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",
a "solutrean flint blade"
worked flints, Mesolithic
(10,000 to 4001 BC) or middle stone age tranchet axe heads
and more recent Neolithic (4,000 to 2201BC) axes, arrows, worked flints and a
Finds from the Bronze Age (2500 to 701 BC) include an early copper dagger
found near the church and a number of round barrows
thought to be burial mounds, are seen on the first Ordinance Survey maps of
1836. Unfortunately several of these mounds have been largely destroyed by
recent farming of the land.
Callard states that Iceni gold coins have been found in the area, newly
minted between AD 50 - 62 and depicting the chariots similar to those thought
used by the legendary Boedicia
they are believed to have been hidden when the local army marched from the
tribal capital in Icklingham towards the last great stand near London. He states
that up to 225,000 soldiers marched, many never to return the army being
destroyed by the Romans.
Herringswell lies on the route of the main route out of the area the Iceni
must have used, the pre-historic Icknield Way that connected the Wash in Norfolk
with the Dorset coast, said to be "almost certainly our oldest road".
The route followed the chalk line, being above the water and below the tree line
it provided "a natural way to pass".
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
The Romans (43 AD to 409 AD) were clearly found in Herringswell thanks to the
same road. 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".
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.
An Anglo-Saxon tribe of early Britons, known as the Hyringa (the people
dwelling at the corner, Hyrne may have been the name of a horseshoe shaped ridge),
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. A Saxon sword,
made of iron, has also been found.
In Saxon times Herringswell was on the verge of the impenetrable Great Fen
when the prosperous and relatively well populated areas of Norfolk and Suffolk
were largely cut off from the mainland by water. Callard describes the
neighbouring Freckenham as a "little inland village (that) in its early
days was actually on the coast and was in all probability a fortified seaport of
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,
even though it was not until the 14th century that a Dutchman discovered how to
cure the fish.
"has the distinction of being of
being dedicated to Saint Ethelbert, the King of East Anglia, who was beheaded by
Offa, King of the Mercians in 792".
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.
Being on the coast and close to Freckenham, Herringswell people must have
been involved in the fighting during the Saxon and Dane landings when they
"laid waste to all the land".
The Treaty of Wedmore was signed in AD 879 agreeing to their settlement. In 894
Callard believes King Alfred was in East Anglia and was thought to have a manor
house in Freckenham. At this time the Danes again invaded further to the South
in Essex. Alfred marched South, perhaps with Herringswell men, and this time
roundly defeated the invaders. He kept some of their boats to form the first
The area was held by the Danes until Edward the Confessor freed East Anglia
in 1046 and "Harold, son of Godwin, was created Earl of East Anglia for his
In the eleventh century Ulfric gave Herringswell Manor to the Abbot of Bury
St Edmund's before the
great survey of 1086. Coppingers
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, 1½ 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.
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.
In the 13th century there was again argument over the area between the Abbot
of St. Edmundsbury and the Bishop of Rochester. This time the argument was
settled in court and "as a result of the new trial the abbot was obliged to
forgo his claim to the right of seizure of lands of Freckenham and the Bishop
was able to maintain his prerogative of capturing and hanging robbers as he saw
fit, but with the proviso that the gallows which he maintained should be on the
boundaries of Freckenham and Herringswell"
so that the Abbot of St. Edmundsbury and his men could see the punishment
carried out from their manor of Herringswell.
Thus, in 1238 the boundaries of Herringswell and Freckenham were marked by
the site of these gallows marking the boundary between the two villages, 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"
At about this time Callard reports that King Henry III "was a great
deal in this neighbourhood for the sake of the excellent hunting it
In 1248 the Black Coney (rabbit) warrens, still prolific today, must have
been very valuable, the skins were used for clothing and sold for 6d each whilst
the rest of the carcass was only worth 2 ½d. Fines for poaching were
considerable, £10 for each offence.
"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".
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.
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".
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. one wonders if he met with James I
who hunted local deer and wild boar in the Lackford Hundred.
Draining the great fens was undertaken up to the 18th century, such work
changing the landscape significantly and making Herringswell less well
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. 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 28th February 1869 in
the middle of a Sunday morning service, caused by the over heating of a chimney
pipe passing through the roof".
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
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. see War Years Section
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 was a regular visitor at the end of the 19th century when he was visiting his
mistress, the actress Lilliey 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.
Leopold 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. 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
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. 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
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
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. 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
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
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
Herringswell manor, 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"
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
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.