Edgar George Pye

        Although the first families in the United Kingdom to use the family name "Pye" were the Norman Lords of Kilpeck in present-day Herefordshire following the Conquest of 1066 AD, their descendants in the County of Norfolk appear to have first settled in Reedham and Cressingham, and later in the medieval walled city of Norwich, from which they migrated to neighboring towns and villages in the rich agricultural lands north of the city.


        My branch of the Pye family can be traced to ancestors in the village of Buxton in the Ecclesiastical parish of Buxton-Oxnead.  A search of the parish registers by the Norfolk Record Office has indicated that in June, 1599, a Samuel Pye, the manservant to a Mr. Robert Wilde of Buxton, drowned at the weir in the adjoining village of Lammas on a warm summer evening.  Through the kindness of Mr. Wilde, his body was later transported home to Buxton, where his family probably resided, for burial.

Figure 1: The Church of St. Andrews, Buxton, Norfolk, England.

        Artifacts indicate that there was a settlement at the site of Buxton in Roman times.  Buxton is spelled Bukestuna in Domesday book of 1086.  Later it encompassed two hamlets, Kinestorp and Dudewic, and became known as Boketon before having its present name.  According to Bryant, Bok and Bucing are Anglo-Saxon names whereas Buck is of Danish origin1.

Figure 2: Werry docked beside a mill on the River Bure, which separates Buxton from its sister village of Lammas. (Photo from the Francis-Frith Collection, Courtesy Geoffers Lowe, Oxfordshire, England)

        The village of Buxton is located 4 miles southwest of the town of Aylsham, 3-1/4 miles northwest of the town of Coltishall, and 8 miles northeast of the city of Norwich.  It lies along the west bank of the navigable River Bure that snakes through the agricultural lands of the "Broads" of Norfolk.  Before the advent of the railway in 18832.  The River provided the most satisfactory means of moving heavy or bulky goods.  By an Act of Parliament in 1773, the navigable waterway of the Bure below Coltishall was extended past Buxton to Aylsham and greatly facilitated access to the village.  The value of canal construction for transportation purposes contributed much to County development - it even has been claimed, perhaps errooneously, that the many round Saxon-Norman flint towers found in Norfolk owe their existence to the lack of local building stone needed for the quoins of the square church towers, the latter having been built generally where water transport was possible3. While the Bure waterway is still in use, the village is presently serviced mainly by truck transport over the roadways.

        In the time of Edward the Confessor (1040-1066), Bukestuna or Buxton consisted of a "capital" manor, with a population of villeins or serfs.  And of a size "sufficient to support 1,000 swine"4.  It was one mile in length and 6-1/2 furlongs (220 yards) in breadth5.  While once having a population of villeins or serfs, by Domesday (1086), however, many Norfolk estates contained numbers of "freemen or "sokemen", who, unlike the villeins, held properties in their own right and were permitted to profit from them6.  According to Bryant7, for example, "five freemen, all brothers" of Bukestuna held seven carucates of land on the estate of Ralph de Bellofago; and a "freewoman", also of Bukestuna, held 20 acres of land in the adjoining village of Lamers (Lammas)8.

        After the Conquest, the capital manor was held by Baron Hubert de Rye.  But in the 12th century, a successor, possibly in the face of heavy taxes, gave the advowson or the right to nominate the holders of the land) to the Order of Sempringham9.  Within the "capital" manor", one submanor was held by Halfred de Levishagh, another by the family of Bertram de Buxton10.  The monks of Sempringham maintained this right, and in conjunction with the Bishop, the right to nominate the vicar of the parish until the dissolution of the monasteries in 154011.  The old flint-and freestone Church in Buxton is dedicated to patron Saint Andrew.  Partially rebuilt in 1881/82 by Rev. H.E. Stacey, the original structure dates back to at least the 13th century - the last Rector, Roger de Kirkeby, was nominated as its first vicar by the Bishop in 123212.  

        Justice for severe crimes such as murder often was dispensed locally in the Middle Ages.  Buxton Manor had the singular distinction of having Gallows Hill (now leveled in a Close) for the execution of convicted criminals.  It had the strange privileges of outfangthef and infangthef, or the legal right to execute criminals from outside the Manor, as well as those resident within it13.

        In the Middle Ages, relief of the poor in Norfolk was largely a matter of volunteer charity14.  In 1480, for example, Robert Childerhouse donated land for the Guilds and the poor of the parish; in 1490, Sir John Pictoe also donated land, the annual rent from which was directed to help the poor.  He established the Buxton Charity Estate, to which other benefactors contributed throughout the following century.  A similar charity was established under the will of John Bulwer in 169315.  Normally, the poor in Norfolk who were aided by the voluntary charities were given "out relief" so that they could remain in their own homes.  In 1597, however, an Act of Parliament encouraged the building of workhouses to provide both accommodation and employment for the poor.  It was not until the 1700's that a workhouse was established at Buxton.  Gilberts Act of 1782 then gave local magistrates the right to appoint guardians to operate so-called "Houses of Industry" for the "aged, infirm and impotent poor"16, and nine parishes united to operate the Buxton workhouse, only later to be taken over by a larger "union" centered in Aylsham.  The workhouse remained in operation until the Local Government Act of 1929 which encouraged its abolition and the ultimate use of the building for other purposes17.

        The French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic War ushered in a period of social unrest in England.  To ward off any potential uprisings amongst the poor, the upper classes concluded that the best way to ensure "God-fearing, law abiding, obedient citizens was through the introduction of a system of public education18.  The first school to be established in Buxton to serve the poor children of the village and surrounding area was founded in 1833 through an endowment provided by the will of John Wright of Esher; and "An Infant's school" was built in 1855/56 by the Rev. F. Anson of Windsor19.  It was not until 1870, however, that public education to grade twelve was mad compulsory by the Forster Education Act.  This act led to the replacement of the "voluntary" schools in Norfolk by a network of "board" schools, making up the present system20.  While prior to the late 1800's, my ancestors had signed their marriage certificates with an 'X' illiteracy had been virtually eradicated in the County by the turn of the century.  The area is currently serviced by the Buxton County Primary School.

        Early Political and religious controversy reared its head in Buxton in the early 1600's, when sides were taken to support either the King Charles I or the "Puritans" under Oliver Cromwell and civil war broke out in England.  While actual fighting did not erupt in Buxton, there was a difference of opinion in Norfolk was sufficient to cause every adult male in Buxton to sign the National League and Covenant of the Scottish Presbyterians in 1643/44 and pledge themselves to defend the "true religion"21, and hence support Cromwell, if not with arms, at least emotionally the English Civil War.


        My earliest known grandparent was Nicholas Pye, who was born in Buxton about 1650.  At this time the population of Buxton was little more than 250 and the Pyes made up a significant number of its citizens.  He and his wife Ann had a boy named Jeremiah born in 1682.  Jeremiah sired a boy named Edward in 1726.  Edward Pye then moved to the nearby village of Hainford (Hayneford) where he married Ann Meller in 1750.  The village of Hainford lies about 3 miles south of and within walking distance of Buxton.  Called Hamford in the Domesday Book, the land was held by Ketel under Archbishop Strigund before the Conquest, after which it passed to Roger of Poitiers and successors.  Eventually, in 1729, the advowson passed to the Rectory of All-Saints22.

        In 1752, Edward sired a son whom he named Johnathon.  At the age of 21, Johnathon married Rebecca Skipper of Griston, Norfolk.  Johnathon and Rebecca lived all their married lives in Hainford, where they yielded a large family of 9 boys: John, b. 1774; Paul, b. 1776; Lancelot, b. 1778; Edward, b. 1780; James, b. 1783; Martin, b. 1785; William, b. 1786; Joseph, b. 1787; and James, b. 1793.  There were also two girls, named Rebecca, b. 1778; and Mary, b. 1794.  This was a time of economic depression in the Norfolk countryside - four of the children died as paupers and were buried at County expense; James (in 1794), William (in 1786), Joseph (in 1787) and Mary (in 1795).  Their grandfather, Edward Pye, also died a pauper, in 1786.  Martin Pye, my great-great grandfather, married Anna Clipperton on March 22, 1813, in Lammas, where he worked as a carpenter and tanner.  Edward and his other sons were agricultural laborers.

         Having learned from the parish registers that one of a person's ancestors died a pauper, and that four of his grandchildren died early in life and were likewise given pauper funerals, one cannot help but wonder about the cause of the poor economic conditions at the time.

        The 18th century was a time of great improvements in agricultural practices in Norfolk.  Early in the century the County witnessed the introduction of new crops, crop rotation, and fertilization23.  In the 1770's Thomas William Coke introduced Southdown sheep to replace his native horn sheep on this estate in Holkam.  The estate also saw the introduction of the seed drill and the iron plough.  The various improvements in agricultural methods, not only on the Holkam estates, but on other estates as well, resulted in great increases in productivity, and, as a corollary, a surplus in agricultural labour.  This surplus in agricultural labour was aggravated by the replacement "open strip farming" by increased field enclosure and concomitante reduction in common land and "heath".  As pointed out by Wade Martins "The social consequences were serious, as the poor lost their right to pasture a cow or pig, as well as (access) to fuel supply" So serious was the problem of excess labour and rising unemployment, that further attempts to bring in new farming methods led to political unrest, until eventually, in 1816, the invention of the threshing machine met with rioting in Watton, Downham Market, and Norwich24.


        Martin Pye and his wife Anna (Clipperton) were as prolific as their Hainford parents.  They had 9 children, two sons and seven daughters.  The children were named, in order of birth: Charles William, b. 1813;  Charlotte Eliza, b. 1815; Jane, b. 1818; Robert, b. 1819; Elizabeth, b. 1822; Bridget, b. 1825; Martha Drake, b. 1829; Sarah Ann, b. 1830 and Ameila, b. 1837.  The first born, Charles William, started his working life in the so-called quality trade in Lammas and eventually became a tenant farmer or husbandman.  He was my grandfather's father or my great grandfather.

Figure3: The River Bure, now used mainly by pleasure boats during the summer months.  From "East Anglia in Colour", published by the East of England Tourist Board.

        Lammas is a small parish and village found on the east bank of the river Bure opposite its sister settlement of Buxton.  In civil terms, it lies within the parish of "Buxton-With-Lamas", the two small communities forming a single political-administrative unit.  Paradoxically, it also lies within the Ecclesiastical parish of Lammas-With-Little-Hautbois25, even though the Church of St. Mary, Little Hautbois (pronounced "Hobbis") was demolished centuries ago.  Lammas is bounded on the north and west by the meandering river, over which a bridge of one span leads to Buxton.  The village has an area not exceeding 1,000 acres, mostly owned by the former Lord Avebury and his heirs.  At the time of my grandfather's birth in 1853, it had a population of only 26026.

        Lammas is recorded at "Lamers" in the Domesday Book.  This name may have been derived from "La Mersh" or "La Messe", being reclaimed wetland at the time of the Conquest.  The name originally may have been of Danish origin, however.  "Lamm" and "Lambe", for example are personal Danish names; and "Lammoes" is the name of an existing Danish village27.

        Whereas most churches are found on high ground, the 12th century Church of St. Andrew in Lammas has the singular distinction of being located in a meadow close to the river.  This has been the cause of structural problems since its initial construction - the tower had to be rebuilt in the 1400's and the chancel, even today out of line with the nave, in 188728.

        Lammas was the home of several well-known Norfolkians.  The internationally-recognized author, Anna Sewell, penned the famous novel "Black Beauty" while living in Lammas.  She died at the age of 58 in 1878, and was interred in the local Quaker Burial Ground29.   As chairman of the Libraries Committee of St. Andrews, the antiquarian Walter Rye transcribed many ancient Church records.  Amongst these records was a list of Rectors, the first of whom, Peter ____, one day killed Roger Kekebolde, when the latter was caught stealing beans in the Rectory garden.  Rye died in 1929, at the age of 85, but not before he had served as the last mayor of Norwich (in 1908) before appointment of the first Lord Mayor, and had established the Local Studies Library and the Norfolk Record Office30.  In his leaflet, Butler mentioned two unusually long-lived Rectors: Philip, Chandler, who served 68 years (1764-1885); an William Heath-Marsh, who served 52 years (1833-1885)31.

        Charles William Pye, also a tenant farmer, married Ann Wright of Oulton, Norfolk, on May 16, 1845.  They were blessed with 7 children (4 boys and 3 girls): Thomas Clipperton Pye, b. 1853; my grandfather, who was named after his grandmother, (Anna Clipperton); a second son also named Thomas, who unfortunately died in infancy in 1849.  A third son, Absolom, who likewise also died in infancy, was born in 1858, and a fourth Charles Edwin, b. 1860.  There were three daughters: Mary Ann, b. 1851; Rachel Eliza, b. 1854; and Charlotte Alice, b. 1855.


        My grandfather, Thomas Clipperton Pye, at the age of 25, while working as a groom/gardener at a hotel in Blofield East of Norwich, met his future wife, Mary Ann Smith of Guist, who was also working as a cook at the same hotel.  They were married in Blofield in 1878, before moving to Saham Toney, my father's birthplace.  They had a long and happy marriage and gave birth to 13 children: Harriet Alice, b. 1878; Frederick, b. 1880; Thomas Albert, b. 1881; Bertie William, b. 1884; Horace George, b. 1885; Jesse Morris, b. 1888; Sidney, b. 1888; Edward Septimus, b. 1890 (my father), Ernest Wilfred, b. 1891; Edgar Irwin, b. 1892; Ememline Margaret, b. 1886; Gertrude Evelyn, b. 1894; and Gladys Louisa, b. 1897.

Figure 4: Grandparents - Mary Ann Smith and Thomas Clipperton Pye

        Thomas Clipperton Pye, eventually became a beer merchant and inn keeper in Saham Toney in 1910 and remained so until his retirement in the 1930's.  His forte, however, was market gardening, no doubt the result of his agricultural upbringing in Lammas and the necessity to feed a large hungry Victorian family.  He was often kidded by a friend and neighbor of raising recruits for the British army.  Indeed, six of the boys served in the armed forces during the First World War (1914-1918).  And their names are recorded in the Roll of Honour in St. George's Church, and one, Sidney Harold, is shown as having been killed in action (at Loos, France, while serving with the Leicester regiment).

        Saham Toney lies north of the Town of Watton, where the road to Swaffam crosses Watton Brook, a tributary to the River Wissey.  The site is dominated by St. George's Church (Figure 6) founded in Honour of St. George, the patron saint of England, by William de Saham in 1281.  Artifacts found at Saham Toney have shown that it lies near the site of an ancient bronze-age Iceni (Celtic) settlement.  The village itself was in existence as early as 650 BC, when Iron-Age implements were imported from central Europe.  Later, it became a native market place at a Roman crossroads 32.  It is the site of Woodcock Hall, where a fortification was erected along Peddar's Way, a Roman road built from Chelmsford to Holme-Next-The Sea on the Wash to facilitate keeping the peace in East Anglia following Boudicca's Revolt in A.D.  60/633.  

        The first part of the village name, once spelled Soeham, is derived from the Saxon word "Soe", which means "a great lake" and "Ham" or "Home", therefore meaning "a home or town by the great lake".  This undoubtedly refers to the Mere (Figure 5), a roughly circular lake of about 13 acres noted for it's black bass and odd ugly-headed eels once called "old women" by the locals.  The second part of the village name, "Toney", is derived from Roger de Toeny, who was granted the Manor by King John in 1199.  Roger de Toeny was descended from Ralph de Toeny, standard bearer of Normandy at the battle of Hastings, and whose father had previously founded the Abbey of Conchis in Normandy itself.  Subsequently the Manor was held by the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick.  At the turn of the 20th century, the Manor was held by H.E. Garrod of Diss34.  

Figure 5: Air Photograph of the Village of Saham Toney, Norfolk, England, showing the Mere, a roughly circular lake with a fringe of beautiful trees.

        Brown35 reports that at the turn of the 19th century, the residents of Saham Toney could slake their thirst at two public places or inns, the Bull, which had been established in 1674, and the Bell, established in 1732.  However, in1830, the Beer Act "designed to encourage the drinking of beer as a means of decreasing the evils of gin drinking" made it possible to obtain a beer license at low cost, and without the magistrate's permission.  This soon resulted in a number of "beer retailers", probably operating out of their homes, and five additional pubs - Chequers (1830), Dolphin (1834), Three Horseshoes (1841), White Horse (1865), Ploughboy (1877), and the Windmill.  My grandfather, Thomas Clipperton Pye, became the keeper of the Horseshoes in 1910.

Figure 6: The Village of Saham Toney is centered around the Church of St. George.  Although basically a 13th century structure, St. George's displays all the grandeur of a typical Norfolk perpendicular "wool church" with its square tower and elaborate west doorway built under the patronage of New College, Oxford, made possible from the generosity of merchants made wealthy from the burgeoning 15th century wool trade. (Photo courtesy Brian Ashcroft, Southport, Lancashire, England).

        Violent crime has been rare in the life of the quiet village of Saham Toney.  However, normal serenity was shattered here on a fall day in 1881 with the murder of a young girl named Hannah Brett.  Brown36 reports that on October 21, the day following her 11th birthday, Hannah was attacked on her way to Church and dragged across a field to a pit beside the Bullock Shed road, where was later discovered, with her throat slashed, by Jonathon Drew.  Nearby, eating Hannah's lunch was Henry Stebbings, who had recently been released from Dartmoor prison after having served ten years for the attempted murder of a juvenile in a similar fashion.  Obviously guilty, Stebbings ran off, only later to be caught hiding in the shrubbery at the Church rectory.  Charged with murder, he was transported in a cart to face trial in Watton, where he was met on his arrival by angry crowd - had it not been for police protection he most surely would have been hanged.  At the Norfolk Assizes, Feb. 9, 1882, an unruly mob again unsuccessfully tried to lynch him, so much had had he kindled the ire of the local populace.  He was found guilty as expected and was sentenced to life imprisonment and returned to Dartmoor, escaping the death penalty through a plea of "homicidal mania" and aggravation by Hannah, who on meeting Stebbings on her way to Church, may have rudely commented on his somewhat ugly appearance - he was only 4 feet 8 inches tall and was disfigured by a prominent hunched back.  The pit beside the Bullock Shed road, where the crime occurred is now known as Humpty Harry's pit and remains a constant reminder of the vicious crime that occurred here over a century ago.

Figure 7: The former "Three Horshoes" Inn, where Thomas Clipperton Pye became a beer merchant and innkeeper in 1910.  Saham Toney.  Now a private residence.

        Saham Toney has been noted for the eccentricity of some of its inhabitants37.  One wealthy village named Thomas Shuckforth, born in 1690, is said to have gone into voluntary seclusion early in life to practice "piety and charity...with no slight tincture of credulity, superstition and fanaticism"38.   Considered to be slightly insane by his neighbors, he was seldom found in public.  Because of some disappointment in love, he traveled in his coach with the curtains closed so as not to be seen by members of the opposite sex39.  One of his strange beliefs was that the smell of burning lime would lead to a long and healthy life and he had kiln constructed close to his house to ensure a long, charitable retirement40.  Prior to his death, Shuckforth built an elaborate mausoleum, decorated with allegorical figures, as well as a tomb for himself with several inscriptions reflecting his religious tenets, on his personal property.  Shuckforth died on April 7, 1761.  In 1854, however, the scandalized Anglican Rector of St. George's had Shuckforth disinterred and his remains moved to Saham Churchyard41.

        According to Bryant42 , another man (unnamed), who suddenly decided to become a teetotaler after years of drunkenness, had all his barrels of beer and bottles of wine broken and their contents poured into Watton Brook.  This aroused the ire of his neighbors who, believing the wine to have had medicinal qualities, refused to speak with him.  This ultimately drove him out of the parish, and he committed suicide.  He was buried at the crossways near Watton, the still-angry parishioners refusing interment in holy ground.

        A similar event, more widely reported occurred in 1885, when the Rev. Coker Adams, standing at the communion rail on Sunday, July 26, shocked the assembled congregation by unexpectedly excommunicating one of his parishioners, Joseph Payne, because the latter had "persistently neglected to attend the Church's services and to refuse to receive her ministers".  It is also probable that Payne had become a "dissenter", advocating the abolition of tithes as a burden on the poor, much to the ire of the Rev. Adams.  The event became a national scandal, being reported in the "Daily News" and other newspapers, one of which remarked "The Rev. Coker Adams ought to be petrified as a specimen of medieval clergy" going on to say that he is "one of the most crotchety members of the English Church Union"43.  Following the widespread criticism, the excommunication ban was lifted, and Joseph Payne and his wife lie together in the consecrated ground of Saham Churchyard44.

        Saham Toney again became newsworthy in 1996, when a resident, in apparent panic, called the emergency code 999 to report that his house was going up in flames.  He was so confused and excited that the control room had to get the telephone company to trace his address.  When they arrived at the scene, however, the firemen learned from the police that the elderly, disabled man had only had a bad dream!45

Copyright by E.G. Pye

2010 Islington Ave Apt 1404

Etobicoke, Ontario Canada 


All info was retyped by Sandy (Pye) Smith from info furnished by E.G. Pye.  Hopefully I've copied all info correctly



1Bryant, T. Hugh, 1898: St. Andrews, Buxton, In Norfolk Churches: The Hundred of South Erpingham; Norwich Mercury Offices, Norwich - page 135 & 136.

2JOBY, Richard, 1994: Railways; in An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, Ed. by Peter Wade-Martins; Norfolk Museums Service, Norwich, page 148-149.

3Heywood, Stephen, 1994: Round-Towered Churches; in An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, Ibid., page 56.

4Bromefield, F., 1807: Buston; in an Essay Towards a Topographical History of Norfolk Vol. 6, page 444.


6Crowley, Jerry, and Reid, Andy, 1983: The Poor Law in Norfolk; Resource and Technology Centre, Backhill, Ely, Cambs., page 6.

7Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., page 138.


9Bromefield, p. 441

10Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p 139

11Ridley, 1983: The History of England; Futura Publications, MacDonald & Co., Ltd, p. 139-140

12Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p.140-144

13Ibid, p. 136

14Crowley, Jerry, and Reid, Andy, 1983 op. Cit.

15Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit. p 137

16Digby, Ann, 1994 Poor Law Unions and Workhouses; in an An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, ed. by Peter Wade-Martins, Norfolk Museums Service, Norwich, p 142.

17Ibid., p. 144

18Wade-Martins, Susanna, 1984; A History of Norfolk; Phillimore & Co., Ltd, Shopwycke Hall, Chichester, Sussex, p. 85

19Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p. 135

20Wade-Martins, Susanna, Op. Cit.

21Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p. 135

22Bromefield, F., Op., Cit., p 423-424

23Wade-Martins, Susanna, Op. Cit., p. 51-65.


25Walter, Rev. Christopher, 1998 of the Vicarage, Buxton, personal communication.

26Bryant, T. Hugh: St. Andrews, Lammas; in Norfolk Churches, The Hundred of South Erpingham, Norwich Mercury Offices, Norwich, p. 282

27Ibid., p 283

28Butler, Richard Stoney, 1992: Leaflet for Church Tours, St. Andrew's; The Vicarage, Buxton.




32Wade-Martins, Susanna, Op. Cit., p. 21

33Brown R.A. 1998: Shadows on the Summer Grass; Woodcock Hall Publications, Saham Toney, p 13-14.

34Bryant, T. Hugh, 1989: St. Georges, Saham Toney; in Norfolk Churches, The Hundred of Weyland, Norwich Mercury Offices, Norwich, p. 19

35Brown R. A. , Op. Cit., p. 137-140.

36Ibid., p. 165-166

37Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p. 23

38Richards, William, 1912: The History of Lynn; as reported by Brown, Op. Cit., p. 111.

39Brown, R.A., Op. Cit., p. 111-112



42Bryant, T. Hugh, Op. Cit., p 23

43Brown, R.A., Op. Cit., p.166-167


45Ashcroft, Jean, 1997, personal communication

This info furnished by Edgar George Pye.

It is with great sadness that I have been advised that Mr. Edgar Pye had a major stroke and passed away in November 2002.

Info scanned or re-typed by Sandy (Pye) Smith.

If you have family info you'd like put on a page please send the file to Sandy (Pye) Smith and I'll do my best to get it on the web site. If your file is too large to e-mail send me a note and I'll advise mailing address.