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

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'Corton ', in The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1, (Ipswich, 1846) pp. 340-348. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

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Corton is now situated upon a high and commanding cliff, and gives name to an anchorage much frequented by coasting vessels, though not many centuries since it was an inland parish, having the village of Newton interposed between it and the sea. The ruined church stands within a quarter of a mile of the beach, and as the cliff is composed of a sandy loam, continually undermined by the sea, it may, in process of time, share the fate of Newton.

In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Karetun was the estate of Earl Gurth, and was farmed by a free-man named Alric. It was then valued at 20 shillings, which value it retained when Domesday Book was compiled, being then in the hands of the King. It afterwards belonged to the family of De Corton, the last of whom presented to the church in 1332.

In 1360, John de Herling had free-warren allowed him in the manors of Corton, Newton, and Knattishall. (fn. 1) He was succeeded in these estates by Sir John de Herling, his eldest son and heir, who, in 1374, settled the manor of Corton on George de Felbrigge and others, with all his lands and estates in the towns of Corton, Hopton, Gunton, Lowestoft, Blundeston, Oulton, Flixton, Lound, Belton, Bradwell, Gorleston, Gapton, and Westgermouth, and elsewhere within the hundred of Lothingland. (fn. 2) This George de Felbrigge was trustee of these estates for Margery, the mother of Sir John de Herling, who was then the wife of Sir John de Tuddenham. The latter knight died in 1392, seized, inter alia, of the manors of Corton and Lound. (fn. 3) They then became the property of Cecily, the widow of Sir John de Herling, and were afterwards held by Sir John Ratcliff, her second husband. They were next in the possession of Sir Robert de Herling, a great warrior in France during the reign of Henry V., whom he attended, in 1412, at the siege of Meaux, which they took by assault; and during the rest of his life he was continually exercising arms in that kingdom, where he died, like a brave soldier, in his calling, being killed by the French at Paris, as he endeavoured valiantly to defend that city, in the year 1435. (fn. 4) By his last will, dated on the 5th of June, 1421, and proved on the 12th December, 1435, he desires, in the first place, that Johan, his wife, should have, besides her dower, a life interest in his manors of Corton, Newton, and Lound, with the patronage of the church of Lound, aforesaid; and that the reversion of these manors, &c., should be at the disposal of his executors for the fulfilling the intentions of his will. Ann de Herling, his only daughter and heiress, who inherited Corton, was thrice married. First to Sir William Chamberlain, of Gedding, in Suffolk, Knight of the Garter, a warrior of great renown, an able governor, and expert soldier, who, while governor of Craill upon Oise, in France, which in 1436 was besieged by the French, immediately after they had taken Paris, behaved himself so bravely, that, with five hundred Englishmen only, he issued out of the town, routed his enemies, slew two hundred of them, and took a great number prisoners. (fn. 5) Her second husband was Sir Robert Wingfield, Knt. He was Comptroller of the Household to Edward IV., and a man of great interest at Court, (fn. 6) and died in 1480, seized of the manor of Corton, in right of Lady Anne, his wife. She afterwards married John, Lord Scroop, of Bolton, her third husband, whom she also survived, and died soon after the year 1502, without issue. Her estates devolved on Margaret, her aunt, the wife of Sir Robert Tuddenham. Sir Edward Jerningham, Knt., died in 1515, seized of the manors of Corton and Newton, which he obtained by marriage with Margaret, daughter of Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, by Margaret his wife, heiress of the Tuddenhams. In the twenty-ninth of Elizabeth, 1587, John Castelli, who was, probably, an executor, sold the manors of Corton and Newton to John Wentworth, Esq., who died in 1618, when they were found to be holden of Sir John Heveningham, as of his manor of Gorleston. (fn. 7) In the sixteenth of Charles I., Sir John Wentworth, Knt., was lord of the manors of Somerleyton, Flixton, Gapton, Ashby, Corton, and Newton. On his death, in 1652, they passed by heirship to Thomas Garneys, Esq., his grand-nephew, who, in 1668, levied a fine, and suffered a recovery, inter alia, of the manors of Corton, Somerleyton, Ashby, Newton, Flixton, Gapton in Bradwell, and Stalham's in Lound, and declared the uses to be to Thomas Mann, for a term, with remainder to himself for life; remainder to his issue in tail. On the 15th of February, 1672, Thomas Garneys, Elizabeth Mann, John Mann, and others, conveyed Corton, Somerleyton, &c., to Sir Thomas Allin, Knight and Baronet, in fee, from whom they have passed to the families of Anguish, Lord Sydney Osborne, and Peto.

The advowson of Corton was granted to the Abbot and Convent of Leiston, in Suffolk, who, in 1361, procured its appropriation, and endowed a vicarage. (fn. 8) Upon the dissolution of that abbey in the reign of Henry VIII., the rectory of Corton was granted, with its other possessions, to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who appears to have held this property by the service of a tenth of a Knight's fee, and an annual rent of £137. 8s. 10d. As Charles Brandon afterwards exchanged the site of the abbey, and the manors, rectories, and lands attached to it, with the Crown for Henham Hall, the advowson and great tithes of Corton fell again into the hands of the King, and were let to farm by Queen Elizabeth for a term of years, as will appear by the following grant.

R'na. Sciatis, &c. qd nos et tradidimus, et ad firm: dimiss: Johi Moyle, Gen: servient: nroo de le Ewry, inter alia, tot: illam rectoriam n'ram de Corton, cum jurid: et pertin: in com: Suff: p'cell: possess: nup: Mon: de Laiston in d'co com: Suff: postea p'cell possess: &c. Caroli dudum Ducis Suff: ac cuid Edro' Clere mil: p. l'tras patent: n'ras dat: apud Westm: ix. Apr: A. R. n'ri xxvij, p. term xxi. annor: incipiend: a festo Annunc: bte Marie, tune ultim: p'rtin: &c. dimiss: &c. Hend: et libat: faldage in Northwood-more in Wymondham, Norf: et rector: de Corton, ac cetera aia pr'missa pr'fato Edro' Clere, dimiss: a tempore quo pr'dc: l're paten: determinare contig: ad fin: term: xl annor: reddend: inde annuat de pr'dca re'oria de Corton, &c. £iiij. xs. ad duas term: &c. Teste, &c.

Ao R'ne Eliz: xxxiiijo. (fn. 9)

On the 5th of August, 1618, King James I., by letters patent, granted, inter alia, the rectory, or church, of Corton, and all glebe lands, tithes, and profits thereunto belonging, to George, Marquis and Earl of Buckingham; and on the 15th of November, 1626, George, Duke of Buckingham, sold the said rectory, &c., to Price Williams and Anthony Nevill. On the 27th of January, 1630, Richard Milles, Alice his wife, Price Williams and Anthony Nevill, resold the said premises to Daniel Harvey, Esq., Eliab Harvey, and Matthew Harvey. (fn. 10) On the 31st of May, 1651, appears a recovery against Thomas Barnes, by a verdict at common law, of the rectory of Corton; and a recovery of the glebe lands, &c. (fn. 11)

In 1703, the rectory of Corton was let to John Nobbs for the rent of £ 36 per ann., the taxes for the same being £ 5. 10s. The impropriation of Corton subsequently became the property of John Ives, Esq., of Yarmouth, from whom it passed to the Fowlers of Gunton, in which family it remains. The commuted rent charge payable to the impropriator, is £ 242, the vicarial amounting to £120. The exact extent of Corton is 1175 acres, 1 rood, 2 perches: there are no glebes. The patronage of the vicarage, which appertained to the abbey of Leiston, seems to have reverted to the Crown, though it was once presented to by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, after the Dissolution. An unsuccessful attempt to re-annex it to the impropriation appears to have been made about a century since by Mr. Ives, as would appear from the tenor of the following letter, addressed to the Rev. Mr. Bowness, of Gunton.

According to my memorandums relating to Corton, the glebes and tithes, in that parish, were devised a.d. 1367 into an impropriation, and a vicarage. And the impropriation, with the advowson of the vicarage, was thereupon granted unto the abbot and convent of Leyston, near Aldborough, Suffolk. That abbot and convent presented the vicar till the Reformation. The abbey of Leiston was dissolved early, being one of the lesser houses, that had not £200 clear yearly revenues, and granted, on April 7th, twenty-eighth Hen. VIII., which I take to be 1537, to Charles, Duke of Suffolk; I suppose Charles Brandon, who married King Henry the Eighth's sister. Charles, Duke of Suffolk, presented to the vicarage of Corton, a.d. 1537; but 28th May, 1597, George Pilkington was instituted unto the vicarage of Corton upon the presentation of Queen Elizabeth, pleno jure patrone, according to my notes. Dec. 6th, 1623, John Utting was instituted into Corton, vacant by the death of George Pilkington, upon the presentation of King James. Mr. Utting was ejected in 1642, and no other institution occurs to me, till Mr. Shewell's in 1745, when the Lord Chancellor presented to it in the King's name, not as vacant per lapsum temporis, but as belonging to the King's presentation, pleno jure. As to the Duke of Suffolk presenting once in a.d. 1537, I don't think it will bear much weight, because I find other grantees presented at first to rectories and vicarages, which they were soon after obliged to desist from. The advowson of Burgh Castle, for instance, belonged to the prior and convent of St. Olave, Herlingfleet, now called Herringfleet, was granted to Sir Henry Jerningham, Knight, who presented three times to Burgh Castle, but, a.d. 1584, the Lord Chancellor thought it not included in his grant, and therefore presented to it ever since. And, which comes nearer to the case, the rectory or impropriation of Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, belonged to the nunnery at Campesse, and upon the dissolution of that house was granted to Anthony Wingfield, who thereupon presented to the vicarage in a.d. 1545, or 1546. But a.d. 1590, Queen Elizabeth presented to the vicarage there, and after the Crown hath presented to it ever since. This seems to make very much for the Crown's title; but what Mr. Ives hath to allege against it I can't say. And if Mr. Ives will give you a presentation, and engage to be at the charge of trying it with the Crown, if any body should think fit to take out the broad seal for it, it might not be amiss for you to take it upon his title. I heartily wish you success, both for your own and my good tutor's sake; and am, with compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Luson, Sir,
Your Brother and Servant,
T. Tanner.

Nov. 1, 1757.

P. S. The vicarage of Corton is not valued in the old Valor Beneficiorum, commonly called the King's Books. In the year 1707 it is returned to be of the clear annual value of £10, and what it is worth more now, is supposed to be from the improvement made in husbandry since that time. Mr. George Pilkington was buried at Corton, Sept. 16, 1623, and Mr. Utting's being instituted Dec. 6, 1623, shows there could not possibly be any lapse then. It is said in Wood's Institutes, p. 557, "The law doth favour a long possession as an argument of right, though no deed can be shown, rather than an antient without possession."

It is probable that Mr. Ives took no further steps in this business, as Mr. Bowness was instituted to the vicarage of Corton in the year following the date of the above letter, on the presentation of the King. The vicarage of Corton has been thrice augmented by Queen Anne's Bounty. In 1744, by £200; in 1763, by £200; and in 1789 by the like sum. (fn. 12) The Rev. Francis Bowness, the then vicar, in March, 1763, purchased ten acres of land at Beccles, with the first augmentation, and in 1789, he bought nineteen acres of land at Tunstall, with the two last augmentations. (fn. 13) There is paid annually out of Mr. Fowler's estate one pound, for the purchase of bread, to be given to the poor of this parish. A piece of ground of something more than half an acre, called the Town Pightle, is let by the parish for one pound per annum, which sum is paid in part of the clerk's wages. (fn. 14) The population of Corton in 1841 was 442 souls, but its more flourishing state in ancient days is argued from the size of its now ruinated church, and the foundations of many old houses which are frequently discovered. Tradition assigns the period of its greatest importance to the 13th century, when the haven of Yarmouth extended nearly as far south as this village. The truth of this tradition I am unable to confirm; but the former magnificence of its church may, undoubtedly, be ascribed to its dependence on the Abbey at Leiston. A very remarkable discovery was made here in 1812, after a violent storm, which washed away a considerable portion of the cliff, when a stratum of oak plank, in regular layers, several feet in thickness, and extending more than two hundred yards in length, was laid bare. Some of the planks were perfect, but the greater part appeared much decayed. Fossil elephants' bones, vertebræ of large fish, and bones of the mammoth, have also been frequently discovered, bedded in clay, in various parts of this parish. The perfect state of the specimens, not rolled or worn by the action of water, proves that these animals lived and died on the spot where their remains have been found.

The Church

at Corton, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, was once a noble structure, of which the chancel only is now used for divine worship, the body of the church having long been a roofless ruin. The walls are mantled with ivy, and the windows robbed of their tracery; yet the interior, with all its desolation, is still effective from its ample and just proportions. The nave, which never had aisles, appears to have been constructed in the decorated style of architecture, though the chancel presents a large east window, of perpendicular character. A noble square tower, about ninety feet high, stands at the west end of the nave. A singular tradition is related respecting the foundation of this edifice. In 1810, as the sexton, Thomas Soames, was employed in the church-yard, he was accosted by a stranger, who inquired of him the name of the building, and that of its founder. To the latter question the sexton was unable to reply; and the stranger then stated that he had been in Italy during the revolution, when the French armies were overrunning the country and rifling the monasteries. Employing himself one day with examining the records of a religious house there, he discovered a manuscript, purporting to have been written by Francis Cecelia, a monk of the Premonstratensian order, who stated himself to have been Abbot of Leiston, in Suffolk, and founder of St. Bartholomew's church at Corton. The sexton having little antiquarian curiosity, no further conversation occurred, and the stranger left him without making known the date, his name, or any further particulars. (fn. 15)

Gillingwater informs us, "that when the church became ruinous, the parishioners, finding themselves unequal to the expense of repairing it, and at the same time thinking it unnecessary, petitioned the bishop of the diocese for his license to suffer it to remain as it was, on condition that, at their own charge, they would fit up and maintain the chancel as a place of public worship, which was granted them, and the chancel was made very adequate to the purpose." (fn. 16) This petition was probably preferred before 1768, for on the 13th of June in that year the church was surveyed. "But in a long series of years, either by means of the inability, or through the inattention of the people, this too was suffered to fall into decay, insomuch that in the year 1776, the lead admitted the rain in various places, and the pulpit, desk, gallery, &c., were rotten, and ready to fall down. Under these circumstances, the Rev. Francis Bowness, then vicar, thought it expedient to coincide with the wishes of the generality of the parishioners to apply to the diocesan for a faculty to dispose of the lead, and lay out the money arising from the sale of it in the reparation of the building; and notwithstanding much opposition, the perseverance of the vicar prevailed, and he obtained, from the candour of Bishop Yonge, a full power to sell not only the lead, but also, if it should be necessary, a large bell, which hung in the porch of the old church. He availed himself of no more than the former part of the license; and with a very small rate, added to the produce of the lead, the chancel was again put into complete good order." (fn. 17)

Matters remained thus, as left by Mr. Bowness, till within the last few years, when the west, or partition wall of the chancel, was pulled down; and a portion of the nave was added to the chancel, and restored to the purposes of divine worship. The old bell is thus inscribed,

and bears this coat of arms,—3 lions' heads couped, over that in base a marquis's coronet suspended.

The parish registers commence in 1651, and amongst others we find the following entries: "Old Newton was buried the 10th of June. Memorandum, that through the injurie off the tymes, and wacancie of this vicarige, having no incumbent, many burialls were not registred which afterwards was thus collected by me Henry Watts; curatt as followeth." Mr. Watts, whose orthography and grammar are not remarkably exact, is quite correct in his notice of the long vacancy in this preferment. From the year 1623, when Mr. Utting was inducted vicar, no institution occurs in the records of the bishop's office for above one hundred and twenty years, when at length Abraham Shewell was presented in 1745.

Monuments.—An old stone bears the date of 1446 cut in brass. Dorothy Nappier, widow, died April 20th, 1718, æt. about 70. Arms. Nappier, gules 3 bars gemelles or; on a canton sable, a crescent argent. Robert Briggs, youngest son of Augustine Briggs, late of Norwich, Esq., died 22nd of Dec. 1718, æt. 50. The annuity of £1. per annum, already mentioned as being charged upon Mr. Fowler's estate for the purchase of bread for the poor, was bequeathed by this Mr. Briggs, who was descended from the ancient family of De Pontibus, or Briggs, who were settled at Salle, in Norfolk, as early as the reign of Edward I.

This church formerly had a provision to find lights to be burnt before the images of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary. Here was also the guild of St. Bartholomew.

Rectors of Corton.

Rectors. Date. Patrons.
Simon de Norwico 1299 Galfridus de Corton.
Thomas de Corton 1302 Id.
Edm: fil: Dni: Hen: Bacun, mil: 1332 John of Corton.

Vicars of Corton.

Vicars. Date. Patrons.
John de Dersham 1376 Abbot and Convent of Leyston.
John Symond de Dersham 1389 Id.
Thomas Dolle
Walter Spere 1446 Id.
Robert Bradley 1487 Id.
William Mawer 1498 Id.
William Grenewode 1505 Id.
John Anderton 1529 Roger Kent.
Robert Lyngarth 1530 Abbot and Convent of Leyston.
William Reve 1537 Charles, Duke of Suffolk.
George Pilkington 1597 The King.
John Utting 1623 Id.
Abraham Shewell 1745 Id.
Francis Bowness 1758 Id.
Richard Huck 1801 Id.
Frederick Cook Fowler 1837 Id.

Appropriatur Abbati et Conv: de Leyston. Estimatio ejusdem xxx marc.

The village of Newton, which formerly laid eastward of Corton, is now entirely destroyed by the sea, except a small piece of land which retains the name of Newton Green. The lordship passed through the same families, and in the same succession, as that of Corton. It is recorded in Domesday Book as the property of the Crown, when it was valued at 3 shillings. It was probably always an inconsiderable village, and is chiefly remembered in local history by its connection with the mouth of Yarmouth Haven, which, in the fourteenth century, discharged itself into the ocean at this place. The following copy, from Gillingwater's MSS., of a survey of an estate at Newton in 1644, though not very interesting, is given as an almost solitary record of this wasted village.

A p'rticular of the tenements and lands in the townes of Hopton and Corton, now in the occupation of the heyres of John Deny, or their assignees, prte of which was measured nono dies Aprilis Ao Dni 1631, and the residue measured this present 3rd of June, 1644, by me,
John Martyn.

Item, one close, called Newton Close, or Lamb's Newton, as it lyeth there betweene Scoulding's Pitt Close aforesayd, in prte, and the field called Backhouse Close, in prte, on the part of the west; and the Prambulacon Way, or Bounds, dividing Hopton and Newton, on the part of the east; it abutteth upon diverse men, as well towards the south as the north, and cont: 14 a. 3 r. 1 p.

Note, that in this close is a rood of land, belong. to the town of Hopton.

Item, one close, lyeing in Newton Field, in Corton, as it lyeth between Lamb's Newton aforesayd, (the Prambulacon Way betwixt) in pte, and Mill Pightle in pte, on the pte of the west; and the Common Way called Wharway in pte, and Newton Green in pte, on the pte of the east; and abutteth upon the sayd Wharway, and a late common of Corton towards the south; and upon the next-mentioned close, towards the north and south: 5 a. 2 r. 31 p.

Item, one other close, sometyme called the Caryver, or the Cake Close, as it lyeth there between the last abutted close on the pte of the south; and the close, sometime called Twelve Acres, in pte, and Newton Yard in pte, on the pte of the north, and abutteth upon Newton Green, towards the east; and upon Lamb's Newton, on Newton Close aforesayd, towards the west, and cont: 6 a.

Item, one p'rcel of meddowe or pasture, called Newton Yard, wherein the site of the manor of Newton was, as it lyeth there between the close, sometime called Twelves Acres, on the pte of the west, and the sea-cliff on the pte of the east; it abutteth upon Newton Green towards the south, and upon a close of Sr. John Wentworth aforesayd, now called the Eleven Acre Close, towards the north, and contain 6 a. 1 r. 34 p.

Item, one close, called the Pound Close, as it lyeth there betweene the Prambulacon Way dividing Newton and Hopton aforesd. on the pte of the west, and the next-mentioned close, on the pte of the east; it abutteth upon the last-ment'd. close in pte, and the land late in the tenur of Peter Horne in pte, towards the south; and the close called the Old Warren, the north, and contayneth 16 a. 3 r. 20 p.

Item. There is one piece of Briery or Sheep Walk lyeth along betwixt the Mayne Ocean Sea, on the part of the east, and divers of those parcells of land mentioned on the pte of the west; and extendeth in length from John-a-Lane's Crosse, at the north end thereof, and Newton Green aforesayd, at the south end of the same, and contayneth about 120 acres.

Note, that in the Prambulacon Way dividing Corton and Gorleston stands a White Stone, anciently called John-a-Lane's Crosse; and at the west end of the sayd Prambulacon Way stands another stone, where Corton, Hopton, and Gorleston meet.


  • 1. Blomefield.
  • 2. Harl. MSS. 5193.
  • 3. Blomefield.
  • 4. Id.
  • 5. Id.
  • 6. Id.
  • 7. Inquis. capta. 17 James I.
  • 8. Rot. Pat. 36 Ed. III. Pro eccles. de Corton approprianda.
  • 9. Harl. MSS. 1646.
  • 10. Jermyn MSS.
  • 11. Jermyn MSS.
  • 12. Printed list of Augmentations, 1804.
  • 13. Terrier.
  • 14. Id.
  • 15. Druery's Lothingland, p. 213, note.
  • 16. Gillingwater's Lowestoft, p. 82, note.
  • 17. Gillingwater's Lowestoft, p. 82, note.