Review number 45 – April 2008

Announcement Of New Publication: A Story of Walsham Folk: The Village of Walsham le Willows 1800-1850

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new book by James Turner. This is the first of two accounts of life in Walsham in the 19th century. The book is based on contemporary maps with an index of the folk who lived in the village. It describes events in their lives as reported in the press, from the effects of the agrarian revolution to the celebrations at Victoria’s accession.

Price £3. Introductory Offer available till end of May from tel: 01359 258535.

From “Curtoys” to “Bridge House”

Bridge House stands on Walsham’s Street, opposite Rolfe’s the Butchers and The Congregational Church. The bridge from which its name is derived spans the watercourse which even in medieval Latin documents was simply called “le broke” (the brook). The bridge has been incorporated into the path alongside the street. Bridge House itself, though relatively modern in Walsham terms, stands on the site of older dwellings.

The Field Book of Walsham le Willows, drawn up by Sir Nicholas Bacon’s agents in 1577, mentions “a customary cottage” belonging to “Andrewe Curtes”. “Customary” meant that he occupied the cottage by an agreement with Walsham Manor, of which Sir Nicholas Bacon was the lord. There was a copy of this agreement, so Andrew was a copyholder. The “cottage” would have been substantial, accomodating several people, and in later centuries it was termed a house. The Field Book gives precise indications of its position. Andrew had a “backyarde and pytle” (a garden area usually spelt “pightle”) and the extent of this land was one rood and thirty-two perches. A rood was about a quarter of an acre, and there were forty square perches in a rood. A perch was thirty and a quarter square yards.

According to another book drawn up for Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Latin terratorium of 1581, Andrew Certes then held two acres of land. The Terratorium did not go into detail, and the “two acres” (ii acrea) alloted to Andrew Curtes is almost certainly a rough approximation. It is evident that the terratorium was seldom used. It is set out for display in fine calligraphy, while the Field Book, in a rushed secretary hand, was carried when settling disputes of land ownership. Both books are now at Chicago University.

The next we hear of the property is on 12th February 1656 (or 1657 in modern dating) when by the will of Thomas Peck, it was left to his wife Anne for her lifetime. She must have re-married, for when she died on 22nd October 1705 she was known as Anne Nicholls. On her death the property was “presented at court”, the court being the local court of the manor of Walsham. The changes in ownership were carefully recorded, and from 1706 we know, from legal documents, the names of several holders of the property. It was often called “Curtoys”, clearly a version of the name Curtes or Curtis. A brief list of the holders is given below.

1706. Thomas Pollard, only son of Elizabeth Bugg, had the copyhold of Curtoys. On his death in 1710 his mother became entitled to the property.

1723, Ralph Holmes, a barrel-maker or cooper, received Curtoys from William Gallop, a bricklayer from Rickinghall. The present house next door to Bridge House is called “Coopers” in allusion to this ancient craft carried on in this immediate area.

1726, Richard Holmes passed Curtoys to John Cammel for £42, and at some time in the next twenty years it came to Richard Ottowell for £78.15s.0d.

1742, Richard Ottowell died, and Richard Peyton became the copyholder of Curtoys.

1763, William Broome, a wheelwright, aquired Richard Peyton’s copyhold for £140. Note the rise in the purchase price from 1726.

In 1817 a tithe map of Walsham was published, with all the houses numbered. From this we know that James Howe had “in hand” the house (31), offices, yard, garden and orchard of Curtoys. Hannah Clarke was the tenant of the small cottage (32). Wlliam Meadows, a cooper, lived next door (33) and must of carried on the trade of the Holmes family from the previous century.

From the census of 1841 we find that the Curtoys house was occupied by blacksmith Wlliam Thurston, aged fifty-nine, with his wife Sarah and Mary Cuthbert their servant. They also had a lodger, Susannah Bloomfield. The Census of 1851 shows that the Thurstons continued to live on the Curtoys land and that their neighbour was Zachariah Meadows, with his cooper’s establishment. It would have been convenient for a cooper to have a blacksmith next door, as his business relied on a constant supply of heated iron hoops to bind the barrels. In the same way, the presence of wheelwright William Broome at Curtoys back in 1763 suggests that a blacksmith was nearby then. As with barrels, the wooden wheels needed iron rims or tires made and fitted on the spot. The heated iron was forced around the article, and as the metal cooled it contracted and fitted tightly into the wood.

It is a reasonable assumption that the present Bridge House and the house next door, now known as Coopers, together with their attendant workshops, were completed between 1841 and 1842. In 1861 the Consensus tells us that Bridge House was occupied by William Clamp. He had been recorded elsewhere on Walsham Street as an apprentice blacksmith back in 1841. That apprentice would then have been fifteen years old, bringing to mind Pip in Dickens’ “Great Expectations”. By the 1861 Census, William Clamp, now aged thirty-five, was an established blacksmith, married to Sarah, with children, also William and Sarah, aged seven and four respectively. William now employed one man and had William Thurston, his retired predecessor, aged seventy-nine, as a lodger, still living in his old home, Bridge House.

Research by Ann Daniels


  1. K.M.Dodd (ed) The Field Book of Walsham le Willows 1577 published by Suffolk Records Society 1974
  2. James Turner A story of Walsham Folk. 1800-1850 published by Walsham History Group 2008
Map of the area around Bridge House. This is in fairly dark grey against a lighter grey background.
click to enlarge
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