Evidence – part of a rental of 1509 showing rents, in money, owed by each tenant. Walsham town held St. Katherine’s and Master John’s Close.
The 16th century saw the open fields being enclosed with hedges and used as pasture. When the land was first surveyed in 1577, over half the total acreage of the parish was used for grazing.
After schooling in Bury St. Edmunds he trained as a lawyer and rose to become Lord Chancellor under Queen Elizabeth. He became lord of Church House manor in 1551 and of Walsham manor in 1559. Although unpopular locally, it is due to his careful keeping of manorial documents in his muniment room at Redgrave Hall that we have access to so much of Walsham’s early history. In 1577 he commissioned a survey of all the holdings – the Field Book – and it is possible to recreate a map showing who lived where.
One entry in the Field Book describes the Game Place – “a place compassed rownd with a fayer banke sett with and cast up on a good height and havinge many great trees called populers growynge about the same banke, in the myddest a fayre round place of earth wyth a stone wall about the same to the height of the earth made of purpose for the use of stage playes”. It was situated in Summer Road – an amphitheatre on a half acre site. Small companies of visiting players entertained villagers with plays featuring “Mankind and Mischief”. Such acting spaces influenced the circular theatres like Shakespeare’s Globe in the 1590s.
A major effect of the Reformation in Walsham was the dissolution of Ixworth Priory in 1539. From the 12th century until this time, St. Mary’s had been served by priests from the Priory. The grave of one of them, William Potenger, is in the south aisle. After 1539 priests were appointed, indirectly, by the Crown and Church House manor became Crown property.
The English Royal Arms from 1405 to 1603 – in the east window of St. Mary’s church, the 1878 restoration inserted the shield back to front.
Church Farmhouse was built c1530 and occupied by Walter Martin. He was a blacksmith – in his will of 1555 he left his “stethys and hamers” in his shop to his sons Nicholas and John to carry on his trade. The parlour was added c1580.