The Story of Herringswell, Suffolk. notes are highlighted in red for ease of viewing

[PIC HERE sign.jpg]The small hamlet of Herringswell situated in the Brechland environmentally sensitive area in the very West of Suffolk covers over 2,000 acres of largely glacial sandy soil over the regional chalk aquifer.

The village has been known by many different names through the ages, these include[ref 1]: Hadrinwell, Haryngwelle, Herenswell, Herkingswell, Hernigawalla, Herynggeswell and Hyrningwella.

Herringswell has seen human habitation since the very earliest of Stone Age times when the climate and woodland had a similarity to that of today with "birch, pine and spruce with areas of open grassland"[ref 2].

Whilst there have not been any major archaeological searches in the area, there have been a number of 'finds', these date from the Palaeolithic period (500,000 to 10001 BC) and include "a recently broken hand-axe"[ref 3], a "solutrean flint blade"[ref 4] worked flints[ref 5], Mesolithic (10,000 to 4001 BC) or middle stone age tranchet axe heads[ref 6] and more recent Neolithic (4,000 to 2201BC) axes, arrows, worked flints and a saddle quern[ref 7].

Finds from the Bronze Age (2500 to 701 BC) include an early copper dagger[ref 8] found near the church and a number of round barrows[ref 9], thought to be burial mounds, are seen on the first Ordinance Survey maps of 1836. Unfortunately several of these mounds have now been largely destroyed by recent farming of the land.

The Romans (43 AD to 409 AD) were clearly found in Herringswell. One find details "two small Roman pots, circular convex silvered-bronze mirror, small bronze circular bossed plaque and part human calveria, found together near the Saxon cemetery at Herringswell 1895"[ref 10]. The bone finds obviously suggested signs of inhumation in a Saxon cemetery. Two Roman Tumuli on Herringswell Heath are said to mark the scenes of battles[ref 11].

An Anglo-Saxon tribe of early Britons, known as the Hyringa, were settled here in the dark ages (410 - 1065 AD). The plentiful supply of chalk filtered water brought about the earliest recorded village name of Hyrningwella, the spring or well of the Hyringa people. [PIC hwel_spring.jpg] A Saxon sword,[ref 12] made of iron, has also been found.

In Saxon times Herringswell was on the verge of the impenetrable Great Fen[ref 13] when the prosperous and relatively well populated areas of Norfolk and Suffolk were largely cut off from the mainland by water. Herringswell lies on the route of the main route out of the area, the pre-historic Icknield Way that connected the Wash in Norfolk with the Dorset coast, said to be "almost certainly our oldest road"[ref 14]. The route followed the chalk line, being above the water and below the tree line it provided "a natural way to pass"[ref 15]. It formed the boundary between Freckenham and Herringswell and probably ran through the Green Lane and joined the Old Bury Road, connecting at Slade's Bottom.

In the neighbouring Freckenham area, there was said to be a very considerable fishing industry and tolls were paid for herrings. Herringswell was a centre of the fishing industry established as long ago as the eighth century[ref 16].

Herringswell Church [PIC HERE church2.jpg] is dedicated to the Saxon Saint Ethelbert, King of East Anglia. It probably occupies the site of a more ancient foundation, a church, presumed to be of stone, is mentioned in the Doomsday book and had 30 acres of free land. Parts of the present day Church date from before the 14th century with old stone vessels built into the existing church walls.

In the eleventh century Ulfric gave Herringswell Manor to the Abbot of Bury St Edmund's[ref 17] before the great survey of 1086. Coppingers[ref 18] states that "there was one Manor here in Saxon Times held by the Abbot and consisted of 4 carucates of land, 7 villeins, 6 bordars, a serf, 3 plough-teams in demesne and 3 belonging to the man, 4 acres of meadow and a mill (increased to 2 at the time of the Survey). Of livestock there were 1 rouncy, 5 beasts, 12 hogs and 80 sheep".

There were also 2 socmen having 54 acres of land, 11/2 plough teams and an acre of meadow. The Manor was valued at 6 (increased to 7 at the time of the Survey). It was a league long and 6 quarentenes broad and paid in a gelt of 20d.

The original site of Herringswell Hall is thought to have been on Hall Farm, the remains of a square moat were marked on original OS maps[ref 19].

The Earl of Arundel was once the Lord of the Manor and there was an ancient custom, that whenever the Earl passed through Herringsmead or Herringsfield, as it was then called, on his way to war, the tenants were obliged to present him with a gammon of bacon on the point of a lance.[ref 20]

In 1238 the boundaries of Herringswell and Freckenham were marked by the site of a gallows "in future the gallows of Frakenham shall be the boundary dividing the lands of Frakenham and Herringswell", now thought to be just within the current Herringswell parish boundary. Another gallows was placed "on the lands of the said Abbot and his successors at Heryngesville and on these gallows shall be hung all the robbers caught in the lands of the said Bishop of Frakenham"[ref 21] so that the Abbot of St. Edmundsbury and his men could see the punishment carried out from their manor of Herringswell[ref 22].

In 1248 the Coney lands and rabbit warrens, still prolific today, must have been very valuable. Fines for poaching were considerable, 10 for each offence.[ref 23] "In 1311, it was held by Walter de Norwich, Baron of the Exchequer, who had a grant of free warren here that year (until) his death in 1329"[ref 24]. The Black Death was said to have hit the area particularly hard in 1348-49. The recorded population in 1327 was 22 taxpayers, in 1524 there were still only 16.[ref 25]

In time the "Manor went to the Crown and was granted in 1542 to Sir Thomas Audley. Particulars for this grant are still preserved in the Public Record Office, and the Grant is referred to in the State Papers this year"[ref 26].

Among the many people who have owned land in Herringswell, Coppinger mentions the "true and fearful vexation of one Alexander Nyndge, most horribly tormented with the Devil" in 1615.

The earliest register of baptisms and burials found in the parish chest dates from 1749. In 1789 the Manor was certainly vested in Richard Burton Phillipson, the son and heir of William. He was Lt. General of His Majesty's Forces, Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Dragoon Guards, and one of the representatives in Parliament for the Borough of Eye. In 1796 Richard Burton Phillipson became Rector of Herringswell and in 1797 he married Eliza Partridge Tharp, daughter of John Tharp, who made a fortune in the West Indian Slave Trade. John Tharp bought Chippenham Park in 1794, the estate is still in the hands of this family.

Herringswell was described in the 'History of Suffolk' in 1855 as a small village in the vale of a rivulet, once used to grow water cress and now the small stream running parallel with the Tuddenham Road. "It has in its parish 225 souls; and 2540 acres of sandy freehold land belonging to John Turner Hales, who has a pleasant seat here, except about 150 acres belonging to George Mure of Herringswell House and master of the Suffolk Fox Hounds[ref 27]. [PIC George_Mure_fox_hounds.jpg] Mure married Fanny Eliza in 1835, only daughter of Wright Thomas Squire and died without issue in 1868, when the Manor was vested in his widow. She in 1873 married William Edmund Image of Saint Margaret's Gate, Bury St Edmund's, High Sheriff for the County in 1877", one of two high sheriffs in Herringswell's history.

In 1865 the Church Glebe Lands were purchased by Sir William Gilstrap, who also undertook to keep the church in good repair. This proved to be a costly undertaking, as the thatched Church was burnt down on the 25th February 1869 in the middle of a Sunday morning service.

The original surveyor's report on the examination of the Church after the fire states that "I find that not only have the roofs, pews and other fittings, been entirely destroyed, but that the Tower has been completely gutted and the bells are fallen and broken, one of them in its fall destroying the Font".

Gilstrap was as good as his word and paid for repairs including the new windows, arches and columns in the Tower, new roof, a safer method of heating, new floor tiles seating and a font. The cost of these repairs, excluding the new heating and the recasting of the bells, was 1,150. The new bells, said to have been recast from the old, are dated 1869.

Sir William Gilstrap, who died in 1896, also built the village school, now in residential use. the estate of 2,585 acres was bought by Herbert Davies, who died in 1899. His brother Leopold purchased Herringswell from the widow, and in 1905 sold what was known as the Manor Estate to Mr. Balance. Lesley Balance a Captain in the Kings Royal Rifles died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

The Red House was built as a pub by Sir William Gilstrap, unfortunately, before an "on licence" was granted, the head gamekeeper dissuaded Sir William from opening a pub as he thought excessive drinking would lead to more poaching. The house became the residence of the head forester, the next-door cottage became an off licence, the Live-and-let Live, and local residents drank their beer standing along the village street.

Social life was a little different for other visitors to the village with large and regular shoots. Edward, the Prince of Wales [PIC prince_ed5.jpg and prince_large.jpg] was a regular visitor at the end of the 19th century when he was visiting his mistress, the actress Lilly Langtry, whom he had installed at nearby Kennett Hall. The game keeper of the time said he always knew when she had been walking in the woods due to her strong scent.

Following the first World War the bags were on a smaller scale, estate records held by Walter Nunn show bags of nearly 1400 pheasant and partridge in the early 20's rising to the last shoot he recorded of double those numbers in the winter of 1939/40.

Leopard Davies who owned and farmed the estate at the turn of the century won several medals for his prize Suffolk flock. The family continued to hold large social events with many carnivals and woodland fetes[PIC fete3.jpg]. Mary Davies was responsible for three of the stained glass windows in the Church, the two landscape windows are unique of their kind. They contain no figures, but are representative of Herringswell in Spring and Autumn, the work of James Clarke.

In 1917 the Davies Memorial Hall was opened. This is the present village hall. Before this date, the "Men's Club" had met in the Church Farm. Occasional feasts like Harvest Suppers were held in the Church Farm Barn. A "Bury Free Press" report says the Herringswell Boy Scouts made their first public appearance in 1917 alongside a thriving Football, Quoit and Cricket Club.

Building flourished at the turn of the century, Herringswell Manor was built on the site of the old manor, also Chalk Hill Cottages, Manor Cottages, North and South Lodge. A new front was added to the old shooting lodge in the woods then known as Broom Hall and subsequently Herringswell Place[PIC lodge.jpg]. In the village Coronation Cottage was renovated in 1910.

Whilst some of the older cottages have been demolished, older houses such as Croft House, Church Cottage, Park Farm, the Bee Hive and The Berries have been renovated and extended and many of the other village cottages are well over 200 years old.

Octavius Hammond, the Rector from 1867 to 1908, built the present Rectory, lately renamed The Grange. According to the "Directory of Suffolk", it cost him 1,250 to erect the building in 1865. In 1939, a further 3,000 was spent in re-modernising the building and adding the sheds and garage. The site of the old rectory has now been redeveloped with two new bungalows.

In 1920, the War memorial was erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War. Harry Addison was amongst the first to volunteer from the village and the first to die at Flanders in 1915. The names of those who fell in the second World War were added to the list and in the church is a tribute to Mostyn Davies who, in 1944, went missing behind enemy lines in Bulgaria, whilst "performing outstanding services"[ref 28] and awarded the DSO. In 1935 King George's Silver Jubilee was celebrated by planting lime trees round the Memorial and Mr Gosling gave us the wooden seats.

At the start of the second world war, the Norfolk regiment commandeered the shooting lodge together with a large acreage of the woods around, the older Beech trees still testify to their presence with their names carved into the trunks [PIC tree_in_woods_name.jpg]. The Officers lived in the house and the men in tents in the woods. American soldiers and officers followed with training for up to 2000 men on the Glebe. Sports and baseball matches were held at weekends with neighbouring forces, the Scottish Fusiliers and the Cameronians, who were housed at Kennett Hall. Villagers were invited to watch. The lodge fell into disrepair after the war and was demolished in the 1950's.

The Grange housed 24 evacuees from the east end of London but perhaps Herringswell life was not to their suiting as they are said to have "soon returned to London and the bombs".

The Ministry of Agriculture bought the larch avenues and other hardwood as a compulsory purchase.

Herringswell was declared a red danger area and whilst no bombs fell in the village, several soldiers were killed at the Herringswell Cross Roads and one German plane did fly over The Grange and dropped a bomb on the doctor's car at Tuddenham.

The Small Pig Keepers Council was a popular war time activity with 36 members selling 18 pigs per year to the Government, the rest were divided and bought by members.

Herringswell Manor [PIC manor.jpg], also known as Herringswell House, is a large mock Tudor house built as a private home in 1901 on the previous site of the Manor. It was sold in 1965 for 35,000 as a boarding school, in 1981 the Manor and 14 acres was bought by members of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh sect for 350,000. Up to 200 'Rajneeshis' known locally as the 'orange people' due to their coloured robes, lived in the commune. The Sunday Times states that "nothing much had happened in the sleepy parish of Herringswell"[ref 29] until it was noticed that the new residents raised the population to 286 registered voters requiring, for the first time, the establishment of a parish council. After much debate the council was established with three wards so that the Rajneesh could only have 2 of the 6 seats. The manor councillors attended just two council meetings before the Bagwan died and the commune was wound up in 1985. The house was bought by the Shi Tennoji school, a Japanese Buddhist boarding school, now itself due to close in 2001 because of falling numbers.

In 1988 Robin Upton became the second High Sheriff of Suffolk from the village.

For most of history Herringswell has been owned as a part of one estate or another, the village is still dominated by the large Hall and Park farms with church farm and the woods in the middle. The farms have changed their produce from sheep to irrigated land growing cereal and vegetables.

The surviving history is dominated by papers detailing the changes of estate ownership. The older village cottages where all estate owned, although a few were originally owned by the Governors of the Bounty of Queen Ann for the augmentation of the maintenance of the poor clergy, their owners are still barred from calling their cottages anything that might suggest a vicarage! Ivona Mays Smith sold many of these cottages in a rather dilapidated state to resident estate workers in the 1960's when her husband died. A few others have been built, old cottages replaced and some people from outside the village have moved in. The village no longer has a football team, school or post office and remains a small community continuing to lead the quite rural life of a Suffolk village that is only occasionally interrupted by the wider goings-on detailed above.

2000 Andrew Holman

1 Coppinger "Suffolk Record"


3 SF15239

4 SF6487

5 CRN 6486, 6487.

6 CRN 6488, 6489. the tranchet type of axe with bifacially flaked cores.

7 SF6492. A saddle quern (a round stone rolled or rubbed on a flat stone bed), it was the first means known for grinding grain.

8 SF13726.

9 HGW 002, 004, 005

10 SF17737

11 Herringswell history.

12 Ref record office print out 1 CRN 6496.

13 Ernest Callard in his book "The Manor of Freckenham"

14 Bulfield, A. "The Icknield Way" Terrence Dalton. 1972.

15 Bulfield, A. "The Icknield Way" Terrence Dalton. 1972.

16 Ernest Callard in his book "The Manor of Freckenham"

17 Suffolk Traveller

18 "The manors of Suffolk". Coppinqer, Volume IV.

19 OS 1st Edition 1836.

20 Herringswell history.

21 SF16950

22 'Historical Tours of West Suffolk'vol.5, David E. Weston

23 Ernest Callard in his book "The Manor of Freckenham"

24 Coppinger

25 Ernest Callard in his book "The Manor of Freckenham"

26 Coppinger

27 Picture by John Frederick Herring. The meet of the Suffolk Hounds at Chippenham Park with George Mure of Herringswell, MFH and William Rose, huntsman. 1839.

28 Tribute in Herringswell Church.

29 Freeman, Simon. Sunday Times Magazine. 8/7/84.