Christopher Burraway (1672- 1730)

The Burraway Story

Martham suddenly started to attract visitors from far and wide in the 1970’s as the result of the publication of a curio that had existed since 1851 when first published in the Journal Notes and Queries. It reported on the following inscription on the tombstone of Christopher Burraway who died in 1730:

At the time, the explanation given for the enigmatic statement was that Christopher Burraway was the outcome of an incestuous relationship between a father and daughter and as a baby was placed in the Foundling Hospital. When he came of age he arrived, by chance, in Martham and was hired, unwittingly, by his own mother as a farm steward, her father (or rather the father of both of them) having died. His work was more than satisfactory to his employer (mistress) to such an extent that she married him thus becoming his, mother, sister, mistress and wife. Being discovered by his wife to be her son, by a distinctive birth mark on his shoulder, she was so horror-stricken that she died.

The story was published on little cards that were available in St Mary’s and word spread resulting in many people visiting the church to see Christopher’s gravestone which was once under the tower but now stands on the south wall inside the church.

The tale may have been embellished over time and a little research shows there is very little foundation for the story although some elements stand up . The facts are:-

  • Christopher Burraway (Jnr) was the son of Christopher Burraway (Snr) and Mary, nee Lane. He was born in 1672 at Potter Heigham where he was baptised on 11th August 1672 (that confirms who his parents actually were).
  • His mother Mary had married his father, Christopher, on 24th October 1671 at Potter Heigham.
  • His father died before 1674 and his mother married Gregory Johnson on 25th August 1674 at *St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich.
  • Gregory Johnson was also the second husband of Alice Harris who he had married in 1693 at St Mary the Virgin, Martham. Gregory died in 1700.
  • Alice Harris was married three times; first, to William Riall at *St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich on 24th July 1679. Second, to Gregory Johnson in 1693 at  St Mary the Virgin and thirdly, to Christopher Burraway (Jnr) in 1702 at  St Mary in the Marsh , Norwich*.

This may be easier to follow using this tree:

Christopher (Jnr.) was a respectably member of Martham society and a churchwarden. His name is on one of the church bells which he probably paid for.

*St Mary in the Marsh is an Ancient Parish in the city and Diocese of Norfolk. The parish was the parish for Norwich Cathedral Close and was enclosed within the gated precinct of the Cathedral.

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