Walsham le Willows

History Group

An old grainy image of Walsham street with a number of people standing round in the mid distance dressed in old fashioned clothes. The street looks like it’s covered in soil or similar and grooves of wheel marks are visible in it. The building visible on the far left is what is now the Six Bells Public House and the rest of the street with buildings running along next to it goes off into the distance.
The Street; about 1900

Almost exactly the same shot as the previous image, but in colour, taken much more recently with relatively minimal additional features and changes: a few telegraph poles with wires running down above the road, a grey tarmacked road with white lines, a largish chimney missing that was present above the house next to the Six Bells in the old image but not this one, a largish tree that was present further down the road isn’t there in this more modern day image, and the lack of old fashioned dressed people. But generally not much has changed: the buildings all look very similar as they did in the much older photograph.
The Street; 1984

Walsham Village History Group began in the early 1980s when Dr. Stanley West, then County Archaeologist and living in Walsham, located the sites of several medieval houses around Cranmer Green. Wishing to find other sites he gathered a small group of local enthusiasts and, over the next few years, field-walked all the available land in the parish teaching them how to spot, identify and record their finds of pottery sherds and worked flints. It soon became apparent that many of the medieval sites were those referred to in a 1577 survey of Walsham and conjectural maps were drawn of the reconstructed medieval landscape. Work began on transcribing the original documents held at Suffolk Record Office including manorial court rolls, account rolls, rentals and charters together with parish registers and wills gradually building up a history of the village previously unknown. Some of this work has been published, some has been printed and is available locally. In 1997 the first Quarterly Review consisting of original research was printed. In 2001 it was decided to formalise the history group with a committee, constitution and a programme of talks and visits relating to the history of Suffolk in general and that of Walsham in particular. The group has started to record oral history and there is a programme of lectures, visits and walks for our membership. The group has gone from strength to strength and now has over seventy members.

Thursday July 22nd 2010


 A photograph showing a lady in a mauve jumper looking towards the left of the picture.
Audrey Mc Laughlin

Walking the claylands of Walsham le Willows after autumn ploughing in a search for fragments of ancient pottery was considered a somewhat eccentric occupation for people in the 1970’s & 1980’s with an interest in history, particularly when you made your way back to a metalled highway after a couple of hours plodding across fields, your aching limbs dragging feet heavy with tenacious clay.

Yet here was the origin of Audrey McLaughlin’s deep and lasting interest in Walsham’s past. She helped to map the location of scores of Roman and Medieval homesteads to reveal a village layout quite different to our present village. This corroborated Sir Nicholas Bacon’s survey of 1577 in The Field Book of Walsham which had already been transcribed and edited by Kenneth Dodd. But Audrey taught herself to read and transcribe the documents, wills, inventories, surveys, accounts, court rolls and to understand the evolution of timber framed buildings. Thus, over a period of twenty years she came to know and understand Walsham's past, to identify an earlier landscape from the fragments which remain today and to appreciate something of the lives of its inhabitants.

Along the way she enthused others to work with, alongside, or independently of her but always wanting the knowledge and understanding gained to be accessible to the general public. For some years static displays and informative exhibitions were staged in the Scullery of The Priory, in The Guildhall and later in St Mary’s Church. A programme of lectures and informative walks was instituted. From 1997 Audrey edited items of research for publication in The Walsham Village Museum Quarterly Reviews; number 54 was published this month. The culmination of her work was the publication of The East Anglian Archaeology Report number 85 " Towards a Landscape History of Walsham" and written jointly with Stanley West. But other publications followed documenting yet more of our village history.

On moving to Halesworth, this rigorous and indefatigable researcher embarked on the more difficult project to uncover something of the history of the group of parishes making up South Elmham, onetime seat of Anglo Saxon Bishops and her own chosen final resting place. Here in Walsham she leaves a fine legacy of research and education. She was inspirational.

The Walsham le Willows History Group has published several books relating to village life throughout the ages. They have proved to be of help to those tracing ancestors and to those with an interest in days gone by in Walsham.

1. 'A STORY OF WALSHAM FOLK' An account of the hard times endured by the people of Walsham between the years 1800 and 1850. There is reference to those living here and includes maps from 1817 and 1842. £3.50

2 'VICTORIAN WALSHAM' A reflection of life during the period 1850 to 1900 through the local newspapers of that time. £3.50

3. 'IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET....' About the men who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914 - 1918. £5.00

4. 'WARTIME WALSHAM' Village life and loss in the Second World War. £5.00

5. 'PHOTOGRAPHS OF A SUFFOLK VILLAGE' Walsham le Willows and its people at the time of the last millennium. £6.00

6. 'GRAVES IN WALSHAM LE WILLOWS' A comprehensive, indexed guide to finding graves in the village. Includes burials in the Church, the Churchyard, the Cemetery, the old Baptist Chapel and the Congregational Chapel. £3.00

7. '60 YEARS OF OBITUARIES AND EPITAPHS' Contains many obituaries of those buried in the village Cemetery between the years 1890 and 1950. £3.00

8 'WALSHAM REVIEWS' For some 17 years the History Group has produced a Quarterly Review containing many interesting snippets of Walsham life through the ages. It is free to members of the group and the first 39 issues are free on line. Paper copies, 30p.

9. 'OTHER PUBLICATIONS' A short History £2.00; Trail £2.00; Walks in Walsham £2.00; Brewing £1.00; Constables Bills 1708-1821, £2.50; Walsham Manor Accounts 1402/3 &1406/7, £3.00; The Field Book 1577 pub. The Suffolk Record Soc. £5.00; Towards a Landscape History of Walsham le Willows pub. Suffolk C.C. £15.00. Bygone Walsham Le Willows – A collection of Photographs, £5.00.


Church Wardens accounts and Town Wardens accounts.

Parish Registers 1539-1900.

Probate Wills 1396-1798.

Probate Inventories 1576-1830

1373-1374 High Hall accounts

1581 Survey (terratorium) of Walsham Manor & Church House Manor

1695 Survey Walsham Manor & Church House Manor

Each one is £10.00 All purchases are subject to postage and packing.

For order enquiries please ring 01359 258535 and for other contacts: 01359 259689 & 01359 259411

History Group Guided Walks

Four people (two adults and two kids) out in the country, the lad sitting on a branch of a tree.

Monday 1st January 2007 at 10.30 am.

This New Year guided walk is just an example of one of these popular walks and this one took place with 13 adults and 4 children who enjoyed a stimulating after New Year’s walk which went up Wattisfield road and then beyond Squirrel’s Hall ending up with soup and rolls at the Six Bells. Included in the 13 adults were 2 visitors who were accompanied by their dog. Luckily the weather was very kind although there were parts of the walk where it was rather muddy!

These walks take place on New Years day, Easter Monday and various other Bank Holidays throughout each year, for up to date details please refer to the Diary of Events.

Jump to top Jump to top of page