Flordon Hall nestles in a valley and at first sight looks like a modest Elizabethan brick house. But closer inspection, and a peep inside, shows that the core is a much older timber-framed medieval hall. In fact some of the massive Tudor timbers on the 1st floor turn out to be decorative rather than structural!
There are no records of when a Hall was first built here, but land was given to the Buttevelyan family (anglicised from de Buttevillaine) in 1103. Sir William Buttevelyan owned (and possibly built) Flordon Hall in the 15th century but died in 1465 without a family. The estates passed to his sisters Julienne (married to the Duke of Brampton) and Alice (married to a Kempe) and thus Flordon, along with Dawling near Gissing and other lands passed to the Kemps. Through inheritance, marriage and astute land purchases, by the end of the 16th century the Kemps owned a large manorial estate stretching from Mergate Hall (at the southern edge of Bracon Ash) through Flordon and Gissing (along what is now the main railway to London) almost as far as Diss. Thus the Kemps were Lords of the Manor and Patrons of the Parish of Flordon.
It was Robert Kemp (1567-1612) and his 2nd wife, Dorothy nee Harris (d. 1626), seem to have 'modernised' Flordon Hall around 1600 by adding or enlarging the wings, building a tall porch thus creating a typically late Elizabethan symmetrical E-plan. Their arms appear on the porch (above) and are repeated on the monument to Robert Kemp in the Kemp mausoleum in Gissing church (below). He is described as the Officer to the Protestant King Edward VI (1547-53) and to the Catholic Queen Mary (1553-58) who kept their Custome House at London.
When Flordon Hall was renovated by the current owners, some fine Elizabethan windows were discovered under the plasterwork (below). Inside there are several original doors and the original timber roof.
After Robert died in 1612, Dorothy continued to live at Flordon Hall with her family. There are records of her working with her unmarried daughters spinning thread and embroidering initials on fine household linen which she prepared for her children's trousseaux. She had seven boys to care for - the eldest, Robert (c.1597-1647), sounds quite a handful and one for the ladies, but he knew the inheritance would be his when he was 21. His behaviour concerned his mother, who held strict Puritan views, and mentions Rev Edward Rous, Rector of Flordon, as a beloved relative.
She made her will shortly before she died in 1626, designating a long list of items and leaving her jewellery to her daughter-in-law, Jane, who became Lady Jane Kemp when husband Robert was made a Baronet by King Charles I. Dorothy was buried in Gissing with other members of the Kemp family. After that Flordon Hall was probably rented out - the next generations were busy at Court or escaping Cromwell!
However, the Kemps remained Patrons, and there is a long list of them in Flordon Church - the photo above shows part of one of two boards. After Gissing Hall was pulled down by the 2nd Baronet, also a Robert Kemp (1627-1710), some of the glass was brought to Flordon and Mergate Halls as well as to other of his manor houses.
Moving on to the time of the 4th Baronet, Sir Robert Kemp (1699-1752), who never married, and the 5th Baronet, his brother John (1700-1761), their younger brother Thomas (1706-1761) was presented to the livings of Gissing and Flordon by his father. He missed becoming the 6th Baronet because he died a few months before his next eldest brother, who had no children. So John Kemp (1754-1771), son of Thomas and his 1st wife Anne Mallum, became the 6th Baronet of Gissing. Because John never married, and his brother died young, the title passed to another branch of the family.
Thus we meet the 10th Baronet, Rev Sir William Robert Kemp (1791-1874) who was ordained after he graduated from Cambridge and was instituted as Rector of Gissing and Flordon in 1816. In both villages he was Rector, Lord of the Manor and Patron of the Parish at the same time. He built a new Manor House and a Rectory on his land at Gissing. He became embroiled in a lot of expensive litigation due to "a keen sense of the rights and homages due to the family". How much he lived at or visited Flordon is an open question, though the Rectory is listed as 'in the use and possession of Sir William Robert Kemp' in 1834 and again in 1845. Maybe 'the use...of' means using it to house a curate, because we find the somewhat notorious Rev J N Andrew is listed 1845 (see CHURCH).
Rev Sir William died in May 1874 without children and his younger brother Thomas took the title for a few months until he died in August 1874. The title then passed to another branch of the family, to Sir Kenneth Hagar Kemp (1853-1936) who was the 12th and final Baronet of Gissing. He lived at Mergate Hall to be within easy reach of his legal and banking business interests in Norwich, and he restored both Mergate and Flordon Halls and modernised his estate workers cottages. Sadly, his only son, Richard, was killed in the Boer War.
More about the Kemps in online books
The estate was finally sold in several lots in January 1948, when Geoffrey Webster bought Flordon Hall, having already lived there and farmed the land as a tenant for more than a decade. Not only is the Hall itself Grade II* listed, but the2-storey former Dower House (built early 1600s, now a barn) is Grade II and so is the 17th century timber-framed barn nearby.
Sadly one distinctive building collapsed: a wooden dovecote with a tiled roof and two floors for the nesting birds. By 1978 it was in the rather dilapidated state seen above, and one day it collapsed while the owners were having tea!
In 1960 Mr Webster was able to obtain the right to be called Lord of the Manor, though without the prestige enjoyed by his predecessors. Flordon Hall is now the heart of a flourishing farming enterprise and there is more about Hall Farm under FARMING
With thanks to Rex, June & Tim Webster for information and photos; Steve Elden for air views.