The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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Kirkley occupies the north-eastern angle of the Hundred of Mutford, being bounded on the east by the ocean, and on the north by Lake Lothing, an arm, or inlet of which runs to the southward, and is known as Kirkley Ham. It probably afforded a very secure anchorage to the small vessels of ancient days during the prevalence of eastern gales, at the period when the sea entered the lake by a broad unimpeded channel.
Kirkley was never a place of importance, notwithstanding the ancient assertions of the inhabitants of Lowestoft, and is very briefly noticed in Domesday Book: it is remarkable, therefore, that it should have given its name to a portion of the adjacent ocean, while so near the more populous and wealthy towns of Yarmouth and Lowestoft. In the time of Edward the Confessor, the principal estate here was the property of Gurth, the brother of Harold, which being forfeited at the Conquest, was retained in the hands of the King, under the stewardship of Roger Bigot. Hugo de Montford had also a farm in this village, valued by the Saxons at 2s., which he raised to 3s., and a payment of two hundred herrings. The smallness of this latter impost proves that the fisheries here were then of limited extent. The chief support of this village at the present day, as well as that of the contiguous parish of Pakefield, arises from this branch of trade, which is considered to have declined of late.
In the fifty-fifth of Henry III., Alan de Wymundhale obtained a license for a market and fair, with free-warren in his demesne lands here; (fn. 1) and in the fourteenth of Edward I., Edmund de Wymundhale claimed the same. (fn. 2) The manor was soon after transferred to the family of Fastolf, for in 1378, Hugh Fastolf, Esq., granted it, with other estates, to John Fastolf, his brother. In the seventeenth of Henry VII., it was the property of John Fastolf, Esq., (fn. 3) and went afterwards to Anthony Rouse, Esq., who conveyed it to Henry Hobart, of Loddon, Esq. He died in 1560, seized, inter alia, of the manor of Kirkley, with the advowson of the church, (fn. 4) which latter appears to have been previously held by the Norfolk family. In the will of this gentleman, proved May 3rd, 1561, the lordship is called the manor of Kirkley Hall, though in the Mutford rentals, temp. Henry VIII., it is styled Fastolf's manor. James Hobart, Esq., was lord in 1642, and Robert Richmond in 1680. It passed from the Richmonds, by marriage, to the Garneys of Hedenham, in Norfolk, and on the extinction of that branch of the family, early in the present century, fell by heirship to the Irbys. There is now no manor-house.
The number of inhabitants amounted, in 1841, to 433, though from an account of the parish, taken in 1676, in pursuance of the penal laws then in force against religious dissenters, it appears that they then amounted to only 103, from sixteen years of age and upwards, of which number eighteen were dissenters.
which is dedicated to St. Peter, and valued in the King's books at £15. 10s., is, like that at Kessingland, a modern erection of nondescript architecture, built out of the ruins of a larger and more elegant structure, of which a square tower, about seventy feet high, alone remains. It is open to the elements, and contains only one bell, of most lugubrious tone. The old church consisted of a nave and north aisle: on the site of the former portion is erected the present building. The north wall of this is entirely of brick, but the south is composed of the flints and freestone collected from the ruins of the older fabric. The old church probably fell into decay about the year 1640, for there is the following entry in the Kirkley register books, copied from an ecclesiastical visitation record.
"September 14, 1663. Kirkley. The church there is, and hath been, for more than twenty years past, ruinous and in exceeding great decay in the roofs, walls, pillars, pavements, pulpits, seats, and the steeple. The charge to the making good all which will amount to 3 or 400 £, by common estimation; and the whole revenues of the town are not worth above £ 100 per year. The ornaments and books are wanting. The people resort to Pakefield Church."
"Mr. Bacon, sen., Mr. Bacon, jun., and Mr. Richardson, who were rectors of Kirkley as well as Pakefield, from about the Restoration to a. d. 1748, read prayers and preached in Pakefield Church, both parts of the Lord's day, instead of officiating one part of the day at Pakefield, and the other at Kirkley, as they must have done if Kirkley Church had been fit for use: so that the parishioners had then little or no disadvantage by the decay of this church, but that of going a little further for divine offices; but when upon Mr. Richardson's decease, in 1748, Mr. North became rector of Pakefield, and as such only thought himself obliged to officiate but one part of the Lord's day; and Mr. Hall, the rector of Kirkley, thought himself excused from all publick duty, because the church could not be officiated in; the parishioners, both of Pakefield and Kirkley, soon found great inconveniences from the want of that divine service they used to have, and thereupon thought themselves obliged to endeavour to rebuild Kirkley Church. Mr. Fowler, merchant in Kirkley, encouraged them greatly, by offering them £ 20 towards it, tho' he was then in a bad state of health, and not likely to live long. Mr. Tanner, of Lowestoft, gave them further encouragement, by promising them not less than Mr. Fowler had offered, and all the assistance in his power. By his means, several contributions, and a faculty from the bishop for selling the bells towards it, were soon obtained; and Mr. Benjamin Ellis, then churchwarden, contributed handsomely; took great pains, and was at much trouble, both in soliciting contributions far and near; putting out the work and overlooking the workmen, who began about Lady Day, 1750: finished the walls, put on the new roof, and thatched it before winter. The next spring the seats and inside work was begun, and so far finished, at Michaelmas, 1751, that on October 6th, 1751, Mr. Tanner read prayers, and preached in the new church, to a very numerous congregation, and there hath been prayers and sermons in it every fortnight in the afternoon (except on Sacrament days) ever since. But not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name, be the praise, who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of thy good pleasure." (fn. 5)
It appears that Mr. Hall, whose unconscientious refusal to perform divine service, brought about the rebuilding of Kirkley church, had been long solicited so to do, by Mr. Tanner, who was at that time Vicar of Lowestoft, and commissary and official in the archdeaconry of Suffolk. This worthy man "failed not to use all the mild and persuasive arguments in his power, to prevail on the incumbent of Kirkley to make an allowance (to the minister of Pakefield for officiating in his stead), but to no purpose; so that finding him inflexible in his resolution he left him with this threat, 'Sir, if you will not officiate in Pakefield church, I will build you a church at Kirkley, and in that you shall officiate.'" (fn. 6)
I venture to print the following list of contributors to the rebuilding of Kirkley church, as it may prove interesting to many of their descendants who are yet resident in the neighbourhood.
An Account of the Contributors towards rebuilding Kirkley Church.
Disbursed on account of rebuilding Kirkley Church.
Which balance was paid by Mr. Tanner, and by him made an addition to his former gift.
There is also due to Mr. Ellis, churchwarden, about forty shillings expended by him in soliciting contributions, more than he had yet received.
July 2, 1756. Mr. Walford, of Woodbridge, brought 20s. to Mr. Tanner, which he said had been some time ago collected towards the rebuilding Kirkley Church, but by some accident retained from being sent before. The donors were—
|Mr. Carter, Rector of Tunstall||5s.|
|" Briggs, Rector of Alderton||5|
|" Clarke, Minister of Woodbridge||5|
|" Thomas Folkard||5|
Ten shillings of which were given to Mr. Ellis, towards what he had disbursed more than he had received, and the other ten shillings the said John Tanner kept towards what he had disbursed on account of this church, more than he had received.
On the 5th of December, 1749, when the workmen began to clear away the rubbish from the ruins of the old church, they discovered, at the distance of eighteen feet from the east wall, and six feet from the north, a stone with a brass label thus inscribed:
and on another label, found in the north aisle, a like legend for John Boodhurd, who died in August, 1486.
The font of the old church was broken by the falling in of the pile, and the one now in use was brought, as we have seen, from a ruinated church at Gillingham. It is octangular and plain. The present fabric contains no monumental record. There was formerly a rectory in this parish, of which no vestige remains. It was near Kirkley bridge, for the second piece of land, mentioned in the perambulation book, is an acre of marsh belonging to the Rector, lying next Kirkley bridge, and the fifth piece is that whereon the parsonage stood. (fn. 7)
The number of acres in the parish amounts to 514, of which 19 acres, and 3 perches, are glebes. The living is augmented with 12 acres of land lying in Sprowston, in Norfolk, and the amount of its commutation is £137. 10s., exclusive of £ 5 charged for the tithes.
The earliest resister bears the date of 1701. It appears by old parish papers that the Rector is entitled to a payment in lieu of the tithe of fish caught by the boats of this parish, called Christ's half dole.
Rectors of Kirkley.
Estimatio ejusdem vij marc.