Select Norris Miscellany

Here are some Norris stories and accounts over the years:

Speke Hall in Lancashire

Speke Hall is a half-timbered framed mansion that sits on the banks of the river Mersey in Lancashire.

Henry Norris was responsible for much of the building when he inherited the foundations of the project from his father in 1490.  It was continued on by Henry's son, William who made several additions to the moated manor house to accommodate his family of nineteen children.  Completion then fell to Edward, who added the date of 1598 over the entrance, no doubt with a sigh of relief.  Three generations of the family can be seen on the carved over-mantle in the great parlor.

The estate remained in the Norris family until 1736.  Mary Norris inherited it from her father Thomas in 1731.  Five years later she married Lord Stanley Beauclerk. Mary’s strong attachment to the house was not shared by her husband and son.  When she died in 1766, the house was let out to tenants and subsequently, in 1795, sold

The Norreys of Berkshire

Sir John Norreys (1400-1466), married Alice Merbrooke of Tattendon (plus two other marriages) 
(first of the Norreys line at Yatterdon; courtier to Henry VI) 

- Sir William Norreys (1433-1507), married Lady Jane de Vere (plus two other marriages)     
  (well-known soldier on the Lancastrian side; fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485)  
-- Sir Edward Norreys (1464-1487), married Frideswide Lowell      
   (died on the battlefield)  
--- John Norreys (1481-1564), married Elizabeth Brave        
    (royal courtier to four successive monarchs; no children to marriage) 
--- Sir Henry Norreys (1484-1536), married Mary Fiennes        
     (executed by Henry VIII for his suspected adultery with Anne Boleyn)  

---- Henry Norreys (1525-1601), married Margery Williams         
      (trusted by Queen Elizabeth; created Baron Norreys of Rycote)   

----- Sir John Norreys (1547-1597), unmarried          
        (distinguished English soldier, culminating in Ireland)  

----- William Norreys (1550-1579), married Elizabeth Morison         
(soldier who died of fever in Ireland)  
------ Francis Norreys (1579-1622), married Bridget de Vere           
         (Baron Narroys of Rycote; his estates forfeited after he shot himself with a crossbow)  
------- Elizabeth Norreys (1600-1645), married Edward Wray  

----- Sir Henry Norreys (1554-1599), no reported marriage          
        (soldier who died of his wounds in Ireland)  

----- Sir Thomas Norreys (1556-1599), married Bridget Kingsmill          
        (soldier in Ireland who was made President of Minster and built Mallow Castle in Cork)   
------ Elizabeth Norreys (1593-1623), his heiress married Sir John Jephson            
         (the Jephsons inherited Mallow Castle

The Francis Norreys Line

Much of the Norreys Berkshire line died in Ireland.  But a Norreys barony and a line in Oxfordshire did continue from Francis Norreys. 

It was said that he had been contemplating divorce when he committed the crime of elbowing Lord Scrope in the presence of royalty.  He was sent to Fleet Prison. Upon his release, he went home to Rycote and killed himself with a crossbow.  His estate was then forfeited to the Crown. 

He left no legitimate sons.  Soon after his death his daughter Elizabeth decided to elope with her lover of the King’s household, Edward Wray.  She crept out of her house and walked three miles to St. Mary Aldermary’s church to marry him.  When news of the secret marriage got out, Edward Wray was put under house arrest and lost his post at court.  However, all must have been forgiven at some time as the Norreys barony did descend to Elizabeth and then to her daughter Bridget. 

Francis left an illegitimate son, also named Francis, who married into Oxfordshire gentry and succeeded to the Weston estate in 1623.  Both he and his son Edward were returned as local MP’s.

John Norris and Francis Dashwood

John Norris and Francis Dashwood were both members of the Hellfire Club, a loose grouping of high society rakes that flourished in the mid-18th century.  They both had country estates in Buckinghamshire.  

The Dashwood estate stood at the top of West Wycombe hill next to the church of St Lawrence.  The original 14th century tower of the church was raised and capped with a golden ball in 1752 by Dashwood.  

At Camberley, some thirty miles away, a similar tower with a golden ball was erected by John Norris, who lived at nearby Hughenden Manor.  It is believed that Norris and Dashwood used to signal to each other by heliograph, reflecting the rays of the sun with a mirror, from their respective golden balls.

A West Virginia Story

The story goes that an Englishman by the name of Norris caught an Indian boy from a tribe of Indians from the Allegheny mountains.  Norris named the Indian boy Sam.  The Englishman had a daughter whose name was Betsy. Betsy and the Indian boy Sam would go out and get the cows every day and Betsy gave birth to a Indian child.  He was born in Morgantown in 1750 and she named him Sam Norris after his father.            

In 1764 young Sam, then aged fourteen, followed a man named Johnnie Gaul out of Morgantown to Hacker's Creek. Later Sam took a Delaware Indian named Pretty Hair as his wife and built a cabin for them, starting his life with the Indians.          

Sam lived to the ripe old age of 94 and was buried in 1844 at the Norris cemetery in Barbour county, West Virginia. Five generations of Norrises now trace back to Sam Norris.

John Norris's Pioneer Days in the Canadian West

John Norris was a tracker who helped open up the route to Winnipeg in 1850.  He wrote of his experience then as follows: 

“Eight men were hitched to each boat and it was slavish work.  We were practically transported.  There was no use to rebel.  You got no thanks for opening up the country.  I believe if we hadn’t opened up the cart trail to Winnipeg there would not be as many settlers in the prairies today.  

We found tracking pretty hard.  Some men used to be so tired they could not eat at the end of the day.  They would roll themselves in a blanket and fall down like dead men. 

In winter our work was hard too.  We would make 40 or 50 miles a day with running dogs if the trail was light and good.  But not if there were snowdrifts.” 

Fourteen years later, in 1864, John Norris headed the first brigade of 200 Red river carts who made the journey from Winnipeg to Edmonton.  It took three and a half months.

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