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Friday, 3 February 2017

The Family Heydon of Baconsthorpe Castle



Today was a fine clear blue winter day. Very mild for February. My wife and I decided to get out for a drive. We decided upon a trip to Cromer in Norfolk. It is not far from where we live in the Fenlands. Along the way, we passed through Sandringham and made a note that we would need to visit the stately home one day in spring or summer. There were various nature reserves tempting me with my camera, but we held true until we passed Fakenham. At this point, there was a little congestion ahead and a sign pointing to a small castle along a country lane turn off. It led to a village called Baconsthorpe. Also, there was a Baconsthorpe castle. Carole and I decided to investigate.

The castle remains were upon some farmland and we found ourselves driving along a muddy old pathway passed a farmhouse in the fields and various barns. Ahead, in the distance, we could see what looked like a dilapidated stone house. As we got nearer and drove into the gravel yard, I realised the grand old building was no more than an elaborate gatehouse. At least it used to be. There was a picture on a mount outside the pathway leading to the gatehouse. Beyond this was the dilapidated castle of Baconsthorpe with a surrounding moat.

It had been built by a successful wool merchant family called Heydon. This family became successful during the time when John Heydon was head of the wool merchant family group. They were of humble beginnings but had supported various nobles during the Wars of the Roses. In doing so, John Heydon had amassed considerable wealth and decided that his family would have their own castle. The construction of which began around 1450. John Heydon died in 1479.

The fortunes of the Heydon family lasted 200 years when their wealth decreased and debts began to grow. The castle was literally dismantled in stages as the stones were sold off to building merchants to pay off debts. Eventually, all that remained of the castle was just the broken outer wall and grand entrance. The family retired to the gate house and people continued to use the former servant’s house until 1920 when one of the two towers collapsed. From then on castle Baconsthorpe was deserted – echoes of a bygone family who climbed to the peak and declined over the centuries. Now it is just a relic of a former glory. 












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