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Southwold Parish

British Isles Genealogy | County of Suffolk

Suwald, Suwalda or Southwaud

Is pleasantly situated on a cliff, or point of land, near a fine bay, at the mouth of the river Blythe, which here discharges itself into the sea. From the labors of Messrs. Gardner and Wake, the early and modern historians of this town, we collect the following particulars concerning the same.

Southwold is a sea port, and town corporate, but never sent representatives to Parliament: it has a weekly market, and two fairs annually. In the 5th of King Henry III., the Abbot of Bury, had a grant for the market, and in the 11th of the same reign, he had a charter for a fair, upon the eve and day of St. Philip and St. Jacob.

Alfric, Bishop of the East Angles, was possessed of this lordship; which he gave, with other estates, to the Abbot and Monks of Bury St. Edmund's; but in the 24th of King Henry III., Theobald, Abbot of Leiston, laid claim to the same; upon which an action ensued, when the right thereof was decided in favor of the former.

In or about the 43rd of the same reign, a fine was levied between Simon, Abbot of Bury, and Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, on the manor of Mildenhall, in Lackford hundred, in exchange for this of Southwold; who, in the following year, obtained a license of the said King, to make a castle of his house here.

This estate Richard gave to his son Gilbert, who resigned the same, and all his other property in England, into the hands of King Edward I., in order to obtain Joan de Acre, the King's daughter, in marriage; which being consummated, his estates were restored, but with an entail upon the issue of such marriage; and in default of such, to her heirs and assigns, if she survived him. By the said Joan, he had issue Gilbert de Clare, who in 1314, was slain at Banocksbourn, in Scotland.

This Joan remarried to Ralph Mortimer, who was created by Edward I., Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, and had wreck of the sea from Easton-stone to Eye-cliff. In the 12th of King Edward III. some portion of this manor was annexed to the Priory at Wangford, and so continued until the dissolution of that house, when it was granted, with the Priory, to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk; and is now held, by the Corporation of Southwold, of the Earl of Stradbroke, who is the present proprietor of the site of Wangford Priory.

Southwold was made a free burgh by King Henry VII., who granted the lordship, called Queen's Demesne Revenue, with other privileges; and King Henry VIII., confirmed all his father's grants to this town, which gave great encouragement to trade and navigation.

A chapel was first erected here in the time of King John, by the Prior and Monks of Thetford, and their dependants at Wangford, upon the decision of John Grey, Bishop of Norwich. This was entirely subordinate to the church of St. Margaret, at Rissemere (or Raydon), to which Southwold was only a hamlet, and which belonged to the Prior and Convent at Thetford, as patrons. This building was destroyed by fire about 220 or 280 years after its completion.

The present splendid erection was probably begun soon after the destruction of the former, the outward work being finished about 1460. The architectural features of this church are carefully discussed by William Bardwell, Esq.,1 the "Westminster Improvement Architect," and author of "Temples, Ancient and Modern," who is a native of this parish.

This second church, or chapel, was made parochial; and the inhabitants had the privileges of having the sacrament administered here, and of the burial of their dead; but yet not otherwise than as a chapel of ease to Reydon, to be served by the vicar of that parish. In 1752, a deed of severance was obtained, under the provisions of which the church became endowed with grants from Queen Anne's Bounty, and is now served as a separate and distinct cure.

In this parish register are the following entries: "1609, July 30; Thomas Jentleman; he lived above four-score years in perfect sight and memorie, and in his flourishing time for building of ships, and many other commendable parts; he continued in his place unmatchable."

"1616. July 25. The names of those that drowned and founde againe. They were drowned in the haven comeing from Donwich fayer, on St. James's daie, in a Bote, by rason of one cable laying over warf the haven. For by rason the men that brought them downe was so negligent that when they were redie to come ashore the Bote broke lose; and so the force of the tide carried the Bote against the cable, and so it was overwhelmed. The number of them were xxii. But they were not all founde. "Then follows the names of those who were found, and the dates of their interment: signed "Ed. Yonges, Vicar and Minister," who lost a son and a daughter by this unhappy event.

Mem. On the 25th of April, 1659, in the short space of four hours, this town suffered a most dreadful devastation by fire; which consumed 238 dwelling houses, with many public edifices, besides corn, malt, coals, and various merchandize, to the value of upwards of 40,000, and to the ruin of more than 300 families.

On the 28th of May, 1672, Southwold-bay was the scene of an obstinate and sanguinary naval engagement, between the combined fleets of Great Britain and France, against the Dutch fleet, under De Ruyter. The commanders of the combined squadron being James, Duke of York, Count D' Stress, and the Earl of Sandwich. The total amount of the combined fleet was 101 ships of war; hands, 34,530; pieces of cannon, 6,018. Dutch men of war, 91; fire ships, 54; yachts, 23; total 168. Number of hands and pieces of cannon not known. This victory was dearly purchased by the loss of many brave officers and men, amongst whom the Earl of Sandwich fell.

Mr. Thomas Gardner, the author of an "Historical account of Dunwich," &c. published in 1754, was Deputy Comptroller of this port at the time of his decease, in 1769. His remains are interred near the south wall of the chancel of this parish church, between those of his two wives, with this distich:

Between Honor and Virtue here doth lie,
The remains of old Antiquity.

CHARITIES. The poor and town estate consists of nearly 20 acres of land, situate at Reydon, near Southwold; this land is let at the annual rent of 18: a moiety of the same is received for the use of the poor, and applied with other charitable funds, after mentioned, in the purchase of bread and coals, which are distributed among poor persons and families; the other moiety belongs to the town of Southwold. In 1810, John Sayer bequeathed, by will, the sum of 200, 4 per cent. Consols, in trust, to pay the dividends thereof to the treasurer of the Burgh School, in this town; and in case the said school should be discontinued, then the dividends should be applied among poor widows of Trinity pilots, and masters of vessels. The school referred to having been given up, the funds are applied for the benefit of poor widows, of the description above-mentioned. Captain John Steele gave, by will, the sum of 150; and the interest accruing from the same, is distributed annually, to the widows of pilots and masters of vessels. There is a sum of 144 12s. 3d., held by the bailiffs and commonalty of Southwold, for the use of the poor; the interest upon which is applied with the rent of the poor land.

1. This description, with an accurate plate of the church, drawn by the same gentleman, and engraved by Mr. G. Hollis, are inserted in "Wake's History of Southwold," published in 1839, in 8vo.

County of Suffolk

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

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