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Bliburgh Parish

British Isles Genealogy | County of Suffolk

Blithbergh, Blythburgh or Blideburc.

"The state of this town," Mr. Gardner observes, "is manifest, by the fine Church,1 the Priory, Holy-rood Chapel, and other edifices. It has been the residence of merchants, and good reputable persons; well frequented upon account of its trade, and divers other affairs here transacted, especially the fishery; for crayers, and other craft sailed, before the river was choaked, up to Walberswick bridge."

It appears to have been falling into decay ever since the dissolution of the Priory; but more particularly so since 1676, when the town suffered severely by fire, by which, and from failure in traffic, the inhabitants became unable to rebuild, and settled in other places; until it became, in 1754, reduced to about 21 houses, and 124 inhabitants: it has since that period, like most other places, been upon the increase.

It was a Royal demesne in the time of Edward the Confessor: and Roger Bigot held this lordship in the reign of William the Conqueror; which was given, by King Henry I., to Herbert, Bishop of Norwich, who exchanged it with William de Cheney, for the manor of Thorp, near Norwich.

It appears in the reign of King Henry II., to be again in the Crown; as Maud, his mother, held it in dower: and, at her decease, that Monarch granted it to William de Norwich, with ample. privileges. He was sometimes called William de Cheney, Baron of Horsford, in Norfolk, founder of Sibton Abbey, in this county, and a liberal benefactor to the Priory here.

Margaret, his daughter and heiress, married, first, to Hugh de Cressi, and secondly, to Robert Fitz Roger, who each inherited this lordship in her right. This lady had wreck at sea from Eye Cliff to the port of Dunwich; and a ferry-boat there, with privilege to exact a half-penny for every man and horse passing over the same; and also customary travers for passage through Bliburgh and Walberswick; for each loaden carriage shod with iron, one penny, and without, a half-penny.

This was during her widowhood. Her second husband received an increase to two-pence, for every wheeled carriage shod with iron, and loaded with corn or fish, passing through the said parishes; and for every horse carrying the same, a half-penny; also every carriage with wheels, not shod with iron, a half-penny.

Margaret had, by her first husband, a son Roger, who in the first of King John, married Isabel, youngest daughter and co-heir of Robert de Rye, with whom he inherited 1 7 fees, and the moiety of the Barony of Rye.

They had two sons, Hugh and Stephen de Cressi; the latter was lord here in 1262, and his brother Hugh inherited the same in 1263; in which year he died, and this lordship was afterwards in the Crown.

Robert Fitz Roger, the second husband of Margaret de Cheney, was of the de Clavering family: John de Clavering,  who obtained the grant for a weekly market here, in the 17th of King Edward II., 1324, was his son and heir. He married Hewesia, daughter and heir of Robert de Tiptoft, by whom he had an only daughter, named Eva.

This John rendered 20 for his manor of Bliburgh; and having no male issue, settled his estates upon King Edward II. King Edward III., in the second of his reign, settled this manor upon Edmund de Clavering, his brother, for life; the remainder on Ralph de Nevil, who married the heiress of John de Clavering. Ralph, his second son, in the 4th of that reign, obtained a renewal of the charter for the market and fairs; and in the 14th of the same King, had a grant of free warren in this lordship. He died, seized of the same, in the 41st of that reign.

Sir Robert Swillington appears to have been the next possessor; whose son, Sir Roger Swillington, succeeded, and held the same in capite, at two Knight's fees. It passed from this family by the marriage of Anne, his daughter and sole heir, with Sir John Hopton; and their descendants inherited for several ages, until Sir Robert Brooke, Knt., and Alderman of London, purchased the same.

The first court of John Brooke, Esq., held of this manor, was in 1645. He was eldest surviving son of the above Sir Robert Brooke, and Elizabeth his wife; and married Jane, daughter of Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Knt.; but died without issue, in 1652, aged 26 years.

Upon this marriage, the manor of Blithburgh was settled in jointure upon the said Jane; who re-married to Sir William Blois, Knt., and he held his first court here, in 1660, in her right. It still continues in this family, Sir Charles Blois, Bart., of Cockfield Hall, in Yoxford, being the present lord and patron.

Priory of Augustine, or Black Canons. Leland says, the Abbot of St. Osith, or Chich, in Essex, was the founder. King Henry I., gave the church of Bliburgh to this Priory. It appears to have been no otherwise subordinate to St. Osith's Abbey, than that the Prior was nominated by the Abbot of that Monastery.

Richard Beauveys, Bishop of London, augmented its revenues, and is esteemed by Weever, a co-founder. The Prior and Canons of this house, held considerable possessions in the town of Dunwich. It was dedicated to the honor of the blessed Virgin Mary.

Valuations in Taxatio Ecclesiasticus, 1291. Suffolk, in 37 parishes, 32 18s. 2d Norfolk, in Great Yarmouth, 1 6s. Od.

To Bliburgh Priory were appropriated the churches of Bliburgh, Bramfield, Wenhaston, Walderswick, Thorington, and Bliford; and the chapels of Melles, in Suffolk, and Claxton, in Norfolk. In 1528, Cardinal Wolsey obtained a bull for suppressing this Priory, and annexing its endowments to Ipswich College; but that design not being effected, in 1538, Sir Arthur Hopton, Knt., of Westwood Lodge, obtained a grant of it, and it has continued to pass with the lordship of this parish.

The Chapel of the Holy-Rood was on the north side of the main street in Bliburgh, leading to the bridge; some remains of which were standing in 1754, when Mr. Gardner published his account of Bliburgh.

The annexed transcript of an account belonging to this parish, of the 35th of King Henry VIII., may gratify the curious in such matters:

Received of the ploughe chirch ale xxv s
Received and gathered by Lawrance Crane, on Xmas, for sexton's wages vij s
Received of Thomas Martin, of two kyen for his year iij s
Received for mens chirch ale xxx s
Received and gathered upon Easter Day of the Paschal vij s
Received of Thomas Smith, of the fearme of one cow this year viij s
Paid for washing the chirch linen iv s
For two new banyore stavis xij d
For one other banyore staffe viij d
For rent for the chirch house standing in the chirchyard, being unpaid six yeares vi d.
The rent for one half of a close for six yeares vi d
An organ maker for his coming and seying, and little mending, of the quere organ xx d.
Candles, Xmas day, in the morning ij d
The sexton, for his wages for the whole year xx s
For wax for the Paschal xviij d
For making the Paschal and the Towell  

Mem. On the walks near this town, Toby Gill, a black drummer belonging to Sir Robert Rich's regiment, was executed for the murder of Ann Blackmore; for which he was tried at Bury Assizes, in August, 1750.

CHARITIES. In 1701, Thomas Neale gave by will, 2 10s. a year, for teaching five of the children of the poorest parents of this parish, and its hamlet of Hinton, to read; and 10s. a year for buying Bibles, or other religious books, for young persons. Which sums are applied towards the support of a Sunday school. A dole of 1 a year, is paid as a rent charge out of land belonging to the Earl of Stradbroke; it is equally divided among poor persons of this parish, and Bulchamp, and distributed in bread. The sum of l a year was given for the poor, by Matthew Walter, in 1589: and 5 a year is mentioned in the returns of Charitable Donations, in 1786, as having been given by Benham Raymond, in 1728, for teaching twelve poor children; but the payment of these charities has been withheld for many Years.

1. A description of this church is given in the "Gentleman's Magazine," for 1808, p. 776; also "Church Notes,"ibid, 1813, part ii., p. 313.


County of Suffolk

Topographical and Genealogical, The County of Suffolk, 1844, Augustine Page

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