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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Kessingland', in The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1, (Ipswich, 1846) pp. 250-259. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

In this section


Burchard held two carucates of land here, for a manor, in the time of Edward the Confessor; which Hugh, the son of Norman, farmed at the Survey, under Earl Hugh. It was one leuca in length, and one in breadth, and paid 32 pence, geld. The manor had increased in value from 30 shillings to two pounds. There were forty free-men in the parish, of whom eleven, under Gurth, and the rest, as tenants of Burchard, held three carucates of land. Eight ploughs had been kept in Saxon times, and at the Survey there were only five; but the value of their land had risen from four pounds to one hundred shillings. Ederic of Laxfield, a Dane of vast estates in East Anglia, had a manor in Kessingland, valued at five shillings, which, being granted to Hugo de Montford, that Norman baron raised to eight shillings. There were also four free-men here; one of whom was tenant to the same Ederic, and the other three were tenants of Burchard, who together held, in the Confessor's reign, 90 acres of land, with two bordars, two ploughs, and an acre of meadow, valued at 10 shillings. This property was also granted to Hugo de Montford, and in his hands yielded 22,000 herrings annually; so that the fisheries of Kessingland must have been very productive, or very skilfully managed, even so early as the eleventh century.

The manor of Rothenhall, called in Domesday Book Rodenhall, which now lies in Pakefield and Kessingland, is accounted for under the latter parish. It had been the lordship of Tored, but at the Survey belonged to Ralph Bainard. It appears to have been a small estate. The lord kept but one plough, and the tenants only half an one. It had wood sufficient to feed only four swine. In this hamlet, Aslac, a free Saxon, held under Burchard 40 acres for a manor, with four bordars. One plough was kept on the demesne lands, and half an one by the tenants; so that it would appear, that one plough was employed jointly by the farmers of this and Ralph Bainard's estate. Here was wood for only three swine, with one acre and a half of meadow. Its Saxon value had been five shillings, which the Norman raised to nine shillings and 600 herrings. At the Survey, the whole of this estate was held in demesne by Hugo de Montford.

The four manors of Stapletons, Kingstons, Echinghams, and Rothenhall, into which this parish was subsequently divided, are now the property of the family of Morse, of Norwich, and appear to have descended through the following owners.

The Manor Of Stapletons.

In the thirty-fifth of Henry III., Roger de Montalt held this lordship, and procured from that monarch a charter for a fair and market. (fn. 1) The former was held on the 20th of November, the anniversary of St. Edmund, to whom the church is dedicated; and the latter kept weekly, on Tuesdays. It was next the estate of the Stapletons, from whom it acquired its name. In the first of Edward IV., 1461, Sir Miles Stapleton conveyed the manor of Kessingland to his brother Brian. Sir Miles was Knight of the Shire in Parliament, twenty-eighth of Henry VI., and at his death, Sept. 30th, 1466, left by his second wife two daughters, his coheiresses, Elizabeth and Joan. (fn. 2) Brian Stapleton, Gent., was lord in 1528. (fn. 3) The manor thence passed through the families of Roberts and Smith; and in 1645, was held by Robert Proctor, Esq. In 1658, Daniel Proctor occurs as lord; and Samuel Proctor, in 1721. (fn. 4) In 1786, it was the property of Jane Denton, the daughter of Bridget Hawes, who was lady of the manor in 1776. This Jane Denton married Randal Burroughes, Esq., and thus carried the lordship of Stapletons into that family, of which it was purchased by John Morse, Esq., with whose heirs it remains.

The Manor Of Kingstons
was early the estate of William de Euque: from him it passed to the Waburnes and Sampsons, and again to Alexander Kingston. Nicholas Hasburgh next occurs as lord: from him it went to William Hasker, and in 1645 was, like the manor of Stapletons, in the hands of Robert Proctor, Esq. (fn. 5)

The Manor Of Echinghams
belonged to the family of Atte Tye, in the reign of Edward III. In 1375, Dionysia, widow of Sir Peter Atte Tye, bequeathed to Edward Charles, her son, 100 shillings per annum out of her manor here. It was next the lordship of the Echinghams of Barsham, in Wangford Hundred, and passed from Sir Edmund Echingham, Knt., to Henry Hubbard, Gent., of whom it was obtained in 1645, by Robert Proctor, Esq., the owner of the other manors, and passed with them.

The Manor Of Rothenhall,
now also the property of Mr. Morse, will be more fully treated under the history of Pakefield.

William, Lord Monchensy, gave all his lands at Kessingland, with four acres of common of pasture there, to Hickling Priory, in Norfolk. (fn. 6)

John Bucknam, by his will, dated Sept. 3, 1598, gave to the poor of Kessingland twenty shillings, with lands and tenements, for ever: the rental of which is expended upon the repairs of the church, and for the benefit of the poor.

The market at Kessingland has been long discontinued, but a part of the village, near the turnpike-road, is still called the old market-place. A considerable portion of the population formerly resided near the beach; and a piece of ground, known as the "Sea Row," was swept away about eight years since by the action of the waves. Two wells were then standing, which rose like tunnels in the sand. The sea manor of Mr. Peto, as lord of the Hundred of Mutford, extends to the limits of Kessingland beach. In 1787, an Act was passed for enclosing the common belonging to this parish, when 500 acres of land were accordingly enclosed. Upon dividing this land, the proportion was five to one: that is, those proprietors of land in Kessingland, who had five acres, had one allowed them from the common. At the same time seventeen acres of common were reserved for the poor. (fn. 7)

In 1777, the number of houses in this parish was forty-five, and that of inhabitants 250: the latter had increased, according to the census of 1841, to 658. The parish contains 1651 acres, 3 roods, 15 perches of land, of which 52 acres, 2 roods, 28 perches, are glebe. The commutation in lieu of tithes amounts to £405. A piece of ground near the spot where the old vicarage stood was called the Nunnery. There were, in the memory of persons now living, fragments of walls and arches standing here. I do not apprehend that any religious foundation ever existed in this parish, except the church, and this "nunnery" was so called, I think, simply from having been the property, and possibly the grange of the Abbey of Nuns in the Minories, at London, who held the great tithes of the parish. There are about forty yards of an old flint wall, by the road side, leading from the church to the sea-shore, which, in all likelihood, enclosed the farm-yard of the grange. The house near the church, lately inhabited by the family of Crowfoot, was the manor-house, (fn. 8) and not a chapel, although there was, in the apartment latterly used as a kitchen, an old window, in which was, not long since, a small crucifix in stained glass, with the figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John.

The Priory of Waborne had formerly interests in this parish, for in the twelfth of Henry III., 1228, a fine was levied between Rodland, Prior of Waborne, in Norfolk, petent, and William de Meynwaryn, tenent, of 30s. rent at Kessingland, which the prior claimed to be given him by the said William, and which he then granted to the prior to be held of Roger de Meynwaryn. (fn. 9)

The advowson of the church at Kessingland was appended to the manor of Stapletons for some centuries, and was presented to by the family of Montalt, as late as the year 1324. Sir Robert de Montalt died without issue in 1329, when the Lady Emma, his widow, two years afterwards, surrendered, by deed, her estates to Isabell, the Queen Dowager, for an annuity of £400. This Queen gave the advowson of Kessingland, in 1346, to the Abbey of Nuns in the Minories, at London. (fn. 10) She seems to have held an interest in the manor, for it was returned at her death, that "Isabella nuper regina Anglie tenuit ad terminationem vite sue manor de Kessingland, cum ptin: in com: Suff: de rege in cap: p: servic: j feodi milit." (fn. 11)

In the same year, 1359, William de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, released to the Abbess and Minorites, without Aldgate, in London, all his right in the aforesaid advowson. (fn. 12) The great tithes of Kessingland were accordingly appropriated, and remained with the Abbess and Convent till its dissolution by Henry VIII., and continued in the Crown till the sixth of James I., when they were granted, inter alia, by letters patent, under the Great Seal of England, bearing date the 8th of April, in that year, to Francis Philips and Richard Moore, and their heirs. Philips and Moore assigned the impropriation to Benedict Campe, who, on the 18th of April, 1635, transferred it to Marjant Vymor, who passed it to John Hammond, of Ellingham, Esq. Hammond mortgaged it on the 18th of March, 1639, to Robert Snell, sen., of Denton, in Norfolk, for £200, to whom it was forfeited. Robert Snell gave it by will to Jane, his daughter. On the 11th of October, 1662, Thomas Hammond, son and heir of John Hammond, upon payment of £30 more, released the right of redemption to Robert Snell, jun., the brother of Jane Snell, in trust for her. Robert Snell, son and heir of the said Robert Snell, jun., gave an absolute release of all right and interest therein to John Barrow, the son of Jane Snell. (fn. 13) John Barrow, who was afterwards D.D., and Dean of Norwich, assigned the impropriation to William Whiston, Vicar of Kessingland, for £180. In the parish registers are the following records connected with this, and its subsequent transfers.

"Part of a letter from Mr. Whiston, dated Jan. 3, 1737.

"I suppose you know yt ye impropriation of Kessingland was by me bought of Dr. Barrow, ye very worthy dean of Norwich, who not being even then fond of owning church lands, offered it me at what we then estimated no more than 8 years purchase: which was a temptation to me to try my friends, and lay out some money myself for its purchase. The then Lord Viscount Weymouth, and Dr. Prideaux, as I remember, gave me £10 a piece, and bishop Moore £5; who were my chief benefactors; altho Dean Barrow, by offering it so very cheap, in order to its restitution to the church, may be well esteemed the principal benefactor of all. Bp. Kennett mentions it, in somewhat that he wrote, (fn. 14) as a thing I intended to settle on the church, when it was in my own power to settle it or not, upon which it has now been long settled—and I am very glad it has been to the advantage of a person, so worthy as yourself. We used to reckon it in Mr. Barrow's hands hardly so much as £12 or £ 14 a year, but yt when it came into ye same hand with ye rest of ye tythes, it would be nearly of ye value of £20 to him." (fn. 15)

"In futuram rei memoriam.

"The rectory of Kessingland being to be sold about the year 1698, the Rev. W. Whiston, Vicar of Lowestoft and Kessingland, purposed the buying of it, to annex to the vicarage; and by the charitable contributions of well-disposed people raised a considerable sum towards it. But being called away to be mathematical professor of the University of Cambridge, and thereby hindered from asking the further charities of good men, he laid down the rest of the money, out of his own pocket, and had the rectory conveyed to himself; in order to pay himself what moneys he was out of, more than he had collected; and that done, to annex it, as is aforesaid, to the vicarage. Mr. Whiston no sooner had the rectory in his possession, but he made divers proposals to his successor, Mr. James Smith, vicar of Lowestoft and Kessingland, to settle it immediately: but he being pretty much in years, did not care for being out of money, which it was so uncertain whether he should live to come into again: and so it continued in Mr. Whiston's hand till April 6th, a. d. 1709: and then upon the consideration of £ 50 to him paid, by the worshipful and Rev. Thomas Tanner, clerk, chancellor of the diocese of Norwich; the said William Whiston, by deed indented, granted unto the Right Reverend Father in God, Charles, Lord Bishop of Norwich, Thom: Tanner, chancellor of Norwich, John Moore, of the close of Norwich, Esq., then principal register, and John Tanner, vicar of Lowestoft, all that Rectory, with all the tithes, &c. (being in their actual possession, by a bargain and sale for one whole year, commencing the day before), to have and to hold the said rectory, &c., with all its appurtenances, unto the said Lord Bishop of Norwich, Thomas Tanner, John Moore, and John Tanner, their heirs and assignees for ever. In trust, nevertheless, and to the intent, that they, their heirs and assigns, do and shall, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, permit and suffer the said J. Tanner, being present vicar of Kessingland, to receive and take all the fruits, tithes, profits, and emoluments of the said rectory, to his own use and benefit, during his continuance there to be vicar there, and afterwards do and shall permit the vicar of the church of Kessingland, for the time being, to receive and take all the fruits, tythes, &c., to their several and respective uses, for ever. Provided that the actings and receipts of the said J. Tanner, and his successors, vicars of the said church, shall be good and sufficient, as well for, as against himself and themselves, and the said Lord Bishop, Thomas Tanner, John Moore, and John Tanner, their heirs and assigns, shall be no ways chargeable for the same, nor for the fee-farm rent, to be paid out of the said rectory. The £50 laid down by Dr. Thomas Tanner were repaid by John Tanner, out of the profits of the rectory.

(Signed) "J. Tanner, Vicar." (fn. 16)

The benefice of Kessingland is, therefore, now a vicarage, endowed with all the tithes; the Bishop being the patron, and the Rev. Dennis George Norris, the present incumbent, by whose liberality the preferment has been further augmented in value, by the erection of a convenient and substantial parsonage-house, built at his own expense; and by the consolidation of its scattered glebes.

The Church,

which is dedicated to St. Edmund, was built by the Convent at the Minories, in London, and was an extensive and elegant structure. At the suppression of that house it failed to receive the funds heretofore appropriated to its support, and soon fell into decay. A noble square tower, full an hundred feet high, and a few fragments worked into the walls of the present church, are all that remain to attest its former grandeur, if we except some mouldering ruins on its southern side, and its elaborate font.

The eight sides of this font are richly ornamented and deeply recessed, and in each niche is placed the figure of a saint. In that which faces the body of the church sits a figure of St. Edmund, holding the peak of his beard with his right hand. The left hand, which formerly grasped an arrow, is now broken off, and the entire font bears evident marks of puritanic zeal. Over the centre of the western doorway in the tower, St. Edmund is represented in the same attitude; and each spandril of this portal exhibits a large figure of an angel waving a thurible. In the cavetto of the arch are St. Edmund's crowns, a mitre—a wounded heart, emblematic of the agony of the Virgin— an anchor, allusive of the christian's hope—with an abundance of foliage-work of elaborate and elegant design. The tower contains five bells.

In 1668, the roof of the church was in that ruinous state that the whole of it fell in, and divine service was discontinued for many years. In 1693, the inhabitants of Kessingland presented a petition to the Bishop of Norwich, in which they stated, that in 1668, by the neglect of the then churchwardens, the roof of the parish church decayed, and fell down, and that the wood thereof, and the seats, were stolen and carried away: that divers of the owners and inhabitants laboured to have it repaired, but were overborne by opposition; and that since that time the town was grown extremely poor, and unable to repair the said church: they, therefore, prayed the Bishop to direct such methods for rebuilding and repairing it as he should think expedient. In consequence of this petition the Bishop appointed Laurence Eachard, of Henstead, Thomas Armstrong, and Edward Carleton, Clerks, commissioners, to inquire into and view the state and condition of the said church, who reported that the expense of rebuilding and repairing would amount to £324. 5s., and that the old lead of this church was then in the possession of the inhabitants, and worth £90, which they requested his lordship's leave to sell, to defray part of the charge. The Bishop, by a faculty, dated 21st of Dec., 1693, allowed them to dispose of the old lead, and John Campe, of Kessingland, and Thomas Godfrey, of Great Yarmouth, were authorized to sell it, and with the money to repair the church. They, in consequence, contracted with tradesmen for the work; and to obtain money sufficient to pay the expenses, they, with the other inhabitants of the parish, presented petitions to the justices of the peace, requesting their charitable contributions to enable them to go through the work they had undertaken. They also petitioned the University of Cambridge. In consequence of these petitions they obtained the following sums of money.

£. s. d.
From the inhabitants of Kessingland, owners 43 6 6
From the tenants of Kessingland 12 4 6
Contributions from clergymen 19 12 6
" from the gentry 76 3 9
The lead sold for 146 16 4
The total sum received was 342 15 7
Ditto disbursed 341 16 2
Balance 19 5

The before-mentioned commissioners, on the 11th of February, 1695, certified that the repairs were very fairly executed, and the church seated; and that the accounts, upon examination, were just and fair. (fn. 17)

Notwithstanding the statement that the repairs were said to have been fairly executed, the roof expanded about the year 1840, and would have again fallen in, had not about £60 been expended upon it. There is a memorandum in the parish registers which reflects little credit on the zeal or liberality of Edward Carleton, who was inducted to the vicarage in 1693, the year in which the restoration of the church was commenced. "Edward Carleton, Vicar, did promise sevll times to give five pound toward the rebuilding of Kessingland church, and gave not one penny." The church raised by Campe is, as may be supposed, a plain unpretending building.

The balance of 19s. and 5d. in the aforesaid account was expended in hanging the great bell. (fn. 18) It would seem that the older church had not fallen down, without some attempt, on the part of the parishioners, to avert its ruin; for on the porch is a date of "1578, R. B.," which points to a repair at that time executed; and John Baker, of Kessingland, by his will, dated on the 14th of August, in the previous year, gives to every person attending his funeral 1d.; and leaves to the reparation of the parish church 3s. 4d. The Rev. John Tanner, while Vicar of Kessingland, sold in the year 1750, as much plate of his own property as came to £7. 7s., to which he added £8 more, with which he bought—

£. s. d.
A silver flagon, which cost 9 0 8
A silver patin 2 5 8
A silver cup 3 0 8
An oaken box to receive them 1 0 0
15 7 0

All which Mr. Tanner gave to the church at Kessingland, on the 23rd of December, 1750. The parishioners, thereupon, gave Mr. Tanner—

£. s. d.
The old silver cup, which was valued at 1 10 6
And the old patin, valued at 1 13 9
3 4 3

With this money Mr. Tanner bought—

£. s. d.
A new bible for the church, which cost 3 2 6
Carriage 1 0
3 3 6

The cup Mr. Tanner parted with to Gunton, and the patin to Kirkley. (fn. 19)

The old church, which was remarkably spacious, contained several chapels, in which were placed objects of idolatrous worship. In the chancel was the altar of the Virgin, whereon stood her image, with a light burning perpetually before it. The images of St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter, stood on the south side of the chancel, before which were burnt on the 2nd of November, or All Souls Day, candles used in the service called Soulemass. There were also in the chancel the chapels of St. John and St. Edmund; and the altar of the Holy Trinity in a part of the church called "Scrowdam." There also existed here the gilds of St. John and the Trinity. (fn. 20)

Master John Sperling, by will, dated 1460, leaves his body to be buried beneath the chancel of St. Edmund's church at Kessingland. (fn. 21)

The registers of this parish are said, in the first page, to commence in 1603, but in the second page the entries bear the date of 1561. The melancholy fate of a shipwrecked crew is recorded at a later date. "Buried November 27th, 1774, Adam Laurie, James Nisbet, Andrew Miller, John Laurie, his wife and four children, whose vessel being wrecked, and they having escaped from the fury of the winds and waves, and being sheltered under the cliff, were by the earth's falling on them overwhelmed with a sudden and unexpected death, on the 24th November, 1774."

Monuments.—Susan, wife of John Crowfoot, died 4 Oct., 1781, aged 34. John Crowfoot, died 28 April, 1812, aged 59. Elizabeth, wife of John Crowfoot, died 10 March, 1832, aged 74. John Campe, who rebuilt the church in 1695, died 23rd Nov., 1699, aged 58, being the last male of his family. Campe bears a chev. between 3 griffins' heads erased, and impales a fess between 3 annulets. Thomas Cunningham, died 27 Nov., 1821, aged 63.

Mary Pellew, wife of Dennis George Norris, Vicar, died 17 Sept., 1844, aged 43; she is buried with four of her children. Edward White, Gent., died 24 Nov., 1831, æt. 76. Mary, his widow, died 16 Aug., 1842, æt. 92. William White, his brother, died Aug. 3, 1842. Sarah, his widow, died 6th Feb., 1843, æt. 88. Elizabeth White, died 24 Dec., 1774, æt. 71. Susanna, wife of D. White, died 18 Oct., 1776, aged 51. D. White, died 15 Aug., 1787, aged 63.

Vicars of Kessingland.

Vicars. Date. Patrons.
Adam of Doncaster 1307 Sir Robert Montalt.
Radulphus le Megre 1324 Id.
Galfridus Man 1361 Nomination of the Bishop, and presentation of the Abbess and Convent of the Minories, London.
Robert of Bernard Castle 1361 Nomination of the Bishop, and presentation of the Abbess and Convent of the Minories, London.
Henry of Dunston
John Salyng, alias Algar 1394 Id.
Robert Payn 1396 Id.
John Freton 1400 Id.
Richard Smith 1437 Id.
William Tybard
Richard Mannyng 1440 Id.
John Spyrling
Edmund Causton 1459 Id.
Symon Cross 1466 Id.
Edmund Wrenn 1478 Id.
Bartholomew Northern 1482 Id.
William Mate 1484 Id.
Symon Petite 1513
William White 1527 Id.
Thomas Corbet 1533 Id.
Francis Yoxley 1543 John Corbet, of Sprowston, assig. of Bishop.
Hugo Thomlinson 1554 Roger Rugge, p. h. v.
William Whight 1556 The Bishop.
John Walden 1557 Id.
Robert Atwood 1559 Id.
John Vale 1563 Presentation of the King, and nomination of the Bishop.
Thomas Winsley 1568 The King.
Richard Ling 1574 Presentation of the King, and nomination of the Bishop.
John Langley 1626 The Bishop, in full right.
Daniel Nichols 1630 Id.
Francis Hawes 1661 Id.
Thomas Eachard 1663 Id.
Edward Carleton 1693 Id.
William Whiston 1698 Id.
James Smith 1702 Id.
John Tanner 1708 Id.
John Arrow 1760 Id.
Robert Potter 1789 Id.
Richard Lockwood 1804 Id.
Dennis George Norris 1830 Id.

Estimatur ad xlv marc.


  • 1. Carta 35 Hen. III. memb. 2.
  • 2. Blomefield.
  • 3. Jermyn MSS.
  • 4. Id.
  • 5. Id.
  • 6. Blomefield.
  • 7. Gillingwater.
  • 8. Martin's Suffolk Papers.
  • 9. Blomefield.
  • 10. Rot. Pat. 20 Edw. III. p. 2, m. 29.
  • 11. Harl. MSS. 708.
  • 12. Claus. 33 Edw. III. m. 17.
  • 13. Gillingwater.
  • 14. Case of Impropriations, p. 330.
  • 15. Parish Registers.
  • 16. Id.
  • 17. MSS. of the late Mr. White, of Kessingland.
  • 18. MSS. of the late Mr. White, of Kessingland.
  • 19. Gillingwater.
  • 20. Tanner MSS. pen. Epis. Norwic.
  • 21. Jermyn MSS.