Farming was the way of life - and means of living - for the vast majority of Flordon residents. Most were 'Ag. Labs.' (Agricultural Labourers - the abbreviation first appeared in the 1841 census) who may have worked their own small-holding that would have been little more than the size of an allotment. The Farmers were tenants of either Flordon Manor or Rainthorpe Manor. Copyhold tenants held title to the land but had to pay fees whenever it was mortgaged, rented out or passed to an heir - in which case they were given a copy of the entries duly made in the Manor Court Rolls. Other farmers were themselves tenants, either of the Lord of the Manor or of an absentee copyhold tenant. Many farms included fields owned by different people, all farmed by the same tenant.
We get an interesting glimpse into land ownership and farming in the 1840s when the 1841 census records all the inhabitants of the parish and their occupations; the Tithe Map and Apportionment of 1843 shows land ownership and lists the tenants; and White's Directory of 1845 summarises the situation: the land of Flordon parish was 'mostly belonging to Thos. Brightwell, Esq., and the Rev. Sir Wm. Kemp, Bart. and Lord of the Manor.' Interesting that the lady who also owned part of the Parish is not mentioned! 

Above is a very small version of a very large map - the 1843 Tithe Map of Flordon (NOTE - North is towards the right margin). The area striped in blue belongs to Kemp, Lord of the Manor of Flordon, who at this time was also Rector of the Parish but lived in the family home in Gissing. Much later, another Kemp would be living in Mergate Hall, Bracon Ash, and his heirs would decide to sell the land.... The pink areas belong to the Thomas Brightwell Esq. mentioned in White's Directory. And the area in the east, striped with orange, belonged to Mary Girdlestone. Other areas include some other landowners (notably Bird's Farm and the Robert Harvey, whose land was mortgaged to John Leeder); the Rectory land; patches of glebe land whose rents supported the church; the Tasburgh Towns Lands charity which rented out 9 parcels of land (totalling 8.5 acres)  in Flordon to benefit the poor of adjacent Tasburgh; and Flordon Common.

Thomas Brightwell

Thomas Brightwell (1787-1868) was a Norwich Solicitor who lived in Surrey Street - in fact he acted as Deputy Steward of Flordon Manor in transactions in July 1820. At the same time he was acquiring land in the parish: on 31st Jan 1820, William Lamb, a butcher in Hammersmith, signed an Absolute Surrender of land in Flordon which was purchased by Thomas Brightwell for £1,570. Unfortunately we do not know how much land or precisely where, but it must have been a substantial amount at that price! Soon afterwards, Thomas Brightwell acquired yet more land in the parish: a document of Surrender and Release dated August 1828 shows land that was let out to a tenant being transferred from an ex-soldier who had inherited it; in February 1829 he paid £1,950 to a Suffolk lady who had inherited land in Flordon from her father.

Thomas Brightwell's signature, upper left, on a mortgage of 1820
Thomas Brightwell's signature, upper left, on a mortgage of 1820

Thomas  continued to live and practise in Norwich where he was Mayor in 1837. He was a prominent non-conformist, and both his children's births were entered in a Baptist register in Thorpe. He was a friend and executor of Amelia Opie, whose biography was written by his daughter Cecelia Lucy and published in 1854. Cecelia was an artist, a pupil of John Sell Cotman, and among her many etchings is a picture of Flordon Common, and other rural scenes may have been sketched in Flordon. Cecelia never married, and among her philanthropic works she donated the 'Brightwell' lifeboat to Blakeney. 

Thomas's son Barron Brightwell (1814-1886) was apprenticed to a miller. In 1851 he was living at Flordon Mill, still single and employing Thomas Rayner from Suffolk as miller. He was also farming 93 acres. In the 1861 census he is 'miller; farmer of 156 acres'. He had married Marina Ann Riches of Mendham, Suffolk, in 1855. By 1871 he had moved to the much larger Hall Farm, Intwood (530 acres) but retained land in Flordon where he was still an elector in 1871.

When Thomas Brightwell died in November 1868 the Executors were his daughter Cecelia and his son Barron Brightwell, 'farmer of Flordon'. The estate was put up for sale in 1869, consisting of Flordon Mill and land that would became Railway (or Station) Farm and Orchard Farm. 

Mary Girdlestone

Mary Girdlestone, nee Gay (c.1780-1853), was the daughter and heiress of John Gay, lawyer and 'Gentleman of Rainthorpe Hall'. His father, a worstead weaver in Norwich, was Mayor of the City in 1754. The younger John Gay and his daughter, Mary, were painted by John Opie in 1799 when Mary was 19. 

In 1810 Mary married Rev Theophilus Girdlestone (1759-1832) in Flordon church (their signatures appear on an 1824 Flordon land transfer document, above). Theophilus attended Caius College, Cambridge, was ordained in 1782, and was instituted as Rector of Swainsthorpe on 24 March 1784. In 1788 he became Rector of Baconsthorpe - the church where he had been baptised in 1759. People noted that Mary was "half the age of her husband" when she married. They had 8 children, some of whom were given interesting names.... Mary (1811-1880); Theophila (b.1814); John Gay (1815-1880, became Rector of Kelling & Salthouse); Sarah (b.1818); Frances (b. 1819); Anna Maria (b.1820 who died at Rainthorpe Hall before she was 20); William Harding (1821-1897, also ordained); and Tharp Mountain (1823-1899, trained as a doctor in Norwich and St Batholomew's, London, emigrated to Australia in 1850 where he later became Professor of Anatomy in Melbourne). Mary rented the Rainthorpe estate out to tenants and in 1852 put everything up for sale by auction, but the Hall itself and 2 of the farms did not sell. When Mary died in the following year, Rainthorpe Hall and the unsold farms were purchased by Hon. Frederick Walpole, MP.

The Kemp family

The Kemp family were Lords of the Manor of Flordon, Patrons of the church, and several were also Rectors of the parish. Something of their history is under Flordon Hall. The Kemps continued to own much of Flordon until 1948 when the Mergate Hall Estate came on the market, a large part of which was land in Flordon. This gave opportunity for tenants to become land-owners, as happened with Flordon Hall Farm and White House Farm. 


BIRDS FARM (now Waveney Mushrooms) on the opposite side of the road from White House Farm.

ORCHARD FARM, a dairy farm situated off Greenways, the lane parallel with the railway.

Sep. 1904 Stock of ORCHARD FARM along with RAILWAY FARM up for sale on behalf of the late Mr Solomon Marshall, along with 'vans, carts, scales, weights and other utensils for Coal Merchant's business'.

'Railway Farm' seems to be also known as STATION FARM - In Sep.1907 its sale was advertised in EDP for Mr B J Edwards, who was giving up the farm (presumably having taken it over in 1904)

MILL HOUSE FARM surrounded Flordon Mill and was farmed by a some of the millers and then their successors who lived in the Mill House.

As mentioned under Flordon Hall FarmSir Humphrey de Trafford, Bart, bred horses there and it was called a 'stud' in some descriptions. He left around 1895, but articles from his time have been found on the farm by the current owners. Today, Flordon is better known for rescued horses than thoroughbreds....

The Redwings Horse Sanctuary arrived in 1997 when the charity bought all or part of the Hapton Hall Estate, which was then owned by R J Reed, the millers of Norwich. Previously, Tim Finch lived there (son of Peter & Dorothy Finch of Woodlands, Long Lane) who was a keen huntsman and Master of the Dunston Harriers. They were a common sight in Flordon in his day.

The official Redwings charity website is here

Wikepedia has information on Redwings here