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Thickthorn Hall

Thickthorn, or Thickham, is an ancient hamlet to the Town of Hethersett and takes its name from Alan de Thickelthorn who settled it on Roger de Thickelthorn in 1240. The 1799 map shows what appears to be a moat and buildings to the south of the present hall, and may indicate a possible site of the medieval house.

Built in 1812, the two-storey hall and service wing, now occupied as flats, stands in four acres of mature garden. Principal facades are rendered and colourwashed and the remainder is colourwashed brick. The main hall has classical features and faces south. 

Three first-floor bays are set back above a parapet which extends forwards and outwards at the returns to cover five bays. A central ground-floor doorway with a recessed portico and Doric columns, has two recessed sash windows either side, each with canopies and paired pilasters. Egg and dart mouldings decorate the heads of columns and windows. Four wide pilasters with three sashes between decorate the first floor wall. Above the eaves' parapet is a hipped slate roof.

The principal range on the west side to the right has two bays and two further forward bays. A six-bay service range adjoins to the left. Each range has a hipped slate roof. The two bays with dormers over follow the architectural style of the front with their returning parapets at eaves and mid-floor levels, pilasters and windows, now casements. The parapet between floors changes to a moulded platband where it crosses the forward two bays and at eaves level it is replaced by modillions. 

Four plain pilasters separate two large casements either side of central French windows. Set back, the six service bays have a lateral chimney stack to the right and modillions continue under the eaves. Most ground-floor windows are sash, and first-floor are casements. Eleven of the twelve window openings are under hoods.

Alterations have been made to the east side including the demolition of an east wing c. l969, which once enclosed the courtyard. A converted stable block and coach house with a bell clock tower is to the north. An early nineteenth century red-brick walled kitchen garden in Flemish bond with an attached octagonal building, converted for residential use, lies 60m north east of the hall.

Pevsner describes Thickthorn Hall as "Stuccoed early nineteenth century house of three by three widely spaced bays. Two storeys with one-storeyed extensions to south west and east. The latter must be a slightly later addition. Their style looks c. 1820-30. The south front has giant pilasters partly covered by the extension. The extension here includes a porch with Greek Doric pillars."

The Georgian hall was built by a William Clarke of Kettering, the finance being arranged by way of a mortgage of 3000 advanced by William Creasey Owen of Cringleford. Owen advanced Clarke a further 3000 in April of 1821 but sold both mortgages to Richard Hanbury Gurney, the Norwich banker, in April 1822, who eventually obtained from Clarke, on 11 October 1822, the surrender of the property, no doubt by foreclosing. 

Richard Hanbury Gurney, 1783-1854, was regarded as a bit of black sheep as he had an illegitimate son by Susan Wainford, but he did acknowledge this boy in his will. He bequeathed an annuity to Susan Wainford, her eldest daughter and her eldest son.

The hall remained in the possession of the Gurneys until c.1930. A large household was listed in the 1891 census, which gives some idea of the size of the living quarters. Margaret Charlotte Gurney, 65, was head, with five daughters and two sons, all single, and a large staff of eight servants. On the Thickthorn estate, a further five households were listed. In 1906, E. H. Evans-Lombe was the occupier of the mansion and grounds and William Riches farmed the park and a paddock. 

A plan of this date lists the following buildings: the mansion, yards and gardens, a walled-in garden, a coachman's cottage, a pigeon house, a clock house, a laundry, ornamental water feature, and three cottages and lodges.

Alan Rees Colman, a director of the family firm of J. J. Colman, and a Norwich magistrate bought Thickthorn c. 1930. He added the loggia and also inserted the Adam chimney piece in the drawing room and the Gibbons chimney piece and matching doors in the master bedroom. These were purchased following the demolition of nine Nash houses to make room for the construction of the Savoy Hotel. In fact, they are from the house of Sir James Barrie, the playwright, and creator of Peter Pan. 

Alan Colman was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club and often flew from the fields on the north-side of the B1172, but unfortunately lost his life in a flying accident on 17 January 1943, when serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the war. He had the rank of major, and his duties were to collect new, factory-built aircraft, and fly them to operational squadrons. His memorial service was held in St Peter Mancroft church on 25 January, and his name appears on the war memorial in Hethersett churchyard.

The Mackintosh family then occupied Thickthorn first as tenants, subsequently buying the property on 13 May 1953. One interesting character during the Mackintosh period was Billy Ward, the farm manager, who started work there at the age of 24, on the 700 acre estate. One of his skills was the manufacture of scarecrows or the Norfolk name, "mawkins". 

They were made from traditional materials but, to some of them, Billy attached a length of burning rope, which, by some means, went off with a crack every twenty minutes or so. "To put the mawkins in the field when the peas are first cropped is a waste of time, and you must bide your time until the peas begin to shoot."

It was then sold to Mr and Mrs Derek White on 25 October 1977, who not only used it as their home, but also provided a clubroom and shooting facilities for the Norwich Compagnie of Archers, and visiting national archery clubs.

On 10 October 1985, Thickthorn was offered for sale by the Whites, as "a magnificent Georgian House with fine views set in mature parkland setting and having four main reception rooms, eight principal bedrooms, four bathrooms. 

Two wings each with self-contained flats. Planning permission for seven flats and archery centre. Charming coach House and Stable Block. Superb gardens and grounds extending to over four acres." The anticipated price was about 500,000. The conversion into apartments took place in 1987, at about 77,000 each.

The 2.5 inch Ordnance Survey map of 1952 shows a weir and a hydraulic ram on the water course. Hydraulic rams rely on the phased opening and closing of valves in running water in order to raise water through another outlet. In this case, it was probably used to raise the level in the ornamental lake.