Bessingham is a small village in North Norfolk, just a few miles from the coastal resorts of Cromer and Sheringham, and not far from the historic market towns of Aylsham and Holt.  It sits on the southern slopes of the Cromer Ridge, a gently undulating landscape created during the Ice Age. 

Prehistoric, Roman and Saxon artefacts have been unearthed in Bessingham, indicating that the village has long been farmed and populated.  It is mentioned in Domesday Book and later manorial records.


The Paston family became lords of the manor of Bessingham in the fifteenth century and held the manor until 1732.  The Ansons then purchased the land before selling it in 1766 to John Spurrell, the younger son of a prosperous yeoman farmer from neighbouring Thurgarton.

The Spurrells enlarged and modernised the estate over the following decades, erecting a malthouse in the village to supply malt to breweries as far afield as London.  They bought the village pub, the Horse Shoes Inn, and were the main beneficiaries of the enclosure of the common land in the 1820s.



In 1870 Daniel Spurrell built a new manor house in the village and laid out new gardens and parkland around it.  His daughter Katherine Spurrell bred daffodils in the walled garden, some of which were given the Award of Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. 

Another resident of the Manor House in the late nineteenth century was Toby, a Himalayan brown bear that had been brought to Bessingham from India by Daniel's son.  It is still spoken about in the village to this day.

For labourers on the estate, wages rose steadily during the mid-1800s until Britain was hit by an agricultural depression in the 1870s.  Many left the village in search of work elsewhere and those who remained continued to work long hours in the fields to feed and clothe their families. 

Farming became increasingly mechanised in the twentieth century and new crops such as potatoes, peas and sugar beet were introduced on the estate, but despite this modernisation horses still worked the land as late as the 1960s.

In 1952 Denham Spurrell passed away, leaving the estate to his nephew Ronald Hitchcock.  Ronald lived in Hampshire and found the estate difficult to manage at a distance.  As tenants died or moved on, he decided not to replace them, so that by the 1960s many of the cottages in the village were empty.  The pub closed its doors for the last time in 1959.  The local press were quick to label Bessingham a 'ghost village'.

The estate was broken up and sold in 1970 and the village was slowly brought back to life.  Cottages were renovated and gardens made to look neat and tidy.  The Manor House, however, became derelict and was on the verge of being demolished when in 2013 a major programme of restoration began.  The following year it reopened as self-catering holiday accommodation for large groups.


Although Bessingham is a very small village, it contains a wealth of history.  It is a village with a rich and fascinating heritage and a strong community spirit, which is evident to anyone who comes to walk along its footpaths, study its Saxon church tower or paint its landscape.