The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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This is a district of heavy but fertile land, not more than four or five miles south-west of Beccles; but being approached by cross roads only, and containing no object of peculiar interest, is little known. It appears, to a passing stranger, a lost and half-deserted village, for which its early appropriation to Butley Priory, and its consequent incapacity to maintain a resident pastor, will, in great measure, account.
The appropriation of the revenues of the secular clergy by the religious houses, was, to say the least of it, an impolitic and unjustifiable measure; but the subsequent occupation of ecclesiastical property by laymen, is a blot on the Reformation, and an augmentation of the robbery at first committed by monastic rapacity.
Great Redisham, which is also called, in ancient writings, Upredesham, was held at the period of the Norman Survey by Robert de Curcun, under Roger Bigot, the capital lord; and afterwards belonged to Hugo de Berry. (fn. 1) It then became the lordship of a family which assumed its surname from the village; for in the fifty-first of Henry III., Walter Redisham had free-warren in Redisham, Upredesham, Stanfield, Weston, and Ringsfield. (fn. 2)
In the ninth of Edward I., Roesia de Redisham was lady of the manor, which soon after passed to Sir John de Norwich, who, in the thirty-first of Edward III., obtained a charter of free-warren for all his demesne lands in this town. He bequeathed it, with his other estates, to John his grandson, who left it to his next heir, Katharine de Brews, who released to John Plaice, Sir Robert Howard, Knt., and others, all her right in this manor, &c., (fn. 3) which was settled on the college in Mettingham Castle, where it remained till the dissolution of that religious establishment.
By an inquisitio post mortem, taken at Ipswich, on the 6th of April, thirty-fourth of Henry VIII., William Rede, citizen and mercer of London, was found to die on the 10th of February in that year, seized of the manor of Redisham, held of the King, as of his Hundred of Wangford, and valued at £12. 13s. 4d. (fn. 4)
By a like inquisition, taken at Bury, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it appears that Robert Bumpstede held three acres of pasture in Great Redisham, late parcel of the lands of Mettingham College, now dissolved, of the value of three shillings; and of the lady of the manor, in capite, by service of a tenth part of a knight's fee, a messuage, four cottages, thirty acres of land, thirty of pasture, twenty of meadow, and five acres of wood, in Redisham Magna, Redisham Parva, Ringsfield, &c.
of Great Redisham was appropriated by the Convent of Butley, about the middle of the thirteenth century, by the permission of Walter Suffield, Bishop of Norwich. (fn. 5) The impropriation was granted in the twentieth of Elizabeth, to John Hercy, and John Hayward. The tenure of the rectory is of the King, in capite, at the yearly rent of £1. 0s. 4d., and the impropriators are bound to provide for serving the church. There is a mortuary here, by custom, of 6s. 8d., to be paid upon the decease of any person dying, having an estate worth . . . . . . . (fn. 6) The church-yard seems to belong to the impropriator; for in 1678, Thomas Andrews held by agreement for two years, from Michaelmas of the above date, the parsonage-house, the church-yard, and two glebe "pytles" adjoining the said house, and other lands hereafter mentioned, "being parcell of the manor of Redisham aforesaid." These two glebe pightles, with the church-yard adjoining, contain about five acres. (fn. 7)
The church is dedicated to St. Peter, and is now a perpetual curacy of the returned yearly value of £50. It pays 9d. synodals, and 4d. Peter-pence, and is in the gift of the Earl of Gosford, who is the impropriator.
It is a small edifice, comprising simply a nave and chancel. On visiting this church in April, 1842, the writer found it in a most deplorable condition: the walls cracked, and swerving from the perpendicular; the tower fallen; the old bell, with the date of 1621, split in two; the roof of the nave defective, and the interior lined with a mass of dank green mould. The feeling of damp and unwholesomeness consequent on this neglect is past description; and yet the zeal and taste of olden times shone out through all this desolation in the carved oak benches, the handsome font of stone, and the elaborate portals of the nave. It is only justice, however, to add, that the fabric has since been made proof against the elements; the walls secured; a new roof raised, and covered with slate; and a small bell-turret placed on the gable of the nave.
The interior fittings of the church remain in sad condition; but it is consolatory that so much has been done in these days of architectural apathy, when the spirit of Nehemiah's appeal appears unheeded,—"Why should not my countenance be sad, when the place of my fathers' sepulchres lieth waste?"
The chancel, in better repair than the nave, is lighted by an elegant east window, having a single shaft, with tracery in the style fashionable in our first Edward's reign; and also by two lancet windows, simply cusped.
The nave, with its circular doorways, is of a date considerably anterior, and that on the south side affords a good example of the rude Norman architecture so prevalent in the Suffolk village churches. The archivolt mouldings of the chancel arch are raised about a yard above their capitals, but the arch itself has never been completed.
The font is octangular, with carvings of rosettes and shields in alternate compartments, and stands at the west end, near some good old oak benches, two of which, nearest the font, have backs freely carved with open quatrefoils. The elbow rest of another, now enclosed by a paltry deal pew, is finished with a spirited figure of a dog drinking from a tub, his head and neck being completely immersed. There are no armorial designs or monumental inscriptions in the church.
The register books, preserved in the parish chest, commence in 1713, though some are in private hands, beginning in 1540. By what means they have been withdrawn, and at what period, is unknown. They contain, among many others, the following entries.
Will. Dowsing thus records his visit to Great Redisham church. "April the 5th. A crucifix and three other superstitious pictures, and gave order for Mr. Barenby, the parson, to levell the steps in the chancel. He preach but once a day."
Incumbents of Great Redisham.
The ancient family of De Redisham appears to have been of knightly degree, and bore argent, six fleurs-de-lis gules, 3. 2. 1. Their name and property became finally vested in the line of the Heveninghams, one of whom married Elizabeth, the sole heiress of the Redishams; but in what reign this occurred I have not yet ascertained.