At the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, Suffolk formed part of a district inhabited
by the Iceni. In the subsequent division of the island, it constituted a portion of the
Roman province of Flavia Cæsariensis, and under the Saxons formed the southern half
of the kingdom of East Anglia. This petty state comprised the present counties of Norfolk
and Suffolk, and a portion of Cambridgeshire. It was erected into an independent kingdom
soon after the year 570, by Uffa; from whom its inhabitants were called Uffingas, or
East Anglia was divided into two great, but rather unequal portions, by the æstuaries
of the Little Ouse and the Waveney; then very considerable streams, which probably
united their waters, and completely insulated the northern half. Hence the inhabitants
of these divisions were designated the North-folk and the South-folk, in reference to their
relative positions, as living north or south of these æstuaries.
Upon the final division of England into Tythings, Hundreds, and Shires, the territory
of the latter people became Suffolk, nearly as now constituted.
It is a maritime county on the eastern side of England, and is bounded on the north
by Norfolk, from which it is separated by the streams of the Little Ouse and the
Waveney. The spring-heads of these rivers, which Spelman calls the "disagreeing brethren,"
are not more than three yards asunder, and in times of great rains unite their waters. On
the east it is bounded by the German Ocean; on the south by the Stour, which divides
it from Essex, and on the west by Cambridgeshire. It is included between 51° 55' and
52° 38' north latitude, and 22' and 1° 46' east longitude. Its greatest length is sixty-eight
miles, measuring from Gorleston at the north-east, to the vicinity of Haverhill in the
south-west; and from its north-west angle to Landguard Fort it extends about fifty-two
miles. The area of the county is estimated at 1515 square miles. Arthur Young computes
the superficial contents at 800,000 acres, but the aggregate of the parochial surveys gives
918,760 acres. Its shape may be compared, not inaptly, to that of an ancient galley,
of which the part about Gorleston represents the prow, and the crescent at Brandon, the
poop. The projection at Newmarket, and the angle about Haverhill, form the rudder.
The sea-coast, which for some distance inland is for the most part sandy, presents a
nearly regular convex outline to the ocean; of which Orford-ness and Lowestoft are the
most prominent points. The latter is the most eastern headland in Great Britain. In
consequence of this regular outline the bays are shallow. The most considerable of these
are Hollesley and Southwold, or Sole Bay. The latter is an open roadstead, but the former
affords tolerable anchorage for trading vessels, being protected from the south-east gales
by a long bank of sand, called the Whiting. There is better riding for shipping in the
small bays to the north and south of Lowestoft-ness, as these roads are defended from
the violence of the sea by sand-banks, which dry at half ebb: the riding in the latter is
so remarkably easy during gales from the north to the west, as to procure for it from
seamen the name of Abraham's Bosom. It formed in ancient days the bay-like entrance
to Lake Lothing.
If the tradition be true, that the tailors of Dunwich could formerly sit in their shops
and see the shipping at anchor in Yarmouth Roads, the coast-line of Suffolk, from Covehithe-ness on the north, to Thorpe, or perhaps to Orford-ness on the south, must have
presented a curve, the very reverse of its present concave form; for to have obtained a
view of vessels anchored there, Dunwich must have been at least six miles to the eastward
of its present site.
Though there is not an eminence in the whole county deserving the name of a hill,
its surface may be described as gently undulating, and pleasingly diversified. If a small
portion, called the Mildenhall Fens, and the rich meadows near its north-east border,
be excepted, it may be considered as a succession of swells and depressions; almost
every little valley possessing its rill or 'beck' hastening to unite its waters with some
more important stream. The description of Reyce, who wrote his 'Breviary' of Suffolk
in 1618, and which remains in manuscript in the British Museum, is naive and correct.
"This country," says he, "delighting in a continuall evenes and plainnes, is void of any
great hills, high mountains, or steep rockes, notwithstanding the which it is not alwayes
so low or flat, but that it is severed and divided with little hills easy for ascent, and
pleasaunt ryvers watering the low valleys, with a most beautifull prospect, which ministreth
unto the inhabitants a full choyce of healthful and pleasant situations for their seemly
The rich effect produced throughout the greatest part of the county by hedge-row
timber, and the high state of its farming, which approaches to the neatness of horticulture,
are redeeming features in the landscape. There are some spots in the angle formed by
the Stour and the Orwell, which, if not deserving to be classed as romantic scenery, possess
a happy combination of wood and water, with hill and dale and verdant lawns, not
A ridge of high table land, of a strong but fertile quality, commences at no great distance
from Beccles, and crosses the county in an oblique direction by Halesworth, Stradbrooke,
and Debenham, and proceeds to the south-west angle of the district. The tributaries of
the Little Ouse and the Waveney rise from the north side of this line, while the streams
which spring from its southern slope find their way to the Stour and other rivers, which fall
into the ocean on the eastern coast.
The climate of Suffolk is healthy, though the winters are cold, and the winds of spring
sharp and piercing. But these are evils balanced by the absence of that humidity which
prevails in the milder counties of the west. The average mortality of the county does
not exceed one in fifty-four.
There is not, perhaps, a county in the kingdom which contains a greater diversity of
soil, or more clearly discriminated. A strong loam, on a clay-marl bottom, predominates
throughout the greatest part of the county, extending from the south-western extremity
of Wratting Park to North Cove, near Beccles. Its northern boundary stretches from
Dalham by Barrow, Little Saxham, near Bury, Rougham, Packenham, Ixworth, Honington,
Knottishall, and then in a line near the river which parts Norfolk and Suffolk, to Beccles
and North Cove; but every where leaving a slope and vale of rich friable loam adjoining
the river, of various breadths. It then turns southward by Wrentham, Wangford, Blithford,
Holton, Bramfield, Yoxford, Saxmundham, Campsey Ash, Woodbridge, Culpho, Bramford,
and Hadleigh; and, following the high lands on the west side of the Bret to the Stour,
is bounded by the latter river, with every where a very rich tract of slope and vale from
thence to its source.
Such is the strong-land district of Suffolk, taken in the mass; but it is not to be
supposed that it takes in so large an extent without any variation: a rule, to which are
known few exceptions, is, that wherever there are rivers in it, the slopes hanging to the
vales through which they run, and the bottoms themselves, are of a superior quality, in
general composed of rich friable loams; and this holds even with many very inconsiderable
streams, which fall into the larger rivers. The chief part of this district would, in common
conversation, be called clay, but improperly. Many of these strong loams have been
analysed, and found abounding with more sand than their texture would seem to imply;
so that were they situated upon a gravel, sand, or chalk, they would be called sandy loams;
but being on a retentive clay-marl bottom, are properly, from their wetness, to be termed
strong, or clayey loam. The district of rich loam being much less clearly discriminated,
will leave more doubts on the minds of persons acquainted with it. From the river Deben,
crossing the Orwell, in a line some miles broad, to the north of the river Stour, to
Stratford and Higham, there is a vein of friable putrid vegetable mould, more inclined
to sand than clay, which is of extraordinary fertility: the best is at Walton, Trimley, and
Felixstow, where, for depth and richness, much of it can scarcely be exceeded by any soils
to be found in other parts of the county, and would rank high amongst the best in
England. As the position recedes northward to the line from Ipswich to Hadleigh,
it varies a good deal; in many places it approaches to sand, and in some is much
stronger, as about Wenham and Raydon: the general complexion, however, of the whole
of Samford Hundred is that of good loam. (fn. 1) The greater part of the county is covered by
diluvial beds. The exceptions are the crag and London clay district of the south-east,
and the chalk district of the north-west. The chalk does not rise into high hills; the
formation appears to extend under the diluvial beds, which occupy the centre of the
county. The crag formation consists of thin layers of quartzose sand and comminuted
shells, resting sometimes on chalk, sometimes on the London clay. Crag is a local name
for gravel. Close examination has led to the subdivision of this deposit into the red
and coralline crag: when the red and coralline crag are found together, the former is
always uppermost, and distinguished from the coralline by the deep red ferruginous or
ochreous colour of its sands and fossils. Its strata are also remarkable for the oblique
or diagonal position of the subordinate layers; and these often consist of small flat pieces
of shell, which lie parallel to the planes of the smaller strata, showing clearly that they were
so deposited; and that this structure has not been due to any subsequent re-arrangement
of the mass after deposition.
The fossil testacea found in the crag, amounting to upwards of four hundred species,
are, some of them, common to both divisions; others are peculiar to one division, and
characteristic of it. These fossils bear a general analogy to testaceous animals now existing
in the Northern Seas, between latitudes 50° and 60°, but whether any are identical with
those now found in the adjacent German Ocean is matter of dispute. Lyell refers the
crag formations to the older Pliocene period. The thickness of the crag is not known;
it has been penetrated fifty feet, near Orford, without reaching the bottom.
That part of the district which lies between the Orwell and the Stour is, for the most part,
occupied by the London clay alone. (fn. 2)
The navigable rivers of Suffolk are the Stour, the Orwell, the Alde, the Blythe, which
now joins the sea at Southwold, though its ancient passage was by Dunwich, the Waveney,
the Lark, and the Little Ouse. The two latter reach the sea at Lynn, but all the former
fall into the German Ocean on the east coast of the county.
The Stour, which is the most considerable river, rises from three sources; the first of
which is near Kedington in Suffolk; the second rises in Cambridgeshire, and the third in
Essex. These rills unite about seven or eight miles from their respective springs, whence
the river throughout its entire passage divides the counties of Suffolk and Essex. Pursuing
a winding course, it passes the towns of Clare, Sudbury, and Nayland; below which last
place it receives the waters of a stream from Boxford, and a few miles lower those of the
Bret, a considerable tributary; and, flowing onwards through the charming valley of Dedham,
it reaches Manningtree and Mistley, where it suddenly expands into a noble æstuary, which
at high water is from a mile and a half to nearly two miles wide. Its course is then about
twelve miles in a direct line to Harwich, where it mingles with the German Ocean. Its
entire course is upwards of fifty miles, and it is navigable by sea-borne vessels to Manningtree,
and thence, by the aid of locks, by barges to Sudbury.
The Gipping, which is the name of the upper course of the Orwell, is formed by the
union of several streams, which, becoming confluent near Stowmarket, flow in a southeastern direction by Needham to Ipswich. It here meets the tide, and, like its sister Stour,
expands at once into an æstuary capable of floating sea-borne vessels of considerable burthen
to the ocean. From Ipswich, where it assumes the name of the Orwell, its course is about
ten miles, when, uniting with the Stour, their combined waters form the capacious and
secure harbour of Harwich. This river was rendered navigable from Ipswich to Stowmarket
in 1793, at an expense of a little more than £26,000. The distance somewhat exceeds
sixteen miles. Many excellent mansions and noble parks adorn the Orwell, the banks of
which are bold, and the scenery altogether delightful.
The Alde rises at Brundish: it winds through a rich agricultural district by Dennington
and Rendham to Stratford St. Andrew and Farnham, where it is crossed by the high road
from Ipswich to Lowestoft. At Snape bridge, after having received Langford brook, and
a smaller tributary from Saxmundham, it meets the tidal waters, and swells into a wide
river: it then proceeds to Aldborough, and having reached within two hundred yards
of the sea, in a direction due east, it at once abandons its purpose of forming a junction
there, and bending suddenly to the south, runs parallel to the shore for about nine miles,
being separated from the ocean merely by a narrow peninsula of pebbles. In its passage
from Aldborough to its mouth in Hollesley Bay it passes the town and stately castle of
Orford, majestic in decay, and receives the tributary waters of the Butley, which wash the
site of the ruined Abbey of that name.
A plan was submitted to Government, in the beginning of the present century, to connect
the Alde with Hollesley Bay by a cutting near Orford-ness. The river was proved by
soundings to be capable of floating seventy-four-gun ships at the lowest tides, and the
utility of the scheme strongly insisted on, as there is no harbour for many leagues along
the coast, of sufficient depth to receive large ships of war. It was abandoned, however,
from an anticipation, probably, of the impossibility of keeping the entrance free from a
The Deben has its source near the little town of Debenham, to which place, tradition
asserts, it was navigable in Saxon times. At Brandeston it receives an augmentation to
its stream, whence it flows to Wickham Market. It then reaches Woodbridge by a
south-eastern course, and there widens into a channel from a quarter to half a mile in width.
Its course thence is direct to the sea, which it reaches in about ten miles, being navigable in
this part of its channel for vessels of considerable tonnage.
The Blythe is navigable by small craft from Southwold to Halesworth. It rises at
Laxfield, and, passing the Danish village of Ubbeston, intersects Heveningham Park, and
flows by Walpole to Halesworth. Its course is not more than twenty miles.
The Little Ouse rises at Lopham. It then flows westward for about fourteen miles
to Barnham, where it suddenly turns to the north in its course to Thetford. It hence
becomes navigable, and, passing onwards through a bald and barren country to Brandon,
continues the boundary line between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk to Sedge Fen,
where it is lost in the system of the Greater Ouse.
The Lark rises about five miles south-east of Bury St. Edmund's. It passes that
charming town in its way to Fornham, where it becomes navigable by barges; and, running
into Cambridgeshire, is mingled with the ampler waters of the Great Ouse. Its entire course
does not exceed eighteen miles.
The Waveney rises in a meadow in the parish of Lopham, and, pursuing a tortuous course
to the east, flows by Diss, Scole, Harleston, and Bungay. Here, taking a remarkable sweep
to the north, it returns in the shape of a horse-shoe; almost meeting the spot from which
it diverged on reaching the town. From Bungay it becomes navigable to Yarmouth, a
distance of about forty miles. From Beccles bridge it transports sea-borne vessels of a
small class to the ocean by Oulton Dike and Lake Lothing, through an artificial cut near
Lowestoft; the line of which was its ancient and principal mouth. At present the tides
of the Waveney turn northward from Oulton Dike, and proceeding in a winding course,
whose direction is first north-west, and then north-east, they wash the high banks over
which frown the walls of Garianonum, and there become lost in the Yare, about four
miles before it reaches Yarmouth bridge. Fritton Decoy, a beautiful lake about two miles
long, whose lovely scenery deserves a more extended fame, discharges its superfluous waters
into the Waveney just below St. Olave's bridge. A small feeder of the Waveney in its
upper course rises near Mendlesham, and, passing the borough town of Eye, falls into its
channel at Hoxne. This tributary is inconsiderable in extent and volume, but demands
notice, as anchors and traces of ancient navigation have been discovered in its bed: a
circumstance which seems to confirm the tradition that the valleys of the Waveney and
the Little Ouse were once navigable throughout their entire course from Gorleston to Lynn.
Abbo Floriacensis, a Benedictine monk of the tenth century, describes the town of Eye
as then situated in the midst of a marsh; and adds that the rivulet thence to the Waveney
had formerly been navigable. Swindon, in his History of Yarmouth, relates, that so late as the
year 1549, during the time of Kett's rebellion in Norfolk, a small pinnace was prepared to
convey twenty men up the Waveney, as far as Weybread, which, following the curves of
the river, is twelve or fourteen miles higher than the limit of the present artificial navigation,
and within four of the point where it receives the tributary stream from Eye.
The meadows through which the Waveney meanders are amongst the most fertile in
the kingdom. All these rivers abound in fish. In the Little Ouse are caught pike, chub,
and eels, all of large size. The grey mullet is taken in the Alde in the greatest perfection.
The Waveney produces eels of a delicate flavour, with pike, perch, and roach, in abundance.
Smelts are taken in the season, and occasionally a salmon strays up its waters. In the
year 1753 a sturgeon was captured on the flats above Beccles bridge, which weighed
eleven stone two pounds, and measured seven feet eight inches in length. Another fish
of this class got entangled in the nets of a fisherman, now living, not far below the same
spot, but effected his escape before his astonished captor could secure him in his boat.
The perch of the Waveney are unrivalled for the brilliancy of their colours, and occasionally
attain a considerable weight. Six of these fish were caught near Worlingham Staithe,
four miles below Beccles, by Henry Francis, Esq., of that town, on the 9th of August, 1844,
which averaged three pounds each. One measured eighteen inches in length, five and a half
in depth, and weighed three pounds and a half. It was what sportsmen term an empty fish,
but had it been taken in full season, it would have weighed nearly five pounds. The eels
are occasionally taken very large: the writer has caught them exceeding six pounds in weight.
About thirty years since a pike was captured near Ellingham water-mills, and kept for a
considerable time in a tank, as an extraordinary specimen. He here became so tame as
to take small fry from the hand of his keeper. He weighed forty-four pounds. Lampreys
of large size are not unfrequently taken in this river.
The waters of the Waveney in its upper course are singularly brilliant and transparent.
Every weed in its bed may be seen, even where the channel is deep, and the fishes may be
discerned sporting in shoals. It may venture to vie, in this respect, with the Dove, so
celebrated by Cotton, and the Author dares apply to it that poet's elegant lines—
"Princess of rivers! how I love
Upon thy flowery banks to lie,
And view thy silver stream
When gilded by a summer's beam!
And in it all thy wanton fry
Playing at liberty:
And, with my angle upon them,
The all of treachery
I ever learn'd industriously to try.
Reyce enumerates among the produce of our rivers, besides the fish already mentioned,
"trout, barbel, and crevises:" after speaking of these rivers and their peculiar adaptation to
commerce, he says, "I must confess as all other earthly benefitts are accompanied with some
incommodities, it is objected it (the county) lyeth open, and is ready for forreigne invasion,
there bee so many havens, harbours, creeks, and other places of ready discent, that the
enemy is soon entered; and this is more confirmed by the frequent proofe of the silly
Dunkirkers, who, before the peace concluded between Spaine and England, robbed our
shores, came into our havens, and carried away our loden vessels, rifling oftentimes whole
townes. Butt that which is common to all other sea-bordering shires (as what shore is
free from their insulting, audacious, and their furtive preying) ought nott here to be reckned
as a perticuler incommoditie, neither may these furtive assaults with a more momentary
returne bee reputed as a warlike invasion; which whensoever it shall bee effected, by that
time the invaders meet with our deep myrie soyle, our narrow and fowle lanes, our manifold
inclosures, severed with so many deep ditches, hedges, and store of wood, bushes and trees,
seeing the impassablenesse of this country with any materiall forces, albeit there were
noe other meanes of resistance, they will have just cause to repent their rashness."
Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk, is distant seventy miles from the General Post Office
in London. Bury St. Edmund's, the second town in importance, is seventy-six miles from
the same point, measured by the mail-coach road through Bishop's Stortford and Newmarket.
Besides these towns, Suffolk contains the borough of Eye, and the lately disfranchised
boroughs of Aldeburgh, Dunwich, Orford, and Sudbury; and the market towns of Beccles,
Bungay, Clare, Debenham, Framlingham, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Lavenham, Lowestoft,
Mildenhall, Newmarket, Saxmundham, Southwold, Stowmarket, and Woodbridge. The
little towns of Bildeston, Blythborough, Botesdale, Brandon, Haverhill, Ixworth, Mendlesham, Needham, Nayland, Wickham, and Woolpit, formerly possessed markets which
are now discontinued.
The mail-coach road from London to Norwich enters Suffolk at Stratford St. Mary,
on the Essex border, passes through Ipswich, and thence runs northwards by Stonham to
Scole. A branch at Ipswich diverges to the right hand, gradually approaching the sea-shore,
by Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Saxmundham, Yoxford, and Lowestoft, and leaves the
county at Southtown.
A road also enters the county at Newmarket and proceeds to Norwich by Thetford.
A line here, also, diverges to the right and unites with the mail-coach road from Ipswich
to Norwich, near Scole, having passed through Bury St. Edmund's, Ixworth, and Botesdale.
A road from London crosses the river Stour at Sudbury, and proceeds by Long Melford
to Bury St. Edmund's.
The principal cross-roads, which rival the highways of many counties in excellence are,
a line from Beccles through Halesworth and Bramfield into the Yarmouth and Ipswich
mail-coach road at the ninety-sixth mile stone; a road, which, leaving the Norwich mail
road at Claydon, branches to Needham, Stowmarket, Woolpit, and Bury; and a road from
Ipswich through Helmingham, Debenham, and Eye, which falls into the Norwich mail-coach
road about two miles from the Norfolk boundary. A road also, of considerable traffic, runs
from Lowestoft to Beccles, and thence proceeds through Bungay and Harleston to Scole.
In 1844 a bill was obtained in Parliament for extending a line of railway, from the present
termination of the Eastern Counties Railway at Lexden by Colchester to Ipswich; which line
is now in active progress.
The Norwich and Brandon Railway will also enter Suffolk at the latter town, and pass
through the north-western angle of the county.
Suffolk is, happily, almost exclusively an agricultural district, and is, perhaps, one of
the best cultivated in England. Farming implements of the most perfect kind are almost
universally employed, and Agricultural Associations have been formed in various parts for
the improvement of the breed of cattle, for the construction of agricultural implements,
and the encouragement of good conduct in labourers and domestic servants.
Suffolk possesses an indigenous breed of cattle;—these are of the polled kind, and of
a fine red or brindled colour; the cows are in great repute as excellent milkers; and the
quantity of milk yielded by one of them, is, on an average, from four to six gallons a day,—
though a Suffolk cow in the writer's parish has been known to give thirty-two quarts of milk
per day, and of a good quality, for a considerable time after calving: but this is, no doubt,
an extraordinary instance. The Suffolk cow is small in size, with a clean throat and
little dewlap, a thin clean snake-like head, large carcass, and high hip-bones; the udder
large and loose, and the milk veins remarkably prominent.
The Suffolk pigs are a prolific and profitable breed; they are well made, compact, with short
upright ears, and mostly white: they are thickly covered with hair, and hardy in their nature.
The horses of this county, widely known as Suffolk punches, are a valuable and docile
race, remarkable for their unwearied exertions, and unrivalled at what is, provincially,
called 'a dead pull.' They are middle-sized, very short made, and though low in the
forehand, are active in their paces, and on the lighter lands of the county will draw a
plough at the rate of three miles an hour. In many respects they resemble the little
compact horses of Normandy, so much esteemed for their hardihood and constant readiness
for labour. "Now for our horses of burden or draught," observes Reyce, "experience
of long time teacheth us, how uncertain the proofe is of that which wee pay so dear
for at other hands, causeth us to esteeme our owne home-bred the more, which every
way proveth so well for our use and profitt, that our husbandmen may justly compare
in this respect with any other country whatsoever."
The breed of sheep most usually kept in Suffolk is a cross between the South-down and
The dairy lands of Suffolk are by no means so extensive as formerly. Large tracts of
old grass have been ploughed up, and converted into arable land. The quantity of butter
still made is considerable, and a large supply of this is annually sent to the London
Suffolk cheese is proverbially execrable, though Fuller (fn. 3) says, "most excellent cheeses are
made herein, whereof the finest are very thin, as intended not for food but digestion." It
must be presumed that the art of cheese-making has considerably declined in Suffolk since
Fuller's days; for it would be impossible to doubt the judgment of so keen an observer,
whose accuracy is proved by his remarks on the "Suffolk fair maids."—"It seemeth the
God of Nature hath been bountiful in giving them beautiful complexions."
Hops have been grown in Suffolk ever since the early part of the sixteenth century,
though their cultivation has never been carried to any great extent. "I may nott here,"
says Reyce, "next to the corne omitt to speake of our hopps, which when they were first
perceived to delight in our soile, well was hee that could entertaine this plant." Bullein,
who wrote his 'Bulwarke of Defence' in the middle of that century, mentions their growing
at Brousyard, near Framlingham, and in many other places. The same writer, in his
'Government of Health,' observes, that "though there cometh many good hops from beyond
sea, yet it is known that the goodly stilles and fruitful grounds of England do bring forth
unto man's use as good hops as groweth in any place in this world, as by proof I know
in many places of the countie of Suffolke, whereas they brew their own beere with the
hops that groweth upon their own grounds." Tusser, who was a Suffolk farmer, gives full
directions respecting their management in his 'August's Husbandry,' by which it would
appear they were then more extensively cultivated than they are at present. A small extent
of land is still employed in hop-gardens, in the neighbourhood of Stowmarket, and at
Rushmere, near Ipswich. Mr. Cobbold, the proprietor of the hop-grounds at the lastmentioned village, has also a garden of about 23 acres at Foxhall.
There are rabbit-warrens in the sand district about Thetford and Brandon, but these are
neither so numerous or extensive as those on the opposite borders of Norfolk. At the
latter town a warren is said to make an annual return of forty thousand rabbits, twenty
rabbits per acre being the usual produce.
Suffolk is one of the earliest enclosed counties in England: the system of tillage is very
uniform throughout the district, and the greater part of the land is under the plough. Two
Suffolk horses will plough an acre a day; and nearly two on the sand-lands: the ploughmen
are remarkably skilful, and prizes are frequently distributed among them for such as draw
the straightest furrow.
Besides all the common crops, carrots are grown on the sand-lands about Woodbridge,
and rape-seed and hemp in the fenny district.
The turkeys, and poultry in general, are but little inferior in size and flavour to those
reared in Norfolk; and game, in places, is very abundant.
Various Hundreds in the county are incorporated by Act of Parliament, and have erected
Union-houses for the maintenance of the poor: they manufacture netting for the fishermen,
spin, and cultivate a few acres of land: they are well kept and managed, but have not
lowered the poor-rates to the extent anticipated. The best managed are of an expensive
tendency, and of equivocal effect, as to comfort and morality;—where badly managed, they
are nurseries of idleness and vice. There is a Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Melton, near
The manufactories of Suffolk are very inconsiderable. At Sudbury and Mildenhall are
mills for silk and woollen goods; the latter being a branch of an extensive concern at
Norwich. The manufactory of woollen cloth at Sudbury was introduced in the reign of
Edward III., but after a time it gradually declined. Crape, and bunting for ships' flags,
are made here. It is calculated that fifteen hundred persons are now employed in this
town in the silk, and about four hundred in the crape and bunting business. Silks and
velvets are made by hand-loom weaving at Glemsford. The combing and spinning of wool
for the Norwich manufactories is also pursued in many parts of the county, but carried
to no great extent.
The manufacture of gun-flints at Brandon, which formerly employed sixty men, is now
Straw-plat for ladies' bonnets is made at Clare, Cavendish, Lavenham, Haverhill, and
many places in the south-western part of the county.
Woolpit is famous for its bricks.
The herring fishery off the coast of Suffolk commences about the middle of September,
and ends in the beginning of December. The boats used in this trade are decked vessels
of about forty or fifty tons burthen, and lugger rigged. The favourite fishing-grounds are
situated about thirteen leagues north-east from Lowestoft. The boats continue at sea till
they have obtained a sufficient cargo to bring into the roads. Instances are on record,
where a single boat, under circumstances of extraordinary success, has taken twelve or
fourteen lasts in one night, of ten thousand herrings to the last, or the surprising number
of one hundred and forty thousand fish. About fifty or sixty years since, Lowestoft employed
not more than thirty or thirty-five luggers annually in this fishery. Their number has,
however, vastly increased. Sixty-five vessels were so engaged in the season of 1844.
Fishermen complain that the herrings are not so numerous on the 'grounds' as they
were formerly; but it may fairly be questioned, if the increased number of boats, causing
a smaller individual 'catch,' has not produced this seeming deficiency. The master of
one of these boats reports to the writer, that though sixty-five luggers were employed in
the autumn of 1844, that number was less by twelve than was engaged in the preceding
season;—that no fishing vessels have been built at Lowestoft for nearly two years; and
that the returns are so bad, there is no prospect of any being built for some time to come.
The sixty-five boats employed during the last season took on an average twenty-one lasts
of herrings per boat. Mackarel fishing commences in May, and ends in July. The same
boats and crews are employed in this service as in the herring fishery. The boats are
attended by fast-sailing cutters; and of late, by steam vessels, which collect the 'takings'
of the luggers, and convey them to Billingsgate. During a favourable season, one hundred
thousand mackarel are carried to that market every week. These fish are also brought
on shore by ferry-boats, and sold by auction on the beach, to the owners of vans, who
convey them to Town with incredible speed by land carriage; the success of this mode
of trade depending entirely upon the quickness with which they are transported to
Suffolk is included in the Norfolk circuit. The Assizes are held in the spring at Bury
St. Edmund's, and in the summer at Ipswich. Quarter Sessions for their respective divisions
are held at Beccles, Bury, Ipswich, and Woodbridge. There are county gaols and houses
of correction at Bury and Ipswich; county houses of correction at Beccles and Woodbridge; and borough prisons at Ipswich, Bury, Sudbury, Eye, Aldborough, Southwold,
The county is divided into twenty-one Hundreds, besides the Liberty of the borough
of Ipswich, viz., Babergh, Blackbourn, Blything, Bosmere and Claydon, Carlford, Colneis,
Cosford, Hartismere, Hoxne, Lackford, Loes, Mutford and Lothingland, Plomesgate,
Risburgh, Samford, Stow, Thedwestry, Thingoe, Thredling, Wangford, Wilford.
These are subdivided into the 'Geldable portion,' in which issues and forfeitures are
paid to the King; and the Liberties of St. Ethelred, St. Edmund, and the Duke of
The Liberty of St. Ethelred comprehends the Hundreds of Carlford, Colneis, Loes,
Plomesgate, Thredling, and Wilford.
That of St. Edmund includes the Hundreds of Babergh, Blackbourn, Cosford, Lackford,
the Half-hundred of Exning, Risbridge, Thedwestry, and Thingoe.
The Liberty of the Duke of Norfolk, which was granted to John Duke of Norfolk, and
his heirs for ever, by letters patent, dated at Westminster, Dec. 7, 1486, includes several
of his manors, for which he appoints a Steward and a Coroner, issues writs, and receives
all fines and amercements. In Norfolk this Liberty is very extensive, but in this county
it embraces only the manors of Bungay, Kelsale, Carlton, Peasenhall, the three Stonhams,
Dennington, Brundish, the four Ilketshalls, and Cratfield.
The Sessions for the two Liberties of St. Ethelred and St. Edmund are held at Woodbridge and Bury respectively. The Liberty of St. Edmund returns a Grand Jury at the
Assizes, distinct from that returned by the rest of the county. In the reign of King Stephen,
it was proved by Sir Henry de Glanvil, that all pleas, suits, and actions whatsoever,
concerning any person in the Liberties of St. Edmund, except the pleas of murder or
treasure trove, belonged to the court of St. Edmund, and were to be tried by the Abbot
of Bury, his Steward, or other officer appointed by him. The Marquis of Bristol is now
Lord of this Liberty.
The Geldable portion includes the Hundreds of Blything, Bosmere and Claydon, Hartismere, Hoxne, the two Half-hundreds of Lothingland and Mutford, Samford, Stow, and
Suffolk formerly returned sixteen members to Parliament; but by the Reform Act,
Orford, Aldborough, and Dunwich, were disfranchised, and Eye reduced to one member.
Sudbury has since been deprived of its privilege, on the ground of bribery and corruption.
The county now returns two members for the eastern, and two for the western division;
two each for the boroughs of Ipswich and Bury, and one for Eye: total nine.
The polling places for the eastern division of the county are—Ipswich, Needham, Woodbridge, Framlingham, Saxmundham, Halesworth, Beccles, and Lowestoft.
For the western division the places of polling are—Bury, Lavenham, Stowmarket,
Wickham-brook, Botesdale, Mildenhall, and Hadleigh.
The civil government of the county is in the High Sheriff for the time being, who is
annually appointed by the Crown, and presides at the Assizes, and other important county
meetings. There was but one High Sheriff for the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk
until so late as the year 1576.
The military and marine government of the county is entrusted to the care of the
Lord Lieutenant, and who, as in the case of the late Duke of Grafton, is Vice-Admiral
and Custos Rotulorum. As Lord Lieutenant he is the locum tenens of the Crown, and
its Viceroy. He has the power of commissioning all officers in the Militia, appoints the
Deputy Lieutenants, and, as Custos Rotulorum, puts such gentlemen as are properly
qualified into the commission of the peace, and has the custody of the rolls or records of
the Sessions of peace.
The principal fairs in Suffolk are—
Aldborough, March 1, May 3.
Aldringham, October 11, December 1.
Barrow, May 1.
Beccles, Whit Monday, July 11, Sessions, October 2.
Bergholt, last Wednesday in July.
Bildeston, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday.
Blythborough, April 5.
Botesdale, Holy Thursday.
Boxford, Easter Monday.
Boxted, Whit Tuesday.
Brandon, February 14, June 11, November 11.
Bricet, July 5.
Bungay, May 14, September 25.
Bures, Holy Thursday.
Bury, Easter Tuesday, October 2, December 1.
Cavendish, June 11.
Clare, Easter Tuesday, July 26.
Cowling, July 31, October 17.
Cratfield, September 16.
Debenham, June 24.
Dunwich, July 25.
Earl Soham, July 23.
Elmset, Whit Tuesday.
Elmswell, November 1.
Eye, Whit Monday.
Felsham, August 16.
Finningham, September 4.
Framlingham, Whit Monday, October 11.
Framsden, Holy Thursday.
Glemsford, June 24.
Gorleston, Whit Monday.
Great Thurlow, October 10.
Hacheston, November 12.
Hadleigh, Whit Monday, October 10.
Halesworth, Whit Tuesday, October 29.
Hartest, April 23.
Haughley, August 25.
Haverhill, May 12, August 26.
Hinton, June 29.
Horringer, September 4.
Hoxne, December 1.
Hundon, Holy Thursday.
Ipswich, first Tuesday in May, May 18, July 25,
August 22, September 25.
Keddington, June 29.
Kersey, Easter Monday.
Lavenham, Shrove Tuesday, October 11.
Laxfield, May 12 and 13, October 25 and 26.
Lindsey, July 25.
Lowestoft, May 12, October 11.
Melford, Whit Tuesday.
Mendlesham, Holy Thursday.
Mildenhall, October 11.
Nayland, October 2.
Needham, October 12 and 13.
Newmarket, Whit Tuesday, August 24.
Orford, June 24.
Polstead, June 16.
Saxmundham, Holy Thursday, September 23.
Snape, August 11.
Southwold, Trinity Monday, August 24.
Stanton, Whit Monday.
Stoke-by-Clare, Whit Monday.
Stoke-by-Nayland, February 25, Whit Monday,
first Wednesday after Old May-day.
Stowmarket, July 10, August 12.
Stradbroke, third Monday in June, October 2.
Stratford St. Mary, June 11.
Sudbury, March 12, July 10, September 4.
Thrandeston, July 31.
Thwaite, June 30, November 26.
Woodbridge, April 6, October 11.
Woolpit, September 6.
Suffolk is in the province of Canterbury, and was formerly wholly included in the
diocese of Norwich; but by an Act of Parliament, passed in the sixth and seventh of
William IV., the Archdeaconry of Sudbury (except the Deaneries of Hartismere and
Stow, now attached to the Archdeaconry of Suffolk,) has been transferred to the See
The Deanery of Blackbourn, formerly included in the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, was
added to that of Sudbury at the time of the same arrangement.
The Archdeaconry of Suffolk comprehends the sixteen Deaneries of Bosmere, Carlesford,
Claydon, Colneis, Dunwich, Hartismere, Hoxne, Ipswich, Loes, Lothingland, Orford, Sam
ford, South Elmham, Stow, Wangford, and Wilford; including 348 cures, of which 198 are
rectories, 80 vicarages, 55 perpetual curacies, and 15 chapelries.
The Archdeaconry of Sudbury comprises the Deaneries of Blackbourn, Clare, Fordham,—
part of which is in Cambridgeshire,—Sudbury, Thedwestry, and Thingoe; 174 cures, of which
126 are rectories, 18 are vicarages, 19 perpetual curacies, and 11 chapelries. The total
amount of cures in the county is, therefore, 522, viz., 324 rectories, 98 vicarages, 74 perpetual
curacies, and 26 chapelries. But by the union of cures the number of benefices is greatly
reduced. There are four peculiars in the county, the rectories of Hadleigh, and Monks
Eleigh, and the rectory and vicarage of Moulton, belonging to Canterbury, and the rectory
and vicarage of Freckingham, attached to the See of Rochester. Of these preferments, fiftyfour are in the gift of the Crown, thirty-four in the patronage of Colleges, four in the gift of
Corporations, four in the gift of the Parishioners,—five, and one alternate, presentations in the
Bishop of Norwich, three in the Dean and Chapter of Norwich, six in the Bishop of Ely,
two in the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, two in the Dean and Chapter of
Canterbury, and the residue in private hands.
The See of this Diocese was first fixed at Dunwich in Suffolk about the year 630, by
Felix, a Burgundian priest, under the auspices of Sigebert, King of East Anglia. In 673,
Bisus, the fourth Bishop, weighed down by age and increasing infirmities, (fn. 4) divided the diocese
into two parts, one of which was to embrace Suffolk with its See at Dunwich; and the other
to be co-extensive with Norfolk, having its See at North Elmham. About the year 870, the
two Sees were re-united by Bishop Wybred; but Suffolk never after regained its Episcopal
The Archdeaconry of Sudbury was erected in a. d. 1126, and the present Archdeacon is
the Venerable George Glover, A. M., of South Repps. The Archdeaconry of Suffolk was
instituted in 1127. The Venerable Henry Denny Berners, LL.B., of Woolverstone Hall, is
the present Archdeacon, who holds Visitations at Ipswich, Wickham Market, Yoxford,
Beccles, and Stradbrooke.
The Rural Deans of this Archdeaconry are the following clergymen:
|Bosmere||The Rev. R. Longe, and C. Shorting.|
|Carlford||— W. Potter, and E. Moor.|
|Claydon||— J. Bedingfeld, and W. Kirby.|
|Colneis||— W. J. Edge, and H. Edgell.|
|Dunwich||— S. Clissold.|
|South Elmham||— E. A. Holmes.|
|Hartismere||— Lord Bayning, and R. Cobbold.|
|Hoxne||— E. Barlee.|
|Ipswich||The Rev. R. Mosley.|
|Loes||— Lord T. Hay, and G. Attwood.|
|Lothingland||— F. Cunningham, and C. Green.|
|Orford||— H. T. Dowler, and J. D. Money.|
|Samford||— R. Berners, and E. Gould.|
|Stow||— A. G. Hollingsworth, and C. Bridges.|
|Wangford||— A. I. Suckling.|
|Wilford||— W. P. Larken, and E. Walford.|
The population of Suffolk, according to the census of 1841, was 315,073, of which
154,095 were males, and 160,978 were females; giving an excess of 6883 females over
males, or 1045 females to every 1000 males. The same return shows that there were in
Suffolk 208 inhabitants to every square mile, and 4.9 inhabitants to every house.
The average amount of rates per pound, levied in the county in 1841, was 2s. 9d.
The number of criminal offenders was 482, or 1.5 in every 1000 inhabitants.
The increase of population between 1831 and 1841 was 6.3 per cent.; and the increase
of inhabited houses, in the same period, was 27.7 per cent.
There were 574 houses being built at the time of the last return. The total annual value
of real property in Suffolk, in 1841, was £1,297,956, and the annual value of land £912,062,
giving an average annual value of land per acre of 18s. 9d.
The summary of the returns of the amount of money levied, &c., and expended for the
relief and maintenance of the poor, and for other purposes, during the year ending March 25,
1843, for the county, was as follows:
|Amount levied by assessment||£182,059|
|Received from other sources in aid of the poor-rate||4,397|
|Expended in relief, &c., of the poor||£139,919|
|Expended in law charges||1,293|
|Amount of fees paid to vaccinators||165|
|Outlay for register and certificate books||2|
The number of persons who emigrated in the year 1843 was seventeen, of whom four
embarked for South Australia, and the remainder proceeded to Canada. (fn. 5)
The county contained in 1839, 281 miles of turnpike road, and 3235 miles of other
highways, embracing an area of 1515 square miles.
According to the Reports of the Charity Commissioners, there are annual funds amounting
to £3991, applicable to the purposes of education. The income of endowed schools is
£ 2972, and a sum of £1018 is for educational purposes in schools not endowed.
The number of boarding-schools in 1833 was fifty-eight.
The state of the elective franchise in 1839–40 was as follows:
|East division.||West division.||Total.|
|Freeholders of every class||3708||3056||6764|
|Copyholders and customary tenants||742||570||1312|
|Leaseholders, for a term, or for life||40||22||62|
|£50 Tenants at will||1683||1283||2966|
|Trustees and mortgagees||14||13||27|
|Qualified by offices||134||131||265|
|Joint and duplicate qualifications||83||96||179|
The principal historical events connected with this district, during the period of Roman
domination, were, the revolt of the natives in the year 51, which was speedily quelled by the
activity of Ostorius Scapula; and the insurrection of the Iceni, to revenge the wrongs of
Boadicea and her daughters. This formidable rising, which had well-nigh extirpated the
Roman power in Britain, was crowned with brief success. The native valour of the Iceni
was unable to cope with the discipline of their opponents in a protracted warfare. The
Royal family perished, the British chieftains were swept away, and their lands allotted to
the conquerors. A vigorous administration of military government succeeded; numerous
and important stations arose throughout the province, connected by solid and well-constructed roads; and the people passed into slavery and bondage.
The principal Roman road entered the county from Londinium, at the modern Stratford
St. Mary's, on the Essex border, and, running northward towards Needham Market, left
Ipswich on the right hand. It probably fell into the present mail-coach road to Norwich
at Creeting: the names of the parishes of Stonham are there indicative of its course. It
pursued its way by Yaxley, and, crossing the Waveney at Billingford, passed by Wacton,
the Saxon wake (i. e. watch) town, Long Stratton, and Taseburgh, and terminated at the
station of Venta Icenorum, now known as Caistor, by Norwich. It would appear that this
road was not completed by the Roman soldiers without molestation; for the ancient name
of Billingford, and under which it is recorded in Domesday Book, was Preleston: from
which we may infer that some severe contest (prælium) had taken place at this ford, between
the Romans and the natives.
A vicinal way stretched from Taseburgh to Blythborough. It crossed the river Waveney
into Suffolk at Bungay; proceeded by Spexhall, where, for a considerable distance, it retains
the name of Stone Street; and, leaving the Halesworth road at the point called Broadways,
ran through Holton, and onwards to Blythborough.
From the direction of certain lanes and driftways, now leading to bare heaths only, it
seems likely that a branch of this 'Way' pursued its course to Dunwich, the Dommoc
ceastre of King Alfred.
The Ickneild Street crossed the corner of Suffolk from Thetford to Newmarket.
A military road also intersected the south-west angle of the county, from the neighbourhood of Haverhill towards Cambridge.
A Roman way also crossed the entire county in a south-east direction from Thetford,
by Ixworth, Woolpit, and Bildeston, to Stratford St. Mary; and the names of Norton Street,
Fen Street, and Low Street, which occur on its line, plainly indicate its route. It also
passed Stowlangtoft, where the remains of Roman castrametation are yet visible. This
road is most probably the continuation of the well-known Peddar Way, which, proceeding
from Brancaster and Hunstanton, in Norfolk, runs in a direct and still well-defined course,
by Castle Acre and Swaffham; and, stretching across the dreary and bald heaths of Cressingham and Bodney, passed the clear and sparkling stream at Stanford, and then ran by
Thetford to Ixworth, whence its route has been defined. A direct and unimpeded communication was thus opened from Londinium and Camulodunum to the extreme northern
shore of the kingdom of the Iceni. The direction of this entire line from Stratford to
Hunstanton is singularly direct; and it is altogether a remarkable route, whether we regard
its extraordinary length, which exceeds 70 miles, or consider its undeviating course. It
is not a faint emblem of the energy of the wonderful people who constructed it, whose
plans of universal dominion crushed every impediment of distance, opposition, or danger.
By it they were enabled to transport heavy-armed troops and military engines to at least
six important stations in Icenia,—Stratford, Brettingham, Ixworth, Thetford, Castle Acre,
A road is also conjectured to have extended from the Waveney, near Lopham Ford,
through Ixworth to Bury. On this line we detect at the present day, the two villages
of Stanton, and a place called Up-street Lane. In all probability this was a branch from
Taseburgh, which seems to have been the recipient of a vast number of roads which convened
at it in their course to Venta Icenorum.
A road ran from Dunwich, or Aldborough, perhaps from both, through Sibton, where
a portion of it exists, in an extremely perfect state, just to the north-west of the Abbey
grounds. It stretched thence towards the Waveney, which it crossed near Harleston, and
led onwards to Taseburgh.
From the direction of existing lanes, it is evident that a branch of this road diverged
at Sibton or Peasenhall, and, directing its course by Baddingham, Dennington, and Soham,
fell, at Pettaugh, into the long lane now called Stone Street, where it pursues a straight
line for nearly four miles, and, passing Coddenham, joined the great road already mentioned
as bisecting the county from Stratford to Billingford. This route afforded a communication
from London, through Stratford, to the principal stations in the eastern parts of Suffolk.
A road must have run from Dunwich to the Ad Ansam, through Burgh, near Woodbridge, though it is not now to be followed with exactness. Traces of it appear in the
name of Stratford, a village near Saxmundham, where it passed the river Alde.
These numerous roads, which thus spread over Suffolk like so many arteries in the
system of Roman subjugation, terminated at strong fortresses, and afforded expeditious
means of communication with the intermediate stations.
Of the stations themselves, scarcely one in the county is identified beyond doubt; their
exact locality being still a subject of discussion. We may, however, be allowed to exercise
our speculation; and possibly, like men groping in the twilight, may occasionally stumble
on the objects of our search. In the ninth Iter of Antoninus we read thus: "A venta
Icenorum Sitomago. m. p. xxxi. Cambretonio. m. p. xxii. Ad Ansam. m.p. xv."
If we follow the line of Roman road, as just detailed, from Caistor to Colchester, by
the route of Thetford, Brettenham, and Stratford, we shall find the respective distances
of these modern towns to coincide in a very remarkable degree with the measurement
of Antoninus; allowing the difference between the Roman and the English mile. Thus
from Caistor to Thetford is, by the old Roman route, 26 English, or, as we see above,
31 Roman miles. Now, as a Roman mile contained only 1614 yards, or 9/10 ths and 1/60th
of an English statute mile, the variation between the ancient and modern measurement is
brought to about three miles. So, again, Cambretonium is placed by Antoninus at 22 Roman
miles from Sitomagus, and Brettenham is about 20 from Thetford. Cambretonium is
15 of Antoninus's miles from Ad Ansam, and it is about 14 English miles from Brettenham
to Stratford, measured in a straight line, as the Roman roads were constructed. The
coincidence of these respective admeasurements, and the similarity of sound between
Cambretonium and Brettenham, which is too remarkable to be passed unnoticed, are arguments as to the site of these three stations, which, if they do not carry conviction, are
decidedly superior to any which controversy may prefer in favour of other localities.
To place Sitomagus at Dunwich, or at Easton, which is almost undoubtedly the [exochi],
or extensio of Ptolemy, and thus make Burgh by Woodbridge the Cambretonium, is
objectionable; for, besides that the distances do not so well accord with the Iter, it seems
inconsistent with military practice to march troops so much along the sea-coast, in preference
to passing them through the heart of the province. Camden and Dr. Gale are firm in
fixing Cambretonium at Brettenham. Horseley and Gale would fix Sitomagus at Woolpit,
and Ad Ansam at Witham in Essex; but such an arrangement involves the Iter in inextricable difficulty.
If the Iciani be in Suffolk, sound would lead us to place it at Ixworth, undoubtedly
a Roman station; but this claim is strongly advocated by some for Ickburgh in Norfolk.
The Villa Faustini has been placed at Yaxley: perhaps Bury St. Edmund's is its true
The Garianonum, mentioned in the Notitia Imperii, is almost universally fixed at Burgh
Castle, by Yarmouth; but surely its only claim to this locality is its situation on the
banks of the Yare, the Gariensis of former days; as no situation could be worse chosen
for the evolutions of cavalry.
Roman earth-works may be traced at Burgh by Woodbridge, at Lidgate, at Blythborough,
Bungay, Haughley, and Stowlangtoft. At Pakenham, midway between Ixworth and Bury, a
tessellated pavement has been dug up; and at Wenham, at Felixstow, and in the vicinity
of Bury, Roman antiquities of various descriptions have been discovered.
If, in examining these widely-extended, and not faint traces of the arts and the arms of
our Roman conquerors, we have to lament the ravages of time, or still more, perhaps, of
wanton neglect, they reflect, notwithstanding, in no ordinary degree, the warlike spirit of
our aboriginal ancestors, which required these numerous strongholds to subjugate their
power, and curb their doubtful allegiance; and they attest the fidelity of that portrait which
Tacitus has drawn of their military gallantry: "Iceni, valida gens, nec præliis contusi." (fn. 6)
That they were an unpolished people is unquestionable; for human nature, distant from
the arts of civilization, and the refinements of social life, is always, more or less, sunk in
barbarity; but many discoveries of recent days have rendered it doubtful whether they
were so rude and savage as Cæsar has described them, and we may fairly question if he
has not degraded them, to exalt his own triumphs.
At what period the Romanized Iceni were first subjected to the predatory attacks of
the Saxons is uncertain. Cerdic, one of the earliest Saxon invaders, landed in 495 on the
eastern coast of Suffolk, probably near Lowestoft; and after gaining a few inconsiderable
advantages over the natives, withdrew his forces, and set sail for the western shores of
the island. But the appointment of a military chieftain by the Romans, who was designated
from the place of his command, Comes littoris Saxonici,—which embraced the coasts of
Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Kent,—leads to a supposition, not unsupported by several
facts in local history, that the Saxons had gained a permanent settlement on our eastern
shores, before the recall of the Roman legions from Britain. If such be the fact, their
immigration was probably consequent on the revolt of Carausius, about the year 280.
This chieftain commanded the Roman fleets in the North Seas, against the Saxon and
Frankish pirates; but being urged by his ambition to assume the Purple, he coalesced
with his lawless adversaries, employed them in his fleets, and, assisted by their valour
and naval skill, bade defiance to the power of the emperors. The numerous estuaries
on the eastern coast, which were at that time capable of receiving such armaments, were,
of course, well known to Carausius, as High Admiral of these seas; and must have been
now frequented by his piratical allies, even if they had been previously ignorant of their
shelter. The broad channel of the Gariensis, now shrunk into the muddy shallow Breydon,
and the waters of Lake Lothing, then an open haven, united their mighty tides, and formed
one capacious port. At a period when the naval warfare of Britain was carried on, for
the most part, against the piratical hordes of the North and the East, the importance of
such a harbour could not have been overlooked. Here might the fleets of the usurping
Admiral brave every tempest; and issuing hence, they rode triumphant on the seas.
Upon the subversion of the brief sovereignty of Carausius, many of the smaller Roman
fortresses were raised on the coast to repress the incursions of the Saxons, who, harboured
by the settlers brought in by Carausius, succeeded, in spite of the most vigilant precautions,
to gain ground in the locality. Hence, on the abdication of Britain by the Romans, the
contests maintained against the new invaders were neither severe nor protracted.
The ancient province of the Iceni daily witnessed the arrival of fresh bodies of the
roving Saxons and Angles; and while the other States of Britain were struggling against
the inroads of their rude invaders, the Saxon power became sufficiently consolidated here
to lead forth an aggressive host to the banks of the Rhine, and compel the recreant Prince
of the Varnians to fulfil his vows plighted to a Saxon princess. The province was finally
erected into the independent kingdom of East Anglia by Uffa, about a. d. 571.
A succession of petty wars with the neighbouring States succeeded this event; during
which East Anglia appears, gradually, to have receded from power. Redwald, the wisest
and most powerful of her kings, and the only one who enjoyed the dignity of Bretwalda, is
said to have kept his court at Framlingham, where he founded a castle.
Sigebert, to whom the East Anglians owe the establishment of Christianity, was slain
in battle by Penda, King of Mercia, one of the fiercest tyrants that ever filled a throne.
Egric, and Annas, the succeeding monarchs, fell by the same sword. The battle, which
proved fatal to Annas and his son Ferminus, was fought in the year 654, at Bulchamp,
near Blythborough, where the unsuccessful monarch and his son were buried. In 792
Ethelbert was treacherously murdered by Offa, King of Mercia, who annexed East Anglia
to his own dominions; which supremacy its inhabitants were unable to shake off till the
The fate of Edmund, familiar to us as the patron Saint of Bury Abbey, deserves a more
extended detail. This prince was distinguished, in those days of violence and oppression,
for his virtue and piety. In 870, Ingwar, a Danish chieftain, landed in East Anglia, and
ravaged it with unprecedented ferocity. Thetford was pillaged and burnt, and its inhabitants
violated and slain. Edmund, who was at Eglesdune, (now Hoxne,) in Suffolk, when these
atrocities were committed, led an army against the invaders, whom he encountered near
the scene of their brutalities. A desperate engagement ensued, which lasted from morning
until evening, great numbers being slain on both sides. The Danes quitted the field of
battle, and King Edmund retired with the remains of his army to Hoxne, "resolving," says
the chronicler of Bury Abbey, "never more to fight against the Pagans, but, if it was
necessary, to yield up himself a sacrifice for the people, and for the faith of Christ." Ingwar,
mad with defeat, recruited his forces, and followed Edmund to Hoxne, where the latter was
worsted, and fled. Hiding himself, says a tradition yet current in that village, beneath a
little bridge, which still bears the name of Gold Bridge, he was discovered, by the glittering
of his golden spurs, to a newly-married couple, who were returning by moonlight to their
home. These votaries of Hymen—shame upon their heads—betrayed their monarch to
the Danes. Edmund, as they dragged him from his hiding-place, indignant at the treachery,
pronounced a malediction upon all who should afterwards pass this bridge on their way
to be married; and no bride and bridegroom have been bold enough to venture on the
forbidden path from that day to this. Edmund was put to death with circumstances of
great cruelty, and buried at Hoxne. But miracles having been wrought at his tomb, his
bones were afterwards removed to Bury, and canonized. Here their miraculous powers
were more actively developed, and procured for the Abbey its wealth and distinction, and
for that beautiful town its present appellation.
Eleven mounds of earth, on the Suffolk side of Thetford, in the parish of Barnham,
are the enduring monuments of St. Edmund's encounter with Ingwar, and mark the site
of this sanguinary battle-field.
The next important event in the early annals of East Anglia is its colonization by the
Danes, who were planted here after their defeat by King Alfred, in the year 879. The
frequent occurrence, among Norfolk and Suffolk families, of the names of Rolfe, Ladbrook,
Hammond, Sego, Alpe, Goodrum, Tirketil, &c., is consequent on this immigration. Guthrum, the Danish chieftain, was baptized, with his followers, and remained faithful to his
spiritual vows, and his allegiance to Alfred, until the day of his death. He was buried at
Upon the subsequent invasion of England by the Danes, the most patriotic and effectual
resistance was offered to their inroads, in East Anglia; where, from the circumstance just
narrated, it was least to have been expected. But the want of unanimity and co-operation
among the Saxon Thanes led to the final triumph of the assailants. During these
sanguinary contests, Ipswich was plundered by them in 991, and again desolated in 993,
when its fortifications were destroyed. In the spring of the year 1010 a fearful battle
was fought in the neighbourhood of Ipswich, which proved equally calamitous to that town,
and the arms of the East Anglians. Ulketil, their chieftain, was defeated, and the government transferred to Turketel, a Danish commander, who assumed the title of Earl of East
During the mild but feeble administration of Edward the Confessor, Suffolk became
a separate Earldom, and was bestowed by him on Gurth, the brother of Harold, who fell
by the side of that monarch at the battle of Hastings, valiantly defending the Saxon
Besides the dignity of the Earldom, the possessions of Gurth in this county must have
been large; for the number of persons recorded in Domesday as having held estates under
him is very considerable. The decisive battle of Hastings produced a revolution in the laws,
the manners, and the interests of England, the influences of which have not yet passed away.
One of the principal of these changes was the almost total confiscation of the Saxon estates,
and the substitution of new lords. In parcelling out these possessions, the conqueror
bestowed above six hundred manors in Suffolk upon his followers, who held them as great
tenants in capite. Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, William Warren, Earl of Surrey, William
Malet, Lord of Eye, Jeffery de Mandeville, Richard Fitz-Gilbert, Earl of Clare, Hugo de
Montford, Roger Bigot, and Ralph Baynard, obtained enormous grants. Robert Moreton,
Odo, Earl of Albemarle, Eudo de Rie, Robert de Todeni, Robert de Stafford, Alberic de
Vere, Robert de Limesi, Hugh de Grantmesnil, Peter de Valoines, Swene de Essex, Roger
d'Auberville, and Robert le Blund, acquired considerable estates.
Of these twenty puissant chieftains, who thus entered on the lands of the dispossessed
Saxons, the history is very remarkable; and in tracing the respective fortunes of themselves
and their descendants, if the reader question the immediate interference of retributive justice,
he must, at least, acknowledge the emptiness of sublunary honour, and the mutability of
earthly possessions. Eudo de Rie died without an heir male. The sons of three were
banished the realm. The grandson of Swene de Essex, standard-bearer to Henry II.,
was deprived for cowardice. The line of three became extinct in the persons of their sons:
three became extinct in the male line, in the third generation, and totally in the seventh
or eighth—two were extinct in the fourth: one in the fifth; two in the sixth generation,
and one in the ninth. The line of Alberic de Vere, however, after various forfeitures,
misfortunes, and violent deaths, continued till the beginning of the eighteenth century,
when it was extinguished in the person of Aubrey de Vere, who died without issue male
in 1702. Robert de Stafford is represented through the female line by the descendant
of the more ancient Dane. Robert de Todeni merged in female heirs in the seventh
descent, and is represented, like the great Earl Warren, through female heirs only, by the
house of Howard; but not one of them has left his name among the noble and the great.
Had a persecuted Saxon seer predicted to these proud barons in the day of their triumph
this complete, and in many instances, speedy annihilation of their fortunes and their race,
his prophecy had been received with a scornful laugh; but what had been the indignation
of the Norman, could he have known that the line of many of these dispossessed and despised
Saxons should flourish in wealth and honour, ages after his own lineage was lost and
King Stephen entered Suffolk with an army during his contests with the adherents
of the Empress Maud, when he laid siege to Ipswich, which he took in the year 1153.
Hugh Bigod, supporting the cause of the rebellious children of Henry II. against their
father, brought the miseries attendant on this unnatural contest into the county of Suffolk.
A body of Flemings, headed by the Earl of Leicester, landed at Walton, near Ipswich, where
they were joined by Bigod. These mercenaries were encountered on the banks of the Lark,
near Bury St. Edmund's, by the King's army under the command of Richard de Lacy, and
totally routed. Above ten thousand of the Flemings were slain. The scene of this fearful
carnage is pointed out by several tumuli, which may be seen on the right-hand side of
the road leading from Thetford to Bury, about a mile beyond Rymer House. Seven of these
tumuli are conspicuous for their size and height, and have given name to the spot. They,
probably, cover the bodies of the commanders, and the most considerable persons among the
slain. A gold ring, belonging to the Countess of Leicester, and supposed to have been lost
by her in her flight from this scene of her husband's disastrous conflict, was found a few
years ago in cleansing the river. Human bones, broken arms, and fragments of armour, are
also occasionally discovered in the vicinity.
"Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro,
Exesa inveniet scabra rubigine pila:
Aut gravibus rastris galeas pulsabit inanes,
Grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulchris."
Georg. I. 494.
Richard I. visited Suffolk on his return from Palestine, to pay his devotions at the
shrine of St. Edmund at Bury; when he presented the royal standard of Isaac, King of
Cyprus, to that monastery. It was at Bury that the first meeting between John and the
Barons was held to adjust the national grievances, and to procure the signature of Magna
Charta. Parliaments were held at Bury by Henry III. and Edward I., and in 1446 a
parliament was convened there for the purpose, it is thought, of effecting the destruction of
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. But these are subjects of general, rather than of local
In the reign of Richard II., when the vast preparations were made at Sluys for the
invasion of England, the coast of Suffolk presented a watchful scene. Twelve hundred and
eighty-seven ships, according to Froissart, were assembled for this expedition in the opposite
harbours of Sluys and Blanckenburgh. The Earls of Stafford and Pembroke were sent
to Orwell (fn. 7) with five hundred men at arms, and twelve hundred archers; Sir Henry, and Sir
Faulx Percy, to Yarmouth, with three hundred men at arms, and six hundred archers.
Watchmen were posted on all the hills near the sea-coasts opposite to France and Flanders.
"The manner of posting these watchers was as follows: they had large Gascony casks filled
with sand, which they placed one on the other, rising like columns: on these were planks,
where the watchmen remained night and day on the look-out. They were ordered, the
moment they should observe the fleet of France steering towards land, to light torches and
make great fires on the hills to alarm the country, and the forces within sight of these fires
were to hasten thither." (fn. 8)
When the agitation subsided, which had been caused by this threatened invasion, popular
insurrections of a formidable character manifested themselves throughout England. In
Suffolk, the insurgents amounted to above fifty thousand men. In 1381, they seized the
person of Sir John Cavendish, Lord Chief Justice of England, and murdered him at Bury.
Sir John Cambridge, the prior of that Abbey, was also beheaded by them. Their riots were
at length quelled by the valour of Spencer, the martial Bishop of Norwich, and their forces
In 1486, Suffolk was visited by Henry VII., who made a progress through it, to confirm
the loyalty of the inhabitants, on the expected invasion of Lambert Simnel, who had assumed
the name of Edward Plantagenet, and threatened a landing on the eastern coasts. Risings of
a similar nature to those just detailed again took place in the county, when Kett's insurrection occurred in Norfolk during the reign of Edward VI. This spirit of insubordination
manifested itself chiefly in the island of Lothingland, where the rioters assembled in great
numbers, and committed various acts of violence and aggression. Notwithstanding a defeat,
which they sustained at the hands of the men of Yarmouth, they succeeded in joining Kett
on Mousehold Heath. Among other causes assigned by the rioters for this rising, the
principal one alleged was the inclosing the commons and waste lands of the counties.
Upon the decease of Edward VI., his sister Mary first displayed her standard as Queen of
England at Framlingham Castle, where she was speedily joined by the Suffolk and Norfolk
gentry in great numbers. Sir John Sulyard, of Wetherden, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Sir John
Shelton, Sir William Drury, Sir John Tyrrell, Richard Freston, Esq., and Sir Thomas Cornwallis, the High Sheriff for the Counties, were the foremost in her cause. Her forces
speedily amounted to above 13,000 men, and hence she marched in triumph to London.
The county participated in the miseries soon after inflicted on the nation by this bigoted
queen and her ministers. Dr. Rowland Taylor was burnt at Hadleigh in 1555, for his
adherence to the reformed church. The place of his martyrdom is a high and bleak spot,
marked by a plain substantial column. Above twenty persons are recorded to have suffered
at the stake in this county. Several were burnt at Ipswich, Bury, and Laxfield; and three
were committed to the flames at Beccles in a most summary manner, without the warrant of
Council. (fn. 9)
Queen Elizabeth visited Suffolk in her magnificent progresses, and sailed down the Orwell
in great state, attended by the corporation of Ipswich.
Upon the threatened invasion of England by the Spanish Armada, Suffolk was eminent
in loyalty, and sent a gallant assemblage of Knights and Gentlemen to augment the army
encamped at Tilbury. These were "all choice men, and disciplined, and singularly
|Sir William Waldegrave, Knight, had in his band||500 men.|
|Sir William Spring, Knight||500 men.|
|Sir Nicholas Bacon, Knight||500 men.|
|Sir John Heigham, Knight||500 men.|
|Robert Foorde, Esq||500 men.|
Two thousand men were left in the county to "defend the inland with the ports and the
|Sir Robert Wingfield, Knight, had in his band||500 men.|
|Sir Philip Parker, Knight||500 men.|
|Sir Robert Jermyn, Knight||500 men.|
|Sir Thomas Barnadiston, Knight||500 men.|
In August, 1599, Suffolk sent eighty-one horsemen and horses into Essex, near London,
for the defence of the Court "against secret purposes intended." (fn. 10)
In 1635, during the reign of Charles I., the county of Suffolk was rated at £8000 for the
support of a ship of 800 tons, manned with three hundred and twenty seamen. This sum
was afterwards reduced to £6400, but even this the Sheriffs could not collect, through
the alleged inability of the inhabitants to pay it.
The following are some of the returns:
"Barsham, May 6th, 1640.
"Charles Suckling, Esqre., his answer is that he doe not refuse to paye, but he have no
Then follow twenty-eight names of inhabitants.
"All thes ther answers ar a like, and furthermore thaye saye, that if the constable plese to
leve uppon ther goods he Maye. John Muskit, Constable.
"The some chargid upon Barsham is £17. 3. 10, whereof collected 26s, and 2 pence.
"Shaddingfield was rated at £21. 1. 1½, divided among twenty-one persons. Thomas
Robinson, Clerk, paid for the tythes he leateth out to his P'ishioners 14s. 10. ½. Francis
Cuddon, Gent. £2. 10. 0.
"Shipmeadow was rated at £8. 11. 11, divided among thirty persons, whose names
are mentioned. Thos. Whall, Clerk, was rated 5s. 0. John Harborne, Esqr. 18s. 6. Robert
" The answer was, 'Wee finde our selfes unable, beinge the most Parte of us poore
fearmers, by reason of the greate Taxations w'ch wee formerly hadd by the settinge forthe
of souldiers with other chargis.' Complayninge still they have noe mony, neither can gett
any for commodities which they have. 'These thinges considered, we humblye crave yor
woreshippe to be exempted and discharged.' By Richard Firbancke, Constable.
"The Hamlett of Bungay Boysecott have not yett made a rate, and the constables name
is Robert Goodale, but he can neyther write or reade. The Hamlett abovesayd is to paye
£23. 14. 8. Richard Battle, a chief constable of the Hundred.
"Loving Partner, I know not whether the High Sheriffe doe expect the Somes charged
uppon those townes that have not made rates, but in the Warrant it is not expressed. If
neede require, I praye enter my Limitt in my returne thus:
|Willin: cum Hulverstreete||17||1||3½|
The answers from Ellough are as follow:
"Christopher Weste, clerk, saith he hath not the money. Thos. Love, Gent.; Lyonell
Seaman, Gent., and ten others return the same answer. John Love, Gent., saith further, his
reason is, because he hath many Comodyties by him made of his Fearme, but cannot come to
any sale for them. Will: Whitlesham doe returne the veray same answere. William
Bardwell doth further protest he cannot paye it although he should be sent to the Gaile.
Nicholas Pecke, Gent., an outdweller, his answere is that he must save his money to pay the
King his Subsidyes.
The names of persons refusing to pay the tax in Bungay, are given to the number of
one hundred and twenty, of whom some answer that the "charges to there Towne where they
live is soe great, that as yet they have no money to paie it;—this is there hole answere:
others say, Tradinge is so deade that they have noe money; they would they had it to pay it
very willinglye." Others declare "the want of the poore in there Towne is soe great, that as
yet they have noe moneye to paie." Others, "that in Tradinge times are soe hard that they
can skerslie mayntayne there charge and Famylie." Others give no answer, and are not to be
spoken with. The Constables thus sum up their return. "The whole Towne of Bongaie
within the Burrowe is of Tradesmen, and tradinge soe fayle, and the Towne soe pore for want
of Tradinge, that it is a generall complaynte in the whole Towne, not without just cause, as
the Tradesmen find by Experience, willing to paie, but not able to performe it."
The High Constables of the Hundred, in their general return, certify, "that the reasons
why the Shipp monyes is not as well paid now (1640) as in former yeares is, that the
Inhabitants are not able to paye the monyes charged upon them, being much impoverished
by the fourmer Payments for Shipping, lying for the most parte upon Fearmers for the
Landes in their Occupacon, whereas the Landlords, and other the most able and wealthyest
men, pay but little for ther grete estats, for w'ch they have formerly used by way of subsedye
to beare the greater parte of the charge upon the county: and likewise, that Tradinge is soe
deade, and chese, butter, corne, and all other ther comodyties doe yield soe little price,
as that they are not able to live, and pay their Rents."
The volume concludes with a very pathetic letter, praying from the Crown a remission
of the sum which cannot be collected. (fn. 11)
Suffolk being one of the associated counties for the maintenance of the Parliament
against Charles I., was placed under the command of the Earl of Manchester, and thus
in great measure escaped the horrors of civil war, at the expense of its loyalty. A few
cavaliers, however, endeavoured to secure the county for the King, but Cromwell surprised
them at Lowestoft, which he entered in 1643, at the head of one thousand cavalry, and,
seizing several of the most active loyalists, sent them prisoners to Cambridge. This bold
proceeding of the usurper is thus recorded in the parish registers of Lowestoft.—"March 14,
1643. Col. Cromwell, with a brigade of horse and certain foot, which he had from
Yarmouth, came to this town, and from thence carried away prisoners Sir Edward Barker
and his brother, Sir John Pettus, Mr. Knight of Ashwellthorpe, Mr. Catline, Capt. Hammond, Mr. Thomas Cory, with others, to Cambridge, and with these myself, (Rev. Jacob
Rous, Vicar,) Mr. Thomas Allen, (afterwards Admiral Allen,) Mr. Simon Canham, and
Thomas Canham of this town."
In 1644, Suffolk was harassed and disgraced by the visit of Matthew Hopkins, of
Manningtree, in Essex, the self-styled witch-finder general; who, having received a commission
from Parliament—can it be credited?—to perform a circuit through the associated counties,
entered Suffolk for the discovery of witches. Armed with his powerful 'commission,'
he inspected many towns, receiving twenty shillings from every place he visited. Sixty
poor decrepit wretches were put to death by him in one year in this county, forty of whom
suffered at Bury. Butler alludes to this demon's performances in 'Hudibras.'
"Has not this present parl'ament
A ledger to the devil sent;
Fully empower'd to treat about
Finding revolted witches out?
And has not he, within a year,
Hang'd threescore of 'em in one shire?"
Part II. Canto III. line 139.
Dr. Hutchinson, in his 'Historical Essay on Witchcraft,' page 66, tells us, "that the
country, tired of the cruelties committed by Hopkins, tried him by his own system. They
tied his thumbs and toes, as he used to do others, and threw him into the water, where
he swam like the rest."
During the reign of Charles II., two obstinate engagements were fought off the Suffolk
coast, between the Dutch and the English fleets. The first of these battles took place off
Lowestoft, on the 3rd of June, 1665.
The English fleet was commanded by the Duke of York, afterwards James II. Under
him were the impetuous Prince Rupert, and the gallant Earl of Sandwich. Cornelius Van
Tromp was the Admiral of the Dutch. The forces were pretty equally balanced; each fleet
consisting of about one hundred ships of war, and a few smaller vessels. After an obstinate
battle the Dutch were defeated, with the loss of eighteen ships taken, and fourteen sunk
or burned. The English lost only one ship.
The second encounter took place off Southwold, on the 28th of May, 1672, and is
popularly remembered in Suffolk as 'Sole Bay Fight.' The fleets of England and France
were on this occasion combined; the former consisting of sixty-five, and the latter of
thirty-five, men-of-war. The Duke of York was again in command. The Dutch fleet
under De Ruyter was composed of ninety-one ships of war, and some smaller vessels.
The battle again proved obstinate, but, unlike the former brilliant encounter, indecisive.
The brave Earl of Sandwich was killed, and above two thousand officers and seamen slain.
The English lost six ships of war; of which two were burned, three sunk, and one taken.
The Dutch lost only three ships of war, but a number of their smaller vessels were
destroyed. As the States-General prohibited an official return of the killed and wounded
in this action, it may be inferred that the loss of the Dutch was unusually severe. The
brunt of this action was sustained by the English, as the French are charged with having
hung back at the onset, Count D'Etrees, their Admiral, having received private instructions
to that effect from his Government. The French, however, lost two ships; and their
Rear-Admiral was killed. The combatants were parted in the darkness of the night, during
which the Dutch sheered off with their disabled fleet. The shattered state of the English
squadron prevented pursuit.
In 1782, during the pressure of the American war, the patriotism of Suffolk convened
a meeting of its principal inhabitants at Stowmarket; where it was agreed to raise a sum
of money, by subscription, sufficient to build a ship of seventy-four guns, to be presented
to Government. At the close of the year, it was found that only £20,000 had been assured,
but as the general peace followed soon afterwards, the subscribers were never called on
to fulfil their engagements.
On the 14th of January, 1736, George II. landed at Lowestoft, on his return from
Hanover. When the royal barge, with his Majesty, the Countess of Yarmouth, and the
Lords in attendance, approached the shore, a body of sailors belonging to Lowestoft,
uniformly dressed in seamen's jackets, waded into the sea; and meeting the barge, took it
on their shoulders, with the King, and all the nobility; and carried it to the beach without
suffering it to strike the ground. (fn. 12) His Majesty proceeded to London, after remaining in
Lowestoft about two hours, and was received at Ipswich with a congratulatory address
from the Corporation of that town.
George IV., when Prince Regent, paid a visit of some days to the Marquis of Hertford,
at Sudborne, near Orford, on a shooting excursion; but he never entered Suffolk after he
ascended the throne.
The Earldom of Suffolk was granted by William the Conqueror to Ralph de Guader, who
forfeited it, with his other honours, by rebelling against him. It was afterwards conferred on
Hugh Bigod, by King Stephen; and on the extinction of his line, was given to Robert de
Ufford, who was created Earl of Suffolk in 1337. It became again extinct on the death of
his son, in 1382. This was the first family, since the Norman Conquest, that held it distinct
from the Earldom of Norfolk.
The honour was next conferred by Richard II. on Michael de la Pole, whom he raised to
the Earldom on the 6th of August, 1385. It was connected with the various forfeitures and
re-grants of that family, as a Dukedom, till its final extinction in the person of Edmund
de la Pole, who was beheaded in the year 1513, and attainted; leaving no issue male. The
title of Suffolk, as a Dukedom, was re-granted by the capricious Henry VIII. to his brotherin-law, Charles Brandon, and once more became extinct in the person of his son, Henry
Brandon, who died in 1551, without issue. Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, having married
Frances, daughter of Charles Brandon, by Mary Tudor his wife, sister to Henry VIII., was
created Duke of Suffolk in 1551, but being beheaded and attainted for his designs on the
Crown, in favour of Lady Jane Grey, the title was again lost by forfeiture. It then continued
dormant till the reign of James I., when Thomas Howard, Baron Howard of Walden,
youngest son of Thomas Duke of Norfolk, was created Earl of Suffolk on the 21st of July,
1603, with whose heirs and descendants it has ever since continued; but the Dukedom has
never been revived.
The Norfolk and Suffolk round steeples have been the subject of much discussion. They
were long popularly ascribed to the Danes, and Mr. Britton, in his Essay on the Architecture
of the Anglo-Saxon period, countenances this opinion. He says, "the round towers attached
to churches in Norfolk and Suffolk, the district of East Anglia, have been attributed, with
some appearance of probability, to the Danes. As examples of architecture, they are
certainly devoid of science, or beauty in design; and the masonry is of the very rudest, and
most unskilful kind. They may fairly be referred to an age of barbarism; and no period of
the English annals is more entitled to this appellation than that of the Danish, under the
reigns of Canute, Harold, and Hardicanute." (fn. 13) Mr. Gage, an acute and accurate antiquary,
is far from according with this writer. He observes, "that the Danish dynasty subsisted in
Northumbria, as fully as in East Anglia; yet not a single example of the round tower will
be met with between the Humber and the Tweed."—"Instead of finding," he continues,
"this rude and doubtful character, I saw pure Norman architecture, or the circular style,
highly finished in some, and plainer in others, until it became more or less mixed with the
English, or Pointed: and with surprise I found the early pointed style prevalent in a great
many. There was but one tower, which I conceived might reach higher in antiquity than
the twelfth century, and that one not being earlier than the Norman time. None could
properly be said to be doubtful in the date of their construction; though some so mutilated
and altered, that the original character was lost." (fn. 14) The truth, perhaps, here, as in most
disputed cases, lies in the middle course. Mr. Britton could not have examined these
singular structures with any thing approaching to careful investigation, or his judgment
would never have assigned any great number of them to the Danish or Saxon period.
And yet there are a few which challenge the accuracy of Mr. Gage's position, that "none
rank higher in antiquity than the twelfth century." The tower of Cranwich Church, a
village situated a few miles north of Brandon, possesses characteristics decidedly Saxon.
The windows, of which there are but four, and those in the bell stage, are small and circular,
and deeply splayed both within and without. These apertures contain twisted tracery, not
unlike that in the tower of Barnak Church, in Northamptonshire. The whole air of this
steeple differs so materially from the general appearance of these circular structures, as to
have drawn an observation upon its peculiarity, even from so careless an investigator of
ecclesiastical architecture, as the continuator of Blomefield's Norfolk. He says, "This
tower is of great and venerable antiquity, built in the reign of the Danish kings, and probably
by Harold, King of England, of whom a free man held a moiety of this town in the time
of Edward the Confessor." (fn. 15)
The tower of Taseburgh Church, built within the lines of the Roman encampment there,
is ascribed by Mr. Gage to a period little subsequent to the Norman Conquest. This is
altogether a remarkable structure: freestone, and dressings of every kind, are absent throughout its entire fabric. It may enter the lists and challenge controversy as to its exact era,
which is, perhaps, half a century or more, higher than the one assigned.
An examination of the interior of the round tower at Bungay will amply repay the
curious in these pursuits. It has a singular triangular arch in the eastern face of the inner
wall, abutting upon the apex of the roof of the nave; and the character of the stones
employed in its masonry differs both in quality and size from those usually selected for
our circular towers.
By far the greater number, however, of these structures are unquestionably Norman;
but some are as late in their style as the reign of Henry III.; and very few are dubious
in their character and construction. Their masonry may be described as consisting of
rough and whole flints laid in very tenacious mortar. In some of the later examples thin
bricks are introduced in their interiors, and in a few cases the flints are broken; and the
squared faces laid outwards with considerable attention to regularity. They rise on an
average to the height of fifty or sixty feet, upon a diameter of fifteen or sixteen; the
thickness of the walls, in most cases, occupying the greater half. Their peculiar construction
can only be ascribed to the resources of the district, which abounds with bolders, or rolled
stones, but is altogether deficient in quarries whence squared stones might be obtained,
so essential to the corners of rectangular buildings.
There are several churches in Suffolk, portions of which lay claim to Saxon antiquity,
as the tower of Flixton, near Bungay, and a ruined church not far distant, which retains its
ancient appellation of the Minster.
Norman architecture is of very frequent occurrence in the Suffolk churches: here, in
many examples, a low ponderous square tower rises between the nave and the chancel,
sometimes accompanied with transepts, and very frequently terminating at the east end
in a semicircular apse. The most curious of these is the chancel at Fritton, by Yarmouth.
It is very remarkable, that while the Domesday Book records only one church as
then existing in Cambridgeshire, and none in Lancashire, Cornwall, or Middlesex, three
hundred and sixty-four are enumerated in Suffolk. Fuller (fn. 16) tells us that the churches of
Suffolk are all humble fabrics; but such an assertion proves an ignorance of his subject.
What is to be said of those glorious structures at Lavenham, Melford, Bury St. Edmund's,
Hadleigh, Framlingham, Southwold, Lowestoft, Beccles, and Blythborough—a fabric splendid
even in decay! These, and others, are all so many examples of grandeur in design, and
consummate skill in execution. Several of them display almost unparalleled specimens of
open wooden roofs, which, borne aloft by figures in busto, or occasionally, as at Bury, by
effigies in full proportion, exhibit a singular combination of boldness, picturesque effect,
and geometrical skill. Despite the wear and tear of centuries, and the yet more hurtful
botching of unskilful restoration, they put to shame the paltry imitations of modern design
There is a fine specimen of a wooden porch at Boxford, of the fourteenth century;
and in the timber roof of that of Chevington, some of the beams bear marks of the dog-tooth
moulding, which refer it to a century earlier.
Suffolk is unhappily not free from examples of modern church building,—those
plague-spots of architectural beauty. Should the stability of these structures transmit them
to posterity, which is greatly to be questioned, they will furnish to the pupils of a reviving
school, remarkable monuments of deficiency of taste, and ignorance of architectural
Of the ancient monastic buildings, in which Suffolk was once so prolific, the remains
are few, and not generally imposing. The gate-houses of Bury Abbey are the foremost
exceptions to this assertion; on the elegance and solidity of which fancy rebuilds the Abbey
Church in all the grandeur of majestic elevation and tasteful decoration beseeming that
wealthy establishment. The traces of foundation walls, and a breadth of western front, attest
its vast extent, which few of our cathedrals rivalled; and of which old Fuller says "the sun
never shone on fairer." At Sibton are some shattered walls of the conventual church: at
Butley is a gate-house, rich in heraldic sculpture; and Bungay presents some mouldering
but picturesque remains of former splendour. The chapel of the Augustines, at Clare, is
converted into a barn. The spacious crypts at Herringfleet have lately been degraded into
cottage residences. Among others, whose crumbling walls reflect faint tokens of former
grace, a rather striking fragment is visible at Leiston.
Of castellated architecture more perfect specimens remain. Orford, with its polygonal
Keep, 90 feet in height, recalls the stern magnificence of feudal days. Framlingham, a mere
shell, frowns on the spectator, a still proud fortress. Wingfield, with its turreted gateway,
is more entire, but less picturesque. The massy ruins of the castle of Bungay still remind
us of the turbulent period in which its lord could bid defiance to the Crown; and Mettingham,
with less of desolation, stands a proud monument of the noble families of Ufford and Norwich. But Suffolk is especially rich in examples of domestic architecture. Helmingham,
embosomed amidst "its tall ancestral trees," Hengrave, Melford, Kentwell, Parham, Flixton
—with its deep glades and sportive deer, the very paragon of old English mansions,—
Wenham, Roos Hall, &c., are here briefly noticed as a few of her memorials of the taste and
hospitality of a race whose descent will carry us to the highest period of authenticated