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Foxearth Local History Society – 14th May

It is quite surprising what can be discovered about an apparently ordinary subject if one puts one’s mind to some careful research and this was demonstrated in David Burnett’s talk to the Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday 14th May. Who would have thought that the Sudbury district of Chilton could have such a wealth of history but the journey through time taken by David revealed evidence dating from Bronze Age settlements and many changes to the present day industrial estate. Excavations in 1997 produced signs of late Bronze age occupation, by post holes and ruts in the clay, and of later Iron age round houses. The discovery of a 7th century coptic bowl near Chilton Hall suggested a Saxon settlement. Nothing has been found to suggest any Roman involvement. An entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 describes a small village of about 11 men and 1 plough and in mediaeval times a number of lords held the manor of Chilton. St Mary’s church in Chilton was built in the 15th century. Among various benefactors the church benefitted in 1430 from the will of Sir Andrew Butler.

A significant influence in Chilton seems to have been the Crane family whose five generations – from 1436 to 1643  – were responsible for the building of Chilton hall  and improvements in the church. Each of the five was named Robert and each left their individual mark on the manor. Among the bequests by various Roberts were those for renovations of the church and the building of the tower, funds for the employment of a priest and for prayers and a daily mass to be said for 99 years and the completion of Chilton Hall in 1550. The last Robert was knighted by James 1st and served as MP for Sudbury for several periods. When he died in 1643 the baronetcy became extinct as he had no sons. The parish registers show that the sons of this dynasty had a very poor survival rate; the cause is not known but was possibly due to some inherited condition.

The village gradually declined and in about 1800 the Hall was badly damaged by a fire with the site being turned mostly to arable farming. By the late 19th century industry began to take over with brick works, lime pits. a corn mill and coconut matting factory; again fire caused rebuilding. The last rector of the church was Rev. John Milner who served from 1898 until 1949 after which the building  was declared redundant. Chilton was important towards the end of World War 2 when an airfield was constructed in 1944 and used by the US Army Air Force as a bomber base.

Mr Burnett  – who has published his book on Chilton, the first 3,000 years – illustrated his talk with many slides and gave much more interesting information than can be included in a brief report. He was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson supported by an appreciative audience of about 30.

Next meeting: Tuesday 11th June – a visit to Bulmer Brickyard when Peter Minter will talk about recent restoration projects.  Please meet at the Brickyard at 7pm 


Ken Nice

Local History Society – Report 11th December 2018

The District Local History Society brought its 2018 (its 19th) season to a festive close on 11th December with the traditional Christmas dinner at the George, Cavendish. Some 30 members attended where excellent food and fellowship made for a memorable evening. A challenging note was introduced by a  quiz which tested members recollection of history and other things. Randolph Ivy was the victorious egghead whose erudition was rewarded with a bottle of wine: possibly those questions on North America tipped the scales?

President Ashley Cooper thanked those who run the Society so smoothly, deal with the finances, maintain the highly-regarded web site, write reports – and those who bring their own particular interests such as church brasses, Borley witches, war memories, budgerigars etc to further the scope of the Society.

Secretary Clare Mathieson outlined the provisional programme for next year which would start in February with a film archive evening. Other topics would be the Royal Air Force, Stour Valley Railway and histories of the Chilton district of Sudbury and of Liston Hall. Visits in mind were to Bulmer Brickworks and the Stow Maries Great War aerodrome near Maldon. There was also the exciting prospect of an interview by Ashley with Lord Phillips on boyhood memories of Sudbury. So there’s a lot to look forward to and guests and new members will be warmly welcomed at any meeting.

Contact Clare (01787 311337) or Lynda (01787 281434 for further details

Next meeting: 13th February 7.30pm Foxearth Village Hall for Film Archive

Ken Nice

Foxearth & District History Society – Report of Meeting, 13th November

At the meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society on 13th November  President  Ashley Cooper took a record attendance of about 40 members and guests through 8 centuries highlighting the Heroes, Villains and Colourful Events that made “the news” in Essex and Suffolk in those years. Throughout his talk Ashley fired questions at the audience rewarding each correct answer with a commemorative postcard and introducing a competitive element by making it a boys versus girls contest. In an impressive display of memory I think the ladies just had the edge but it was a close run thing.

Taking as his starting point the birth of Simon of Sudbury in c1316 Ashley described the rise of this local lad to become Archbishop of Canterbury (crowning Richard 11)  and Chancellor of England  in 1380. He was beheaded the following year having been dragged to the Tower of London by leaders of the peasants who held him responsible for their misfortunes by introducing a poll tax. After being impaled on London Bridge Simon’s head was  placed in St Gregory’s Church Sudbury where – so the story goes – an unscrupulous verger would sell Simon’s teeth to visitors; later excavations on the site revealed numerous toothless skulls!  Another resident of the Tower- where he died – was a squire of Borley who held a banned catholic mass.  Edwardstone saw the birth in 1587 of John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer who led a group of colonists to the New World and became the first governor of Massachusetts in 1629. Still in the 17th century Ashley mentioned the notorious Hadleigh gang of smugglers, numbering about 100, who brought mainly horses but also spirits and tea  ashore at Sizewell. Their leader, John Harvey, served 7 years in Newgate prison before being transported.

One could not discuss great figures of Sudbury without including the famous artist,Thomas Gainsborough  (baptised 1727)  about whom the Society had a memorable lecture in 2017. Rather less is generally known about two of his brothers. Humphry Gainsborough – some 9 years older than Thomas – who was a minister of religion, an engineer and an inventor, credited with inventing the drill plough. Another brother, John, known as scheming Jack ,was also an inventor who made copper wings in an unsuccessful attempt to fly and several other improbable bits of apparatus. Both left their mark on Sudbury’s history. The list continued … in 1821 there was Henry Frost who sold his wife in a Suffolk pub, and in 1834 George Smith was transported to Australia for stealing 3 hens.

Nearer to home Ashley referred some to 20th century heroes – Major Bernard Ward MC of the Royal Flying Corps and Foxearth, killed in action in 1917,  Private Samuel Harvey of Ipswich who earned a posthumous VC at the Battle of Loos – and Sue Ryder, born 1924, who came to prominence in World War 2 and who set up the Sue Ryder Foundation in Cavendish. Finally Ashley recalled Tom Hastie, who died in 2012 and who is fondly remembered for his  pioneering research work in the early days of the Society which formed the basis for our now so well-regarded web site. No apparent villains in modern times

Ashley illustrated his talk with numerous paintings  of agricultural and village scenes by local artist, Ben Perkins, which superbly captured the essence of the periods. He was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson and enthusiastically applauded by the appreciative audience

Ken Nice