This is the website of the Foxearth and District Local History Society. It is dedicated to the publication of research materials gained by its members on the local history of this part of East Anglia, in England.

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For further details of the society or for information ring Alan Fitch on (+44) 1787 311913.

Orchard House
Foxearth
Essex
co10 7JG
Latest Publications
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The Parish Church of St Gregory at Pentlow
Although Pentlow Church is probably the smallest of the local churches, it is undoubtedly the oldest, and retains much of its original appearance.  
Andrew Clarke
Pentlow Church is a very old Saxon church, probably over a thousand years old, and possibly even dating from the early years of the seventh century during the revival of Christianity in East Anglia. The Church of St. Gregory and St George (previously St George), is one of only four ancient round towered churches in Essex and is its most northerly church.
The History and Antiquities of the The County of Suffolk: The Introduction
One of the first major County histories of Suffolk was written by The Rev. Alfred Suckling and published in 1845. The introduction is charmingly written, opinionated but lively.
Rev. Alfred Suckling
Suffolk is unhappily not free from examples of modern church building, those plague-spots of architectural beauty. Should the stability of these structures transmit them to posterity, which is greatly to be questioned, they will furnish to the pupils of a reviving school, remarkable monuments of deficiency of taste, and ignorance of architectural adaptation.
Stan Kirby was one of the thousands who were rescued on the beaches on Dunkirk in June 1940. This is his story.
DL
‘Cor’ said I, ‘there’ll soon be enough for one each’. Several boats had been hit and were out of commission as far as we were concerned. One or two bodies laid at the waters edge, we were told they were ones that started to jump the queues. Could of course have been start of panic, if not stopped at the start
This is the final part of an ambitious project to place the entire parish records of Pentlow Church on the internet. This lists the births in the parish from 1539 to 1814.
GH
This is part of an ambitious project to place the entire parish records of Pentlow Church on the internet. This lists the weddings in the parish from 1539 to 1836.
GH
This is the start of an ambitious project to place the entire parish records of Pentlow Church on the internet. This first instalment lists most of the deaths in the parish from 1539 to 1852.
GH
Thomas Norfolk the son of Thomas Norfolk of Poslingforde, riding on Pentlowe Bridge the 4th day February, being then a great water was then drowned.
A fascinating glipse into what life was like in an East Anglian town during the last war, taken from the local paper
David Lindley
...
In which we hear of the immorality of a Pentlow girl, and the intrigue that followed on her pregnancy. From the Epiphany 1589 Sessions Rolls.
Essex County Archive
...that he allured her to commit whoredom with him, and that he has had the carnal use of her body divers and sundry times since, but how often she remembers not.
The Navigation of the river Stour was made famous by Constable, whose family prospered mightily from it. It has led to the assumption that the river hadn't been navigable before...not so!
Andrew Clarke
'The leading boat contained a small platform at the bows to enable the towing horse to be ferried across the river when the tow path crossed from one side to the other. This occurred thirty-three times on the trip from Sudbury to Brantham. At Bures, the towpath changed side six times. The horses were, of course, specially trained.'
Elections conducted by The Borough of Sudbury, were, at one time, conducted disgracefully. 'The expenditure at the election in 1835, when bribery was unrestrained by either party, amounted upon an average to at least £35 a man for men of all description upon the register.'
'...gross, systematic and extensive Bribery prevailed at the last election for the Borough of Sudbury'
This is an account of a fifteen year quest into the mystery of the contents of Captain Bennets trunk. It all started when Michael was talking to the Essex historian Herbert Hope Lockwood in front of the Bennett monument in St Margaret's church, Barking.
"It's strange" said Bert "but no-one really knows anything about him, apart from the hearsay that Bennett (or his father) was one of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell's captains and that he survived the Great Scillies Disaster of 1707 through sheer navigational skill".
Michael Wand
'I give and bequeath unto the said Abraham Edlin all the furniture in the Room called my Chamber together with the Chest of Drawers and the Iron Chest with all that is therein contained upon this Condition that he do not disclose or make known the Contents thereof or any part thereof to any person and in case he do make the same known contrary to this my desire my will and meaning is that he forfeits this my devise to him and in that case I give the same unto my Cousin Mary Masters'
At Thaxted church is the most original georgian church organ in existence, famous also for being the organ on which Gustav Holst composed the famous 'Thaxted Hymn', the central part of 'Juupiter' in the Planets Suite. Of course, it is now under threat, and the leading expert on church organs, Nicholas Thistlethwaite, gives the details of this national treasure in this fascinating account
The Revd Canon Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite
'when the verger was about to ring the bell and summon the congregation for the usual week-day evening service, he could produce no sound. Still many were assembled, and divine service proceeded; but when the Minister ascended the pulpit, he perceived, from signs not to be mistaken, that the whole of the immense and massive roof had shifted and sunk, and might at any instant crush him and the whole congregation'
This is a meticulous transcription of the list of the Beccles men who served in the first world war. This was published in book form in July 1920, and based on the official rolls published during the Great War and a great deal of research, including house-to-house distribution of forms sent out in July and collected in early October, 1919
Transcribed by Nick Pulford
THE Committee responsible for the publication of this List feel that no apology for any seeming delay will be needed by any one who at all realizes the amount of labour entailed in its preparation and the many difficulties in the way of carrying it to a successful issue.
Beccles' Historian, David Lindley, has assembled a huge archive of transcriptions taken from local papers about Beccles and the surrounding area, a mine of information to anyone interested in the town, and about the history of town-life in East Anglia
David Lindley 2006
It would be difficult to describe the mingled feelings of surprise and horror excited by the sad report which was whispered at every breakfast table in the town on Wednesday morning. Seldom has such a gloom been cast over the town, and the rumour was at first deemed incredible.
The well-known Beccles' Historian David Lindley has assembled a huge archive of transcriptions taken from a wide range of historical sources, and arranged them by the road or area of beccles, to allow people researching a location to do so easily. It is a huge resource of great value to local historians throughout East Anglia
David Lindley 2006
The earliest mention of the Old Market in the history of Beccles is rather unflattering. In 1418 three men were up before the Court of the Manor of Beccles charged with not removing a dungheap from the Old Market despite having been ordered to do so at the previous Court six months earlier. It must have matured during that time! They were fined eight pence.
Janelle Penney has meticulously gone through the Norfolk Chronicle from 1780 to 1783, and transcribed, from the microfishe, everything of interest in the newspaper, from Advertisements, letters, news, announcements and gossip, and has caught a snapshot of a fascinating age
Janelle Penney 2006
...We hear that among the many natural curiosities that adorn this kingdom, not any thing affords a greater satisfaction to the public than the Oriental Boggery, or Royal Hunting Tygress [sic], the only one alive in the three kingdoms, now exhibiting, together with several other Animals, and curious Birds, all alive, at the Swan with two Necks, the upper side of the Market-place....
William Hodson was a pioneering antiquarian who published this charming account of Sudbury in the 1887 journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History. Hodson was a man of extraordinary energy who did much to record Sudbury's past at a time that old houses, paintings and documents were little valued. He died in 1894.
WW Hodson 1887
...In several of the houses in this street are seen the outlines of small rectangular, or square windows, now blocked up by the side of larger openings. Many of the upper stories overhang the narrow footway, and the low rooms, whose brick or pamment floors are beneath the street level, have plain or moulded ceiling joists, with plaster between the rafters. By the side of the narrow fireplaces are long narrow cupboards, shewing where the wide open hearths and cosy "ingle-nooks" formerly were...
The title of this short article about Gustav Holst and the 'Planets Suite' is taken from a mysterious inscription on one of the bells in the tower of Thaxted Church. The following was written after visiting the church, and pondering on the lack of anything other than an eight page pamphlet about the church's most famous musician who wrote 'The Planets Suite' whilst staying at Thaxted before and during the First World War.
'It was the first time he had known what it felt like to be living in the depths of the country, where the everyday things that he had always taken for granted became suddenly transformed into matters of vital importance. Water had to be pumped, and when the rain-water butts were empty the sky would be anxiously scanned for clouds of the right shape. And when the rain fell, day after day, it would prove a calamity for having interfered with they hay-making or the harvest.'
The initial proofs of a long-lost script for a BBC radio program dating from 1956, with contributions from many of those people who were directly involved in the affair, has recently turned up. It is a wonderful summary of the affair, for anyone who wants a 'helicopter view' of an extraordinary business.
Burroughs, Sutton, Goldney, Salter, Underwood, Howe, Douglas-Home, Glover, Cuddon& Henning
What we need is not so much discussion of events of so many years ago, as more research into these apparently preternatural manifestations, without publicity and without practical jokers and without fraudulent psychical researchers.
This fascinating account of the farming year was taken from Webb's Practical Farmers' Account Book, dated around 1900, but probably written some time earlier. Clare Sewell Read was an East Anglian farmer.
Clare Sewell Read
'The Farmer's brightest prospects are now bursting upon him, and the fields are all ripening to harvest, while the wavy corn recalls the many bygone years of "peace with plenty crowned," and the many happy harvest homes.'
Ted Heathcote worked at Wards' brewery in Foxearth as an engineer from 1946-1960. The Society's first book, 'Foxearth Brew', by Richard Morris, relied on Ted's memories for the details of the brewery in the 1950s
Ted and Louie Heathcote
I think that the position of engineer at Ward's brewery attracted me more because a house went with it rather than the work. This work entailed many varied jobs combining maintenance of two steam boilers, electrical generating equipment, refrigerating chilling plant, plumbing and water pumping plant, beer boiling machines and washing machines, rewiring various houses and the 35 public houses houses owned by Ward and Son.
The story of the Chelmsford Barber and Mary Whale is recorded in great detail in the report of the Chelmsford Hundred Jury for 1602. The story has it all, Sex, Public outrage, libel, attempted bribery, violence and poetry.
Humphrey Clarke
But if Clim Poope were now alive
He would not wish himself to thrive
Till he had cuckold his brother Whale
But tut, this news is very stale
The 1870s were a low point on the relations between Farmers and their Workforce in East Anglia, and Essex saw some of the greatest militancy. It all ended in the farmers claiming complete victory in their organised campaign of 'Lockouts'. It was a hollow victory, as farming was about to be plunged into a recession that was to last over fifty years. Out of these troubled times emerged a figure that now seems like the stuff of heroes. He appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly, the charismatic Charles Jay'
Andrew Clarke
We now take the Pleasure of thanking you for your Trouble you are takeing for us. Three of us revive at 3 o'clock, and 3 at seven o'clock. We had a good round the station and then we had the beef we should not have at home. Then see the Magor and he sent a man round the streets to show us about, on Tuesday we were swareing in as constables, and 2 suits of good clothes, and then the drill came, we can do that better than hopping over clods all day.
Since time beyond memory, children and tourists have have been shown the doors of some Essex Churches, and told the story of the Danish Pirate who was flayed alive and his skin nailed to the church door where it lies to this day underneath the ironwork.
"....he heard his master say that he had read in an old history that the church of Copford was robbed by Danes, and their skins nailed to the doors; upon which, some gentlemen, being curious, went thither and found a sort of tanned skin, thicker than parchment, which is supposed to be human skin, nailed to the door of the said church, underneath the said iron-work, some of which skin is still to be seen."
Before coming to Cavendish and becoming an intrinsic part of our village life, Squadron Leader F Pawsey DFC was one of the ace Spitfire pilots of WW2, between 1942 and 1944. Later in life, Fred Pawsey JP became headmaster of Headingham Secondary School, and later helped to run Hedingham Comprehensive.
"These were hectic times and there was air combat but we were almost entirely engaged in ground attacks on railways, bridges, motor transport and even leaflet dropping !. The German flack was becoming extremely accurate and we lost a number of aircraft but with my "sharp tool" (the Spitfire), my good eye and common sense and luck I survived.
Michael Heathcote found this delightful piece of past history amongst a bundle of old papers found stuffed in between the joists of a ceiling and floor in an old house in Sudbury where he was working
Suffolk and Essex Free Press Sepateber 19th 1867
'Those who had been employed in (the fields and who had endured the heat and burden of harvest time had special cause of gratitude to Him who had spared them and blessed the labours of their hands. They might not forget how, during a portion of this harvest time, not a few were stricken down by the excessive heat and unable to pursue their work, while others were called away from their harvest toil, in the midst of their employment, and from among their companions in labour, to their final account.'
The use of teams of oxen for ploughing still determines the way the east-anglian landscape looks. Headlands and field-boundaries were designed to accomodate the long teams of yoked oxen. Because the horse became more popular, we have forgotten the important role of the oxen in pre-industrial farming.
Michael Williams and H. H. Kames
FOR TWO thousand years and more, oxen (or bullocks) were the main beasts of burden on British farms and roads. Then, in the 40 years from 1800 to 1840, they all but disappeared - hustled into history by social reforms, industrialisation and a growing need for speed.
The F&DLHS's first printed publication, the story of Ward's Foxearth Brewery.
Richard Morris
what was a vicar doing closing down the local brewhouse, apparently to stamp out vice in the parish, only to become the covert investor in a brewery? What was the nature of the close relationship between the vicar and the young, handsome son of a brewer? What was behind the accusations of rape against the vicar, and the counter-accusations of the running of a brothel? Why did the vicar and his brother purchase almost every house in the village? What triggered the poisonous quarrel between the wealthy farmer and the priest?
Why is the Australian accent so close to the East-Anglian? Why are towns and cities in America and Canada named after Suffolk and Essex places? Here is the story of Nineteenth-century emigration from the region
Humphrey Clarke
Over the course of the 1800s, thousands of people had migrated in search of a better life, their correspondence reveals that the majority were successful, alluding to the suffering they had escaped whilst expressing their joy at the higher standard of living and increased opportunities they now received. By the end of the century people from the eastern counties were spread amoungst Britain's colonies and the emerging United States, provoked to move from their birthplace by the grinding struggle of rural life in an age of agricultural depression and social change.
A shocking story about an attempted massacre, and a grisly murder by a deranged farmer at Pebmarsh.
Halstead & Colne Valley Gazette
In reply to my question prisoner said, "I have shot a sheep and here's the head, mate," at the same time handing me the bowl. At first I thought it was a sheep's head, but on looking at it 1 saw it was the head of the deceased, whom I knew very well. 
I said "Sam, whatever have you been doing? You have killed poor old Cockerill." He said "I shot a cock pheasant and he came down with it."
Foxearth's church spire was one of the glories of the border parishes, 130 feet high, and visible for miles around. After a freak summer storm in 1948, it was suddenly gone.
Perhaps the worst result of the storm locally was the destruction of the lofty spire of Foxearth parish church. It is thought that the spire was struck by lightning and the wind blew the wreckage into the adjoining field, the tower also being damaged. Here, as elsewhere, trees were blown down the Rectory and Brewery house were damaged. also other property in the village.
A story of phlegmatic courage, by an allied airman who had crashed behind enemy lines, and of the French resistance who risked torture and death to help him to evade capture and return. Butch Baker later became a well-known and much-liked Foxearth resident who contributed greatly to the community; affable, good-humoured and generous.
Butch Baker
A German officer stopped his car by me, got out and spoke to me. Through a daze I realized he was asking me the way somewhere. Fortunately my face was covered with dirt and bristles so its changes of colour were not noticeable. I quickly said I was a stranger myself to these parts. An innocent looking Frenchman was passing on his bicycle so I pointed to him and said he might know. He must also have been doing something nefarious as he just about fell off his bicycle when I pointed at him. Of course he might have caught sight of my dirty face.
This is one of the few genuine diaries of the Dunkirk evacuation, written by a young Lieutenant who eventually lived in Pentlow on retirement.
Ralph Clarke
Rumour comes that the CRE has been killed. "Oh My God!" says Graham, but his face lightens for a moment on hearing that it is some other CRE. It is in fact Le Sueur. He, Hodgson and Galloway were talking together on the beach when another bomb from the same stick as mine killed all three. Tubby White was wounded. Now it is not fun anymore.
On the surface, this particular quarrel involved a difference of opinion over whether a pew could be reserved, or 'appropriated' for a particular family. Such appropriations were simply a matter of custom and had no legal basis. However, much more was at stake, as the local farmers squared off against a high-church rector with radical social beliefs.
Bury and Norwich Post 1862
Mr Gardiner returned to where I was sitting and came directly into the bench and said to me  "You consider yourself a gentleman, but you have proved yourself a low blackguard".  He was in a great passion and this was said loud enough to be heard all over the church. I said  "Thank you for your compliment". I spoke in a quiet whisper;'
Rev Kenneth Glass wrote this booklet in 1962. It has not been bettered as a general introduction to the history of the village and so we managed to trace him to get his kind permission to republish the work.
By Rev Kenneth Glass
TYE GREEN still remains where in olden time the Tythings were held, A very different public meeting was held there on a warm Saturday in August 1900 when a deputation from Ipswich and District Trades and Labour Council was present. Here the gathering of Mat Weavers was told that it was surprising the low wage paid to their craftsmen, and a wonder how they existed on it. The female workers of the silk industry were urged to combine and try and improve the conditions under which they worked.
Frank Hale was born in Cavendish in 1912. In 1978, he described his memories of old Cavendish to his granddaughter Sarah. Frank ran the Butchers' shop in the village
"He had a huge hood that went right over the top of the cart like a pram has, and a lot of us boys when he went by the Green, used to all hang on the back of the cart, and we could stop the pony. The old man used to get his whip and try to hit us, but when he'd got his hood up he couldn't see us."
This is a transcript of a tape recording made by Ted Hartley of Glemsford, December 1978. The Hartley family had been wheelwrights in the village since at least 1750.
D.E.Weston, Clare Middle School
'When the watertower was painted on the inside every 3 or 4 years, the water became undrinkable, so the villagers fetched brook water in cans and buckets.'
Anyone interested in Cavendish and the families who lived there in the Nineteenth Century will be fascinated by this detailed description of the village over a hundred years ago, before the railway had come, and when the roads were surfaced with stones.
John. Braybrooke
"At the top of the Bells garden, on the Green, stood the Cage and stocks where they put people when they were drunk. At that time the public houses were open all the Sunday morning until two o'clock. When we came out of our church we could always see men rolling up and down streets drunk. "
Six hundred years after it ceased to have any legal basis, the 'swimming' of suspected witches continued sporadically in East Anglia. Here is a late example of a petition to a magistrate to have a neighbour swum, and tested for 'Familiar Spirits'.
"They do say your Worship that sich folk are increasing about in this world., and if you have so many in your parish they do a sight of harm. Also, everyone who sees my wife says they never seed such a complaint and call out she is certainly bewitched, she fare haunted night and day, she fare dried up like a crisp, she say."
In the first half of 1944, three aircraft were shot down, or crashed, at the Wales End road near Cavendish.
"He knew one bomb had exploded and also feared that there would be more than one in the wreckage, he dashed passed the wreckage and warned a small group of civilians to stand back. Near the blazing plane he found one man lying in the leaf mould with his clothes and body alight."
The second of Vernon Clarke's wonderful historical guidebooks to Essex rivers. If you want an intelligent guidebook to Essex, Vernon's are difficult to better. Long out of print but, with the kindness of his heirs, republished here
'Tilty is the idyllic site of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1153 — just as beautiful, in its own way, as the better known sites of the Cistercian Tintern and Fountains Abbeys. But at Tilty all that remains are some stones in a field and the 1220 Gate Chapel, which had added to it in the 14th century a chancel with a large east window of exquisite tracery. It was retained at The Dissolution and later turned into a parish church. The abbey had its fish ponds, its sheep, its vineyards and its water mill (run from a millpool formed by damming a stream). The present mill building dates from the 18th century and it worked until 1957.'
We take a number of reports from the papers where sad accidents are described in some detail. There is a huge variety of accidents that are described, from being gored by a bull in one's living room to being suffocated by a fire. The roads were an awful cause of death. The carnage was quite bewildering.
"Inquis- at Lavenham on William Manning, it appears deceased was driving an empty waggon and set off at a brisk trot, he attempted to dismount the thiller horse which he was riding and in doing so he fell and both near wheels going over him he was killed immediately. This frequent accident of this nature (the 4th in 2 months) demonstrates the need for laws to be obeyed to prevent this occurrence."
A local walk with my dog along a local country road in the spring of 1998, and a chance meeting with a friendly local farm labourer who fleetingly referred to a story of a local plane crash only a few fields away, started me off on a compelling quest.
By Bob Simpson
'On impact the Mosquito appeared to somersault twice, and immediately burst fuel, and debris into an opening cone of searing flames that quickly sprang up across and up the hillside'.
We are privileged to be allowed to republish this classic booklet. For many years after it was first published in the late seventies, it was the ideal guide for anyone exploring the historic and picturesque Stour Valley. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the area, it is the perfect place to start
'Exploring the Stour Valley with Vernon's booklet is like being accompanied by a distinguished and interesting guide, informative and always succinct. Vernon's engaging personality comes through on every page.'
a collection of stories which illustrate that the successful introduction of the Threshing Machine did not benefit everybody. In fact, the catalogue of accidents around the Stour Valley make painful reading.
'There was a fatal accident at Hundon when Charles Biggs aged 22 in the employ of Mr Taylor fell into the threshing machine. He was due to have been married that day but as the bride to be became ill and the wedding was postponed.'
The Bury & Norwich Post October 2nd 1883
A story that is full of surprises. Catherine Foster seems to have poisoned her husband only three weeks after the wedding, by cooking him suet dumplings laced with arsenic. At first, the death was passed off as the 'English Cholera', but suspicions were aroused because he had vomited in the garden before his death: A neighbour's hens had eaten the vomit and died. The trial was memorable for the aggressive cross-examination of Catherine's eight-year-old brother Thomas, forced to testify against her. It was also characterised by Catherine's composure, which she showed in her public hanging
Bury and Norwich post March 27th 1847
'The poor woman who was only 18 years of age, gave a heart rending speech from the scaffold imploring other young women, who may be tempted as she was, not to follow her example, but to stand firm and stick to their marriage vows. Catherine Foster was the last woman to be hanged in public in Bury'
What starts as a simple accusation of rape against a priest by a sixteen-year-old girl, and counter accusations of the existence of a brothel, soon evolves into a vicious quarrel between a Borley landowner and the influential vicar of Foxearth.
Haverhill Echo, December 5th 1871
''I said "let me go, let me go". .
He gave me a shilling and said "don't tell your mother. Don't let your mother see your clothing tonight; wash them yourself". .
He kissed me again and bade me goodnight and I left..
Whilst I was down defendant put a pocket handkerchief in my mouth so that I would not make a noise:'. '
Recording the curious tale of the disappearing corpse from Foxearth Graveyard.
Suffolk Free Press, July 14th 1864
'Nothing was heard in the night, either of the men who did the work, or the wagon brought to convey the body away, but certain labourers, in the parish of Otten Belchamp, who were going to their morning's employment, aver that they met a yellow painted vehicle, driving at a moderate pace, towards Belchamp, on which were riding five or six men, but they were so disguised as not to be recognizable by any of them.'
Bull-baiting was once customary and legal, taking place anually in Bury in the Market Place. It is odd to stand in what is now a car-park, and imagine the 'brutal and brutalizing practices' that took place 'amidst all the appliances for the light of the Gospel and the principles of common humanity'
Bury and Norwich Post, November 7th 1792.
On Monday last it was nearly the cause of loss of life to several individuals as a girl about twelve years old was tossed by an exasperated animal and much hurt that it was feared for her life, one Burton, a wool comber, was also dreadfully gored.
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