The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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Saint Peter South Elmham.
The manor, forming parcel of the lordship of South Elmham, has passed with that demesne from the see of Norwich to Sir Robert Shafto Adair, as already shown. It is a small village, containing only 571 acres, 1 rood, 30 perches of land, whereof 25 acres, 2 roods, 28 perches, are glebe; with a population of 91 souls, according to the census of 1841. It is chiefly remarkable for an ancient mansion called St. Peter's Hall, which stands about two hundred yards to the north of the church. As the estate on which it is situated was the property of the Tasburghs, as early as the reign of Edward III., and continued to be the place of their residence till the beginning of the sixteenth century, when they removed to Flixton Priory, there can be no doubt as to the family of its founder. I have sought, in vain, for a specific document to identify the period of its commencement, but from the analogy of its architecture to that of buildings whose date is ascertained, I should ascribe its erection to John Tasburgh, the father of the grantee of Flixton Nunnery. This gentleman died in 1509. In his will he desires his body to be buried in the church-yard of St. Peter's, towards the west, under the steeple: leaves "3s. to the parson out of Styland and Rokewood medow;" and further bequeathes v marks to the erection of a new rood-loft.
The mansion, when entire, formed a quadrangle, as usual, of which stables and offices made up a part. The domestic and ecclesiastical styles are singularly combined in this building, though the latter seems to predominate; and the occasional discovery of old floor-stones, of a sepulchral character, intimates that the projecting porch led to the chapel of the dwelling, not into the hall; and yet the ceilings of the chambers, where the two large and upper windows are observed, on the right hand of the porch, are flat, divided into small squares by the girders above, and covered with plastered mouldings in the manner usually seen in dwelling-houses of an early period. The interior, however, has been divided into its present arrangements, with portions of the demolished part of the house, and the antique character of these greatly deceives a modern investigator, and creates much confusion. It is very remarkable, that although the exterior is rather profusely ornamented with escutcheons, not a single shield is charged with an armorial cognizance. Surely the Tasburghs must have been "gentlemen of coat-armour" long before the fifteenth century. The building is cased with the finest squared stone, but appears, notwithstanding, to be in a very crazy and dilapidated condition. Part of the moat, of very unusual width, shuts in the south side of the premises.
The St. Peter's Hall estate passed from the Tasburghs into the hands of the Barnardistons, from whom it went to a Mr. Price, of the city of London; of which gentleman it was purchased by William Adair, Esq., soon after his acquisition of the manor of South Elmham. (fn. 29)
comprises a nave and chancel only, with a good square tower of flint-work: it is of Norman construction, but evinces a total neglect of architectural purity in its later embellishments. The tower, which contains three bells, opens with a fine arch into the nave, over which is laid a good oak roof. The door to the rood-stairs, a broken piscina and sedilia, are remnants of papistical observances, happily gone by.
There are a few old floor-stones without legends, but no modern memorials, in the interior. Against the north wall of the chancel is the lower part of a sculptured altartomb, which, probably, covers the remains of one of the Tasburghs, though their burialplace was in a north aisle or chantry; which, falling into decay, has been recently pulled down. John Tasburgh, Esq., by his last will, dated 1473, desires to be buried in the chapel of our Lady Mary Virgin, on the north side of the church of St. Peter, before the image of our Lady. He gave the "glasses" of a window, at the west end of the steeple: a table of alabaster for the said chapel; and further wills "that William Rust have 3 acres of land, called Hillys land, and the hows thereon builded: and after the decease of the said William, I will that the foreseyd hows go to poor folks to dwell in without end; and the land to go to his heirs to repair the same hows." (fn. 30) Margery Tasburgh, his widow, by her last will and testament, dated February 16th, 1484, leaves her body to be buried in the chapel of the blessed Virgin Mary, in the parish church of St. Peter, near the body of John Tasburgh, her late husband. (fn. 31)
In the year 1819, while the writer was visiting this parish, collecting the materials which form the matter of the present notice, a person of gentlemanly address drove up to St. Peter's Hall, tenanted by the late Mr. Alden, the then churchwarden, inquiring if the church contained any brass effigies, as he was travelling through the country collecting such records of ancient families, with a view to their cleaning and restoration, promising to return them shortly to their original places. St. Peter's church afforded nothing to add to his collection, having been already stripped by some earlier iconoclast. The writer remembers that the applicant's gig-box was half full of brass effigies, which it is vain to hope ever found again their respective matrices. The observation is simply recorded to expose a system of plunder once recklessly pursued, and to warn all churchwardens to repulse applications of a like nature.
Thomas Tubbing, Rector of St. Peter's, by his last will, proved May 29th, 1504, desires to be buried in the chancel of his church. (fn. 32)