Castle Acre: A Social History
  • Author:
  • Mrs Mary-Anne Garry
  • Available:
  • In local shops throughout Castle Acre,
    or buy now from

    "Castle Acre: A Social History"
    Published April 2009

  • Extracts:
  • During the final years of the Saxon period, Toki was the lord in Castle Acre. It was one among many manors he owned throughout East Anglia. By this date parish boundaries had been established with tithes payable to priests ... Toki may well have had his house on the site of the castle, surrounded by villagers who we know grew peas, beans, carrots, celery and fruit. Some goats were kept and there were horses but these were not yet used to pull ploughs...

    By 1582 there were 88 houses in the village, a little less than a third of today's number, of which 17 were empty. The castle had been uninhabited for many years, the slopes and ditches grazed by cattle and sheep.... the majority of the houses would have been single storied with steeply sloping thatched roofs. Examples of these can be seen by looking at the gable ends; Wellington House on Stocks Green shows how the roof line has altered over the years. At St James's Green, known then as Upgreen, Lady Bell owned a large house near the present Stone Barn, and opposite on the south side lived John Wingfield in the house now known as Lower House... High Wood was landlord of the pub then called the Crown where there was a shop. One shop may not seem like much but for 1582 it was rather go-ahead to have one at all, most shopping was done at market.

    In 1709 Pimlowe became the new vicar. He had been encouraged to apply for the parish by his close friend William Stukeley. Chiefly remembered today for 'discovering' Stonehenge and the Druids, Stukeley introduced the concept of pre-history... He and Pimlowe had been school fellows together in their native town of Holbeach in Lincolshire... During his first years in Castle Acre Pimlowe recorded 'A true account of what money was given to be distributed amont the poor in Cakes and Ale upon the 7th of July 1713 being the Thanksgiving for the Peace... the Vicar read the prayers and Preached and Joy sat in evry Countenance and all the way from the Green to the Church Gate were all one Green Bower.'

    By the mid nineteenth-century the population had grown to 1,567, an increase of 74% in under forty years, a far faster rate than most other parishes and the village was bursting at the seams. The census of 1851 shows that forty-seven of the 334 households were headed by male incomers who had married Castle Acre wives and of the village businesses more than half were run by people born elsewhere. As a result of the notorious gang system family life was hard to sustain, and the village descended into a microcosom of all the ills that come from poverty and overcrowding...