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Foxearth History Society – Report on meeting on 16th November 2019

It is rare these days to have an event in Foxearth Village Hall at which the audience exceeds the number of seats available but such was the case on Saturday 16th November when the Foxearth and District Local History Society put on a “special” which attracted around 70 members and guests.

In an interview format Society President Ashley Cooper took the Michael Parkinson role and Baron Andrew Phillips of Sudbury occupied the hot seat – or bar stool (a little precariously). Ashley had clearly researched his subject very carefully and the result was a finely structured and wonderfully entertaining conversation. The pair took us through Lord Phillips’ earliest memories as a small boy during the latter days of World War Two to his presence in the House of Lords where he was able to influence many political decisions, his broadcasting periods and his numerous charitable ventures.

Public service and a deeply held sense of social responsibilty were cornerstones of Andrew’s family with his solicitor father undertaking  a large proportion of pro bono cases and never turning his back on someone in need of advice. The mischevious side of young Andrew’s character was shown in several anecdotes involving him crawling under the wire to gather parachutes of Sudbury silk (used to suspend metal strips which interfered with enemy radar) The lads had great fun with the chutes and lead soldiers. For some unexplained reason the girls seemed to be quite pleased with this silk bonus! Torn trousers resulting from sliding in the sand pits were an every day hazard. At the end of the war the Belle Vue area children decided to form a marching band and although he could not play an instrument, despite having a maternal grandfather who wrote songs for Harry Lauder, Andrew led from the front with a biscuit tin and two sticks. To commemorate this event Ashley had commissioned local artist Ben Perkins to depict the scene and a slide of his wonderful  painting was shown and hugely admired. All of these episodes were recounted by Andrew with humour and with the occasional expert lapse into the vernacular. After a spell at boarding school Andrew experienced farm work for a while recalling the late harvest of 1958 and bringing a Suffolk Punch out of retirement. Lessons in management and how to communicate daily orders were absorbed at this time. Before going to Cambridge to read law and economics Andrew worked in his father’s law firm of Bates, Wells and Braithwaite where there seemed to be never a dull moment! An unusual method of summoning a secretary with a pistol shot – which did have trivial but bloody consquences – and locking a difficult member of staff in the walk-in safe were just a couple of examples lightening  the daily routine. As a young graduate Andrew campaigned and won against the local authority that wanted to pull down the Sudbury Corn Exchange (now the public library) and replace it with a supermarket  -  and this zest for supporting worthy causes has continued to great effect. Establishing a law firm in London – with the same name but unconnected to his father’s -Andrew built this up to be one of the largest in the City. His keen interest in – indeed passion for – righting what he considered to be wrong developed to include obtaining charitable status for the Fairtrade Foundation, advising the Church of England on ethical investment matters and a whole host of others. He felt that his greatest achievement as a member of the House of Lords, where he was a regular speaker on social responsibility, was leading some of his colleagues into effectively defeating the Government on the identity card Bill which would have required the disclosure of a mass of personal information.

A foray into television occurred in 1976 when Andrew appeared for 6 years in the Jimmy Young show as the “legal eagle” law advisor to viewers and when this show ended he did current affairs for London Weekend for 30 episodes. Now – at the age of 80 – Andrew can proudly look back on a lifetime of achievement in which he has demonstrated his belief that man is intrinsically wondrous and only a nudge of encouragement in needed to bring out the best in him.

As the long applause by a very appreciative audience at the end indicated this was a fabulous evening’s entertainment which included many related slides of Sudbury. Clare thanked Ashley and Andrew for putting on a memorable performance and Mally and Phil for running the bar. Ashley complimented Clare and Lynda for their running of the Society and thanked Churchwarden Mally Graham for his most appropriate  display of individual crosses at the Village sign for Remembrance Sunday,

 

Ken Nice

 

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

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