Although Walsham never had a large estate or very wealthy landowners, the 17th century was a time of agricultural expansion. The yeomen enlarged their holdings and built new houses, many of which still remain. Some of the larger landowners called themselves gentlemen. This was a period of ostentation – if you had it, you showed it off. East Anglia was staunchly Protestant, many finding the Church of England not radical enough in its opposition to Roman Catholicism. At Walsham there was support for Parliament.
A member of an old Walsham family, Ralph Margery of Summer Road became a cavalry captain in Cromwell’s New Model Army. He served in many campaigns and died at Walsham aged 61 in 1653. Like most villagers of that time he lies in an unmarked grave in the churchyard. No portrait exists, but Cromwell commended “Mr. Margery” when speaking of the “plain russet-coated captains” who formed the backbone of his army. This figure wears such a coat, with an officer’s tawny sash and a cavalryman’s armed left gauntlet.
John Salkeld, who lived at Woodlands in Finningham Road was a Presbyterian cleric who had been expelled from his living at Worlington. He continued to preach and was imprisoned for his outspoken opinions of the Restoration church. He died in 1699 and his inventory included sixteen leather chairs, window curtains and books worth £30.
From a court roll of 1694 – “The view of the homage – And that the Elme Tree in question between Mr. Salkeld and Mr. Hagtree [who lived at the Rookery] is found by the Jury aforesaid to belong to Mr. Hagtree (it is a wild elme). And that Mr. Hagtree ought to repair the fences upon the ditch where the said tree now grows att his owne charge”.
Evidence – The Herbage Book of 1625 lists ninety tithe paying tenants. Fifty-four people kept a total of nearly 500 cows and even more calves. Some made payments for arable land, meadow, orchards, hops and hemp.
Small fields of hemp were grown to supply the weavers of course linen, sacks, etc. Flax is mentioned in one inventory – used to make finer material. There were several linen weavers and whitesters (bleachers) in Walsham.
Evidence – Inventories, mainly of the 17th century, list and value the goods of the recently dead. They state the rooms in which the goods were found, so give information about the size of houses as well as of furniture and animals kept, etc. They often state occupations.
|In the hall – One table, one livery cupboard, one other cupboard, one clock, a jack, a spit, six joined stools, six chairs, cobirons, fire pan and tongs and other lumber||£4||0s||0d|
|In the parlour - In bonds, bills, mortgages and ready money||£112||0s||0d|
|One feather bed and bedstead as it stands||£5||0s||0d|
|One trundle bed as it stands||£1||0s||0d|
|A press and table, a coffer, a form, three stools, a chair with other things||£2||1s||0d|
|A silver cup, two silver spoons||£2||10s||0d|
|In the buttery - Two brass pots, two kettles, four skillets||£1||10s||0d|
|Thirty pieces of pewter||£2||0s||0d|
|Four beer vessels, a keepe and other lumber||£1||0s||0d|
|In the other buttery - A table, a boulting hutch and other things||£1||0s||0d|
|In the parlour chamber - A feather bed as it stands||£4||10s||0d|
|A livery cupboard, a little table, a chest and a box||£1||0s||0d|
|Two chairs, a trunk, a stool||14s||0d|
|Twelve pairs of sheets, napkins and other things||£10||0s||0d|
|In the hall chamber - A bed as it stands, two stools, a chair||£3||5s||0d|
|In the roof - Ten waye [a waye was 256 lbs] of cheese||£4||0s||0d|
|Ten firkins [a firkin was 9 gallons] of butter||£10||0s||0d|
|In the back house - A copper, two kettles and other things||£1||0s||0d|
|In the dairy - Two churns, three tubs, four keelers, twelve bowls||£2||15s||0d|
|Scales, weights, cheese vats||£1||10s||0d|
|Bacon in the salt||£1||0s||0d|
|A saddle and other things||£1||0s||0d|
|Hay in the barn||£3||0s||0d|
|Wood in the yard||£1||0s||0d|
|John Rainbird, Thomas Taylor, Christopher Smeare senior.|
Ridings Farmhouse at the end of Crownland Road, built in the early 17th century improving an earlier house, is a typical yeoman’s tenement.
Each year, on 15th November, a garland is placed on the crance of Mary Boyce in St. Mary’s church – the anniversary of her death in 1685, aged 20. She is said to have died of a broken heart.