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August 2016, Ralph Fuloflove, 1479, West Harling, Norfolk

Copyright: Jon Bayliss


Until 1543 there were three Harling parishes. The parish of Middle Harling was then combined with West Harling and its church demolished. Both were sparsely populated compared with the substantial settlement of East Harling and the contrast is even greater now. The church of All Saints at West Harling stands by itself in a field with woods on three sides and is accessed via a private road. It is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Three brasses remain within the church.

    The date at which Ralph Fuloflove became rector of West Harling is not recorded. A lost effigial brass commemorating John Mychell, who became rector in 1440 and was still incumbent in 1457, had no date of death on the inscription. If Ralph was the man of the same name who had been rector of West Lynn, Norfolk, between 1462 and 1465, it is likely that he was instituted at West Harling in the latter year. His will hints at a Norfolk origin with a legacy to the Tabernacle of St Mary at Hockham to pray for his mother Alice and a number of bequests to the church of Hingham, comprising £10 to make a new font (since replaced by one of 1858), to the lights of Corpus Christi and St Andrew, his patron saint, and the light of St Mary in her chapel, plus 2 pounds of wax and 40 pence to the high altar. He also requested an annual mass at Hingham for the souls of Thomas and Henry Owdolf, John Fagede and John Ashwell, organ-maker, all of Norwich. To the rectors of Hingham he left a close named Noziyerd for 24 years, out of which 20 pence was to be used to keep his anniversary, after which it was to be sold for the use of the church. He left 40 shillings to his patron William Berdewell and the same some to his executors, William Berdewell junior and Henry Spylman gent and four nobles of old gold to his supervisor, Lady Anne Wingfield.  

    Of the Norwich men for whom Fuloflove requested an annual mass, John Ashwell took up the freedom of Norwich as an organ-maker in 1446, Thomas Owdolf served as sheriff of Norwich in 1458 and coroner in 1462 and Henry Owdolf as sheriff in 1470 and coroner in 1472. Henry Oudolf's will was proved in 1475. His patron, William Berdewell, who died in 1490, is commemorated by a brass at West Harling, as is his executor William Berdewell junior, who died in 1508. His other executor is Henry Spelman who served as recorder of Norwich and died in 1496. He is buried at Narborough, Norfolk, where he is commemorated by a brass.


    The supervisor of Fuloflove's will, Lady Anne Wingfield, was born Anne Harling. She was commemorated by a brass on the ornate tomb she erected to her first husband, Sir William Chamberlain, died 1462, at East Harling. She then married Sir Robert Wingfield, controller of Edward IV's household from 1474 until his death in 1481. Both men are pictured kneeling in glass in East Harling church, where many other panels of late fifteenth-century Norwich glass remains, paid for by Lady Anne although her own donor images are lost. Lady Anne is known to have been a close friend of Henry Spelman.

    Fuloflove's executors and supervisor were all commemorated by brasses and his will makes clear that he was sufficiently well-off to make it unsurprising that he should be likewise remembered. Like those of his patron William Berdewell and Henry Spelman, his brass came from a Norwich workshop.