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Archaeologists In Moulton

As was reported in our last issue, members of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology visited several parishes in the district on Wednesday, July the 27th. At Moulton they were received by Dr Peile, Master of Christs Collegewhich owns the patronage of the rectory and vicarage and the Rev W.J.Josling (rector).

Packhorse Bridge

The latter gentleman, who acted as guide, made some interesting remarks upon the curious old bridge which is one of the most interesting structures in the parish. 'This bridge' he said, was no doubt built for pack animals before the time of roads, perhaps 500 years ago. The pack animals route would probably follow the line of villages, starting from Bury-St-Edmunds it would pass through the Saxhams, Barrow, Higham and Gazeley to Moulton and thence by way of Cheveley, Woodditton, Stetchworth and Dullingham to the Wilbrahams and on through Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton to Cambridge. 

Moulton a Market Town

Moulton at that time was a market town, a grant for the market having been made to John Anger in the 26th year of the reign of Edward the first (A.D. 1298). 

Doomsday Survey

According to the Doomsday survey (1086) Stigand was lord of the manor before the Norman Conquest. At that date the lord of the manor had only 2 oxen, but a flock of 270 sheep, so that the parish which nowadays is well known for its flocks of black-faced Suffolks was well able to supply the local market with excellant mutton. 

Church and Bridges Charity

There is an old charity known as the 'Church and Bridges' estate, consisting of land at Moulton and Freckenham, but its title deeds are lost. Its income is applied to the repair of the church and the maintenance of the two stone bridges and there is little doubt that its date is earlier than the Refomation. 

The River in Flood

The present dry bed of the river Kennett, added the Rector, 'might suggest the question, Cui bono?who stands to gain' as regarding the bridge; but after heavy rains the Moulton Thames in flood times asserts its supremacy. The children can only get to and from school by roundabout ways as trespassers and only a few years ago, on the occasion of a confirmation, the Bishop of the diocese found the brook impassable, so that being unable to drive through to the rectory he had to leave his carriage on the upper green, cross the wooden footbridge and walk to the rectory by the church-yard. 

The Living - Rectory and Vicarage

'The living of Moulton,' Mr Josling said, 'is both a rectory and a vicarage.' In the Liber Regis (1540) it is stated that William More was rector and John Collen vicar. THE VICARAGE The house near the school, now occupied as 2 tenements by Miss Willis and Mrs Jacob Goodchild, appears to have been the vicarage house. Its internal arrangements go to prove that it was originally a single dwelling and it contains what is seldom found in a cottage-- a cellar. But the strongest evidence that the house was the old vicarage is found in the fact that the portion of the rector's paddock adjoining the cottage garden, which at the time of the Moulton Enclosure Act in 1837 was a separate meadow, is even at the present day known in the village as the Vicarage Close.

On the way to the church, across the rectory lawn, the visitors were shown a pair of fine copper beeches, which for size and beauty it would be hard to match.

The Church

 'The church of St Peters, 'the rector remarked' has a pretty 13th century tower, with a peal of 5 bells. The remainder of the early church was either destroyed by fire, or pulled down to make room for the present spacious and lofty building, which consists of a nave with clerestory, chancel, aisles and transepts in the late perpendicular and built between 1450 and 1500. One of the most interesting features in the church is the rood-loft staircase, which is in excellent preservation. The church was restored at a cost of 2000 by the late rector (Rev E. Mortlock), about the year 1850 and is seated with handsome oak benches with poppy heads. During the Autumn of 1903 Dr Peile, the Master of Christs College, spent several weeks at the rectory and studied the structure of the church with great care. As a result of his investigation he wrote, 'The church of Moulton still retains the shell of the of the original Norman church, which consisted of a tower, a nave (with-out aisles), and probably a chancel, of which no trace remains. Portions of the original nave (which was the same size as the present nave) may still be seen from the churchyard. Of the present east wall of the south transept about 1.5 feet belong to original nave. The remainder of the wall is perpendicular work, which has been built onto and partly conceals an 'engaged' pillar with a rude capital, on which is carved something resembling a leaf with a curling stalk. This pillar formed the south-east corner of the nave: it is decisive (in my experience) of Norman workmanship. It is to be seen in several Cambridgeshire churches and I think, is never found latter. The corresponding pillar is to be found at the south-west corner of the original nave in the west wall of the present south aisle. 

Inscription in Churchyard

Attention was drawn to the following quaint inscription on a tombstone in the churchyard near the chancel door:-

In memory of Lettice Manning, who died 11th July 1757, aged 19 years.

Oh! cruel death, to please thy palate, Cut down Lettice to make a sallet.

The Rectory (Priory)

On the return of the party to the rectory their attention was directed to the traces of a chantry in the house. The rector read the following extracts from an account left by his predcessor, who partly rebuilt the rectory and enlarged it some 50 years ago:- 'The house seems to have originated in the conversion of a small chapel into a dwelling. The dimensions of the chapel were about 35 feet from west to east and about 16 from north to south. Its termination to the west was that of the present drawing room. The whole wall running from the study fire-place across the hall and through the drawing-room is the original wall of the chapel. The wall in the hall next the garden is also the original wall on that side. The remainder (standing when I came) was pulled down to enlarge the drawing-room. The walls were raised by stud-work for bedrooms above the chapel. It was upon pulling the house to pieces to make the alterations I proposed that I discovered evident proof that the building was once sacred. On removing the wainscot of the west room I discovered the piscinaa stone basin with drain now in the hall, exactly in its present state, in the north wall near where is now the east end of the drawing-room chimney-piece. On pulling down the stack of chimneys applied only to the south wall I found that it had been built up against the old window of the chapel, of which part of the frame remained. On pulling down the little study built outside the south wall near the west end of the chapel, I discovered that it was built on the foundations of the chapel porch.

From this porch there was a doorway with a frame of stone and a few stone steps leading into the crypt, or what is now the cellar. The frame of the door and steps remain, though necessarily blocked up. On examining the cellar I found an opening in the north wall having been evidently a piscina and ambrya small recess in the wall in one, the shelf remaining and the hinges of the old door, which was usually put to a piscina when it served also for an ambry, still loose in the wall, yet no curiosity seems to have been excited by it. The windows in the cellar were also clearly shaped as for a sacred edifice. The cellar was thus shown to have been also used as a chapel or crypt. The style of the architecture of the window and piscina correspond with that of the last alterations of the church, vis, late perpendicular. The beam supporting the chapel floor still remains and is of great thickness.

The manor house stood in the meadow on the south side of the churchyard, where the foundations may still be traced. Of the origin of the chapel nothing is known. It may have been a chantry, but if so it is not included in the list of chantries that were suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII. Probably the rectory was connected with some monastic body. As there was both a vicar and a rector, the former would be one of the secular clergy in charge of the parish and the rector may have been one of the regulars, a monk belonging to religious house or there may have been some small religious community at the rectory, for whom a small chapel would be required. The lands of the parish belonged to Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Domesday Survey (1087) and the income was applied to the maintenance of monks (ad victum monachorumin the way of living of monarchs). The benefice was also a peculiar in the Jurisdiction of the archbishop and the manor house was near the rectory on the south side of the churchyard. Moveover Stigand, the predecessor of Lanfranc in the archbishopric, was lord of the manor before the conquest.

As published in the Newmarket Journal, August the 6th 1904
Latin translation by Dr Dean.
Copied by John Gunson, Village Recorder in 1997.

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac