Location & Historical accounts
Hapton is in the Rural Deanery of Depwade, Archdeaconry of Norfolk and Diocese of Norwich. Hapton is called Appetuna, Habetuna and Habituna.
There are references to Hapton Church in the Domesday Book (1086). At that time the income from 15 acres of glebe land, together with tithes paid by the parishioners, was sufficient to support the Rector and maintain the building. By the beginning of the 13th century, the right to appoint the Rector of Hapton was in the hands of Sir Robert de Nerford, the very wealthy and powerful governor of Dover Castle. Sir Robert and his wife had been involved in founding several abbeys, priories and other religious houses throughout Norfolk, one of which was the Hospital of St. Bartholomew at a place called “Lingerescroft”, between Creake and Burnhum on the north Norfolk coast. In circa 1219, when further sources of income were needed to raise the status of the hospital to that of a priory, Robert de Nerford gave “the patronage of the church of the Blessed Margaret of Habetoun which was acquired in the court of the Lord King from the heirs of William le Puleys.” By the time his son, Richard de Nerford had confirmed the gift in c.1240, the priory had acquired royal patronage, and had become the Abbey of the Blessed Mary in the Meadows next Creake.
The Abbot and Convent of Creake made use of Sir Robert’s gift by presenting themselves as Rectors of Hapton. This allowed them to take the greater part of the income from Hapton tithes and glebe-land to support Creake Abbey, while appointing a curate on a very much smaller income to live in the village and look after the spiritual needs of the Hapton parishioners. In 1314, the Abbot of Creke instructed “3 roods of land to enlarge the site of the Rectory House” in Hapton. For almost 300 years Hapton church depended closely on the Abbey at Creake, whose obligation as Rectors included the repair and upkeep of the chancel.
In 1506 the Monastery of Creake (also called the Monastery of Saint Mary de Pratis or Creak Abbey, circa 1120), was practically dissolved, as the Abbot died without a convent to elect a successor. All the monastery lands and revenues reverted to the crown as patron of Creake. Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, was keenly interested in scholarship, and her son allowed the income from Creake property to be used by her in 1507 when she re-endowed “***’s House” at Cambridge, which then became Christ’s College. The Master and Fellows of Christ’s became nominal Abbots of Creake in 1507 and, incidentally, Rectors of Hapton. The College were to appoint a Perpetual Curate and pay him out of the profits. The link with Cambridge has survived, and Christ’s College are still patrons of the living.
During the reign of Henry VIII, the Church of England cut ties with the Pope in Rome and the King of England declared ‘Defender of the Faith’. Under the reign of Edward VI, Protestantism was further developed with the introduction of the first English Prayer book in 1549, and English rather than Latin being used for church services. On 29th April 1552, there is a record of chief inhabitants of Hapton making a presentation to Edward VI’s Commissioners of an Inventory of the Church Goods, as it was felt that many of these items related to old Catholic practices, and so would now need to be ‘confiscated’. As Edward VI died on 6 July 1552, it is likely that Hapton church lost very little of its property. During Mary’s reign, there was a brief return to Catholicism, but once Elizabeth I became Queen, the English Prayer book was revived and Protestantism again became the religion of England.
Hapton Church still retained some of its traditional roots during the reign of Charles I, but with the move of Puritanism and the developments of ‘Independent’ churches recorded across East Anglia in the 1640s, Hapton Church lost many of its carved works, wall paintings and stained glass windows, leaving only the arms of Clifton, Cally and Thopre in the west window, as recorded by Tom Martin in the 1730s.
The end of the Commonwealth and the restoration of Charles II in 1660 made a great difference to life in towns and villages throughout England, particularly the East Anglian villages where the Puritan influence had been so strong. The King encouraged the return of music and ritual to Church service, as set out in the 1662 Prayer Book, and the buildings themselves were once again cherished. It seems that the driving force behind the restoration of Hapton church was Mr. Daniel Whitefoot, who in 1678 agreed to pay for “the reasonable writing the Ten Commandments on the way as it may cost”. The register entry of his burial (20 April 1685) records that “It was by his only industry at first that the bell and bell-house were obtained to the parish: he gave five pounds towards the purchase of the bell and all the irons belonging to the stock and all the timber belonging to the house.”
In 1840, it was a Perpetual Curacy valued at £40 per annum, and in 1875, worth £100 per annum. In 1910 (Hugh Bryant – Norfolk Churches), the stipend of the Curate is recorded as £125 pa, with good residence. The patronage, with the appropriation of the tithes, belongs to the Master and Fellows of Christ’s College, Cambridge, who appoint the Curate, who is legally outside the jurisdiction of the Archdeacon of Norwich.
Some of the Incumbents
Date unknown – Galfrid
1273 – Gilbert – appointed by the Abbot and Convent of Creake / Creak Abbey
1461 – John Wode – Parish Chaplain – appointed by the Abbot
Circa 1600 – Thomas Hutchinson – Perpetual Curate – appointed by Master & Fellows of Christ’s College, Cambridge.
1665 – John Browne – known as the Rector of Hapton
1898 – William Arthur Baker, M.A – Perpetual Curate – appointed by Master & Fellows of Christ’s College, Cambridge.
1923 – Frederick Barff – held in plurality with Tharston.
1936 – Basil Aldwell – ‘The living united with Flordon in 1937’.
1963 – William J.P. Fair – ‘The living separated from Flordon and joined to the Wreningham Group Ministry in 1981’.
1981 – 1986 – Henry Brierly
Description of the church
The church is dedicated to St. Margaret the Virgin or Margaret of Antioch– Patron Saint for women in labour. The legend in mediaeval times relating to Margaret was that she was devoured by a dragon and was able to make her escape through the side of the beast ‘by making the sign of the Cross’.
There are 58 other churches in Norfolk named for St Margaret.
Earliest parts are 14th century. The church is built mostly in the Perpendicular style consisting of Chancel, nave, south porch and a square. There is a Priest’s doorway on the south side which led into the area of the church the priest was responsible for. The Parish were responsible for maintaining the nave and the western tower, although another account suggests the nave was rebuilt in the 15th century, at the expense of the Lord of the manor. (Sir Edmund de Thorp was involved in the rebuilding of the nave of Ashwellthorpe church and it believed he may also have been the patron for the Hapton church nave).
In 1730, the church is described as, “a small church covered with lead. The chancel is thatched. No Steple. But one bell hanging in in a wooden frame in the Churchyard. ” The West tower was built in 1847 to replace one which had fallen perhaps 250 years before. It is recorded that the “bones of a giant” were found when the foundations were being dug, but no information about what then happened to these bones. The tower was designed to hold four or five bells, but only one bell was installed with the inscription, “T. Mears of London Fecit James Burgess Church Warden 1826”.
The church was repewed in 1841 and thoroughly restored in 1869 under the supervision of the London architects, Drury and Lovejoy. Christ’s College, Cambridge paid for the work on the chancel, and there were further improvements in 1894. The open-work pulpit was placed in the nave in 1906. The old parish chest which would have stood in front of the pulpit, was locked with three padlocks, and only opened when the parson and two churchwardens were present. It would have contained the parish records and information relating to the relief for the poor and the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. These records were vital to the running of the village and it is thought that the parish chest could also have been used for the safekeeping of wills, property deeds and other important documents. These records are now kept at the Norfolk Records Office and have accounts that go back to 1683.
Story from Church Register – entry made by John Browne, Rector of Hapton (taken from Norfolk Churches by Hugh Bryant)
“ be it for succeeding ages remembered, that about the beginning of May in the year 1683, there hapned to arise a great controversie between Robert Hind, of Forncett St. Mary, and the Inhabitants of this Parish of Hapton and the people of other neer neighbouring townes, about a way leading through his meadow to Lound Common”. The case was tried by Sir Robert Baldock and a jury, who decided that the way was a public way, and the owner of the field was to keep the bridge in sufficient repair. This entry in the book is signed by Robert Hind (the defendant), and by John Browne (Rector), John Wells (Churchwarden) and witnessed by George Amyas and George Smith.
HAPTON CHURCH – information put together as part of Hapton History group (October 2018)
Summary of information taken from a range of documents:
T. Hugh Bryant (1909) The Churches of Norfolk, the Hundred of Depwade. Norwich Mercury.
T. Hugh Bryant (date not known) St. Margaret’s, Hapton – chapter from book – source unknown
P. Cattermole (1987) Hapton Church – collection of articles drawn up. Printed by Norwich School.
Lyn Stilgoe (2015) Hapton St Margaret – leaflet compiled by for Church Tours.
Tacolneston Women’s Institute (1980) Memorials in Hapton Churchyards.
St. Margaret’ s Hapton – written circa 1906.