A Simple History


This website is largely focused on the last few hundred years rather than attempting to reach further back in time. For those who have an interest, the Domesday Book details for Wreningham (and Nayland) can be found here.

The History of Norfolk from the time of the Norman Conquest up to the late 1700s was set out in a set of volumes titled “An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk”. The books were written and published c1800. Volume 5 includes the story of Wreningham: a modern transcription can be found here.

Queen Elizabeth I passes through Wreningham – 1578

Queen Elizabeth I appears to have travelled through Wreningham on Thursday 14th August, 1578. The queen had been making her way from London to Norwich – in her only visit to Norfolk, and is understood to have travelled though Wreningham on the road we now call the B1113.

She had been travelling with an enormous entourage which included her Court and the Royal Household which was accompanied by over 200 carts each pulled by 6 horses.  It must have been an incredible sight for those able to view it. 

On the 11th August at her arrival on the Suffolk / Norfolk border, near Kenninghall, she was greeted by an impressive Norfolk party of “five and twenty hundred horsemen” and “600 gentlemen”. 

The queen stayed at Kenninghall for the nights of 11th – 13th before proceeding to Bracon Ash where she is understood to have stayed at Mergate Hall.  The Bracon Ash and Hethel website (see the lower part of the linked page) provides a lot more information.

Many in the party are likely to have lodged in the wider area.

After 3 nights in Bracon Ash, the queen entered Norwich on Saturday 16th August by way of the Harford Bridge and stayed at the Bishop’s Palace.

The Elizabethan Court Day by Day 1578 (see the linked pages numbered 32 and onwards) provides additional details – all set in the context of the period.

Regarding Wreningham’s “built” history, here are all our Grade I and Grade II structures.

The Manor

The local manor and the “Barons Berners” – and whose local base was Ashwellthorpe, was a history of family successions.

Much of the documentation involving the manor generally used the term: “Ashwellthorpe with Wreningham”. This is because the local manor encompassed both villages. Although Ashwellthorpe and Wreningham each have their own churches, there was a single rector and the choice of rector was in the gift of the manor. In this way, it might be considered that the rector would have been a typical villager’s more likely form of “contact” with the Manor.

Many of us have heard of Lady Berners (1835 – 1917). She had married Sir Henry Tyrwhitt of Stanley Hall, Shropshire, in 1853, and is believed to have spent most of her time in Shropshire until she inherited the Berners title, in 1871. At that point, her involvement with Ashwellthorpe and Wreningham is believed to have significantly increased. After Sir Henry died in 1894, Lady Berners lived full-time at Ashwellthorpe Hall. After her own death, in 1917, she was buried in Ashwellthorpe. Her direct successor was dead within a year and Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt found himself as the next (reluctant?) Lord Berners.

A selection of notes following earlier manorial successions (extracted from other documentation and not intended to be comprehensive) is provided below:


John de Thorpe died in possession, holding of Thomas Bardolf 1323-4.

In 1331,Thomas Bardolf had died owning the manor, held of him by Robert de Thorpe as of the manor of Wormegay.

In 1341: John son of Robert de Thorpe died in possession, holding jointly with his wife Joan; heir his brother Edmund de Thorpe.

In 1441, John, son of Robert de Thorpe, is recorded as having died in possession, holding the manor jointly with his wife Joan; his heir was his brother Edmund de Thorpe. The manor was subsequently held by the Bouchier and Knyvett families before passing to the Wilsons.

Robert Wilson is named as lord of Ashwellthorpe cum Wreningham in the 1811 Inclosure Act.

In 1845 Lord Berners is given as lord of the manor in White’s Trade Directory. Lady Berners is given as lord of the manor in White’s Trade Directory, 1883.

Last transaction dated: 1919; lord of the manor: Cecil Arthur Tennant and Walter Francis Forbes, trustees of the late 13th Baron Berners.


After 1919, the Barony Berners still existed. Following the death of Lord Gerald Berners (14th Baron) in 1950, it would have passed to Lady Berners’ fourth son Clement; however, he had died in 1939 without surviving children. It would have then gone to Lady Berners’ fifth son Rupert. He had died in 1940 but did leave children: son Lionel (killed in 1942) and a daughter, Vera Ruby Tyrwhitt, later Williams; she became the 15th Baroness and died in 1992. At the time of writing, there is a recently ennobled 17th Baron – but none of this maintains the significance it once had.

A comprehensive story of the Barony from the mid 1800s – but especially over the last 100 years, is provided on a page in the Ashwellthorpe History Group website here.

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