Walsham le Willows

A Brief History of Walsham

1086 – 1348

From 1086 onwards there is written evidence and we meet the people for the first time.

Black and white drawing of a piece of re-used stone from the previous church with a typical Norman carving of a spiral design.

Evidence – The base of the foremost pier of the north aisle has a re-used carved stone from the Norman church that stood on this site.

Painting taken from a Psalter showing three peasants cutting corn with sickles while the reeve or hayward stands over them, directing them with a rod. Two of the figures are dressed in bright blue smocks, the other two in brown and orange. The background is a stylised pattern in red and orange.
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After the Norman Conquest three manors emerged – Walsham, High Hall and Church House, the lords of which held regular courts in the hall of their manor to control changes of land-holding and cases of minor crimes such as over-grazing. The records of these courts survive from 1318 onwards together with some accounts and rentals.

In 1283 a tax return lists 90 people and shows that sheep were the most common animals with cattle, horses, pigs and poultry in abundance. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, beans and peas were grown. These are the names, some of which continued in Walsham until quite recently –


Example – Matthew Gilbert grew 4 bushels of wheat, 6 bushels of barley, 4 bushels of oats and 2 bushels of peas and kept one horse, one cow, one calf – he was worth 16s 3d and paid 6½d tax.

Painting taken from a Psalter depicting four oxen, led by one peasant, pulling a simple mainly wooden plough held by two more. The oxen are brown and the peasants are dressed in blue or brown smocks.

There was one large open field – Mill Field – and several smaller ones where tenants held small strips to grow crops. Three large woods – Netherhawe, Northawe and Lady’s Wood provided timber. Animals could be grazed on Allwood, Cranmer and Hall Green as well as roadside verges.

In return for houses and land, the tenants paid the lord, not only in money and goods such as chickens, but by working on the lord’s own land.

Evidence – a rental of 1327 translates:

John Packard at the Feast of St. Michael ½d. And at the Feast of All Saints ¾d. And at Christmas ½d and a quarter part of one chicken. And at Easter ½d and 5 eggs. And at Pentecost ¼d. And he shall weed. And reap for 2 days and do one boon work. And he shall do 5 works in winter.

John and Adam de Angerhale brothers pay at the Feast of St. Michael 7d and at the Feast of All Saints 1¼d and half a ¼d. And at the Feast of St. Edmund 6d. And at Christmas 1d and half a chicken and at Easter 7d. And at Pentecost ½d and they shall weed. And do 12 days at harvest and 1½ days boon works. And do 10 works in winter.

Gilbert Helpe pays at the Feast of St. Michael 6d. And at the Feast of St. Edmund 6d. And at Easter 6d. And 1 chicken at Christmas and he shall reap at harvest 8 days and 1 boon work.

Photograph of a few sentences from the 1327 rental of High Hall. Written in medieval Latin the names of John Paccard, John and Adam de Angerhale and Gilbert Helpe can be deciphered.
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Hand-drawn map titled “Walsham le Willows. Medieval c12th – c15th”. Marked on the map and in the key: “Manor Sites”, “Guildhall”, “Camping Close”, “Mills”, “Church”, “Demesne Land”, “Common Grazing” and “Woodland”. Also marked on the map: “Ixworth Road”, “West Street Field”, “West Street”, “Westmill Field”, “Walsham Manor”, “Spilmans Wood”, “Northhall Wood”, “Summer Road”, “Wattisfield Road”, “North Field”, “Hulkes Wood”, “Church House”, “Four Ashes”, “Cow Common”, “Mill Field”, “Cranmer Green”, “Crownlads”, “Well Field”, “South Field”, “High Hall”, “High Hall Wood”, “Finningham Road”, “Allwood Green”.

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