The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Local group - events and information.

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

FHS meeting May 2022. "The amazing power of public health"

The amazing power of public health

Why do we generally live longer and healthier lives than the people who inhabited our houses 150 years ago?  It would be easy to think that the answer was the invention of antibiotics, vaccinations, and the creation of the NHS but Dr Jonathan Belsey set out a different analysis at the May meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society. 

Jonathan, who has a professional background in medicine, used records from the Long Melford “Inspector of Nuisances” to paint a detailed and harrowing picture of the housing conditions that many working-class residents endured. 

Inspectors of nuisances, the forerunners of modern-day environmental health inspectors, had legal powers to enter homes and compel neglectful landlords to improve the sometimes-pitiful state of ordinary houses. Overcrowding, damp, rats, overflowing sewage, and dilapidations were written up in neat handwriting in thick ledgers — but, more importantly at the time, remedial action was then taken. 

The inspectors also had sweeping powers to enforce quarantine on people with highly infectious diseases such as scarlet fever. 

Well drafted legislation, implemented by conscientious officials, saved many lives.   

FDHS meeting April 22. "Ordinary lives preserved"

 Ordinary lives preserved

Sue Tibbetts, chair of the Sudbury Ephemera Archive (SEA), was the speaker at Foxearth and District History Society’s meeting on 12 April (reports Andrew Le Sueur of Borley Lodge).

The Mole family came to the Sudbury area in the nineteenth century via Wivenhoe and Bures. On the face of things, there is little noteworthy about the family. Over the generations they went to school, courted, married, had children, went to church, worked as labourers and latterly a father and son were postmen. They lived at 2 Belle Vue Cottage, Chilton and Railway Cottages, Sudbury.

What remains, a century on, are a few photographs, some birth and death certificates, a school certificate for regular attendance and good conduct at Sudbury Voluntary School, a couple of school drawing books with careful pencil sketches, and some letters regarding employment at Oliver Brothers Brewery. These were donated to the SEA by a family member keen to see them preserved. 

Sue Tibbett’s talk did not reveal any dramatic events in the lives of the Moles, whose family tree she has researched. But that is the point and the purpose of the SEA. Most of our forebears left little or no documentation, to the frustration of family, house and local historians. It is difficult to reconstruct their full and rounded lives, to know about their hopes and fears, heartaches and happinesses. All the more important, then, to collect and catalogue, as the SEA is doing, the ‘old documents, invoices, photos, letters, postcards, club and company minutes, fliers, posters, house sale details and paperwork related to Sudbury’s past’ which, in the hands of skilled amateur and professional historians, provide a key to our understanding of the past.

The SEA, a registered charity, is based at the Town Hall and its website provides a publicly accessible database of its collection: