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The papers of the Coke family of Weasenham Hall (Norfolk) were acquired by the University Library in 1998. They previously formed part of the estate records at Holkham Hall and were transferred to Weasenham Hall in 1909, on the death of the second Earl of Leicester (1822-1909), when the Weasenham estate was left to his second wife, Georgiana Caroline Cavendish (1855-1937), as her dowager seat.

The collection, which consists of 55 boxes containing over 3000 title deeds and estate papers from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, concerns land and property around Weasenham, situated between Castleacre and Fakenham in West Norfolk. The earliest rentals show that the lord of the manor during part of the later thirteenth century was Jordan Foliot, who also owned land in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. 

The main interest of the collection lies in the light it sheds on the manorial and landscape history of West Norfolk from the late thirteenth century and on the early history of the Norfolk system of husbandry during the eighteenth century.  It includes several series of courts rolls for the manors of Weasenham, Kipton, Northall, and Fulchers, covering the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, which were acquired in 1598 by Edward Coke (1552-1634), Attorney General under Elizabeth I.  A survey by William Hayward with two estate maps from 1600 are also of interest.

Another of the strengths of the collection is its preservation of several hundred title deeds and manorial admissions recording land transfers from the same period. Twelve boxes (22-33) contain deeds and papers relating to the third Weasenham manor of Easthall and Hastings, which the Coke family purchased in 1796 from the heirs of Richard Jackson.

A handwritten catalogue listing each item of the collection is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.  It was produced at Holkham as part of the Holkham Papers series by Edward Scott (1840-1918) of the British Museum between 1890 and 1909.  Recent checks have shown that there are transcription errors in the descriptions so caution should be exercised when using the catalogue.

The collection is open to all holders of full Library reader's tickets.

Contact: Sian Collins (01223 333141; sec93@cam.ac.uk)