South Elmham, St Margaret

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

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'South Elmham, St Margaret', in The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1, (Ipswich, 1846) pp. 221-226. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

In this section

St. Margaret South Elmham.

This parish formed the nucleus of the ancient demesne of South Elmham. The bishops had a residence here from the time of Herbert de Lozinga, who obtained the see of Norwich in 1094, to their final disseisin of the estate in the reign of Henry VIII. In the early mansion, which has been conjectured (fn. 14) —I think without reason—to have occupied the site of the residence of the Danish leaders, Herbert and his successors dwelt, occasionally, in feudal magnificence. Walter de Suffield, a prelate of the thirteenth century, who united the character of a strict devotee with a free indulgence in martial and sylvan sports, kept great state at South Elmham; and we may infer that his pack of hounds—considered worthy the acceptance of his monarch—made the merry woods of St. Margaret re-echo with their notes. He died in 1257, and bequeathed to Gotle of South Elmham, who was probably his steward, a legacy of 3 marks. Walter de Skerning, his successor, died at "his manor-house" of South Elmham on the 22nd of January, 1278, but was interred in the Lady chapel of his cathedral at Norwich.

Bishop Bateman, who was advanced to the see in 1343, was much attached to this residence. His partiality to the place arose, in all probability, from its locality to Flixton, where his brother Sir Bartholomew resided. He purchased considerable estates in the neighbourhood. These prelates occupied, without doubt, the mansion erected by Herbert; for the buildings of those days were constructed for duration; though the house appears to have been shortly after demolished: for in the eleventh of Richard II., 1387, Henry de Spencer, "the warlike Bishop of Norwich," obtained a license from his monarch to kernellate, or embattle, his manor-house of South Elmham. His magnificent and martial habits lead us to conclude that this was done on an extensive scale, and in a style which combined much of the castellated with the domestic architecture of the day.

From the lapse of time, and the vicissitudes which the place has experienced, we seek in vain for any considerable remains of Spencer's mansion, once calculated, no doubt, to accommodate the numerous retinue of feudal state and rude magnificence. The present house, which occupies a part of the site, and retains the name of its statelier predecessor, is, in all probability, a portion of Bishop Spencer's "kernellated manorhouse," though externally modernized and modified to existing circumstances; the durable materials and strong construction of its massy walls referring it to an early period. Its site, which is high and commanding, is encompassed by a broad and deep moat, enclosing about three acres. Within this area arose a vast quadrangular mansion, entered through a lofty gateway-tower, the remains of which were almost entire in the latter part of the seventeenth century. This gate-house was approached by a long and wide avenue of oaks, most of which are still flourishing and majestic, although planted by Bishop Nix in the year 1520. The lofty hall and gigantic kitchen have left no traces to identify their position, and that of the various minor apartments defies speculation. A small room on the west side of the quadrangle, and immediately opposite to the great gate-house, is pointed out to visitors as the chapel of this extensive pile; but no appropriation can be more misplaced. Without noticing its inadequacy to accommodate one quarter of the numerous retainers of the prelates, the proofs of its having been a private and low apartment are evident; and its position, close upon the postern gate and drawbridge, the piles of which were discovered a very few years since, when the moat was cleansed, refer it, with more probability, to a porter's lodge. The room is open to the elements, in its present ruined state, but terminates towards the north in a lofty and acute gable, in which, at regular heights, are holes left for the reception of floor-beams. A wide well of rubble-stone and mortar has lately been laid open, and the pavement of several apartments discovered at the same time, which seemed to have been appropriated to inferior purposes. The tenacity of ancient masonry is strongly exhibited at this place, where several portions of old foundation walls are lying in the garden, some of which measure three or four yards in length, and have been dragged by horses from a distant quarter of the area, and deposited entire in the spot where they lie. When the moat was cleansed a few years since, by the present occupant, between three and four thousand cart-loads of mud were scooped from its bed; but the only discoveries made were a few earthen jars of a comparatively modern date.

South Elmham Hall, in its prouder days, was much visited by pilgrims, on their way to the chapel of Our Lady of Walsingham, and the flat thin coin known as pilgrims' tokens, stamped with a rose and a cross, are not unfrequently found among the ruins The farm, which surrounds the remains of South Elmham Hall, is still known in the neighbourhood as the Park Farm.

The family of the late Mr. Norman, of South Elmham Hall, has been settled for several centuries in the township. About the time of the old Pretender, that gentleman's grandfather was deputed by some member of the family, then owners of Flixton Hall, to convey a casket of jewels to a lady residing in a certain convent in France. Having safely delivered his charge to the fair hands of the devotee, through the convent grate, he returned to Dover, where the authorities had been for some time previous on the look-out for the Pretender. Mr. Norman, being habited in the old English costume, with a laced cocked-hat, and having somewhat of a military carriage, was immediately seized as that prince, and lodged in Dover Castle, where he was immured, and guarded with the utmost circumspection, till letters arrived from Suffolk to certify his indentity.

Gregory Clarke, of Bungay, Gentleman, by his will dated May 11th, 1723, devises to his son, Gregory Clarke, all his houses, lands, &c., in the parishes of St. Margaret, St. Peter, and Flixton, and South Elmham. He leaves to the poor of Bungay £5, to the poor of Mettingham 20s., and to the poor of Earsham 20s., to be distributed in the church-yards.

The Church

at St. Margaret's, which is a moderately sized building, comprising a nave and chancel only, with a square tower, open to the body of the church, and containing five bells, is in sound and reputable condition. The rectory was consolidated with that of St. Nicholas on the 26th of July, 1362, (fn. 15) but it does not appear when they were severed. It was subsequently consolidated with the adjoining benefice of St. Peter in 1734, and so remains. (fn. 16) The church was built about the reign of King John, though it has been remodified at various periods. It contained, before the Reformation, a Guild of St. Margaret, and an image of St. Thomas. William Thederick, Rector, by his last will, proved on the 11th of January, 1504, leaves his body to be buried in the church of St. Margaret South Elmham, before the image of Saint Thomas. (fn. 17)

Against the north wall of the chancel is a small inarched recess, and in various parts of the interior are the following monumental records: Elizabeth Britten, wife of John Carter, died Dec. 3rd, 1748, aged 23. John Buxton, Esq., died 21st of January, 1712, aged 78; his wife died the 11th of May, 1710, aged 58.

This John Buxton was the second son of John Buxton, of Tibbenham, Esq., an ancestor of the present Sir John Buxton, Bart., of Shadwell Lodge. He lived at South Elmham, and was patron of the church of Shimpling, in Norfolk, in right of his wife, who was daughter and heiress of Mr. Proctor, of Burston, in the same county. He left issue three sons and one daughter.

Attached to this monument are the arms of Buxton, arg. a lion ramp. sable: his tail turned over his back, impaling Proctor, arg. a chevron gules. Guillim says "that although this manner of bearing, in respect of the tail, is rarely used, yet it is very ancient, as appears from an old table of the said arms, taken out of the monastery at Bungay, in Suffolk, having been hung up there before the dissolution of religious houses, for one styled Le Seneschal Buxton, which table then remained in possession of the said John Buxton. (fn. 18)

Katherine Randall died in the year 1681.

The parish of St. Margaret South Elmham contains 589 acres, 15 perches of land, of which 65 acres, 2 roods, 7 perches, are glebe. The tithes have been commuted for £136. 1s. There is about half an acre of glebe, attached to this benefice, lying in All Saints South Elmham. The registers commence in 1679.

Rectors of St. Margaret South Elmham.

Rectors. Date. Patrons.
William Skendelby 1309 The Bishop, pleno jure.
Joēs de Tadelow 1312 Id.
Thos. de Wederhale 1326 Id.
Richard de Ulflet 1329 Id.
Will: fil: Math: de Wytnesham 1338 Id.
Nicholas Lacy 1346 Id.
Samuel Gysoun 1346 Id.
Joēs de Brymchampton, alias Stairlak 1349 Id.
Nicholas de Cranwich
Andrew de Colney, resigned 1362 1358 Id.
William Skothowe
Joēs Ravene 1373 Id.
Robert Rendylesham 1412 Id.
William Douce 1420 Id.
John Cok 1425 The King.
John Smith de Warden 1426 Vicar-General.
John Robin 1433 The Bishop.
John Dalyson 1458 Id.
Richard Bartholomew 1467 Id.
William Thederick 1479 Id.
Robert Gurnell 1504 Id.
Robert Nooke 1545 Thos. Godsalve, assig. of Sir E. North, Knt.
Christopher Batten 1557 Edward, Lord North.
Thomas Broke 1563 The Bishop, by lapse.
John Morland 1572 Sir Roger North, Knt.
William Goddard 1599 Id.
Thomas Linseley
Elias Sheen 1631 George Gooch, Gent.
John Woolmer 1679 Robt. Woolmer, Gent.
John Woolmer 1684 Thomas Baxter, Gent.
Thomas Ibbott 1717 Wm. Clayton, Clk., and Jane Clayton, widow.
John Kerrich 1732 Daniel Sayer, Gent.
Peter Routh 1753 Grace Britten, widow.
Charles Jeffryes Cottrell 1802 Alexander Adair, Esq.
Benjamin Evans 1807 Id.
Edward Adolphus Holmes 1833 Id.

Estimatur ad vij marc.

This parish has estates vested in certain feoffees, which were purchased by the proprietors or occupiers of lands therein, of Thomas Gawdye, of Redenhall, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, for certain uses mentioned in the feoffments, which are for the discharge of the leet, here due to the lord, for the repairs of the highways, bridges, &c., within the said parish; and the surplus, if any, to be applied to charitable and pious uses at the discretion of the feoffees. There is, also, a town-farm, supposed to be given to this parish long since, vested, likewise, in trust; and by an exemplification of a decretal order, under a commission of charitable uses in the reign of King James I., dated 1607, Robert Haghe and Thomas Carye are mentioned as donors. The uses of the rent and profits are to aid the inhabitants of the said parish in discharging and paying the fifteenths, tenths, and taxes, and other common local burthens and charges, happening to be charged upon the parishioners of the said parish. All the above lands are now vested in the hands of feoffees, and the rents and profits duly applied. (fn. 19)

Population in 1841, 181 inhabitants.


  • 14. Jermyn MSS.
  • 15. Lib. Instit. pen. Epis. Norwic.
  • 16. Id.
  • 17. Will Book, Norwich.
  • 18. Guillim's Heraldry.
  • 19. MSS. Norman.