The oldest half of Flordon Rectory is thought to date from the early years of the 17th century, although there may well have been an older building on the site that was pulled down or renovated. This dating fits in well with what we know of the Kemp family at Flordon Hall. The Hall was probably modernised or rebuilt around 1600 by Robert and Dorothy Kemp, and Dorothy continued to live there after her husband died in 1612. She was a devout woman of Puritan persuasion and mentions Rev Edward Rouse, Rector of Flordon from 1607-1646, as 'a beloved relative'. It seems highly likely that having completed the Hall, the Kemps renovated or rebuilt the Rectory for a resident Rector who was related to them.
In rural parishes, the Rector was usually second in status to the Lord of the Manor and could expect to live in a house as good as any yeoman farmer. He also needed a large barn in which to store the tithes of grain, hay and wood; and a cool buttery or dairy for the tithes of milk and eggs that would be delivered frequently. He would also need all the usual farm buildings for a man entitled to farm the glebe land - or rent it to tenants to give him an income. By 1675 this amounted to 40 acres in Flordon, a large area for a relatively small parish.
By a remarkable stroke of fortune we have an excellent description of the Rectory in 1675 from three documents - a 'terrier' (an official stock-take of property and land belonging to the church, still taken regularly by archdeacons); an Inventory of December 1765 taken when the Rector, Rev Richard Francis, died; and the hearth tax returns for the same year.
Extract from TERRIER OF 1675 (left)
The situation or homestall of the Rectory, whereon standeth one hall, one parlour, one Dairy house, one Buttery, with chambers [bedrooms] over them. Also one barn, one stable, one Hay house, Aso one cow house, one shod [shed] for a cart, two houses for swine, one garden, one [?] siding southward on the mill beck and northward onto the said mill way [road], and abutteth onto the tenement of [?] Johnson to the west and lands of John [?] to the east 3 acres.
INVENTORY OF 1675 - page 1 (left)
An inventory of the goods and chattles of Richard Francis, late of Flordon, in the county of Norfolk, Clerk, deceased. Had made and apprised December the second Anno Domini one thousand six hundred and seventy five by the persons whose names are hereunto subscribed.
Eight joined stools [framed rather than 3-legged; value 11 shillings] / One table / One livery cupboard [larder] / One carpet / Six cushions / A little table / Five chairs / Three stools / Cob irons, firepan and tongs [in fireplace] / One glass keep [cupboard for glasses] / One looking glass / Six Holland [imported, probably Dutch] plates, a sugar dish and a basin / A table basket / One clock [value 10 shillings] / The library of books [value £5].
The Inventory continues with detailed listing and value of the contents of every room in the house, and of the barn and outbuildings.
The 1675 Hearth Tax Returns list payment for four hearths, one each in the parlour, the hall and two bedrooms above, all feeding into one chimney.
From these documents it is possible to draw up a detailed plan of the house in 1675 (left). The Rector and family would have lived in the southern (warmer) part of the house; the dairy and buttery were in the colder north end; the hall would have been used as the kitchen; and the servants probably slept in a divided north-end bedroom. A passage between the front and back doors divided the warm from the cold areas.
This was a clay-lump house, supported by an internal wooden box-frame and rendered with plaster. It stood on a flint rubble plinth with brick corners, and the hipped roof was thatched with reeds and topped with a ridge of clay underneath sedge or rush, held down with hazel pegs.
The building of 1675 can still be seen in the basic structure of the front half of the present-day former Rectory house, with its hall and rooms to the south and north. But fashions - and the requirements of Rectors' families - changed, so over time the building was altered and enlarged to approximately twice the size. Because a rectory and its land was treated as freehold, the rector could manage it as he wished and make improvements. At Flordon, most of the clergy appointed by the Kemps - patrons of the church and Lords of the Manor - were family members who had been to university and ordained. From 1730, the 'living' was joined with Gissing - some distance away on horseback! Most Rectors probably preferred living at Gissing and appointed a curate to Flordon on a small stipend plus the house, so there was no incentive to improve the Rectory.
In 1821 the Rev Sir William Robert Kemp, the 10th baronet, appointed himself Rector and set about modernising the Rectory. The central room became a reception hall with a fine staircase entered from a new central front door, and the north room became a dining room. The kitchen was moved to a single-storey extension at the back and the attic was opened up as servants' quarters (with north-facing dormer windows that did not overlook the garden!). The old chimney was replaced, and a matching chimney added at the north end so that the whole house could be heated. When Rev Gascoigne Frederick Whittaker took over in 1856 it was a very run-down property and he spent £700 of his own money on repairs. Under Mr Whittaker and his successor the house was doubled in size - and the successive 19th century alterations are still evident from the different coloured bricks!
This photo shows the house from the west today, with the back of the house in shadow on the left. The first downstairs window of the back is surrounded by white bricks, with the outline of a pointed roof. This marks Kemp's replacement kitchen when the old kitchen area became a reception hall. This new kitchen was divided from the main house by a covered passageway. The red bricks around the first upstairs window on the west side show where Rev Whittaker had the single-storey kitchen turned into a 2-storey extension with a downstairs study and two bedrooms above. To the left was a new kitchen with a lean-to roof. The ground floor was doubled in size. In 1882 plans were drawn up for a further extension, but Rev Whitaker died and it was left to his successor, Rev James L Cotton, so see them through with a grant from the Diocese. The kitchen was replaced with a 2-storey extension in white bricks (but not quite the same white as others!) to give better kitchen facilities plus a schoolroom, bedroom and dressing room above. A two-storey bay of the same brick was added to the old house, with large windows overlooking the garden, was added to the parlour and master-bedroom, and the corridor dividing the two parts of the house was given a door to the garden. There were changes to internal staircases, too. The front still looks much as it did in this photo of 1906:
Meanwhile there were changes outside. During the 1840s tithes came to be paid in cash rather than kind, so there was no need for a huge tithe barn. It was replaced by a small barn with stables attached. A coach house was added, with large sliding doors - and this was converted into the Rectory Room for parishioners in 1919. The other huge change was the coming of the railway in the 1840s, dividing the land of the Rectory from the Mill. A great embankment rose up above the Rectory garden, with steam-trains rumbling past.
Tithes were phased out in the 1920s, reducing the income of many country rectors. In 1937 the living was united with Hapton, and in 1981 the last resident Rector left Flordon. In 1983 the Rectory was made a Grade II listed building, the former orchard was sold off separately for housing and the old Rectory became a private house.
[Based on research into the history of the house by the late Paul Cattermole for the pesent owners]