History of Blo Norton Hall

As with many old houses, the precise history of Blo Norton Hall is not entirely clear. The Hall was certainly in existence in 1585 and certain features indicate the work of one John Brampton who died in 1535. Records exist as far back as the 13th Century and Prince Frederick Duleep Singh (see below) was of the view that since about 1280 the Hall had never been sold outright in that there was always a connecting link between each owner. The families involved were Bigod, Brome, Brampton, Best, Browne and Goldson. No member of these families has lived at the Hall for over 100 years, the Hall having been let to a variety of tenants until January 2009. The present owner purchased the property in March 2007 by means of purchase of its owning company from 29 family shareholders. If Prince Freddie is correct, this represents the first clean break in ownership for over 700 years.

If readers are curious about the word “Blo’”, it seems likely that it is a phonetic shortening of Belaugh or Bel’eau and that the word means merely “by the water” so Blo’Norton is really Norton by the Water. 

In the summer of 1906 Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) came to stay at Blo Norton Hall. The Hall provided the setting for her short story The Journal of Miss Joan Martyn. In the story the main character Rosamund Merridew, is a historian researching England's land-tenure system. This part of Norfolk is particularly isolated and Woolf records in her diary the journey from Diss railway station:

"'...every mile seemed to draw a thicker curtain than the last between you and the world. So that finally, when you are set down at the Hall, no sound whatever reaches your ear; the very light seems to filter through deep layers; and the air circulates slowly, as though it had but to make the circuit of the Hall, and its duties were complete."

While staying at Blo Norton, Virginia used to cycle around the Norfolk lanes and visited various places including Kenninghall

In 1906 Prince Frederick Duleep Singh rented the hall and lived there for the last 20 years of his life. During this time he laid out the grounds – including a pillared temple in a wood to the west of the Hall. He had previously lived at Breckles and Old Buckenham Hall. His Father, the Maharaja Duleep Singh, had previously lived at Elvedon Hall for many years before going into exile. Although not a writer, the Prince bequeathed a unique collection of Norfolk manuscripts to the county when he died - including papers belonging to the Yarmouth shoemaker poet David Service. The Norfolk Record Office now houses the collection. Prince Frederick Duleep Singh died at Blo' Norton on 15th August 1926 and is buried in the churchyard. His love of the town of Thetford was shown by his bequest of 90 portraits of East Anglian worthies dating from the 17th century.