Willingham St. Mary

Pages 101-103

The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.

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Willingham St. Mary.

Fifteen free-men held Willingham in demesne under Burchard, a wealthy Saxon, in the time of Edward the Confessor; but at the period of the Norman Survey the parish was returned as the lordship of Hugo de Montfort. It was one leuca in length, and one in breadth, and paid five pence gelt. In the ninth of Edward I. it was the estate of Elizabeth Bruisyard.

In 1480, Robert Bumpstede, of Willingham Saint Mary, was buried in the chancel of Saint Mary's church at Sotterley, near the entrance of it. John, his eldest son, and Robert Bumpstede, chaplain, another son, were his executors: he gave his manor of Willingham to Marion his wife, and sealed with, argent, on a bend engrailed gules, three mullets of the field.

The manor afterwards passed to the family of Aslack; for by a deed, without date, but probably about the year 1450, Elizabeth Aslack, widow, daughter and heiress of Thomas Bardolph, Esq., grants to Robert Clere, Knt., and others, the manor of Willingham, in Suffolk, to hold for the use of the said Elizabeth for life, and after to William Aslack, her son, and his heirs, with remainder to Thomas, her son. By an inquisitio post mortem, taken on the 8th of April, twenty-third of Henry VIII., William Aslack was found to die June 17th, 1531, seized of the aforesaid manor, and Thomas, son and heir of Christopher Playters and Elizabeth his wife, sister of the said William, was his heir. The lordship, thus transferred by heirship to the family of Playters, was sold about two centuries afterwards to Sir Thomas Robinson, of Worlingham, from whom it passed to the Sparrows, by a like transfer, and again, by marriage, to the Earl of Gosford, its present possessor.

The property of William Neirford and Parnell his wife, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of John de Vallibus, included, inter alia, "a Knight's fee which Ralph de la Mancy holdeth in Willingham." (fn. 1)

In 1350, Alexander de Erle owned an estate in Willingham and Sotterley, and was settled there. His elder brother is supposed to have been the ancestor of the Erles of Heydon, in Norfolk. (fn. 2)

We learn from Domesday Book that there was a church in Willingham, at the time of its compilation, endowed with forty acres of glebe, valued at seven shillings. It was dedicated to St. Mary, and the patronage has always been in the Crown, though the Testa de Nevill says, "the church of Willingham is in the gift of the King and Robert de Seintes." (fn. 3) And again it says, "Ecclesia de Weston, et ecclesia Sce Marie de Wylingham sunt de don: Dñi Reg.; et Mag: Simo de Thaneit illas tenet de dono Dñi regis." (fn. 4)

In 1526, Willingham St. Mary was united with the rectory of North Cove, though the livings were not consolidated till the 24th of January, 1743. (fn. 5)

The church was in use till after the year 1500; for in 1503, and in 1509, legacies were made to the "awtor of Wellingham of our Lady," and in a will dated 1529, a legacy is left to the reparation of the parish church of Willingham; so that it would seem to have fallen into decay about that period. (fn. 6) Its remains are now scarcely visible.

Rectors of Willingham St. Mary.

Rectors. Date. Patrons.
Nicholas de Stanford 1270 The King.
John de St. Edmund 1275 Id.
Galfridus de Waley 1276 Id.
William de Sutton 1313 Id.
John de la Gere 1333 Id.
William de Wakefield 1341 Id.
John Stamford 1346 Id.
John de Melburn 1349 Id.
John Smert 1351 Id.
John Aylmer 1352 Id.
John Spendlove 1355 Id.
Robert de Day 1370 Id.
Philip Tregrilla 1379 Id.
John Palmer 1388 Id.
Nicholas Joce 1395 Id.
Henry Graunt 1414 Id.
William Coll 1414 Id.
John Auncell 1423 Id.
Laurence Baldeware 1430 Id.
John Davels 1431 Id.
John Flempton 1432 Id.
Laurence Goldnspey Id.
Thomas Ekkersley 1441 Id.
Richard Blithburgh 1447 Id.
Robert Bumpstede 1482 The Bishop, by lapse.
Thomas Bachiler 1484 The King.
Thomas Aylward 1490 Id.
Ed. Hubbard 1497 Id.
Peter Hewet 1526 Id.


  • 1. Harl. MSS., No. 971.
  • 2. Blomefield.
  • 3. Testa de Nevill, p. 297.
  • 4. Ibid. p. 285.
  • 5. MSS. pen. Epis. Norwic.
  • 6. Tanner's MSS.