In the Middle Ages, Wreningham comprised 3 parishes – each with its own church. Two of these hamlets faded away and the parishes merged; Wreningham All Saints is the surviving church. However, until the middle the 1800s, the rectory was near to a ruin of one of the original churches – St Marys. In 1851, the rector, Rev Pigott, involved himself in creating a new Rectory – and much closer to the church.
The present-day National Heritage List for England includes the very first village rectory, today known as Vine Cottage.
Matthew Day (born Wreningham in 1806, although living in Carlton Rode) came to the rescue. He owned land in Church Road and was happy to exchange this with ownership of the existing, but distant, rectory and its surrounding land. The precise swap also needed to take into account the fact that there were different types of annual levy on each plot.
This opened the way for the new rectory to be constructed in Church Road. It wasn’t completed until 1854, by which time, the Rev Upcher had arrived as the new rector. Is it the only house in Wreningham to have been constructed with a cellar? County Directories of the late 1800s state that the new rectory cost £1,600. Perhaps this sum included other church related costs because this seems a great deal of money; we know the North Transept in the Church was being constructed at about the same time.
The new rectory and its grounds also proved to be much more suited for community engagement. The village celebration of the Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee at the rectory field is a particular example. In recent times the rectory field has been procured by the village for it recreational area and for the use of the school. Today, we live with the benefit of what started out as improved accommodation and a shortened commute for the rector!
After the Rev Upcher died, in 1896, the Rev Ernest Fardell took his place. A legal document needed to be drawn up for the transfer of the rectory; the Rev Fardell is also understood to have made building improvements.
R D Day’s ledger also describes various small-scale works, repairs and decorations to the rectory. Shown here are a few of his ongoing running repairs around the rectory in September 1901.
repairs to many of the floors, with some new floor boards and painting the skirting
fitting new glass nursery window
fixing sash windows
fitting a new bolt to the stable
braces for the garden door
The Rev Fardell also organised Tennis and Croquet to be played on the Rectory Lawn.
Photographs of both appeared on postcards from this early period. The tennis court is shown here.
A village ladies tennis club was still thriving at the rectory in the 1950s.
The adjacent Rectory Cottage, was once a part of the Upcher & Fardell rectories For a period in the 1900s it was home to the rectory’s gardener, James Marsham. In a sign of the changing world, Rectory Cottage was sold off by the Diocese in September 1954.
In 1955, following the death of Canon Fardell, there were further changes.
The former servants’ quarters, which had been a wing of the rectory, were demolished. Census information from the 1800s lists 6 live-in staff in 1861. This reduced to 4 by 1891 and 2 by 1911. Were there other “day” staff who offset some of that reduction?
The last rector in residence was the Rev Henry Brierly. He departed in 1982 when the diocese re-organised the local parishes. A Wreningham rectory was no longer required; it was sold and became a private home.
The Rectory Playing Field
As described above, for many years the Rectory Playing Field had been in use by Wreningham villagers and, specifically, by the school. The school had been renting three quarters of an acre of the rectory field for a long time. A document we have seen shows the rental in 1961 to be the very modest sum of £4 per year! However, in the early 1980s, with the Diocese disposing of the rectory, the future of field access was placed in doubt.
The detailed story of the playing field acquisition can be found in a series of Wreningham Mardle magazines between Easter 1982 and Easter 1983. It is summarised below:
The Parish Council had been advised by the Diocese that the playing field land could be purchased. Following a Parish Council discussion, the whole village was canvassed for its views through the pages of the Wreningham Mardle.
The District Valuer had advised a selling price of £5,000 to be “fair and reasonable”. Legal fees were expected to require a further £250 – making a total sum to find of £5,250. He also made an informal comment that the nearness of the “new” village hall was (possibly) “unique” and the opportunity to purchase the field was something that should not be passed by. The project also had the support of the Norfolk Playing Fields Association; a special village management committee was set up.
South Norfolk District Council offered to pay 1/3 leaving a required balance of £3,500 and, by summer 1982, several individual donations helped close the gap to “only” £1,800. By late Autumn, the required sum had been reduced to £1,400 and by early 1983, all the money had been found.
The contract was signed and duly completed on 15th March 1983; the “Rectory Field” had become “The Wreningham Playing Field” and was now the property of the village.