We must not tarry over local rejoicings; on account of the Revolution, but glance at an event in Ipswich in the middle of March, 1689, when Louis XIV. had declared war against the Dutch, and William, according to the treaty of Nimeguen, was sending troops to help them. Among those chosen for this service was that which is now the First of the Line, consisting largely of Scotchmen, punctilious as to any slight offered to their country. No act of the Estates at Edinburgh had as yet absolved them from their duty to James II. The service was in itself disliked, and when they learned that Schomberg was to be their Colonel, their temper grew worse. Sullenly they marched as far as Ipswich, to be embarked at Harwich for Holland. At this point mutiny broke out, concerted, it seems, by two Jacobite captains. After a brief period of disorder, in which the other officers were disarmed, the malcontents got the regiment, consisting of about 800 men, on the march. With four pieces of cannon, and, what was of equal importance, the military chest, they took their course northward by the old turnpike (I assume) through Claydon, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Haughley, Woolpit, and Bury, passing out of our county at Kentford into Cambridgeshire, the condition of which district at that time Macaulay seems to me to have depicted as far worse than it really was. They finally surrendered near Sleaford, and the incident ends in the conviction of some of the ringleaders for high treason at the next Bury Assizes, William, with his usual politic clemency, sparing their lives. The Irish troubles at that time brought into the east of England Dr. Rowland Davies, Dean of Cork, whose diary has been printed by the Camden Society. He sailed from that city on March 8, 1689, landed at Minehead on the 11th, and was in London at the time of the Ipswich mutiny, which, however, be does not mention. A fellow exile with him was Barry Love, from the same county, the ancestor of a family which has yet its representatives in Norfolk and Suffolk, who eventually became Minister of Yarmouth. It was to that town that Dean Davies betook himself, armed with introductions to Bishop Lloyd (not yet deprived), to Dean Sharp (afterwards Archbishop of York), and to many Yarmouth citizens. We are concerned with his journeyings rather than with his residence, for they show the manner of travelling. On July 1, at half-past three a.m., he took the coach for Yarmouth, at the Green Dragon in Bishopsgate Street, where he had slept, and at noon they had actually reached Bishop’s Stortford, where they dined. The distance is a little over thirty miles, which, being divided by eight and a half, gives a velocity not sufficient (to use the words of Dickens’s flyman) to render surrounding objects invisible, namely, about three and a half miles per hour. However the pace must have improved, for in the course of the day the vehicle had passed Newmarket, and reached Bury in time for the Dean to see St. Edmund’s Abbey before he went to sleep. Next day he came on (by Ixworth, Botesdale and Scole Inn) to “the place where we dined”, and so reached Yarmouth by half-past seven at night. When the Diary was edited in 1857, Mr. Caulfield, the editor, notes that the journey, which then took two days, could be performed in five hours. The Great Eastern Railway has reduced this to three hours and twenty minutes. The Dean’s residence at Yarmouth was not exactly what we should expect from a mourning exile, and the abundant good cheer provided by his hospitable friends appears to have produced sundry corporal disorders, which he could by no means trace to their origin. He gives a very lively account of the “Water Frolic” at St. Olave’s Bridge. At Burgh Castle he vexed not his soul with antiquarian inquiries, but “viewed that pool of water which is on the top of one of the flankers”. In October be returned to London. The coach left Yarmouth at five a.m. In four hours they reached Broome (Norfolk), where Sir William Cook gave the travellers a glass of sherry as he joined the party. They dined at Harleston, at the cost of a shilling, and at six o’clock reached Botesdale, where, doubtless at the Crown, they supped at the cost of two shillings. Next morning they went on to Bury, where they “changed a horse”, and so by Bishop’s Stortford into Epping Forest by the persuasion of the coachman, where they stuck fast, but afterwards by hard driving reached “London at seven o’clock. Returning in November to Yarmouth, he says: “16th.-We eat in the morning at Scole Inn”. This hostelry still stands just over the Norfolk boundary, the White Hart, though its old glory has vanished. It was built by James Peck, merchant, of Norwich, in 1655, and engravings may still be obtained which portray “the noblest signe post in England”, which reached across the road, and bore, among other objects, the Yarmouth arms supported by a lion. In 1690 the Dean left Yarmouth finally, travelling to London by the same route. His after history belongs to Ireland. He died at Dawstown, co. Cork, in 1721.
Another Suffolk traveller shortly after Dean Davies was Celia Fiennes, who rode through England on a sidesaddle. Her Diary was published in 1889 115.1 As became her name, this lady was a thorough Whig, and deplores the adherence of “Beckle” to the exiled monarch. Here, we find, was “a pretty bigg market Cross and a great Market kept. There is a handsome stone built Church, and a very good publick Minister, whose name is Armstrong: he preaches very well they say, notwithstanding the town is sad Jacobitish town. This chooses no parliamt men. … The ordinary people both in Suffolk and Norfolk knit much and spin, some wth ye Rock and fusoe as the French does, others at their wheeles out in the Streete and Lanes as one passes”.
Ipswich seems to have presented a very decayed appearance. She was here “on Satturday, wch is .their market day, and saw they sold their Butter by ye pinte, 20 ounces for 6 pence, and often for 5d or 4d;they make it up in a mold just the shape of a pint pot, and so sell it. … There is but 3 or 4 good houses in ye town, the town Looks a Little disregarded, and by enquiry found it to be thro’ pride and sloth, for tho’ the sea would bear a ship of 300 tun quite to ye Key, and ye ships of ye first Rate can Ride wth in two mile of the town, yet they make no advantage thereof by any sort of manufacture. … They have a Little dock, where formerly they built ships of 2 or 3 tun, but now Little or Nothing is minded save a Little ffishing for ye supply of ye town”.
Bury pleased her better. Here, she says,
“Ye Market Cross has a dyal and Lanthorn on ye top, there being another house pretty close to it high built wth such a tower and lanthorn also. This high house is an Apothecarys-at least 60 stepps up from the ground. … He is esteemed a very Rich man. He showed me a Curiosity a Herball all written out wth every sort of tree and herb dryed and Cut out and pasted on the Leaves; it was a doctor of Physick’s work that lefted him a Legacy at his Death, it was a fine thing and would have delighted me severall days but I was passant”.
Archbishop Sancroft’s non-jurancy took him back to his native Fressingfield in August, 1691. After Mary, as Regent, had ejected him from Lambeth, he existed for some six weeks in obscure lodgings in London., where he was cruelly interviewed by some tempter, probably Jacobite agent, possibly Whig spy, with the object of drawing him into a plot. To this man he answered that he was very unfit to enter into any such business, and that he had resolved to “go almost one hundred miles off into ye deepest Retiremt I could find”. Three days’ journey brought him to the house, called Ufford Hall, where he first drew breath. He refused the services of Henry Wharton, who wished to be his chaplain, and if one may judge from his letters, he enjoyed his retirement. We read of him as punning in the winter on Fressingfield, which he calls Freezingfield, or rather Frozenfield, campus geJidus, velpotius gelatus, describing dryly his escape from Palsgrave Court in the Temple, receiving the visits of his neighbours, and soothing his troubled spirits in the shades of his ancestral elms. He never entered the parish church, of which he was then the patron, for he could not bear to hear the names of William and Mary in the service.
A very short time before his death he found in a Prayer-Book of the smallest print the Commendatory Prayer, and ordered it to be read. Many are the visitors who come to gaze on his monument outside the church, and read the text selected by himself, speaking of the lightning-like Second Advent, and the epitaph, still existing in manuscript in the Lambeth Library, which records his chequered life in noble and simple words, ending:
THE LORD GAVE AND THE LORD HATH TAKEN AWAY (AS THE LORD PLEASETH SO COME THINGS TO PASS); BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.
With him and others, William Lloyd, Bishop of Norwich, was ejected. His successor, Dr. John Moore, prebendary of the cathedral and Rector of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, met with a cold reception from many of the Tory country gentlemen. In the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library is the mass of Sancroft’s correspondence, sold by his nephews to the well-known Chancellor of Norwich. One letter from W. Glover, of Frostenden, throws some on the state of feeling in Suffolk. He asks the Archbishop to confirm his daughter in the private chapel in Fressingfield, for he cannot bear the thought of her being confirmed by the intruding Bishop of Norwich. But it must not be supposed that this feeling was general. A sublime indifference prevailed amongst the mass of small freeholders. Yet one day in Fressingfield I picked up a plaster statuette of “Dutch Billy”, which seems to have been a highly-valued treasure in the house of some tenant-farmer or small owner under the nose of the ex-Primate himself. Even the heads of the Tory party accepted the inevitable, as Sir Robert Davers, Member for Bury, and in Queen Anne’s reign Knight of the Shire, of whom Gipps says that he was never known to give one wrong vote.
The name of Rookwood, hitherto associated with Recusancy, is now found in connection with the Jacobite Plot in 1696, of which Sir Robert Barclay was the head. It does not appear what the precise position was which Brigadier General Ambrose Rookwood held in the family. The conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, bearing the same name, left a son Robert, who was knighted by James I., in 1624, and of whose sons two fell in the Parliamentary War – Robert, at Oxford, and William, at Alresford. The Jacobite Ambrose, though regarded as an honourable and courageous man, bad no scruple in engaging in the work of assassination. He was told off to head some nine or ten men in an attack on one flank of William’s body-guards, while others attacked on the other flank and in the rear, and Barclay’s own group committed the murder. The plot failed, by information, as usual. Ambrose Rookwood was among the first arrested, and the last executed. At Tyburn he delivered to the Sheriff this his last dying speech and confession:
I do with all truth and sincerity declare and avow I never knew, saw, or heard, of any order or commission from King James, for the assassination of the Prince of Orange, and attacking his guards; but. I am certainly informed he had rejected proposals of that nature when made unto him. Nor do I think he knew the least of the particular design for attacking the guards at his landing, in which I was engaged as a soldier, by my immediate commander (much against my judgment); but his soldier I was, and as such I was to obey and act. Near twelve years I have served my true King and master, King James, and freely now lay down my life in his cause. I ever abhorr’d a treacherous action to an enemy. If it be a guilt to have complied with what I thought, and still think to have been my duty, I am guilty. No other guilt do I own. As I beg of all to forgive me, so I forgive all from my heart, even the Prince of Orange, who, as a soldier, ought to have considered my case before he signed the warrant for my death. I pray God to open his eyes, and render him sensible of the much blood, from all parts, crying out against him, so to prevent a heavier execution hanging over his head, than what he inflicts on me.
The sole Rockwood heiress having married John Gage of Hengrave, the Rookwood property passed into that family, but the double name was not assumed till the fourth generation, in 1799. The death of Robert Gage Rokewode, first of the double name, without issue, brought the estates to his brother, John Gage Rokewode, often quoted in these pages, historian of Hengrave and of the hundred of Thingoe.
In Anne’s reign Sacheverell had many Suffolk admirers, especially Leman of Charsfield, who has perpetuated the name of that turbulent divine on one of the church bells, cast in 1710. The peace of Utrecht, the death of Queen Anne, the rebellion of 1715, were unable to rouse the mind of Suffolk.
When George in pudding-time came in,
And moderate men looked big, sirs,
a dull, gross contentment spread itself more and more over the land, and once more we have recourse to a diary for instruction.
What life really was in the houses of the smaller gentry about the beginning of the last century is shown in the Diary of Mr. William Coe, who resided at West Row, in the parish of Mildenhall. This singular record begins in 1693, and is continued nearly to his death in 1729. The book came to my former pupil, Mr. O. F. Read, solicitor, of Mildenhall, from my old friend, his grandfather. Psychologically it is a melancholy exhibition of good intentions marred by infirmity of purpose. The writing is scholarly, and there are excellent quotations from St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and later divines, such as Jeremy Taylor and Cradock. Hallelujah and Amen are more than once written in Hebrew characters. Coe, however, to judge from the general tone of his remarks, must have been rather a laughing-stock among his acquaintance, and probably the time spent at cards, which he constantly deplores and as constantly continues to waste, brought a penalty in losses.
Donna fleo rerum sed plus fleo damna dierum is written in conspicuous places in this little volume. In his morbid introspection and retrospection he mentions his ill-conduct to his grandmother, and “when I went to school at Bardwell I ledd a poor blind man out of his way into the water att Bardwell”. His account is kept in opposite pages, mercies received on one side, and broken vows on the other. Horses seem to have been possessed with unusual propensities for kicking at him, and the number of pins nearly swallowed by his family would be hardly credible, but for each such event being dated to the day. One entry sets before us the perils of travelling by land and water: “Janrii 29 169⅞ my wife 116, should have gone to Lynn by the stage coach, but (God be thanked) there was noe room for it was overthrown in the water att Barton & the passengers very narrowly escaped drowning the water being very high a great flood”. Mrs. Coe must have crossed the Lark at West Row Ferry, where the fall is not so sharp as at Barton, and found the coach too full when her “chariot” reached the coachroad on the west side of Barton Hill. The day of the week, Thursday, shows better accommodation for access to Lynn than there was in. my childhood, when on Tuesdays only could people travel from West Suffolk into South Lincolnshire, taking the Bury coach to Lynn, and going out by the Boston coach in the afternoon. A safe summer journey to Groton and back soon afterwards is thankfully recorded, as well as a deliverance from swallowing a large spider which had got into the beer. In 1710 Mr. Coe’s private coach got into difficulties at Barton water, though not this time from floods. The catastrophe of 1693 had apparently led to some bridge-building. “1710, Apr. 10 Wee dined att Tuddenham & as my wife & daughters came home in the Coach the footboard fell down just att the new River Bridge att Barton Mills & frighted the horses, who runn away over the white bridge & through the little bridge water (the man all this tyme hanging upon the pole) but the water stopped their speed so that the man recovered himself (tho’ almost stifled in the water) & gott better hold of the reines, & stopped them so soon as they came out of ye water & by God’s great mercy there was no mischief done. In the Coach was my wife, my Daughters Judith, Ann, & Sarah & Mr Thompson. They all came walking from that place to Milden 117 this way abt 9 oClock att night. Mr Thompson creaped out att one of the foreglasses & gott hold of the reines”.
The boys went to school, two of them, on a hobby probably to Mildenhall. On one occasion they were pitched off, without injury. As they grew up they made themselves useful on the farm. As to the daughters, they are best known by a pretty poem which appeared in All the Year Round, about their hair being cut to supply their father with a new wig, which, by the way, I do not find in the Diary among mercies received:
Flat is the shire of the southern folk,
And its streams are sluggish, very,
And they say you seldom hear a joke
In the town of Saint Edmund’s Bury;
But that’s a story too absurd
To satisfy psychologists,
And I guess that numerous jokes were heard
In the days of the archaeologists,
When light was thrown on topics dark
Beside the lazy river Lark.
A golden shire of plenteous corn,
Which in August-tide grows yellow,
And for jolly squires that wheat is shorn,
Who love old ale and mellow.
But from ancient habits well men know
In these times we vastly vary:
And where’s Squire Coe, of fair West Row,
In the days of William and Mary?
The Squire who with punch defied all care,
And who made a wig of his daughters’ hair.
Lo I there they sit, those maidens three,
A sight for all beholders,
With viol or book upon shapely knee,
Long locks over fair white shoulders:
No trace of grief in their mien appears,
And they look demurely merry,
Though they wait, alas! for the fatal shears
Which will come with the barber from Bury.
No fairer Anglians e’er drew breath
Than Judith, Anne, Elizabeth.
Ah I what would say the Suffolk girl,
In these days of advanced opinion,
If asked to surrender one bright curl
That veils her voluminous chignon?
What Suffolk squire, though never a hair
His sterile scalp would harbour,
To shear his daughter’s tresses, dare
Send for the Bury barber?
‘Tis well Squire Coe in the mould lies low,
Since this is a world he scarce would know”.
The viol and the book are not mentioned by Mr. Coe, but the girls were plucky, if not entirely successful, horsewomen. The family had friends, it seems, at Holme Hale, near Watton, and the midsummer weather of 1721 witnesses a mishap to Miss Sarah, an “unprotected female”, whose escape is thankfully recorded:
“June 19 my Daughter Sarah comeing from Watton upon my Grey Hobby she fell down wth her upon Brand heath & threw her upon her head, but, God be praysed, she got noe hurt”.
In 1724 a more exciting adventure comes before us:
“Apr: 23. My sister Davies & Daughter Ann returned from Holm & as they abt Wangford Grang, they were persued by a foot padd & were forced to Gallop almost to Eriswel to escape. Sister Davies was behind her man & Daughter Nanny single, & nobody else to assist them, he pursued them till they came near 2 shepherds, they bad been robbed if not strippd or murthered”.
Among Mr. Coe’s personal hair-breadth escapes was that at the funeral of the Duke of Grafton, February 15, 1722:
“Feb. 15- I was at the De of Grafton’s funerall at Euston Church & as I was going over the vault (where all that family are deposited) to read the Lord Arlington’s inscription on white marble against the wall, the corner of a seat catched my clothes & put me suddenly back, & if I had not catched hold of the seat I had fallen backward down the vault (a great steep) wch must inevitably have done me a great mischief”.
It would be impossible to publish the Diary in extensor, but this selection by no means exhausts the attractive items. An equally characteristic representative of the times is William Broome, Rector of Sturston and Oakley, in Hartismere Hundred, whose verses are printed, in a washy but not everlasting flood, in Bell’s “Poets”. They are of the usual Celia and Delia type, of which the world is quite weary and nearly worthy. Machinery for turning off decasyllabics was in great request in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, and Alexander Pope had undertaken more than even his metrical powers could carry through. Hence the “Odyssey” had to be sub-contracted, and a large portion of it entrusted to Broome and his friend Elijah Fenton. The latter was a firm Jacobite, but not so bigoted as to shun intercourse with those of his acquaintance who accepted the Hanoverian yoke. Hence in the Pope correspondence-for the publication of which we are indebted to the labours; of John Wilson Croker and Whitwell Elwin – we find Fenton paying visits to Sturston and enjoying himself thoroughly in the society of the district. Eight books of the metrical translation of the “Odyssey” were written by Broome at Sturston, and many, no doubt, of the miscellaneous verses which even in his own day excited but little notice. He comes out well under a temptation put in his way by Pope’s enemy, Curll, who wanted to get possession of any letters of Pope’s, in order to expose his evasion and perfidy. Broome returned Curll no answer, but transmitted his letter to Pope, though he does not appear to have owed that crooked, gifted man a very deep debt of gratitude. His words to Pope convey a modest sense of the failure of his literary efforts: “But adieu, henceforth, to all pretension to poetry. I am as willing as any man in England to have it forgot, and, indeed, the world seems pretty ready to oblige me. However, to be a bad poet is no sin; it may be a folly. If it be a sin, I have heartily repented of it, and, whatever the critics may have done, I am sure heaven has forgiven it. I am out of the world, regardless of its praise or censure”.
Orator Henley’s distich on his Homeric labours has done much to perpetuate his name:
“Pope came off clean with Homer; but they say Broome went before and kindly swept the way”.
He is buried in the abbey church in Bath, in which city he died in 1745-
No better picture of the county as it was in the days of George I. can be found than in Defoe’s “Particular and Diverting Account of whatever is Curious and worth Observation”, which was published in 1724, and has been reprinted in a cheap form, with an Introduction by Professor Henry Morley. He travelled through the eastern counties in 1722. Having reached Harwich, he sent his horses “round by Manningtree, where there is a timber bridge over the Stour, called Cataway Bridge, and took a boat up the river Orwell for Ipswich”, which he had known from childhood. Here he deplores the falling off of business since “the late Dutch wars”, before which it was the greatest town in England for building large colliers employed between Newcastle and London. They built “so prodigious strong, that it was an ordinary thing for an Ipswich collier, if no disaster happened to him (sic), to reign (as seamen call it) forty or fifty years, or more.”
Here the masters of the colliers dwelt and brought up their families, till the trade took a new turn. “Dutch flyboats, taken in the war, and made free ships by Act of Parliament, thrust themselves into the coal trade for the interest of the captors, such as the Yarmouth and London merchants and others; and the Ipswich men gradually dropped out of it, being discouraged by those Dutch fly-boats. These Dutch vessels, which cost nothing but the caption, were bought cheap, carried great burthens, and the Ipswich building fell off for want of price, and so the trade decayed, and the town with it.” In the wintertime, while the ships were laid up, he reckons that there were a thousand men – mates, boatswains, carpenters, etc. – more in the town than in the summer; and he contrasts the meagre appearance of “scarce forty sail of good colliers” in the harbour, when he wrote his account, with the agreeable prospect which the harbour presented to the eye of his childhood, when he sailed up from Harwich thirty-five years before.
In confirmation of the tonnage of individual ships he appeals to the Ipswich colliers (those few that remain), if several ships were not built then, carrying seventeen score of coals, which must be 400 tons, and affirms that at John’s Ness, within a mile and a half of the town itself, ships of any burthen may be built and launched even at neap-tides.
After recommending the port to the South Sea Company as a centre for the Greenland fishing trade, and the town as an agreeable residence for families who have suffered “in our late calamities of stocks and bubbles”, he notices Christ Church part – “a great addition to the pleasantness of this town, the inhabitants being allowed to divert themselves there with walking, bowling”, etc. He praises the government by two bailiffs, as affording an opportunity of allaying party strife, and mentions Sir William Thompson, Recorder of London, and Colonel Negus, Deputy Master of the Horse to the King, as the Members of Parliament for the borough; also Dr. Beeston’s collection of exotic plants, and the chamber of rarities formed by the eminent surgeon, Mr. White, containing a sea-horse, carefully preserved, two Roman cinerary urns, and a great many valuable coins.
Passing Hadleigh, where he visited Rowland Taylor’s stone, he speaks next of Sudbury as “very populous and very poor. They have a great manufacture of says and perpetuanes, and multitudes of poor people are employed in working them; but the number of the poor is almost ready to eat up the rich”. Thence, by Long Melford and Lenham (Lavenham), he went to Bury, a town “crowded with nobility and gentry, and all sorts of the most agreeable company”, and as pleasant in situation as in society. One tragical and almost unheard-of barbarity he relates, “when Arundel Coke, Esq., a barrister-at-law, of a very ancient family, attempted, with the assistance of a barbarous assassin, to murder in cold blood, and in the arms of hospitality, Edward Crisp, Esq., his brother-in-law, leading him out from his own house, where he had invited him, his wife and children, to supper; I say, leading him out in the night, on pretence of going to see some friend that was known to them both; but in this churchyard, giving a signal to the assassin he had hired, he attacked him with a hedge-bill, and cut him, as one might say, almost in pieces; and when they did not doubt of his being dead, they left him. His head and face was so mangled, that it may be said to be next a miracle that he was not quite killed; yet so Providence directed for the exemplary punishment of the assassins, that the gentleman recovered to detect them, who (though he outlived the assault) were both executed as they deserved, and Mr. Crisp is yet alive. They were condemned on the statute for defacing and dismembering, called the Coventry Act”.
With much indignation Defoe scourges a writer of his day who had insinuated that the ladies round the country who appeared “mighty gay and agreeable” at Bury Fair were sent thither as to a matrimonial market. The gentry, by the expense of their families and equipages, are the cause of the trade of the town, there being hardly any manufacturing. “They have but a very small river, or rather but a very small branch of a small river, at this town, which runs from hence to Milden Hall, on the edge of the fens. However, the town and gentlemen about have been at the charge, or have so encouraged the engineer who was at the charge, that they have made this river a navigable dyke, called Milden Hall Drain, which goes into the River Ouse, and so to Lynn; so that all their coal and wine, iron, lead, and other heavy goods, are brought by water from Lynn, or from London, by the way of Lynn, to the great ease of the tradesmen”.
From Bury he returned by Stowmarket and Needham to Ipswich, and thence took his course to Woodbridge, where, he says, “begins that part which is ordinarily called High Suffolk, which, being a rich soil, is for a long tract of ground wholly employed in dairies, and they, again, famous for the best butter, and perhaps the worst cheese, in England. The butter is barrelled, or often pickled up in small casks, and sold, not in London only, but I have known a firkin of Suffolk butter sent to the West Indies, and brought back to England again, and has been perfectly good and sweet, as at first”. Orford is decaying, but Aldborough thrives on its decay. About Dunwich he quotes the lines:
By numerous examples we may see
That towns and cities die as well as we.
After some reflections on Carthage, Nineveh and other cities, he proceeds: “Yet Dunwich, however ruined, retains some share of trade, as particularly for the shipping of butter, cheese, and corn, which is so great a business in this county, that it employs a great many people and ships also; and this port lies right against the particular part of the county for butter, as Framlingham, Halstead (Halesworth), etc”.
He adverts also to corn bought up hereabout for the London market, and coarse cheese, used chiefly for the King’s ships. Sprats are cured here and at “Swole, or Southole”, the next seaport, in the same way as herrings are cured at Yarmouth. “Speaking in their own language, they make red sprats; or, to speak good English, they make sprats red”. The trade is by “Walderswick, a little town near Swole”, the ruins of Dunwich having made the shore there unsafe for boats; and he quotes a “rude verse of their own using, and, I suppose, of their own making, as follows :”
Swoul and Dunwich, and Walderswick,
All go in at one lousie creek.
At this point he gets a smart hit at “our late famous atlas-maker”, who called the place a good harbour for ships, and a rendezvous of the royal navy.
At Southwold, on a Sunday, he found in that church, which he estimated as capable of receiving five or six thousand people, only twenty-seven worshippers, besides the parson and the clerk, while the meeting-house of the Dissenters was full to the very doors. Once he visited the place in October, and found the leads of the church and the roofs of the houses covered with swallows, weather-bound, the wind being on shore. In the night it shifted to the north-west, and next day not a swallow was left.
A few words suffice for Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth, Saxmundbam, Debenham, and Aye, or Eye. The experiment of feeding cattle and sheep on turnips was first made in these parts. People fancied that there would be a flavour in the meat, as in butter from turnip-fed cows, but they were entirely mistaken. Turkeys were bred to a very large extent, and driven to London to be killed. A person living at Stratford St. Mary had counted in one season 300 droves of turkeys passing over the Stour, which, at an average of 500 to a drove, amounted to 150,000 in all. Yet this, says Defoe, was one of the least passages, many more travelling by Newmarket, Sudbury, and Clare. Geese from Norfolk and. Suffolk were also brought up in droves, but not later than October, when the roads were too stiff for their webbed feet. To get the advantage of the later markets, a goose-cart was invented, four stories high, and for more comfortable travelling driven “with two horses abreast, like a coach, so quartering the road for the ease of the gentry that thus ride”. So with change of horses they would go some-times 100 miles in a day and night.
Though in many points of detail Defoe makes slips, yet his shrewd observations, as that “the pleasure of West Suffolk is much of it supported by the wealth of High Suffolk”, makes this reprint a grand threepenny-worth. His last Suffolk note is on the “most exquisite monument” of Chief Justice Holt, at Redgrave.
Though the events of the ’15 and the ’45 lie far away from our parts, one of the principal actors in the melancholy scene at Culloden was well known for a little while in North Suffolk. William, Duke of Cumberland, visited his secretary, Mr. Windham, at Earsham Hall, just across the border, hunted over the Suffolk side, gave Windham the Portugal laurels for the walks at the Hall, which were cut up in the severe frost of December 24, 1860, and (if I am not mistaken) is yet named on tavern signs.
- By Messrs. Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press.
- His second wife, Sarah Hatfield, who seems to have come from Tilney.
- This abbreviated form of Mildenhall is not yet extinct, I believe.
Harriet Rathborn says
My mother’s family is sure that they are descended from William Coe and used to live at West Row in Mildenhall and sing about Old Squire Coe. I have the book which contains his diaries and the family tree within that is really interesting. However hard I try I can’t link back from my mother to any person on the Coe family tree – I’m missing one or two generations! Have you got access to any further family tree information please?
Erin Flory says
Thank you for publishing this. Several branches of my family came from the region in and around Bury St. Edmunds before moving to Australia, New Zealand, and eventually California. To better understand what my family experience I have been looking for more information about the history of Suffolk. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to make this available.