The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Leustann, the priest, held Barsham under Gurth, the brother of Harold; but at the time of the Norman survey, the manor and advowson were the property of Robert de Vallibus, or Vaux, who held them of Roger Bigot, as capital lord.
The manor is described as one leuca and a half in length, but only half a one in breadth. As a wide tract of meadows was at that period covered with water, and consequently not included in the survey, this mensuration accords with the present extent of the upland portion of the manor; taking the leuca at a mile and a half. It appears to have been a flourishing village; its value had doubled since the time of Edward the Confessor: it had a mill, a well-endowed church, and paid 30d. gelt, while Beccles was rated at only sixteen. (fn. 1)
The family of Vaux was long enfeoffed of this lordship, and held a large estate in the neighbourhood; for in 1235, Henry de Vallibus had free-warren in his manors of Barsham, Ringsfield, and Ilketshall. (fn. 2)
Soon after this period the lordship of Barsham passed to a family that assumed its surname from the village. In 1274, when Beccles was returned to the Crown as belonging to the Abbot of Bury, Radulphus, the son of Robert de Barsham, was one of the jury empanneled. (fn. 3) This family appears to have obtained some degree of eminence, for the arms of Sir William de Barsham were placed, among others, in the great east window of the chancel belonging to the conventual church of the Austin Friars in Norwich. About this period Oliver de Tintamet possessed a small estate in this parish, for which he rendered homage. (fn. 4)
In 1342, Laurence Mounk presented, but if he were lord, his tenure must have been brief; for in 1348, we find Sir Peter atte Tye, or Sir Peter at the Eye, or island, lord and patron. He married Dionesia, widow of Sir Edward Charles, of Kettleburgh. He does not appear to have resided at Barsham, though his widow, who survived him, presented to the church in 1373. She held this patronage with the manor for life, of which she was enfeoffed by her husband; except the meadows called the Park at Barsham, which he "bequeathed to Robert Charles, as it was ordained by feoffees. The manor afterwards to go to his sons to be born; his wife being then with child; and if there were no son, to go to his eldest daughter." This lady, by her will, dated in 1375, desires her body to be buried before the church door of the Holy Trinity in Barsham, and bequeaths to her son Edward Charles, 100s. per annum, out of her manor of Kessingland. To Sir Robert atte Tye, her eldest son, by her second marriage, who succeeded her in the manor of Barsham, she devises the lordship of Hoo in Monewden; in order to purchase the patronage of some church of the value of £20 per annum to appropriate to the cathedral church of Norwich, for the purpose of finding two secular priests to sing Mass for the souls of John de Hoo, her father, and Dionesia his wife; William their son, and all the faithful. She died in 1375, or the following year.
Sir Robert atte Tye, son of Sir Peter and this Lady Dionesia, made his will in the sixth of Richard II., 1382. He therein desires his executors to enfeoff Elizabeth his wife, with the lordship of Barsham, and all his lands in the Hundred of Wangford, and in Kessingland, together with the advowson of the latter parish, for life. This knight was the last of the Tyes who held the manor of Barsham, but his successors possessed the lordship of Kettleburgh Hall, in the Hundred of Loes, for several generations. He was buried in Barsham church, as appears from the will of Elizabeth his widow, proved in 1385, wherein she desires her body to be buried there by the side of her late husband.
In 1396, Robert Ashfield presented to the rectory of Barsham, from whom the manor and advowson passed to the family of Echingham. Thomas de Echingham was lord in 1424, and with his descendants this property continued till 1523, the fifteenth of Henry VIII., when John Blennerhasset, Esq., married Mary, the youngest daughter of Sir Edward Echingham, the last of that ancient and knightly race; and thus became possessed of this estate, as the following pedigree will show.
In the ninth of Henry VII., John Blennerhasset, Esq., held Bovelands of the King, one half lying in Norfolk, and the other half in the county of Suffolk; and in the twenty-fifth of Henry VIII., George, son and heir of Thomas Blennerhasset, held the same lands. (fn. 5) Anno twenty-third of Elizabeth, Thomas Blennerhasset held the manor of Barsham.
On the 17th of July, 1613, Sir John Suckling, Knight, third son of Robert Suckling, of Woodton, Esq., purchased the manor and advowson of Barsham. Sir John, at that time, resided at Roos Hall; and it appears from family papers that the newly acquired property was valued at £240 per annum. Sir John says, in a letter to his brother, Charles Suckling, of Woodton, dated July 23rd, 1613, "I ame nowe gone thorough for Barshame, and have had a fine and recoverie acknowledged to my use, before my Lord Hubbard, and tomorrowe the indentures and all other assurances are to be sealed. For the lettinge of it, I am resolute not to lett the house and demeanes thereof under £240, and I hope that by your care and diligence in providinge me a good tenant, I may have £250 p. ann. I ame confident that ere longe landes will beare a better and a higher prise; and therefore my purpose is, not to grant any lease above seaven yeares: beside I meane to keepe all the royalties and the fishinge in myne own handes; and upon these tearmes if you can find me out an honest man that will hire it, I will thinke myself behouldeinge unto you. It is a thinge that lyes more convenient forr me, by reason of the vicinitye of Rosehall, then it doth for you, or any els, but had I broken of for it, I had rather you had it than any els. It is nowe myne, and I trust that the name of the Sucklings shall inheritt and possess it, when I am dead and rotten."
It appears by "a p'ticulir of the Manor of Barsham Hall," drawn out at the time of this transfer, that while the whole estate produced but £240 per annum, "the fishing, swannes and swanne game, fowling and other royalties," were valued at £10 a year. How highly, therefore, these privileges were estimated—which every man now seems to look upon as his own right—will be further apparent by contrasting this valuation with the income of the rectory of the parish at the same period, which, in the p'ticulir referred to, is set at £120 per annum.
Sir John Suckling was Secretary of State, Comptroller of the Household, and Privy Counsellor to King James I. and his unfortunate successor, and Member of Parliament for Dunwich. He was also an aspirant to still higher preferment, for in the 'Sidney State Papers' is a letter written by Lord Leicester to his son, in September, 1621, wherein he says, "It is not known who shall be Chancellor of the Exchequer, now my Lord Brooke doth give it over: it is between Sir Richard Weston and Sir John Suckling." The appointment was obtained by Sir Richard Weston. He married Martha Cranfield, sister to Lionel, Earl of Middlesex, by whom he had Sir John Suckling, the poet, Lionel Suckling, and four daughters. (fn. 6) Sir John charged the manor of Barsham Hall with £18 per annum for ever, to be expended in the reparation of the monument of himself and his first wife, placed in St. Andrew's church at Norwich, and for annual sermons to be preached in that city.
On his decease, in 1627, this property descended to his eldest son, Sir John Suckling, the poet, whose gay and easy ballads are familiar to every lover of poetry, and have outlived the memory of his political abilities. Sir John died at Paris in 1641, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, having fled the kingdom to escape the penalties of a charge of high treason preferred against him by the popular party; and which the power of the Crown was too feeble to avert. His works have passed through seven editions, the last of which was printed in 1836. Though Suckling is best known in the annals of literature as a poet, his prose writings are calculated to raise a yet higher opinion of his talents. His 'Letters to several Eminent Persons' abound in wit and spirit; though marred, it must be allowed, by a dash of gallantry, more free than modern refinement will admit:—the fault of the time in which he lived, not of the individual. His 'Account of Religion by Reason,' and his 'Letter to Mr. Jermyn,' afterwards Earl of St. Alban's, on the dispute between the Court and the nation, are unrivalled by the compositions of that age, for soundness of argument, depth of observation, and purity of expression. These afford a presumption that he was no stranger to those reflections which elevate the human character; and that if his life had been prolonged, it would have been devoted to pursuits most useful to the State, and honourable to himself.
Sir John sold this property to his uncle, Charles Suckling, of Woodton, probably for the purpose of raising his regiment of horse for the King's service; for in 1640, the year succeeding the battle of Dunse, Charles Suckling appears as lord, with whose descendants the manor and advowson remain.
The family of Suckling claims a Saxon origin. Suckling, or, as the name was anciently written, Socling, signifies in the Saxon language, a person holding his estate by socage, or the tenure of the plough.
In 1274, Robert Suckling is returned in the Hundred Rolls as holding a small estate; and Walter Suckling, of Sapiston, in Suffolk, is also mentioned, from whom Richard de Ayswell, and John de Boxford, incumbent of that parish, had unjustly extorted seven shillings: a considerable sum at that period. (fn. 7) There are other incidental notices of this family in the public records, but no regular or authentic chain of descent can be deduced from them before the year 1348, when Thomas Esthawe, the Socling, was admitted to certain copyholds held of the manors of Langhall and Woodton, in Norfolk.
The first crest of this family was a Stag courant azure, attired and unguled, or. The colour of the animal was afterwards changed to gules; and it is so borne on several of the family monuments; but Queen Elizabeth, when on her 'Progresses' through Norfolk, granted unto Robert Suckling, and his heirs, for a crest, a Stag courant, or: and taking into consideration the good and loyal services of the said Robert Suckling, as well then displayed, as at all times heretofore, gives him, as an augmentation to his said crest, a sprig of Honey-suckle proper, to be borne in the Stag's mouth.
There was a church in Barsham, at the time of the Domesday Survey, to which belonged twenty acres of glebe, valued at 3s. The patronage was appended to the manor at the above period, and has never been disunited.
The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and comprises a nave and chancel of the same width: the latter is covered with red tiles, but the former, which is somewhat loftier than the chancel, is thatched with reeds, and there is a south porch covered with lead. A small north aisle or chapel was taken down about sixty years since, the removal of which has materially injured the stability of the fabric. At the west end of the nave stands a round tower, in which hangs a small solitary bell, though there were three at no very distant period.
The edifice is probably raised upon the site of that mentioned in the Domesday Book, but has no claims to Norman antiquity. The oldest feature discernible in it is a lancet window in the south wall of the chancel, near its junction with the nave, at the lower part of which is a lychnoscope, now plastered over, though the original and massive hinges are visible. The other windows, except that at the east end, are in the style which marks the reign of Edward II., and contain each a single shaft, with here and there a fragment of ancient painted glass. A screen of oak divides the body of the church from the chancel, which must have been erected about the time of James I., if we may judge of its age by the fashion of its design—a bold step at a period so shortly subsequent to the Reformation, and one which must have subjected the Rector to the charge of abetting popery. This incumbent was Joseph Fleming, who held the rectory from 1617 to 1636, and who, as appears by his arms, carved on a corbel, raised the present substantial but inelegant roof of the chancel in 1633. To him, also, I attribute the construction of the eastern window—the most remarkable feature in the edifice. This is formed by stone ribs or mullions, which cross each other diagonally; producing a series of lozenge-shaped lights. On the exterior face of the wall, the diagonal ribs are extended throughout; the interstices, beyond the limits of the glass, being filled with squared flints. The effect is very singular, and in design has, most probably, no parallel. The font, which is coeval with the church, stands in an open space at the west end of the nave.
On the floor of the chancel lies the brass effigy of a warrior, in the military costume of the latter part of the fourteenth century. There are no armorial bearings attached to this monument, and the circumscription is lost, but it must, without doubt, have been placed to the memory of Sir Robert Atte Tye, who was buried here, soon after the year 1380; and whose widow, by will, proved in 1385, desires to be buried in Barsham church, by the side of her late husband. The costume strictly agrees with this appropriation. The present parish clerk, a very aged man, relates a tradition connected with this monument. He says, when this warrior died, four dozens of wine were drank, according to his last directions, over his grave, before the coffin was covered with earth. Strange as such a relation may sound to our ears, it is, in all probability, true. For in the will of James Cooke, of Sporle, in Norfolk, made in 1506, it is ordered, "I will that myn executors, as sone as it may come to ther knouleg that I am dede, that they make a drynkyng for my soul to the value of vis, viiid, in the church of Sporle." The drynkyng was accordingly held in the middle aisle.
An altar-tomb of richly moulded brick stands against the north wall of the chancel. It bears no inscription, but most likely covers the remains of Thomas Blennerhasset, Esq., who was buried in May, 1599.
There are likewise several floor-stones commemorative of former Rectors, and one which especially attracts attention by the variously coloured marbles of which it is composed. It is placed to the memory of the Rev. Thomas Missenden, who died in 1774, after an incumbency of thirty years.
The Lady Dionesia Atte Tye was buried in the church porch, according to the directions given in her will, in 1375, where a very ancient gravestone, robbed of its brass effigy and armorial bearings, covers her remains.
The register books of Barsham commence in 1558, and down to 1615 were kept in English, and are badly written. After this period another hand occurs, by which the entries are very neatly made, and in Latin. There are a few breaks in the succeeding books, which seem to have been much neglected. In "1559, Thomas, son of Edwarde Tye, was baptized, on the 22nd of Marche." In all probability this was a descendant of the ancient race, formerly Lords of Barsham.
"Anno D'ni 1584. The olde ladie Itchingham was buried the 30th of Julie." The age of this lady is not recorded, but it must have been very advanced, as her youngest daughter, Mary, married John Blennerhasset, Esq., in 1523; and supposing her to have been only forty years old when her youngest daughter was married, she must even so have reached her hundred and first year: but the probability is she was ten or fifteen years older. She was, therefore, with justice called the "olde ladie" Echingham. A good proof this of the salubrity of Barsham Hall, notwithstanding the lowness of its site.
The tithes of the parish have been commuted for £463, and the glebes set at the same time at £160 per annum. These amount to rather more than eighty acres, the land tax on which is redeemed. The churchwarden holds a piece of land producing about 30s. per annum, given for the benefit of the poor, by a benefactor whose name is not recorded.
Rectors of Barsham.
About thirty years since an ancient gold ring was discovered by a woman weeding on Barsham Hall farm, on which is engraved the standard-bearer of the tenth legion leaping into the sea, and exciting the Roman soldiers to land and attack the Britons. It weighs two pennyweights, two grains and a half, and is in the possession of the writer.
The Rectory House is an old but commodious mansion, erected about the time of James II., and stands near the church, amidst its own grounds, which contain many re markably fine evergreens and forest trees, of considerable magnitude, which are very harmoniously grouped.
Here, in an old-fashioned and low, but cheerful apartment, was born, on the 27th of May, 1725, Catharine Suckling, the mother of Nelson; and in the same chamber Maurice Suckling, her brother, first saw the light. He was the early patron and professional tutor of the great Admiral, his nephew; and when in command of the Dreadnought of 60 guns, attended by the Augusta of the same class, and the Edinburgh, 64, fought an action off Cape François, in 1757, paralleled only by his nephew's own achievements. With these three ships, carrying only 184 guns, and 1232 seamen, he defeated a French squadron bearing 366 guns of much heavier metal, and worked by 3440 men. This action was fought on the 21st of October; and it is not a little singular that the great victory of Trafalgar was gained on the same day of the month; and to this coincidence Nelson alluded at the commencement of that memorable engagement. (fn. 8) Capt. Suckling was returned to Parliament for Portsmouth, and made Comptroller of the Navy, and one of the elder Brethren of the Trinity House, soon after this brilliant exploit. He married Mary Walpole, niece of the first Earl of Orford, but died without issue, and was buried at Barsham, July 27, 1778, in the chancel, near his father.
Laurence Echard, author of a 'General Ecclesiastical History,' which Dean Prideaux recommends as the best of its kind in the English tongue, was born at Barsham, in 1671. His biographers state that his father was Minister of Barsham, which is incorrect. Echard was Prebendary of Lincoln, which he held with Rendlesham, and other preferment in Suffolk. His family were settled in this village for several generations, as many tombstones in the church-yard record. Echard bears Ermine, on a bend Sab: three chessrooks arg.
Barsham Hall, now converted into a farm-house, was formerly a spacious mansion containing many lofty and noble apartments. It was built by the Echinghams, but retains few of its original features, having been principally pulled down by the grandfather of the writer, who, however, well remembers its original state. From a ground plan, made before its demolition, it appears that the great hall was 44 ft. in length, by 28 in width, and rose to the entire height of the house. Through this was a staircase lighted by windows of stained glass. The court-room was 28 ft. by 18, and the chamber above 24 by 18. Adjoining the hall was a withdrawing-room 32 ft. by 28: all these apartments were 16 feet high. The house enclosed a quadrangle, whose exterior walls were 142 feet each way, and near the entrance, which was over the east side of the moat, stood a lofty tower, ascended by a spiral staircase. Some of the apartments, which are now converted to cow-houses and stables, retain wide and antique fire-places, and over a door, leading into one of them, are the arms of Blennerhasset, carved in stone, with the date of 1563. Upon the transfer of the manor to Sir John Suckling, this house was valued at £4000, which appears a most enormous sum for that period.
The meadows around the hall, which formed a park as early as the fourteenth century, are now divided into small enclosures, but stags' horns are occasionally found, when new ditches and drains are dug.
The right of free-fishery and swannery in the river Waveney, belonging to this manor, extends from a certain part of the river, now known as Moll's locks, to Roos Hall fleet, and the Swanmark, as preserved on an old roll, bearing date 1498, and now in the writer's possession, is a diagonal cross on the left beak of the bird, with a blot on the upper part of the lower angle.
The cellarer of Norwich Priory had three shillings rent; and the Prioress of Bungay an estate of twelve acres of meadow, in Barsham. The parish contains 1871 acres of land, with a population, according to the last census, of 250 souls.
The manor of Roos Hall with Ashmans extends over 328 acres of land in this parish. An elegant mansion called Ashmans, from its locality, was erected on this domain in the beginning of the present century, by the late Robert Rede, Esq. It stands on a rising ground, just within the limits of the parish, and commands pleasing views of Beccles, with its meandering river, and the adjacent country. Mr. Rede survived the completion of this residence but a short time, dying on the 13th of August, 1822, in his 59th year. He is buried, with his widow, who was the fifth daughter of Sir Charles Anderson, Bart., under an altar-tomb in Barsham church-yard.