The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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Flixton is one of the largest of the nine parishes, containing 1761 acres of land, and a population, in 1841, of 192 inhabitants. Although it was returned by the Domesday Commissioners amongst the property of William, Bishop of Thetford, it seems, in great measure, to have been held by other possessors.
Osketel, a free-man, held a manor here, which belonged to the soke of Archbishop Stigand; and Briht, a bastard, but a free-man, had possessed a manor, formerly the property, and included in the soke of Bishop Almar, of which William de Noiers was then owner. There was half a church attached to the Bishop's estate, which I conceive to mean the patronage of a moiety of the benefice; for we find the tithes of the church at Flixton divided into medieties, as late as the beginning of the fourteenth century; the one part belonging to the convent then established here, and the other appertaining to the Bishop of the diocese.
About the year 1200, the principal manor and a moiety of the advowson were in the family of De Hanes, who had a mansion on their estate; and the second manor was held by the family of De Bosco or Bois, whose name is yet retained by a small lordship in the parish. An humble dwelling called Bois Hall, in all probability, points out the site of their once more extensive residence.
Margery, the daughter and heiress of the former race, married Bartholomew de Creke, lord of Creke, in Norfolk, and brought her husband considerable estates; amongst which were the manors of Helmingham and Flixton. By a pleading at Ipswich, held in the twenty-fourth of Henry III. (1239–1240), Robert de Pirho, William de Blund, and Robert de Blund, were found to owe to Sir Bartholomew de Creke £14 out of these estates, assigned for the maintenance or jointure of his wife. (fn. 1)
In 1258, Margery de Creke, being then a widow, and resident at her manor-house of Flixton, transferred her interests here into the hands of a community of religious females, who appear by her charter to have been already inmates of her mansion.
"Sciant p'sentes et futuri quod ego Margeria de Crek in purâ et legitimâ viduatate meâ, pro salute anime mee, et pro salute animarum bene memorie Galfrid: de Hanes, p'tris mei, et . . . . . . . . matris mei, et omnium antecessorum, et pro salute anime Bartholomei de Crek, quondam mariti mei, et animarum liberorum meor: successor: et aliarum familiarum mearum, de pleno assensu Rob'ti de Creke, primogeniti filij mei et heredis, dedi, concessi, et hâc p'senti cartâ confirmavi in purā et perpetuā elemosinam mulieribus religiosis servientibz deo, et Sce Marie, et Sancte Katharine, et omnibus sanctis in capitali messuagio meo de Flixton, regulam Beati Augustini p'fessor: et quasdam alias regulares observantes, &c., totum manerium meū de Flixton, quod ad me, jure hereditari, spectabat, &c.
"Hiis testibus D'no Simone de Wanton, Norwicen' Epō d'mnis Willmo de Blume, Robt de Valoines, Will: de Medifonde, militibus; Rogero de Throkin, rectore ecclie de Cammibell, Radulpho, rectore medietatis ecclie de Flixton; Galfro de Crek, Johanno de Crek, frat: suo, Walthero de Redisham, Eudone de Tylneye, cl'ico, et aliis." (fn. 2)
From this period we see the revenues of Flixton absorbed for near three hundred years by a monkish community; which, in conformity with the notions of a mistaken creed, and overlooking the obvious sense of Scripture, sought to please God by an abandonment of those active and social virtues, in the due performance of which lies every christian's duty. Negative virtue is a low step in the scale of christian perfection.
To the preceding grant the foundress added her moiety of the advowson of the church at Flixton; the witnesses to which deed of gift were Sir Robert de Valoines, Sir Roger de Ratlisden, Sir Walter de Redesham, and Sir John de Stow, Rector of Helmingham. The seal of Margery de Creke, appended to this deed, was quarterly, 1st and 4th, a bend surtout between two roundles; 2nd and 3rd, three roundles. These were, probably, her paternal bearings. The legend was "Sigillum Margerie de Crec." In 1264, the foundress gave to her nuns of Flixton the advowson of the church of Dunston, in Norfolk, by whom it was appropriated, with the sanction of Simon de Walton, Bishop of Norwich, on condition that the nuns should have the whole of the rectory, finding a priest to perform the duty, and paying him for so doing. (fn. 3) The rectory of North Creke was also conveyed to them about the same period, together with that of Fundenhall, in the same county, with a messuage, and twelve acres of land, and many rents and services. (fn. 4) A water-mill at Flixton, and a mill at Combes—the former valued, in 1534, at £1. 13s. 4d., and the latter at 20s. per annum—were also annexed to this house. In 1280, the patronage of this establishment was granted by the foundress to the Bishop of Norwich and his successors.
In 1292, an inquisition was taken of the temporalities of Flixton, (fn. 5) and an extent, or survey of the priory lands and possessions, drawn up at the same period. This extent will not only furnish us with a view of the condition of the establishment, but will illustrate the manners and customs of the times.
Extent of Flixton Priory.
"The number of the nuns of Flixton is limited by the foundress, Margery de Creke, to wit, eighteen, and a prioress—every one of whom has been accustomed to receive, per annum, for garments, 5 shillings: for whose sustentation the said foundress gave the manor of Flixton, with the advowson of the moiety of the same church: the profits whereof are worth, per annum, in gardens, orchards, pools, and other profits, 40s. Item, woods and alders, in divers places, worth, per annum, 30s. Item, there are 308 acres of arable land, which are worth, per annum, £11. 12. 4.—price, per acre, 8d. Item, there are 38 acres of meadow for mowing, and they are worth, per annum, £3. 16. 0.—price, per acre, 2s. Item, there are 3 small pastures in divers places, which are worth, per annum, £7. 11. 0.—¾ of rent of assize. Item, the said customary tenants owe, per annum, 225 days ploughing, which are worth £3. 16. 3.—price, per day's ploughing, 3d. Item, the same customary tenants work, in winter and summer, 658 works, which are worth, per annum, £1. 12. 8.—price of each work a half-penny. Item, the same in autumn, 603 works, which are worth, per annum, £2. 10. 3.—price, per work, a penny. Item, the same customary tenants owe, per annum, 65 averages, which are worth 2s. 8½d.—per average, a half-penny. Item, pleas and perquisites of the tenants are worth, per annum, 13s. 4d. Item, two mills are worth, per annum, deducting the expenses, 13s. 4d. Item, the moiety of the church of Flixton, remaining to the proper uses of the said prioress and convent, is fixed at £4. 13. 4. Item, the church of Dunstone to their proper uses, is taxed at £5.
The endowment of this priory seems to have been always inadequate to the maintenance and necessary wants of its inmates; and although the foundress limited their number to eighteen nuns, and a prioress, it never reached that number, and at the Dissolution appears to have contained not more than six or seven nuns. It was this consideration which induced John Salmon, Bishop of Norwich, to permit the appropriation of the second moiety of Flixton church; the patronage of which the convent had obtained in exchange for that of Helmingham. In 1321, an inquisition was taken in the church of Flixton, relating to a presentation of a Vicar to that moiety of the benefice which belonged to Flixton Priory; and in the same year, a charter was granted by the bishop to the prioress and convent, for uniting the other moiety of the church to that before possessed by them, and appointing a portion to the Vicar.
The Endowment of Flixton Vicarage, 1321.
"Brother John, by divine permission, bishop of Norwich, to his beloved daughters in Christ, the prioress of the conventual church of the blessed Katharine of Flixton, in South Elmham, and the convent of the same place, of the order of St. Augustine, in our diocese, greeting; grace and benediction. Amidst all the cares incumbent on our pastoral office, and to which we are specially bound, that surely should be chief, to assist the urgent necessities of those under our care, weighing their merits in the scale of our Holy Father; and particularly to assist religious women, who by their sanctity of religion, holiness of life, and devout works of charity, are rendered acceptable to God, and most welcome to mankind.
"And whereas, you having discarded your own appetites, and left all worldly pleasures, and having chosen to yourselves a celestial bridegroom, with whom, in the utmost devotion, to dwell under regular observance: and whereas, it is notorious that for long time past, and as yet, by unfortunate and adverse circumstances, you have been, and are now reduced to such poverty, as not to have wherewithal to supply yourselves and servants with meat and drink, the necessaries of life; and to support the charges incumbent upon you; and especially, as it is well known, that all which you have at present, or can have, is incompetent for you to exhibit to the wants of the poor, and strangers, continually resorting to your house; considering, moreover, the great burden of debt now pressing upon you, and particularly as your lands and possessions are, by unfortunate events, become so barren, that the fruits and profits thereof, supporting these necessary charges, will scarcely suffice for half the year; nor have you any means of supporting and relieving these burdens out of your temporal possessions, by purchasing in mortmain: We, therefore, on account of the premises, directing to you our paternal affection of piety, and being willing, for the sake of the religion which you laudably exercise and profess, with devout veneration, graciously to assist your wants by ecclesiastical provision and collation of a benefice, viz.: the moiety of the church of Flixton, in Southelmham, in our diocese, now vacant, in which you have obtained the right of presentation; which moiety, with all its rights and appurtenances whatsoever, to the other moiety of the church aforesaid, to you and your monastery, of old time canonically appropriated, on account of the smallness of each moiety we do unite, and by tenor of these presents do re-unite, and so united decree it perpetually to be, and upon you and your monastery, to your proper uses, through motives of charity, do confer by these presents, and by pontifical authority, depute and grant it to be perpetually possessed. And because the portion to you of clothes, of old time deputed, yearly to be received, is very mean and slender, we will and ordain, that the several nuns of your house shall receive every year from the hands of your chamberlain, out of the fruits and profits of the church aforesaid, two shillings in silver, in addition to the portion above-said; that so your indigence, as to this matter, may be more easily consulted. Reserving to ourselves especial power, out of the rents and profits of the same church, so renewed and united, to depute a reasonable portion to the perpetual vicar serving in the same; to the vicarage thereof, whensoever vacant, by you and your successors, to us and our successors, canonically to be presented; and on which portion he may be able, properly, to support himself, as the law require; and support episcopal and other charges incumbent on him: saving in all things the episcopal customs, and rights and dignity of our church of Norwich. And that all matter of altercation and dispute as to the portions of tithes, and the lands and fruits, and profits of the church aforesaid, to be received between you and the vicar of the church aforesaid, for the time being, hereafter may rest quiet, we have thought fit thereupon thus to ordain.
"Imprimis—we will, and by decree do ordain, that you and your successors shall receive and have in the name of the rectory of the church aforesaid, the manse, which the rector of the church aforesaid named, on the part of the bishop, was accustomed to inhabit, situated on the west part of the said church, with the croft to the same adjoining. And also the meadows assigned to the same moiety, to wit, at Caldewell, half an acre, and in east meadow, one acre, and one rood, and at Fretheg, one rood and a half, lying in three pieces. And all tithes of sheaves, arising from all kinds of blade within the limits or tithings of the said parish: the tithes of blade, growing in the gardens of the said parish, only excepted. And that the vicar of the same church and his successors, in the right and name of the vicarage aforesaid, may, and shall have a manse of the north part of the same church, formerly assigned to the vicarage of the moiety of the same church, named on the part of the nuns. And also tithes, as well personal as mixed, oblations, and small tithes of the whole parish, to wit, wool, milk, flax, and hemp, lambs, pigs, eggs, fowls, hens, pigeons, ducks, cygnets, fruits, trees and gardens, as well sown as planted, by whatsoever term they may be understood; and if corn be there sown; mills, fisheries, groves and woods, turbary, and also all other obventions of what kind soever, which are contained under the name of Altarage. The said vicar shall also receive all tithes, as well personal as mixed, of all those whose habitations or dwellings are within the limits of the said parish, situated without the inclosures of the monastery; although the said inhabitants personally serve in any office or function within the aforesaid inclosures. And also all demesne lands, to each moiety of the church deputed of old time, wheresoever they lie or consist, the said croft alone excepted, whose fruits and profits, they shall freely receive without any payment of tithes whatsoever. The said vicars shall have, also, two acres of meadow, one whereof lies in Stock-meadow, and the other at Milling. And also the tithes of hay of the whole parish, except the tithe of hay arising from your meadows, which at the time of this present ordination you have obtained in demesne. But if you, or your successors hereafter, acquire any meadows lying within the said parish from any person whatsoever, by any kind of gift, for them you shall pay the tithes to the vicar and his successors abovesaid. You shall receive, also, all obventions or oblations in your conventual church, as well from foreigners and strangers, as from your servants and ministers, whensoever made; and if the persons so administering are parishioners of the church aforesaid; saving, nevertheless to the vicar parochial right, in ordinary and customary oblations, as from his parishioners by right to be received. You and your successors, from the payment of tithes of your own animals whatsoever, within the limits of the said parish feeding and couchant, we will to be free and quit; but for the animals of all the parishioners and strangers in your houses and folds, the vicar shall receive the tithe wholly, as is lawful. And the ordinary charges on the said church incumbent on you and your successors, to wit, as to the repairs of the covering of the chancel, and glass windows of the same, shall support whenever repairs are necessary, or require building anew. The vicar also, for the time being, shall pay procurations, and synodals, and shall bear, and be at the expense of repairs of books, vestments, and other ornaments of the church whatsoever. And as to all extraordinary charges on the aforesaid church incumbent, we will you should undergo, and to this be bound: saving to us and to our successors, free power of adding to, and withdrawing from, the premises, and also reconsidering them whensoever urgent necessity or utility requiring it, seem proper. In witness and testimony whereof to these p'sents, we have thought fit to put our seal. Done and dated in our manor of Blofield, the 7th Kalends of November, in the year of our Lord 1321, and of our consecration the 22nd."
From the preceding charter it appears, that by the endowment the priory was obliged to keep the chancel belonging to Flixton church in repair; but on account of the slender provision above mentioned, made for the maintenance of its inmates at first, and the great distress they afterwards experienced from the plague, they were so far reduced as to be unable, we apprehend, to prevent the chancel from falling into ruins. (fn. 6)
In the same year, 1321, John, Bishop of Norwich, issued his mandate to Nicholas de Rudham, ordering him to put the prioress and convent in possession of the moiety granted them by the said Bishop. This order from the diocesan is accompanied by a deed of the said Nicholas de Rudham, witnessing the execution of the said mandate.
Although Margery de Creke was the real foundress of the priory of Flixton, its success—such as it was—appears to have been promoted through the advice and assistance of William Bateman, who was consecrated Bishop of Norwich in 1343. This prelate drew up the statutes by which the house was afterwards governed. His roll, containing the rules of this nunnery, commences thus: "A le honeur de Deu, Pere, è Fitz, è Seynt Esprit, Sirè William, par la susfraunce de Deu, eveske de Norewic, patrun de la meson de Dames de Flixtune, de doun de la noble dame, Dame Margerie de Crek," &c. Bishop Bateman resided much at his adjacent palace of St. Margaret South Elmham, to which place he was much attached. He purchased considerable property in the neighbourhood, and seems to have been partial to Flixton. (fn. 7) Sir Bartholomew Bateman, his brother, lived in this village, and "was buryed in thys abbey of Flixston." Sir Bartholomew Bateman, the Bishop's father, also resided and was buried here. (fn. 8) The seat in which he lived stood on the site whereon the present Flixton Hall is built; and possibly the monastery, which tradition says occupied this place, might have been a chapel, or a portion of Sir Bartholomew's very ancient residence. (fn. 9)
In 1347, Bishop Bateman extended his patronage of the nuns of Flixton by the pernicious and unjust practice of further appropriation; and in that year procured license for these recluses to apply to themselves the tithes of Fundenhall, of which rectory they were patrons. The Bishop reserved an annual pension of two marks to himself and his successors, in lieu of first fruits, and 2s. per annum to the sacrist, as to the high altar of the cathedral. The prioress was to nominate and find a stipendiary chaplain, to be approved by the Bishop, and pay him for serving the cure. (fn. 10)
The spirituals of the prioress of Flixton in this parish were taxed at fifteen marks, and were to pay 20s. to each tenth; but in 1347, the nuns being returned to be very poor, they were excused the tax. (fn. 11)
The poverty of the nuns of Flixton was still more strikingly developed in the following year, when the plague raged so fearfully in many parts of the kingdom. This dreadful pestilence began to appear first in the northern part of Asia, in 1346, whence it passed into Greece, and thence into Italy and France; and in the beginning of August, 1348, broke out in Dorsetshire. The disease was so violent in England, that many persons, who were well in the morning, died before noon. About the beginning of November it reached London, and about Christmas attacked Yarmouth, in Norfolk, where, in 1349, it raged with such malignant fury as to carry off, in one year, above seven thousand persons. It raged so furiously in the years 1348 and 1349, that there scarcely remained alive, in most parts of the kingdom, a tenth part of the population. We may judge to what extent the calamity affected the priory of Flixton, from the following instance. The church of Dunston, in Norfolk, was part of the endowment of this establishment, but in 1349, when the general plague had depopulated great part of the realm, it was returned, that most of the parishioners here were dead, and the land left untilled,—so that the prioress could not pay the King's taxes for it, nor the 10s. per annum to the Bishop, then usually paid. (fn. 12)
In 1370, the revenues of the priory were augmented by the grant of the manor of Fakons, and lands in Stuston, Brome, &c.; notwithstanding which increase of rental the affairs of the priory continued to decline. Walter le Hart, Bishop of Norwich, who died at Hoxne in 1472, being informed of the impoverished state of the nuns, gave by will, to the prioress of Flixton 20s., and to every nun in that house 3s. 4d.— considerable legacies at that period. (fn. 13)
There is an exemplification, dated in 1412, whereby Alexander, Bishop of Norwich, confirms the foregoing endowment of the vicarage of Flixton. The original deeds relating to Flixton Priory, from which great part of the preceding information has been translated, were purchased by Mr. Astle at Martin's sale, and were bound up in one volume. Mr. Astle offered them to the late Mr. Adair at the same price he had given for them, which Mr. Adair declined, observing that he had sufficient deeds to secure the title of his estate. (fn. 14)
There were annual gifts made to the poor by this priory, on the anniversary of the foundress, which amounted to £2. 16s. 8d.; and £5. 6s. 8d. were given to the priests for performing service on the same day. The arms of Flixton Nunnery, as shown on the following page, were painted on the rood-loft of Fundenhall church, and were also placed in a like position in the parish church of Flixton. Blomefield is wrong in blazoning the field gules.
Prioresses of Flixton.
Elizabeth Moore resigned her office; as did her successor, Catharine Pilley, in 1432, being old and blind. In consideration of her having governed the house well and laudably, the Bishop, as patron of the nunnery, assigned her a chamber, and a maid to wait upon her, and an honourable pension for life, out of the appropriation of the rectory of Fundenhall. (fn. 15)
After a struggle for near three hundred years with poverty and adverse circumstances, this establishment was surrendered by Elizabeth Wright in 1528; having been suppressed, as one of the smaller monasteries, by the bull of Clement VII. Its revenues at that time amounted, according to Speed, to £23. 4s. 1¾d., which shows a decrease of nearly one-half of its rental from its valuation in 1292; notwithstanding its subsequent acquisition of several estates. Its possessions were destined by Cardinal Wolsey to augment the rentals of his colleges at Ipswich and Oxford. That ecclesiastic's disgrace, however, prevented the accomplishment of this design, and brought the lands of Flixton Priory, with the rest of his prodigious wealth, into his master's hands, who by writ of Privy Seal, dated at Westminster, the 10th of July, in the twenty-ninth year of his reign, leased to Richard Warton the site of the late monastery of Flixton, with its houses, barns, dove-cots, orchards, lands, &c.; the rectory of Flixton, with the advowson of the vicarage, &c., for £19. 16s. 2d. per annum. The premises were granted, however, in 1544, to John Tasburgh, Esq., and passing subsequently with the manor of South Elmham, as already related, are now the property of Sir Robert Shafto Adair, Bart., of Flixton Hall.
The site of the priory, which occupies an elevated piece of ground, about a quarter of a mile to the south of the church, is clearly defined by a moat of unusual width, which encompasses an ancient and respectable farm-house, and a portion of the south wall of the conventual chapel, in which is a solitary flattened arch, devoid of tracery. The width of the chapel was about twenty-four feet. Fuller quaintly tells us that "Cardinall Wolsey, by leave from the Pope, suppressed certain small houses of little value, therewithall to endow his colledges in Oxford and Ipswich. He first shewed religious places were mortall, which hitherto had flourished in a seeming eternity. And King Henry the 8th concluded, if the Cardinall might eat up the lean convents, he himself might feed on the fat ones, without danger of a sacrilegious surfeit."
The Tasburghs, who thus acquired the site and possessions of Flixton Priory, were of direct Saxon origin. Torolf, a free-man of Bishop Stigand, held a manor in the parish of Tasburgh, in Norfolk, at the time of the Conqueror's survey, (fn. 16) whose successors were Richard and Matthew, his sons; and Ralf, who lived in 1199, and afterwards, about 1239, assumed the name of Tasburgh, from the place of his residence. In 1247, Ralf de Tasburgh was lord of Boylands, or the woodland manor, in Tasburgh, and had infangetheof, or liberty to try all theft committed by his tenants, in his own courtbaron and leet there; and to execute them, and take their forfeited goods. In 1280, his son Roger sold this estate to Sir Richard de Boyland. About this time they migrated to Suffolk, and we find them settled at St. Peter's, South Elmham, early in the reign of Edward III. The following pedigree (fn. 17) shows their descent from this period to the time of Charles II.
The escutcheon attached to the above genealogy is of four coats: first and fourth, Tasburgh; second, Toll, arg., two bars engrailed gules; each charged with 3 birds or: on a canton sable a hand, bend-wise, couped at the wrist argent. Third, Neaches, party per fess, paly of seven arg and sable, counterchanged.
Edward Tasburgh, of St. Andrew Ilketshall, had issue three children, Edward, Elizabeth, and Anne; and John Tasburgh, of St. Peter's, had, by his second wife, Sir Thomas Tasburgh, Knt., who married, first, Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir John Baldwin, Knt., and widow of Sir Thomas Paginton, who died without issue; and secondly, Jane, daughter of William West, Lord De la Warr, and widow of James Cressye; by whom also he had no family. In 1599, John Tasburgh, Esq., furnished two horsemen to be conducted to London for defence of the court against secret purposes intended. John Tasburgh, the fourth son of Sir John Tasburgh, of Flixton, by Lettice Cressye, married Penelope, daughter and coheiress of John Ramsey, Esq., of Wickmere, in Norfolk, and brought him the manor of Wickmere, in that parish. Dorothy, his sister, married Sir William Thexton, Knt., and died in 1641. Charles Tasburgh, the eldest son and heir of Sir John, died in 1657, and left Richard Tasburgh, his son and heir, who married Margaret, daughter of Sir George Heneage, of Henton, Knt. This lady, who is described as very charitable to the poor, a loving wife, and an indulgent parent, was a participator of her husband's imprisonment, who, being a rigid Roman Catholic, was implicated in the pretended Popish Plot, which broke out in 1678. She died in 1705, aged 70, and the following record of her constancy and sufferings was placed on her monument in Flixton church by her grateful husband, who survived her eleven years; dying in 1716, at the advanced age of 83 years. "She was a patient sufferer in prison with her husband, during ye persecution called ye popish plott, of which he was accused, and tryed for his life, but by a jury of worthy gentlemen out of Suffolk, had justice done him, for which he beggeth ye blessing of Heaven on them and their posterity, and heartily forgiveth his enemies and persecutors." Mr. Tasburgh left several children, but they failing of issue, the family became extinct in the male line, and its estates passed to John Wybarne, or Waborne, of Hawkwell, in Kent, in right of Lettice his wife, the daughter of the aforesaid Richard Tasburgh, who survived her husband, and died on the 1st of July, 1738, aged 73.
The Tasburghs were rigid Roman Catholics, and the estate at Flixton is still charged with the payment of a certain stipend, settled thereon at the time of its transfer to the Adairs, for the support of a Roman Catholic priest, who constantly resided in a house in this parish, called the priest's house, till within a very few years, when a chapel was built at Bungay, and the residence of the priest transferred thither.
In consequence of their adherence to the Romish Creed, the family fell under great suspicion at the time of the calamitous fire in Bungay, in 1688, when, tradition relates, pieces of Rue were laid, on the previous evening, at the doors of several houses. The Tasburghs, however, were foremost in affording relief to the panic-struck inhabitants of the town. (fn. 18)
It is probable that the Tasburghs resided some time after their acquisition of this property in the priory at Flixton, as we find several of the family designated, in the foregoing pedigree, as of Flixton Abbey. Early, however, in the seventeenth century, they removed to the spot occupied by the present Hall, which is a noble baroniallooking pile, seated in the centre of an extensive park, where the "builder oak" luxuriates in majesty and profusion. It was erected about the year 1616, by Sir John Tasburgh, and the design is said to have been furnished by Inigo Jones; but this, I believe, is tradition only. Many mansions, in almost every part of England, have been attributed to his skill, with scarcely a proof of any kind,—and not a few which are decidedly too common-place for the fertility of his conception. Flixton Hall, however, by whomsoever designed, is the production of no tame or frigid genius: there is a lofty elevation,—an intricacy and variety of outline, aided by deep bays and bold projections, which, with the tall pinnacles and clustered chimneys, give a picturesque effect to the whole pile, vainly sought for in modern mansions. It was originally surrounded by a moat, and approached by a drawbridge, which have been long removed and filled up; and is said to occupy the site of the very ancient manor-house of the Batemans, as already mentioned. If any papers, relating to the erection of this mansion, be in existence, they would furnish curious and interesting details of the price of labour and materials in the seventeenth century. Tradition has preserved an anecdote connected with this house, that when Charles II., in his journey to Yarmouth, passed by this building, he was so struck with its grand and noble appearance, that he inquired who resided in it; and upon being told, by one of his attendants, that it was a popish dog who lived there, his Majesty immediately answered, that the dog had a very beautiful kennel.
The view, which illustrates this description of Flixton Hall, represents the northern and principal front, as it appeared in 1844. The whole fabric is now undergoing an extensive survey, which the wear and tear of time have rendered imperative. Some alterations are being made in the façade, by removing the old pediments which surmounted the windows, and by the substitution of new window-frames. It may be a matter of doubt—which the writer will not venture to determine—how far any ancient fabric, possessed of decided character, is improved by the alteration of any of its features; but he must be pardoned in saying that the addition of a large wing, just erected, looks raw and incongruous, and destroys the dignified repose and unity of design, hitherto so remarkable here.
Though the immediate ancestors of Sir Robert Shafto Adair, the present possessor of Flixton, were settled in Ireland, the family is of Scottish descent, and the earliest ascertained progenitor of the line fell at the battle of Flodden Field.
Alexander Adair, Esq., who died in 1834, at the advanced age of 91 years, married Lydia, daughter of Sir William Thomas, Bart., of Yapton Place, by whommarried Lydia, daughter of Sir William Thomas, Bart., of Yapton Place, by whom he left no issue. He was the nephew of William Adair, Esq., the purchaser of the Flixton estate, and manor of South Elmham; and great grandson of Sir Robert Adair, of Ballymenagh, who died in 1745. The following pedigree of this family was extracted from the Records of Ulster, King of Arms of all Ireland, on the 1st of July, 1838, and transferred to the Heralds' College, London. he left no issue. He was the nephew of William Adair, Esq., the purchaser of the Flixton estate, and manor of South Elmham; and great grandson of Sir Robert Adair, of Ballymenagh, who died in 1745. The following pedigree of this family was extracted from the Records of Ulster, King of Arms of all Ireland, on the 1st of July, 1838, and transferred to the Heralds' College, London.
at Flixton comprises a square tower, a nave with a north aisle, and a ruinated chancel. The tower is, by far, the most ancient portion of the edifice, being unquestionably of Anglo-Saxon construction. It is built entirely of uncut flints, laid in rude horizontal courses, and is at present entered from the body of the church, through an arch, enlarged in its eastern wall about the time of Henry III., if we may judge by the fashion of the pillars which sustain it. The original entrance was beneath a low triangular-headed arch on the western side; which has been recently discovered by the removal of a coat of plaster from its interior face. "On each side of the lower part of the tower is a circular aperture, equally splayed inside and out. A stage higher, we have on the west, a circular-headed window, splayed at the sill, but not in the jambs or arch. In the next stage, on each side, is a circularheaded window, deeply splayed within, so as to leave but a small narrow aperture in the external face of the wall. The jambs of these windows are very far from the vertical, inclining towards the arch, and being wider at the bottom. On each side of the belfry is a balustre window. The balustre is a cylinder of equal thickness throughout, and is surmounted by the ordinary Norman cushion capital. The arches and jambs of the windows are made up of rag and flint, and here and there a large smooth pebble. The outside face of the arch, with the part of the soffit adjoining, is coated with rough-cast."
The tower leans fearfully towards the south-west, in consequence of the subsidence of its foundations. At what period this took place is unrecorded, but it evidently occurred subsequently to the thirteenth century, as the pillars of the arch in its western wall, constructed about that period, are thrust out of the perpendicular by the declination of the tower. The ascent to the bell stage is by means of a very steep and rude ladder, of curious construction. The north aisle is divided from the body of the church by four pointed arches sustained by pillars, each of which is composed of four clustered columns, in the style prevalent in our third Henry's reign. We may conclude, therefore, that the old Saxon church, attached to the tower, was demolished about that era, and the present fabric constructed on its site.
There are several appendages of ancient worship, still remaining in this church, which deserve notice. A pew in the aisle is formed by wide panels of oak, in which are a few very small quatrefoil apertures. Tradition relates that this seat is constructed out of the old confessional. Beneath the communion table, lies the ancient altar-stone, of black marble, marked with five small crosses, emblematical of the five wounds of Christ. This must have been removed from the now ruinated chancel before the Reformation; and seems to confirm the opinion, previously advanced, that this portion of the edifice fell into decay through the poverty of the nuns of Flixton Priory.
The old iron cradle for sustaining the hour-glass, by which the preacher in earlier days regulated the length of his discourse, remains near the handsome pulpit, which is elaborately carved with armorial devices; while the bold and elegant poppies, or carved finials of the benches, are worthy of especial attention. More beautiful specimens of the carved wood-work with which our ancient churches were furnished in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, are rarely found. They consist of an assemblage of graceful foliage, of various patterns, but one near the south wall is of rather unusual design, and represents a cross-aisled church.
In the year 1268, Henry de Bosco granted a free-man to the church of St. Mary at Flixton, and to Ranulph, the rector, he likewise granted a moiety of the said church. (fn. 19) In 1485, Thomas Bateman, by his will, dated on the 8th day of April, "legat corpus suum sepeliend: et humat: in eccl'ia bte Marie de Flyxton, prope Elizabeth: nup: ux'em suam."
Robert Gilbert, vicar of Flixton in 1639, was ejected by the puritans. Walker says, "he could get no fifths, as I find by an original petition of his wife, now before me, though he had several children to maintain. He lived to be restored." (fn. 20)
In Cole's MSS. in the British Museum, (fn. 21) is the following curious memorandum connected with this parish. "In December, 1768, the Rev. Dr. Gooch, Canon of Ely, and Commissary of Sudbury, gave me the following paper, which was put into his hands, a little before, as a curiosity, but which may be resolved in this way. The registers of parishes being at first very faulty, and negligently kept, it was necessary, and very usual, towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and later, to have them transcribed into a new book, which was always signed by the then rector, as certifying the truth of the copy. 'An extract from the register book of the parish of Flixton, in the county of Suffolk, relating to the Rev. Mr. Jonas Luker, minister there. The register begins in the year of our Lord 1547, and was begun by the said Mr. Luker, who might have been minister before that time. His death is registered the 2nd of May, 1639, which makes him ninety-two years vicar there; supposing him to begin with the register book only; and as he could not have been younger than twenty-four, when he came to Flixton, must, therefore, be at least, one hundred and sixteen years old when he died.
His widow was buried November 11th, 1672, which was thirty-three years after her said husband.' N. B. This register is all wrote by himself, and his last entering, which was dated 1634, and only five years before his death, is well and clearly wrote. He was one of the first protestant ministers, and during the reign of Queen Mary, nothing was registered. The two churchwardens that signed the book with him, the first year he came to Flixton, were likewise churchwardens together in the same parish forty years after."
Cole's surmise that Mr. Luker had merely transcribed the greater portion of his parish register book is proved correct by the list of institutions preserved in the Record Office of the Bishop of Norwich, by which it appears that Luker, or Lakers, was not presented to the vicarage of Flixton till the year 1590, and that dying in 1639, he was incumbent only forty-nine years.
Charles Tasburgh, Esq., died 11th of Aug., 1657, aged 49. Richardus Tasburgh, filius Caroli, et pater Johannis, ob. 1716, æt. 83. Penelope, wife of Mr. John Tasburgh, and daughter of Mr. John Ramsey, of Wickemere, in Norf., died 1696. George Tasburgh, died Dec. 1736, aged 64. Anne, his second wife, daughter of Josiah Lightfoot, of Ashley, in Staffordshire, died Oct. 11, 1749, aged 71. Tasburgh impales Lightfoot, a chev. between 3 roses. Margaret, the wife of Richd. Tasburgh, and daughter of Sir George Henneage, of Henton, Knt., died Oct. ye 3rd, 1705, æt. 70. Within the altar rails lies a cushion-shaped stone of white marble. On its upper side are engraved a cross with the letters I H S, and a heart, pierced with three nails, encircled by a nimbus, or glory. It is raised about a foot from the floor; is about three feet long, and eighteen inches wide. It is said to cover a human heart discovered here; but as it is inserted into a slab of black marble, at the head of which are cut the arms of Tasburgh impaling those of Nevill, of Holt—gules, a saltire ermine—while, at the lower part, is an inscription to the memory of John Tasburgh, who died Aug. 12, 1719, in the 57th year of his age, and who married Frances, daughter of Mr. Nevill, of Holt, in Leicestershire, by whom he had three children,—it is more probably a memorial placed to one of these children, who died young. Lettice, relict of John Wybarne, Esq., of Hawkwell in Kent, and daughter of Richard Tasburgh, Esq., died 1st July, 1738, aged 73. John Wybarne, died Feb. 12, 1739, æt. 52. Lydia, wife of Alexander Adair, Esq., and daughter of Sir William Thomas, Bart., died Oct. 8, 1814, aged 66. Alexander Adair, Esq., died March 17th, 1834, aged 91. William Adair, Esq., of Flixton Hall, died May 17, 1783, æt. 83.
Vicars of Flixton.
The Rev. George Sandby, the present incumbent of Flixton, is the grandson of Dr. Sandby, formerly master of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Chancellor of Norwich. In Brydges's 'Restituta' (fn. 22) is a long account of the latter gentleman, who is described as "beneficed and married in Suffolk, and formerly fellow of Merton College, and son to a prebendary of Worcester: took his D.D. degree at the Commencement, 1760, and is a very cheerful agreeable man. His mother, a Nottinghamshire woman, very ancient, died at his living at Denton, in Norfolk, in 1770. In 1769 he was made Chancellor of Norwich, and has four children, three daughters, and a little boy," &c.