Alborough House

Alborough House was almost certainly built by William Alborough who was born in Forncett in 1791. William was a carpenter who lived with his family on Loughen Common in Forncett St Mary. In around 1851 he acquired a number of parcels of land from the estate of Edward Betts who had died in 1848. It would appear that William and his sons, George and Jeremiah, then built a new family home (Alborough House) on around 10 acres of land on Valley Farm Lane. They subsequently also built Alborough farmhouse on Mill Lane, which became the home of George Alborough, and a pair of cottages at the bottom of Northfield Lane, which were then owned by Jeremiah Alborough.

The boundaries of the two fields that comprised the 10 acres of land on which William Alborough built Alborough House remain unchanged today.

Alborough House farm - OS map 1883.

Furthermore, they can be traced right back to the 1565 map of Forncett, drawn by Frances Gardiner Davenport in her book "The Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor", in which the land is described as "Bewes wong".

"Wong" is an Old English word meaning field and so we can deduce that in the 16th century this part of Forncett belonged to a man called Bewes. Quite remarkably, three hundred years later the name reappeared in the 1871 census where Alborough House is described by the enumerator as "Beeswong".

William Alborough farmed the 10 acres of land at Alborough House until he died in 1871 and then his wife, Abigail, continued to run the farm until she died in May 1880.  Shortly after Abigail Alborough's death, her sons, George and Jeremiah, put Alborough House and its land up for sale. The auction was held at the Safety Valve public house near the station.

Norfolk News 17th July 1880

However, Alborough House apparently didn't leave the family because the 1882 electoral register lists Jeremiah Alborough as living in Great Yarmouth but owning "a house and land on the hill in Forncett St Mary" which was almost certainly Alborough House.

By the 1891 census, Jeremiah and his wife, Sussana, were living back in Forncett and farming at Alborough House. Susanna Alborough died in November 1900, aged 73, and Jeremiah continued to live at Alborough House where he died in November 1908. His executors were William Perfitt (son of Jeremiah's sister, Elizabeth Alborough, who had been his housekeeper after his wife died) and Rebecca Jane Sandall (daughter of Jeremiah's brother, George). Jeremiah left a significant estate of £1191 3s 2d and although he died in 1908, probate wasn't granted until 1914, which almost certainly suggests some legal arguments over his will!

By the 1921 census the new occupants were George and Hannah Cannell who were both local; George came from Tharston and Hannah from Forncett St Peter. They had married late in life and had no children. In 1923, after Hannah Cannell's death, George remarried to Alice Caroline Betts (née Self) who was a widow. Alice moved into Alborough House together with her daughter Edith May Betts and grand-son Harry Ernest Betts. Five years later, George died and Alice Cannell, Edith May and Harry continued to live at Alborough House, although it's not clear whether it continued to operate as a small farm.

In 1934 Edith May married Thomas Skillings, who was working as a farm labourer at Randell's Farm in Low Road, Forncett St Peter; but they separated after just a few years. So, in 1939 Alice was living at Alborough House along with Edith May and Harry. Alice Cannell died in 1942 and left the house to her daughter, Edith May. It may be about this time that the name of the house began to be spelt Aldborough rather than Alborough, as it has that spelling in Alice's will, dated 1926.

Edith's grandson, Michael Betts, recalled the house in around 1955 when he was a young boy:

"Our memories of Alborough House are of a home with no heating, no bathroom, and chamber pots under the beds. We had to bath in a metal tub in front of the fire in the living room, and the toilet was a 'soil' toilet in a wooden building at the bottom of the garden, with quartered old newspapers used as toilet paper. Just outside the back door was a tall brick wall, beyond which was a muddy area used by ducks, and beyond that a large barn with huge wooden doors. To the left of the back door close to the road was a wooden building with a staircase up to the granary. A short distance to the right of the back door was a well, with a wooden roof and winding handle, rope and bucket. Our grandmother kept ducks and chickens, and someone would come in each year to kill and pluck a number of the ducks."

Edith May Skillings lived at Aldborough House until October 1955 when she sold it to Victor and Elsa Hacon. Victor came from Great Yarmouth and he had married Elsa in Belgium in 1946. 

Victor Hacon (1971)

The Hacons lived at Alborough House until the late 60s/early 70s and after that the ownership of the house is unclear, although an advertisement in the Diss Express on 21st January 1983 indicates that it was the registered address of K and T Heating. 

Aldborough House is now a private residence.

With sincere thanks to Michael Betts, Liz and John Bell, and Linda Hacon for help with researching this page.