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.

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.

List of Essex Local History Societies as of 26th Sept 2019

Cupola House at Bury St Edmunds Tuesday 10th September 2019

The District Society met on Tuesday 10th September to hear Dr Pat Murrell talk about the history of one of Bury St Edmunds most historic buildings - Cupola House. Dr Murrell briefly explained her own background as an historian working mostly in adult education and with a particular interest in the Stuart era. Influenced by the enthusiasm of an architect friend who was keen to restore the building she became involved in researching the building in about 2003 and was particularly fascinated to delve into the families that lived there. At this time the building was deemed to be "at risk" but restorative work removed it from this register in 6 months.

The two timber-framed buildings from which the house was developed were constructed in the early 17th century and came into the ownership of a prosperous apothecary, Thomas Macro (born 1616). Thomas became a significant figure in local society serving on the "elite"body of 37 men who governed the city and elected the Member of Parliament. His son - also Thomas - followed his father into the profession and he married Susan Cox in 1679 whereupon the building came to him. He amalgamated the two buildings inro one adding numerous baroque features including a wrought iron balcony and the cupola. This work was completed in 1693 and the result must have looked extremely impressive.. The cupola added considerable height and was an obvious landmark intended to command attention as a sign of prestige as well as providing a viewing chamber for visitors. The noted traveller, Celia Fiennes recorded the splendour of the construction as an example of"the new mode of building". The house remained the property of the Macro family until the mid 18th century by which time the apothecary's business had long eased to exist. Thomas (jnr) had moved on to higher things being three-times mayor of the borough and High Sheriff. After a short occupancy by one Thomas Moyle it was sold to Robert Hockley in 1757 where it was used for his grocery business; Hockley established a liquor trade which was extended by subsequent owners and leasees with the premises eventually passing to the Clarkes brewery (later Greene King). In 2002 the building became privately owned and was used - after some restoration -as a bar and restaurant. Its styling as Cupola House occurred in Victorian times and when listing came in it was accorded Grade 1 status.

In 2012 - to the great distress of local folk - Cupola house was considerably damaged by a fire and a further restoration project was organised. This consisted of a steel framework to support the structure but the 18th century facade was able to be saved preserving the building's external appearance and justifying its new Grade 2 listing.It reopened a a restaurant in 2017. On behalf of about 25 members and guests Dr Murrell was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson for her contribution to an interesting evening.

Next meeting Tuesday 15th October 7.30pm when Ian Mcmillan will speak about the history of Liston Hall

Ken Nice

Visit to Sudbury’s Cemetery and Chapel July 9th, 2019

On our meeting in June, 18 members and guests met at Sudbury Cemetery for a guided talk with Helen Richardson on a project to record Headstones & Memorials.

A team from the Sudbury & District group of The Suffolk Family History Society have been involved since 2005 in a large project to record Monumental Inscriptions in our local churchyards. Head and footstone information can often offer extra information not on burial registers, so helpful for ancestors when researching Family History.

Sudbury’s Cemetery and Chapel dates from 1859. and to accommodate both Conformists and Non-Conformists. Churchyards were becoming rather full so something had to be done. 

Every year the weather takes its toll on the stones so it is important to record information before it is lost. Volunteers work in pairs to decipher and record on to laptops for transferring to the burial index. Copies of these are held at the Cemetery, Record office, Library and by The Family History Society. 

Helen explained that they’ve found different methods to decipher some rather weathered information. We were shown a way to show up some otherwise illegible inscriptions: a small quantity of shaving foam spread over the lettering then scraped off showed clearly what would otherwise be missed. Great care is taken to wash the stones afterwards! The churchyard & stones are treated with great respect.

A map has been made of the cemetery with plot numbers on the plan to help find where a relative is buried.  Information is recorded with plot number, design, shape and description of the stone. All information detail / full name/ when they died/ age/ if an additional family member has been buried in the grave with inscription on the stone is recorded too. Every burial is recorded and the wording gives useful clues about our ancestors' lives & occupations. Sudbury Cemetery holds some interesting examples. 
  • Esther, Wife of George Baker H.M. Inland Revenue 1884. 
  • Ronald Greenwood C.B.E.  West Ham United Manager, & English National Football team manager 1977 to 1982 
  • Clive Madgwick, local dentist and painter. (He depicted local pastoral scenes, farmers and fishermen at work. Some of his oil paintings are in the Queen’s collection at Windsor Castle)
  • Thomas Haywood Ticket Collector Sudbury station, fell onto the rails.
  • Joseph George, Landlord of Rose & Crown twinned with
  • William Bailey, landlord of The Four Swans.
  • Anthony Wheeler, Benefactor.

Helen and her team gave us tea, coffees & biscuits afterwards for a chance to discuss the project and see illustrations of the work. The talk and walk through the graveyard / cemetery was a really interesting insight into this valuable project.

If anyone is interested to join the volunteers with the monumental inscriptions work for an hour at a time or all day, no experience is necessary. For More information, please contact  Helen Richardson on 01787 376287

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon. Monday 12th August 2019

On Monday 12th August, 19 members of the Foxearth History Society had a fascinating day-trip to the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon. 

The aerodrome has the largest known surviving group of Royal Flying Corps buildings on a WWI aerodrome anywhere in the country. See

First opened in 1916, the aerodrome saw the birth of Air Defence in response to the first raids by Zeppelins on London and the southeast. It played a key role during the first London Blitz the following year,  and continued in its role until Spring 1919,before it thereafter reverted to agriculture. 

A newly formed Trust was able to purchase the land and surviving buildings in 2012, with the plan to save and restore dilapidated buildings, and reopen the site to the public. A small army of volunteers set to work, with stabilization and reconstruction work being the first tasks. 

It is remarkable to see what has been achieved in such a short time: a visitor centre and museum opened, the restored Airmen's Mess now provides lunches and teas and holds private events, and two hangar buildings display seven WWI period replica aircraft (some give flying displays). There are 22 buildings still surviving, that will take millions of pounds to fully restore, so fundraising for the future is another priority. 

We were given a tour by a very knowledgable guide. She explained the aerodrome’s buildings and layout, and its role in fighting the German Zeppelins and planes that bombed SE England (including Sudbury) in WWI. 

We heard stories of the young pilots who flew their flimsy planes, on winter nights, up to 15,000 feet without oxygen - they were often too cold to move on their return to the ground, and had to be carried back to their quarters to recover. And of course some did not survive. Of the ten from 31 squadron who died, two were shot down by a Zeppelin, but eight perished in flying accidents: a mid-air collision, faulty maintenance, but often simply a lack of flying experience before being sent to war… 

Stow Maries was never attacked in WWI, though in WWII a German aircraft mistakenly bombed the former hanger buildings (then used as cattle sheds), and a number of animals were unintentionally butchered. 

After a hearty lunch in the Airmans’ Mess, our group spent some time in the museum. This has been well laid out with everything from post cards, original artefacts and audio-visual displays – it really gave a good understanding of the air war and the “First London Blitz”. Even those who felt they knew about this period learnt a lot more. Unfortunately our arrival had been delayed by closure of the only route the local council allow to be signposted, and the minibus Satnav did not offer much help! So many of the group plan to revisit another time – it is well worth it. 

A guided tour of The Bulmer Brick & Tile Company with Peter Minter. Tuesday June 11th 2019

On Tuesday June 11th the rain dried up sufficiently for 18 members and guests for a guided tour of The Bulmer Brick & Tile Company. Our host & guide Peter Minter, a keen local Historian, told of his memories of moving as a small child from London with his family in 1936. When his father took over the brickyard, ft was one of many around Sudbury at the time, none of which now remain. The clay seam at Bulmer was formed some 40 million years ago from river estuary deposits known as the London beds. The clay is very clean with excellent brick making qualities and Bulmer has plenty for the next 50 years production at least.

Discoveries have been found on the site as evidence of early man, including a flint hand axe. A bronze age urn, Roman pots and early bricks that show use of day on the site for many years. Records show brick making at Bulmer has been continuous since the mid 1450s, with a Medieval tile kiln found during ploughing in 1958. Early maps show 'Hurrells Hole Farm' brick making activity close to a pond, being the probable site of the first day pit. Peter can trace the Hurrell family to 1595, selling on to the English family who were owners in 1795. In 1923 it was purchased by a local brick maker who wound down the brick making before selling the brickworks with the farm to Peter's father in 1936. The house had no modem facilities so complete renovation was required.

Peter told us many stories of the process. As a child, Peter's father took him on site visits to the airfields and wartime bomb sites to see what brickwork was required when renovations were needed. He still visits sites to problem-solve where renovation is requested to match the original brickwork.
Peter learned the skills of brick making from older staff who were too old to be needed for war work. He showed us the handmade process using traditional methods, that have changed little over the years, and the clay seam where day for each year was dug during the winter months when farming was quiet and day bricks and pots would not dry properly. The clay is now processed using diggers and a pug mill' purchased in the 1890s. Peter has also more recently purchased equipment from Stoke-on-Trent potteries for processing the day to produce extra fine bricks for carving. Additional covered drying sheds have now been supplemented with heated sheds to speed the process and keep production going in wet weather.

There were three 'up draught' rectangular open topped kilns on the site, which were inefficient of fuel and difficult to control especially in wet weather.

His father invested in a new kiln with a 'down draught' design largely complete by the beginning of the second world war; really useful for the making of land drain pipes for many local airfields between 1941 and 1944. These kept the brickyard in operation as other brick orders dried up. The kiln has been refurbished and a further kiln built when further capacity was required.
Great skill is required for the slow firing process; loading the kiln takes approx 3 days; the firing another 3 days to gradually build up the heat by stoking the 7 coal fires each hour with judgement to decide when the correct temperature is reached; a further 3 days for cooling & unloading.
The brickyard is busy now making handmade bricks, tiles etc for renovation work. Peter has developed his range of work undertaken. Moulds are made individually for each customer to match old samples he is given. The work includes flooring and roof tiles, decorative work including twisted and shaped chimney bricks.

Recent renovation projects undertaken include those for the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces. Also, many local or small private works and listed buildings. As much of the original material is used. Peter has found additional clay sources now for white and pink bricks, to extend his range of projects, with licences to extract clay for over 20 years at present.
Peter gave many examples of his work which goes all over the UK & other countries. Projects undertaken include Bury St Edmunds and St Pancras railway stations, the spire of Halstead church, flooring in Westminster, window tracery on the Carmelite Friary in Norfolk. A recent notable project was to help the architect with the rebuild of Mattingleys, on the Sudbury Market hill which burnt down in 2015. Bulmer had provided the original bricks and Peter was able to advise the architect and make appropriate bricks for the new facade.

Several of Peter's family now work in the business, the most recent recruit being his grandson, who has a talent for carving for the decorative mold making. A total of 25 staff are kept busy to keep up with the orders coming in. Peter was warmly thanked for the most memorable and informative evening he had given. He has now written a book called the Brickmaker's Tale which records the in depth  history, memories, people, and changing methods of the family brickmaking at The Bulmer Brick & Tile Company.