Review number 35 – October 2005

The Carpenters Bills from the Walsham Town Wardens Accounts 1709-1740

In 1709 William Scarfe “Carpinder” sent in his bill for repairing the joists under the church clock and mending a bridge:3s 4d.

In the wider world Queen Anne was mourning the death of her husband. After the early deaths of five children and thirteen still births there was no direct heir to the throne. In 1709 the Duke of Marlborough defeated the French at the battle of Malplaquet. This was the last of a splendid run of victories which prevented French domination of Europe. In Walsham in 1709 the lord of the manor was John Hunt. He had inherited the estate from his father in 1681. In 1726 his unmarried daughter Elizabeth inherited the estate and administered it until her death in 1758. The monuments to the Hunts are in the chancel of the church where they sat every Sunday and it was their responsibilty to keep the chancel in good repair. The rest of the church: nave, aisles, windows, bells, doors, steeple [the tower] were the responsibility of the parish.

William Scarfe’s bill was paid by John Sparke, one of the town wardens, out of the village funds. At this date the village was entirely self-supporting: the money was raised by a property and land tax, at this period 2d or 3d in the pound. There was no county or national funding, just a simple system of rates which meant a lot of work for community minded people like John Sparke. Therer was not just the church to pay for, the town wardens were responsible for the general maintenance of the village amenities for example bridges, fences (very important when there was much more livestock than today), the repair of the two town houses for the destitute, feeding and clothing the inmates, chasing up the fathers of illegitimate babies and giving provisions to itinerant soldiers and sailors who were making their way home from the war. As well as town wardens, who were frequently churchwardens as well, there were usually two overseers to look after the poor, a highway surveyor to check roads and the most unpopular job of all – a village constable.

The town wardens we know most about at this time are John Sparke and his son Ezekial. John Sparke lived at the Lawn, a house his wife Elizabeth Page had inherited. He died in 1745 and is buried in the grand table tomb near the yew tree in the churchyard. His son Ezekial and other members of the family are buried in the south aisle.

William Scarfe’s 1709 bill is the first of a succession of bills through the years until 1737. During all this time a day’s wages remained at 1s 6d. William lived in Palmer Street: his first wife Rebecca died in 1715 aged 32, his second wife Rachel in 1750 aged 61 and William in 1767. They are all burried in the churchyard next to the wall directly opposite the Six Bells. On some jobs William had a man working for him, also at 1s 6d a day and sometimes a lad: “for a dayes worke of myselfe and my lade 2s 4d.” In 1711 there were major repairs at the townhouse. Windows, window shutters and doors needed renewing and more seriously 13 foot of “groundsell”, the sole plate beam on which the house was built needed replacing. Always there seemed to have been endless repetitive work on Walsham’s numerous little bridges with their “plankes and railles”. It seems the Cansey (Causeway) was a raised path with its own railings:William provided 26ft of “Railles” costing 2s 2d. The writing in all his bills is very clear, whereas the writing of Nat Plumpton the metal worker is extremely difficult to read. In this same bill of 1711 the church “stepell” needed three days work but the steeple was a recurring problem; there are twelve more steeple bills before 1760. The nails for William’s carpentry were made by John Folkard who billed the town wardens direct. 1 lb of nails cost 4d and in 1713 William needed 3¾ lbs for one job. In 1713 there were two more interesting jobs than the usual boring bridges, stiles and fences. William made a new altar for the church. At £5 10s this is the most expensive item in any of the bills. He was also paid 2s 6d for “spuring up the maypoll”. In contrast to the fun of the maypole he repaired the village stocks in 1715, cost 1s 8d.

In 1716 there were major alterations to the townhouse: the building of a staircase requiring 61 ft of “bord” and 36ft of “studs” to make a “pertisoun” (partition). William’s spelling is erratic but if you say some of the words aloud, the meaning and the Suffolk accent are clear.

There was too much town work (all those bridges and fences) for one carpenter. Robert Bryant sent in eight bills between 1728 and 1738 mainly for posts and rails but also for gates for the churchyard and Allwood Green. His writing is very untidy and he calls himself a “carpander”.

Robert Warner sent in thirteen bills between 1714 and 1737, but his special skill was dealing with the bells which needed wooden frames, wheels and pulleys. At different times he rehung all six bells. I hope the bells were in working order in 1714 to be rung for the accession of George I and again for George II in 1722. The act of Settlement had been passed in 1701 to prevent Roman Catholics succeeding to the throne (it is still on the Statute Book today). So instead of Queen Anne’s Stuart half brother and his children the throne went to the Protetant George of Hanover. I wonder how many people in Walsham knew where Hanover was or why we suddenly had a German king. I am sure the vicars of the time Stephen Chancellor 1704-1721 and Mr. Craddock 1721-1748 were firmly Protetant. The tithes collected by the church went to the clergy and were not to be used for the fabric of the church. There were no collections taken at any Sunday service except one a year on Easter Day.

Robert Warner died in 1747. I wonder if any of the bells he had cared for tolled at his funeral? He lived at Marlers, on the site of Maltings House and owned 2, Vine Cottages and a house in Wattisfield Road.

William Scarfe was probably most proud of the altar he made for the church. I wonder what happened to it? But we can easily see some of his work. There is a careful renewing of the bottom of the panels in the church door for which William was paid 8d in 1714.

Margaret Hey


  1. The Town Wardens Bills are in the Record Office at Bury St. Edmunds FL 646/5/6

Walsham School Punishment Book 1907 – 1909

2 Oct. 1907 – George Sullivan aged 8. Stealing milk money from Mrs. Baker his foster mother and spending it on sweets and then denying it. A severe caning on the buttocks.

11 Nov. 1907 – William Saunders aged 9. Not speaking the truth and eating an apple. Two strokes on each hand and 50 lines.

15 Nov. 1907 – George Sullivan aged 8. Telling a lie and interfering with the fire at dinner-time and blaming an innocent lad. Two strokes on each hand and 30 lines.

21 Nov. 1907 – *Chas. Kerridge aged 13, *Kenzan Fenn aged 12, *Alf Matthews aged 11, John Baker aged 9, Tom Bird aged 9, *Spencer Bull aged 9, Walter Raynor aged 13. Playing a joke on George Hails during the dinner hour by fasteneng him in the classroom resulting in a broken window. Raynor denied it. Two strokes and 50 lines. Raynor 4 strokes.

13 Dec. 1907 – *Wilfred Read aged 13, *Gilbert Nunn aged 12, *Archie Pollard aged 11, *Teddy Stent aged 9. Breaking sticks off trees in the street during recreation time. Two strokes each.

3 Feb. 1908 – William Saunders aged 10. Traunting. Confessed after giving four different accounts of his absence. A severe caning on the buttocks and two strokes on each hand.

11 May 1908 – *Alfred Hayward aged 12, *Basil Blizzard aged 12, *Archie Pollard aged 11, *Gilbert Nunn aged 12, *Arthur Whale aged 11, Arthur Mitchell aged 12. Cutting initials in a desk and other destruction with knives. Caning on the buttocks.

5 Oct. 1908 – Ivan Clarke aged 13. Throwing a boy’s cap into the ditch. Two strokes.

16 Oct. 1908 – William Saunders aged 11. Teasing an old man during the dinner-hour and throwing stones. Two strokes.

12 Nov. 1908 –Ivan Clarke aged 13. Said ‘My word if I catch you bending,’ to a schoolgirl and other rude things. Four strokes.

10 Aug. 1909 – *William Smith. Lying. Eating an apple and denying it even when the teacher took it out of his mouth. 4 strokes.

10 Aug. 1909 – Fred Largent. Pulling a boy’s ear. Two strokes.

3 Nov. 1909 – Walter Sharpe. Playing in the yard after the bell. One stroke.

4 Nov. 1909 – Walter Sharpe. Went home after having the cane yesterday. Two strokes.

10 Nov. 1909 – Fred Pearson, *Willie Smith. Swearing in the playground. Four strokes.

*=those who fought in the First World War. Archie Pollard was to lose a leg. Spencer Bull was killed in action on the Western Front in 1918.


  1. Suffolk Record Office (Bury) EG 537/1/1

Living in the community a village policeman often knew whose door to knock on when crimes were committed but they were not always successful. The Bury Post dated 11th February 1879 reported that Walsham Boys School was broken into and ten shillings taken from the master’s desk. Certain persons were suspected but nothing sufficiently tangible transpired to justify their apprehension.

The Bury Post dated 18th February 1879 reported that a juvenile, John Death, had been charged with breaking into the dwelling house and small shop of Ann Durrant and stealing sweets valued at six pence. Under a broken window village policeman W. Smith found footmarks which corresponded with marks on the prisoner’s boots. A witness, Arthur Nice, said that the prisoner had been with him all day except for five minutes when he sent him to Ann Durrant’s shop for some wool. John Death, aged twelve, was found guilty and sentenced to receive nine strokes of the birch rod.

The Bury Post dated 29th June 1879 showed that William Baker was in trouble again. Along with Daniel Clarke he was charged with being drunk and disorderly and refusing to quit the Boar Inn. P.C.Smith had to be called to put them out. Baker was fined forty shillings or six weeks in prison. Clarke was fined twenty shillings or one month and was imprisoned for a further fourteen days for assaulting Charles Borley who had two teeth loosened when hit in the face for no reason.

Tha Bury Post dated 16th December 1870 shows a new policeman in the village. P.C.Baldry had arrested Louis Nice and Richard Baker, two lads living with their parents, for stealing a pigeon from Alfred Jaggard who was a plumber and glazier and keeper of tame pigeons. Nice said that Baker had caught it and they had sold it to Miss King. P.C.Baldry went to Miss King and obtained the pigeon. He then charged Richard Baker (probably William Baker’s brother) with stealing it. Baker began to cry and said ‘ Nice and I got the pigeon and sold it for nine pence.’ At Ixworth Petty Sessions they were fined six shillings and nine pence each.. Henry Baldry was the village policeman for several years and is shown in the census returns of 1881 and 1891 living in the village with his wife and daughter.

Other news from the papers

Bury Free Press 26th June 1897

‘Walsham is Dead – the Parson has Fled’

On Diamond Jubilee Day a correspondent of the newspaper took a rural ride through parts of Suffolk and reported:

“One of the villages I passed through was Walsham l;e Willows. Unlike all the others I saw, where there was much festivity, here it was deserted save for a few public house frequenters who were drinking beer from a bucket on the church wall beneath a black flag bearing the motto: ‘Walsham is dead – the parson has fled.”

There were to be no Jubilee celebrations that day owing to several of the leading parishioner’s absence in London. A celebratory tea for children was to take place later on Coronation Day.

Bury Free Press 23rd June 1900

It was proposed that a Mid-Suffolk Light Railway Line be built from Bury St. Edmunds to Diss stopping at stations that included Ixworth, Barningham, Hopton, Garboldisham and Lopham. There would also be a branch line from Lopham to Redgrave and Wortham to Diss and another from Lopham to Wattisfield, Stanton and Walsham le Willows. In June 1900 a meeting was held at the Institute and Reading Room in Walsham to consider the scheme. Mr. T. Colson presided and about forty villagers attended including Dr. Butler, and Messrs. J.A. Clarke, H. Nunn, S. West, Kenny, Baker, Stevens, Clamp, Cash, Bullock and Oxborrow. The station was to be built at the junction of Fishpond Lane and Wattisfield Road; midway between Stanton and Botesdale stations. The line was never built, perhaps because the Boer War was in progress requiring any available national funding.

James Turner


What the Papers Said….

Until fairly recently the village had its own resident parish constables. The earliest mention of their work was in the Bury and Norwich Post dated 30th September 1829.

“A farmer of Walsham le Willows, Mr. W.Cornell, was alarmed when he heard noises from the fowl house. He got up and procured the two constables of the parish to assist him in catching the thieves. Upon entering the fowl house they discovered a fox which had made great havoc among the poultry. The constables had been promised a handsome reward if they took the depredators but not being fox hunters they lost the scent and Reynard made his escape leaving many mutilated hens.”

The police relied on rewards for their solving of crimes to supplement their meagre wages. When wrongdoers were caught they were usually sent to the Petty Sessions Court at Ixworth and the proceedings were often reported in the newspapers.

The Bury Post 4th February 1879 mentions that the police constable in Walsham at that time was William Smith who had arrested William Baker and Henry Stevens Clarke for stealing about thirty chickens from Frederick Colson. One of the witnesses was Alfred Lummas who stated that the prisoner Baker had said to him:

“I am in a rare mess as I have seen old Colson and the policeman down at my house.  I’m off to get out of the way as my partner Harry Stevens is taken. He and I were fool enough to get drunk last night and got some fowls out of the fowl house. I don’t think old Colson can recognize them as I’ve cut off the heads and feet and burnt the feathers.”

With evidence of fowl down on their boots the two men pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months hard labour.

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