Thompson’s College and St Martin’s Church
In 1349 Sir John and Sir Thomas de Shadelow, younger sons of Sir John de Shardelow, Justice of the Common Pleas, and Agnes his wife, founded a chantry with a college consisting of a master and five chaplains. Their task was to serve the chantry chapel in the parish church of St Martin’s and pray for the souls of Sir John and Lady Agnes, “all the faithful departed" and probably in the hope of winning some divine protection from the Black Death.
Sir Thomas married Margaret, daughter of Sir Roger de Grey of Merton, from whom Katharine is descended.
The residence of the Shardelow chantry priests was originally a wooden framed hall about a quarter of a mile south of the church but as a result of increased endowments the Master of the College rebuilt it in stone in 1400.
In 1520 the college building was extended by the addition of a new wing on the east side making a T-shaped structure.
In 1541 the college was suppressed by Henry VIII as part of the general dissolution of the monasteries and thereafter became a private house.
In 1845 the Thompson College estate was exchanged for the Suffolk estate of the 5th Baron Walsingham. Thus Thompson College, or College Farm as it became known, passed to the de Greys of Merton.
St Martin's is a typical Norfolk perpendicular style building. Unlike many other villages where the churches have been altered and restored over the years, St Martin's has remained largely true to it’s original design. The church roof is now unstable and is currently undergoing a major restoration project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The first phase of the restoration project is nearing completion and further details can be found on www.stmartinsthompson.co.uk