ELIZABETH FREKE 1641 - 1714
She had wished to be buried in the church next to Percy in the vault she had built, but this would have been impossible following the altercation.Her young Grandson is also buried in the church having been accidentally shot.It was perhaps fortunate that she died in London, and is buried with other members of her family in Westminster Abbey.We know all this because Elizabeth kept a detailed diary which records her time in West Bilney, including her turbulent life and troubles with her servants, tenants and family.As a memorial to Elizabeth a SERVICE was held at St Cecilia's, West Bilney, on February 14th 2013, 300 years after her banishment. Rev. Jane preached on love and reconciliation.
The following is taken from some notes prepared by Julian Litten for a study afternoon in August 2017. It is reproduced here with his permission.
Elizabeth lived at West Bilney from 1676 until her death. Her father purchased the estate for her, to ensure she had somewhere to live, her husband Percy having worked his way through her money. She and Percy had a stormy relationship and one son Ralph. She spent much time and money on the repair of St Cecelia’s church and paid the clergyman. This led her to believe that she had more control over the church than the Bishop of Norwich was prepared to allow her. He instructed the Vicar of Gayton on February 14th 1713, to bar her from ever entering the church again.
The inscription on the Freke monument in Westminster Abbey describes her as
"ELIZABETH . . . daughter of RALPH FREKE of Hannington in Wiltshire, Esq. by CECILIA his wife, daughter of Sir THOMAS COLEPEPER of Hollingboume in Kent.
ELIZABETH was marry'd to PIERCY FREKE, of West Bilney in Norfolk Esq. and was ye mother of Sir RALPH FREKE Bart. Deceased, the father of a flowrishing posterity there. She was of excellent life, frugal to be munificent, a lively Christian pattern of charity & self-denial.
She dyed Aprill 7th l7l4 aged 69 years."
In truth, her life was anything but the pattern her monument would have us believe!
After her husband's death she presented West Bilney church with a Bible and a set of communion plate, both of which were marked as a gift "to my church of West Bilney". She had a strange interpretation of patronage, believing that the freehold of the church building was really her property; this belief led to a couple of run-ins with both the curate and the Archdeacon at the time.
She kept a most revealing diary which was edited by Raymond Anselment and published by Cambridge University Press in 2002 under the title The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke.
A booklet, written by Charlotte Paton, about Elizabeth Freke is available.
Priced at £2.50 - proceeds to go to East Winch and West Bilney Community Project.
To place an order for the booklet you may contact Charlotte Paton -
If you are interested in finding out more about this extraordinary woman - there is a book,
'The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke' edited by Raymond Anselment available for sale at bookshops, or find it at the library.
ISBN 10: 0521808081
ISBN 13: 9780521808088