Old Red Lodge built a 'new town' on the old warren of Freckenham Manor. The Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury, October 4th. 1935.
Rabbits were introduced into Britain by the Normans for their fur and meat, but it was only the young of the species that were known as rabbits, adults were called coneys.
Enclosed warrens for breeding rabbits were widely established on heath land that was of little use for anything else.5 Warreners, skilled in rearing colonies of rabbits, built artificial burrows in long raised banks of soft earth. These warren bred rabbits were killed from six weeks old and sent to market mostly for their skins which were in demand for clothing.
Manorial Court Rolls show that these warrens and the rights to the rabbits was strictly guarded but because warrens were established mostly in remote areas poaching was hard to control. The warrens were an important means of income to the manor.
In 1248 Henry the Third granted Richard de Wendover, Bishop of Rochester, the Right of Free Warren in the manor of Freckenham which meant that he was free to hunt pheasant, partridge, hare and rabbits within the manor.
In the 1549-1551 Court Rolls of Freckenham manor references are made to the 'killing of the coneys' on the warren and seventeenth century extant Bonds show that farmers leasing the land were bonded not to kill the coneys found there.
In 1676 the sale of a warren in Freckenham which was in the ocupation of John Dixon also mentions 'the warren of the coneys' in the occupation of Nathaniel Crabbe. The 1674 Hearth Tax returns show John Dixon was paying one shilling half yearly for two hearths and Crabbe was probably leasing the coney warren.
The warrener and his family usually lived in a lodge on the warren in order to protect the rabbits and to keep their equipment, rabbit pelts and carcasses safe from poachers. The Red Lodge Public House, as it is now known, is consistently associated with the warren in all early documents and therefore it seems more than likely to have originated as a warreners' lodge. Kirby's Suffolk Traveller of 1735 lends weight to this as it describes the road from Newmarket to Mildenhall as entering Suffolk at a brook and heading towards Barton Mills passing a 'warren house on the left'. In documents relating to the leasing of the Red Lodge warren one requirement is that the lessee resides on the premises. An early documentary reference to it being a hostelry is a 1675 map and traveller's guide which marks it as 'The Red House an Inn'.
In 1762 the neighbours of Mr. Nathan Robinson gave him four days notice of their intention to kill the coneys 'eating up and destroying our corn damaging our land and sheepwalks'. They employed William Bulbrook of Badlingham to keep the rabbits under control that were obviously escaping from enclosed warrens and burrowing into the surrounding areas.
Freckenham warren and The Red Lodge covered an area of 450 acres in 1794 and were valued at £67-10s-0d. They were leased for 14 years at £63 per annum to widow Margaret Barton and her son James. The lease also stipulated that they were to provide '15 couple of good rabbits in the season'.
Warren land also provided grazing for sheep and cattle, bracken for bedding and furze and turves for fuel. The testimonies of three warreners and a herdsman in 1815, pre-enclosure, underlines the fact that they had killed rabbits on the heath, cut turf and dried it, cut furze and helped to repair the banks to enclose the rabbit warren.
On the 1824 Freckenham Enclosure map is a hedged rectangular enclosure in the area which is thought to encompass the warren; the 1890 Ordinance Survey map defined this enclosure as just over ten acres and to its west showed a similar enclosure of just over eleven acres. An aerial photograph taken in 1946 shows traces of ridge and furrow inside both enclosures giving rise to the probability that the enclosed land has been ploughed at some time. The smaller enclosure has an artificial bank on the northern side but neither enclosure shows any evidence of an entrance.
In 1972 the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology studied four such enclosures on Lakenheath warren of a similar size and with traces of ridge and furrow. They discussed the fact that the enclosures being so similar probably dated from the same time and were used for the same purpose. Possibly dating from medieval times the enclosed areas may have been used for the protection and rearing of rabbits. The evidence of ridge and furrow suggests the possibility of them being used to cultivate crops for winter fodder. A lease to James Barton in 1817 shows that Nathaniel Barnardiston waived his sole right of sheepwalk over all the uninclosed warren in the winter and spring time when the rabbits were fed on hay, turnips and willow tops. This lease also gave James Barton the power to stop rabbits getting over and through division banks and required him to leave 500 couple of rabbits at its termination.
In 1823 William Westrope hired the Red Lodge farm and warren from Nathaniel Barnardiston but James Barton, although being given notice to quit at Michaelmas, had refused to go. An ejectment order against Barton was issued in November and the following January he was declared bankrupt, his occupations being given as Innkeeper, Dealer and Chapman. The house was in a dilapidated state, the warren banks out of repair and the land uncropped. The sale of Freckenham Hall in 1918 called the heath 'of little value except for rabbits' and informed prospective buyers that '1200-1500 rabbits killed per year'. There were 88 acres of Red Lodge warren and 45 acres of heath adjoining it of which 40 acres had been worked.
In 1926 the 88 acres of warren running along side the main road were sold and the 'old village' of Red Lodge created.
©2000 Susan Cook.
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