The village has a direct link with the famous Chaucer family. Thomas Chaucer (c. 1367–1434), Speaker of the House of Commons, and the son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, once held the manor of Gresham.
Starting as small Norfolk landowners the Pastons extended their property portfolio buying the manor of Gresham and Gresham Castle, from the Chaucers in 1427. This led to a period of turmoil in its ownership. The manor house had been fortified in 1319 and became a Paston family stronghold. Very little of the castle remains today – only a few foundations and ditches which are surrounded by trees.There were contesting claims to the manor which resulted in appeals to the King and even armed interventions. The whole saga is well documented through surviving letters from Margaret Paston.
The Gresham family held property in the village of Gresham since at least the late 14th Century before moving to Holt where they built a manor house. The family name is said to have been taken from the village name. In the late middle ages and early Tudor period the Greshams were very much movers and shakers within the country, holding some of the highest offices. Thomas Gresham (1518-1597) an international banker founded Gresham’s school in Holt. He was an eminent Elizabethan financier who made an important contribution to the development of a sound British currency.
The Gresham family crest is a grasshopper which has been incorporated into the village sign.
One old story is that the original founder of the family, a Roger de Gresham, was found abandoned as a baby by a young boy who heard a grasshopper near the child. Whilst this is a wonderful tale it seems more likely that the image comes about from a play on the word Gresham.
Sir George Edwards
George Edwards lived in Lower Gresham in a cottage along Sustead Road. He was born in Marsham in 1850 in extreme poverty. His family were farm labourers and work was hard to get and relied on being hired on a seasonal basis. He spent some part of his childhood in the workhouse. This early life influenced his later life and the desire to see justice and workers’ rights. He learnt to read, as an adult and became a lay preacher for the Methodist Church. Whilst living in Gresham he formed the first agricultural union and this he ran from his cottage for many years. He is revered as one of the founders of the Trade Union movement. Later he became an MP for South Norfolk and was knighted for his services.