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Sunday, 24 November 2013

In Search of Leiston Gibbet

Land by the River Hundred at Aldringham

A 6 mile walk around the heaths and commons of Coldfair Green

This walk follows an investigation to seek out the location of the Leiston Gibbet and an area of heathland that was known in the 1600's as Friday Market Heath. The only reference to these places comes from an old book from 1910 entitled 'The Chronicles of Theberton' which details the route past the gibbet. This walk attempts to retrace this route by navigating along the heathland and footpaths around the River Hundred which marks the boundary between the hundreds of Blything and Plomestead. Extensive research which has been undertaken and documented in the feature of this walk with some revealing insights to long forgotten places.

Leiston to Knodishall Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
LeistonView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
KnodishallView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
6 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy
Terrain
Footpaths
Obstacles
The main Snape Road needs to be crossed. this is never too busy but usual caution should be taken.

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2013-11-16
Walk Time
10:30 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Dull and overcast day followed by a second walk in sunny conditions

Walk Notes

This walk was put together after reading an old book entitled 'The Chronicles of Theberton' which gave a reference to both Leiston Gibbet and Friday Market Heath, names and locations of which I have not heard before despite living in the area since the late 90's and reading a lot of local history during that time. These names seem to have disappeared from the local memory and folklore with no-one being able to offer any words of wisdom as to the whereabouts of these places. This lack of knowledge thus provided a good opportunity for a quest of discovery in an attempt to find more about Leiston Gibbet and Friday Market Heath.

The internet is probably the best place to start on any quest these days. There is a wealth of resources, particularly vast amounts of historic out-of-copyright books that are available on both Google books and archive.org together with old mapping sites such as oldmapsonline.org and the Visions of Britain website. This modern method of research is both intense and challenging but is much quicker than locating resources from county libraries. It also benefits the preservation of the actual historic articles and documents from the lack of fingers and thumbs flicking through historic pages and adding to their degradation.

I will readily admit that I am no expert of history, local or otherwise, and certainly no antiquarian therefore this research was done purely from a layman's perspective and as such the old texts are open to misinterpretation as they are never in modern English. Having said this, I have tried to research anything that isn't obvious and am confident with the conclusions drawn from this research with the information available. More time could be spent in researching this and if any more information comes to light then I will certainly update this page accordingly.

The discoveries that were made are both revealing and enlightening and are presented in the feature below entitled 'The Leiston Gibbet'. Even the fact that the locality known as Coldfair was part of Leiston parish up until the 1980's was a surprise. At this point in time a boundary change transferred it to the parish of Knodishall but locals have always referred to the village as Knodishall. Even the village sign quite clearly declares Knodishall albeit with both Buxlow (an ancient parish which included Knodishall) and Coldfair on its upright.

Apart from the discovery of St Andrews Fair which was also known as Coldfair from which the village name is derived, and the possible locations of Friday Market Heath and the Gibbet, probably the most enlightening fact is the many references to the River Hundred's name being incorrect, stating that this should be the River Alde.

The River Hundred, whose name is taken from the southern boundary of the Blything Hundred, is no more than a brook that trickles down from Knodishall, through an area known as The Fens and drains into Thorpeness Mere whereas the River Alde forms a large estuary at Snape that snakes past Aldeburgh and onto Orford where it changes its name to The Ore. Its source is at Laxfield and is known as the Alde throughout its course to Snape.

Before Thorpeness and its Mere were constructed during the early 20th century the river Hundred used to empty into the sea at what is still known as Thorpe Haven. The fact that this present day brook used to be navigable is indisputable and there are also references to anchorages at Aldringham as well as speculation that during Roman times the river was capable of carrying barges at high tide up to the Roman town of Cogimagus where Knodishall church now stands.

One book published in 1818 and entitled Excursion into the county ofSuffolk does offer a clue to this ambiguity in river names. The book describes the county of Suffolk as having eight rivers, namely the Stour, the Gipping, the Orwell, the Deben, the Ald, the Ore, the Blythe, and the Larke. It then goes on to detail both the source and the course for each of these rivers. The interesting thing to note is for the River Ore, it states this river rises in Dennington and then passes by Framlingham, Aldeburgh and Orford. This is the course of the modern River Alde whereas the description for the Ald river is described as a trifling stream, rising in Knodishall and passing through Aldringham before falling into the sea north of Aldeburgh. This would explain the misidentification of the river and at some point in time the name of the Ald was transferred to the old River Ore with the Ald adopting the present moniker of The Hundred.

So, for the walk that accompanies this research. This walk is a gentle perambulation around Leiston, Aldringham and Knodishall and presents a worthy amble for anyone of reasonable fitness and ability to undertake. The area has its own notable present day features such as Haylings Pond and the old water tower in Leiston, now a private residence. There is also a mysterious monument at the bottom of a turfed field in Aldringham, close to the river crossing - this is a recent construction but little is known about why it is there and for what purpose or commemoration the monument has been placed. A fence bars the way to take a closer inspection but hopefully some revelations may be forthcoming in the future.

Coldfair Green is a pleasant Suffolk hamlet adorned with heathland and commons that present some very pleasant walking. On one of the heaths was the site of the old Knodishall windmill which can be seen in the background of old photos that are on display in the Butchers Arms pub. The historic interest is an added bonus to this walk, and hopefully this research will be appreciated and add to the fascination of this area.

Maybe in the future I will attempt to trace the full route taken in the survey described in the old book entitled 'Sucklings Suffolk' which encompasses the parishes of Theberton, Eastbridge, Thorpe, Aldringham and Coldfair.

View southwards across Knodishall Common
View southwards across Knodishall Common

Directions

A simple walk using existing footpaths, lanes and tracks all of which are well defined.

From the park at Victory Road, head out of Leiston on Haylings Road. Just past a road on the left named Fridays Orchard is a footpth. Take this and then go through the gap in the hedg eon the right to Haylings Pond. Take a diagonal across the grass and back onto the footpath at the far edge. This leads out onto Goldings Lane. Cross the road and through the gap in the head and over the field. A track then leads into Aldringham. At the road head diagonally right to take Mill Lane, a residential cul-de-sac. At the end a footpath leads between the houses and down to the brook. Cross the footbridge and take the footpath that bears right. Continue through the woodland. Eventually, by the school on the right, the path will fork. Take the right fork which leads out onto the Snape road. The pub is a hundred yards down the road towards Leiston. St Andrews road is on the opposite side of the road. This track leads through to Aldringham road from where a return to the pub can be made along the Leiston Road.

From the pub take Post Office Road and then take the footpath onto the heath by the side of a house. This leads onto a gravel track. Keep to this until there is a hedge with a path that follows the brook. This meets up with another path that joins from a footbridge. Turn left and follow this footpath through the gorse and then out alongside a hedge. This comes to a junction with a bridleway and is the point at which it is thought Leiston Gibbet was located. Beyond the path cuts across a field to the track to Friston - ignore this and take a right turn and follow the bridleway. Keep to this path until another path leads around the perimeter of the field and returns at the heath where one emerged. REturn along the footpath and over the footbridge and up to a road. Follow the road round to the right then cut across more heathland in front of the houses and up to another road. Turn left and then take a right into a little cul-de-sac. At the end a footpath leads off on the right. This leads down to the main road into Leiston. Take a short walk back towards LEiston until there is a footpath on the left. Take this through to where it meets a road by the yard where a fairground lorries are parked up. Turn right and follow the path out onto Victory Road to return to the starting point.

Possible location of Leiston Gibbet
Possible location of Leiston Gibbet

Pubs

Butchers Arms, Knodishall View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Leiston Road, Knodishall

Brick building on the main road through Knodishall. It is interesting to note that several of the early landlords during the 19th century were also butchers which is probably where the pub takes its name from. Originally a Lacons house, the building still retains two of the ceramic Lacons falcons on the exterior of the building. After a period of closures the pub has now reopened and is becoming a popular local renowned for it good food. There are usually three ales on offer with Adnams and Woodfordes being on regularly together with a guest ale. Regular live music, quiz nights and the occasional beer festival are also hosted here.

Review

In recent years this pub has had numerous periods of closure so it is good to see it back open and long may it last. A difficult decision to choose the Bure Gold from Woodfordes or Ghost Ship from Adnams, both very worthy drinks. A cosy wood burner and friendly locals and staff provides a good reason to give this place a visit.

Possible location of Friday Market Heath
Possible location of Friday Market Heath

Features

Leiston GibbetView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A reference to Leiston Gibbet is made in the book 'The Theberton Chronicles' by Henry Montagu Doughty, an English author born at Theberton Hall in 1841. Published in 1910 the book details the history of the Suffolk parish of Theberton in which there is an extract concerning the family of Robert Browne, a tenant of the lands of Leiston Abbey. The specific passage relating to the gibbet is cited to have been taken from an earlier work referred to as 'Sucklings Suffolk' and published in 1848. The text in the 'The Chronicles of Theberton' states:

In 1606, there was a tragedy in the Browne family. Agnes the wife of John Browne son or grandson of Robert Browne, murdered her husband ; and, Suckling says that one Peter their servant was gibbeted for the crime. What happened to Agnes we do not know; we have depositions, taken upon an enquiry as to the King's right to her goods, which shows that she had been condemned as a felon. The gibbet on which Peter was executed was the manorial gibbet of the manor of Leiston, the site of which according to a perambulation of that manor, made in 1620, may be found : — by following "the brook between Thorpe and Haslewood manors, until you come unto Friday Market Heath, and then, leaving the water-course, following the hedge south-west until you come next a green way," which will be "beyond the gibbet." I hope this may make the position clear to my local readers. It is not at all clear to me.

It would appear from speaking with local folk that Leiston Gibbet has long been forgotten, as is any the knowledge of the whereabouts of Friday Market Heath. The directions in the extract also generate a few questions. The fact that it mentions the brook separating Thorpe and Hazlewood parishes appeared to place the gibbet not only outside of the parish of Leiston but beyond the Hundred boundary which did not make particular sense. The brook in question is undoubtedly the River Hundred as it is the only water course in the area and it forms a natural boundary between the parishes of Thorpe and Hazlewood as well as the the old boundaries of the hundreds of Blything and Plomestead and from whence its name is taken. Thorpe parish is still present and better known as Aldringham and Thorpe and includes the village of Thorpeness. Hazlewood parish no longer exists and is now incorporated into Aldeburgh parish although features on the landscape still remind us of its existence. Hazlewood common and Hazlewood Marshes are alongside the Alde estuary. Hazlewood Hall Farm is on the main road into Aldeburgh from Snape, the A1094 and the remains of Hazlewood church are located in a field between Aldeburgh and Aldringham. According to the genuki.org website this church is said to have closed before 1740 (http://www.genuki.org.uk/cgi-bin/churchentry?CCC=SFK,ID=10179) but an archeological report states that this 11th century church was in ruins by 1600.

With the 'brook' now defined we need to locate Friday Market Heath. From its name it is most certainly an area of heathland or common but it is not mentioned on any old maps of the area going back to the early 1800's. There are references stating that Knodishall Common was shared with Leiston and the area known as Coldfair Green, more commonly referenced as Knodishall, was part of a finger of land that was held within the Leiston parish boundary right up until the 1980's. Therefore we could conjecture that the path that follows the brook across Knodishall common is the route referenced in the text and the soiuth west path leading away from the water course is the path that diverts away following the field boundaries to Friston. The parish boundaries follow this path although this is part of Knodishall parish. This route does cross a bridleway that could be referred to as a 'green way' that links Knodishall Church with Bulls Hall. Although this looked to be a possible location of the Gibbet with the area known as Friday Market Heath being an old name for part of Knodishall Common there was no real evidence to support this speculation. The hedgerow it followed was fairly modern and old maps depict all the land up to the farm track into Friston as being heathland. Therefore although this path may have existed in the past it is dubious that a hedgrow existed. More investigation was needed.

The original text from which the passage is taken is referred to as 'Sucklings Suffolk'. After a little research this was found to be a book entitled 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk Vol. II', written by the Rev. Alfred Suckling who was born in Norwich in 1796, eventually becoming Rector of Barsham before passing away in 1856. The book was published in 1848 and contains the details of a survey of the 'lands and tents' of Leiston. This passage is itself taken from an earlier unnamed publication by MSS. Jermyn and Davy, two Suffolk antiquarians from the late 18th century. Even this reference is almost certainly not the original as the date of the survey is given as the 24th April 1620. The survey includes a perambulation following the boundary of the parishes of Leyston, Sizwell, Aldringham, and Thorpe and it is from this that the extract has been taken for use in 'The Chronicles of Theberton'. Reading the account in full provides additional detail beyond the gibbet which is very revealing in determining its exact location along with the whereabouts of Friday Market Heath. The passage concerning this particular area states:

... untill you come unto Thorpe fens, where the brooke divideth between Thorpe and Haselwood manors, and soe following that brooke between Thorpe and Haselwood manor untill you come unto Friday Market Heath, and then leaving the water course following the hedge south-west untill you come unto a green way beyond the Jebott, and so following that way north-west over the heath untill you come unto a tenement called Dearing's, which lyeth in Knoddishall, excluding the same tenement on the left hand going between the heath and inclosiers untill you come unto a cross at St. Andrewes Green, which is made between the manor of Leiston and Knodeshall, and from that cross turning up northward between the copyhold lands called Owen's and Feriby's ...

Although the names mentioned in this extract are no longer referenced on maps or part of local memory they do hold some clues, particularly the reference to St Andrews Green which it states is between the manor of Leiston and Knodishall. The first clue comes from a book by the title of 'A topographical dictionary of England' by Samuel Lewis and published in 1848, whose entry for Aldringham states that the parish had a market that had fallen into disuse and it also had a small fair on St Andrews day, which it records as December 11th and which was held at a place called Coldfair. We can therefore speculate that St Andrews Green and Coldfair Green are one and the same. The fact that the instructions beyond this point indicate taking a path northwards, coincide with following the Leiston parish boundary which all adds to the support for this idea. Coldfair Green is a small village that was once contained within Leiston parish on a finger of land that stretched out between Knodishall and Aldringham parishes. It used to be called Coldford Green and is depicted as such on maps from the late 18th century, but is common local knowledge that the localised name of the village is taken from an old winter fair that used to be held there and which has been revived in more recent times.

There is also a reference in John Kirbys book of 1735 entitled The Suffolk traveller: or, A journey through Suffolk which states

Coldfair-Green, where there is a Fair kept yearly on the Feast of St Andrew and the day following.
The hamlet still has a unmade road named St Andrews Road but there is nothing that could be described as a cross here other than the cross made by the road with Aldringham Road. I am assuming there must have been some sort of medieval stone cross in position during the 1600's but can find no documentary evidence to that effect other than the reference in Sucklings Suffolk. It is interesting to note that John Kirby does not reference such a cross in his travelogue as it would be something worth describing if it had been there, although this exclusion does not provide any real evidence that such an item had disappeared by the 18th century.

I had wondered whether the cross may have been moved when Aldringham parish church was completely refurbished from the ruined shell it had become after the reformation in 1537, the building work being undertaken during the mid 19th century. The church is located some way from Coldfair on the common half way to Thorpeness. This small church which dates from the 12th century and is also dedicated to St Andrew shows no obvious evidence of a cross other than the one above the bell house and the cross on the Ogilvie memorial in the graveyard which dates from the second world war.

The publication The History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Suffolk, and the Towns Near Its Borders from 1844 also mentions that both the market and fair were granted to Aldringham by a charter from 12th year of Edward II which would be 1319, and this text states the market had long been obsolete. We could easily speculate that Friday Market Heath was where this market was held. The directions indicate that this is somewhere between Thorpe and Knodishall. We know it is beyond the Fens and the next reference is the hedgerow that runs south west from Friday Market Heath which means it diverges away from the water course and implies this must cross into Hazlewood parish. A good guess for the heath would therefore be somewhere between the present woodland that borders the Hundred River between Aldringham and Coldfair Green. There is a footpath here that leads from Mill Hill in Aldringham and then navigates across the river, leaving the water course in a south westerly direction before meeting Fitches Lane which could easily be construed as a Green Way. Fitches Lane, which is no more than a footpath these days, is depicted on old maps dating from 1780 and it does lead up to Colfair Green in roughly a north west direction to emerge onto the present day Snape road opposite Knodishall Common. If we assume that Fitches Lane is the green way mentioned, with the tenement called Dearings now long gone but probably a cottage on the common side of the road, then continuing along the road we have the heath, namely Knodishall Common, on the left and the cottages on the right which is on land that was formed from the old enclosures. At the point where the Aldringham road crosses St Andrews Road, turning left and going straight across the Snape Road, there used to be a path heading directly northwards towards Leiston House. This path no longer exists but it is defined on OS maps from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This coincides with the directions leading away from St Andrews Green and follows the parish boundary of Leiston so we can have some confidence that we are in the correct area.

This all fits in very well with the description of the perambulation. However there is a discrepancy in the fact that the river was the border between Hazlewood and Thorpe parishes so why would the Heath and the gibbet be located in another parish. Given the fact that the crime mentioned in The Chronicles of Theberton was committed in Theberton Parish and the gibbet was in Leiston parish plus the survey was for the combined parishes we can assume there was some kind of affiliation between all of these parishes but not for Hazelwood. Looking more closely at the actual words of the text it does say that Friday Market Heath is the point at which to follow the hedgerow so this could be either side of the river as it is not definitive and would depend upon the side of the river the perambulation was following up to this point which is not totally clear - modern footpaths follow the river on the Hazelwood side but there is no evidence to say whether or not these existed in the 1600's.

A little more research provides more insights with the discovery of two more documents that mention Friday Market Heath. 'The Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records' published in 1877 records a survey of a common called Friday Market Heath near Knodishall and Leiston which was undertaken in the 6th year of the reign of James I. The second document, 'List of Special Commissions and Returns in the Exchequer' published in 1912 also has a record from the same year that states 'Delimitation of Friday Market Heath'. The 6th year of James I reign is 1609. Delimitation is the change to boundaries, but given the year this could well have been part of an enclosure of common land. We could now speculate that this land was on the south side of the river and was at the time in either Leiston or Aldingham parish and because the market had not been held for so many centuries the land was delimited and enclosed and the border changed to keep with the course of the river. This would make the location of Leiston Gibbet possibly along the footpath linking the footbridge at the end of Mill Hill in Aldringham and Fitches Lane.

One final piece of intrigue is the use of the word 'gibbeted' in the text from the 'Chronicles of Theberton'. This term is used for the practice of 'Hanging in chains' on a gibbet. This was very rarely used as a method of execution but was a method of inserting the already executed body into an iron cage and then hanging this from the gibbet as a lesson for others against committing similar crimes. The fact the extract contains the phrase 'The gibbet on which Peter was executed' is dubious as although the word gibbet appears to be interchangeable with the word gallows the term gibbeted implies that the execution was prior to this. Even in the 1600s there was a trial before an execution and this and the execution may have been carried out at Ipswich Gaol.

Conclusion

Although there have been several ambiguities rising from the research I am confident that the site of Leiston Gibbet must be on the south side of the River Hundred, probably alongside the footpath beyond Mill Hill in Aldringham and before this meets with Fitches Lane. This does place it in Hazelwood parish but we cannot escape that fact because the directions distinctly state the route is south west of the water course which can only lead into Hazelwood parish. We can only speculate that a boundary change may have moved the parish boundary from Fitches Lane down to the river as there is, as yet, no clear evidence to suggest this.

There is also the fact that Henry Montagu, in writing 'The Chronicles of Theberton' is quoting this extract from Sucklings Suffolk and it is clear that he does not know the area very well as he states 'I hope this may make the position clear to my local readers. It is not at all clear to me'. It is feasible that it is purely his conjecture that this extract refers to Leiston Gibbet when in reality it could be Hazelwood Gibbet.

Friday Market Heath was most likely the heath that held Aldringham market before it became obsolete. It was most certainly sited somewhere between Aldringham and Coldfair Green although it is difficult to determine which side of the river this would have been although I would be inclined to think it as the south side which is now woodland up until the housing of Coldfair Green which was built in the 1950's. We know there was some kind of boundary change in 1609 and it is conjecture that this heathland was enclosed as a result of this boundary change but this would account for the name being lost to local memory.

St Andrews Green is most certainly an earlier name for the hamlet of Coldfair Green as we know that the village hosted a winter fair on St Andrews day and there is still a road named St Andrews Road and a cottage named St Andrews cottage. The fact that this fits in so well with the directions in Suckling Suffolk and with the parish boundary is the best evidence that the two names are synonymous. Any speculation that St Andrews Green has a connection with Aldringham Church of St Andrews is unfounded as this certainly does not fit in with the directions in Sucklings Suffolk. The church is on the north side of the Fens and some distance away from the River Hundred.

The Cross at St Andrews Green that is mentioned seems to have been moved or destroyed and there is no documentation as to what happened to this. It is intriguing that it is not mentioned in John Kirbys 1735 publication and this could suggest that it had already been displaced by this date, although this would be complete speculation. It is known that William Dowsing, the puritan iconoclast, born in Suffolk and appointed 'Commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition' in 1643 performed many acts of religious destruction throughout this area and may have destroyed the structure in passing through the village. It was his task to abolish and remove all Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry including fixed altars, altar rails, chancel steps, crucifixes, crosses, images of the Virgin Mary and pictures of saints or superstitious inscriptions. If this was the case it was not recorded in the publication The journal of William Dowsing of Stratford, parliamentary visitor, appointed under a warrant from the Earl of Manchester, for demolishing the superstitious pictures and ornaments of churches so it is pure speculation.

References
Map from the early 1800s
Map from the early 1800s

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05

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