Since they moved to Liston some 13 years ago the contributions of Ian McMillan and Quentin Poole  to the musical life of our small group of villages has been immense. Memorable concerts with top class artistes have been organised in Liston Church, choirs have been assembled and trained and Ian’s passion for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan was amply demonstrated in the illustrated and participative series of lectures in Pentlow  in 2016. More that once the glory of Foxearth’s historic Father Willis organ has been amply shown through Ian’s expert hands and feet. Musical feasts indeed!

On Tuesday 8th October the  Society was treated to another facet of Ian’s talents when  he talked to some 50 members and guests about the history of Liston Hall. Arising from a standard of research well above his self-confessed A level in history Ian delivered an account of the ancient manor house from its building in c1185 to its demolition (apart from two wings) after the Second World War. Stated originally as being “seated on an eminence” (high ground) descriptions of the property have constantly stressed the beautiful park with its many fruit trees and roses. Over the centuries numerous notable people were linked to the estate – as owners, renters , visitors – including the Duke of Argyll, Sir Cordell Firebrace, very senior professional figures  and generations of the local Clopton and Campbell-Lambert families. The stately homes  of Long Melford Hall and Kentwell were associated with what seems to have been a closely-knit social group. In 1381 Sir Richard Lyons – an extremely wealthy merchant, property owner in several counties including Essex and Suffolk, MP for Essex, Privy Counsellor and Sheriff of London etc- was so hated by the local land workers (for whom he apparently had no time) that he was marched off to London and beheaded. It is recorded that in this early episode of The Peasants’ Revolt Wat Tyler was responsible for the execution and there is no doubt that this part of East Anglia was a hotbed of unrest. In 1712 the German composer, George Frederick Handel settled in London and it is known that he frequently visited Belchamp Hall where one of the two organs that he left in his Will remains. It is nice to think that the other one may be in Liston Church as there is some evidence linking him to Liston Hall where the then residents may well have been on his list of wealthy patrons.

In the mid 19th century there are newspaper accounts of a Harvest party arranged by Rev John Foster, Rector of Foxearth and Ian read some amusing extracts from a diary kept by one Henriette describing mostly everyday events at that time. Two fires – in 1870 and 1882- caused damage which was repaired. During World War 2 the building was used for German and Italian prisoners of war and afterwards , due to the bad state into which the property had fallen and the very low compensation offered, it was demolished. The two remaining wings are The Old Ballroom (known for a time as Park House) and the Hall (formerly the Gentlemens’ Wing)

This was a most entertaining talk, full of information and delivered clearly and characteristically with the energy of a Bach fugue! Ian and Quentin brought along many photographs, pictures, maps and artefacts – including bits of decorative plasterwork recovered from a pond  -and they were warmly thanked by Clare Mathieson for a splendid evening. It is usual for the Society to offer speakers a fee On this occasion Ian generously asked that the Society make a donation to the Parish Church organ fund for which the Parochial Church Council is very grateful.

Next meeting: Saturday, -please note change of normal day -16th November at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when President Ashley Cooper and Lord Andrew Phillips will reminisce on the theme “A Sudbury Boy Wunders (sic) aloud after 80 years”  There will be a donation bar and the visitor entrance fee will be £5 to include the first drink.

Ken Nice

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