Review Number 24 – January 2003

The Priory Room

Photograph of the front view of the Priory Room which has a large window with a triangular roof section of it’s own. Orange bricked crossed with horizontal and vertical wooden beams. One tallish thin chimney on one end. Flint wall in front.
The Priory Room

From the Bury Free Press 6th December 1902

The Opening Of A New Priory Room

‘Another splendid addition to the long list of Mr. John Martineau’s gifts to the parishioners of Walsham le Willows has just been completed with the erection of a new room for meetings in connection with the church. The building takes its name from the former name of the present Rectory and is situated on a piece of land belonging to the Rectory close to the highway.

It is of substantial character that marks Mr. Martineau’s work with foundations being 3 feet wide and 5 feet deep. It rises in 18-inch brickwork to the plinth and the remainder in 14-inch brick. The room is executed in an Elizabethan style with the upper portion being in massive English oak studwork infilled with herring boned brickwork. The roof is covered with best Brossley plain tiles. At various places round the building there are prettily designed carvings and words are cut into the cills with inscriptions such as ‘Suffer little children to come unto me’ and ‘Life has many shadows, but the sunshine makes them all’. At the south end is an inscription ‘This is the last building designed by Mr. Edward Henry Martineau, architect, 1824–1901.’

The room is ventilated with Boyle’s Patent Concealed Roof Ventilators. There is a verandah to the east with seats facing the vicarage and a red and buff quarrie floor. The bargeboards are ornamentally finished, the windows have iron casements with fittings of brass, and the doors and gate are fitted with gothic furniture. The interior walls are lined with match boarding to a height of 4 feet.

In a recess is an old fashioned portable dog stove and round the fireplace are tiles of nursery pictures. The room is capable of seating some 180 persons. The gift also includes a cottage pianoforte, 3 brass central draught 100 c. p. veritas hanging lamps, handsome curtains with poles and brackets, chairs and forms and a stage or platform that can be converted into tables when necessary. There is also an anti room and lavatory.

The opening of the room took place on Friday [probably 29th November 1902] with a short dedication and the psalm ‘Except the Lord build the house’. The vicar of Walsham, Mr A L Harrison, explained that the reason for the erection of the room was that he had seen the usefulness of such a room in a nearby parish. He had suggested an iron building to Mr. Martineau, but as all could see by the beautiful, substantial building before them, Mr. Martineau had ‘waved his wand’. On the following Saturday evening all the men who had been engaged in the erection of the Priory Room and their wives were invited to a supper given by the vicar and Mrs. Harrison. Mr. Harrison congratulated Mr. Harry Nunn and his men for the completion of such a capital room saying it was a great success for Walsham trades and industries. Mr. Martineau also thanked the men for their efforts and in return Mr. Nunn thanked the vicar for his good wishes and Mr. Martineau for the room that he hoped would be copied in other parishes. The meeting welcomed Doctor and Mrs. Poignand and Doctor Scott who had just moved to the village, and the evening was rounded off with songs from Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Moore, Mr. J. Finch, Mr. Sodon, and Mr. Hubbard with recitations from Mr. W. H. Oxborrow.”

A ledger of the Martineau Estate gives dates, costs etc. of building work carried out in Walsham. Harry Nunn was paid £1195 for building the Vicarage Room. Oak used in the building was estimated at £150. Other expenses included the architect’s fee of £62 3s 8d and D N Smith’s payment of £15 for carving the ‘mottoes and leafage’. The chairs, piano, curtains, coalhouse, blinds and other materials and labour cost £78 10s 1d. Grand total £1500 13s 9d.

The 1817 Parish map shows a barn on the site where the Priory Room was built – perhaps the tithe barn.

James Turner


The Martineau Cottages

Next year the Martineau family will celebrate 150 years of residence in and service to Walsham. It was John Martineau (1834–1910) who was responsible for the building of the elaborate estate cottages. Although he inherited the estate on the death of his father Richard in 1865, he did not live here. Instead he maintained the estate for his mother Lucy and his sisters, and visited often. At the age of sixteen John had been sent to Eversley in Hampshire to become a pupil of Charles Kingsley rector there and the author of “The Water Babies”, where he was greatly influenced by and became devoted to him. Later he began buying land in Eversley in order to build cottages there. The Eversley cottages are almost identical to those in Walsham.

‘He bought land in Eversley in order to rebuild cottages and to build fresh ones realizing, long before it became the popular cry, that the fundamental basis for improving the health, happiness and morals of England was decent and healthy housing.’

An old balck and white photograph showing two men with an old bakers van which is shaped rather like a box on wheels (has spare wheel attached to the driver’s door). In the background is a slightly angled view of the South cottages – overhanging upper floor several tallish chimneys.

The Martineau ledger shows that William Jaggard and Sons, who were the local builders prior to the Nunns, built the first double cottage in 1866. Situated in the Causeway, next to Sweet Briars, the first occupants were James Wood and William Barber. The total cost was £358 10s 4d. The iron ring in the garden wall was for tying up your horse.

Squirrels Hall

In 1898 a farm and four ‘tumble down cottages’ were purchased at Squirrels Hall. Repairs were carried out to the horseman’s cottage for a Mr Kerrison and Mr Baker. Harry Nunn was paid £1329 including £200 for oak, for a block of three new cottages at Wattisfield for other workers on Squirrels Hall Farm. The inscription along the front of these houses reads:

‘With thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever. 1898’.

The cooking ranges caused considerable problems. New stoves were put in two of the cottages in 1901 to cure smoke and the following year alterations had to be made to the stoves. In 1904 a new range was fitted for Mr Rust a new tenant. And few years later more repairs were made to ovens and kitchen ranges.

Potash Farm

Located in Stanton, just over the parish boundary, it was built in 1903/4 and, apart from £1500 paid to Harry Nunn for the building, the main expense was in making a road to the farm. There are four entries for the purchase and carting of stones, the carting costing considerably more than the stones themselves. The old farmhouse and a cottage were pulled down and the materials reused to build a fowl house, E.C. (earth closet), washhouse etc. There was also a lean-to shed with a galvanized tin roof. Drainage seemed to cause the problems at Potash Farm with money spent on water gutters and drainpipes for gateways – there’s always something! The carving over the porch reads:

‘He that by the plough would thrive, himself must either hold or drive’.

A pair of cottages for farm workers at Potash Farm stood opposite the end of Potash Lane and were demolished in 1946 to make way for the airfield. They were built in 1906 complete with well and piggeries. Has anyone got a photograph of these?

New Wrenshall Farm Cottages

Consisting of two cottages with a single room they were built in 1899. Alterations were done to the stoves and chimney pots soon after. A fowl house was built for Mr Leggatt and later for Mr Sharman. The motto across the front is:

‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith’.

Other inscriptions are:

‘Let fools go wandering far and nigh, we bide at home my dog and I’

‘Keep innocency and take heed unto the thing that is right, for that shall bring a man peace at the last’.

This one has been given a modern reply carved on a workshop extension:

‘Tis a good horse that doesn’t stumble and a good wife that doesn’t grumble’

‘A strong house will not crumble, a wise man will stay humble’.

The Causeway (north)

Of those in the village, the first block in the Causeway (the one nearest the crossroads) was built in 1879 at a cost of £1080 6s 1d and called New Cottages. One acre of meadowland cost £50; building costs were £972 6s 3d including the well and pigsties. In 1881 a wooden shoemaker’s shop was added for John Nunn, shown as a boot and shoemaker in the 1881 census living in Church Street Way (now the Causeway). The other first tenants were William Ray a bricklayer, his wife and three children and Robert Nunn, a ploughman and his five children. He was a widow. In 1901 new ovens were installed for Mrs Ray (now a widow) and Mr Nunn to bake bread.


‘East, west, home is best’

with the date 1879 and John Martineau’s initials.

The Causeway (south)

The other block in the Causeway was called the New (Vanity) Cottages. Built in 1900 they comprised three cottages and two single rooms. These are now known as widows’ rooms although the ledger describes one as a nurse’s room. There was a doctor in the village by this time but perhaps John Martineau saw a need to provide accommodation for a nurse as well. These were the most expensive of all the cottages; 1¼ acres of land, oak, the architect’s fee, carving of animals and letters by D Smith and the building costs of Harry Nunn came to a total of £2977.

The first tenants were John Finch, a plumber with his wife and four children and Henry J. Morley known as John, a carpenter/joiner who worked for Harry Nunn and did some of the carving in the village, and his wife and four children. Harry Benstead, a police sergeant with his wife and five children had the central section and Emma Rushbrook a widow of 77 years the single room. The tenants of all the cottages were local people, most having been born here. The exception was Harry Benstead. John must have realized the value of a resident policeman in the village.

The stoves and chimney pots soon needed repairing including new firebricks for the policeman’s stove. New cupboards were made for the (middle) policeman’s cottage and for John Finch. There is even an entry for ‘wire for creepers 6s 6d’ and a fence to guard the ditch by the bridges. In the 1901 census, both sets of Causeway cottages were named the Model Dwellings, which is how they must have appeared to the new tenants, many of whom had previously been living in very cramped conditions.


‘The work that’s nearest though its dull at whiles, helping when you meet them lame dogs over stiles’.

‘Be not wise in thine own eyes’

Fear the lord and depart from evil’.

On the widow’s room is:

‘The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness’.

Summer Road

Both sets of dwellings in Summer Road contain three cottages and a single or widow’s room. The first was built in 1890 at a cost of £1167 5s including 1¼ acres of land. The ledger gives few details although the roofing tiles gave trouble from time to time. Only one tenant is named, Mrs Read. James Read, his wife Alice and a one-year-old son had been living on Cranmer Green in 1891 and must have been delighted to be given the keys to a brand new house. The other original tenants were George Chambers an agricultural labourer, his wife who was a dressmaker and his daughter who was an infants’ teacher. Jemima Baker a 55 year old widow occupied the single room.


‘An honest man’s the noblest work of God, earth’s noblest thing a woman perfected’ Fine!

‘Their labour is but lost that built it’

‘Except winds stand as never it stood’

‘Our hoard is little but our hearts are great’

‘Turn fortunate turn thy wheel with smile or frown’

‘The noblest mind the best contentment has’

‘It is an ill wind that turns none to God’.

There is also the date 1890 and John Martineau’s initials.

The second block was built in 1896/7 at a cost of £1415 including 1¼ acres and the oak. James Sharman had a new shed in 1905. He was an agricultural worker and with his wife Elizabeth was one of the first tenants there. The others were William Hayward who was the parish clerk, his wife and five children and Josiah Fakes, widower, a general mechanic with his two daughters.


‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, behold the evil and the good’

‘He that covereth a transgression seeketh love but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends’

‘Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap’.

Apart from up to ½ acre of land on which to grow vegetables and keep chickens, each garden was planted with a Dr. Harvey cooking apple tree and a walnut tree. There was a coal shed, an earth closet, a central communal wash-house/bake-house complete with wash boiler and faggot oven plus a pigsty at the bottom of the garden. There can be no doubt – John Martineau was Walsham’s finest philanthropist.

In addition to the model cottages in Walsham, John provided a new burial ground, the lych gate and, of course, the Priory Room.

For the record – the lych gate inscriptions read:

That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die’

‘It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power’

‘It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory’.

Other examples of Biblical texts decorating houses can be found on Lord Fisher’s estate at Kilverstone, near Thetford and on almshouses at Hawstead near Bury St. Edmunds.

  1. From a biography called John Martineau written by his daughter Violet (Arnold, London 1921)

I am indebted to Sharon Frost for painstakingly recording all the inscriptions.

Audrey McLaughlin

What the Papers Said 100 Years Ago

Bury Free Press 20th December 1902

‘A pleasing ceremony took place in the village with the wedding of Mr. Frederick Rosier, eldest son of Mr. B. Rosier of Cranmer Green Farm, and Miss Ellen Knott of Stanton. The bride wore a pale blue dress and a hat trimmed with white ostrich feathers and orange blossom. The bridegroom has served as a sergeant in the 3rd. Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment during the war in South Africa. He won medals at Belmont and Modder River. The bride wore a valuable brooch made of Kruger gold coins in a gold case, a present from the bridegroom.’

[ After his exploits in the Boer War Frederick Rosier, at the age of 45, went to France with the Suffolk Regiment during the First World War. On the 25 July 1915 he died of injuries in a Boulogne field hospital.]

James Turner
No tracking or advertising cookies are placed, only cookies required for proper functionality. By continuing you agree their use. Find out more. ☒ OK
SideMenu Skip to content