Alan March’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)(1)

March Tree



JOHN DUFFIELD. John and Elizabeth’s career ranged widely across Norfolk and Suffolk. We owe our ability to trace them to John’s distinctive occupation as a warrener and the unusual practice of the Kelling registers in north Norfolk of giving the maiden name of married women. This takes us back to their marriage licence in Cavenham, north Suffolk.

John’s age at his burial in Kelling tells us that he was born around 1743-4. At the time of the marriage licence he was living in Santon, 4 m north of Thetford, on the Norfolk side of the boundary with Suffolk. The most promising baptism is in Cavenham, where Elizabeth was living at the time of their marriage.

Baptism. Cavenham, Suffolk.
1745 Jan 5   John son of George and Frances Duffield

This would make him the younger brother of the Francis Duffield who co-signed the bond for John’s marriage licence.

His mother’s maiden name was Frances Hayward.

He was the youngest of six children.


John was a widower when he married Elizabeth in 1772. At his first marriage in 1770 he is said to be of Wangford. This is not the better-known village of that name just inland from Southwold on the East Suffolk coast, but Wangford St Denis, east of Thetford. It lies close to the Norfolk border and adjacent to the modern RAF base at Lakenheath.

Today it is a ghost village. St Denis’s has been taken over by the New Beginings International Church from the airbase, and is difficult for the public to access. Even at its peak, the village never recorded more than 58 inhabitants.

It is now known for the nature reserve of Wangford Warren. This is an area of sandy dunes rarely found inland, but ideal for rabbit warrens. It would have been here that John learned his trade as a warrener, the occupation given for him in 1772.

The area between Mildenhall and Thetford had more rabbit warrens than any other part of the country.

From medieval times, rabbit warrens were an important source of both meat and furs. Quantities of rabbits were supplied to the lord of the manor or sold for his income. The warrener was one of the highest paid of the manorial servants, and John did well to secure this post at such a young age.

Winter was the prime time for trapping rabbits, when fresh meat was scarce and the rabbit fur was at its thickest. Nets were laid and the rabbits driven into them by dogs or ferrets.

The warrener had to maintain the health of the rabbits, secure the right ratio of bucks to does, and look after the dogs, ferrets and trapping equipment. Care for the rabbits included keeping pregnant does in cages.

He also had to fend off both animal and human predators. Armed gangs of poachers would attempt to raid the warrens. The warrener needed to live on the job. Stoutly built lodges were built to house them, and to keep the valuable rabbit carcases. The Santon lodge was built in medieval times and had a red roof and yellow walls.

Thetford Warren Lodge, now roofless

Warreners typically wore smocks of gaberdine, a stout stuff that protected them from rain and snow.

In the busy time of autumn and winter, he would employ extra labour to help him.[1]


John’s first marriage was in Thetford.

Marriage. St Cuthbert, Thetford.
1770 Jul 4  John Duffield Singleman of the parish of Wangford, Suffolk, and Ann Garner of this parish.
Witnesses: Mary Youngs, Elizabeth Porne.

They set up home in Santon, a small village on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. It is likely that they lived in Santon Warren Lodge.

Ann died the following year.

Burial. Santon, Norfolk.
1771 Jun 10  Ann wife of John Duffield.

There were no children from this marriage. Ann probably died giving birth to her first child, which was stillborn.

In 1772, John applied for a marriage licence. For this, he had to sign a bond for £200. His co-signatory for this was his elder brother Francis.

 Know all men by these presents, That We John Duffield of Santon in the County of Norfolk Warrener & Francis Duffield of Cavenham in the County of Suffolk Yeoman are holden and firmly bound to the worshipful GEORGE SANDBY, Doctor in Divinity, Official Principal of the Episcopal Consistorial Court of Norwich, lawfully Constituted, in Two Hundred Pounds of good and lawful Money of Great Britain, to be paid to the said GEORGE SANDBY, or his certain Attorney, Executors, Successors or Assigns, to which payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves and each of us by himself, for the whole, our and each of our Heires, Executors and Administrators, firmly by these presents Sealed with our Seals. Dated the seventh Day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Two.

The Condition of this Obligation is such, That if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful Let or Impediment, by Reason of any Precontract entered into before the Twenty-fifth of March, 1754, Consanguinity, Affinity, or any other Cause whatsoever; but that the above-bounden John Duffield Widower & Elizabeth Hunt of Cavenham in the County of Suffolk Spinster may lawfully solemnize Marriage together, and in the same afterwards lawfully remain and continue for Man and Wife, according to the Laws in that Behalf provided; And moreover, if there be not at this present Time any Action, Suit, Plaint, Quarrel, or Demand, moved or depending before any Judge Ecclesiastical or Temporal, for or concerning any such lawful Impediment between the said Parties; Nor that either of them be of any other Parish, or of better Estate or Degree, than to the Judge at granting of the Licence is suggested, and sworn by the said John Duffield

And lastly, if the said Marriage shall be openly solemnized in the Church of Cavenham in the Licence specified, between the Hours appointed by the Constitutions Ecclesiastical confirmed, and according to the Form of the Book of Common-Prayer now by Law established; and do save harmless and indemnified the above-mentioned GEORGE SANDBY, his Surrogate, and all other his Officers whatsoever by Reason of the Premises, then this Obligation to be void, or else to remain in full Force and Virtue.

Sealed and delivered                                                   The Marke of
in the presence of                                                        John Duffield  X
Simon Boldero
                                                                                                The Marke of
                                                                                                Francis Duffield  X       


ELIZABETH HUNT. The Kelling registers tell us that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Hunt. She was resident in Cavenham in the north of Suffolk at the time of her marriage.

Her age at death gives her a birth date of 1741-2. Even allowing some leeway on this date we have not been able to find a plausible baptism in the area around Cavenham. It may be on a page of a register now lost or damaged.


Their marriage is recorded in marriage indices in two places, not in Cavenham, as the licence says, but in Icklingham, Suffolk, on 8 Nov 1772 and in Ampton, Norfolk, on 7 Nov 1772. Icklingham is 2 m NE of Cavenham. Ampton is 6 m east. The Icklingham marriage gives more details, which match those of the marriage licence. We do not yet have access to these parish registers to check which of these is true.

John and Elizabeth moved north across Norfolk.

There are two baptisms in Great Ashfield which are probably theirs.

Baptisms. Great Ashfield.
1774 Feb 11  John son of John and Elizabeth Duffield of Thetford
1776 May 2  George son of John and Elizabeth Duffield of Thetford

Great Ashfield is in Suffolk, 9 m east of Bury St Edmonds, but Thetford is in Norfolk, just beyond the boundary with Suffolk. It is 5 m from Santon, where John lived before his marriage to Elizabeth.

It is not clear why they were in Great Ashfield for at least two years, but did not acquire settlement there.

They moved further north and settled in the village of Kelling, near the north Norfolk coast, where they spent the rest of their lives.

Kelling lies on the coast road, 10 m west of Cromer. It had a reputation for smuggling. To the south of Salthouse Heath lay Kelling Warren. It was doubtless here that John was a warrener.

Here, the remainder of their children were born.

Baptisms. Kelling.
1782 Mar 27  Francis.
1784 Thomas and Mary
The entry is unusually detailed:
“Thos & Mary Twins Children of John Duffield & Elizabeth his wife (late Hunt spinster)
1784 May 5th Born
1784 May 7th Privately bapt
1784 Sep 8th Recd into Church.”
Normally, children were privately baptised at home if it was feared that they would not live long enough to be brought to church. It could be done by a layperson, such as the midwife. If the child survived, it was brought to church later for the baptism to be ratified and the child welcomed into the church.

More than half of all twins are born prematurely. In the days before specialised health care, there was a real risk of early death.

However, it seems that the rest of the Duffield children were also privately baptised, and this is true for others on the same page of the register. Perhaps Kelling lacked a clergyman who could perform baptisms on a weekly basis.

1787 Criss  Jan 5 Born, Jan 8 Privately bapt.
1787 Anne  Dec 7 Born, Dec 13,  Privat. Bapt, (No date given) Recd into Church.
1789 Alice  May 28 Born, May 31 Privately bapt.

Curiously, most of these baptisms are repeated for the village of Hunworth, 5 m south of Kelling. All of these are currently available only in indices of baptisms, not in scans of the parish register. It may be that they were on detached pages, and there was some doubt about which register they had come from.

Elizabeth and John were buried in Kelling, so we can be confident that this is the right parish.

Elizabeth died in the year of the Battle of Waterloo.

Burial. Kelling.
1815 Aug 6  Elizabeth wife of John Duffield (late Hunt spinster). Age 73.

Another record of this burial confirms her abode as Kelling.

John lived to be 90.

Burial. Kelling.
1834 Jan 1  John Duffield. Salthouse. 90 years.

Salthouse is just a mile west of Kelling. John had probably been living with one of his children.

His son Criss became a warrener too.


[1] The Breckland Society, The Warrens of Breckland, 2010.





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