Crow Hall , Denver, Norfolk

A Brief History of Crow Hall


Downham Market,


Crow Hall is included here in my web pages as, apart from living there briefly, two of my ancestors, from different branches of my family worked here; Sarah CHAPMAN in 1871, who was my 2x great aunt, and sister to my great grandfather Robert. and Jessie PARKER in 1881 who went on to marry James Cuttriss BRUCE.

Crow Hall was most probably built in the 17th century. Early associations are with the THURLOW & DERING family who owned land at Denver. Crow Hall additionally may also have once been a coaching inn. called Crow or "The Three Crows."crow hall c1905

London Evening Post(London, England), Saturday, September 23, 1752, carried this marriage: "A few days since was married Thurloe Stafford Esq. of Crow Hall, in the county of Norfolk to Miss Harriot Pratt, daughter of Roger Pratt Esq, of Rysten Hall in the same county, an accomplished young lady, with a considerable fortune.

Middlesex Journal and Evening Advertiser carried this death notice in their edition of Saturday 20 August 1774: "On Tuesday died at Crow Hall, near Downham Market, in Norfolk, Mrs Dering, relict of Rev. Mr. John Dering of Hilgay, in that county who died a few weeks ago.

St. James's Chronicle or the British Evening Post(London, England),carried this death notice on Saturday, December 5, 1789 : Friday, at Crow Hall, Miss Dering, sister of Mr John Thurlow-Dering esq.Whitehall Evening Post (1770)(London, England), Saturday, December 5, 1789 also carried this death notice, adding.."she was daughter of Mr Dering, late rector of Hilgay, in that county."Bath Chronicle(Bath, England), Thursday, November 26, 1789 described her as " Mrs Deering, wife of John Thurlow Deering, aged 21."

A book published in 1795, entitled "A Tour to Milford Haven in 1791" lists amongst its subscribers Thurlow Dering esq of Crow Hall, Norfolk.

In 1808, The Beauties of England by Edward Wedlake Brayley mentions John Thurlow Dering of Crow Hall as having inherited a property in Kent called Wickens in Charing.

"The British Critic, and Quarterly Theological Review" By James Shergold Boone & John Henry Newman of 1812 has this to say: "The Derings are supposed to be among the oldest of those which may be called the indigenous families. One branch of the Derings, John Thurlow Dering esq is now seated at Crow Hall in Norfolk; he still possesses a fragment of the Kentish property at Charing near Surrenden. His grandfather was Dean of Ripon and was author of a Latin poem on that place.

Jackson's Oxford Journal(Oxford, England), Friday, December 24, 1819, printed this marriage announcement: "W. Lee Warner esq. of Quebec House to Miss Dering, only daughter of J. Dering of Crow Hall, Denver, Norfolk.

The Ipswich Journal(Ipswich, England), Saturday, September 29, 1821: "Died, Thursday, se'nnight, at Denver, Norfolk, Mr Wm. Smith, who was for nearly 30 years gardener to Mr J.T. Dering Esq. his death was occasioned by a wound from a spring gun, which in light of recent depredations committed in the gardens at Crow Hall, he had placed there for the protection of the fruit."

The Ipswich Journal(Ipswich, England), Saturday, June 16, 1827: " It may probably be still the recollection of many of our readers, that in the latter end of May, last year. we reported an act of diabolical devastation committed upon the green-house plants, wall-fruits, &c. in the gardens of John Thurlow Dering Esq. of Crow Hall, Downham Market- It is now our painful task to record a still more foul and atrocious act of villainy perpetrated upon the property of the above named gentleman:- On Sunday night last, or early on Monday morning, some miscreant broke into the said garden, burglariously entered the green-house, and destroyed every plant therein, including many fine orange and lemon trees of nearly forty years' growth, and which had been productive of much fruit! The ruthless villain then barked, cut down, and demolished between 40 and 50 peach, nectarine, and other choice and valuable wall-fruit trees, which had been selected with great care, to supply the deficiency occasioned by last year's depredation, and which were at this time in full bearing. Not sufficiently sated with these acts of devastation, he cut through, mutilated, and destroyed several fine vines, giving fair promise of an abundant crop; and proceeding in the work of demolition, rooted up every melon and cucumber plant, and broke to atoms all the frames and glasses! - In short, such a scene of diabolical havoc and desolation was scarcely ever before witnessed; and most sincerely it is hoped that the measures already adopted may lead to the villain's detection.

The Ipswich Journal(Ipswich, England), Saturday, December 3, 1836 : "died 29th inst, at an advanced age, and universally beloved and respected, John Thurlow Dering, Esq. of Crowhall, Denver near Downham Market, Norfolk.(His will is available from the national Archives)

By 1841 the census return for Denver shows the occupants to be Anne REED with four (presumably?) daughters, Sarah, Susanna, Martha and Jane. Anne was described as "Independent." No male of a similar age was present.There were also 6 servants, 4 female and 2 male. Unfortunately, in 1841, relationships were not specified, nor exact ages which were rounded down to the nearest 5 for the over 15s. In addition, place of birth was confined to within the county or not.[ Anne was originally from Wells-next-the-sea, and married James Taverner REED in Westminster].

1841 also saw the publication of The Eastern Arboretum, or Register of Remarkable Trees by James Grigor. "In front of Crow Hall are four magnificent Western planes, and several umbrageous lime-trees, and on the other side of the mansion is a Scotch pine, ten feet and ten inches in circumference. An oak is sixteen feet in circumference; and in the neighbourhood of the pond are some noble trees of the Scotch pine and of the Plane. In the shrubbery is an arborvitae(Thuja orientalis) three feet in circumference, the largest we have yet observed in this county. Here, the trees are generally of an unusual size.

In 1845, White's Gazetteer shows J.R. FRYER in residence.

In Dec 1849 this appeared in the local paper:

In 1851, Crow Hall was not named, but the biggest household listed on Downham Rd, Denver, was that of John Richardson FRYER, a barrister from Chatteris, with his wife Mary Agnes, 4 daughters and 2 sons(all born Denver).There is also a governess in residence by the name of Maria KNOWLES, as well as a cook, 2 housemaids, a nursemaid, a gardner and a footman.

In 1854, White's Gazetteer shows Jno. Richardson FRYER still in residence.

On 31 May 1856 this appeared in the Norfolk News:

In 1861, the MITCHELL family were living there. Interestingly, the parents were not present on the census. Benjamin, aged 14 was there with his 6 sisters and 1 brother, presumably the 19 year old governess was in charge? [The Times reported Benjamin's death at Muswell Hill on 19 Apr 1862 aged 62, late of Crow hall, Denver. It also reported the death of Benjamin's son Canon Harry MITCHELL, who died in 1933 in Prescot, Lancs]

In 1862, "The Jurist" lists John Richardson FRYER esq of Crow Hall, Downham Market as sheriff for Cambs and Hunts, nominated by the Lords of the Council.

On 27 Dec 1862 this appeared in the local paper:

In 1871, it starts to get interesting on a personal level. The MITCHELLs were still here, (parents Benjamin and Mary Ann are here too), and so was my 2x great aunt Sarah CHAPMAN, albeit as a housemaid. The big houses must have provided much employment for the locals. There were quite a few to choose from in the Downham Market area.

In 1879, the REEDs had arrived at Crow Hall. T.L. REED is listed in "The Coursing Calendar for the Spring Season."

By 1881 Thomas Lancelot REED was living at Crow Hall with his (2nd) wife Catharine(nee NUNN) and 2 daughters.(probable link to the earlier REED family?) Amongst his staff was a future member of my extended family -Jessie PARKER from West Dereham who married James Cuttriss BRUCE six years later at Ryston church.

By 1883, Thomas L. REED(solictor - R. & Wayman) still in residence.

In 1891 T.L. REED and his wife Catherine were still living at Crow Hall. Only one daughter remained at home, 22 year old Catherine Isabele. In addition there were three servants, and a visitor.

In 1901, the REED family remained in residence. Thomas was now 82, and described as a solicitor and farmer. Wife Katharine was now 71. They maintained a skeleton staff of a cook and an under housemaid. Thomas Lancelot REED died 19th May 1904 aged 85. His wife died 11th Feb 1905, aged 76. They are buried in St Edmund's churchyard, Downham Market.

In 1908, Kelly's Directory shows a George William SPURLING, farmer at Crow Hall farm.

In 1911, Frederick and Helena May VALENTINE were living at Crow Hall. He was a retired civil engineer. They had been married 31 years, with no children. Crow Hall contained 14 rooms.


In 1933, according to Kelly's Directory, Major Cecil Andrew Foules WINGFIELD was in residence. I believe he lived here from 1927 to 1948. During WW2 the Womens' Land Army took over the hall, and evacuees were also sent here.

It was run as a school after this, by the Rev. Dudley PAGE, Here are some images of the pupils during the 1950s.

house from scots pinetemple

Between 1960s and 1990s Crow Hall housed a commune. I lived there for about nine months at the end of the 1970s, having not the slightest idea that any of my ancestors had preceded me. In addition, my room was at the top of the house, presumably in the servants' quarters, where they would have lived. It was a bit weird when I discovered this in the course of my family history research. The images above and below were all taken in 1978/79.

saunaanti nuclear

Thanks to the magic of the internet, last year I was contacted by another former Crow Hall communard, David, who has given me permission to post his photos here:

After standing empty for several years, Crow Hall has now been converted into flats, and looks like this. The trees have all gone, along with the lake and the walled garden. All developed...Nothing stays the same...


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