The Burrell Cory Family

Wickmere Church
St Andrews Church, Wickmere, Norfolk

In 1815 at St Andrews Church, Wickmere in Norfolk, Thomas Cory married Mary Burrell. They went on to have two children, George Cory, baptised at Alby in 1816 and Joseph Burrell Cory at Aylsham in 1818. Thomas and Mary were very poor, and claimed a weekly sum of 5s.6d from the poor relief at Aylsham from 1820 onwards. An entry in the ‘Cloathing Bookdated 28 January 1820 notes: Thomas Corytwo coverlids & sheet- lent and returned.

Snow fell widely and heavily towards the end of December 1819. During the first three weeks of January, a particularly severe spell produced deep snow across many southern and south eastern counties of England, including the Isle of Wight. The non-tidal Thames froze as far downstream as Kew. There were ice floes in the Thames estuary, with shipping disrupted. At Tunbridge Wells (Kent) in January 1820 a temperature of (minus) 23degC was reported. 

For more about the causes of this unusual weather you could listen to this BBC podcast here.

Mary continued to look after their sons, still claiming benefit probably because, as discovered later, Thomas had epilepsy. Whether this was the result of a head injury or he had been born with it is impossible to say. When he was too ill to be looked after at home, he was taken into the local House of Industry. Here things took an even worse turn and during one of his fits Thomas fell on to the open fire and badly burnt his upper thigh. House of Industry records list a number of occasions when the local constable was called out to deal with him when he had these fits. Somewhat bizarrely, the constable in question was also called Thomas Cory, a baker from the town of Aylsham.

Eventually, when these fits were occurring daily, Thomas was packed off by cart to Norwich Lunatic Asylum, at Thorpe, where he was admitted on 24 August 1821. The admittance register note reads: ‘a dangerous, idiot & epileptic’.  He had two fits on the day he was admitted and still bore the burn mark on his thigh. Tragically, he was only 30 years of age. At that time there was no medicinal help for those suffering with epilepsy, and it was thought to be a form of madness. He was described as ‘being a sullen, powerful man who was frequently restrained’. Conditions were extremely basic, beds consisted of a litter of straw on which people lay chained to the floor. Windows were small and barred; drains were gullies in the middle of floors. Thomas Cory died at the asylum on the 14 December 1834 and was buried at St Andrews Hospital, in the first graveyard there, which has long since been lost.

Ingworth ChurchMary died two years later at nearby Thurgarton, aged 26, on 3 September 1823. She was buried in the village of Ingworth, where her family came from. Her grave was also unmarked.

The Poor Relief continued looking after her sons, and George was apprenticed as a bricklayer, although he later ended up working as a shoemaker in Norwich. He married Elizabeth Daynes Bell in 1840 and the couple had 9 children before George died in 1864.

Joseph Burrell Cory (1818-1858) was supplied with two apprenticeships, as a gardener and also as a molecatcher. These apprenticeships were paid for by the local poor house guardians, £5 for each trade. The art of mole catching was then passed down through the next three generations. Joseph married Ann Leader in 1839 at Gresham where they had 2 sons and four daughters. The eldest son was named after his father.

Joseph Burrell Cory (1842-1883)

His gravestone in Gresham churchyard reads:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life,
clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God
and of the Lamb.


The 1891 census finds the family had left Gresham and were living in Edgefield and now calling themselves Burrell. They are recorded in the 1901 census at Edgefield as Corey yet it seems that once settled in Edgefield they began to use the second name of Burrell, which they all had been baptised with. It had now become their surname. Were they trying to bury the stigma of Thomas Cory’s epilepsy?

And so the Gresham Corys became the Edgefield Burrells, and even to this day, some of Thomas Cory’s descendants have lived and died bearing the name of Burrell, whilst others, such as those in the North-East, adopted the hyphen to avoid future confusion and became Burrell-Coreys.

The pedigree table can be viewed here.Norfolk Table 29 Burrell Cory

For more about this family, look up Newsletters:

No 17; 26; 27;28; 30; 33; 35; 36; 38; 44; 47; 63; 65; 66; 68