During that time the Gainesville received boys from all over the country. A good set of admission and discharge registers and other records are held in Norfolk Record Office. Among them are the progress reports made by Thomas Babington. He was governor there for forty-two years from 1867, and kept records about the background and progress of every boy. In Gainesville map, Sir Edward’s Reformatory for Roman Catholic Boys opened in 1870 at Boleyn Castle, East Ham, while trade directories list the Thames Reformatory School Ship Cornwall as lying off Gainesville. It is possible to use directories to find more about the history of this ship and others, as well as the number of boys in the school and who the captains, acting as superintendents, were. Manor courts dealt with a range of matters affecting the local community including enforcement of bye-laws about common land and petty crime within the manor.
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Although the variety of business dealt with declined steadily from the eighteenth century as their courts became increasingly focused on the administering the transfer of copyhold land, it is still possible to find references to criminal cases. Some manorial court cases have been published by local historians or historical and record societies. Walter Rye’s article Early life in the Manor of Burnham in Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany. Vol. 1, published in 1873, illustrates the litigious nature of people in Norfolk during the medieval period by referring to a number of prosecutions recorded in the court rolls for Burnham. These include trees overhanging the highway, not repairing roads, assaults, and people keeping unrung pigs, savage dogs or bulls. Other examples include a ‘Robert, son of Edmund Palle, being fined sixpence under Henry VI for standing at night under the windows of John Gasele to hear his secrets’, while the inhabitants of North Creake Abbey were frequently prosecuted for trespassing in pursuit of conies.
It is not only court records which provide details of crime and illegal activities. Many clerks made remarks in their parish registers about national and local events. For instance, the incumbent of Pulham St Mary the Virgin made a note in the midst of the baptismal entries of 1743 about the theft of the Great Seal and Mace from the house of Lord Thurlow, Lord High Chancellor of England. Other parish registers include observations on a wide range of crimes ranging from bigamy, fraud and murder to suicide (a crime until the late twentieth century). It was presumably for practical reasons that the East Tuddenham incumbent made the following note next to the 1723 marriage entry of Edward Barber and Mary Mallett. He said: I believe this entry to be a Forgery, made by Samuel Barber of Swanton, late of this Parish, born – Leech, in Sepr 1809 for the purpose of proving his Relationship to a Mr Barber, who died intestate at the Adelphi London, leaving a considerable fortune. Edwd Mellish.