Tithe Barn, Dersingham by Stella Gooch

Tithe Barn

Based on an article by local historian, Elizabeth Fiddick

Dersingham's Tithe Barn was erected in 1671, although it was never used to collect tithes (a tax equivalent to a tenth part of the annual produce of agriculture which was paid by the tenants of ecclesiastical lands), but instead was utilised as a general agricultural store.  The barn was gifted to the Norfolk County Council by Her Majesty The Queen in 1972 and was restored and used for the storage of building materials for use in the restoration of other historic buildings throughout Norfolk.  Tithe Barn is adjacent to the Church of St Nicholas on Manor Road in Dersingham. 

It is built of clunch and carrstone and features a brick dressing.  The Pells, who were at that time a very influential family in Dersingham, built the barn.  Their wealth came from the wool trade and they ran several ships that operated out of King’s Lynn and Wolferton.  In 1553 they built the large Manor House that once stood in the Pastures by the Institute.  At the time the barn was constructed they also built the house we now know as Dersingham Hall.

A Pell became a Mayor of Lynn in 1560 and in 1571 represented Kings Lynn in Parliament. They were active parliamentarians during the Civil War and also became Justices of the Peace and Attorneys.  Visitors to St Nicholas Church, Dersingham, can see the numerous tombs, and memorials to this family.

When the barn was built the land immediately behind it was known as the  “conny ground”.  One John Pell bequeathed to his wife,” My Dovehouse and the Barne and yard thereunto called the couney ground.”  In early times rabbits or conys were reared close to the Manor House as their meat was considered a delicacy for special occasions.  The Tithe map of 1839 shows this area of land as pasture called Dovehouse Close.  It was not until 1935 that the churchyard was extended to this area using stones from the demolition of Pakenham Manor House to build the wall.

Close to the area where the barn was built once stood a “studded clay House” that was the vicarage.  This house fell into disrepair and became such an eyesore that John Pell had it pulled down.  When the barn was built the church still had its spire with a lantern that was used as a marker by the ships in the Wash.  Also the whole area was watched over by at least one of the windmills that stood on the high ground near Mill Road.  When the last Pell died he left his land to Robert Walpole, Lord Orford of Houghton Hall.

A map of about 1738 shows the Barn, the Church with its spire, the Conny Ground, Dersingham Hall, and the house in the Pastures all as the property of Lord Orford but occupied by Samuel Kerrich the vicar.  For hundreds of years Tithe Barn was an essential part of farm life in Dersingham.  The Barn and its surroundings are a tangible link to the past.

Dersingham Village Sign Tithe Barn by Stella Gooch Rear of Tithe Barn by Stella Gooch

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