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Halcott Family & the Tanning Industry

Histortical Note on Matthew Halcott and the Tanning Industry in Litcham

From Elizabethan times, one of the chief industries of the village was the tanning of hided for the manufacture of leather; and at least two f the  Litcham tanning families , the Halcotts and the Collinsons, made considerable fortunes, and their descendants became country squires. Matthew Halcott, for instance, whose father had migrated with his family to Litcham from Beetley in about 1610, was wealthy enough to purchase, in the 1660s, the entire estate of Hoe Hall, which his son Matthew received a a marriage settlement.

The Halcott family were notable benefactors to the Church and to the poor. The tower of All Saint's Church was built during 1668-9, at the expense of Matthew Halcott and, in 1672, he paid for a new bell. His brother, John, in his will of 1677 gave directions that an alms house should be built, which stood at the lower end of Church Street, for the benefit of two aged poor men of the parish; and he too paid for a church bell in 1682. In 1682 another John Halcott, son of Matthew, donated a communion cup and a flagon, both inscribed with his name, to All Saints Church.

Matthew Halcott died in 1674, and he bequeathed in his will a close of three acres in the village by the East Hall Green and a pightle of about one and a half acres, to his son Matthew, on the condition that he and his heirs should pay to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of Litcham thirty-five shillings annually by quarterly payments. This money was to be used to buy bread for the parish poor and every Sunday morning eight pence worth of bread was shared out amongst the eight of the poorest men and women present at the Church porch. This practice continued until bread rationing was introduced during World War II.

At the beginning of the 17th Century the Collinson family had previously possessed; "The Chapel-house or the Hermitage, the site of the manor of Felton's otherwise Pinfold Yard". This property was purchased from George Collinson by Matthew Halcott's father and was later known as Priory Farm. After nearly 200 years in the Halcott family the farm was bought back by William Collinson in 1798, and it stayed in the Collinson family until 1917. An out-building of Priory Farm was probably the site of an early tannery. During the excavation of the earthen floor of the building known as Priory Barn a great number of horns and cattle skeletons were discovered.

Source: Litcham Heritage Register: Breckland Council 1988


Further Information:

Litcham Conservation Village , Breckland Council (1975)  2.3Mb PDF

Francis White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk  (1984)

Mid Norfolk Family History Society - who publish a list of memorials (gravestone inscriptions) found in All Saints graveyard

Settlement Boundary and Conservation Area Map

2001 Village Appraisal

Litcham on Google Maps -  OS Map reference: TF8864917749 (52º43'N/0º.47'E)

A book on Litcham, Mileham and Lexham is available from Halsgrove Publishing.