The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Committee Announcements

Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For details of our activities, and for more information on recent events and current programme, please contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434.

21st Annual General Meeting: Tuesday 10th March

The Society came of age on Tuesday 10th March when it held its 21st Annual General Meeting in Foxearth Village Hall. There were 22 members present and - as tradition dictates - savoury snacks and wine were served. 

In the Chair Lynda Rumble welcomed all and thanked members for their support including those who provided meeting refreshment, writing reports , managed the web site, maintained the accounts and generally kept the outfit on the road. Secretary Clare Mathieson reported on a thriving society with 42 paid up members, 61 email contacts and some very impressive visitor numbers in 2019 - due no doubt to popular "local content" talks with Ian McMillan's history of Liston Hall and the unforgettable duo of Ashley and Andrew on Sudbury memories being notable examples. A complete programme for 2020 had been circulated promising a year full of interest and it was understood that Judy and Randolph were engaged upon some research on Liston Church and graveyard which may feature in the future.

On the financial side, Treasurer Mark Mathieson produced an income and expenditure account showing a small profit of £18.68 on the year's activities and a respectable bank account balance of £2,390 of which £1,006 was the ring-fenced book fund. It was agreed that the membership subscription should remain at £10pa.

President Ashley Cooper expressed his appreciation to Clare and Lynda for their skillful programme planning and their enthusiasm for the Society. He endorsed what had been said about the popularity of talks relative to the area and felt that the new season had got off to a resounding start with 95 year old Len Manning's vivid WW2 experiences. Having heard Richard Humphries before Ashley commended the talk Richard would give at the April meeting. Ashley reminded members of the availability of the book fund and noted that Corinne Cox had a new book in preparation.

Members had been invited to contribute to a museum table and the items displayed included old photographs, a pewter plate (circa 1671), wall plaques, a commemorative plate (1945) presented to Clare's father, Rev. S. Harris for his organisation of a two-month holiday for war-deprived Dutch children and an account of a pageant, in Bury St Edmunds, based on the Court of Elizabeth 1, devised by the same energetic priest.

It is always a delight to welcome Anne Grimshaw to the Society. Her most recent talk concerned a weaver at Waterloo but this evening her contribution had a more personal theme. Researching her family history in the Oldham and Rochdale area Anne had discovered that her 5x great uncle, Edmund Elson (1740 - 1813) had left a Will naming Joseph Travis, grocer of Oldham, as an executor. Since there appeared to be no family connection between Edmund and Joseph, Anne was keen to find out more and her delving revealed that Joseph was the son of John Travis, chandler, soap boiler and grocer - and a neighbour of Edmund Elson. At the time there was great agitation, under the leadership of Henry Hunt, for electoral reform, universal suffrage and more representation and this culminated in a mass assembly in Manchester on 16th August 1819 when some 60,000 were charged at by the militia who used sabres to dreadful effect. Eighteen were killed and over 600 injured including many women and children in this horrendous Peterloo massacre. It appears that Joseph Travis was a Special Constable but his duties on this notorious day seem to have been confined to counting the number of marchers and demonstrators involved and when he appeared as a witness at the trial of Henry Hunt in 1820 he did not attempt to discredit the reformers in any way. John Travis bought some shares in the Rochdale Canal Company although he did lose money when the venture got into financial difficulties. Anne was amazed when she located via the internet an image of a share certificate in the name of John Travis and delighted when she was able to buy the actual document. This - and the fact that an ancestor of hers had known someone who had known and spoken to Henry Hunt - were the rewards for her diligent work. There are still unanswered questions but as Anne said the thing about doing family research is that once you start you cannot leave it alone! A lovely and most interesting account and I am indebted to Anne for her help writing this precis.

Next meeting: Tuesday 14th April 7.30pm in Foxearth ViIllage Hall - Richard Humphries describing silk's journey from China to the Essex/Suffolk border.

Ken Nice

Overlaying Maps: Topographical changes in the Sudbury area Tuesday 11th February 2020

The meeting of the Society on Tuesday 11th February opened with a tribute by Clare to John Geddes who died on 7th February. John was an active member of the Society during his 10 year residence in Foxearth. In spite of a long and bravely fought battle with cancer John maintained his interest in local history and contributed some valuable research. He served also as Treasurer for some time bringing his expertise as an accountant to good use. John enjoyed taking part in visits and outings and will be sadly missed for his wise counsels and friendliness.

What the new can tell us about the old is an obvious aspect of historical research and this was explored in relation to topographical changes in the Sudbury area for about 35 members and guests by Mark Mathieson. His particular approach was through the medium of old maps related to satellite images of the areas they covered and the changes they could identify. Basing his talk on the facility provided by the National Library of Scotland web site Mark showed how comparisons could be made by viewing the maps and aerial photographs overlaid or side by side or by sliding. Satellites using some form of radar could produce contour maps thus revealing features existing many centuries before the maps were drawn; for example 
...   the traces of Roman camps near Shrimpling and the Roman villa at Gestingthorpe.
 Conversely the satellites show no signs of Brundon church said to be in use until about 1700. One feature that did seem clear was that the amount of woodland had hardly changed in the course of the 200 years or so between the maps and the modern observations. Chalk, clay and gravel pits were abundant in the district accounting for the various brickworks existing at one time. A curious image was the appearance of a Boeing super jet in the grounds of Kentwell Hall clearly caught on camera flying over the area as the satellite passed. 

Although navigation of the web site was felt to be not that easy, Mark demonstrated the effectiveness and use of the facility which covered the whole of the UK and commended it to members. He showed many examples of changing aspects in the immediate villages around Sudbury including what had replaced redundant buildings and apparent changes in the river courses - throwing doubt perhaps on the accuracy of the maps? This was a most interesting and useful talk for which Mark was warmly applauded. We are grateful to him for circulating, after his talk, a helpful summary of how to use the NLS website. As usual Lynda organised a well-supported raffle to help the funds along.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday March 10th at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall. This will be the Annual General Meeting with cheese and wine and members are asked to bring along items for a 'Museum Table'

Ken Nice

Meetings of the Glemsford Local History Society 2020

Sarah Doig: The A-Z of Curious Suffolk
Thursday Feb 13th

Pip Wright: Whistlecraft – A true story of a Suffolk poaching family
Thursday Mar 12th

Ivan Cutting: Creating Theatre from Local History Sources Thursday April 23rd

Philip Lyons: The Wild West goes East – Buffalo Bill’s Tour of East Anglia 1903 Thursday May 14th

Glemsford Primary Academy • Entrance £2.50  or join the Society. A year’s membership costs only £12

Meetings are held every second Thursday at 7.30pm, refreshments available after meeting.

For further information contact 01787 280996 or visit the website

Annual coach trip 2020
The annual GLHS coach trip will be held on Saturday, April 25th. when we will travel to London for a visit to The Charterhouse located between Barbican and Smithfield Market. Visits to the museum, chapel and shop on site are free, but highly recommended are the tours led by professional guides at £12pp (optional). A former Carthusian monastery founded in 1348, The Charterhouse has a long and fascinating history.

Within easy walking distance is the London Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, a shopping mall and a host of eating/drinking establishments.

If you are interested in joining us and filling up the coach, we will be taking deposits of £5pp at our February meeting (Thursday, February 13th). Final costs will be calculated when numbers are confirmed, although we must be aware that coach trips to London are now slightly more expensive due to the emissions charge introduced last year.

GLHS Committee

Len Manning’s war 1944: Tuesday 14th January 2020

A Lancaster bomber ablaze and rapidly losing height; a rear gunner with clothes and parachute alight. This was the situation which faced 19th year-old Len Manning in March 1944 as his aircraft was attacked as it returned from a bombing raid on Italian marshalling yards. As he rotated his turret and tumbled out, the tail plane hit Len's head but he landed safely in a field and his injuries were confined to the serious burns he sustained before bailing out. Told with a nonchalance no doubt induced by the 76 year time span this would have been an absolutely terrifying experience for anyone let alone one so young. Len Manning - President of the Sudbury branch of the British Legion - captivated an audience of about 40 members and guests of the Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday 14th January with his account of this episode in his war service. 

Len recounted how he had always wanted to join the Royal Air Force and he formed an Air Training Corps in 1942 with 19 friends before joining up and being trained as a gunner. Familiarization with Wellington, Stirling and finally Lancaster planes was followed by posting to an operational squadron and participation in sorties over enemy territory. On the night he was shot down over France - and after disposing of his still -burning parachute - Len used his compass to walk south for some miles before collapsing in the doorway of a French farmhouse. Fortunately the residents were members of the Resistance and they arranged his treatment from a French doctor and for him to be hidden in a small village. Several times he had to be moved to avoid German military and there was a memorable occasion when he was in a cafe into which several German troops walked; the quick-witted Madame threw him a tea towel and said "get back to your work" thus saving the day! After 3 months the Americans arrived and Len was taken to Paris to the Hotel Meurice which only a week before had been the headquarters of the Gestapo in the city. At this stage Len had no knowledge of what fate had befallen his flight colleagues. 

Back in civvy street Len took employment in the plastics trade rising to become Works Manager of a factory in Wood Green but he retained his interest and involvement in the Royal Air Force through membership of various associations. As well as his important role with the British Legion he is currently President of No.1 Leicester ATC. Some years after the war a researcher was able to identify the name of the Luftwaffe pilot that shot Len's plane down and the two men met. Len described his adversary a quite a nice chap who, after all, was only doing his duty! 

This was a wonderful evening's entertainment from a sprightly nonogenarian who happily agreed to share his 95th birthday with us. So in addition to warm thanks from an appreciative audience he received the usual choral rendition and Clare produced a large cake which we were all able to share. 

|Next meeting Tuesday 11th February 7.20pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Mark Mathieson will give a computer demonstration and talk on Overlaying Victorian OS maps with the latest satellite images . 

 Ken Nice                                                                                               

The Annual Christmas Dinner: 10th December 2019

The Society closed its 2019 season on 10th December with a dinner for 26 members at The George in Cavendish. Traditional fare with crackers, paper hats and fellowship made for a jolly evening. A set of historical anagrams and some quiz questions provided a bit of a challenge which was won by the Parish News' very own gardening guru, Isobel Clark, who, appropriately, was presented with a pot plant. President Ashley Cooper thanked Clare and Lynda for their expert running of the Society which had seen an increase in membership and a good variety of topics for meetings. He had been particularly thrilled with the "sold-out" attendance for the November meeting featuring Lord Andrew Phillips. Ashley advised members that his Christmas card would include a tribute to Fred Pawsey who died in November 2016 and who entertained many with his fighter pilot experiences, his reflections as a Head Teacher and his interest in local dialects. (See Fred's account here  Fred Pawsey and the Sharp Tool). He complimented Andrew Clarke on his inspirational management of the web site which continued to attract more hits.

Clare Mathieson expressed her and Lynda Rumble's appreciation for Ashley's active support and gave an outline of some of the content of next year's programme. Breaking with past practice there would be a meeting in January; on 14th the President of Sudbury British Legion, Len Manning, will share his 95th birthday and memories of time spent in WW2 as a Lancaster bomber rear gunner with us. Other evenings will be concerned with Victorian maps overlaid with satellite images, more about Sudbury silk, Sudbury ephemera archives. a member's experience of 10 years in the Middle East, N. Essex law and order in the 19th and 20th centuries and a talk about and showing of the 1936 film "The Night Mail" There will be a President's evening in November when Ashley will recall some Foxearth memories. In June there will be a guided visit to the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel and Wakes Colne station and in July a chance to go to Coggeshall Abbey. A varied and thoroughly enticing programme! New members will be welcomed at any meeting or may contact Clare (01787 311337) or Lynda (01787 281434) for details.

A Sudbury Boy aged 80 recalls Local Life in his early years.: Saturday, 16th November 2019

It is rare these days to have an event in Foxearth Village Hall at which the audience exceeds the number of seats available but such was the case on Saturday 16th November when the Foxearth and District Local History Society put on a "special" which attracted around 70 members and guests.

In an interview format Society President Ashley Cooper took the Michael Parkinson role and Baron Andrew Phillips of Sudbury occupied the hot seat - or bar stool (a little precariously). Ashley had clearly researched his subject very carefully and the result was a finely structured and wonderfully entertaining conversation. The pair took us through Lord Phillips' earliest memories as a small boy during the latter days of World War Two to his presence in the House of Lords where he was able to influence many political decisions, his broadcasting periods and his numerous charitable ventures.

Public service and a deeply held sense of social responsibilty were cornerstones of Andrew's family with his solicitor father undertaking a large proportion of pro bono cases and never turning his back on someone in need of advice.

The mischievous side of young Andrew's character was shown in several anecdotes involving him crawling under the wire to gather parachutes of Sudbury silk (used to suspend metal strips which interfered with enemy radar) The lads had great fun with the chutes and lead soldiers. For some unexplained reason the girls seemed to be quite pleased with this silk bonus! Torn trousers resulting from sliding in the sand pits were an every day hazard.

At the end of the war the Belle Vue area children decided to form a marching band and although he could not play an instrument, despite having a maternal grandfather who wrote songs for Harry Lauder, Andrew led from the front with a biscuit tin and two sticks. To commemorate this event Ashley had commissioned local artist Ben Perkins to depict the scene and a slide of his wonderful painting was shown and hugely admired.

All of these episodes were recounted by Andrew with humour and with the occasional expert lapse into the vernacular. After a spell at boarding school Andrew experienced farm work for a while recalling the late harvest of 1958 and bringing a Suffolk Punch out of retirement. Lessons in management and how to communicate daily orders were absorbed at this time.

Before going to Cambridge to read law and economics Andrew worked in his father's law firm of Bates, Wells and Braithwaite where there seemed to be never a dull moment! An unusual method of summoning a secretary with a pistol shot - which did have trivial but bloody consquences - and locking a difficult member of staff in the walk-in safe were just a couple of examples lightening the daily routine.

As a young graduate Andrew campaigned and won against the local authority that wanted to pull down the Sudbury Corn Exchange (now the public library) and replace it with a supermarket - and this zest for supporting worthy causes has continued to great effect.

 Establishing a law firm in London - with the same name but unconnected to his father's -Andrew built this up to be one of the largest in the City. His keen interest in - indeed passion for - righting what he considered to be wrong developed to include obtaining charitable status for the Fairtrade Foundation, advising the Church of England on ethical investment matters and a whole host of others. He felt that his greatest achievement as a member of the House of Lords, where he was a regular speaker on social responsibilty, was leading some of his colleagues into effectively defeating the Government on the identity card Bill which would have required the disclosure of a mass of personal information.

A foray into National Radio occurred in 1976 when Andrew appeared for 6 years in the Jimmy Young show as the "legal eagle" law advisor to viewers and when this show ended he did current affairs for London Weekend for 30 episodes. Now - at the age of 80 - Andrew can proudly look back on a lifetime of achievement in which he has demonstrated his belief that man is intrinsically wondrous and only a nudge of encouragement in needed to bring out the best in him.

As the long applause by a very appreciative audience at the end indicated this was a fabulous evening's entertainment which included many related slides of Sudbury. Clare thanked Ashley and Andrew for putting on a memorable performance and Mally and Phil for running the bar. Ashley complimented Clare and Lynda for their running of the Society and thanked Churchwarden Mally Graham for his most appropriate display of individual crosses at the Village sign for Remembrance Sunday,

Ken Nice

The History of Liston Hall: 8th October 2019

Since they moved to Liston some 13 years ago the contributions of Ian McMillan and Quentin Poole to the musical life of our small group of villages has been immense. Memorable concerts with top class artistes have been organised in Liston Church, choirs have been assembled and trained and Ian's passion for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan was amply demonstrated in the illustrated and participative series of lectures in Pentlow in 2016. More that once the glory of Foxearth's historic Father Willis organ has been amply shown through Ian's expert hands and feet. Musical feasts indeed!

On Tuesday 8th October the Society was treated to another facet of Ian's talents when he talked to some 50 members and guests about the history of Liston Hall.

 Arising from a standard of research well above his self-confessed A level in history Ian delivered an account of the ancient manor house from its building in c1185 to its demolition (apart from two wings) after the Second World War. Stated originally as being "seated on an eminence" (high ground) descriptions of the property have constantly stressed the beautiful park with its many fruit trees and roses. Over the centuries numerous notable people were linked to the estate - as owners, renters , visitors - including the Duke of Argyll, Sir Cordell Firebrace, very senior professional figures and generations of the local Clopton and Campbell-Lambert families. The stately homes of Long Melford Hall and Kentwell were associated with what seems to have been a closely-knit social group. 

In 1381 Sir Richard Lyons - an extremely wealthy merchant, property owner in several counties including Essex and Suffolk, MP for Essex, Privy Counsellor and Sheriff of London etc- was so hated by the local land workers (for whom he apparently had no time) that he was marched off to London and beheaded. It is recorded that in this early episode of The Peasants' Revolt Wat Tyler was responsible for the execution and there is no doubt that this part of East Anglia was a hotbed of unrest. 

In 1712 the German composer, George Frederick Handel settled in London and it is known that he frequently visited Belchamp Hall where one of the two organs that he left in his Will remains. It is nice to think that the other one may be in Liston Church as there is some evidence linking him to Liston Hall where the then residents may well have been on his list of wealthy patrons.

In the mid 19th century there are newspaper accounts of a Harvest party arranged by Rev John Foster, Rector of Foxearth and Ian read some amusing extracts from a diary kept by one Henriette describing mostly everyday events at that time. Two fires - in 1870 and 1882- caused damage which was repaired. During World War 2 the building was used for German and Italian prisoners of war and afterwards , due to the bad state into which the property had fallen and the very low compensation offered, it was demolished. The two remaining wings are The Old Ballroom (known for a time as Park House) and the Hall (formerly the Gentlemens' Wing)

This was a most entertaining talk, full of information and delivered clearly and characteristically with the energy of a Bach fugue! Ian and Quentin brought along many photographs, pictures, maps and artefacts - including bits of decorative plasterwork recovered from a pond -and they were warmly thanked by Clare Mathieson for a splendid evening. It is usual for the Society to offer speakers a fee On this occasion Ian generously asked that the Society make a donation to the Parish Church organ fund for which the Parochial Church Council is very grateful.

Next meeting: Saturday, -please note change of normal day -16th November at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when the President of  our society, Ashley Cooper and Lord Andrew Phillips will reminisce on the theme "A Sudbury Boy Wunders (sic) aloud after 80 years" There will be a donation bar and the visitor entrance fee will be £5 to include the first drink.