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New book chronicles the work of a very organised Norfolk woman

PUBLISHED: 15:05 08 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:05 08 October 2015

Alice Le Strange portrait

Alice Le Strange portrait

Archant

On the inside cover of the fifth household book, concealed under a flap, is a message from Sir Hamon Le Strange about his wife Lady Alice.

Only part of Hunstanton Hall in Old Hunstanton, built by the Le Strange family, still stands, the result of a series of fires over the centuries. P G Wodehouse was a friend of the family and the hall and its grounds featured, thinly disguised, in some of his books.Only part of Hunstanton Hall in Old Hunstanton, built by the Le Strange family, still stands, the result of a series of fires over the centuries. P G Wodehouse was a friend of the family and the hall and its grounds featured, thinly disguised, in some of his books.

In it, he pays tribute to his wife’s contribution to managing the Le Strange Estate which still covers a vast amount of north west Norfolk today.

He says “...her price is above pearls” .

Volumes and volumes of her bookkeeping is stored at the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich.

Each page is very organised; the handwriting very neat. There are even notes in the legends in case future generations wished to refer back to them.

Part of this vast archive includes her farm management records, which are the focus of a newly -published book by the Norfolk Record Society.

Elizabeth Griffiths, one of the authors, said: “It is with no shadow of a doubt that Lady Alice’s meticulous record keeping secured the estate’s survival during the early 17th century, and subsequently laid the foundation for its future success.”

She added: “This is something that I know the Le Strange family still very much value her for today. It is Lady Alice’s legacy.”

Lady Alice first became involved in the estate’s management in 1613 as her husband’s political responsibilities were taking shape.

She kept intricate accounts about the sheep which her father, Richard Stubbe of Sedgeford, gave to her children.

When she inherited his estate, 
she took that organisation a step further by developing grazing regimes and crop rotations, drawing up rentals and field books, and commissioning a survey.

Ten years later she adopted a similar model for the rest of the estate at Hunstanton, Ringstead, Holme and Heacham.

Dr Griffiths said: “Alice certainly came across her fair share of challenges along the way.

“While studying the sheep accounts, her entire flock was destroyed by Parliamentary forces in retribution for her husband’s involvement in the siege of King’s Lynn.

“The accounts relay the fate of these animals and how she had to rebuild flocks with the support of her family, neighbours and tenants.”

While it was not unusual for gentlewomen to be so involved in the running of their households at that time, Lady Alice’s role went further with the running of the entire estate.

Copies of Her Price is Above Pearls are available through the Norfolk Record Society.

Are you unearthing any fascinating tales of local history? Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk

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