The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.
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Ringsfield is a retired village, containing 1666 acres of land, and a population of 311 souls, according to the returns of the last census. The rectory and several farm-houses nestle around its humble church, which stands near the western boundaries of the parish, in a narrow valley, fertile, warm, and sheltered.
In Saxon times, a free-man of Edward the Confessor held Ringsfield. The manor was retained by the Conqueror, and returned among his estates in the Domesday Survey. Roger Bigot had also an estate here.
It seems to have passed at a subsequent period into private hands, and augmented the vast estates held in this neighbourhood by the family of Vaux. In 1263, Henry de Vallibus or Vaux obtained a charter of free-warren from the Crown in his manors of Ringsfield, Barsham, and Ilketshall. (fn. 1)
In the 51st of the same reign, Walter de Redisham held the like privileges in this village, though the manor does not seem to have been alienated by the former family; as Sir John de Vallibus was still lord in 1280. (fn. 2)
In the 8th of Edward II., the family of Roos, of Roos Hall, held the manor of Ringsfield. (fn. 3) In the 37th of Edward III., Maria, daughter of the late Earl of Suffolk, held, in dower, four knights' fees, granted by the King to William Ufford, and Joan his wife, in Ringsfield, Chadensfield (Shaddingfield), Thuryton, Brusyard, and Sweffling, in Suffolk, which John de Brusyard once held. (fn. 4) The manor appears to have descended from this time with that of Little Redisham, and is now held by John Garden, Esq., of Redisham Hall. It is considered little more than a reputed manor, as no courts are held, the copyholds having merged into the hands of the lord, or become emancipated. In 1561, Ringsfield possessed a comparative importance, as it then contained seven freeholders, while Redisham furnished but one. (fn. 5)
is a small and humble fabric, comprising a nave and chancel only, with a square
tower at the west end. The doorway in the nave is a plain semicircular portal,
without pillars or mouldings; but the other architectural features are of a later date,
and present a strange medley of styles, partaking of the Gothic, properly so called,
and exhibiting not a few specimens of the Guelphic or nondescript architecture of the
last century. Its interior contains a few poppy-heads of an ancient and bold character,
the gift of the Garneys family, as appears by their arms; but is principally filled with
rather old pews of oak, elaborately, but flatly carved. The ceiling of plaster is fantastically painted in imitation of the firmament, with clouds, stars, and circles. The
screens, and the wainscot of the chancel walls, are abundantly charged with quotations
from the Scriptures, and moral adages in Latin and Hebrew. These ornaments—if
ornaments they be—mark the taste of Robert Shelford, who was Bible Clerk of Peter
House in Cambridge, and instituted Rector here in 1599. A large gallery projects
into the nave from the west wall, and is hideously ugly. It bears on its front the
following lines, which appear to have been placed there almost in deprecation of a
criticism like the present:
Who is living under the sunne
Can shun the bighting of the tongue?
The better done, the more envied,
Yet of the best, the best are justified.
The tower, which contains two bells, was built about the middle of the 15th century; for Peter Garneys, of Beccles, by his will dated 20th of August, 1450, left a bequest to the reparation of the high altar at Ringsfield, and to the repairs of the church; and to the new steeple there, 13s. 4d. There is a handsome octangular font of stone.
Against the exterior face of the south wall of the chancel is a lofty inarched monument, placed to the memory of Nicholas Garneys, of Redisham Hall. On a tablet of brass, represented by the accompanying engraving, are pourtrayed the effigy of this gentleman, with that of Anne Clere, his wife, and those of his numerous family. The figures are represented in devotional attitudes, kneeling on cushions, and the principal personages habited in surcoats of their respective arms. The design and execution of this brass are in a style so much anterior to the year 1599, when Nicholas Garneys died, and so superior in execution to the other parts of the monument, that for above twenty years the writer entertained an opinion, that the executors of this wealthy esquire had appropriated the monument of some more ancient member of the family, and placed it here. Subsequent investigation has discovered it to be almost a fac-simile of a brass still remaining in Kenton church, in this county, commemorating one of the Garneys family; the armorial cognizances at the upper part superseding a popish device of the Trinity, and the family bearings of the lady being changed. Nicholas Garneys was High Sheriff for Suffolk in 1592, and died, as before observed, in 1599, though the date is omitted on the tomb, leaving behind him a landed estate, even then exceeding £1200 per annum.
In the chancel is an altar-tomb, surmounted by a mural slab, both of which record the virtues of Robert Shelford, Rector of this parish, who died in 1627, aged 64 years.
The other sepulchral monuments in this church are of a more modern date, and record—1st. John Bence, Esq., who died Feb. 20th, 1680. 2nd. John Garden, Esq., of Redisham Hall, who died the 28th of April, 1820, aged 65 years. 3rd. The Reverend Gunton Postle, M. A., late Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and nearly forty years Rector of this parish, who died June 26th, 1829, aged 72.
Garden bears or, a boar's head erased sab., langued gules. Postle bears arg., on a fess vert, 3 garbs or; and impales Woodley, sab., a chevron between 3 owls arg. Against the outer wall of the nave is a small monument erected to the memory of Philip Prime, who died in 1740, and bearing his arms; arg., a human leg couped above the knee sable.
The registers of this parish contain the records of little more than the last century, the older books having been destroyed by fire, according to some accounts; while others attribute their loss to the effects of a flood, which washed out the entries, and rotted the parchments. The last is, probably, the true cause of this loss, as the church is sometimes inundated to the depth of two feet, or more, by a brook which flows close by. At the time of the Domesday Survey the church of Ringsfield possessed fifteen acres of glebe, valued at 2s. 8d., which are now augmented to thirty-six acres and a half. The total rent-charge for the parish, including Little Redisham, was fixed under the Commutation Act at £480. 2s. 7d. The church, dedicated to All Saints, is valued in the King's books at £12, and pays £1. 4s. yearly tenths. The patronage of this preferment was very early given to the Convent of Butley, which retained it till its dissolution in the reign of Henry VIII., when it fell to the Crown. In the early part of the 17th century, John Copping, of Woodton, in Norfolk, presented, and it has ever since been in private hands.
Rectors of Ringsfield.
Estimatio eccliē xii marc: Synodalia xiid. Peter-pence, 10½d. (fn. 6)
Abraham Dawson, instituted Rector of this parish in 1755, which preferment he held with Sotterley, published at different times a new translation from the Hebrew, of several chapters of the book of Genesis, with notes, critical and explanatory. He died October the 4th, 1789.
Edmund Bohun, a miscellaneous writer of the 17th century, was a native of Ringsfield. A notice of his works, and a slight memoir of his very checkered life, will be given under Westhall, in the Hundred of Blything; a manor held by himself and his ancestors from an early period.
Ringsfield was visited by Will. Dowsing, who says in his journal, "The sun and moon, and Jesus in capital letters, and two crosses on the steeple. We gave order to take them down, and levell the steps in 14 days."