Eastern Shore Brittinghams

Their English Beginnings

Posted by J. D. Brittingham

May 26, 1996

The following was taken from "De Brethenham and Brettingham, an English Family History," by Walter Brettingham (of Virginia Water, Surrey, England), 1971:
P. 25 - The De Brethenhams:  

"At the time of writing (1970) the first discovered de Brethenham 

to enter the light of recorded history is a Norman named Osbert 

de Bretehem who, in the year 1166, a hundred years after the 

Conquest, is recorded as holding half a knight's fee of the Honor 

of Clare.  Just before this time, Gilbert de Clare, earl of 

Hertford, (1138-1146) held a private Castle at Clare in Suffolk.  

Three years after Osbert, Turoldus de Breteham is on record in 

the Pipe Roll as having half a knight's fee with an annual income 

of three shillings and four pence held of the Honor of Eye in 

Suffolk.  This place being situated 14 miles south-east from 

Brettenham and appears to have been in the hands of Prince John 

but was taken into King Richard's lands after his brother's 

conspiracy against him in 1195.  In 1172 Turoldus still held the 

manor but at a penny per annum less."

Manor lordships in medieval Brettenham - based on Blomefield's 

"Norfolk" were Rothyng, Carleton, Burnevelle's, Brethenham's, and 

Bishop of Ely's.


     Eudo the steward

     1198 - Richard de Brethenham

            Alexander de Brethenham

     1218 - Richard de Brethenham (of honor of Clare)

     1297 - William de Brethenham

     1299 - William de Brethenham

            Held by Brethenhams until 1477 when it was 600 acres

            & sold to Sir Robert WYNGEFIELD, who bought all the 

            de Brethenham lands in Brettenham (P. 37).  Then it

            became part of Rushford College and Thetford Priory.

P. 28:

"The Nomina Villarum named Alexander de Rothyng, William de 

Brethenham, and the priors of Thetford and Rushford as the lords 

of the manors in Brettenham.  In the same year (1299), a William, 

son of Walter de Brethenham was again in litigation versus Rod, 

son of Roger Gildensleve of West Harling Thorpe, over property in 

Rushworth (Rushford)."

"The Patent Roll of Sept. 10, 1327 records that the Bishop of Ely 

was complaining of and causing to be set up an inquiry into the 

activities of several inhabitants of Brettenham amongst them 

Thomas and Walter, sons of William de Brethenham, who had, he 

maintained - with others: - "entered his free warren at Brigham 

county Norfolk hunted and took rabbits with dogs, nets and other 

engines and carried them away."

"19 years after his misdeed, Walter the young poacher had come to 

a state of dignity for in a document concerned with land in 

nearby Lopham, he was styled as Lord Walter of Brethenham, 


P. 37:

"In 1747, Francis Whistler, a Norwich artist, compiled a book of arms 


Norfolk and he gives Brettingham as "Ermine, a pile azure." . . . In 


church of East Harling, Norfolk, a neighbour of Brettenham, where 

parcels of land had been held by the de Brethenhams at various times, 

there are some examples of medieval stained glass, albeit much defaced 

and broken.  One is of Sir Robert Wyngefield, knight, who bought all 


de Brethenham lands in Brettenham and others are of the known arms of 

many local families.  However one marked unknown is given as "Or a Pile 

Azure, with an un-identified animal head on the Pile.  It is not at all 

improbable that this dubiously coloured blazon has some connection with 

the Brettingham shield for variants of the main design were used by 

branches of the main stem of families."

P. 40:

"Because of the undoubtedly humble station in which the family found 

itself during those centuries [16th & 17th], it either did not know its 

gentle origins, or was not socially significant enough to warrant the 

herald's attention.  The only reference to Brettinghams so far to 

come to light is concerned with the Pope family of Kent and 

Devon. . ." 

Map of the BRETTENHAM AREA of NORFOLK (Walter Brettingham's book):

     Shows Brettenham Heath, Brettenham Manor & Church to 

     the east of THETFORD, and north of Rushford.  They are 

     west of Bridcham, East Harling, & West Harling Thorpe.

                          *     *     *

According to Rand McNally's "Road Atlas of Britain," Hempstead 

(childhood home of William, the American progenitor) is only 37 

miles northeast of Thetford!  JDB

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Copyright © 1996 Most recent revision Sunday, May 26, 1996 9:17:35 PM