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Leiston Parish

British Isles Genealogy | County of Suffolk

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 Normandy.

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 the sea."

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. 4d. 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 Courtenay.

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 expended accordingly.

County of Suffolk

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

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