A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ESTATE
(extract from Sloley Estate Heritage Landscape Management Plan)
This section is a summary of a more detailed history of the Sloley Estate prepared by Dr Tom Williamson.
In the Middle Ages north east Norfolk was an open, un-enclosed landscape of heaths, commons and arable open fields with few hedges or woods. This situation began to change in the Post-Medieval period when open fields began to be enclosed in a slow, gradual, piecemeal process which continued over several centuries. By the early nineteenth century this process had resulted in the removal of most of the open fields, but left the commons untouched.
The commons and heaths were gradually enclosed as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, some of these areas lapsed into woodland. Woods and clumps were also established around the landscape parks which were laid out in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By this time the area was also generously endowed with hedgerow trees.
The gradual enclosure of the region’s open fields did not involve a change in land use, the area had been predominantly arable since the Middle Ages and this has remained true throughout the post-medieval centuries. Grassland was largely restricted to parks and damper soils.
The development of the landscape at Sloley cannot be understood in isolation from the development of the Sloley Estate itself, which was assembled piecemeal, by a number of different individuals. It is probably unnecessary to take the history back before the early eighteenth century, when Thomas Mack began to acquire property here and in the adjacent parish of Scottow. Thomas was admitted to a messuage in Sloley in 1712. John Mack, Thomas’s son, inherited in 1769 and continued to add land and property to the estate.
In 1789 the Sloley properties passed to John Mack’s daughter, Anne, who married the Rev. Benjamin Cubitt, Rector of Sloley. Cubitt built the new Hall in 1815 and laid out the diminutive park to accompany it. The Hall and park were laid out on a virgin site, which had previously been in arable production. The Hall was designed by the Rev James Gunn, an amateur architect whom local gentry’s families in the district had financed to go on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. Benjamin Cubitt came from Honing and his father used the services of H. Repton to lay out the Park at Honing. The siting of Sloley Hall, its woods and Park bear all the hallmarks of a Repton inspired landscape. Cubitt died in 1853 and the estate passed to Charlotte, wife of the Rev. James White. With the death of the Rev James White in 1856 the property passed to his son, the Rev James Sewell White, who on marrying into the Neville family, changed his name to James Sewell Neville. Sir Reginald James Neville (Bart) inherited the estate in 1912 and after him to James Edmund Henderson Neville who died in 1982.
The Sloley estate is a well-preserved example of a piece of countryside which has remained unaffected by the agricultural intensification’s of the 1950s and 60s. Its dense mesh of hedges; the distinctive combination of straight and sinuous boundaries; the numerous tall oaks; the isolated church; thatched barns; the small country house set in its park, together constitute an ensemble which contrasts sharply with the degraded countryside around.