Yeoman


Covehithe, the village is known to-day, but in ancient times it was called North Hales, the change in designation undoubtedly being caused through the fact that originally it possessed a quay-or hithe, as it was generally termed, for the loading and unloading of small vessels. Indeed, Covehithe was at one time quite an important fishing village, and it was only when this particular industry "decayed" that it was reduced to a very mean estate."

DSCF2317_red.jpgYet, Covehithe, despite the fact that to all intents and purposes its profits from the 'harvest of the sea" have more or less gone West, is quite an appealing little place in itself-a statement, which those in search of a pleasant stretch of beach far from the clamour and the din of the usual type of seaside resort, will endorse readily enough. For Covehithe possesses that definite appeal, that, infinite attraction which only the sea and the countryside combined can give-the attraction of cliffs and ocean, of sands and heathland, of the fascination of a wave-washed coast allied with the wooded countryside, the spreading glories of which reach practically to the shore itself.

Naturally, Covehithe is quite a tiny place, with nothing but a few houses and cottages, a farmstead or so to suggest that a village of any description exists. Yet there is one building in Covehithe which invariably attracts the attention of the visitor, a building so strange in character, so unique in appearance, that even the most hard-boiled traveller is compelled to stop for a while in order to explore its various outstanding features.

I refer, of course, to the church of St Andrew here, a church within a church, as it were, a building erected some two hundred and sixty years ago to replace an earlier structure which was terribly damaged during that period in English history-romantic enough, after the lapse of time, but fearsome enough in very truth-when Cavalier and Roundhead were tearing at each other's throats, and the whole of England was in the feverish turmoil of a senseless and bloody civil war.

And yet, to say that the present building replaced an earlier structure needs a certain amount of qualification, for although much of the former edifice was destroyed during the fierce struggle twixt King and Parliament, certain portions were utilised in the erection of the present house of worship. For instance, the truly tall tower, creeper-clad and infinitely imposing, broad and massive, and an exellent landmark for vessels sailing along the Suffolk coast-this belonged to the original edifice, whilst both North and South walls were constructed from the earlier church.

But it is because the present building has been constructed partly from the remains of the old and partly within the ruins of the old which makes it so appealing, for although it only occupies a half or less of the original site it possesses an air difficult, indeed, to ignore. To begin at the beginning, however: The church of St. Andrew at Covehithe which the visitor sees to-day has been erected actually within the nave of the older house of worship, and consists of chancel, nave, and Western tower only, but all around are the mighty walls, the tremendous masonry of a building which preceded this, and which, undoubtedly, was nobly planned and proportioned and dignified beyond measure.

Yet, even to-day, this dignity exists-the dignity which maltreatment and bitter aggression have failed to destroy. In the towering ruin of Covehithe old church there is a certain sadness, but also there is an inspiration. About these ruins brambles and wild roses cling, hiding, in part, their forlorness, and telling of the new life which ever springs from the ashes of the old-as emphasised by the present church.

It would need a considerable amount of space to describe these somewhat pathetic survivals in detail, and therefore it is possible only to notice that the windows were truly tall and imposing; that amongst the masonry is quite a quantity of Roman bricks, and that at the East end is splendid chequer work and trefoiled arches -amongst other architectural effects, of course. But having said so much, it is advisable to visit the present church, the church built within the old - a church whose thatched roof gives it a pleasant rural air, and whose South porch has two filled-in windows, and two quaint heads-in themselves suggesting the subtle atmosphere of early days.

Also the priests' doorway, to the South of the chancel and the North doorway to the nave have been blocked up; and, as for the interior of the building, it is merely advisable to say that here is a place which contains a strange mixture of the old and the new, for it is obvious that several of its features belonged to the original church. For instance, the benches are plain and modern, and yet several old poppyheads remain - well-carved, and appealing in consequence, even despite the fact that they have been damaged somewhat through the action of time - or more probably by the actions of Will Dowsing, who, we know well enough, was responsible for tremendous mutilation in the building; although it is a tribute to the courage and the good sense of the Covehithe natives that when the notorious iconoclast endeavoured to destroy "divers pictures in the windows" he was unable to obtain assistance to raise the ladders necessary for his insensate purpose!

A rather curious thing in connection with St.Andrew's Church - or, perhaps, it is not so curious when we consider that the building came into being not a great number of years after Cromwell's time - is the fact that the chancel and nave have no dividing line, no chancel arch or steps to show where one begins and the other finishes. Probably the most, interesting features of the building, however interesting, not because of age, but through their strange and confusing inscriptions – are the tablets in the North and South walls, the former stating that "James Gilbert put it out 1672," and the latter. "Enoch Girling put it out" in the same year.

Curious, of course, it reads to modern eyes; and yet the explanation is quite simple. "Put it out" obviously meant "put it up." and therefore James Gilbert and Enoch Girling were responsible in the main for the erection of the walls which bear their names.

A long list of names in the church tells of the men of Covehithe who fought in the war, and as one naturally expects in a village whose very existence in the long years ago was wrapped up in the sea and its varying moods, the Navy is well represented. Having reached this point, however, we will leave this house of worship; leave, also, the stately ruins outside, ruins which seem to stir the imagination so forcibly that one thinks and ponders on the story and the character of those beings of other days who once worshipped here, and whose dust rests beneath the shadows of these tall and frowning walls.

For now we must find something about the past story of Covehithe, and before going any further it is as well to notice that amongst its many inhabitants was one who played a truly imposing part in the story of the Reformation in this country-and whatever one's personal opinions, a brave man and a zealous one can be admired.

This was John Bale, who first saw the light at Covehithe in 1495, and although he was first of all a friar of the Carmelite order at Norwich, he later became one of the most stalwart supporters of the new faith, through which, naturally enough, he aroused the most venomous feelings in the breasts of his late co-religionists. Persecuted he was, of course, persecuted and ill-treated, but he was fortunate in having for protector, Cromwell, Earl of Essex, although after the Earl died his troubles increased. Indeed, to save himself he found it imperative to seek safe harbour in the Netherlands, where he stayed until the accession of the sixth Edward allowed his return to England in safety. But Edward, of course, only reigned for a short time, and with the accession of Mary he once more fled from his native country, this time seeking sanctuary in Switzerland. The death of Mary and the crowning of Elizabeth brought him home once more, and on this occasion he was made a prebend in Canterbury Cathedral.

Incidentally, John Bale was a historian of some note and the author of several works, his most famous being "De Scriptoribus Britannicis." His was a life of conflict and trouble, for even after Edward the Sixth had appointed him to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland, he aroused the religious fervour of the Irish, with the result that he only just managed to escape with his life, several of his servants, in fact, being murdered in his presence.

The full story of this remarkable adherent of Protestant principles is too long to tell here, for there are several items in connection with the manors of Covehithe which cannot be omitted. And as it is necessary to begin somewhere, I will start by remarking that during the time that the Domesday Survey was under taken, five holdings existed in Covehithe, and from these five holdings three manors emerged eventually.

The most important manor, and the only one of which I intend to write, was known as Northales or Oulstede-Covehithe, as we have seen earlier, originally bore the name of North Hales - and when the first Edward was on the throne of England it was vested in John de Vallibus, although soon after the beginning of the fourteenth century John and Walter de Cove appear to have shared the lordship. It was not many years, however, before we find Simon de Pierpont here, and upon his death in 1324 the estate passed to his sister and heir, Sibil, who chose for husband Sir Edmund de Ufford, which thus, of course, links Covehithe with an ancient and important Suffolk family.

Through marriage, the manor passed to Sir William Bowes, or Bowell, as it is sometimes spelt, and from Sir William to his daughter Elizabeth, the daughter-in-law of the sixth Lord Dacre. And in the hands of the Dacre family it remained for a good many years, the last owner of the name being the ninth holder of the title.

But from a domestic, combined with an historical point of view, it is the tenth lord who brings the story of the family on to more intimate grounds than those usually suggested by noble names and great deeds. For during the stirring days when England and Spain were at war, when our coasts were manned volunteers –trained bands, they were called, but in most cases their training in military tactics was of the most rudimentary nature-the great and glorious Elizabeth decided to view the troops who at Tilbury Fort were awaiting anxiously a chance to come to grips with the foe. And whilst on this errand the Queen accepted the hospitality of the tenth Lord Dacre. The day was Michaelmas Day. For dinner my lord had a succulent goose – and tradition avers that from this occurrence came the practice of eating goose at Michaelmas, a practice, however, not so general as once it was.

There seems reason for believing that the tenth Lord Dacre owned North Hales manor, for although the Duke of Norfolk secured it after the death of the ninth lord, it appears to have returned to the Dacre family a little later. Eventually, however, it became the property of Henry, Lord Norris, whose mother was daughter of the eighth Lord Dacre.

In 1577 this particular owner disposed of the Manor to Robert Payne, and from the latter it went to a certain William Smith, upon whose death his son succeeded. The next in possession was Edward North, whose death occurred in 1707, after which it came into the hands of Thomas Carthew, of Benacre, and after he died it was purchased from his widow by Sir Thomas Gooch, whose descendant, incidentally, is the owner to-day.

The Gooch family, of course, were long established in Suffolk county, and many of them have filled positions of some consequence. During the seventeenth century Thomas Gooch was an alderman and three times bailiff of Great Yarmouth, whilst another of the family, attained high ecclesiastical rank as Bishop of Ely.

In fact, it is impossible here to tell in detail the story of this ancient Suffolk line, but one more mention is advisable. The particular Gooch, in question was a soldier in the time of Queen Anne, and a soldier, moreover, who fought bravely in the various campaigns of her reign, whilst unfortunate princeling had made his desperate and abortive attempt to seize the throne of England, Gooch was appointed Governor of Virginia, and is saying something for his integrity, for his deep sense of honesty - for he belonged of course to a period when bribery and corruption were so common as to be almost recognised as legitimate-that it was declared that he was the only holder of a similar position of whom there were no complaints.

Covehithe, therefore, has no lack of interest so far as people connected with its story are concerned, but to-day Covehithe is interesting entirely in itself. For it is an obvious fact that nobody can gaze unmoved upon the massive walls of its ancient church; nobody can study these sturdy survivals of a stately old age without appreciating something of their earlier glories. They stand as a monument to the folly of man who allowed such things to suffer. But there is something here which reveals man’s optimistic spirit, for within those relics, forming part of those relics is a structure founded amidst the ruins, a building which emphasises that whatever the adversity, whatever the disappointment, there is always an opportunity to rebuild and to emerge from shadow into sunshine.

YEOMAN. August 1934


White’s, 1844


COVEHITHE, or NORTH HALES, a small village on an eminence near the coast, four and a half miles N.N.E. of Southwold, and 10 miles S.E. of Beccles, has in its parish 186 souls, and 1523A.2R. 25r. of land, stretching nearly a mile eastward to Covehithe Ness, a small promontory on the German Ocean; and southward to Covehithe Broad, a large pool of fresh water within a short distance from the beach, now emptying itself into Easton Broad a little further to the south, and having a hithe or quay for loading and unloading vessels, in the time of Edward I., when the manor was held by John and Walter Cove, and had a grant of a fair on St Andrew’s day. Now disused. Sir Thomas S. Gooch Bart., is owner of the soil, lord of the manor, impropriator of the rectory, and patron of the vicarage,which is valued in K.B. at £5.6s.8d.,and consolidated with the rectories of Benacre and Easton Bavents, in the incumbency of the Rev.Wm. Gooch. The church (St.Andrew) which has a tower and five bells, had a large nave and chancel, but was suffered to fall to ruin many years ago, except the south aisle which is still preserved and enclosed for divine service. The arches and pillars of the ruined parts , though so long exposed to the weather, are still tolerably entire. JOHN BALE, author of “De Scripteribus Britannicis,” a work of great erudition, was born here in 1495, and became a Carmelite friar, at Norwich. Having embraced the doctrines of the Reformation, he was exposed to the persecution of the catholic clergy, against whom he was protected by the Earl of Essex; but on the death of that nobleman, he was obliged to take refuge in the Netherlands, where he remained till the accession of Edward VI., by whom he was advanced to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland. But on the king’s death, he was again obliged to flee, and resided in Switzerland during Mary’s reign. Returning to England after the accession of Elizabeth, he obtained a prebend at Canterbury, and died in 1563.

The Poor’s Allotment, awarded at an enclosure, comprises about 40A let for £24.10s. a year which is distributed in coals; together with about £3 per annum, paid by Sir T.S. Gooch as the rent of 7A of old poor’s land, which is partly waste.


Kelly’s Directory, 1925


COVEHITHE (formerly called North Hales)is a parish four and three quarter miles north from Southwold station and eleven and a half north-east from Halesworth, in the Lowestoft division of the county, Blything hundred, petty sessional division and union, Halesworth and Saxmundham county court district, rural deanery of Beccles, archdeaconry of Suffolk and diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich. The church of St. Andrew, erected in 1672, in place of the ancient church destroyed during the civil War in 1643, is a structure of flint and stone in the Early English, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 5 bells: the present building stands within the nave of the ancient church, not occupying more than half the area: the north and south walls and the lofty tower of the old church still remain, the latter constituting a good landmark for vessels: the church was reseated in 1878, and has 120 sittings. The register dates from the year 1588. The living is a discharged vicarage, annexed to the rectory of Benacre, joint net yearly value £467, with 22 acres of glebe, in the gift of Sir.T.V.S.Gooch bart.J.P. and held since 1909 by the Rev. Lewis William Wingfield M.A. of University College, Durham, who resides at Benacre. The annual charities, derived from the “Poor’s Marsh,” amount to about £20, which is expended in coals for the poor. Sir Thomas Vere Gooch bart. J.P. is lord of the manor and chief landowner. The soil is various; subsoil, gravel. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats and turnips. The area is 1,404 acres of land and inland water and 12 of foreshore; rateable value, £774; the population in 1921 was 156.
Parish Clerk, William Spoor.
Letters through Lowestoft, via Wrentham, which is the nearest money order & telegraph office, about one and a half miles distant. The outgoing letters of this place are posted at Wrentham.
The children of this place attend the schools at Wrentham.


Dutt's Suffolk, 1927


Covehithe (four and three quarter m. N. of Southwold).-The church at present in use here is built within the nave of a ruined church which must originally have been a very fine one, for it has a lofty, massive tower, and the existing church scarcely fills one-half of the old nave. The ruins are very picturesque, and the tower is a landmark for seamen. Between this place and Southwold several pits or wells, believed to be vestiges of Roman colonisation, have been uncovered from time to time by the crumbling of the cliffs. They contained fragments of pottery, apparently Romano-British, and revealed traces of wooden framework. Mr H. C. Coote, in his " Romans in Britain," suggests that these pits were boundary shafts marking the limits of allotted estates. Similar pits have been found at Felixstowe, Ashill in Norfolk, Bekesbourne, near Canterbury, and elsewhere.



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