Commanded by the rising grounds to the south, if Bungay were now a fortified town it
could not sustain the siege of a single day; but in times of simpler warfare, when
artillery was unknown, its natural defences were very remarkable.
Encircled by a broad and rapid river, which left a narrow isthmus only to defend,
its site became, in succession, the stronghold of the Roman, the Saxon, and the Norman.
Coins, and other relics of their arts, attest the tenure of the former race; within whose
massy ramparts the Saxon fixed his dwelling—called it his Burgh in the goodly island,
and lived comparatively secure. Next came the proud and politic Norman, who,
despising the intrenchments of his simpler predecessors, raised the frowning towers of
his formidable fortress. The votaries of religion, sheltering in these stormy times
beneath the buckler of the feudal chieftain, built here their splendid fane, and exercised
their rites in security and peace.
The passing traveller sees now, perchance, nothing in the site but a neat and modern
town; and, immersed in railroad speculation and its gains, directs not his ideas to the
revolutions which the place has witnessed. Let him whirl on: we love to linger amidst
its moss-grown ruins—to retrace in imagination the days of its chivalry and splendour,
and catch, in fancy's ear, the solemn cadence of its cloistered nuns. What! though its
castle-hall be desolate and its towers razed—though its cloisters be levelled, and their
inmates dust,—they force from us a sigh for their departed glories, even while we
acknowledge the liberties resulting from their overthrow. They prove to us the instability of all earthly power, and serve, without a fiction, to "point a moral or adorn
At the period of the Norman Survey, Bungay was divided into several manors and
estates, which were retained by the Conqueror in his own hands, under the stewardship of William de Noiers. There were three churches within the Burgh, and two
without, all endowed with glebes; one of the former having 30 acres, valued at 3s.
The tenants were rich in swine, sheep, and poultry. The manor of Bungay Burgh,
before the Conquest, had been the property of Godric; but the Soke was held by
Stigand, who appears to have been the largest proprietor in the place. These manors
are now the property of His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, having descended to him
through a long line of ancestors from Roger Bigot, to whom they were granted by the
Conqueror soon after Domesday Book was compiled. There is a third manor in this
town called the Priory, having been the lordship of the convent, which has also merged
into the possessions of the same noble family by a transfer which will hereafter be
shown. Earl Hugh had also a manor and estate here.
Although Bungay was evidently a place of some consideration during the Saxon era,
it increased rapidly in population and wealth after it was granted to the Bigots, who
built a castle here, and made it the chief place of their residence. Amongst the earliest
of its privileges and immunities was the establishment of a mint; a fact which appears
from the Pipe Rolls of Henry II., which record that in 1158 the Jews at Bongeye paid
to that monarch £15 as minters. (fn. 1) In 1199, Hugh le Bigot gave the King forty marks
for permission to extend the privileges of his fair in Bungay; (fn. 2) and in the seventh of the
succeeding reign, Roger Bigot, Earl of Norfolk, had the royalty of the river Waveney
between the towns of Beccles and Bungay. In the twenty-fourth of Henry III.,
William de Pirnhoe released to the Earl, by fine, his right of fishery from the mills of
Cliff, and the bridge of Bungay; and the Earl granted him a fishery from Bungay bridge
to the Earl's vineyard. (fn. 3)
It does not appear when the market at Bungay was first established. It is not
recorded in Domesday Book, and, therefore, probably sprung up to supply the wants of
the lord of the castle and his numerous retainers. It was certainly existing in the reign
of Henry III., though it seems to have been in a languishing condition, for in the year
1245, Roger Bigot, Earl of Norfolk, granted to Thomas Bacon liberty to hold a weekly
market and a fair in Loddon, on paying to the said Roger 20s. per annum; he being
sued by the said Earl, as the market at Loddon was prejudicial to the Earl's market at
Bungay. (fn. 4) By an inquisition taken in 1302, or 1303, it was shown that the market at
Bungay was then held 'per diem Sabbati,' that is, we presume, on the Jews' Sabbath,
or Saturday; but by a charter dated the fifth and sixth of Richard II., 1382, the King
granted to his dear cousin, Margaret Mareschall, Countess of Norfolk, and the heirs of
her body, for ever, "quod habeant unum mercatum qualibet septimana per diem Jovis
apud manerium suum de Bungeye;" which alteration of the market-day to Thursday
has remained unaltered to the present time.
At an inquisitio post mortem, (fn. 5) taken in March, 1270, before J. le Monye, escheator
of the King on this side Trent, upon the death of Roger Bigot, late Earl of Norfolk, the
jury deposed that the aforesaid Earl held the town of Bungay, with its castle and
manor, of the Earl of Warwick, by the service of one knight's fee. They further
declared that the said Roger had rents in the aforesaid town, paid by free-tenants, to
the amount of £10. 7s. 0½d.
A few of the returns at this inquisition are transcribed, to show the value of property
and the state of the town at this period.
The lord's arable land let at 6d. per acre, producing a rental of £4. 10s. The
meadows were worth 2s. per acre, and the marshes 6d. The woods paid £3, and the
underwood 10s., while an alder-ground yielded 54s. yearly. There were then in the
town a water-mill, "quoddam molend: aquaticum," which let for 4 marks; and two
wind-mills, which produced a rental of 40s. The lord was also entitled to "works,"
or rent paid by labour, to a very considerable extent.
|"Sunt ibi opera yemalia c/viij et xxxij unde quodlibet opus valet ob.||xlis.||iiijd.|
|"Sunt ibi opera estivalia c/xij et xx/iiij et valet quodlibet opus ob.||lxiijs.||iiijd.|
|"Sunt ibi opera autumpnalia M et lx unde quodlibet opus valet jd.||cvs.|
|"Sunt ibi precariæ autumpnal: xx/viij unde quodlibet operatio valet jd.||xiijs.||iiijd.|
|"Sunt ibi aruræ carucarum xx/ix unde quodlibet arura valet iijd.||xxxs."|
Pleas and perquisites produced vjs. and viijd. per annum. The jury further found
that there were two fairs which yielded annually £4. 13s. 4d., and a market, the profits
of which amounted to £6. 13s. 4d. Although Hugh le Bigot gave the King, as
we have before seen, forty marks in the year 1199 for an extension of privileges at
his fair, which was now held twice a year, it would seem that these fairs were not
granted by charter, but originated from the ancient wakes that were annually held
on festival days, observed by the Romish Church in honour of saints. (fn. 6) The Bungay
May-fair, now held on the 14th of that month, was originally kept on the 3rd, which
day is celebrated by the Romish Church in memory of the 'Invention of the Cross'
by Helena, the mother of Constantine; and thus, though the conventual church at
Bungay was dedicated to St. Mary, the nunnery was founded in honour of the Holy
Cross; and the 14th of September, on which day the autumn fair is held, is a festival
of the same church, kept in memory of the Holy Cross, which Helena had left in
Jerusalem, being recovered by the Emperor Heraclius out of the hands of Cosroes, King
of Persia. (fn. 7)
In the reign of Edward I., Roger Bigot granted to his nephew, Sir John le Bigot, a
lordship, paying to him for all suits and services, a bearded arrow, yearly. The grant is
dated at Bungay.
In 1352, the jury for the Hundred of Earsham presented, that the inhabitants of
Bungay used, time out of mind, to repair the bridges between Bungay in Suffolk, and
Ditchingham and Earsham in Norfolk. (fn. 8) This heavy charge—heavy as borne by the
town alone—could relate to the two bridges only which cross the principal stream
of the Waveney; but how long it continued to be thus burdened does not appear.
The town was certainly relieved from this sole charge in the eighteenth century, for in
an old parish book belonging to Earsham is the following entry. "1737. Nov. 11th,
paid to William Colings for building the bridge between Bungay and Earsham, £ 17;
but the town had £ 5 from the county—£ 12." This bridge is called "Cock-bridge"
in old writings, from a public-house which formerly stood by it, on the site of the
residence of the late John Scott, Esq.
By an inquisitio post mortem, taken in the twenty-first of Edward III., of the goods
and chattels of Edward de Montacute, it was returned, that he held the manor of
Bungay, &c., and that there were in the said town a market and two fairs, which
yielded annually a rental of £ 31. 10s., and that Bungay had then four water-mills and
two wind-mills. In 1382, the value of the earl's right of free-fishery in the river
Waveney was estimated at 3s. and 4d. per annum. (fn. 9) The Earl,—William de Ufford,—
who was then Lord of Bungay, had an annual rental paid in kind, of 60 cocks, valued
at 5d. 500 eggs at Easter, valued at 15d. xvij opera ad brasium faciend; or 17 days'
work, assisting to brew the castle ale, valued at 7s. 1d.; price of each work 5d. xxvj
carragia fœni et bladi, or carting the lord's hay and corn, valued at 2s. 11d.; price of
each carting 1d. xxx opera cassator: val: p: an: xd. Item capatagia ibid: val: p: an:
xijd. Falcagia, or mowing the lord's crops, valent communibus annis xijd. (fn. 10)
In 1404, Robert Gonshill, Knt., possessed at the day of his death, the manor and
burgh of Bungay, held of the King in capite, in right of Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk,
lately his wife, who held them in dower of Thomas, late Duke of Norfolk; and Thomas
Beaufort, late Duke of Exeter, held a third part of a knight's fee in South Elmham,
Wisset, Mettingham, and Bungay. (fn. 11)
In 1428, the opinions of Wickliffe, the "morning star of the Reformation," had
extended to Bungay, and gained many proselytes there; for in that year, King Henry
the 6th sent a commission, directed to "John Executour of Colchester Castle," for the
apprehension of all persons guilty of heresy; in virtue of which commission he attached
six persons in the town of Bungay, and committed them to William Day and William
Roe, constables of that town, to be sent within ten days, under safe custody, to Norwich
Castle. John Spire, of Bungay, Bartholemew Monk, of Earsham, and nine or ten other
inhabitants of that village, were also apprehended; "some of whom suffered severely,
being obliged to save themselves from the torture of death by abjuring: sustaining such
cruel penance as pleased the then Bishop of Norwich and his Chancellor to lay upon
them." (fn. 12) The Bishop of Norwich recorded as the zealous coadjutor of the Chancellor
in his work of persecution, was William Alnwick, more favourably known to us as the
architect of the noble west window of his cathedral.
Upon the death of John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, in 1475, without issue male,
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, the second son of Edward IV., afterwards murdered
in the Tower of London, was created Duke of Norfolk, and betrothed to Anne, the
daughter and heiress of the late Duke. She was then a ward of the King. In 1477 it
was agreed, in consequence of this intended marriage, that "whereas Elizabeth Duchesse
of Norff. late Wif to the seid John late Duc of Norff. fader to the seid Anne after the
decesse of the same John late Duc was entitled to dyvers and many grete castelles
maners lordshippes and other possessions and reversions of thenheritaunce of the same
late Duc as well by reason of her joyntour as of her dower: The same Elizabeth
duchesse forasmoche as the King oure Soveraine Lord havyng the warde of Anne
doughter and heire of the same late Duc of Norff. entendid to marie the seid Anne his
warde to the seid Richard Duc of Yorke and Norff.; the same Elizabeth duchesse
remembring the Kings excellent grace so disposed to the grettest honoure well and
avaunsement of the seid Anne, and of her self for the pleasire of his highnesse and for
and to the well of the forseid noble duc of Yorke and Norff. and Anne her doughter,
graunted and agreed to forbere and leve grete parte of that to hir birlongid of hir seid
joyntour and dower of thenheritaunce of the seid late Duc her husbond and to take and
hold her content with a lesse parte therof in recompense of all the remenaunt.
Wherupon it was appointed bitwene the Kyng our Soverain lord and the seid duchesse
of Norff. that the same duchesse in full satisfaction and recompense of and for all her
joyntour and dower shuld have possede and enjoye the castelles lordshippes maners
hundredes and half hundredes feires and marketts and other things folowing with
thappurtenaunce, that is to seie, castelles lordshippes and maners of Bungey Erle
Stonham Erle Soham Donyngworth Hollesley with Sutton Cratfeld Staverton and
Bromeswall Walton with Tremley and Hoe with thappurtenaunces in the Shire of Suff.
And by the same auctorite it is ordeywd and enacted that alle the same castelles
lordshippes maners hundreds and half hundreds feires and marketts with thappurtenaunces after the deceas of the same Elizabeth duchesse of Norff. and of the seid Anne
shall remayn to the seid Richard duc of Yorke and Norff. to have to hym for terme of
his lyf." (fn. 13)
After the murder of the young Duke of York and Norfolk, and the death of his
infant betrothed wife, John Howard was created Duke of Norfolk. He was the Jockey
of Norfolk, slain at Bosworth in 1485. Bungay Castle and manors were thus again
re-conveyed to the ancient line, and followed their fluctuating fortunes, till the reign of
Queen Elizabeth, when, upon attainder of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, the manors of
Bungay reverted to the Crown. By letters patent of James I., dated at Westminster in
1602, that King gave to his faithful councellor, Thomas, Lord Howard, Baron of
Waldon, and Henry Howard, brother of Thomas, late Duke of Norfolk, and son of
Henry, late Earl of Surrey, and their heirs, the several manors of Ditchingham, &c., in
Norfolk, and the castle, soke, and manor of Bungay, &c., in Suffolk; by which grant
each of them was seized of a moiety. All which premises they divided by indenture,
dated 13th of May following. Amongst others, the manor of Bungay was assigned to
Henry, Earl of Northampton, and his heirs; of which he died seized in 1613. It
descended to Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, who was restored in blood, March
the 19th, 1602, as cousin and next heir, then aged 25 years; he being the son of
Philip, late Earl of Arundel and Surrey, deceased, son and heir of Thomas, late Duke of
Norfolk, and eldest brother of the said Henry, late Earl of Northampton. This
nobleman's grandson, Thomas Howard, was restored to the dukedom, December 29th,
1660, with whose successors the manors of Bungay remain.
The following marvellous relation of a 'Tempeste in Suffolke' is copied from a
scarce tract in the British Museum, and the events recorded are mentioned by Stowe,
in his additions to Holinshed's Chronicles.
"Tempeste in Suffolke.—On Sundaie the fourth of August, between the hours of nine and ten
of the clocke in the forenoone, whilest the Minister was reading of the second lesson in the Parish
Churche of Bliborough, a Towne in Suffolke, a strange and terrible Tempest of Lightning and Thunder
strake through the wall of the same churche into the ground, almost a yard deepe, drave downe all the
people on that side above twentie persons, then renting the wall up to the Vestrie, clefte the doore, and
returning to the Steeple, rent the timber, brake the Chimes, and fled towards Bongie, a Towne six miles
off. The people that were striken downe were found grovelling more than halfe an houre after, wherof,
one man more than fortie yeares, and a boie of fifteene yeares old were found starke dead: the others
were scorched. The same, or the like flash of Lightning and cracks of Thunder rent the Parish Church
of Bongie, nine miles from Norwich, wroong insunder the wiers and wheels of the Clocke, singd two
men which sat in the Belfreie, when the others were at the procession or suffrages, and scorched another
which hardlie escaped."
In the title of the original is a rude cut of a Black dog.
"A Straunge and terrible Wunder wrought very late in the parish Churche of Bongay, a Town of
no great distance from the Citie of Norwich, namely the fourth of this August in the yeere of our Lord
1577, in a great tempest of violent raine, lightning and thunder, the like whereof hath been seldome
seene. With the appeerance of an horrible-shaped thing, sensibly perceived of the people then and
there assembled. Drawen into a plain method according to the written copye by Abraham Fleming."
Then follows a preface to the reader, too long to insert, but concluding with the
assurance that the narration is grounded upon truth, and, therefore, not only worthy the
writing and publishing, but also the hearing and considering.
"The Reporte of a Straunge and Wonderful Spectacle.
"Sunday, being the fourthe of this August, in ye yeer of our Lord 1577, to the amazing and
singular astonishment of the present beholders, and absent hearers, at a certain towne called Bongay,
not past tenne miles from the citie of Norwiche, there fell from Heaven an exceeding great and terrible
tempeste sodein and violent, between nine of the clock in the morning, and tenne of the day aforesaid.
"This tempest took beginning with a rain, which fel with a wonderful force, with no lesse violence
than abundance which made the storme so muche the more extrem and terrible.
"This tempest was not simply of rain, but also of lightning, and thunder, the flashing of the one
wherof was so rare and vehement, and the roaring noise of the other so forceable and violent, that
it made not only people perplexed in minde and at their wits end, but ministered such strange and
unaccustomed cause of feare to be conceived, that dumb creatures with ye horrour of that which fortuned,
were exceedingly disquieted, and senselesse things void of all life and feeling shook and trembled.
"Therr werr assembled at the same season, to hear divine service and common prayer, according to
order, in the Parish Churche of the said towne of Bongay, the people thereabouts inhabiting, who were
witnesses of the straungenesse, the carenesse, and sodenesse of the storme, consisting of raine violently
falling, fearful flashes of lightning, and terrible cracks of thunder, which came with such unwonted force
and power, that to the perceiving of the people, at the time and in the place above named, assembled, the
Church did as it were quake and stagger, which struck into the harts of those that were present, such a
sore and sodain feare, that they were in a manner robbed of their right wits.
"Immediately herrupon, there appeared in a most horrible similitude and likenesse to the congregation, then and there present, A Dog as they might discerne it, of a black colour; at the sight
wherof, together with the fearful flashes of fire then were seene, moved such admiration in the minds of
the assemblie, that they thought doomes day was alread'y come.
"This Black Dog, or the Divel in such a likenesse (God hee knoweth all who worketh all) running
all along down the body of the Church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in
a visible forme and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, and
occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, insomuche
that even in a moment where they kneeled they stra'gely dyed.
"This is a wonderful example of God's wrath, no doubt to terrifie us, that we might feare him for his
justice, or putting back our footsteps from the pathes of sinne, to love him for his mercy.
"To our matter again. There was at ye same time another wunder wrought: for the same Black
Dog, still continuing and remaining in one and the self-same shape, passing by an other man of the
congregation in the Church, gave him such a gripe in the back, that therewith all he was presently
drawen togither and shrunk up, as it were a piece of lether scorched in a hot fire; or at the mouth of a
purse or bag, drawen togither with a string; the man, albeit he was in so straunge a taking, dyed not,
but, as it is thought, is yet alive: whiche thing is mervellous in the eyes of men, and offereth muche
matter of amasing the minde.
"Moreover, and beside this, the clark of the Church being occupied in cleansing the gutter of
the Church, with a violent clap of thunder was smitten downe, and beside his fall, had no further harme:
unto whom beeing all amased, this straunge shape, wherof we have before spoken, appeared, howbeit he
escaped without daunger; which might, peradventure, seem to sound against trueth, and to be a thing
incredible; but let us leave thus, or judge thus, and cry out with the prophet, O Domine, &c.! O Lord,
how wonderful art thou in all thy works!
"At the time that these things in this order happened, the Rector, or Curate, of the Church, being
partaker of the peoplees perplexitie, seeing what was seen and done, comforted the people, and exhorted
them to prayer, whose counsell, in such extreme distresse, they followed, and prayed to God as they were
assembled togither, &c."
The narration concludes with a "necessary prayer" to God, to shield those who
flee to him for succour "against all manner of annoyances whatsoever."
This strange relation was "imprinted at London by Frauncis Godly, dwelling at the
west end of Paules."
The register books of St. Mary's parish church give a far less marvellous relation of
this tempest, which was, no doubt, even when divested of fiction, a very awful storm.
The following is a copy.
"1577. John Fuller and Adam Walker slayne in the tempest, in the belfry, in the
tyme of prayer, upon the Lord's day, ye iiijth of August."
On the 2nd of September, 1652, Bungay sustained considerable injury by a fire;
connected with which calamity is the following extract from a parish record entitled
"There was ad the last yere's accoumpt in readye money £20. 16s. 7d. ib: and
15s. 7d. which rested to poore scholars then that was locked upp in a box with the
bonds and other wrightings belonginge to this accoumpte; the box haveinge twoe lockes,
and the twoe primer ffeoffees keepinge the severall keyes; which box was then at the
house of George Gooch, gent., nowe deceased; the then primer ffeoffee. And by reason
of a sudden and lamentable ffier happeneinge to be upon the second daye of September,
1652, nere the dwellinge-house of the said George, and burnt downe his out-houses, by
reason of which hee was inforced to have his goods removed out of his head-house,
amongest which this box was removed, and by some idle and wretched person or
persons in the sadd and lamentable tyme of the fier the cover of the box was brooken;
the lockes continuendinge locked. But the money taken out and carryed awaye."
In the year 1669, the twenty-second of Charles II., an Act of Parliament was
obtained to render the river Waveney navigable for barges up to this town, by the
means of locks; four of which have, accordingly, been constructed between Barsham
On the 1st of March, 1688, a fire, of calamitous extent, broke out in Bungay about
sun-rise, in a small uninhabited tenement, "which spread itself so irresistibly, that in
four hours the flames consumed the whole town except one small street and a few
houses; and destroyed one of the churches, being a large and magnificent building,
together with a free-school, and three alms-houses; two eminent market crosses, and
the dwelling-houses of one hundred and ninety families; many brewing offices, shops,
warehouses, barns, and other houses, near four hundred in number; in which most of
the sufferers, through the sudden and violent rage of the flames, lost all their house
hold-stuff, stock, goods, and substance: the loss amounting to £29,898, and upwards."
A brief to collect money in church, as well as from door to door, in aid of the
sufferers from this fire, was granted on the 7th of June following, being the first year of
the reign of William and Mary. The original brief, engrossed on parchment, is now in
the possession of John B. Scott, Esq., of Bungay, a gentleman of considerable archæological taste and knowledge, to whom the writer is indebted for much information
respecting the present article. The brief for this fire is thus endorsed: "Collected at
Deepham cum Hackford, in the county of Norfolk, the sum of 19s and 8d."
Mr. G. Baker, of Bungay, has an original receipt given to the inhabitants of
Earsham for a collection made by them on the same account.
"Aprill the 4th, 1689.
"Recē then of the inhabitants of Earsham, the sume of six fforty poundes and fower
pence, being monyes given and bestowed towards the releife of the distressed sufferers
by reason of the late dreadfull fire at Bungay, in the county of Suff:
"I say rec'd by me,
In the overseers' book of accounts of receipts and expenditure for the parish of
Bungay St. Mary, from Easter, 1688, to Michaelmas, 1720, there occurs the following
marginal entry: "1688. In this year was that dreadful fire, which destroyed the howses
and goods of all the persons on charged, besides the church of St. Mary's burned to the
ground, with the steeple, and melted six fine bells, and did some dammage to the church
of St. Trinity, to ye loss of about thirty thousand pounds." (fn. 14)
The year 1688, in which this fire occurred, was also that in which the Revolution
took place, in favour of the Prince of Orange; and tradition reports that the house in
which it broke out was designedly set on fire by the papists: whence arose the
proverbial saying, when a very wicked and malicious man is intended to be represented,
that he is "as big a rogue as burnt Bungay." (fn. 15) A very ancient house, standing
opposite to St. Mary's church, and a few others, escaped the flames. Of these,
the older part of a good mansion, lately in the possession of Mr. Richard Mann, but at
that time the property of Gregory Clarke, who was then rebuilding it, was saved from
the flames by his employing the workmen to keep wet blankets over the roof, which had
just been put on.
On the 4th of October, 1689, the town, not yet recovered from the destructive
effects of the fire, was injured by the violence of an opposite element. On that day it
began to rain towards night, and continued without intermission, with the exception of
a few hours on the 6th, till the 10th, at noon; which caused such a rage of waters as
overflowed the lower part of the city of Norwich, and broke down the bridges at
Bungay. (fn. 16)
About the year 1700, a scheme was projected by Mr. King, an apothecary of
Bungay, to bring this town into notice as a bathing and watering-place; the chalybeate
spring in the old castle having been considered by him to possess medicinal properties
of great value. In furtherance of his plan, Mr. King built a bath-house at Earsham, a
village in Norfolk, on the opposite bank of the Waveney; near which he planted a
vineyard, surrounded by agreeable walks. In 1734, the following advertisement,
apprising the public of his undertaking, was inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine. (fn. 17)
"Mr. King, Apothecary in the pleasant town of Bungay, in Suffolk, has finished, after
Sir John Floyer's plan, a cold bath there, in a delightful situation and healthful air:
every thing is compleatly and handsomely provided for the reception of such gentlemen
and ladies as shall be advised, either to the use of the cold bath, or of mineral waters,
of which there is an excellent sort at that place."
Mr. King shortly afterwards published a pamphlet entitled 'An Essay on Hot and
Cold Bathing,' from which I cannot but insert an extract, as a specimen of flowery
language of the very richest kind. Speaking of the bath-house, and its surrounding
attractions, it is said: "Those lovely hills, which incircle the flowery plain, are
variegated with all that can ravish the astonished sight. They arise from the winding
mazes of the river Waveney, enriched with the utmost variety the watry element is
capable of producing. Upon the neck of this peninsula, the castle and town of Bungay,
(now startled at its approaching grandeur,) is situated on a pleasing ascent to view the
pride of nature on the other side, which the goddesses have chose for their earthly
paradise; where the sun, at its first appearance, makes a kindly visit to a steep and
fertile vineyard, richly stored with the choicest plants from Burgundy, Champaigne,
Provence, and whatever the East can furnish us with. Near the bottom of this is
placed the grotto, or bath itself, beautified on one side with oziers, groves, and meadows;
on the other with gardens, fruits, shady walks, and all the decorations of a rural
innocence. The building is designedly plain and neat; because the least attempt of
artful magnificence would, by alluring the eyes of strangers, deprive them of those
profuse pleasures which nature has already provided. As to the bathing, there is
a mixture of all that England, Paris, or Rome could ever boast of:—no one is refused a
kind reception: honour and generosity reigns throughout the whole; the trophies of
the poor invite the rich, and their more dazzling assemblies compel the former."
There is a view of the vineyard and bath-house appended to Mr. King's amusing
book, engraved in the formal style of the day. The work is rather scarce, and well
deserves a place in the collections of the curious, who feel interested in Bungay and its
vicinity. Mr. King's scheme proved abortive; but the bath-house and its agreeable
scenery continued for many years to be the occasional resort of the neighbouring
In 1737, Owen Thirkettle, of Bungay Trinity, gave £50 for a clock and chimes,
which were placed in the tower of St. Mary's Church.
In 1757, Bungay experienced the shock of an earthquake, as we learn from a
London Magazine for that year. "Norwich, January 15th. On Monday last, between
2 and 3 in the morning, we had a slight shock of an earthquake, preceded by a
rumbling noise in the air. As it happened at the time when the generality of people
were sound asleep, it was not perceived by many; but those that were awake, and the
few persons that were by, were very sensible of it. It was likewise felt at Yarmouth,
Diss, South Walsham, Loddon, Bungay, &c."
Among the manuscripts of the late Mr. Ashby, now in the possession of John B.
Scott, Esq., it is stated that the sum of £86. 12s. 5d. was subscribed by the town
of Bungay towards the relief of the Dutch sailors wounded at the naval action off
Camperdown in 1797,—a noble tribute of charity in behalf of a brave but fallen foe.
In June, 1810, the old corn-cross was taken down, and the lead sold for 26s. and
6d. per hundred weight. The timber and other materials fetched £57. The entire
cross was sold for £135. 18s. 2d., the net produce being £125. 5s. 1d. (fn. 18) This
produce was appropriated to the sinking of a well, and erecting a pump near the spot.
Eight white stones are placed at the several angles where the cross stood, to mark the
boundary. The lord of the manor formerly held his courts within it. There is
a long letter, dated Bungay, January 16th, and signed Amicus, in the Gentleman's
Magazine, vol. lxx., for 1810, about the taking down of this cross.
A Saint Nicholas' token was found on the castle hills in the year 1820. It came
into the possession of Mr. J. Ashby, who having lent it to a gentleman to take an
impression from it, it was, by being placed in a mangle, so flattened that the figures
and inscription were no longer discernible. A copy of it, however, was taken before
this accident occurred, which is now in the hands of John B. Scott, Esq. A leaden
Bulla of Celestine III., in excellent preservation, who was Pope from the year 1191
to 1198, was also discovered in 1824 in a meadow by the castle hills, and is now in
the possession of Mr. G. Baker, whose valuable and extensive collection of coins and
medals is equalled by few in any country town of the kingdom.
In 1826, in sinking a well in the Earsham-street, near the castle, Mr. Henry
Doughton found two Roman coins; one of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, 1: brass; and
the other of Faustina, 2: brass.
In the same year, Mr. T. Utting, on removing some fragments of the castle wall,
which had fallen into his garden, found a rude leaden seal inscribed S: G: Rob:
Blokoo; and in the following year, a coin of Gordianus Pius, who was assassinated in
the East, a.d. 244, was discovered in the garden of Mrs. Barlee, near Duke's-bridge.
A silver penny of Offa, King of Mercia, with the name of his moneyer, 'Othelres,'
was dug up, in an osier-ground near the castle ramparts, in 1813, and was lately in the
collection of Mr. G. Baker, who is also in possession of an antique spur, found on
A hermitage, with a small chapel adjoining, was founded at an early period near
the east end of the bridge, and on the south side of the river. It was demolished in
1733. (fn. 19) When we surveyed this place, says Mr. Jermyn, some years ago, (Feb. 5,
1798,) we could discover then only a few of the large stones near the river, which
originally had formed part of the foundation of the north gable of this ancient building,
and which gable end, as we were informed, was standing a few years ago. (fn. 20)
Of the buildings of the Friars Minorites or Franciscans in this town it will be
impossible to speak with any certainty, when even the existence of such an order here is
a matter of dispute. Tradition asserts that there was an establishment of this fraternity
in Bungay, and some old walls at the entrance of the Bridge-street have been pointed
out as belonging to it, but Tanner says nothing to confirm this; neither is it mentioned
by the Index Monasticus, nor any other authority.
St. John's Hospital stood by the road leading from the town towards Halesworth,
and some enclosures thereabouts are still called St. John's Fields. It was, probably, a
leper-house, because the Vicar of Trinity has a piece of land called the Spital.
The ancient chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, which is mentioned in old deeds as
standing to the south of the town, has a few old walls left to determine its site. These
are now incorporated into a modern house, near the residence of the late General Kelso.
A flattened arch, with its water-tables and accompaniments, bespeaks its antiquity.
The old house in the Ollands-street, already mentioned, which escaped the fire in
1688, is supposed by many to have been the Infirmary attached to the Nunnery; and
by others considered as an Hostelry for the accommodation of strangers and pilgrims
resorting to the adjacent religious establishment. Whatever may have been its appropriation, it is certainly as old as the latter part of the fifteenth century, and was a
private house in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. An old mantel-piece of that era, now in
the house of Mr. G. Baker, has the arms of Bedingfeld, with a crescent, as marking a
junior branch, in one of its compartments; and in a corresponding position was the
cognizance of D'Oyley. John Duke, Esq., who was living in Bungay in 1550, is
supposed to have dwelt here. The front of this venerable relic has been barbarized of
late by the removal of many of its ancient features, and the substitution of modern doors
and windows; but the upper story retains some of its original ornaments. On the
projecting sills of the windows are various devices, among which the feats of Samson
are conspicuous. The slaughter of the Philistines, and the treachery of Delilah, are
clearly illustrated; but the exploits of a child leading two winged, but seemingly
harmless dragons, which are said to represent the infant Hercules strangling the
serpents, are not so satisfactorily portrayed. The sill of a window, now removed,
showed the fate of Actæon devoured by his dogs.
As to the original appropriation of this mansion, I can offer nothing definitive, but
my impression is, that it was always a private residence. It was not likely to have been
the Infirmary of a society of religious females, because it stood without the walls of their
establishment; and from the carving on one of the window sills, which shows—besides
the bust of the Virgin Mary—an escutcheon bearing a merchant's mark, I conclude the
builder or occupier to have been a wealthy tradesman of Bungay.
Outney Common is a large extra-parochial tract of meadows, lying on the north of
the town, and containing 402 acres. It was formerly the bed of the Waveney, when
its waters flowed in a more expanded stream; and must have been covered with seawater at some remote period, as marine shells have been occasionally found beneath its
soil. It is under the management of Commonreeves. In 1707, the lord of the manor
and the commoners agreed to reduce the commonages, or right of depasturing cattle
thereon, from five to three beasts; and in 1845, there were only 150 commonages, or
300 beast-goings. It is encompassed by the river Waveney, except on its south side,
where it is skirted by the town, from which it was cut off in ancient times by a deep
ditch, extending east and west to the two bends of the river. This ditch has been
considered as a Roman work, but I think there is no positive evidence of this; and it
might have been dug by the Bigots, who conveyed the materials so obtained to raise the
huge barriers of earth around their castle. It insulated the common, and materially
strengthened the defences of their fortress on the north.
The town pest-house was formerly situated here, and was pulled down in 1771, when
the materials were sold for £40. The foundations of it are yet visible.
The land to the south of the town, called the Ollands, is written in old deeds the
Hollands, and the Off-lands, and is also described, in the reign of Edward III., as the
"campum de Ilketshall."
Bungay is divided into two districts, called Bungay Burgh, and Bungay Boyscott,
meaning the town and hamlet, without any reference to the two parishes. The taxes
upon these divisions have long been separately levied, as will be seen on referring to the
Introduction of this work, at pages xxvii. and xxviii.
Before the dissolution of the nunnery, there were two crosses in this town, one of
which stood near the site of the vicarage-house of Trinity parish, and the other on
the spot now occupied by the lord's pound. The remains of the latter were visible
In the year 1540, a skeleton was discovered near Duke's-bridge House, carefully
embedded in clay, apparently for its preservation. It was concluded to be the remains
of a person whom the times rendered it necessary to conceal. Duke's-bridge House,
now the residence and property of Mrs. Barlee, is considered to have taken its name
from the ancient family of Duke, who had possessions in Bungay at an early period.
John Duke, of Bungay, devised by his will, dated April 24th, 1559, certain lands and
tenements to the poor belonging to Trinity parish; but there is no documentary evidence
to show that any of the family was ever possessed of the estate in question. It more
probably took its name from the Dukes of Norfolk, as it is held, with its curtilage of
10 acres, in free-tenure, under the Howards, as lords of the manor of Bungay Soke.
Sir Edward Kerrison is the owner of the Duke's-bridge farm, which his father purchased
of the late Rev. Mr. Williams; and Mr. William Denny is the proprietor and occupier
of the Duke's farm, which he purchased of Charles, Duke of Norfolk, under the Act of
Parliament which His Grace obtained to sell property in Bungay, to purchase at
Arundel. The tithes of this farm have been awarded to Mr. Denny, and, therefore,
it was probably part of the Bungay Priory lands, and could never have belonged to the
Duke family. (fn. 21)
Bungay possesses the privilege of sending two pensioners to Greenwich Hospital, in
case they are not nominated by Shotesham, in Norfolk, and there are instances on record
where the town has availed itself of this provision.
Stow Park is in the Duke of Norfolk's manor of Bungay Soke. At an inquisition,
taken at Ipswich on the 11th of January, 1307, thirty-fifth of Edward I., when Roger
Bigot died, it was said, "Item est ibidem Parcus cum feris, qui vocatur Stowe Park, et
valet herbagium p: an: vs. viijd., et subbosco ibid nihil." In the same year, Stow-fen,
now an extra-parochial common of about 88 acres, is called 'Alnetum,' or an alderground. It appears from deeds that the Duke of Norfolk claimed Stow Park as his
freehold, and as a park belonging to the manor of Bungay Soke, at a much later period.
In the account of John Hardinge, bailiff of the manor in the 38th of Henry VIII.,
he claims "vis. viijd. of the firme herbage of the park there, called Stowe Park, soe
let to John Brice for the terme of ten yeares, this yere, &c." Arthur Everard, Esq.,
and his predecessors, always claimed to hold it as their copyhold, but have not been
admitted thereto successively. (fn. 22)
There must have been a residence of considerable importance in this park at an
early period, for John Scott, Esq., has collected many architectural details from its
enclosures; though the existence of such a building is not shown by any deeds or
charters which have come under my notice. Among the fragments obtained hence are
some capitals of wrought freestone, of a Norman character, which appear to have
belonged to a chapel.
The manor of Bardolph Ilketshall extends into the parish of Bungay Trinity, and
belongs to Sir Windham Dalling, Bart., of Earsham Hall, whose family were formerly
residents in Bungay. In the year 1718, the name of John Dalling occurs in the town
The mill on the Flixton road was removed a few years since to the spot on which it
now stands from a site nearer the town. It is called in writings of Queen Elizabeth's
time, "the mill of the Lord of Bardolph."
Part of Trinity parish lies by the side of the old Roman road called Stone-street, at
the distance of about five miles from the town. As it is encompassed by the parish of
St. Laurence Ilketshall, it was probably a member of that portion of the manor of
Bardolph which extended into Bungay.
Bungay Castle, as a stronghold, dates its origin from a period very little posterior
to the Norman Conquest; but whether it was built by Roger Bigot, or his immediate
successor, is unknown. It was certainly a formidable fortress in the time of Hugh
Bigot, whose perjury and adherence to the cause of Stephen, mainly contributed to
place that chieftain on the English throne. Bigot, rewarded for his services with the
Earldom of Norfolk, continued the firm adherent of the reigning monarch till the year
1140; when, conceiving himself ill used by Stephen, and looking, probably, for further
aggrandizement at a time when, as the Saxon Chronicle tells us, "all was dissention,
and evil and rapine," he openly espoused the cause of the Empress Matilda. Bigot
relied on his possessions here and the strength of his castle; but Stephen marched
speedily into Suffolk, and reduced his stronghold. The ancient writer, who has recorded
this event, is as brief in his narration as Stephen was prompt in action, and has
furnished no details of the siege. He dryly informs us of the fact in these concise
terms. "Anno 1140. Ad Pentecostem ivit rex cum exercitu suo super Hugonem
Bigodth in Sudfolc, et cepit castellum de Bunie." (fn. 23) Having inflicted this chastisement
upon his turbulent vassal, Stephen received him again into favour, and restored him his
Castle of Bungay.
One of the first acts of Henry II., after his accession to the throne, was to punish
the adherence of Bigot to the cause of his mother's foe, by depriving him of his dignities
and castles; in all of which he was reinstated in 1163. Bigot, however, again deserted
the interests of his monarch in 1174, and by treaties, privately executed at Paris, united
his influence with the cause of Henry's rebellious sons. Their insurrection being quelled
by the valour of Richard de Lacy, the King's general, who defeated Bigot and his
foreign allies near Bury St. Edmund's, the King advanced into Suffolk with an army,
determined to execute on him the full measure of his wrath; and having razed to the
ground his castle at Walton, and gained possession of that at Framlingham, prepared to
destroy the last stronghold of this perfidious baron. It was upon retreating to this
fortress that Bigot expressed to those who attended him his perfect confidence in its
impregnable strength; declaring that, "were he in his castle of Bungay, upon the
waters of Waveney, he would not set a button by the King of Cockney." (fn. 24)
The King, however, advanced, and setting down before Bungay Castle, summoned
it to surrender. Roger Hoveden relates that Bigot had only five hundred soldiers in
his garrison at this time, and that the men, despairing of any further supply, secretly
deserted the castle, and left him to make what terms he could with his incensed sovereign.
There is an old ballad in existence, of considerable merit, which, though not so old
as the facts it narrates, is probably founded upon traditionary anecdotes connected with
the conduct of Bigot on this emergency; and I shall offer no apology for reprinting it.
"The King has sent for Bigod bold,
In Essex whereat he lay,
But lord Bigod laugh'd at his Poursuivant,
And stoutly thus did say:
'Where I in my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I would ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"Hugh Bigod was Lord of Bungay tower,
And a merry lord was he,
So away he rode on his berry-black steed,
And sung with license and glee,
'Where I in my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I would ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"At Ipswich they laugh'd to see how he sped,
And at Ufford they star'd, I wis,
But at merry Saxmundham they heard his song,
And the song he sung was this;
'Where I in my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I would ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"The Baily he rode and the Baily he ran,
To catch the gallant Lord Hugh,
But for every mile the Baily rode,
The Earl he rode more than two;
Saying, 'Where I in my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I would ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"When the Baily had ridden to Bramfield oak,
Sir Hugh was at Ilksall bower;
When the Baily had ridden to Halesworth cross,
He was singing in Bungay tower—
'Now that I'm in my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I will ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"When the news was brought to London town,
How Sir Bigod did jest and sing,
'Say-you to Lord Hew of Norfolk,'
Said Henry, our English King,
'Though you be in your castle of Bungay,
Upon the river of Waveney,
I'll make you care for the King of Cockney.'
"King Henry he marshal'd his merry men all,
And through Suffolk they march'd with speed;
And they march'd to Lord Bigod's castle wall,
And knock'd at his gate, I rede:
'Sir Hugh of the castle of Bungay,
Upon the river Waveney,
Come, doff your cap to the King of Cockney.'
"Sir Hughon Bigod, so stout and brave,
When he heard the King thus say,
He trembled and shook like a May-mawther,
And he wished himself away;
'Were I out of my castle of Bungay,
And beyond the river of Waveney,
I would ne care for the King of Cockney.'
"Sir Hugh took three-score sacks of gold,
And flung them over the wall,
Says, 'go your ways, in the Devil's name,
Yourself and your merry-men all!
But leave me my castle of Bungay,
Upon the river Waveney,
And I'll pay my shot to the King of Cockney.'"
Ancient chroniclers have left us no particulars of this siege, contenting themselves
with stating that Bigot was fain to capitulate, and with much difficulty obtained his
pardon upon the payment of one thousand marks, and consenting to have his fortress
demolished. He soon afterwards went abroad, and joined the Earl of Flanders in an
expedition to the Holy Land, whence he returned and died in 1177, surviving the
destruction of his castle and his disgrace only three years. The ruined site of Bungay
Castle and the honours of the Earldom were restored to Roger Bigot, the son of Earl
Hugh, by Richard I., in 1189, upon the payment of a further sum of one thousand
marks. It remained as an untenable fortress till the year 1281, when Roger Bigot
obtained a license from King Edward I. to embattle his house in the place where the
castle had stood. The license appears among the patent rolls, "quod Rogerus le Bigot,
Comes Norff., et Marescallus Angl: possit kernellare mansum suum de Bungay." (fn. 25)
This was the castle whose ruins are now visible. Bigot endowed his second wife, Alice,
with this castle and manor; and having no issue, settled all his castles, towns, manors,
and hereditaments upon King Edward and his heirs, to the prejudice of his brother,
John le Bigot; who, after the Earl's decease, was found to be his next heir, but never, in
consequence of this surrender, enjoyed the honours, nor any part of his estates. Sir
Henry Spelman tells us, the Earl disinherited his brother, Sir John, because "that the
Earl being indebted to him, he was too pressing on that account." Upon his death in
1307, it was returned, that the park at Earsham was well stocked; and with the fishery,
a water-mill, and many woods and fens, were kept for the use of the family of Roger
Bigot, then lord, who was chiefly resident at his adjacent Castle of Bungay.
In the year 1312, the fifth of Edward II., Thomas de Brotherton, fifth son of the
late monarch, obtained a charter from the King, in tail general, of all the honours
formerly enjoyed by Roger Bigot. It is probable, however, that Thomas de Brotherton
held the castle of Bungay previous to this charter, because, on the 3rd of March, 1310,
we find the following prohibition of a tournament, proclaimed to be held here, and
addressed to the Earls, Barons, Knights, and others at Bungay.
"Rex dilectis et fidelibus suis comitibus, baronibus, militibus, et omnibus aliis apud
Bungeye ad torneandum hâc instanti die Lunæ conventuris, salutem. Mandamus vobis
sub forisfactura omnium que nobis forisfacere, poteritis firmiter inhibentes ne die predicto,
vel alio, apud dictam villam, seu alibi in regno nostro torneare, burdeare, justas facere,
aventuras quærere, seu alia facta armorum excercere præsumatis, sine nostrâ licentiâ
speciali. Teste Rege apud Westm: iij die Martij." (fn. 26)
We learn from Rymer, and other authorities, that in the year 1309, Gaveston, the
profligate favourite of Edward II., had so inflamed the resentment of the most powerful
barons, by turning them into ridicule, that his imprudent conduct very soon produced
its natural consequences, and Gaveston became the object of universal detestation. The
discontented lords began to draw together, and appointed tournaments in several places,
as a plausible pretence for their meetings, which were in reality designed for contriving
the destruction of the favourite. The tournament at Bungay was therefore, without
doubt, proclaimed for a similar purpose.
Thomas de Brotherton died in 1338, leaving two daughters, his heiresses; the eldest
of whom, Alice, marrying Edward de Montacute, carried the castle of Bungay into that
family. Their daughter Joan, who was born in this castle on Candlemas-day, 1348,
married William de Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, who, after the death of Edward de Montacute,
in the thirty-fifth of Edward III., became owner of Bungay castle in her right. By an
inquisition, taken after the death of the Earl, who died suddenly of apoplexy, as he was
ascending the steps of the House of Lords, it was returned that "William de Ufford
held at the day of his death, 'castrum cum manerio et burgo de Bungay.'" (fn. 27) It is
probable that William de Ufford resided little at Bungay, because the castle was returned
in the same inquisition, as old and ruinous, and paying nothing after repairs: "vetus et
ruinosum, et nichel valet p: an: ultra repris." This was in the year 1382; but upon
the Howards obtaining the manor, the castle appears to have received considerable
attention; for in 1477, the manor and castle were returned as yielding, after repairs
were deducted, £50 per annum: "ultra reprisas £l." The castle was, however, shortly
after, consigned to neglect as a residence. The union of the Roses, and the better
administration of the laws, no longer rendered it necessary for the nobles of the land to
immure themselves within gloomy apartments and dingy fortresses; and the splendour
of the palace of Kenninghall, built by the "Great Duke of Norfolk," in the reign of
Henry VIII., contributed altogether to the desertion of the castle of Bungay. At a later
period its ruined site passed from the Howards by a transfer which I have not discovered;
and at the close of the last century belonged to a Mr. Mickleburgh, an inhabitant of
Bungay. By him it was sold to Mrs. Bonhote, the authoress of a novel entitled 'Bungay
Castle,' and several similar works, very popular in their day. Mrs. Bonhote fitted up
the old keep, and made it her occasional summer residence; but transferred it by a legal
surrender, about the year 1800, to Charles, Duke of Norfolk, who was desirous of
regaining this fortress of the "Bigot bold," his martial ancestor.
The Remains of Bungay Castle
The Remains of Bugay Castle consist of the external portions of two circular towers, which, in their entire condition,
embraced a lofty receding gateway, formed by a succession of ribbed arches, acutely
pointed; and similar in construction to those at Tunbridge and Caernarvon. These
towers are built solid to the height of the squared stone-work, and contain shafts of
very small diameter in their upper and habitable portions; and, which is worthy of
remark, exhibit neither window nor loophole. They are attached to ruinous walls of an
octangular ground-plan, enclosing, at the distance of about 30 feet only, a keep,
measuring 54 feet square; the walls of which are standing, in places, to the height of
5 or 6 yards, and are from 10 to 12 feet in thickness. In the centre of the keep is a
deep well of strongly impregnated mineral water, now disused. If this water always
possessed this chalybeate quality, it is difficult to conceive how it could have been applicable to the daily requirements of the garrison. Detached portions of walls and
foundations are spread in all directions in the castle grounds. No opinion can be
formed of the internal arrangements of the keep in its original state. The eye accustomed to the elegance and conveniences of modern life, can scarcely feel convinced that
the near descendant of one of England's mightiest monarchs was born within these
rugged flinty walls. The keep and inner ballium occupy an elevated site, commanding
the encircling moats and outer defences. These latter consist of prodigious mounds of
earth, sweeping down to the banks of the Waveney, and may, not improbably, have been
originally raised by the Romans. Part of these, on the south, was levelled about five or
six years ago, to form a cattle-market: an intention which has never been carried into
effect. There is a ditch, now dry, but still deep, to the south, which evidently communicated, in ancient days, with the channel of the river, and was probably constructed to
afford access to small vessels bringing supplies to the garrison. It was defended by the
embankment, now levelled, which stretched from the marshes beyond it, and swept round
to the eastern ramparts. The outworks of the castle were continued in this direction,
along the edge of the hill above the present Bridge-street, and turning, in the form of a
crescent, to the north and west, enclosed the ground now occupied by the houses on the
south side of the Earsham-street, terminating at the banks of the river. There was a
ford near the spot where the Cock-bridge now stands, which, with the entire route through
the town, must have been completely commanded by the castle.
The deep ditch, already mentioned, on Outney Common, whether of Roman or
Norman construction, was still a formidable barrier on the north, as it cut off all hostile
approaches in that direction. The license, therefore, of Edward I. to Roger Bigot, to
kernellate or embattle his residence, seems to have been carried to its utmost extent;
for if this later edifice were less formidable than the boasted fortress of his turbulent
ancestor, it must have been, nevertheless, a stronghold of no ordinary character.
There is a tradition, yet cherished by the lovers of the marvellous, that a secret
passage afforded communication between this castle and that of Mettingham. It
originated, probably, in the existence of a subterraneous vault near the portal towers,
still open, and accessible by the removal of a few boards. At no period in the annals
of Bungay Castle could such a passage have been constructed, as the two fortresses
always appertained to opposite interests.
In the year 1160, when the passion for building and endowing monasteries had
attained its height, Roger de Glanville and the Countess Gundreda his wife, relict
of Roger Bigot, laid the foundations of a Benedictine Nunnery at Bungay; dedicating
its church to Saint Mary, and the house to the honour of God and the Holy Cross.
The site selected for this establishment was a plain piece of ground, occupying the
summit of a gentle rise, and lying contiguous to the eastern ramparts of the
In providing for the temporal wants of their monastery, the noble founders appear
remarkably sparing of their own revenues; appropriating the tithes of no less than six
of the neighbouring churches to the maintenance of its inmates. Thus, while their own
worldly substance remained undiminished, the secular clergy, for miles around, were
impoverished, and their cures degraded into poor vicarages, or stipendiary curacies; an
injustice, and injury to the cause of religion, which seven succeeding centuries have
viewed with indifference and failed to redress. The benefices thus appropriated were
those of Mettingham, St. Andrew, St. Laurence, and St. Margaret Ilketshall, and two
out of the three which Saxon piety had founded in the town, St. Mary and St. Thomas.
The church of Roughton, in Norfolk, a rectory valued at eighteen marks, was likewise
appropriated, and its revenues added to their gifts. To these, and the scanty private
donations of the founders, were speedily added the benefactions of the noble and
the pious, as is shown by the long and interesting charter of Henry II., who confirmed
them to the nuns in the nineteenth of his reign. (fn. 28)
Roger Bigot, with a zeal singularly displayed by the roughest and most licentious
chieftains of the day, granted them his water-mill at Wangford, (fn. 29) and confirmed to their
use his "lands of Limburne" in Homersfield, with all their appurtenances, in perpetual
alms, excepting service to himself and his heirs, and the payment of 8d. per annum. (fn. 30)
The which grant and confirmation he makes to them for the good of his soul and the
souls of his father and mother, and of all his ancestors and friends.
In the fifty-second of Henry III., Sir James de Ilketshall mortgaged for 27 marks
and a half of silver, to the lady Sarah, Prioress of the church of the Holy Cross
of Bungay, certain lands, from the feast of the nativity of the blessed Virgin, to the
purification following; and if the money was not then paid, the nuns were to have the
lands for ever. (fn. 31)
It would appear that the money was not repaid within the prescribed period, for in
the following year this Sir James de Ilketshall conveyed an acre of land, and the
advowson of the church of St. John Baptist of Ilketshall, by fine, to the priory of
Bungay. (fn. 32) The prioress and nuns had a rent out of a shop in the Drapery at Norwich,
given them in the year 1272. (fn. 33)
The advowson of Redenhall, in Norfolk, was granted by Margaret, daughter and
coheiress of Thomas de Brotherton, to Bungay Nunnery, by the King's license and the
Pope's bull; which grant was afterwards confirmed by Alice, her sister, and Sir Edward
de Montacute, her husband; and in 1349, its revenues were appropriated by the bishop
of the diocese to pay ten shillings to each nun towards finding her clothing. The bishop
and his successors were to nominate a vicar, every vacancy, and the prioress was obliged
to present him. The bishop had also a pension out of the rectory of three marks and a
half; and the newly erected vicarage was taxed at thirteen marks. (fn. 34) In 1441, at the
complaint of the vicar, the church was disappropriated, and became a rectory again, on
condition that the rector should pay a yearly pension of forty shillings to the prioress,
and that the bishop should for ever nominate to her; and if she did not immediately
present the person so nominated, the bishop then might collate him in his own right.
This pension is still paid by the rector of Redenhall to the Duke of Norfolk, in right of
Bungay Priory. (fn. 35) The prioress had some interests in the parish of St. Martin's at Plain,
in Norwich, and had also a house near Tombland, and in the parish of St. Simon and
Jude, in the same city. In 1515, the dean of the college of St. Mary in the Fields, at
Norwich, paid ten shillings to the prioress of Bungay, for certain tithes in Moulton that
were hired of her. (fn. 36) William de Curzon, of Stanfield, in Norfolk, gave also five acres of
land to Bungay Priory, out of Kangham's manor in that county, which Alice, the prioress
there, and the convent, granted to Robert Skilman, of Hetherset, and his heirs. (fn. 37) The
priory had also much real property, as is evident from a deed of conveyance from the
prioress and convent to Sir John de Norwich, in 1360, to which was affixed the seal of
Seal of the priory
But the interests and estates of this monastery will be most apparent from the
following confirmation of their grants and charters, given them by King Edward IV., on
the 5th of January, 1466.
"Rex omnibus ad quos, &c. salutem. Inspeximus cartam domini Edwardi nuper regis Angliæ
progenitoris nostri in hæc verba, &c. Inspeximus cartam quam inclitæ recordationis dominus Henricus
quondam rex Angl: progenitor noster fecit in hæc verba: Henricus Dei gratia rex Angliæ et dux
Normanniæ et Aquitanniæ, et comes Andegaviæ, &c.
"Sciatis quod a petitionem Rogeri de Glanville et Gundredæ comitissæ uxoris suæ concessi, et presenti cartâ meâ confirmavi sanctimonialibus de Bongeia ibidem Deo imperpetuum regulariter servientibus
ecclesiam Sanctæ Crucis de Bongeia, quæ sita est in libero maritagio ipsius comitissæ Gundredæ cum
omnibus pertin: suis, et preterea decem solidos de molendinis ejusdem Rogeri et Gundr: com: in villâ de
Bongeia ad luminaria in profatâ ecclesiâ eisdem sanctimonialibus annuatim reddend: scilicit, V Sol: ad
Pascha, et V Sol: ad festum Sancti Michaelis, et multuram ipsarum sanctimonialium de domo sua de
Bungeia quietam. Et preterea quatuor ecclesias quæ similiter sitæ sunt in libero maritagio prædictæ G:
com: scilicit, ecclesiam omnium sanctorum de Metyngham et ecclesiam Sanctæ Margaretæ de Ilketeleshall,
et ecclesiam Sancti Andreæ de Ilketeleshall, et ecclesiam Sancti Laurencij de Ilketeleshall cum omnibus
rebus ad prædictas ecclesias pertinentibus et quidquid præfatis sanctimonialibus rationabiliter collatum est,
et quidquid imposterum ab aliis ipsis collatum erit in liberam puram et perpetuam elemosinam, sicut
cartæ ipsius Rogeri et com: G: et aliorum donatorum earum rationabiliter testantur. Quare volo et
firmiter præcipio quod præfatæ sanctimoniales et earum homines habeant et teneant omnes terras et
possessiones et elemosinas suas cum soka (fn. 38) et saka, (fn. 39) et thol (fn. 40) et theam (fn. 41) et infangetheof (fn. 42) et cum
omnibus libertatibus et liberis consuetudinibus et quietantiis suis in bosco, et plano, in pratis et pascuis, in
aquis et molendinis, in viis et semitis, in stagnis et vivariis, in mariscis et piscariis, in grangiis et virgultis
infra burgum et extra, et in omnibus rebus et in omnibus locis solutas liberas et quietas de sectis shiris et
hundredis et placitis et querelis et de pecunia danda pro forisfacto de murdro et de wapentac et scutagio et
geldo et danegeldo et hidagiis et assisis et de operationibus castellorum et parcorum et pontium et calcear:
et de ferdwita et de hengewita et de flemmefremthe et de hamsoka et de wardpeni et de averpeni et de
blodwita et de leerwita et de hundredpeni et tremmingpeni nisi in introitu et suit quietæ prædictæ sanctimoniales et homines sui per totam terram meam de omni theolones et de omnibus rebus quas ipsæ vel
homines sui poterant assecurare quod emant et vendant eas ad proprios usus ipsarum sanctimonialium vel
hominum suorum absque venditione ulterius facienda, et de passagio et pontagio et lestagio et stellagio et
de omni seculari servitio et opere servili et exactione et omnibus aliis occasionibus et consuetudinibus
secularibus, excepta sola justitia mortis et membrorum. Hæc omnia concessi præfatis sanctimonialibus in
liberam et puram et perpetuam elemosinam pro dei amore, et salute animæ meæ et omnium antecessorum
et successorum meorum. Testibus Hugone Dunelm: et Johanne Norwic: episcopis, Willielmo comite
Sussex, comite David fratre regis Scotorum, Rann: de Glanville, Willielmo de Hum: constabulario,
Waltero filio Roberti Setico de Oumci, Willielmo Marescallo, Galfrido filio Petri, Richardo de Camvill,
Stephano de Turneham apud Gaittington.
"Inspeximus etiam quandam aliam cartam quam celebris memoriæ dominus H quondam rex Angliæ
proavus noster fecit in hæc verba. Henricus Dei gratia rex Angl: dominus Hiberniæ, &c. Sciatis nos
intuitu Dei concessisse et hac carta n'ra confirmasse pro nobis et hæred: nostris Deo et ecclesiæ Sanctæ
Crucis de Bungeya et sanctimonialibus ibidem Deo servientibus omnes donationes et concessiones subscriptas videlicet, de dono Gundredæ com: totam terram suam de Weston, et de Weynesford, et 24 acras
terræ in Kova, et sedem molendini ad ventum in Northales et totam terr: in Kove quam tenuit de Rad:
fil: Thom: et 12 acr: prati in novo prato de Barsham, et dimid: acram prati et marisci juxta Hepesflete et
12 demarat reddit de annuo redd suo de Sidingeia: et totum ortum attingentem super Quave, et præter
hoc viginti pedes versus villam ad ampliandum cimiterium eccliæ suæ et 20 pedes versus domum Hug: le
Bakur: et pratum in loco qui vocatur Holium: et turbarium, &c., et de dono ejusdem G: com: talem
libertatem quod ipsa Comitissa nec hæredes sui nec successores sui aliquam fœminam ponent in conventu
prædic: S'cimonialium, nec instituent velandum, nisi de gratiâ et purâ voluntate priorissæ et assensu
conventus; et non tradent clericum laicum vel fœminam custodiendos ad victum et vestitum habenda,
nisi de propriâ voluntate ejusd: priorissæ et conventus. Sed quiet: habeant et teneant ecclesias et terras
quas eis in puram elemos: dedit et concessit, et solutas ab omni seculari dominio de se et hæredibus suis.
De dono Rogeri de Glanville eccliam Sce Mariæ de Ruckton. Dd Roberti de Beleperche terram in Ilketeshall. Dd Rogeri Bigod, com: Norff: totam terram suam de Kyngesfen in Ilketeshall in escambium duarum
marcatarum terræ in Coleby. Dd Hugonis Bigot, com: Norff: campum qui vocatur Hallecroft. Dd
Rogeri Bigot, com: Norff: molendinum suum de Waineford. Dd Ric: Bacun de Lodnes 10 acras terræ
in Osmundeshag. Dd Rogeri de Huntingfeld, Alvenam, quæ fuit uxorem Rog. Brunston, et Thomam fil:
ejus primo-genitum cum toto ten: suo quod ad prædicto Rogero tenuerunt in Medefeld ac pertin: de
Mendham. Dd ejusd: Rogeri Walterum Wudard de Medefeld hominem suum cum homagio suo et cum
toto ten: et cum totâ sectâ suâ et toto servitio suo. Dd Roberti Wadenger unam acram terræ in Denton
et 4 particulas terræ in eadem villa. Dd Thomæ fil: Gilberti de Ilketeshall terram quæ vocatur Thurstaneswett. Dd Rogeri de Hugeshall totam terram suam de Lymburne. Dd Werreis de Cadamo duas acras
terræ et dimid, et unam rodam, quæ vocatur Caterig in Ilstede. Dd Bartholom Sauzaveir 30 acras terræ
in Jerpeston, et homagium et servic Rogeri Thurmod cum toto ten: et tota secta sua et homag: Rogeri de
Hales, cum toto ten: suo. D.d. diversorum aliorum terras et tenementa et reddit: et servitia et in Kove,
Northales, Lingwud, Chebenhall, Sturmesmedwe, Thordeshag, in marisco de Stikewanesfen, Stowegate,
Ginestoft, Denton, Gernemuth, Waineford, Frostend, Keteringham, Weston, Redesham, Lymburne,
Sueresgate, Redesham, Wyngefelde, Tyrington, Strummesmede, Sturmesmede, Coleshord, Hemmehaule,
Crofto, Bungeya, Ilketeshall, Suacer, Northales, habend: et tenend: eisdem scimonialibs et successoribs
suis in perpetm. Quare volumus, &c.: Hiis testibus, &c. Dat: per manum venerabilis patris Radulphi
Cicestr: episcopi, cancellarij nostri apud Bromholm 13° die Martij anno regni nostri 19°. Nos autem
donationes concessiones et confirmationes p'dc'as ratas habentes, et gratas eas pro nobis et hæredibus
nostris, concedimus et confirmavimus, &c. Hiis testibus, &c. Dat: per manum nostram apud Lincoln
quinto die Julij anno regni nostri quinto. Nos autem cartas et litteras prædictas et omnia et singula in
eisdem contenta rata habentes, et grata ea pro nobis et heredibus nostris acceptamus et approbamus, ac
dilectis nobis in Christo nunc priorissæ et scimonialibus loci prædicti, et success: suis tenore presentium
ratificamus et confirmamus sicut cartæ prædictæ rationabiliter testantur. In cuius, &c. Teste Rege
apud Westmonast: quinto die Januarij.
"Pro tresdecem solidis et quatuor denariis solutis in hanaperio."
The following is a copy of the receipt of 13s. 4d. paid for the above confirmation.
"Nunc priorissa et sanctimoniales de Bongeia dant 13 sol: 4 den: solutos in hanaperio pro confirmatione quarundam cartaram diversorum progenitorum domini regis nunc, quondam regum Angliæ, de
diversis concessionibus et confirmationibus nuper priorissæ et sanctimonialibus loci prædicti, predecessoribus ipsarum nunc priorissæ et sanctimonialium et successoribus suis factis nuper confectarum
"Teste Rege apud Westmonasterium quinto die Januarij." (fn. 43)
In the reign of King John, William le Bigot disputed the title of the nuns to a part
of Gundreda's endowment. The prioress contended that the disputed property, which
seems to have been a carucate of land lying in Kove and Weston, and recited in the
preceding confirmation, was granted by Gundreda, who had full power to do so, by her
seneschal, who put her in full possession. She rests her claim upon the testimony of
Roger Bigot, who witnessed the gift, and relies on the justice of her country. (fn. 44) It is
not apparent how the suit was contested, but the issue was in favour of the prioress,
whose successors retained the estate at Kove till the dissolution of their house by
Henry VIII. In 1251, Henry III. issued letters of protection to the prioress of Bungay
for ten years from the feast of St. Benedict, the abbot. These letters are dated at
Norwich on the 20th of March in that year. (fn. 45) In 1309, the prioress and nuns obtained
the appropriation of the tithes of the church of St. John Ilketshall, the advowson of
which had been conveyed to them in 1268, by Sir James de Ilketshall. It was granted
by the King on the 20th of March, by the fine of half a mark. (fn. 46)
"Pro priorissa de Bungaya. Rex omnibus ad quos, &c. salutem. Sciatis quod per finem quem
dilecta nobis in Christo priorissa ecclesiæ Sanctæ Crucis in Bungeya fecit nobiscum, concessimus pro
nobis et heredibus nostris quantum in nobis est, eidem priorissæ et conventui ejusdem loci, quod ipsi
ecclesiam Sancti Johannis Baptistæ de Ilketshall, Norwyc: dioc: quæ est de advocatione suâ propriâ,
appropriare, et eam appropriatam in proprios usus tenere possint, sibi et successoribus suis imperpetuum.
"Teste Rege apud Westm: xx die Martij, per finem dimidiæ marcæ."
In 1355, John de Bedingfeld, prior of the cell at Aldeby, was appointed by the
prior of Norwich to take the confessions, to absolve, and to enjoin the penances of the
prioress and nuns of Bungay. (fn. 47) It has been shown, that in the year 1258 the convent
was sufficiently wealthy to advance, by way of mortgage, a considerable sum of money
to Sir James de Ilketshall; but a century later the affairs of the establishment appear in
a far less prosperous condition; for on the 8th of November, 1373, the King granted
his letters patent to the prioress and convent "ob paupertatem exilis prioratus de
Bungeye,"—"quod ipsi terras, tenementa et redditus ad valentiam decem librarum per
annum, juxta verum valorem eorundem de feodo suo proprio adquirere possent." The
letters patent commence by stating the King's desire to free the convent from debt.
"Nos, concessionem nostram prædictam, effectui debito mancipari volentes, concessimus, et licentiam
dedimus pro nobis et hæredibus nostris Rogeri Rose, vicario ecclesiæ Sanctæ Trinitatis de Bungeye, et
Johanni Duncon, capellano, quod ipsi unum messuagium, unum toftum, quatuor cotagia, 175 acr: terræ,
18 ac: prati, 4 ac: pasturæ, 4 ac: alneti et dimidium, et 34 solidatas redditus cum pertin: in Ilkettilleshall,
Metyngham, Flixton, et Dichyngham; et Rogero Longo, personæ ecclesiæ de Sandcroft, et Willielmo
Ramysholt, personæ ecclesiæ de Homerisfeld, quod ipsi unum messuagium, 30 ac: ter: 2 ac: prati, 2 ac:
pasture, et 6 ac: alneti cum pertinent: in Southelmham, de quibus quidem tenementis unum messuagium,
unum toftum, duo cotagia, 120 ac: terr: 10 ac: pr: 4 past: et 2 ac: alneti, ac redditus prædictus de
præfatis priorissa et conventu, et residua tenementorum illorum de aliis quam de nobis tenentur, quæ
etiam tenementa præter reditum prædictum valent 56 solidos per an: in omnibus exitibus juxta verum
valorem; dare possint, et assignare præfatis priorissæ et conventui habend: et tenend: sibi et eor: success:
in plenam satisfactionem terrar: tenement: et reddituum ad valorem decem librarum prædictor: in perpetuum.
"Teste Rege apud West: viij die Novemb:" (fn. 48)
In the year 1376 an event occurred, which, from the heinous nature of the offence,
and the high connexions of the culprit, must have excited the most painful sensations
among the inmates of the convent. This was no less than the flight of Katherine de
Montacute from the Nunnery. Among the records preserved in the Tower of London, (fn. 49)
is an order for seizing the person of this fugitive, who is described as wandering in
concealment about the country in a secular dress, heedless of her sacred order, and to
the danger of her soul. The following is the mandamus issued by Edward III. for the
apprehension of this apostate nun.
"D' apostata capienda.
"Rx dilcis & fidelibz suis Johi Trailly, Chivaler, Andree Cavendissh, Chivaler,
Waltero Amyas, clico, Hugoni Fastolf, Edmundo Gourney, Johi Caltoft, & Edmundo
Spicer, saltm: Quia Katerina de Monte Acuto monialis in monasterio de Bungeye,
Ordinis s'ci Benedci, Norwicen: dioc': rite & legitime p'fessa, spreto hitu ordinis illius, in
hitu seculari de pria, in priam in div'sis ptibz regni n'ri Angl: vagat & discurrit, in
āie sue piculi, & ordinis sui pdci scandalū manifestu, sicut ven'abilis in Xpo pat: Henr
Epius Norwicen: p: lras suas patentes nob significavit: Assignavim vos & quemlibet
v'rm ad ipam Katīnam ubicuq: inventa fueit tam infra libtates qm ext capiend &
arestand & eam Priorisse dci monastii de Bungeye, vel ejus in hac pte attorn, libari
faciend scdm regulam ordinis pdci castigand. Et ideo vob, & cuilibet vr'm mandam
firmite injungentes, q'd circa p'missa cū om'i diligencia intendatis & ea fac & exequamini
in forma pdca. Damus autem univ'sis & singulis vicecomitibz, majoribz, ballivis,
ministris, & aliis fidelibz n'ris, tam infra libtates, qm ext, tenore p senciū in mandatis,
qd vob & cuilibet v'rm in p'missis faciend & exequend intendentes sint consulentes &
auxiliantes quociens & put p vos seu aliquem v'rm sup hoc ex pte n'ra fue int p muniti.
In cuj &c. T. R. apud Westm: vij die Marcij."
This erring and unfortunate lady must have been a descendant or connexion of
Edward de Montacute, who died a few years before, lord of Bungay Castle. The
awful punishment awarded to such a crime is well known, but the fate of this maiden
has eluded my researches; neither does tradition relate that any one has yet discovered
Whitening amid disjointed stones,
And, ignorant of priests' cruelty,
Marvel such relics here should be." (fn. 50)
But the author of the preceding lines informs us, that "among the ruins of the Abbey of
Coldingham, were some years ago discovered the remains of a female skeleton, which,
from the shape of the niche, and the position of the figure, seemed to be that of an
immured nun." In 1380 occurs the name of Katherine de Monte Acuto, as prioress
of Bungay, but we can hardly suppose her to have been the apostate, but recovered
The last of the immunities granted to the nunnery at Bungay was issued in the
beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. by the Pope, through the Metropolitan and the
Bishop of the Diocese, to Elizabeth Stephenson. Among other privileges, his holiness
conferred on the prioress and her successors the power of affording sanctuary to all
men who had been guilty of committing rapes.
The sum of 12s. 4d. was annually expended in this monastery in alms to the poor,
on the anniversary of Gundreda, Countess of Norfolk, who was considered the
foundress; and also for wax-lights to burn around her tomb on the same day.
Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, held on the day of his death, as of fee
of our Sovereign Lord Richard II., late King of England, the advowson of the Priory
of Bungay. (fn. 51)
Prioresses of Bungay.
|1296||Sarah de Stafford.|
|1308||Margaret de Thebbryge.|
|Maria de Castell.|
|1380||Katherina de Monteacuto.|
|1433||Margaret Takill, or Cabell.|
There was also a Johanna, Prioress of Bungay, whose seal is engraved beneath. It
represents St. John the Baptist in the usual dress, bearing the Paschal lamb on a
roundel in his left hand; the right being upheld in benediction. In the base is the
Prioress in the attitude of prayer.
I have not ascertained at what time Johanna presided over the convent; but as
the design of the seal would lead us to ascribe it to a period about the reign of
Edward I., or possibly a little earlier, and as there is a lapse of forty-two years between
the presentment of Alicia and Maria, the latter of whom was prioress in 1270,
Johanna's presidency most probably occurred in the interval.
In the time of Edward I., Bungay Nunnery contained a prioress and fifteen nuns,
and its revenues then amounted to £40 per annum, (fn. 52) but at the Dissolution its inmates
were reduced to a prioress and only eleven nuns. Dr. Tanner asserts from a manuscript
in the library of Bennet College, Cambridge, that there were but seven nuns at that
The site and possessions, with all the tithes of the dissolved Priory at Bungay,
were granted on the 18th of December, 1537, to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk. The
grant is in capite, by the twentieth part of one knight's fee, and £6. 4s. 3d. annual
rent. Its value is therein stated to be £62. 1s. 1½d.; but its gross value was returned
at £72. 19s. 3d.
The silver seal of Maria de Huntingfeld, probably the Maria of 1270, was ploughed
up in the town lands of Bungay by Mr. Valentine Lumley, who then farmed them. It
was afterwards in the possession of Joseph Watson, M.D., of Harleston, (fn. 53) from whom it
passed into the hands of Charles Garneys, Esq., of Hedenham, and from him to
the late Dr. Camell, of Bungay.
The remains of Bungay Nunnery are very inconsiderable, with the exception of the
conventual church. The cloisters stood on the south side of this edifice, as is evident
from the doorway which led from them into the south aisle, and the ends of the
oaken beams which sustained their roof, which are yet visible. The north aisle is a fine
piece of flint-work, with elaborate battlements, pinnacles, and window-tracery; all
of which are much corroded and injured by time. Its date is about the year 1450.
This aisle was originally open to view, and perhaps formed, with the line of buildings
to its eastward, the grand façade of the convent, before the modern houses in the
market-place were built. (fn. 54)
The chancel is in ruins, but its extent and proportions are clearly defined. At the
end of this, stands a shattered wall, pierced with a few windows, and two doorways;
the westernmost of which, only, is original. The part abutting upon the chancel, and
diverging at a slight angle from its line, was probably a chapel; and from its position,
dedicated to St. Mary. This supposition of the writer is strengthened by the fact, that
by an "inquisitio ad quod damnum," held at Beccles in the forty-seventh of Edward III.,
provision was made to find a chaplain to perform divine service in the chapel of the
Virgin Mary in the priory of Bungay.
"Rex concedat Rogero Rose et Johan Dunkon quod ipsi 2 cotag: 55 acr: terr: 8 acr: prat: et dimid:
alneti cum pertinent in Ilketilishall, Metyngham, Flixton, et Dychyngham; et Rogero Longe Personæ
eccliæ de Homersfield, quod ipsi unum messuag: 30 acr: terr: 2 ac: prati in Southelmham dare possint,
ad inveniendum unum capellanum divina duobus diebus qualibet septimana in capellâ beatæ Maciæ
prioratus prædæ, pro animabus &c. celebratur: in perpet: et præd: mess: et ten: valent p: an: 24
The Church of St. Mary
Was parochial, previous to the dissolution of the nunnery, as well as conventual; and
probably its handsome western front, which was built subsequently to the north aisle,
formed the grand approach from the town. It is yet called 'Lady Church' by old
inhabitants in the place. At the great fire in 1688 it suffered considerable damage;
but the statement of the Brief that it was burnt to the ground is an exaggeration. The
old benches, and possibly the font—for the present one is modern—might have been
consumed, as was evidently the roof of the south aisle, which was relaid and finished in
1699; but the fine oaken roof of the nave escaped. Nor were all the bells melted in
the conflagration, the writer having furnished to one of the churchwardens, some years
since, a translation of the old Longobardic legends which encircled two of them, which
have since been re-cast. The inscription on one of them ran thus:
The interior of this edifice is light and elegant, its clerestory being supported on
each side by five columns composed of clustered shafts. The want of a chancel mars
the justness of its proportions very considerably; but its greatest disfigurement is a
huge and ugly altar-piece. One or two ancient piscinas have lately been laid open, but
their workmanship demands no especial notice. The tower, of slender but delicate
proportions, stands at the west end of the south aisle, and the massy bands of iron with
which its internal columns are braced together attest the injury its foundations have
sustained by an injudicious grave-digger, who nearly brought it to the ground in 1790,
by excavating a vault beneath its base.
The old parish book commences in 1523, and contains the churchwardens' accounts
before the Dissolution. It is a very curious record, in high preservation, and some of its
entries show that many popish observances were retained at Bungay long after its
nunnery was stript and ruined.
|Paid for the casse that the crosse lyethe yn||vjd.|
|It: for ij Albys washyng||ijd.|
|It: for mendyng all the surples decayid||ijd.|
|Payd to the clark for washyn and mendyng a albe||ijd.|
|It: paid to Thomas tynkar for mendyng of ye grete laten candelstycke||xijd.|
|It: paid for mendyng of ye best crosse||ijd.|
|Pd for ffettyn the brassen lecterne from Metyngham||iiijd.|
The last entry proves that the good people of Bungay had taste enough to procure
and employ an elegant piece of church furniture, which the inhabitants of Mettingham
'The brassen lecterne' was, I presume, brought from the chapel of the dissolved
college there; an edifice fitted up in most elegant style. Subsequent fanaticism, however, has failed to spare what the rough hands of the reformers left uninjured.
The following armorial bearings formerly ornamented the windows of this church.
Ufford, sab., a cross engrailed or. Kenton, sable, a chev. arg. between 3 cinquefoils or.
Fitz-Otes, az., 4 bars or, a canton erm. quartering
Knivett, arg., a bend sable.
Montacute, erm., 3 fusils in fess gules.
. . . . . . . . . a bord. az. charged with 8 martlets or. (fn. 55)
Monuments.—In 1612 there was a stone for Reginald Barrow. (fn. 56)
Reginald Brown, Gent., died Jan. 2, 1767. Arms, arg. on a bend az. 3 eagles
Richard Nelson, Gent., died Dec. 2, 1727. Arms, per pale arg. and sab. a chev.
between 3 fleurs-de-lis counterchanged.
Robert Scales, who gave the organ to the church, died Nov. 7, 1732.
James Browne, Gent., died Jan. 9, 1755.
Henry Williams, died May 25, 1768, aged 79.
Edward Cooper, late surgeon in Bungay, died March 31, 1764. Arms, az. a
tortoise, pale-wise, or.
Valentine Lumley, Clerk, died April 26, 1794, aged 70.
Thomas Bewicke, Clerk, died Feb. 7, 1842, aged 74. Arms, arg. 5 lozenges in fess
gul., each charged with a mullet of the first, between 3 bears' heads erased sab.
Gregory Clarke, Gent., died May 10, 1725. Arms, arg. on a bend gules 3 swans
prop. between as many pellets.
John Davie, D.D., Master of Sidney Sussex Coll., Camb., died Oct. 8, 1813,
Lancelot Davie, died Oct. 9, 1816, aged 33.
Thomas Bardwell, portrait painter, died Sept. 9, 1767, aged 63.
Bungay St. Mary, as a benefice, has been a perpetual curacy only, since the dissolution of the nunnery.
Perpetual Curates of Bungay St. Mary.
|Harry Anstis||1762||Earl of Effingham.|
The church contains 846 sittings, of which 216 are free.
Among the plates in the fourth volume of Betham's 'Baronetage of England' is the
representation of a very curious and rich "Atchievement of Le Seneschal de Buxton,
Seneschal of Bourdeaux, temp. Ric. II.," which was taken from the priory of Bungay in
the time of Henry VIII. The writer requested permission of the family to have it
re-engraved for the present work, but not having been favoured with an answer to his
application, he does not consider himself at liberty to enrich his volume with this
The Church of St. Thomas
was early appropriated to the Nunnery, and being an appendage, probably fell with it.
It was standing, and in use in 1500, but has been so long down, that its site is not
exactly known. According to the Norwich Domesday Book, it paid an annual rent of
£1. 8s. 1d. to the prior of St. Olave at Herringfleet.
The Church of the Holy Trinity.
The circular tower of this church is, probably, as ancient as the reign of Edward
the Confessor, and a careful survey of its interior will amply repay the student of
ecclesiastical architecture. It was much damaged some years ago, by lightning, which
split the walls, and melted all the bells but one, which remains the solitary occupant of
the belfry. It is encircled by the following legend in old characters:
[Inscription on bell in Holy Trinity church]
It appears by the churchwardens' books that a large bell was made for this tower in
1566, which cost £8. 10s., and weighed 25 cwt., except 10lbs. It was sold in
1755 by John Meen and William Pell for £82. 7s. 6d., and the produce applied
towards enlarging the church. The octangular parapet of this ancient tower is
enriched with eight shields bearing the armorial cognizances of Bigot, Brotherton,
Montacute, Beauchamp, Westminster, Edward the Confessor, Bury, or Norwich See,
and Spencer, Bishop of Norwich. Some of them commemorate families and individuals
once powerful here.
The church to which this tower is attached exhibits marks of considerable antiquity;
but neither its keeping nor condition can merit commendation. It comprises a very
lofty nave, divided from a south aisle by clustered columns with plain moulded capitals,
which sustain pointed arches. This aisle was probably erected by the Bardolphs, as
their arms are cut in stone on its western angle.
There are two very lofty and wide windows, which occupy the greater part of
the north wall of the nave. They contain perpendicular tracery; as do the other lights
in the church, except the east window, which is below criticism.
The ruins of the chancel were removed in 1754, or the following year. The part of
the church now used as such is deemed a chancel only, as appears by the churchwardens'
books. Before the chancel was ruinated, a screen was erected about 1558; for in
that year the 'Churchreeves' paid to Robert Bateman for timber, work, and meat,
for making a partition between the church and chancel, 13s. 4d. It is said that this
chancel perished by fire.
The only elegant fitting now in this edifice is the pulpit, which is finely carved out
of brown oak, and dates as high as Queen Elizabeth's reign. In the Churchreeve's
books is a charge of 5s. paid in 1558 "for making the pulpit;" but I think this could
scarcely have been completed, even then, for so small a sum.
This church possesses no font, its use being supplied by a wooden moveable stool;
though there is little cause, perhaps, to lament its disappearance, disreputable as is its
successor. It could not have been very elegant, for we learn, from the authority above
quoted, that in 1558 the churchwardens "paid the mason and his lad for 3 days work
making the font, wages and meat, 3s. 9d." In the centre of the church is a large
faculty pew, now the property of Mrs. Barlee, but granted in 1705 to her ancestor,
Gregory Clarke, and his successors for ever, as proprietor and occupier of a mansion
near Duke's-bridge. The gallery over gallery erected at the end of the nave of this
church shows how serious an injury the pew system has proved to the interests of
religion. Before the Reformation the two parishes of St. Mary and Trinity buried their
dead in Trinity church-yard, the former parish having no cemetery; the present burial
ground being then the private property of the Priory. The public road, which now
separates the two church-yards, was a foot-path only till within a very few years, and
has been abstracted from Trinity church-yard. No hole can be dug in this road without
disturbing human bones, and there is reason to think that the garden which now abuts
upon the south side of Trinity church was once also a receptacle for the dead.
In the "Churchreeve's Books" which I have already quoted, are several notices
deserving of extract, which I here introduce.
|"1558. Received a legacy given by Mr. Edwards towards building the church: God
pardon his soul: and from many others for the said purpose in money, wheat
|Paid Thomas Codd for two great lattin candlesticks to stand before the altar||1||2||0|
|Paid to the stainer for repairing an image of the Trinity||8|
|This reparation of an emblem deemed by the reformers to be especially papistical is
strangely contrasted by the zeal displayed in the following entry.|
|"1558. Paid for stopping up the place where the holy water steps (Qu.? stoups) stood
by the church door||7½|
|Paid for writing diverse things of the service into the book of common-prayer||20d.|
|Paid for the great bible||13||4|
|Paid for a book of the commands that was sit on the wall||1||6|
Next follow some interesting entries respecting the "Church Ale-games," a species
of saturnalia which formerly disgraced our Sabbaths.
|"1566. Received the collection at the church Ale-game on Trinity Sunday, when Mr.
Hesson did procure his neighbours of Beccles and other places to come||17||1||1|
|Borrowed apparell, late my Lord of Surry's, for the Interlude. Provisions for
|For the church Ale-game||1||3||8|
There is a singular mixture of the mournful and the ludicrous in thus beholding the
"apparell late my Lord of Surry's," figuring at the interlude of an ale-game. The
fair Geraldine, shrouded in romance—the genius—the untimely end of the accomplished "Lord of Surry"—the tyranny of his heartless monarch—all crowd into the
imagination to be expelled by the buffoonery of a country clown! "To what base uses
we may return."
|" 1567.||Expences for the interlude this yeare||4||14||7¼|
|" 1568.||Collected at the game in the castle yard||20||0||6¼|
|Paid for making a communion cup of a chalice||14||11|
|Received of Edwards all the game players gowns and coats, made of old copes|
|Received for old copes sold||2||3||7|
|"1587.||Paid Thomas King for blotting out 'Pray for the souls' in the glass window||3|
|" 1588.||Paid for a quart of wine that was sent to Mr. Linnaker on Good Friday, when
he preached to Mr. Throgmorton||8|
|Paid a year's whipping the dogs out of the church||1||4|
|Paid at the court at Beccles for not punishing those which kept not their church||2||0|
|"1591.||Received for the players coats||5||0|
There was, before the Reformation, a much venerated image of Henry VI. in this
church; for in 1502 Agnes Hamond bequeathed "a hedkirche of hemp cloth to kovyr
with gode King Harry in the church of the Trinity, Bungay."
Monuments.—The most ancient and interesting is a small brass plate on the floor of
the aisle, inscribed to the memory of Margaret Dalinger, formerly Prioress of Bungay,
who died about the year 1497.
[Inscription on floor plate in memory of Margaret Dalinger]
"Captain Thomas Stanton, formerly commander of the good ship Returne, to and from
Surat in East India, who by his indefatigable industry made ye said voyage in twelve
months: the like not done by any since. In his returne he fought and beat a Dutch
man of war, and brought ye said ship (to his never dying fame) safe into the river
Thames." He died at Bungay 30th of April, 1691, aged 67 years.
"Major-Gen. Kelso, late Colonel of the 1st Royal Veteran Batt., died Oct. 13, 1823,
aged 63. This lamented officer served his king and country 43 years in every quarter
of the globe, with distinguished honour and credit. Was at the capture of St. Eustatia
in 1781; the naval action off the Chesapeak; and in those under Lord Rodney on the
9th and 12th of April, 1782, and was at the capture of Martinique, Guadaloupe, and
St. Lucie; and at the reduction of the Mauritius had the honour of being nominated
to the command of a brigade."
There is a monument to the Rev. Thomas Wilson, and Catharine his wife, with
their arms. Wilson: per pale, az. and arg. 3 gambs erased, bar-wise, counterchanged;
impaling or, 3 bars sable, and a canton gules. This learned divine was nearly forty
years Vicar of this parish, and left a legacy to Baliol College, Oxford, of which he had
been a distinguished tutor.
Matthias Kerrison, Esq., died April 12, 1827, aged 85. Mary his wife died
March 15th, 1812, aged 65. Kerrison bears, or, on a pile az. 3 pheons of the field,
and bears Barnes in pretence. Arg. 2 bars counter-crenellated gules: in chief 3
This benefice, having been granted by Hamon Bardolph, of Ilketshall, about the
middle of the thirteenth century to the Canons of Barlings in Lincolnshire, shared the
fate of the other churches in this town, and sunk into a vicarage. The grant of
Hamon, with the confirmations of his successors, is contained among the Cotton MSS.
in the British Museum. The nomination to the vicarage was part of the ancient
revenues of the See of Norwich, taken from it by the Act of twenty-seventh Henry VIII.,
1535, and given to the King. (fn. 57) On the 17th of June, 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted
to Martin, Bishop of Ely, and his successors, the rectory of Bungay Trinity, valued
at £4. (fn. 58) The impropriation, with the presentation to the vicarage, is still with the See
In 1506, Trinity Church was held with Rainham St. Margaret's in Norfolk, by
Vicars of Bungay Holy Trinity.
|Sequestration of the Vicar||1308|
|Robert Haustede||1308||The Bishop, by lapse.|
|Robert Somerton||1311||Nomination of the Bishop, and presentation of the
Abbey of Barlyngs.|
|William de Lopham||1314||Id.|
|John, son of Thomas de Walpole||1324||Id.|
|Oliver de Braddeley||1330||Id.|
|Roger Rose||1349||The Bishop, by lapse, eo quod Abbas et Conv: de
Barlyngs præsentare recusarunt juxta nominationem eis factam.|
|Roger Blase||1381||Nomn. of Bishop, and presentation of Convent.|
|Oliver Goodreston||1521||The Bishop, quia recusar: nominare.|
|Richard Dalyson||1538||Ad præs: assig: Dni Norw: Epi, veri patroni.|
|William Stallon||1555||The Crown.|
|Nicholas Judd||1638||The Bishop of Ely.|
Estimatio ecclie xvi marc: Estimatio Vicariæ vi marc: Synodal: iis. iid. Denarij S. Petri, vid. ob.
The registers of Trinity parish commence in 1557. There is also an old register
book dated 1541, in the parish chest, which belonged to some other church. It could
not, however, have been the record of the parish of St. Thomas in this town, as the
church there was in ruins when this register book commences.
There was a Grammar-School at Bungay previous to the year 1592, and Thomas
Popson, whose name is usually spelt Popeson, M. A., and formerly Fellow of King's
College, Cambridge, was master in that year. By indenture dated the 16th of January,
thirty-fourth Elizabeth, Thomas Popson, M.A., then schoolmaster at Bungay, granted to
the master, fellows, and scholars of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a yearly rent of £4,
during the life of himself and his wife; and after their decease a yearly rent of £6, out
of his messuages and premises called Monks, and out of two pieces of land, on each of
which a tenement had been erected; one being a close of 2½ acres, and the other
a small pightle in Bungay; and the then feoffees of the town lands thereby also granted
to the said master, fellows, and scholars, a yearly rent of £6, out of their close called
Copilles' Close in Hempnall, containing by estimation 50 acres; and in consideration
thereof the master, fellows, and scholars, covenanted that they would allow to every
scholar, placed in any of the ten scholarships in Emmanuel College, of the foundation of
Sir Walter Mildmay, Knt., therein mentioned, 4d. weekly, and that the ten scholars
should have such privileges and advantages as therein mentioned, and that when any of
the ten scholarships should be vacant, the master and fellows should give notice thereof
to the schoolmaster of Bungay school, and the chief constable of Bungay; that the
vacancies might be yearly supplied, &c.
The messuages, lands, and premises were conveyed by deed of indenture of
feoffment of the 26th of May, 1592, pursuant to covenants contained in a second
deed, dated 20th April, thirty-fourth of Elizabeth. By a deed dated 29th Sept., 1728,
which recited the deed of the 16th of January, thirty-fourth of Elizabeth, and that the
school had for several years been entirely neglected, and in a manner lost, the feoffees
granted to the master, fellows, and scholars of Emmanuel College, the yearly rents
of £6, and £6 before mentioned, and the master, fellows, and scholars covenanted to
send such a sufficient person to be schoolmaster to teach the scholars there, and to take
bond from him in £200, to be made to the churchwardens of Bungay, for duly teaching
the scholars, &c.; and it was agreed that if the master, &c., should neglect to send
down a schoolmaster after any vacancy, and after four months' notice, the feoffees
should nominate a schoolmaster, and the master, fellows, &c., should lose their nomination of that time. By a deed dated 1st March, 1728, Henry Williams, for the love
and affection which he bore to the town of Bungay, and for the better support of
a schoolmaster there, &c., granted unto certain trustees, and their heirs, the perpetual
advowson and right of presentation to the vicarage of St. Andrew Ilketshall, upon
trust, that they should present the schoolmaster of the town of Bungay, as parson
or vicar of the said parish church.
In consequence of the smallness of their endowment, the ten scholarships are now
reduced to four. Robert Scales, by will dated 4th November, 1728, devised certain
lands and tenements in St. Laurence Ilketshall to the master, if he should be a minister
of the church of England, to read prayers every Wednesday and Friday mornings,
and teach poor boys of the town, approved by the trustees, not exceeding ten.
Popson drew up certain ordinances and rules for the government of his school, some
of which are curious. "Some of the hygest forme shall weekly, by course, instruct the
first forme, both in their accidence, and also in giving them copies to write, &c.;" from
which it appears, that the monitorial system, about the invention of which there was so
much contention between Bell and Lancaster, in the nineteenth century, was prescribed
and acted upon by Popson at Bungay as long ago as the sixteenth century.
The town of Bungay has given name to many of her sons who are recorded in the
pages of history.
In 1239, Remer de Bungeye was Sheriff of Bungay, and in 1250 the King granted
to Lambert de Leges, that of £4. 15s., which were due to him of the debt of this
Remer, he should receive of Lambert one mark annually. (fn. 59)
Reginald de Bungay was Lord Mayor of London in 1241 and 1242.
In 1286, Jeffrey de Bungay was Sheriff of Norwich. Thomas de Bongeie or
Bungay died in 1290. He was D. D. of Oxford, and going to Paris, was there
perfected in the same degree with great applause; after which he became logical
professor at Oxford.
Roger de Bungay was Rector of Whepstead in 1349. In 1452, Nicholas Bungay, a
Carmelite friar, on the union of Peterson Priory to that of Walsingham, was presented
to the rectory of Beeston in Norfolk. In 1497, Thomas Bungay was Vicar of Freethorp.
When Shelfanger was resigned in the twenty-eighth of Henry VIII. to Thomas, Duke
of Norfolk, Robert Bungay was prior. The chaplain of Guildhall Chapel, Norwich,
received 2s. yearly for celebrating an annual for the soul of Robert Bungeye, from
a tenement, late the said Robert's, in the nether row. (fn. 60)
Richard Belward, of Pembroke College, Cambridge, died in a farm-house of his
own in Bungay, in concealment. He was concerned with the Lords Balmerino and
Cromartie, in trying to effect the restoration of the Stuarts in 1745. He escaped, and
remained an exile for years: after some time he ventured to return to this country, and
live upon this small remnant of his estate in seclusion. (fn. 61)
Mrs. Chalker, an inhabitant of Bungay, died there about ten years since, aged 103
The population of Bungay amounted in
|1841||St. Mary, 1861||4109|
In 1593, Thomas Wingfield devised £170 to be laid out in the purchase of a rent-
charge of £10 a year, and directed that out of the same the following payments should
be made. £5 per annum for the help of necessitous people in Bungay; 10s. a year for
an anniversary sermon; 40s. a year for raising a stock to be lent in small sums to
tradesmen; and 10s. to be bestowed on his funeral day, yearly, in good cheer, for such
of the feoffees as should be present; and the residue to the use of two poor scholars in
Cambridge. In 1712, Henry Webster devised his acre of land in Parnow Meadow, in
Ditchingham, for teaching poor children to read and write; and Henry Smith gave a
portion of rent, which for the year 1828 was £36. 12s. 8d., and the amount is distributed in bread among poor persons.
Christian Wharton, in 1577, by will, directed the persons enfeoffed of her five almshouses in the parish of the Holy Trinity to dwell therein, and take the profits of the
same while they should dwell there. These almshouses consist of five small tenements
under one roof, and are occupied rent free by poor widows. There are also church
lands belonging to each parish, and several minor charities, the aggregate amount of
which, arising from various sources, is about £470 per annum. The town lands are
vested in, or under the management of, the Townreeve, and feoffees of the town or town
lands of Bungay.
Farthings, or Tradesmen's Tokens Relating To Bungay.
No. 1.—Ob., arms of the Company of Brewers, circumscribed * Thomas Nowell.
Rev., in the centre t. n., circumscribed * in bvngay. 1660.
No. 2.—Ob., in the centre t. w., circumscribed [symbol] Thomas: Walcott.
Rev. " t. w. " of: bvngey. 1660.
No. 3.—Ob., in the centre a castle, circumscribed biggotts + in. bongay.
Rev. " t. t. (town token) 1664, circumscribed for change not fravde.
No. 4.—Ob., in the centre arms of Drapers' Company, circumscribed * Henry Webster in
Rev. " W/HI " * bvngay draper. 67.
No. 5.—Ob., in the centre arms of Grocers' Company, circumscribed * Henry Blomfeild
Rev. " B/HI " * of bvngey. 1670.
A seal, supposed to relate to the foundation of one of the churches at Bungay,
was lately in the possession of Mr. James Fenner, who formerly kept the White Lion
Inn at Eye. The matrix is of brass, and excellently preserved. The figures represented
are the Virgin and Child, the former seated on a throne, the child on her lap. In the
front of them is a monk in the attitude of prayer, from whose mouth are issuing the
words "Ave M:, Hail Maria!" The circumscription is very obscure, but is thus read
by the Rev. Mr. Duck, a Roman Catholic clergyman of Bungay: "Sigillum propitiæ
ecclesiæ et pendentibus de Beongei;"—the seal of her propitious to the church, and
those relying on her. This reading is very ingenious, but I fear the letters are not
sufficiently clear to warrant this version altogether, though I confess I have no better
interpretation to offer.
|St. Mary's parish contains|
|Arable, pasture, wood, and buildings||867||3||29|
|Public roads and waste||14||2||12|
|Half the river||2||2||24|
|Holy Trinity parish contains|
|Arable, pasture, &c.||1301||3||29|
|Half the river||4||3||8|
|Half the river||7||2||27|
|Half the river||1||1||20|
Gross Rent-Charge payable to the Titheowners in lieu of Tithes for the Parish of Bungay Trinity, in
the County of Suffolk (including £2. 3s. 6d. for appropriate Tithe of Glebe, at 5s. per acre; and
7s. 2d. for Vicarial Tithe of Glebe, at 9d. per acre), £347. 7s., viz.:
|To the Vicar||75||2||8|
|Total Rent-Charge paid to Impropriators||William Denny, Impropriator||21||7||0|
|The Rev. Courtenay Boyle Bruce||0||13||0|
|The Devisees of John Cuddon||1||5||4|
|The heirs of Robert Butcher||0||14||0|
|The Duke of Norfolk||3||4||0|