off Cuckoofield Lane, Bracon Ash
In a sale document of 1828, Bracon Lodge was described as:
'Very Desirable Estate in Bracon Ash & Mulbarton - Modern-built Mansion house with beautiful white brick front, called The Lodge, recently papered and painted throughout, comprising entrance, dining and drawing rooms (large); small study, kitchen, dairy, good pantries. 3 bedrooms with dressing room to each; 5 other sleeping rooms. Laundry, double coach-house, stabling for 8 horses, garden partly walled in, greenhouse, orchard, shrubbery, picturesque lawn in front.' There were also farm houses; farm buildings and 107 acres of land leased out.
It is uncertain who exactly built the house, but the first residents we know of were the Corbould family - later to become the Cobould-Warrens.
John Corbould (1720-1801) and his wife, Ann Miller (1735-1791) are both buried in the chancel of Bracon Ash church. Did they already have family roots in Bracon Ash? On the end wall of the south aisle is a plaque to Thomas Corbould, a Yeoman, who died in 1709 aged 78, and Elizabeth his wife who died in 1713 in her 74th year.... Among the children of John & Elizabeth Corbould was another John Corbould (1768-1810), a clergyman, who in 1794 married Elizabeth Warren (1769-1852) who are the likely builders of Bracon Lodge. Of their 8 children, Frances died before she was 2, and we know nothing about Mary (b.1797), but their others went on to have illustrious careers or marriages. John, the eldest (1794-1822), became a Lieutenant; Thomas (1796-1869) became Rector of Tacolneston, and is buried in Bracon Ash; Charles (1799-1892) went to sea aged 13, left the navy at the end of the Napoleonic wars, went to Cambridge, may have been a lawyer before he was ordained, emigrated to Canada by 1837 and became Bishop of Toronto. Then there was Edward (1802-1878) and another Frances (Fanny) (1803-1823); and William (1806-1858) who took his degree at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, was ordained in 1832 and also became Rector of Tacolneston until about 1858. He is the man who added the name 'Warren' to his surname - by permission of Queen Victoria in 1853 after which he could 'bear the arms of Warren quarterly with his own family arms, in pursuance of the Will of Mrs Elizabeth Catherine Warren, late of Tacolnestone.' But that is jumping ahead as far as Bracon Hall is concerned - though the next generation of Corbould-Warrens will reappear....
Enter the Berneys
In 1810 the Bracon Lodge estate was up for sale: a 'modern mansion-house, late residence of Rev. John Corbould, deceased' along with 155 acres of farmland. It was advertised again in 1815: 'a desirable Residence for a gentleman called Bracon Lodge, within about six miles of the city of Norwich, with about 170 acres of land'. Instead of a gentleman, it is likely that the Berney family took over the land - later in 1815, among the 'great names' attending a ball at Chapelfield House, Norwich, are Mrs & Miss Berney 'of Bracon Lodge'. Quite how this squares with Mrs Berney leasing Mergate Hall is uncertain - maybe she was helping her unmarried daughter set up a separate home....
The rest of the story is told much, much later at a court case in 1878 when Rev Thomas Berney was accused of trespassing in the kitchen garden of Bracon Lodge and he set out to claim his 'rights' as Lord of the Manor to shoot where he liked. The newspaper reports suggest both the judge and audience enjoyed the case - there is frequent laughter at Rev Berney's expense! Included is a long explanation of the family's relationship with Bracon Lodge:
.'...in 1800 [probably should be 1810 or 1815 - some other dates in the case are incorrect] an ancestor of the defendant [Rev Thomas Berney] came into the possession this land.... In 1818 this owner died and the father of the defendant came into possession of the Bracon Ash Estate. In 1833 he alienated a part of the estate to his sister, Miss Berney.... who became the owner of the manor. In 1840, Miss Berney conveyed the land in question [i.e. Bracon Lodge] ....to a Mr Norris, who in 1861 conveyed it to Mr William Butcher, who in 1862 conveyed it to the plaintiff [G W F Loftus]. When this land was severed from the manor, no right was reserved to the lord by Miss Berney.' That sound straightforward, but Rev Thomas Berney claimed he had inherited certain rights when he 'came to his property [and rights] in 1855 from Miss Berney's Will.' Read on to hear the outcome....
Even whilst in Berney hands, The Lodge was often available to let - in 1816; again in 1817:
'excellent modern-built MANSION of moderate size known as BRACON LODGE, situate on a high and healthy spot, about 6 miles from Norwich and Windham (sic) in a delightful part of the county of Norfolk, with attached and detached Offices, large Gardens, Shrubberies, and 174 Acres of good Land.... suited to the residence of a genteel family, and of which immediate possession may be had....'
Available to let again in 1826, part of the sale of Bracon Estates in 1828 (when the Berneys may have consolidated their holdings); 'to be let for a term of years' in 1829 when it 'is well adapted for the residence of a Clergyman, as a good curacy may be obtained in the neighbourhood. Apply (if by letter, post-paid) to T T Berney, Esq, Morton, near Norwich'. Thomas Trench Berney of Morton Hall was the brother of Miss Elizabeth Berney and may have been dealing with her affairs. It was after this that the house was apparently sold in 1833.
Norris, Loftus & tenants
Charles Norris is described as 'widower,
Attorney & Solicitor' in 1851. He was a Steward and Land Agent, often placing adverts in local papers on behalf of wealthy absentee landowners asking people to attend manor courts, etc. He is listed at Bracon Lodge on the 1841 and 1851 censuses and in White's Directories of 1845 and 1854. He put the Lodge up for sale by private contract in 1857, and it was still being advertised in 1858:
'Freehold Mansion with entrance hall, dining room, drawing room, water closet, study, housekeeper's room, kitchen, back kitchen, cook & butler's pantries, dairy, larder, 10 bedrooms, coach house, barns, stable, outhouses, lawn, pleasure grounds, gardens, greenhouse, orchard, small farmhouse & barn & outbuildings. Several enclosures of pasture & arable - approx.. 35 acres. Price & particulars: apply Mr Charles Norris, Bracon Ash.'
Then it was available to let in 1860 - Lewis D Whitaker and his Australian-born wife were living there in 1861. That year the property was apparently conveyed to William Butcher, of Messrs Butchers, auctioneers. The house and farmland were separated and Bracon Lodge (with a 5-acre garden) was up for sale at the Royal Hotel, Norwich. ''Late the residence of Charles Norris Esq and now of L D Whitaker Esq.... Two-thirds of the purchase money may be had on mortgage if required for a term of years.'
The purchaser must have been George William Ferrars Loftus Esq, listed in the 1869 Post Office directory and in the 1871 census as 'landowner', married to Barbara. He was installed as the Right Worshipful Master of the Doric Lodge of Freemasons in 1868, and was also one of the notables invited to chair the local Oddfellows Lodge - the ticket below is for 1873.
It was Mr Loftus who took the Rector and Lord of the Manor to court in 1878. His address is given as Blackheath, and the Lodge is rented to Sydney Reginald Allffrey (or Allbrey), a young 'farmer & fundholder'. Rev Berney had taken his gamekeeper into the kitchen garden, and when confronted had shot a rabbit. Understandably, the tenant felt threatened. The jury found in favour of Mr Loftus, who was awarded 40 shillings (£2) damages plus costs.
Shortly after this the house was back on the market - for sale by private contract in 1880.
Back to the Corbould-Warrens
The 6th child of Rev William Corbould-Warren (he who added the name Warren by royal permission) was Edward Corbould-Warren, born in Tacolneston where his father was Rector in 1848. In 1878 he married Rose Henrietta Macharness Davis (1856-1927) and was no doubt looking for a family home near Norwich. Very conveniently, in 1878 he inherited the residual estate of his uncle, Edward Corbould of Weasenham, and was in a position to purchase Bracon Lodge when it came on the market. In 1882 his wife is advertising for a 'strong girl as NURSE, age about 20, to take charge of Two children - by Mrs Edward Corbould-Warren, Bracon Lodge'. They had a total of 6 children: Rose Catherine (1879-1951) who married Capt. James Sydney Granville Kay (1875-) and later lived in Cuckoofield Cottage; Edward (1881-1948) who became a Lieut-Col. RA, married Margaret Joan Stewart in India in 1908, and whose 2nd daughter was born at Woodlands. Then there was William (1883-1963) who died in New Zealand; Winifred Alice (1885-1966) who married Capt Lionel William Campbell Glyn (1878-); Beatrice Harriet (1887-1942) who never married; and May Frances (1889-1961 d. NZ) who married Geoffrey Gordon Richardson (d.1926 in India). Most of these are commemorated on the lectern in Bracon Ash church, carved by Beatrice in honour of her father who was churchwarden there for 29 years. Gladys Watling remembered: 'Usually the whole family attended morning service at Church and always walked as they did not want to bring out their coachman with carriage and horses on a Sunday.'
The family seems to have promoted village activities. In 1887, Edward Corbould-Warren assisted the Rector in organising celebrations for Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. In 1897 the 'Bracon Ash, Hethel & Mulbarton Cottage Flower Show was held at Bracon Lodge by kind permission of Mr E Corbould-Warren'. Gladys Watling remembers: 'An entertainment was occasionally given in the School by the family at Bracon Lodge - the Corbould-Warrens. With other families in neighbouring villages they managed to provide a good concert of small plays, piano recitals and singing. One concert I particularly remember was when they chose to teach my brother Loftus 'The Sailor's Hornpipe'; this was in conjunction with the singing and piano accompaniment of the song 'They all love Jack'. My mother had an authentic white sailor suit and straw hat made for Loftus for the occasion.' And, 'I was also given an invitation to use the lawn at Bracon Lodge for tennis parties when the family was away. We were very surprised when the staff brought out tea for us and that made a delightful afternoon.'
Edward Corbould-Warren died in 1913, and his widow Rose continued to live at the Lodge until she died in 1927. The family were now scattered across the world, and the house was put up for sale by auction in 1928 with glowing descriptions in a glossy handbook that included a photo of the boating lake. Amenities included hot water; a tennis court; croquet lawn; conservatory; vinery and a 'prolific kitchen garden'.
Within living memory...
We now come to the residents that people can still remember....
During World War 2 the gardens of Bracon Hall were used by the Home Guard, the ARP and Red Cross for practices - hardly surprising as Captain Kay was in charge and his wife Rose was a Corbould-Warren daughter! In 1939, Guy F Ferrand, a retired farmer, was living at the Lodge with a number of servants. Bishop Pollock, Bishop of Norwich, relocated here for some of the war. He slept under a special metal table as an air-raid shelter. He sometimes attended Bracon Ash church _ Jean Goodrum remembers that he usually arrived at the last minute, or late, and everyone stood as he entered. He enjoyed the walk along the driveway and road - Ray Bobbin then lived at the Lodge gatehouse in Cuckoofield Lane and remembers the day the Bishop called and asked to use the toilet: he was somewhat shocked when shown to the outside earth closet (which was normal for all the cottages in the area)!
Then came Dr Fletcher, a medical doctor whose brother was a director of Fletcher & Sons, the Norwich printers. Dr Fletcher was a cricket enthusiast who became president of the Bracon Ash team. His son played for the village side until he moved away to study medicine. He created a cricket pitch in front of Bracon Lodge and as he became increasingly disabled he could watch the matches from the window. He is remembered as a kindly man: Ray Bobbin remembers the thaw that followed the very hard winter of 1947, when Cuckoofield Lane flooded at the bridge and the Lodge gatehouse was almost flooded - straw and other rubbish had blocked the pipe under the road. Ray and the other Bobbin children were invited by Dr & Mrs Fletcher to sleep at Bracon Lodge until their house was no longer at risk..
Dr Fletcher is also remembered for welcoming local youngsters into his home and garden: boys on a Saturday morning for football in winter, cricket in summer (and a drink of lemon barley afterwards!); girls on a weekday evening for a sing-song or picnic. He even got his brother to print a book of negro spirituals and other songs for them to sing.Each week one of the girls would be invited to take home a posy of flowers from the garden. Various fundraising events for church and village were held in the grounds, with their delightful gardens and 'crinkle-crankle' wall.
When the Gurneys arrived in the early 1960s, they continued the tradition of supporting Bracon Ash church. Archibald James Gurney (known as 'Jim') was a descendant of of the Gurney's Bank family via the branch who lived at Northrepps Hall, where he was born. Way back among his ancestors, Richard Gurney (1742-1811) had married Agatha Barclay of another Quaker banking family, and eventually (in 1896) a number of banks formerly owned by Quakers amalgamated to become Barclays Bank. Interestingly, Richard Gurney's son, Hudson Gurney (1775-1864) is the Gurney who bought Hethel Hall in 1828. Among other illustrious relatives, of course, was Elizabeth Gurney (1780-1845) who married Joseph Fry and is remembered as a great social reformer.
The spirit of service and social concern seems to have remained strong in the Gurney family. Certainly Jim & Patricia Gurney of Bracon Lodge are remembered fondly for their involvement in the live of the village and church. Jim was churchwarden for many years, and a new bell-frame (below) was given in his memory after he died in 2004. Patricia lived on at the Lodge for a further 5 years until she decided to 'downsize' and move a few village away.
With thanks to Norfolk Archives; bmd records, census data & newspapers at FindMyPast.co.uk; Ray Bobbin, Jean Goodrum, Mr Martin and others for their memories.