The Other Forncett


It was not at all uncommon for emigrants from the UK to name places in their new country after their place of origin. Consequently, there is a Norwich in New York state and one in Connecticut. In a similar way New Forncett was the name given to land settled by William Alborough in Natal, South Africa in around 1858.

William Alborough (1806-1878) was born in Forncett St. Mary and was the nephew of the William Alborough (1791-1871) who founded Alborough Farm and Alborough House. William, the younger, was an agricultural labourer and he and his wife, Lucy, had five children before Lucy died, aged only 49, in Dec 1853. Then, seven months later, William's youngest child, George, died of typhoid, aged just 9 years old.

So, when the then rector of Forncett St. Mary, Rev. John Colenso, accepted the post of Bishop of Natal in South Africa, William Alborough decided to join him on the journey. William's two elder daughters stayed in Norfolk but his two younger children, William (aged 20) and Jane (aged 16) went with him. On 7th March 1855 they set sail from Liverpool for Durban.

On their arrival, Colenso set up his official residence at Bishopstowe, just outside Pietermaritzburg and, for the next two years, William Alborough worked for him. In the meantime, William applied for land and was granted a plot some 50 km to the west near the small township of Boston. Here, in about 1858, Alborough established his new home which he called "New Forncett".

In 1866, at the age of 60, William remarried. His new bride, Agnes Graham, was just 23 years old and bore him five more children. Consequently, when William Alborough died at New Forncett on 7th August 1878 he left seven children, all of whom went on to have their own families in Natal. There are now many Alborough descendants living in South Africa and, in 2016, four members of the van Wyk family visited Forncett to learn more about their ancestor, William Alborough (see photo below taken at the time by John Webster).