Although D.P.Mortlock’s ‘Suffolk Churches’ describes it as wooden, the disc is almost certainly terracotta, formed from the white clay of the Woolpit region, the incised lettering and funeral motifs treated with dark slip. The unsophisticated inscription has “MARY/BOYCE” on the side facing the altar, and the day of her death: “Ye I5/NOVE/MBER/1685” facing the door. From the parish registers we know that she was baptized on 29th October 1665, her father William Boyce being of a Walsham family, while her mother, also Mary, came from Bardwell. The family probably owned the fifteenth century cottage now forming Hill Cottage Nursery at Four Ashes. Mary, having just attained her twentieth year, was buried in the churchyard on 18th November 1685. She was born in the fifth year of Charles II’s restoration, and survived nine months into the reign of his successor James II. The Monmouth Rebellion, with Judge Jeffreys and the Bloody Assizes, occurred only weeks before her death. Such events, centred in the West country, did not affect Walsham directly, but there was a growing unease about religious issues throughout the nation.
Mary’s memorial shows the typical approach to mortality at that time. The skull and the bone to its left are standard funereal attributes, as are the arrows, but the hearts, one moulded at the top of the disc, the other incised at the base, have given rise to speculation about Mary’s death. Several authorities state categorically that she died for love, but there is no reliable evidence for this.
The seventeenth century ‘Antiquitates Vulgares’ says. “In some country churches ’tis customary to hang a garland of flowers over the seats of deceased virgins, as a token of esteem and love, and an emblem of their reward in the heavenly church.” Julian W.S.Litten F.S.A., responsible for the exhibition ‘The English Way of Death’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, states in unpublished correspondence that a small escutcheon, similar to our disc, could form a centre-piece to a funeral garland for an unmarried person of good character (male or female) baptized within the parish. Often such discs would be made later, as memorials, rather than as an actual feature of the funeral, and it seems likely that Mary’s comes in this category. The largest number of such memorials is at Abbots Ann church in Hampshire, but ours is the only one known in Suffolk.
Sometimes the funeral garland was called a ‘crants’, as in the German ‘Krantz’ or the ‘krans’ of Dutch and some Scandinavian languages. In Danish the word is ‘krands’, and this leads us opportunely to Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, one of several English works around 1600 to use the word ‘crants’ or ‘crance’ as it was sometimes spelt. At Ophelia’s burial (Act V scene I) the priest claims that the unfortunate girl should not be given any funeral rites because she probably took her own life (‘her death was doubtful’). He protests: ‘Yet here she is allow’d her virgin crants’, begrudging her the customary single garland. It is not, perhaps, coincidental that in the same play a rather flowery courtier, marked for death, has the funeral garland worked into his name: Rosencrantz.
- H.R.Barker: Guide to Suffolk 1907
- H.Munro Cautley: Suffolk Churches and their Treasures 1937
- D.P.Mortlock: A Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches 1988
- R.Tricker: St Mary’s Church Walsham le Willows A Brief Guide 1996
- S.E.West & A.McLaughlin: Towards a Landscape History of Walsham le Willows 1998
Joseph Warren – Press Ganged?
Generations of my ancestors lived in Walsham le Willows and came to St.Mary’s church to worship. Richard Warren and Mary Moss exchanged wedding vows here on 17th October 1727, but they were not to know that, well over two hundred and seventy years later, their five times great grand-daughter would write about them. Born in 1745, the seventh of their nine children was Francis who, with his wife Mary Whitethred, also had a family of nine. The eldest of these was Joseph, and it is with him our history unfolds.
At the age of twenty-three, Joseph married nineteen year old Frances Hubbard who lived in the same village. Although single, she had a two-year old son. In my imagination I picture them standing in the porch doorway after the wedding service, with her bridegroom holding one hand and little John Hubbard clutching the other. There is nothing to suggest that Joseph was his father. Only one child was born of their marriage – in 1794 they had a son who was named Joseph like his father. Several documents make it apparent that the couple were parted less than two years after the baby’s birth. In June 1797 an entry in the church register showed the baptism of twins… ‘base children of Frances Warren, her husband Joseph took to be a seaman, long time gone and not since heard of.’ Further records of the birth of a son in 1801 and another in 1802, declared Frances to be a widow as her husband was presumed dead. In the workhouse she gave birth to yet one more son in early December 1807. No father’s name was given for any of these infants. Concerned with parish expenses of running the workhouse, an overseer eventually decided to write to the Naval Office to make certain inquiries. A reply informed him that Joseph Warren of HMS Plantagenet had not been absent from the ship between 1st January and 30th June 1807. This was firm evidence of her last child’s illegitimacy, and Francis was taken before two JPs for questioning. Under oath she declared that Thomas Pennington, a shoemaker latterly of Walsham le Willows, had fathered this child born outside lawful matrimony. A warrant was then issued for his arrest in order to make him pay the parish costs of his son’s delivery and upkeep. The letter from the Naval Office not only established that Joseph was still alive, but also named the ship on which he was serving. According to the ship’s muster rolls Joseph had previously served on HMS Trent, and I discovered that inside two and a half years of marrying Frances he was in Woolwich where, on 26th May 1796, he signed on as an armourer’s mate. The Trent was newly built and carried thirty-six guns and a crew of two hundred and seventy-four. Joseph’s life at sea was not made any easier under one of his captains who was dismissed the service for cruelty. In 1803 he was one of a volunteer party to transfer to HMS Plantagenet – a larger ship carrying seventy-four guns and a complement of five hundred and ninety. She was a newly built sea victualling ship like the Trent, both being engaged in a number of actions which were successful, but involved loss of life. After twelve years at sea the Plantagenet was finally laid up at Portsmouth and her crew discharged.
In the baptismal register the vicar had referred to Joseph as ‘took’ to be a seaman. This could be interpreted as meaning the vicar ‘understood’ him to be a seaman but, having carefully studied various information, I am of the opinion he meant Joseph was taken away by a press-gang and forced into joining the Navy. It was at the time when the fleet was being built up at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Once Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 a number of ships, such as the Plantagenet, were taken out of service. Joseph had served throughout these wars and, at the age of forty-five, was pensioned off to make his long journey back to Walsham le Willows.
The next reference to him was not until 1841 when he was living with Frances in a cottage in Crownland Road. It was certainly an unusual situation – the vicar had declared her to be Joseph’s widow.
This was where they spent their remaining years, Joseph being eighty-four when he died and Frances eighty-eight.
Their son Joseph, who lived at Redgrave, married Dorothy Drake from Walsham in St Mary’s church in 1818. Their second child was my great-grandfather, William, and soon after his birth they went to Redgrave to live.
- Parish Registers of Walsham le Willows
- Census of Walsham le Willows
- Tithe Map of Walsham le Willows 1842
- Public Record Office – ADM 15943, 13253, 15229, 15230 Muster Books
- “The Royal Navy” W. Laird Clowes (Vol. V & Vol. N)
A history of the Warren family was first printed in the Walsham Observer.
An Introduction to Walsham Manor Court Rolls
Walsham is fortunate to be one of the few villages with many surviving court rolls. Together, the manors of Walsham, High Hall and Church House covered almost the same ground as the parish today. The owner of each manor, the lord or lady, had control over all property including people, houses, land and animals. The tenants, some villein (who paid rent and fees and did services for the owner, like ploughing) and some free (who paid rent but usually did not owe services) were required to attend each court held. Walsham Manor was the largest of the three and held its courts in a hall on the manor site in Summer Road or on Hall Green which was common land surrounding the manor house. The remains of Hall Green, the small field on the east side of Summer Road contains a tree known as the parish oak. This tree is said to have been used as a meeting place for villagers and may well have its origins in manor courts. The courts were held, sometimes every three weeks, sometimes less often and the proceedings were recorded on parchment, stitched together and rolled up for sake keeping. Hence manor court rolls.
Walsham rolls start in 1303 and give vast amounts of information about people and the life they led. Crimes were dealt with at the Hundred and higher courts so, apart from a few minor squabbles the manor courts were concerned with mundane aspects such as changing tenants of land and houses and local rules and regulations.
Lack of grazing for the many animals was a constant source of irritation. Another was control of the river and ditches to prevent flooding, particularly on the Lammas Meadow and at West Street. Most of the rolls are written in Latin until the 18th century but the following extracts from a court dated 15th May 1555 (SRO Bury – HA 504/1/26 ff1) are in English. Read them in a Suffolk accent imagining yourself under the parish oak.
‘Ordered to Robert Durant to scour the watercourse in Ebells unto the pond there and the eye that cometh oute oft Westretefeld unto the said watercourse on this half the feast of Halowmas next comynge under payne of 5s.
Ordered to John Jurden to fell his rowe and make his dyche from Gogeyns unto the great meadow and make the eyes into Gogeyns out oft the dyche aforesaid as it hathe bene in tymes past on this half Hallowmas next coming under paine of 5s.
Ordered to John Jurden to fell his rowe and make his dyche from Canvashill unto the meadow oft Thomas Hawes on this half the said feast under paine of 5s.
Ordered to John Scott to put the watercourse out oft Stanton Lanes and thorowe his meadow and to make his dyche lefull that the water go not into the waie on this halft Hallowmas next coming under the paine of 3s 4d.
Ordered to John Scott to make his dytch from John Reyneberdes dyche corner to John Scottes fallegate on this half Hallowmas next coming under the payne of 3s 4d.
Ordered to John Skott to make his dyche at Wardeswood at thend oft Richard Hawes feldsend on this half the feast of St John the Baptist next coming under paine oft 3s 4d.
Ordered to Richard Baker to skowre his dyche between John Haweys and him that the water may come downne to John Hawes croftend on this half the feast of Hallowmas next cominge under the payne oft 3s 4d.
Ordered to Thomas Hawys to make the common watercouse and pulle up his hedge and brushe the wode yt groweth and noyeth the water the length oft his medowe called Hamstall on this half Halowmas next comynge under the payne of 3s 4d.
Ordered to Joan Reve to make her dyche from Richard Hawes Launde gate unto the nother end of her said close and laye a gutter at her gate that the water doe not stoppe on this half the feast oft Hallowmas next comynge under the payne of 3s 4d.
Ordered to the widow Martyn to skour her dyche from Jurdons dyche unto Richard Wallers dyche on this half Hallowmas next comynge under payne of 3s 4d.
Ordered to Thomas Page to skore his dyche against the said watercorse on this half Hallowmas next comynge under the payne of 3s 4d.
Ordered that no man shall put mares in the wayes under the payne of 2s of every mare’
Ebells – the house and land at West Cottage Hallowmass – 1st November rowe – hedgerow? Gogeyns – the field on the south parish boundary next to Lammas Meadow Canvashill – probably Cannons Hill just over the boundary in Langham fallegate – gate of sheep fold Wardeswood – to the east of Readings Lane Hampstall – field next to the brook behind Old Hall
Richard Baker lived at the house of Mr and Mrs Cobbold, West Street and John Hawes lived next door at Home Farm.
What the Papers Said
Excerpts from the Bury and Norwich Post:
11th July 1804 – “An auction will take place at the Bell Inn, Thetford on the 27th of that month.
- An excellent farmhouse in Walsham le Willows with barn, stables and other outbuildings, yards and garden along with 60 acres of arable and pasture land now in the occupation of Mr Thomas Diggens.
- A double cottage and garden in Walsham with a piece of land called Acre Pightle containing 1 acre 1 rood 18 perches.
- All that inclosure land in Walsham le Willows called Jollys containing 8 acres 2 roods 18 perches.
- All that inclosure of land in Walsham called Cowells containing 6 acres 2 roods 20 perches.
All in the occupation of Mr Thomas Diggens.”
[Inclosure land probably means a close ie: land surrounded by a hedge]
26th September 1804 – Notice of an auction – “All the household furniture and stock in trade of the late Mr John Morley, shoemaker of Walsham le Willows, comprising bedsteads, feather beds, bolsters, coverlets, tables, chairs, 30 hour clock, brewing utensils etc. to be auctioned on Friday at 10 o’clock. All those who stood indebted to John Morley are requested to pay their respective debts to John Clamp, cordwainer of Walsham aforesaid.
17th August 1805 – Notice of an auction – “A dwelling house, barn, tenement and a well accustomed butcher’s shop, other buildings and about 4 acres of rich meadow land at Walsham le Willows in the tenure of Mr William Youngman, butcher and tenant. Also valuable right of common at Allwood Green. There is an annual quit rent of 1s 11d and a moderate land tax.
24th August 1805 – Notice of sale of the effects of the late Mrs Warn. The Warns had a shop in the village for many years. In the churchyard, a tablet on the north wall of the vestry relates that she died aged sixty-one years: her husband John had died nine years earlier. “Elegant household furniture to be sold at Walsham le Willows of the late Mrs Warn comprising four post and tent bedsteads with fluted mahogany pillars, excellent goose feather beds, mahogany commode chest of drawers, stands and bureaux, mahogany escrutoire and bookcases, set of mahogany dining tables with circular ends plus chairs, elegant mahogany Pembrokeshire card table and many other useful articles. Also a prime milch cow and a quantity of hay”.
18th September 1805 – Notice of an auction to be held at the premises of Mr John Bullock situated in Walsham le Willows on the road leading from Allwood Green to Bury. “All that valuable dairy consisting of eighteen prime milch cows reared on the premises, eight two-year old heifers, a capital two-year old bull, a three-year old grazing beast, six excellent cart horses, a foal, two sows and twelve shoats. Also three narrow wheel wagons, eight tumbrels, four ploughs, two gangs of harrows and a variety of household furniture.”
16th July 1806 – “To be sold at auction if not sooner disposed of by private contract. All that capital farm called Walsham Hall Farm with 215 acres of good arable and pasture land in convenient inclosures. Farmhouse, brick and tile spacious barns, granary, cart-lodge, all in excellent repair. 135 acres of copyhold and the rest freehold with unlimited rights of commonage on Allwood Green and other commons in Walsham le Willows for at least ten score sheep or other cattle. Mr Daniel Richards, the occupier, will show the premises,”