receive any corrections, new facts or better theories as to how it all fits together. Fortunately, most of our uncertainty lies in the side branches rather than in the main trunk of the tree going back in time from our Robert of Itteringham.

We hope that this article will be of interest to all those who want to know more about Itteringham’s history; to those who are named Copeman or are related to the family; and to those who are simply interested in how widely a Norfolk family can spread from its origins in a single Norfolk village. Yes, we did find some interesting connections. The_full_story is available via a downloadable pdf and please let us know of any new facts or ideas.

Copyright © William Vaghan-Lewis 2007

BROWN & COPEMAN families

James Brown was a farmer and Tanner who leased Bintry Farm or Tanyard Farm, Itteringham, as it was then known, from the Blickling Estate. He was born in June 1807, the fourth son of Edmund and Elizabeth Brown of Erpingham. His exact date of arrival in Itteringham is not certain. We know the first years of the 19C the Tanyard Farm was leased by Richard Garnham. He was certainly still in the village in 1811 when he was the largest landholder.

There is also the record of a marriage in Itteringham between two Garnhams, possibly cousins in 1822, and a record of him farming in 1824, all indicating that a Garnham presence existed until at least the mid 1820s.

The 4th October 1828, at Itteringham, James Brown and Pleasance Reid Copeman, the third daughter of Robert Copeman, both "of this parish", were married by licence.

It is probable that within a few years after this James Brown took over the lease of the property. It does appear that the Browns had some farming experience, evidenced by the land holding in Erpingham that James paid Poll Tax on in 1835. Whether Pleasance’s father Robert Copeman used his influence with the Blickling Estate to arrange the lease and hence a more secure life for his daughter or whether James moved first to Itteringham then met Pleasance is yet to ascertained.


In 1835 James still maintained properties at both Itteringham and Erpingham. As well as being a Farmer, he conducted a Tannery and in 1851 he employed a total of seventeen men.

By 1858 James’ farming and business interests had grown to the point where he made application to convert the buildings of his tannery into Farm buildings. These plans were rejected on the grounds that the fabric of the buildings was not strong enough to withstand the new use. Nevertheless it was about this time that tannery operations ceased and James erected several more quite substantial buildings at Tanyard Farm. On one of these a stone with the date 1858 can still be seen.

James and Pleasance were still living at the 250 acre Tanyard Farm at the time of the 1861 census where the businesses had grow to a point where they now employed thirty one men.

This rather large increase in his business can be closely linked with the expansion of his Dunkirk enterprises in association with his brother-in-law Frederick Copeman.

Apart from his business activities James was very much involved in his local church. He was church warden and his signature, together with those of Rev Robert Walpole and fellow farmer and church warden Thomas Bayes appear inside the cover of the parish Book of Common Prayer with the date September 1854.

There were nine children of the marriage, all of whom were born in Itteringham:

i. James Edward BROWN 5 July 1829.

ii. William BROWN , b. 1832. d before 1883

iii. Fredrick BROWN , b. 1836, d. before 1844.

iv. Alfred BROWN , b. 1839, d. 1864, buried 29 Apr 1864 in Itteringham,

  • Catherine Anne BROWN , b. 27 May 1840, d. 7 Dec 1882, buried in Yarmouth
  • Fredrick BROWN , b. 1844, b 1875 in Itteringham
  • Thomas BROWN , b. 1844 b1860 in Itteringham
  • Frank BROWN , b. 1845
  • John BROWN , b. 1835.

Pleasance, who was nine years older than James died in 1864. James remained at the farm until at least 1871. His farming activities had slowed down and by 1881 he had ceased farming but was still residing at The Meadow living with two house keepers. He died in 1884 and is interred with his wife in the Itteringham churchyard.

His Will, which was administered at Norwich on the fifth day of March 1884, left an Estate valued at £90/17/00. To have worked as a tanner, a farmer, a miller, a timber and grain merchant and to leave and estate valued at only £90/17/0 seems rather strange compared with the apparent wealth of the Copemans. One must simply assume that the Copemans came from a more affluent start via Robert Copeman's Norwich business whereas James Brown was a young man who married well but had no assets behind him. As a result one can therefore expect the funding for later business expansion, to come disproportionately from the Copemans rather than the Browns and the subsequent profits to have been shared proportionally. The psychology of that whole century would be that real gentlemen were landowners/gentlemen farmers rather than employed in trade. This dynamic would be at work here, indicated by the Copeman’s drift to the countryside whilst the Browns stayed engaged in trade. Both families would probably have had that tendency if they had the chance to act on it.

Copemans and Browns in business

When one looks at the available Trade Directories for Norfolk and in particular for the Itteringham and Aylsham areas it can be seen how the business relationship between the Brown and Copeman families evolved.

Initially Robert Copeman came to Itteringham about 1815 where he was living at White House Farm as a tenant farmer to the Wolterton Estate. In 1828 his daughter Pleasance married James Brown. He was the local tanner who also operated a 250 acre farm leased from the Blickling Estate. After Robert’s death in 1832 his son Frederick not only continued farming but expanded his interests into the Milling Trade. He married in 1843 and by 1850 had moved from White House Farm to Mill House (Blickling_Mill) , taken over the operation of the nearby Itteringham Mill and had expanded his business to a point where he was called a Merchant (Whites 1854). Frederick continued to prosper, leaving the mill at Itteringham to be run by James Brown and establishing the new Steam Mill at Dunkirk in 1856. Dunkirk is a small industrial hamlet in the outlying area of Aylsham on the northern side of the River Bure. In 1860 he also built a large two story house opposite the Mill.

Meanwhile James Brown had also enlarged his operation. From once being a tanner and small farmer by 1850, had expanded his businesses to include “timber, corn, cake (an animal feed), seed, coal, manure” at both Itteringham and Dunkirk as well as an interest in the wherries that were so vital for transport on the canal. With Frederick Copeman’s move to Dunkirk, James’ business interests expanded even further. He took over the running of the Itteringham_Mill from Frederick in 1855 and erected several additional farm buildings at Tanyard Farm.

Frederick’s move to Dunkirk could be looked upon as a co-operative venture with the Brown and Copeman families working as a family group to run a whole cluster of interconnected businesses. Each seems to have retained their autonomy whilst at the same time benefiting from each other. Frederick was obviously the driving force behind the Steam Mill whilst the Browns continued the sawmilling grain, seed etc. One could easily imagine the steam engine providing power for the corn mill while in an adjacent building it was driving the machinery of the timber milling business. Whilst James does not appear to have ever moved his principal residence from Itteringham, Frederick moved to the large Mill House he had built in Dunkirk. At the very most he only lived in it for only four years.

White's Directory of 1864 shows William Utting Copeman, Frederick’s son, as the cornmiller at Dunkirk and most probably residing in the Mill House. This coincides with Frederick’s move to Long Stratton where he is to be found farming over 700 acres. Land possibly inherited from the estate of his wife’s family, Gordon (or George) Howes and Lucy née Utting, who were of Aslacton.

William’s stay at Dunkirk was also short lived. Within a few years he too had moved out and was living in Yarmouth.

Pleasance, James Brown’s wife also passed away in 1867 shortly after their son James Edward returned to Norfolk. He is variously referred to as either James or Edward. I will continue to call him Edward in this section to avoid confusion with his father. Edward had left home, “gone to sea” at a young age, married in Western Australia only to return home in about 1863. Initially he lived at Cawston where he was a farmer, possibly living and working with his unmarried brother Frederick Brown. Following the Copemans’ departure from Dunkirk the Harrod’s Directory of 1868 lists both Edward and another brother, John living in Dunkirk and the Kelly’s Directory of 1869 includes both these two as well as their brother Frederick. In 1871 Frederick Brown had returned to his Cawston farm where he was to die a few years later. Edward and John Brown, with their families remained at Dunkirk where they were they had taken up residence in the Mill House.

Although Frederick Copeman may have retained some financial interest it is obvious that from somewhere about time of his move to Long Stratton and certainly once his son William had moved to Yarmouth the Browns and particularly Edward and John were the driving force behind the running of the business.

This period in the mid to late sixties appears to have been the zenith of the Brown/Copeman business enterprises in Dunkirk.

After the death of his wife (1867) James appears to have left the running of the Dunkirk business to his sons and retreated to his farm where in 1871 his unmarried daughter Catherine is living with him. He is still farming nearly 200 acres but now it is a much smaller operation. A good indication of his business can be gauged from the three census conducted during this period. In 1851 as an active farmer at Itteringham he was employing seventeen men. Ten years later his business had grown to the point where he was employing thirty one men. Some of these would have been employed on the farm some at Itteringham_Mill but most of the additional men would have been connected with the Dunkirk operations. In 1871 after he had retired back to the farm, relinquished the Mill and having left Edward and John running Dunkirk he was back to employing just seven men and five boys. Obviously this represents a much small enterprise that that of ten years earlier, the difference being that many of those 1861 employees would have remained at Dunkirk and were probably still employed there.

Frederick Copeman had long since departed from Dunkirk and had established himself in Long Stratton where he was resident in Netherton House. In the 1869 Post Office Directory he is also recorded as the principal landowner in the two nearby parishes of Aslacton and Moulton St Michael. He died at Long Stratton in 1877 age seventy.

At the same time, 1869, William Copeman, who had briefly been involved at Dunkirk, was resident at Yarmouth where he was a captain in the 1st Norfolk Artillery Volunteers. There were several other Copeman families in Yarmouth (possibly distantly related) but William is clearly identified by the uncommon second name Utting. He appears to have been an only child but the Utting name has been passed on to many of his children.

By 1881 he was living at Bramerton, a village some 13 miles from Long Stratton, with two more children both born in Aslacton. His occupation is given as landowner, possibly the same land owned and farmed by his father. William died in the latter half of 1881.

So by 1871 Edward, John and their families were the only family members who still retained an active interest at Dunkirk. Even this was not to last very long. In 1872 Edward was the publican at the nearby Royal Oak public house. There is a James (Edward) Brown, possibly our man recorded as living in the nearby village of Drabblegate in 1875. This would indicate that he was no longer living at the Mill House and probably severed his association with the mill about the same time as it was taken over by Thomas Shreeve. We also know that James suffered from a lung complaint so it is possible that was another reason for him to leave the mill and its dusty environment. He is also recorded as being a beer retailer of Dunkirk in 1877 (no address) and in 1881 being the Inn Keeper and residing at the Royal Oak.

In the same directory Thomas Shreeve & Sons are millers, corn, coal, cake and manure merchants in Dunkirk, Buxton and Marsham.

Thomas Shreeve purchased the Steam Mill some time before 1880 (possibly even before 1875) either from Frederick Copeman or from his estate. Kelly’s Directory of 1875 lists him as Miller and Coal Merchant of Aylsham & Burgh Staithe. At this time the Aylsham water mill was owned by Bullock Bros so this reference to Thomas Shreeve in 1875 probably refers to the Dunkirk Steam Mill. This also about the same time James (Edward) Brown moved to Drabblegate.

Edward and his family left Norfolk to return to Australia in March 1883. He died on the 28 th June just five weeks after his arrival in Sydney.

John appears to have stayed in the business a little longer. He is recorded in the 1877 Harrods directory as a coal, corn and manure merchant. John again appears in the 1881 census where he is a Merchant’s Commissioned Agent.

Phil Bailey - Australia, 3rd April 2007



The Spurrell Family of Bessingham and their links to the Copemans


Robert Copeman’s youngest daughter, Sarah Frances, was married on 11 May 1848 to Daniel Spurrell of Bessingham, a small village about 5 miles north of Itteringham. Since the early 1500s Daniel’s family had been associated with Bessingham and neighbouring Thurgarton (where different generations of Copemans had also lived from time to time). The marriage took place in Brighton and was conducted by Daniel’s cousin (my great-great-grandfather), Rev. Frederick Spurrell, who later held the small Essex parish of Faulkbourne for 45 years.

This article is a short history of the family that Sarah Frances Copeman became part of for 55 years of her life, and a look at her descendants and the fate of that particular branch of the family.

The Spurrells, a long-lived race

Daniel’s obituary in the Eastern Daily Press 23 April 1906 says that he “came of a long-lived race”. In both senses of the phrase, this is right. Not only was he a few months short of his 90th birthday when he died, but the Spurrells had farmed land in Thurgarton and Bessingham since Tudor times, when a William Spurrell was mentioned on the Subsidy Roll of 1506.

By the early 1800s, two distinct branches of the family had developed in Norfolk. In Daniel’s father’s generation there were four sons. William inherited Thurgarton and lived at Thurgarton House (sometimes referred to as Thurgarton Hall or Thurgarton Old Hall). John had Bessingham and built a new manor house for himself there in the early 1800s. The other two sons, James and Charles (my great-great-great-grandfather), went to London to make their fortunes in the Southwark brewing trade.

John had married his cousin Elizabeth Joy in 1814 and died on 4 June 1837 leaving two sons (Flaxman and Daniel) and two daughters (Elizabeth and Frances).  Despite being the elder of the two sons, Flaxman did not inherit Bessingham but an estate at Sidestrand which had been passed down through his grandmothers.  His grandmothers were both daughters of James Flaxman of Roughton.  After a number of years spent in London, Flaxman moved to Belvedere in Kent where he worked as a doctor.

Thus the Bessingham branch continued with John’s second son Daniel. Daniel was only 20 at the time of his father’s death, and he oversaw the running of the estate for nearly 70 years thereafter. On the 1901 census he describes himself as a “Retired Agriculturalist”, implying that he may have been interested in improving farming methods. His heirs, however, by all accounts, were not enthusiastic about modernisation, which partly explains the fate of Bessingham Manor House, as we shall see later.

How Daniel and Sarah possibly met


A letter dated 18 December 1840 from Daniel to his brother Flaxman mentions that he had been to call on Mrs. Copeman, who sends her regards. Who was this Mrs. Copeman?

Sarah’s eldest brother, Edward James Copeman, had married Mary Joy in 1833. Used correctly, the title “Mrs.” refers to the wife of the eldest son, if his mother has died. Edward and Sarah’s mother, Blanche Lee Copeman (née Case) had died in January 1840, so Daniel, if following the correct usage of the time, would have been referring to Edward’s wife Mary.

But what was Mary Joy’s relation to Daniel? As mentioned earlier, Daniel’s mother was Elizabeth Joy. Daniel’s father John, in his will dated 1831, bequeathed money to his sisters-in-law Mary and Sarah Joy – although this was later revoked by a codicil. This Mary Joy could well be the same person who married Edward James Copeman two years later.

If this assumption is correct, Daniel and Sarah may well have met at some point in the 1830s or 40s during a family get-together. On the other hand, given that Itteringham and Bessingham are very close, the two families may have met by another means.

Daniel and Sarah’s children


Within ten years of their marriage, Daniel and Sarah had produced seven children – two boys and five girls. Despite the fact that five of the children went on to marry, only two provided grandchildren for Daniel and Sarah.

Emily Fanny Spurrell (1849-1905): On 30 April 1879 Emily was the first of Daniel’s children to marry, becoming the second wife of Rev. William Woodward Mills, who was Rector of nearby Aylmerton with Runton from 1872 to 1915. The service took place at Bessingham and was performed by a Norwich rector, assisted by Daniel’s cousin Rev. Frederick Spurrell. Emily and William had three children:

1. Dorothy Sarah Spurrell Mills (1880-1964), who died unmarried.

2. Ursula Blanche Mills (1882-1949), who also died unmarried.
3. Geoffrey Daniel Spurrell Mills (1886-1904), who was killed in an accident at Sheba Mine, South Africa and is buried there.

Emily’s obituary in the Eastern Daily Press mentions that the carriages were supplied by Mr. J. H. Copeman of Cromer.

Blanche Elizabeth Spurrell (1850-1931): Blanche also died unmarried and probably lived all her life at Bessingham Manor House. She is buried in the churchyard at Bessingham.

Katherine Anne Spurrell (1852-1919): From the Royal Horticultural Society Website it appears that a daffodil was named after Katherine. Having lived all her life at Bessingham she married in 1912 her cousin Flaxman Charles John Spurrell, eldest son of her uncle Flaxman. Flaxman junior was a geologist and archaeologist, and had worked with the famous egyptologist Petrie in Egypt. He retired to Bessingham, largely withdrawing himself from the world and died in 1915 aged 72. He published a large number of articles in various archaeological journals, and many of the artefacts he discovered or worked on, including some from North Norfolk, can now be seen in the Natural History Museum in London and the Norwich Castle Museum.

Sarah Maria Spurrell (1854-1855): Died before her first birthday and is buried in her own grave at Bessingham.

Robert John Spurrell (1855-1929): Educated at Ipswich and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (where he rowed in the 1878 Boat Race), Robert joined the army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He served in Afghanistan, India and South Africa and during the First World War commanded the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment. He was invalided out of active service in 1917 and lived his remaining years at Glandyfi Castle, Wales. In 1893 he married Mary Maude, daughter of Major-General James Lawtic Fagan, but they had no children. Robert is buried at Bessingham, where his wife erected a memorial to him and put in the east window.

Mary Isabel Spurrell (1857-1948): On 13 April 1882 Mary married Frank George Armstrong Hitchcock (1858-1930), a solicitor, with whom she had six children. Details of Mary’s descendants are quite sketchy, but I am providing a brief outline here in the hope that some readers may be able to fill in the gaps.

1. Frank Norman Spurrell Hitchcock (1883-1916), an army doctor who emigrated to New Zealand after marrying Gertrude Fitzhenry in 1909. He was killed in the First World War and had two children: Robert Fitzhenry Hitchcock (b+d 1910) and Mary Margaret Joan Hitchcock (b 1915).
2. Ronald Victor Hitchcock (1884-1970), who inherited Bessingham from his uncle Denham (see below). He apparently had one daughter, Margaret Mary Hitchcock (b 1924).

3. Sybil Mary Hitchcock (b 1886) married in 1933 farmer Francis Gordon Haward (b 1869) and had no children.

4. Gladys Violet Hitchcock (1888-1928) married David Charles Cotton in Scotland in 1928 and had one daughter, Margaret Ann Cotton (b 1928).

5. Sylvia Daisy Hitchcock (b 1889) was married in 1917 to John James Cadour Hudson, by whom she had a daughter called Sybil Ruth Hudson (b 1920).

6. Audrey Myrtle Hitchcock (b 1892) married Montague Bagshaw Harrison in 1919 and had one son, Richard Montague Harrison (b 1926).

Mary Hitchcock is buried in Bessingham churchyard next to her husband.

Edmund Denham Spurrell (1858-1952): The youngest of Daniel and Sarah’s children, Denham inherited not only the estate but his parents’ longevity. He died in 1952 aged 93 having run the estate for almost half a century; he was also a magistrate, local councilor, member of the Norfolk Yeomanry and Master of the North Norfolk Harriers. Several stories exist about Denham’s eccentricities. On his father’s death in 1906, he returned to Bessingham from India with a bear in tow. This bear one day escaped and injured a housemaid and several other people. A photo of Denham with the bear apparently still exists. Denham’s horse is buried in the grounds of Bessingham Manor House – standing upright. He obviously had more respect for traditional forms of transport like horses than for rules concerning the new motor cars. Having caused an accident by driving straight across a crossroads where he should have given way, his defence before the magistrates was that he thought the other cars would have stopped for him. However, a mistrust of modernity did not stop him learning to pilot a plane at the age of 91 so that he could fly to a friend’s house in Bournemouth! His return landing on a field near his Bessingham house was apparently met with cheers by the villagers. In 1906 Denham married Emily Marten (née Finch) but the marriage was childless.

Bessingham’s fate

As we have seen, Daniel and Sarah’s heir to the Bessingham estate was their youngest child Denham. After his death it went to Ronald Hitchcock, the son of his sister Mary. Both of the last two owners were “actively opposed to modernisation” and did not allow electricity cables to be laid across their grounds to heat up the church.

Ronald Hitchcock died in 1970 and Bessingham Manor House passed out of the family, ending several generations of the estate being inextricably linked to the Spurrell family. The house is still standing but in a poor state, and according to rumours there is a tree growing through the middle of it.

Daniel and Sarah’s funeral


After 55 years spent together as husband and wife, it seems only right that Daniel and Sarah died within three days of each other. Daniel’s death came after a short period of illness. “Feeling better, [he] announced the intention of getting up. This, however, he never did, for in less than an hour he passed peacefully away.” Sarah died four hours before Daniel’s funeral and was buried alongside him. This poignant moment – the end of an era – was expressed as follows in the Eastern Daily Press:

“None who viewed the two coffins side by side, the one placed there on Saturday and the other just then lowered, and reflected how after long honoured years, even in ‘death were not divided,’ the aged and worthy couple who began life in the selfsame year, could think other than that they were indeed happy in the manner of their passing hence after a union of five and fifty years.”

Copyright © Jonathan C. Spurrell 2007

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2007
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