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Stiffkey, Norfolk Genealogy

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Parish History[edit | edit source]

Stiffkey St John the Baptist is an Ancient parish in the Walsingham deanery of the Diocese of Norwich.

Stiffkey would have remained an obscure Norfolk parish were it not for the appointment of the Reverend Harold Francis Davidson as Recotor in 1906.
Davidson, who came from a long line of clerics, was appointed the Rector of Stiffkey in 1906. Despite his commitments to his parishioners, Davidson felt that he should also minister to ‘fallen women’ and spent much of his time on the streets of Soho, in London. He would regularly take the train from Wells Next the Sea to London, returning just in time to take Sunday worship in Stiffkey. His wife became pregnant by another man while he was serving in the First World War, and this led to him spending even more time in London.

Some of his parishioners began to resent the amount of time he was spending away from Stiffkey, and the situation came to a head one Sunday in November 1930. Davidson was delayed in London and arrived in Stiffkey too late to take the Remembrance Day services. This was the final straw for Major Hammond, a Church Warden, who reported Davidson to the Bishop of Norwich for his “immoral” behaviour.

The Bishop launched an investigation and found that the overwhelming majority of the people of Stiffkey, and street girls of London, had nothing but praise for the Rector. Despite this, he was put on trial in March 1932 on charges of ‘systematically misbehaving’ himself with young women. The trial lasted over three months and created front page headlines. The case has been described as “Britain’s first sex scandal” and the publicity helped make Davidson a household name and national celebrity. At his trial, Davidson denied the charges against him, but in July 1932 he was found guilty on all counts. He was formally defrocked from the clergy at Norwich Cathedral in October 1932

Davidson claimed that the charges were an establishment conspiracy against him, and there are still people including most residents of Stiffkey and his own grandchildren who support this theory.

After he was defrocked Davidson he moved to Blackpool where holidaymakers queued to see him sitting on a barrel protesting his innocence; and paying two pence each for the privilege. He unsuccessfully applied to become the manager of Blackpool Football Club, and is rumoured to have founded a naturist colony.

Later, he moved to the East Coast at Skegness. Here he embarked on the act that would cost him his life. He recreated the Biblical story of Daniel by praying and preaching from inside a lions’ cage. One day in July 1938, a lion turned on him and took him round the cage by the scruff of the neck. The audience laughed and cheered; unaware that what they were witnessing was not part of the act. The injuries proved fatal and he died a few days after the mauling.

Resources[edit | edit source]

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

  • Walsingham 1837-1938
  • Fakenham 1939-1974

The Register Office, Fakenham Connect, Oak Street, Fakenham, NR21 9SR.
Tel: 01328 850111. E-mail:

Church records[edit | edit source]

Contributor: Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, non conformist and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. Add the contact information for the office holding the original records. Add links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection

Images of the parish registers may be viewed online in Historic Records (formerly Record Search) Norfolk Record Office reference PD 492 Baptism Transcripts and images of the Church Norflk Baptisms project

Census records[edit | edit source]

Contributor: Include an overview if there is any unique information, such as the census for X year was destroyed. Add a link to online sites for indexes and/or images. Also add a link to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection. for details of public houses in the 1881 census

Poor Law Unions[edit | edit source]

Walsingham Union was incorporated under the terms of the 1834 Act, and the union workhouse was built at Great Snoring, but not completed until 1838. The Walsingham Union Workhouse at Great Snoring was opened in 1838. It was situated close to the boundary between the parishes of Great Snoring and Thursford and was sometimes known as Thursford Workhouse. Poor Law Unions were abolished in 1930 and the responsibilities of Walsingham Union Board of Guardians were taken over by Norfolk County Council Guardians' Committee No. 7. From 1930 the former Workhouse became known as Walsingham Public Assistance Institution. On 26 and 27 June 1934 the remaining thirty inmates (including two infants but no children) were transferred to West Beckham and Gressenhall Institutions and Walsingham Institution officially closed on 30 June 1934. The building was subsequently adapted for use as a smallpox hospital. By 1976 the building was derelict and was demolished in the early 1990s.
Acquisition Received by the Norfolk Record Office on 26 February 1982 (C/GP 19/192-198) and on unknown dates.

Copies C/GP19/1-6, 131, 133-135, 137, 141, 143-146, 148, 150-151, 173-181 are on microfilm.
RelatedMaterial For records of Guardians Committee No. 7 (including the administration of Red House Children's Home in Little Snoring and the boarding-out of children), see C/GC 7. See Public Assistance Sub-Committee minutes, 11 July 1934 and 12 September 1934, C/C 10/455. The records of the County Architect's Department include plans of the alterations for use as a smallpox hospital dated February 1937, see C/AR 1/29-31. The one inch to one mile Ordnance Survey Map of 1954 designates the building 'smallpox hospital'.

Norfolk Poor Law Unions

Probate records[edit | edit source]

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Norfolk Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Maps are a visual look at the locations in England. Gazetteers contain brief summaries about a place.

Web sites[edit | edit source] Stiffkey benefice website for images of the church Norfolk Churches website stained glass British Listed Buildings for information about the parish Literary Norfolk for book review about the infamous Rector of Stiffkey