Flixtuna or St. Mary, South Elmham
In or about 1258, Margery, daughter of Jeffrey de Anos (not Hautvile), lord of
Hillington, in Norfolk (from whom she derived the lordship of this parish, and
Helmingham), and relict of Bartholomew de Creke, founded an Austin Nunnery, of
the order of Fontebrault, in Flixton. Her first husband was Reginald le Clerk.
In the 43rd of King Henry III., she levied a fine of the advowson of this parish
church, to Alionora, the Prioress; and the Convent afterwards always presented
to the vicarage. She also gave the rectory of the church of Shipmeadow; with
divers lands and rents in Flixton, North Creake, and other places.
In 1280, she granted the patronage of the Priory to the Bishop of Norwich. Wm.
Bateman, Bishop of that diocese, and founder of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, was a
benefactor to this house; and drew up statutes for its governance. The manor of
Faucons, and lands in Stuston, Brome, &c., were granted to this Priory in the
45th of King Edward III.; and a water mill here was annexed, valued in 1534, at
£1 13s. 4d. per annum; and a mill in Combes,
valued at 20s. per annum.
In the 17th of King Edward I., Beatric, the Prioress, conveyed by fine, her
right in the churches of North Creake, in Norfolk, and Combes, in Suffolk, to
Roger Fitz Peter Fitz Osbert, and Sarah his wife, who was the daughter of
Margery, and heiress of the Creke family; in consideration of a grant by them of
the manor of Flixton, with the moiety of the church, and the advowsons of the
churches of Fundenhall and Denston, and lands in Wilby, in Suffolk, and North
Creake: and in the 14th of the following reign, John, Bishop of Norwich, granted
his moiety of the advowson of the church of Flixton, in exchange for that of
Helmingham; and the whole rectory was then appropriated to the Prioress.
The foundress limited the number to eighteen nuns and a Prioress; but it never
reached that number: at the dissolution there appears to have been not more than
six or seven nuns. It was dedicated to the honor of St. Mary and St: Catherine;
and the gross value, in "Liber Valorem," in 1534, was 40 15s. 0d. It was
suppressed, by the bull of Pope Clement VII., in 1528.
In 1544, John Tasburgh, Esq., obtained a grant of this Monastery; and William
Adair, Esq., is the present proprietor of the site, lord of the manor, and
patron of the vicarage. Some slight remains of this nunnery are yet visible.
The family of Bateman became early interested here. Sir Bartholomew, of this
parish, Knt., was eldest son of William Bateman, of Norwich, and Margery his
wife, and heir to his brother, the Bishop, as well as his father. From him the
Batemans, of Mendham, in this county, are descended in a direct line; that
family having been seated there, and in this parish, ever since the Bishop's
time. Sir Bartholomew was a benefactor to this nunnery, and was buried here. The
Bishop, his brother, resided much at his Palace, in South Elmham; and purchased
largely in that township, and its vicinity.
The Tasburgh family erected a good seat in this parish, pleasantly situated near
the river Waveney, and not far distant from the site of the Abbey. It was built
about 1615, by Sir John Tasburgh, and is a noble structure: it was originally
surrounded by a moat, which has been filled up for some years. The style of the
architecture is what has been denominated Inigo Jones's Gothic.1
This mansion and estate subsequently became, by purchase, the inheritance of
William Adair, Esq.; and descended to his son, Alexander, for many years an
eminent Army Agent, conducting a very extensive business; who deceased in 1834,
aged 95 years. He was succeeded at Flixton Hall, by William Adair, Esq., the
present proprietor; whose eldest son and heir, Robert Shafto, was created a
Baronet in 1838, and resides there.
ARMS. Flixton Nunnery: azure; a St. Catherine's wheel, with a
Calvary cross projecting from its chief, argent. Bateman: sable; three
crescents, ermine, in a bordure engrailed, argent. Adair: party per bend,
or and azure; three hands, couped at the wrist, gules. Crest: a Saracen's head,
couped, affrontee, proper. Tasburgh: argent; a chevron between three
pilgrims' staffs, on each suspended a pouch, sable, garnished, or.
CHARITIES. The town estate here consists of a house, and about six acres
of land in Mendham, let at £18 a year: two
closes in this parish, containing together about 4 acres, rent
£4 a year; and two pieces of land in the
same parish, the precise situation and extent of which is unknown: for one of
them the sum of £1 10s. a year is paid, by
Mr. James Dalliston; and for the other, 10s. a year, by Mr. John Gower. The
rents, after deducting for outgoings and repairs, are applied in the payment of
different expenses of the churchwardens office, and other public charges.
William Adair, Esq., by his will, dated in or about the year 1782, bequeathed
£300, three per cent, consols, upon trust;
the annual dividends thereof to be paid to and for the benefit of the laboring
and industrious poor of the parishes of Flixton, Homersfield, and St.
Cross, in the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk; and he gave to his nephew,
Alexander Adair, Esq., the sum of 700, and also as much money as should he found
in his charity bag at the time of his death; and he desired that the same should
he by him laid out at interest, and that the annual produce should be, by him,
or the owners of the testator's estate at Flixton, for the time being, annually
given to such poor distressed objects of compassion as he or they should think
proper. The dividends of the £300 are
regularly laid out in the purchase of coals; which are given to poor persons of
the places named in the will. The sum of £700,
and of £320 1 3s. 7d., which was found in
the testator's charity bag at the time of his decease, were laid out in the
purchase of new South Sea Annuities; and the dividends thereof,
£51 2s. 8d. a year, are applied in
gratuities, to proper objects of charity, the purchase of coals, which are sold
to the poor at reduced prices, and payments for the support of schools.
1. A view of this building is given in Davy's
Topographical and Genealogical, The County of Suffolk, 1844, Augustine Page