Diss (St. Mary)

DISS (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Depwade, hundred of Diss, E. division of Norfolk, 22 miles (S. S. W.) from Norwich, and 92 (N. E.) from London; containing 3205 inhabitants. This place, formerly Disce or Dice, was held in royal demesne in the reign of Henry I., and in that of Edward I. became the property of Robert Fitzwalter, who obtained for it the privilege of a market. The town is pleasantly situated near the river Waveney, by which it is separated on the south from the county of Suffolk, and consists of several streets, whereof the principal are spacious, macadamized, and lighted with gas; the houses are in general well built, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A book society has been established for nearly a century, and is supported by subscription; there are also a subscription library, and a literary and scientific institution. At the extremity of the town, and nearly in the centre of the parish, is a mere five acres in extent, which abounds with eels. The principal branch of manufacture is the weaving of coarse cloth and sacking, and there are several breweries. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from Norwich, by this town, to Stow-Market. The market is on Friday, and chiefly for corn: a fair for lambs on the first Friday in July has been established; a statute-fair is held on the third Friday in September, and a fair for cattle and toys on the 8th of November. The petty-sessions are held here on the second and fourth Monday in the month.

The parish is bounded on the south by the river Waveney, and comprises 3625a. 22p., of which 3283 acres are under profitable cultivation, and about 15 in plantation: the soil is various, but in general fertile; the surface is gently undulated, and the low grounds are watered by the river Frenze, which flows into the Waveney. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £33. 6. 8., and in the gift of the Rev. W. Manning: the tithes have been commuted for £900, and the glebe comprises 11 acres, with a glebe-house. The church is an ancient structure in the early and decorated English styles, with a square embattled tower; the nave is lighted by a fine range of double clerestory windows, and the south porch has a semicircular-headed doorway, over which is a large window of seven lights. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Particular Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians, and a Roman Catholic chapel at Thelton. The rent of a house in the churchyard, £25, is given to four widows; and the workhouse, since the formation of the union, has been converted into almshouses for eight widows. A farm in the parish of Framlingham, producing £100 per annum, is applied to the repairs of the church and other parochial uses. Ralph de Diceto, Dean of St. Paul's in the reign of Henry II., and Walter, a Carmelite friar of Norwich, confessor to John of Gaunt, were natives of the parish; of which also John Skelton, poet-laureate to Henry VIII., and styled by Erasmus "the light and ornament of English scholars," was rector.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.