On 23 February 1820 the Rev Charles David Brereton was instituted into the living of Little Massingham St Andrew. He was 30 years old and the previous year had married Frances Wilson the daughter of Joseph Wilson a wealthy silk merchant from London. Joseph Wilson had already bought Stowlangtoft Hall in Suffolk where one of his sons lived and had looked for a suitable property for his newly married daughter (incorrect see note). On the market were the estate of Sandringham (dismissed as "like a rabbit warren") and the estate of Little Massingham with The Old Rectory, which he bought. Charles and Frances moved into The Old Rectory where they and their children and later their grandchildren were to live until the early 1940's and on the site of which 'Glebelands' stands. With the estate Joseph Wilson bought the patronage of the parish (the right to nominate the Rector) and Charles became Rector. Joseph Wilson's initials can still be seen on the brickwork of cottages and barn.
There had been Breretons in Norfolk since the sixteenth century and Charles' father, John Brereton, whose wife's surname Lloyd has continued as a name in the family, owned a number of patronages in Norfolk including that of St Edmunds, Norwich, where Charles had been Rector before his marriage. Indeed he continued as Rector of St Edmunds for at least two years employing a curate. Later he held the living of Bixley and Framlingham Earl jointly with that of Little Massingham - a practice common in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Much of what is today the work of a parish priest might well at that time have been done by curates. Another of John Brereton's sons was Charles Shovell Brereton of Briningham, another village with strong Brereton connections and in the churchyard of which is a notable carved muzzled Brereton Bear on the top of a small pyramid.
Charles was deeply interested in agricultural matters and poverty and the working of the Poor Law about which he lectured and wrote. His book1, illustrating the points he makes by reference to actual families in Little Massingham shows his interest in the lives of his parishioners
Charles and Frances had eleven children, the eldest of whom later followed his father to St Edmunds, Norwich, a living of which by then his father was patron. His third son, Joseph Lloyd, became an important figure in the fight to obtain education for farmers' sons, a story written about elsewhere2. He seems to have been a favourite of his grandfather and was sent to Rugby School and later Oxford. There he was a considerable scholar and won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry. Two schools, Barnard Castle and West Buckland remain today as monuments to his achievements. He was Rector of West Buckland in Devon when in 1867 his father's health began to fail and he came back to the family living in Little Massingham. Notable portraits of Joseph and Frances can be seen at West Buckland School.
Joseph Lloyd and his wife Frances Martin had sixteen children, among whom five died in infancy3 five entered the Church, three later becoming Rectors of Little Massingham, and three daughters who lived in The Old Rectory until the 1940's and are remembered by some of us as the 'Massingham Aunts', who lined up to be kissed goodbye as we left after visits. One of the aunts carved the paneling behind the altar in the church.
Joseph's time as Rector was consumed with his concern for his educational projects. As early as 1871 there is evidence of pupils being taught at the rectory. After the failure of his project of the Norfolk County School at Elmham a school was started at the Old Rectory in 1891 which continued until about 1931. The eldest of his sons went to Cavendish College4, Cambridge, which he had founded and Frank went on to be Headmaster of Barnard Castle School with Henry as his second master.
Joseph died in 1901 after the collapse of many of his educational schemes. He was followed as rector first by Henry and then Philip until Frank retired in 1924 and came back to Little Massingham for the remainder of his life. Frank's wife had died in 1921 and he relied on his sisters and Frances, his daughter, to run the house. Indeed he refused to allow Frances to marry because he felt he needed her at home. Selby Wright, a religious broadcaster in the 40's and 50's, broadcast and later published a short account of a visit to the Old Rectory at the start of the last war. He did not name Frank as the Rector he was describing and altered his story to make Frank's wife still alive but agreed when approached by the family that it was indeed Little Massingham about which he wrote.5
Memories still abound about life at The Old Rectory in the 30's and 40's and I hope that those you have might be passed on to me so that I can include them in a later update to this sheet.
Life at The Old Rectory came to an end in the first years of the war when the family moved out to the newly built Rectory. In 1942 Frank died and the aunts moved away. John acted as unofficial parson when there was there was no one appointed. Eventually the Old Rectory was occupied by squatters, fell into disrepair and in the 50's was pulled down. John (Philip's son) and Nona (who was born in the village) were farming in the area and living in The Red House and later in ‘Glebelands’ which they built on the site of The Old Rectory. John continued the family link with the Church, acting as Churchwarden until his death in 1996.
Little Massingham St Andrews is now part of a group of parishes centred on Great Massingham.The patronage remains within the family.
Duncan Brereton July 2000 (see note)
My thanks to Nona and Rosemary for information and help. All mistakes, however, are mine.
1 Observations on the Administrations of the Poor Law in Agricultural Districts.
2 'Tom Brown's Universe' by J de S Honey pp 58 - 103
3 There is a sad plaque on the wall of West Buckland church recording these deaths.
4 Now Homerton College with extensive Brereton papers in the Library.
5 Paperback 'Great Men - Short Impression' pp 7 - 10. (see the books out in Glebelands).
Notes added by M.Sandford 1 October 2012
My second cousin, Duncan Brereton, who wrote this summary, died in York 17 April 2012 aged 81. He had studied Naval Engineering at Newcastle University and became a teacher of science at Bootham the Quaker School York. He also was a Methodist preacher.
There is a mistake in Duncans first paparagraph about the timing of the purchase of Little Massingahm by Joseph Wilson. Duncan says
Joseph Wilson had already bought Stowlangtoft Hall in Suffolk where one of his sons lived and had looked for a suitable property for his newly married daughter. On the market were the estate of Sandringham (dismissed as "like a rabbit warren") and the estate of Little Massingham with The Old Rectory, which he bought.
The order of these purchases is not correctly stated.
Joseph Wilson purchased the Little Massingham estate in 1807 (See many references in the family papers and in Massingham Parva by Ronald F McLoed 1882. )
Joseph Wilson had demolished Little Massingham Hall which had fallen into decay. When his son Henry married in 1824. He looked for another estate and in 1825 purchased Stowlangtoft Hall in Suffolk where Henry was installed. Many secondary sources say that Henry himself bought Stowlangtoft in 1825, but this is incorrect. See the following google snippet from Marriage, debt, and the estates system: English landownership, 1650-1950 by H. J. Habakkuk, 1994:
Joseph Wilson, member of a family of wealthy silk manufacturers at Islington and a cousin of Daniel Wilson, the prominent evangelical, bought first an estate at Little Massingham in the north of Norfolk and in 1825 the substantial estate of Stowlangtoft which with later purchases was over 5000 acres in 1883.
Joseph Wilson himself remained owner of both estates until his death in 1851 and in his will he left both estates to his son Henry.