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The Manorial Gallows ?

The Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury dated October 4th, 1935 states ‘Old Red Lodge built a “new town” on the old warren of Freckenham manor’.

Under the auspices of Bishop Gilbert the manor at Freckenham dared to cross swords with the monastery at Bury St. Edmunds and actually claimed one of the markets belonging to the Abbey. This loss displeased the Abbots at Bury St. Edmunds for many years. Eventually it led to an action for recovery in the High Courts.

The case in 1221 was settled by an agreement between the Bishop of Rochester and the Abbot which left Freckenham manor with the market but having to pay annual payments on the feast of St. EdmundNovember 16th of four wax candles weighing two pounds each.

A few years later and the whole question arose again in respect of the right of the Abbot to have his reve lodged in the Manor House while making official visits to Freckenham. As a result of the new trial the Abbot was ‘obliged to forgo his claim to the right of seizure of the lands of Freckenham and the Bishop of Rochester was able maintain his prerogative of capturing and hanging robbers as he thought fit, but with the proviso that the gallows he maintained should be placed on the boundary of Freckenham and Herringswell’. Herringswell was at this time one of the manors of Bury St. EdmundsInformation from The Manor of Freckenham, Ernest Callard, The Bodley Head Ltd., 1924.

Lords of the manor interpreted their charters as giving them the right to ‘infangenethef’ and sometimes ‘outfangenethef’ . The former being the right to hang a thief caught on their own lands and the latter the power to hang him where ever he was caught. The thief was also to be caught in possession of the stolen goods, prosecuted by the loser of the goods and the coroner had to be present. Many lords did not bother with such details. The brief entry at the end of these trials in Court Rolls runs ‘Let him have a priest’ with a marginal note of ‘suspensus est’Life on the English Manor 1150-1400, H. S. Bennett M.A. C.U.P. 1948

Merton College in Oxford tried and hung a horse thief on its manor of Holywell as late as 1337A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Oxford,vol. 7. 1866-1902 ii p.66
In his book ‘Historical Tours of West Suffolk’vol.5, David E. Weston suggests that the gallows of Freckenham manor were placed on the border between Herringswell and Freckenham so that the Abbot of St. Edmundsbury and his men could see the punishment carried out from their manor of Herringswell.
In the ‘Manor of Freckenham’, Ernest Callard writes that the gallows stood on the boundary between Freckenham and Herringswell which was ‘a boundary road that lies a considerable distance from the present turnpike’. Callard also suggests that the boundary on the south east between Freckenham manor and Herringswell may have followed the route of the Icknield Way.

The Norwich road beyond Newmarket divided into three routes to cross the River Lark, one route being via Kennet, Herringswell and Tuddenham, crossing the River Lark at Temple BridgeRoads and Tracks of Britain,Christopher Taylor, J.M.Dent and Sons Ltd. 197.

The south east boundary between Red Lodge and Herringswell follows Green Lane along the edge of Hundred Acre Farm. Were the thieves led along Green Lane?

Intersections of highways were often used to bury the dead that were barred from consecrated ground; the belief being that the cross marking the crossroads was better than no cross at all. 

If the gallows were erected at a crossroads the intersection of Green Lane with Warren Road may have been the site, or if the boundary followed the Icknield Way it could have been where the Red Lodge to Kentford road crosses the Kennet to Herringswell road.

Wherever the actual gallows stood the condemned thief was led across Red Lodge to meet his fate! 

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