The history of Felsham, like the history of most English villages: has not been in anyway momentous. Felsham, however, has this great merit. It is a typical English village of the best quality; a village properly grouped round the Church and the Village Green, two greens in fact, with the Village Hall, formerly the School, and the Village Inn near the centre.
To start with geography, or geology: Felsham has no marked features. It lies on or near the banks of the Orwell; the Orwell in its early childhood. Although we are often told that the proper name of the river until it reaches
Ipswich is the Gipping, I call it the Orwell because two of my own fields bear the old names of Orwell Field and Orwell Paddock, which suggests that Orwell was at any rate an alternative name for the young river. Some say that Orwell is its proper name up to Stowmarket. I once proudly told Lady Beatrice Pretyman, who was then living at Orwell Park, between Ipswich and Felixstowe, that I too lived an the banks of the Orwell. She rather flattened me by asking what boating facilities we had at Felsham. However, I escaped, having a vision of small children about the arch on the Bury road, by saying that we had only small boats.
Felsham is bounded on the North by the Great Wood (Felsham Hall Wood and Monk's Park Wood) which must be considered a feature of the parish, though not part of it. It is of interest to note that on our side of the wood, not far from Felsham Hall, there was formerly an alder carr, from which no doubt the village drew some of its water supply. I was told by a former Curator of the
that he knew of forty alder carr in Bury Museum . The late Mr. Redstone, a great authority on Suffolk , once told me that Suffolk Ipswich itself drew water from a carr; hence the name Carr(e) Street, borne by one of the Ipswich streets. A carr is a damp piece of ground planted with alders. I suppose the small piece of ground near the arch, which was planted with alders some sixty or seventy years ago is practically a carr.
One peculiar feature of Felsham geology is the gull between the
Bury Road and the Rattlesden Road, where the Orwell, for reasons which I have not fathomed, has made a ravine, in some places nearly fifty feet deep. The river has at some time apparently worn away a great slice of the hills which slope down to it on either side. We are sometimes told that some hundreds of years ago the Orwell was a much bigger river, navigable by boats or even barges as far as Rattlesden. My own guess is that it may have been so navigable in winter, when drainage was poor and floods were frequent. There is a second gull further down the stream, near the Rattlesden road.
Felsham, in one sense, must have been well off for water. There are fields near the Cockfield road, behind Maidenhall, which bear the names of Upper and
Lower Queach and, according to the dictionary, Queach means moist or boggy. Moreover, most of the old farm houses were surrounded by moats, and although moats are said to have been intended as a protection against wolves, they must have supplied water for stock and other purposes. Some of the moats are separated from the houses and I wonder whether this means that the house has at some time been rebuilt, or whether the cattle and sheep were driven at night on to a sort of island, the moat being for their protection rather than that of the humans.
There seems to have been a considerable pond to the east of the Church House (or Town Houses) from which occupiers of the building and lessees of the Church Croft (now the allotments) were allowed to draw water. The land at one time in the l7th century belonged to John Cocksedge. I may add here that as, long ago as the 14th century Cocksedges in Felsham were paying the subsidy (something like income tax). The Church registers too in the 18th century are full of entries of births, deaths and marriages of Cocksedges. Henry and Peter Cocksedge, for instance, were exceedingly prolific. Towards the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century Pilbrows, Horrexes, Gladwells and Grimwoods abound. In a dictionary of surnames, that of Cocksedge is included among those derived from plants. As a plant, sedge is familiar, but I have not myself heard of Cock as a variety of sedge.
To continue with the subject of geography, I have a record of the "Beating of the Bounds" in 1810. My copy was made many years ago in pencil, not by myself, and is often difficult to decipher. The Beating of the Bounds in those and earlier days was the occasion of an annual procession, including some of the parish officials and a number of small boys, who at chosen points were beaten to ensure their recollection of the exact line of the parish boundary. The points were sometimes boundary posts but more often trees, especially pollards, but the procession if necessary passed through houses. In 1810 it passed through the Boundary Farm on the Bury Road and through the Hill Farm on Lovers' Lane, where the Rector himself was "bumped."
After this geographical prelude, I will pass to history proper. Felsham, from its name, was the "home" of Faele: faele, in Saxon, meaning good or faithful. I hope we may say that the present inhabitants bear out this interpretation. The township of Felsham (town does not here imply any particular size) was given to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury by Earl Ulfketel, from his name possibly a Dane, who was killed in 1016 in a battle between King Edmund Ironside and King Canute, the Dane, at Ashdone, near Saffron Walden, in Essex.
I have not myself come upon details of the life history of Earl Ulfketel, but such details are to be found somewhere. I say this because I recently read in a book called "Jonathan Mardle" (Mardle is a
word for gossip) of some Norfolk man who was so deeply interested in Ulfketel's history that he christened his son Ulfketel. Fortunately, we are told, the boy was red-headed and very pugnacious and so got away with it. Norfolk
Some time before 1056 "Felsham" was transferred by the Abbey, to Aethelhun, a Saxon. This must have concerned only a part of the parish, as later on Felsham was held of Thomas, Abbot of Bury, by Henry Strange, by fealty (obligation of fidelity) and four combs of oats; and his son and heir, Roger Strange, also held lands of the Abbey.
The Stranges continued to hold the Manors of Old Hall and "Broke" Hall till they were bought in 1550 by William Risby, not long before his death in 1551 (Copinger: Suffolk Manors). Broke (the spelling varies) Hall is familiar, but I have not identified Old Hall, which is frequently mentioned in old records. Could it have been the Hill Farm?
The first great event in the history of Felsham was no doubt the building of the
. This, according to Dr. Cranage, former Dean of Norwich and an eminent archaeologist, to whom I showed it some years ago, must have been accomplished during the first half of the 14th century. Dr. Cranage, fixing his eyes on the moulding at the base, of the pillar between the chancel and the nave, said: "Clearly it was built before 1350." After 1350 came the plague known as the "Black Death" and for a long time building was at a standstill. Afterwards new styles of architecture came into fashion. Church of St. Peter
There have, of course, been some changes since the building of the Church. The Church is mainly in the "Decorated" style: this was succeeded early in the 15th century by the "Perpendicular" and the two windows in the north wall of the Chancel are Perpendicular. I suggested to Dr. Cranage that "the Church was built about the time that one style was giving way to the other, but, as I have said, the moulding of the pillar convinced him that the Church was built before that. He thought that the two Perpendicular windows were probably inserted early in the 15th century to make the Church lighter.
One guide book says that when the Chancel was rebuilt (as it was), in 1873, after the death in 1872 of the Rev. Thomas Anderson, Rector since 1822, two Perpendicular windows were "inserted" in the, north wall. This sounds as if before 1873 there had been no windows, or windows of a different style, before 1873. This seems a very improbable story and, fortunately, in a book called "Bury St. Edmunds and its Environs," published in 1827, I have found a picture of the Church in which one of the two windows is shown, and that Perpendicular. Dr. Cranage suggests that the very fine north porch was added about 1500.
Another change is the disappearance of the Rood Loft between the Chancel and the Nave. Rood Lofts were to be found in nearly all old Churches and were in many cases, and probably at Felsham, removed after the Reformation. The reason for this removal was that they were used for the display of the Crucifix and therefore obnoxious to the Puritans, who regarded the Crucifix as a Papistical emblem. The remains of the staircase leading to the Rood Loft may be seen from outside the Church through the loophole in the buttress on the north wall. I discovered this about twelve years ago.
Another change - really two changes, of which I have not discovered the date or dates — was the erection, and subsequent removal of a gallery at the west end of the Church. The erection may have been done in the 18th century, and the removal about eighty years ago; if it had been much later than that I think I should remember hearing about it. It could not have been much earlier, as in 1857 there was a remarkable episode which started in the gallery. A man was brought before the Justices, Mr. Anderson himself being in the Chair, charged with disorderly conduct in
. He had made a disturbance in the gallery, being “in a beastly state of intoxication" and having to be carried down and laid in the belfry. The man was fined five shillings with four shillings costs, which he said he could not pay. The whole amount would be about a week's pay, or equal to about £5 to-day. He was told that if he did not pay he would be placed in the stocks for six hours. As the newspaper which tells the story (The East Anglian) does not say anything about so remarkable a scene as the actual placing of a man in the stocks I presume he did pay. Felsham Church
The stocks were usually set up near a Churchyard; perhaps in this they would have been on the Green. A prisoner in the stocks sat on the ground with his legs and arms fastened through holes in a wooden frame, and kind neighbours, especially boys no doubt, were apt to pelt him with anything that came handy.
When I first came across this story, a good many years ago, I was astonished to find that stocks were still in use as late as 1857. It seems, in fact, that their use has never been abolished by law, but gradually went out of fashion during the first half of the 19th century; the last recorded occasion on which a man actually sat in the stocks having occurred at
Rugby in 1866.
To revert to the Church: Mr Cantley, in his great book on the Suffolk Churches, observes that there are fragments of 15th century glass in the fine 14th century nave windows, a fine and unusual font, a late 17th century Holy Table, and the arms of George III dated 1820 hanging on the Chancel end. Some of the 15th century glass is armorial, but I have not so far found a family to whom to attribute it. The Risbys did not come till later. The arms of George III, although the date on the board is 1820, must have been painted earlier as they include the fleur-de-lis of
, which was removed from the Royal Shield in 1801, George III having by then renounced the claim to the throne of France which his predecessors had maintained for some 300 years. France
Mrs Anderson had the nave re-roofed in copper about forty years ago, when the old high pitch was restored. I have not discovered the date at which the pitch had been lowered, but I fancy not a very long time earlier. Mrs Anderson also gave the organ.
The copy of Raphael's "Charge to St. Peter," of which the original is in the
, was placed above the Altar in her memory, and the panelling of the East end was put up at the same time. The East window is in memory of the Rev. Thomas Anderson, so long Rector of the parish, and the West window in memory of John Anderson, his son and Mrs Anderson's husband. These two, by the way, were first cousins, she being my mother's sister; Mr Thomas Anderson was my great-uncle and his son, through this marriage, became my uncle! The South Kensington Museum family came from the extreme north of Anderson ; Thomas Anderson's grandfather having been a Minister of the Scotland and his great-grandfather a merchant at Wick, on the north coast. Scottish Church
Mr Cantley also mentions the fact that outside the Church there are traces of two scratch dials on the south wall, but I can only trace part of one on the buttress nearest the south parch. These dials, so to speak, were the village clocks.
, now the Village Hall, was erected in 1897 in commemoration of Queen Church School 's Diamond Jubilee, on a site given by Mrs Anderson. I cannot recall the appearance of the old School but, judging by an old picture postcard, it was a meagre building in the south-west corner of the Churchyard. Victoria
The Lych Gate was put up in 1901 "In memory of our beloved Queen
There is a fine row of old yews in the Churchyard. It is sometimes said that yews were planted in Churchyards as a symbol of immortality; but they served the more worldly purpose of providing wood for bows, it being the duty of all good citizens to practise archery, in case military service might be required them, and to distract their attention from such wicked occupations as bowls and gambling.
There is a good peal of bells in the tower... All, except the treble were made by Miles Graye in 1638-1639. The treble was made by Robert Gurne in 1668, and appears to have been added to the peal at a later date. The total weight of the bells is 3 tons. 1 cwt. (treble 5 cwts., 2nd17 cwts., 3rd 9 cwts., 4th 11 cwts., 5th 13 cwts., tenor 16 cwts). The bells were tuned and re-set in 1887.
In the 18th century (in 1754 for instance) the bells were rung for the King's Coronation day and for "Powder Treason”, that is, of course, the 5th of November.
One item in the
accounts, which appears regularly throughout the second half of the 18th century, is ten shillings for "dinner at the Bells." The Bells is first mentioned by name in 1754. I presume the company included 'the Rector, Churchwardens, Sidesmen, Overseers, with perhaps a few others. It is pleasant to think that 200 years ago and later, ten shillings was enough to provide a dinner for so considerable a company. The idea consoles us for not being able to do the same thing today. Easter Church
The following entry in the account book is also of some interest as showing how things were done in parish management:
Witness our hands:
John Reynolds Thomas Orom
Robert Goodrich Stephen Snelling
Wm. Brooks Thomas Bixby.
Finally, I may mention the fact that the Rectories of Felsham and Gedding were, not infrequently held in past centuries, as they are now, by the same clergyman; for instance, in 1505 by the Rev. Thomas Hedge; but the union was personal only.
Leaving the Church, I come now to the Rectory (the old Rectory, that is), which is a charming house. The front part is of lath and plaster, dating perhaps from the early 17th century, with bay windows on either side which may have been added by Mr. Thomas Anderson when he came to Felsham. A letter from one of my grandmothers, his sister, to the other, Mrs. Tilley, written early in 1822, tells her that "Thomas and
will soon be going to Felsham, where they are making some improvements." Lydia
Mr. Anderson, being well off, made his house very comfortable, although one testimony to the comfort which I once heard would not inspire much admiration to-day; namely, that there were two "feather beds" to every bedstead. He also kept what used to be called "a very good table."
Here is a plan of the table as arranged for some dinner party:-
Stewed rump of beef
Haunch of Mutton
I do not know in what year this feast was to take place, but it resembles dinners described, for instance in some of Surtees' mid-Victorian novels.
Perhaps I might add two stories of life at the Rectory in Mr. Anderson's time. When the Great Eastern Railway was opened about 100 years ago, two of my Aunts took the opportunity of coming to stay at Felsham with their Uncle. The nearest station then was Stowmarket, and there they took a fly to drive them the eight miles to the Rectory. The horse was slow. The distance seemed enormous, and they thought they must have lost their way. The driver was not sure himself that they were on the right road. Presently they saw old man leaning over his garden gate; here was their chance, so they stopped the fly, jumped out and asked the old man if they were on the right road for Felsham.
"Felsham, he said, "I never heard tell of that. No, I don't know nought about Felsham."
As they were getting back into the fly, he called after them: "What might you be wanting at Felsham?"
They told him they were going to stay with the Rector, Mr. Anderson.
"Mr. Anderson," said the old man; "that be his gate there."
They were by the Lower Green.
Here is another, sadder story. About 1866 or 1867 my grandmother was coming from Ayrshire to stay with her brother. Just before she was due to start her lady's-maid fell ill, so she brought in her place a young, strong Scotch housemaid, Ellen by name, a girl of much courage.
At Felsham they found that the Rectory housemaid was also away ill, and Ellen was given her room. On the second night Ellen had had not been long in bed when she heard a noise outside her window which sounded as if a ladder was being set up against the house. She jumped up, threw open the window and saw just below her a man's head.
Without hesitation, she seized him by the hair and yelled at the top of her voice till everyone in the house carne to see what was the matter. The village policeman was fetched, the man was taken away, and soon afterwards brought up in Court and charged with “attempted burglary." He made no defence and was sent to prison. My grandmother and Ellen went back presently to
, Ellen the richer by a silk dress presented to her by the Rector as a reward for her courage. Scotland
Some days later the Rectory housemaid came back and the other servants hastened to tell her the latest gossip, including of course the dreadful story of the attempted burglary. She asked if they knew the man; was he from Felsham? What was his name? They did not know him but his name was, let us say, Jones from Woolpit. Thereupon the housemaid collapsed in hysterias: The burglar was her boyfriend!
Here is another list of food evidently prepared for some party; perhaps a ball which Mr. Anderson once gave:
8 chickens 2 raised pies
2 lobsters 2 moulds of calves foot jelly
4 couple of pigeons 2 moulds of Charlotte Russe
a fillet of veal 2 dishes of cheesecakes. .
a quarter of lamb 2 dishes of tartlets
a piece of sirloin of beef 2 Swiss cakes with preserve
leg of mutton savoury jelly
2 tongues 4 currant and raspberry tarts-
Epergne in the middle with two pineapples
salad 2 veal pies
4 pigeon pies
4 preserved -oranges
2 open apricot tarts 2 rich common plum cakes
macaroni and ratafia 2 sponge cakes
To conclude the history of the Church and its surroundings, I must record the story of the Church House and Church Croft, now known as the Town Houses and the Allotments.
The Church Croft was given by Thomas Hood in 1460 for the benefit of the parishioners. This gift was followed in 1563 by that of the Church House, the donor being John Slepper. The Church House was rebuilt in 1629, when it was described as the Poor House and again in 1829, when the present Town Houses, as they were known at least from 1674, were built. These properties were let and re-let from time to time, and one deed lays down that the rent was to be paid twice a year in the South Porch of the Church (now the Vestry). Tenants had access to the pond (already mentioned) near the property of John Cocksedge, called "Hounds”. The rents of the other charity properties were in 1756: for houses in Bury £4.0.0, for land at Buxal (sic) £9, for land at Felsham in hands of John Spurgen £4.10.0. The house in Long Brackland, in Bury, had been bought for £9.
In 1718 Mr. Robert Goodrich, Senior, bestowed upon the Church a silver flagon bearing his arms; its "first appearance”, says the register was on Easter Day. It is still in use and, so the Rector tells me, is German work and very valuable.
Now I will turn to the general history of the parish. Towards the end of the 13th century, Felsham, or that part of it which was not owned by the Stranges, was in the possession of Edward Pechee. The name is no doubt a chance spelling of Peachey, still a
name. Gilbert Peachey had the gift of the living, which seems to have gone with the Manor of Maidenhall, though Maidenhall is not mentioned in connection with the Peacheys. In the 15th century the Manor of Felsham (or one of them) seems to have been owned by Richard Hethe (? Heath) and Elizabeth his wife, who also held the advowson, and later by Sir Robert Chamberlayne of Gedding. Chamberlayne having taken part in the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck, his estates were confiscated by King Henry VII, who granted the manors of Felsham and Gedding to Roger Ormeston. This was-at the very end of the 15th century. Another part of Felsham was sold in 1550 by Sir Nicholas L'Estrange to William Risby. He died in the following year and left the Manor of Felsham to his son, Thomas. This I take from Lavenham wills; but Copinger, in his "Manors of Suffolk," says that the heir was Robert. According to the summary of wills in Ranson's little book on Lavenham, Robert received under his father's will the Manor of Thorpe Morieux. Possibly Thomas died soon afterwards and the manors were united, as they certainly were later. John Risby, baptised at Kettlebaston, Suffolk July 22nd, 1639, is described in the family pedigree as of Thorpe Morieux and Felsham.
The Risbys were wealthy clothiers of Lavenham, then a very prosperous place, and were connected-by marriage with Thomas Spring, widely known as The rich clothier," who with de Vere, Earl of Oxford (The Earl of Earls Hall at Cockfield) built the great Church at Lavenham. The manor of Felsham, or rather, to make things clearer, the manors of Brook Hall and Maidenhall, remained in the possession of the Risby family till nearly the middle of the 18th century, when the male line died out, and the manors passed in the female line to the Fiskes and then to the Harrisons. Katherine Risby, whose will was proved in 1745, left Brook (or Broke) Hall to her nephew, the Rev. John Fiske, whose daughter married a
Harrison. The manorial rights, or some part of them, were still in the possession of the Harrisons in my lifetime- but Brook Hall had been sold to the Scotts not long before I was born (in 1869). Now, if there is a Lord of the Manor, it is Miss Harrison, who lives at Colchester. She is the daughter of Bishop Harrison, who was Rector of Thorpe Morieux, then Vicar of St. James' in Bury (the present Cathedral), then Bishop of Glasgow, where he had a very fine record, and then again Rector of Thorpe Morieux. While Bishop of Glasgow he officiated at my wedding in Ayrshire. Miss Harrison has kindly supplied me with much information about her family.
Several members of the Risby family are buried in the Chancel of Felsham Church, but I believe that their principal seat was at Thorpe Morieux. In the early 18th century a younger son, Heigham Risby, was living at Brook Hall. He died in 1740 and was buried in
. Felsham Church
Maidenhall, with which went the advowson of Felsham, was sold by Miss Harrison in 1741 to a Mr. Edge. Some time after that it was the property of Mr. Reynolds, of the Castle, of which I will speak later, and was left by him to a Dr. Scott. Apparently there was no Manor House at Maidenhall, but in 1837 there was still a farm house and garden. The great feature of Maidenhall was the Fair which was held twice a year in meadows opposite to the grounds of Felsham Hall. These meadows were named Fair Field and Booth Close. Licence was given in 1618 to William Risby and his heirs to keep a market and two yearly fairs at Maidenhall. Lambs were the chief feature.
There are records of a trial which took place in 1695 in the Duchy of Lancaster Court (The Duchy and its property in Lancashire and elsewhere belongs to the Sovereign), when some tenants of the Duchy, who had holdings at Clare, and at Thaxted in Essex, claimed that as such they were exempt from all tolls and fees at the Fair, whereas Mr. Risby, Lord of the Manor, and Mr Brooks (perhaps his steward) insisted on payment.
The plaintiffs stated that there two fairs held yearly in or near the town [note] of Felsham "where they used buying and selling of sheep, lambs, and other cattle, goods, wares, and merchandize" and though they ought not to have been chargeable with "ye paines of any toll or any other of the duties aforesaid, yet one John Risby, pretending himself to be the Lord of the Manor of Maidenhall and to be therefore entitled to all manner of toll, tollage customes, rights, jurisdictions, privileges, advantages, and commodities whatsoever to the said fair belonging or appertaining, has for some years taken toll and such other duties aforesaid, and money instead thereof …”
The complainants were "cast"; that is, Mr. Risby won the case.
When the Maidenhall fair came to an end I do not know; but another fair was held at Felsham up to 1873, I believe on the grass verge in front of the Churchyard, and on a much smaller scale than the old Maidenhall fair.
Although the Risbys were the principal family in Felsham in the 17th century, there were a fair number of payers of the "hearth tax," a very unpopular tax of two shillings per hearth, which was abolished in 1689. In1674 there were 99, as compared with 257 in Rattlesden, so that the two villages stood in much the same proportion as to-day. I suppose 99 payers of hearth tax, given the greater size of families, would mean a population of about 400, a good deal more than that of the early 19th century when the population was 30l, as it, is, more or less, to-day. The payers included Heath, Cocksedge, Mr. Brundish (the Rector), Mr. R. Goodrich (perhaps he who gave the flagon to the Church), Ann Horrex (of Gedding), and the Town House.
Earlier taxpayers included 0. Cokesege in 1327; Coksege, for lands, in 1524; Cokesage in1568. Payers of Ship Money (the tax which was one of the causes of complaint against Charles I) in 1639-40 included Church Living; George Nunn; Wm. Goodrich, gent; Brundish; Stein; Horrex and Thackbery (probably Thackeray). "
Gent" means that Wm. Goodrich was entitled to bear arms (in the heraldic sense).
Goodrich was a prominent name. William was Churchwarden in 1650 and Robert, already mentioned, a Guardian of the Poor in 1687. Brundish was Churchwarden with William Goodrich. An earlier Goodrich was a payer of the subsidy (income tax, in his case on land) in 1568. Another is mentioned in 1710 (the giver of the flagon), and another Brundish was a payer of the subsidy in 1568. Robert Goodrich, who died in 1731 at the age of 80, is buried in the Chancel of Felsham Church.
A curious incident in 1687 is the drawing of a deed by William Brooks, yeoman, (no doubt the Brooks who figured in the Maidenhall trial) in which he guarantees to Robert Goodrich and Thomas Codd the sum of £100 to provide for his children in the case of his death; as the parishioners of Felsham were "much concerned lest these children should become chargeable on the Parish." Presumably Brooks was in bad health, and in those days every Parish tried to prevent vagrants from straying in, still more staying there, and no doubt to prevent fatherless children without means from remaining there and becoming chargeable to the Parish. Strong measures were taken to drive out vagrants if they did make their way in.
The care of the poor and the levying of a poor rate was the duty of the Overseers of the Poor, and it was in order to keep down the rate that every effort was made to restrict the number of persons to whom relief might be payable. Another duty of the Overseers was the binding of poor boys as apprentices. I have just read in a book on Shakespeare, by Miss Chute, that at Stratford-on-Avon heavy fines were leviable on anyone who admitted to his house a woman from elsewhere who was expecting a child.
I will now turn to some of the older houses in the Parish. The most interesting is the Hill Farm, for which Mr Charles Partridge, whose attention I called to it, suggests 1500 as a probable date. It is quite unspoilt. I have found nothing about its history, but have wondered whether it might be the Old Hall often mentioned in the records. Mr Partridge also visited the Castle Farm and thought that the beams in some of the rooms might be 300 years old. It was originally one house and it is now divided into two. In the garden are the capitals of some old pillars. They may have come from the Castle, near the Church, when it was pulled down at the end of the 18th century, or possibly from another house which is said to have been burned down, the evidence for its existence being the name of Brent, or Brent House, borne by one of the fields near the farm.
As to the name Mudlin End, I once tried- to think that Mudlin might be a corruption of Magdalene and that there might have been a Chapel dedicated to that Saint; but experts would not have it, and suggested that it was merely the end of a mud lane leading from Felsham, a lane perhaps like Lovers' Lane, which was only metalled during the 19th century. Metalled roads in earlier day were, of course, few and far between.
Some few old cottages have disappeared in my lifetime; two on the Bury road quite lately, two on the Green which were burned down through a spark from the Forge falling on to the thatched roof, and two on the footpath between the Bury road and the Rattlesden road. I was here when the two cottages on the Green were burned, I think in 1885, and joined the chain passing buckets from the pump. There was of- course no time, in the days before telephones, to get hold of the fire brigade. The Valley Farm was also burned down not very long ago.
The most important house, however, which has disappeared was the Castle, standing between the Church and the site of Mausoleum Farm. . It is described in a much quoted passage from John Wesley's Journal (p.p. 366-367). He says: "On our way to Bury we called at Felsham, near which is the seat of the late Mr. Reynolds. The house is, I think, the best contrived and the most beautiful I ever saw." The Suffolk Traveller merely calls it "a neat mansion”, being lately the seat of the late Mr. Reynolds and now of Doctor Scott.
Wesley's visit took place in 1771; Mr. Reynolds died in 1759 and Dr. Scott in 1769. The house was pulled down in 1794, so there is some discrepancy in the dates.
Reynolds had been High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1735 and was presumably a man of considerable landed property, though his estate in Felsham does not seem to have been large. He had been resident in Felsham at least from 1724, when his signature appears in the Church Registers.
He was a strange character. Having quarrelled with the Rector, he determined that his enemy should not benefit by fees on the funeral of himself or any of his family. He therefore built a small mausoleum not far behind the house, with spaces for his and their coffins. Buried there he was but later his family or his successors in the property transferred his remains to the Churchyard. The Mausoleum, now in ruins, is a small red brick structure. I believe the red brick wall, along the roadside is a relic of the Castle. Also at a little distance from the road are the remains of a summer house, the walls of which were covered with paintings. The workmen who built it are said to have been paid in beer.
Now I will speak of another house which, if it ever existed, has also disappeared. This needs explanation. Some ten years ago a lady came to stay at Clopton Hall and told her hostess Mrs. Windsor Parker, that as she came from the station she had been interested to see signposts leading to Felsham; her uncle had had a beautiful house there. Neither Mrs Windsor Parker, nor I, nor any of my relations, could identify the house. Later the lady sent a small print showing a good three-storied house, with rows of five windows and Corinthian columns between them. Beneath was the inscription "The Brends, seat of the Rev. Dr. Bletsoe, formerly Head Master of Loughborough Grammar School and author of a work on the origins of human literature." Rather pompous!
I have verified the connection with Loughborough, and I was told by the late Mr Oscar Mays that his father remembered when he was a boy hearing of Dr. Bletsoe. That would be about 1835. The Doctor either kept a small school or had a few pupils boarding with him, and had the reputation, of being very fierce. When Felsham boys misbehaved, their parents would threaten to hand them over to Dr. Bletsoe. His name appears in the old title maps and lists of property owners, but there is no mention of his house. He is recorded as owning 81 acres, some of the land being near the Church and some round the Castle Farm. It seems so strange that no one should have heard of so fine a house that I conclude it to have been the house he intended to build but never did build.
Felsham Grange is, I think, our only specimen of a Georgian house (Georgian being now greatly in fashion). It was built by John Dalton, whose memorial tablet on the east wall of the Nave of the Church records his death in 1788.
owned a good deal of property it the late 18th and early 19th centuries; some of it round what is now Felsham House. Felsham House itself was built by the Rev. Thomas Anderson for his unmarried daughter some time before his death in 1872 and after her death Mr. Anderson's son came to live there and made considerable additions in 1884. The only tradition connected with it that I ever heard is that in the little cottage on the road side an old man named Lister lived about 80 years ago, who was unconscious for forty days before his death. Daltons
Of the Six Bells public house, I have already spoken as to the possibility of part of the house being 16th century. It is mentioned several times from 1781 on, in the Church accounts as the place where the rent of the Church Croft was to be paid. In 1781 it is described as “the dwelling house of John Jones, called the Six Bells." At one time, not very long ago, dances were held there, but dancing seems now to be out of fashion in Felsham.
There was until comparatively lately at the north-west corner of the Green another public house called "The Live and Let Live." Just beyond that was the Windmill which most of us knew only as the Windmill in Lovers' Lane. It was moved there in 1867, drawn, so I have been told, by forty horses. The mill pond remains.
The cottages known as Frog Hall are sometimes spoken of as Cross Cottages and there is said to be a cross built into the wall. I do not think they are very old, and cannot explain the cross.
In old deeds the Church property (Church House and Church Croft) are said to "abut on the King's Highway leading from Ash Green to Bildeston.” The King's Highway would certainly have been a metalled road, whereas an ordinary highway, possibly like
Mud Lane or Lovers' Lane, might be merely a grass track. Such tracks were wide to allow of vehicles having a choice of paths. For instance, there is still such a highway in
East Suffolk; namely the bridle path from Chillesford to Tunstall, which is some 40 ft wide. I have ridden on highways of this sort near Constantinople. It is obvious that some of our present roads were once much wider when one looks at the ditches now back in the fields. Going back to the Highway through the village - where and what was Ash Green? I have found no one to tell me that.
Mud Lane or Lovers' Lane, might be merely a grass track. Such tracks were wide to allow of vehicles having a choice of paths. For instance, there is still such a highway in
Mr Thorington's farm belonged until comparatively lately to the Pettiwards of Finborough, and had been in their possession for many generations. They also own, or owned, property at Putney, near
, where there is a London
Felsham Road . A map of the Felsham property has a picture showing the house as it was early in the 19th century, much as it is now, with a good sized garden and a pond in the garden, and the "
" in front, with House meadow and Pear-tree field at the back. The farm was for some years the, property of Lady Hotham, whose first husband was Roger Pettiward and her second Admiral Sir William Hotham. On her death it reverted to the Pettiwards. Plantation
Felsham Road . A map of the Felsham property has a picture showing the house as it was early in the 19th century, much as it is now, with a good sized garden and a pond in the garden, and the "
To carry general history down a little later, I might record an account of the poll taken in 1722 for a Member of Parliament. Robert Goodrich being High Sheriff and Sir William Baker, Sir Jermyn Davers and John Holt, the candidates. Of the Felsham voters only five seem to have been residents, Robert Goodrich, Thomas Balls, Mathew Sparke, John Risby Esquire, and Thomas Horham. The first three voted for Baker and Davers, John Risby plumped for Holt, and Thomas Horham for Davers and Holt. One non-resident voter was Martin Cocksedge, of Bury. The politics of the candidates are not mentioned.
Sir Jermyn Davers, who lived at Rougham, was one of the Trustees of the Felsham bread charity. Rougham had been bought by Sir Jermyn’s grandfather, who was made a Baronet in recognition of the suffering of himself and his father in the cause of King Charles I and King Charles II. Presumably he was a Tory.
Of more modern history I find little more to say. I have spoken of the Fair, of the Fire, of the new School, which like many others was closed under the necessities imposed by the recent Education Act, and turned into a Village Hall. I might add that during the second World War there was for a time a searchlight on the field beyond the Old Rectory, on the Bildeston road. It was perhaps this that attracted two lots of German bombs, neither of which did any harm, except to the ground.
There was a Fete, so far as I know the first in Felsham, held in honour of Queen
's Jubilee in 1887 on the meadow whose real name is Settletons, but which is now generally known as the Jubilee Meadow. All I can remember to have heard about it is that a Mrs. Avis won the prize for grinning through a horse collar. As it took place during the School term I could not be here; but I must have been here not long before, because I remember a sort of banner stretched across the Bury road at Gedding corner, with some such inscription as "Why no Fete for Gedding?" Victoria
I realize that I have told a very incomplete story, but to add anything material would have meant much more time and more laborious research than I could face.
Our history might perhaps have been more exciting if a project conceived in 1836 had taken effect. Miss Harrison has shown me a document in which, "in compliance with the Standing Orders of the last Session of Parliament" he (Major Harrison, the Lord of the Manor) was informed that some of his land might be affected by a proposed new railway line from
Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds.
There might have been a station at Felsham, which would probably have made it quite a different sort of place. Perhaps we are happier as we are.
Appended are lists of the Rectors, and of the birds I have seen or heard of. There are also lists of those who gave their lives in the two World Wars.
The names of those who gave their lives in the two Worlds Wars are inscribed as follows on a tablet on the south wall of
List of Rectors of Felsham St Peter
1307 Aunfredus de Clovyle.
1572 Richard Jones
1319 John Drenchistone [Drinkstone]
1575 James Whitacre
1331 John Clement
1583 James Hargraves
1335 John Bacheler of Swaffham
1589 Leonard Thackwery
1335 Peter at Medwe of Thorpe Morieaux
1640 Nicholas Bridgman
1349 John at Medwe
1646 Thomas Brundish
1349 John Bonefaut
1680 Richard. Miller, M.A.
1382 Nicholas Stokes
1691 Jonathan Goff, B.A.
1387 Roger Stayard
1695 Charles Pleijs
1395 John Ketyn
1701 Caleb Rose
1410 John Wodecok
1754 John Fiske
1420 John Cok
1764 John Turner
1425 William Douce (deprived)
1771 Anthony Luther Richardson, LL.B.
1431 John Munning (or Manning) of Norton
1776 Anthony Luther Richardson (re-instituted)
1456 John Sterre
1810 William Howell, B.A.
1466 Ralph Wode
1822 Thomas Anderson, M.A.
1469 Robert Storour (Sterer)
1873 Henry Stelman Marriott, B.A.
1502 Thomas Hedge, B.C.L.
1875 Charles Smyth Johnstone, B.A.
1533 Geoffrey Chadwick
1877 Edmund Gough
1553 Henry Brown
1895 Joseph Hind, M.A., Canon
1568 Henry Boyes
1940 John Simons, M.A.
Wild Birds seen in the parish of Felsham
Woodpecker, Greater Spotted
Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted
Wren, Golden Crested
Note: This is merely a translation of the Latin Word 'villa’, there being no convenient Latin word for village, and does not mean that Felsham was any bigger then than now.
Biographical note: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tilley_(diplomat)
Background information on Felsham House can be found at: