(Used with the permission of the author)
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
The origin of the name Jermy is uncertain. The Norfolk antiquarian, Walter Rye, says that it is almost certainly Norman. The Normans came from Scandinavia and, as Rye points out, the allied name Jermin is still to be found in Denmark as Jermün.
Standard works on patronymics give various derivations. One suggests that Jermy is an old English form of Jeremiah,1 a personal name becoming a surname. Another authority says that Jermy meant "son of Jermin"2 and that the Jermyn family was the parent of the Jermys.3 Jermyn means "the son of German" - a personal name taken after the country.
Throughout the centuries officials confused Jermy and Jermyn. In the 16th and 17th Centuries the names were used carelessly one for the other, although the families were quite distinct.
In official records and private documents a great many varieties of spelling are found, e.g. Germy (13th Cent.); Jermei, Jermye (14th & 15th); Jerma, Jermie (16th): Jarmy, Jannye, Jeremy, Jerimey (17th); Germa, Germany, Jermeny, Jermey (18th); Jarma, Jarmany, Jermany, Jermay, Jermey, Jermi (19th).4
These variations are due not only to clerical errors but to phonetic spelling and dialect.
Shortly before the First World War, unaware of the origin of the name "Germany", Alfred Germany, a Hendon, London, journalist, of the Clenchwarton, West Norfolk, line (incidentally, father of the writer) changed his name to "Valdar", and in 1939 Dr. George Reginald Germany of Newbold, Derbyshire, took the name of "Granton".5
There are on record, on the other hand, cases of surnames being changed to Jermy. Complying with the terms of the will of Francis Jermy of Haynford, Norfolk, (1781) Charles Proby of Chatham, Kent, assumed the additional surname of Jermy and in 1838 Isaac Preston changed his name to Jermy by Royal licence to regularise his ownership of Stanfield Hall, Wymondham, Norfolk, under the terms of William Jermy's will (1751).
The view of Anthony Wagner, Richmond Herald, given September 1956, was that the name is .. a very uncommon one and ... indications suggest that all its bearers are of one family."6
THE EARLY YEARS
Family papers and personal records of the Jermy family have been long since scattered and lost; probably much was destroyed after the death of William Jermy in 1752 and his bitterly-disputed will.
One of the few remaining personal muniments known to the writer is the roller pedigree on vellum, now in his possession, a generous gift from Brig. P.S. Gwyn of Diss, Norfolk, which was made about 1700 by John Jermy of Bayfield, Norfolk, father of William.
This remarkable document, complete with representations of the various coat-of-arms of allied families, traces the Jermys back to Sir William Jermy, knt., alive in 1221, whose son Sir John Jermy, knt. married Margery, second daughter of Roger Bigot (see pedigree), Earl Marshal of England. His daughter married Thomas do Brotherton, son of Edward I.
It was Thomas de Brotherton, recites the pedigree, who in 1311 conveyed to his brother-in-law, Sir John Jermy, two parts of the manor of Metfield, Suffolk, and a third part to his wife for her dower. It states that Sir John's grandson, Sir William Jermy, knt., living in 1330/1, married Ellin, daughter of John Balioll, King of Scotland (1292-1306).7 Davy in his Suffolk collection gives Ellin as daughter of a certain Lampet.8
From this illustrious beginning the family runs through a dozen Suffolk knights seated at Metfield, Brightwell, and Stutton branching into Norfolk in the 15th Century.
Thomas Jermy, died 1503, second son (hence the crescent in the Norfolk Jermys' coat-of-arms) of Sir John Jermy, knt of Metfield and Brightwell settled in Felmingham, Norfolk, and is thought to be the ancestor of the Jermys in that county. He married Anne, grand-daughter of Judge Yelverton, about 1480.
In 1327, however, the Subsidy Rolls record that one John Jermy was at Gateley, Norfolk, and also in the 14th Century Sir William Jermy of Metfield gained interests in Norfolk through his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of John de Hemenhale.
Sir John Jermy of Metfield, who married Margaret, sister of Sir William Mounteney of Essex, was at Agincourt in 1415.9 His name comes fourth among knights on the retinue roll of John, Earl Marshal, Mobray, afterwards Duke of Norfolk. Sir John Jermy, it seems, took part in the actual battle on October 25 for his name does not appear among the sick or others who returned home before the massacre.
His son John died at his seat, Bokenham Ferry, Norfolk, in 1487.
JERMYS OF SUFFOLK
The Jermys were seated at Brightwell, Suffolk, from 1509 or earlier and at Stutton in the 17th Century.
Other seats and manors of the Jermys in Suffolk were Wissett, owned by John Jermy in 1478; Witherdale, left to John Jermy by his father in 1487; Foxhall and Coddenham, leased to Sir John Jermy in 1545; Worlingworth, seat of William Jermy in 1609; and Knodishall, where the Rev. George Jermy (died 1679) was rector. The Hearth Tax returns show Jermys at Beccles, Blythburgh, Debenham, Heveningham and South Elmham in 1674.
Sir John Jermy of Metfield and Brightwell was made Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533.10 He attended a reception of Lady Anna of Cleves in 1539.11 His son and heir Francis was High Sheriff of Suffolk 1586/7. In 1631 Sir Isaac Jermy was described as of St. Clements, Ipswich.
JERMYS OF NORFOLK
In the 16th Century the principal Jermy seats in Norfolk were at Wighton, Felmingham, Norwich, Antingham and Marlingford. Other Jermys lived at Wroxham, Stokesby and Earlsham.
THOMAS JERMY OF MARLINGFORD, NORF.
Thomas Jermy of Marlingford, Norfolk, gentleman, was third son of Robert Jermy of Antingham. Norfolk. His seal, a lion rampant guardant, a mullet for difference, appears on one of the "Stowe Charters", dated 1569. His letters to William Paston, concerning the appointment of High Sheriff and other matters, dated 1565, are preserved at the British Museum.12
JOHN JERMY OF GUNTON, NORF. (1555-1630)
Robert Jermy of Antingham's second son was John Jermy of Gunton, Norfolk, a trustee of the Paston estate, who subsequently clashed with the other trustees and the Paston family (Correspondence of Lady Katherine Paston).13 He was admitted to the Middle Temple, 1578/9 and styled "late of Cliffords Inn".
During the 17th Century the main branches of the Norfolk Jermys were seated at Norwich, Marlingford, Gunton, Bayfield, Haynford and Glanford. Jermys, too, lived or held land at Aylsham, Filby, Tasburgh, Tivetshall, Saxlingham (Holt) and Gillingham.
COL ROBERT JERMY OF BAYFIELD, NORF. (1600-77)
The career of Col. Robert Jermy is unknown in Norfolk. where he achieved fame and notoriety as a henchman of Cromwell, largely due to the efforts of his descendants to suppress the facts. It is notable, for instance, that in Blomefield's great history of Norfolk, Robert Jermy's leading role in the Commonwealth in Norfolk is not mentioned, no doubt because his heirs were subscribers to the work.
From the State Papers of the time, however, he emerges clearly. Col. Robert Jermy was the son and heir of John Jermy of Norwich and Master of the Bench of Middle Temple where Robert was admitted in 1621 and called to the bar in 1629.
Nearly 20 years later, in 1648/9, his name appears in State Papers not as a lawyer but as a soldier, leading troops for the Commonwealth in East Anglia. That year he warned of an attempted revolt of ships off Yarmouth.14
In 1650 while Cromwell was busy in Scotland there was a serious Royalist conspiracy in the Norwich area and it was first detected by Robert Jermy. Four thousand foot troops were raised and a court of three judges to try the prisoners. Twenty-five were sentenced to death.
Robert was a Commissioner dealing with land sequestered from Royalists and for taxes and assessments.15 In 1651 he was made colonel of the 1st Horse Regt. of the Eastern Association of counties. Politically he was a follower of the Radical, Maj-Gen. Harrison, his commander.
In the first Commonwealth Parliament of England, the so-called Barbone Parliament of 1653, he was returned as an M.P. and named as one to whom Cromwell delegated the supreme authority of the realm.16 He was a Justice of the Peace.
His rise to fame received a check in 1656 when he was obliged to take legal action against John Armiger who accused him of corrupt practices as a J.P. and other discreditable acts.17 A Guildhall jury, however, found for Armiger. The colonel was called to account but he trumped up a charge against Armiger and had him put in the Tower and attempted to send him to Jamaica as a slave. This, Armiger revealed in an appeal to the House of Lords in 1660.
Meanwhile in 1658 the colonel was returned to Parliament as Member for Castle Rising, Norfolk, but never took his seat. At the Restoration (1659/60) he obtained leave to go overseas (to New England). Later he returned, for in 1661 he was lord of the manor or Bayfield, near Holt, Norfolk, In 1663, certified by leading gentry to be of ancient extraction and excellent estate, he was recommended for a baronetcy but it was never actually conferred upon him.18
His will was dated 1677 and proved the same year.
FRANCIS JERMY OF GUNTON, NORF.
Robert's brother was Francis Jermy of Gunton who was a member of the Norfolk Committee of the Eastern Association in 1643. As a Commissioner for Norfolk under the Commonwealth his signature appears on letters and petitions of the time, preserved at the British Museum.19
JERMYS IN HOLY ORDERS
First son of Col. Robert Jermy of Bayfield, Norfolk, but omitted from his will, dated 1677, probably because of profound political and religious differences, the Rev. John Jermy (1629-1679) bitterly attacked the Commonwealth-and by implication his father, in his book "Nature Confin'd", a Restoration religious treatise in 1667.20 He obtained B.A. at the age of 18 and M.A. at 21.
He was persecuted as a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, under the Long Parliament and branded as a delinquent in 1650 for, apparently, shamelessly admitting that he was married.21
John Jermy, M.A., received dispensation in 1669 to hold the parish of Tivetshall in plurality as rector. In 1661 John Jermy (the same man?) resigned as rector of another Norfolk parish, Thorp Abbots.
William Jermy, M.A., son of Clement Jermy of Marlingford, was ordained deacon of Norwich 1626/7.
Another John Jermy, M.A., it seems, was rector of Little Ellingham, Norfolk, in 1647 and vicar of Stow Bardolph, Norfolk, resigning in 1660.
The Rev. George Jermy, son of William Jermy of Brightwell, was rector of Knodishall, Suffolk, in 1649.
Thomas Jermy, M.A., was rector of Hethersett, Norfolk, 1660-70.
Third son of Francis Jermy of Gunton, Anthony Jermy was rector of Gunton, Norfolk, and father of Francis Jermy of North Walsham, Norfolk, who signed away his claim to the Jermy estates in 1754.22
JERMYS IN AMERICA
The only member of the Jermy family, on record, as having settled in America in the 17th Century is William Jermy of Kettlebaston, Suffolk, fourth son of Sir Thomas and Lady Joanna Jermy, who lived at Lynhaven, Lower Norfolk, Virginia, and died without issue in 1666. Col. Robert Jermy of Bayfield fled to New England in March 1659/60 returning a few years later but without leaving any record there in his name.
It was a sailor who in the early 18th Century brought lustre to the name of Jermy - Capt. Seth Jermy, R.N. (1656-1724). He was lieutenant of the Northumberland at the battle of Barfleur in May 1692 and in December 1702 was appointed to the Nightingale, a small frigate employed in convoy service in the North Sea.
For the next five years he was conducting colliers and corn ships between the Forth, the Tyne. the Humber and the Thames, and chasing enemy privateers.
While off the mouth of the Thames on the evening of 24 August 1707 with a convoy, she was met by a squadron of six French galleys under the command of M. de Langeron. Details of the action come from a French account.23
Two of the galleys attacked the frigate; the other four gave chase to the convoy. But the Nightingale made such a stout defence that de Langeron was obliged to recall his whole force to his aid.
Even then Jermy continued to fight against overwhelming odds yielding only when he saw that all his convoy had escaped up the Thames. Jermy was captured but the French commodore returned his sword as a mark of honour to a gallant opponent. Fourteen months later he was exchanged as a prisoner- of-war and formally court-martialled for the loss or his ship. He was honourably acquitted and immediately appointed to command the Swallow and in 1710 moved to the Antelope.
In 1712 he was placed on the superannuation list. In his will (1723) bearing a seal with the Jermy arms, he is described as of St. Mary Whitechapel (London). By his wife, Mary Pigott (mar. 1692) he had Seth (b. 1694/5) 24 who married Ann Harwood, and William (d. a month old, 1696).
Another Jermy sea-hero was Capt. John Jermy, R.N., who as captain of the bomb (sloop) Carcass distinguished himself in the bombardment of the fort at Nice, assisting the Austrian army in Provence in 1746.25
JOHN JERMY(N), SMUGGLER (--1751)
In the Gentleman's Magazine in 1751, published in London and probably read by William Jermy of Bayfield at his Craven Street, Strand, town house, a report appeared dated Wednesday 23 October stating: "were executed at Tyburn: John Jermy" (the names of eight other men and two women were included). Who was this John Jermy?
He was tried at the Old Bailey on 7 September and sentenced to death on a charge of rescuing an outlawed smuggler, James Holt, from a Customs officer at Kessingland, Suffolk. That much appeared in the newspapers at the time but the State Papers, remarkably complete on this case, reveal an intriguing mystery.26
The Crown had affidavits by two local persons testifying that John Jermy, alias Pauling, was well-known as an armed smuggler on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.
But on 2 October George Townshend, M.P. for Norfolk, appealed to the King for a reprieve for Jermy, then in Newgate awaiting execution, enclosing a petition from neighbours in Topcroft, Norfolk, stating that Jermy (they spelt it Jermyn) was an industrious farmer, a good father of his young motherless children and an honest man led away by smugglers.
Two days later the King received a letter from the Recorder of London, who had sentenced Jermy, giving his opinion of the case and assuring his Majesty that no miscarriage of justice had taken place and that Jermy (spelt thus) was properly convicted.
On October 6 a Customs officer testified that an informant had given John Jarmy (spelt thus)'s name as one involved in the rescue. Townshend called for all the papers on the case and decided to fight for Jermy to the end.
On 19 October he received a petition asking him to intercede with the King on Jermy's behalf from the rector and churchwardens, farmers and tradespeople of Thurston and Bayton, Suffolk. They referred to him as Jermyn and lived at his birthplace. This proved to be an 11th-hour appeal - and it failed.
Yet Townshend was not done yet; he wrote to the King on 29 October regretting that his Majesty had not reprieved Jermyn, for his folk saw him as an innocent man found guilty because he did not have as competent counsel as his accusers. It should be added that his main accuser was shortly afterwards convicted of smuggling himself and the man who Jermy(n) was alleged to have rescued proved innocent.
The question remains; who was this Jermy? No trace can be found in Bayton (or Beyton), Suffolk, parish registers of any Jermy yet there are plenty of Jermin and Jermyn entries.
WILLIAM JERMY OF BAYFIELD
With the death of William Jermy of Bayfield 21 January 1752 at Craven Street, Strand, London, the male line of that branch of the family became extinct. He was in his 37th year.
His death occurred three months after his marriage (his second) to Frances Preston of Beeston St Lawrence, Norfolk, daughter of a lawyer. This was the beginning of a link between the two families that was nearly a century later to lead to the double murder at Stanfield Hall and protracted legal wrangling.
William's wealth had been augmented by his first marriage in 1735 with the Hon. Elizabeth Richardson, heiress to Baron Cramond in Scotland. Their marriage was childless and ended in legal separation four years later and her death in July 1751. Their family settlement, running to five membranes, dated 3 February 1737, is in the possession of Brig. PJ. Gwyn of Diss, Norfolk.
William was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1735 and was high Sheriff of Norfolk 1747-8. He is buried at Aylsham, Norfolk, in a now railed-off tomb in the chancel.27
His will, dated 12 December 1751, left his North Norfolk estates to his wife for life then to Jacob Preston her nephew, then to his male heir, failing which to Thomas Preston, London merchant, her brother, then to his male heir, and in default of which to "such male person of the name of Jermy as shall be the nearest related to me in blood".
Frances died in 1791, and since Jacob had died without issue in 1787 and Thomas similarly in 1773, the estate passed contrary to the terms of the will - to Isaac Preston, half-brother of Jacob. Isaac who was Recorder of King's Lynn, Norfolk, died unmarried in 1796 and the estate then went to his younger brother, the Rev. George Preston, rector of Beeston St Lawrence, Norfolk, ancient seat of the Prestons.
The Rev. George died in 1837 and his son Isaac Preston, Recorder of Norwich, inherited, taking the precaution - unlike his uncle Isaac and his father to comply with the terms of William's will by assuming the surname and arms of Jermy.
However, the frustrating of the terms of the will in 1791 by Isaac was not without legal justification, for his father Isaac Preston snr. of Beeston, elder brother of Frances and trustee of the estate, with remarkable lawyer's foresight had sought out the two most likely claimants to the estate (both named in William's will) and bought them off 37 years earlier - in 1754, two years after William's death.
Isaac sen. had first signed a bargain and sale with Francis Jermy of North Walsham,22 an elderly lawyer, making over his claim for a mere £20.
But the most likely heir was another Norfolk man, John Jermy of Yarmouth, an illiterate labourer, descendant of the Gunton line. It was he whom Isaac Preston next sought. Armed with Francis Jermy's signed deed, he concluded a similar bargain and sale with John Jermy for the same paltry consideration of £20 - probably much less than a hundredth of the value of the Jermy estate, but a princely sum to a labourer.
The estates, all in Norfolk, were at Bayfield, Glanford, Stanfield, Tasburgh, Uphall in Boylands, Lethersett, Saxlingham, Wymondham, Hethersett, Ketteringham, Carlton, Suffield, Gunton, Felmingham, Antingham, Pulham, Foncett. etc.
This palpable fraud was undetected until it was too late, in terms of the Statute of Limitations, to do anything about it.
JERMYS IN THE 18th CENTURY
Parish records, poll books and county directories show that Jermys in the 18th Century lived in Norfolk and Suffolk and a few families in London. It is probable that they were in all a small number of families with members moving from place to place during the century yet remaining largely in clearly defined districts. Two or three families were in Norwich and others within a small radius recorded (to the south) at Pulham, Tibenham, Ditchingham, Topcroft, Shelton and Long Stratton; (east) Yarmouth, Strumpshaw, Halvergate, Runham, Surlingham, Filby and Acle,
(South-east) Langley, Chedgrave, Bergh Apton and Framingham; (north-west) Briston and Swanningham, and in North Norfolk at Bayfield, East Rainham, Hempton and Fakenham.
In Suffolk Jermys were recorded at Bungay, Ipswich, Weybread, Hedenham, Halesworth and Fressingfield.
Some were freeholders, farmers and professional people, others tradesmen and craftsmen.
THE JERMY ESTATES
One hundred and twenty-six years after William Jermy's will, in 1878, Lord Chief Justice Thesiger was able to say of the Jermy estate:
"There probably never was a property in the country the title of which has given rise to such obstinate disputes, or has been the source of so much litigation and crime."31
A recital of the various legal actions and public references to the estate during those years entirely supports this view.
1751 (Oct.4-5) Marriage settlement creating a £5,000 trust fund for Frances, second wife of William Jermy of Bayfield, Norfolk.
1751 (Dec.12) William's will. He died 21 January 1752.
1754 Isaac Preston, brother of Frances, bought off Francis Jermy of North Walsham, Norfolk, and John Jermy of Yarmouth for £20 apiece.
1754 William's widow, Frances, married Mr John Michell. M.P. for Boston, Lincolnshire.
1762 In an action Michell v. Preston,32 an order was made to raise the £5,000 for Frances. (Isaac Preston, brother of Frances and a trustee of the estate, the defendant, claimed that his title came from Francis Jermy of North Walsham).
1766 At a sale of Jermy estate (Bayfield Hall, near Holt, Norfolk, and 700 acres), under the decree, Mr Buxton bought for £7,600.
1767 This portion of the estate was assigned in trust for Elizabeth Jodrell, for which family Buxton bought.
1767 In Michell v. Preston, an order was made to pay Frances Michell £5,000; the balance to be invested in consols.
1791 Frances died and the main Jermy estate went to Isaac Preston, jnr., half-brother of her nephew Jacob Preston.
1819 Jonathan Jermy, Norwich weaver, claiming descent from the great-great-grandfather of William Jermy, sued George Nathaniel Best and his wife Joanna Elizabeth for possession of the Bayfield Hall estate. Mrs Best inherited as widow of Herrry Jodrell, third son of Elizabeth Jodrell for whom the estate was bought in 1766. The Best lawyer pleaded the Statute of Limitations, which was allowed.33
1833 (about) James Jermy brought an action of ejectment against the Rev. George Preston of Stanfield Hall, (died 1837) younger brother of Isaac above.
1838 (June 18) Notice appeared in newspapers of the sale of the library and household goods at Stanfield Hall leading to a claim by Thomas Jermy, grandson of John Jermy of Yarmouth, and his cousin John Larner.
1838 (Sept.24) Capture of Stanfield Hall by Larner and supporters. Tried and sentenced April 1839.
1839 (Mar.2) Isaac Jermy (Preston), Recorder of Norwich, son of the Rev. George Preston, assumed the arms and surname of Jermy by Royal warrant.
1842 (Dec.10) Jermy v. Preston. Isaac Jermy (Preston) sued Sir Jacob Preston, George Heald and Thomas Blake as co-heirs of Isaac Preston (brother of Frances) for the balance of the sum raised in 1766 over and above the £5,000 required. Judgement was given for the Recorder.
1848 (Oct) James Blomfield Rush actively supported the claim of Thomas Jermy and John Lamer to Stanfield Hall estate and executed deeds anticipating their taking possession, and in fact, the death of the Recorder and his son and heir.
1848 (Nov.28) The Recorder and his son, Isaac Jermy Jermy (Preston) murdered at Stanfield Hall by Rush, who was hanged 21 April 1849 for the double murder.
1849 (April) A man named Godfrey, of Yarmouth, claimed to be the true heir to the estate (Norfolk Chronicle).
1878 (Aug.6) Taylor v. Gwyn at Norwich before Lord Justice Thesiger. George Taylor, a poor Eastern Railway guard at Dovercourt, Essex, sued Col. Reginald Thorsby Gwyn, husband of Sophia Henrietta, daughter and heiress of Isaac Jermy Jermy (Preston) and others for possession of the Jermy estates 34 Taylor, represented by a Q.C. claimed to be descendant of a Robert Jermy who died in 1758 and who was nearest in blood to William Jermy. The defendants pleaded the Statute of Limitations and a jury found a verdict for them.
1920 Stanfield Hall sold out of the family by the colonel's son, Maj. Reginald Preston Jermy Gwyn.
1922 (Sep.2) London Evening News announced the claim of Mr Charles Jermy Larner, son of John Jermy Larner, a Camberwell London, bottle manufacturer, to the Jermy estate. He stated that his father, who tried to pursue the claimm, considered that he should have inherited about £3,000,000!
1924 (Nov.17) The Daily Herald published a similar story. Larner's age was given as 57 and the value of the estate as £1,000,000.
1955 (April 15) Eastern Daily Press published an account of the present researches under the title "The Jermy Millions". A response by Brig. Philip Jermy Gwyn of Diss, Norfolk, Son of Maj. Gwyn, was published on April 29 headed "The Jermy Pence".
We now deal with the more important of these references in greater detail.
BAYFIELD HALL, NORFOLK
The Yelverton family owned Bayfield, near Holt, Norfolk, from the 14th Century (John Yelverton was lord of the manor in 1390) until 1661 when Robert Jermy was lord. The families were connected: Thomas Jermy (died 1503) of Felmingham married Anne Yelverton.
Robert Jermy, colonel in Cromwell's forces and M.P. under the Commonwealth was styled "of Bayfield" and as a J.P. signed the earliest existing marriage register (1653) of neighbouring Letheringsett. His heir was John Jermy, M.A., who was lord in 1739 and until 1766 when Bayfield Hall was sold, Jermys or their trustees held the manor. The E-shaped Elizabethan manor house was remodelled by Robert Jermy to the present outline, according to a 17th Century ink drawing now in the hands of the present owner, Cmdr. the Hon. Roger Coke.
Bayfield was sold in 1766 by Jacob Preston and Thomas Preston after William Jermy's death, to Francis Buxton in trust for Elizabeth Jodrell, for £7,600. She was wife of Paul Jodrell and daughter of Richard Warner of North Elmham, Norfolk. Their third son Henry Jodrell (died 1814) was seated at Bayfield Hall. His widow, Joanna Elizabeth, married George Nathaniel Best and they were in possession in 1819 when Jonathan Jermy, a Norwich weaver, unsuccessfully claimed the estate.
STANFIELD HALL, NORFOLK
Stanfield Hall, near Wymondham, Norfolk, came into possession of the Jermys as a result of the marriage (26 August 1735) of William Jermy of Bayfield and the Hon., Elizabeth Richardson, grand- daughter of Lord Thomas Richardson, Baron Cramond in Scotland, who bought the estate in 1642.
The manor belonged to Earl Warren at the time of William the Conqueror and in 1249 the Prior of Wymondham had his house and chapel there. In the 14th Century it came to the Bigots and to the Appleyards (15th Century) and Flowerdews (16th Century). It is noteworthy that John Robsart and Elizabeth his wife lived at Stanfield Hall in 1546 and it is probable that there the unfortunate Amy Robsart was born, grew up and met Robert Dudley.28
As part of the Jermy estate, Stanfield Hall, then an E-shaped Elizabethan manor-house, with a moat as now, passed to the Rev. George Preston, father of the Recorder or Norwich, in 1796 and he had it rebuilt as it stands today. Tudoresque in style, the hall was designed by William Wilkins, the ecclesiastical architect and cost some £7,000. Ivy and creeper now cover the white Holkham bricks. Adjoining the hall was a chapel, which was burned down in 1826 and rebuilt as kitchen offices. In 1838, when the Rev. George was dead and his son Issac had assumed the surname and arms of Jermy as a condition of inheritance from William Jermy, the wooden arms of Preston were removed from over the main porch and those of Jermy in stone substituted, as they exist today.
THE JERMY ARMS: (Depicted here, based upon the seal of John Jermy of Norwich, d. 1744) - Argent (silver), a lion rampant guardant, gules (red), and crest: a griffin, wings expanded, gules. The motto may be translated as Virtue is a shining badge.
In June of that year the Recorder ordered a sale of the household furniture, plate and books which led dramatically to John Larner of Islington, London, (cousin of Thomas Jermy of Tooting who was grandson of John Jermy of Yarmouth, William's heir) claiming and afterwards capturing the hall.
It is curious that at this time the Recorder intended to pull down the hall but was induced by James Blomfield Rush, then his bailiff, to sell it to him for the ridiculous sum of £1,000. (It was during Rush's brief occupation of the hall, probably, that he came across documents belonging to his former employer and benefactor, the Rev. George Preston, father of the Recorder, which Rush used to challenge the Preston's right to possession).
In August 1838 Rush actually auctioned building material from the hall and three green and hot houses for £500-£600 and at the same time advertised Stanfield Hall for letting including "six best sleeping rooms, every convenience requisite for a genteel family" and 7 acres of garden and pleasure grounds.29 Within two years, however, the Recorder had bought back the hall for £1,000, although Rush reckoned it worth about £6,000.
After Rush's trial for the murder of the Recorder and his son, the son's wife who was wounded in the attack, Mrs Jermy Jermy, held an auction at the hall (June 1849) of furniture and other effects, and moved house to Norwich away from memories and publicity. 1,500 people attended the four-day auction. Her daughter Sophia Henrietta Jermy, then a minor, inherited and in 1868 married Col. Reginald Thorsby Gwyn, who was in possession when George Taylor, a Dovercourt, Essex, railwayman made an unsuccessful claim on the estate in 1878.
The colonel's son, Maj. Reginald Preston Jermy Gwyn inherited on his father's death a few years later and he finally sold Stanfield in 1920 after it had been part of the Jermy estate for 185 years.
It was then described as "the residential and sporting estate, a moated house on the site of an ancient building with old worlde gardens, a park of 75 acres and farms to a total of 760 acres, first-rate partridge shooting". It was offered for £20,000, the timber alone being valued at £3,500. The hall was bought by George William Rackman, farmer and landowner. Philip Rackham was the steward.
During the 1939-45 war an air-strip was laid down between the hall and Potash Farm, which Rush once leased from the estate.
In 1947 the estate was auctioned piecemeal for £24,000 to Mr H.G. Hudson who decided not to demolish the mansion but to live there with his wife and young daughter and to farm the 537 acres.
CAPTURE OF STANFIELD HALL, 1838
It was on 27 June 1838 when the auction of the late Rev. George Preston's household and personal effects by his son, Isaac Preston (Jermy) was in full swing that two strange men arrived at Stanfield Hall and asked for him.
They were John Larner and a friend from London, who introduced Larner as the heir-in-law of Stanfield Hall estate who had come to take possession. They were eventually removed by police but the first scene of the dramatic capture of the hall in the name of the dispossessed Jermys had taken place.
Larner had arrived during the sale of the library, which he pointed out was expressedly reserved in William Jermy's will of 1751 as an heirloom. The Recorder must have been impressed for the sale of the library was abandoned from that minute, as his marked catalogue, now in the possession of Brig. P.J. Gwyn of Diss, shows.
On August 22 Larner distributed handbills throughout the Norfolk countryside stating his claim and warning any preventing him from taking possession that they would be prosecuted.
On September 11, Tuesday, eight or nine people entered Stanfield Hall and demanded the keys from the tenant, Mrs Sims, and ordered her out. Police sent them off. Next day Larner entered the grounds and cut down a tree and with others carried it off - a recognised method of pressing a claim to an estate, it seems.
He reappeared on September 20 with a blacksmith but escaped when outnumbered. Next day handbills against the Recorder were again distributed.
Then came the fateful September 24 when Larner arrived at the hall at 11 am. supported by some 77 men from neighbouring parishes, and demanded admittance. The front door was forced and the party took possession, removing Mrs Sims from the house and putting the furniture on the lawn in the rain.
The men barricaded the windows and stood by with brickbats ready for a siege. The Recorder called from Norwich arrived with local magistrates and two constables. The Riot Act was read. Police captured some of the insurgents but they were released by their comrades inside the hall.
At 5.45 pm. a detachment of 4th Dragoon Guards under Major Makepeace took up positions outside and prepared to fire if their ultimatum was ignored. Only then did the intruders withdraw and surrender to authority. They were roped together and 63 taken by waggon to Norwich Castle under military escort. The rest were held to bail.
It was remarkable that not one of the men was a Jermy, yet they felt so strongly about the justice of the Jermy case that they left their homes, their businesses and jobs - 25 were labourers and the rest tradesmen - and risked their liberty, even their lives in the cause. Nor were they illiterate; 34 were able to read and write and seven could read alone. They came from as far as 14 miles away (Woodton), Norwich, Saxlingham, Lakenham, Framingham, Stoke Holy Cross, Carlton Rode and Shotesham.
They were all tried in April 1839, when the charge of feloniously and tumultuously assembling was withdrawn and they all pleaded guilty to simple riot. The Recorder, well known as a hard man and far from lenient with offenders in his own court, actually pleaded for the men who had so outrageously challenged his title and even physically assaulted him and despoiled his property. He asked only that they pledged themselves never again to pursue their claim. An understandable action for a man who knew just how strong that claim was.
This remarkable performance resulted in the majority of the raiders being released at once and the ringleaders, Larner and his legal adviser, Wingfield, receiving a trifling three months imprisonment each.
STANFIELD HALL MURDERS, 1848
In the minds of many Norfolk people today the name Jermy is largely associated with the murder of the Recorder of Norwich, Isaac Jermy (Preston) and his son Isaac Jermy Jermy (Preston) at Stanfield Hall on the night of 28 November 1848, and the subsequent trial of the murderer, James Blomfield Rush.
Yet the only Jermy who took any part in those events was old Thomas Jermy, a Tooting, Surrey, gardener and grandson of John Jermy, the Yarmouth labourer, who made a brief appearance in the witness-box at the trial.
On the other hand, due to the extraordinary, cunning attempts by Rush to implicate the Jermy claimants in the crime and to the fact that he used his possession of supposedly vital documentary evidence on the inheritance of the Jermy estate to blackmail the Recorder, the whole story of William Jermy's strange will became linked with the murder and trial.
Rush exploited the legitimate resentment of the dispossessed Jermys for his own criminal ends. In 1838 when as bailiff to the Recorder he ejected Larner and his supporters he became interested in the claim, later contacting Larner and Thomas Jermy in London and offering to help them. Promising to put Thomas Jermy into possession of the estate, in return for the leases of two farms on it, Rush produced a series of deeds to that effect, some seven months before the murders.
On 4 October 1848 at Rush's insistence Thomas Jermy and Larner went to Felmingham farm, Norfolk, part or the Jermy estates, but Thomas Jermy who was reluctant to sign the documents and suspicious of Rush returned later to London. But so far as Rush was concerned Thomas Jermy had served his purpose, which became plain when Rush dropped a forged note in Stanfield Hall on the night of the murders designed to incriminate Thomas Jermy. This subterfuge was quickly seen through and when in the witness box Thomas Jermy was asked: "Can you write?" (the note was purported to have been written by him) he replied no, and was dismissed from the case.
Save for the various claims made against the former Jermy estates - dealt with above - the Jermy family returned to relative obscurity after the trial. Somehow the 1848-9 events seemed to some Jermys to bring shame to the family name - clearly, as we have shown, a mistaken view.
The full account of Rush's trial has been edited by Teignmouth Shore in the Notable Trials series (1929) based largely upon the excellent contemporaneous work "Narrative and Trial of James Blomfield Rush".30 His effigy is No.3 in Madame Tussaud's chamber of Horrors. A fob signet, engraved with the Jermy arms in bloodstone, set in gold, which belonged to the Recorder, and his son's slim gold pocket watch engraved on the back with the Jermy crest, was inherited by his descendant Anthony Jermy Gwyn of London, S.W.7.
Staffordshire china pieces of Stanfield Hall and Potash Farm, sold at the height of the trial frenzy, are still to be found in antique shops.
The novelist Marjorie Bowen (1888-1952) under the nom-de-plume of Joseph Shearing wrote a novel based upon the murders, entitled "Blanche Fury", published in 1939. (Jermy became Fury). A film of the same name was made from the book in 1947 at Pinewood Studios.
JERMYS IN THE 19th CENTURY
National registration of births, marriages and deaths, dating from 1837, the census returns for 1841 and 1851, poll books and county directories show that following the general tendency, branches of the Jermy family in the 19th Century spread from Norfolk and Suffolk and London to other parts of the country.
But many of the older centres remained - Norwich, Yarmouth, Fakenham and Chedgrave in Norfolk and Halesworth, Suffolk, etc. In London Jermys were recorded at Mile End, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Stepney, Poplar, Greenwich, Shoreditch, W. London, Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster. New centres appeared at Stoke-on-Trent, Uxbridge, Reading, Cambridge, Ely, in West Norfolk at Tilney All Saints, Clenchwarton and West Walton, Thetford, Leominster (Herts.) and Holbeach (Lincs.) and Sudbury (Middx.) areas.
While in the 19th Century Jermys included traders, craftsmen, licensed victuallers, minor officials and farmers, the name was missing from Kelly's Handbook To The Upper Ten Thousand, 1878.
With William Jermy's death in 1752, the Jermys had ceased to be landed gentry and a ruling family, after more than five centuries.
The family estates, property and records have disappeared. Only by laboriously piecing together parish and State muniments and records, illuminated here and there with fragments from collections of other and allied families, is it possible today to trace the history of the illustrious Jermys.
Only a few of the early Jermy memorials survive today. Deliberate destruction and defacement during the Commonwealth period, fires, decay, ruthless rebuilding of the churches and bombing during the last war have taken their toll.
Those remaining include: Bury St Edmunds (church of St Mary), Suffolk - gravestone to Isaac Jermy, younger son of Robert Jermy of Bayfield, 1647-1736; Kettlebaston, Suffolk - church floorslab and wall cartouche for Lady Joanna Jermy, wife of Sir Thomas Jermy, K.B.; Metfield, Suffolk - broken brass to Sir John Jermy, knt. (d.1504) and arms in chancel; Stutton, Suffolk - in church, portrait alabaster monuments to Isaac Jermy and John Jermy. In Stutton Hall, now farmhouse, arms over fireplace;
Aylsham, Norfolk - in church, William Jermy's tomb. Arms also on a hatchment; Barningham, Norfolk - Arms on Palgrave monuments in church; Gunton, Norfolk - on church outer wall, Jermy arms on memorial to Alice, daughter of Sir Anthony Irby, knt., of Lincs, wife of Francis Jermy of Gunton; Wighton, Norfolk - in church, floorslab to Dorothy Jermy, wife of John. Also gravestone in middle aisle to Anne Jermy, wife of Matthew Dey, d. 23 January 1652; Baconsthorpe, Norfolk - Jermy tomb;
In the Middle Temple, Strand, London, dining hall are the arms of John Jermy, who was Lent reader in 1606.
The above booklet was originally published privately in 1958 in a duplicated edition of about 80 copies, and subsequently re-published as a booklet in 1976. A few illustrated copies were bound and presented to The Society of Genealogists, London, The Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, the Norfolk Record Society and the Library of the British Museum (now the British Library).
© Stewart Valdar. 1958, 1976.
(Used with the permission of the author)