Hingham is a market town and civil parish in the Forehoe district in the heart of rural Norfolk, in England. The civil parish covers an area of 14.98 km2 (5.78 sq mi) and had a population of 2,078 in 944 households at the 2001 census, increasing to 2,367 at the 2011 Census. Grand architecture surrounds the market place and village green. According to an 18th-century source, a fire destroyed many of the towns buildings, leading the better off local families to build the handsome Georgian homes for which the town is known. The same source claims that the Hingham gentry were “so fashionable in their dress that the town is called by the neighbors ‘Little London'”.
Hingham is 17 miles (27 km) from Norwich, Norfolk’s county town. While many Hingham people now work in Norwich, commuting by car or bus, the town has maintained a strong base, providing work in a wide range of commercial businesses in its industrial estate on Ironside Way.
The many and varied local shops have the special character of a small market town but are up-to-date in what they provide. Despite the influence and attractions of neighbouring Norwich, an active and independent town life continues to thrive and grow in Hingham. A fair visits every year, setting up on the historic Fairlands (an area of several triangular greens). There is a state-run school, providing education for children from the ages of 4-11. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of South Norfolk.
The town, originally spelled Hengham, is an ancient city, as its Saxon name denotes. It was the property of King Athelstan, in 925, and of William the Conqueror in 1066 and 1086 as a well populated parish in the hundred of Forehoe, and retained many privileges coming from its royal ownership, including “the grandeur of…St.Andrews,” a parish church founded in the 1300s. In years that followed, the town was a clear royal domain, for William the Conqueror and many others.
In 1414 the town was exempted from an English toll and in 1610, the city was granted a royal charter by Queen Anne. Over the years, from 1272 to the town’s church, not the same as that in Norwich, has had 32 rectors.
By the 1600s, the town of Hingham was still agricultural. John Speed‘s maps of Kingdom of England during the Tudor period in 1610 and 1611, showed that the town was near Wymondham (also called Wimundham or Windham). This town was, at the time situated in the countryside with diverse terrain, profuse windmills, well-watered soil, a large degree of inland water traffic, few urban centers apart from Norwich, where a thriving cloth industry boomed. With Speed’s drawing of a castle at the location of Hingham, the town must have been of some stature.
Many Puritans refused to conform to the wishes of the King and his loyal Archbishop, so they fled to the Plymouth Bay or Massachusetts Bay colonies, which has been labeled the “Great Migration.” In 1633, migration from England to the Americas began with a number of participants on a ship named the Bonaventure. Robert Peck, the reverend of St. Andrew’s parish Church, and his associate Peter Hobart, emigrated to the new colony of Massachusetts with half of his congregation, likely all of the 133 people on the HMS Diligent, departed in June 1638 from Ipswitch, England. Peck had been censured by religious authorities for his Puritan practices, and his daughter had married the son of another well-known Puritan minister who was named John Rogers.
The passengers on the Diligent, working-class people such as shoemakers and millers, a number of ministers, and gentry, were mostly Puritans. Once there, the passengers founded “New” Hingham, to remind them of “Old” Hingham in England. Once most of the passengers settled there, the population of the town had doubled. More specifically they were called East Anglicans, possibly named after the former Kingdom of East Angles in which Hingham resided, as John Speed described it in 1610, and maybe after the Anglican Church. Amongst those had emigrated included Samuel Lincoln, ancestor of President Abraham Lincoln, and Edward Gilman Sr., ancestor of Nicholas Gilman, New Hampshire delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the U.S. Constitution. To commemorate the lineage of Lincoln and the sister city in Massachusetts, today the village’s town hall “is named the Lincoln Hall, and…the bust of Abraham Lincoln takes pride of place in the north aisle of the church” along with memorials to the Gilman family in St. Andrew’s Church.
The parishioners who left Hingham had been so prominent in the Hingham community that the town was forced to petition British Parliament, saying their town had been devastated by the emigration. They told the House of Commons that “most of the able Inhabitants have forsaken their dwellings and have gone severall ways for their peace and quiett and the town is now left and like in the misery by reason of the meanness of the [remaining] Inhabitants.” The argument by the remaining residents of Hingham that their town had been devastated was not unfounded. Historians and original documents from the time attest that “physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually” the town was moved from England to New England with the founding of “New” Hingham in 1635, with Peter Hobart and Robert Peck as some the most powerful and well-off individuals in the new town, at the top of the Old Ship Church.
In the years the followed, Hingham continued to develop. Apart from the “sentimental attachment” between the Hingham in England and that in the Americas, the St. Andrew’s Church continued to stand, inns were created, and a conservation area was created which “contains many Georgian buildings,” although many of the buildings were destroyed in a “disastrous fire in 1688.” Even with changing prices and inconsistent weather, the town remained agricultural and had a stayed gentry in place into at least the 1740s.
By the 1800s, Admiral Philip Wodehouse lived in the town. By the 1890s, it was still a “small market town.” During World War I 200 men from the town participated in England’s military, 38 of whom perished on the battlefield, others who formed a company, and some who paid for war certificates. In later years, World War I general Edmund Ironside, lived in Southernwood, a house created in the 1700s, where he died in 1959, an old windmill continued to turn in the town until 1937, later becoming a “4 storey stump,” a radio link between the two Hinghams was established in World War II, the Lincoln Hall was created in 1922, later rebuilt and extended in 1977 Other than that, the town also maintained its connection with its sister city in the United States. In September 1985, a number of Hingham residents attended “the 350th birthday celebrations of Hingham, Mass.”
Governance and the 21st century
In 2000, it was reported that Adrian Semmence, whose family had farmed at Hingham for three generations, was opening a woodland park (to be funded by the sale of 36-square-foot (3.3 m2) plots, mainly to Americans having connections with Hingham) to commemorate the links between his village and Hingham, Massachusetts.
The Caterham F1 team, previously Team Lotus was based here, but left Norfolk to the old Arrows team factory near Silverstone Circuit. It used to be based in nearby Hethel, but after its bankruptcy in 1994 there wasn’t much activity until Lotus was resurrected as an F1 team in 2010.
Hingham is part of the electoral ward called Hingham and Deopham. The population of this ward at the 2011 Census was 2,908. Today, the town is still described a “picturesque village…[which is] home to 2,078 people.”