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 7½ 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
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
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
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
|Received and gathered by Lawrance Crane, on Xmas, for sexton's
|Received of Thomas Martin, of two kyen for his year
|Received for mens chirch ale
|Received and gathered upon Easter Day of the Paschal
|Received of Thomas Smith, of the fearme of one cow this year
|Paid for washing the chirch linen
|For two new banyore stavis
|For one other banyore staffe
|For rent for the chirch house standing in the chirchyard, being
unpaid six yeares
|The rent for one half of a close for six yeares
|An organ maker for his coming and seying, and little mending, of
the quere organ
|Candles, Xmas day, in the morning
|The sexton, for his wages for the whole year
|For wax for the Paschal
|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.
Topographical and Genealogical, The County of Suffolk, 1844, Augustine Page