The Early History of The Six Bells (medieval name Fullers)
At a court of Walsham manor held in 1389 John Baxter was granted 1½ acres of demesne land [the lord’s own land] opposite the churchyard on condition that he build on it. John was a baker and a prime site, close to the church, would obviously have been to his advantage. Three years later he surrendered 1 acre of the land with a house built on it to Joan, the wife of John Lester. Joan either then married John Baxter or the clerk, by mistake, wrote Lester instead of Baxter because in 1399 Joan, the widow of John Baxter, surrendered the house and land to four men, probably churchwardens, one of whom was Nicholas Fuller.
Nicholas died in 1400 leaving two houses and a cottage to his four sons. The next mention of the property was in 1447 when his grandson Robert acquired the house from John Ringbell. In the 15th century several people were still named after their trades eg: John King the cooper was also known as John Cooper and John Fuller the weaver, as John Webster. It is possible that the churchwardens leased John Ringbell the house so that, as sexton, he was readily available for grave digging and bell ringing. Olive Ringbell brewed and sold ale and baked and sold bread between 1423 and 1436. By 1447 the house had an extension called an Insethouse comprising a shop, three rooms and a solar (an upper room). Insethouses occurred throughout the country in the Middle Ages but there appears to be a concentration in East Anglia. The meaning can vary but in Walsham they are described as extensions to the main house for the use of the elderly couple vacating the main house ie: what we would call a granny flat. John and his wife second Alice were to have the Insethouse. Robert and Margaret Fuller had the original house where they baked bread and brewed and sold ale until 1476. Both families had access to the well and bakehouse. In 1486 Robert was fined 6d (equivalent to 1½ – 2 days wages) for allowing his house called Fullers formerly Ringbells to be ruined in roofing, carpentry and daub and was ordered to make repairs or face a penalty of 20s. By 1493 Henry Tye held the Insethouse, which he surrendered to Robert for the rest of his life in exchange for the original house. The present building was said to be ‘newly built’ in 1523 when William, son of John Vincent was surrendered the tenement formerly Fullers. Three years later William passed it on to Stephen Vincent who held it until his death in 1550. In his will Stephen describes himself as a yeoman. He left his wife Katherine ‘my house that I dwell in sometime of William Fuller with the appurtenances with all my lands both free and copy with meadows and wood sitting and lying as well within the town of Walsham as without during her natural life except my three other tenements with the appurtenances belonging, sitting and lying in Walsham’. His son John was to have two of them viz: the tenement called Barnes which was where Willow House now stands and a small tenement ‘that was sometime of John Richman lying against the churchyard’ which was adjoined to the building now the Blue Boar, ‘except one little calves house belonging to the said tenement called Richmans and the yard.’ ‘I will that Katherine my wife shall have free liberty to occupy with ingate and outgate to the use of suckling her calves and keeping her calves from the Feast of the Purification of St. Mary the Virgin [2nd February] until the Feast of Pentecost [Whit-Sunday] next following every year during her natural life. And also except the new barn and half the fruit in the yard of the other said tenement called Bernes continually during her natural life.’ John was to have £10 paid to him by Katherine together with ‘all my stuff that I occupied to the making of candle and all my ware and stuff in my meserye shoppe. To John my son one horse, two milche neate, a featherbed, a pair of sheets, a pair of blankets, a coverlet, a bolster and a pillow.’ His daughter Mawte was left a tenement lying at the Brook in Walsham ‘lately purchased of Katherine Hawes widow’ at her marriage or at eighteen years of age plus two milche neate. When Katherine died in 1561 John was admitted to the house still called Fullers. The following year he was ordered to fell an ash tree at the end of his building called a candle house John lived at the house until his death in 1599 when his son inherited it. The son’s name is illegible in the records but when Stephen Vincent died in 1672 he left his wife Elizabeth (nee Margery) the tenement Fullers which he had from his father Stephen. His will, describing him as a grocer, shows that he had no surviving sons and after the death of Elizabeth the house, outhouses, orchards and yards were to go to his daughters Elizabeth, Abigail and Mary and their heirs. He also had houses and land in Stanton called Wrenshall which were to be sold for the benefit of his daughters who also received feather beds, silver spoons and cups. Stephen obviously had a thriving business there on the crossroads and used his own trade tokens marked with his name and The Grocers’ Arms on one side and Walsham Ye Willowes on the other. (see Coinage of Suffolk by Charles Golding 1868). These tokens were used in the exchange and barter of goods, sometimes for amounts less than the current coinage. He served the village as a town warden
In 1680 Elizabeth, a widow for eight years married Samuel Canham from Crownland Hall. He died in 1686; his will describes him as a gentleman. He left ‘to Elizabeth my loving wife all those household goods that I had with her at my marrying as also linen spun by her since our marriage and all the flax, hemp and other materials wrought or unwrought pertaining to her wedding excepting all the goods and materials belonging to the grocers shop and handling trade and I desire my son Samuel to pay her carefully the £10 pa. which I agreed before marriage to settle on her during her natural life in lieu of thirds and dowry’ Samuel was to have the house in Upstrete (Crownland Road). His son William was bequeathed all the goods belonging to the shop (presumably Fullers) and ‘all other household stuff in the house wherein I now dwell’.………..’except the linen, the copper tankard and leather chairs belonging to Crowland House’. His daughter Elizabeth Grocer received £5 and daughter Catherine a silver cawdle pot (caudle was gruel mixed with wine and spices used as medicine) and £500 upon marriage. Presumably daughter Elizabeth had received her £500 at her marriage. The survey of 1695 shows Elizabeth, a widow again, living at Fullers. She died in 1700 and her three daughters, Elizabeth now the wife of William Amys, a grocer of Diss, Abigail now the wife of Nathaniel Newson, also a grocer of Diss and Mary now the wife of Robert Hagtree yeoman of Walsham were admitted to the house and considerable land. Some of this land their mother had inherited from her father Ralph Margery, Walsham’s civil war captain (see Review No. 11). The following year the three daughters surrendered the house to John Folkard a grocer of Walsham and most of the land to William Amys.
There is now a gap in the information, until the parish map of 1817 when John Clamp is shown as the owner of cottages occupied by seven different people. The 1842 Tithe map gives William Day as the owner and Whites Directory of Suffolk 1844 shows him occupying a beer house, so this is probably the first time the present building was used as a public house. The census of 1851 gives James and Penelope Mitson as beersellers and later occupiers were George Catling, Joseph Balls, Jacob Cash, Annie Cash, Frederick Bellinger, A.A.Watts, Les Tuck, Bob Austin, Robin Austin, John and Pat Wraight, Gordon and Pat Atkinson and finally Kath and Gordon Blake (see Review No. 19 for further details.)
The Early History of The Blue Boar (medieval name Bays)
The Blue Boar is one of the few houses in Walsham that was owned by Church House manor. The first mention was in a court roll of that manor in 1447 when John and Alice Bay were granted a messuage with an adjoining croft containing 2 acres recently of Alice Pye. Earlier Church House court rolls have not survived but Alice Pye was fined for brewing and selling ale until 1360 in the main manor courts and her death is reordered there in 1378. The 2 acres would have stretched south to Grove Road, then known as Whortouts Lane. In 1457 John and Alice Bay surrendered ½ acre of land and it was granted to John Robwood and Joan his wife jointly to build there. John Robwood was one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest man in the village. His family had all survived the Black Death of 1349 and taken full advantage of surplus land and properties by increasing their holdings. John and Joan were to pay 2d pa. rent and make suit of court ie: attend court. They were to maintain the fences between their land and that of the rectory (now known as the Priory because it was the seat of Church House manor owned by Ixworth Priory) from the rectory barn up to the pond and allow the lord access to repair the barn at all times. The Robwood property is now called the Beeches. Ten years later the Bays surrendered land to the east and the west of their house. In 1471 John was ordered to repair the roof of his house. It was obviously becoming difficult for him to maintain in his old age and the following year he surrendered it to John and Joan Richman on condition they build an Insethouse on a parcel of land 65 feet x 37 feet. This must have been on the west side of the present house because the Bays were to maintain the fence on the west and have access ‘to the well to draw water as often as necessary and easement to the gate to carry fuel and straw up to the said house’. The Richmans were to maintain the fences and hedges on the north, south and east side of the property. The Insethouse is probably the house that Stephen Vincent (of Fullers) left his son John in 1550. John Richman served on the jury of the court between 1483 and 1491 and died in 1493 leaving half the messuage called Bays to William Parker. William was probably a churchwarden; with nine other prominent men of Walsham he surrendered 1 rood of land near the crossroads for the use of the church and the guilds. This land became the Camping Close and later, the Game Place. He was bailiff of the Prior of Ixworth watching over the prior’s interests in Walsham. He, like other tenants, had insufficient grazing for his animals and in 1498 had been fined 12d for tethering a horse in the Mickle Meadow against the by-law and also let a pig go un-ringed causing damage to the common.
John Richman must have had a son, also John who with his wife Margaret in 1523 surrendered 4 perches × 4 perches built with two houses next to Bays tenement to Robert Smith. The Field Book of 1577 and the Terratorium of 1581 are both surveys of the manor that give details of houses, land and tenants. Both seem only to take account of one building on the site; the Field Book gives the tenant as John Hovell alias Smith (probably son of Robert Smith) holding a tenement with a back yard adjoining containing 33 perches.and the Terratorium gives John Parker as the tenant of a tenement, curtilage, garden and yard containing 1 rood.
Nicholas Parker, probably son of William, died in 1556. In his will he bequeathed his tenement to his wife Joan for her life and then to William his son. His daughter Margaret was left an acre of meadow in the Mickle Meadow called Turfpit Acre and his bed, a great cauldron, a great brass pot, six cows and three calves. His wife was also to have four cows and five calves, the plough, cart and harness. A second daughter was left 20s. Joan Parker had baked bread and brewed ale at Bays in 1517 and 1518. In 1559 she surrendered ‘a parcel of the tenement recently of Alice Pye now built with two houses’ to her son William. He died shortly afterwards leaving a daughter Joan and a pregnant wife. In his will he left Joan a flock bed, a coverlet, two blankets, a pair of sheets, a transom (a bolster), a posnet (a small 3-legged metal cooking pot), a great pot, a kettle, two candlesticks of latten (brass), two pewter dishes, a bedstead, a hutch (chest), six trenchers (wooden platters), six spoons, six dishes and a spinning reel and the tenement after the decease of his wife Ann unless the unborn child was male in which case he would become heir before Joan. Ann Parker had a daughter Agnes baptised on 16th July 1560. John Parker of Stanton was made supervisor of William’s will which might explain why he is named as tenant in 1581.
With several buildings including shops on the site of the Blue Boar and St. Catherine’s house held by different people it becomes difficult to follow the history of the main house but it was probably sold to John Hart who, with his wife Elizabeth, surrendered a shop to Edmund Bephew. When Elizabeth died in 1627 her grandchild John was admitted to the messuage with all the buildings, shops, gardens and orchards in Town Street, otherwise known as Church Street. The same year Simon Notley surrendered a ‘house or a shop’ with enough land at the east of the shop to erect a chimney, to John Bindes a grocer. He in turn surrendered it to Reginald Page in 1630. The year before, Reginald had acquired the messuage with a garden and orchard from John Hart, so he now had the main house and the shop and stayed there for about fifty years. He was a churchwarden for a while and regularly served on the jury of the now combined manors of Walsham and Church House courts and was the bailiff. His name appears in the Hearth Tax lists of 1662 and 1674; he paid tax on three hearths. His wife was paid by the town wardens to teach a local child. He died in 1688 aged eighty-eight years.
After Reginald Page’s death the property appears to be used for commercial purposes with Richard Warner, a shoemaker, the next tenant. In 1691 he surrendered the messuage with a garden and orchard plus a house or shop to Thomas and Elizabeth Jarrold. The 1695 Survey states that Thomas Jarrold held one tenement with a curtilage, garden and back yard containing 1 rood and that Thomas Youngman, a tailor, held a tenement built with a curtilage, garden, orchard and a piece of adjoining pasture totalling ½ acre. Both properties had formerly belonged to Church House manor.
The next information is from the Bury Post in 1790 when Henry Wenlock was tenant of the Blue Boar. In 1813 the Bury Post reported a sale of household effects of Mr Hunt who was leaving the Blue Boar. The Parish Map of 1817 shows that Cobbalds Brewery owned the Boar public house and that Nathaniel Mayhew was the tenant. The 1842 Tithe Map gives Richard and Charles Tacon as the owners and Thomas Lake the occupant of the Boar. There have been many changes of tenants, too numerous to mention but more details are given in Review No. 20. The current tenants are Angie Taylor and Alan Ankin.
- Unpublished manuscripts available from Suffolk Record Office (Bury St. Edmunds) Walsham manor court rolls HA 504/1
- Church House manor court rolls HA 504/1
- Wills IC 500/2/
- Walsham Terratorium 1581 Ref: J 529/3
- Walsham Survey 1695 Ref: HA 504/5/13
- The Field Book of Walsham le Willows 1577 (Suffolk Record Society Vol: XVII 1974) Ed. K M Dodd
- Towards a Landscape History of Walsham le Willows (East Anglian Archaeology No. 85 1998) S E West & A McLaughlin
- The Meaning of Insethouse N W Alcock (from Vernacular Architecture Vol: 27 1996)