He was a Jacobethan gentleman who used legislation as a means to redress the ills of society, as well as to promote a “godly commonwealth” in north Norfolk.

This week the Norfolk Record Society is publishing volume V11 of The Papers of Sir Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey, edited by Barry Taylor and G Alan Metters.

It is part of a major project inaugurated in the 1970s by the late Dr (later professor) A Hassell Smith, the founding director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the UEA.

Eastern Daily Press: Dust jacket of the new volume of Bacon Papers

The latest volume covers Sir Nathaniel’s last years, 1614/22, during which his health declined and his family life seemed to have become more fraught as relationships with his second wife and stepson worsened.

Still, he maintained an admirable commitment to his responsibilities as a county justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant, and he kept a careful eye on the administration of his estates.

They included grand houses which he built, Stiffkey Hall and Irmingland Hall.

Eastern Daily Press: Stiffkey Hall

Neither of these has survived intact – about half of Stiffkey Old Hall still stands, with the rest ruinous, and most of Irmingland Hall was pulled down in the 1780s.

Bacon’s extensive and important papers have survived dispersal across a range of repositories and countries…many have crossed the Atlantic into the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, other institutions in the USA and have even turned up in Australia.

Eastern Daily Press: Immingland

They have become renowned for the lively picture they provide of everyday life in north Norfolk in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and the wide-ranging work of an assiduous, if somewhat prickly and particular, justice of the peace.

The latest volume, published on Thursday July 20, covers a range of topics: his work in the courts, apprenticeship, domestic service and poor relief, especially in North Greenhoe Hundred for which there are a very full sets of parish poor accounts.

Bacon was fortunate to have an efficient secretary, Martin Man, of Bingham, and the papers paint a colourful picture of what life was like at the time and he during the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in Europe.

In Norfolk there was an accusation of witchcraft and an interesting case of elopement to, and illicit marriage in the “lawless parish” of Castle Rising where, according to Anthony Harrison, secretary to the Bishop of Norwich, “they marry all commers and observe no order ecclesiastical etc.”

The coverage of Bacon’s estate management is nearly as extensive as his work as a JP. He was steward of the royal and duchy of Lancaster manors in Marshland. His own personal estates initially lay in Stiffkey and its neighbouring parishes, inherited from his father Sir Nicholas Bacon, and his father-in-law Sir Thomas Gresham.

Eastern Daily Press: Portrait, formerly at Gillingham Hall, of Sir Nicholas Bacon

He also had manorial holdings in Eccles and Hemsby along with properties in and around Norwich, a house in The Close, a house in the parish of St Peter Mancroft on the site which later become the Bethel Hospital.

Nathaniel was the second son of the Lord Keeper to Elizabeth I, Sir Nicholas, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1569 he married Anne, the base daughter of Sir Thomas Gresham. When she died he married Dorothy and built Irmingland Hall.

He had a close connections with leading figures at Court and a fascinating life…I like the story from Hemsby where he was sometimes troubled by the opportunists who liked to take away items washed-up on the beach which should have been regarded as the property of the lord of the manor.

On one occasion the debate revolved around ten pairs of breeches!

In the 1970s, the highly respected Norfolk-born Hassell Smith began the  task of putting together a definitive edition of the Bacon Papers and was responsible, with Gillian M Baker, for producing the first three volumes, published jointly  by the Centre of East Anglian Studies and the Norfolk Record Society.

He set up the remainder for completion by others covering Bacon’s life from 1596 to 1614 and these are still available to buy from the society with the 7th instalment (1614-1622) being published on Thursday July 20.

And that hopefully will be followed by a final volume of “Addenda and Miscellanea” to complete the set.

Eastern Daily Press: Bacon’s tomb monument in Stiffkey parish church, designed by Sir Nathaniel himself.

This edition will stand not only as the permanent record to the life and work of a remarkable Jacobethan Norfolk gentleman but also to an equally notable scholar who during a long life made a significant contribution to the work of the Norwich Record Society.

King’s Lynn born Alfred Hassell Smith died 10 years aged 87 but his memory and his work lives on.

We should also thank Barry Taylor and G Alan Metters for this important new edition of the Bacon Papers.

Readers of the EDP and Evening News can benefit from a special discount if they buy the book, The Papers of Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey Volume V11 1614-1622 online.

Go to norfolkrecordsociety.org,uk “shop” before the end of July -  use the code EDPB2023 on the order form and get the book for £30 instead of £35 for non-members.