Leestune or Lehtuna
The lordship of this parish, at the period of the Domesday survey, was held by
Robert de Malet; but in the reign of King Henry I., became forfeited to the
Crown, by his adherence to Robert Curtois, the King's eldest brother, Duke of
Henry II. granted the same to the celebrated Justiciary, Ranulph de Glanville;
who, in 1182, founded a small Premonstratensian Canonry here, and endowed it
with this manor, and also with certain churches, which he had previously given
to the canons of Butley, and which they resigned in favor of this Abbey.
It flourished about 180 years, and having received considerable acquisition of
property, was refounded, with the accompaniment of a new edifice, built by
Robert de Ufford, in 1363, in a more healthy situation, about a mile from the
old site, and more remote from the sea; whence he removed most of the canons.
This new edifice was unfortunately destroyed by fire, about 1389; but, being
re-built, continued to flourish until the dissolution.
The old house was not abandoned, but continued to be inhabited by a few monks
until the dissolution; in fact, legacies appear to have been left to "our Lady
of the old Abbey" so late as 1515. Under A.D. 1531, in the Butley chronicle, is
the following entry: "John Grene relinquishing his Abbacie by choice, was
consecrated an anchorite at the chapel of St. Mary, in the old Monastery, near
Pope Lucius granted this Abbey the liberty to celebrate Divine worship
privately, in the time .of general interdiction, and absolute freedom in the
election of their Abbot, likewise the liberty of burying any person who should
desire to be interred in their Monastery, if not under sentence of
excommunication: they were not obliged to pay tithes of their goods, privileged
and granted to them; that in time of a vacancy, neither he or his heirs, nor any
of his officers, should seize upon their temporalities, nor should they be
compelled to grant a pension to any person whatever.
The Abbot of this house was quit of custom in the burgh of Ipswich, of all
things growing on his own lands, and of all things bought for his own use. He
was also entitled to wreck of the sen, from the port of Mensmere to the village
of Thorpe, as appears by a roll of inquisitions in the Exchequer, in the 3rd of
King Edward I. By this record it further appears, that he had the liberty of
gallows, assize of bread and ale, and of a market at Sizewell; where he took
custom and toll to the damage of the King, and the city of Dunwich, to the
amount of one hundred shillings annually.
By a charter granted in 1388, King Richard II., confirmed the founder's gift of
the manor and church of Leiston, and also the various privileges enjoyed by the
Abbot and Convent.
Both these Abbeys were dedicated to the honor of the blessed Virgin Mary; and
their gross value, in "Valor Ecclesiasticus," was £210
4s. 4½d. The new Abbey, in the time of King
Henry VII., contained an Abbot (George Carlton), and 18 Canons; at the
dissolution, 15 Canons only.
In 1536, it was granted to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; in whose family the
patronage of this house had been for several generations; who afterwards
exchanged the site of the Abbey, and the manors, rectories, and lands attached
to it, with the Crown, for Henham Hall: and the Priory remained in the Crown,
till the 3rd and 4th of Philip and Mary, when the same was granted to Robert
Browne, Esq., one of the Barons of the Exchequer.
In this family, many of whom resided here, it continued until the 17th of King
James I., when it became alienated to Henry Grey, the elder, Gent., and Henry
Grey, Esq., his nephew; who, in the 3rd of King Charles, sold the same to
Richard Miller, Esq., of London, and Alice Ms wife.
It appears however, that King James I., in the 1 7th year of his reign, granted
to the celebrated George Villiers, Duke of Bucking-ham, the Monastery, with the
manors, &c., of Leiston; and in the 2nd of King Charles I., he disposed of his
right in them, to the above Richard Miller, who, by such purchase, became the
sole proprietor. He sold the same to Daniel Harvey, Eliab Harvey, and Matthew
Harvey: Daniel survived, and in 1666, devised it to Daniel Harvey, Esq.
It afterwards came into the possession of Elizabeth, daughter of Viscount
Hinchinbroke, and grand- daughter of Lady Anne Harvey. She married, 1st.,
Kelland Courtenay, Esq., and 2nd, William Smith, Esq., formerly of the Theatre
Royal, Covent Garden. This lady deceased in 1762, and was buried at Leiston. The
estate devolved to the two co-heiresses, daughters of the said Kelland
It was soon afterwards purchased by Sir Joshua Vanneck, Bart., and is now the
estate of Lord Huntingfield. Some interesting remains of this beautiful building
are yet standing, and are chiefly converted to the purposes of various farming
offices. Several illustrative views have been published, by different persons,
at various periods.
CHARITIES. In 1722, Thomas Grimsby, by will, directed
£200 to be paid to the churchwardens of this
parish, to be put out at interest at 5 per cent, per annum, and the said
interest to be given in bread every Lord's day, after Divine service, to the
poor of the parish. The legacy has been invested in the public funds, and the
dividends are laid out in bread. The testator, by his will, also devised all his
freehold and charter-hold lands and tenements, in Westleton, towards the
clothing of the poor children and widows belonging to this parish. The estate
held under this devise consists of a house with outbuildings, and about 38 acres
of land, let at £54 a year; which is
Topographical and Genealogical, The County of Suffolk, 1844, Augustine Page