South Elmham, All Saints

Pages 183-189

The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. Originally published by WS Crowell, Ipswich, 1846.

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South Elmham.

This district includes nine parishes, and forms a subdivision of the Hundred of Wangford, anciently called the liberty, manor, or township of South Elmham. It was granted by Sigebert, King of the East Angles, to Felix, the Burgundian, his first bishop, who fixed his see at Dunwich in 630. Felix probably resided here, and on that portion of his estate which has obtained the name of Felix-town, or Flixton. It is a deanery within itself. Several churches were founded here in Saxon times, the dedication of which to patron saints led to its subsequent division into parishes; of which St. Margaret's became the ville, or principal residence of the township. These parishes are, All Saints, Flixton, St. George, Homersfield, or St. Mary, St. James, St. Margaret, St. Michael, St. Nicholas, and St. Peter. The demesne is returned in Domesday Book as the property of William, Bishop of Thetford; but several smaller manors appear to have then existed within its bounds, and Flixton was held as a separate lordship. Archbishop Stigand had also enjoyed very extensive privileges. In Domesday it is called Almaham only; but the addition of South was soon after applied, to distinguish it from North Elmham, in Norfolk, which was then, likewise, the property of the see. Blomefield, in his History of Norfolk, derives the name of (North) Elmham from el menna—two British words signifying little water, of which element there was certainly no deficiency here. My own opinion—though advanced as of little authority— is, that the whole district was included under the name of Flixton for several centuries after its first grant to Felix; but that that manor having become a separate lordship, the other portion of the demesne obtained the name of Almar Ham, or the residence of Almar, who was Bishop of East Anglia in Saxon times, and is returned in Domesday Book as having held this estate in the reign of Edward the Confessor.

Herbert, Bishop of Norwich, and founder of its noble cathedral, built a palace at South Elmham, which many of his successors occupied. Walter Calthorpe or Suffield, who made the 'Norwich Domesday' by order of Pope Innocent, resided here in great splendour. The nature of his establishment at South Elmham may be conjectured from his will, wherein he leaves to the King "one cup, one palfry, and his pack of hounds. To his brother William he bequeaths all his armour, the fine standing cup, and his emerald ring." Roger de Skerning, Bishop of Norwich, died at his manor-house of South Elmham on the 22nd of January, 1278.

The demesne remained with the barony of the see till the reign of Henry VIII., when it was seized into the hands of that monarch in exchange for other lands. In the Cotton Manuscripts (fn. 1) is an indenture between this monarch and Edward North, Esq., Treasurer of the Court of Augmentations, dated December the 4th, 1540, whereby the King grants, among other lands, in exchange for Haddenham, Codyngton, &c., in the county of Bucks, "all that his maner of Southelmeham, with all and singuler his membres, ryghtes, and appurtenaunces in the countie of Suffolk, and the advowsons, giftes, and p'ronage, and p'ryshe churches of Sayntt James, Seynte Peter, Sayntt Margarette, Sayncte Nycholas, and All Sayntts of Southelmeham, in the said countie of Suffolk, and the advowson, gifte, and p'ronage of the p'ishe churche of Humersfield, in the sd countie of Suffolk, which manor and advowsons were lately parte and p'cell of the rightes and possessions of the Busshopricke of Norwiche. To hold all the lands, &c., thus granted, of the King, by the service of 11/0 of a knight's fee, and the payment of £8. 2s. 6½d. for the manor of Southelmham, &c., into the Court of Augmentations, at the feast of St. Michael, annually, for ever."

In the forty-third of Elizabeth, Roger, Lord North, died seized of the manor of South Elmham, with all lands and advowsons pertaining to it in St. James's, St. Peter's, St. Margaret's, St. Nicholas's, Homersfield, &c., held of the Queen by military service, valued at £70. 7s. 10d. per annum. His grandson, Dudley, Lord North, held this estate in 1604. This family descended from Lord North, of Catlidge, in Cambridgeshire, and spread itself into several considerable branches, which were seated at Mildenhall, Finborough, and Laxfield, and possessed the manor of South Elmham from the thirtysecond of King Henry VIII., as already shown, till the reign of King James I., when by a deed of conveyance from Dudley, Lord North, to Sir John Tasburgh, Knight, dated the 20th of May, in the tenth year of that reign, the former conveyed to Sir John Tasburgh, in fee, for the consideration of £2500, all the manor of South Elmham, with the rectories, advowsons, rights of patronage of the several rectories of St. Margaret, St. Peter, All Saints, St. Nicholas, St. James, St. George, and Homersfield, with the site of the mansion, manor, and all the demesnes, &c.

Sir John Tasburgh's name occurs among the knights created by James I. at the Charter House, on his first arrival in London. He married the only daughter and heiress of . . . . . Bateman, Gent., by whom he had lands of great value in and near Flixton. His estate was valued at £1400 per annum. (fn. 2)

The lordship of South Elmham remained with Sir John's descendants till their extinction in the male line about a century afterwards; when it passed by marriage to the Wybornes, an ancient family seated at Hawkwell, in Kent. Lettice, the widow of John Wyborne, Esq., and daughter of Richard Tasburgh, Esq., died in 1738, aged 73 years.

Of the Wybornes, this fine estate was purchased by William Adair, Esq., about 1753, and is now the property of Sir Robert Shafto Adair, who was created a Baronet in 1838. He is the son of William Adair, Esq., of Pole House, Devonshire, by the daughter of Robert Shafto, Esq., of Benwell, in Northumberland, and was born in 1786. He married, in 1810, a daughter of the Rev. James Strode, of Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire. His heir apparent is his son Robert Alexander Shafto Adair, born in 1811, and married in 1836 to a daughter of the Honourable General Robert Meade.

In 1561 the township of South Elmham had the following freeholders:—St. James, 9; St. Peter, 3, among whom was John Tasburgh, Gent.; St. Margaret, 4; St. Nicholas, 5; All Saints, 3; and "Humbresfelde," 3. (fn. 3)

The ancient family of Shelton possessed estates in South Elmham in the thirty-first of Henry VIII., as did also the Throgmortons, who afterwards removed to Earsham, in Norfolk.

The estates belonging jointly to this township have been vested in trustees from an early date. The trust requires that the rents and profits shall be applied to the payment of the leet-fee, or common fine of the leet of the town of South Elmham; and for repairing the highways and other common ways, &c., within the township, where it should seem necessary to the trustees, or any three or more of them. The estates comprise a messuage, with a barn and outbuildings, and 27 acres of land, in Aldborough and Wortwell, in the county of Norfolk; and about 18 acres in the parishes of St. Margaret and Flixton; producing altogether an annual rent of about £60. Four reeves are chosen by the trustees, who receive the rents, which are applied, after deducting the amount of quit-rent and land-tax, to the payment of the leet-fee of £2 per annum, to the lord of the manor of South Elmham, and in repairs of the highways, bridges, and footpaths within all the parishes except Homersfield and Flixton: certain portions of the rent being applied to each parish, at the discretion of the trustees; and a portion of the rent, which since 1814 has been eleven guineas per annum, is also set apart for the poor of the nine parishes, and is distributed among them.

All Saints.

This village is not unfrequently called All-Hallows. It contains—including the parish of St. Nicholas, consolidated with it on the 8th of December, 1737—1620 acres, of which 24 are glebe. The tithes of the united parishes have been commuted for £368 per annum, and the population of All Saints contained in 1841, 224 souls. The parish possesses two cottages and a piece of land, containing one acre and a half, which are let by the churchwardens, at rents amounting altogether to £9. 11s. 6d. per annum, which sum is applied towards the reparation of the church, and the payment of other disbursements of the churchwardens' office, in accordance with long usage.

There is an old moated enclosure, which formerly contained the site of a good mansion, just south of the church-yard, which, in all probability, was the residence of the Throgmortons, a family possessed of considerable property in this village during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. John Throgmorton, of All Hallows, who died in 1510, married Jane, daughter and coheiress of Henry Baynard, of Spexhall. His shield is still remaining in a north window of the nave in All Saints' Church, with four coats: 1st and 4th, Throgmorton—gules, a pairle reversed or; 2nd, Baynard—or a chevron sab.; 3rd, De la Spine—sab. a chev. arg., between 3 crescents or. This John Throgmorton was the second son of Thomas Throgmorton, of Throgmorton in Worcestershire, and left a son, Simon Throgmorton, who settled at Earsham in Norfolk, where he died in 1527, and was the ancestor of the Throgmortons of Bungay.

There is likewise a portion of an ancient house, as old as the time of Elizabeth, and still partly enclosed by a moat, which stands abutting upon the north-east side of the church-yard, and is now the estate of Sir Robert Shafto Adair.

The Church

of All Saints is a very ancient, rude, and singular structure. It comprises a nave and chancel, with a south aisle extending the whole length of the building; a circular tower, with very thick walls, which formerly sustained an octagonal capping, recently removed; and a south porch. The edifice originally consisted of the nave and chancel only, and these were lighted by a series of very small windows, pointed and slightly cusped, and very much splayed internally.

The aisle was added about the year 1250, or a little earlier. Here we meet with two stilted arches between its eastern end and the chancel. The rood-loft was ascended by a steep flight of stairs, rising between two columns of the arches, which sustain the body of the church and chancel, and the aperture being now divested of its steps, presents a very extraordinary appearance. The interior decorations of this edifice offer to our notice an antique Norman font; and much old wood-work in the nave; the poppy-heads of the seats are finely carved, and in excellent preservation. In the south aisle is a piece of carving on the end of an old seat, which deserves a passing notice, though it is not so ancient as the seats just mentioned. On the upper part are the cross keys of St. Peter, with two pointed swords; which would lead us to infer that it was brought from the adjacent village of St. Peter, when the north aisle or chapel of that church was destroyed, or disused. In the centre are the letters I. A., encircled by scroll-work; and in the lower compartment appears a large winged serpent attacking an armed man; but as the warrior is evidently terrified, and has turned his back on the monster, the sculpture can scarcely be intended to represent the heroic encounter of England's far-famed champion, St. George, with the dragon of that engrossing legend.

There are two very large windows in the north wall of the nave, fitted with perpendicular tracery, in which are the shield of arms already noticed, and a second escutcheon with Throgmorton and De la Spine, quarterly. There are also a few rosettes of coloured glass. Several ancient gravestones lying on the floor bear matrices once filled with brass effigies: the outlines accord with the fashion of the latter part of the fifteenth century, and they possibly cover the ashes of the Throgmortons.

Monuments.—Robert Davy, of Ditchingham, died February 5, 1678, aged 65 years. Margaret, his wife, daughter of Philip Prime, of Halesworth, died April 22, 1709, aged 86 years. Five of their children are interred with them. Margaret, aged 14 days. Richard, aged 24 years. Elizabeth, aged 25 years. Sarah, aged 24 years. Philip, aged 6 years.

Davy bears, sab. a chevron engrailed erm., between three annulets argent.

Robert Harvey, of Ditchingham, and afterwards of this parish, died June 12, 1756, aged 71 years. Margaret, his wife, died April 23, 1765, in the 77th year of her age.

In the porch, which deserves notice for the peculiar construction of its west side, lies Hannah, relict of the Rev. Mr. Dinsdale, Vicker of Kinoiton, in Notinghamshire, who died August the 24th, 1746, aged 73 years.

The old parish registers are burnt.

Rectors Of All Saints, South Elmham.

Rectors. Date. Patrons.
Adam Chastayn 1312 The Bishop of Norwich.
Galfridus de Mourdone 1319 Id.
Richard de Cleye 1323 Id.
Joēs de Wymbotsham 1331 Id.
Thomas de Dallyng 1331 Id.
Robt. fil: Joēs de Brunham 1333 Id.
Robert de North Elmham
Elias de St. Edmundo 1342 Id.
John de Acra 1349 Id.
John de Shaftebury 1353 Id.
Richard Bush, de Hoxne 1360 Id.
Joēs Lovell 1392 Id.
Joēs Ramm, de Gosbercherch 1395 Id.
William Brigham 1424 Id.
Richard Foukys 1426 Id.
Jacobus Multre 1457 Id.
Simon Mayster 1471 Id.
Joēs Peny 1483 Id.
Henry Williamson 1502 Id.
Joēs Gayles 1511 Id.
Nicholas Welden
Radulphus Grigson 1534 Id.
William Biel 1538 Charles, Duke of Suffolk.
Henry Ringer 1554 Edward, Lord North.
Robert Mauknolls 1580 Assign. of Roger North.
John Sagar 1593 Assign. of John North.
Thomas Wood North.
Roger Skipper 1661 Will. Lisle, Esq., p. h. v.
Richard Sadler 1663 Id.
Francis Booty 1683 Sir William Godbold.
John Birch 1705 John Tasburgh, Esq.
Samuel Birch 1706 Bald. Conyers, Esq.
Thomas Fuller 1737 Dr. Ellys, p. h. v.
Francis Turner 1743 Grace Britten, widow.
Thomas Paddon 1790 Alexander Adair, Esq.
John Holmes 1820 Id.
George Sandby, jun. 1831 Id.

Estimatur ad xij marc. (fn. 4)


  • 1. Nero. C. ix.
  • 2. Harl. MSS.
  • 3. Lansdowne MSS. vol. v.
  • 4. Norwich Domesday.